GREERS FERRY — The West Side Eagles kept its season record perfect and celebrated homecoming with an ugly win
Senior guard Travis Gentry scored a game-high 37 points and proved deadly at the free-throw line as the Eagles (2-0 in 2-1A Conference, 8-0 overall) defeated Izard County Consolidated 59-44 in a conference basketball game at Brady-Hipp Arena on Friday.
Gentry made four of West Side’s 11 field goals (all 2-pointers) and sank 29-of-33 free throws. He missed his first four free throws during a foul-plagued fourth quarter and hit his next 15 attempts. Brenten Knapp scored 11 points.
Gunner Gleghorn led the Cougars with 14 points. Denton Reiley had 12 points while Jude Everett contributed 11 points.
“It’s good to start the conference at 2-0, but we have not played our best yet,” West Side head coach Keith Brown said. “You don’t want to play your best during November. It was an ugly game, but both teams played hard. We will have to play much better in future games.”
The game was marred by three technical fouls against Izard County, two assessed on Cougar head coach Kyle McCandlis. The first technical against McCandlis came during the second quarter and the second technical late in the third quarter that led to his ejection. A third technical foul was assessed to a player — an Izard County fan also was ejected by the officials following McCandlis’ second technical foul.
The Eagles, who had struggled at the free-throw line this season, made 37-of-47 attempts. Izard County made 10-of-12 free throws. Three Cougars fouled out during the fourth quarter.
“I’m proud how we held our composure, especially during the fourth quarter,” Brown said. “Izard County is a good team. We started the game slow, but later found a way to win the game like a good team does. We had been struggling at the free-throw line, but we made a lot of free throws during the fourth quarter.”
Izard County held the lead during most of the first quarter. The Cougars maintained the momentum and took a 12-11 lead into the second quarter.
West Side claimed a 14-12 lead before the first technical foul against McCandlis. Gentry sank the two free throws and the Eagles never trailed again. West Side led 21-16 at halftime and outscored Izard County 14-6 during the third quarter for a 35-22 lead.
“It is going to be a tough conference race again with good teams,” Brown said. “Homecoming caused some distractions, but we played good enough to win.”
The Eagles are participating at the Clinton tournament this week.
Izard County 12 4 6 22–44 West Side 11 10 14 24–59 Izard County Consolidated scorers: Gunner Gleghorn 14, Denton Reiley 13, Jude Everett 11, Landon McBride 6. West Side scorers: Travis Gentry 37, Brenten Knapp 11, Zack Birmingham 7, Asa Carr 3, Kirby Cothren 1.
Help support local and independent journalism by donating today.
GREERS FERRY — The West Side Lady Eagles, playing without one starter, overcame a slow start before seizing control in a 52-15 win against Izard County Consolidated at Brady-Hipp Arena on Friday.
West Side (2-0 in 2-1A Conference, 4-3 overall) won its second conference game and hope to maintain the momentum. Shawna Carlton scored 13 points for the Lady Eagles, while Alyssa Smith had 10 points. Katie Orf led the Lady Cougars with six points.
“It was homecoming and they came out fired up and ready to play,” West Side coach Megan Berry said. “We were nervous in the beginning with Ashtyn Knapp (ankle injury) out because of an injury. Once we got going, the girls played well.”
Smith made two free throws and a three-point play by Carlton gave the Lady Eagles a 5-3 lead early during the first quarter. Orf made a 3-pointer for Izard County before West Side went on a 12-2 scoring run and took a 17-5 lead going into the second quarter.
The Lady Eagles held Izard County scoreless for the remainder of the first half. West Side scored 19 points and led 36-5 at halftime.
A 12-5 third-quarter run helped the Lady Eagles to a 48-10 lead going into the final eight minutes.
West Side is playing at the Clinton tournament this week.
Izard County 5 0 5 5–15 West Side 17 19 12 4–52 Izard County Consolidated scorers: Katie Orf 6, Ava Lewis 4, Paislee Hightower 3, Tess Savell 2. West Side scorers: Shawna Carlton 13, Alyssa Smith 10, Kortnee Finch 6, McKenna Bittle 6, Sarah Carlton 5, Sam Carder 5, Sidney Seveins 4, Katie Davis 3.
LITTLE ROCK — A quick start turned sour for the Heber Springs Panthers in Friday’s season finale at Comet Stadium.
After the Panthers took a 7-0 lead, the Comets scored 32 unanswered points and coasted to a 48-20 win in a 2-4A Conference football game.
Mills (3-4 in 2-4A Conference, 6-4 overall) broke a four-game losing streak and earned the conference’s final playoff berth. The Comets, who will be a No. 5 seed, will play at Joe T. Robinson (9-1 overall) in the Class 4A first round on Friday.
Heber Springs (2-5 in 2-4A Conference, 3-6 overall) finished the season in sixth place and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Panthers, who also were sixth in 2020, kept its playoff streak alive last year when it received an invitation to the postseason because of Covid-19.
“We started the game well, and that was what we wanted to do,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We had two other good first half drives, but two plays went against us. We didn’t finish the season the way we wanted.”
Sophomore Parker Brown, who had 283 all-purpose yards, rushed for a season high 162 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Easton Cusick completed 7-of-14 passes for 70 yards. Chris Edwards led the receivers by catching three passes for 54 yards.
“We changed to our wildcat package and can do several things with it,” Wood said. “Mills didn’t respond well until putting more players near the line of scrimmage. That says a lot about Parker when the players on the other team tried to stop him and had a hard time doing it. It was one of those nights.”
Mills fullback Boyce Mitchell proved too much for the Panther defense. Mitchell rushed 12 times for 191 yards and scored two touchdowns, averaging 15.9 yards per attempt. Quarterback Achilles Ringo completed 9-of-22 passes for 122 yards, and he ran for one touchdown. Jabrae Shaw had 14 carries for 88 yards and scored one touchdown. Shaw caught three passes for 49 yards.
The Comets, who converted 6-of-6 2-point conversions, outgained Heber Springs, 496-238 yards.
“Mills had size, speed and was physical,” Wood said. “We knew No. 34 (Mitchell) would be a load to tackle. We tried to tackle him too high, instead of tackling him at his shoelaces. We didn’t bring him down very well.”
Heber Springs received the opening kickoff and drove 43 yards on six plays to take a 7-0 lead. Brown finished the drive by scoring on a 20-yard run with 9:18 left in the first quarter. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point.
Mills responded with touchdowns on its two first-quarter possessions.
The Comets claimed the lead on an eight-play, 55-yard drive. Daniel Brown Jr. finished with a 13-yard touchdown run with 7:24 to go in the first quarter. Anton Pierce caught a pass from Ringo for the 2-point conversion, giving Mills an 8-7 lead.
After getting a three-and-out, Mills increased its lead on a 10-play, 63-yard drive. Shaw scored on a 4-yard run with 2:01 remaining. Ringo again hooked up with Pierce on a 2-point conversion for a 16-7 lead going into the second quarter.
Mills scored two more touchdowns before halftime. The Comets held the Panthers on downs at the Heber Springs 34. Caleb Sain had a 3-yard scoring run with 10:57, followed by Mitchell’s run for a 2-point conversion. Later, Mitchell rushed seven yards for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion with 1:43 left in the first half.
The Panthers trailed 32-7 at halftime.
“We were in position to put the ball in the end zone two more times during the first half, but didn’t do it,” Wood said. “We scored twice and got back in the game during the second half. That was another sign we never quit or give up.”
Heber Springs forced a punt as Brown’s 27-yard return put them in scoring position at the Mills 26. Brown broke away on the next play and scored with 10:11 left in the third quarter. A high snap led to a missed kick for the extra point.
The Panthers threatened to score again, but the Comets held on downs at the Comet 9 late in the third quarter. Mills drove 91 yards on 14 plays with Ringo scoring on a 2-yard keeper with 9:31 left in the game. Ringo passed to Shaw for a 2-point conversion and increased Mills’ lead to 40-13.
But the Panthers didn’t give up and reached the end zone on their next possession. Brown finished the 5-play, 49-yard drive by scoring on a 3-yard run with 6:53 left. Tate kicked the conversion, reducing the Comets’ lead to 40-20.
Mitchell ran 59 yards for the final touchdown with 5:08 left in the game, plus a successful 2-point conversion.
Wood said contributions from the seniors should not be overlooked, despite the season record.
“We had an outstanding group of seniors,” he said. “They have a lot of character and provided great leadership. I couldn’t ask any more from them.”
HEBER SPRINGS AT LITTLE ROCK MILLSNovember 5, 2021
Heber Springs (3-6, 2-5) 7 0 6 7 - 20
Little Rock Mills (6-4, 3-4) 16 16 0 16 - 48
HS - Parker Brown 20-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 9:18
M - Daniel Brown 14-yard run (Achilles Ringo to Anton Pierce pass), 7:24
M - Jabrae Shaw 4-yard run (Ringo to Pierce pass), 2:07
M - Caleb Sain 3-yard run (Boyce Mitchell run), 10:57
M - Mitchell 7-yard run (Mitchell run), 1:43
HS - Brown 26-yard run (kick failed), 10:11
M - Ringo 2-yard run (Ringo to Shaw pass), 9:35
HS - Brown 3-yard run (Tate kick), 6:53
M - Mitchell 59-yard run (Tyler Sanders run), 5:08
TEAM STATISTICSFIRST DOWNS: HS 12, M 23
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 35-168, M 44-374
PASSING YARDS: HS 70, M 122
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 7-15-0, M 9-22-0
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 238, M 496
FUMBLES: HS 1, M 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 7/56, M 13/100
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 1/22, M 1/29
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 21/162, Jackson West 1/9, Gideon Tate 2/2, Easton Cusick 11/(-5). M, Boyce Mitchell 12/191, Jabrae Shaw 14/88, Daniel Brown Jr. 5/43, Caleb Sain 4/22, Carlos Deadmon 1/11, Achilles Ringo 7/11, Anton Pierce 1/8.
PASSING: HS, Cusick 7/14-70-0/0, Brown 0/1-0-0/0. M, Ringo 9/22-122-0/0.
RECEVING: HS, Chris Edwards 3/54, Austin Winchester 1/9, Gus Hannah 1/4, Dalton Yancey 1/4, Brown 1/(-1). M, Pierce 3/67, Shaw 3/49, Deadmon 2/3, Colby Williams 1/3.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Brown 4/95, Hannah 1/20. M, Brown Jr. 2/20.
PUNT RETURNS: HS, Brown 1/27
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Brown 1/22. M, Christopher Guevara 1/29
Help support local and independent journalism by donating today.
A mid-summer knee injury changed Chris Smith’s senior season for the Heber Springs Panthers.
Smith, an offensive-defensive lineman, injured the knee during a workout, but he remained with the team. He has been helping his teammates in other ways during the 100th year of Heber Springs football.
“I’m strong in my faith and know it happened for a reason,” Smith said. “God has a plan for me.”
Smith didn’t let the injury prevent him from contributing to the program.
He was one of the busiest participants at Panther practices and looking for ways to help on the sidelines during games.
“I fill water bottles, catch snaps and cheer for my team,” Smith said. “That is the best thing I can do right now with the injury.”
Smith said his teammates were important in his recovery. He said that will be one of his memories from his senior season.
“I will always remember how my teammates cared for me when I was injured,” Smith said. “They were always texting me with encouraging messages, bringing food, and just hanging out with me. My teammates’ support kept me from being too upset from not being able to play.”
Smith is one of the seniors who hope to help the Panthers win at Little Rock Mills on Friday and advanced into the state playoffs.
“No matter our record, it is how we finish, not the way we started,” he said. “This is a must-win game or our season will end. If we win, we get to play for another week.”
Senior Tristan Thissen, like his Heber Springs Panther teammates, realize one of the season’s goals remain within reach with one game to go.
The Panthers will finish the regular season by playing at Little Rock Mills on Friday night for the final 2A-West Conference berth in the Class 4A playoffs.
“Our goal was to make the playoffs, and it is right there” Thissen said. “We are going to try our best to do that. We hope to get into the playoffs during my senior year.”
It’s also the 100th season of Heber Springs football, and Thissen said the players accept the responsibility of being a member of that team.
“I came to Heber Springs four years ago, but playing for the team in the 100th year is special,” he said.
Thissen rarely leaves the field during a game. He starts on the offensive line and at inside linebacker.
“Playing both ways is tiring, but I’m doing it for the team,” he said. “It’s my job to play at both positions. We hope to get rolling against Mills and keep the season going. I know we are considered underdogs, but we hope to show everyone what we are capable of doing.”
Thissen said he will have a lot of good memories about the season, regardless of Friday’s outcome.
“It’s just not playing on Friday night,” he said. “I will not forget all of the road trips and other things we did together. I will miss my teammates after this year. It’s a brotherhood”
The Class 4A state football playoffs will start for the Heber Springs Panthers on Friday.
Heber Springs (2-4 in 2-4A Conference, 3-5 overall) will finish the regular season against Little Rock Mills (2-4 in 2-4A Conference, 5-4 overall) in a 2-4A Conference game at Comet Stadium in Little Rock. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Panthers and Comets are tied for fifth place with Friday’s winner advancing to play at Joe T. Robinson in the opening round of the playoffs next week.
“We are going into the game with the mindset this is the beginning of a playoff run,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “Playing Mills will be a big challenge. We are 48 minutes from the playoffs. All I asked the players is to give it their all. If we do that, everything will be OK. The players know the task at hand.”
Turnovers doomed the Panther offense in last week’s 34-7 loss to Clinton. A lost fumble was one of the game’s biggest plays early in the third quarter. A misconnection on the handoff gave the ball to the Yellowjackets at the Heber Springs 27.
Clinton held the Panthers to 207 yards of offense. Running back Parker Brown rushed six times for 69 yards and caught seven passes for 36 yards and scored one touchdown. Quarterback Easton Cusick completed 16-0f-33 passes for 99 yards with three interceptions.
“The key to the game on offense is not turning the ball over,” Wood said. “We moved the ball against Clinton, but we would have one or two plays that took us out of rhythm or led to a turnover.”
Heber Springs will welcome back sophomore outside linebacker Hayden Johnson, the team’s second-leading tackler on the season. Johnson missed the Clinton game because of a concussion suffered against Southside Batesville.
“Hayden is ready to go,” Wood said. “We’re as healthy as we can be. Our defense played well most of the year. We started well against Southside before we got wore down. After playing two running-dominated teams (Southside and Clinton), we must adjust because Mills will throw the ball more. The big key on defense is to get more three-and-outs.”
The Comets started the season with five consecutive wins, including two conferences games, before the current four-game losing streak.
Sophomore quarterback Achilles Ringo makes the Mills’ offense goes. Ringo has completed 134-of-195 passes for 1,049 yards and 17 touchdowns. He connected on 20-of-24 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 64-20 loss to Southside.
Ringo triggered the Comets’ second half comeback last year against the Panthers when he completed 8-of-10 passes for 105 yards. Mills trailed 24-12 early in the third quarter as the Comets rallied for a 34-24 win.
Juniors Jabrae Shaw and Daniel Brown are the major weapons in the running game. Shaw leads Mills with 61 carries for 785 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also has caught 29 passes for 486 yards and five touchdowns. Brown has ran for 587 yards on 50 attempts with five touchdowns. Senior fullback Boyce Mitchell has rushed for 417 yards on 55 carries and scored one touchdown.
Junior Anton Pierce is the Comets leading receiver with 32 catches for 649 yards and eight touchdowns. Pierce caught three passes for 80 yards against Southside. O.J. King, who started at quarterback last year against Heber Springs, caught 11 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown in last week’s game.
“He (Ringo) throws well,” Wood said. “Mills has speed and size, and it doesn’t hide what they do. He gets the ball to the playmakers. Mills also will line up and try and run from the wishbone.
Wood said Mills plays a 4-3 defense with an aggressive front seven. The Comets have yielded 35 points per game.
“They rely on the guys up front and the linebackers,” he said. “They are capable of putting a lot of pressure on an offense.”
Ten freshmen moved to the high school team last week after completion of the junior high school season. Wood said the group helped to close some of the gap with the team’s depth concern, especially on defense.
“Axley Davis (6-1, 260 pounds) is a big lineman that can play on the offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “Carter Julian will play at defensive back. Other freshmen also could see action.”
Help support local and independent journalism by donating today.
2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGSW L CP W L PS PA
Stuttgart 6 0 68 8 1 359 182
Lonoke 4 2 52 7 2 302 169
Southside Batesville 5 1 54 7 2 355 164
Clinton 4 2 49 5 4 272 257
Little Rock Mills 2 4 26 5 4 320 313
Heber Springs 2 4 20 3 5 140 222
Bald Knob 1 5 13 1 8 148 285
Central Arkansas Christian 0 6 0 2 7 211 418
Friday, October 29
Clinton 34, Heber Springs 7
Southside Batesville 64, Little Rock Mills 20
Stuttgart 45, Lonoke 28
Bald Knob 39, Central Arkansas Christian 20
Friday, November 5
Heber Springs at Little Rock Mills
Southside Batesville at Bald Knob
Lonoke at Clinton
Central Arkansas Christian at Stuttgart
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Mills
Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan will handle the play-by-play while Lance Hamilton with handle the color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:45 p.m. followed by the game. Listen Live Link
THE SERIES: Heber Springs leads the series 2-1.
SERIES HISTORY: Though this is the third time the Panthers have faced Little Rock Mills, Heber Springs did play the two of the schools that consolidated to form Mills University Studies. The Panthers went 0-4 from 1955 through 1959 against Little Rock Fuller, and 0-3-1 against Mabelvale from 1955 through 1958. Heber Springs won the first two in the series, 47-6 at Panther Stadium in 2018 and 28-14 at Mills in 2019, while the Comets won last season, 34-24.
MOVING UP: Mills will move back up to Class 5A for the next cycle so tonight’s contest will be the last time the two teams meet for at least two years.
CONFERENCE SEEDING: Stuttgart has clinched the No. 1 seed and can clinch the outright 2-4A title with a win tonight against CAC. Southside Batesville will be the No. 2 seed and could earn a share of a conference title with a win and a Stuttgart loss. Clinton and Lonoke will meet tonight for the No. 3 seed with the loser getting the No. 4 seed. Heber Springs and Mills winner will be the No. 5 seed at play at Joe T. Robinson next week.
Clinton’s domination of the clock with the running game and forcing four turnovers proved too much for the Heber Springs Panthers to overcome.
The Yellowjackets (4-2 in 2-4A Conference, 5-4 overall) maintained possession for 32 minutes and broke the game open by converting a fumble recovery into a touchdown early during the third quarter and defeated the Panthers (2-4 in 2-4A Conference and 3-5 overall) 34-7 in a 2-4A Conference football game at Panther Stadium Friday.
Clinton won “The Battle of the Little Red” for the sixth consecutive season. The Yellowjackets also won by their largest margin against Heber Springs since the 2005 season (33-6).
Clinton has won six straight games for the third time in the series. Heber Springs’ longest win streak has been seven in a row, which came from 1978 to 1984. The Panthers’ last win in the series, which started in 1939, came in 2015 (35-20).
The Yellowjackets, who clinched a playoff berth and face Lonoke in week 10 for the No. 3 seed, held a 314-207 yards advantage in offense, including 273 yards rushing. Zane Widener led the way with 12 carries for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Parker Brown rushed for 69 yards on six carries to lead the Panthers. Brown caught seven passes for 36 yards. Easton Cusick completed 16-of-33 passes for 99 yards with three interceptions. Brown gained 134 all-purpose yards, while Jackson West had 94 yards.
The turning point occurred early during the third quarter. A missed connection on the handoff resulted into a fumble, which was recovered by Clinton’s Ashton Hoyle at the Panther 27-yard line.
The Yellowjackets scored four plays later and executed a 2-point conversion for a 26-7 lead. Brody Emberton’s interception of a Cusick pass set up another touchdown late in the third quarter.
“The turning point was at the beginning of the second half,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We mishandled a handoff, giving a short field for Clinton to score. It forced us to stepped up the pace and try and score as fast as we could. Then, we had two more turnovers (interceptions). You can’t do that against a good football team like Clinton and win.”
Cody Davis and Nick Epley played big roles for Clinton’s run-dominated offense. Davis ran 15 times for 77 yards and one touchdown, while Epley rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown. Harley Tobin completed 7-of-11 passes for 38 yards, including a touchdown to Emberton.
“Clinton is the kind of an offense that will run the ball and keep the clock running,” Wood said. “When they have that kind of a lead, a team must find ways to get three-and-outs, so you can get your offense back on the field and score points. They deserve credit for keeping the ball under control and moving down the field.”
The Yellowjackets received the opening kickoff and drove 53 yards on six plays for the early lead. Widener’s 23-yard run put the Yellowjackets in scoring position. Tobin capped the drive by scoring from the 1 with 10:02 left in the first quarter. The try for a 2-point conversion failed.
After holding the Panthers on downs at the Clinton 36, the Yellowjackets executed a 13-play drive for the second touchdown. Nine consecutive running plays led to a first-and-goal at the Heber Springs 7.
Four plays later, Tobin connected on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Emberton with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The 2-point conversion attempt failed as the Yellowjackets led 12-0 going into the second quarter.
Heber Springs marched 76 yards on eight plays to reduce Clinton’s lead. Cusick handed the ball to Brown, who raced 36 yards for a touchdown with 5:01 to go in the first half. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point and pulled the Panthers within 12-7.
The Yellowjackets responded with an 8-play, 64-yard drive to increase their lead. Epley finished it with a 21-yard scoring run for an 18-7 lead with 1:59 left in the first half. Clinton failed on a try for the 2-point conversion.
After the early second-half turnover, Widener had an 8-yard touchdown run at the end of the 4-play, 27-yard possession. Tobin passed to Epley for the 2-point conversion, increasing the lead to 26-7.
The Yellowjackets reached the end zone again before the end of the third quarter. Davis finished an 10-play, 51-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Epley ran for the 2-point conversion.
The Panthers, who are tied for fifth place with Little Rock Mills in the conference standings, will play at Mills on Friday with the winner becoming the conference’s final playoff representative.
“It’s a do or die situation,” Wood said. “But we are looking forward to the game.”
CLINTON AT HEBER SPRINGSOctober 29, 2021
Clinton (5-4, 4-2) 12 6 16 0 - 34
Heber Springs (3-5, 2-4) 0 7 0 0 - 7
C - Harley Tobin 1-yard run (run failed), 10:02
C - Tobin to Brody Emberton 7-yard pass (run failed), :25.6
HS - Parker Brown 36-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 5:01
C - Nick Epley 21-yard run (run failed), 1:59
C - Zane Widener 8-yard run (Tobin to Epley pass), 10:10
C - Cody Davis 3-yard run (Davis run), :44.2
TEAM STATISTICSFIRST DOWNS: HS 12, C 16
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 22/108, C 54-276
PASSING YARDS: HS 99, C 38
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 16-33-3, C 7-12-1
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 207, C 314
FUMBLES: HS 1, C 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 6/35, C 5/36
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 0, C 2/35
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 6/69, Jackson West 5/28, Gus Hannah 1/7, Easton Cusick 10/(-6). C, Zane Widener 12/119, Cody Davis 15/77, Nick Epley 10/55, Billy Standlee 2/15, Jacob Hutto 4/12, Harley Tobin 5/7, Spencer Bannister 1/5, Jobe Chalk 1/(-3), Team 3/(-6).
PASSING: HS, Cusick 16/33-99-0/3. C, Tobin 7/11-38-1/1, Epley 0/1-0-0/0
RECEVING: HS, Brown 7/36, Austin Winchester 2/23, Dalton Yancey 2/18, West 2/12, Hannah 2/3, Chris Edwards 1/7. C, Brody Emberton 2/13, Widener 2/5, Davis 2/5, Dawson Burgess 1/15.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, West 3/44, Hannah 1/9.
PUNT RETURNS: HS, Brown 2/29
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: HS, Zane Lozeau 1/21. C, Emberton 1/17, Davis 1/8, Bannister 1/5.
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: C, Widener 2/70
Help support local and independent journalism by donating today.
Two objectives lie ahead for the Heber Springs Panthers against Clinton in the sixth The Battle of the Little Red at Panther Stadium.
The Panthers seek to finish the home football schedule with a win and also secure their first The Battle of the Little Red trophy in a match-up of 2-4A Conference teams at 7 p.m. Friday.
“It will be a big night for the seniors,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “It’s probably their last game before the home crowd. Winning the trophy is in the back of their minds. We have not won the trophy yet and will try to bring it home. We want to be the first Heber team to win the trophy.”
Heber Springs (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 3-4 overall) currently is tied for fifth place with Little Rock Mills (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall) in the conference standings. The Panthers will conclude the regular season at Mills on Nov. 5. Clinton (3-2 in 2-4A Conference, 4-4 overall) is in fourth place.
“Each week is different,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “When you lose a game (35-7 to Southside Batesville) like we did last Friday, you must forget about it quickly and look forward. Clinton is similar to Southside with the Wing-T offense. We are playing another strong running team. We still haven an opportunity to make the playoffs.”
Junior quarterback Easton Cusick is the expected starter for the second straight game, despite recovering from an injury. Cusick completed 17-of-32 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown against Southside.
The Panthers hope for more production from the running game, which netted zero net yards against the Southerners.
Sophomore running back Parker Brown, who leads team in rushing with 86 carries for 603 yards and seven touchdowns, was held to two yards by the Southerners. Brown also has been the team’s most productive receiver with nine catches for 279 yards and five touchdowns. Cusick has completed 28-of-57 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns overall.
“Cusick did a good job last Friday night,” Wood said. “He is gaining more confidence. We showed the ability at times to move the ball. Like Southside, Clinton will focus on stopping Parker. We will need other players who to contribute.”
The Yellowjackets are coming off a 56-28 win against Bald Knob. Clinton led 8-6 after the first quarter before it exploded for five touchdowns during the second quarter to pull away.
Junior quarterback Harley Tobin led the charge by completing 11-of-13 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore wingback Zane Widener rushed 12 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Junior receiver Brody Emberton caught five passes for 69 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“The quarterback is very smart with experience,” Wood said. “They have speedy running backs (Cody Davis, Nick Epley and Spencer Bannister) and a good fullback (Jacob Hutto). We must stop all of them.”
Wood said the Yellowjackets are more than a run team.
“They will keep your honest with the run (253 yards against Bald Knob) and also pass (240 yards),” he said.
The Heber Springs defense will play with a new starter on after sophomore linebacker Hayden Johnson suffered a concussion against Southside.
Sophomore safety Chris Roberts will move to outside linebacker. Dalton Yancey, also a sophomore, will start at safety for Roberts.
“We will adjust our linebacking corp and go on,” Wood said. “Some players will assume roles. I liked what I saw from the linebackers during practice.”
Wood said one of the game’s determining factors will be which team is more successful on first down.
“We had too many third-and-long situations last week,” he said. “We want to win the battle on first down and have a lot of third-and-short situations.”
HEBER SPRINGS VS. CLINTON “Battle of the Little Red” Clinton leads the series 41-38-5 Games played in Heber Springs: Clinton leads, 20-19-1 Games played in Clinton: Clinton leads 21-18-4 Games played on a Neutral Field: Heber Springs leads, 1-0.
FIRST MEETING: Heber Springs’ first season of football was 1913 and it would be 26 years before Clinton fielded its first team. It didn’t take long for the two teams to meet after that with Heber Springs winning the first game played between the two schools on October 13, 1939, in Heber Springs. The Panthers won by a score of 31-0 on that day. The two teams met again less than a month later on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, in Clinton where the Panthers and Yellowjackets played to a 6-6 tie. The teams would go on to play continuously after that with a couple of exceptions. During World War II, neither school fielded a team during the 1943 season while Clinton did not field one during the 1944 season. After the war, Clinton and Heber Springs would meet twice per season in 1945 and 1946 with the Yellowjackets winning all four meetings. Financial constraints in the Heber Springs School District forced the school to not field a football team for the 1947 and 1948 seasons. The two teams meet again during the 1949 season with Clinton winning both games of the home-and-home series. The teams would go on continuously playing until 2007 when the opener scheduled with Clinton — which was played during the 2006 season at the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Estes Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway — was changed to allow the Panthers to play Mayflower instead of Clinton in the same Kickoff Classic in 2007. The series resumed in 2008 and continues today. LONGEST WINNING STREAKS: Clinton has won six straight in the series twice. Once from 1945-1949 and the second time from 2000-2005. Heber Springs won seven straight in the series from 1978-1984. CONFERENCE FOES: Heber Springs and Clinton were first paired in the same conference in 1974 and would remain conference foes until 1990. They would again in the same conference from 1993-2001 and from 2008-2013. The two teams are back in the same conference after Clinton moved up from 3A and replaced Riverview in the conference beginning in the 2020 season. OVERTIME GAMES: There have only been three overtime games in the series and those all occurred during a four-year span from 1986-1989. Clinton won a double overtime home contest in 1986 (20-14) while the Panthers won in overtime the following season in 1987, 19-12, in Heber Springs. In 1989, Clinton defeated Heber Springs, 13-12, at Panther Stadium. CLOSE GAMES: Twenty-five of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less during the series, not including the five ties. TROPHY GAMES: Heber Springs won the trophy for the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic between the two schools in 2006, but since the inception of the “Battle of the Little Red” trophy, Clinton has won all five meetings, 28-20 in 2016 in Clinton, 28-17 in 2017 in Heber Springs, 36-34 in 2018 in Clinton, and 28-27 in 2019 and 32-26 at Clinton last season . Heber Springs will be looking to break a five-game losing streak to Clinton.
Help support local and independent journalism by donating today.
2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGSW L CP W L PS PA
Stuttgart 5 0 55 7 1 314 154
Lonoke 4 1 52 7 1 274 124
Southside Batesville 4 1 41 6 2 291 144
Clinton 3 2 36 4 4 238 250
Little Rock Mills 2 3 26 5 3 300 249
Heber Springs 2 3 20 3 4 133 188
Bald Knob 0 5 0 0 8 109 265
Central Arkansas Christian 0 5 0 2 6 191 379
Friday, October 23
Southside Batesville 35, Heber Springs 7
Clinton 56, Bald Knob 28
Stuttgart 63, Little Rock Mills 28
Lonoke 42, Central Arkansas Christian 13
Friday, October 30
Clinton at Heber Springs
Little Rock Mills at Southside Batesville
Stuttgart at Lonoke
Bald Knob at Central Arkansas Christian
Stuttgart, Lonoke and Southside Batesville have clinched playoff spots. Bald Knob and Central Arkansas Christian have been eliminated. If Stuttgart wins tonight it will clinch the No. 1 seed.
The Panthers will not clinch a playoff spot with a win or will not be eliminated with a loss. Clinton will clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win and would not be eliminated with a loss. The playoff picture will be clearer after tonight’s games.
Senior receiver Gus Hannah made the best of a bad situation by watching and getting a bigger picture from the sidelines for the Heber Springs Panthers.
Hannah, who injured an ankle in the Lonoke game, returned to action against Southside Batesville last week with a different point of view. He hopes the experience leads to a strong finish to the season.
“It gave me an opportunity to pay attention what is going on everywhere on the field,” Hannah said. “It helped me to see what I could do when I was able to play again.”
It’s not been an easy time for Hannah, who started last season and until his injury.
“The injury was a little discouraging because I could not play,” Hannah said. “The ankle had been weak, but feels stronger now. I felt better last week and ran better on it during practice before the Southside game.”
Hannah is one of the players who started his career in the local youth football league. He feels fortunate to be playing for the Panthers in the 100th season of the program.
“Playing in the 100th year is very important,” he said. “It means a lot to the team because players from all generations come to the games and watch us. We are taking the legacy of the former players and running with it.”
The Panthers, who currently are tied for fifth place in the 2-4A Conference, remain alive for a playoff berth going into the final two games. Heber Springs will host Clinton on Friday and finish the regular season at Little Rock Mills on Nov. 5. The top five teams will advance to the playoffs.
“This is the playoff stretch,” Hannah said. “It started with the Central Arkansas Christian game. We know that success starts with how we play in the trenches. That will lead us to success.”
Help support local and independent journalism by donating today.
Heber Springs held up against Southside Batesville’s physical and aggressive style of football early in the game, but a blocked punt late in the first quarter opened the door as the Southerners spoiled homecoming for the Panthers with a 35-7 win Friday.
The loss dropped Heber Springs (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 3-4 overall) into a fifth-place tie with Little Rock Mills (2-3 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall). Mills lost to conference-leading Stuttgart (5-0 in 2-4A Conference, 7-1 overall), 63-28. Clinton (3-2 in 2-4A Conference, 4-4 overall) routed Bald Knob (0-5 in 2-4A Conference, 0-8 overall) and took sole possession of fourth place. Southside (4-1 in 2-4A Conference, 6-2 overall) remained tied for second place with Lonoke (4-1 in 2-4A Conference, 7-1 overall).
Heber Springs held the Southerners to four yards until the blocked punt late in the first quarter. Southside finished with 322 yards — 299 yards rushing and 23 yards passing.
Seth Case and Landen Haas provided the big plays in Southside’s running game. Case had 122 yards on eight carries, while Haas ran seven times for 103 yards.
“Southside is a very good football club,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “They are trained in what they do well and play physical. They beat you down over time, and that is what they have done every game.”
The Panthers had a promising start before making the game’s first mistake.
“Our defense played well in the beginning and moved the ball on offense with short passes,” Wood said. “We played toe-to-toe with them during the first quarter.”
Heber Springs quarterback Easton Cusick completed 17-of-32 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown. Gideon Tate led the Panthers in rushing — four carries for 11 yards. Jackson West led the receivers with five catches for 37 yards, while Austin Winchester had four receptions for 26 yards. Chris Edwards caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.
Heber Springs was held to zero rushing yards for the game as a team.
“Southside’s job was to stop Parker Brown (the team’s leading rusher),” Wood said. “We moved him to different spots and tried to use him as a decoy. I was proud of the way Easton played. He is still learning and made some good throws.”
The Panthers lost the services of sophomore outside linebacker Hayden Johnson to an injury. Johnson, the team’s second-leading tackler, was injured during the second quarter.
Southside’s Alex Allen blocked Cusick’s punt and took possession at the Heber Springs 15-yard line. Three plays later, Nicky Risner scored on a 5-yard run with 11:26 left in the first half. Brandon Lopez kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Cusick’s 51-yard punt pinned the Southerners at its 5-yard line. Southside responded with a 9-play, 95 yard drive as Case ran 46 yards for a touchdown with 7:20 remaining until halftime. Lopez executed the kick for the conversion, increasing the lead to 14-0.
The Southerners struck quickly on their next possession Haas broke free on an 80-yard touchdown run with 4:33 left in the first half. Lopez kicked the extra point.
Southside scored again before halftime by driving 55 yards on seven plays. Blayne Warden caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Haas with two seconds to go. Lopez kicked the extra point for a 28-0 halftime lead.
Southside received the second half kickoff and needed four plays on a 52-yard drive. Bryson Duncan scored on a 2-yard dive with 10:15 to go in the third quarter. Lopez kicked the extra point.
Heber Springs finished the game with an efficient 87-yard drive on nine plays. Tate ran for one first down, while Cusick passed to Austin Winchester for another first-and-10. With the clock running down, Cusick connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Chris Edwards with 14 seconds to play. Tate kicked the extra point.
“That was a good drive and a good way to end the game,” Wood said. “Austin Winchester and Chandler Webber caught passes. Edwards made a good catch for the touchdown.”
Heber Springs will host Clinton in the sixth Battle of the Little Red on Friday.
“We need to learn from this game and move on,” Wood said. “Clinton is next, and we need to stay focus and build momentum.”
Please consider helping support local and independent journalism by donating today.