Carmikle charged with leading Heber Springs football program

New Heber Springs football coach Caleb Carmikle is all smiles as he introduces his family at a meet-and-greet for the coach Saturday at Panther Gymnasium. Carmikle replaces Van Paschal, who took a job at Cross County following his lone season at Heber Springs. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

The Heber Springs High School football team celebrated “Homecoming” early this year.

Though there was no queen and her court, there was a coronation as Caleb Carmikle was introduced as the 40th head football coach in school history at a meet-and-greet event held at the Panther Den on the campus of Heber Springs High School on Saturday.

Carmikle was hired in early March to replace Van Paschal, who took a job at Cross County in January.

The 2011 graduate of Heber Springs High School was head coach at Rison last season and told the 100 plus gathered for the event, including several former teammates, that becoming the head coach of the Panthers was the only job he would leave Rison for.

“Honestly up until the time I accepted the job was on the fence about it,” Carmikle said afterward. “It was my first year at Rison and I didn’t want to leave with that job being unfinished.

“But it’s home, and so when it came down to it, it just felt like God was leading us to come home and serve this community.”

In 103 seasons of Heber Springs High School football, Carmikle becomes the seventh former Panther charged with leading the program, but the first since Dale Cresswell, who was head coach for three seasons starting in 2003.

Carmikle joins Cresswell, Dennis DeBusk (the winningest coach in school history), Cecil Alexander, Bob Fisher, Henry Clay Kelley and Neill Reed as Heber Springs High School graduates to serve as head coach.

“You know, this is my fourth head coaching job now, and each of the other three were a special opportunity to be a head coach,” Carmikle said, “but to be able to do it where I grew up and coach guys that were just like me and sat in the same chair that I did, it means that much more, so it’s a special feeling.”

Carmikle played for the Panthers during the 2008 through 2010 seasons and was named to the all-decade team for the 2010s, but did he ever think about wanting to come back and be coach here while he was still playing?

“Yeah, I knew, once I decided I wanted to be a coach, I knew at some point in my career I would want to come home,” he said. “I wasn’t sure when. I knew everything had to align perfectly, and it has, and so I think this is a great time to come home.”

The 2015 graduate of Arkansas Tech played under former Panther coach Steve Janski.

“The nuts and bolts of the program will be similar to the way it was when I was in school, but I told the interview committee and everybody else in the audience (today), I’m not Steve Janski,” Carmikle said. “Obviously there is things that he did that I’ve molded my program around and put my own twist to it.

“But I learned early on in my career that you can’t try to be a Steve Janski or (former Panther head coach and new athletic director) Darren Gowen or (former Panther assistant coach) Scott Davenport, I can be Caleb Carmikle, but there’s pieces from all the places that I’ve been that have blended into the style.”

Prior to coaching Rison in 2023. Carmikle was the head coach at Magnet Cove, where he compiled a 39-30 record in six seasons winning three conference titles. Before that, Carmikle spent two seasons at the head coach at Glenbrook, a private school in Minden, Louisiana. His first team in 2015 went 1-9 but his second went 5-5 earning him parish coach of the year honors by the Minden Press-Herald. His overall record as a head coach is 48-52.

Carmikle will inherit a coaching staff that includes assistants Hunter Davis, Micah Dew, Curtis Shannon, Easton Seidl, and Kevin Youngblood. He said he likes the makeup of the coaching staff, calling it “balanced with a mix of older experienced guys and some young, fiery guys.”

In taking the job at Heber Springs, it will allow Carmikle an opportunity to work with someone he was wanted to work since his days at Magnet Cove, Panther defensive coordinator Kevin Youngblood, who’s defensive pitched the most shutouts in season in 2023 since 2009 with three — Carmikle was a junior on that 2009 team.

“I first met him when we coached against each other when I was at Magnet Cove and he was Quitman,” he said. “They had the best defense in the conference that year and that was maybe one of the best teams I had at Magnet Cove, we won 11 games that year, and he shut us down.”

Carmikle said he tried to hire Youngblood at Rison to be his defensive coordinator, but the timing wasn’t right.

“When all this started happening, I thought, well, if I can’t get him to come work with me somewhere else, I’ll just go where he’s at,” he said. “So that made it even more special to get a chance to work with him.”

Carmikle, who will also work at the middle school, officially starts at Heber Springs on Monday.

Junior Panthers claim win over Jonesboro Westside

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Heber Springs’ Aiden Isom gets tackled in the air by Jonesboro Westside’s Aiden Turner after a leaping over a Warrior defender in junior high action at Panther Stadium PHILIP SEATON PHOTO


The Heber Springs Panthers claimed their first win of the season with a 24-14 in junior high action at Panther Stadium.

Coach Curtis Shannon’s team improved to 1-2 on the season with the win in the final nonconference contest for Heber Springs.

The game didn’t start well for the Panthers as Jonesboro Westside took the opening kickoff and after three plays, had an 8-0 advantage. Hunter Kaja scored on a 41-yard run and then Ashton Henson added the 2-point conversion with 6:02 left in the opening quarter for that lead.

The Panthers then reeled off 24 unanswered to take control of the contest.

Heber Springs’ first score came on its first possession of the contest.

After Aiden Isom return Westside’s ensuing kickoff 12 yards, the Panthers started on their own 34 then used a 12-play drive the ended on the last play of the quarter with Landon Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run. Brown added the 2-point conversion to tie things up at 8-all.

The teams traded possession before the Warriors turned the ball late in the first half on their own 25 as Rhett Herring recovered the loose football.

Lachlan Tubbs picked up five yards on the first play after the turnover, then Isom raced 20 yards for the touchdown. Brown’s 2-point conversion gave Heber Springs a 16-8 advantage with 52.3 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Panthers weren’t done in the first half after Josiah Riggs picked off a Kaden Purvis pass attempt at the Westside 34 with 18.5 seconds left in the first half. A 15-yard penalty against the Warriors moved Heber Springs closer. An 8-yard pass to from Tubbs to Riggs and an incomplete pass left the Panthers with one final play before the half, Isom capitalized for Heber Springs with a 15-yard scoring run. Brown added the 2-point conversion and the Panthers led 24-8 at the break.

Neither team would mount much of a scoring threat in the second half until late in contest when Westside’s Purvis would score on a 19-yard run with 2:29 to play.

After a failed 2-point conversion, the Warriors recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Panther 48. A 27-yard pass play and 6-yard run put the ball on the Panther 10 with just over a minute to play, but a holding penalty and back-to-back to tackles for loss by Heber Springs ended the scoring threat.

September 7, 2023
TIME OF POSSESSION: Heber Springs 15:30, Westside 15:30
TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 6, Westside 7
BY RUSH: Heber Springs 6, Westside 5
BY PASS: Heber Springs 0, Westside 1
BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 0, Westside 1
TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 33/191/5.8/3, Westside 27/138/5.1/2
TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 1/5-8-0/0, Westside 2/4-30-0/1
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 38/199/5.2, Westside 31/168/5.4
3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 5/9, Westside 0/6
4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 2/3, Westside 3/3
TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 2, Westside 2
FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 4/2, Westside 2/1
PENALTIES: Heber Springs 6/73, Westside 7/70
RETURNS: Heber Springs 4/36, Westside 3/24
PUNTS: Heber Springs 0/0, Westside 2/60
SACKS: Heber Springs 0/0, Westside 0/0
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 8/27, Westside 4/10
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Landon Brown 10/29/1, Lachlan Tubbs 9/38, Aiden Isom 6/79/2, Josiah Riggs 3/27, Brody Loethen 3/10, Tanner Graham 1/10, Team 1/(-3). Jonesboro Westside, Kaden Purvis 14/35/1, Ashton Henson 5/30, Hunter Kaja 4/53/1, Brody Rorex 3/19, Kason Carter 1/1.
PASSING: Heber Springs, Lachlan Tubbs 1/5-8-0/0. Jonesboro Westside, Kaden Purvis 2/4-30-0/1.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Josiah Riggs 1/8. Jonesboro Westside, Logan Fleming 1/27, Landon Henson 1/3.
KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs, Aiden Isom 2/33. Jonesboro Westside, Aiden Turner 2/12, Brody Rorex 1/12
PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Aiden Isom 2/3
PUNTS: Jonesboro Westside, Kason Carter 2/60
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Aiden Isom 115