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, Lady Panthers take second at district track meet

The Heber Springs Senior Girls track team pose with the 4A-4 district runner-up trophy. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

The Heber Springs Lady Panthers and Panthers fell short of their goals at the 4-4A Conference track and field meet, but came away with success.

The Panthers and Lady Panthers were runner-up in their respective divisions with 13 athletes qualifying for the Class 4A state meet in 16 events at Panther Stadium on Wednesday.

Freshman Parker Brown, who received the high-point award at last week’s junior high meet, scored 46 points and won the high-point award at Wednesday’s competition. Brown was the winner of the 100-meter dash, high jump and long jump and finished second in the 200-meter dash and triple jump.

Heber Springs freshman Parker Brown won the high point award the 4A-4 district track meet. Brown had also won the high point award at the 4A-4 junior high district meet on April 21. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“It was a good day,” Brown said. “I got a personal best in the long jump. Winning the high point again was a surprise.”

Heber Springs head boys’ coach Dale Cresswell said Brown’s performance was not a surprise to him.

“Parker is one of those athletes born with a lot of athletic abilty,” Cresswell said. “I knew he would score points.”

Kevin King was the other Panther who qualified in multi-events. King won the 200-meter dash and finished third in the 100-meter dash and the triple jump.
Nathan Poff claimed third place in the 1600-meter run and qualified for the state meet.

The Panthers scored 154.50 points, 18.50 points behind conference champion Ozark.

“It is always good to have a lot of personal bests and good performances,” Cresswell said. “We did well. The distance races were the main difference. Poff had a personal best in the 1600. We are working to become better in those events.”

Maygan Jarvis and Rylee Birmingham won multi-events for the Lady Panthers. Jarvis topped the field in the pole vault and discus. Birmingham won the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

Jaylea Hooten, runner-up for the girls’ high-point award, won the high jump and finished third in the long jump, and the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

The Lady Panthers qualified in three relays for the state meet.

Jarvis, Addison Hudspeth, Natalie Buffalo and Cristina Garcia were third in the 800-meter relay. Natalie Buffalo, Jarvis, Garcia and Birmingham finished second in the 1600-meter relay. Riley Bailey, Allison Wildman, Sydney Buffalo and Vallie Cantrell were runner-up in the 3200-meter relay.

The Lady Panthers scored 119 points, 30 points behind conference winner Clarksville.

“I’m proud of the girls,” Heber Springs girls’ coach Hunter Davis said. “All you can from them is to give their best. I was pleased with the second-place finish. We had a lot of personal bests. We had good effort and left all out on the track.”

The state meet will be held at Nashville High School on Tuesday.

The Heber Springs senior boys track team pose with the runner-up trophy from the 4A-A district track meet. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

BOYS
Team totals — 1. Ozark 173; 2. Heber Springs 154.50; 3. Dardanelle 120; 4. Clarksville 104; 5. Pottsville 57; 6. Morrilton 54.50; 7. Subiaco Academy 23.
100-meter dash — 1. Parker Brown 11.72; 3. Kevin King 12:02; 6. Gabe Tate 12.25; 11. Bent McClain 12.91.
200-meter dash — 1. Kevin King 23.78; 2. Parker Brown 23.97; 3. Gabe Tate 25.11; 10. Alex Roy 26.23.
400-meter dash — 4. Gabe Tate 57.00; 15. Landon Leisenring 1:02.17; 16. Logan Cox 1:04.49; 20. Remington Bradley 1:08.74.
800-meter run — 4. Nathan Poff 2:17.62; 9. Thomas Spears 2:27.70; 10. Mason Harris 2:27.97; 14. Noah Cordes 2:37.03.
1600-meter run — 3. Nathan Poff 4:59.0; 8. Mason Harris 5:14.82; 11. Noah Cordes 5:22.92; 13. Reagan Buell 5:46.09.
3200-meter run — 5. Mason Harris 12:13.03; 6. Noah Cordes 12:24.26; 7. Reagan Buell 12:32.57; 9. Kevin Leal 13:14.56.
110-meter hurdles — 8. Evan Burgess 23.60.  
300-meter hurdles — 5. Bent McClain 47.71; 9. Judson Ogle 51.32; 12. Nathan Poff 54.74; 13. Evan Burgess 56.61.
400-meter relay — 5. Heber Springs (Colt Allen, Bent McClain, Landon Leisenring, Preston Roberson) 53.98.
800-meter relay — 6. Heber Springs (Colt Allen, Alex Roy, Bent McClain, Preston Roberson), 1:46.44.
1600-meter relay — 6. Heber Springs (Remington Bradley, Landon Leisenring, Logan Cox, Aaron Combs), 4:26.21.
3200-meter relay — 6. Heber Springs (Jonathan Henriquez, Colton Cole, Caleb Bradley, Jaxson Cox), 9:45.35.
High jump — 1. Parker Brown 6-0; 5. Nathan Poff 5-2; 6. Bent McClain 5-0.
Long jump — 1. Parker Brown 21-5; 5. Kevin King 19-4; 10. Nathan Poff 17-0; 15. Colt Allen 14-8.
Triple jump — 2. Parker Brown 40-8.50; 3. Kevin KIng 38-10; 8. Judson Ogle 32-10.25.
Shot put — 5. Preston Roberson 36-3.75; 8. Allen Colt 33-5; 11. Corbin Jones 31-3,75; 13. Tripp Young 29-9.50.
Discus — 5. Corbin Jones 88-1; 6. Alex Roy 88-0; 8. Tripp Young 85-0; 10. Remington Bradley 80-0.
GIRLS
Team totals — 1. Clarksville 149; 2. Heber Springs 119; 3. Ozark 97; 4. Pottsville 73; 5. Morrilton 59; 6. Dardanelle 56.
100-meter dash — 5. Jaylea Hooten 13.66; 10. Natalie Buffalo 14.47; 19. Lili Chaney 15.62.
200-meter dash — 4. Jaylea Hooten 28.20; 7. Natalie Buffalo 29.39; 8. Cristina Garcia 31.07.
400-meter dash — 6. Maygan Jarvis 1:06.65; 11. Cristina Garcia 1:12.52; 12. Lili Chaney 1:12.98.
800-meter run — 7. Vallie Cantrell 2:58.42; 11. Sydney Buffalo 3:01.36; 15. Riley Bailey 3:15.28; 16. Allison Wildman 3:18.26.
1600-meter run — 5. Vallie Cantrell 6:26.40; 8. Sydney Buffalo 6:40.75; 10. Allison Wildman 6:57.91.
3200-meter run — 4. Vallie Cantrell 14:14.70; 7. Sydney Buffalo 15:25.48; 8. Riley Bailey 15:45.14.
100-meter hurdles — 1. Rylee Birmingham 17.91; 3. Jaylea Hooten 18.48; 8. Samantha Gilley 20.33.
300-meter hurdles — 1. Rylee Birmingham 52.95; 3. Jaylea Hooten 55.66; 5. Samantha Gilley 57.43; 8. Maygan Jarvis 58.89.
400-meter relay — 6. Heber Springs (Ava Noble, Eva Jones, Mia Screeton, Lili Chaney), 1:03.78.
800-meter relay — 3. Heber Springs (Maygan Jarvis, Addison Hudspeth, Natalie Buffalo, Cristina Garcia), 2:00.72.
1600-meter relay — 2. Heber Springs (Natalie Buffalo, Maygan Jarvis, Cristina Garcia, Rylee Birmingham), 4:37.21.
3200-meter relay — 2. Heber Springs (Riley Bailey, Allison Wildman, Sydney Buffalo, Vallie Cantrell), 11:25.58.
High jump — 1. Jaylea Hooten 5-3; 9. Vallie Cantrell 4-4.
Pole vault — 1. Maygan Jarvis 9-4; 4. Ava Noble 8-0; 5. Samantha Gilley 7-6.
Long jump — 3. Jaylea Hooten 15-8; 5. Natalie Buffalo 15-5; 11. Addison Hudspeth 14-10; 15. Cristina Garcia 14-7.
Triple jump — 4. Addison Hudspeth 30-4.50; 15. Allison Wildman 24-2.75; 16. Eva Jones 23-8.50; 17. Sydney Buffalo 23-6.
Shot put — 11. Lili Chaney 21-7.50; 12. Miah Tharp 21-6.50; 16. Ava Little 19-6.50; 17. Lily Hendrix, 17-11.
Discus — 1. Maygan Jarvis 79-3; 5. Ava Little 67-10; 7. Miah Tharp 61-8; 16. Lily Hendrix 49-2.

Riley takes reigns of Panther basketball program

New Heber Springs senior boys basketball Jordan Riley . Riley’s father, Alvin, coached the Heber Springs boys team to one of the program’s best seasons ever in 1988-89. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Jordan Riley said becoming the new head boys’ basketball coach at Heber Springs was like coming home.

Riley was born in 1990 at Heber Springs when his father, Alvin Riley, coached the Panthers and his aunt, Kristie Dunlap was head coach of the Lady Panthers.

“It will give me a chance of living closer to family,” said Riley when asked about what attracted him to the job. “Heber (Springs) boys do have a good history, but not great lately. It’s an opportunity to build the program back to success. Heber (Springs) is an awesome community with good fan support I feel good about what we can accomplish.”

Riley’s wife, Kelsi, who is a business teacher at Midland High School, will serve in a similar capacity at HSHS. The Rileys are parents of a son, Drew, 14-months-old.

Alvin Riley coached the Panthers for three years, beginning with the 1988-89 season. Riley led the Panthers to a 24-8 record and the quarterfinals of the Class 3A tournament. The 24 wins was a school single-season record at that time.

Heber Springs advanced to the regional tournament under Riley during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons.

Riley said his father has been the biggest influence on his coaching career.

“He won more than 800 games during his career, and he is a tough path to follow,” Riley said. “I will try and carry on that legacy.”

Jordan Riley is a graduate of Vilonia High School. At that time, Heber Springs superintendent Dr. Andy Ashley was the Vilonia assistant principal. Heber Springs athletic director Tim Bullington, who was an assistant coach for Alvin Riley, severed as a school administrator at Vilonia.

Jordan Riley graduated with a degree in management information systems from the University of Central Arkansas in 2013. He worked the next four years at Acxiom in Conway before deciding to pursue his dream of becoming a coach.

Riley received a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in 2017 and was named assistant coach at Two Rivers High School in Ola. He was promoted the next season to head coach and held that position for the next three years.

Riley led Two Rivers to back-to-back state tournaments before becoming head girls coach at Southside Batesville in 2019.

Riley coached the past two seasons at Southside Batesville. The Lady Southerners were 6-21 the year before he was named head coach and finished 17-9 last season.

Riley will be a head coach of a boys’ team for the first time, but he believes the transition will go smooth.

“The key is learn how to handle each player,” he said. “Every person is different. The main thing is to show the players you care for them and want to help them become the best it can be.”

Riley is ready to start as soon as his schedule allows and plans to meet this week with his new players. He will look at the strengths of his players in formulating a system for the Panthers.

“We will play at the pace that benefits us,” he said. “We will not necessary play just fast or slow. I prefer playing a physical man-to-man defense. The most important thing on offense is taking good shots.”

Riley hopes to get a start on Riley will juggle time between Southside and Heber Springs for the remainder of the school year.

“I would love to start practice because some of the players will be in football,” he said. “It takes time to put in a system.”

Riley will become the fifth head coach in six seasons of the Panthers and looks forward to turning the program around. Heber Springs was 1-23 last season.

“I watched the team on film and they have some good players,” he said. “The junior high group coming up is talented. The pieces are there for a good team.”

Dusty West served as interim coach this past season and was teammates with Riley at Vilonia.

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.

Heber Springs rally comes up short against Clarksville

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Clarksville scored five runs during the first two innings and hang on for an 8-5 win against the Heber Springs Panthers in a 4-4A Conference baseball game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex Monday.

The defeat and Tuesday’s 8-7 loss at Dardanelle dropped the Panthers (3-7 in conference, 4-12 overall) to fifth place in the conference standings.

“We let up during the first inning,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said following the loss to Clarksville. “We picked it up before the end of the inning, but it was too little, too late. We have been trying to instill in the players that the game is not over until it’s over. We need to come out and play with more intensity early in the game.”

Righthander J.T Spears, who was the losing pitcher, allowed seven hits, eight runs and had four strikeouts and one walk in 5.1 innings. Corbin Jones relieved Spears and permitted one hit and struck out one batter in 1.2 inning.

“Spears did what was expected and gave us a chance at winning,” May said. “He is turning into a diamond in the rough and he’s only a sophomore. J.T. throws all of his pitches for strikes, and he has a chance to become an even better pitcher in the future.”

John-Foster Case, Landon Leeds and Dakota Palsey hit RBI singles during the top of the first inning. Leeds scored later on Cole Chrisman’s sacrifice fly.

Heber Springs scored one run in the bottom of the inning.

Garrett Hudspeth was hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position by stealing second base. Hudspeth later scored on an infield out.

After Clarksville scored one run in the top of the second for a 5-1 lead, the Panthers kept close in the bottom of the inning. Xander Lindley reached on an error, Spears hit a single and the runners advanced on a passed ball. Lindley came home on an infield out. Spears scored on Hudspeth’s double and reduced Clarksville lead to 5-3.

Clarksville scored one run in the top of the fifth, but the Panthers matched it during the bottom half of the inning.

Kenan Sneed reached on a fielder’s choice and then he scored on Cole Payton’s RBI triple.

Clarksville added two runs during the sixth inning and increased its lead to 8-4.
Heber Springs’ final run came in the bottom of the seventh on a bases-loaded walk to Lindley.

The Panthers are scheduled to host Bald Knob in a non-conference game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and play a conference game at Subiaco Academy on Friday.

Clarksville 410 012 0–8 12 2
Heber Springs 120 010 1–5 5  2
Clarksville hitters — Alex Snow 4 singles, 1 stolen base; John-Foster Case single, double, 2 RBIs; Landon Leeds 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base; Easton Burkett single, 1 1 RBI, 1 stolen base; Dakota Pasley single, 1 RBI; Cole Chrisman single, 1 RBI; Gabe Kremers single, 1 stolen base.
Clarksville  pitchers — Dakota Pasley (W) 2 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks in 4.2 innings; John-Foster Case 2 hits, 1 run, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2.1 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Garrett Hudspeth single, double, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base; Cole Payton triple, 2 RBIs; J.T. Spears single, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single; Xander Lindley 1 RBI; Corbin Jones 1 RBI.
Heber Springs pitchers — J.T Spears (L) 7 hits, 8 runs, 7 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk in 5.1 innings; Corbin Jones 1 hit, 1 strikeout in 1.2 inning.
 

Southerners top Panthers in extra innings

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Good pitching kept the Heber Springs Panthers close, but missed opportunities led to a 5-4 non-conference baseball loss in eight innings to Southside Batesville (4-11) at the Heber Springs Sports Complex Thursday.

Heber Springs (3-5 in 4-4A Conference, 4-10 overall) will try and bounce back against conference foe Clarksville (4-4 in conference, 7-7 overall) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home. The Panthers trail third place Clarksville and fourth place Pottsville (3-4 in conference, 5-7 overall) by one game in the loss column.

Starter Corbin Jones allowed five hits, four runs (two runs earned), struck out four and walked two in seven inning. Cole Payton, the losing pitcher in relief, pitched the eighth inning. Payton limited the Southerners to one hit, yielded one earned run and struck out one batter.

“Corbin pitched a great game, and Cole pitched well,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said. “Corbin mixed his pitches well and stayed ahead of the batters. We didn’t finish the game as a team. We wanted to win and keep the momentum from Tuesday’s game at Pottsville going into Friday’s game with Clarksville.”

May said one of the game’s determining factors was the Panthers not capitalizing on Southside’s mistakes.

“It’s the little plays over the course of a game that make the difference,” he said. “I remember about three or four times it happened. We are not capitalizing on little mistakes that teams make. We played a good game and swung the bats decent.”

Heber Springs took the lead during the bottom of the second inning. Gage Buford hit a single and later scored from third base on John McBroom’s RBI base hit.

Southside scored three runs on three hits and a Heber Springs fielding error in the top of the third inning for a 3-1 lead. The Southerners held the lead until the sixth inning.

J. T Spears singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Conner Riddle. McBroom followed with a base hit and Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Riddle scored on Zachary Parker’s single and reduced Southside’s lead to 3-2.

Easton Cusick, who was a courtesy runner for McBroom, was tagged out on the same sequence at the plate.

The Panthers tied the game when Xander Lindley, a courtesy runner for Jones, scored from third base on a passed ball.  Heber Springs took the 4-3 lead when Parker scored on Kenan Sneed’s sacrifice fly to the outfield.

Southside tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh. The Southerners scored the winning run on a Heber Springs fielding error in the eighth.

May said Garrett Hudspeth and Spears have their rest and will be available to pitch against Clarksville on Friday.

“Our pitching is set and both are ready to go,” May said. “We want to go as high in the conference standings as we can and get a good seed for the playoffs. We are starting to play our best baseball and want to be in the top four for the conference tournament.”

Southside 003 000 11–5 3 3
Heber Springs 010 003 00–4 8 4
Southside Batesville hitters — Bo Trucks 2 singles, 1 RBI; Tyson Trucks single, 1 RBI; Blayne Bufford single, 2 stolen bases; Kaelan Duncan single, 1 stolen base; Carson McGhee single, 1 stolen base; Landen Haas 1 stolen base; Kyle Long 1 stolen base.
Southside  pitchers — Kaelan Duncan 5 hits 1 run, 1 strikeout in 5 innings; Bryson Duncan 2 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk in .1 inning; Blayne Bufford (W) 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2.2 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Matthew Cook single, double, 1 stolen base; John McBroome 2 singles, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single, 1 RBI; Zachary Parker single, 1 RBI; Cole Payton single; Gage Buford single; Garrett Hudspeth 1 stolen base.
Heber Springs pitchers –Corbin Jones 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks in 7 innings; Cole Payton (L 0-1) 1 hit, 1 earned run, 1 strikeout in 1 inning.

Panthers fall to Bulldogs in nonconference action

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Monday’s nonconference baseball match with Conway St. Joseph turned into one of those kind of days that the Heber Springs Panthers will try and forget quickly.

Playing for the first time in 10 days, the Panthers resumed the schedule and lost to St. Joseph 15-1 at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.

The game ended on the 10-run rule after five innings.

“It turned into one of those days when the wheels completely fell off,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said. “We practiced for the past four days, but we have a lot of rust to get rid of.”

St. Joseph scored one run during the first inning and two more runs in the second. The Bulldogs broke the game open  by scoring 11 runs during the third and added one run in the fifth.

The Panthers avoided a shutout in the bottom of the fifth.

Cole Payton was hit by a pitch and Conner Riddle walked.  St. Joseph turned a double play as Payton reached third base. Kenan Sneed followed with an RBI single, scoring Payton from third base.

The Panthers (2-3 in 4-4A Conference, 3-5 overall) were scheduled to play at Ozark on Tuesday and at Morrilton on Thursday. Heber Springs will play Woodlawn and Rose Bud at Rose Bud on Saturday.

St. Joseph 13(11) 01–15 9 2
Heber Springs 000 01–1  4 4
St. Joseph hitters — Nicholas French single, double, 2 RBIs; Collin Coney 2 singles; Luke Pope single, 3 RBIs; Max Longing single, 2 RBIs; Caleb Mallett single, 1 RBI; Jared Sanders single, 1 RBI; Gabriel Stobaugh single; Luke Brigger 1 RBI; Cole Garner 1 RBI.
St. Joseph pitchers — Cole Garner (W) 4 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts in 5 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Kenan Sneed 2 singles, 1 RBI; Matthew Cook single; Garrett Hudspeth single.
Heber Springs pitchers — Xander Lindley (L, 0-2) 6 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts in 2 innings; Mathew Cook 1 hit, 3 earned runs, 2 walks in 0 innings; Gage Buford 2 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned runs, 2 walks in .1 inning; Corbin Jones 0 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout in 2.2 innings.

Eagles looking to make history

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY – The West Side Eagles hope to earn its place in school history and become the third team to win a state basketball championship.

West Side (28-6) will play conference rival Viola at 7 p.m. Thursday for the Class A state tournament championship at the Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs.

The Eagles look to duplicate the accomplishment of the 1983 team that capped that season with a 43-42 win against Gould in the state finals. West Side finished that year at 36-1 with its only loss to Camden Fairview at the state overall tournament.

The Lady Eagles won the 1999 state championship.

“We know what the 1983 team did and hope that people will talk the same way about the 2021 team in 20 years,” West Side coach Keith Brown said. “We respect everything that team did. That gives them more incentive to win. We have received great support from those guys as well as other alumni. We want to keep the tradition going.”

“Winning a state championship would mean everything,” starting guard Travis Gentry said. “I’ve been at this school for most of my life and watched all of the teams play.”

Gentry said he welcomed the opportunity of playing in Thursday’s game.

“I’m happy for the opportunity to lead the team to the state championship game,” he said. “Going into the season, I felt this might happen. We didn’t end our season last year well. I felt like it could happen if we played well.”

Gentry said he and his teammates admire the 1983 team and hope fans will remember this year’s team in a similar way.

“We want people to talk about us in 20  years like they are talking now about the 1983 team,” he said. “We hope they will talk about us for years to come.”

Senior Zack Birmingham made two of the most important free throws of season late in overtime against Izard County. Birmingham’s free throw clinched a win and a spot in the state finals.

“I had a similar experience in junior high, but that game was not as big,” Birmingham said. “I knew the first one was going in because of how I felt when the ball left my hand. The second free throw didn’t feel as comfortable, but it went in.”

Birmingham has attended West Side school since kindergarten and winning the title would cap his senior season.

“It would mean a lot if we won,” he said. “I am glad to be a part of this team. I can’t wait to get to Hot Springs.”

Brenton Knapp moved to West Side at the start of his fifth grade year. Knapp remembered games during recent years, and he hopes this year’s team will bring back the state championship to the school.

“It would mean the world to me,” he said. “I came to many games and watched teams that came close. We have a chip on our shoulders after losing last year at the district tournament  We wanted to come back strong and take care of unfinished business.”

Knapp said he and his teammates wants to win and add to the trophy case.

“We hope to become the third team to win a state championship,” he said. “I just want to contribute to the team. My role is to rebound and score on putbacks and whatever else the team needs me to do.”

Seniors Jake Ballard and Malachi Miller arrived before the start of last season.
Ballard played a big role in the win against Izard County by hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points. He hopes to earn a championship ring and match the accomplishment of his brother, who was a member of the 2017 state champion Guy-Perkins.

“We hit our stride during the second half and realized we could win the game,” referring to Monday’s semifinals, Ballard said. “I made two threes early in the game and two more threes during the second half. I needed to make those shots to get us back in the game.”

Despite playing with new teammates, Ballard said he was accepted from the beginning and happy to be playing for the Eagles.

“I was accepted right away,” Ballard said. “I remember my first game when fans told me they were glad I decided to come to West Side.”

Ballard said he heard the stories about the 1983 team and glad to be a part of the team that may bring back another championship.

“I’m looking forward to playing in Hot  Springs with guys like coach Brown, Malachi, Travis and everyone on the team.” Ballard said. “This is a great group of guys to be around. It would mean the world to win on Thursday.”

Miller, who scored a game-high 25 points against Izard County, said he also felt welcomed from his first day at West Side.

“I felt a part of this team since I came,” Miller said. “I knew we had a good chance to be where we are right now. Stats are not that important. I’m happy we are winning games whether I have 10 rebounds or scoring 10 points. It’s a great feeling to have a chance at making history.”

West Side practiced on Tuesday afternoon and left at noon Wednesday for Hot Springs. The Eagles plan their final practice at Lake Hamilton High School before the championship game.

“I tried to keep practice as normal as possible,” Brown said. “We know Viola well. We will be trying to do things different, so we can have success. Neither team will have anything to hide after playing so many times. It will come down which team executes its game plan better.”

West Side and Viola split games during conference play. Viola defeated the Eagles in the finals of the conference and regional tournaments.

“The big keys are taking good care of the ball and rebounding,” he said.

Lady Eagles come up short in semifinals

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY – The West Side Lady Eagles’ basketball season ended with disappointment for the second year while playing a conference opponent.

Norfork controlled the second half, and defeated West Side 54-48 in the Class 1A state tournament semifinals at Brady-Hipp Arena on Monday. The Lady Eagles lost to Viola in the 2020 state semifinals.

West Side finished the season with a record of 25-9.

Kamryn Sutterfield scored a game-high 23 points for the Lady Eagles. Ashtyn Knapp had 20 points. Kiley Aiman led Norfork with 12 points. Hannah Bryant and Kylie Manes each contributed 11 points.

Knapp connected on a 3-pointer, while Sutterfield made a field goals and two free throws as West Side built a 7-2 lead during the opening minutes. Norfork went on a 7-0 scoring run and led 9-7. The game was tied three times before the Lady Eagles took a 14-13 lead going into the second quarter.

After exchanging field goals, West Side seized the momentum with an 8-3 scoring run and increased the lead to 24-18 by halftime.

Knapp hit 2-of-2 free throws as the Lady Eagles led 26-18 to start the third quarter. Norfork pulled even with a 14-6 scoring run and tied the game at 32-32 by the midway point of the quarter. After a couple of lead changes, the Lady Panthers scored five consecutive points and pulled ahead, 39-34.

West Side closed the gap on Knapp’s 3-pointer and trailed 39-37 going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Eagles reduced Norfork’s lead to 43-41 early in the fourth quarter. Norfork increased the advantage to six points  and maintained it for the remainder of the game.

Norfork was scheduled to play Rural Special at 4 p.m. Thursday for the state championship at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

West Side 14 10 13 11–48
Norfork 13 5 21 15–54
West Side — Kamryn Sutterfield 23, Ashtyn Knapp 20, Haley Gentry 3, Sarah Carlton 2.
Norfork scorers — Kiley Aiman 12, Hannah Bryant 11, Kylie Manes 11, Liza Shaddy 8,  Keely Smith 7, Mesa Beavers 5. 

Eagles earn first finals trip since ’83 with overtime win

The West Side Greers Ferry Eagles punched their ticket to the 1A state finals in Hot Springs on Monday in Greers Ferry. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE MCCARTY

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY — The West Side Eagles didn’t take the easy path back to the Class 1A state championship game. West Side, which will make its return to the finals for the first time since 1983, trailed by nine points after three quarters, but rallied to force overtime.

The Eagles made 8-of-11 free throws during overtime and emerged with a 66-62 win against conference rival Izard County at Brady-Hipp Arena Monday. The win was the third this season against the Cougars, all close games.

West Side (28-6) will play Viola, another conference rival, at 7 p.m. Thursday for the state championship at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Malachi Miller, who led all scorers with 25 points, made 3-of-4 free throws for the Eagles during overtime. Travis Gentry, Jake Ballard and Zach Birmingham each hit 2-of-2 attempts and Ashton Klepko connected on 1-of-2 at the free-throw line.

Birmingham’s two free throws with less than 10 seconds remaining made it a two-possession for a 66-62 lead.

West Side Greers Ferry coach Keith Brown said the Eagles also won the rebounding battle, particularly during the second half.

“A big key in the second half was keeping them from getting an offensive rebound,” he said. “We did a good job of rebounding.”

Ballard followed Miller with 14 points. Caleb Faulkner led Izard County with 23 points, while Coby Everett scored 11 points and Chase Orf had 10 points.

“Ballard hit big shots throughout the game,” Brown said. “Miller also scored well. It was a team win, but those two players were battling and came through for us.”

Brown also credited the team’s mental toughness as another determining factor.

“Our mental toughness was a difference in the game,” he said. “The players have answered the bell all year and are as tough as nails. Nothing fazes them.”

West Side started the game with an 8-2 scoring run, but Izard County quickly answered. The Cougars rallied for an 12-11 lead and held a one-point lead until the final seconds of the first quarter. Miller scored on an inside move as the Eagles took a 16-15 lead going into the second quarter.

Izard County regained the lead midway through the second quarter and increased it later to eight points, 30-22. West Side closed the gap, but the Cougars scored the final five points for a 33-26 halftime lead.

West Side failed to make ground on Izard County during the third quarter and trailed 46-37 going into the fourth quarter.

The Eagles made through move by outscoring the Cougars 19-10 and forced overtime.

Miller made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:56 to go in overtime for a 61-60 lead and never trailed again.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Brown, who is in his third season at West Side, said. “I’m usually a man of many words, but speechless after the game inside the dressing room. The players deserve all of the credit. I thought three years ago they could reach the state finals if I didn’t mess them up too much.”

Izard County 15 18 13 10 6 –62
West Side 16 10 11 19 10–66
Izard County scorers — Caleb Faulkner 23, Coby Everett 11, Chase Orf 10, Noah Everett 9, Denton Reiley 6, Landon McBride 3.
West Side scorers — Malachi Miller 25, Jake Ballard 14, Travis Gentry 8, Nate Bittle 7, Zach Birmingham 4, Brenton Knapp 4, Ashton Klepko 4.