The latest installment in the Battle of the Little Red was an instant classic, featuring all the drama that the series for which the series is known. The back and forth affair was not decided until a 49 yard field goal attempt by Heber Springs kicker Julian Cameron fell short and left of the goal posts, giving Clinton a heart-stopping 36-34 victory in front of standing room only crowd. The win marks the Yellowjacket’s third consecutive win since the introduction of the Battle of the Little Red Trophy.
The Yellowjackets (1-0) won the coin toss and elected to receive to start the game. Junior quarterback Weston Amos found fellow junior receiver Austin Drake on a flea flicker for a 77 yard touchdown strike on the game’s first play from scrimmage. The extra point attempt by Matt Gonzalez was blocked, giving Clinton a 6-0 advantage early in the game.
Heber Springs opened its first possession with a touchdown to answer Clinton. Panther quarterback Adam Martin found Tri Johnson open on a flag route for a 35 yard touchdown reception. Julian Cameron gave Heber Springs their first lead with the extra point to make is 7-6.
Both teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm after finding early success. Clinton’s next two drives stalled due to penalties, while Heber Springs failed to convert fourth down on their next two drives.
Late in the first half, the Jackets drove down the field. Amos snaked his way on a busted play into the endzone from 12 yards out. The two point conversion failed, but the Jackets led 12-7. Heber answered immediately with a steady dose of tailback Blaize Nelson, who finished the drive with a 40 yard touchdown run to give the Panthers the lead at 14-12 with :57 left in the first half.
The Yellowjackets, needing a big play, got one in the form of a 44 yard reception by Austin Drake. Drake caught a perfectly thrown pass between two defenders and held on while taking a huge hit. Two plays later, Amos found senior tight end Keaton Gresham all alone in the corner of the end zone for a 19 yard touchdown strike. Once again, the two point conversion failed, and the Jackets had a 18-14 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
Clinton opened the second half with a big play on special teams. Senior Sky Davidson recovered an onside kick to deny Heber Springs their first possession of the third quarter. Seven plays later, Amos scored his second rushing touchdown with an 11 yard keeper to give Clinton a 24-14 lead.
Heber Springs, despite running the spread, elected to keep the ball on the ground almost the entire second half, feeding the rock to Nelson, who rumbled his way to 148 second half rushing yards. Facing first and goal from the 1 yard line, Clinton appeared to have caught a break with Adam Martin fumbled the snap into a pile of linemen. However, the referees ruled that Clinton recovered the football and somehow managed to fumble it back to Heber Springs, giving them a first down. On fourth down and goal, Heber finally punched it in to cut the lead to 24-21.
John Riley Hinchey’s fumble at the 40 yard line ended the next drive, and allowed Heber to march right back down the field, capping the drive off with Nelson’s third touchdown of the night to give the Panthers a 27-24 lead. Cameron’s extra point was blocked.
The final 6:31 of the game will be remembered for many years for the drama that unfolded on the field as both teams fought desperately for the win. The Yellowjackets, facing their first deficit of the second half, responded with a huge drive fueled by the running and passing of Weston Amos. Amos picked up a combined 23 yards on the first two plays of the drive, and then hit Austin Drake in stride for a 40 yard touchdown pass to give Clinton a 30-27 lead with 3:49 left in the game. Once again, the Yellowjackets were unable to convert the extra point attempt.
Heber Springs once again drove right down the field on the physical running of Nelson and Martin. With 1:27 left, Nelson dove into the end zone from 3 yards out, and Cameron’s extra point gave Heber Springs the lead at 34-30.
Amos rallied his teammates on the sideline, pointing to the scoreboard and showing them they had time for one more drive. Starting at the Yellowjacket 35 yard line, Amos threw a strike to Austin Drake for a 14 yard gain. After an incomplete pass, Austin Drake found Weston Amos on a 31 yard pass back to the quarterback on a perfectly called and executed trick play. Two plays later, Amos threw another perfect strike to Austin Drake, who spun out of a tackle and into the endzone with :20 left for the 36-34 lead.
With two timeouts, Heber was able to get close to field goal range, but Julian Cameron’s 49 yard field goal attempt fell short and left of the goal post as time expired to give the hometown Jackets the victory.
Amos completed 6 of 12 passes for 240 yards and 4 touchdowns, and added 85 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Austin Drake hauled in 5 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns while racking up 245 all-purpose yards. Sky Davidson led the defense with 10 tackles, while Jayden Exzabe recorded a sack in the contest.
For Heber Springs, Blaize Nelson ran wild with 264 yards and 4 touchdowns on 34 carries, and also caught 5 passes for 42 yards. Quarterback Adam Martin completed 8 of 17 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Landon Johnson recorded 10 tackles for the Panthers.
Clinton returns to action Friday (Sept 6) at home against 2A opponent Conway Christian. Game time is 7 pm and can be heard on KHPQ 92.1 with Jeff Hall and Mike Hawley making the call.
Game Notes: The 1988 Conference Champions were honored before the game and were honorary captains… Prior to the game, Freshman Devon Wooten walked the players out onto the field. Devon is currently battling brain cancer, and had returned home from Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Wooten’s family was presented a check for $10,000 at halftime to help with medical expenses… Captains for the game were Seniors Caleb Bowman, Keaton Gresham, Kelly Collins, and Sky Davidson… Senior starting linebacker Caleb Bowman did not play due to injury suffered in Pottsville game… Weston Amos set a career high with 4 touchdown passes in the game… Austin Drake set career highs in receptions (5), receiving yards (190), receiving touchdowns (3), and all purpose yards (254)... Clinton now leads the series with Heber Springs 39-38-5
Standings and Scores
Clinton 36, Heber Springs 34
Melbourne 40, Midland 14
Harding Academy 49, Highland 31
Salem 30, Mountain View 6
Hector 42, Marshall 0
Jessieville 44, Cedar Ridge 0
Yellville-Summit 14, Green Forest 7