Heber Springs advanced to the championship round of the Southside Batesville 7-on-7 Tournament on Friday with wins over Searcy and Riverview.

Heber Springs advanced to the championship round of the Southside Batesville 7-on-7 Tournament on Friday with wins over Searcy and Riverview.

The Panthers, who dropped a tight decision to Cedar Ridge for their lone loss in pool play, fell to Bald Knob in the semifinals before bouncing back with another victory over Riverview to earn third place.

“With 7-on-7 the thing I hope to get out of it is being sharp on assignments and take teaching from the practice field and go out and execute and compete,” said Heber Coach David Farr. “I felt like we did that for the most part. Assignment wise we had some struggles offensively and defensively and those are things we have got to get cleaned up. As a whole I felt like there was good execution at times. The effort was there, the competition was absolutely there. This was our first 7-on-7 outing and we were playing against teams that have been doing it awhile so I was very proud of the way our guys stepped up and competed.”

Quarterback Hunter Chandler completed 39 of 70 passes for 578 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. “I was really proud of the way he threw it at first then I think with Cedar Ridge they did a couple things that were different and he made some bad reads,” said Farr. “But that just goes back to experience and repetitions. With Hunter we just want him to take what the defense is giving us. He has a great arm and does a good job of throwing the football. We are looking for him to be a manager of the game.”

Senior running back Chandler Marquardt, who led the Panthers in rushing and receiving last season, made 10 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wideout Dillion Moore helped the Panthers keep the chains moving, hauling in nine catches for 132 yards and one touchdown.

“Dillion has done a great job,” said Farr. “He is an expert in our system. He knows where he needs to be and how to get his body in the right position. He did a great job,” added Farr. Sophomore receiver Pierce Mitchum added three scoring grabs, while senior tight end Conner Lindsey had two touchdowns. Junior slot back Eddie Torres also had a touchdown catch.

Sterling Castleberry led the Panther defense with two interceptions. “Sterling has really grown and started to progress,” said Farr. “He knows our coverage and his responsibility. The thing I like about him is he is not afraid to step up and make a play. He had a couple of big interceptions for us.”

Heber 17, Searcy 8

The Panthers opened pool play with a 7-play scoring strike that culminated with a third and goal touchdown pass Chandler to Mitchum, who broke free on an out route. Searcy would tie the score with 7:00 remaining, but the Panthers came right back with a 5-play scoring drive.

Facing a third and 2, Chandler threw a rope to Lindsey, who broke open down the right sideline and made the catch between two defenders for a 12-yard touchdown. Heber forced a three and out on the Lions’ ensuing possession and picked up a pair of first downs to run out the clock, including a 19-yard reception by Moore, who broke free over the middle on a skinny post.

Cedar Ridge 19, Heber 18

Needing a defensive stop for one point and a tie, Cedar Ridge converted a third and short to hold off the Panthers, who fell behind 18-9 as the Timberwolves used two interceptions and two scoring drives to build their lead. The Panthers once again started strong as Chandler rolled left and found Marquardt, who beat his defender down the left hash, made the catch and turned up field for a 7-0 lead.

With time winding down, the Panthers began their comeback when Chandler connected with Moore over left side for 20 yards. Chandler then hooked up with Mitchum on a slant, threading a needle in heavy traffic for a 12-yard touchdown. Down by three, the Panthers pulled within one point on Chandler’s two-point conversion pass to Chandler Jones, but Cedar Ridge’s first down conversion left the Panthers needing a win over Riverview to advance to the championship bracket.

Heber 18, Riverview 8

The Panthers won their pool by beating the Raiders, who were 2-0 entering the contest with victories over Searcy and Cedar Ridge Riverview nearly scored on its opening drive but came up short when cornerback Sterling Castleberry jumped a pass in the end zone, giving the Panthers two points and the ball.

Moore hauled in three receptions for a total of 37 yards to get Heber moving on its opening drive. On first and goal, Chandler lobbed a pass to the back right corner of the end zone, where Lindsey pulled down a touchdown catch with 13:45 left to play. Heber quickly forced a three and out for another point and got back to work on offense.

On third and 15, Chandler rolled left and chunked a deep pass that Marquardt ran under at the 10, where he galloped down the sideline to complete a 40-yard touchdown. Riverview responded with eight straight points and had a chance to score late but the Panthers held tight on three consecutive plays from the 8-yard line.

Bald Knob 32, Heber 17

The Bulldogs scored on four of six offensive possessions to defeat Heber in the semifinal round. Down 9-0 with Bald Knob driving deep inside the 5, Castleberry’s second interception of the day sparked the Panthers, who turned right around and tied the game on a 30-yard scoring strike from Chandler to Moore.

Bald Knob answered with a 40-yard touchdown pass on its next play, but the Panthers matched that, moving down to the 5-yard line on a 35-yard catch by Marquardt, who broke free off a wheel route. On third and goal, Chandler found Torres over the middle to complete the scoring drive.

Tied at 16-all, the Bulldogs pulled away in the final seven minutes with a pair of touchdowns and two defensive stops, which counted as one point in the tournament format.

Heber 19, Riverview 4

In the third place game, Heber faced Riverview again and used stingy defense to keep the Raiders at bay. Meanwhile, the Panthers jumped out to a quick lead on their second snap as Chandler found Marquardt wide open on a post route for a 40-yard touchdown.

Leading 10-3, Heber struck again when Chandler rolled left and heaved a deep pass to Mitchum, who hauled in the 33-yard touchdown reception. With under eight minutes remaining, defensive back Justin Feemster added an interception as the Panthers rolled to victory.