Heber Springs won its second straight 2-4A conference game on Thursday night, dismantling the Marianna Junior Trojans 28-8 with a powerful running game that featured freshman Eddie Mejia and eighth-grader Dewaun Miller.
The only thing stopping Miller in the first half was the goal-line as he carried five times for 48 yards and three touchdowns, while Mejia ran three times for 106 yards and a score.
“All of our backs have done a great job,” said Heber Jr. High Coach Mark Brigance. “You've got to give credit to that offensive line too. They've been getting the job done up front and then the execution by the quarterback and everything going smoothly from the backfield.”
Despite wet conditions throughout the first half ¬ a common theme for much of the football season ¬ the Junior Panthers managed to roll up a total of 200 yards on the ground without a fumble in the as they jumped out to a 28-0.
Heber also executed to near perfection in last week's 14-12 win at Stuttgart. “We were very tickled to come out with the 'W' especially at their place,” said Brigance of the Stuttgart game. “I was ecstatic about the way the kids played down there. I felt like they played extremely fast on defense. We played good defense and got enough offense to put some scores up and were able to stop them in the end.”
Against Marianna, the Jr. Panthers never wavered as they forced a turnover on downs on the Junior Trojans' opening possession when Spencer Greene busted through the line and sacked the quarterback for a 14-yard loss.
Marianna came up with an interception on Heber's third snap before stalling out on its own half of the field. On fourth and 5, Pierce Mitchum broke up a deep pass down the right sideline, giving Heber a first down at the Jr. Trojan 39.
After Mitchum picked up 13 yards on a jet sweep, Miller took a shotgun draw over left tackle, plowed over two tacklers then burst to the sideline where he bulled over a third defender on his way to an amazing 26-yard touchdown. With 1:30 left in the first quarter, quarterback Hunter Chandler kept around right end for two more points on the conversion as the Jr. Panthers took an 8-0 lead.
Mitchum set up Heber's next score with an interception, which he returned seven yards to the Heber 47. On first down, Mejia side-stepped a defender in the backfield and sped down the right sideline for 30 yards.
Following a 3-yard run over left tackle by Eddie Torres, Marianna jumped offside then Mejia picked up 14 yards on a sweep around right end. On first and goal, Miller broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and crossed the goal-line for a 1-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Heber's lead at 14-0 with 7:39 to play in the first half.
Page 2 of 2 - Cole Coleman and the Jr. Panthers stuffed Marianna on its next offensive series and Heber took complete command with a 37-yard scoring drive that started with a 4-yard run from Miller.
On second and 6, Chandler faked a handoff and kept around left end where he shook a defender and dashed down the sideline for 21 yards before he was bumped out-of-bounds. Miller scored on the next snap, breaking away from two defenders near the line of scrimmage and racing through the teeth of the Jr. Trojans' defense for a 12-yard touchdown. Marianna stopped the two-point attempt, leaving Heber's lead at 20-0 with 4:29 left in the second quarter.
Marianna managed to move the ball into Heber territory on its next possession before stalling out on four downs as Miller and the defense bowed up.
Following a 2-yard loss on a Chandler keeper, Mejia ran through a gaping hole up the middle where he used a sharp cutback at midfield to create space before turning on the after-burners for a 62-yard touchdown. Torres ran untouched up the middle for two more points on the conversion attempt, pushing the Jr. Panthers' lead to 28-0 with 2:31 left until halftime.
Marianna's final possession of the first half came to a halt when Sterling Castleberry picked off a deep pass at the 9-yard line.
After Coleman and Heber's first team defense stoned Marianna on the first series of the third quarter, the Jr. Panthers used reserves for the remainder of the game. Marianna pushed across a touchdown and two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter but never seriously threatened thereafter.
Heber (2-3, 2-1) visits Newport on Thursday at 7 p.m.