The Heber Springs Panthers added another 4A-2 conference victory to their resume and drew one step closer to a possible three-way finish for the league title after defeating the Riverview Raiders 23-14 on senior night this past Friday at Panther Stadium.
Junior kicker Julian Cameron put the Panthers in the scoring column first after connecting on a 32-yard field goal attempt that went through the uprights for an early 3-0 lead, with the Raiders coming through with a score of their own just one minute later, an 11-yard touchdown run from Dondre Spears to give Riverview a 7-3 advantage. After forcing a fourth and long, Heber got a 7-yard run from junior Blaze Nelson before sophomore quarterback Adam Martin connected with senior receiver Jacob Bremmon on a 19-yard connection, setting up a 2-yard run for Nelson to the end zone on second and goal to swing the lead back in the Panthers’ direction at 10-7 with five minutes to go in the half.
Following an incomplete pass from junior quarterback Griffin Miller and an illegal block penalty on the Raiders to bring up second and twenty-seven, the Heber defense came up big after seniors Chris Hart and Brandon Loethan each collecting one tackle each to set up fourth and thirty-two. Following the Riverview punt, Bremmon threaded the needle to Rocky Finney for 15 yards, leading to Martin finding Hart on a 26-yard completion to get the ball to the 10-yard line. The Panthers were unsuccessful on finding the end zone, settling for another field goal from Cameron, this one from 29 yards for a 13-7 halftime lead as Bremmon was able to intercept a pass from Miller as time ran out from the corner position.
Martin completed another big pass to Bremmon for 69 yards to start the second half and put the offense in good position at the eight-yard line, getting to the two before turning the ball over after falling short of the end zone, as the Raiders retook the lead at 14-13 after Miller found the end zone on a quarterback keep with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. Bremmon set up another great scenario for his scenario after returning the ensuing kick to the 36, with Martin firing a pass to Hart for 15 yards to come up just short of the red zone.
Cameron came on to make his third and final field goal of the game to start the final twelve minutes of action after fourth down came up, good for a 16-14 advantage for the Panthers, who got another stop on the defensive end after an incomplete pass intended for Spears from Miller wrapped up a three and out for Riverview. One the first play of the next drive, Bremmon took a 75-yard pass from Martin to the house to give Heber a little breathing room, stretching the lead to 23-14 with 5:47 left in the game. Finney racked up two tackles for a loss of seven yards before a Spears pass was broken up.
A false start on the Panthers to force fourth and nineteen and give the football back to the Raiders with under a minute remaining, as it spelled too little, too late for the opponents from Searcy, who marched down to the ten-yard line but failed to score on three incomplete passes to the end zone. “I’m so happy this team came out and played as well as they did,” said Panther head coach Darren Gowen. “Bremmon, Rocky Finney and Brandon Loethan all had great nights, as Chris Hart came up with some big plays on senior night. Enough can’t be said about these seniors and I’m proud of how they came out as we also had a lot of young guys step in there and make plays as well. We had a little bit of a letdown in energy, which you can expect coming from a big win against Southside last week, but we did what we needed to do to care of business and now get to go play for a share of the conference championship next week.”
Martin completed 14 of 24 passes for 318 yards and a score and Nelson carried the ball 26 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. Cameron knocked in three field goals, once again helping make the difference on the scoreboard. Bremmon hauled in five receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown in his final regular season game at Panther Stadium. “I’m just excited we came out and got the job done tonight,” said Bremmon. “I’m glad we picked it up in the second half and played well together by picking up the effort. This football program has really helped develop me into a man. I’ve really grown up here, was taught good morals and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’m very thankful for the career I have had.”
The Panthers (6-3, 5-1) travel to Helena (6-3, 3-3) to battle the Cougars Friday night in the conference and regular season finale for both teams. With a win, Heber can clinch a three-way share of the 4A-2 title with Southside and Stuttgart if the Southerners and Ricebirds both collect wins as well. It’s a very similar scenario to last season,” exclaimed Gowen. “The difference is it’s a three-way tie and you don’t really know your seeding yet. We’ll see how it goes, but all we can do is control us, so we must go on the road and a face very big and very athletic Helena and see what happens. We’ve got great kids, great senior leadership and I really like our chances. I think we’ll go down there and have a great game.