By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
BALD KNOB – The Heber Springs Panthers appeared in position for their second 2-4A Conference football win against Bald Knob at Bulldog Stadium on Friday.
Heber Springs (1-1 in 2-4A Conference, 2-3 overall) led 21-12 early in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs (1-0 in 2-4A Conference, 2-3 overall), drove 63 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown.
Bald Knob’s Brady Johnson turned in the defensive play of the game by intercepting a Xander Lindley pass at the Panther 30-yard line and returned 10 yards.
Four plays later, quarterback Reece Moody scored on a 1-yard sneak as the Bulldogs upset Heber Springs, 26-21.
“Bald Knob moved the ball during the second half, and we didn’t,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said when asked the difference during the second half. “Bald Knob pushed our (offensive and defensive) lines around, and we didn’t have a response to them. We have a lot of work to do on our blocking.”
The Bulldogs finished with an advantage of 335 yards to 295 yards in total offense. One of the deciding factors was Bald Knob’s run game. The Bulldogs rushed for 203 yards on 43 attempts to Heber’s 102 yards on 21 carries.
Moody led Bald Knob’s ground game with 93 yards on 16 tries and scored two touchdowns. Bohn Hickman had 64 yards on 16 carries and scored one touchdown. Landon Gilmore ran nine times for 39 yards and one touchdown.
Moody, who compiled 225 total yards, completed 13-of-21 passes for 132 yards. Gilmore and Jamos Holder each caught five passes for 75 and 42 yards, respectively. Gilmore had 114 all-purpose yards.
Chris Roberts and Easton Cusick each intercepted passes for the Panthers.
Brown, who had 202 all-purpose yards, rushed for 77 yards on 13 carries, while Lindley ran eight times for 25 yards. Lindley, who compiled 218 yards of total offense, completed 14-of-27 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Brown was 0-of-1 passing.
Brown also was the leading receiver with six catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Edwards caught three passes for 18 yards. Dalton Yancey and Easton Cusick each had two catches for 19 and 18 yards, respectively. Logan Rutledge caught a 10-yard pass.
Johnson intercepted three passes, while Eric Williams had an interception to lead Bald Knob’s defense.
“We tried to get the ball on the edge to Parker because he can make things happen,” Wood said. “That is a coaching point, and we need to a better job doing that for the next game.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Bald Knob took a 6-0 lead by driving 58 yards on 10 plays. Moody broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 and ran 21 yards for the touchdown with 8:57 left in the first half. The try for the 2-point conversion was unsuccessful.
Heber Springs needed one play following the ensuing kickoff to take the lead. Lindley passed to Brown, who slipped free down the sidelines on a 66-yard touchdown play. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point, giving the Panthers a 7-6 lead with 8:43 to go until halftime.
A fourth-down stop at the Heber Springs 48-yard line set up the next score. The Panthers, who overcame a holding penalty, needed eight plays on a 52-yard drive, capped by Brown’s 16-yard touchdown pass from Lindley. Tate’s successful kick increased the lead to 14-6 with 4:29 left in the first half.
Bald Knob pulled to within two points before halftime when Gilmore scored on a 5-yard run at the end of the 9-play, 65-yard drive with 1:23 remaining until intermission. The Panthers held again on the Bulldogs’ 2-point conversion try for a 14-12 halftime lead.
“The defense overall played well during the first half,” Wood said. “They were on the field too long during the second half. Our offense couldn’t move the ball because of a lack of execution.”
Roberts’ 40-yard interception return put Heber Springs in position to build a two-score advantage midway through the third quarter. The Panthers drove from their 43-yard line to the Bald Knob 14-yard line as the quarter ended.
Brown caught his third TD pass from Lindley, a 14-yard grab, on the first play of the fourth quarter. Tate kicked the extra point for a 21-12 lead.
Bald Knob drove 63 yards for the first of two touchdowns during the fourth quarter. Gilmore scored on a 4-yard carry with 6:30 left. The try for the 2-point conversion was unsuccessful as Heber Springs led, 21-18.
Next came Johnson’s interception and set up the winning touchdown.
Holder’s 9-yard reception and Moody’s 10-yard carry for a first-and-goal at the 1. Moody, who also ran for the 2-point conversion, scored on the next play with 3:36 left in the game.
“We had opportunity to win the game, leading by nine points, and couldn’t stop them,” Wood said. “Roberts made a good play on the interception. He jumped at the right time. That play shifted momentum to us.”
Heber Springs had a final opportunity for a comeback win. The Panthers drove to midfield when Lindley attempted to throw over the middle, but Williams intercepted at the Bulldog 43-yard line.
The Panthers will have a bye on Friday before returning to action at Lonoke on Oct. 14.
“We will have two weeks for some of our players to recover from illness and prepare for Lonoke,” Wood said. “We are 1-1 in conference and still have our goal of getting to the playoffs within reach.”