When a team holds Heber Springs' standout junior running back Chandler Marquardt to only nine rushing yards, the Panthers are in trouble. That was the case Friday night as the Greyhounds shut down Marquardt and the Panthers, who managed 200 total yards in a 35-0 loss to Newport.
Marquardt had gone over 100 yards in all six games prior to Friday, when Newport stacked the box and forced the Panthers to pass. Under heavy pressure all night, senior quarterback Michael Kramer passed for 142 yards. Chandler Jones turned two receptions into 72 yards to lead the Panthers' receivers.
It was the first time a Heber Springs team coached by Steve Janski has been shut out since 2005, when Clinton blanked the Panthers in his first season. “Very impressed with Newport,” said Janski. “Coach [Don] Harrison has done a great job in his first year. They just out athleted us all over the field. There wasn't much we could do offensively. We did everything we could to slow the down in the first half defensively, if you can even call it slowing them down.”
Down 19-0 late in the first half, the game went from disparaging to worse after Heber reached the Newport 1-yard line only to see a high snap cost them a chance at scoring. On third and 5, the Panthers moved into Greyhound territory when Kramer rolled left off a play-action fake and hit utility back Chandler Jones, who turned up the sideline for 34 yards.
Kramer then lofted a deep pass down the right sideline, where sophomore wideout Hunter Chandler caught the ball over his shoulder with a defender providing tight on the sophomore's heels.
However, on first and goal inside the 1, a high snap cost the Panthers 23 yards and they never recovered. Newport took full advantage of the momentum swing with the aid of a questionable call.
With 1:02 remaining in the first half, Newport quarterback Gunner Bullard fired a pass over the middle to Garrett Smith, who appeared to lose control of the ball before he secured the catch.
But, after Janski called timeout to plead his case, the play stood as a 35-yard reception with just under 22 seconds left and the Greyhounds scored on their next snap when Bullard lobbed a pass toward the front, right pylon, where running back Carl Turner made a leaping catch over Heber safety Dillion Moore to complete a spectacular 30-yard touchdown. Turner powered over left tackle on the two-point conversion, giving Newport a 27-0 lead at halftime.
The turn of events at the end of the half seemed to take all the wind out of the Panthers, who only trailed 7-0 after the first quarter. “We got a bad call down there on what I thought was an incomplete pass,” said Janski. “The fourth touchdown right before half really kind of got us right in the back and when you get stabbed in the back it's hard to reach in there and pull that out. We didn't come out in the second half and respond the way I wanted them to but I don't think it's because of lack of effort. I just think Newport was a better football team in all phases of the game tonight than we were.”
Page 2 of 3 - The Greyhounds, who improved to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play, received the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards in nine plays before finding pay dirt on a 17-yard runby versatile running back Kristen Crite, who broke a tackle at the 10 on his way to the end zone. Turner added the PAT, giving Newport a 7-0 lead with 9:14 left in the first quarter.
Heber moved into Greyhound territory on its first possession following a late hit penalty on the kickoff as Jones ran for 5 five yards and Marquardt added eight more, but Newport tightened up at that point and didn't allow much on the ground the rest of the game.
On fourth and 8 from the Newport 35, Newport defensive end Asante Shell sacked Kramer for a 10-yard loss, ending the once promising drive.
The Panthers held Newport to one first down on the ensuing possession and once again reached Greyhound territory when Kramer connected with Jones, who raced down the right sideline for 38 yards to the 22-yard line.
But, Newport recorded another sack on first down, this time for a 9-yard loss and the Panthers stalled out.
With 11:50 left in the first half, Newport embarked on an 11-play, 71-yard scoring drive. Backed up on third and 33, Bullard dumped a screen pass to Turner, who turned up field for 24 yards.
On fourth and nine, Bullard froze the Panther defense with a play-action fake and hooked up with Charles Bell, who made the catch at the 5 and cruised into the end zone to complete a 22-yard touchdown. Turner's PAT fell short, leaving Newport's lead at 13-0 with 6:57 left in the second quarter.
Newport pushed Heber back on its next possession as Robert Robinson dropped Kramer in the backfield for an 8-yard loss, which set up prime field position for the Greyhounds, who quickly pushed their lead to 19-0 when Crite, a senior, took the handoff on a draw and cutback over left side for a 19-yard touchdown run.
It marked Crite's 50th career touchdown. Heber held on the conversion, leaving the Greyhounds' lead at 19-0 with 4:36 left until halftime.
On the verge of staying in the game late in the first half, the tables quickly turned on the high snap, questionable call and Turner's leaping touchdown grab as Newport took a commanding 27-0 lead to intermission.
Newport forced a three and out on Heber's opening possession of the second half and the Greyhounds put the mercy-rule into effect on their first drive, covering 61 yards in nine snaps. On a critical fourth and 2, Shell found the edge on a jet sweep and raced 24 yards down the sideline to the Heber 2, where backup running back Denver Smith capped the drive with a touchdown run over left guard.
Off a play-action fake, Bullard rolled right and hit Steven Cordell, who hung on to the ball despite a big hit from cornerback Cooper Lawrence as Newport added two more points, extending its lead to 35-0 with 6:56 remaining in the third quarter.
Page 3 of 3 - With the clock running continuously, Heber kept battling and moved deep into Greyhound territory when Kramer kept for 18 yards, spinning down to the 25-yard line. But, a third down holding penalty negated a first down run by Marquardt and the Panthers never recovered.
Both teams played primarily reserves throughout the final 14 minutes as Newport cruised to a 35-0 victory.
Marquardt paced Heber's defense with four tackles, while defensive linemen Zach McCormick and James Kethcum each collected three stops.
Heber (1-6, 1-3) hosts Southside Batesville (2-5, 1-3) for homecoming on Friday. The Southerners defeated Marianna-Lee 27-24 last week.