Saturday, September 05, 2009

SPORTS >> Progress marches on at University of Cabot

By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor

Humor is most effective when it has a ring of truth to it.

So when Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley made a crack about playing the “University of Cabot” before Tuesday’s “Backyard Brawl” at Panther Stadium, it was clear he was joking about the disparity between Jacksonville’s facilities and Cabot’s bigger, more modern setup.

It wasn’t excuse-making before the fact. Whatley was simply pointing out, as he had done in different ways during the game-week hype, that Jacksonville, of the 6A-East Conference, was facing a real challenge against its neighbor and rival in the larger 7A-Central.

The final score would bear Whatley out: University of Cabot 35, Jacksonville 6.

It was quite a high school spectacle. Both stands were close to full, though Jacksonville had a little help from its band; the game was aired in a groundbreaking broadcast on statewide commercial television and, in one of the few highlights for Jacksonville, Mayor Gary Fletcher won 20 bucks in the lucky program number drawing.

The Red Devils played hard — senior offensive lineman Jacob Hicks praised his teammates for their effort afterward— and they didn’t let down, as D’Vone McClure scored on Logan Perry’s 67-yard pass to avoid the shutout.

But for much of the night, Cabot’s swarming defenders reminded me of dogs fighting over an old T-shirt, while the Panthers’ dead-T offense ground up yards and bled long minutes off the clock.

I hadn’t seen Cabot play in at least two years, and the Panthers just looked bigger to me, faster, more athletic than I’d remembered. And I recalled how, maybe a decade ago, the Cabot-Jacksonville game was a real brawl with the outcome not so predetermined.

I looked at Cabot’s five-year-old, multi-story field house with its indoor playing surface, the artificial turf surrounded by the state-of-the-art track, the huge scoreboard and video screen with its booming sound, and I began to think Whatley was right.

Let me say here that I shudder every time I see a high school sink big money into a football complex. In my knee-jerk way I can’t help thinking priorities are misaligned and that money could be better spent on something else — a foreign-language department, a computer lab, teacher salaries.

But if you’re going to spend on athletics, you better get your money’s worth, and Cabot appears to have done that.

“Absolutely,” Cabot athletic director Johnny White said. “They don’t miss any days of workouts in the spring. If it’s raining they’ve got the indoor area. They continue to work all summer long. They’re a very dedicated group of athletes. They are getting bigger and faster just because of their hard work, and the old field house wasn’t really conducive to all that.”

The school spent $1.2 million on its field house, White said, but when it came to some of the other improvements, funds had to be raised and money had to be borrowed.

Cabot is still paying for its $650,000 artificial surface, which, like the scoreboard, was funded by loans and private donations.

White pointed out the field house is actually a multi-purpose building used by everyone from the band to the cheerleaders to the ROTC. On game nights, for donations that are helping to pay off the football field and fund scholarships, certain ticket holders can dine out while watching the game from the third-story film room.

Since the athletic department makes most of its money at the gate — and since football helps pay for sports that don’t generate revenue like golf, tennis and cross country — anything that can be done to draw crowds and keep them comfortable, entertained and willing to return is worthwhile, White said.

“You’re always going to have critics if you spend money for athletics,” White said. “Pretty much our athletic program is self-supporting here. There’s not a line item at all for athletics. Everybody else gets money, but we don’t. We have to make it at the gate.”

I still say beware the football-industrial complex; beware putting athletics above education. But Cabot at least appears to have matched its athletic construction with other improvements, like the glistening main building that a few years ago replaced a series of far-flung smaller buildings that made up much of the campus.

Other school improvements are on the way and, White said, there is also more work to do on Panther Stadium, like upgrading the concession stands and the press box.

Which forces me to ask another hard question about priorities.

Why didn’t they do the press box first, for pity’s sake?

SPORTS >> Badgers succumb to Panthers Friday

By RAY BENTON
Special to The Leader

Despite several penalties, including three that erased touchdowns, the Greenbrier Panthers did enough to beat Beebe for the first time in six years Friday night, handing the Badgers a 31-22 loss at Bro Irwin Stadium in Beebe. The Panthers moved the ball almost at will, with drives stalling only when Panther mistakes got in the way. Greenbrier quarterback Neal Burcham got hot early and stayed that way, completing 20 of 30 pass attempts for 296 yards and four touchdowns.

Panther coach Randy Tribble praised his squad, particularly his offensive leader.

“Neal Burcham is the real deal,” Tribble said. “He’s good and he did some things tonight you don’t usually see a sophomore do, but I give credit to every one of those young men. We worked them hard this summer. They took to coaching and came out and did a great job.”

Beebe controlled most of the action in the first half, but the last 1:18 belonged to the Panthers. Greenbrier scored twice in that span to turn a 14-6 deficit into an 18-14 halftime lead.

After a 22-yard strike from Burcham to receiver JoJo Oluoken Beebe fumbled it away on the ensuing possession. The Panthers took over with 28 seconds left in the half, and needed two plays to get into the end zone again. This time it was a 22-yard pass and catch from Burcham to Hardy.

Both teams scored on their opening possessions. Greenbrier went 71 yards in nine plays to take a 6-0 lead. Beebe answered with a 76-yard drive in just six plays. The biggest chunk of the yardage coming on a 64-yard jaunt by quarterback Scott Gowen that set up first down at the 11-yard line. Four plays later on fourth down, Gowen found Colby Taylor in the end zone after fumbling the snap. The two-point conversion was good giving Beebe an 8-6 lead.

A strong defensive stand forced Greenbrier into a three-and-out series, and the Badgers answered with a 40-yard drive to take a 14-6 lead with 9:56 left in the first half. The two teams traded punts on the next two possessions before the Panther scoring blitz ended the half.

Greenbrier picked up where it left off on its first possession of the second half. The Panthers scored on the first play of the drive, but the 58-yard scoring strike from Bucham to Oluoken was called back for holding. So instead of a quick strike, Greenbrier settled for a slow march down the field, taking it 58 yards in 11 plays. The Panthers failed on the fourth straight two-point conversion and led 24-14 with 6:25 left in the third quarter.

Beebe answered with a long drive, but it stalled on downs at the Greenbrier 1-yard line. The defense held, and the Badger offense made it a game again with a 68-yard, one-play drive on a run by halfback Victor Howell. The two-point conversion took two tries, and after a personal foul facemask, Beebe fullback Adam Griffis got in the end zone to make it 24-22 with 10:27 left in the game.

The Badger defense got the ball back again and the offense began to march from their own 25. After six plays picked up 40 yards, the Badgers faced third and one when disaster struck. A fumble on a routine play was covered by the Panthers with 3:50 left in the game.

Greenbrier started at its own 31, but picked up 44 yards on a strong run by Hunter Winston, who broke four tackles before being dragged down from behind by Howell. Two plays later another Panther touchdown was called back, but two plays after that, Bucham found Winston in the flat and he scrambled 29 yards for the final score of the game.

Greenbrier finished with 428 total yards. Winston had 101 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 45 yards. Griffis led the Badgers with 99 yards on 14 carries.

SPORTS >> North Pulaski endures big loss in coach’s debut

By CHAD MATCHETT
Special to The Leader

A rough debut for new North Pulaski head coach Rick Russell did little to dampen the head Falcon’s view of his football team Friday night.

The Dumas Bobcats beat the Falcons 40-7 in a season opener marred for North Pulaski by too many turnovers.

Still, the lopsided score wasn’t an indicator of how many things went right for the Falcons. North Pulaski was able to move the ball well on the ground for much of the game, while the defense — constantly left with a short field to defend — gave up just two real scoring drives.

“Our kids played hard and didn’t give up,” said Russell, the former Jacksonville defensive coordinator who traveled across town to take over the Falcons. “They could have given up, but they didn’t. We have kids out there who never want to come off the field and that’s the kind of attitude you want.”

Three of Dumas’ scores came directly after mistakes by the punting unit. Two bad snaps over punter Marshall Shipley’s head resulted in touchdowns on the next play. The first score came on a 5-yard run by Sherodrick Smith and the next on a 15-yard pass from Darion Griswold to Wade Williams.

Dumas’ final touchdown came after Shipley snagged a bad snap and the punt was blocked. The Bobcats took over at the 1 and scored two plays later.

“I’ve stressed that sudden changes are the difference in football games and that’s what happened tonight with all the turnovers,” Russell said. “But we’re going to look at the film and focus on the good things that happened tonight and build on that.”

North Pulaski was able to run the ball down Dumas’ throat at times, but the Falcons struggled to score. The Falcons’ opening drive was going well until Dumas’ Corey Freeman intercepted a pass inside the 5 and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown.

Another long drive stalled after a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1 backed the Falcons up. The next play gained 5 yards, but the Falcons were just short of a first down.

“We have to stay focused on what’s happening now and not think about that last play and get down,” Russell said. “The plays that went wrong didn’t go wrong because of a lack of effort. We have kids who want to be out there playing hard. Those are things that you can correct.”

Dumas’ spread offense fell flat against the Falcons’ defense. Griswold may be the best quarterback the Falcons see this season, but he had a hard time hitting his targets.

The 6-5, 230-pound junior is already drawing attention from major college programs, including Arkansas.

“It is hard to try to prepare for somebody like that, but what makes it even tougher is he is surrounded by some other great players,” Russell said, mentioning Smith. “We knew that number 22 was going to be a great running back and he’s got some talented receivers as well.”

North Pulaski won’t get a break next week when it plays host to Little Rock Christian and running back Michael Dyer — one of the most sought recruits in the nation.

North Pulaski did end the game on a high note with an 80-yard scoring drive featuring some bruising runs from 5-10, 245-pound Billy Barron.

Barron capped off the drive with a 12-yard run and Mat Ingersoll provided the final margin with his extra-point kick.

“We have a lot of positive things to build on for next week,” Russell said. “Our offensive line did a good job staying on their blocks and our backs ran hard every play.”

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits senior gets loose, runs wild in win

By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor

Brandon Smith made good use of his time Friday night.

The Lonoke senior tailback and college prospect rushed for 235 yards and scored three touchdowns in three quarters as the Jackrabbits rolled to a 27-0 victory in their season opener at Lonoke.

With Smith’s help, Doug Bost made a successful debut as the Jackrabbits head coach after moving up from the junior high ranks.

“It’s just football,” Bost said. “When you’ve got great kids that work hard and love the game of football it makes a coach’s job a whole lot easier and I’ve got some great kids out here. I really do.”

Despite his fondness for his players, Bost held Smith out of the first quarter over what Bost described as a minor disciplinary problem.

“It’s just team issues that we’re dealing with,” Bost said. “I hope we’ve got that out of the way and we can play some football from here on out.”

It was certainly clear after the game Bost wasn’t holding any hard feelings for Smith, who is being courted by a handful of colleges, including Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas State.

“He ran the ball hard when he got in there, he sure did,” Bost said. “He hits the hole hard and he wants to run you over instead of run around you.”

Bost even played Smith on defense, but finally rested him with less than 6 minutes left in the game after Smith picked up 24 yards and a first down.

Smith’s touchdown runs got progressively longer during the night, with his last coming on a 55-yard run that made it 27-0 with 56.4 seconds left in the third quarter.

“That was a called play from one of my linemen,” Bost said. “That was great. He saw it, he said ‘Let’s go with it,’ and that’s what we did. I have a lot of faith in those guys.”

Smith missed the first two Lonoke possessions but entered the game with 4.6 seconds left in the first quarter. Morgan Linton carried for 8 yards, Darius Scott then had a 51-yard carry to the 9 and, after a penalty pushed the Jackrabbits back 5 yards, Smith took it in from the 14 for the 7-0 lead with 11:35 left in the half.

Blake Dill recovered a fumble for Lonoke to set the Jackrabbits up at the Senators 36. Smith had carries of 3, 11 and 2 yards on the possession, but the big plays were a 10-yard completion from Michael Nelson to Darius Scott and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Todd Hobson that made it 14-0 with 8:24 left.

Scott intercepted Senators quarterback Cole Bulloch and ran it out to the 9 with 1:57 left in the half. The Jackrabbits went the distance thanks to Smith, who took a pitch to the right at his 35, spun to avoid one tackler, stiff-armed another and slipped a third on his way to the end zone to make it 20-0 with 9.3 seconds left.

“The passing game, they kind of stopped us a little bit in that but the running game was going,” Bost said.

Bost was also concerned with a few defensive breakdowns and mental lapses that led to 45 yards in personal foul penalties.

“I like the aggression when a play’s going on,” Bost said. “But when the play’s over it’s got to stop, the mouth’s got to shut. A little running can cure some of that stuff right there.”

SPORTS >> Malvern stuns Sylvan Hills

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

Penalties and turnovers didn’t do much to help Sylvan Hills’ cause. But the miscues paled in comparison to the damage Malvern tailback Dontail Henson did to the Bears.

The junior had 24 carries for 93 yards and three touchdowns, as the Leopards routed the Bears 31-7 on Friday night at Bill Blackwood Field.

Henson scored twice in the first quarter and tacked on the Leopards’ final touchdown at with 8:20 left in the third quarter.

While Sylvan Hills struggled to contain Henson, the offense struggled as well, gaining only 108 total yards, 20 of them rushing.

Malvern had its share of playmakers in both its offensive and defensive backfields, but the most damage was done at the line.

Henson had huge holes to run through on the offensive side, while Sylvan Hills senior quarterback Jordan Spears had a hand in his face on almost every pass play.

Bears coach Jim Withrow summed up his feelings with one word.

“Stunned, stunned, stunned,” Withrow said. “We didn’t compete. We were out-played, out-classed and out-coached. That’s as bad a job as I’ve seen in 18 years. They came and hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t want any part of it. That’s the bottom line. We weren’t ready to play, and that’s my fault. And that’s it. There’s not a whole lot to it.”

The Bears did not have many penalties, but the ones they committed came at the worst times. None of the flags were as devastating, however, as a roughing the kicker call against the Sylvan Hills special teams as Malvern’s Alfonzo Torres tried to get off a punt with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Bears had just scored what turned out to be their only touchdown moments before on a 9-yard pass from Spears to senior receiver Ahmad Scott, and a defensive stop at the Malvern 13 gave them a chance at good field position and to pull to within two scores.

“We’re not ready to play; we’re thinking about other things,” Withrow said. “And that stops at my door step — that’s my responsibility. It was mental errors that cost us.”

Malvern grabbed momentum on the Bears’ second play of the game when the Leopards forced a fumble and recovered. Sylvan Hills stopped that drive, but was pinned deep at its 6 after a 35-yard punt.

That began a battle of field position for the Bears, a battle they lost decisively in the first half.

“It doesn’t make the season, but it’s awfully nice to get off to this kind of start,” Malvern coach John Fogleman said. “We’ve had a long off-season after a tough loss that ended our year last season in the playoffs, and we were happy to get back on the field and play.”

The Bears made a statement at the end of the first half with a goal line stand that forced Malvern to settle for a field goal.

Quarterback David Traylor tried to sneak across the goal line on fourth-and-1, but Bear defenders Alex Smith and Nick Brewer dragged him down at the 10-yard line.

The Leopards responded in the first minute of the second half with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Traylor to James King to put Malvern up 24-0. Malvern defensive back Marlo Jamerson then picked off a Spears pass at the Leopard 40 and returned it to the Sylvan Hills 27 to set up Henson for a final touchdown run.

Despite the constant harassment by the Malvern defense, Spears was able to lead the Bears on a 68-yard, 14-play drive.

Spears hit senior Taylor Clark on a pair of critical passes for 19 and 17 yards to move the ball into Leopard territory, and found Scott just inside the on the left sideline with 2:52 left. Anwi Filat added the extra point to make it 31-7.

Spears was 10 of 24 for 88 yards with a touchdown and one interception. Clark had three receptions for 52 yards, all of which came in the second half.

For Malvern, Traylor went 9 of 11 for 146 yards, a touchdown and one interception. The Leopards had 316 yards of total offense.

Defensively, Marquis Smith and Alex Smith led the Bears with seven tackles each.

TOP STORY >> City to start negotiations with railroad

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The state Highway Department didn’t say no to Jacksonville’s request to put in a new at-grade railroad crossing at Graham Road, but it didn’t say yes either.

Instead, it has told the city to work it out with Union Pacific.

City Administrator Jim Durham said the city wrote to the Highway Department first because when he called to see what the procedure was to get the old crossing opened to traffic, Durham was told he needed the Highway Department’s approval first.

“They are telling us to go to the railroad, and that’s what we are going to do,” Durham said. The city plans to call railroad officials on Tuesday and invite them to a meeting in Jacksonville about the crossing as soon as possible.

The crossing was closed temporarily when the $3.2 million Main Street overpass was built in 2001, and then later permanently closed. Concrete traffic barriers line both the south and north sides of the old crossing.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, who believes that closing has greatly affected the economic growth of Sunnyside and the east side of Jacksonville, said that technically the crossing can’t be reopened.

“That’s a dead horse, but we can and have requested a new crossing be constructed in the exact same spot,” the mayor said.

Durham sent a letter in mid-August to Dan Flowers, the director of the state Highway Department, making the request.

In his letter, Durham says that the environmental assessment for the Main Street railroad grade separation, dated May 8, 2000, gave the Graham Road crossing a hazard rating of 17.63 on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 the most hazardous.

Durham told Flowers in the letter that about one-third of the city’s population lives east of the railroad. “The City of Jacksonville believes a new at-grade crossing to be in the best interest of these residents and vital to the economic redevelopment of Graham Road and the surrounding area,” Durham wrote.

The Highway Department responded in an Aug. 27 letter.

In the letter, Scott Bennett, assistant chief engineer for planning, wrote, “Reopening a crossing at this location would require negotiations between the city of Jacksonville and the railroad regarding the required easement and installation of new concrete- panel crossing surface and mast-mounted flashing lights and gates.”

Bennett went on to say, “The responsibility for the cost of this work would be determined during these negotiations. Typically, the costs of such improvements are borne by the entity requesting the crossing.”

The Highway Department forwarded a copy of the letter to Charlie Felkins with Union Pacific Railroad.

Jacksonville’s former Mayor Tommy Swaim has said that the railroad overpass was built to alleviate traffic concerns and improve safety. The $3.2 million bridge opened April 17, 2003.

“It was a dangerous intersection with trains ... there were accidents and some deaths,” Swaim said.

When the Main Street overpass opened to motorists, it was cited in a news story that the improvement would help ease the memory of a 1979 crash at that crossing that killed four teenagers.

The Jacksonville City Council approved an ordinance in 2001, which called for the closing of the Graham Road crossing once the Main Street overpass was built.

TOP STORY >> Beebe says education will create more jobs

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

It would be obvious to even the casual observer that Gov. Mike Beebe is at home in White County. While waiting at ASU-Beebe on Friday morning to talk about the connection between economic development and education, he referred to Chancellor Eugene McKay as Gene and said it wasn’t necessary to wait for him to make it to the stage. The program could start without him, the governor joked.

As part of his Arkansas Works initiative, the governor has asked all 75 counties to develop a strategic plan for improved education and economic development, which he says are inextricably linked.

White County Judge Michael Lincoln, co-chair along with Searcy Mayor Belinda Laforce of the Advancing White County steering committee, said during his brief speech about how the work is going that one of his goals is to make the governor proud of White County.

Beebe said there was no need for that. “I am proud,” he replied.

But now he is the governor and he can’t show favoritism. There are 500 communities in Arkansas, he said. For a governor, that’s like having 500 children. He has to love them all. He may like some better than others but he must treat them the same.

So when it comes to economic development, his job is to bring prospects into the state. After that, every area is on its own.

They’ve got to be prepared and the cities have got to work together.

“If Bald Knob does well, it helps Searcy. If Searcy does well, it helps Beebe. We are all tied together whether we like it or not. And when we work together, it helps us all,” the governor said.

Companies looking to relocate or expand usually need to be close to a freeway or a waterway. Some need infrastructure.

What they all need is a workforce with good work ethics and skills. Work ethics is not a problem. Arkansas has hard workers, the governor said. What those willing workers need is training.

“Education and economic development are tied so closely you can’t talk about one without talking about the other,” he said.

Arkansas, the natural state, is known for its beauty and its friendly people. The governor said the state “must take those natural advantages and build on them” if it is to have economic growth.

And speaking like someone who knows the county well, he said it’s alright for cities to have rivalries except where economic development is concerned.

Beebe can compete with Bald Knob, and Searcy can compete with Bradford, he said. But if a company wants to locate in Arkansas, the cities in White County must pull together if they want to get it, he said.

“Once you realize it’s between Bald Knob and Fort Smith, every city in this county better get behind Bald Knob,” Beebe said.

TOP STORY >> Only one district to air Obama

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Several area school districts will not participate Tuesday in the live stream of President Barrack Obama’s address to students.

The Pulaski County Special School District is airing it, but leaving the final decision up to individual principals.

The Lonoke School District doesn’t have the technology needed, and Beebe Schools will be closed that day. Staff development on Tuesday means Beebe students get a four-day weekend.

Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe Schools, said Friday that only one parent had called her office to complain about students viewing the speech.

“Some of the teachers plan to record it so they can show it later and I understand we will get a manuscript,” Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe Schools, said Friday. “I haven’t really heard much about it.”

Shook said only one parent had called her office to complain about students viewing the speech.

She had talked to Dr. Tony Thurman, superintendent of Cabot Schools, and he had received several calls both for and against students watching the speech.

Thurman confirmed by e-mail Friday afternoon that he had received several calls both for and against students watching the speech. The concerns expressed by those who were against it were similar to those reported across the country, he said.

But he said he decided not to allow the speech to be shown because it goes against protocol.

The most commonly reported concern on the Internet is that the speech will attempt to indoctrinate children with his allegedly socialist agenda.

“Cabot Schools will not participate in the live stream of President Obama’s address to students,” Thurman said.

“It is district protocol for staff to view presentations (movies, speeches, etc.) in advance of showing to students,” he explained.

“This procedure allows staff the opportunity to ensure viewing of any presentation is at the appropriate grade levels and for their content area. It is our understanding that a text of the speech will not be available until Sunday or Monday.

“DVD copies will be available for check-out in school offices for parents that do not have access to the Internet. A Web link to the speech will be made available to parents on the district Web site,” Thurman said.

In addition to a live speech going against district protocol, there was concern about taking students away from their lessons as well as concerns about whether the district was technologically capable of showing the speech.

“Our technology department has expressed concern about the bandwidth capacity that would be necessary to stream this to every site in the district at one time. We may use the speech in classes that are grade and content appropriate after staff has the opportunity to view it,” he said.

Julie Thompson, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Education, said Friday that the president will encourage students to stay in school and work hard, which the department also encourages. And the speech is a current event pertaining to students, so the department has no objections to students watching the speech.

But, she said, “We don’t have a position. It’s a district decision as to whether their students watch it.”

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville in, Cabot out for state fair

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville wants to be part of a small group of central Arkansas cities vying to become the new home of the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show.

The Jacksonville City Council backed that desire by passing a resolution Thursday, saying the city will help with land acquisition and development.

Lonoke, Carlisle and North Little Rock are also submitting proposals. Cabot thought about it, but has decided not to submit its own proposal. State fair officials are seeking bids from communities within 35 miles of Little Rock and hope to find a new site to replace the one off Roosevelt Road, which they say has become inadequate.

Jacksonville aldermen agree with Mayor Gary Fletcher that the city has a 400-acre site between Hwy. 67/167 and Hwy. 161 near the North Belt Loop that would be the perfect spot.

Jacksonville is one of a number of central Arkansas cities looking to host the state fair when it moves from its outdated traffic-congested Barton Coliseum site off Roosevelt in Little Rock.

Jacksonville officials are submitting a proposal, before the Sept. 15 deadline, to the proper authorities to move the fair to Wooten Road off Hwy. 161 and I-440, an area that was recently annexed into the city.

According to the resolution, the city believes that the site satisfies all criteria being sought by the state fair board. “It provides a central location with multiple thoroughfare access for greater traffic control and planning, has unlimited potential for open development of a user-friendly and safe fairground environment,” the resolution states.

The resolution promises assistance and enticements with development costs, which could run as high as $120 million, by and through the city and willing entities. That assistance could include possible land acquisition and coordination, planning and ultimate site development.

“We’re centrally located. We’ve got the perfect land. It’s the most logical for the fair to come here,” Fletcher told the council.

Fletcher predicted the city would have the same outstanding relationship with the fair board as with Little Rock Air Force Base.

“We’ll tell the state fair commission we’d be good partners,” he said last week. “We’ll go the extra mile. That’s the kind of people we have here. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

One plus not mentioned in the resolution is that the sale of alcohol would be allowed in the 400-acre area and that wasn’t in
Cabot’s plans to submit a bid, as that city is dry.

The current fairground site is 70 years old and it is too small, critics say. There isn’t enough room for parking and the 33,000-square-foot Hall of Industry needs to be at least 100,000 square feet to accommodate some of the businesses that have been turned away because of lack of space.

Then there is difficulty in getting to the fairgrounds, located in Little Rock off a too-narrow and too congested Roosevelt Road.

The Jacksonville site has plenty of options for traffic flow.

An ordinance tightening the city’s juvenile curfew was pulled from the meeting plans for more review, leaving only the resolution supporting Jacksonville’s bid for the fairgrounds on the agenda.

Friday, September 04, 2009

TOP STORY >> WAR MEMORIES: Japanese-Americans sent to Arkansas during WWII

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History recently held a presentation about Rohwer, one of two Japanese-American internment camps in southeastern Arkansas during the Second World War.

One man in the audience was at both Rohwer and Jerome camps, not as an internee, but as an administrator.

Young Orsburn, 93, of North Little Rock was a teacher and superintendent of housing at the Jerome internment camp in Drew County from 1942 until it closed in 1944. He went on to work at the Rohwer camp relocating internees in Desha County for three months before he was drafted into the Army.

Orsburn was born on April 14, 1916, in Okolona in Clark County. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Henderson State Teachers College.

Before working at the internment camps, Orsburn was the superintendent of Central schools in Nevada County.

Orsburn was approached about working at the Jerome internment camp school by A.G. Thomas, Lake Village school superintendent. Tho-mas had been selected to run the school in Jerome.

“He asked me if I would help him with the school system down there and I agreed to it,” Orsburn said.

Orsburn was 26 years old when he started teaching high school general science classes at the Jerome camp school. He and his wife, Lucille, lived in Jerome with their 5-year-old daughter Patricia. She attended first grade at the Jerome school.

Their second daughter, Cecillia, was born on April 18, 1943, at Dermott Catholic Hospital while the family was at Jerome.

“At Jerome, I taught for a few months. They moved me from teaching to administrative staff as superintendent of housing,” Orsburn said.

He said Jerome was not called an internment camp.

“We referred to it as the Jerome relocation center. I served on the evacuee-relocation committee. The main thrust was to put the people to work outside of the center, away from the West Coast,” he explained.

Those sent to internment camps were first, second and third generation Americans.

They came from Hawaii, southern California, Washington, Oregon and southern Arizona, Orsburn said.

Orsburn has much admiration toward the Japanese-Americans who were sent to Jerome.

“These people made good American citizens, you learned. The parents were so dedicated to see that their children were brought up American and educated,” he said.

“They exhibited this by being members of the PTA and church organizations. The children were devoted to see that their parents were taken care of in their old age. They were excellent employees and did their job well,” Orsburn said.

Many of the Japanese-American students who were at Jerome are still in contact with Orsburn today.

Orsburn recalled internee Alice Tomono, who helped the Orsburn family with babysitting and household work.

“We got her a job in Independence, Mo., as a housekeeper for a family. While she was in Jerome, she made contact with the Baby Ruth candy company in Chicago. She secured a job with Baby Ruth for close to two years.

“By that time the war was over and she returned to Sacramento, Calif. She married her old high school sweetheart, Kay Okimura,” Orsburn said.

One of the more famous Japanese-Americans who was sent to Jerome was artist Henry Sugimoto and his wife. Orsburn remembered Sugimoto arrived at the camp with three paint brushes.

Sugimoto was an art teacher at Jerome who later went to Paris and New York.

The Smithsonian Institute in Washington owns some of his art. The Japanese American National Museum has an online collection of Sugimoto’s work, including paintings of Arkansas internment camps.

Jerome and Rohwer were the farthest internment camps from the West Coast. Orsburn said each camp was set up on 10,000 acres of government-owned land.

Around 8,500 Japanese-Americans were interned at Jerome. It was the fifth largest city in the state at that time. The camp had electricity and a sewer plant that the neighboring towns did not have.

There were six guard towers at Jerome and more guards drove along patrol roads that went around the perimeter of the camp.

The camp was surrounded by three strands of barbed-wire fencing.

“We never had any trouble or anyone wanting to leave,” Orsburn said.

According to housing layouts Orsburn still has, the Jerome camp had 2,376 apartments. Some apartments had two people, while a few had up to 19 people staying at a time.

The camp was laid out in a grid pattern of 36 housing blocks; 33 blocks were used for evacuees. Each block had 12 barrack buildings with 72 apartment units.

Each barrack was divided into six apartments. There were two 16-feet-by-20-feet units, two 20-feet-by-20-feet units and two 24-feet-by-20 feet units.

Each block had its own managerial office, large cafeteria, laundry and lavatories.

At Jerome, there were nearly 1,000 Japanese-Americans employed at the camp. Some were block managers, janitors, firemen, laundry attendances, office clerks, supply clerks, warehouse employees, repairmen and movers.

Workers were paid from $12 to $19 a month, depending on their abilities.

“We had a lot of Japanese-Americans volunteer for the Army out there and trained at Fort Shelby, Miss.,” Orsburn said.

Many Japanese-Americans worked on the farms at the camps.

Orsburn said, “They raised so much food on the farms. Jerome had 718 farmed acres. They grew 1,170,000 pounds of vegetables, including sweet potatoes. They cleared 200 acres of virgin land. They slaughtered 1,215 hogs. They cut and sawed 281,900 board feet of lumber, and they cut 16,600 cords of wood used to heat the barracks.”

After 1945, the Jerome camp was turned into a German POW camp.

Orsburn was drafted into the Army in 1944.

“I had two children and was deferred for a long time,” he said.

Orsburn went to basic training in Fort Knox, Ky. He then moved to adjutant general school in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

From there, Orsburn was stationed to McCloskey Army general hospital in Temple, Texas.

He was trained to counsel and discharge wounded war veterans and to discharge patients at the Army hospital from 1944 to 1945.

He returned to Rohwer about a month after finishing his service. Orsburn then worked for five years at the Veterans Administration in Little Rock.

He assisted the chief of advisement and guidance.

In 1950, Orsburn went to work for the state Department of Education’s rehabilitation services.

He was the supervisor of 31 counties in the western division of Arkansas. Orsburn retired from the position after 32 years.

While working for the Department of Education, Orsburn continued his education and earned a master’s degree in education and counselor training from the University of Arkansas in 1952.

During the summer of 1958, Orsburn went to New York University for advanced training in civil rehabilitation of the severely handicapped.

Orsburn and his wife, Lucille, were married for 67 years until her death in 2003. In addition to Patricia and Cecilia, they had two other daughters, Ellen and Martha.

EDITORIAL >> Tax dollars at work!

Have you noticed that the state House of Representatives and its leadership have been getting some bad press? They signed off on stupendous salaries for some people from outside Arkansas to come run our little lottery, authorized a bloated force of people with merely hefty salaries to do the actual work, endorsed sole-bid contracts and generally bungled the lottery, which 43 other states had started over the past 40 years with relative ease. It turned out that the lottery law they unveiled and passed overnight right at the end of a long legislative session in the spring included some important stuff that nobody talked about at the time.

Then they agitated Governor Beebe and lots of other people last month by announcing plans to spend three million of the taxpayers’ dollars on a tunnel or skywalk to connect the Capitol with the House members’ new personal offices in the Big MAC building a few yards to the west so they wouldn’t get cold or wet in the trek. Get an umbrella, the governor said.

That is just lately.

Last week, the House, or at least its leaders, figured out a solution and acted swiftly and boldly. No, no, they didn’t decide to embrace the public interest with greater fidelity. The problem was much bigger than that.

The problem was that the House members were not getting their message out to the people and, of course, that means that they were not spending enough money crafting and distributing the message about what thrifty, ingenious and public-spirited people they were. Voters were left relying on nothing but news accounts of their doings.

So they fired the former newspaper reporter who had been in charge of public information for the House for years and set up a far more elaborate “communications” operation. They will hire someone to replace the public-information officer, who made $80,000 a year, and also retain Craig Douglass Communications of Little Rock at $60,000 a year plus expenses and a 15 percent commission for special-contract work to oversee things from outside. Douglass will develop a public-relations strategy and some fresh ideas about how to get the word out to people across the state about the good things the legislature and its individual members do in the few weeks every year that they are in session at Little Rock.

There will be absolutely no politics involved, you understand.

Craig Douglass runs an advertising and public-relations agency. Like three-fourths of the House members, he is a Democrat, but he and Speaker Robbie Wills say that is immaterial. He will promote Republican and Democratic ideas with equal fervor. When he is done, people will be mad at nobody in the legislature. Republicans, who yearn to run the House but don’t yet, were a little querulous. Wills did say at first that the new communications team would tout the ideas of the House leadership, although he later tried to say he hadn’t said it or meant it.

You may be familiar with some of Douglass’ work. He was the lobbyist and communications strategist for Deltic Timber Corp. when it was trying to pass a law written by Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow, the current head of the state Senate and prospective candidate for the U. S. Senate, to allow Deltic to build regal subdivisions along the shores of Lake Maumelle right above the intake for our principal water supply. He’s also been the public-relations adviser for the Pulaski County School District, but he seldom returned phone calls.

By the way, how did those tasks work out?

Craig Douglass Communications worked, voluntarily he said, for the successful lottery initiative in 2008 and with Wills on the lottery-enabling legislation. But when Douglass applied for the lucrative contract to do promotions and advertising for the lottery, he lost out to an ad combine that had even better connections with the Lottery Commission and director than he did.

Unlike other ad agencies, Douglass didn’t complain publicly about the loaded bid process that the lottery boys had contrived.

Sixty thousand dollars a year plus expenses and extras for a little consulting is meager consolation for the big prize that got away, but it is the best at the moment that the House — excuse us: make that the taxpayers — can do.

Admittedly, there are more scandalous wastes of taxpayers’ money than a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to promote politicians. But is it really the taxpayers’ job and is it in their interest to do that? Isn’t that why we have special interests? In the new political order, it’s their job to bankroll the politicians’ image making. They’re the beneficiaries, after all.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

TOP STORY >> Young foreign-service officer becomes a seasoned diplomat

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Senior staff writer

As a State Department foreign-service employee, Erik Ryan has briefed Army Gen. David Petraeus on Iraqi oil production, learned German in Argentina, studied Arabic and met his fiancĂ©e, Melissa Brewster — not bad for a dyslexic who had to repeat senior English the summer he graduated from Jacksonville High School.

Ryan, 38, is home for a brief visit between postings. He lived in the Baghdad Green Zone in 2008 and part of 2009. Escorted by Blackwater operatives, he ventured out into the more dangerous Red Zone once or twice a week to meet with Iraqi oil ministers and others as a liaison for the generals, he said.

In the Green Zone, soldiers and other armed personnel would remove clips from their weapons and eject cartridges from the firing chamber. But in the red zone, it was “lock, cock and ready to rock,” he said.

A soldier for eight years, Ryan broke a hip and is no longer active duty.

Ryan was born in Fayetteville and moved with his family to Jacksonville when he was 4. He attended Pinewood Elementary School and Northside Junior High School.

At Jacksonville High School, he played offensive tackle and defensive end on the football team and took many gifted and talented classes.

His father, Larry Ryan, an electrical engineer, worked for Arkansas Electrical Cooperative in Little Rock until he retired in 2007.

His mother, Helena, was born in the Netherlands and became a U.S. citizen last November.

Ryan said he wanted a career in the foreign service since his freshman year at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

“What attracted me was the travel, the opportunity (to be paid) to learn foreign languages and to serve my country,” Ryan explained.

“It’s a good job and the pay is highly competitive,” he said.

“It’s a unique time in Iraq. Success there is success for the Unite States,” he said.

He wants to see the U.S. help Iraq produce more oil and to help bring economic and political viability and stability.

“We didn’t go to Iraq to steal their oil,” he said. “We want them to produce more, but what’s good for Iraq is good for us.”

He said he was proud to have played a part in helping rehabilitate Iraqi oil infrastructure, particularly the open bidding process under which Iraq recently accepted a bid to pay a royalty to a consortium of British Petroleum and the Chinese National Petroleum Company for every net-gain barrel of oil pumped from the oil field with the oil company’s assistance.

He said that was the first open bidding on Iraqi oil fields since before the U.S. invaded in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

“They held their first bid round, and it was very transparent, which is where we want it.

Ninety-five percent of Iraq’s revenue is from export and sale of oil or natural gas, he said.

“We would write reports and visit oil workers on the ground.”

Talking to Iraqi oil officials, “We would discuss the direction (oil development) should take, and we brought in experts.

“Oil production has been stuck for about 30 years,” he said, largely because of the series of wars fought in the region.

Daily oil production is about 2.5 million barrels, he said, which is about what it was before the first U.S. invasion.

Ryan says he has little patience for those who say the U.S. invaded Iraq to take over the oil fields.

When he helped brief Patraeus, “we discussed what we see and where we can assist the Iraqis.”

He said they were there to assist the Iraqis rebuild, rework and improve their oil infrastructure.

“We no longer build hard infrastructure, we offer technical help to become more efficient,” he said.

Other foreign service employees are helping Iraqis build water and wastewater systems, including a large wastewater treatment facility in Fallujah.

“We are working through the Iraqis. They have a lot of needs.”

Ryan said a large proportion of the population doesn’t have access to potable water and, on the tail end of a drought, it has been particularly rough.

Ryan is done in Iraq for now. He’ll go to the United Nations General Assembly for a three-month stint, then to Washington for more training.

After that, he and Brewster will be posted in June to Berlin, where they will do basic diplomatic duty like checking visas.

“I like the weather in Iraq more than in Arkansas,” he said. While the temperature can exceed 120 to 130 degrees during the days of summer, the humidity is zero.

Winters are mild and fall is pleasant, Ryan said. The worst of the weather is the sandstorms, which he said more closely resemble dust storms. The sky and air can appear burnt orange.

In a preliminary six-week assignment to Baghdad, Ryan and others lived in metal shipping containers “hardened” with sand bags. At one time he slept in a corner of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, and survived a rocket attack there.

But in the just-concluded one-year posting, he lived in small but secure apartments at the U.S. Embassy, where the windows don’t open because the glass is “this thick,” he said, thumb and forefinger about two inches apart.

SPORTS >> Falcons take flight with new coach

By TODD TRAUB
Leader sports editor

Solid talent and a new head coach have given hope to the North Pulaski faithful as the Falcons prepare to start the 2009 football season.

The Falcons will host Dumas at Falcon Stadium on Friday in the first game under new head coach Rick Russell. Dumas won the last meeting in the 2006 season opener, 28-6.

Russell moved across town after serving as Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator and took over when Falcons athletic director Tony Bohannon stepped down as football coach in the spring.

Bohannon remains on the varsity staff as offensive line coach and will coach the freshmen Falcons team.

“We can only gauge how practices are going and how the kids’ approach to preparation has been,” Russell said. “We’re happy with where we are. We think we could be a lot further along but we’ve made some progress.”

Russell’s first order of business was a more rigorous conditioning program. The Falcons were competitive in most of their 5A-Southeast Conference games last year until fatigue got the best of them toward the end of the third quarters.

North Pulaski got its first taste of life under Russell’s direction in a four-team benefit at Pulaski Robinson on Aug. 24. The Falcons had mixed results in scrimmages against Greenbrier and the host Senators, and the night ended on a scary note with a significant arm injury to peppy sophomore running back Derrick Hart.

The scrimmage also marked the varsity debut of sophomore quarterback Syheim Barron, who led the Falcons’ ninth-grade team through a solid season in 2008. Starting tight end Marshall Shipley also spent time under center.

Russell said Barron will start at quarterback Friday and Shipley will line up at tight end, but the two could rotate at quarterback or back each other up in the event of an injury.

“They both did some good things in our scrimmage and our maroon and gold game and I think we’ve got two good guys to run the ship,” Russell said.

Powerful junior Darius Cage returns at running back after an injury took him out of the last half of 2008. Billy Barron, a 270-pound fullback also took handoffs and will be the Falcons’ go-to guy in short-yardage situations this season.

The Bobcats come into Friday’s opener after going a respectable 7-5 last year. Dumas shared many of the Falcons’ struggles to find victories and address depth issues early in the decade, but the hiring of coach Mark Courtney in 2006 helped change the Bobcats’ fortunes and, in 2007, led to a 10-4 finish and an appearance in the 4A state quarterfinals.

The Dumas offense revolves around sizeable quarterback Dariun Griswold, 6-4, 225 pounds. Griswold will use that size to his advantage in running situations and proved it as a sophomore with 500 rushing yards to go with 2,100 yards passing.

Russell said Griswold is faster than his size makes him look and is a danger to throw even while trying to slip a tackle. The Falcons will have to try to pin Griswold’s arm as much as possible when bringing him down, Russell said.

“As big as he is he looks like he’s gliding but he’s pretty elusive,” Russell said. “We’re going to try to put some pressure on and we’ve worked on trying to tackle him the right way.”

In the speed department, the Bobcats have senior running back Jamarean Buchanan, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and led Dumas in rushing last year with 800 yards despite missing four games.

Deveon Horn is another senior running back who struggled with injuries last season after rushing for almost 650 yards for the Bobcats.

Senior Aaron Dennis will lead a solid group of receivers. Dennis is a player to watch who has drawn interest from a number of upper level NCAA schools, including the University of Arkansas.

The Bobcats also have strong receivers in seniors Pierce Lacy and Rashad Hampton.

“We’ll play a lot of kids,” Russell said. “We’re still trying to get the kids in the right positions and set the depth charts. That’s what non-conference is for. It’s a learning experience. Of course you still want to win.”

SPORTS >> Season, Bost era to begin against Pulaski Robinson

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Pulaski Robinson will be Lonoke’s third opening-week opponent in as many years.

The Jackrabbits opened 2007 with a close loss to Hot Springs, and beat Dumas during the first game of Hooten’s kickoff week last season at the Arkansas-Pine Bluff campus.

Pulaski Robinson will enter Abraham Field on Friday trying to shake off its disappointing 2008 campaign in which the Senators went 1-9. Pulaski Robinson started last year with an 18-0 victory over Hamburg before dropping its final nine games by an average of 20 points.

Inexperience with a young line up hurt the Senators chances in many of those losses, but the experience gained by coach Todd Eskola’s group last year could give them an advantage in 2009.

“That’s a team that was forced to play a lot of sophomores last year,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “But he has 18 starters coming back — a lot of them juniors. They have a lot of speed in their skill spots. They look much improved.”

It was a dire situation for the Senators last year with only five seniors and just two with game experience. Strength was a big factor with only two players who could bench over 200 pounds.

In all, 18 sophomores started on Fridays for Pulaski Robinson.

“We were a JV team last year. We grew up basically,” Eskola said. “The kids are a year older, and a lot stronger and faster.

They’ve been a good group all the way through the system; they just got thrown to the wolves last year.”

Lonoke enjoyed the most success it has had in several years last season. The ’Rabbits won the 2-4A Conference title and reached the quarterfinals of the 4A playoffs.

But with many key players graduated and a new coach in Bost, there are some unknowns in 2009.

Bost has been a part of the Lonoke program as head varsity track coach and freshmen football coach for the past six years.

Friday, however, will mark the first time Bost has stood on the sidelines at the helm of the varsity football team.

The offense, led by senior quarterback Michael Nelson, got off to a good start in last week’s scrimmage against Oak Grove, scoring 38 points in the first half.

“We did some good things,” Bost said. “There were also some things we didn’t like that we’ve been working on. They had a lot of enthusiasm out there and played as a team. That’s what we wanted to see from them.”

The Senators did not have as much offensive productivity in their two scrimmages against Mills and North Pulaski, but they only ran a small part of their playbook. Eskola said to expect his offense to be more multiple this week.

“I think we match up with Lonoke pretty good,” Eskola said, praising Jackrabbits receiver Darius Scott and tailback Brandon Smith. “Our offense was so vanilla — we only had about eight plays in our scrimmage. That’s only about 15 or 20 percent of what we run.”

Neither team should surprise the other with a defensive look. Both teams play out of a 4-3 base, which is also the preferred style of a number of teams in the 2-4A Conference. Bost had an opportunity to scout his opening-week opponent and its defense at the Senators’ four-team scrimmage last week.

“What we saw was the 4-3 — that’s something we’ve gone against and feel pretty good about,” Bost said. “It will be a lot like playing Stuttgart. They are big and fast like that. Robinson has always been known for having those types of kids. That should help get us ready for conference.”

The Jackrabbits will have to go without sophomore guard/defensive lineman Brenden Ellington, 6-1, 315 pounds, who suffered a foot injury and will be out until next week. Bost said he had planned on using Ellington on Friday as one of his main subs on the line until Ellington’s injury.

SPORTS >> Bears to open year, take on a familiar foe

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Last year’s season-opening meeting between the Malvern Leopards and Sylvan Hills Bears came down to the final minute. The Bears had the Leopards down six points and pinned against their goal line, and time and luck ran out on them.

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow can still recall that game. He can also attest to the potential for another close game this year.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Withrow said. “They’ve returned a lot from last year — we’ve returned a lot from last year. It will probably be close again this year.”

Leopards coach John Fogleman, now in his third season, has focused much of his team’s attention on defense this year. That has included taking sure-handed receiver Trent Bryant and making him a defensive specialist.

While Withrow would like to wrap things up early Friday, Fogleman doesn’t mind the possibility of another close one.

“I hope so — that means we have a chance to win,” Fogleman said. “We expect it to be that way. The big question mark for us is our offensive line. We’ve had some injuries, so we’re trying to do some patchwork there.”

For Withrow, keeping his talented squad of fewer than 40 players healthy is the priority. The Bears escaped a pair of tough scrimmages last week against private school powerhouses Little Rock Christian and Pulaski Academy with no injuries. With three games on tap before 5A-Southeast Conference play begins, the Bears will proceed with caution in the early going this season.

“It changes the way you approach things to an extent,” Withrow said. “When you get to a certain yard line, you know you want to put your best guys in there. It also gives people an opportunity to play that can help you down the road.”

The defensive line is a cause of concern for Withrow. The low numbers have hurt the Bears the most there, leaving a limited number of subs.

Withrow has been trying senior Stephan Kettle in the line along with junior Michael Finney, 5-10, 170 pounds, and Willie Johnson, 5-5, 155, in hopes of developing some sort of rotation.

“For this time of the season, we’re in relatively good shape,” Withrow said. “It’s going to be harder for us as coaches to manage the game better than what we’ve done before. But not giving up any points to PA and only 14 to Christian was a good first step.

And the things we did wrong are correctable.”

Fogleman said he hopes to combat the speed of Sylvan Hills with a tough defense anchored by 6-0, 260-pound senior linebacker Kevin Bell, who led the Leopards with 72 tackles last season. Classmate Osha Johnson, 6-2, 195, and junior Grady Ollison, 6-4, 240, are two more big men Fogleman hopes will be a factor in shutting down the Bears’ multiple attack.

“We’re probably not as fast as what we’ve been for the last couple of years, but we feel like we’re getting better,” Fogleman said. “Our concern is their skill kids — they jump out at you. We hope to compensate for speed with the play of our kids. We’re a lot better off defensively than we were last year. That’s been our biggest improvement.”

Malvern has offensive threats of its own with junior receiver James King, who had 36 catches for 650 yards and 11 touchdowns his sophomore season. Fogleman is also looking for big things from junior running back Dontail Henson.

Although his first job is now defense, Bryant will also see some time at receiver on Friday.

“There will be three big keys for this game,” Withrow said. “Not giving up the big plays, having a good kicking game and fourth-quarter conditioning. If we can do all of those things, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

SPORTS >> Badgers battle Panthers

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Tradition is not an easy thing to build. Just ask John Shannon and Randy Tribble.

For Shannon, now in his third season as head coach at Beebe, the majority of that tradition building is over. The Badgers have gone to the playoffs each of Shannon’s first two years and won their first postseason game in six years against former league rival Blytheville, 35-22, in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

For Tribble and his Greenbrier Panthers, the tradition-building process is ongoing. The Panthers went 1-9 last year in their first season under the former Harding University head coach.

This year, the Panthers return a handful of starters, but most importantly, have had a year to adjust to Tribble’s system.

The teams will begin to see how their traditions, or traditions in the making, stand when they collide at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium in Beebe on Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“Overall, I think we match up well with our speed and our size,” Shannon said. “Now it will be a matter of who executes.”

The Badgers got a tune-up when they played Searcy in a benefit game last week. Beebe’s offense was able to move the ball consistently, but killed itself with turnovers.

“We just went back and stressed fundamentals,” Shannon said. “We worked hard on Thursday and Friday. We didn’t really do anything drastic, we just went back to our fundamentals.”

Searcy tried some passing during the scrimmage, but mostly stuck with the run. Tribble will have Greenbrier’s spread offense looking to throw considerably more Friday.

“Anytime you see something different, it’s a concern,” Shannon said. “But we worked all summer with our 7-on-7 program, and we worked on it all through the spring also. We feel like we’re going in with a good game plan. Hopefully, we will find out if what we’ve done will work.”

Greenbrier attended the four-team scrimmage at Pulaski Robinson last Monday, and took on Mills and North Pulaski.

Greenbrier came alive in the second half of the North Pulaski scrimmage with a pair of passing touchdowns after junior running back Hunter Winston scored the Panthers’ lone, first-half touchdown on a 20-yard run. Shannon made it a point to check out the scrimmage and was impressed with Greenbrier and Winston.

“They’re not bad offensively,” Shannon said. “They looked a lot tougher than last year. And No. 27, you have to know where he is at all times.”

SPORTS >> Panthers win big on the small screen

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Cabot was prepared for prime time, and Spencer Smith was ready for his close-up.

The Panthers junior fullback ran wild against rival Jacksonville with 22 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns as Cabot won the anticlimactic sequel to the Backyard Brawl, 35-6, on Tuesday night at Panther Stadium.

It was the first live, commercially televised high school football game in Arkansas, and Smith took the spotlight early with four consecutive rushes that gave the Panthers their first score with 10:28 left in the first quarter.

It never got easier for the outmatched Red Devils. Handling Smith and shifty senior quarterback Seth Bloomberg proved difficult for the Jacksonville defense, and Cabot linebacker Spencer Neumann blitzed at will against the Devils offensive line.

“It’s a good start. We’re 1-0. That’s what we wanted,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “Of course, Jacksonville’s young. Some of their best players are sophomores. They’re going to get a lot better as they get experience. We had a little more muscle on the line than they did. But I was pleased on both sides of the ball.”

Jacksonville avoided a shutout with 6:22 left to play when junior quarterback Logan Perry found D’Vone McClure wide open at midfield. McClure cut back to the right to avoid the Panthers defensive backs and sprinted the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown.

“We were trying to get it on the edge and trying to hit some hot routes underneath,” Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley said.

“And we did a couple of times. We couldn’t stretch the field enough to overcome some penalties we got.”

Cabot kicker Logan Spry set the tone for the Panthers when he sent the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. The Devils fumbled at their 19-yard line on the first play, and Smith took it in for the Panthers in four plays.

Smith increased Cabot’s lead with 8:45 left in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run, and completed his hat trick with a 2-yard run up the middle with 10:13 left in the third period.

Sophomore Justin Willis and junior Jeremy Berry rushed for the other two Cabot scores.

Willis scored from 11 yards out on a pitch from Bloomberg to the left side with 3:21 left in the first half. Berry added Cabot’s final touchdown with 7:26 to play on a 3-yard run between the hash marks.

The Red Devil offense had flashes of momentum, but Neumann, Cabot’s 6-0, 195-pound wrecking-ball linebacker, put enough pressure on Perry to extinguish those flashes in a hurry.

Junior tackle Jared Dumais also got in on the action for the Panthers early in the second quarter with a sack on fourth and 14 that gave Cabot the ball at its 40.

The statistics revealed the disparity between the teams. Cabot had 328 total yards with 17 first downs while the Red Devils managed only 159 yards and five first downs.

Perry hung tough for the Red Devils despite constant pressure from Cabot’s defense. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. His biggest mistake came late in the third quarter when senior defensive back Joe Bryant intercepted him deep in Cabot territory.

Of the historic television broadcast, Whatley said he noticed no impact on the game other than the one-minute break after each score.

“I’m not sure this time of year that’s not a good thing anyway,” Whatley said. “Every other year I’ve seen us cramp, they’ve cramped, I didn’t see any of that tonight. It may be beneficial.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

TOP STORY >> Rail crossing needed, city says

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville has asked the Arkansas Highway Department to put in a new at-grade railroad crossing at Graham Road, citing a low hazard rating and economic needs.

The city should have some kind of an answer after Labor Day.

The crossing was closed temporarily when the $3.2 million Main Street overpass was built in 2001, and then later permanently closed. Concrete traffic barriers line both the south and north sides of the old crossing.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, who believes that the closing has harmed economic activity in Sunnyside and the east side of Jacksonville, said that the crossing can’t be reopened.

“That’s a dead horse, but we can and have requested a new crossing be constructed in the exact same spot,” the mayor said.

City administrator Jim Durham sent a letter to Dan Flowers, the director of the state Highway Department, making the request.
In the letter, Durham says that the environmental assessment for the Main Street railroad grade separation, dated May 8, 2000, gave the Graham Road crossing a hazard rating of 17.63 on a rating scale of zero to 100, with 100 being the most hazardous.

Durham told Flowers in the letter that about one-third of the city’s population lives east of the railroad.

“The city of Jacksonville believes a new at-grade crossing to be in the best interest of these residents and vital to the economic redevelopment of Graham Road and the surrounding area,” Durham wrote.

The Highway Department received the letter last week, but Flowers has been out of the office.

“We are doing the research and will respond to Jacksonville’s request as soon as we can,” said Glen Bolick, a spokesman for the Highway Department.

“At this point, I don’t know what will be in our response. This involves more than just us,” Bolick said. “We’ve also got to research what the railroad’s stance was and why.”

He added that the Highway Department would have to review all the agreements that it has and those with the railroad.

He said there is no timetable to respond to the city. “Rather than send a letter saying we are looking into it, we are going to look into it and then give the city our opinion,” Bolick said.

Former Mayor Tommy Swaim has said that the railroad overpass was built to alleviate traffic concerns and improve safety. The $3.2 million bridge opened April 17, 2003.

“It was a dangerous intersection with trains ... there were accidents and some deaths (at the Main Street intersection),” Swaim said.

When the overpass opened to motorists, it was cited in a news story that the improvement would help ease the memory of a 1979 crash at the crossing that killed four teenagers.

Jacksonville approved an ordinance in 2001, which called for the closing of the Graham Road crossing once the Main Street overpass was built.

TOP STORY >> School visit shows years of neglect

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor and publisher

It was early last Friday morning, when the kids at Jacksonville Elementary School still looked a little sleepy.

They were trying hard to learn their lessons from their dedicated teachers and ignore their rundown surroundings and concentrate on learning how to read and count. They tried to make sense of this crazy, mixed-up world, where adults make youngsters go to school under the most difficult circumstances, while new schools are going up all around them.

There’s the nearly completed Lighthouse Academy charter school across the railroad tracks. Ten miles up the road in Cabot, new schools are going up every couple of years. Lonoke is building a $10 million high school, while even the Pulaski County Special School District is putting up new schools in Maumelle and Sherwood.

Jacksonville Elementary is a rundown place with a couple of buildings that should have been condemned a generation ago. The main building opened in 1964, but it wasn’t built to last. The oldest building, a brown, wooden structure, the so-called federal building, was part of the ordnance plant during the Second World War, according to old-timers.

The miracle is that lessons are taught and learned. Principal Sonia Whitfield and her staff are as enthusiastic as if they were assigned to a sparkling new school in the suburbs.

That was the lesson Mayor Gary Fletcher, city administrator Jim Durham and school board president Tim Clark of Maumelle walked away with after their school tour Friday.

They found shower curtains and bed sheets separating classrooms, just like in refugee camps. There were dangerous electrical outlets, and protruding objects stuck out of floors, where youngsters could easily trip.

The cafeteria and hallways had broken tiles that were glazed over to cover up asbestos. The school district has allocated more than $400,000 in federal stimulus money to make improvements at the school — most of it for bathroom renovation — but those funds would fall far short of paying for the necessary repairs.

Jacksonville Elementary reminded Fletcher of the schools he visited in Romania, one of the poorest countries in eastern Europe.

This isn’t even the worst school in Jacksonville. The middle school is much worse, Fletcher told Clark.

Jacksonville Elementary was outdated even back when it opened. Architects designed hundreds of these boring schools in the 1950s for millions of baby boomers, who were packed into squat, dimly lit, dungeon-like structures that didn’t exactly encourage learning.

They made you homesick and made you wish you could run home in time for the Three Stooges.

Until Lighthouse Academy moved into Jacksonville, the city hadn’t seen a new school in 35 years.

Yet Jacksonville has found the resources over those years to build a new community center, city hall, library, railroad overpass and water park, but no new public schools. Little Rock Air Force Base officials have begged the district for a new elementary school near the base to replace the crumbling Arnold Drive and Tolleson elementary schools.

They’ve been begging for at least 20 years till their faces turned the color of their uniforms. The district’s response, which is pretty common around here when someone seeks help from those in authority: If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go somewhere else? No wonder more military kids are going to school in Cabot, Beebe, North Little Rock and Sherwood.

There’s hope that a federal judge later this month will let Jacksonville form its own district and tear down its worst schools and start anew. Do it for those eager young kids at Jacksonville Elementary, Arnold Drive, Tolleson and Pinewod and elsewhere.

They deserve schools as good as those in Cabot and Lonoke and Maumelle. Tear down those sheets and shower curtains and start building new schools.

TOP STORY >> Cabot to annex south after deal

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Cabot WaterWorks has struck an easement deal with developer Toby Troutman to lay a large water transmission line connecting to Central Arkansas Water across his property in the Hwy. 5 interchange area. The city will then annex his property and take over his private sewer system.

In the past, Troutman has resisted annexation. And without control of the private sewer system, Cabot WaterWorks could not make improvements that would allow further development in the area.

The commission also plans to upgrade the water system in the area to improve fire protection, another necessary element for commercial development.

The water upgrades will be possible because of the water main that will run across Troutman’s property.

The Cabot Water and Waste-water Commission last week approved a contract for paying Troutman, son of Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, $107,000 for easements across his property and commission control of his sewer system that will make commercial development possible in the area.

The commission also voted to pay $37,000 for improvements to the system to bring it into compliance with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality regulations.

The multi-part agreement also calls for the privately owned Cabot South Sewer Improvement District, which Troutman’s private system fed into, to be turned over to the commission in December 2011, when it will be debt free.

The deal is expected to be closed in a few days. City Attorney Jim Taylor, who told commissioners that he believed Troutman’s property, which includes the Huddle House restaurant and a mobile home park, could be annexed into the city by the end of the year.

“This commission has done its part to promote economic development,” spokesman Bill Cypert said of the agreement that has been more than six months in the making.

In other business, the commission discussed the draft of a policy for complete integration of water and wastewater services.

“Cabot WaterWorks shall not provide new wastewater service to any property unless Cabot WaterWorks also provides water service to the property,” the draft says.

The city already requires annexation of property before wastewater service may be provided.

If the new policy is approved, in addition to being annexed, developers would also have to take Cabot water which would in some cases require getting releases from other water providers such as Grand Prairie, Bayou Two, North Pulaski, Ward and Austin.

The draft also requests that the city not issue any occupancy permit for any structure within the five-mile extraterritorial planning jurisdiction unless it has city sewer or a state-approved septic tank and water service with adequate capacity and pressure, as determined by Cabot WaterWorks for fire service within a Class I or Class II ISO fire rating.

Cypert will present the draft to the council’s public works committee next week. The city attorney told the commission that he believed the mayor and council would support the policy.

Although commission chairman J.M. Park warned against setting precedent the commission approved paying $50,000 to lay an eight-inch water line in the Lonoke County Regional Park on Willie Ray Drive on the site of the old city dump.

The land is being reclaimed for recreation purposes. So far, only a BMX track has been constructed. But that track is hosting events.

Cypert said it would be in WaterWorks’ interest and the interest of rate payers to lay a waterline capable of supplying all the attractions that will eventually be built.

The vote to pay for the line was unanimous. WaterWorks expects to recoup its money in connection fees as the attractions are built.

TOP STORY >> Group fears water line in jeopardy

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

The stimulus money the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority board hoped would pay for its Greers Ferry Lake project is almost certainly out of reach.

The $65 million project would pay for a treatment plant and transmission line to supply water from Greers Ferry Lake. The water authority’s board learned Tuesday that it does not appear to meet the criteria for funding through the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency, which funds programs in place and not for long-term projects.

Dave Fenter, finance manager with Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, told the board that his agency is still trying to get the EPA to agree to the project. But in his opinion, the project will lose the stimulus money and may not be eligible for any money from the EPA. The panel had hoped to obtain federal funds from the commission to finance the project. LWPWA members include Vilonia, Jacksonville, Cabot, North Pulaski Water Association and Grand Prairie/Bayou Two Water Association.

If the project doesn’t fit the EPA criteria, Fenter said his agency has five or six other projects waiting in line for the stimulus money so the state will not lose it. He declined to name those possible recipients.

The EPA money is intended to remedy existing problems, not anticipated problems from growth. And since the stimulus money would come through EPA, project members would have to show they need water now.

The state commission and the water authority also would have to arrange for some of the LWPWA members with large customer bases to finance the project and work out a method for collecting payments. And they would have to have it all worked out by the Feb. 17 deadline for stimulus-funded projects. Fenter told members the deadline would be very difficult to meet.

To be eligible, for EPA funding, either stimulus money or the regular EPA funding, virtually every water system in the LWPWA membership would have to be at near capacity, Fenter said. Vilonia, Ward and McRae may be close to that point, but not the others.

When project engineer Tom-my Bond suggested that since EPA is interested only in the water situation as it is today, letters from members wouldn’t have to include projects like those under way in Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski to connect to Central Arkansas Water.

Cabot WaterWorks spokesman Bill Cypert quoted a maxim that he said came from southern Arkansas where he grew up: Figures lie and liars figure.

“Cabot won’t put in writing that Cabot needs water today,” Cypert said.

Furthermore, even after the stimulus money is gone, the project would still have to meet those same guidelines to receive EPA money.

Fenter said his agency is looking for alternative funding that would still allow construction without going over the $65 million cost estimate, the base for contracts members have been asked to sign.

But without EPA money, funding through the state commission could be difficult.

Fenter said afterward that if his agency can’t fund the whole project, there are other state agencies that might be able to help.

The commission intended to fund the project because it will provide surface water and stop the reliance on wells. Fenter said it was always viewed as a worthwhile project and until a few weeks ago, no one in his agency would have ever thought he project would not be eligible for EPA funding.

But now, because of the stimulus money, the EPA is closely scrutinized to ensure no project is funded unless it is unquestionably eligible.

During the Bush administration, the amount of federal money that came to his agency declined, he said. The 2010 federal budget is supposed to be more favorable, but the Lonoke-White project is already on the EPA’s radar as one that does not meet the criteria so funding could remain a problem even when more money is available, he said.

EDITORIAL >> Huck sings a new hymn

Yep, Mike Huckabee is running for president again in 2012. The small Republican base wants to hear vitriol, no matter how irrational, aimed at the country’s black president, and Huckabee delivered last week, uttering a version of the idea that President Obama wants to kill old, sick people like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, thrilled the base with two words, “death panels,” so Huckabee decided to go her one better.

Huckabee started a commentary on his Fox TV show and his online column by saying that Democrats were going to try to make political hay off Kennedy’s death. Then he proceeded to make political hay off Kennedy’s death.

First, he said how much he loved the guy, mainly because he was a genuine liberal and not a fake one like most of the rest he knew. He liked Kennedy a lot better than unprincipled conservatives. He recalled that he and Kennedy had sat beside each other years ago at a Senate hearing. Both of them testified for a little socialized medicine, a bill to guarantee government support for the care of children with developmental disabilities. As governor, he was among the country’s foremost champions of government-paid health care for children, although it was not socialized medicine when he was for it. When President Bush wanted to cut back the government’s role in medicating children, Huckabee would not support him.

Now that President Obama wants to see to it that all Americans, poor as well as the rich, sick as well as the able-bodied, have health insurance, Huckabee calls it socialism. He accuses the president, through “Obamacare,” of wanting to stop the disabled and the elderly sick from getting life-saving medical attention. Nothing in any of the bills before Congress and nothing in anything Obama has ever said could lead to that conclusion. Obama has repeatedly said that any health plan must protect people’s freedom to choose the insurance, the care and the doctor they want. That applies to people who already have health insurance through private plans or Medicare and Medicaid, as well as those who would be brought into the system under the mandate of each of the bills.

But while describing his affection and admiration for Kennedy’s courage in his fight against brain cancer, Huckabee said that under Obamacare, Kennedy would have been told to go home, take pain pills and die. Kennedy underwent surgery for the brain cancer last year. At the end, he chose not to have more invasive care.

Part of Huckabee’s remark came from Palin’s popular but wholly fictional story about Obama’s “death panels,” which would put people like her disabled baby and her aging parents to death because they were not useful citizens. That was a silly interpretation of a Republican-sponsored amendment to the Senate health bill that would have had Medicare reimburse doctors when patients and families consulted with them about terminal care. The sponsor, Sen. Johnny Isaakson, R-Georgia, called her description “nutty.”

In the storm of protests about Huckabee’s contemptible comment, he cited the president’s remark at a town-hall meeting when they were discussing expensive and often useless end-of-life medical procedures. Obama said people with terminal illnesses could consider whether they wanted to undergo surgery that might add a short period of life or draw their last breaths in relative comfort. They do that now, and nothing would change under the bills. It would be a family choice.

It is a dilemma that every family and most likely each of us will face: a surgically implanted feeding tube for a comatose mother who had said she did not want such agony, or still another round of radiation? One way to interpret Huckabee’s remarks — it’s the way he would interpret them if Obama had uttered them — is that he would not allow people to make such choices. The government would tell the patient and the doctors that the surgery must be performed. The doc and the hospital need the money.

We liked the 2008 version, the kinder, gentler Huckabee, much better than the scorched-earth Huckabee of 2009. We like the one who said on his campaign Web site, “The health-care system in this country is irrevocably broken. . .” and who said, back when he sensed that it was popular, that the government had an obligation to see that children and the needy, including illegal aliens, had medical attention. That is the one who boasted that his proudest accomplishment was using taxpayer funds to provide medical care to Arkansas children.

Alas, we are not apt to see him anymore.

SPORTS>> Taking away fond memories, leaving behind best wishes

By Kelly Fenton


News of every sort is breaking out across the sports world.

There is old news (Michael Vick has been reinstated in the NFL); shocking news (some Asian farmer named Y.E. Yang beat Tiger Woods on a Sunday at a major); boring news (some guy up at Fayetteville just moved up the charts at outside linebacker); and recurring news (Brett Favre has retir … er, I mean, unretired again).

But with all those headlines swirling around, the thing that matters most to folks in these parts is not what HAS happened, but what is about to happen. High school football season starts in less than two weeks – in just 10 days, in fact.

I, unfortunately, lost a bet and will be beginning my life as a New Jerseyan (I’ll be trying to remember that it’s no longer “y’all,” but rather “you’s guys”) just about the time Cabot and Jacksonville officially kick off the 2009 prep season on Sept. 1.

Though I’ll be 1,200 miles away, The Leader sports pages will remain in outstanding hands as 18-year Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sportswriting veteran Todd Traub will be sliding into my old seat right across from the very capable Jason King. King, by the way, will once again be making his predictions every Wednesday, either breaking your hearts by unduly raising expectations for your team’s prospects or risking his own life and limb by being brutally frank about those prospects.

Though I am leaving and won’t see a down played, that doesn’t mean I can’t offer my own thoughts and assessments about each of the nine teams in The Leader coverage area. I hope neither to offend any of you’s guys … um, y’all … nor to paint a brighter picture than is warranted for your team’s chances this season.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is, we seem to have limited prospects for a state champion coming out of northern Pulaski County, Lonoke County or White County.

If I were hastily assigning up arrows and down arrows for area teams, which I am, it would go something like this: Up arrows only for Cabot, Riverview and Harding Academy; down arrows for Searcy and North Pulaski (but not STRAIGHT down; new coaches give these teams new life, though both will take time to turn around); side arrows for everyone else.

Cabot would seem to have the only realistic hopes of a state title this year, and those seem hampered by the fact that, despite the return of an outstanding backfield led by Michael James, the Panthers lost almost their entire front seven.

Harding Academy probably lacks the depth of talent to go very far into postseason, but with all of its tradition and an outstanding junior quarterback in Seth Keese, who already has almost one-and-a-half-years of experience as a starter, another nine- or 10-win season looks promising. For that to happen, though, Roddy Mote must find replacements on the front line to complement all-stater Montgomery Fisher.

Riverview is a great story after springing onto the varsity high school scene last fall to post five wins and reach the playoffs. Back is offensive fireplug Grafton Harrell at quarterback, along with a stable of able running backs and receivers. The line should be solid, especially on the defensive side. Outside of a sophomore jinx, playoffs again look like a strong possibility.

Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills, Lonoke and Beebe all carry similar question marks into the new season, and an injury here or a player stepping up there could tilt the fortunes of any one of them.

The Red Devils over on Linda Lane are a curious case. Only two starters return on offense, but one of those is a strong-armed, seasoned junior quarterback in Logan Perry, who knows the offense inside and out. Head coach Mark Whatley needs to find players to plug in, but the defense may be good enough to give the offense time to become proficient. There seems to be a quiet confidence growing over at Jacksonville.

Almost the exact same situation exists up the road at Beebe. Fullback Sammy Williams — he of the 42 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards rushing the past two seasons — is gone, along with most of the rest of the offense. The defense will have to carry the Badgers until the offense catches up.

Lonoke must cope with the loss of two game-breaking receivers in Michael Howard and Clarence Harris, and will be calling on a quarterback with almost no experience. The tradition is there, but how far will it take them?

Jim Withrow over at Sylvan Hills has had to alter his offense and lower his expectations a little after the loss of a slew of players to academics and other sports. But Jordan Spears and Juliean Broner remain the lynch pins of an able offense and the defense returns veterans in the front seven.

For North Pulaski, it can’t get much worse than it did last year, or the past six years for that matter. A mere five wins over that period practically screamed out for a change, even if head coach Tony Bohannon wasn’t the culprit for the dismal run.
In long-time Jacksonville defensive coordinator Rick Russell, the Falcons may have landed just what they need. He knows his Xs and Os, he’s a big proponent of the weight room and he possesses the emotional fire needed to get things headed in the right direction.

Likewise, Searcy will surely get a boost from a new coach and a new era. Tim Harper was a proven winner at Des Arc. He won’t win many this year, but for the first time in several seasons, fans can reasonably look to a brighter future.
Here’s hoping all my accolades prove prescient and all my reservations prove unfounded.

And here’s saying so long to a great sports community that I will sorely miss.

Monday, August 31, 2009

SPORTS >> Bears’ offense shines vs. PA

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

After watching Sylvan Hills zip through and around the Pulaski Academy defense during a benefit scrimmage on Tuesday night at Bill Blackwood Field, you might conclude that only injuries can keep the Bears from a special season.

Sylvan Hills enters the regular season against Malvern on Friday night with significantly fewer players than they had counted on. But it appears that what the Bears lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Sylvan Hills beat the defending 5A state champion Bruins 7-0 in a 24-minute scrimmage and missed out on two other sterling scoring chances.

Sylvan Hills fell 14-7 to Little Rock Christian later in the evening but, overall, head coach Jim Withrow had little to complain about.

“I felt really good about it,” he said. “I was really pleased with the offensive line opening up holes. We thought we were going to throw it all night, but then we hit some big gains (on the ground).”

Of the Bears’ first 12 running plays against the Bruins, seven netted 10 yards or more as they finished with 155 yards on 17 carries. Most impressive in limited action was North Little Rock transfer Marquis Smith, who ripped off runs of 11 and 24 yards on his first two carries. The second of those was an off-tackle rumble that Smith cut outside for a touchdown.

Smith finished with 35 yards on three carries and added a sack on defense, displaying great speed on both sides of the ball. He also caught an 18-yard pass from Jordan Spears.

“He is a beast,” Withrow said. “(Quarterback Jordan Spears) and (receivers) Ahmad (Scott) and Taylor (Clark) really open up some lanes for Juliean (Broner) and Marquis, and they don’t need a lot of lanes to begin with.”

Withrow turned to promising sophomore running back Trey Bone for most of the rest of Sylvan Hills’ offense. Bone lost a pair of fumbles, but had runs of 20, 22 and 10 yards on his way to a 68-yard performance.

“Trey could really be good, but he has to grow up,” Withrow said. “One of the things we told him he has to do is hold on to the football. But he’ll get better. That’s why we scrimmage.”

Juliean Broner rumbled for 16 yards on his only carry and backup quarterback Darnell Wade added 23 yards on three carries.

The Bears threw only four passes. Starting senior quarterback Spears was 1 of 3 for 18 yards, but threw an ill-advised pass near the goal line that was picked off. Spears also rushed twice for nine yards.

The Bear defense surrendered 218 yards but the rapid-fire Bruins ran 39 plays so that total is a bit misleading. Also, 69 of those yards came on one of the final plays of the scrimmage.

Devonte Britt had an interception, and linebacker Michael Robinson was all over the field, at one point batting down a fourth-down pass.

Also recording sacks were Stephan Kettle and Byron Shell.

Perhaps the biggest defensive play, hustle-wise, came from Wade after a Bruin stripped the ball from Bone and began what looked like a certain 70-yard touchdown run. Only Wade had a chance at him, and he was able to chase the Bruin down at the 5-yard line. The hustle paid off as one play later, the Bruins fumbled the pitch and the Bears’ Sirmichael Finney pounced on it.

“I thought our defense played well,” Withrow said. “We got to the ball fast and tackled well. We gave up some passes but against teams that throw as much as they do, you expect that.”

Withrow said that, heading into the final week of practice leading up to the season opener at Malvern, the Bears would work on picking up blitzes, developing some depth and balancing their offense.

“We’re going to have to throw the ball,” he said. “We’ll keep working on it.”