Heber Springs boys soccer (10-3, 5-1) earned its seventh consecutive victory on Monday, 4-0 in a conference tilt with the Riverview Raiders (1-11-1).
All of the Panthers' goals came from the senior class on Monday – Hayden Dearmond scored twice, Luke Serrage added another, and senior midfielder Jesse Applewhite netted his first, becoming the ninth different Panther to score this season.
“I can't say enough about my senior class,” said Heber head coach Jay Bishop. “We're just clicking. You don't have to defend incredibly well when the other team doesn't have the ball, and I think that's been good for us.”
The Panthers' starting back line – led by senior center-backs Bryce Smith and Blake Eddington, flanked by sophomores Christian Flores and Blaze Nelson, and anchored by senior goalkeeper Joey Foster – has allowed just one goal in its last seven games, as the Panthers have outscored the opposition 22-1. Heber Springs has posted shutouts in all but one match during its run, a 3-1 decision over Southside.
The Panthers' midfield has more than done its part to help the defense, dominating possession for the majority of most games.
“I've got two senior center halves who have been doing it now for three years and two sophomores on the edge, two really good athletes who can get up and down,” said Bishop. “They do a really good job, when there are problems, of sorting it out, but for the most part there haven't been too many problems these last few games.”
“But they're kind of an extension of us offensively,” Bishop said. “They're good enough on the ball to take their time, play a good pass.”
After a few early chances in the first 20 minutes by sophomores Julian Cameron and Seth Dickeson, Dearmond nearly broke through in the 24th with a header that went wide off a Tyler Andrews' corner.
Cameron and Serrage had shots saved over the next ten minutes, before Dearmond found the back of the net just before the half in the 39th minute on a well-placed header after a corner-kick by senior Peyton Vowels.
Serrage had a two opportunities saved early out of the break, as rain began to fall on Panther Field.
In the 46th minute, Dearmond, who pulled the strings in the midfield all game, skipped a shot off the turf at high-velocity with his left foot for his second goal of the night.
“When it rains and the ball hits this turf, it accelerates at about 100 miles per hour,” said Bishop.
Minutes later, Serrage scored on a similar rocket, launched from just outside the penalty box.
In the 75th minute, Dearmond nearly finished a hat trick, creating space with a clever step-over move and ricocheting a shot off the keeper. A second chance by Vowels bounced off the crossbar and directly down onto the goal line, where the Raiders were able to finally clear it.
Just before the final whistle, Dickeson put Applewhite through, and the senior slotted his first goal, beating the keeper over the left side to cap a 4-0 victory.
“Jesse Applewhite got his first goal, so he can quit bothering me about playing up top now,” Bishop joked.. “He's a guy who's played really well for us for three years so I was proud of that.”
Heber Springs (5-1) is currently tied for 3rd place in its conference with Jacksonville Lightouse, behind St. Joseph (7-0), who beat the Panthers 3-2 earlier this season, and Crowley's Ridge Academy (3-0), where Heber travles next Thursday.
The Panthers played a conference game at Lonoke yesterday and host the Brookland Bearcats (5-6-1, 3-2) on Monday.
Riverview 1, Heber Springs 0
The Heber Springs Lady Panthers (5-7-1, 3-2), slowed by several injuries, have lost four of their last five games, struggling to generate goals against tough, defensive-minded teams.
“We've had our opportunities, we've just got to finish them,” said Heber girls coach Jody Maxwell. “The ball's not bouncing our way right now. We've just got to rebuild, rebound from this, and improve to work back to where we were.”
After losing to Riverview in a shootout last Saturday in the Southside tournament, a penalty kick again decided the game on Monday – this time in regulation.
Riverview sophomore Jordyn McCroskey, the star of the show for the Lady Raiders, put her team ahead 1-0 on a penalty kick in the 75th minute after a call in the box against Heber's Grace Cowherd.
“Again, from our angle, it didn't really look like a penalty,” said Maxwell. “It looked like two girls going after the ball, they both hit it.”
Heber's Hannah Richardson and Hannah Venable created plenty of chances but couldn't find the back of the net for the Lady Panthers. Freshman Libby Stutts, a new addition to the roster, showed plenty of promise in the first half on Monday.
“We played tough and I'm proud of my girls,” said Maxwell. “Sometimes they turn out that way. As long as we take care of our business, we're still in the playoffs.”
The top four teams from each conference advance to the playoffs. The Lady Panthers (3-2), currently in the four slot, are in control of their own destiny with conference games against Brookland (3-1), Mountain View (0-2), and Jacksonville Lighthouse (0-5) left on the schedule.
The Heber Springs soccer teams played a conference game at Lonoke yesterday. For the results of yesterday's game, check @HiggsST on Twitter or next Wednesday's edition of The Sun Times. The Lady Panthers host the Brookland Bearcats on Monday.