Big night in Dover for Panthers

Heber Springs sophomore Gideon Tate fights for some yardage in the fourth quarter against Dover Friday night as Dover’s Landon Meador (44) prepares to make the tackle. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

DOVER – Heber Springs bounced back in a big way and will take momentum into next week’s 2-4A Conference football opener.

The Panthers (1-1) scored on four-of-six first-half possessions and the defense reached the end zone one in Friday’s 44-0 win against Dover (0-4) at Jack Berry Field.

Heber Springs added another touchdown and recorded a safety during the second half and held the Pirates to 23 yards of offense and four first downs. The Panthers had their first shutout since a 21-0 win at Southside Batesville on Oct. 19, 2018.

Sophomore quarterback Xander Lindley completed 12-of-18 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns in his second career start. Parker Brown, also a sophomore, caught three passes for 220 yards, all for touchdowns.

“Anytime you can play on the road and get a win  it is good,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “It also is good to finish the nonconference with a win and take momentum into conference play. We had missed assignments, but overall we executed well.”

The Panthers spent all week on the short passing game, and it paid dividends.

“Dover didn’t have a lot of players on that side of the field,” Brown said. “I got good blocks and was able to get to the end zone. The receivers were blocking well.”

Wood said one of the objectives was to get the ball into Brown’s hands in the open field.

Parker is an explosive player,” Wood said. “But we have to get other players involved in the offense. We can’t rely just on him every game.”

Lindley credited the offensive line for giving him time to execute the passing game.

“I felt more comfortable than the first game,” Lindley said. “My linemen did the job. We worked on the short passes over and over all week in practice until we were able to get it right.”

Wood liked the progress of his quarterback.

“Lindley will gain conference every game,” he said. “He is looking more secure, and I expect him to improve every game.”

Despite the big offensive plays, defense had the play that changed the game late in the first quarter. Chris Edwards intercepted a Jon Greathouse pass and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown, when Heber Springs led 7-0.

“I backed up and saw the ball in the air,” Edwards said. “I just followed my teammates and scored the touchdown. I knew it was going to be a pass because of how they lined up before the play. I was afraid they were going to catch me from behind, but my buddies were blocking for me.”

Wood agreed that Edwards’ score was the game’s biggest play on defense.

“We had dropped two touchdown passes on our last offensive series, but the defense gave us a boost,” Wood said. “The interception helped to get us going. The defense played a fantastic game. That’s why it takes a team effort to win. Sometimes you need to score on the other side of the ball.”

Heber Springs needed only two plays before scoring after forcing a Dover punt following the opening kickoff. Lindley threw incomplete on first down before connecting on a short pass to Brown for a 51-yard touchdown with 8:59 left in the first quarter. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Edwards’ interception return late in the first quarter sent the Panthers into the second quarter with a 14-0 lead.

Heber Springs again utilized the big play and increased the lead to 21-0. Brown caught a pass at the 30-yard line and completed the 76-yard play for the touchdown with 8:01 left in the first half. Tate kicked for the conversion.

On the ensuing kickoff, Zane Lozeau recovered a fumble, giving the Panthers a first down at the Dover 14. Austin Winchester caught a touchdown pass on the next play. Tate kicked the extra point for the 28-0 lead.

Heber Springs reached the end zone one more time before halftime. The Panthers were backed up to their 7-yard line before Lindley threw a short pass to Brown, who ran through the Dover defense for a touchdown. Chandler Webber kicked the extra point for the 35-0 halftime lead.

Heber Springs started the second half by driving 72 yards on nine play, ending with a Lozeau’s 20-yard scoring run. Tate kicked the extra point.

A high snap over Greathouse’s head in punt formation resulted into a safety with 9:25 to play.

“It felt amazing to put 44 points on the board,” Lindley said. “I have confidence in my teammates. We have a lot of athleticism on this team; I believe we can go a long way this season.”

Wood reminded his team after the game that everything will start over Friday when the Panthers host Lonoke in the conference opener.

“We are zero and zero right now,” he said. “Anytime you can win, it builds confidence. All that matter is how we do in conference play. That will determine if we go to the playoffs.”

HEBER SPRINGS AT DOVER
SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 
Heber Springs (1-1)   14  21   7   2 - 44 
Dover (0-4)            0   0   0   0 -  0 
FIRST QUARTER 
HS - Xander Lindley to Parker Brown 51-yard pass (Gideon Tate kick), 8:59
HS - Chris Edwards 71-yard Interception return (Tate kick), 1:19
SECOND QUARTER 
HS - Lindley to Brown 76-yard pass (Tate kick), 8:01
HS - Lindley to Austin Winchester (Tate kick), 7:47
HS - Lindley to Brown 93-yard pass (Chandler Webber kick), 1:58
THIRD QUARTER
HS - Zane Lozeau 20-yard run (Tate kick), 2:22
FOURTH QUARTER
HS - Dafety, snap out of end zone, 7:34
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 10, Dover 4
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 9/45, Dover 30/(-30)
PASSING YARDS: HS 318, Dover 53
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 12-20-0, Dover 4-5-1
FUMBLES: HS 1, Dover 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 9/62, Dover 6/52
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 0, Dover 5/27.2 
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Zane Lozeau 1/20, Xander Lindley 4/17, Gideon Tate 3/6, Parker Brown 1/2. Dover, Kenny Ketcherside 7/12, Jon Greathouse 18/5, Brantley Craig 2/(-7), Team 3/(-40) 
PASSING: HS, Xander Lindley 12/18-318-4/0, Easton Cusick 0/2-0-0/0. Dover, Jon Greathouse 4/5-53-0/1
RECEVING: HS, Easton Cusick 5/44, Parker Brown 3/220, Gus Hannah 2/33, Austin Winchester 2/14, Dalton Yancey 1/7. Dover, Brantley Craig 2/33, Jacob Baggett 1/13, Colton Shuffield 1/5.
KICKOFF RETURNS: Dover, Brantley Craig 3/28, Jeremiah Mercer 2/3 
PUNT RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: HS, Chris Edwards 1/71
PUNTS: Dover, Jon Greathouse 5/136

Panthers fall in opener to Wildcats

Heber Springs sophomore Parker Brown breaks free from a Harding Academy tackle attempt on his way to 57-yard, third-quarter touchdown run Friday night at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Harding Academy scored on 6-of-7 first-half possessions and defeated the Heber Springs Panthers 42-7 at Panther Stadium Friday.

The Wildcats started their first five possessions in Heber Springs territory, a long touchdown on their sixth and took a knee heading into the half.

Harding Academy held the Panthers to 156 yards of offense, with 99 yards coming during the second half.

Heber Springs avoided a shutout on a four-play, 80-yard drive following the second-half kickoff.

“Harding (Academy) was really good and that’s why they are two-time defending (Class 3A) state champions,” Panther coach Todd Wood said. “We knew defense was their strength. The players learned a lot of things that will help during conference play. I’m very proud of this team. I never saw anyone quit, and they kept fighting until the end of the game.”

Heber Springs quarterback Xander Lindley completed 5-of-10 passes for 24 yards and rushed 11 times for six yards, including sacks, in his first start.

“It was Xander’s first game at quarterback since the eighth grade,” Wood said. “He was going against an  experienced defense. A quarterback will face adversity when playing against a defense of that caliber. He kept his head up and had faith in himself while learning.”

Brown rushed 13 times for 108 yards and scored one touchdown in his first start at running back.

“Parker never quit or backed down,” Wood said. “He will have great games in the future. We need to get him the ball more in the open field.”

Harding Academy began the game by driving 48 yards on 10 plays for its first touchdown. Quarterback Kade Smith finished the drive by scoring on an 8-yard keeper with 8:25 left in the first quarter.

The Wildcats held Heber Springs on downs at the Panther 28-yard line and didn’t wait long to put more points on the scoreboard. Landon Koch caught a scoring pass from Smith with 6:24 to go in the first quarter.

Harding Academy concluded the quarter by capitalizing on a Heber Springs fumble at the Panther 26-yard line. Two plays later, Smith ran 20 yards for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 21-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Harding Academy increased its lead on a six-play, 28-yard drive. Smith connected on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Fox with 9:59 left in the first half.

Smith and Fox hooked up on the next Wildcat possession. Harding Academy took advantage of a short punt and started its next series at the Heber Springs 32-yard line.

Fox caught an 11-yard scoring pass from Smith for a 35-0 lead with 7:06 to go until halftime.

The Wildcats reached the end zone one more time when Andrew Miller broke away on an 85-yard touchdown run with 2:38 left in the first half.

Kyle Ferrie kicked all of the extra points as Harding Academy led 42-0 at halftime.

“I challenged them before the game to continue fighting regardless of the score,” Wood said. “I told them at halftime that I knew we were down, but we need to keep fighting and learning, and they did that. we were going against backups, but we still had the effort and showed the ability to turn up our game during the second half.”

On the opening series of the second half, Brown rushed twice for 11 yards for a first down at the Harding Academy 31-yard line. Gus Hannah caught a 13-yard pass from Lindley and a first down at the Wildcat 44-yard line.

Brown put the Panthers on the scoreboard on a 56-yard run with 9:21 left in the third quarter. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point.

“We will be looking at Dover immediately and start the process of fixing things,” Wood said.

Heber Springs will conclude the nonconference schedule at Dover on Friday.

HARDING ACADEMY AT HEBER SPRINGS
SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 
Harding Academy (2-1)   21  21   0   0 - 42 
Heber Springs (0-1)      0   0   7   0 -  7 
FIRST QUARTER 
HA - Kade Smith 8-yard run (Kyle Ferrie kick), 8:25
HA - Andrew Miller to Landon Koch 28-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 6:29 
HA - Smith 22-yard run (Ferrie kick), 3:48
SECOND QUARTER 
HA - Smith to Jackson Fox 14-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 9:59
HA - Smith to Fox 11-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 6:50
HA - Miller 85-yard run (Ferrie kick), 2:38
THIRD QUARTER
HS - Parker Brown 57-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 9:01
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HA 14, HS 8
RUSHES-YARDS: HA 24/202, HS 29/132
PASSING YARDS: HA 132, HS 24
COMP-ATT-INT: HA 8-12-0, HS 6-13-0
FUMBLES: HA 0, HS 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HA 9/75, HS 2/10
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HA 2/49.5, HS 5/22.4
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 13/108, Gideon Tate 5/18, Xander Lindley 11/6. HA, Andrew Miller 13/161, Kade Smith 5/36, Jadyn White 1/11, Jack Citty 1/7, Lawson Brooks 1/(-1), Team 1/(-5), Jackson Fox 1/(-7). 
PASSING: HS, Xander Lindley 5/10-24-0/0, Easton Cusick 1/3-0-0/0. HA, Kade Smith 7/10-104-2/0, Andrew Miller 1/1-28-1/0, Jackson Fox 0/1-0-0/0.
RECEVING: HS, Gus Hannah 3/16, Kenan Sneed 1/7, Parker Brown 1/1, Dalton Yancey 1/0. HA, Landon Koch 2/55, Andrew Miller 1/29, Jackson Fox 2/25, Ryan Mcgaha 2/18, Luv Patel 1/15.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HA, Jackson Fox 1/12. 
PUNT RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Xander Lindley 5/112/22.4. HA, Kyle Ferrie 2/99/49.5

Panther Game Day: Harding Academy comes to town

Heber Springs’ Austin Winchester fights for yardage in a preseason scrimmage last month at Beebe. The Panthers open their 2021 campaign tonight at home against Harding Academy. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs will begin its 100th season of football against one of its oldest rivals.

The Panthers will host two-time defending Class 3A champion Harding Academy at 7 p.m. Friday in the delayed season opener at Panther Stadium.
Newport canceled last week’s scheduled opening game to Heber Springs because of Covid-19 reasons. Nonconference games not played for Covid reasons are counted as non-contests, while conference games will be counted as forfeit wins or losses.

HARDING ACADEMY (1-1) AT HEBER SPRINGS (0-0)
PANTHER STADIUM
KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
LAST WEEK: Heber Springs was off; Harding Academy lost at Valley View 31-30
LAST MEETING: 2019 at Harding Academy, a 45-6 win by the Wildcats
SERIES: Harding Academy leads 36-14

NOTES: With Newport canceling the opener last week, tonight's opener will be the latest first game for Heber Springs since Sept. 11, 1959, when the Panthers beat Clinton, 25-0 ... Heber Springs has not won a season-opener since 2015 (a 35-20 win at Clinton). The Panthers last home-opening win came in 2014 with a 29-16 win over Clinton ... Heber Springs is 0-4 all-time in season-openers against Harding Academy ... Besides being the 100th season of Panther football, the opener tonight begins the 60th year of Panther Stadium. The Stadium opened on Sept. 1, 1962, when the Panthers dropped a 7-6 decision to McCrory ... Heber Springs is 3-16 all-time at Panther Stadium against Harding Academy ... The teams first met in 1951, the first season that Harding Academy had football, as conference foes. The two teams were part of the 2B conference. The two teams would be part of the 2B conference for 17 seasons with the Wildcats winning 11 of the 17 games ... Harding Academy is a 3A school but with a new rule passed by the Arkansas Activities Association this summer based on performance of private schools using a points system, the Wildcats have already accrued enough points that they will be moving up to class 4A next season. Those private schools that move up will be added as the ninth team to any conference they are assigned to. All indications are that the Panthers and Wildcats will be conference foes next season. The AAA will release next season's conference assignments after the completion of this season. 

“It was disappointing when we learned that Newport would be unable to play us, but the players quickly turned their attention to Harding Academy,” Panther coach Todd Wood said. “The extra time gave us an opportunity to let players gain experience at playing different positions, which will help us when starting conference play.”

The Wildcats (1-1) are coming off a 31-30 loss at Class 5A Valley View in Jonesboro.

Harding Academy had major graduation losses on offense, but the Wildcats have been productive through two games.

Junior quarterback Kade Smith, who started at safety during most of last season, leads the offense. Smith has completed 32-of-42 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

Andrew Miller is the leading rusher for the Wildcats with 23 carries for 96 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson Fox is Smith’s favorite receiver with 11 catches for 241 yards and one touchdown.

“Harding reloads, not rebuilds,” Wood said. “The new guys have not miss a beat. They still play with a lot of discipline and also are very aggressive. Harding will have an advantage with two games under its belt.”

Linebacker Levi Mercer and end Eli Wallis lead the Harding Academy defense with 11 tackles each. The Wildcats, who have allowed 39 points in two games, return nine of 11 starters.

“We know most of Harding’s experience returns was on defense,” Wood said. “But offensively, they have not missed a beat.”

Wood feels more comfortable about his team with an offseason of weight room work, spring practice and summer workouts.

“We are farther ahead than at this time last year,” Wood said. “We understand our roles, plays and assignments better.”

The Panthers will start an all-sophomore backfield with quarterback Xander Lindley and running back Parker Brown. Lindley was a starting receiver for last season’s successful junior high school team, though he did play some at quarterback as an eighth-grader, and Brown started at running back. Gideon Tate, another sophomore, and senior Jackson West also will see action in the backfield.

Two starters return on the offensive line — left guard Peyton Owens and left tackle Thad Bray. Tristan Thissen will start at right guard and Corbin Jones at right tackle. Sophomore Joenah Cordell was named the starting center in the place of Zach Thomas, who is sidelined because of illness for at least two more weeks.

Gus Hannah and Easton Cusick lead an experience receiving corp. Dalton Yancey, another sophomore, Austin Winchester and Chris Edwards will be among other players to watch in the passing game.

“Lindley developed with a strong arm during the summer,” Wood said. “He continues to learn how the offense works. We needed a quarterback with mobility and who can make plays downfield when the pocket breaks down. Bray and Owens are solid players on the line. The players have worked hard and ready for the season to start.”

On defense, Lucas Langster and Jones will start at the ends with Blaze Emerson at nose guard. Chris Benton, who was expected to start on the defensive line, is sidelined indefinitely with a hand injury.

Kenan Sneed, the leading tackler for the Panthers last season, leads the linebacking corps. Thissen will start at the other inside linebacker. Chris Roberts, Hayden Johnson, Hayden Davis and Tate will split time at the two outside linebackers.

Edwards will start at cornerback with Zane Lozeau and Zack Parker splitting time at the other cornerback. Gage Buford and Colton Turley are the starters at the safeties.

“Sneed is the leader of the defense,” Wood said. “Hayden Johnson will start at outside linebacker. He’s small but makes up for it with his speed and aggressive player. Langster returns on the defensive line. I expect Cordell and Emerson to contribute. Owens and Bray also will play on the defensive line. Thissen will play at inside linebacker.”

Wood said the team is ready, and he expects a good performance.

“We need to  get the season going and learn our weaknesses,” he said. “It will help in preparing for the conference season. One of our downfalls last year was quick turnovers. We must execute and move the ball to stay in games.”

Panthers tangle with Badgers in scrimmage

Heber Springs quarterback John McBroome throws a touchdown pass to Easton Cusick during Tuesday’s nights scrimmage at Beebe. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

(Editor’s Note: The story was amended to remove reference on who threw the Panthers second interception)

BEEBE – Heber Springs and Class 5A Beebe tangled Tuesday night at Bro Erwin Stadium in a benefit scrimmage contest.

Beebe came out on top on the scoreboard, 34-7, in the controlled scrimmage.

Two of the Badgers touchdowns came on interceptions returned for touchdowns — one on a deflected pass off a Panther receiver, and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns — including one in the end zone on a blocked punt.

Outside the turnovers turned into points, the two teams managed to only a score each off the opposing defense.

The two teams starters began the contest with a 10-play series (regardless of turnovers). The Panthers were driving before Braden Sanders stepped in front of a John McBroome pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. No extra points were attempted in the series.

The Heber Springs defense stopped Beebe’s starters just short of the goal line on the 10th play.

The second 10-play set saw the second-teamers tangle with each other. Heber Springs drove deep into Badger territory after a couple of Xander Lindley pass completions and a run by Gideon Tate. However, Tate was stopped just inches short on the 10th play of the drive.

Heber Springs’ second-team defense stopped Beebe after a holding penalty against the Badgers cost them a 60-yard touchdown run. Tate came up with two fumble recoveries during the 10-play set.

After a short break, the teams played normal quarters. Heber Springs’ first series ended with a punt just short of the end zone and McBroome’s punt was blocked into the end zone where a Badger fell on the ball for the score.

Lindley connected with Easton Cusick with a pass to the Panther 49 before the drive stalled.

The Badgers turned the ball over on their next possession after Tate recovered his third fumble on the night.

The two teams traded possessions before the Panthers moved deep into Badger territory at the 14. On a first-and-10, Heber Springs had two open receivers in the end zone, but the pair both went for the ball at the same negating that scoring opportunity. A penalty pushed the Panthers back and the drive stalled.

Heber Springs got the ball back near the end of the quarter after Kenan Sneed intercepted a pass and returned to the Badger 15, but time expired before the Panthers could mount a serious scoring threat on the drive.

Beebe took the opening drive of the final stanza and moved down field thanks in part to a pair of long passes. The Badgers capped off the drive with a quarterback sneak.

The Panthers next possession ended with points for the Badgers after Sanders picked off his second pass of the night after the pass attempt hit the receivers hands bounced into the air and into Sanders arms, who returned 20 yards for the score.

It was the same story on Heber Springs’ next possession after a sack and a fumble that was returned for a score.

On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore Parker Brown took the ball at the Panther 5, ran up the middle and then cut the outside in front the Panther bench. Beebe’s kicker nearly got Brown at the 50, but did enough to momentarily slow him as the Badgers finally brought him down at the 7.

Two plays later, McBroome connected with Cusick for a 10-yard scoring strike. Tate connected on the PAT.

The Panthers will be off until Sept. 3 when they travel to Newport for their season-opener.

The junior high team will scrimmage Beebe Thursday night at Panther Stadium.

Panthers continue to work toward opener

IMG_7969_(2)

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY


Heber Springs coach Todd Wood and his staff hopes to learn answers after the Panthers tangle in a benefit football scrimmage at Beebe on Tuesday.
Action will start at 6 p.m. with the teams participating in sets of plays on offense and defense. The scrimmage will conclude with the two teams playing for two quarters.

Wood, who was 2-9 in his first year as head coach, and the staff is optimistic that the team will enjoy success during the 2021 season.

“One of the big changes has been a spring camp and summer workouts going into fall practice,” Wood said when asked about the team’s progress. “We are more advanced at this point than last year. .”

Wood said the addition of one coach to the staff helps to spread teaching responsibility among coaches with players at all positions. Ryan Bridges, who previously coached at White Hall, is working primarily with the defensive line. He also is the school’s new baseball coach.

One of the big questions on offense going into the season is determining a starting quarterback. Wood said senior John McBroome, who started two games last season, and sophomore Xander Lindley have emerged as the top two candidates. Wood hopes for a starter to emerge from the scrimmage.

“John has a little more experience with the offense,” Wood said. “Xander was a receiver on last year’s successful junior high team, but he has prior quarterbacking experience. Xander has a good arm and a lot of speed. We plan to give them equal reps at Tuesday’s scrimmage. We also will take at look at Wyatt Winchester.”

Jackson West and sophomore Parker Brown are battling for the starting role at running back. West and Brown also are in the plans at receiver.

“Jackson is slightly ahead at running back,” Wood said. “We also plan to look at Gideon Tate at running back.”

The receiving corps may be the most experience group of players. With a year in the system, Wood believes they will have a bigger impact this season

“Gus Hannah is one of our fastest players on the team and runs excellent routes,” Wood said. “Easton Cusick gained speed and size during the offseason. Dalton Yancey played well for the junior high team last year. Austin Winchester can play a role and will get playing time. Chris Edwards may play at receiver and also start at cornerback. We need to figure out how to use all of the players.”

Three starters return on the offensive line — center Zach Thomas, left guard Peyton Owens and left tackle Thad Bray. Tristan Thissen is the leading candidate at right guard and Corbin Jones at right tackle.

Wood said Lucas Langster, who will start at defensive end, is the backup behind Owens. Blaze Emerson is the likely backup at right guard.

“Thad is our anchor on the line,” Wood said. “Zach can make the calls for the line. We are thin in numbers on the line, but we have players to fill all positions.”

Wood expects the defense will be improved and trying to limit the number of players playing both ways.

“We are looking for effort from the defense,” said Wood when asked about objectives of Tuesday’s scrimmage. “We want to play more physical than last year and tackle well.”

Langster and Jones will play the ends on defense with Emerson at nose guard. Owens and Joenah Cordell will provide depth.

Kenan Sneed, the leading tackler for the Panthers last season, leads the linebacking corps. Thissen is the likely starter at the other inside linebacker with Thomas also expected to play. Chris Roberts, Hayden Johnson, Hayden Davis and Tate rotating at the outside linebackers.

Except for Edwards, the secondary lacks varsity experience, but Wood is confident of the players to play well.

Zane Lozeau, a transfer from Dover, and Zack Parker are battling for the starting job at the cornerback opposite Edwards. Chandler Webber will also play at cornerback. Gage Buford and Colton Turley are the likely starters at the safeties.

“Edwards is one of the strongest players on the team,” Wood said. “We have the players and just need to put them in the right spots.”

After Tuesday’s scrimmage, the Panthers will have a three-week wait until the season opener at Newport on Sept. 3.

“The best thing about the time from the scrimmage to the season opener is the team can make the necessary adjustments,” Wood said. “We will not show everything against Beebe during the scrimmage.”

IMG_7786_(2)

Panthers wrap up spring practice, head into summer

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

What a difference one year makes for head coach Todd Wood and the Heber Springs Panther football team.

After surviving the trials of COVID-19 and a 2-9 record during the 2020 season, Wood and the Panthers completed their first spring practice and head into the 2021 season with high hopes.

“We worked out three times a week, and Tuesdays and Thursdays were learning days,” Wood said. “The players remembered what they learned last year, and we tried to build on that. We fine-tuned what we learned. One of our goals was to put players in the right position on offense and defense going into fall practice.”

Wood said the year of experience helped he and his staff to learn more about players’ skill level.

“I made the defensive calls during previous years and needed time to learn in calling the plays for the offense,” he said. “I’m not where I want to be, but farther ahead for next season. The best part is is we have a better idea where each player should be on offense and defense.”

One of the team’s questions going into next season will be developing a new starting quarterback. Matthew Cook, who has graduated, moved into that role beginning with the third game last season.

Sophomore Xander Lindley, junior Wyatt Winchester and senior John McBroome took most of the snaps during spring drills.

“McBroom (who started the first two games last season) is back,” Wood said. “He has been working on improving his footwork and increased his speed, so he can escape out of the pocket and throw on the run. We are working with him to read defenses and where to throw the ball.”

Winchester worked at quarterback last year, but he had limited game action.

“He (Winchester) has the strongest arm of the three players,” Wood said. “He needs to work on his footwork and being more of a mobile quarterback, plus read defenses better.”

Lindley, who was on last year’s junior high school team, has limited experience.

“He has a good arm, very mobile, reads defenses well and throws to the right receiver,” Wood said. “He will get a strong look because of his mobility. We hope to have a starter in place by our preseason scrimmage (at Beebe on Aug. 17).”

Jackson West is the leading candidate to start at running back.

“He was the backup last year,” Wood said. “We like him at receiver with his height and good hands. Parker Brown also has good hands, along with a lot of speed (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash). Parker also is a possibility at running back, along with Gideon Tate.”

The Panthers also have experience back at receiver with Gus Hannah, Easton Cusick and West. Brown, Austin Winchester and Dalton Yancey also are candidates.

“Gus will be one of our quicker receivers and a primary target,” Wood said. “Easton has worked hard during the offseason to build his body up and increase his speed. Gus and Easton will be our mainstays. Austin had a good spring and is a big target for the underneath passes. I feel good about our receivers.”

Chris Edwards, a projected starter at cornerback, could see action at receiver.

Three starters return on the offensive line — tackle Thad Bray, center Zach Thomas and guard Peyton Owens. Tripp Young is a projected starter at the other guard with the other tackle spot  undetermined.

“We were able to get into the weight room and steadily increased our maximum lifts during the spring,” Wood said. “The players gained weight, and we should be OK on the line.”

Wood said Lucas Langster, who is projected as a starter on the defensive line, and Corbin Jones could play on the offensive line.

Wood liked the defense’s progress and hopes few players will have to go both ways.

“I’m happy with the defense, particularly in the secondary,” he said. “We will have two new linebackers. We will do more fine-tuning going into fall practice.”

Wood said the goal is to have as few players as possible playing on offense and defense fulltime.

“We may go with players who you didn’t see on the field much last year,” he said. “Chris Benton is a big boy and give us more size at nose guard.

Blaze Emerson and Jones also will play with Langster at defensive end. We plan also to rotate guys like Bray, Owens and Young to help with depth.”

Kenan Sneed, last year’s leading tackler, returns at linebacker. Thomas is expected to play at inside linebacker. Hayden Johnson, Hayden Davis, Dakota Farmer, Tate and West are candidates at outside linebacker.

Edwards is the projected starter at one cornerback with the starter undetermined at the other cornerback spot. Gage Buford and Colton Turley are the expected starters at the safeties.

“I liked what I’ve seen in the secondary,” Wood said.

Heber Springs will compete at the Greenbrier 7-on-7 tournament on June 10. The Panthers will be participating in a 7-on-7 event at Carlisle and possibly one more tournament, plus two team camps.

Panthers season ends in district tourney

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

A season of ups and downs came to a conclusion for the Heber Springs Panther baseball team on Monday.

Ozark capitalized on its opportunities during the second and sixth innings and defeated the Panthers 7-2 in a 4-4A Conference Tournament play-in game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.

Heber Springs finished the season with a record of 5-14.

“It was a game of momentum swings,” Panther head coach Monterio May said. “We came out a little flat for the first inning. We didn’t capitalize on Ozark’s mistakes like we should and could have scored more runs. The little things made a big difference in the end.”

Jacob Lawsen led off the top of the second inning for Ozark by reaching on an error. Dax Shaffer followed with a single, and Lawsen scored the game’s first run on an infield out. Rylee Griffin walked to load the bases. Tyler Sanders was safe on an error as Shaffer and Griffin scored for the 3-0 lead.

“I told the team during the third inning we needed to chip away at the lead,” May said. “We scored two runs during the fifth and had an opportunity for more runs before a base-running blunder.”

Corbin Jones and Conner Riddle each hit singles to start the bottom of the fifth. Garrett Hudspeth bunted in an attempt to advance the runners and beat the throw to first base to load the bases. Matthew Cook lined a 2-run single into center field. Easton Cusick, running for Hudspeth, was caught in a rundown between second and third bases for the first out.

The Panthers reloaded the bases with walks to Kenan Sneed and Cole Payton. Larsen relieved McAnally and stopped the rally by striking out the next two batters as Ozark clung to a 3-2 lead.

Ozark put the game away by scoring four runs in the top of the sixth inning. The Hillbillies loaded the bases on back-to-back walks and a hit batsman. Jones, who relieved Hudspeth, hit Sanders with a pitch for the first running of the inning, scoring Cook. The final two runs scored on a balk and a 2-run single by Sebastain Ross.

“We gave up too many free passes (six walks),” May said. “We need to learn from this season and plan to be back in the playoffs next year. I’m proud of the team for never giving up.”

The Panthers  will lose two senior starters to graduation — Cook and Hudspeth. May said the team’s future is bright.

“We are losing  good seniors, who were outstanding leaders for the team,” May said. “We have a lot of talent returning and more on the way.”

Ozark 030 004 0–7 5 2
Heber Springs` 000 020 0–2 6 3
Ozark hitters — Kayden McAnally 2 singles; Sebastian Ross single, 2 RBIs; Rylee Griffin single, 1 RBI; Dax Shaffer single; Tyler Sanders 1 RBI.
Ozark pitchers — Kayden McAnally(W) 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks in 4.1 innings; Jacob Larsen (Save) 1 hit, 0 runs, 4 strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Mathew Cook 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base; Corbin Jones 2 singles; Garrett Hudspeth single; Conner Riddle single.
Heber Springs pitchers — Garrett Hudspeth (L) 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts, 5 walks in 5 innings; Corbin Jones 1 hit, 3 earned runs, 1 walk in 2 innings.

Panthers thump Hillbillies in regular season finale

Heber Springs pitcher J.T. Spears delivers a first-inning pitch to an Ozark batter on Friday at Panther Field. The Panthers won the 4A-4 contest 10-1. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs came out swinging and celebrated senior night with one of its best performances of the season at the Heber Springs Sports Complex on Friday.

Kenan Sneed, Garrett Hudspeth and Matthew Cook each hit three singles as the Panthers whipped Ozark 10-1 in a 4-4A Conference baseball game. Sneed led the offense with three RBIs while Hudspeth had two RBIs.

Heber Springs and Ozark will meet again at 4:30 p.m. Monday, also at the Heber Springs Sports Complex, in a play-in game at the conference tournament. The winner will advance to play Clarksville at Dardanelle on Tuesday.

“We played a complete baseball game,” Panther coach Monterio May said. “I was happy to get all of the seniors in the game on senior night. We are starting to put everything together and excited to see what this team will do going forward.”

Heber Springs (4-8 in conference, 5-13 overall) fell from a No. 4 to a No. 6 seed because of a forfeit of an earlier win against Subiaco Academy. The forfeiture occurred because a pitcher exceeded the pitch count limit during that game.

The Panthers had 13 hits, all singles, against three Ozark pitchers.

“We got the bats rolling,” he said. “We quit swinging at bad pitches.”

J.T. Spears limited Ozark to three hits with two strikeouts in six innings. Matthew Cook pitched the seventh inning.

“J.T. competes every day and embodies everything we want to do as a team,” May said. “He brings  intensity and consistency. He usually throws around 70 percent strikes. I told him we need him to throw at least 60 percent to win. He does it with five different pitches.”

Heber Springs scored one run in the first and second innings.

Hudspeth and Cook hit singles to start the bottom of the first inning. Sneed’s fly ball to the outfield allowed Hudspeth to tag and advanced to third base.

Hudspeth scored on a wild pitch for the 1-0 lead.

In the second inning, Corbin Jones reached on an error and Conner Riddle had a single. Jones scored on Hudspeth’s base hit.

After Ozark scored in the top of the fourth, the Panthers responded with three runs during the bottom of the inning and increased their lead.

Hudspeth walked and advanced to third base on Cook’s single. Sneed followed with an RBI base hit, scoring Hudspeth. Cole Payton walked to load the bases. Xander Lindley also walked, bringing in Cook from third base. Sneed scored on an error as the Panthers held a 5-1 lead.

Heber Springs put the game away in the fifth by scoring five runs. Riddle hit a single and later scored on Hudspeth’s base hit. After Cook’s single, Sneed lined a 2-run single into center field. The final two runs came on an error and a fielder’s choice.

May said the win gives momentum to the team for Monday’s game.

“We will be ready to play,” he said.

Ozark 000 100 0- 1 3 3
Heber Springs` 110 350 x- 10 13 2
Ozark hitters — Sebastian Ross single; Dylan Herriage single; Rylee Griffin single; Tyler Sanders 1 stolen base.
Ozark pitchers — Kayden McAnally (L) 7 hits, 5 runs, 3 earned runs, 4 walks in 3.1 innings; Dax Shaffer 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks in .2 inning; Dylan Herriage 3 hits, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts in 2 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Kenan Sneed 3 singles, 3 RBIs; Garrett Hudspeth 3 singles, 2 RBIs, 2 stolen bases; Matthew Cook 3 singles, 1 stolen base; Conner Riddle 2 singles, 1 stolen base; Xander Lindley single, 1 RBI; Corbin Jones single; J.T. Spears 1 RBI; Easton Cusick 1 stolen base.
Heber Springs pitchers — J.T. Spears (W) 3 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks in 6 innings; Mathew Cook 0 hits, 0 runs in 1 inning.

Panthers’ season ends in northeast Arkansas

Heber Springs’ Easton Cusick is brought down by Trumann defender after a reception. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

TRUMANN – Heber Springs beat the threat of COVID-19 and completed the 2020 football season, but the conclusion didn’t go as planned.

Heber Springs (2-9) finished the year with a 43-14 loss to Trumann at RMC Stadium in the opening round of the Class 4A football playoffs Friday.

“If you had told me nine weeks ago we would play 11 games, I would have said you were crazy,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We were blessed to play 11 games. A lot of players who were inexperienced before the start of the season gained experience, and they will be coming back next year. I’m proud of the players for never giving up at any time during the season.”

Trumann followed a similar script of previous Heber Springs’ opponents by converting turnovers into touchdowns. The Wildcats scored two of their three first-half touchdowns following an interception and a fumble recovery.

The Panthers held a 7-6 advantage in first downs during the first half. But Trumann had 154 yards of offense, 127 coming on the ground, to 89 for Heber Springs. The Wildcats had three quarterback sacks for a minus 18 yards.

Trumann scored touchdowns on its first two possession of the second half.

Overall, Trumann outgained Heber Springs 348-198. The Wildcats compiled 305 of their 348 yards on the ground, but only held the ball five more minutes than the Panthers (26:43-21:17). Trumann finished by sacking HSHS quarterbacks seven times for a minus 45 yards.

“It was the same story from most of the season, when we hang onto the ball, we did well,” Wood said. “When we didn’t, teams took advantage and put us in a hole. That happened again. You can’t do that against a playoff team.”

Senior quarterback Matthew Cook led the Panthers by completing 14-of-24 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Cook rushed nine times for a minus 6 yards, including sacks.

Senior running back Diego Rubio rushed for 65 yards on seven carries. Junior Jackson West ran for 50 yards on five attempts. Senior Nathan McKee caught seven passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Parker Brown had 57 all-purpose yards and caught his first high school touchdown pass.

Rian King led Trumann with 109 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Milton Lewis ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Gavin Morgan also had 78 yards and scored one touchdown.

King’s interception put Trumann in position for the game’s first touchdown. The Wildcats drove 53 yards on six plays with King scoring on a 2-yard carry with 5:13 left in the first quarter. Efrain Garcia kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Trumann recovered a fumble at the Heber Springs 13 to set up its second touchdown. Two plays later, Lewis ran six yards for a touchdown with 11:56 left in the first half. Garcia kicked the extra point for the 14-0 lead.

Heber Springs answered with an 8-play, 54-yard drive following the kickoff. Cook passed 10 yards to McKee and Rubio broke loose on a 16-yard run to get the drive moving. Later, Rubio’s 11-yard run gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the Trumann 1.

Two plays later, Cook rolled out and flipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 8:31 remaining in the first half. A 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as Heber Springs trailed, 14-6.

“We felt good after getting it to 14-6,” Wood said. “We had a good offensive drive and gained some momentum. I thought we could piece things together, get a defensive stop and get the ball back. Credit Trumann for coming out and doing some things different than we saw on film.”

Trumann regained a two-score lead before halftime by driving 54 yards on 12 plays. King scored on a 14-yard run with 1:56 to go for a 20-6 lead.

“I challenged the players at halftime to get a defensive start at the beginning of the third quarter,” Wood said. “We needed a defensive stop. Unfortunately, we were not healthy and had other players unable to play. We were just outmatched.”

Trumann began the third quarter on a 5-play, 58-yard drive. King broke free and ran 46 yards for the touchdown with 9:45 left. McClain ran for a 2-point conversion and increased the lead to 28-6.

The Wildcats held on downs and drove 59 yards on 11 plays. King capped the drive by scoring on a 9-yard run with 10:49 left in the game. Garcia kicked the extra point for the 35-6 lead.

Heber Springs’ second touchdown came on a 5-play, 61-yard drive. Cook connected on a 31-yard scoring pass to McKee with 8:44 left. Cook ran for the 2-point conversion as the Panthers trailed, 35-14.

Trumann recovered the attempted onside kickoff and scored two plays later. Morgan had a 46-yard touchdown run with 8:26 remaining. Lewis ran for the 2-point conversion.

Heber Springs’ Kenan Sneed and coach James Ortiz talk after coming of the halftime locker room. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO
Heber Springs (2-9)   0  6  0  8 - 14 
Trumann (6-5)         7 13  8 15 - 43  
FIRST QUARTER    
Trumann, Rian King 2-yard run (Efrain Garcia kick), 5:13 
SECOND QUARTER 
Trumann, Milton Lewis 7-yard run (Garcia kick), 11:56 
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Parker Brown 3-yard pass (pass failed), 8:31 
Trumann, Lewis 14-yard run (kick failed), 1:50 
THIRD QUARTER    
Trumann, King 46-yard run (Connor McClain run), 9:43 
FOURTH QUARTER  
Trumann, King 9-yard run (Garcia kick), 10:49 
Heber Springs, Cook to Nathan McKee 2-yard pass (Cook run), 8:44 Trumann, Gavin Morgan 46-yard run (Lewis run), 8:26 
TEAM STATS    
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 6, Trumann 13 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 5, Trumann 1 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 1, Trumann 0 
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 12, Trumann 14 
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 5/10, Trumann 3/7 
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/3, Trumann 3/3 
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 2/1, Trumann 4/4 
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 21:17, Trumann 26:43 
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 2/1, Trumann 1/1 
Turnovers: Heber Springs 2, Trumann 1      
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Trumann 14 
Penalties: Heber Springs 6/30, Trumann 6/52 
Rushing: Heber Springs 26/83/3.2, Trumann 44/305/6.9 
Passing: Heber Springs 16/27-115-2/1, Trumann 6/7-43-0/0 
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 53/198/3.7, Trumann 51/348/6.8
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 7/45 
Punts: Heber Springs 0, Trumann 1/41 
Inside 20: Trumann 1 
INDIVIDUAL STATS    
OFFENSE      
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 7/65, Jackson West 5/50, Nathan McKee 2/(-3), Matthew Cook 9/(-6), John McBroome 3/(-23). Trumann, Rian King 14/109/3, Milton Lewis 13/78/2, Gavin Morgan 7/78/1, Murphy Williams 3/33, Parks McNair 1/13, Connor McClain 1/4, Team 1/(-4), Garner Henderson 1/(-6). 
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 14/24-105-2/1, John McBroome 2/3-10-0/0. Trumann, Connor McClain 6/7-43-0/0. 
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 7/63/1, Diego Rubio 2/8, Gus Hannah 1/25, Jackson West 1/5, Isaac King 1/8, Austin Winchester 1/8, Parker Brown 1/3/1, Chris Roberts 1/2, Easton Cusick 1/(-1). Trumann, Parks McNair 4/22, Gavin Morgan 1/11, Rian King 1/1. 
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 99, Diego Rubio 65, Jackson West 50, Nathan McKee (-3), John McBroome (-13). Trumann, Rian King 109, Milton Lewis 78, Gavin Morgan 78, Connor McClain 47, Murphy Williams 33, Parks McNair 13, Garner Henderson (-6). 
PUNT RETURNS: None 
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 3/54, Kenan Sneed 1/0, Austin Winchester 1/0. Trumann, Murphy Williams 1/0. 
FUMBLE RETURNS: None 
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Trumann, Rian King 1/22 
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 73, Nathan McKee 60, Parker Brown 57, Jackson West 55, Gus Hannah 25, Isaac King 8, Austin Winchester 8, Chris Roberts 2, Easton Cusick (-1), Matthew Cook (-6), John McBroome (-23). Trumann, Rian King 132, Gavin Morgan 89, Milton Lewis 78, Parks McNair 35, Murphy Williams 33, Connor McClain 4, Garner Henderson (-6). 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 6, Nathan McKee 6, Matthew Cook 2. Trumann, Rian King 18, Milton Lewis 14, Gavin Morgan 6, Efrain Garcia 3 (3/4 XPA), Connor McClain 2. 
DEFENSE     
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Trumann, Connor McClain 1/41/1 
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Trumann, Garen Smithson 2/9, Garner Henderson 2/15, Eli Evett 1/10, Connor McClain 1/5, Desmond Langston 1/7 

Panthers fall to Comets, head to playoffs

Heber Springs’ Jackson West, Preston Roberson and Nathan McKee celebrate after teammate Chris Edwards recovers an onside kick to start the second half. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Entrance of a new quarterback helped Little Rock Mills University Studies to turn the tide during the third  quarter against the Heber Springs Panthers at Panther Stadium on Friday.

Freshman Achilles Ringo completed 8-of-10 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown and led the Comets to a 34-24 win against the Panthers in a 2-4A Conference game. Mills earned a No. 5 seed for the Class 4A football playoffs.

Ringo replaced sophomore starter Q.J. King, who completed 4-of-5 passes for 84 yards and rushed for 44 yards on eight attempts during the first half. King moved to receiver during the second half and caught four passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.

“He (Ringo) is Mills’ all-everything quarterback,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “He has a better arm than the other quarterback (King) and was more accurate. We knew when he came into the game, Mills was going to throw the ball more, take advantage of its speed and try and spread the field. That was the difference in the game.”

Wood said Ringo forced the Heber Springs defense to alter its game plan during the second half.

“Mills put us in a situation of defending the entire field and tackling in open spaces,” Wood said. “That made it difficult on us.”

The running game also was another difference in the game. Heber Springs had 25 yards to 185 yards for Mills. The Panthers reached the red zone six times, scoring a touchdown and kicking a field goal.

Keilon Dais rushed for 94 of his 117 yards during the second half for the Comets. Heber Springs quarterback Matthew Cook was held to 13 yards rushing, including three quarterback sacks. Mills converted 6-of-11 third-down plays, 5-of-7 in the first half. The Panthers were 2-of-10 on third down. Mills held a 374-309 advantage in total offense.

The loss ended Heber Springs’ bid to qualify for the playoffs.  However, the Panthers will participate because of the Arkansas Activities Association allowing all teams into the playoffs because of COVID-19.

Heber Springs (1-6 conference, 2-8 overall) will play a play-in game at Trumann (3-4 3-4A Conference, 5-5 overall) starting at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to play Malvern in the first round.

Heber Springs controlled the first half thanks to quarterback Matthew Cook’s pin-point passing. Cook completed 15-of-21 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns during the first half and 23-of-37 for 211 yards with one interception. Nathan McKee completed 2-of-2 passes for 71 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Gus Hannah in the first half.

McKee was the leading receiver with nine catches for 69 yards, followed by Easton Cusick, who caught five passes for 49 yards. Hannah had four receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson West caught four passes for 28 yards and one touchdown.

Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards on seven plays to take the initial lead. On the second play of the game, Hannah caught a pass from Cook and ran for a 26-yard gain and a first down at the Mills 20-yard line. Cook rushed for 16 yards for a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line.

The Panthers netted a minus four yards on the next three plays, but they decided to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 8-yard line.

Cook passed to West for the touchdown with 9:51 left in the first quarter. Heber Springs failed on a 2-point conversion and led, 6-0.

Heber Springs scored again before the end of the quarter. After holding on downs at the Mills 29-yard line, the Panthers increased their lead when McKee passed to Hannah with 1:17 remaining. Diego Rubio ran for a 2-point conversion and the 14-0 lead.

Mills reduced the Heber Springs lead in half on a five-play,  52-yard drive. King connected with freshman Kylon Deadman on a 49-yard touchdown pass with 9:48 left in the first half. The Comets’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.

Heber Springs responded with a four-play, 40-yard drive. Cook passed 37 yards to Hannah for the score with 8:12 left in the first half. Hannah kicked the extra point for the 21-6 lead.

Mills scored before halftime on Keilon Davis’ 2-yard run with 4:12 remaining. The 2-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful as the Panthers led 21-12 at halftime.

“It felt good going into halftime leading by nine points,” Wood said. “We were scoreboard watching because we needed Clinton to lose and win by eight points against Mills. We led by 12 points later and felt good about everything. Unfortunately, we stalled on a couple of drives and then came the turnovers.”

Heber Springs increased its lead to 24-12 on Hannah’s 22-yard field goal with 7:26 left in the third quarter.

A shift of momentum began on the next series when Mills needed eight plays during a 60-yard drive. Ringo finished by scoring on a 3-yard run with 4:27 left in the third quarter. The Comets’ 2-point conversion failed as the Panthers’ lead was reduced to 24-18.

Mills took the lead with 1:14 to go in the third quarter. Davis broke free at the line of scrimmage and scored on a 64-yard run. He also ran for the 2-point conversion, giving Mills a 26-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Comets scored an insurance touchdown with 11:26 left in the game when Ringo passed 33 yards to King. Davis ran for a 2-point conversion.

“The players showed a lot of fight, like that they did in previous games,” Wood said. “Since Aug. 3, I watched the players improve every day in practice and in games. That is a tribute to the players. I could not ask any more from them.”

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Little Rock Mills (3-4, 4-6)   0 12 14  8 - 34
Heber Springs (1-6, 2-8)      14  7  3  0 - 24 
FIRST QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Matthew Cook to Jackson West 8-yard pass (run failed), 9:51
Heber Springs, Nathan McKee to Gus Hannah 29-yard pass (Diego Rubio run), 1:17
SECOND QUARTER
Mills, Q.J. King to Kylan Deadmon 49-yard pass (run failed), 9:47
Heber Springs, Cook to Hannah 37-yard pass (Hannah kick), 8:12
Mills, Keilon Davis 2-yard (run failed), 4:12
THIRD QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Hannah 22-yard kick, 7:26
Mills, Achilles Ringo 3-yard pass (pass failed), 4:27
Mills, Davis 64-yard run (Davis run), 1:14
FOURTH QUARTER 
Mills, Ringo to King 33-yard pass (Davis run), 11:36

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 3, Mills 5
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 7, Mills 8
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Mills 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Mills 13
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/10, Mills 6/11
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/6, Mills 2/4
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 7/3, Mills 3/2
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 23:26, Mills 24:34
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Mills 5/3
Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, Mills 3     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Mills 8
Penalties: Heber Springs 8/59, Mills 14/119
Rushing: Heber Springs 15/25/1.7, Mills 37/185/5
Passing: Heber Springs 25/39-283-3/1, Mills 12/16-189-2/0
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 54/308/5.7, Mills 53/374/7.1
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Mills 3/24
Punts: Heber Springs 1/36, Mills 0
Inside 20: Heber Springs 1

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 10/18, Diego Rubio 4/11, Nathan McKee 1/(-4). Mills, Keilon Davis 18/117/2, Q.J. King 9/62, Achilles Ringo 3/(-2), Nikolas Watson 2/12, Team 2/(-4), Carlos Deadmon 1/(-2).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 23/37-211-2/1, Nathan McKee 2/2-71-1/0. Mills, Achilles Ringo 8/10-105-1/0, Q.J. King 4/6-84-1/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 9/69, Easton Cusick 5/49, Gus Hannah 4/120/2, Jackson West 4/28/1, Diego Rubio 2/9, Austin Winchester 1/7. Mills, Keilon Davis 6/66, Q.J. King 4/58/1, Kylan Deadmon 1/49/1, Jalon Davis 1/16.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 229, Nathan McKee 77, Diego Rubio 11. Mills, Q.J. King 142, Keilon Davis 117, Achilles Ringo 103, Nikolas Watson 12.
PUNT RETURNS: Clinton, none
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Jackson West 2/3, Nathan McKee 1/23, Diego Rubio 1/6. Mills, none.
FUMBLE RETURNS: Mills, Wesley Guy 1/8
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Mills, Dylan Parks 1/15
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Gus Hannah 120, Nathan McKee 88, Easton Cusick 49, Jackson West 31, Diego Rubio 26, Matthew Cook 18, Austin Winchester 7. Mills, Keilon Davis 183, Q.J. King 120, Kylan Deadmon 49, Jalon Davis 16, Dylan Parks 15, Nikolas Watson 12, Wesley Guy 8, Achilles Ringo (-2), 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Gus Hannah 16 (1/1 XP/XPA, 1/1 FGA. Made: 22-yards), Jackson West 6, Diego Rubio 2. Mills, Keilon Davis 16, Kylan Deadmon 6, Achilles Ringo 6, Q.J. King 6.
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook  1/36/36/1/0.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Mills, Wesley Guy 1/11, Hunter Lowery 1/8, Nikolas Watson 1/4.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Kenan Sneed, Diego Rubio (onside kick), Chris Edwards (onside kick). Mills, Wesley Guy.
INTERCEPTIONS: Mills, Carlos Deadmon