By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
The Heber Springs Panthers celebrated homecoming and kept rolling and moved in position to challenge for an opportunity at winning the 2-4A Conference championship.
The Panthers (3-2 overall, 2-0 in 2-4A) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and steamrolled over the Bald Knob Bulldogs (2-4 overall, 0-2 in 2-4A) 48-0 at Panther Stadium Friday night.
Heber Springs won its third consecutive game, including back-to-back shutouts of conference opponents. The Panthers and Harding Academy (6-0 overall, 3-0 in 2-4A).
After the nonconference win at Jonesboro Westside, Heber Springs had consecutive shutouts of conference foes Cave City and the Bulldogs. The Panthers accomplished that for the first time since the 1990 season when they shout out Dover and Dardanelle. It also was the first shutout by Heber Springs against Bald Knob since 1981.
“Bald Knob played just the way that I thought it would,” Heber Springs coach Van Paschal said. “We didn’t want to lose going into the open date because a team tends to have its head down when that happens.
“We are learning how to play and not be satisfied. The players did a good job of playing well at homecoming and dealing with the heat.”
The Panthers utilized their ground attack and outgained Bald Knob 223-50 yards in total offense. Heber Springs had 194 yards rushing and held the Bulldogs to a minus 78 yards. Bald Knob had an advantage of 78-29 yards in passing.
Senior Parker Brown rushed for 115 yards on three carries, scoring two touchdowns for the Panthers. Brown also had two punt returns for scores, 65 and 45 yards.
Senior Corbin Jones had two of the Heber Springs defense’s four quarterback sacks, plus five quarterback hurries. Jordan Tidwell was credited with two quarterback hurries. The Panthers had six other lost-yardage tackles. Bald Knob committed five turnovers, leading to two Panther touchdowns. Eli Buffalo returned an interception 42 yards for a score. Liam Buffalo and Weston Warden also had interceptions. Carter Julian and Brodie Basford each recovered a fumble.
“The kids played hard throughout the game,” Paschal said when talking about the shutout. “We got out of the gate early. I would like to finish the game a little bit different than we did. But I’m very proud of how we played and expect more improvement in future games.”
Heber Springs, which won the opening toss and elected to receive, dominated the first quarter. The Panthers had 137 yards, all rushing, on 12 plays, while the defense held Bald Knob to a minus three yards on 11 plays. Brown rushed for 115 of the 137 yards and scored three of the four touchdowns.
Heber Springs drove 65 yards on seven plays, with Brown putting the first points on the scoreboard by scoring on a 28-yard run with 9:39 left in the first quarter. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
After a three-and-out and a Bulldog punt, the Panthers turned to Brown again. Brown broke free and ran for a 53-yard touchdown with 7:27 to go. Tate’s conversion kick increased the lead to 14-0.
Special teams set up the next score when Basford blocked Micah Story’s punt and Julian recovered at the Bald Knob 8-yard line. Liam Buffalo scored on a 3-yard keeper, plus Tate’s successful kick, increased Heber Springs’ lead to 21-0 with 4:45 remaining.
Brown capped the offensive explosion by returning a punt 65 yards for the touchdown with 2:50 left. The Panthers took a 27-0 lead into the second quarter.
“It helps when you have a cushion (scoring on first four possessions) and the players continue to do everything we ask them to do,” Paschal said. “Parker had a heck of a night.”
Defense controlled the next quarter as Eli Buffalo’s 42-yard interception return and Tate’s conversion kick with 4:34 remaining gave Heber Springs a 34-0 halftime lead.
The sportsmanship rule went into effect when Brown returned a second punt 45 yards for a touchdown with 5:58 left in the third quarter. Chase Dill kicked the extra point for a 41-0 lead.
Xander Lindley threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Jones for the final touchdown with 4:55 to play. Paul Krause kicked the extra point.
Heber Springs will have two weeks in preparing for Lonoke (3-3 overall, 2-1 in 2-4A) at home on Oct. 13, the first of three games against teams in the top half of the standings.
The Panthers will play back-to-back road games at Stuttgart (Oct. 20) and Harding Academy (Oct. 27) before finishing the regular season at home against Riverview on Nov. 3.
“We will start focusing on Lonoke beginning Tuesday,” Paschal said. “We will be adding a few new things on offense and defense.”
Paschal concluded by saying the Panthers will focus on only one game at a time during the three-game stretch.
STOPPING THE DOG: Second fewest rushing yards allowed to a Bald Knob team with 29. The fewest is a school record minus 31 set on Sept. 16, 2011.
CATCHING A BONE: The three interceptions by the defense were the most since Oct. 5, 2018, when the Panthers recorded three at Central Arkansas Christian. The Panthers now have picked off three or more passes in game 40 times in school history. The school record for most interceptions in a game is 5 set at Harding Academy on Oct. 5, 1962.
BIG DOG: On Friday against Bald Knob, Parker Brown set a school record with most punts returned for a touchdown in game with two. His two punt returns for a score also tied him with Rickey Pilkington with most punts returned for a touchdown in a season at two. Pilkington scored his in 1968 games against DeValls Bluff and Vilonia. Pilkington has also had a punt return for a touchdown against England in 1967 which gives him a school record three career punt returns for scores. Pierce Mitchum is the only Panther in school history to have more than one punt returned for a touchdown. Mitchum recorded his against Stuttgart in 2016 and at Newport in 2015. Of note, Brown would have tied the career mark Friday night but he a punt return for a score called back against Jonesboro Westside last season because of a penalty.
Brown’s 65-yarder for a score Friday is tied for the 13th longest in school history and the longest punt return since Mitchum’s 66-yarder against Stuttgart in 2016. Jerry Todd holds the score record with a 93-yarder set against Batesville “B” in 1963.
Brown also set the single game record for most punt return yards in a game with 115. Mark Hoffman previously held the mark with 112 yards set at Mountain View in 1980. Parker finished with 225 all-purpose yards which places him in the top 50 all-time in recorded school history. Jacob Bremmon holds the all-purpose yards in game record with 421 set in a playoff game at Gravette in 2017.
GAME 5 BALD KNOB AT HEBER SPRINGS SENIOR HIGH September 29, 2023 TEAM STATS TIME OF POSSESSION: Heber Springs 21:26, Bald Knob 26:34 TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 7, Bald Knob 9 BY RUSH: Heber Springs 6, Bald Knob 7 BY PASS: Heber Springs 1, Bald Knob 1 BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 0, Bald Knob 1 TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 34/194/5.7, Bald Knob 28/29/1.0 TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 1/3-29-1/0, Bald Knob 12/22-78-0/3 TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 37/223/6.0, Bald Knob 50/107/2.1 3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 2/6, Bald Knob 3/13 4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 2/3, Bald Knob 1/3 RED-ZONE: Heber Springs 1/2, Bald Knob 0/0 TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 1, Bald Knob 5 POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 14, Bald Knob 0 FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 1/1, Bald Knob 2/2 PENALTIES: Heber Springs 9/60, Bald Knob 6/51 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs 0/0, Cave City 5/44/8.8 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs 2/110, Bald Knob 0/0 PUNTS: Heber Springs 2/88, Bald Knob 5/101/20.2/1 PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs 1, Bald Knob 0 SACKS: Heber Springs 4/27, Bald Knob 0 TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 11/42, Bald Knob 8/25 INDIVIDUAL STATS RUSHING: Heber Springs, Bryce Seigrist 11/30/2.7, Liam Buffalo 7/28/1, Parker Brown 3/115/2, Team 3/(-5), Weston Warden 2/(-8), Nate Eaton 2/3, Gideon Tate 1/31, Xander Lindley 1/0. Bald Knob, Bohn Hickmon 13/20, James Holder 13/7, Hunter Burleson 1/2, Dakota Shoebottom 1/0. PASSING: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 0/2-0-0/0, Xander Lindley 1/1-29-1/0. Bald Knob, James Holder 12/22-78-0/3 RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Elijah Jones 1/29/1. Bald Knob, Brady Johnston 5/44, Bohn Hickmon 4/12, Eric Williams 2/22, Micah Story 1/0. KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs, none. Bald Knob, Brady Johnston 2/33, Eric Williams 2/10, Micah Story 1/1. PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 2/110/2 INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Heber Springs, Eli Buffalo 1/42/1, Weston Warden 1/17 FUMBLE RETURNS: Carter Julian 1/25, Bald Knob, Adrian Williams 1/12 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 225 PUNTING: Heber Springs, Gideon Tate 2/88. Bald Knob, Garrett Swindle 4/101, Team 1/0/1 blk SCORING PAT KICKS: Gideon Tate 4/5, Chase Dill 1/1, Paul Krause 1/1 FIELD GOALS: None POINTS: Parker Brown 24, Liam Buffalo 6, Elijah Jones 6, Eli Buffalo 6, Gideon Tate 4, Chase Dill 1, Paul Krause 1 DEFENSIVE STATS SACKS: Team Total (4). INDIVIDUAL SACK TOTAL: Corbin Jones 2, Brodie Basford 1, Carter Julian 1, Luke Elliot 1, Jordan Tidwell 1, Nate Eaton 1. FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Carter Julian, Brodie Basford FORCED FUMBLES: Brodie Basford, Jordan Tidwell INTERCEPTIONS: Liam Buffalo, Eli Buffalo, Weston Warden PBU: Corbin Jones, Eli Buffalo, Weston Warden QB HURRIES: Corbin Jones 5, Jordan Tidwell 2, Xander Lindley BLOCKED PUNTS: Brodie Basford TACKLES (U/A/TFL - TOTAL) Liam Buffalo 3 2 0 5 Weston Warden 5 1 0 6 Brodie Basford 3 6 2 9 Luke Elliott 1 2 2 3 Emmett Dwyer 4 0 0 4 Corbin Jones 3 4 4 7 Carter Julian 1 2 2 3 Eli Buffalo 2 2 0 4 Jordan Tidwell 4 0 3 4 Xander Lindley 2 0 0 2 Elijah Jones 1 1 0 2 Nate Eaton 2 1 2 3 Gavin Mize 2 0 0 2 Jacob McMullin 0 1 0 1 Parker Brown 1 1 0 2 Greg Williams 1 0 0 1