By PHILIP SEATON
JONESBORO – The Heber Springs Panthers used a big second quarter and a historic night running the football to crush Jonesboro Westside, 42-8.
The win by the Panthers was their first of the season in three attempts and the first by coach Van Paschal at Heber Springs.
“To me, it’s big for the kids,” Paschal said. “The community, knowing what I have seen since I have come to Heber, the people want a good football program, and they’ve expressed that me. The kids have been doing the things that we have asked, going from 22 kids to 41 to 42 now, it’s a work in progress, but it’s exciting to win.”
The win also broke a seven-game losing streak by the Panthers dating back to last season, the longest such streak since 2004, and dropped the Warriors to 0-3 on the year.
After a Gideon Tate touchback on the opening kickoff for the Panthers, Westside picked up a pair of first downs, thanks in part to three Heber Springs penalties, to move the ball to the Panther 44. But three consecutive tackles by linebacker Brodie Basford, including the last two for a loss, stopped the Warriors on fourth down.
Heber Springs rushed only 20 times on the night but picked up 347 yards and averaged 17.4 yards per carry. That 17.4 yards is the highest average in school history, surpassing the previous best of 14 yards per rushing attempt set on Nov. 4, 2010, at Cave City.
Juniors Weston Warden and quarterback Liam Buffalo rushed for career bests, each topping the century mark and each scoring two touchdowns, as the Heber Springs scored six rushing touchdowns on the night.
The first of those six came on the Panthers first possession. Warden ripped off a 35-yard run followed by an 8-yard run by Eli Buffalo, before Parker Brown scored from the 9 with 6:54 left in the first quarter. Tate added the kick to make it 7-0.
Westside then killed the rest of the first-quarter clock moving the ball from their own 29 on a 14-play drive that was stopped on the Panther 2. Sophomore Emmett Dwyer brought down Warrior halfback Weston Watlington on fourth down with 10:01 remaining in the half.
Heber Springs would make the most of those 10 minutes scoring 28 points thanks in part to two Warrior turnovers (a Jordan Tidwell fumble recovery and a Bryce Siegrist interception).
“I told coach (Kevin) Youngblood, if you can’t stop ’em it don’t matter,” Paschal said. “It’s all about defense, getting better on defense and hopefully, we are, we can and we’ll get better.”
Eli Buffalo carried the ball twice for 13 yards, before Liam Buffalo raced 85-yards to make it 14-0 at the 8:26 mark.
After the Tidwell recovery at the Warrior 21, sophomore Eli Buffalo used two carries to score his first career touchdown. Tate’s kick made it 21-0 with 7:38 showing on the clock.
Siegrist’s interception put Heber Springs at the Panther 48. Warden ripped off a 46-yard run and two plays later, Liam Buffalo scored from the 2 with 3:49 left before the half.
After a three-and-out forced by the Heber Springs defense, the Panthers used less than minute to drive 71 yards as Warden burst down the sidelines for a 65-yard scoring run with 31 seconds remaining in the first half.
Coming out of the break with a 35-0 lead, and a continuous running clock due to the Arkansas Activities Association’s Mercy Rule, Heber Springs added one more score as Warden scored on a 19-yard run to make it 42-0 on its first possession of the second half. Back-up kicker Chase Dill added the PAT kick.
Paschal was able to empty the bench the remainder of the game as Gavin Mets avoided the shutout for the Warriors by scoring on a three-yard run with three minutes left. Colton Carter passed to Riley Carter for the 2-point conversion.
“That’s a big deal,” Paschal said of being able to play the reserves for most of the second half. “They work hard. They are scout team guys doing what they do and it’s always good to get them on the field.”
After making the move from fullback to linebacker for the game, Basford led the Panther defense with 10 tackles, including six solo tackles.
Warden finished with 165 yards rushing while Liam Buffalo had 113.
“We got a lot better tonight,” Paschal said.
HEBER SPRINGS AT JONESBORO WESTSIDE SENIOR HIGH September 15, 2023 TEAM STATS TIME OF POSSESSION: Heber Springs 12:05, Westside 35:55 TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 11, Westside 13 BY RUSH: Heber Springs 10, Westside 10 BY PASS: Heber Springs 0, Westside 1 BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 1, Westside 2 TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 20/347/17.4, Westside 41/139/3.4 TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 0/1-0-0/0, Westside 1/3-50-0/1 TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 21/347/16.5, Westside 44/189/4.3 3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 0/1, Westside 4/8 4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 0/0, Westside 0/2 RED-ZONE: Heber Springs 4/4, Westside 1/2 TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 0, Westside 2 POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 14, Westside 0 FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 0/0, Westside 1/1 PENALTIES: Heber Springs 8/55, Westside 5/70 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs 1/26, Westside 3/77/25.7 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs 1/0, Westside 0 PUNTS: Heber Springs 1/28, Westside 2/58 PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs 1, Westside 0 SACKS: Heber Springs 0/0, Westside 0 TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 5/16, Westside 1/1 INDIVIDUAL STATS RUSHING: Heber Springs, Eli Buffalo 8/59/7.4/1, Weston Warden 4/165/2, Liam Buffalo 4/113/2, Nate Eaton 2/(-1), Parker Brown 1/9/1, Bryce Siegrist 1/2. Westside, Gavin Mets 19/65/1, Hunter Drummonds 5/26, Clay McMellon 5/7, Colton Carter 5/0, Gavin Dodson 3/21, Jacob Crawford 1/9, Weston Watlington 3/11. PASSING: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 0/1-0-0/0. Westside, Colton Carter 1/3-50-0/1, RECEIVING: Heber Springs, none. Westside, Jordan Hall 1/50 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs, Logan Rutledge 1/26 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 1/0 INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Heber Springs, Bryce Siegrist 1/3 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Weston Warden 165, Liam Buffalo 113 PUNTING: Heber Springs, Gideon Tate 1/28. Westside, Gavin Dodson 2/58 SCORING PAT KICKS: Gideon Tate 5/5, Chase Dill 1/1 FIELD GOALS: None. POINTS: Liam Buffalo 12, Weston Warden 12, Liam Buffalo 6, Parker Brown 6, Gideon Tate 5, Chase Dill 1. DEFENSIVE STATS SACKS: None FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Jordan Tidwell FORCED FUMBLES: None INTERCEPTIONS: Bryce Siegrist PBU: None QB HURRIES: Bryce Siegrist, Dyce Young TACKLES (U/A/TFL - TOTAL) Parker Brown 1 1 1 2 Jacob McMullin 1 1 0 2 Brodie Basford 6 4 2 10 Weston Warden 5 0 0 5 Corbin Jones 2 4 0 6 Bryce Siegrist 2 0 0 2 Logan Lozeau 0 1 0 1 Luke Elliott 2 4 0 6 Dyce Young 1 2 0 3 Axley Davis 1 0 0 1 Emmett Dwyer 2 0 0 2 Liam Buffalo 2 0 0 2 Gavin Mize 0 2 0 2 Nate Eaton 1 1 0 2 Logan Rutledge 0 1 0 1 Zachary Parker 1 0 0 1 Cade James 0 1 0 1 Jordan Tidwell 1 0 0 1 Elijah Jones 1 0 0 1