Heber Springs took a giant step forward in preparation for the upcoming football season with an impressive performance at Thursday's team camp at Lion Stadium, where Searcy, Wynne and Central Arkansas Christian matched up with the Panthers.
Heber Springs took a giant step forward in preparation for the upcoming football season with an impressive performance at Thursday's team camp at Lion Stadium, where Searcy, Wynne and Central Arkansas Christian matched up with the Panthers. That giant step started with a stout offensive line backed by hard-nosed running back Chandler Marquardt and strong-armed quarterback Michael Kramer. Left tackle Jason Hammons routinely knocked defensive linemen to the turf and quickly helped them up, while right guard Nate Hills opened up gaping holes over the right side along with center Zach McCormick and right tackle Cody Youngblood. Dylan Platt, a sophomore, held his own at left guard. “I am so excited about our energy, the way we executed, our emotion … This was a great camp,” bosted Heber Springs Coach Steve Janski, who has led the Panthers to seven consecutive playoff appearances, including three trips to the state quarterfinals. “It was so good for us I think we are going to try and do this maybe a couple times or three times next year. “I think we got a lot better today going against some great competition,” stressed Janski. “We got some great film. Offense, defense … I am very proud of how these guys stepped out and competed.” The team camp started with Heber's defense matched against Wynne's offense in a 7-on-7 box drill. The 5A Yellowjackets broke a couple big plays, but the Panthers held their own and later dismantled Wynne in 7-on-7 passing drills. Heber's defense also faced 6A Searcy and only allowed one big play on a keeper around left end by quarterback Christian Reynolds, who recently transferred from Rose Bud. Next, the Panther offense faced off with 4A CAC in the box running drill and had a tremendous amount of success as Marquardt broke loose for several big runs. With all teams wearing shoulder pads, helmets and shorts, the Panthers battled Wynne in 7-on-7 and came out on top 20-0 as Kramer completed 8-of-11 passes, including 3 scores. Kramer first hooked up with Ian Lowe on a flag route for a 10-yard touchdown. On the following possession, Kramer hit Marquardt for 25 yards, which set up a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dillion Moore, who broke open on a corner route. After Hunter Chandler picked off a pass in the end zone, stopping Wynne's only scoring threat, Kramer found Chandler Jones streaking down the right seam for a 30-yard touchdown, which set the final at 20-0. Heber and CAC collided in 7-on-7 next and both teams played primarily reserves until the end, when Kramer completed 6-of-9 pass attempts, but neither team scored. In an 11-on-11 run-pass simulated scrimmage versus Wynne, defensive end Cody Bernhardt and Hills, playing nose guard, combined for a sack to thwart the Yellowjackets' opening drive. On Heber's first drive, Kramer found Lowe for 26 yards, which set up a 19-yard touchdown pass to Marquardt, who caught a slow developing middle screen over the middle before hitting the sideline, where he ran around one defender and dodged another on his way to a 19-yard touchdown. Wynne took the ball for six more plays and Heber's defense came up with big plays on the first two snaps as Moore pulled down an interception and McCormick, working at defensive end, added a sack. Heber immediately got back to work on its second possession as Kramer hooked up with William Brown on a precise pass and catch for a 35-yard touchdown. The Panthers nearly scored again when Kramer found Jones on a post route for 31 yards, but the six-play limit stalled the drive. Wynne hit a long completion on its next drive, which it capped with a 2-yard touchdown run up the middle. Wynne broke a long touchdown run against Heber's second team defense, leaving the official score at 12-12, although the Panthers' first unit won, 12-6. For the final 30 minutes of the two-hour camp, Heber squared off with CAC in an 11-on-11 simulated scrimmage. The Panthers got the best of the Mustangs, scoring twice with the first units on the field. Following a long layoff, Kramer continued to find creases in the defense, connecting on 2-of-3 passes, plus a 15-yard run by Marquardt. On first and goal, Kramer waited patiently in the pocket before dumping a middle screen to Marquardt, who quickly turned up field and into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. CAC moved the ball on its first possession against Heber's defense but ran out of plays and the Panthers struck again on their next offensive snap as Kramer lofted a pass deep down the right sideline, where Chandler ran under the ball, beating tight coverage near the pylon for a 35-yard touchdown. The Mustangs would answer with a 23-yard touchdown pass that was completed despite double coverage. In the waning moments of the camp, Kramer hit Jones twice for a total of 22 yards. “Kramer has come a long way since last year and it really comes down to timing,” said Janski. “He is averaging getting the ball off out of the pocket between 1.8 and 2 seconds and that just takes so much stress off your offensive line. The offensive line can handle it, but when they know they can get physical at the point of attack it makes your play-action and screen game so much better. “Mike is doing a great job throwing but we've also got some great wide receivers catching the ball for him. He spread the ball around pretty well tonight,” added Janski. Early in scrimmage play, the Panthers had one scary moment when standout receiver/defensive back Cooper Lawrence went down with an injury. “I am hoping that he is going to be fine but we sent him on back. One thing about Cooper Lawrence is he has gone through some tough times and he always seems to come back. If we can get him back by the opener we will be good. Without a doubt, he is a key both offensively and defensively with what we are doing,” concluded Janski.