By PHILIP SEATON
Parker Brown was electric on a night when the Heber Springs Panthers needed some, literally.
Brown staked the Panthers to an early 14-0 lead against Riverview Friday night on the strength of two punts returned for a touchdown and would finish the night scoring five touchdowns and 322 all-purpose yards in a 41-0 victory over the Raiders.
Heber Springs (6-3, 5-1 in the 2-4A conference) was celebrating “senior night” with the players donning black jerseys for the first time in several years and added black pants for an all-black look.
After the first play from scrimmage, the field conditions almost mirrored the Panthers uniform look. A five-yard run by Xander Lindley opened the game but due to problems with an electrical box under the home bleachers, the game was paused, and the home bleachers were emptied as a precaution and one bank of lights on the home sideline on the north end went out.
A short pause resulted but play resumed after both teams agreed to play with only three out of the four banks of lights creating a surreal experience with the home fans spread across the track and the north endzone.
On the first play, Lindley connected with Weston Warden for a 37-yard completion, but a turnover on the next snap gave the ball to Riverview at the Raider 22.
But the Panther defense forced a three-and-out, Ryder Conway lofted a punt that Brown fielded at the Panther 46. The senior sprinted almost untouched weaving through defenders not stopping until he high-fived injured teammate Liam Buffalo who was in the back of the end zone. Buffalo had knee surgery last Friday and was at the game in support of his teammates.
Senior Gideon Tate connected on the PAT to make it 7-0 with 8:19 left in the opening quarter.
With the game clock being kept on the field by the officials after the game clock was turned off when the press box was emptied, Riverview put together an almost three-minute drive before Eli Buffalo threw Trevion Greer for a seven-yard loss forcing another Conway punt from the Panther 45.
Brown took the punt at the 19 and sprinted for another score with 4:58 to play in the first quarter. Tate’s kick made it 14-0.
With the two punt returns for a score, Brown tied the single game record that he had set earlier this season against Bald Knob. His four punt returns for a score set the school record for most in a season and also set the career mark as well.
The score would remain that way as neither team threatened until late in the first half.
After Jacob McMullin recovered a Raider fumble at the Riverview 21, Lindley would connect with Brown in the end zone with 31 seconds left in the first half. Tate’s PAT made it 21-0.
At halftime, the lights were restored, and fans were able to return to the bleachers.
On the Panthers first possession of the half, Brown would add his third score of the night this time taking a pitch out from Lindley and racing 49 yards for the touchdown with 8:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Josiah Riggs interception gave Heber Springs possession of the ball on its own 15. Riggs saw significant playing time with starter Elijah Jones out of the games. The freshman finished with five total tackles including one for a loss.
Riggs was one of several ninth graders to see playing time.
“It gives us some depth,” Heber Springs coach Van Paschal said. “When Elijah went down with a concussion, that’s why Josiah was getting to play there. It’s big for a ninth grader to get in there and get some reps.”
On second down, Brown ran 55 yards to put the ball the Raider 30. On third-and-11 from the 31, Warden would take a pitch from Lindley and sprinted for another score with 1:49 to play in the third quarter. Tate’s PAT kick was blocked leaving the score 34-0.
Heber Springs was penalized 13 times for 105 yards on the night, and four of those helped the Raiders move to the ball to the Panther 19 on their next drive.
Senior Zachary Parker would make sure that Riverview wouldn’t reach the endzone stepping in front of the Conway pass at the 4 returning the ball back to the 50.
“I talk about senior leadership all of the time,” Paschal said. “They do what we ask them to do all of the time. They believe in what we are preaching.
“Even when we struggled against Batesville Southside, ‘coach we are bought in.’ Then Harding, ‘we are bought in’, so they get it, and they are doing a great job.”
After a holding penalty knocked the Heber Springs back six yards, Brown would cap off the score sprinting 56 yards for the score. Tate’s PAT made it 41-0 with 10:29 left in the contest.
It was the second time in his career that Brown has scored five touchdowns. As a sophomore Brown had five touchdowns against Central Arkansas Christian in 2021. It was the third most touchdowns in game in school history. Jerry Pilkington has the record with eight touchdowns against Ola in 1949 while Markeyvus Mays had 7 touchdowns against Cave City in 2010. Brown, Mays and Pilkington are the only players in school history to have five or more touchdowns, and all three have done it twice.
The Heber Springs defense recorded its third shutout of the season, its most shutouts since 2009.
Brodie Basford and Warden each finished with 11 tackles to pace the Panthers.
Heber Springs finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed out of the 2-4A conference. The Panthers will face Lincoln, the No. 4 seed out of the 1-4A, Friday night at Panther Stadium. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.
“New round for these guys I know, but you have to buy in and tune in right now or every game is your last from here on out,” Paschal said. “That’s why everything has to be done correctly. You have to do the little things right.”
GAME 9 RIVERVIEW AT HEBER SPRINGS SENIOR HIGH NOVEMBER 3, 2023 TEAM STATS TIME OF POSSESSION: N/A TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 10, Riverview 9 BY RUSH: Heber Springs 9, Riverview 6 BY PASS: Heber Springs 1, Riverview 1 BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 0, Riverview 2 TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 36/281/3/7.8, Riverview 30/91/0/3.3 TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 2/4-52-1/0, Riverview 9/22-43-0/4 TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 40/333/8.3, Riverview 52/134/2.6 3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 4/8, Riverview 1/9 4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 1/1, Riverview 1/1 RED-ZONE: Heber Springs 1/1, Riverview 0/0 TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 2, Riverview 6 POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 20, Riverview 0 FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 4/2, Riverview 2/2 PENALTIES: Heber Springs 13/105, Riverview 2/10 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs 0, Riverview 4/13 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs 2/135/2, Riverview 2/11 PUNTS: Heber Springs 3/109/36.3, Riverview 4/114/28.5 PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs 0, Riverview 1 SACKS: Heber Springs 0, Harding 1/6 TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 7/28, Riverview 5/17 INDIVIDUAL STATS RUSHING: Heber Springs, Bryce Seigrist 17/62/3.7, Xander Lindley 8/(-1), Parker Brown 4/163/2, Aiden Isom 3/18, Lachlan Tubbs 2/10, Weston Warden 1/31/1, Team 1/(-2). Riverview, Trevion Greer 15/52/3.5, Nik Franklin 8/22, Ryder Conway 5/(-2), Josiah Cypert 1/16, Robert Mohr 1/3. PASSING: Heber Springs, Xander Lindley 2/4-52-1/0. Riverview, Ryder Conway 8/20-37-0/3, Dredyn Hulsey 1/2-6-0/1. RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Weston Warden 1/38, Parker Brown 1/14/1. Riverview, K.K. Williams 4/6, Nik Franklin 3/16, Trevion Greer 2/21. KICKOFF RETURNS: Riverview, Trevion Greer 3/10, Chandler Beard 1/3 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 2/135/2. Riverview 2/11. INTERCEPTION RETURN: Zachary Parker 1/46, Parker Brown 1/6 FUMBLE RETURN: Parker Brown 1/4 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 322 PUNTING: Heber Springs, Gideon Tate 3/109/36.3. Riverview, Ryder Conway 4/114/1/28.5 SCORING PAT KICKS: Gideon Tate 5/6 (Blocked) FIELD GOALS: Paul Krause (missed 43) POINTS: Parker Brown 30, Weston Warden 6, Gideon Tate 5 DEFENSIVE STATS SACKS: None INDIVIDUAL SACK TOTAL: None FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Jacob McMullin, Parker Brown FORCED FUMBLES: None INTERCEPTIONS: Parker Brown, Josiah Riggs, Zachary Parker, Weston Warden PBU: Carter Julian, Eli Buffalo, Corbin Jones QB HURRIES: Brodie Basford, Carter Julian, Jordan Tidwell TACKLES (U/A/TFL - TOTAL) Weston Warden 4 7 0 11 Eli Buffalo 1 4 1 5 Nate Eaton 0 2 0 2 Parker Brown 1 1 0 2 Brodie Basford 4 7 2 11 Zachary Parker 1 6 0 7 Jordan Tidwell 0 1 0 1 Jacob McMullin 1 4 0 5 Josiah Riggs 2 3 1 5 Logan Rutledge 2 3 0 5 Corbin Jones 2 2 2 4 Dyce Young 0 1 0 1 Emmett Dwyer 1 0 0 1 Carter Julian 0 3 0 3 Bryce Seigrist 0 1 0 1 Luke Elliott 0 1 0 1 Greg Williams 0 1 0 1 Logan Lozeau 0 1 0 1 Dustin Stone 1 0 1 1