One win and the Heber Springs Panthers will advance for the sixth straight year for the Class 4A football playoffs.

Heber Springs (3-3 in 2-4A Conference, 3-6) will play at Mills University Studies (3-3 in conference, 4-5) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Panthers are tied with Mills, Lonoke and Central Arkansas Christian for third place going into the regular season finale. The top five teams will advance to the playoffs.

“We will be going on the road and must play with the same mentality like the Riverview game,” Heber Springs head coach Will Cox said. “We are looking at it as the second week of playoffs. Mills beat Lonoke and CAC. It will be a tough game.”

Mills will look to bounce back from last week’s 50-23 loss to Southside Batesville.

“Mills has a lot of speed,” Cox said. “It will run from a lot of formations and usually stay with the formation that is success. They will make you stop it before changing to a different formation.”

Heber Springs had one of its best defensive performances in the second half against Riverview. Cox hopes that will continue.

“I was proud of the way we competed against Riverview in the second half,” he said. “On defense, you must have a short memory. The turnovers were important and shifted the momentum.”

The passing game returned against in the last week’s game. Adam Martin completed 11-of-15 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Martin also ran for three touchdowns.

“We sputtered a few times during the first half,” Martin said. “We came out rolling in the second half. Julio (Rubio), Landon (Johnson), Hunter Kent and others made plays. The offensive line played a heck of a game. The offense was clicking during the second half.”

Kent had one of his best games by catching seven passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

“The corner was playing soft and giving me room,” he said. “I was glad we had more success with the passing game and hope we cqn keep doing it.”

Rubio broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season by rushing for 116 yards.

“The running game was clicking in the second half,” he said. “The defense got the stops, and we were able to cash them in with touchdowns. We showed how we can play against another good team.”

Cox said the offense played one of its best games and he liked the balance between the run and pass.

“Julio had another big game and Adam is our stud football player,” he said. “Our linemen owned the line of scrimmage. It was a great team effort. Hunter made good catches in critical moments and kept the chains moving.”

Martin said the momentum from the Riverview game will carry over to Friday’s game.

“It was great to get a win on our home field for the fans and community on senior night,” he said. “It was a happy-sad moment because of our last home game. I made a lot of good memories on that field and inside the fieldhouse. I will remember them for a long time.”

Cox concluded and said the Panthers need another good performance to continue the season.

“Each game will get bigger,” he said. “We must create big plays on offense and win the turnover battle. We will get Mills’ best shot.”

CONFERENCE STANDINGS

Conference Season

W-L PF PA W-L-T PF PA

x-Riverview 5-1 219 154 7-2-0 323 252

x-Southside Batesville 5-1 217 139 7-2-0 324 219

Heber Springs 3-3 149 173 3-6-0 246 286

Mills University 3-3 129 159 4-5-0 188 236

Central Ark. Christian 3-3 159 121 5-4-0 268 214

Lonoke 3-3 156 166 4-5-0 262 289

Bald Knob 2-4 105 182 2-7-0 133 288

Stuttgart 0-6 155 195 0-9-0 232 313

x- Clinched playoff berth

Last week’s Games

Heber Springs 49, Riverview 35

Lonoke 35, Stuttgart 28

Southside Batesville 50, Mills University Studies 23

Central Arkansas Christian 34, Bald Knob 6

Thursday’s Game

Lonoke at Riverview, 7 p.m.

Friday’s Games

Heber Springs at Mills University Studies, 7 p.m.

Central Arkansas Christian at Stuttgart, 7 p.m.

Southside Batesville at Bald Knob, 7 p.m.

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