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: 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: 1970s

The 1970s era of Heber Springs football started slowly but ended with a bang as the Panthers won their first outright conference title since 1952 in 1979 and also shared two other conference crowns.

Morgan Outlaw took over the program for the 1970 and 71 seasons. The Panthers went 2-6-1 in 1970 closing out the season with wins over Cotton Plant and Highland. In 1971, it was wins at Bald Knob, Greenbrier and Cotton Plant that put the final mark at 3-6.

Robert Medley led the Panthers during the 1972 and 73 seasons as they competed in the 3A-West conference with Mountain View, Bald Knob, McCrory, Beebe, Cotton Plant and Augusta. Former Panther standout Dennis DeBusk would join the staff as an assistant in 1972 as Heber Springs finished the year with a 3-3-2 mark. The Panthers tied Clinton and Bald Knob and defeated Greenbrier and Cotton Plant, and then closed out the season with a win over Cross County from the 3A-East, as the final week of the season pitted teams from the East and West to determine final District 3 standings. In 1972, the Panthers managed wins over Greenbrier and Cotton Plant to finished 2-8.

Clyde Darrough would take over the program for the 1974 and 1975 seasons. The Panthers would only manage a 2-8 campaign in 1974 with wins over Greenbrier and Marshall in conference play as Heber Springs was in the new 12A conference along with Mountain View, Clinton.

Vilonia would join the 12A conference in 1975 and the Panthers would start the season 5-0 with wins over Concord, DeValls Bluff, Salem, Greenbrier and Clinton before being tripped up in week 6 by Harding Academy. The Panthers would drop Mountain View and Marshall to set at 7-1 but a week 9 loss to Vilonia cost Heber Springs and outright conference title. Following a tough nonconference loss to Bald Knob in week 10, McCrory would end the Panthers season in the first round of the playoffs (the first playoff berth since the 1952 season).

Darrough left following the 1975 season and DeBusk was promoted to head coach. The Panthers would go 8-3 and claim another share of the 12A crown, falling to Don Campbell’s Corning Bodcats in a first round playoff contest.

The 1977 season saw the Panthers keep the same conference foes but with a new conference name, the 1AA-East. Heber Springs would go 8-2 but back-t0-back losses to Greenbrier and Clinton cost the Panthers a chance at postseason play. Heber Springs downed Pulaski Academy, North Pulaski, Bald Knob in nonconference play before closing the season with a win over Augusta.

The 1978 squad would finish at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play (Yellville-Summit joined the conference in 1978) as the Panthers would claim nonconference wins over Bald Knob and Pulaski Academy.

The 1979 season would be an historic one for the Panthers. Heber Springs would win an outright 1AA-East crown with a 6-0 record and earn the school’s first playoff victory. The Panthers started the season 3-0 with wins over Joe T. Robinson, Harding Academy and Bald Knob, before Beebe tripped up Heber Springs in week 4. The Panthers would lose again until McCrory stopped the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs.

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

OFFENSE

WR – David Brown (1979)

WR – Mark Duncan (1971)

OL – John Bergin (1975)

OL – Steve Butler (1972)

OL – Steve Crumpler (1976)

OL – John Davis (1976)

OL – Joe Bob Powell (1979)

QB – Louis Lee (1973)

RB – Curtis Henry (1978)

RB – Larry Kennedy (1975)

RB – Layne Tubbs (1977)

K – Russ Olmstead (1976)

AP – Brock Duckworth (1972)

AP – Buster Gaylor (1977)

AP – John Hvasta (1978)

DEFENSE

DL – Donald Elslander (1974)

DL – Mike Greene (1978)

DL – Billy Lindsey (1972)

DL – Roger Logan (1977)

DL – Jackie McPherson (1977)

LB – Terry Bittle (1979)

LB – Ronnie Martin (1977)

LB – Mason Reed (1979)

DB – Steve Plant (1973)

DB – Carl Cox (1975)

DB – Lance Lincoln (1978)

P – Ben Caston (1976)

AP – Thomas Heigle (1970)

AP –Bruce (Barker) Swan (1973)

AP – Bo Verser (1971)

PREVIOUS DECADES

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

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

Junior Panthers stumble at Harding Academy

Heber Springs’ Weston Warden fights for yards Thursday against Harding Academy. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

SEARCY – The Heber Springs junior Panthers started strong and finished strong against Harding Academy on Thursday it was just the in-between that gave them problems as the Wildcats claimed a 36-16 win.

Heber Springs (1-1) dominated the first quarter and a half of action limiting Harding Academy to 11 total yards and no first downs during the first 12 minutes of action.

In the meantime, the Panthers racked up 131 yards and seven first downs during that same stretch to take an 8-0 lead. After Emmitt Dwyer’s interception, Liam Buffalo would score from 17 yards out two plays later and after Buffalo completed the 2-point pass to Ty West, Heber Springs led 8-0 with 48.3 seconds left in the first quarter.

After the Panther defense held Harding Academy to a three-and-out, Heber Springs appeared to moving into position for another score after picking up a pair of first downs runs by Buffalo, but a sack and two penalties put the Panthers in a third-and-30 situation. Buffalo connected with Weston Warden for 20 yards, but a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

Harding Academy took over with 4:05 to play and scored on a seven-play, 54-yard drive that Owen Miller capped off with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left in the half.

After a quick three-and-out by the Panthers, Harding Academy got the ball back with 54 seconds left in the half and didn’t waste any time as Miller connected with Trenton Miller for a 61-yard touchdown pass to give the Wildcats a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Heber Springs wouldn’t get on the scoreboard again until late in the contest when Buffalo connected with Carter Julian for a 21-yard completion to start a drive with 4:24 left and the duo completed finished the 83-yard drive with a 12-yard scoring strike. Buffalo hit Julian again for the 2-point conversion with 1:23 to play.

Harding Academy outgained Heber Springs in total offense, 246-217, but the Panthers finished with 12 first downs to the Wildcats 7.

Buffalo paced Heber Springs by going 11-and-18 for 113 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries for a score.

Heber Springs will host Dover Thursday night at Panther Stadium. The seventh-grade team will start things off at 5:30 p.m. followed by the junior high game at 7 p.m.

HEBER SPRINGS AT HARDING ACADEMY
SEPTEMBER 9, 2021

Heber Springs     8   0   0   8 - 16
Harding Academy   0  16   8  12 - 36

FIRST QUARTER
HS - Liam Buffalo 17-yard run (Buffalo to Ty West pass), 48.3
SECOND QUARTER
HA - Owen Miller 7-yard run (Miller to Endy McGalliard pass), 1:27
HA - Miller to Trenton Hall 61-yard pass (Miller to McGalliard pass), 41.4
THIRD QUARTER
HA - Hall 19-yard run (pass failed), 6:50
HA - Cam Pryer 26-yard run (run failed), 4:24
FOURTH QUARTER
HS - Buffalo to Carter Julian 12-yard pass (Buffalo to Julian pass), 1:23

TEAM STATISTICS
FIRST DOWNS: HS 12, HA 9
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 29/104, HA 20/140
PASSING YARDS: HS 113, HA 106
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 11-18-0, HA 5-10-1
FUMBLES: HS 0, HA 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 6-40, HA 3-15
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 3-31.7, HA 2-39.5
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING: HS, Liam Buffalo 15/74, Weston Warden 9/15, Cooper Holmes 3/10, Logan Rutledge 2/5. HA, Trenton Hall 9/61, Owen Miller 8/49, Cam Pryer 1/26, Jack Roberts 2/4.
PASSING: HS, Buffalo 11/18-113-1/0. HA, Owen Miller 5/10-206-2/1
RECEVING: HS, Carter Julian 4/48, Warden 4/38, Holmes 2/24, Rutledge 1/3. HA, Trenton Hall 1/61, Endy McGalliard 2/38, Cam Pryer 1/5, Oz Baker 1/3.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Holmes 3/25, Rutledge 1/15, Emitt Dwyer 1/11.
PUNT RETURNS: HS, Dwyer 1/9
PUNTS: HS, Buffalo 3/95/31.7. HA, Miller 2/79/39.5




HEBER SPRINGS JUNIOR HIGH SCHEDULE

(All Games Start at 7 p.m.)

Aug. 26 – Heber Springs 32, Clinton 28

Sep. 09 – Harding Academy 36, Heber Springs 16

Sep. 16 – Dover

Sep. 23 – at Lonoke *

Sep. 28 – Stuttgart *

Oct. 07 – at Central Arkansas Christian *

Oct. 14 – Bald Knob *

Oct. 21 – at Southside Batesville *

Oct. 28 – at Clinton *

(* – Denotes conference contest)

Different week, same result for Panthers

Heber Springs’ Hunter Kent looks upfield against Harding Academy Friday night in Searcy. Easton Cusick (4) and Chris Smith (54) look to provide blocking help for Kent. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By PHILIP SEATON

For the second week in a row, Heber Springs trailed at the half, 45-0, and ended up falling, 45-6.

This time it was at top-ranked and defending 3A state champion Harding Academy Friday night.

Like in week 1, turnovers cost the Panthers early leading to a short field for the opponent. Heber Springs (0-2) fumbled twice and had pass attempts intercepted as Harding Academy (2-0) had eight first-half possessions with seven of those inside the Panther 50 and six inside the Panther the Panther 38.

“Same story second week in a row,” first-year Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “(When) you play a good team, you can’t give opportunities to a good team because they are going to take benefit from it.

“So that’s the second week in a row you give the ball over real quick in the game, you can’t do that against teams that are going to take full advantage of it immediately.”

The Panthers turned the ball over on their first three possessions and trailed 21-0 with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

“We are going to have to start learning how to secure the ball a little bit better and start getting our offense to move the ball down the field a little bit,” Wood said of the turnovers. “But we’ll work on it.”

Heber Springs’ receiver Easton Cusick braces for the hit from a Harding Academy defender. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

The Panthers had their best drive of the first half on their next possession moving from their own 20 to the Wildcat 26 before the drive stalled on fourth down with 34 seconds left in the opening quarter. An 18-yard run by Matthew Cook, a 7-yard run on fourth down by Hunter Kent and an 18-yard pass play as John McBroome connected with Easton Cusick highlighted the Heber Springs drive.

“I have said this multiple times we didn’t have spring ball,” Wood said. “We didn’t have summer ball so these first three weeks are our spring ball and we are still trying to figure out our identity.

“We are still trying to figure out who is going to play where,”

The last time a Panther football team has been shutout was on Oct. 18, 2013, in a 35-0 setback at Newport — a streak of 73 consecutive games with at least a touchdown, and that streak was extended in the second half on the Panthers first possession.

With a continuous running clock because of the Arkansas Activities Association Sportsmanship Rule, Heber Springs forced the Wildcats to a three-and-out on defense before taking over at the Wildcat 46 with 9:01 to play in the third quarter.

Heber Springs quarterback Conner Riddle looks downfield as senior Diego Rubio provides blocking. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Sophomore quarterback Conner Riddle led the Panthers on a 10-play drive that senior running back Diego Rubio capped off with a 1-yard run with 2:32 left in the quarter. The 2-point attempt failed. Sophomore running back Kenan Sneed carried twice for 14 yards on the drive while sophomore transfer receiver Isaac King had three receptions for 29 yards.

“We’ve got some things to correct,” Wood said. “We’ve got some guys that are going to have to step up to play some positions that they need to be ready to play. We are getting ready to make some changes.”

Heber Springs, which has lost eight consecutive regular season nonconference contests, hosts Dover and former interim Panther coach Will Cox Friday night at Panther Stadium in the final nonconference contest for the Panthers.

“I told them we are playing for week 4,” Wood said, “that’s what gets us into November and December, and so that’s what we are trying to do is get into week 4 make sure everything’s place and all the little mistakes are taken care of so in week 4 we are ready to play some real football. “

GAME STATS

SCORING 
Heber Springs (0-2)     0   0  6  0 -   6
Harding Academy (2-0)  21  24  0  0 -  45 
FIRST QUARTER 
Harding Academy - Andrew Miller 25-yard run (Kyle Ferrie kick), 8:37
Harding Academy - Miller 5-yard run (Ferrie kick), 6:06
Harding Academy - Caden Sipe to Ty Dugger 5-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 3:17
SECOND QUARTER 
Harding Academy - Sipe to Landon Koch 28-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 10:47
Harding Academy - Sipe to Miller 33-yard pass (Ferrie kick), 9:41
Harding Academy - Ferrie 44-yard field goal, 5:53
Harding Academy - Miller 4-yard run (Ferrie kick), 4:16
THIRD QUARTER 
Heber Springs - Diego Rubio 1-yard run (pass field), 2:32
TEAM STATS 
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 4, Harding Academy 8 
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 3, Harding Academy 7 
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 1, Harding Academy 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 8, Harding Academy 15
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/3, Harding Academy 1/2  
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 2/3, Harding Academy 1/2
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 1/1, Harding Academy 3/3  
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 26:29, Harding Academy 21:31
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 5/2, Harding Academy 2/0 
Turnovers: Heber Springs 4, Harding Academy 0     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 0, Harding Academy 28 
Penalties: Heber Springs 4/25, Harding Academy 1/5 
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 56/189/3.4, Harding Academy 44/259/5.9
Rushing: Heber Springs 28/98/3.5, Harding Academy 25/115/4.6
Passing: Heber Springs 15/28-91-0/2, Harding Academy 10/19-154-3/0
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Harding Academy 0/0
Punts: Heber Springs 3/61/20.3, Harding Academy 2/57/28.5
Inside 20: Heber Springs 0, Harding Academy 1

INDIVIDUAL STATS 
OFFENSE   
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 8/32/4, Matthew Cook 5/31/6.2, Hunter Kent 3/14/4.7, Kenan Sneed 2/14, Jackson West 4/12/3, Conner Riddle 3/2/.6, Easton Cusick 2/0, Team 1/(-7). Harding Academy, Andrew Miller 11/90/8.2, Caden Sipe 3/26/8.6, Seth Campbell 6/11, Colson Sipe 0/8, Aaron Chism 2/6, Carter Neal 1/2, Team 1/(-28). 
RUSHING RUNS OF 20+: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio (1). Harding Academy, Andrew Miller (1). 
RUSHING RUNS OF 10+: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook (1), Kenan Sneed (1). Harding Academy, Andrew Miller (3), Caden Sipe (1).
PASSING: Heber Springs, John McBroome 9/18-44-0/2, Conner Riddle 6/8-47-0/0, Matthew Cook 0/2-0-0/0. Harding Academy, Caden Sipe 6/11-116-3/0, Carter Neal 4/8-38-0/0.
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Isaac King 6/47, Easton Cusick 6/34, Hunter Kent 2/11, Matthew Cook 1/(-1). Harding Academy, Jackson Fox 3/27, Landon Koch 2/40, Ryan McGaha 2/30, Ty Dugger 2/14, Andrew Miller 1/33.  
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Conner Riddle 49, John McBroome 44, Diego Rubio 32, Matthew Cook 31, Hunter Kent 14, Kenan Sneed 14, Jackson West 12, Easton Cusick 0, Team (-7). Harding Academy, Caden Sipe 142, Andrew Miller 90, Carter Neal 40, Seth Campbell 11, Colson Sipe 8, Aaron Chism 6, Team (-28).   
PUNT RETURNS: None.  
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 2/24. Harding Academy, Jackson Fox 1/16. 
FUMBLE RETURNS: None 
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Harding Academy, Kade Smith 1/17, Aaron Chism 1/2.
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Hunter Kent 49, Isaac King 47, Easton Cusick 34, Diego Rubio 32, Matthew Cook 30, Kenan Sneed 14, Jackson West 12, Conner Riddle 2. Harding Academy, Aaron Miller 123,  Jackson Fox 43, Landon Koch 40, Ryan McGaha 30, Caden Sipe 26, Kade Smith 17, Ty Dugger 14, Seth Campbell 11, Colson Sipe 8, Aaron Chism 8, Carter Neal 2.
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 6. Harding Academy, Andrew Miller 24, Kyle Ferrie 9 (1-1 44 FG, 6-6 XP/XPA), Landon Koch 6, Ty Dugger 6. 
DEFENSE 
INTERCEPTIONS: Harding Academy, Aaron Chism, Kade Smith. 
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Harding Academy, Eli Wallace, Cooper Welch. 
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 2/33/16.5, Wyatt Winchester 1/28. Harding Academy, Kyle Ferrie 2/57/28.5/1 

Panthers open junior high season with convincing win

Heber Springs’ Parker Brown fights for extra yards against Harding Academy Thursday night at Panther Stadium. Heber Springs’ Gideon Tate (1) and Xander Lindley (9) are also pictured. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By PHILIP SEATON

Heber Springs took advantage of four Harding Academy turnovers and cruised to a 23-6 win over Harding Academy in junior high football action at Panther Stadium Thursday night.

Heber Springs junior high coach James Ortiz was concerned about Harding Academy after the Panthers “week zero” game at Clinton was canceled because of the remnants of Hurricane Laura.

“We didn’t have a game one like a lot of others did, I know other schools are in the same boat, but I can’t worry about them,” he said. “I worry about me. So that was one thing that I kind of worried about is that we didn’t have something to prepare us for Harding as much as I wanted us to.”

His worries were put to ease by ease by eighth-grader Liam Buffalo, who was 17 of 33 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and ninth-grader Parker Brown, who had three receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown and also picked off two Wildcat passes — including returning one 46 yards for a score.

“He’s unbelievable,” Ortiz said of Brown who moved back into the district after spending the last two seasons in Texas. “He’s just an athlete. He has great hands, great feet. He can run and he’s a great kid. We are fortunate to have him. He definitely makes our team better.”

Heber Springs quarterback Liam Buffalo. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Buffalo had a slow start, completing only three of his first 10 passes for 20 yards, as the game remained scoreless until late in the first quarter when Brown picked off the Miller Owen pass attempt and returned it for a score. Xander Lindley ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0 in favor of Heber Springs with 2:13 to play. 

The Heber Springs defense held Harding Academy to 113 total yards of offense — with 52 of those coming on one pass play- and three first downs, and it was after a defensive stop that Buffalo found his rhythm completing three passes for 75 yards — including a 33-yarder to Hud Haggard and a 35-yard scoring strike to Brown — to make the score 14-0 in favor of the Panthers with 7:12 left in the first half.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Ortiz said of Buffalo. “I could be nit picky about one or two things … but overall I can’t ask for anything else for my quarterback.”

The Wildcats got on the board on their next possession as Owen connected with Kyler Hoover for a 52-yard scoring strike to make it 14-6 with 5:02 left in the first half. The 2-point conversion failed.

The score remained that way until the Panthers first possession of the second half. After Brown picked off an Owen pass attempt in the end zone, Heber Springs marched 72 yards on 12 plays before the 5:57 drive stalled at the Wildcat 8 on fourth down. Freshman Gideon Tate connected on the 25-yard field goal attempt to make it 17-6 in favor of the Panthers with 7:11 left in the contest.

Heber Springs added another score less than three minutes later. Haggard recovered a Wildcat fumble on the Harding Academy 19 and three plays later Buffalo connected with Haggard for the 4-yard touchdown to make it 23-6. The PAT was no good.

Haggard finished the night with six receptions for 65 yards for Heber Springs while Dalton Yancey (for 23 yards), Lindley (for 21 yards) and Ty West (for 3 yards) each had a pair of receptions.

The Panther defense limited Harding Academy to 21 yards rushing on 16 attempts. Heber Springs which finished with 279 yards of total offense and 14 first downs.

Heber Springs will look to improve to 2-0 on the season Thursday when they travel to Dover for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Heber Springs‘ Hud Haggard looks to get past Harding Academy’s Jack Citty Thursday night. Haggard went 33-yards on the pass play to help set up a Panther score. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO