Clinton wears down Heber Springs in 2-4A play

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Heber Springs quarterback Easton Cusick looks for an open receiver Friday night against Clinton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Clinton’s domination of the clock with the running game and forcing four turnovers proved too much for the Heber Springs Panthers to overcome.

The Yellowjackets (4-2 in 2-4A Conference, 5-4 overall) maintained possession for 32 minutes and broke the game open by converting a fumble recovery into a touchdown early during the third quarter and defeated the Panthers (2-4 in 2-4A Conference and 3-5 overall) 34-7 in a 2-4A Conference football game at Panther Stadium Friday.

Clinton won “The Battle of the Little Red” for the sixth consecutive season. The Yellowjackets also won by their largest margin against Heber Springs since the 2005 season (33-6).

Clinton has won six straight games for the third time in the series. Heber Springs’ longest win streak has been seven in a row, which came from 1978 to 1984. The Panthers’ last win in the series, which started in 1939, came in 2015 (35-20).

The Yellowjackets, who clinched a playoff berth and face Lonoke in week 10 for the No. 3 seed, held a 314-207 yards advantage in offense, including 273 yards rushing. Zane Widener led the way with 12 carries for 119 yards and one touchdown.

Parker Brown rushed for 69 yards on six carries to lead the Panthers. Brown caught seven passes for 36 yards. Easton Cusick completed 16-of-33 passes for 99 yards with three interceptions. Brown gained 134 all-purpose yards, while Jackson West had 94 yards.

The turning point occurred early during the third quarter. A missed connection on the handoff resulted into a fumble, which was recovered by Clinton’s Ashton Hoyle at the Panther 27-yard line.

The Yellowjackets scored four plays later and executed a 2-point conversion for a 26-7 lead. Brody Emberton’s interception of a Cusick pass set up another touchdown late in the third quarter.

“The turning point was at the beginning of the second half,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We mishandled a handoff, giving a short field for Clinton to score. It forced us to stepped up the pace and try and score as fast as we could. Then, we had two more turnovers (interceptions). You can’t do that against a good football team like Clinton and win.”

Cody Davis and Nick Epley played big roles for Clinton’s run-dominated offense. Davis ran 15 times for 77 yards and one touchdown, while Epley rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown. Harley Tobin completed 7-of-11 passes for 38 yards, including a touchdown to Emberton.

“Clinton is the kind of an offense that will run the ball and keep the clock running,” Wood said. “When they have that kind of a lead, a team must find ways to get three-and-outs, so you can get your offense back on the field and score points. They deserve credit for keeping the ball under control and moving down the field.”

The Yellowjackets received the opening kickoff and drove 53 yards on six plays for the early lead. Widener’s 23-yard run put the Yellowjackets in scoring position. Tobin capped the drive by scoring from the 1 with 10:02 left in the first quarter. The try for a 2-point conversion failed.

After holding the Panthers on downs at the Clinton 36, the Yellowjackets executed a 13-play drive for the second touchdown. Nine consecutive running plays led to a first-and-goal at the Heber Springs 7.

Four plays later, Tobin connected on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Emberton with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The 2-point  conversion attempt failed as the Yellowjackets led 12-0 going into the second quarter.

Heber Springs marched 76 yards on eight plays to reduce Clinton’s lead. Cusick handed the ball to Brown, who raced 36 yards for a touchdown with 5:01 to go in the first half. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point and pulled the Panthers within 12-7.

The Yellowjackets responded with an 8-play, 64-yard drive to increase their lead. Epley finished it with a 21-yard scoring run for an 18-7 lead with 1:59 left in the first half. Clinton failed on a try for the 2-point conversion.

After the early second-half turnover, Widener had an 8-yard touchdown run at the end of the 4-play, 27-yard possession. Tobin passed to Epley for the 2-point conversion, increasing the lead to 26-7.

The Yellowjackets reached the end zone again before the end of the third quarter. Davis finished an 10-play, 51-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Epley ran for the 2-point conversion.

The Panthers, who are tied for fifth place with Little Rock Mills in the conference standings, will play at Mills on Friday with the winner becoming the conference’s final playoff representative.

“It’s a do or die situation,” Wood said. “But we are looking forward to the game.”

CLINTON AT HEBER SPRINGS
October 29, 2021 
Clinton (5-4, 4-2)        12   6   16   0 - 34
Heber Springs (3-5, 2-4)   0   7    0   0 -  7
FIRST QUARTER 
C - Harley Tobin 1-yard run (run failed), 10:02
C - Tobin to Brody Emberton 7-yard pass (run failed), :25.6
SECOND QUARTER
HS - Parker Brown 36-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 5:01
C - Nick Epley 21-yard run (run failed), 1:59
THIRD QUARTER
C - Zane Widener 8-yard run (Tobin to Epley pass), 10:10
C - Cody Davis 3-yard run (Davis run), :44.2
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 12, C 16
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 22/108, C 54-276
PASSING YARDS: HS 99, C 38
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 16-33-3, C 7-12-1
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 207, C 314
FUMBLES: HS 1, C 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 6/35, C 5/36
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 0, C 2/35
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 6/69, Jackson West 5/28, Gus Hannah 1/7, Easton Cusick 10/(-6). C, Zane Widener 12/119, Cody Davis 15/77, Nick Epley 10/55, Billy Standlee 2/15, Jacob Hutto 4/12, Harley Tobin 5/7, Spencer Bannister 1/5, Jobe Chalk 1/(-3), Team 3/(-6).
PASSING: HS, Cusick 16/33-99-0/3. C, Tobin 7/11-38-1/1, Epley 0/1-0-0/0
RECEVING: HS, Brown 7/36, Austin Winchester 2/23, Dalton Yancey 2/18, West 2/12, Hannah 2/3, Chris Edwards 1/7. C, Brody Emberton 2/13, Widener 2/5, Davis 2/5, Dawson Burgess 1/15.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, West 3/44, Hannah 1/9.
PUNT RETURNS: HS, Brown 2/29
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: HS, Zane Lozeau 1/21. C, Emberton 1/17, Davis 1/8, Bannister 1/5.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: C, Widener 2/70

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Panther GameDay: Battle of the Little Red

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Two objectives lie ahead for the Heber Springs Panthers against Clinton in the sixth The Battle of the Little Red at Panther Stadium.

The Panthers seek to finish the home football schedule with a win and also secure their first The Battle of the Little Red trophy in a match-up of 2-4A Conference teams at 7 p.m. Friday.

“It will be a big night for the seniors,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “It’s probably their last game before the home crowd. Winning the trophy is in the back of their minds. We have not won the trophy yet and will try to bring it home. We want to be the first Heber team to win the trophy.”

Heber Springs (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 3-4 overall) currently is tied for fifth place with Little Rock Mills (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall) in the conference standings. The Panthers will conclude the regular season at Mills on Nov. 5. Clinton (3-2 in 2-4A Conference, 4-4 overall) is in fourth place.

“Each week is different,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “When you lose a game (35-7 to Southside Batesville) like we did last Friday, you must forget about it quickly and look forward. Clinton is similar to Southside with the Wing-T offense. We are playing another strong running team. We still haven an opportunity to make the playoffs.”

Junior quarterback Easton Cusick is the expected starter for the second straight game, despite recovering from an injury. Cusick completed 17-of-32 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown against Southside.

The Panthers hope for more production from the running game, which netted zero net yards against the Southerners.

Sophomore running back Parker Brown, who leads team in rushing with 86 carries for 603 yards and seven touchdowns, was held to two yards by the Southerners. Brown also has been the team’s most productive receiver with nine catches for 279 yards and five touchdowns. Cusick has completed 28-of-57 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns overall.

“Cusick did a good job last Friday night,” Wood said. “He is gaining more confidence. We showed the ability at times to move the ball. Like Southside, Clinton will focus on stopping Parker. We will need other players who to contribute.”

The Yellowjackets are coming off a 56-28 win against Bald Knob. Clinton led 8-6 after the first quarter before it exploded for five touchdowns during the second quarter to pull away.

Junior quarterback Harley Tobin led the charge by completing 11-of-13 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore wingback Zane Widener rushed 12 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Junior receiver Brody Emberton caught five passes for 69 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“The quarterback is very smart with experience,” Wood said. “They have speedy running backs (Cody Davis, Nick Epley and Spencer Bannister) and a good fullback (Jacob Hutto). We must stop all of them.”

Wood said the Yellowjackets are more than a run team.

“They will keep your honest with the run (253 yards against Bald Knob) and also pass (240 yards),” he said.

The Heber Springs defense will play with a new starter on after sophomore linebacker Hayden Johnson suffered a concussion against Southside.

Sophomore safety Chris Roberts will move to outside linebacker. Dalton Yancey, also a sophomore, will start at safety for Roberts.

“We will adjust our linebacking corp and go on,” Wood said. “Some players will assume roles. I liked what I saw from the linebackers during practice.”

Wood said one of the game’s determining factors will be which team is more successful on first down.

“We had too many third-and-long situations last week,” he said. “We want to win the battle on first down and have a lot of third-and-short situations.”

THE SERIES

HEBER SPRINGS VS. CLINTON
“Battle of the Little Red”
Clinton leads the series 41-38-5
Games played in Heber Springs: Clinton leads, 20-19-1
Games played in Clinton: Clinton leads 21-18-4
Games played on a Neutral Field: Heber Springs leads, 1-0.

FIRST MEETING: Heber Springs’ first season of football was 1913 and it would be 26 years before Clinton fielded its first team. It didn’t take long for the two teams to meet after that with Heber Springs winning the first game played between the two schools on October 13, 1939, in Heber Springs. The Panthers won by a score of 31-0 on that day. The two teams met again less than a month later on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, in Clinton where the Panthers and Yellowjackets played to a 6-6 tie. The teams would go on to play continuously after that with a couple of exceptions. During World War II, neither school fielded a team during the 1943 season while Clinton did not field one during the 1944 season. After the war, Clinton and Heber Springs would meet twice per season in 1945 and 1946 with the Yellowjackets winning all four meetings. Financial constraints in the Heber Springs School District forced the school to not field a football team for the 1947 and 1948 seasons. The two teams meet again during the 1949 season with Clinton winning both games of the home-and-home series. The teams would go on continuously playing until 2007 when the opener scheduled with Clinton — which was played during the 2006 season at the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Estes Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway — was changed to allow the Panthers to play Mayflower instead of Clinton in the same Kickoff Classic in 2007. The series resumed in 2008 and continues today.
LONGEST WINNING STREAKS: Clinton has won six straight in the series twice. Once from 1945-1949 and the second time from 2000-2005. Heber Springs won seven straight in the series from 1978-1984.
CONFERENCE FOES: Heber Springs and Clinton were first paired in the same conference in 1974 and would remain conference foes until 1990. They would again in the same conference from 1993-2001 and from 2008-2013. The two teams are back in the same conference after Clinton moved up from 3A and replaced Riverview in the conference beginning in the 2020 season.
OVERTIME GAMES: There have only been three overtime games in the series and those all occurred during a four-year span from 1986-1989. Clinton won a double overtime home contest in 1986 (20-14) while the Panthers won in overtime the following season in 1987, 19-12, in Heber Springs. In 1989, Clinton defeated Heber Springs, 13-12, at Panther Stadium.
CLOSE GAMES: Twenty-five of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less during the series, not including the five ties.
TROPHY GAMES: Heber Springs won the trophy for the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic between the two schools in 2006, but since the inception of the “Battle of the Little Red” trophy, Clinton has won all five meetings, 28-20 in 2016 in Clinton, 28-17 in 2017 in Heber Springs, 36-34 in 2018 in Clinton, and 28-27 in 2019 and 32-26 at Clinton last season . Heber Springs will be looking to break a five-game losing streak to Clinton.

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2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   5 0 55  7 1 314 154 
Lonoke                      4 1 52  7 1 274 124
Southside Batesville        4 1 41  6 2 291 144                      
Clinton                     3 2 36  4 4 238 250
Little Rock Mills           2 3 26  5 3 300 249   
Heber Springs               2 3 20  3 4 133 188  
Bald Knob                   0 5  0  0 8 109 265
Central Arkansas Christian  0 5  0  2 6 191 379    

Friday, October 23
Southside Batesville 35, Heber Springs 7
Clinton 56, Bald Knob 28
Stuttgart 63, Little Rock Mills 28
Lonoke 42, Central Arkansas Christian 13
Friday, October 30
Clinton at Heber Springs
Little Rock Mills at Southside Batesville
Stuttgart at Lonoke
Bald Knob at Central Arkansas Christian

 

2-4A PLAYOFFS

Stuttgart, Lonoke and Southside Batesville have clinched playoff spots. Bald Knob and Central Arkansas Christian have been eliminated. If Stuttgart wins tonight it will clinch the No. 1 seed.

The Panthers will not clinch a playoff spot with a win or will not be eliminated with a loss. Clinton will clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win and would not be eliminated with a loss. The playoff picture will be clearer after tonight’s games.

 

 

 

 

 

Junior Panthers fall in final minute, finish 6-3

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Heber Springs quarterback Liam Buffalo breaks free from a Clinton defender and heads to the end zone Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

CLINTON – Liam Buffalo finished with 246 yards of total offense but it was not enough as Clinton claimed a 24-22, 2-4A victory Thursday night.

Heber Springs finished the season with a 6-3 overall record and a 4-2 record in the 2-4A, a third-place finish.

Clinton took the opening kick and drove 57-yards on five plays capped by a Rylan Jones 23-yard run. Zack Hunt-Gonzalez added the 2-point conversion at the 5:51 mark.

Buffalo, who ran 19 times for 144 yards on the night, actually scored three times on the Panthers first possession with his third counting on 25-yard run. The ninth-grader had 50- and 12-yard touchdown runs called back with holding penalties. Buffalo completed the conversion pass to Weston Warden to tie things up at 8-8 with 3:35 left in the first quarter.

The Yellowjackets responded with a time-consuming 12-play, 65-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the first-half clock. Quarterback Brodie Dufrene capped the possession with a 2-yard run. Hunt-Gonzalez’ 2-point run made it 16-8 in favor of Clinton with 5:31 left in the half.

The two teams traded possession as the Panthers failed to convert on a fourth-and-13 play from the Clinton 47 while the Yellowjackets reached the Panther 25 right before the half — a 42-yard field goal attempt was no good.

Buffalo connected with Warden for 15-yard pass completion on the final play of the first half.

Heber Springs took the second-half kickoff as Buffalo ran three times for 33 yards to put the ball on the Clinton 33. Cooper Holmes ran for 6 before Buffalo scored on an 11-yard run. The 2-point pass attempt was no good as Clinton still led 16-14 at the 6:31 mark of the third quarter.

The Yellowjackets reached the Panther 24 on their next drive but the Heber Springs defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth down. From there, the Panthers would take the lead on an 11-play, 76-yard drive as Buffalo made an underhand pass to Holmes for a 1-yard touchdown. The big play on the drive was a 36-yard reception by Warden. Warden also caught the 2-point conversion to make it 22-18 with 7:01 left.

The Panther defense forced its only four-and-out of the night on Clinton’s next possession as pass attempt by Dufrene fell short for the Yellowjackets at the Clinton 47 with 5:40 left.

Heber Springs moved the ball to the Clinton 40 and fourth-and-3, Buffalo picked up five yards on the ground for a first down with just over three minutes to play. But the drive would fizzle following an incomplete pass, a run for no gain, a three-yard reception by Carter Julian and an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Clinton 32.

The Yellowjackets, with three timeouts, took over with 2:36 to play. A 16-yard run by Rope Williams gave Clinton a first down on their own 48. Four more running plays, including another first down, moved the ball to the Panther 32. On third-and-4, Dufrene pitched to Brayson Littell who hit Jones for a 32-yard touchdown pass to tie things up at 22-all with 51 seconds left. Jones would score the go-ahead points on the 2-point conversion make it 24-22.

The Panthers picked up a first down on a 12-yard reception by Warden, but three straight incomplete passes left Heber Springs with one final play. Buffalo hit Logan Rutledge, who only managed nine yards, before being brought down as the clock expired.

Warden finished the night with four receptions for 65 yards as Buffalo completed 10 passes for 102 yards.

HEBER SPRINGS AT CLINTON
OCTOBER 28, 2021 
Clinton                   8   8   0   8 - 24
Heber Springs             8   0   6   8 - 22
FIRST QUARTER 
C - Rylan Jones 23-yard run (Zack Hunt-Gonzalez run), 5:51
HS - Liam Buffalo 25-yard run (Buffalo to Weston Warden pass), 3:35
SECOND QUARTER 
C - Brodie Dufrene 2-yard run (Hunt-Gonzalez run), 5:31
THIRD QUARTER
HS - Buffalo 11-yard run (pass failed), 6:31
FOURTH QUARTER 
HS - Buffalo to Cooper Holmes 1-yard pass (Buffalo to Warden), 7:01
C - Brayson Littell to Jones (Jones run), :51
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 14, C 13
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 25/164, C 34/219
PASSING YARDS: HS 102, C 42
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 266, C 261
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 10-21-0, C 2-9-0
FUMBLES: HS 0, C 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 4/33, C 3/15
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 0, C 0
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Liam Buffalo 19/144, Cooper Holmes 3/16, Carter Julian 1/4, Weston Warden 2/0. C, Rylan Jones 13/103, Zack Hunt-Gonzalez 11/66, Colton Warren 1/22, Rope Williams 4/18, Brayson Littell 3/9, Brodie Dufrene 2/1.
PASSING: HS, Buffalo 10/21-102-1/0. C, Dufrene 0/7-0-0/0, Littell 2/2-42-0/0
RECEVING: HS, Warden 4/65, Logan Rutledge 2/25, Holmes 2/4, Ty West 1/11, Julian 1/3. C, Jones 2/42.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Rutledge 1/(-1). C, Holmes 1/24, Dufrene 1/16.
PUNT RETURNS: None
INT RETURNS: None
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: None

HEBER SPRINGS JUNIOR HIGH SCHEDULE

(Final Record: 6-3)

Aug. 26 – Heber Springs 32, Clinton 28

Sep. 09 – Harding Academy 36, Heber Springs 16

Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 26, Dover 12

Sep. 23 – Heber Springs 34, Lonoke 12 *

Sep. 28 – Heber Springs 42, Stuttgart 32 *

Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 30, Heber Springs 14 *

Oct. 14 – Heber Springs 26, Bald Knob 8 *

Oct. 21 – Heber Springs 22, Southside Batesville 14 *

Oct. 28 – Clinton 24, Heber Springs 22 *

(* – Denotes Conference Contest)

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Panther Cubs claim win in final seconds

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The Panther seventh-grade team after an 8-6 win over Clinton on Thursday. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

CLINTON – The Heber Springs seventh-grade Panthers ended their season on a high-note in one of the most improbable ways Thursday night in Clinton.

Trailing 6-0 late in the contest, Heber Springs failed to convert on a fourth-down play at the Clinton 15 with less than two minutes to play. With three timeouts left for the Panthers and less than 1:30 to play, Clinton was stopped on first down for no gain. A false-start penalty pushed the Stingers back five yards before good run left Clinton just a few yards short of a game-ending first down. On third down, and with the clock winding down, Heber Springs’ Seth Smith took the ball away from a Clinton back and rumbled 29 yards to the end zone to tie the game up at 6-6 with 25 seconds left in front of the cheering junior high team that was waiting to warm-up before the start of it’s game.

Lachlan Tubbs connected with Samuel Bush for the 2-point conversion and the Panther defense held on to claim the win.

Heber Springs finishes the season with a 3-5 record.

Harold McNabb scored Clinton’s only points with a 4-yard touchdown run with 10:07 to play in the first half.

 

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HEBER SPRINGS 7TH-GRADE SCHEDULE

(Final Record: 3-5)

Aug. 26 – Clinton 16, Heber Springs 14

Sep. 09 – at Harding Academy (Canceled)

Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 16, Dover 6

Sep. 23 – Lonoke 20, Heber Springs 6

Sep. 28 – Stuttgart 6, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 8, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 14 – Heber Springs 14, Bald Knob 0

Oct. 21 – Southside Batesville 8, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 28 – Heber Springs 8, Clinton 6

HSHS All-Decade Team: 2010s

The 2010s era of Heber Springs football was the most successful decade in school history with one perfect regular season, an outright conference title and two more that were shared. The decade also saw the Panthers reach the playoffs nine out of 10 seasons.

The 2010 season saw Steve Janski’s Panthers open with wins over Mountain View and Harding Academy before falling to Bald Knob and, in the conference opener, to Lonoke. A win over Stuttgart would follow with a setback at Marianna-Lee, before the Panthers would win four straight to close the regular season. A loss at Joe T. Robinson ended Heber Springs’ season with a 7-5 mark.

History would be made in 2011 as the Panthers opened the season by dominating defending 4A state champion Shiloh Christian, 36-17, in the opener at Reynolds’ Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Heber Springs would put 49 on Harding Academy, 55 on Bald Knob and 63 on Lonoke, before winning at Stuttgart 28-21. No team in the regular season would get to less than two touchdowns the rest of the way as the Panthers completed a perfect regular season and the school’s first outright conference title sine 1979. The second-ranked Panthers would defeat Shiloh Christian again in a first-round playoff match-up at Panther Stadium before falling to Farmington to finish at 11-1 on the year. The 11 wins are the most in school history.

The 2012 team, opened with a loss to Pottsville and had a week 2 game at Harding Academy canceled after weather delays in the first half. A win over Gentry would make the Panthers 1-1 heading into conference play. Heber Springs would not repeat as conference champions finishing 2-4A play at 4-3, closing the regular season with a loss to new conference member Pine Bluff Dollarway. The Panthers would rebound in the playoffs downing Star City and Pea Ridge to reach the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Highland ended the Panthers season leaving Heber Springs with a 7-5 mark.

Janski’s last season at Heber Springs, 2013, would see the Panthers claim wins over Marianna-Lee and Southside Batesville but finish with a 2-8 mark.

Assistant coach David Farr was promoted to head coach for the 2014 campaign. The Panthers would down Clinton and Harding Academy in nonconference play before finishing 5-2 in conference play. The Panthers would drop Crossett in first-round playoff contest before seeing their season at Warren the following week to finish 8-4.

The offseason would see Farr take a job at Maumelle and long-time assistant coach Darren Gowen promoted to head coach. Heber Springs would open the 2015 season with a win over Clinton before falling to Greenbrier and Harding Academy in nonconference play. The Panthers would finish conference play at 4-3 to earn a playoff spot, but Star City would end Heber Springs’ season at 5-6.

The 2016 season saw Heber Springs start 0-3 in nonconference play before bouncing back to finish 6-1 in the 2-4A and earning a share of the conference title and the number 1 seed. After a first-round playoff bye, Shiloh Christian would end the Panthers season at 6-5.

In 2017, Heber Springs would open at 1-2 before earning another share of the 2-4A crown with a 6-1 conference mark. The three-way tie left the Panthers as the No. 3 seed where they would win a thrilling playoff contest at Gravette before falling at Gosnell to finish at 8-4. With the Panthers earning a share of the conference title, it was the first time since the 1979-1980 seasons that the Panthers had won at least a share of the conference title in back-to-back seasons. Those two teams joined the 1975-1976 teams as the only ones to accomplish that feat in school history.

The 2018 team attempted to be the first to win at least of share of a conference title in three consecutive seasons. After starting the season 0-3, Heber Springs would finish conference play at 6-1 but Stuttgart would win the crown with a 7-0 conference mark. The Panthers dominated former conference foe Pocahontas in first-round playoff match-up before losing at Rivercrest to finish 7-5.

Gowen would step down as head coach in the spring of 2019 to take a position in northwest Arkansas and Will Cox was promoted for the upcoming season. Heber Springs would fall to Clinton and Harding Academy in the final seconds in nonconference play, as well to Greenbrier, to start 0-3. The Panthers would finish conference play at 4-3 and get the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, after a four-way tie at the top. Shiloh Christian would end the Panthers season in the playoffs.

(Editor’s Note: The teams were selected based upon a vote by former players and coaches. They were asked to fill a ballot based upon positions. Players were allowed to a put a player in multiple positions (i.e. WR/DB). Votes were recorded based upon on the number of ballots a particular player was listed on. If a player was listed a multiple positions, they were still counted as being on one ballot. As with past decades, positions were kept fluid in order to ensure those that were on the most ballots would make the team. In several cases, there were players that received more votes for one position than the person selected for the all-decade team, but were on fewer ballots, and therefore did not make the team. In the previous decades, I was able to create a limit amount of all-purpose positions to cover those that may have been squeezed out of one position but were on more ballots than those who did make it (though not all-purpose positions do not mean those players were on fewer ballots, in many cases it was because a player exceled at so many positions that their votes were scattered). When it came time to do the 2010s, there were more votes cast by former players than any other decade. The votes were more varied than other decade. It created a situation were I was going to have to create a larger number of “all-purpose” positions to get everyone on the team that was going to get squeezed out because of the position that they played. So for this decade only, I created a second team. There are several players on the second team that were on more ballots than those on the first team, but I could not put them at position that did not play (an example would be if someone played WR/DB, I could not put them on the offensive line even though they were on more ballots than someone on first-team offensive line). That is just an example. Also, there is no punter on the second team, because all of those who received votes were already on the team so an extra “all-purpose” position was created in its place. And with ALL of the all-decade teams, there are some very, very good football players that didn’t make it and this decade was no exception. The hardest part of doing this was leaving out those who have contributed so much to the Panther program over the years. Coming in October, all those on any all-decade will be eligible to be voted on the all-time team that will be selected by a vote by the public).

The 2010s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

WR – Clint Ligon (2012)

WR – Pierce Mitchum (2016)

OL – Jimbo Bodron (2010)

OL – J.J. Bray (2018)

OL – Andrew Davis (2011)

OL – Derrik Fisher (2012)

OL – Joseph Tharp (2010)

QB – Adam Martin (2019)

RB – Chandler Marquardt (2014)

RB – Markeyvus Mays (2011)

RB – Blaze Nelson (2018)

K – Julian Cameron (2018)

AP – Michael Ludwig (2011)

DEFENSE

DL – Chris Hart (2017)

DL – Zach McCormick (2014)

DL – Luke McGowan (2016)

LB – Geoffrey Anderson (2011)

LB – Ethan Bly (2012)

LB – James Ketchum (2015)

LB – Mason Williams (2010)

DB – Jacob Bremmon (2017)

DB – Micah Dew (2012)

DB – Nate Dew (2016)

DB – Brooks Morgan (2012)

P – Landon Glover (2011)

AP – Hunter Chandler (2015)

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

WR – Andrew Hill (2010)

WR – Rocky Finney (2018)

OL – Austin Childers (2011)

OL – Harley Hannah (2019)

OL – Nate Hills (2013)

OL – Ethan Lee (2012)

OL – Dylan Platt (2015)

QB – Michael Kramer (2013)

RB – Chandler Jones (2014)

RB – Julio Rubio (2019)

RB/WR – Gunner Nelson (2012)

K – Edgar Torres (2015)

AP – Joseph Stacks (2017)

DEFENSE

DL – Dalton Hall (2018)

DL – Harley Hooten (2012)

DL – Kody Youngblood (2014)

LB – Fate Berry (2019)

LB – Dustin Ervin (2012)

LB – Wade Gilbrech (2012)

LB – Landon Johnson (2019)

DB – Caleb Carmikle (2010)

DB – Cooper Lawrence (2013)

DB – Jesse Lawrence (2011)

DB – Dillon Spivey (2017)

AP – Brandon Loethen (2017)

AP – Ian Lowe (2013)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 2000s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1990s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1980s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

HSHS All-Decade Team: 2000s

The 2000s era of Heber Springs football started with a whimper and ended with a bang.

Long-time assistant Todd Thompson would take over for Bill Buckner for the 2000 campaign as the 2AAA conference would see some changes with Hoxie joining the conference. Heber Springs would struggle through the 2000 and 2001 seasons, before breaking into the win column with an 2002 season-opening win over Little Rock Lutheran. After a loss to Clinton, the Panthers would down Lamar before entering conference play. Corning had replaced Bald Knob starting with the 2002 season.

Former Panther standout Dale Cresswell would take over as head coach for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, claiming a win against Lamar in 2004.

Former East Carolina University assistant coach Steve Janski would take over the program starting with the 2005 season and guide the team the rest of the decade.

Opening with a win over Bald Knob, the Panthers would also claim a nonconference win at Lamar. Heber Springs would break at conference losing streak on Oct. 21, 2005, with a win at Mountain View. They would follow that with a win over Yellville-Summit to finish 4-6.

The 2006 campaign saw Heber Springs shifted to the 2-4A conference joining Lonoke, Stuttgart, Marianna-Lee, Bald Knob, Southside Batesville, Mountain View and Newport. The Panthers would start the season 4-0 with wins over Clinton, DeWitt, Yellville-Summit and Lonoke, before falling to Stuttgart and Marianna-Lee in back-to-back weeks. Blowout wins over Bald Knob and Southside Batesville would follow, before Heber Springs would claim its first win over Newport. Mountain View forfeited the reminder of its season on Oct. 23 due to low player numbers giving the Panthers a 13-0 conference win. The Yellowjackets did field a “B” team that traveled to Heber Springs in week 10 so the Panthers could have a “senior night,” heading into the playoffs. The Panthers would claim their first playoff win in 27 years with a 21-12 win over Greenland. Heber Springs would finish out a 10-3 with a loss at Nashville.

The 2007 Panthers would finish the season with a 5-6 record earning the school’s first back-to-back appearance in the playoffs. In week 8, Heber Springs would set a school record with 76 points in win over Southside Batesville.

The 2008 Heber Springs would start the season 1-4 and the postseason definitely seemed in doubt as the Panthers trailed at Marianna-Lee 30-0 with 8:10 left in the first half, but Heber Springs would score 32 unanswered to claim a 32-30 win. That victory seem to propel the Panthers as they would win six straight, including playoff wins over Prairie Grove and West Fork reaching the 4A quarterfinals for the third time in school history and the first time since 1979. Heber Springs would end with an 8-5 mark.

Heber Springs’ 2009 season saw a 4-0 start, before falling at Stuttgart, 15-12, in week 4. After a win against Marianna-Lee and a loss at Bald Knob, the Panthers would five-in-a-row to advance to the 4A quarterfinals in back-to-back for the first time in school history. The Panthers would finish with a 10-3 mark.

The 2000s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

OFFENSE

WR – Shane Bryant (2005)

WR – Stuart Tillman (2005)

OL – Frazier Blankenship (2007)

OL – Billy Grammar (2009)

OL – Trevor Reed (2006)

OL – Alex Witkowski (2007)

OL – Alex Wyatt (2006)

QB/P – Devin Tillman (2005)

RB – Curtis Decker (2006)

RB – Ryan Grist (2007)

RB – Braylon Mitchell (2009)

K – Antonio Romero (2008)

AP – Wes McMullen (2009)

AP – Taylor Tubbs (2004)

AP – Jacob Wilson (2004)

DEFENSE

DL – Garrett Davis (2006)

DL – Warren DeBusk (2000)

DL – Matt Fedora (2002)

DL – Ryan Palenske (2009)

LB – Michael Harmon (2005)

LB – Tanner Tubbs (2006)

LB – Jonathan West (2005)

LB – Thomas Wharton (2001)

DB – Hunter Derrick (2009)

DB – Jimmy Head (2001)

DB –Hilton Hoover (2008)

AP – David Darrell (2009)

AP – Jake Logan (2007)

AP – Zach Nelson (2009)

AP – Jacob Smithson (2002)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 1990s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1980s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

HSHS All-Decade: 1990s

The 1990s era of Heber Springs football saw the Panthers come close to several playoff berths and claim two spots as the number of playoff teams was expanded to four teams in the decade.

The first Panther team of the decade lost its opener to Harding Academy but won three straight with nonconference wins over Dover and Dardanelle, and a conference-opening win over Yellville-Summit. A loss to Mountain View was the first conference blemish, but the Panthers improved to 4-2 with a victory over Bald Knob. A nonconference loss to Pulaski Academy and conference losses to Vilonia and Greenbrier, left the Panthers playing for pride in week 10, a 31-0 victory over Clinton to finish at 5-5 on the year.

The 1991 season saw Heber Springs shifted away from conference foes that had dominated the schedule for more than 15 years as the Panthers were placed in the 5AA with England, Vilonia, Beebe, Bald Knob, DeWitt, Lonoke and Brinkley. Heber Springs started the season with a narrow setback to Clinton, 22-20, but the Panthers would struggle the rest of the way, finishing at 0-10 (the first winless campaign in school history).

John Richardson switched to classroom duties for the 1992 season and assistant coach Brad Reese was promoted to the top position. His first team won back-to-back games against Mountain View and England, but finished the season 2-8.

The 1993 squad would be placed in the 4AA-East conference along with Perryville, Yellville-Summit, Greenbrier, Mountain View, Clinton, Dover and Atkins. Heber Springs would garner wins over Perryville and Mountain View.

The Panthers rebounded in 1994. Heber Springs started the season 0-3 with close losses to Batesville and Harding Academy, before opening 4AA-East play. The Panthers would win five straight to put themselves in a good position to earn one of the two playoff spots for the conference. But Heber Springs was upset in week 9 at Dover, forcing a must-win game in week 10 at Atkins. The two teams battled but the Red Devils claimed a 6-0 win and a share of the conference title (along with Greenbrier, whose only conference was to the Panthers on Oct. 7).

With the playoffs expanded to four teams from each conference, the 1995 Panthers started the season by winning four straight. After a dropping a pair of 4AA-East contests, Heber Springs got back into playoff contention with wins over Mountain View and Clinton, but losses to Dover in week 9 and Atkins in week 10 left the Panthers in fifth place, but with a winning record at 6-4.

The 1996 Panthers again saw a conference change as Beebe, Dover, Clinton, Mountain View, Bald Knob, Yellville-Summit and Vilonia joined Heber Springs in the 5AA-North. Heber Springs would claim a nonconference win over Greenbrier but would again finish one-game short of a playoff berth with a fifth-place finish in conference play and a 4-6 overall record.

Heber Springs would get over the playoff hump in 1997, earning the schools first playoff berth in 14 seasons. The Panthers opened with wins over Atkins and Greenbrier before dropping a close contest at Highland. In the conference opener, Beebe would pull away late from the Panthers before Heber Springs would score 30 or more points in wins over Dover, Clinton and Mountain View. The Panthers would close out the season with three straight losses and in a three-way with Bald Knob and Clinton for the four-seed. Heber Springs got in based upon a conference tiebreaker and traveled to Ozark, where the Panthers season would end a cold night in Franklin County and a 5-6 record.

With Reese taking a position at Huntsville, former Greenbrier coach Bill Buckner would lead the Panthers for the 1998 campaign. The Panthers would finish the season with two nonconference wins over Greenbrier and Mountainburg, and two conference wins in the new 2AAA conference (Yellville-Summit, Mountain View, Pocahontas, Highland, Bald Knob and Clinton).

The 1999 Panthers would open the season with four-straight losses before dropping Mountain View on the road and winning at home against Pocahontas. After a loss at Highland, Heber Springs would down Mountainburg (in nonconference play), Bald Knob (43-20) and Clinton (57-18) to finish second in the 2AAA and earn the school’s first home playoff game in 20 years. Warren would handle the Panthers in the first round as Heber Springs closed the decade with a 5-6 record.

The 1990s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

OFFENSE

WR – Wesley Smith (1997)

WR – Brad Sneed (1998)

OL – Scott Anderson (1998)

OL – Justin Burlison (1999)

OL – Kory Smith (1993)

OL – Guy Storm (1997)

OL – Stephen Talley (1999)

QB – Chris Lee (1994)

RB – Justin Davidson (1998)

RB – Stacy Poff (1990)

RB – Eric Smith (1993)

AP – Nat Baureis (1995)

AP – Mark Cresswell (1996)

AP – Josh Foster (1999)

AP – Jacob McCormick (1999)

DEFENSE

DL – Barry Brown (1992)

DL – David Butler (1999)

DL – Cliff Derrickson (1997)

DL – Burke Toliver (1995)

DL – Tray Wilson (1994)

LB – Tony Baldwin (1997)

LB/P – Brock Bertrand (1996)

LB – Nathan James (1998)

DB – Billy Baser (1997)

DB/K – Nick James (1998)

DB –Zeke Wilson (1998)

AP – Gil Blevins (1990)

AP – Scott Cresswell (1994)

AP – Randal Hindsley (1991)

AP – Jem Johnson (1990)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 1980s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

HSHS All-Decade Team: 1980s

The 1980s era of Heber Springs football was one of consistency at the top with Dennis DeBusk coaching the team through eight seasons of the decade.

The 1980 Panther team finished the season with an 8-2 mark and in a three-way tie for the 1AA-East crown, but missed out on a playoff spot. After opening the season with a 10-7 setback to Joe T. Robinson, Heber Springs would win eight straight setting up a week 10 showdown with Greenbrier for a chance to win back-to-back outright conference crowns. But the Faulkner County Panther squad would come out on top 24-6 to steal the playoff bid from the Panthers.

In 1981, Heber Springs would finished 7-3 and the set-up would be the same as 1980, except with nonconference losses to Beebe and Batesville, with a week 10 showdown with Greenbrier for the 1AA-East crown. Both teams entered the game at 5-0 in the conference, but Greenbrier would claim a 27-0 win, the conference title and the conference’s spot in the playoffs.

The 1982 squad would start the season 0-2 with losses at Beebe and to Harding Academy, but rebounded to win at Bald Knob and at home against Batesville. The Panthers would start conference play with a victories over Clinton and Yellville-Summit, before stumbling at Mountain View on Oct. 15, 20-14. Heber Springs would rebound with wins over Marshall and Vilonia before falling to Greenbrier, 10-6, in week 10. Though the Panthers finished in second place in the conference, Mountain View was the lone representative for the conference in the playoffs.

In 1983, Bald Knob re-joined the newly-named 5AA-North conference and the Panthers would start the season 2-1 in nonconference play. Heber Springs would not leave any doubt about a playoff spot by starting 6-0 and having clinched postseason play by week 10. A week 10 loss to Vilonia meant the Panthers had to share a conference crown with the Eagles. Heber Springs opened the season with a win over Beebe but the Badgers got revenge in the playoffs by knocking off the Panthers, 17-6.

The 1984 Panther team would finish 4-6 and 3-4 in conference play. Heber Springs still had a chance to earn one of the two playoff spots for the conference but those hopes were dashed with losses in weeks 9 and 10 ended those.

The 1985 and 1986 teams each finished at 2-8 with the 1985 squad downing Marshall and Vilonia, and the 1986 team defeating Marshall and Greenbrier.

In 1987, Heber Springs would go 2-3 in nonconference play with wins over Dover and Atkins. The Panthers would open up conference play with a thrilling 19-12 overtime win against Clinton, but would drop their final four contests to finish at 3-7.

Mountain View High School graduate John Richardson would take over as coach for the 1988 season after coming over from Huntsville. Heber Springs would start with nine straight losses before closing the season with a win over Mountain View.

In 1989, Heber Springs would again finished with a 1-9 mark, starting the season with three nonconference losses before downing Yellville-Summit in the conference opener.

The 1980s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

OFFENSE

WR – Lance Perry (1980)

WR – Mark Rezanka (1983)

OL – Jim Bly (1981)

OL – Edward Gleich (1984)

OL – Wayne Hazelwood (1983)

OL – John Hoover (1980)

OL – Aaron Little (1980)

QB – Pat Dudeck (1988)

RB – Bill Mark (1982)

RB – Danny Martin (1980)

RB – Danny Stevenson (1988)

AP – Mark Hoffman (1980)

AP – Reggie Sumpter (1987)

AP – Jonathan Wallace (1984)

AP – Shannon Yates (1987)

DEFENSE

DL – Jeff Garlinghouse (1988)

DL – Brock Loftis (1981)

DL – Peyton Upton (1982)

LB – Dale Cresswell (1984)

LB – Mike Shamburger (1989)

LB – Robert Sparks (1980)

LB/K – Mike Verser (1984)

LB – Paul Reed (1981)

DB – Andy Beam (1981)

DB –Steve Logan (1983)

DB – Bill Wallace (1986)

P – Travis Moss (1984)

AP – Birch Grisso (1983)

AP –Sid Shelton (1982)

AP – Paige Upton (1982)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

HSHS All-Decade Team: 1960s

The 1960s era of Heber Springs football saw the game change with more liberal substitution rules and the Panthers coming close to pair of conference championships.

Bill Rosa took over coaching duties from Cecil Alexander for the 1960 season and the Panthers finished with a 1-7 mark, defeating Newport “B” in week 6.

James Staggs would take over in 1961 with a young assistant coach Isaac Witt helping out. After starting the season 0-3, the Panthers would close out the season by winning five in a row and finishing their first winning season since 1952. Heber Springs would down Carlisle, Harding Academy in 2B action, Searcy “B”, Cotton Plant and Beebe.

The next season, 1962, would see another new coach on the sidelines for the Panthers as former Arkansas Razorback fullback Darrell Williams (whose twin brother Jarrell would win 261 games and four state championships as a head coach at Springdale) took over the coaching duties, with Witt remaining as an assistant. The 1962 season also saw the opening of the current Panther Stadium as McCrory won the first game at the new field, 7-6. After downing Clinton, 13-7 on the road, the Panthers returned home for a week 3 contest with the coach Harold Horton-led Bald Knob Bulldogs. The match-up of former Razorback teammates would go to the Bulldogs but the Panthers would four out of their last six to finish with a winning record.

The Panthers fifth coach in as many seasons, Russell Sims, took over in 1963 — with Witt still in an assistant’s role. Heber Springs finished the season with a 3-7-1 mark, tying McCrory in the opener and downing Newport “B”, Beebe and Batesville “B”.

Sims and Witt stayed together in 1964 and led the Panthers to an historic 9-win season (the most wins in school history until 1979). The Panthers would meet Hazen in the next to last week of the season in match-up of ranked teams to determine the champion for district 2B. The Hornets would claim a 13-12 victory to earn the title.

With the success, Sims and Witt both left with Sims taking over the Mountain Home program. Richard Whybrew and former Clinton standout Stanley Stanton would lead the program for the 1965 and 1966 seasons. The Panthers would manager only two wins in each season, downing Clinton and Cotton Plant in 1965 and Cotton Plant and DeValls Bluff in 1966.

Witt would return for the 1967 season, this time as head coach, as Heber Springs would finish 1-9-1, downing Marshall in week two and tying Hazen in week 9.

Jim Patchell would join Witt’s staff for the 1968 and 1969 seasons as the Panthers would close out the decade by going 7-2 in 1968 and 7-3 in 1969. The 1968 squad lost a heartbreaker to Hazen, 12-7, in the final game of the season that would have earned the Panthers their second conference title.

After two decades in the 2B, Heber Springs moved up a classification as the school begin to grow in the late 1960s. The 1969 team was placed in the 2A-South but did not play a conference schedule. Instead, many newer programs that would later be conference rivals began football programs, including Mountain View, Vilonia, Highland, Marshall and Greenbrier; and the Panthers feasted on those programs going 9-0 against those schools.

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

OFFENSE

WR – Dennis DeBusk (1965)

WR – Dwight Olmstead (1968)

OL – Verlon Abram (1969)

OL – Wayne Bailey (1964)

OL – Charles Bradford (1960)

OL – John Cunningham (1965)

OL – James Robert DeBusk (1967)

QB – Rickey Pilkington (1968)

RB – Ronnie Lewellyn (1968)

RB – Bubba Ramsey (1961)

RB – Ernie Longing (1963)

K/AP – Jim Patchell (1962)

AP – Freddie Clayton (1964)

AP – Larry Robinson (1968)

DEFENSE

DL – Thurman Clark (1964)

DL – Joe Paul Daves (1962)

DL – Eddie Lacy (1968)

DL – Robert Walters (1966)

LB – David Lay (1968)

LB – Don Lucy (1964)

LB – Bill Cook (1961)

DB/P – Jerry Todd (1964)

DB – Wain Westerman (1968)

DB – Dan Verser (1963)

DB – Jeff Long (1964)

AP – Whit Birdsong (1969)

AP – Terry Lynn (1969)

AP – Gene McFarland (1962)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

HSHS All-Decade Team: 1950s

The 1950s era of Heber Springs football saw some success in the early part of the decade, some struggles in the middle part of the decade and a rebirth with a familiar face in the latter part of the decade as players still played both ways.

New coach Leland Myers guided the Panthers to one of the best marks in school history in 1950 with a 6-2-1 record. Heber Springs opened the season with a loss to Augusta but won six straight with wins over Clinton, Bald Knob, Ola, Cotton Plant, Arkansas School for the Deaf and Sloan-Hendrix. The tie came on Nov. 24 over a heavily-favored Morrilton squad. A loss to McCrory on Thanksgiving closed out the season.

The Panthers would win five games in 1951, the best two-year stretch in school history up that point, with wins over Mountain Home, Harding Academy, Hickory Ridge, Arkansas School for the Deaf and Clinton.

Former Heber Springs Panther standout Robert Fisher would take over as coach in 1952 guiding the Panthers to their first conference title in school history with a 5-3-1 mark — it would be 23 years before Heber Springs would win another conference title. The Panthers defeated Augusta, Harding Academy and Cotton Plant to earn the conference crown and also picked up victories over Mountain Home and Hickory Ridge. On Nov. 21, the Panthers traveled to Earle for a Class B playoff game (with only eight teams in the playoffs at the time). Heber Springs had two weeks off before the game while the Bulldogs had beaten county-rival West Memphis a week earlier and handed the Panthers a 25-6 setback. A Thanksgiving Day loss five-days later to McCrory set the final mark.

A new coach took over the reigns of the Panther program in 1953. Bernis Duke would go on to hall of fame career winning a state basketball title at Newport and later coaching the Oral Roberts University (in Tulsa, Okla.) tennis team for 33 years. Duke was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 2002 and the ORU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 — the tennis center on the ORU campus is named in his honor, but at Heber Springs his only attempt at coaching football resulted in a one-win campaign in 1953 (a win over the “B” team from Conway).

The 1954 squad had the same fate as the 1953 squad, a single win over the “B” team from Conway. The assistant coach for that squad, Elmer Gathright, would also have building named after him, the basketball gymnasium at West Side High School in Greers Ferry.

In 1955 and 1956, another future Hall-of-Famer took over the reigns of the football program as Bald Knob High School graduate Carl Steward would guide the program to a 4-14 mark (a pair of wins over Bradford, a win over Conway “B” and Clinton). Steward would later make his mark as a track coach and a track official.

The decade closed with another HSHS graduate, Cecil Alexander, guiding the program for three season. Alexander, who had starred on the gridiron at Hendrix College after graduating from HSHS, would guide the program for the rest of the decade going 9-12-4. His first squad in 1957 defeated Harding Academy, Bradford and “B” teams from Batesville and Jacksonville to finish 4-4. In 1958, the Panthers would go 3-3-3 with wins over Newport “B”, Augusta and Sylvan Hills and ties with Carlisle, Mabelvale and Conway “B”. His 1959 squad would beat Clinton and Harding Academy and tie Danville.

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

End – Pete Benbrook (1950)

End – Sherlon Martin (1959)

Line – Elwood Cooper (1952)

Line – Roy Ferguson (1953)

Line – Dale Ramsey (1951)

Line – Richard Stark (1951)

Line – Tommy Whitaker (1952)

Back – Cecil Alexander (1952)

Back – Mickey Barnett (1951)

Back – Jimmy Davis (1952)

Back – Victor Davis (1959)

Back – Jerry Pilkington (1950)

Back – Keith Pilkington (1957)

All-Purpose – Lovell Davis (1953)

All-Purpose – Jim Alexander (1958)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team