Players didn't take the spring off at Panther Stadium.

Ten athletes competed for the soccer team and rejoined their teammates for spring football practice, which was scheduled to end Wednesday.

Head coach Darrin Gowen hopes the momentum will carry over to pre-season practice and the 2019 season.

"We have a good nucleus of players coming back," Gowen said. "We focused on filling holes with young players. We don't put in the entire offense during spring practice, but the players have been in this offense since the seventh grade and know most of it. We tried to see where all of the will fit."

Gowen said the defensive scheme will change and players began learning it during spring practice.

"We introduced a different defense to the players," he said. "Our goal to look at the incoming freshmen and what positions they could help us next season."

Adam Martin will return at quarterback and described by Gowen as the leader of the offense. Harley Hannah started at center for the past two seasons. Landon Johnson will return at fullback.

"Adam started the last two games of his freshman season and the last two years," Gowen said. "He is our leader of the offense and works hard in the weightroom. Landon will be starting for the third year at linebacker and fullback. Harley Hannah started  at center, but he may move to another position on the offensive line. Even with the possible position change, he has playing experience."

Other than Johnson, the Panthers have experience n defense with outside linebacker Fate Berry and defensive back Tri Johnson, plus Matthew Cook, Hunter Griffin and Cameron Blalock.

"Fate gained experience last year and Tri started in the secondary for the past two years," Gowen said. ". Matthew Cook, Hunter Griffin and Cameron Blalock played last year as juniors."

Heber Springs will play a challenging non-conference schedule. The Panthers will host Clinton in the season opener Sept. 6, then play at Greenbrier and finish gainst Harding Academy at Panther Stadium.

"They are good programs and go deep in the playoffs every year," Gowen said. "All three teams are well coached and have a large fan base. It will help us prepare for conference play."

Heber Springs finished second behind Stuttgart in conference play last season, losing by three points to the Ricebirds. Central Arkansas Christian, Lonoke and Southside Batesville were playoff teams last season.

The Panthers start conference play against Lonoke at home. Other home games include CAC, Southside and Riverview. The conference road games will be Stuttgart, Bald Knob and Little Rock Mills.

"Stuttgart has the tradition and been very good for the last two years," Gowen said. "When you go to Stuttgart, you will see state and district championship banners everywhere. Stuttgart graduated a lot of players, but they still will be talented. CAC played a lot of sophomores last year. Lonoke returns a lot of players. Southside is a good program and will return most of its line."

Gowen expects the other three teams will challenge, with all three teams playing under new head coaches.

"It will be interesting to see what they do," he said. "I expect all three teams will be improved from last season."