Heber Springs seniors Clint Ligon and Ethan Bly have a different gear than most athletes. The two have made a habit of leaving opposing defenses in the dust with their blazing speed, which tops out at 4.39 in the forty.
It's hard to pinpoint who is “Fast” and who is “Faster.”
Bly won the 100-meter dash at the Class 4A outdoor track and field meet as a sophomore and Ligon won the 110 and 300 hurdles as a junior, when he led the Panthers to a second straight outdoor title with a meet-high 46 points.
The dynamic duo's speed, agility and overall athletic ability also translates well to the gridiron, where Bly averaged 9.88 yards per carry (40 rushes for 395 yards and 8 touchdowns) as a junior slot back, while collecting 11 receptions for 316 yards (28.73 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns.
Playing outside linebacker, Bly led the team in 2011 with 54 tackles, including 42 solo, recorded 5 sacks and intercepted 2 passes, including one that he returned 33 yards for a touchdown in a 49-27 victory over Harding Academy. Listed at 5-11, 205-pounds, Bly has plenty of power to blend with his speed. He benches 290 pounds and squats 465.
Ligon led the receiving corps last season with 31 receptions for 663 yards (21.39 per catch) and 7 touchdowns, while rushing 35 times, primarily on jet sweeps, for 310 yards and 3 more scores, averaging 9.2 yards per carry.
The 6-1, 170-pound Ligon uses his flexible frame and unbelievable jumping ability to make amazing catches. Last season at Razorback Stadium against three-time defending state champion Shiloh Christian, Ligon made the play of the season by most accounts, leaping high for a 29-yard touchdown while using strong hands and incredible awareness to secure the ball as he landed hard on the turf. Ligon also caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in the Panthers' 36-17 win over the Saints in the season opener as he racked up 3 catches for 129 yards.
The two Heber stars have been giving opposing coaches fits since their pee-wee days, when Ligon picked up the nickname “Crazy Legs” from public address announcer Trey Miller, who still uses the phrase to this day, particularly on big plays in key situations.
“His dad was our coach,” recalled Ligon of his pee-wee days. “He [Bly] started out fullback and I started out at halfback and we connected right there. We have always been really good friends since then and he has always given me good competition with him always being the fastest one on the team and me always trying to overcome that.”
Bly said football has given them a chance to build a strong bond. “To be able to play with Clint since pee-wee has really enabled us to form a bond. We've been friends since fourth grade playing every single season together. It's a bond that is a lot different than when people come in and play three years of high school football together. We are really close, we understand each other and we can push each other.”
Page 2 of 3 - Currently, the duo is trying to keep the defending 2-4A conference Panthers at the top of the league. “We just want to win and make it a memorable year. It would be great to win another conference championship with this team,” said Ligon.
Bly, who shifts to the tailback this fall, said he is ready to hit the field and get the first game under his belt. “We need to get better over the season. Obviously first games are a little weird sometimes and everything may not be at its best but as the season goes on we just need to improve,” stressed Bly. “I am definitely ready to get that many carries per game,” he added when asked if he was prepared to handle 20 or more carries per outing. “I am going to run as hard as a can every time.”
Ligon, who hurdled a Stuttgart defender last season and kept running in a legendary play that was called back for a rare hurdling penalty, said he gets fired up before games by thinking about previous games. “I just think about those past Friday nights,” said Ligon. “I try to stay focused and keep my eyes on the prize. The main priority to me is winning and keeping the team together.”
Bly prefers to break out the iPod for pre-game preparation. “I just sit in my locker and think about what I need to do and my assignments. I throw on my iPod for sure and try to find some music that will get me pumped up for that day.”
The Panthers' two biggest offensive weapons will be counted on to carry more of the load this fall. The departure of all-state running back/ linebacker Geoffrey Anderson and all-conference running back Markeyvus Mays, who earned all-state honors as a junior but had to sit out four games last fall with an ACL injury, leaves Bly and Ligon squarely in the spotlight. They both seem to relish that role.
When prompted, Ligon specifically addressed his legendary hurdling play. “That day I jumped I guess it was just an instinct that I have developed over the years. It's exciting to have the ball.”
Bly also enjoys the opportunity of toting the pigskin. “I just kinda zone out and focus on the placement of people. I am not really thinking anything but run, make him miss, run, make him miss and just go.”
The two burners both list 4.39 as their best 40 times, so the question begs, who is faster? Ligon and Bly seem to agree that Clint has the quickest initial burst of 20 yards but Bly is faster as the yardage gets longer.
“That's a tough thing because we never really race against each other in 100 yards but I think it would be about equal,” said Bly. “He [Clint] has a really good short burst speed but once we get into 200s and stuff like that I've got him. It's hard to say on the forty. We have our days where he may run faster or I may run faster. I think it varies on how we are doing that day,” added Bly.
Page 3 of 3 - “He would kill me in the 100 but in the 40 we are about the same and in the 20 I think I would win” said Ligon.
Fortunately for the Panthers, they won't have to run down either of these amazing athletes. That will be the biggest test for the opposition.
Heber hosts a preseason scrimmage with Greenbrier and CAC this Monday starting with Junior High at 4:30 p.m. Senior High begins at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Panthers open regular season play on Friday, Aug. 31 at home against Pottsville. Opening kickoff at 7 p.m.