By PHILIP SEATON
CAVE CITY – Senior Parker Brown touched the ball four times and scored twice, but it was a sophomore that did most of the work on the ground as Heber Springs mercy-ruled Cave City, 42-0, in the 2-4A opener for both schools.
In coach Van Paschal’s flexbone system, the fullback is an important part of making the offense move and sophomore Bryce Siegrist stepped into that role and rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries. The former junior high quarterback replaced another sophomore, Eli Buffalo, who had been out most of the week due to an illness.
Seigrist averaged 8.2 yards per attempt and scored once. He also had an 80-yard touchdown called back due to a holding penalty.
“He took a while to figure it out, Eli had been sick most of the week, so we were like, ‘Hey who wants to play fullback?’,” Paschal said. “Here he comes all 99 pounds of him or whatever, but he is tough.”
After rushing for a school-record yards per attempt the previous week against Jonesboro Westside, the Panthers rushed for 297 yards on 27 attempts with four touchdowns. They averaged 11 yards per carry, which tied for the fifth-best all time in school history.
Heber Springs (2-2, 1-0) forced a season-high four turnovers including recovering the onside kick attempt to start the game, as senior Logan Lozeau pounced on the football at the Panther 46.
A 23-yard run by quarterback Liam Buffalo highlighted the short drive, but Panthers committed their only turnover of the night as junior Weston Warden, who appeared to have crossed the goal line, fumbled the ball that went out of the back of the endzone.
Heber Springs’ defense allowed a first down on the ensuing drive but buckled up forcing a punt from the Caveman 41. Brown returned that punt 39 yards to the Cave City 19. Two penalties almost stalled the drive, but Liam Buffalo connected with Brown for the 17-yard touchdown pass. Gideon Tate’s kick made it 7-0 with 5:34 left in the opening quarter. Tate was a perfect five-for-five on PATs on the night.
Liam Buffalo got the ball back for the Panthers just over two minutes later picking off a Levi Jones pass after the Cave City junior was pressured from lineman Jacob McMullin.
On the first play after the turnover, Heber Springs took at 14-0 lead as Brown raced 32 yards for the score at the 3:26 mark of the first quarter.
The Panthers weren’t finished in the first quarter as sophomore Nate Eaton recovered a Cave City fumble at the Caveman 38 with 2:12 to play in the opening stanza.
After a seven-yard run by Liam Buffalo, Siegrist darted up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown with 1:29 left in the first for a 21-0 advantage for the Panthers.
Cave City (0-4, 0-1) picked up its second first down of the game as the first quarter came to close, but the Panthers forced a turnover on downs to get the ball back for the offense. Of the seven plays of the Cavemen drive, junior transfer Brodie Basford had two solo stops and assisted on three more. Basford finished the night with a team-high 16 total tackles.
“He plays hard,” Pascal said. “Coming from day one, he was, ‘I want to play linebacker’ and now he is playing it well.”
Liam Buffalo connected with senior Xander Lindley three plays later to make it 28-0 with 9:06 left in the half.
Cave City picked up another first down but was forced to punt from its own 34. The Cavemen attempted a trick play as punter Millie Beller attempted to run with the ball, but Eaton had her and the play figured out, tackling the Cave City senior for an eight-yard loss. Warden would score from there, taking the ball 26 yards for the touchdown giving the Panthers a 35-0 lead and the Arkansas Activities Association’s Mercy-Rule in effect with 5:38 left in the first half.
Brown forced a fumble on Cave City’s first play after the ensuing kickoff with Carter Julian recovering the ball at the Caveman 39.
The drive stalled and Tate attempted a 51-yard field goal, which would have been yard short of the school record 52-yarder by Nick James set back in 1998. The kick was on target but fell about five yards short.
Cave City took possession on its own 20 with 3:34 to play in the second quarter. The Cavemen reached the Panther 47, but Eaton put the exclamation point on the first half by sacking Jones to end the half.
The only thing left to decide in the second half was to see if Heber Springs’ defense could record the shutout.
Cave City almost took that off table early taking the second-half kickoff and reaching the Panther 4. But Warden punched the ball free on third-and-goal and Jordan Tidwell landed on the ball in the endzone with 1:13 remaining in the third, putting the ball on the Panther 20.
Seigrist took the fullback dive and raced 80 yards for the score, but a holding penalty negated the long score. However, that penalty only temporarily slowed down Heber Springs. The Panthers would use a 10-play drive that sophomore Emmett Dwyer capped off with a 38-yard touchdown run. Chase Dill came on to hit the extra point kick to make it 42-0 with 4:12 remaining in the contest.
Heber Springs picked up its first shutout in conference play since 2018, when they did the trick at Southside Batesville, 21-0.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Youngbloods’ defense held Cave City to 124 yards of total offense, including limiting the Cavemen to 87 yards rushing on 43 attempts.
“From day one that I got here, I told coach Youngblood if we can’t stop ’em, it doesn’t matter how many points that we score,” Paschal said. “It’s a priority. It’s going to continue to be a priority.
“We are still trying to get everybody where we want, and it’s not 100 percent, but it’s getting closer. I am proud of them.”
Heber Springs will face Bald Knob next week in a homecoming contest at Panther Stadium.
“We have to watch film, evaluate and see what we did right and what we have to fix to get better on every given play, and have the kind of effort,” Paschal aid. “You can tell they are excited right now and I hope that we can ride that wave, but Bald Knob is going to better football team than ones we played the last two weeks.
“They (his team) are smart enough to know that. We are going to have to play hard, get some breaks and make some things happen.”
GAME 4 HEBER SPRINGS AT CAVE CITY SENIOR HIGH September 22, 2023 TEAM STATS TIME OF POSSESSION: Heber Springs 16:34, Cave City 31:26 TOTAL FIRST DOWNS: Heber Springs 13, Cave City 13 BY RUSH: Heber Springs 12, Cave City 9 BY PASS: Heber Springs 1, Cave City 2 BY PENALTY: Heber Springs 0, Cave City 2 TEAM RUSHING: Heber Springs 27/297/11.0, Cave City 43/87/2.0 TEAM PASSING: Heber Springs 2/2-47-2/0, Cave City 3/6-47-0/1 TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs 29/343/11.8, Cave City 49/124/2.5 3RD CONVERSION: Heber Springs 4/5, Cave City 2/9 4TH CONVERSION: Heber Springs 0/0, Cave City 1/4 RED-ZONE: Heber Springs 1/2, Cave City 0/1 TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 1, Cave City 4 POINTS OFF TURNOVERS: Heber Springs 21, Cave City 0 FUMBLES/LOST: Heber Springs 1/1, Cave City 5/3 PENALTIES: Heber Springs 6/67, Cave City 3/24 KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs 0/0, Cave City 5/55/11.0 PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs 1/39, Cave City 0 PUNTS: Heber Springs 0/0, Cave City 1/27 PUNTS INSIDE 20: Heber Springs 0, Cave City 0 SACKS: Heber Springs 1/14, Cave City 0 TACKLES FOR LOSS: Heber Springs 13/50, Cave City 4/9 INDIVIDUAL STATS RUSHING: Heber Springs, Bryce Seigrist 16/131/1/8.2, Liam Buffalo 3/29, Parker Brown 2/55/1, Weston Warden 2/42/1, Nate Eaton 2/8, Emmett Dwyer 1/38/1, Team 1/(-6). Cave City, Shawn Walling 16/31, Matthew King 12/45, Kenny Stephens 4/10, Levi Jones 5/5, Devonyeah Berry 4/10, Miller Beller 1/(-8), Team 1/(-6). PASSING: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 2/2-47-2/0. Cave City, Levi Jones 3/6-37-0/1. RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Xander Lindley 1/30/1, Parker Brown 1/17/1. Cave City, Shawn Walling 2/28, Christopher Robinson 1/9. KICKOFF RETURNS: Heber Springs, none. Cave City, Devonyeah Berry 2/3, Shawn Walling 1/29, Kenny Stephens 1/22, Matthew King 1/(-3). PUNT RETURNS: Heber Springs, Parker Brown 1/39 INTERCEPTION RETURNS: Heber Springs, Liam Buffalo 1/2 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Bryce Seigrist 131, Parker Brown 111 PUNTING: Heber Springs, none. Cave City, Millie Beller 1/27. SCORING PAT KICKS: Gideon Tate 5/5, Chase Dill 1/1 FIELD GOALS: Gideon Tate 0/1 (51 NG) POINTS: Parker Brown 12, Bryce Seigrist 6, Weston Warden 6, Emmet Dwyer 6, Xander Lindley 6, Gideon Tate 5, Chase Dill 1. DEFENSIVE STATS SACKS: Nate Eaton FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Nate Eaton, Carter Julian, Jordan Tidwell FORCED FUMBLES: Weston Warden, Parker Brown, Brodie Basford INTERCEPTIONS: Liam Buffalo PBU: Logan Rutledge QB HURRIES: Dyce Young (2), Jacob McMullin, Jordan Tidwell, Brodie Basford TACKLES (U/A/TFL - TOTAL) Liam Buffalo 6 1 2 7 Brodie Basford 11 5 6 16 Emmett Dwyer 2 2 0 4 Carter Julian 6 1 0 7 Luke Elliott 1 2 0 3 Jordan Tidwell 2 0 0 2 Nate Eaton 4 3 1 7 Gavin Mize 0 2 0 2 Jacob McMullin 0 3 0 3 Elijah Jones 1 0 0 1 Weston Warden 1 3 1 4 Dyce Young 1 3 0 4 Parker Brown 2 1 0 3 Logan Lozeau 1 0 0 1 Logan Rutledge 1 1 1 2 Caleb Carr 1 0 0 1 Xander Lindley 2 0 0 2 -