Saturday, September 06, 2008

SPORTS>>Raiders’ first game one to remember

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter
SEARCY — It’s nice to make history, especially when you can win in the process.

The Riverview Raiders opened their varsity football program with a dramatic 35-32 win over Marked Tree on Friday at Raider Stadium. The Indians rallied in the fourth quarter for two touchdowns to match Riverview score-for-score, but missed all three of their extra-point attempts in the second half.

“They were out here 2,000-plus strong for us tonight,” Hill said. “We just had such a big big crowd. We had all the festivities before the game, and the community has really gotten involved, and did some special things for the kids.

“We couldn’t be any happier. Tonight would have been special regardless of the outcome; winning just makes it that much more special.”

RHS quarterback Grafton Harrell was all over the place for the Raiders on Friday. The junior rushed for 117 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns, and converted two more scores on passes to Zach Feagin and Ben Overstreet for part of his 87 yards passing on the night.

“We’re expecting Grafton to step up this entire season,” said Riverview coach Stuart Hill. “He ran with the ball a little more than we would want him to on a normal night tonight, but he did a great job out there.”

The first half ended in a 14-14 dead heat, but the Raiders found their way to the end zone three times in the third quarter.

Harrell broke the tie early in the third with a 55-yard scamper to put Riverview up 21-14. Marked Tree tied it again shortly thereafter, but Harrell hit Overstreet on a 32-yard pass play to reclaim the lead, and Harrell took it in from three yards out on the next possession for the winning score.

“The offense did a great job tonight,” Hill said. “Defensively, we had a tough time tackling their backs. They had the ball three-fourths of the game; we couldn’t get our defense off the field, but we felt like they couldn’t stop our offense.”

Harrell put the Raiders on the scoreboard first with a 6-yard toss to Feagan, and finished the night 6 of 10.

SPORTS>>Cabot South breaks through to beat North

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Well, the South boys finally got one over on their brethren from the North after two long years of futility. And just in time for the two clubs to join as one next season at the varsity level.

Cabot South used a pair of first-half drives to hold on for a 14-8 victory over Cabot North on a drizzly night at Panther Stadium on Thursday. It was the first victory this specific bunch has enjoyed over the North, having lost as seventh graders, and twice last year as eighth graders.

“We only won two games last year,” said South head coach Lee Melder. “And we’d never beat that group before, so this was just an awesome win for these guys and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

It was pretty obvious early on that whoever controlled the clock held the advantage with both teams grinding it out as expected with straight-ahead running.

“We always take the football first when we can,” said Melder, whose team took the opening kickoff and marched 61 yards on just five plays. “Possessions are very important, especially in games (against North) because you can have 20-play drives.”

South needed only five plays to jump to an 8-0 lead when Mason Haley went off right tackle, found a seam and burst downfield 48 yards untouched, then added a two-point conversion run.

Haley finished with 88 yards on the night on 14 carries, tying him with North’s C.J. Hughes (13-88) for game-high honors. North actually outgained South 184-158 in total yards, but other than a touchdown on its first possession, could never sustain another drive.

North held the ball for more than seven minutes on its opening drive, finally hitting paydirt on Hughes’ one-yard plunge at the 6:22 mark of the second period. One play earlier, Hughes had improbably kept the drive alive by taking a fourth-and-12 pitch and sweeping right down to the 1 for the first down.

Hughes then carried a couple of tacklers into the end zone for the two-point conversion to knot the game at 8.

South answered with a 12-play, 66-yard drive. The big play came on a third and three when Austin Alley broke free at the line of scrimmage to surge for a first down at the North 20. On fourth and one from the 11, Haley took a pitch and tossed a touchdown pass to Daniel Fox with 36 seconds left in the half. The extra point was blocked, but the scoring was over for the night.

The first defensive stop of the night came on North’s first possession of the second half when on consecutive plays James Krenz came up big for South, stuffing Hughes for a loss on third and six and sniffing out a fake punt by Kyle Sturgeon on fourth and seven.

South took over at the North 42, but the drive stalled when Spencer Roberg picked off a pass. But North returned the favor when Haley scooped up Sturgeon’s fumble at the South 35 early in the final period.

South ran off three precious minutes, then got a nice 35-yard punt by Austin Samples that left North six points down and 84 yards away with just over three minutes. When Matthew McCollough and Michael Baker broke up a fourth-down pass, South took over and took most of the remaining time off the clock.

“I wanted to see if our line would be as physical as they should be,” Melder said. “And I thought they did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Especially the defensive line in the second half.”

In addition to Haley’s 88 yards on the ground, Josh Graham added 21 and Bryson Morris 20 for South.

North got 88 from Hughes and 69 more from Sturgeon.

For Melder, the victory represented a shift in attitude for his club.

“Last year, things would have gone bad, like things that happened tonight and they might have folded,” he said. “Tonight, they just kept plugging away. They have much more mental toughness. It’s a different team and a different year. You’re watching a team grow.”

SPORTS>>Badgers grind out workmanlike win

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

GREENBRIER — The Beebe Badgers ran the ball 62 times on Friday night and only six of them went for more than 10 yards.
And that was just fine with head coach John Shannon.

The shorter the gains, the longer you get to hold on to the football. Which is exactly what the Badgers did in beating a game Greenbrier team, 28-14, in the season opener for both teams.

Beebe held the ball for nearly 34 of the game’s 48 minutes, including embarking on a 20-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that ate up nearly 10 minutes.

“That’s what we want to do is pound, pound, pound on people,” Shannon said. “They had so many people in the box. We could have spread them out a little more, but anytime you can get four or five yards a carry and they got 10 men in the box, that starts to wear on people.”

Senior fullback Sammy Williams was the very epito me of the workhorse on Friday, totingzthe ball 28 times. With Greenbrier loading up to try to stop Beebe’s Dead T offense, the holes were few, but Williams carried tacklers for 123 yards, as the Badgers piled up 309 on the ground.

Beebe quarterback Roger Glaude threw only twice, completing them both — the second one for a 55-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Purcell, who found himself wide open after a play fake with two minutes left in the third quarter. That score made it 28-7 and took most of the rest of what little doubt remained.

“Beebe does a good job of running that dang football,” said Greenbrier head coach Randy Tribble, in his first year at the Panther helm after a long career as Harding University head coach. “They don’t do much passing, it’s just smash, smash, smash. But they’re going to throw it once in a while and you’ve got to be ready and reading your keys.

“We hadn’t seen that on film. That was good coaching on their part.”

Beebe forced a three-and-out on Greenbrier’s opening possession, then set the tone for the night by running the ball 10 straight times to paydirt. Victor Howell busted a tackle near the line of scrimmage, then swept around the left end for an eight-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Greenbrier hit right back, getting 43-yard pass play from Jordan Duvall to Hunter Winston to set up Jason Hall’s seven-yard touchdown run that tied it at the 5:14 mark of the first period.

Three minutes later, Beebe reclaimed the lead for good when Luke Gardner picked a Duvall pass at the Greenbrier 45 and raced untouched for the score and a 14-7 lead.

After stopping the Panthers on their next possession, the Badgers decided just to play keepaway. They took over at their own 3 with 19 seconds left in the first quarter, then ran the ball 20 straight times and eating up 9:52 off the clock. Williams capped it with a one-yard run to make it 21-7 with 2:27 left in the half.

Time of possession in the first half went heavily for the Badgers, who held the ball for nearly 18 minutes.

Greenbrier, running out of the Spread with a bevy of young, but talented players, ran just 45 offensive plays and totaled 186 yards. Beebe ran 64 plays and totaled 396 yards and 20 first downs.

“Defensively, I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job,” Shannon said. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the secondary. But they’re tough to defend on every single snap.”

In addition to Williams’ 123 yards, Purcell slashed his way to 55 yards on just six carries, while Glaude added 53 on seven.

Gardner had eight carries for 37 and Howell seven for 21.

“Glaude read the option well and ran it well,” Shannon said. “He played a pretty good game and did exactly what we want our quarterback to do. Purcell I’ve said all along is our best overall athlete and we can do a few more things with him.”

Beebe will face a tough test next Friday when Class 4A title contender Lonoke comes to town.

SPORTS>>‘Backyard Brawl’ No. 1 belongs to the Panthers

By RAY BENTON
For the Leader

Experience usually beats youth, and it did again Friday night in the late-arriving and much-anticipated season opener between Cabot and Jacksonville. The Panthers out-manned the smaller and younger Red Devils to notch a 41-15 victory at Jan Crow Stadium in the newly monickered “Backyard Brawl”.

They did it in typical Cabot fashion, pounding out 397 yards, all on the ground, in beating the Red Devils.

“Our offense played pretty good,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “(The Red Devils) are young but they didn’t give us anything big until there at the end. They have some good sophomores, but they’re sophomores. I don’t know if I’m going to want to play them in a couple of years.”

Jacksonville tried to establish the running game early but couldn’t get anything going. The Devils went for it on fourth and less than a yard from its own 29-yard line, and came up short. Cabot took advantage of the short field, going 29 yards in seven plays with junior quarterback Seth Bloomberg plunging in from one yard out for the first score of the game.

Cabot would score on its first three possessions while Jacksonville went three and out twice after its first drive.

Cabot took the ball again on its own 44 and moved 19 yards on a hand off to fullback Michael James. Two plays later, a fumble led to Jacksonville’s best field position when the Devils fell on the loose ball at the 42-yard line.

From there Jacksonville would put together its best drive of the game, although it took more effort than it probably should have.

Sophomore quarterback Logan Perry found senior receiver Demetris Harris down the right sideline for 27 yards. Senior tailback Patrick Geans then ran four yards to the Cabot 27. Cabot’s Kyle Deblock and Jay Turpin sacked Perry for a 12-yard loss, but he hooked up with receiver Stan Appleby for 32 yards on an inverted screen pass on the next play. The play took the ball to the Cabot 7, but Jacksonville was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for excessive celebration after the play.

That made it first down at the 22, but the Jacksonville bench was flagged again before the snap for arguing the call. That made it first and 25 from the 37-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Perry again hit Harris, this time for 24 yards to set up third and 1. A screen pass to Geans picked up 10 more yards for first and goal. Geans carried it in from there with 6:01 left in the half. A fake kick turned into a pass from Terrell Brown to Tony Privitera to make it 21-8.

“We had some success throwing the ball,” Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley said. “We wanted to get out there, line it up and try to run it at them. We planned to mix some passing in there and we’re going to do that. Maybe we should’ve done it a little sooner, but you want to protect those sophomores a little bit if you can.”

Whatley’s worries for his sophomore quarterback, who shared time with Brown, weren’t unwarranted. Cabot got six sacks in the game, four on Perry. He still completed 11 of 15 pass attempts for 141 yards.

Cabot put the game in the bank with its next two complete drives. Its last drive of the first half took 10 plays and went 63 yards to make it 27-8 with 1:49 left in the half.

The first drive of the second half went 76 yards in 18 plays and culminated in James going 13 yards on fourth and 2 for the score. Josh Luna added one of his five extra points to make it 34-8 with just 3:31 left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville picked up 24 yards on its next drive before being forced to punt. Cabot capped its scoring on the next drive when halfback Chris Bayles scampered 50 yards on his fifth run of the drive. The PAT made it 41-8 with 9:28 left in the game.

Jacksonville added a late score when Geans broke loose for a 76-yard run with 47 seconds left in the game.

James led all rushers with 171 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Bayles tallied 119 yards on 15 carries and one score.

Quarterback Seth Bloomberg ran it 11 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, including an option keeper he took 36 yards for a score in the first half.

Cabot moves on to face Sylvan Hills next week in its home opener while Jacksonville hits the road to face Vilonia.

SPORTS>>Falcons open with victory

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

SEARCY — After a relentless second-half comeback, the Lions almost broke free from the cage.

North Pulaski sophomore fullback Darius Cage had his way with the Searcy defense in the first half, carrying for 84 yards in the Falcons’ 21-15 win on Friday at Lion Stadium.

The Falcons did all their damage in the first half, scoring three times for a 21-6 halftime lead. But after the second kickoff runback for a touchdown by Jerald Blair was called back on an illegal block penalty to start the third quarter, the rest was all Searcy.

Searcy was in position for the go-ahead score in the final five minutes, but a solid defensive stand by the Falcons in the red zone ended that chance, and a pair of first-down runs by Bryan Colson ran out the remainder of the clock for the Falcons’ second win in the last 41 ballgames.

“We kept trying to make adjustments,” North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon said. “They were going five wide, and we weren’t able to get that penetration in the middle like we needed to, and on the corners a little bit, but we had one or two really big plays, and that helped us.”

North Pulaski felt the White County humidity on Friday, with a number of players going down with cramps in the second half.

According to Searcy coach Bart McFarland, the those minor injuries were more detrimental to his team than their opponents.

“We just didn’t execute when we needed to,” McFarland said. “They did. They went out, got first downs, and we couldn’t get anything going offensively. Every time we got something offensively, they had somebody down with a cramp. We were trying to hurry it up, and that really destroyed our momentum right there at the end. That’s just the way it is. We didn’t punch it in, and you have to give them credit.”

Cage and Colson combined for 38 yards on the first NP drive to start the game, but it was a pair of pass plays that were key to the opening score. Senior quarterback Andrew Allen found Marshall Shipley on 22-yard pass play that took the ball close to midfield, and then closed the deal with a 16-yard touchdown toss to Michael Fleshman on the left side on a play-action bootleg with 6:54 left in the first half. Matt Ingersoll added the point-after to put the Falcons up 7-0.

A Daniel Thurman interception at the Searcy 41 led to the second score, with a 2-yard run by Colson with 7:47 left in the first half to cap off an eight play, 41-yard drive. The ensuing Searcy drive stalled out at the NP 45, forcing the Lions to punt.

Blair took the 35-yard punt from Steven Seitz at his own 10, bobbled it on the ground back to the five, and then turned on the afterburners, carrying it 95 yards for what would have been a record return, but it was called back on a hold.

“We’ve got work on our conditioning some more,” Bohannon said. “We’ve been telling them all year that the humidity was going to hit, and it did. Of course, it was hard enough trying to keep up with them. (Searcy’s) going to be okay. They completed a lot of passes tonight. We weren’t able to get as much pressure inside, the way they run it, but they did a good job.”

Bohannon also had penalties high on his list of must-improves after the game, but still relished the win.

“We’ve got to take care of those mental mistakes,” Bohannon said. “But this shows them that what they believed all along was true; that they can win. The key to this whole thing is that group of guys — those seniors that stayed with us. In the past, we had guys that would go here, go there and play, but this group has been together since middle school, and that’s what makes it work.”

The callback on Blair’s 97-yard TD run to start the second half after a Searcy drive that went nowhere was a sign of things to come in the second half. Instead of six points, the Falcons offense started the second half at their own 13, and a fumble on first down gave it right back to the Lions with their best starting field position of the night.

They took advantage with a 2-play drive that ended with a quarterback draw by Matt Ingle from seven yards out for the score.

Seitz missed the point after on Searcy’s first score, a 21-yard pass play to Jason Jennings at the 3:25 mark of the first quarter, forcing the Lions to go for two in the third quarter, but Ingle overshot his target in the end zone leaving the score 21-12.

Seitz made up those points in the fourth quarter with a 26-yard field goal attempt to make it 21-15, but a holding call on the final Searcy drive of the night backed the Lions up from the NP 21 back to the 31-yard line. Ingle made up some of that with a 12-yard pass to Preston Tarkington, but the Falcons forced two incompletions, one in the end zone on fourth down to take back possession.

Cage rushed 23 times for 109 yards. Colson ran 17 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons had 271 yards of total offense. For Searcy, Ingle completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 173 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The Lions finished the night with 252 total offensive yards.

Friday, September 05, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Can Huck save GOP?

Anticipating a primetime speech or debate appearance by favorite son Mike Huckabee always fills us with both expectation and dread, and he never fails to fulfill both. The former governor’s address to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night was the perfect Huckabee peroration.

The organizers sandwiched Huckabee between two other losing presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and the irrepressible Rudy Giuliani, an hour before the evening’s highlight, the maiden speech of Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee. The pompous Romney was absurd with his condemnation of the “elitist” Democrats – imagine the billionaire Romney from Massachusetts calling anyone elitist – and his charge that liberals were running the entire national government. Republicans have controlled all three branches for six of the last eight years, the Democrats having got marginal but ineffective control of the Congress 20 months ago. Republicans own the Supreme Court 7 to 2 and every federal appellate court in the land.

Huckabee was a refreshing contrast. He had just the right mixture of self-effacement, populism and humor, and his delivery is still better than anyone in the big field of nattering politicians who pranced across the podium at St. Paul. Alone of all the speakers, he talked about the concerns of blue-collar Americans. He had that field to himself throughout the primaries. But then the bad Huckabee, the one who is careless with the truth, never disappoints either. Facts never get in his way, whether he is talking about his own record or someone else’s. The commentators had enough time to mention a couple of them but the speech was sprinkled with provable falsehoods almost from the beginning.

He said Palin had received more votes in her two races for mayor of the Alaska town of Wasilla (population about 5,400 when she was mayor) than Sen. Joe Biden received nationally in his race for the Democratic nomination for president. Biden withdrew from the race before the first primary in January, but his name still appeared on the ballot in a number of states and he received more than 100,000 votes.

Huckabee said that despite being tortured by the North Vietnamese, John McCain would not say anything bad about the United States. But McCain did make such a statement, as did other tortured prisoners, and it was the basis of McCain’s opposition to the Bush administration’s sanction of torture. McCain said torture produced worthless confessions such as his rather than real intelligence.

Huckabee said Abraham Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party; he wasn’t. Its first candidate for president was John C. Fremont. Huckabee attributed to Honest Abe the quote “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” President Gerald Ford said it in an address to Congress in 1974. Others, but never Abe, had expressed similar thoughts, though not those words.

Huckabee reprised all the applause lines from his campaign, including growing up bathing with Lava hand soap and for the hundredth time the utterly pointless story of a teacher who wouldn’t give her students desks until they told her how they could “earn” them. It turned out that they had desks because soldiers had already “earned” them for the students. But don’t kids in dictatorships have desks, too? Who earned the desks for children in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and Hussein’s Iraq? The vets might have earned them the freedom to utter whatever beliefs they wanted but not the good fortune of having a school desk.

But this is politics. If he would stick reasonably close to the truth, we would give the man some license in the interest of manufacturing a little patriotic fervor.

TOP STORY > >Farmers worry their crops will likely be ruined

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The rain and winds pushed north into Arkansas by Hurricane Gustav didn’t cause much in the way of problems on Lonoke County roads or for electric customers, but it may have sealed the fates of several area farmers, according to Jeff Welch, chief of the Lonoke Extension Service office.

Sheriff Jim Roberson said flooding over roads was minimal and that some people in the John Shelton Road area lost electricity temporarily, but that everyone had power now.

Welch, who was one of about 160 people who braved wet fields, mud and intermittent light rain to attend Field Day 2008 at Lonoke’s Pearlie S. Reed/Robert L. Cole Small Farm Outreach Wetlands and Water Management Center, said that until receiving several inches of rain earlier this week, farmers were poised for successful crops and prices.

“We were sitting on top of one of the better crops of soybeans, corn and rice in years,” Welch said.

“They spent the most (on crops) in history and had a good price. Now the product is reduced substantially.

“Some farmers wonder if they will be in business next year,” Welch said over a plate of fried catfish.

“This really tears them to pieces,” Welch added.

He said this was particularly hard on young farmers who incurred heavy debt to buy land and machinery. Older, established farmers like the Bransfords and the Brantleys would be less affected.

In addition to flooding fields, Gustav and tropical storm Fay before it, may have driven soybean rust spores up into Arkansas, which so far this year had no confirmed rust. Welch said it would be about another 10 days before any rust would show up.

It’s late in the season for the rust to cause the soybean crop much of a problem, but the rains this week have definitely damaged the crop, he said.

Any beans under water or in saturated fields for 24 hours will sustain damage, he said. If the plant has laid down, it’s harder to harvest too.

On top of the threat of rust and rain, the soybeans already are under pressure from worms and stinkbugs, says Welch, meaning the farmers have to spray more insecticide, then perhaps spray again after big rains.

Cotton is still in the fields and is lodging—that is being bent over where its quality suffers. It’s harder to harvest and results in a lower yield, he said.

A lot of rice is also lying over, causing similar harvest problems, Welch said.

Charlie Cummings, extension associate at the farm, said he had expected about 270 people at the biennial field day before the rain, and that Cong. Marion Berry had been slated to speak.

In Berry’s absence, Erika Krennerich, his district director, gave a congressional update.

TOP STORY > >Cabot does well with controlling drainage

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

The heavy rains from Gustav this week were a true test to the drainage improvements Cabot has made in the Heights neighborhood during the summer.

Bobbie and Jim Lovell, retirees who live on Mary Ann Circle, have worried about rising water from clogged ditches beside their home for the past 10 years until Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and the street department worked to improve water flow away from the area.

“The mayor, Jerry Cole with the street department, and the city workers did a fantastic job. We are all so grateful,” said Bobbie Lovell.

“The water would come halfway up the back and the front yards, and had nowhere to go. It never got up to our door, ” Lovell said.

Before work started on the ditches, the water would be ankle-deep in their yard. Water would stand in nearby ditches and pool on the street, she said.

Mrs. Lovell said she and her husband had discussed their concerns with the city’s past two mayors about the run-off water, but they wouldn’t fix the drainage problems.

She said they talked to Mayor Williams five months ago about the ditches, and in less than three months the city made upgrades to the drainage.

A month ago, the city install-ed two drainage pipes and carved a ditch to let water flow away from the Heights subdivision at the corner of Southaven Avenue and Michael Drive and flow to a field behind Fire Station 4.

The mayor also contacted the highway department, which two weeks ago brought equipment to clear out the trees and brush growing in a ditch along Hwy. 321, allowing water to run away from residents’ backyards, according to Lovell.

“The mayor really got on the ball,” Mrs. Lovell said.

She continued, “We can’t believe it. All this rain, and no water has gotten out of the ditches. There is no comparison.”

Lovell said the mayor came to her house on Wednesday during the downpours to check on the conditions of the ditches.

She said they would have been in trouble if the city had not worked on the drainage. The Lovells do not have flood insurance because the home was not built in a flood plain.

“Our new mayor is a great guy. He is wonderful and good for the people of Cabot,” Mrs. Lovell said.

TOP STORY > >Another group picks campus site

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Organizers for the Jacksonville Light-house Academy have selected a vacant lot on the corner of First and Willow streets as the location of the future school.

“It is a good site in many ways – open, with sewer and water. It’s zoned correctly and with good access,” Lighthouse Academy president and CEO Michael Ronan said. “It is big enough to start the school, allow for expansion and a playground, as the school develops.”

George Biggs, a Jacksonville parks official, heads the board of directors.

A developer will be hired to oversee the design and construction of the building, Ronan said. He and his team are moving ahead on multiple fronts, although the state’s granting of charters is almost two months away.

“There is plenty to do – a lot of planning, recruiting the principal and office staff, community outreach,” Ronan said.

The plan is to get a national search underway soon to hire a principal by Jan. 1. The principal will then oversee hiring of teachers via local recruitment as well as a partnership with Teach for America, a national nonprofit, community-service organization that trains and places qualified individuals in charter schools in underserved communities.

“The principal will be actively involved in screening teachers in January and February,” Ronan said.

Next summer, all teachers will attend three weeks training in the signature “art-infused” instructional methods used at other Lighthouse Academies schools.

“This will help teachers see how they can infuse art in the curriculum and align it with state standards,” Ronan said.

TOP STORY > >Second charter school applies on time

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville school patrons will have two charter school prospects after all to pin their hopes on for an alternative to local public schools, come fall 2009.

An hour after the state deadline Tuesday afternoon, one of the two applications expected for a charter school in Jacksonville was not in the hands of officials at the Arkansas Department of Education. It looked like the Jacksonville Charter Academy had missed the deadline and would be out of the running.

But word from the ADE Wednesday morning was that the application actually had arrived on time.

“It came by certified mail and was somewhere in the building,” explained Julie Thompson, director of communications for the ADE.

That puts the total number of applicants for an open-enrollment charter school at five from around the state.

Arkansas state law limits the number of open-enrollment charter schools statewide to 24. Currently, there are seven openings remaining. The fact that there are fewer applicants than spaces will simplify matters for the state board of education when it decides in early November which ones deserve a school charter, Thompson said.

If there were 11 applicants competing for seven openings, as had been expected, that might have meant calling a special meeting. But, with only five, Thompson predicts that the application review process will be part of the regular board meeting Nov. 3, which will be open to the public.

The academy is looking at the old Wal-Mart to hold its classes.

A charter school is a state-regulated, publicly funded school, the purpose of which is to provide educational alternatives to existing schools. Students attending an open-enrollment charter school may live in a school district, city, or county other than where the school is located.

Another type of charter school, a conversion school, is one that is established by a school district from an existing school.

The strong interest for an alternative to Jacksonville public education has been evident in the large turnouts to recent meetings convened by the charter school organizers. A hundred-plus folks showed up two weeks ago to learn about Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy. On a Sunday morning in early July, a presentation about Jacksonville Charter Academy packed the sanctuary at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, with the crowd spilling out the doors, according to educational consultant Buster Lackey, who is overseeing the application and planning process for that school.

JACKSONVILLE CHARTER ACADEMY

A week ago, Lackey made a second public presentation at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, “to fulfill the state application requirement,” he said. The church’s pastor, Rev. Craig Collier, is also president of the board of trustees for the nonprofit organization Win One, Reach One, which spearheaded the Jacksonville Charter Academy initiative.

Lackey currently serves as the principal of Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle. Assisting him with the Jacksonville Charter Academy application is Dave Sanders, the assistant principal at the same Maumelle school. Lackey and Sanders are currently working pro bono, but say they wouldn’t rule out a job offer from the Jacksonville Charter Academy board of trustees, if a charter is granted.

Jacksonville residents who asked Lackey to help them put together a charter school proposal became acquainted with him a few years ago when he was a teacher and the headmaster for Victory Bible School in Sherwood.

“I’ve seen Dr. Lackey’s leadership as a principal and community leader,” said Nancy Meador, who is a parent and serves on the board of trustees for Jacksonville Charter Academy. “This is a great opportunity for this community. Jacksonville really needs a good school like this, one with a positive atmosphere that will challenge children to do their best in a positive way, building skills early that they will be able to use their entire lives.”

Jacksonville resident Matt Caton believes a charter school would provide a quality education for his two children, who currently attend Victory Bible School, and particularly liked the idea of their someday being able to take college courses while in high school.

“The school would be academically challenging enough to actually stretch them,” Caton said. “That you can start getting a college education while in high school, that would make the transition to college easier, and it makes students more competitive internationally.”

The first year, the school would be kindergarten through sixth grade, with 25 students per class and two classes per grade.

Each year following, two grades would be added through 12th grade.

If the proposed school is granted a charter, then the student application process will commence spring 2009. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of available spaces, then a lottery will be held in late spring. All those who do not get a place may put their names on a waiting list.

Planners for the school have signed an agreement to lease the 100,000-square-foot building in Jacksonville once occupied by Wal-Mart. Architectural drawings for renovating the structure show plans for classrooms, a large covered playground, a cafetorium for meals and meetings, and a spacious workshop for hands-on learning, converted from the existing automotive repair center.

Jacksonville Charter Academy educators would expect kids to excel academically while fostering their self-esteem and confidence, says Lackey. “I Can Do It” would be emblazoned on the back of every school uniform shirt so the message would constantly be before every child’s eyes.

During the first month of school, parents would meet with teachers to review an individualized learning plan for their child, based up past grades and achievement test scores. All kindergarteners would be evaluated for “readiness” to see what basic skills they have, such as counting, recognizing colors, reciting the alphabet, and ability to spell their names.

Different teaching styles would be employed because children don’t all learn the same way, Lackey said. Math and science would have lots of hands-on instruction, and science lab would start in kindergarten, where children would get to watch their teacher dissect a shark. In the multi-purpose workshop, students could get elbow deep in subjects like pottery, welding and mechanics.

“They’ll get to see it, hear it, taste it and feel it, because everyone learns differently,” Lackey said.

For the kid who can’t quite grasp an elusive concept in math or science, sometimes it is a fellow student who hits upon the way to make it all come clear. Older students who have some mastery in a subject likely will have the chance to mentor the younger ones after-school, Lackey said.

“A student may learn faster from a peer than from me standing at their back watching them.”

All grades would have homework, and that includes kindergarten. The little ones would learn quickly that they are expected to have their work completed. If not, after-school “homework club hour” might be where they would wind up, Lackey said.

Students who fall behind in their work might also be tagged for Saturday school twice a month or a summer program to help them catch up.

Teachers would be on the job until 5 p.m. every day to be available to students. The school year would be 190 days.

Business and community members would be invited to share their expertise as instructors of mini-courses tailored to student interests and needs and acquaint them with various career paths, such as finance, emergency medical technician (EMT) training or journalism.

Beginning in 10th grade, students would have the opportunity to take college courses – and earn up to 62 transferable college credits – free of charge through a program offered by the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Adjunct instructors would come to the charter school to teach. Students potentially could earn enough credits so that they could enter college as a junior and graduate two years early.

If behavior problems are standing in the way of academic success, school personnel would endeavor to determine what is going on with the child, and if necessary refer the family to professional counseling services to make it possible “to truly educate their child,” Lackey said.

“The thing you have got to find first is why,” said Lackey, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and a doctoral degree in psychology.

But chronic misbehavior would not be tolerated. Children would be expected to own up to misdeeds and when a phone call from school to home is necessary, it would be the child, not the principal, who did the explaining.

“The child has to call the parent to admit to the misbehavior; that way, it’s between the child and the parents, not between me and the parents,” Lackey said.

Expulsion is a “last resort” that will be employed if necessary. But, Lackey said that with a “student-centered” approach to education, expulsion is rare.

“Very few students are asked to leave because their parents want their child there,” Lackey said.

To ensure school safety, the school would have a security officer, provided by Jacksonville police.

“I have met with Chief Sipes, and he has committed to a school resource officer on the property, at the building’s controlled access,” Lackey said.

Lackey envisions a school that would function as a hub of community activities, where organizations would be welcome to hold events.

“After 5 o’clock at night and three months out of the year in the summer, it’s empty; I can’t foresee saying that they can’t use it,” Lackey said. “It is a community school. It is a really important root of the charter school movement – that the doors are open to the community to provide a safe place.”

Rev. Collier, of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, likes what Lackey envisions for the charter school.

“The school would be a great thing for Jacksonville,” Collier said.

“My kids went through public school, and they didn’t get all that,” he added.

TOP STORY > >Gustav dumps on area before calling it quits

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The remnants of Hurricane Gustav brought wind gusts up to 50 miles an hour and nearly 11 inches of rain to the area — a record.

The winds and the rain put thousands of Arkansans in the dark as trees fell on lines, transformers shorted out and even some utility poles toppled.

By Wednesday morning, about 93,000 Entergy customers were without power and likewise for 18,000 First Electric customers.

Making matters worse, many of the utilities’ workers were and still are in Louisiana helping to restore power to about 800,000 residences and businesses.

By Friday, First Electric reported that only 25 customers were still without power, but expected to have lights on for everyone by Saturday.

Entergy still had about 20,000 without power and didn’t expect to have everyone up until late Sunday.

Besides loss of power, the storm’s monstrous rainfall has also affected the area’s water quality. The storm has stirred up and increased the magnesium levels in the water causing discoloration in tap water. The water is safe to drink but will stain clothes.

“Manganese is a naturally occurring element that poses no health risks,” said Sharon Sweeny, with Central Arkansas Water.

“We are attempting to eliminate the discoloration through adjustments to our treatment process and we are continually monitoring the system,” she said.

Sweeney added that the discolored water will stain fabric so customers needed to check the water going into their washing machines over the next few days before washing clothes.

Barbara Merrick, with Entergy, said Wednesday about half of the utility’s linemen had been sent to southern Louisiana in advance of the hurricane hitting the coast. But a large portion of them have returned to the state. “Our crews that were here and those returning from Louisiana are supplemented by almost 200 more utility workers from Missouri, Ohio and other Midwest locations who were on their way to help in the Gulf Coast area,” said.

Merrick said part of the reason it has been taking so long to get power restored has been the winds. “It’s not safe to operate from an elevated bucket or climb a utility pole in winds over 30 miles an hour,” she said, and winds were in the range and higher most of Wednesday and Thursday.

“Our two top priorities are, one, the safety of our customers and our employees, and, two, restoring power—in that order,” said Hugh McDonald, president of Entergy Arkansas. “We sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience,” he said.

Neal Frizzell, with First Electric, said none of his company’s crews were in Louisiana when central Arkansas was hit.

“All of our crews have remained in the area since the onset of the storm. Once power is restored to all First Electric customers, then some of our crews may travel to Louisiana to assist with Hurricane Gustav repairs,” he said.

At the height of the outages early Wednesday, First Electric had 13,700 customers out in Saline and southern Pulaski counties, 3,100 out in north Pulaski County and 1,200 out in Perry County.

At last count that was down to 4,600 in Saline and southern Pulaski counties, 130 in north Pulaski County and 25 in Perry County.

Merrick, with Entergy which operates electric utilities in Arkansas and Louisiana, said that Louisiana’s transmission, which is interconnected with Entergy Arkansas, sustained massive damage from Hurricane Gustav with 191 transmission lines and 210 substations out of service.

She said with the extent of damage to the infrastructure and 850,000 outages, Gustav becomes the second-worst natural disaster faced by Entergy in its 95-year history, topped only by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

TOP STORY > >Families safe after flood

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

Hurricane Gustav dumped more than seven inches of rain in the area by midmorning Wednesday. Many streets and neighborhoods quickly flooded.

A small neighborhood in Jacksonville near Northeastern Avenue and Loop Road took on at least two feet of water in about a half an hour. Residents watched nervously as the water began to rise. The water did not recede until about 6:30 that evening.

The neighborhood is made up of 70 trailers on just two streets, Leonard Drive and PiƱon Lane. It is a community of young families who know their neighbors.

The water was high enough to strand people in their homes. Police and firemen worried that damaged electrical wires posedfatal risks, according to residents.

On Thursday, residents shared their stories with each other as they cleaned up the mess caused by the flash flood.

Around 11 a.m., Tom Hughes, of Leonard Drive, corked a hole in his aluminum boat, and along with neighbor Bryan Duffel, began to rescue his stranded neighbors.

“It’s not every day that you see your neighbors going up and down your street in a boat,” Hughes said.

Half a dozen or so neighbors were glad when they escorted them to higher land.

Hughes and Duffel continued their rescue efforts until firemen and police warned them about the risks of electrical shocks.

This was not the first time that the neighborhood had flooded. “About seven years ago, the same thing happened, but not nearly as bad,” Duffel said.

The neighborhood sits atop a floodplain, but residents say their troubles are exacerbated by new real estate developments in the area that lack sufficient drainage.

Jim Minot and his wife Carol, who live on Leonard Drive, tried to wait out the high water. At about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the water was just low enough for them to drive through in their pickup truck.

City administrator Jay Whisker said that the park is five feet below the flood plain and would not be allowed under today’s standards.

But residents are convinced the city can do more to fix their flood problems.

“I think the city needs to take a look at this. If they don’t, eventually we’re all going to lose our homes,” Mrs. Minot said. “This
was the worst rain I’ve seen in the 13 years I’ve lived in Arkansas.

“I’m going to talk to my neighbors and start a petition to get the mayor’s attention,” she continued.

The Minots once had flood insurance, but they decided to stop buying it when their bank told them that it no longer considered their home to be on a flood plain.

Damage to their home was minimal, but some of their property in a storage shed had been exposed to the water for hours.

Hughes was also recently contacted by his bank regarding flood insurance. He says that his bank urged him to purchase it because his home was, in fact, on a flood plain.

Nichole Grady was stranded in her home with her infant daughter, while her husband Billy was at work. When he heard that water had engulfed the neighborhood, he rushed home to help his family.

He couldn’t believe that the water could rise so fast, he said. When he arrived, firemen had taken his wife and daughter out of the flooded area in an aluminum boat.

The Gradys’ home was not seriously damaged in the flood. Their laundry room will need some work because of water damage, and Billy had to take the family car to a mechanic for repairs.

“It was like someone pulled the plug and it went away as fast as it came up,” Duffel said, referring to all the water that disappeared.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Should Palin stay on ticket?

John McCain flunked his first test as the Republican nominee for president, and it was not a pop quiz. He had a long time to reflect upon the best candidate for vice president, which he had said should be the person best qualified in the United States to become president should something happen to him soon after he takes office.

He chose an obscure governor from one of the least populated states whose cumulative experience even in state governance is a mere 20 months. Before she became governor last year her experience amounted to two terms as mayor of a suburban town that was a few hundred souls smaller than Beebe, Ark.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska seems to be a loving mother and wife, bright and charming. She was a good high school athlete and a beauty queen. She is solidly against abortion. When her high school daughter turned up pregnant the other day, she told us that she loved and supported the girl. When a raft of state and federal investigations were raining indictments upon Alaska Republican officeholders in 2006 and 2007, she had the gumption to come out against them when the normal party impulse is to circle the wagons. Alaskans rewarded her by electing her governor.

We like most of that, but all those characteristics do not make the case that she is even minimally qualified to be the leader of the free world. She might be an extraordinary leader, but American voters have no way to know that, and it is clear that Sen.

McCain had little clue about it. He seems to have picked her on a gamble that the lovely and charming woman would attract millions of women voters who were mad that Hillary Clinton was not nominated for president or chosen as Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate. She is only 44, balancing his 72. McCain would be the oldest person ever elected president for a first time, and he has had two bouts with cancer. He knew that even his most devoted fans would be anxious about the person he would put a heartbeat away from the most demanding and perilous job in the world.

He seems to have given little reflection to the issue and less investigation, and that does not speak well of his own capabilities.

Would he make rash and uninformed judgments when the safety and health of the nation were in the balance?

But let us put aside questions about the knowledge, experience and wisdom that Sarah Palin would bring to the job. Was it a wise political move?

Instantly, her selection voided the Republican’s main issue, which is that Obama has only four years of experience on the national stage and so is not prepared to step in as president on day one.

She neutralizes McCain on many other issues. Her main achievement as governor was to work with Democrats in the Alaska legislature to raise production taxes — what we call severance taxes in Arkansas — on oil and gas, dramatically. Alaska already levied the highest energy taxes in the country — production taxes and royalties account for 85 percent of the state’s revenues — but Palin’s taxes were staggering, far exceeding the severance tax that Gov. Beebe and the legislature imposed on natural gas earlier in Arkansas this year. The new Alaska taxes are graduated according to energy company profits.

McCain has condemned Obama and Democrats for proposing even a modest windfall profits tax on big oil companies and vowed never to raise taxes on any corporation. Can he do that if his running mate is far to the left of the Democrats on that issue? She and the Democrats used the huge windfall in tax receipts to give every Alaskan a $1,200 check this fall, which makes her very popular in Alaska.

She and McCain have opposite views on big environmental issues, which she of course will now adjust to fit his.

McCain touted her record as a warrior for honesty and ethical conduct. She did sign a bill passed unanimously by the legislature to require rigorous disclosures of lobbying and gifts. But Palin is deeply immersed in an ugly investigation of her own conduct. She fired the director of public safety after he refused to fire a state trooper who is involved in a messy custody battle with his ex-wife, Gov. Palin’s sister.

Palin assured McCain that she did nothing wrong, and that was good enough for McCain. It turns out that the special prosecutor has documented two dozen contacts with the department by Palin’s husband and 14 aides of the governor seeking to have the trooper fired.

Her patronage assistant was recorded as telling a police official that the governor and her husband could not understand why her ex-brother-in-law was still on the job. Palin says she didn’t personally demand that the guy be fired. As everyone knows, that is rarely how it is done.

If McCain wanted someone young and conservative with executive experience, he could have tapped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or our own former governor, Mike Huckabee, who has a far more accomplished record as governor.

Huckabee raised many more taxes than Palin did, but his total volume was smaller and he had 10 years, and his numerous ethical slips were never so serious as the abuse of power. We are pretty sure he could identify Iran on an outline map of the Middle East.

It is not too late for McCain to reverse the error, though he cannot erase the doubts now about his judgment.

TOP STORY > >Ballot positions set for aldermen races

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Nine candidates competing for four seats on the Cabot City Council drew for positions on the November ballot Thursday, but four candidates are unopposed and will breeze through this campaign season without having to knock a single door to ask for support.

Former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, running for Ward 3, Position 1 against Alderman Tom Armstrong, drew for position 2 on the ballot. The first position is believed to be the best, especially if voters are undecided or don’t know the candidates.

Alderman Teri Miessner, Ward 3, Position 2, has opposition from Rick Prentice, a newcomer to Cabot politics who has attended many council and committee meetings in the past year. He’s listed first.

Ward 4, Position 1 Alderman Becky Lemaster is in a three-way race to keep her seat.

Her opponents are Ann Gilliam, sister of former Alderman Odis Waymack, whom Lemaster defeated in the last election, and Paul “Bucky” Mayfield.

Gilliam drew the first position on the ballot, while Lemaster drew second and Mayfield drew third.

Ward 4, Position 2 Alderman Lisa Brickell is opposed by Ryan Flynn. Flynn will be first on the ballot.

Among the unopposed candidates is Alderman Ed Long, Ward 1, Position 1, who has been on the council for so many terms that he has difficulty remembering how many.

Contacted last week at home, where he is recovering from emergency surgery to correct two blockages in his heart, Long had to refer to a March 1997 resolution appointing him to the council to determine that he has served for a total of almost 10 years.

Four years ago, Long was defeated by Alderman Eddie Cook, Ward 1, Position 2, who has become his ally on the council. Long won his race two years ago against another opponent.

Cook also is unopposed, as is former alderman Patrick Hutton, who served four years on the council before he was defeated by Virgil Teague, who, for health reasons, is not running again for his Ward 2, Position 1 seat.

Also unopposed is Jon Moore, a newcomer to Cabot politics who will replace Alderman Ken Williams, Ward 2, Position 2, who is not seeking re-election.

In other city council races in Lonoke County, Austin Alderman Donna Soellner, Ward 1, Position 6 drew the first place on the ballot, while Steve Bruno drew the second.

That race is the only contested race in Austin.

In Ward’s only contested race, Alderman Charles K. Gastineau, Ward 3, Position 1, drew the first place on the ballot while Ron Bissett drew the second.

In Lonoke, all the races for city council were decided during the May primary; all but one of the candidates is a Democrat; and only one member will be new to the council.

William Todd Wheat will replace Woody Evans in the District 2 position. Incumbent Phillip Howell, an independent, is the only non-Democrat in the group.

In Beebe, there are two contested races for city council out of six seats, and those candidates have also drawn their positions on the ballot.

Alderman Janice Petray is opposed by former Alderman Linda Anthony for her Ward 1, Position 2 seat, while Alderman John Johnson, Ward, 3, Position 1, is opposed by Gary Swicegood.

Anthony drew the first position and Petray drew the second position on the ballot.

Johnson will be first on the ballot and Swicegood is second.

Ward 2, Position 1 Alderman Becky Short, who was city clerk for many years before she ran unopposed for the city council two years ago, was the first candidate to file in Beebe this year.

She and three other candidates have no opposition: Tracy Lightfoot, Ward 2, Position 2; Les Cossey, Ward 3, Position 2; and Harold Welch, Ward 1, Position 1.

TOP STORY > >City to adopt a new slogan

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

“Soaring Higher” or “Catch the Spirit”—which would be Jacksonville’s new logo for the near future? That’s the question the city’s advertising and promotion commission tackled last week.

The panel also decided on a new design to go with the logo.

A week earlier, the commission had decid ed on “Soaring Higher,” but at Monday’s meeting there was a push for the logo “Catch the Spirit” which the chamber had been using for about a year.

Most commissioners said they could live with either one. Commissioners Jim Hurley and Mike Houchen leaned toward “Soaring Higher.”

“‘Catch the Spirit,’ is good,” said Houchen, “but after you catch it what do you do with it?” He felt that phrase was more passive, while “Soaring Higher” was more proactive.

In the end, the commissioners reaffirmed their decision to go with “Soaring Higher.” The panel also voted for a design that included that logo, a maroon-colored Jacksonville written in script with an eagle coming up through the middle of it representing both the air base and the city soaring higher.

Both the logo and design come from the Sells Agency of Little Rock which was hired earlier this year by the advertising and promotion commission. The agency has a three-year contract worth at least $150,000 a year to promote and market Jacksonville.

Now that the commission has locked in a logo and a design, the agency will develop an advertising campaign centered on the logo and design.

The agency says it plans to advertise in various newspapers during the Little Rock Air Force Base open house weekend in October and will also rent two billboards off Hwy. 67/167 — one northbound and one southbound — to advertise and promote the city.

The agency’s goal is twofold: to improve the image of Jacksonville, both in and out of the city, and to bring more visitors to the city’s hotels, shops, restaurants and attractions.

Besides the slogan and logo design, the agency is also implementing a survey of 200 residents, 200 Pulaski County residents and 200 statewide residents to determine what people think about when they think “Jacksonville.” The results of that telephone survey will be presented at a commission meeting in September.

The agency’s fee is being paid for by a two-cent levy on prepared foods, commonly called the hamburger tax.

The tax was approved late last year by the city council and is expected to bring in about $550,000 a year.

Half that amount is dedicated to the parks and recreation department.

The rest, along with a two-cent hotel-room tax, is used to cover the cost of the ad agency and various other events and entities like the military museum, the Patriotic Spectacular, Wing Ding, Little Rock Air Force Base open house and advertising the virtues of Jacksonville in various publications.

The new slogan and design, “Soaring Higher” will be used in all city advertising starting as early as September. Agency officials said that they wanted a slogan and logo that was concise, compelling and unique, something that would work for everybody.

TOP STORY > >City to adopt a new slogan

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

“Soaring Higher” or “Catch the Spirit”—which would be Jacksonville’s new logo for the near future? That’s the question the city’s advertising and promotion commission tackled last week.

The panel also decided on a new design to go with the logo.

A week earlier, the commission had decid ed on “Soaring Higher,” but at Monday’s meeting there was a push for the logo “Catch the Spirit” which the chamber had been using for about a year.

Most commissioners said they could live with either one. Commissioners Jim Hurley and Mike Houchen leaned toward “Soaring Higher.”

“‘Catch the Spirit,’ is good,” said Houchen, “but after you catch it what do you do with it?” He felt that phrase was more passive, while “Soaring Higher” was more proactive.

In the end, the commissioners reaffirmed their decision to go with “Soaring Higher.” The panel also voted for a design that included that logo, a maroon-colored Jacksonville written in script with an eagle coming up through the middle of it representing both the air base and the city soaring higher.

Both the logo and design come from the Sells Agency of Little Rock which was hired earlier this year by the advertising and promotion commission. The agency has a three-year contract worth at least $150,000 a year to promote and market Jacksonville.

Now that the commission has locked in a logo and a design, the agency will develop an advertising campaign centered on the logo and design.

The agency says it plans to advertise in various newspapers during the Little Rock Air Force Base open house weekend in October and will also rent two billboards off Hwy. 67/167 — one northbound and one southbound — to advertise and promote the city.

The agency’s goal is twofold: to improve the image of Jacksonville, both in and out of the city, and to bring more visitors to the city’s hotels, shops, restaurants and attractions.

Besides the slogan and logo design, the agency is also implementing a survey of 200 residents, 200 Pulaski County residents and 200 statewide residents to determine what people think about when they think “Jacksonville.” The results of that telephone survey will be presented at a commission meeting in September.

The agency’s fee is being paid for by a two-cent levy on prepared foods, commonly called the hamburger tax.

The tax was approved late last year by the city council and is expected to bring in about $550,000 a year.

Half that amount is dedicated to the parks and recreation department.

The rest, along with a two-cent hotel-room tax, is used to cover the cost of the ad agency and various other events and entities like the military museum, the Patriotic Spectacular, Wing Ding, Little Rock Air Force Base open house and advertising the virtues of Jacksonville in various publications.

The new slogan and design, “Soaring Higher” will be used in all city advertising starting as early as September. Agency officials said that they wanted a slogan and logo that was concise, compelling and unique, something that would work for everybody.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville gets only one charter school application

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Late Tuesday afternoon, it was in question whether Jacksonville has a shot at two charter schools, as had been publicized in recent weeks, or just one. By the 4 p.m. deadline yesterday, only four applications for open-enrollment charter schools statewide had been submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), just one for the Jacksonville area.

The ADE had received the application for Lighthouse Academy but not one for Jacksonville Charter Academy, whose planners as of last Friday night gave every indication things were on “go” for making the deadline.

This likely means that those who missed the deadline are out of the running, “unless there is some overwhelming reason that they couldn’t make it by deadline,” said Julie Thompson, director of communications for the ADE.

The board of Lighthouse Academy, which could open next fall, includes George Biggs, director of the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department, former Jacksonville Rep. Mike Wilson and others.

The other applications received on time were for Eudora Community Charter School, Little Rock Urban Preparatory Academy for Young Men, and Little Rock Preparatory Academy.

Up to 11 applications were expected, because in June, the ADE had received that many letters of intent to make yesterday’s deadline, creating the potential for a unique situation of too many applicants for the seven openings of 24 total open-enrollment charter schools allowed by state law.

The Jacksonville City Council will vote on a resolution on Thursday to support charter schools in the city.

Consultant Buster Lackey, who had been enlisted by Jacksonville school patrons to head up the effort to create Jacksonville
Charter Academy, could not be reached by deadline to clarify the status of that application.

At a public meeting Friday, at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Lackey had glowingly detailed everything planned for the new school – from school motto and architectural plans for the newly acquired facility, to the college-prep curriculum and arrangements with local police for a campus security officer.

At that point, it looked like anyone unhappy with the public schools in Jacksonville might have two possible charter schools to pin their hopes on – schools with similar names and similar promises of academic excellence and a nurturing learning environment.

The strong interest for an alternative to Jacksonville public education had been evident in the large turnouts to recent meetings convened by the charter school organizers.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville gets only one charter school application

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Late Tuesday afternoon, it was in question whether Jacksonville has a shot at two charter schools, as had been publicized in recent weeks, or just one. By the 4 p.m. deadline yesterday, only four applications for open-enrollment charter schools statewide had been submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), just one for the Jacksonville area.

The ADE had received the application for Lighthouse Academy but not one for Jacksonville Charter Academy, whose planners as of last Friday night gave every indication things were on “go” for making the deadline.

This likely means that those who missed the deadline are out of the running, “unless there is some overwhelming reason that they couldn’t make it by deadline,” said Julie Thompson, director of communications for the ADE.

The board of Lighthouse Academy, which could open next fall, includes George Biggs, director of the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department, former Jacksonville Rep. Mike Wilson and others.

The other applications received on time were for Eudora Community Charter School, Little Rock Urban Preparatory Academy for Young Men, and Little Rock Preparatory Academy.

Up to 11 applications were expected, because in June, the ADE had received that many letters of intent to make yesterday’s deadline, creating the potential for a unique situation of too many applicants for the seven openings of 24 total open-enrollment charter schools allowed by state law.

The Jacksonville City Council will vote on a resolution on Thursday to support charter schools in the city.

Consultant Buster Lackey, who had been enlisted by Jacksonville school patrons to head up the effort to create Jacksonville
Charter Academy, could not be reached by deadline to clarify the status of that application.

At a public meeting Friday, at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Lackey had glowingly detailed everything planned for the new school – from school motto and architectural plans for the newly acquired facility, to the college-prep curriculum and arrangements with local police for a campus security officer.

At that point, it looked like anyone unhappy with the public schools in Jacksonville might have two possible charter schools to pin their hopes on – schools with similar names and similar promises of academic excellence and a nurturing learning environment.

The strong interest for an alternative to Jacksonville public education had been evident in the large turnouts to recent meetings convened by the charter school organizers.

TOP STORY > >Letting bids on education center nears

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

“We are looking at awarding the construction contract in December or January and looking at…occupancy in September 2010,” Little Rock Air Force Base’s chief civil engineer said last week of the Joint Education Center.

Design progress continues on the Little Rock Air Force Base/Jacksonville Joint Education Center, but the rising cost of construction materials means the building will be 50 percent smaller than originally anticipated.

The federal government has allocated $14.8 million for the project and Jacksonville residents have taxed themselves another $5 million for the building that will house college classes for both airmen and civilians, according to Jay Whisker, director of administration for Jacksonville.

At one time, the building was envisioned as an 81,000 square-foot structure adequate to provide all the space needed for several colleges to hold classes.

Now, the base bid is likely to be for 17,000 square feet, plus an array of 3,600 square feet of enhancements, depending on the costs, according to James McKinnie, chief of the engineering flight, 314th Civil Engineering Squad at the base.

Even when the Jacksonville contribution is formally accepted, the building may be 44,000 square feet or less, McKinnie said.

He said the building could come in at about 35,000 square feet.

The collaboration between the Air Force and the city is so unusual that no mechanism exists to readily accept the city’s $5 million contribution, Mayor Tommy Swaim has said.

Authorization has now reached Air Force Headquarters in Washington, according to McKinnie.

There it awaits further review and eventually authorization by the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations.

Jacksonville residents voted themselves a penny hamburger tax for one year in 2003 to pay for the education center, but it took the federal government until last year to authorize its share and in the meanwhile, the cost of steel, asphalt, concrete and petroleum have risen dramatically, reducing the amount of building the Air Force and city will get for their buck.

Soil testing also proved that the building site, roughly at the intersection of John Hardin and Vandenberg Boulevard, had expansive soils, bad for building.

The net effect of that is to increase the cost of building the foundation, McKinnie said.

The engineering is about 50 percent done now, he added.

Current plans call for access to the building from John Hardin, he said, but if there is enough money, a second drive off Vandenberg could be added.

McKinnie said the downsized version of the Joint Education Center might not be large enough to accommodate all of the center’s needs.

He said it would be large enough for about 528 students in various classrooms, computer and science labs, but without much office space.

He said some of the college’s functions, particularly administrative, might still occur in one of the old Joint Education Center buildings, on the base behind the fence.

The new building also is designed to meet the LEED environmental standards, nearly to the “silver” level, McKinnie said.

He added the plan called for leaving as many trees on the wooded site as possible, with removal of the rest slated to begin in October.

McKinnie said Whisker and Swaim have been very helpful and cooperative in the process.

TOP STORY > >Evacuees eager to return

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

The effects of Hurricane Gustav were felt Sunday in Cabot as motels were filled to capacity with families and their pets as they evacuated from the Gulf Coast.

Evacuees didn’t escape the storm completely, as remnants of Gustav started dumping rain in central Arkansas early Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service expects three to six inches to fall by late Thursday.

Deborah Hollier, of La Place, La., arrived at Days Inn on Sunday with husband, Johnnie; daughter, Taylor, and son, Tyler. Her family was part of an 11-family, three-car caravan. She had four more family members on their way to join them.

She brought along their five dogs, two cats and a bird, but they could go back Thursday.

“I wouldn’t have left without them. They are like family,” said Hollier.

She said they were staying in Cabot because it was the first available motel she could find that accepted pets.

The motels filled up fast. Hollier said a lot of people made their reservations ahead of time, and risked losing money if they did not arrive. Now they’re ready to head home.

In Jacksonville, the Days Inn was totally filled before the weekend and is booked for the week with evacuees.

The Econo Lodge also has about 25 families staying there, avoiding the hurricane.

Hollier said her family lives in a mobile home 30 miles from New Orleans and decided to head north on Friday to escape the hurricane‘s wrath.

“We are on the eastern side of the eye, and that is the worse side to be on. They were predicting a Category 3,” said Hollier.

“It took 13 hours to get here. According to MapQuest, it should have taken seven hours. The traffic wasn’t bumper-to-bumper but heavy to Jackson, Miss,” she said.

Hollier added, “We never stopped to eat, we brought sandwiches and fried chicken. The rest areas were very crowded, we almost parked on the interstate. People were sleeping in lawn chairs next to their cars. The gas stations were crowded. Some places near home didn’t have gas by the time we left.”

“It is very expensive to evacuate — between $1,000 to $1,500 per family,” said Hollier.

She said the experience of evacuating from a hurricane is horrible — from bringing outdoor items to the indoors at her and at her mother’s home, to packing the car.

“You are cramped. Nobody in the family can agree on anything. Everybody is stressed, nobody has slept for the last 24 hours, and everyone is on their last nerve,” Hollier said,

She said there is the added stress of not knowing if you are going to go home and have a house standing.

“It sucks. It takes too long. I don’t like it because I have to leave home for a very long time,” said Tyler Hollier, 13.

“I think it hurts to evacuate, because when you go home, it may not still be there,” said Taylor Hollier, 15.

“Some of my friends have evacuated and some haven’t, and that makes me worry, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Deborah Hollier said when they leave for a hurricane they go to a new location each time to see a different place. This was the family’s first trip to Arkansas.

“We went to San Antonio for Hurricane Katrina. It was horrible with the drive and getting lost. We stayed there for about a week,” said Hollier. She said when they returned home they were without electricity for about a week. She worked at a bakery at the time and it didn’t start back until a month later because the bakery could not get the ingredients shipped in.

Hollier added that it was unreal having the National Guard in front of the all the grocery stores to prevent looting. She said only so many people could enter the store at one time and there was no milk, meat, or cold foods available.

Jessica Mayfield of Orange, Texas, came to Days Inn as part of a six-car family caravan with 15 adults, three children, four teenagers and three dogs.

She said the family chose Cabot, an eight-hour drive, because they have friends and family living in the area. Her husband, Damon, is a lab technician at the Temple-Inland paper mill, where the plant has its own power house for electricity, and he had to stay behind.

Mayfield said, “We left at 1 a.m. Sunday, between the voluntary and mandatory evacuations. The traffic started picking up at 3 and 4 a.m.

Tori Hodges, a cousin of Mayfield’s from Sulfur, La., said, “I-10 westbound took an hour to get 20 miles.”

Mayfield had evacuated when Hurricane Rita struck. That hurricane forced her mother and grandmother, who both live in Singer, La., to move into new homes.

“The challenge of an evacuation is trying to put together enough essentials items. You pack for the worst and hope for the best, and leave with the mindset that I might not came back to a home,” said Mayfield.

“My kids thinks it’s a vacation. They are adaptable, They have concerns about the house and understand what is going on with the hurricane. My son, Peyton, who is 9, packed things that were important to him — an award from church camp, a football jersey and a Bible.”

At the Super 8 motel, Justin Carpenter, a student at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, and his family from Lake Charles, La., evacuated in a caravan of four vehicles carrying 10 people and a dog. Carpenter said they chose to stay in Cabot because they could visit with family-friends, Odis and Barbara Waymack, instead of a hotel in northern Louisiana.

Carpenter said the trip took 10 hours, instead of seven. He said it is nerve-racking sitting in traffic — it’s aggravating, hot, and you have to have patients.

“It is a hurry-up-and-wait with a hurricane. You have to leave, stop your life and wait for the hurricane to hit your home,” said Carpenter.

“Everything you leave is of monetary value and can be replaced, but you can’t buy a new mom, dad or siblings,” he said.

Carpenter said LSU, which began the fall semester last week, was officially closed until Wednesday, and the school would text message students when classes are scheduled to resume.

“Hopefully Thursday, so we can have our football game on Saturday,” Carpenter added.

With the hurricane plans Carpenter said that Gov. Bobby Jindal did a good job getting the National Guard out to New Orleans.

They were evacuating New Orleans by the busloads all day Sunday.

Peggy Harris, a front desk clerk at the Super 8 motel, said, “We had people from Hurricane Katrina and now we are glad to be of help in any we can.”

SPORTS>>Panthers, Devils rescheduled for Friday evening

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Because of the potential for torrential rains spinning off from Hurricane Gustav, the Jacksonville-Cabot football game, originally slated for last night, has been moved to Friday evening.

The annual rivalry game, dubbed the Backyard Brawl, will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Jan Crow Field at Jacksonville High School.

Tickets for the game may be purchased in advance from Cabot High School, the First Arkansas Bank of Cabot and the First Arkansas Bank main branch in Jacksonville.

Visiting Cabot fans can park in the old Wal-Mart parking lot.

SPORTS>>Panthers, Devils rescheduled for Friday evening

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Because of the potential for torrential rains spinning off from Hurricane Gustav, the Jacksonville-Cabot football game, originally slated for last night, has been moved to Friday evening.

The annual rivalry game, dubbed the Backyard Brawl, will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Jan Crow Field at Jacksonville High School.

Tickets for the game may be purchased in advance from Cabot High School, the First Arkansas Bank of Cabot and the First Arkansas Bank main branch in Jacksonville.

Visiting Cabot fans can park in the old Wal-Mart parking lot.

SPORTS>> Falcons should open season strong with a win over Lions

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

A year ago, we would have had to give the nod to the Lions, but we’ll take the fighting Falcons this week. The gurus over at Hooten’s Arkansas Football have the Lions by 21, and even though I have far less expertise than those guys, I have followed both of these teams closely for the last five years, and can tell you that NP has the best team it has had by far in those five years, while Searcy appears to be smaller and less experienced than any of its teams in that time.

The Lions are going to be fairly inexperienced in their complicated Spread offensive attack, while the huge and battle-tested Falcon offensive line is perfect for the new Dead-T set installed by seventh-year coach Tony Bohannon.
Just for the sake of playing Devil’s advocate, we’ll take the Falcons by 21.

North Pulaski 27, Searcy 6

BEEBE AT GREENBRIER

Greenbrier will be fighting to regain respect after struggling over the past several years, but the acquisition of former Harding University coach Randy Tribble for this season should have them heading in the right direction. It worked for Beebe and John Shannon last season.

It was the Badgers switching from the pass to the run under Shannon in ’07. The Panthers just happen to be switching the other way around with the Spread in place of their former Jet-Wing offense.

There’s no doubt that Tribble can rebuild the Greenbrier football program to the level of it’s early 90s heyday, butdon’t look for an 8-3 season like the one Shannon and company posted in his inaugural season. The Badgers already know how to hit hard. The Panthers still have to learn how to run away from that effectively.

Beebe 31, Greenbrier 14

SYLVAN HILLS AT MALVERN

This one has great potential to be a low-scoring affair, especially if your name is Malvern. Both teams will be adjusting to drops in classification (SH from 6A to 5A, Malvern from 5A to 4A) but this one will belong to the Bears regardless of how many A’s are involved. The Leopards match up quite well with Sylvan Hills in size at the line, but they will get hammered in the corners. With a Malvern linebacking core that averages just over 170 pounds, we’re just hoping that SH fullback Lawrence Hodges (5-8, 210) doesn’t decide to snack on one of them.

Sylvan Hills 28, Malvern 0

RIVERVIEW VS. MARKED TREE

Marked Tree lost a lot from last year’s 3-2A Conference-winning team, but they did, in fact, have a last year. The Raiders will probably be much better than your typical upstart program, but the Indians already have great tradition in place. That and senior running back Michael Gray, who averaged just over 110 yards rushing per game in 2007.

Marked Tree 27, Riverview 17

HARDING ACADEMY VS. POCAHONTAS

The Wildcats didn’t lose a ton in terms of player numbers at the end of last season, but did lose ace play-caller Tommy Shoemaker to CAC. That made way for Roddy Mote, who has left the coach Shoe-era Spread in place, with experienced senior QB Matt Lincoln and Seth Keese back under center.

The only problem is, most of Keese’s and Lincoln’s favorite targets from a year ago are now gone, leaving HA with limited options.

The Redskins may not have what it takes to reach the 4A state semifinals again this year, but they should be able to handle a rebuilding Wildcats team.

Pocahontas 34, Harding Academy 23

CABOT AT JACKSONVILLE

Look for the Red Devils to have a much better season than last year’s 3-7 campaign, but unfortunately, they will start the season off with what will most likely be a blowout loss. The Panthers simply have much more experience and size.

Sophomore QB Logan Perry looked impressive during the Jacksonville scrimmage two weeks ago, but that was facing his buddies in the defensive backfield. Hunter Hess, Zach Coy and the Bryant twins will be decidedly less charitable, and could add some INTs to the youngster’s early-season stats. That’s only providing that he escapes Kyle Deblock and the brutal CHS defensive line.

I went against Hooten’s with the Searcy-NP pick, but will fall in line with this one.
Cabot 42, Jacksonville 7

SPORTS>> Rabbits overcome shaky start to open with win

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

PINE BLUFF — The Lonoke-Dumas game at Hooten’s Kickoff Week was expected to be a track meet and, with nearly 800 combined yards and 41 first downs, it did not disappoint.

Yeah, it was a track meet all right. The problem was, no one could hold on to the baton. Dumas, which has 18 new starters, turned out to be just a little more careless with the ball than the Jackrabbits, though — accounting for six of the game’s 10 turnovers — and that, in the end, proved the difference as Lonoke opened the 2008 campaign with a sloppy 35-20 win on Monday afternoon at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Rollins Elam appeared to be fully recovered from last season’s Week 8 broken ankle, throwing touchdown passes to Michael Howard and Clarence Harris.

“Rollins was on and he was off,” Lonoke head coach Jeff Jones said of his senior quarterback who completed 14 of 25 passes for 252 yards. “But he delivered the ball and stepped up in the pocket like a champion.”

Meanwhile, the Lonoke defense dealt fits to Dumas quarterback Darion Griswold all afternoon. No one was a bigger headache to the 6-4, 220-pound sophomore than linebacker/defensive end Joel Harris who seemed to be everywhere, including the Dumas backfield. Harris racked up seven solo tackles – 14 overall – and recovered both Bobcat fumbles.

He was joined by linebacker Eric Graydon and defensive back Lance Jackson in piling up double-digit tackles in the contest.

Jackson led the way with 15 total stops, including forcing a fumble deep in Lonoke territory in the first quarter. Graydon had 10 stops, while defensive back Terrell Washington picked off two of Griswold’s passes. Todd Hobson and Darius Scott got the other two picks as Griswold, who appears to be a star in the making once he learns to set and throw, was a load to bring down the entire game.

“We bent and we bent and we bent,” Jones said. “But somehow, somebody would come up with a big play.”

After Griswold rumbled through theJackrabbits’ defense for 93 first half yards, Lonoke limited him to just 57 in the second half. Combined with shifty and tough-running back Matt Moreland, who added 112 yards on the ground, Dumas offered a fairly potent 1-2 punch offensively. But the turnovers, as well as 12 Dumas penalties, were just too much to overcome.

“In an offense like ours, you can’t have that many penalties,” said Dumas head coach Mark Courtney. “You can’t have third and 15 and stay in the game. We killed ourselves every time.”

Griswold’s ineffectiveness through the air — 6 of 24 with four interceptions — can largely be credited to the Jackrabbits’ pressure defense.

“Basically, that was our game plan,” Jones said. “We knew (Griswold) was young. We were kind of grasping at straws, like, how you gonna stop the big guy? And that’s why we figured we better get in his face, because he’s going to be something special.”

The old adage that the game is a matter of inches never proved more accurate than in Monday’s battle when twice the Bobcats failed to punch the ball in at the Lonoke goal line. Perhaps the biggest sequence of the game came early in the third period when, after an Elam interception, the Bobcats began a march toward a game-tying touchdown. Griswold broke off a 24-yard run to the 14 and Dumas reached the 2-yard line five plays later. On fourth down, it appeared running back Daveon Horn had a seam into the end zone, but Joel Harris and Nick Head wrapped him up as he tried to reach the ball across the goal line.

Earlier in the contest, Griswold fumbled as he was lunging into the end zone, and the ’Rabbits recovered.

If that weren’t deflating enough for the Bobcats, Lonoke marched 99 yards in just seven plays after the defensive stand. Two big pass completions from Rollins to Joel Harris — 21 yards to the Lonoke 29 and 51 yards down to the Dumas 3 — set up Clarence Harris’ 3-yard scamper. From a potential 21-21 tie two minutes earlier to a 28-14 Lonoke lead late in the third period.

“No doubt that was big,” Jones said. “Defensive stands like that are something you can build on. Hopefully, that will carry over to the next nine ballgames.”

Most of the remaining suspense was erased two minutes later when Griswold threw one up for grabs near midfield and Washington picked it and raced 52 yards to make it 35-14 with 1:57 left in the third.

But Dumas was hardly through and marched 64 yards in 12 plays on the ensuing possession to narrow the lead to 35-20, still with 10 minutes left in the contest. The ’Rabbits responded by milking the clock, keeping the ball on the ground and holding it for nearly four minutes. They had the hammer raised and ready to pound in the nail when Rollins was picked off at the Dumas 3 and the Bobcats immediately struck for a 32-yard completion to midfield. The game was in danger of becoming a nailbiter again when Dumas wide receiver Aaron Dennis broke wide open on a post pattern at the Jackrabbit 10. But Griswold overthrew him and three plays later, Washington picked off his second pass to secure the win.

It was rough going early for the fleet and experienced Lonoke offense. After Hobson picked off a Griswold pass on the game’s fifth play, the Rabbits hit on a 59-yard Rollins-to-Joel Harris pass play, but Corey Freeman knocked it loose and Dumas recovered at the Lonoke 27. It took Dumas seven plays to put the first points on the board when Griswold went over from two yards out.

Lonoke sputtered on its next two possessions before Jackson’s big hit popped the ball loose from Horn, and Joel Harris recovered to set Lonoke up at the Dumas 20 late in the first period. The Jackrabbits tied it 50 seconds into the second period when Rollins connected with Howard from eight yards.

“No doubt there were jitters,” Jones said. “But those are jitters we’re going to have to improve on. I’m not going to try to make excuses. I know Dumas had a lot to do with that with their physical play and their speed on the field. We’re going to have to go back home and get crisper on our offensive execution.”

Dumas reclaimed the lead after an interception set it up at the Lonoke 27 and Griswold burst through from 18 yards to make it 14-7 with 6:20 left in the first half. But Lonoke answered immediately, going 56 yards on five plays — the final one, a 9-yard sweep to paydirt by Clarence Harris to tie it.

Lonoke took a 21-14 lead into the locker room with a 47-yard drive over the final four minutes of the half. Rollins found Clarence Harris on a slant in the end zone and the leaping Harris went high over his defender to haul it in. Lonoke never trailed again.

Lonoke showed plenty of balance offensively, rushing for 161 of their 413 total yards. Still, Jones thought the offense struggled to find a rhythm.

“We mixed it up well,” he said. “Still, we didn’t have the sync and the pace we normally have. For some reason, it was off.”

SPORTS>> It's Bears' speed vs. Leopards’ size

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Both teams have their share of firepower at the skill positions, but the most intriguing match up when Sylvan Hills travels to Malvern on Friday night to open its season just may be in the trenches.

Specifically, the speed and athleticism of Sylvan Hills’ defensive front versus the sheer brawn of the Leopards’ offensive line. That appears to be the main focus of Malvern head coach John Fogleman anyway, whose Leopards boast three-year starters in guard Darius Bullock (335 pounds) and center Jared Daniel (265).

“Right now, I’d say we have our hands full up front,” said Fogleman, who got a chance to see the Bears up close when both teams participated in the Jamboree at War Memorial Stadium last week. “I was very impressed with their defensive line, with their speed and the way they ran to the ball. They have a very tough linebacker.”

That was most likely a reference to middle linebacker and fullback Lawrence Hodges, who put on quite a show in the Jamboree while playing only on defense. Hodges is expected to get his share of totes against the Leopards.

Sylvan Hills’ limited size up front in their 5-2 defense appears not to be much of a concern for Bears’ head coach Jim Withrow, whose highest praise after the Jamboree scrimmages with Little Rock Catholic, Mountain Home and Little Rock Christian last Tuesday evening was foisted upon the D-line.

“That was the biggest positive was the pressure of our D-line,” he said. “We looked realathletic and even knocked down a pass or two.”

That line was led by speedy senior guard Patrick Onuigbo, Devin Shaw, Taylor Pennington and Brian Hale.

And it should be even better on Friday with the return of all-conference end Nick Brewer, who has been out most of the summer with injury. He was scheduled to start practicing again last week and should be good to go against Malvern.

They’ll need all the help they can get against a team which may have lost six starters — including its top rusher and passer — but has a lot of weapons on offense. It begins with the strong running of tailback Oliver Archie and 6-4 quarterback Justin Jones, who moves behind center after playing a wide receiver last season. Both impress Withrow.

“(Archie and Jones) looked real athletic,” he said. “All of their skill guys looked fast. We’re worried about them getting out in space and taking it all the way.”

That concern might stem from Christian sensation Michael Dyer breaking free for several huge gains against Sylvan Hills in last week’s scrimmage, though Dyer is in a class of his own. Dyer went 63 yards on his first touch against the Bears, and also had gains of 23, 21 and 18.

If it’s not Archie carrying, it will likely be the shifty Mario Jamerson or power runner Dontail Henson, whose 160-pound frame hides the legs of a strong runner.

The strength of the Leopards, Fogleman suggested, is its defensive line, despite its limited experience.

“Defensively, they’re a big team,” Withrow said. “They play a three-man front but they do a lot of blitzing. Our run blocking (in the scrimmage) wasn’t bad, but we have to stay on our blocks a little longer, go all the way to the whistle.”

For Sylvan Hills, 2008 represents the beginning of the post-Hunter Miller era as well as a return to Class 5A after spending the past several seasons at the 6A level.

The fleet all-state quarterback/safety who signed with Ole Miss before changing his mind and heading to the University of Arkansas, accounted for more than 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns a year ago. Millers’ absence hardly mollifies Fogleman.

“Offensively, it may be a little bit of a gray area at quarterback, losing Miller,” he said. “But (new Bears’ signal caller Jordan Spears) looked very capable and is a real running threat. The way they run the ball is impressive. They scheme well offensively.”

Juliean Broner got all the carries from the running back position in the Christian scrimmage, picking up 38 yards on nine carries. Likely to join him in the backfield on Friday will be bruiser Hodges, whom Withrow has seen fit to limit to linebacker reps during the late summer to “keep the tread on his tires.”

He should be fresh and ready to offer a power alternative to Broner’s 4.5 wheels.

The Bears figure to have a fairly balanced attack out of their Spread offense. The 6-4 Spears has the ability to take it and go but he also has a very capable arm and a big-play threat in wide out Ahmad Scott.

Scott raced 45 yards on a slant against Christian to complete a 53-yard touchdown pass play. Shaw and Pennington represent big targets at tight end and Barry Bir is another guy Spears will look for.

The road gets even tougher after Week 1 as the Bears will host Cabot on Sept. 12 and travel to 7A North Little Rock on Sept. 19.