Weather put Heber Springs’ baseball 4-4A Conference Tournament seeding on hold for now.
The Panthers (2-3 in 4-4A, 10-11 overall) lost to Dardanelle (4-2 in 4-4A, 12-5 overall) 5-3 Tuesday at the Heber Springs Sports Complex and missed an opportunity of clinching a No. 2 seed for the tournament.
“This game really hurts because it has been a while since Heber had an opportunity of a No. 2 seed,” Heber Springs coach Ryan Bridges said. “The guys played and worked hard, but we got to do that before the seventh inning.”
Dardanelle clinched the No. 2 seed with the win, while Morrilton will be the top seed. The Sand Lizards and Devil Dogs assured themselves of regional tournament berths.
Heber Springs and Ozark currently are tied for third place in the conference standings. Weather canceled Wednesday’s Subiaco Academy at Ozark game. Ozark needs one win to earn the No. 3 seed. The Panthers, who are scheduled to host Subiaco Academy on Thursday. Heber Springs can avoid the play-in game with a win against Subiaco Academy.
“We want to avoid the play-in game,” Bridges said. “That would force us to win two games for a regional tournament berth, instead of just one win. I’m hoping playing on senior night will give us extra motivation against Subiaco Academy. We need to play well and win. I like our chances, especially playing at home.”
J.T. Spears, who was the starting and losing pitcher, allowed five hits, four runs with nine strikeouts and four walks against Dardanelle. Corbin Jones relieved Spears at the beginning of the seventh inning, allowing one hit and one run with two strikeouts.
“J.T. pitched well,” Bridges said. “We probably needed to throw more off-speed pitches in that first inning because they had trouble hitting those type of pitches. Instead, we threw all fastballs and they hit them. I saw something from J.T. that I’ve not seen this year, more energy. He got into his zone during the second, third and fourth innings.”
Zane Rose started Dardanelle’s three-run first inning with a walk. Drew Vega hit a double, putting runners on second and third bases before Robert Millard’s two-run double. Millard later scored on Colvy Holt’s RBI single.
“Just wish there was a way to take the three runs Dardanelle scored in the first inning away,” Bridges said. “I thought (third baseman) Liam (Buffalo) had a chance to make a backhanded catch, but the ball hit the bag and bounced over Liam’s head.”
Dardanelle scored runs in the fifth and seventh innings for a 5-0 lead before the Panthers threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. Heber Springs loaded the bases with no outs when Xander Lindley and pinch-hitter Ty West each walked and Preston Fitzsimmons was hit by a pitch. Lindley scored on Zane Lozeau’s sacrifice fly and Kenan Sneed followed with an RBI single. Fitzsimmons came home on Cole Peyton’s sac fly, reducing Dardanelle’s lead to 5-3 with two outs.
The game ended when reliever Ty Roper, who replaced starter Titus Spencer with one out in the seventh, on a strikeout.
“We had good at-bats during the seventh inning,” Bridges said. “We need to do that throughout the game and get on base anyway we can. When we do that, we will have opportunities to win games.”
Heber Springs hopes a return to the Heber Springs Sports Complex leads to more success on the field.
The Panthers (2-4) began the season by shutting out Pangburn at home and won one of four games against at the Sheridan Tournament.
Heber Springs started the tournament with losses to 6A Sheridan and 5A Searcy before the 6-0 shutout against Pangburn at home last Thursday. The Panthers lost to 6A Little Rock Catholic last Friday before a 14-9 win against Malvern in the tournament finale on Saturday.
On Monday, Heber Springs fell to Beebe 11-4. The Panthers are scheduled to host Newport at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Batesville at 5 p.m. Friday.
“We played two tough games to start the season,” Heber Springs coach Ryan Bridges said. “We played them close, but unable to finish it at the end of the games. Against Pangburn, we got out on them early in the game. Pangburn was a good team and played at last year’s state tournament.”
Corbin Jones struck out three and allowed two hits in five innings. Ty West pitched the sixth and Xander Lindley relieved West in the seventh.
“Corbin did a good job and answered back from his first start,” Bridges said. “He threw 38 pitches through four innings and finished with 66 pitches. He got in a jam during the fifth inning, but got out of it. The other guys stepped up and finished the game. Ty pitched well and used his split-finger pitch and a change-up. Xander pitched his first game and did well, too.”
John McBroome led the Heber Springs offense with two singles. Liam Buffalo had two RBIs and Zane Lozeau had an RBI.
“We finally took advantage of opportunities with runners in scoring position,” Bridges said.
Pangburn 000 000 0–0 3 2 Heber Springs 010 230 x–6 4 1 Pangburn hitters: Braxton Butler single; Cole Ramsey single; Stephen Toumajan single. Heber Springs hitters: John McBroom 2 singles; Liam Buffalo single, 2 RBIs; Kenan Sneed single; Zane Lozeau 1 RBI. Pangburn pitchers: Braxton Butler 1 hit, 1 earned runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout in 1.1 inning; Trevor Evans 1 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 1 strikeout in 2 innings; Xander Kane 2 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Rhett Tharp 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk in 1.2 inning. Heber Springs pitchers: Corbin Jones 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts in 5 innings; Ty West 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Xander Lindley 1 hits, 0 runs in 1 inning.
Zane Lozeau didn’t take long to become a part of the 100th edition of the Heber Springs Panthers.
Lozeau, a starting cornerback and also plays wide receiver, transferred from Dover during the summer. He admitted it was a change from his hometown, but felt 100 percent acceptance.
“Nothing against Dover, but the team accepted me on the first day,” he said. “The school, community and fans really get behind the team. It feels great to be a part of the 100th year and the team.”
Lozeau said when the Panthers played at Dover, it felt strange, but the game turned into a memorable one.
“The touchdown I scored at Dover was my first one ever,” he said. “It also was the first time that I played on a high school team that won a game.”
Lozeau expects to play more on offense, especially after Easton Cusick moved to quarterback. Cusick became the new quarterback when Xander Lindley broke his collarbone early in last week’s game at Bald Knob.
“I play most of the time on defense, but I might play more receiver now,” he said. “One of the things I liked about the team is everyone gets behind you. That helps a player during a game.”
The Panthers are tied with Little Rock Mills and Clinton for fourth place in the 2-4A Conference and only one game behind second place Lonoke and Southside Batesville. Heber Springs will conclude the season against Clinton at home and a game at Mills.
Lozeau said the focus this week is on Friday’s homecoming game against Southside.
“This would be my first time to play in the playoffs if we go,” he said. “Every game counts, and I don’t want to leave anything out on the field. We will be ready for Friday’s game.”
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.”
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
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 STANDINGSW 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
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 KNOBOctober 15, 2021
Heber Springs (3-3, 2-2) 0 0 0 14 - 14
Bald Knob (0-6, 0-4) 0 7 0 0 - 7
BK - Leason Pierce 20-yard run (Marcus McGahee kick), 9:07
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 STATISTICSFIRST 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.
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 STANDINGSW 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
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.
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.
Brown scores 5 touchdowns, Lindley 2, as Panthers roar past CAC
By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
Heber Springs didn’t wait long to bounce back in a big way and jumped back into the 2-4A Conference playoff chase.
Sophomore running back Parker Brown rushed 16 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns and caught three passes for 44 yards and one touchdown as the Panthers rolled through Central Arkansas Christian, 47-26, at Panther Stadium on Friday. Quarterback Zander Lindley, also a sophomore, completed 11-of-13 passes for 113 yards and ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown became the first Panther in 100 seasons of the program to have a 200-yard game rushing and a 200-yard game receiving during the same season. He caught three passes for 220 yards, all for touchdowns, earlier this year against Dover.
“I could not be any more proud of the players after the last two weeks when it was tough on them,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “At any point in time, they could have said we’re done, we’re finished. They didn’t do that.”
Wood didn’t hesitate in receiving the ball when winning coin toss, instead of playing defense first. The game plan was to find opportunities for Brown in the opening field.
“We wanted to get the ball to Parker in the open field early in the game,” Wood said. “We know if he got the ball in the open field, he could do dynamic things. He did that on the first play, and we never look back. It set the tone.”
Wood also said Lindley’s performance was a contributing factor in the win.
“I asked him (Lindley) to step up his play,” Wood said. “He is maturing and learning more how to play. Zander and Parker make a good running and passing duo. It was good see our other pieces of the offense do well. This is a great sign for the future.”
The Panthers compiled 484 yards of offense (373 rushing and 113 passing) with 23 first downs. Brown and Lindley each averaged 10 yards per run.
Brown and Lindley earned the headlines, but Wood said the improved play of the offensive line led to more success.
“The coaches challenged the linemen, who have been getting beat down for the last two games,” Wood said. “We told them we need to show dominance from the beginning. It was important to win the battle on the line of scrimmage.”
Wood smiled when asked about no turnovers by his offense.
“I was screaming at running backs to keep two hands on the ball during the second half,” he said. “That was a big factor in the win. It shows what can happen when you don’t turn the ball over.”
The Heber Springs defense kept Williams contained for most of the game. Williams rushed for 138 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. He completed 17-of-23 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. Williams was responsible for 320 of his team’s 337 yards.
“Our goal was not let him get explosive plays,” Wood said. “He did have a couple of big plays.”
The Panthers recovered an onside kickoff attempt and scored on the game’s first play when Brown broke free on a 59-yard touchdown run. Gideon Tate kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
“The line blocked well and let us pass and run,” Brown said. “On that play, I got to the corner and ran into the secondary.”
The kicking game put CAC into position for its first touchdown. Williams’ 62-yard punt pushed Heber Springs to its 9-yard line. The Mustangs forced a punt and took possession at the Panther 37-yard line.
Williams capped a 7-play drive with a 24-yard scoring run with 2:43 left in the first quarter. The try for a 2-point conversion failed.
The Panthers increased their lead on a 4-play, 57-yard drive following the kickoff. Brown scored on a 43-yard run and Tate’s kick for the conversion sent Heber Springs into the second quarter leading, 14-6.
Heber Springs threatened to pull away after Kenan Sneed recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The Panthers went 45 yards on eight plays. Brown scored on a 6-yard carry with 9:51 left in the first half. Tate kicked the conversion for a 21-6 lead.
After holding on downs at the 1-yard line, Heber Springs needed six plays on a 99-yard scoring drive. Lindley passed to Austin Winchester for one first down and then Brown ran 39 yards for a first down at the CAC 30-yard line. Lindley connected with Brown through the air for a touchdown with 1:17 left in the first half. Tate kicked the extra point for the 28-6 lead.
The Mustangs responded with an 8-play, 58-yard drive before halftime. Vance Strange snagged a 1-yard toss from Williams for the touchdown with 15 seconds to go. The try for a 2-point conversion was unsuccessful as the Panthers led, 28-12.
CAC pulled to within one score early in the third quarter. The Mustangs received the second half kickoff as Williams ran 44 yards on the second play. Shawn Rycraw caught a pass from Williams for the 2-point conversion.
The Panthers answered with an 8-play, 65 yard drive, with Lindley scoring on a 1-yard keeper with 7:46 to go in the third quarter. Heber Springs was unsuccessful on a 2-point conversion try
A defensive stop put the Panthers for their next score. Heber Springs drove 71 yards on nine plays, with Brown scoring from the 1-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. Tate kicked the conversion for a 41-20 lead.
Lindley had the drive’s key play when he retrieved a bad snap on first-and-15 at the CAC 34-yard line. After Lindley picked up the ball near midfield, he picked up a first down on the 16-yard play for a first down at the 18-yard line.
“That was amazing, and I felt good after that play,” he said. “I thought about jumping on the ball, but no one was close to me. I picked it up and ran.”
CAC didn’t go away and reduced the Heber Springs on a 6-play, 63-yard drive. Williams ran for a 21-yard touchdown with 9:31 left in the game. The Mustangs attempted a 2-point conversion unsuccessfully and trailed, 41-26.
Heber Springs added an insurance touchdown on Lindley’s 35-yard run with 8:51 left.
“This game is a confidence builder,” Wood said. “The players showed what they are capable of doing.”
Defensively, Kenan Sneed finished with 21 tackles. He was one of four Panthers to finish in double digits in tackles — Hayden Johnson (13), Jackson West (12), and Tristan Thissen (11) were the others.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS CHRISTIAN AT HEBER SPRINGSOctober 8, 2021
Central Arkansas Christian (2-4, 0-3) 6 6 8 6 - 26
Heber Springs (2-3, 1-2) 14 14 6 13 - 47
HS - Parker Brown 59-yard run (Gideon Tate kick), 11:47
CAC - Tyler Williams 24-yard run (run failed), 2:43
HS - Brown 43-yard run (Tate kick), 1:22
HS - Brown 6-yard run (Tate kick), 9:51
HS - Xander Lindley to Brown 30-yard pass (Tate kick), 1:17
CAC - Williams to Vance Strange 1-yard pass (pass failed), :15.1
CAC - Williams 44-yard run (Williams to Shawn Rycraw pass), 11:29
HS - Lindley 1-yard run (pass failed), 7:46
HS - Brown 1-yard run (Tate kick), 11:57
CAC - Williams 21-yard run (run failed), 9:31
HS - Lindley 35-yard run (pass failed), 8:51
TEAM STATISTICSFIRST DOWNS: HS 23, CAC 13
RUSHES-YARDS: HS 34/373, CAC 36/155
PASSING YARDS: HS 113, CAC 182
COMP-ATT-INT: HS 11-13-0, CAC 17-23-0
TOTAL OFFENSE: HS 484, CAC 337
FUMBLES: HS 0, CAC 1
PENALITIES-YARDS: HS 8/50, CAC 5/25
PUNTS-AVERAGE: HS 1/23, CAC 1/62
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: HS, Parker Brown 16/223/4, Xander Lindley 13/134/2, Jackson West 2/17, Dalton Yancey 1/6, Team 2/(-7). CAC, Tyler Williams 26/138/3, Shawn Rycraw 3/11, Vance Strange 6/3, Judah Ward 1/3.
PASSING: HS, Lindley 11/13-113-1/0. CAC, Williams 17/23-182-1/0
RECEVING: HS, Brown 3/44/1, Easton Cusick 3/18, Yancey 2/20, West 1/23, Austin Winchester 1/10, Chris Edwards 1/4. CAC, Strange 9/61/1, Rycraw 3/48, Jackson Morse 2/39, Ward 1/22, Cauy Blevins 1/9, Brady Velek 1/3.
KICKOFF RETURNS: HS, Edwards 1/0. CAC, Strange 3/28, Velek 1/3.
PUNT RETURNS: None
INTERCEPTION RETURNS: None
FUMBLE RETURNS: None
PUNTS: HS, Lindley 1/23. CAC Williams 1/62
After playing the two teams predicted during the preseason to finish one-two in the 2-4A Conference, the Heber Springs Panthers hope to start on a winning streak that leads to a state football playoff berth.
Heber Springs (0-2 in the 2-4A, 1-3 overall) will host Central Arkansas Christian (0-2, 1-4) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Panthers opened the conference season with losses to Lonoke and Stuttgart. CAC dropped games to Clinton and Little Rock Mills.
“The players knew what they were up against at Stuttgart,” Heber Springs coach Todd Wood said. “We played the two teams picked to be at the top of the conference standings. The next five games will decide who goes to the playoffs.”
Senior Tyler Williams will be the focus of the Heber Springs defense. Williams, who played tailback last season, moved to quarterback this season and responsible for 1,185 of the 1,484 yards for the Mustangs.
Williams leads CAC in rushing with 781 yards on 114 carries and scored 12 touchdowns. He has completed 39-of-74 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns. Williams ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns and caught five passes for 63 yards and one touchdown in last year’s win against the Panthers.
Vance Strange and Isaac Rine are the Mustangs’ primary targets in the passing game. Strange has caught 15 passes for 122 yards and scored one touchdown. Rine has 10 catches for 151 yards and one touchdown.
“He (Williams) runs the ball most of the time, and we are preparing for that,” Wood said. “But we also have to be ready to defend the pass. I expect him to run 35 to 40 times.”
Heber Springs hopes to get sophomore Parker Brown into the open field against CAC. Brown has been one of the Panthers’ best offensive threats with 273 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. He has caught five passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
“CAC primarily plays a 3-5-3 defense and blitz at least two players every play,” Wood said. “They stacked the box against Mills (a 60-16 loss) last week. Being a defensive coordinator in a similar system in the past, I understand some things will open up, and we must take advantage of them.”
The Mustangs have allowed 46 points per game. Wood is confident that other aspects of the Heber Springs offense will benefit and have similar success that it had against Dover (a 44-0 win).
“CAC is going through a similar situation with a lot of young players,” Wood said. “It has played good teams. Our goal is to prevent them from getting too many big plays and have big plays on offense.”
Heber Springs will have two players sidelined by non-Covid illnesses back on the field — offensive lineman-inside linebacker Tristan Thissen and center-defensive lineman Joenah Cordell.
“We were down to 22 players for Stuttgart,” Wood said. “Both players will help us at their positions and provide the team more depth.”
Wood expects better production from quarterback Xander Lindley, who has been playing behind a patched-up offensive line, and receivers Dalton Yancey and Easton Cusick. Receiver Gus Hannah, who injured an ankle against Lonoke, is questionable for the game.
The coach also said some players who had primarily played on defense will see action on offense.
“Kenan Sneed (inside linebacker) and Chris Edwards (cornerback) played at receiver last week,” Wood said. “Jackson West (outside linebacker) will play running back and receiver. Zane Lozeau (cornerback) will play at receiver. We will do whatever it takes to put us in position to win the game.”
Senior players will be recognized before the game for their contributions to the program.
“It will be a big night for the seniors,” Wood said. “It’s not their last home game, but a special night to reflect on what they have done, and the legacy they will leave. They want to get the fans a win at home.”
It’s not due or die, but a win would put the Panthers in good position to challenge for a postseason.
“We have five games left and critical for the playoffs,” Wood said. “We probably will need three wins to get into the playoffs. Our backs are up against the wall. We must come out fighting.”
Kickoff: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium (Senior Night festivities start around 6:15)
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: CAC leads the leads the series at 5-4
SERIES HISTORY: The two teams first meet in the 2000 season when the Panthers and Mustangs played nonconference games, both won by CAC. The two teams would not face each other again until CAC was paired with Heber Springs in the 2-4A conference in 2014. In conference play, the Panthers won four out of the first five meetings between the schools (CAC’s win came in 2015 with a 48-12 decision). Since then, the Mustangs have won back-to-back games (a 24-6 game in 2019 and 35-14 last season).
FORMER HOG: Former University of Arkansas and NFL receiver Joe Adams is an assistant coach at Central Arkansas Christian.
2A-4 CONFERENCE STANDINGSW L CP W L PS PA
Little Rock Mills 2 0 26 5 0 248 113
Lonoke 2 0 26 5 0 161 67
Stuttgart 2 0 16 4 1 166 93
Southside Batesville 1 1 13 3 2 159 82
Clinton 1 1 13 2 3 130 151
Heber Springs 0 2 0 1 3 65 120
Bald Knob 0 2 0 0 5 55 153
Central Arkansas Christian 0 2 0 2 3 133 231
Thursday, September 30
Stuttgart 42, Heber Springs 0
Friday, October 2
Little Rock Mills 60, Central Arkansas Christian 16
Southside Batesville 35, Clinton 20
Lonoke 14, Bald Knob 0
Friday, October 9
Central Arkansas Christian at Heber Springs
Stuttgart at Bald Knob
Lonoke at Southside Batesville
Little Rock Mills at Clinton