Wrong side of ‘mercy rule’ for Panthers

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Heber Springs sophomore Gideon Tate picks up a couple of yards on a fourth-quarter rushing attempt. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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.”

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SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE AT HEBER SPRINGS
October 15, 2021 
Heber Springs (3-4, 2-3)          0   0   0   7 -   7
Southside Batesville (6-2, 4-1)   0  28   7   0 -  35 
SECOND QUARTER 
SS - Nicky Risner 5-yard run (Brandon Lopez kick), 11:26
SS - Bryson Duncan 46-yard run (Lopez kick), 7:20
SS - Landen Haas 80-yard run (Lopez kick), 4:33
SS - Haas to Blayne Warden 10-yard pass (Lopez kick), :28
THIRD QUARTER
SS - Duncan 2-yard run (Lopez kick), 10:15
FOURTH QUARTER 
HS - Easton Cusick to Chris Edwards 24-yard pass (Gideon Tate kick), :00
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 12, SS 12
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 16/0, SS 33/299
PASSING YARDS: HS 149, SS 23
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 17-32-1, SS 2-5-0
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 149, SS 285
FUMBLES: HS 1, SS 0
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 6/60, SS 9/100
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 5/28.8, SS 3/46
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Gideon Tate 4/11, Parker Brown 4/2, Easton Cusick 7/(-2), Team 1/(-11). SS, Seth Case 8/122, Landen Haas 7/103, Nicky Risner 5/32, Bryson Duncan 4/15, Jacob Dunne 3/11, Steven Riggs 2/8, Kaleb West 1/7, Jacob Bunn 1/5, Colby Harris 1/4, Team 1/(-8).
PASSING: HS, Cusick 17/32-149-1/1. SS, Haas 2/5-23-1/0
RECEVING: HS, Jackson West 5/23, Austin Winchester 4/26, Chris Edwards 3/21, Dalton Yancey 3/27, Gus Hannah 1/11, Chandler Webber 1/5. SS, Dunne 1/13, Blayne Warden 1/10.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, West 2/38
PUNT RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: SS, Justin Vannattan 1/5 
FUMBLE RETURNS: Team 1/10.
PUNTS: HS, Cusick 4/144/36.0, Team 1/0/1 blk. SS, Warden 3/138/46

Panther GameDay: Homecoming awaits

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

A mission awaits the Heber Springs Panthers for homecoming at Panther Stadium Friday.

The Panthers (2-2 in 2-4A Conference, 3-3 overall) will host Southside Batesville (3-1 in 2-4A Conference, 5-2) and hope not only to slow down the Southerners’ running game, but move up a notch in the conference standings. Southside and Lonoke are tied for second place in the conference, one game ahead of Heber Springs.

The Southerners rolled past Central Arkansas Christian 59-19 last week, while the Panthers escaped with a 14-7 win at Bald Knob.

“We were put in a difficult situation with our starting quarterback (Xander Lindley) was injured early in the game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “The injury forced us to find other ways to win. We pulled it out and won on the road. That game built our confidence and tells the guys if you keep fighting, good things can happen.”

Lindley suffered a broken collarbone and will miss the remainder of the season. Easton Cusick, who starts at wide receiver, moved to quarterback. Cusick completed 9-of-16 passes for 56 yards and one touchdown, and he rushed nine times for 27 yards.

“Cusick played in other games and took snaps in practice, but he was put in a different situation,” Wood said. “We talked at halftime, made a few adjustments. He led the team well during the second half.”

Wood changed blocking assignments and adjusted two plays.

“We made changes at halftime for the offensive line and went with shorter patterns in the passing game,” Wood said. “The change gave more time to pass and helped Cusick to read the defense better.”

Wood said the defense kept the team in the game during the first half, stopping Bald Knob four times in five possessions, all that started on the Panthers’ side of midfield. Kenan Sneed’s interception return early during the fourth quarter keyed the Panthers’ comeback.

“I can’t say enough about the defense, especially during the first half,” Wood said. “The defense played lights out. Sneed’s interception return for a touchdown was the turning point. The Bulldogs surprised us by going for the first down late in the game. Our defense shut them down and got the ball back.”

Dalton Yancey caught two passes for 24 yards, but his 18-yard reception on fourth down late in the game set up the winning touchdown.

“If we don’t get the first down, we don’t have the last two plays and score the touchdown,” Wood said. “Dalton found a way to get open and got in a good spot. Eastern scrambled, threw a good pass and kept us alive.”

Heber Springs plans no major changes on defense, but preparing to slow down the Southside running game. The Southerners rushed for 480 yards and eight touchdowns against CAC.

“Southside is rolling with a win against Lonoke and took Stuttgart to the wire,” Wood said. “Their style of offense is difficult to defend. They have speed in the backfield, and the line is very athletic and strong.”

Quarterback Landen Haas directs Southside’s Wing-T attack with running threats like Nick Risner, Jacob Dunne, Brandon Lopez and Steven Riggs. Dunne ran for three touchdowns and Risner scored two touchdowns in last week’s game.

The Southerners also have the capability to throw the ball downfield. Tyler Jones is one of Haas’ primary targets.

“They have the pieces for a good team,” Wood said. “We need to control the ball and execute well. It’s a good combo when a team can run and pass the ball effectively. That puts pressure on the defense. We must be ready for the run and the pass.”

Coaches often worry about the  distractions at homecoming to players, but Wood said his team will handle them well.

“I mentioned to the players they need to enjoy all of the festivities,” Wood said. “They need to focus on the game when it is time to play.”

Wood explained the keys to a third straight win for the Panthers.

“Offensively, we need to control the ball and adjust to a new quarterback,” he said. “The game will be decided on the line of scrimmage. The defense must read its keys and play physical. We played well again CAC and Bald Knob, which were running teams. We need to force them to pass.”

NOTES

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m.
  • Admission: $5
  • Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan with handle the play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the game. Steaming is available on The Lake’s YouTube page.
  • Homecoming: The Homecoming parade begins at 2 p.m. and ends with a pep rally in downtown at 2:30 p.m. Tailgating starts at 4 p.m. A track-naming dedication ceremony for coaches Harold Wilson and Johnette Goldman at 5:30 p.m. and the homecoming ceremony at 6:15 p.m.

THE SERIES: Heber Springs lead 13-2

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 16th time these two teams have meet on the football field since Southside Batesville started its football program in 2006. Heber Springs won the first 10 meetings in the series before the Southerners claimed a 24-20 victory at home in 2016 before the Panthers would win the next two. Southside Batesville has won only once at Panther Stadium,   48-20, in 2019. The Panthers won last season 22-17 at Southside Batesville.

 

2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   4 0 42  6 1 251 126 
Lonoke                      3 1 39  6 1 232 111
Southside Batesville        3 1 28  5 2 256 137                      
Clinton                     2 2 23  3 4 182 222
Little Rock Mills           2 2 26  5 2 282 186   
Heber Springs               2 2 20  3 3 126 153  
Bald Knob                   0 4  0  0 7  81 209
Central Arkansas Christian  0 4  0  2 5 178 337    

Friday, October 16
Heber Springs 14, Bald Knob 7
Southside Batesville 59, Central Arkansas Christian 19
Lonoke 35, Little Rock Mills 6
Stuttgart 43, Clinton 14
Friday, October 23
Southside Batesville at Heber Springs
Bald Knob at Clinton
Stuttgart at Little Rock Mills
Central Arkansas Christian at Lonoke

Heber Springs holds off Southside Batesville

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Heber Springs’ Logan Rutledge gets a block and looks downfield for yards against Southside Batesville Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE – Liam Buffalo passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns in helping lead the Heber Springs junior Panthers to their sixth win of the season Thursday night, 22-14.

Logan Rutledge had a career-high eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown and finished with 182 all-purpose yards, while Weston Warden had four receptions for 122 yards and a score for the Panthers.

Warden’s score came on Heber Springs’ second possession of the game when he took a pass from Buffalo and raced 55 yards for a touchdown. The score capped off a five-play, 95-yard drive, after the Panther defense held the Southerners on a fourth-down play on the Heber Springs 5-yard line.

Rutledge recovered a fumble on the ensuing onside-kick attempt by Heber Springs, but the Panthers’ drive stalled at the Southside 24.

The Panther defense had another fourth-down stop, this time at the Heber Springs 1, but the Panthers couldn’t muster a drive before punting it back to the Southerners.

Southside Batesville took over on the Panther 49 and four plays later, Cameron Foree connected with Brayden Simpson for a 24-yard touchdown. Foree scored on  the 2-point conversion to take an 8-6 lead with 1:23 left in the half.

Two plays later, Heber Springs responded when Buffalo found Rutledge for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Warden caught the 2-point pass from Buffalo to make it 14-8 with 50 seconds left in the half.

In the second half, the two teams traded possessions before Rutledge picked off a Foree pass and returned it 45 yards with 33 seconds to go in the third quarter.

Five plays later, Buffalo rambled 13 yards to for a insurance score for the Panthers. Seth Dudeck’s 2-point pass reception made it 22-8 with 6:51 left.

Southside Batesville responded to the score by using a methodical time-consuming, 12-play, 68-yard drive to close the gap to 22-14 with 1:05 to play.

The Panthers recovered the onside-kick attempts and killed the clock to earn the win.

Heber Springs will close out its season Thursday night at Clinton. A win would give the Panthers the runner-up spot in the 2-4A behind Central Arkansas Christian.

HEBER SPRINGS AT SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE
OCTOBER 21, 2021 
Southside Batesville      0   8   0   6 - 14 
Heber Springs             6   8   0   8 - 22
FIRST QUARTER 
HS - Liam Buffalo to Weston Warden 55-yard pass (pass failed), 4:03
SECOND QUARTER 
SS - Cameron Foree to Brayden Simpson 24-yard pass (Foree run), 1:23
HS - Buffalo to Logan Rutledge 44-yard pass (Buffalo to Warden run), :50
FOURTH QUARTER 
HS - Buffalo 13-yard run (Buffalo to Seth Dudeck pass), 6:51
SS - Louis Calhoun 4-yard run (run failed), 1:05
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 11, SS 12
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 13/25, SS 33/197
PASSING YARDS: HS 231, SS 70
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 256, SS 267
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 15-25-0, SS 4-11-1
FUMBLES: HS 0, SS 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 5/46, SS 3/15
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 1/18, SS 1/35
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Liam Buffalo 7/53, Carter Julian 1/4, Weston Warden 1/2, Cooper Holmes 2/(-2), Team 3/(-32). SS, Louis Calhoun 18/100, Caden Rowlett 4/42, Jonathan Powell 3/41, Brodee Vanwinkle 3/13, Andrew Plumber 2/3, Cameron Foree 3/(-2).
PASSING: HS, Buffalo 15/25-231-2/0. SS, Foree 4/11-70-1/1.
RECEVING: HS, Logan Rutledge 8/114, Warden 4/122, Holmes 3/(-5). SS, Rowlett 2/40, Brayden Simpson 1/24, Rowlett 1/6.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Rutledge 1/23
PUNT RETURNS: None
INT RETURNS: HS, Rutledge 1/45
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Buffalo 1/18. SS, Payton Barnes 1/35

HEBER SPRINGS JUNIOR HIGH SCHEDULE

(All Games Start at 7 p.m.)

Aug. 26 – Heber Springs 32, Clinton 28

Sep. 09 – Harding Academy 36, Heber Springs 16

Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 26, Dover 12

Sep. 23 – Heber Springs 34, Lonoke 12 *

Sep. 28 – Heber Springs 42, Stuttgart 32 *

Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 30, Heber Springs 14 *

Oct. 14 – Heber Springs 26, Bald Knob 8 *

Oct. 21 – Heber Springs 22, Southside Batesville 14 *

Oct. 28 – at Clinton *

(* – Denotes Conference Contest)

Southside Batesville downs Heber Springs 7th-Graders

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Heber Springs’ Rhett Herring gets a block from teammate, Carson Robitaille, during a first-half run at Southside Batesville Thursday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE – Southside Batesville used a safety and a long touchdown run to down the Heber Springs seventh-grade Panthers Thursday night.

The game was scoreless until late in the first half when the Southerners were driving for an apparent score, but Brady Loethen recovered a fumble at the Panther 1 give the Panthers possession with less than a minute to go.

But three plays later, Southside Batesville’s Gabe Madison tackled Josiah Riggs in the end zone for safety with 10 seconds to play before halftime.

The Southerners would use their first possession of the second half to go up 8-0 after Jake Roberts ran 68 yards for a touchdown with 17:10 left in the game.

The Panthers threatened with under five minutes to play after Lachlan Tubbs connected with Samuel Bush for a 45-yard pass play to put the ball at the Southerner 5, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs.

Southside Batesville killed the clock to earn the win.

HEBER SPRINGS 7TH-GRADE SCHEDULE

(All Game Times are 5:30 p.m.)

Aug. 26 – Clinton 16, Heber Springs 14

Sep. 09 – at Harding Academy (Canceled)

Sep. 16 – Heber Springs 16, Dover 6

Sep. 23 – Lonoke 20, Heber Springs 6

Sep. 28 – Stuttgart 6, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 07 – Central Arkansas Christian 8, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 14 – Heber Springs 14, Bald Knob 0

Oct. 21 – Southside Batesville 8, Heber Springs 0

Oct. 28 – at Clinton

HSHS All-Decade Team: 2010s

The 2010s era of Heber Springs football was the most successful decade in school history with one perfect regular season, an outright conference title and two more that were shared. The decade also saw the Panthers reach the playoffs nine out of 10 seasons.

The 2010 season saw Steve Janski’s Panthers open with wins over Mountain View and Harding Academy before falling to Bald Knob and, in the conference opener, to Lonoke. A win over Stuttgart would follow with a setback at Marianna-Lee, before the Panthers would win four straight to close the regular season. A loss at Joe T. Robinson ended Heber Springs’ season with a 7-5 mark.

History would be made in 2011 as the Panthers opened the season by dominating defending 4A state champion Shiloh Christian, 36-17, in the opener at Reynolds’ Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Heber Springs would put 49 on Harding Academy, 55 on Bald Knob and 63 on Lonoke, before winning at Stuttgart 28-21. No team in the regular season would get to less than two touchdowns the rest of the way as the Panthers completed a perfect regular season and the school’s first outright conference title sine 1979. The second-ranked Panthers would defeat Shiloh Christian again in a first-round playoff match-up at Panther Stadium before falling to Farmington to finish at 11-1 on the year. The 11 wins are the most in school history.

The 2012 team, opened with a loss to Pottsville and had a week 2 game at Harding Academy canceled after weather delays in the first half. A win over Gentry would make the Panthers 1-1 heading into conference play. Heber Springs would not repeat as conference champions finishing 2-4A play at 4-3, closing the regular season with a loss to new conference member Pine Bluff Dollarway. The Panthers would rebound in the playoffs downing Star City and Pea Ridge to reach the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Highland ended the Panthers season leaving Heber Springs with a 7-5 mark.

Janski’s last season at Heber Springs, 2013, would see the Panthers claim wins over Marianna-Lee and Southside Batesville but finish with a 2-8 mark.

Assistant coach David Farr was promoted to head coach for the 2014 campaign. The Panthers would down Clinton and Harding Academy in nonconference play before finishing 5-2 in conference play. The Panthers would drop Crossett in first-round playoff contest before seeing their season at Warren the following week to finish 8-4.

The offseason would see Farr take a job at Maumelle and long-time assistant coach Darren Gowen promoted to head coach. Heber Springs would open the 2015 season with a win over Clinton before falling to Greenbrier and Harding Academy in nonconference play. The Panthers would finish conference play at 4-3 to earn a playoff spot, but Star City would end Heber Springs’ season at 5-6.

The 2016 season saw Heber Springs start 0-3 in nonconference play before bouncing back to finish 6-1 in the 2-4A and earning a share of the conference title and the number 1 seed. After a first-round playoff bye, Shiloh Christian would end the Panthers season at 6-5.

In 2017, Heber Springs would open at 1-2 before earning another share of the 2-4A crown with a 6-1 conference mark. The three-way tie left the Panthers as the No. 3 seed where they would win a thrilling playoff contest at Gravette before falling at Gosnell to finish at 8-4. With the Panthers earning a share of the conference title, it was the first time since the 1979-1980 seasons that the Panthers had won at least a share of the conference title in back-to-back seasons. Those two teams joined the 1975-1976 teams as the only ones to accomplish that feat in school history.

The 2018 team attempted to be the first to win at least of share of a conference title in three consecutive seasons. After starting the season 0-3, Heber Springs would finish conference play at 6-1 but Stuttgart would win the crown with a 7-0 conference mark. The Panthers dominated former conference foe Pocahontas in first-round playoff match-up before losing at Rivercrest to finish 7-5.

Gowen would step down as head coach in the spring of 2019 to take a position in northwest Arkansas and Will Cox was promoted for the upcoming season. Heber Springs would fall to Clinton and Harding Academy in the final seconds in nonconference play, as well to Greenbrier, to start 0-3. The Panthers would finish conference play at 4-3 and get the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, after a four-way tie at the top. Shiloh Christian would end the Panthers season in the playoffs.

(Editor’s Note: The teams were selected based upon a vote by former players and coaches. They were asked to fill a ballot based upon positions. Players were allowed to a put a player in multiple positions (i.e. WR/DB). Votes were recorded based upon on the number of ballots a particular player was listed on. If a player was listed a multiple positions, they were still counted as being on one ballot. As with past decades, positions were kept fluid in order to ensure those that were on the most ballots would make the team. In several cases, there were players that received more votes for one position than the person selected for the all-decade team, but were on fewer ballots, and therefore did not make the team. In the previous decades, I was able to create a limit amount of all-purpose positions to cover those that may have been squeezed out of one position but were on more ballots than those who did make it (though not all-purpose positions do not mean those players were on fewer ballots, in many cases it was because a player exceled at so many positions that their votes were scattered). When it came time to do the 2010s, there were more votes cast by former players than any other decade. The votes were more varied than other decade. It created a situation were I was going to have to create a larger number of “all-purpose” positions to get everyone on the team that was going to get squeezed out because of the position that they played. So for this decade only, I created a second team. There are several players on the second team that were on more ballots than those on the first team, but I could not put them at position that did not play (an example would be if someone played WR/DB, I could not put them on the offensive line even though they were on more ballots than someone on first-team offensive line). That is just an example. Also, there is no punter on the second team, because all of those who received votes were already on the team so an extra “all-purpose” position was created in its place. And with ALL of the all-decade teams, there are some very, very good football players that didn’t make it and this decade was no exception. The hardest part of doing this was leaving out those who have contributed so much to the Panther program over the years. Coming in October, all those on any all-decade will be eligible to be voted on the all-time team that will be selected by a vote by the public).

The 2010s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

WR – Clint Ligon (2012)

WR – Pierce Mitchum (2016)

OL – Jimbo Bodron (2010)

OL – J.J. Bray (2018)

OL – Andrew Davis (2011)

OL – Derrik Fisher (2012)

OL – Joseph Tharp (2010)

QB – Adam Martin (2019)

RB – Chandler Marquardt (2014)

RB – Markeyvus Mays (2011)

RB – Blaze Nelson (2018)

K – Julian Cameron (2018)

AP – Michael Ludwig (2011)

DEFENSE

DL – Chris Hart (2017)

DL – Zach McCormick (2014)

DL – Luke McGowan (2016)

LB – Geoffrey Anderson (2011)

LB – Ethan Bly (2012)

LB – James Ketchum (2015)

LB – Mason Williams (2010)

DB – Jacob Bremmon (2017)

DB – Micah Dew (2012)

DB – Nate Dew (2016)

DB – Brooks Morgan (2012)

P – Landon Glover (2011)

AP – Hunter Chandler (2015)

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

WR – Andrew Hill (2010)

WR – Rocky Finney (2018)

OL – Austin Childers (2011)

OL – Harley Hannah (2019)

OL – Nate Hills (2013)

OL – Ethan Lee (2012)

OL – Dylan Platt (2015)

QB – Michael Kramer (2013)

RB – Chandler Jones (2014)

RB – Julio Rubio (2019)

RB/WR – Gunner Nelson (2012)

K – Edgar Torres (2015)

AP – Joseph Stacks (2017)

DEFENSE

DL – Dalton Hall (2018)

DL – Harley Hooten (2012)

DL – Kody Youngblood (2014)

LB – Fate Berry (2019)

LB – Dustin Ervin (2012)

LB – Wade Gilbrech (2012)

LB – Landon Johnson (2019)

DB – Caleb Carmikle (2010)

DB – Cooper Lawrence (2013)

DB – Jesse Lawrence (2011)

DB – Dillon Spivey (2017)

AP – Brandon Loethen (2017)

AP – Ian Lowe (2013)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 2000s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1990s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1980s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

HSHS All-Decade Team: 2000s

The 2000s era of Heber Springs football started with a whimper and ended with a bang.

Long-time assistant Todd Thompson would take over for Bill Buckner for the 2000 campaign as the 2AAA conference would see some changes with Hoxie joining the conference. Heber Springs would struggle through the 2000 and 2001 seasons, before breaking into the win column with an 2002 season-opening win over Little Rock Lutheran. After a loss to Clinton, the Panthers would down Lamar before entering conference play. Corning had replaced Bald Knob starting with the 2002 season.

Former Panther standout Dale Cresswell would take over as head coach for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, claiming a win against Lamar in 2004.

Former East Carolina University assistant coach Steve Janski would take over the program starting with the 2005 season and guide the team the rest of the decade.

Opening with a win over Bald Knob, the Panthers would also claim a nonconference win at Lamar. Heber Springs would break at conference losing streak on Oct. 21, 2005, with a win at Mountain View. They would follow that with a win over Yellville-Summit to finish 4-6.

The 2006 campaign saw Heber Springs shifted to the 2-4A conference joining Lonoke, Stuttgart, Marianna-Lee, Bald Knob, Southside Batesville, Mountain View and Newport. The Panthers would start the season 4-0 with wins over Clinton, DeWitt, Yellville-Summit and Lonoke, before falling to Stuttgart and Marianna-Lee in back-to-back weeks. Blowout wins over Bald Knob and Southside Batesville would follow, before Heber Springs would claim its first win over Newport. Mountain View forfeited the reminder of its season on Oct. 23 due to low player numbers giving the Panthers a 13-0 conference win. The Yellowjackets did field a “B” team that traveled to Heber Springs in week 10 so the Panthers could have a “senior night,” heading into the playoffs. The Panthers would claim their first playoff win in 27 years with a 21-12 win over Greenland. Heber Springs would finish out a 10-3 with a loss at Nashville.

The 2007 Panthers would finish the season with a 5-6 record earning the school’s first back-to-back appearance in the playoffs. In week 8, Heber Springs would set a school record with 76 points in win over Southside Batesville.

The 2008 Heber Springs would start the season 1-4 and the postseason definitely seemed in doubt as the Panthers trailed at Marianna-Lee 30-0 with 8:10 left in the first half, but Heber Springs would score 32 unanswered to claim a 32-30 win. That victory seem to propel the Panthers as they would win six straight, including playoff wins over Prairie Grove and West Fork reaching the 4A quarterfinals for the third time in school history and the first time since 1979. Heber Springs would end with an 8-5 mark.

Heber Springs’ 2009 season saw a 4-0 start, before falling at Stuttgart, 15-12, in week 4. After a win against Marianna-Lee and a loss at Bald Knob, the Panthers would five-in-a-row to advance to the 4A quarterfinals in back-to-back for the first time in school history. The Panthers would finish with a 10-3 mark.

The 2000s HSHS All-Decade Football Team

(Position, Player and Last Season Played)

OFFENSE

WR – Shane Bryant (2005)

WR – Stuart Tillman (2005)

OL – Frazier Blankenship (2007)

OL – Billy Grammar (2009)

OL – Trevor Reed (2006)

OL – Alex Witkowski (2007)

OL – Alex Wyatt (2006)

QB/P – Devin Tillman (2005)

RB – Curtis Decker (2006)

RB – Ryan Grist (2007)

RB – Braylon Mitchell (2009)

K – Antonio Romero (2008)

AP – Wes McMullen (2009)

AP – Taylor Tubbs (2004)

AP – Jacob Wilson (2004)

DEFENSE

DL – Garrett Davis (2006)

DL – Warren DeBusk (2000)

DL – Matt Fedora (2002)

DL – Ryan Palenske (2009)

LB – Michael Harmon (2005)

LB – Tanner Tubbs (2006)

LB – Jonathan West (2005)

LB – Thomas Wharton (2001)

DB – Hunter Derrick (2009)

DB – Jimmy Head (2001)

DB –Hilton Hoover (2008)

AP – David Darrell (2009)

AP – Jake Logan (2007)

AP – Zach Nelson (2009)

AP – Jacob Smithson (2002)

PREVIOUS DECADES

The 1990s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1980s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1970s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1960s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1950s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1940s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1930s HSHS All-Decade Team

The 1910s/20s HSHS All-Decade Team

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.

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 claim conference win at Southside

Heber Springs’ Nathan McKee looks to get past a Southside Batesville’s Jamie Riggs Friday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

SOUTHSIDE — The Heber Springs Panther defense demonstrated a new step of maturity against Southside Batesville late in the fourth quarter at Stewart Field Friday night.

After a questionable fumble call at the goal-line, the Panthers forced the Southside into a three-and-out and maintained possession during the final 3:37  for a 22-17 road win.

Heber Springs (1-4 2-4A Conference, 2-6 overall) won its first conference game for coach Todd Wood and moved into fifth-place tie with Little Rock Mills and Southside with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Heber Springs’ Jackson West picks up a few yards. Also picture, Heber Springs (55) Jayden Bremmon and Southside Batesville (47) Ricky Vickers. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“We talked about responding to quick-turnovers all season,” Wood said. “They wanted to go out there and do something about it this time. The players seemed to play with more energy on that series than other series in the game. We had a lot of big plays by a lot of players. Jayden Bremmon made two big plays. Preston Roberson moved back to linebacker and also made a lot of big plays.”

Wood  noticed a different attitude among players. Instead of talking about the questionable fumble play, the defense made its biggest stand of the season yet.

“They played like their backs were against the wall and didn’t want to give Southside anything,” he said. “They had something to prove. I told the players after the game that they always were capable of playing that way and finally did it.”

Wood also had praise for the play of his linemen.

“It starts up front and I can’t say enough good things about all of those guys on the offensive line,” he said.

Big plays happened throughout the game, but Wood said one of the most important came on the final play of the third quarter. Heber Springs faced a fourth-and-10 at the Southside 34 when quarterback Matthew Cook connected on a 32-pass completion to Easton Cusick for a first down at the Southerner 7.

“We (coaching staff) noticed Cusick was open when we tried that play earlier in the game,” Wood said. “I told Matthew to watch for Easton. Matthew was throwing against the wind. Easton bobbled the ball a bit, but he brought the ball back  to his chest and caught it.”

Cusick described the play.

“As soon as I saw the safety come up, the ball was there right in my hands,” he said. “Matthew passed the ball perfect to me. It was a great fourth-down play.”

Cook, who completed 9-of-12 passes for 159 yards and and rushed for 85 yards, said Wood told him before the play that Cusick might be open.

“He (Cusick) was open and I threw it to him,” Cook said. “We need those fourth-down conversions.”

Two plays later, Diego Rubio scored from the 1.

Southside controlled the first half, outgaining Heber Springs. The Southerners rushed for 131 yards, 81 coming on Brendan Frazier’s touchdown run. The Panthers were held to 53 yards — 10 yards rushing and 43 passing. Southside sacked Cook and John McBroome four times for losses of 28 yards.

Heber Springs’ Matthew Cook and coach Todd Wood share an embrace after the win on Friday. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Frazier’s scoring run and Skyler Anorve’s extra point kick gave Southside a 7-0 lead with 4:39 left in the first quarter. Frazier finished with 120 yards on 13 carries.

Heber Springs led for the first time in the game when Nathan McKee scored on a 2-yard carry, and Cook passed to Gus Hannah for the 2-point conversion. The Panthers led 8-7 with 11:56 to go in the first half.

Southside regained the lead with 4:14 left until halftime. The Panthers held on downs at the 2, but the Southerners’ Jamie Riggs  scooped up a Diego Rubio fumble and scored. Anorve kicked the extra point for the 14-8 lead.

Heber Springs reached the goal line in the closing seconds,  but the drive ended on a Cook interception in the end zone.

The second half became a different game. Heber Springs rushed for 106 yards and passed for 114 yards. Southside was held to 64 yards

Thad Bray set up the first touchdown of the third quarter when he blocked a punt. Bremmon recovered the ball at the Southside 20-yard line. Four plays later, Rubio scored on a 1-yard dive with 8:39 left in the third quarter. Jackson West caught a 3-yard pass from Cook for the 2-point conversion, giving the Panthers a 16-14 lead.

The Southerners regained the lead for the final time when Anorve kicked a 33-yard field. Southside led 17-16 with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter.

Heber Springs started its 11-play, 79-yard drive for the eventual winning score late in the third quarter. Cusick’s fourth-down catch put the Panthers in scoring position. Rubio scored from two yards out with 11:14 to play. The 2-point conversion try failed as Heber Springs led, 22-17.

McKee’s 55-yard catch of a Cook pass put the Panthers in position to increase the lead. McKee caught three passes in all for 81 yards on the night.

“I made a move to the outside and turned upfield.” McKee said. “Matthew saw I was open and put the ball where I could go and catch it.”

Cook said the play worked like Wood told him while on the sidelines earlier.

“Nathan was open, and I threw the ball to him,” Cook said. “The ball went right in his hands like it is suppose to.”

Heber Springs reached the Southside 7 when McKee apparently scored, but officials ruled he fumbled before crossing the goal line.

Heber Springs held on downs the next series and then maintained possession for the rest of the game.

“It was a good feeling after so much disappointment,” Cook said. “We’ve been through a lot of things this year. It felt great and it was against Southside. It was a relief. I had a big smile for the win with my teammates after the final play.”

Heber Springs will play at Clinton Friday in the fifth annual Battle of the Little Red.

“This was a great victory,” Wood said. “We will start preparing for the Clinton game. We have two more games to to take care of before looking at the playoffs.”

The Panthers will conclude the regular season by hosting Little Rock Mills.

Heber Springs’ Preston Roberson assists on tackle Friday night. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

GAME STATS

SCORING   
Heber Springs (1-4, 2-6)         0  8  8  6 - 22
Southside Batesville (1-4, 2-6)  7  7  3  0 - 17
FIRST QUARTER   
Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 81-yard run (Skyler Anorve kick), 4:39
SECOND QUARTER
Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 2-yard run (Matthew Cook to Gus Hannah pass), 11:56
Southside Batesville, Jamie Riggs 2-yard fumble return (Anorve kick), 4:15
THIRD QUARTER   
Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 1-yard run (Cook to Jackson West pass), 8:39
Southside Batesville, Anorve 33-yard field goal, 4:22
FOURTH QUARTER 
Heber Springs, Rubio 1-yard run (pass failed), 11:14

TEAM STATS   
First Downs by Rush: Heber Springs 4, Southside 4
First Downs by Pass: Heber Springs 6, Southside 2
First Downs by Penalty: Heber Springs 3, Southside 0
Total First Downs: Heber Springs 13, Southside 6
Third-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 5/10, Southside 1/8
Fourth-Down Conversions: Heber Springs 1/2, Southside 0/2
Red-Zone Conversions: Heber Springs 5/3, Southside 1/0
Time of Possession: Heber Springs 28:55, Southside 19:05
Fumbles/Lost: Heber Springs 3/2, Southside 1/1
Turnovers: Heber Springs 3, Southside 2     
Points Off Turnovers: Heber Springs 8, Southside 7
Penalties: Heber Springs 7/43, Southside 8/75
Rushing: Heber Springs 43/126/2.9, Southside 30/172/5.7
Passing: Heber Springs 10/14-157-0/1, Southside 4/7-23-0/1
Plays/Total Offense/YPP: Heber Springs 57/283/5.0, Bald Knob 37/195/5.1 
Sacks/Yards Lost: Heber Springs 0/0, Southside 5/29
Punts: Heber Springs 4/107/26.8, Southside 3/61/20.3
Inside 20: Heber Springs 1, Southside 1
Blocked Punts: Heber Springs 1, Southside 0

INDIVIDUAL STATS   
OFFENSE     
RUSHING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 21/85, Diego Rubio 13/26/2, Nathan McKee 5/24/1, Jackson West 1/4, Team 1/(-3), John McBroome 2/(-10). Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 13/120/1, Brycen Sutton 12/39, Jacob Dunne 3/29, Chase Duncan 1/1, Team 1/(-17).
PASSING: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 9/12-159-0/1, John McBroome 1/2- (-2)-0/0. Bald Knob, Chase Duncan 4/7-23-0/0
RECEIVING: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 3/81, Jackson West 3/27, Easton Cusick 2/50, Diego Rubio 1/1, Matthew Cook 1/(-2). Southside Batesville, Bo Trucks 2/19, Jacob Dunne 1/4, Isaac Smith 1/0.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook 244, Diego Rubio 26, Nathan McKee 24, Jackson West 4, John McBroome (-12). Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 120, Brycen Sutton 39, Jacob Dunne 29, Chase Duncan 24.
PUNT RETURNS: Southside Batesville, Isaac Smith 1/12
KICK RETURNS: Heber Springs, Austin Winchester 2/0
FUMBLE RETURNS: Southside Batesville, Jamie Riggs 1/2
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
OTHER RETURNS: Jayden Bremmon 1/18
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee 105, Matthew Cook 83, Easton Cusick 50, Jackson West 31, Diego Rubio 27, Jayden Bremmon 18. Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 120, Brycen Sutton 39, Jacob Dunne 33, Chase Duncan 24, Bo Trucks 14, Isaac Smith 12, Jamie Riggs 2. 
SCORING: Heber Springs, Diego Rubio 12, Nathan McKee 6, Gus Hannah 2, Jackson West 2. Southside Batesville, Brendan Frazier 6, Jamie Riggs 6, Skyler Anorve 5 (2/2 XPA, 1/1 FG - Made: 33).
DEFENSE    
PUNTS/YARDS/AVERAGE/INSIDE THE 20/BLOCKED: Heber Springs, Matthew Cook  3/50/16.6, John McBroome 1/57/1/0. Southside Batesville, Blayne Warden 2/61/30.5/1, Team 1/0/0/1.
SACKS/YARDS LOST: Southside Batesville, Vern Deering 2/13, Lincoln Fair 1/9, Ricky Vickers 1/6, Alex Allen 1/1
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Southside Batesville, Jamie Riggs
BLOCKED PUNTS: Heber Springs, Thad Bray
BLOCKED PUNT RECOVERIES: Heber Springs, Jayden Bremmmon
INTERCEPTIONS: Heber Springs, Nathan McKee. Southside Batesville, Justin Vannattan

Panther GameDay: Heber Springs heads to Southside Batesville

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs’ approach against 2-4A Conference foe Southside Batesville will not change from the previous its two games.

The Panthers (0-4 conference, 1-6 overall) will focus on winning the battle at the line of scrimmage against  Southside (1-3 conference, 2-5 overall).

Kickoff is scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday at Stewart Field in Southside.

Heber Springs is coming off a 35-15 loss to Bald Knob, while the Southerners lost 21-14 at Central Arkansas Christian.

“We must win the battle up front,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “That will be the biggest key. We need to play well, particularly on the defensive line. The team who can maintain control of the line of scrimmage will win.”

The Panthers hope for a quick start against Southside.

Heber Springs had its best drive following the opening kickoff last week against Bald Knob. The Panthers drove 52 yards on 10 plays and took a 7-0 lead. Turnovers and field position shifted the momentum in the second half. Heber Springs has 24 turnovers in seven games.

Bald Knob had scoring drives of 39 and 20 yards following Panther turnovers and returned an onside kickoff for three of its five touchdowns.
Southside features a one-two running punch in quarterback Duncan Pierce and Brycen Sutton.

Sutton rushed for 121 yards on 23 attempts and scored one touchdown against CAC. Pierce ran for 84 yards on six carries and had one touchdown.
Wood said his team could benefit from playing the third consecutive team with a similar offensive philosophy — running the ball.

“We knew what areas that we needed work,” he said. “Southside will take advantages of your mistakes. It’s a tough offense to prepare for.”

Heber Springs’ offense gained new life when Wood inserted senior Matthew Cook, a starting wide receiver for most of his career, at quarterback in the third game of the season.

Cook has completed 83-of-150 passes for 953 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Nathan McKee leads the Panthers in receiving with 31 catches for 374 yards and three touchdowns. Two sophomores have emerged as targets in the passing game. Isaac King has caught 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Easton Cusick has 14 receptions for 160 yards.

Senior Diego Rubio is the leading rusher with 329 yards on 59 attempts and scored four touchdowns.

Wood expects the offense to perform at a higher level against the Southerners.

“Matthew (13-of-27 passing for 91 yards with four interceptions) had a tough game against Bald Knob,” he said. “We tried to take the pressure off during practice in preparing for this game. Matthew tried too hard to make things happen. (Junior) Jackson West and (senior) Gus Hannah keep improving at receiver. All we need to do is do what we have been doing, but do it better.”

Southside plays a 3-4 defense with linebacking the strength of the unit. Wood said it’s a scheme that the team has faced in most of its games this season.

“Southside has two good linebackers,” Wood said. “They can stop the run and also cover the pass. All we need to do is improve from what we did last week.”

The defense continues to improve, even though statistics may not reveal that. Heber Springs is allowing 301 yards of offense per game — 146 rushing and 155 passing.

“Preston Roberson became a force after switching from linebacker to the defensive line,” Wood said. “He does a good job of containing runners, has good instincts and makes plays. Jayden Bremmon has been playing well at nose guard and Diego Rubio at linebacker. Kenan Sneed has played steady at linebacker. Gus Hannah moved to cornerback and made several plays against Bald Knob.”

Wood expects continued improvement from the defense.

“We were a little tired in the second half against Bald Knob,” he said. “The defense continues to improve every game. We need to do a better job in sudden-change situations when momentum shifts. We got to make more defensive stops.”

Heber Springs will be without the services of senior center Zach Thomas, who was injured last week against Bald Knob.

2-4A CONFERENCE STANDINGS

                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   4 0 52  6 0 242  33 
Lonoke                      4 0 44  6 1 262 150
Central Arkansas Christian  4 0 38  7 0 223 125
Bald Knob                   2 2 19  4 3 179 151  
Southside Batesville        1 3 13  2 5 134 219   
Little Rock Mills           1 3 11  2 5 164 203  
Heber Springs               0 4  0  1 6 128 255
Clinton                     0 4  0  0 7 144 315 
 
Friday, October 16
Bald Knob 35, Heber Springs 15
Central Arkansas Christian 21, Southside Batesville 14
Lonoke 29, Little Rock Mills 18
Stuttgart 35, Clinton 7

Friday, October 23
Heber Springs at Southside Batesville
Lonoke at Central Arkansas Christian
Clinton at Bald Knob
Little Rock Mills at Stuttgart

NOTES

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Southside Batesville
  • Admission: $5
  • Radio/Streaming: Billy Morgan with handle the play-by-play with Lance Hamilton providing color on KSUG 101.9 The Lake. Panther Pregame begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the game. 

THE SERIES: Heber Springs lead 12-2

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 15th time these two teams have meet on the football field since Southside Batesville started its football program in 2006. Heber Springs won the first 10 meetings in the series before the Southerners claimed a 24-20 victory at home in 2016 before the Panthers would win the next two. Southside Batesville won last season, 48-20, for the its only victory at Panther Stadium in the series.