Heber Springs: 2-4A title in reach for Panthers

A strong start and a strong finish defined the Panthers’ 2010 season, and Heber Springs is aiming for more consistency this fall.

“We started off this last season strong, and we finished strong, but we had a little lull in the middle,” coach Steve Janski said. “It was a lot of ups and downs. We had a few key injuries that really hurt us and helped to create that lull, but we are really proud of how they stepped up and finished well.”

The Panthers started 2-4A play with a 1-2 record but averaged 46 points over their last four games to finish in a tie for second in the conference and 7-3 overall.

Heber Springs ended the season with a 43-6 loss at Pulaski Robinson in the first round of the playoffs.

All-state running back Markeyvus Mays (5-9, 190) returns after a record-setting 2010. The senior racked up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in 10 games, beating the previous record holder who did it in 13 games.

“We have our whole backfield returning,” Janski said. “Mays is probably the one we give the ball to the most, so he is pretty indispensable. Michael Ludwig (5-9, 175), our returning senior quarterback, really helps control the dynamic of the game. As he goes, the team goes. He is our team leader on and off the field. [Junior tailbacks] Ethan Bly (5-10, 190) and Clint Ligon (6-0, 165) will be bringing speed our team hasn’t had in a while.”

The Panthers will look to seniors Dustin Ervin (6-0, 195) and Jesse Lawrence (5-8, 170) to lead the defense.

“Ervin always does a great job at linebacker,” Janski said.

“He should really perform well this year. In the secondary, Lawrence, a three-year starter, will also be one that we anticipate doing a lot for the team. We have quite a few players returning, so we have a good feeling about the season. We do have a tough conference, though, and it is characterized by a lot of athleticism. We will have to work hard because teams like Lonoke, Clinton and Newport will all be good this season. This year, we really want to win. It’s what we are shooting for as a team.”