Heber Springs senior Jacob Bremmon had already racked up three touchdowns on the night, but his fourth and final was the biggest one, coming with a little over two minutes remaining in the game to give the Panthers a walk-off 49-46 victory over the Gravette Lions 49-46 Friday night in the opening round of the Class 4A State Football Playoffs. Bremmon also came through with the game-winning interception to put the game away.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard first after Gravette’s Chris Childress came up short on a 32-yard field goal attempt, with sophomore quarterback Adam Martin connecting with a wide-open Jacob Bremmon on a 69-yard touchdown pass, going up 7-0. Heber Springs got the ball back after recovering a fumble from Gravette, leading to a 40-yard run from junior Blaze Nelson on third and four for another touchdown, extending the lead to 14-0.
Senior Austin O’Brien reached the end zone to start the second quarter to cut into the lead 14-7, but Bremmon scored his second touchdown after reeling off 85 yards on the kick return to push the lead back to two possessions at 21-7. With Gravette facing a second and twelve scenario near midfield, junior quarterback Tajae White threw a pass that ended up in senior Chris Hart’s possession, who caught the intercepted ball with one hand and took it 48 yards to the house for a 28-7 lead.
The Lions didn’t get their heads down, however, going on a 14-0 run after O’Brien punched in his second touchdown, despite failing on the two-point conversion. Five minutes later, White ran in for his first touchdown for a 28-19 deficit, with Bremmon going 75 yards on another kickoff return for a score. O’Brien finished the first half of scoring with his third touchdown, this one from 16 yards out to compliment the successful two-pointer to set the halftime score at 35-27 in favor of Heber Springs.
Receiving the ball to start the second half, O’Brien added 37 yards and yet another touchdown to his total, as a two-point attempt fell short that would’ve tied the game. After the Panthers turned the ball over on downs, Gravette marched down the field but would miss a field goal. The Lions would get another chance after recovering a fumble, setting the ball at the 45-yard line with 3:59 left in the third session of play. Facing first and twenty after a holding penalty, White threaded the needle to Brady Moorman blank for fourth and two, with O’Brien running for the first down and his fourth touchdown to start the final twelve minutes of play, giving the Lions their first lead at 39-35, failing on a two-point pass attempt.
Martin would be sacked twice and have a pass deflected to bring up three and out for Heber Springs, but would get the offense back out on the field after White was sacked for a loss of three yards, O’Brien ran for two yards and a White pass was batted down by Bremmon. Bremmon returned the punt to the 35-yard line, leading to Nelson giving the Panthers the lead back at 42-39 with 5:10 to go after scoring from two yards out. The Lions would not go away, as O’Brien ran for his sixth and final touchdown, ripping off 50 yards to swing the lead back in Gravette’s direction 46-42.
With 2:13 remaining, Bremmon provided the play of the game after hauling in the kick return and taking it straight to the end zone after whipping past tacklers for 80 yards. The touchdown made it 49-46, giving the host Lions one final opportunity to go for the win. With the ball on the 40-yard line, White aired out a pass that would end up in the hands of none other than Bremmon, sending the Heber team and crowd into a frenzy as the Panthers escaped with their biggest victory of the 2017 campaign.
“Huge victory,” said Heber Springs head coach Darren Gowen. “I just want to say how proud I am of these kids. We jumped out early and they came back and had a lot of momentum, but we just kept fighting. We got guys who are gritty and gutting it through like Brandon Loethan, who rolled his ankle and fought through it. Blaze Nelson had an incredible run there to score a touchdown and put us up, and we just kept fighting back. What more can be said about Jacob Bremmon, he’s been our best football player all season long and just a great kid, and to have a game like this tonight is just unbelievable. I’m just proud of everybody, especially at this point in the year. When you get to this point, it’s just about wins. You survive and advance and that’s what we did tonight.”
Martin went 6 for 12 on pass attempts for 131 yards and Nelson finished with two touchdowns. Bremmon caught two passes for 94 yards and one touchdown, returning three kickoffs for touchdowns, accumulating 230 yards alone on the carries.  Bremmon’s interception gave him 13 for the season, tying him for the national lead with Cyier Foy of Fayetteville, North Carolina and Shawn Dorseau of Perris, California. “I just wanted to go out there and play hard for my team,” said Bremmon. “I’m just very grateful that I was able to help us win.”
Up next for the Panthers, who improve to 8-3 on the season, is a trip to Blytheville to take on the Gosnell Pirates, who are winners of eight straight after losing their first three games, demolishing Malvern 61-24. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m.