The Panthers had a 40-14 victory on homecoming last Friday
Heber Springs junior quarterback Brandon Loethen and the Panthers' receiving corps picked apart the Baptist Prep defense en route to a 40-14 victory on homecoming last Friday.
Loethen finished the contest 12 of 19 for 377 yards and six touchdowns.
“Brandon did a really good job of distributing the ball and making some good throws,” said Heber Springs head coach Darren Gowen. “And I'll tell you we've got some guys that when they catch the ball, they're pretty talented with it.”
Four Panther receivers combined for 377 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Pierce Mitchum led the charge with three receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their coaching staff after the game were saying 'Man, that number two [Mitchum],'” said Gowen. “He's very talented, but we've also got Jacob Bremmon turning into a guy who's hard to tackle once he catches it. Landon Wilson didn't have a great night but when he's got the ball he's tough, and then of course Andrew Engel is just a little water bug.”
Bremmon finished with three receptions for 91 yards receiving and one touchdown. Engel hauled in four passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, and Wilson added two receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown.
It was the junior Bremmon who set the pace early for the Panthers, using an excellent cut to leave an Eagle defender in his wake and turn a short reception into a 32-yard gain on the game's opening play from scrimmage. After a pair of incompletions set up a third-and-10, Loethen and Engel connected on a 57-yard touchdown reception to cap the drive. Engel lined up at slot receiver on the play and caught the ball on an out at midfield, beating the Baptist Prep defenders to the edge and narrowly maintaining his balance down the sideline after a shoestring tackle attempt by the Eagles. Sophomore kicker Julian Cameron added an extra point, and the Panthers jumped to a 7-0 early lead.
Baptist Prep's plan to rely on its power running game was evident early as the Eagles opened with back-to-back gives to the fullback up the middle on first and second down. Senior Jacob Long failed to convert on a third and 7 rushing attempt, and the Eagles punted to the Panther 43-yard line.
After a Logan Huitt 5-yard run set up second and 5, Loethen dropped back to pass and scrambled left as the pocket collapsed. Senior wide receiver Pierce Mitchum made a heads-up play to break from his designed route and streak downfield, busting open as the Eagle cornerback stepped up to defend the potential QB run. Loethen made a tough throw across his body and hit Mitchum open at the 30. The senior receiver shrugged off one tackler and hustled down the sideline for the 57-yard Panther touchdown. Cameron's extra point was no good, but Heber extended its lead to 13-0, still early in the first quarter.
Eight plus minutes and 69 yards later, the Baptist Prep Eagles found the end zone for the first time, leaning heavily on workhorse senior running back Luke Vaden on the drive. Vaden scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and finished the game with 52 carries for 174 yards rushing and two touchdowns. A successful extra point moved the Eagles to within six, 13-7, with twelve minutes remaining in the first half.
“I give it up to Baptist Prep,” said Gowen. “They don't have a lot of guys, but they run right at you and they're physical.”
Baptist Prep ended the game with 251 yards rushing and zero yards passing.
A 5-yard loss on a reverse threatened to end Heber's next drive early, but the Panthers converted on third and 15 with a 24-yard screen pass to Engel. Three plays later, on third and 10, Loethen pump faked and passed to Bremmon, who made an impressive grab over the back of the defender for a 28-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Cameron missed his second extra point of the night and the Panthers maintained a 19-7 lead with 9:50 remaining in the opening half.
A failed Panther onside kick moved Baptist Prep into good field position, and the Eagles continued to rely on Vaden to move the offense three or four yards at a time on the ground. On a third and goal, after a series of short rushes, Vaden brought a long Eagles' drive to a fitting end with another 1-yard touchdown run. The extra point moved the Eagles to within five, 19-14, with 2:16 left in the half.
With Baptist Prep set to receive the second-half kickoff, the Panthers needed a quick score to maintain momentum heading into the locker room. Engel opened the Heber drive with a beautiful, leaping catch over the middle for 23 yards. After a holding call backed the Panthers up to first-and-20, Loethen hit Mitchum on a short out to the left, and the senior receiver split three defenders, reversing field, dodging a few more tackles, and picking up blocks on his way to a highlight reel-worthy 39-yard touchdown reception. After a failed two-point conversion, the Panthers were up 25-14 with 1:30 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles ran out of clock at the end of the half and opened the third quarter with possession at their own 34-yard line. After three straight runs, senior Heber linebacker Nate Dew stopped the Eagles one yard short on a fullback dive on fourth and 3.
Heber took over already in Eagles' territory, and a 31-yard pass to Bremmon moved the Panthers to the Baptist Prep 12. On the next play, Loethen connected with senior reciever and backup QB Landon Wilson on a 12-yard streak up the middle for a Panthers touchdown. Heber converted on a two-point conversion pass to Engel to move up 33-14 with 9:18 left in the third quarter.
Vaden continued to carry the bulk of the load for Baptist Prep, but the Eagles opted to give it to Jace Jacobs on an option pitch left on fourth-and-5 and the play was stopped short again by Dew for a turnover on downs.
Engel opened the next Heber drive with a 21-yard reception to the Baptist Prep 31. The Panthers came out for their next play in a trips formation with Engel, Mitchum, and Wilson lined up left. Engel stayed home on a short screen route and Wilson streaked downfield, drawing defenders away from a quick pass over the middle to Mitchum, who trucked a defender at the 10-yard line on his way to a 31-yard score. The touchdown was the third of the day for Mitchum and Loethen's sixth, and the Panthers increased the lead to 40-14 after a Cameron extra point with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
Another long Baptist Prep rushing drive ended on a fourth down stop near the goal line, and the Panthers took over backed up against their own end zone at the 2-yard line. A 41-yard reception by Wilson gave the offense room to work, but the Panthers fumbled on a short run and the ball was recovered by the Eagles.
A failed fake punt brought an end to the Eagles' final drive, and the Panthers were content to run out the clock with a final score of 40-14.
Heber Springs finished the game with 390 yards passing and negative three yards rushing.
“They really take away the run game,” said Gowen. “They put a bunch of people in the box, so we knew we were going to work on our passing game a bit simply because of what they do. I was pleased with a little bit of the offense, but we still need to be able to run the ball.”
The Panthers (4-3, 4-0) go on the road this week against the Southside Southerners (4-3, 2-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday night in Batesville.