Heber Springs came out flat, falling behind Gentry 21-0 in the first half. The Panthers regrouped in the locker room and pulled within two. However, Heber had a touchdown called back and a high snap led to Gentry's final score as the Pioneers held on to beat the Panthers, 27-19.
“The biggest adjustment we made at halftime was getting the kids to understand we needed to play with intensity,” said Heber Coach Steve Janski. “The effort was there but the intensity wasn't there and this is a game that is emotional. It's not like a tennis match where you go out there and whisper and clap quietly, this is a game where you've got to have some intensity on every play.
“We didn't have that in the first half and Gentry took advantage of that and we came in there and I challenged them to play with emotion and intensity and it was a whole different half,” added Janski.
Gentry (2-1) opened the scoring in the first quarter on 37-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jarod
Cousins, who scored again from five yards out in the second quarter. Cousins added a 10-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ellis and Zhaj Yang hit all three extra-point attempts as the Pioneers built a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Panthers came out of halftime with the intention of coming back with their passing game and found success, starting when senior quarterback Michael Kramer hooked up with sophomore receiver Hunter Chandler for a 27-yard touchdown and Dillion Moore added the PAT.
Kramer then found tight end Conner Lindsey on a skinny post for a 22-yard touchdown, but the conversion failed, leaving Heber's deficit at 21-13.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers pulled within two when Kramer connected with Moore for a 22-yard touchdown. The potential game-tying conversion attempt failed, leaving Gentry clinging to a 21-19 lead.
Heber's go-ahead touchdown was called back and a little over midway through the fourth quarter then Gentry's Kevin Easter recovered a high snap and scored from 10 yards out, pushing the Pioneers' lead to 27-19. Yang's extra-point attempt failed, leaving Heber with a chance to tie the game.
“We had the go-ahead touchdown called back on a block for a hold which is disappointing but defensively shut them out in the second half. They scored an errant snap on the punt team,” said Janski. “Zach McCormick was hurt and Andrew Armstrong went in there and it wasn't Andrew's fault, he hasn't gotten enough reps at that and he snapped one over [Kramer's] head and it resulted in a touchdown.”
The Panthers had another penalty negate a big catch and run by Jesse Lawrence and they never recovered, turning the ball over on downs.
“We scored all of our points in the second half. Mike was throwing with confidence and our receivers were catching. We still aren't consistent with our catching. We had maybe eight drops that hurt,” added Janski.
Page 2 of 2 - Heber played very respectable in the first half at Pottsville and performed extremely well in the first half against Harding. The Panthers came alive in the second half at Gentry, but dug too big of a hole. “We are close. We are playing halves of games instead of full games,” said Janski. “I think that comes with youth and inexperience. We've got to find a way to not get caught up in an 0-3 record and get better. The fact of the matter is conference starts this week and that's what we need to be focused on.”
Kramer completed 16 of 46 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Chandler led the Panthers in receiving with four receptions for 55 yards and one score, while Lindsey and Moore each caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kramer.
Senior Ian Lowe added three receptions for 46 yards, junior Chandler Jones had two catches for 34 yards and Lawrence contributed a 17-yard grab for Heber, which finished with 425 yards of total offense.
Junior running back Chandler Marquardt went over 100 yards rushing for the third time in as many games. Marquardt finished with 31 carries for 139 yards, while making three receptions for 29 yards.
The Panthers (0-3) open 2-4A Conference play against Lonoke (3-0) on Friday at Panther Stadium. After falling to Star City 16-14 in their opener, the Jackrabbits (2-1) beat 5A Little Rock McClellan 35-8 last week and thumped 5A Beebe 41-14 in Week 2.