Panthers’ season ends in Pulaski County

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Heber Springs junior Chris Edwards fights for yards after catching an Easton Cusick pass Friday at Little Rock Mills. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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 MILLS
November 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
FIRST QUARTER 
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
SECOND QUARTER
M - Caleb Sain 3-yard run (Boyce Mitchell run), 10:57
M - Mitchell 7-yard run (Mitchell run), 1:43
THIRD QUARTER
HS - Brown 26-yard run (kick failed), 10:11
FOURTH QUARTER
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 STATISTICS 
FIRST 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

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Panther GameDay: Win or go home for both Heber Springs, Mills

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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.”

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2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W 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

GAME NOTES

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 wears down Heber Springs in 2-4A play

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Heber Springs quarterback Easton Cusick looks for an open receiver Friday night against Clinton. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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 SPRINGS
October 29, 2021 
Clinton (5-4, 4-2)        12   6   16   0 - 34
Heber Springs (3-5, 2-4)   0   7    0   0 -  7
FIRST QUARTER 
C - Harley Tobin 1-yard run (run failed), 10:02
C - Tobin to Brody Emberton 7-yard pass (run failed), :25.6
SECOND QUARTER
HS - Parker Brown 36-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 5:01
C - Nick Epley 21-yard run (run failed), 1:59
THIRD QUARTER
C - Zane Widener 8-yard run (Tobin to Epley pass), 10:10
C - Cody Davis 3-yard run (Davis run), :44.2
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST 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

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Panther GameDay: Battle of the Little Red

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By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

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.”

THE SERIES

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.

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2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W 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

 

2-4A PLAYOFFS

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

PHOTO: Heber Springs Homecoming Pep Rally

IMG_3802
Heber Springs coach Todd Wood speaks at Friday’s homecoming pep really. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

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Panther GameDay: Homecoming awaits

IMG_2588_(2)

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

Final seconds belong to Panthers

Heber Springs’ Parker Brown gets a block from teammate Dalton Yancey Friday night at Bald Knob. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

BALD KNOB — Sometimes the best play is not one in the playbook, and it worked for the Heber Springs Panthers against Bald Knob.

Parker Brown caught a 15-yard pass from backup quarterback Easton Cusick with 5.6 seconds left for a 14-7 win in a 2-4A Conference football game on the rain-soaked grass at Bulldog Stadium on Friday.

The touchdown completed a fourth-quarter rally and the first time Heber Springs won back-to-back games since the 2019 season.

The win moved the Panthers (2-2 in conference, 3-3) into a tie fourth place with Clinton and Little Rock Mills in the conference standings.

Bald Knob led 7-0 at the half and at the end of the third quarter.

The winning drive started at the Bulldog 38 with 2:19 left in the game. Bald Knob forced the Panthers into a fourth-and-2 at the 30-yard line. Cusick rolled to his left and connected on a 15-yard pass to Dalton Yancey for a first down at the 15-yard line.

After Cusick threw incomplete, he hit Brown in stride at the 1-yard line for the game winner.

“We wanted to spread the defense,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We decided not to try and kick a field goal because we were going into the wind. We made two adjustments on the play and asked Parker to run to the middle, and he did that perfectly. Cusick hit him in stride.”

Parker caught the pass at the 1 and scored untouched.

“That was a great play call by coach Wood,” Cusick said. “Parker cut inside and caught the ball. It was a beautiful play and worked out perfectly.”

“We wanted to get it in the end zone,” Brown said. “The coaches said we could do it by getting the ball to the middle of the defense.”

Wood said Kenan Sneed’s 48-yard interception return earlier in the fourth quarter switched the momentum. Sneed’s score came with 10:02

“The game changed after Sneed’s pick six,” Wood said. “It gave energy to our team. We had turned the ball over on downs, but Sneed’s pick turned the tide.”

Bald Knob stopped Heber Springs on downs inside the Bulldog 30-yard line. Quarterback Leason Pierce’s pass bounced off the chest of a Bald Knob receiver into the hands of Sneed.

“The (Bald Knob) offensive line stepped back and I read the play immediately,” Sneed said. “The ball hit the player in the chest and popped into the air. I happened to be in the right place. I thought they would catch me and ran as fast as I could.”

Cusick, who had been a starting wide receiver, completed 9-of-16 passes for 56 yards. He replaced Xander Lindley, who suffered a broken collarbone.

“Hats off to Easton,” Wood said. “He took a few snaps in games and works at quarterback during practice. Easton came up to me on the sidelines and asked, ‘Coach, let me have the ball and let me go.’ I followed his lead, and he did a fantastic job.”

Cusick, who was not sacked during the second half, admitted that he was nervous in the beginning, but felt more comfortable after halftime.

“It’s more nerve wrecking in a game than in practice,” he said. “The second half was more relaxing, and we were moving the ball. We pulled together, and I could not have done this without my teammates.”

Sneed said the availability of a net helped Cusick and the team regroup at halftime.

“Easton kicked into a net during halftime inside the dressing room and also worked on passing. He was ready to play in the second half.”

Bald Knob started in Heber Springs territory on all five first-half possessions — 43-, 18-, 19-, 30- and 29-yard lines. The Panthers, who had only one penalty for 5 yards, held the Bulldogs to 84 of its 191 yards of offense during the first half and forced three turnovers on the night.

Heber Springs was limited to 13 yards during the first half and 139 yards for the game.

Pierce, who rushed for a game-high 121 yards on 29 carries, needed only one play to put Bald Knob on the scoreboard. After a short punt into the wind, he scored on a 19-yard keeper with 9:01 left in the first half. Marcus McGahee kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs had an opportunity to increase the lead, but McGahee, with the wind at his back, missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 52 seconds to go until halftime.

“Our defense kept us in the game during the first half,” Wood said. “They understood the situation and did a fantastic job. We were in a situation when things were going against us and put our backs against the wall. But the players continued to fight.”

Heber Springs will return home and play Southside Batesville, a 59-19 winner against Central Arkansas Christian, on Friday.

“It’s a good feeling with back-to-back wins,” Wood said. “Our guys understand we must take one game a time. Southside is very good team, and we will now focus on them.”

HEBER SPRINGS AT BALD KNOB
October 15, 2021 
Heber Springs (3-3, 2-2)   0   0   0  14 - 14
Bald Knob (0-6, 0-4)       0   7   0   0 -  7 
SECOND QUARTER 
BK - Leason Pierce 20-yard run (Marcus McGahee kick), 9:07
FOURTH QUARTER 
HS - Kenan Sneed 48-yard interception return (Gideon Tate kick), 10:02
HS - Easton Cusick to Parker Brown 15-yard pass (Tate kick), :5.6
TEAM STATISTICS 
FIRST DOWNS: HS 11, BK 10
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 35/83, BK 44/177
PASSING YARDS: HS 56, BK 14
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 9-17-1, BK 2-7-2
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 139, BK 191
FUMBLES: HS 1, BK 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 1/5, BK 9/75
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 4/23, BK 2/37
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS 
RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 19/64, Easton Cusick 9/27, Kenan Sneed 1/4, Jackson West 1/3, Xander Lindley 4/(-5), Team 1/(-10). BK, Leason Pierce 29/121, Dane Lindsey 14/54, Team 1/2. 
PASSING: HS, Cusick 9/16-56-1/1, Lindley 0/1-0-0/0. BK, Pierce 2/7-14-0/2
RECEVING: HS, Austin Winchester 3/9, Dalton Yancey 2/24, Jackson West 2/11, Parker Brown 1/15, Chris Edwards 1/(-3). BK, Hunter Deflorian 1/13, Dane Lindsey 1/1. 
KICKOFF RETURNS: BK, Marcus McGahee 1/13, Langston Lindsey 1/7
PUNT RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: HS, Kenan Sneed 1/48, Dalton Yancey 1/3. BK, Langston Lindsey 1/4
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Cusick 4/92, Chris Gomez 2/74.

Panther GameDay: Bald Knob, Heber Springs look to stay in playoff hunt

The Heber Springs defense, from left, Lucas Langster (50), Payton Owens (68), Thad Bray (55) and Jackson West (23), hits the road tonight at Bald Knob. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs will play the second of an important 4-game stretch with the same approach — focus on the next opponent.

The Panthers (1-2 in 2-4A Conference, 2-3) will play the winless Bald Knob Bulldogs (0-3 in 2-4A Conference, 0-6) at Bulldog Stadium in Bald Knob at 7 p.m. Friday.

Hooten’s Magazine made the Bulldogs an 1-point favorite against Heber Springs in its weekly Class 4A predictions.

It also will be homecoming for Bald Knob, which lost to conference leader Stuttgart 42-19 last week. The Panthers are coming off a 47-26 win against Central Arkansas Christian.

“Win or lose, we always only look at the next game,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We have a group of good guys, who aren’t looking past Bald Knob. We played our most complete game of the season against CAC. I liked what I’ve seen during practice this week.”

Running back Parker Brown and quarterback Xander Lindley were responsible for 470 yards for the Panthers against CAC. Brown rushed 16 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns, and he caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown.

Lindley completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown against the Mustangs. He ran for 134 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns.

“Parker did what he was capable of, and Xander continues to mature at quarterback,” Wood said. “I’m proud of the number of players — receivers Chris Edwards, Austin Winchester, Easton Cusick, Dalton Yancey and Jackson West — touching the ball. When you can spread the ball around to that many receivers, that helps an offense quite a bit.”  

Brown didn’t set a school or stadium single-game record with his five total touchdowns. However, he did become the first Panther to have a 200-yard rushing and a 200-yard receiving games during the same season. Markeyvus Mays rushed for seven touchdowns on 11 carries in a win over Cave City on Nov. 4, 2010. Jerry Pilkington holds the school record with eight rushing touchdowns against Ola on Oct. 14, 1949.

Wood also was elated with the Panthers not having a turnover. Heber Springs had eight turnovers in the first four games.

“We spent more time this year stressing the importance of protecting the ball,” he said. “We didn’t do that much last year because of limited practice time because of Covid-19.”

Brown is the leading rusher for the Panthers with 537 yards on 63 carries and seven touchdowns. He has caught eight passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

Lindley has completed 35-of-61 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 185 yards on 54 attempts and two touchdowns.

Wood said credit for the offense’s success against CAC came from the performance of the offensive line — Lucas Langster (left guard), Payton Owens (left tackle), Zach Thomas (center), Tristan Thissen (right guard) and Thad Bray (right tackle).

“I really enjoyed watching them on film after the game,” he said. “It was good seeing them come off the ball strong, and they executed well. They are showing improvement, and we need it to continue.”

Wood recalled the six turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles — against Bald Knob in last year’s 35-15 loss.

Quarterback Leason Pierce, who completed 13-of-23 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns in 2020, returns for the Bulldogs. Pierce connected on 11-of-17 passes for 132 yards during the second half. Bald Knob converted 5-of-7 third-down plays, and 2-of-8 plays on fourth down.

Wood is confident that his defense with a year of experience, plus playing three of the conference’s best quarterbacks this season, will play well.

“I told the players and defensive coaches we faced a talented mobile quarterback for the past three weeks,” he said. “They had speed and were able to go outside the pocket and make plays. We are looking at a quarterback (Pierce) who doesn’t have that kind of speed, but he has the ability to make things happens. We must contain him in the pocket.”

Linebackers Kenan Sneed, Hayden Johnson and West continue to lead the Heber Springs defense. Sneed had 21 tackles against CAC, while Johnson recorded 13 tackles and West was credited with 12 tackles.

“I’m pleased with our defense,” Wood said. “They did a good job of containing (CAC quarterback) Tyler Williams. He got a couple of big plays, but we kept him contained most of the game. Sneed puts up the numbers, and Johnson is playing well and making big plays.”

Wood said the play of the defensive line is improving.

“We changed our tactics and our strength is beginning to show,” he said. “Owens has been a surprise. Langster has the speed, and Bray has the size. The line can cause trouble for other teams.”

Wood said the formula is simple for a win.

“On offense, we must control and protect ball and execute well,” he said. “On defense, we must pressure the quarterback.”

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Bald Knob
  • 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. Streaming is available on The Lake’s YouTube page.

THE SERIES: Bald Knob leads 38-23-2

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 64th time these two schools have meet on the football field. Heber Springs and Bald Knob first played during the 1929 season, a 26-2, Panther victory. It would be 11 more seasons before the two teams played again, a 1940 12-0 victory by Heber Springs. Heber Springs would win the first three games in the series before Bald Knob would win 18 out of 20 games played (a 1950 34-13 win by the Panthers broke a five-game losing streak in the series while a 1964 12-7 win broke a 10-game losing streak). The series would be fairly even before Heber Springs won eight straight from 1976 through 1983 before the Bulldogs closed out the 1980s winning six-in-a-row. In the 1990s, the teams would meet seven times with the Panthers getting wins during the 1990 and 1999 seasons. Since the 2005 season, Heber Springs and Bald Knob have played 10 times with the Panthers winning seven of those contests, but the Bulldogs did spoil the Heber Springs’ homecoming last season with a 35-15 victory.

2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
                            W L CP  W L PS  PA 
Stuttgart                   3 0 29  5 1 208 112 
Little Rock Mills           2 1 26  5 1 276 151 
Lonoke                      2 1 26  5 1 197 105
Southside Batesville        2 1 15  4 2 197 118                      
Clinton                     2 1 23  3 3 168 179  
Heber Springs               1 2 13  2 3 112 146  
Bald Knob                   0 3  0  0 6  74 195
Central Arkansas Christian  0 3  0  2 4 159 278    

Friday, October 9
Heber Springs 47, Central Arkansas Christian 26
Stuttgart 42, Bald Knob 19
Southside Batesville 38, Lonoke 36 (OT)
Clinton 38, Little Rock Mills 28
Friday, October 16
Heber Springs at Bald Knob
Southside Batesville at Central Arkansas Christian
Lonoke at Little Rock Mills
Clinton at Stuttgart

Panther Notebook: Super sophomore piling up big numbers

Heber Springs’ Kenan Sneed comes in to help finish off a tackle of CAC receiver Vance Strange Friday night at Panther Stadium. Also pictured for Heber Springs is Chris Edwards (at Strange’s knee) and Lucas Langster. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

HEBER SPRINGS – Parker Brown’s youth football coach, Jack Cook, had a nickname for Brown as he ran over opposing defenses for the “Pee Wee” Panthers — “Downtown Parker Brown.”

Flash forward to Friday night at Panther Stadium and a 47-26 victory by the senior high Panthers over Central Arkansas Christian, that moniker could have easily been “Touchdown Parker Brown” as the sophomore rushed for 223 yards on 16 carries and four touchdowns, and also had three receptions for 44 yards and another score, to finish with five touchdowns on the night.

Parker Brown

His five total touchdowns is the most by Panther since Nov. 4, 2010, when Markeyvus Mays rushed for seven touchdowns on 11 carries in a win over Cave City. Jerry Pilkington has the most in school history with eight rushing touchdowns against Ola on Oct. 14, 1949.

While Brown didn’t set a school or stadium record Friday night, he did make history by becoming the first Heber Springs football player in 100 seasons to have a 200-yard rushing game and a 200-yard receiving game (at Dover on Sept. 17) in the same season.

Through five games, Brown has 11 touchdowns (seven on the ground and four receiving) and 910 all-purpose yards (182 per game). He has rushed 63 times for 537 yards (107.4 yards per game and 8.5 yards per attempt) and is tied with Easton Cusick with a team-high eight receptions for 264 yards.

PROFESSOR X: Sophomore quarterback Xander Lindley scored his first two touchdowns of his senior high career Friday night on runs of 1- and 35-yards. He rushed for 134 yards on 13 carries for an average of 10.3 yards per carry. Lindley also passed for 113 yards (on 11 of 13 passing) to finish with 247 yards of total offense on the night.

For the season, Lindley (who last played quarterback as eighth-grader until this season) has completed 35 passes on 61 attempts for a 57.4 completion percentage. He also passed for 515 yards and five touchdowns.

Lindley leads the team with 700 yards of total offense.

X-MEN: Though CAC finished with 347 yards of total offense, 320 of that coming from Mustang senior Tyler Williams, the Panthers limited CAC 4.3 yards per carry (take out Williams’ rushing totals and the Panthers held the Mustangs to 1.7 yards per attempt for the rest of the CAC backs) and had a second-quarter, goal-line stand as they stopped Williams inches short of end zone on fourth down.

That goal-line stand led to a 99-yard touchdown drive by the offense and a commanding 28-6 lead with 1:17 left in the first half.

The Mustangs would pull to within 14 in the third quarter and reach the Panther 30 before another four-down stop on pass play. Heber Springs would go on to score on its next possession and take control of the game.

MUSTANG STOPPER: Kenan Sneed led the Panthers with 21 tackles and a fumble recovery. His 21 tackles are the first time that a Heber Springs player has hit the 20 tackle mark since Dillon Spivey had 20 at Gravette in a 4A playoff game on Nov. 10, 2017.

Sneed leads the team with 57 tackles, including 10 for a loss and two fumble recoveries. The junior had more than 100 tackles as a sophomore.

MORE MUSTANG STOPPERS: Sophomore Hayden Johnson finished with 13 tackles against the Mustangs and is second on the team with 38 stops, including eight for an loss. Senior Jackson West finished with 12 tackles and has 31 total tackles on the year while senior Tristan Thissen had 11 stops on the night and 26 on the season.

SENIOR VICTORY: Gus Hannah was injured during the conference opener with Lonoke and missed the Stuttgart game, but he did get a chance to get into the game late as coach Todd Wood put Hannah in on the victory formation. Prior to that injury, the senior was the team’s leading receiver with seven receptions.

CONFERENCE SHAKE-UP: Both Lonoke and Little Rock Mills entered Friday night both unbeaten in the 2-4A and overall, but ended the night with losses. Clinton defeated Little Rock Mills, 38-28, while Southside Batesville dropped Lonoke in overtime, 38-36. Stuttgart (3-0 in the 2-4A) defeated Bald Knob, 42-19, and now has a one game lead over four teams (Clinton, Southside Batesville, Lonoke and Little Rock Mills). The Panthers set at 1-2 while CAC and Bald Knob are both 0-3. The top five teams make the playoffs.

UP NEXT: Heber Springs travels to Bald Knob Friday night.