Saturday, October 17, 2009

SPORTS >> Lions use short field to run by Red Devils

Leader sportswriter

The new era of Searcy Lions football hit its first peak on Friday.

Searcy celebrated homecoming and its first game of the year at Lion Stadium in style with a 40-14 clubbing of Jacksonville.

The Lions (3-4, 2-2 6A-East) gave themselves a short field numerous times, and took the momentum they built in the first half to put the game out of contention with 5:41 left in the third quarter.

The victory was the third for a Searcy team that had won three games the previous four years. It was also the Lions’ first real home game after they were forced to play the early part of their home schedule at Bald Knob because of faulty light standards at Lion Stadium.

“We went in at the half and had to do a little butt chewing because I saw a few too many smiles,” said first-year coach Tim Harper. “I knew Jacksonville came back against Mountain Home, and I didn’t want that happening to us. We came out and took care of business; I guess you could say that Lion had been caged up a little too long.”

The Lions quickly added to a 19-7 halftime lead when Jared Harriman scooped up a Jacksonville fumble and took it 41 yards for a touchdown with 8:35 left in the third quarter. Junior linebacker Mike Brown forced the fumble with a big hit to

Jacksonville running back John Johnson.

Steven Seitz added the extra point to give the Lions a 25-7 lead.

Searcy added two more scores before the end of the third quarter with a 1-yard run by sophomore quarterback Dezmund Stegall and a 13-yard touchdown run by Steven Seitz at the 4:02 mark.

Jacksonville (1-6, 1-3) had difficulty moving the ball all night, but closed the game with a scoring drive when junior quarterback Logan Perry hit Devin Featherston for a 12-yard touchdown pass just as time expired.

Jacksonville got all but 15 of its 191 total yards through the air.

“We didn’t let them establish a running game, and not really a passing game,” Harper said. “Our defense did a great job of containing them.”

Searcy drove inside the Jacksonville 15 on its first possession, but stalled on downs. Jared Harriman set the Lions up with good field position when he took a Jacksonville punt at his 34 and returned it to the Red Devil 14.

A personal foul penalty moved the Lions 7 yards closer, and it took only two plays for Searcy to punch it in from there. Big junior fullback Mike Brown, 6-10, 210 pounds, bulled in from 4 yards out for the first of his two touchdowns in the first half with 5:36 left to play.

Steven Seitz added the extra point to make it 7-0.

Jacksonville won the time of possession battle in the first half with a 16-play, 71-yard drive that ate 5:38 off the clock and ended with its first score. The Red Devils had a pair of fourth-down conversions along the way, including a fourth-and-6 attempt at the Searcy 20.

Perry hit D’vone McClure for a 14-yard completion to set Jacksonville up with first and goal at the 6.

The Devils lost 5 yards on first down, but Perry bounced back with an 11-yard touchdown pass to McClure with 11:50 left in the half. Price Eubanks added the extra point to tie it 7-7.

Searcy benefited from the short field again on its next scoring drive when sophomore defensive end Jonathan Powell picked off a Perry pass at the Jacksonville 26 and took it to the 11.

It was another two-play drive for six points, with another 4-yard run up the middle by Brown for the score. Jacarius Jordan blocked Seitz’s extra-point attempt to keep it 13-7.

The Lions closed the half with their most effective drive, taking the ball 40 yards in 12 plays. Brown had three straight carries to take it from the 7 to the 1-yard line, and Stegall snuck in on fourth down with 20 seconds left in the half.

Perry was 20 of 33 for 176 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. McClure had seven receptions for 88 yards and a score, while Featherston had six catches for 28 yards and a touchdown.

Searcy finished the game with 179 yards of total offense. Stegall led the way with 13 carries for 65 yards

SPORTS >> Lady Bears repeat as league champs

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills wrapped up its second-consecutive 5A-Southeast Conference title on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over North Pulaski.

The Lady Falcons (8-2 conference) took the first game 25-23 backed by the strong net play of junior hitter Shala Clemons. But the Lady Bears (15-5, 10-0) found a way to contain her dynamics to win the second game 25-18 and tie the match.

North Pulaski turned the tables again in the third game for a 25-18 victory, but Sylvan Hills held on to its unbeaten league mark with a 25-19 victory in Game 4 and a 15-10 victory in the deciding fifth game.

“It was our toughest match of the season by far,” Lady Bears assistant coach Laura Allred said. “I commend North Pulaski — they came out ready to play. They were definitely ready to play before we were. We had some good matches with them last year, but I think they’ve stepped up their program even more this year in my opinion.”

Junior Ashley Johnson led the Lady Bears with 10 kills and 11 blocks and classmate Toyletha Lewis had eight kills and 10 blocks. Sophomore hitter Mallory Rushin had a career night for Sylvan Hills with eight kills.

In all, the Lady Bears amassed 36 kills and 27 blocks.

It was the second straight year for Sylvan Hills to go unbeaten in conference. Mills handed the Lady Bears two on-court losses last year, but eventually had to forfeit those because of an ineligible player.

“We went undefeated last year, but this season has been more special because it was outright,” said Allred, who filled in for head coach Harold Treadway most of the year while he was serving in Iraq and continues to lead the team.

“We knew what we needed to do if they would have won, but we wanted to go undefeated so we didn’t have to worry about the title,” Allred said.

Treadway completed his third tour of Iraq in late September, but opted to keep the reins in Allred’s hands throughout the remainder of the regular season.

“This season has been kind of a mixed bag for me,” Treadway said. “I really appreciate the outstanding job coach Allred has done with the varsity and the junior varsity bunch. They didn’t give her any assistants while I was gone, and she’s a parent and a teacher too, so she’s really had a lot on her plate.

“From the coaching part, it’s been hard for me to sit back at times. I’ve told her things that I’ve seen, and she told me to speak up to the girls when I had something to point out. Yesterday against North Pulaski, I think I was just as hoarse as she was after the game.”

The Lady Bears have been knocked out of the state playoffs in the first round the past two seasons, but Treadway said the confidence of this team should make a difference once it takes to the court at Siloam Springs on Oct. 27 in the first round of the playoffs.

“The last two years, I’ve scheduled non-conference games after our conference schedule was over just to keep us practicing,” Treadway said. “But we won conference titles, and then lost non-conference games after that, so we were going into the tournament on kind of a letdown.

“So we decided not to do that this year; we want to go in on an up note. The other teams were very good, but I think that sometimes there was some doubt. This bunch is fearless; they have the mindset that if they do the right things, they can compete with anybody.”

Sylvan Hills will play its first-round game against the 5A-West’s No. 4 seed.

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits roll

Lonoke’s Morgan Linton had two touchdowns and gained 38 yards Friday.

Leader sports editor

Lonoke’s starters sat out the second half Friday night. But the Jackrabbits earned their rest.

Lonoke blistered DeWitt 53-8 at James B. Abraham Field on Friday night, racing to a 53-0 halftime lead, sitting its starters in the final two quarters and triggering the high school sportsmanship-timing rule, otherwise known as the “Mercy Rule,” in which the clock runs almost continually the rest of the game.

“They got their work in,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We had a big lead so we took them out early. But they practice hard all week, they need to play at least until halftime.”

Five different players scored and the Jackrabbits rolled up 475 yards, mostly in the first half, to stay firmly in the thick of the hunt for a high seed from the 2-4A Conference.

“That’s our goal to get there but I think we can be anywhere from two to five still,” Bost said. “We just control our own destiny by keeping winning. It’s just that simple.”

Lonoke outscored DeWitt 53-0 in the first half, scoring on eight of its first nine possessions; with an interception ending the Jackrabbits’ only failed drive of the half.

Brandon Smith scored on runs of 1, 15 and 53 yards; quarterback Michael Nelson scored on a 1-yard sneak and completed touchdown passes of 5 yards to Darius Scott, 49 yards to Todd Hobson and 19 yards on a screen to Morgan Linton.

Linton scored the half’s last touchdown on a 12-yard run up the middle.

Lonoke gained 412 yards in the first two periods, with Smith gaining his 202 and Nelson passing for 166. The ‘Rabbits’ defense held the Dragons to 72 total yards in the first half while Wes Plummer, Justin Smith and Jordan Lynch each pulled down an interception for the Jackrabbits.

SPORTS >> Bears blank the Falcons

Marquis Smith fights for yards in Sylvan Hills’ victory against North Pulaski.

Special to The Leader

Sylvan Hills wanted to see some improvement on offense, and saw it Friday night at North Pulaski.

The Bears handled the Falcons 27-0 in a 5A-Southeast game at Falcons Field, and did so despite four turnovers, a problem that continues to plague the Bears.

“It’s good to score, but we have just got to do something about these turnovers,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “If it weren’t for these turnovers we might be 3-1 in conference right now. It was good to move the ball though. We did see some improvement there.”

Sylvan Hills got things rolling on its second possession after its first drive stopped because of a lost fumble. A bad North Pulaski punt gave the Bears good field position at the 29.

After a 1-yard run, quarterback Jordan Spears found Ahmad Scott streaking over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown pass. A missed extra point left it 6-0 with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

North Pulaski then returned the favor.

A 55-yard kickoff return by Darius Washington set the Falcons up at the Sylvan Hills 40, and Shyheim Barron found Marshall Shipley streaking down the sideline. But Shipley fumbled when he was hit at the 3. Scott scooped it up for the Bears and ran it out to the 18 to set his team up for a long scoring drive.

Sylvan Hills went the 82 yards in 11 plays, and again it was Scott who capped things off with a 4-yard run on third and goal.

After a three-and-out series for the Falcons, Sylvan Hills needed just one play on its next drive. This time it was a 35-yard pass from Spears to Anthony Featherstone that made it 20-0 with 10:00 left in the first half.

The second half saw another long Sylvan Hills drive end when the Falcons stuffed running back Marquis Smith for a 2-yard loss on fourth and 1.

The Falcons then went on their own long drive, an 11-play possession that also ended on downs.

Sylvan Hills got it back at its 17, from where it started its longest scoring drive of the game. The Bears marched the 83 yards in12 plays.

They got some help from the Falcons after an incompletion brought up third and 14, but a North Pulaski personal foul penalty gave the Bears a first down without having to try convert on third and long. The Bears needed just 14 more yards after the
Falcon penalty, and got them in four plays, with Spears finishing the drive on a 4-yard keeper that set the final margin.

Although Withrow was not entirely pleased with his team’s 358 yards of offense, he was again pleased with the effort from the defense.

“This is our second straight shutout,” Withrow said. “The defense has really been stepping up and playing well for us when we really needed it.”

The Bears held the Falcons to 136 total yards.

Smith led all players with 133 rushing yards on 18 carries. Scott had three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.

Barron threw the ball effectively for the Falcons, completing eight of 13 pass attempts for 85 yards.

The Bears, now 2-5 overall and 2-2 in league play, travel to conference leading and undefeated Monticello next week. The Falcons, 1-6, 1-3, are also on the road, traveling to Crossett.

SPORTS >> Cabot tops Central

Special to The Leader

The two winningest active coaches met for the last time Friday night in Cabot, with Mike Malham and the Panthers getting the best of Bernie Cox and Little Rock Central 28-6.

It was the Panthers’ third consecutive victory over the Tigers.

“We’ve had some good battles over the years,” Malham said. “He’s had some good runs with some really good teams, but we’ve had them the past couple of years.”

Cox currently has 271 victories, but his Tigers’ losing streak is now at 18 games, and Cox, 65, recently announced he would be retiring after the season.

Cabot (7-0, 4-0 7A-Central) was never in real danger, but didn’t make it easy on itself.

The Panthers fumbled twice in each half, including a turnover by Spencer Smith near the goal line and one by Michael James after a long run.

Smith’s fumble came after a 23-yard run, while James’ came at the end of a 39-yard gain.

“All the fumbles and we had some stupid penalties to go along with it and this was a pretty sloppy game,” Malham said. “But we were still able to get the win and that’s the main thing.”

The fumbles cost the Panthers a shot at a victory by mercy rule, when the clock runs almost continually after a second-half lead of 35 points or more.

It would have been the first by Malham against Cox. The only time Malham’s Panthers have suffered a mercy rule loss came in 2004 when the Tigers got the best of them 35-0.

Overall, Malham is 6-8 against Cox’s Tigers.

“Our guys really competed well and maybe we can build on that these next couple of weeks,” Cox, in his 35th season, said.

“That’s a real good Cabot team. They’ve got a good chance to go all the way.”

Central (0-7, 0-4) was held to just 48 yards in the first half, but found an offensive spark in Chris Johnson in the second half.

Johnson had seven carries for 104 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers, all in the second half. Despite Johnson’s second-half heroics, the Tigers were still held under 200 yards of offense.

Cabot’s Michael James, who has missed much of this year with injuries, expanded on his first extended outing of the season last week by leading the Panthers with 17 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Smith added 63 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“Cabot always controls the ball on offense and frustrates you and that’s what they did tonight,” Cox said. “Coach Malham and all of his assistants do such a great job here. Mike is a great person and a great coach. He never has a bunch of guys who sign scholarships and play in college, but he takes what he has and does the absolute best possible with those kids.”

Cox’s retirement not only leaves Malham as the active coach with the most victories, but also as the longest tenured active coach at one school, along with Harrison’s Tommie Tice.

“Central played with a lot of heart tonight, but we didn’t expect anything less from one of Bernie’s teams,” Malham said. “His kids always come out and play hard and then are the first ones to shake your hand and tell you good game when it is over.

“They’re very polite kids. We’re going to miss Bernie and the way he coaches his teams.”

Cabot’s biggest victory over Central was 35-8 in the 1997 playoffs.

Central’s biggest victory over Cabot was 35-0 in a non-conference game in 2004, a state championship year for the Tigers.

This year’s Cabot victory kept the Panthers in command in their drive to claim the No. 1 seed in the 7A-Central with three regular season games to go.

Cabot had one conference loss to Little Rock Catholic last year but won the 7A-Central and a first-round bye, only to fall in its first game, 21-17 to Springdale Har-Ber at Panther Stadium.

EDITORIAL >> City to meet with railroad

Here’s a rarely heard piece of good news for the Sunnyside addition in Jacksonville: City officials and the Union Pacific railroad will soon start negotiations to open the Graham Road crossing that the Jacksonville City Council voted to close permanently a few years ago.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher’s successful campaign included a promise to open the Graham Road railroad crossing. He has contacted the Union Pacific railroad about the city’s intention to remove the barriers from the crossing. Sunnyside has been cut off from the rest of the city, creating economic hardship and steep losses in property values — not to mention inconveniencing thousands of motorists who have to drive to the Main Street overpass just to get to, for example, the soon-to-be opened
Lighthouse Academy on the other side of Graham Road.

In a letter to Fletcher, a Union Pacific official said the railroad is worried that opening the Graham Road crossing might put “Jacksonville residents at risk.” Union Pacific wants to meet with city officials to discuss safety issues before the crossing is reopened.

While the railroad talks about safety issues, it should understand that Sunnyside is the most dangerous area in the city.

Barricades at a crossing not only bring blight to an area but encourage crime, driving out businesses and leading to white flight. Businesses across the tracks from Sunnyside have also suffered as both North First Street and Graham Road are less traveled. The widening of Graham Road is on hold because far fewer drivers use the thoroughfare since the road was closed.

But the closed crossing hasn’t necessarily made the area safer. Pedestrian traffic continues over the tracks. Someone will get hurt going over the tracks — not just criminals who often run from police but poor people constantly crossing the tracks and walking home with grocery bags because they have no place to shop in Sunnyside.

The mayor recently wrote to Union Pacific that the closing has created hardship in the Sunnyside neighborhood, which has no retail outlets or even a gas station. He pointed out there was no economic-impact study made before the crossing was closed. Maybe that’s because Sunnyside is an economically depressed area, so its well-being didn’t figure in the decision to close the crossing.

Fletcher is committed to revitalizing Sunnyside, fighting crime and bringing back motorists who have abandoned Graham Road because of the crossing.

The Fletcher administration can help revive Sunnyside and the areas adjoining it by allowing for another way to get in and out of the area.

The railroad paid the city $150,000 to close both the Graham Road and Main Street crossings and get rid of the headache of maintaining them.

The people want the crossing opened, and we’re glad city hall is now on their side, too. Giving Union Pacific back $75,000 to open just one crossing would be a small price to pay to open up the neighborhood and make Jacksonville a safer place.

TOP STORY >> Cabot celebrates its heroes of education

The Hall of Fame inductees are (from left) JoAnn Gross, accepting for her late mother, Grace Golden; Joe Barnwell, accepting for his late father, Dr. Jack Barnwell; Jack Carrington, Ray Templeton, accepting for his late father Charles Templeton; Margaret Kinley, Carolyn Park, Don Elliott Sr., Don Spence and Charles George Sr.

Cabot High School assistant principal Jacob Smith (left) talks with Don “Dude” Spence after Spence’s induction into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Leader staff writer

It was an emotional evening Tuesday at the inaugural Cabot Schools Hall of Fame banquet with more than 300 people in attendance at Junior High North.

Honored as the first group to be inducted into the hall of fame were Dr. Jack Barnwell, Jack Carrington, Don Elliott Sr., Charles George Sr., Grace Golden, Margaret Kinley, Carolyn Park, Don “Dude” Spence and Charles Templeton.

The honorees have helped to shape the educational experience of thousands of Cabot students. They have inspired many and furthered the continuing growth of the district.

According to the Cabot Panther Education Foundation, “The Cabot Panther Hall of Fame was created in 2008 to celebrate the successes of public education by honoring talented graduates of Cabot public schools, as well as local leaders who have provided distinguished service to influence public school excellence.”

Superintendent Tony Thur-man said, “We have a quality school system that has been developed over the course of many years. It was certainly time for our school system to honor those individuals who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that every student who attends Cabot schools is provided with the opportunity to receive an outstanding education.”

Accepting for the late Dr. Jack Barnwell was his son, Joe.

Jack Barnwell was born and raised in Cabot. He graduated from Cabot High School in 1925 at the age of 16.

Barnwell practiced general medicine in Cabot for more than 30 years. His office was near the corner of Pine Street and Hwy. 367.

Before he became a doctor, Barnwell was the principal for several years at Cabot High School.

Joe Barnwell said he felt honored by the hall of fame induction of his father.

“I’m a grateful for the feelings and respect they had for my dad,” Barnwell said.

Another honoree was Jack Carrington, a former high school principal and football coach.

Carrington graduated from Cabot High School in 1950. He was the first All-State football player at the school.

Carrington was a Cabot assistant football coach and head boys and girls basketball coach in 1961-1962. He was the head football coach from 1967 to 1974.

After coaching, Carrington was the high school assistant principal from 1974 to 1976. The following year, he became the
Cabot Junior High principal. In 1977, Carrington became high school principal for 13 years before retiring.

From 1991-1992, Carrington was administrative assistant to the superintendent. He made a return to the high school campus in 1992 as principal. Carrington retired for a second time in 1996.

Carrington said, “This is heart-rending, and I appreciate it.”

Longtime superintendent Don Elliott Sr. was also inducted into the hall of fame.

Elliott headed the school district from 1963 to 1985.

He is a charter board member of the Cabot Scholarship Foundation, which was started in 1992. He served as the foundation’s chairman for 14 years from 1992 to 2006.

“I had some good principals, teachers, custodians and bus drivers. It made my job easier and I want to thank them,” Elliott said.

Another honoree was Charles George Sr. He was born and raised in Ward. He was Ward High School principal from 1949-1950.

It was the last year Ward had a high school before consolidating with Cabot.

From 1955 to 1963, George was the principal for Cabot schools for seven years and then was school superintendent for one year. As a principal, he oversaw kindergarten through 12th grade. George coached basketball and football for a year while he was principal. At the high school, George started chemistry classes and organized the start of the band.

“(Cabot) had less then 1,000 students. Now we have 10,000. It is mind-boggling,” George said.

The late Grace Golden was also inducted into the hall of fame. Her daughter, JoAnn Gross, accepted the honor on her behalf.

Golden attended first through 12th grade at Ward. She started teaching at Ward High School in 1942. When the Ward school district consolidated in the 1950s, she taught sixth grade at Cabot Elementary School.

Golden’s teaching career spanned 42 years.

Gross said her mother was her inspiration. She loved children.

Margaret Kinley was also honored. Kinley graduated from Cabot High School in 1954. Four years late,r she began her 37-year school career from 1958 to 1995. She was a first-grade teacher, then an assistant principal at Eastside and Southside elementary schools. She was principal at Eastside Elementary for two years.

Kinley said she was blessed to watch first graders eventually become parents, teachers, lawyers and doctors. She enjoys visits from her former students.

Carolyn Park was another honoree. Park has helped students continue their post-secondary education. She has been involved with scholarships for Cabot High School since 1975. Park has been the Cabot Scholarship Foundation’s secretary since its start in 1995.

Don “Dude” Spence was also inducted into the hall of fame. Spence graduated from Cabot High School in 1949. For more than 12 years, Spence has served on the school board as secretary, vice president and president.

Spence was also honored for donating land where Ward Central Elementary School was built. He has also held field trips for kindergarten students at his dairy farm. Before tennis courts were built at the high school, Spence let the high school tennis team hold practices, matches and tournaments at his home.

Also honored was the late Charles Templeton. His son, Ray, accepted the honor on his behalf.

Charles Templeton graduated from Cabot High School in 1935. He was member of the band and played football.

Templeton helped with many fundraisers, including helping to start the Cabot Panther Booster Club in the 1960s.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Templeton helped many Cabot students continue their post-secondary education by paying their full college tuition.

“There are so many people who are deserving of membership in the Cabot Schools Hall of Fame. I hope that it will continue to grow and encourage our community members to reflect on our school system and nominate those individuals who they feel have contributed to the success of our district,” Thurman said.

He continued, “We were very pleased with the turnout and plan on this being an annual event. Celebrating the hall of fame has made our homecoming activities even more special.

“The event was certainly a success thanks to the help of many staff including members of the Education Foundation and district staff,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY >> Bayou Meto project gets boost

Leader senior staff writer

Of the $108 million in water project construction funds affecting Arkansans, the $100,000 grant for the Bayou Meto irrigation project is huge, said Gene Sullivan, executive director of the Bayou Meto Water Management District.

The Bayou Meto basin project needs $80 million to build irrigation pumps on the Arkansas River at the top end of the basin and flood control pumps at the lower end, according to Sullivan. It is intended to control flooding, protect waterfowl habitat, reduce demands on the aquifer and to irrigate about 300,000 acres of Arkansas farmland, much of it in Lonoke County.

Sullivan said the importance of the $100,000 appropriation was that the project now officially has its foot in the door for future construction money.

“The goal was not the money, but the start,” Sullivan said. “We’re real excited to get the start.

“There were only three or four construction starts in the country,” he said. The announcement came in a joint press release from the Arkansas congressional delegation and was part of a much larger energy and water appropriation.

Rep. Marion Berry “has been our leader,” said Sullivan. Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott also have helped,.

“This bill provides millions of dollars in funding for valuable projects like water irrigation, flood control, and conservation and construction throughout our state,” said Berry. “These investments in rural water infrastructure and energy research will support additional economic development opportunities for Arkansas.”

Also included was $9.6 million for construction of the Grand Prairie Demonstration Project, which is quite similar to the Bayou Meto project, but ran into a lot of opposition because it takes water from the more pristine White River, revered by fly fishermen and nature lovers.

Dennis Carmon, executive director of the Grand Prairie project, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Lack of anticipated funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year left the ambitious irrigation, waterfowl management and flood control project twitching at the starting line.

The plan is to pump 1,740 cubic feet a second of water from the Arkansas River—that’s 13,000 gallons per second.

The water is conveyed through channels, ditches and pipes, lifted by pumps when necessary, until it arrives at about 1,200 farms where the farmers have agreed to tax themselves and to pay for the water.

It will require four pump station facilities, 107 miles of man-made canals, 260 miles of work on existing channels, 465 miles of pipelines and more than 500 water control structures.

The entire project will cost about $400 million, according to Sullivan, preferably over the course of seven years.

The entire project, which will irrigate 270,000 acres of farmland in Lonoke, Jefferson, Prairie, Arkansas and Pulaski counties and 22,000 acres of commercial fishponds, would provide waterfowl habitat and also a way to get floodwaters off the low-lying southeast part of the basin and back into the Arkansas River.

Farmers have been pumping water from the aquifers faster than it can recharge, threatening not only the irrigation water, but also drinking water from the deeper Sparta aquifer.

Because Sullivan and others opened the planning process to farmers, conservationists, hunters, land owners, environmentalists and others, the plan was conceived without any organized opposition, Sullivan said.

TOP STORY >> Board to revisit security issues

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District this week refused to assign more assistant principals for security to Jacksonville and Mills high schools. But the board will revisit the issue at a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday.

There was a passionate debate at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday on how to beef up discipline at three secondary schools and the larger issue of how to equitably address school security needs district-wide.

A request by Zone 1 representative Mildred Tatum to hire permanent deans of discipline – more commonly known as assistant principals – for Mills and Jacksonville high schools died for lack of a second.

A similar request by board president Tim Clark for another assistant principal at Maumelle Middle School was also denied.

Then, after much discussion, the board voted in favor of assigning a central office staff person on a half-day basis to the middle school for one month.

During that time, Superintendent Rob McGill and staff will evaluate discipline-referral data district-wide and prepare recommendations to the board on how staffing could improve school security.

Tatum had requested $2,100 to convert an existing assistant-principal position at Mills from temporary to permanent.

She told the board that the person in the position is resigning and contended that year-to-year funding for the job hindered effectiveness and retention, saying, “It is hard not knowing what is happening next year.”

Tatum also requested $52,708 to hire a replacement for an assistant principal at Jacksonville High School who moved over to the STAR Academy – a new program at the old Jacksonville Middle School for Girls – this year.

The rationale for the two positions, according to a statement in the meeting agenda, was that the two schools “represent the greatest concentration of poverty students … and the highest number of minority suspensions, expulsions, referrals and general discipline in the secondary schools of Pulaski County.”

Clark’s request, following on the heels of Tatum’s, was for $71,000 to hire an additional assistant principal at Maumelle Middle School. He said that he was considering not enrolling his son there next year because of the high rate of discipline-referrals, among the highest at PCSSD middle schools.

Rather than immediately in-stall a new assistant principal at any school, McGill advised waiting until the school year was over to evaluate district-wide discipline referral numbers “to make it fair for all schools, not just pick and choose.”

New board member Sandra Sawyer, who replaces Shana Chaplin as the Zone 2 representative, asked if a study had already been done to see if stepped-up staffing improved school security.

Board member Danny Gilliland, who represents many of Jacksonville’s schools and Northwood Middle School, warned that hiring new assistant principals without studying the numbers would be “a dangerous road to go down,” would run “the risk of lawsuits” and result in “every other secondary school up here yelling bloody murder.”

Clark countered, “If somebody can justify a position as needed, I’ll vote for it all day long. It is appalling to me that we’ll spend $60,000 for someone to count computers (alluding to a measure approved earlier in the meeting), but question spending money to keep discipline in the classroom.”

That was despite the fact that Clark voted only to hire disciplinary help for Maumelle Middle School but not favor one for Jacksonville or Mills high schools.

Jacksonville board member Bill Vasquez, who represents Jacksonville High School among several other schools in Jacksonville, proposed pulling a person from the district’s central office staff to get help immediately at Maumelle Middle while the superintendent and staff bring us a recommendation.”

Board member Charlie Wood of Sherwood warned against placing too much emphasis on the number of students who are disciplined at each of the schools.

“Statistics are good, but you have to be careful. You can’t just count the number of suspensions and referrals. These kinds of statistics are not necessarily a good measure of what is happening at a school. High numbers can mean that a principal is doing a dang good job, and it is a great school that parents should be sending their kids to. Listen to zone members. They know their areas. That means more than the statistics.”

The board then voted 6 to 1, with Gililland casting the dissenting vote, in favor of installing a temporary assistant principal at Maumelle Middle School.

The board then voted against reopening discussion to consider new hires for Mills and Jacksonville high schools.

Other board business included allocation of $58,097 for the salary of a fixed-assets specialist, who will be responsible for keeping track of the district’s vast inventory of equipment and other fixed assets.

The position was frozen several years ago when the district was in fiscal distress. The responsibility was taken over by a purchasing agent, but an auditor recommended separation of the two jobs for security purposes, explained Anita Farver, chief financial officer for the district. When some board members questioned the rate of pay that accompanied upgrading the position, Farver explained, “We are trying to attract a person who can do the job, hit the ground running, so we can get ready and stay ready.”

The board also approved a request for proposals for up to $75,000 in equipment for the boardroom. It will make it possible for members to view relevant documents electronically, cutting down copying costs.

A motion to add the board office of parliamentarian was heard on the first reading and will be heard again in November. As a board policy change, the motion requires three readings before a vote.

The board also voted in favor of the district administration issuing a request for proposals from banking institutions in order to obtain the best rate of return on its financial assets.

The board voted to immediately increase per diem pay for substitute teachers with a four-year college degree.

The rate change – from $60 to $75 per day – applies to assignments up to nine days. By comparison, the rate in Little Rock schools is $60 and in North Little Rock schools $53.

The change will cost the district an estimated $100,700 annually. The change will also increase pay to teachers who cash in accrued leave time. That may cost the district an additional $75,000 annually, McGill said.

The board also elected officers. Clark was re-elected president, defeating Gilliland. Wood was elected as vice president, over Gilliland, replacing Vasquez.

Incumbent Gwen Williams of Zone 7 was re-elected as secretary-treasurer over Tatum, the Zone 1 representative.

Friday, October 16, 2009

TOP STORY >> Road building on track with more funding

Leader senior staff writer

With the completion of an .85-mile stretch of state Hwy. 107 running from Jacksonville-Cato Road to Bayou Meto in the summer of 2011, all of Hwy. 107 from the Arkansas River to Bayou Meto will have been widened, according to David Nilles, a Highway Department spokesman.

Tom Lindsey Contractor, Inc. of Conway was the apparent low bidder at $2.9 million Wednesday, Nilles said. The job is being paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Currently under construction, but not paid for by stimulus funds, is the widening of state Hwy. 107 from Bearpaw Drive to
Brockington Road.


Brockington Road, from Maryland to Kiehl, will be widened at an estimated cost of $5.8 million, with $4.6 million of it in stimulus funds expected to be obligated next month.

“Right-of-way purchase is about half done,” according to Metroplan’s Casey Covington, and utility relocation should begin in December. Then construction will proceed.

The low bids opened for 17 highway jobs Wednesday amounted to about $66.6 million, Nilles said. Seven of those jobs will be paid for primarily by stimulus funds totaling about $40 million.

The Highway Department has obligated about $160 million of its $351 million share of highway stimulus funds, with about $14.2 million of that earmarked for central Arkansas.


Projects in Sherwood, Beebe, Jacksonville and unincorporated parts of Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties also were originally slated for stimulus funds, but the Graham Road project in Jacksonville was not “shovel ready” and was dropped from the list of projects this time around. It involves widening the road to four lanes from Loop Road to Oak Street, a distance of about 1.14 miles.

A new interchange for Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 67/167 in Cabot, slated for the northwest quadrant of that interchange, will help alleviate congestion there, according to Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, but it is not being funded from the stimulus money, according to the state’s list of stimulus projects.


Stimulus money — $963,000 worth — will be spent to replace the undersized, outdated Leopard Creek Bridge over County Road 67 in northern Pulaski County, according to Nilles. It is located south of Olmstead.

Kingbridge Enterprises, Inc. won the job, which must be completed by June 3, 2011, he said.

The old bridge will continue to serve until the new one is completed. It will then be converted for bicycle use, Nilles said.

The existing bridge has two 10-foot lanes and no shoulder, while the new bridge will have two 12-foot lanes and two six-foot shoulders.

It will be built over two box culverts beneath the bridge. “It’s functionally obsolete,” said Nilles, referring to the old bridge, but it is not dangerous or deficient.


Redstone Construction Group, Inc. will get $523,000 in stimulus funds to resurface 2.8 miles of Hwy. 70 East from the Pulaski County line .

Also in Lonoke County, four miles of Hwy. 165 from the Pulaski County line to Scott will be resurfaced, adjoining 3.25 miles being resurfaced in Pulaski County. Both sections will be done by Cranford Construction Co. for about $1.2 million.

Several resurfacing projects on Hwy. 167 in White County, north of Beebe, have been let.

Still to be let is a bid to construct and install a traffic signal at Hwy. 67B, Hwy. 31 and Hwy. 367 in Beebe, estimated at $130,000.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TOP STORY >> Steady rain delays school opening

Pupils are eager to move into Lighthouse Academy in Jacksonville, which should be completed at the end of the month.

Leader staff writer

Heavy rains have once again delayed completion of the building of the newly-opened Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School.

The school will not be able to move from its temporary quarters at Second Baptist Church on James Street until the parking lots and driveway at the new site are completed.

The hope was to move over last weekend, with classes at the new building commencing on Tuesday. School officials still hope to move in by the end of the month.

Despite another setback, “Things are going well,” said Nigena Livingston, the school’s principal. “We are just kind of anxious and ready to get into our own space. At the same time, we are blessed to be there and are making the most of it.”

The general contractor for the $4 million project, Jim Green, is also anxious to see the project done. The interior is basically complete. What remains is about three days of construction cleanup, paint touchups and waxing the floors.

The big holdup is work outside. The two parking lots are yet to be laid, and the circular drive from North First Street stops at the school entrance, and even that is not finished. It’s lacking a top coat of asphalt.

The ground on which the parking lots and rest of the driveway are to be built “is so muddy you can’t walk on it; it has been that way for two months,” Green said.

Rain has plagued the project from the beginning, contributing to a late start in mid-March. Construction crews played catch up all spring and were optimistic that the building would be ready for the new school year.

In late June, crews were poised to begin the work on the driveway and parking lots. Then the rain came. What would have been a two-week project for a typical summer was stalled with off-and-on rains throughout the month, making it one of the wettest Julys on record. School officials conceded defeat to Mother Nature, found another location for the school and set Oct. 12 as opening day for the new building.

Green vows that classes will happen at the new school on Oct. 26, regardless of the weather in intervening days.

Even with wet weather forecast until Friday, rains can no longer stand in the way of progress, Green said. The school will open on Oct. 26, even if the work has to be done in the rain. That will require a creative approach “to get some kind of all-weather parking lot in.

“The engineers are trying to determine the best that we can get – some kind of drivable surface, even if we have to do it in the mud and rain.”

TOP STORY >> Beebe to get swine flu shots

Leader staff writer

The Beebe School Board learned Monday night that the H1N1 influenza vaccine and the seasonal flu shots will be available for students and staff members at the end of the month.

Rick Duff, director of student services, told the board that the H1N1 vaccine will be limited to students in pre-K through fourth grade.

“The state is not sure how many vaccines will be available from what I understand,” Duff said.

The H1N1 vaccine is given as nasal mist. The seasonal flu vaccine is an injection and will be available to everyone. School nurses and volunteer nurses will administer the vaccines.

Students went home Tuesday with permission forms for their parents to fill out. The Health Department, which is sponsoring the immunization clinic, will bill parents’ insurance for the vaccines, but no child will be turned away if the forms are not completed.

The following two-day schedule will be used:

Oct. 27

– Early Childhood Building for kindergarten and first grade.

– Middle school for fifth and sixth grade.

– Junior high and high school for seventh through 12th-grade.

Oct. 28

– Beebe Elementary for Pre-K and second through fourth grade.

– Badger Elementary for second through fourth grade.

To limit the spread of viruses, Duff said students have been reminded to cough into their elbow and to wash their hands regularly. Hand sanitizers have been placed in classrooms, computer labs and cafeterias, he said.

So far, the number of reported flu cases has been low. Duff said of the nearly 3,300 students enrolled, fewer than 10 a day have been absent because of the flu.

In other business:

The board approved the purchase of 1.9 acres in McRae adjacent to the Beebe Middle School gym parking lot. Known as the McAfee-French property, it cost the district $15,000.

The board also approved the construction of a $27,984 wrought iron fence around the Badger Elementary playground using money left over from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal stimulus money.

The district had stimulus money remaining after replacing the doors at the middle school, ROTC building and the junior high.

The board discussed but took no action on the purchase of seven acres and an old house on West Center Street that has been offered to the district for $210,000.

Dr. Belinda Shook, school superintendent, told the board that the property will be auctioned Nov. 14. The district frequently buys property for future expansion. But the board would take no action until the property is appraised.

School board officers change every year by a vote of the board. The 2009-2010 officers for the Beebe School Board are Robert Jenkins, president; Brenda McKown, vice president; and Tommy Vanaman, secretary. Harold Davis and Lucy Mahoney complete the five-member board.

TOP STORY >> Meth blaze endangers child, guts home

This home at 132 Galloway Circle in Jacksonville was blown up Saturday morning when a meth lab exploded, endangering the lives of a child and others.

Leader staff writer

A 9-year-old girl along with her parents and another person escaped a fiery meth lab explosion Saturday morning at a Sunnyside home in Jacksonville.

James Dye and Misty Cook of 212 E. Hickory St. told police that Amanda Randall, 29, Donald Randall II, 38, and their 9-year-old daughter came to their home after the Randall’s house at 132 Galloway Circle caught fire at 1:40 a.m. Cook is Amanda Randall’s cousin.

According to the police report, Dye said the Randalls banged on the door and screamed that their house blew up. Amanda Randall said she and her daughter were sleeping on the couch in the living room while Donald Randall and Deborah Christian, 37, of 126 Southeastern Ave. were in the back bedroom allegedly making methamphetamine using the “shake-and-bake” method.

Cook said she was asleep and was awakened by her children, who said there was someone knocking on the door. Amanda Randall told Cook that she and her daughter were asleep in the living room. She heard a loud noise, woke up and saw that the house was on fire.

Randall jumped out the window with her daughter and they ran to 212 E. Hickory St. About 10 minutes later, Donald Randall fell through cook’s front door. He had burns on both arms and on his face. Dye drove Donald Randall to the North Metro Medical Center’s emergency room for treatment of his burns.

Cook said Amanda Randall was burned, but did not think their daughter had any injuries. Amanda Randall’s mother arrived to pick up Amanda and her daughter.
Deborah Christian did not go to 212 E. Hickory St. but did seek medical help. The extent of her injuries were not disclosed.

Amanda Randall later told police that she was at the home when the ingredients to make methamphetamine were brought into the house. She watched while the drug was being made.

Randall’s daughter was allegedly present during the meth manufacturing and the two left after the fire started without notifying the authorities.

Randall did not seek medical attention for her injuries or to have her daughter examined.

Police spoke with Jimmy Williams, who said his daughter, Amanda, Donald Randall and their two children lived at 132 Galloway Circle. Williams received a phone call from a blocked caller that said his daughter’s house had blown up from a meth lab.

Williams wanted to know where his daughter and grandchildren were. Police told Williams that Donald Randall had been taken to the hospital for burns. They were unsure where his daughter and granddaughter were. Police took Williams to his grandson, who had been staying at a neighbor’s house.

Williams was allowed custody of his grandson.

A neighbor told police she had a video camera pointed toward the street and at the home on 132 Galloway Circle. The neighbor was listening to the audio and said her camera does not record. She heard glass break and a whooshing sound. Then a woman started yelling, “Get it out, get it out.”

The neighbor walked outside and saw the house was on fire. People inside the home were running out. Another neighbor told police he was lying on his couch when he heard a boom.

The neighbor ran outside and saw a woman running around in the front yard. She was yelling, “I got to go” over and over. She then jumped in a white extended-cab truck and left the area.

While police were gathering information from neighbors, a firefighter handed an officer a cell phone that was found in the road in front of the burning house. A few minutes later the cell phone rang. Police answered the phone to find out who was the owner of the phone. A woman who called said the phone belonged to Christian.

The damaged house had an appraised value of $11,144. The heat from the fire melted the siding on a home at 134 Galloway Circle. Damage on that house was estimated to be $1,000.

Amanda Randall was charged as an accomplice for manufacturing a controlled substance, methamphetamine, exposing a child to a chemical substance, methamphetamine, and arson. Bond was set at $32,500.

She had a warrant out from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office for a probation violation for hot checks.

Donald Randall was charged with manufacturing a controlled substance, methamphetamine; exposing a child to a chemical substance, methamphetamine, and arson. Bond was set at $32,500.

No other arrests have been made.

TOP STORY >> Suspected meth fire leaves several families homeless

The fire at the Willowbend Apartments may have been caused by a meth lab.

Myris Crutcher inspects the burnt remains of his friends home on Tuesday.

Leader staff writer

Donica Knowlin picked through the burned remains of her family’s belongings Tuesday at the Willowbend Apartment complex in Jacksonville after a fire almost completely destroyed her building early Sunday morning.

Six apartments were left gutted and roofless by the blaze, which may have been ignited by a methamphetamine lab explosion.

Knowlin, aware of another fire in the city caused by meth users, is concerned that the city might have a dangerous drug epidemic.

The Jacksonville Fire Department extinguished the blaze. The exact cause of the fire has not been determined.

Damage is estimated to be between $150,000 and $200,000.

No one was seriously injured, but one resident was treated at North Metro Medical Center for smoke inhalation.

Approximately 10 to 14 people have been displaced.

“Everything is just completely gone,” she said. Her and her three children’s possessions were either destroyed by the flames or by the heavy rains in the last couple of days.

Knowlin and her friend, Myris Crutcher, found few things worth saving, only a few articles of clothing and a school medal.

“We came outside at about 4:30 a.m. We heard screaming and crying. I got my kids and got out,” she said.

“My house didn’t go up until we were all out,” Knowlin said.

The family received some help from the Red Cross, which paid for a couple of nights at the Days Inn, where they are still staying, and gave them a little money.

But that won’t go very far toward rebuilding their lives, she said.

Knowlin said the rumor in the complex at 300 Marshall Road is that the fire was ignited when a makeshift meth lab exploded in Apt. 33.

The tenant of Apt. 33 hurriedly woke her neighbor telling her that the building was on fire and fled in her car before police and firefighters arrived, Knowlin said.
Knowlin said that a neighbor had told her about noxious fumes that she believed to be meth coming from Apt. 33.

“If that’s the case, they need to start cracking down because this is dangerous, especially for children,” she said.

Donations may be made to the Knowlin family by sending checks to P.O. Box 6243 Jacksonville, Ark., 72078, or by calling 501-612-7672.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Schools face state takeover

Jacksonville High School, North Pulaski High School, Sylvan Hills Middle School and Northwood Middle School have landed on the state Education Department’s watch list, which could lead to a possible takeover by the state.

That’s not a happy prospect for these four schools in the Pulaski County Special School District and 54 others around Arkansas that are targeted for “state-directed” supervision, which could mean appointing a school-improvement director who would work toward raising test results as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The state has watched these schools fail on their benchmark or end-of-course test scores for five years or longer, and now the Education Department is running out of patience.

Both North Pulaski High School and Northwood Middle School are on the state-directed watch list for the sixth year, as is Jacksonville High School. Sylvan Hills Middle School is now in year seven of state-directed school improvement.

A state takeover is not only embarrassing but could complicate Jacksonville’s bid to leave the Pulaski County Special School District. Although their sorry record points to the district’s failure to offer students an adequate education, would a judge look more or less favorably on letting Jacksonville High and North Pulaski High separate from PCSSD?

Having their two high schools on the failed list might give supporters more ammunition to form their own district — unless a judge decides this is not the time to rock the boat. In any case, the two Jacksonville high schools and the two Sherwood middle schools need new leadership if state standards are to be met.

Sylvan Hills High School is in targeted, intensive-school improvement for the fifth year. Murrell Taylor and Jacksonville elementary schools are in whole- school intensive improvement for the fourth year, so they’re getting closer to a state takeover if they don’t improve. Sylvan Hills Elementary is in whole school improvement year two, while Oakbrooke Elementary is in target improvement for the second year. Harris Elementary School is in year one of school improvement but is making gains. Cato Elementary is on alert, meaning without improvement it will be on the list next year.

Outside of those four schools, as Rick Kron reported Saturday in The Leader, most others in the area are making adequate progress or are much lower on the school improvement list. Of the 19 PCSCD schools in the area, five are achieving or meeting standards, but the rest are at some level of school improvement. Bayou Meto, Clinton, Warren Dupree, Pinewood, Arnold Drive and Sherwood elementary schools are all meeting standards based on the benchmark exams.

According to Kron’s report, nine of Cabot’s 13 schools are meeting standards: Eastside, Central, Westside, Southside, Northside, Ward Central, Magness Creek and Stagecoach elementary schools and the Academic Center for Excellence are listed in the 2009 report as achieving and meeting the standards.

But Cabot Junior High North, Cabot Middle School South and Cabot High School are on alert, meaning if they fail to make adequate progress on the benchmark and end-of-course exams next year, they could be placed on the school-improvement list. Cabot Junior High South is in its second year of targeted school improvement, and Cabot Middle School North is in its third year of targeted improvement.

Beebe High School is on alert for the 2009 year, meaning if it doesn’t make adequate progress on its benchmark and end-of-course exams next year, the school could end up on the improvement list.

Both Beebe Middle School and Beebe Junior High are in their second year of targeted improvement, so they have a few years before they’re targeted for a state takeover. Beebe Elementary and Beebe Intermediate are in their first year of targeted improvement.

Lonoke Middle School is meeting standards, but Lonoke Elementary and Lonoke Primary schools are on the improvement list for the third year. Lonoke High School is also in the third year of needing improvement.

These results offer a snapshot into whether local schools are meeting their obligations to educate their students. Parents have a right to know if their children are educated. Taxpayers should also know if their hard-earned money is wisely spent on education.

TOP STORY >> Cabot celebrates junior high school’s rebirth after fire

Cabot School Superintendent Tony Thurman (left) takes Sen. Bobby Glover of Carlisle on a tour of the $13.5 million Cabot Junior High School North campus.

Cabot Junior High School North students and their families attended a dedication ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Leader staff writer

The dedication of Cabot Junior High School North and open house Sunday was a day of celebration and reflection on how the school that burned in 2006 bounced back to being better than before.

Teachers, school board members, city officials, parents and students, along with members of the Cabot, Ward, and Austin fire departments, attended the dedication of the new $13.5 million junior high school.

In front of the 127,282-square foot, two-story school, cheerleaders released black, red and white balloons, the school’s colors, before a ribbon was cut symbolically marking the opening of the school.

Superintendent Tony Thurman said, “The entire facility has turned out even better than we had planned. I’m very proud of our construction, maintenance, custodial and technology staffs and the work that they have done to make this an outstanding facility for our staff and students.

“The fire at Junior High North was devastating for the district from many standpoints. We have worked through three difficult years and are now pleased that our faculty and staff can enjoy a facility that would have never been possible if not for the fire,” he said.

“I am so proud of the faculty and staff of Junior High North for remaining patient and positive during the most difficult times following the fire and waiting for the completion of the new facility.

“We have a facility for our Junior High North students and staff that our community can be very proud of for many years,” Thurman said.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said, “The opening is a good example of how this community pulls together in adversity. The school is a monument of the team effort. It is a good example why people are still moving to Cabot. I am glad to be a part of it.”

“I watched this come from nothing. The kids coming in today have it made. They’ve got everything they need,” resident Stephen Shoup said.

Approximately 1,180 students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades attend the school. There are 105 employees, about 65 of them licensed teachers.

It has 47 classrooms, five computer labs, nine science labs, a band suite and a choir suite. It has two art studios, three team rooms for teachers to meet, a counseling area, and a media center.

The cafeteria is the largest in the district. It was built to serve 600 students at a time.

After the ribbon-cutting, parents and residents toured the building guided by students, who have been attending classes there since the first day of school in August.

They spent three years in portable trailers. Students don’t have to worry about dodging raindrops between classes.

Parent Ashley McDonald said, “It is an outstanding facility for the students. The technology will allow them to access material for the 21st century.”

State Sen. Bobby Glover of Carlisle said, “It is awesome. It makes you think you’re on a college campus. They have every type of technology possible.”

SPORTS >> Reinforced Bears are facing the Falcons

Leader sports writer

Weather could be a factor again this week when Sylvan Hills visits local 5A-Southeast Conference rival North Pulaski on Friday.

That could be good or bad news for the Bears, who will return senior speed receiver Ahmad Scott to the offensive lineup after he was sidelined the past two weeks with a concussion he suffered against Mills.

Sylvan Hills (1-5, 1-2) won its first game last week against Crossett in wet conditions, but coach Jim Withrow said drier weather could help his team’s cause with a revamped passing game featuring Scott.

“A lot of it will depend on how well their field holds up,” Withrow said. “We have a junior-high game there on Thursday night, so who knows how bad that thing will be torn up.

“We haven’t even been able to practice outside much for the last two weeks with all the rain. It’s just hard to pass in those kinds of conditions.”

Sloppy field conditions led to limited passing last week against Crossett, but senior running back Marquis Smith stepped up and posted his best numbers of the season with 29 carries for 141 yards.

“He hit the hole better than he has all year,” Withrow said. “He’s a big, strong guy, and when he’s running well, it really helps our ground game. We just need to hold on to the ball and cut out some of those penalties.”

The Falcons have a solid ground game of their own with big junior running backs Darius Cage (6-1, 210 pounds) and Billy Barron (5-10, 245). Sophomore quarterback Shyheim Barron also has scrambling abilities as a dual threat in the backfield.

“Their power game is kind of scary to us,” Withrow said. “And it looks like their quarterback can run as well. They do a good job of mixing it up.”

Seniors Juliean Broner and Devonte Britt are back from injuries in limited roles on defense. Broner’s injured knee still has some swelling, which prompted the training staff to release him for defensive play only.

“We’re still living week to week,” Withrow said. “We’re still trying different things to try and move the ball since we can’t use those guys on the offensive side. Broner gets better each and every day, we just can’t use him on offense because he can’t take any hits to that knee.”

There will be a number of interesting match-ups in Friday’s game, but none more so than Bears receiver Scott versus North Pulaski senior all-conference cornerback Arlando Hicks.

The two possess comparable speed and experience, and Hicks’ tight coverage could be another obstacle for Sylvan Hills.

“That ought to be a good matchup,” Withrow said. “Hicks is a good D-back; he covers well, and that also worries us. But it’s great to get Ahmad back. It’s good for our other receiver, Taylor Clark — it will help to open things up for him.

“The past couple of weeks, it’s just been him and Marquis coming out of the backfield, so it’s been kind of obvious who it was going to.”

The Falcons are 1-5, 1-2 in the 5A-Southeast entering this week’s game with Sylvan Hills.

With both teams tied for fifth in the 5A-Southeast at 1-2, the winner of this game still has an outside shot of reaching the playoffs. The loser will most likely be done at the conclusion of Week 10.

Withrow said that victories are important for Sylvan Hills’ playoff cause, but margins are equally as important.

“I think it all depends on how much you win by,” Withrow said. “I figure we probably need to win three of our last four to get in.

“It just depends on who beats who. That Crossett-Mills game will be a factor in it. It’s just too early to know for sure. We won’t until we get two or three more games into it.”


North Pulaski sophomore Robby Darrington has been named Hooten’s Arkansas Football Air Guard scholar of the week.

Darrington, a 6-2, 210-pound offensive lineman on the varsity and junior varsity squads, has a grade-point average of 3.8 in strictly advanced placement courses.

A candidate for the weekly honor must have a GPA better than 3.2 and be a solid citizen, in addition to being a valuable member of a football team, Hooten’s editor Chris Hooten said.

Hooten added that most recipients have had 3.5 GPAs or better.

“There have been some pretty impressive cats,” Hooten said.

Darrington is one of only 26 players selected each season and is eligible to be one of the three finalists for the Hooten’s Air Guard Scholar Athlete of the Year award given out after the season.

He receives a certificate of achievement and other prizes.

Darrington will also be featured on Hooten’s Arkansas Football TV show which airs at 11 a.m. Saturday on KTHV-TV Channell 11.

SPORTS >> Years, records collide in Cabot-Central game

Leader sports editor

Cabot Panthers coach Mike Malham has been in pretty select company for a few years now.

That company is going to be more select after this season.

The No. 2-ranked Panthers are preparing to play host to Little Rock Central in the wake of long-time coach Bernie Cox’s retirement announcement. Cox has led the Tigers since 1975, winning 271 games and seven state championships, most recently in 2004.

“Great career,” Malham said. “What worries me is they may try to win one for the Gipper. This could make their season. If they come in 0-6 and want to win one for coach Cox, we’ve got to have our kids ready to play.”

Cox’s departure will leave Malham and Harrison coach Tommy Tice as the active coaches serving the longest tenure with one program. Malham and Tice have been at their schools since 1981, and right behind is Pocahontas coach David Williams, who has been with his team since 1982.

“I’m still young and they’re old,” Malham, 56, said jokingly.

When Cox, a Jacksonville native and inductee into this year’s Jacksonville High School hall of fame, steps down, it will leave Malham as the most successful active coach in the state. His Panthers have won 233 games — losing 93 and tying four — with their last state title coming in 2000.

Williams is 183-122-3 at Pocahontas and Tice is 213-91-5 at Harrison. While Cabot stands at 6-0, Pocahontas has one victory this year and Harrison has two.

“You’ve got to have great assistants and great players and you’ve got to be lucky,” Malham said. “I’ve had all three so I’ve been real fortunate in that area. Football is a team game. No one guy does it all.”

Malham said he could empathize with Cox over Central’s recent downturn, which may have led Cox, 65, to consider retirement.

The Tigers are on a 17-game losing streak.

“Just three years ago he had back-to-back state champions,” said Malham, recalling Central’s consecutive titles that actually came more than four years ago. “And now he’s kind of hit a downturn a little bit, but it goes in cycles. We came off some good years in the 1990s and early 2000s and we had a 1-9 year in 2005.”

In looking back, Malham found another lesson for this year’s Panthers. He recalled a 0-7-1 Pine Bluff team coming into Cabot one year and beating the 6-2 Panthers, and Malham is on guard against a similar upset Friday.

“We’ve got homecoming and all that to worry about so there’s another distraction,” Malham said. “So we’re trying to keep our kids focused this week and not have a letdown.”

There is no denying Cabot has looked pretty sturdy so far this year. The Panthers avenged their only loss of 2008 with a 21-16 victory at Little Rock Catholic and went back on the road last week to beat then-No. 4 North Little Rock 17-6.

“Their only score was on a 25-yard drive,” Malham said of the touchdown, followed by a missed extra-point attempt that came after a big return. “Our special teams, we set them up there.”

Malham said before last week’s game that he wanted to avoid giving up the big play and force North Little Rock into long drives that would give Cabot more chances to force, or pounce on, a mistake.

“We needed to give them a long field,” Malham said. “They’re going to break one here and there but if we can make them go a long way I thought our chances were a lot better and everything kind of worked for us.”

Cabot, on the other hand, thrives on the long, time-consuming possession behind its dead-T offense.

“It keeps the other offense on the sideline and obviously you want to get points on the board,” Malham said. “I tell you the more chances an offense has, the more time it has to figure things out. The fewer possessions they get, the tougher it is on them and I feel like we limit their chances because we do control the clock.”

It’s an approach that has worked so far. Malham just wants to keep it going, whether coaching against a legend or not.

“Right now we’re 3-0 in the conference and we’re one up on Bryant and North Little Rock and two up on Catholic and one up on Russellville,” Malham said. “So right now we’re sitting as good as we can sit.”

SPORTS >> Lonoke puts slop in past, faces DeWitt

Leader sportswriter

The Jackrabbits may not be amphibious, but their Lonoke namesake adapted well to the swampy conditions of Stewart Field last week to claim a 40-0 road victory against the Batesville Southside Southerners.

First-year coach Doug Bost has his team back home Friday for a 2-4A Conference game against another struggling team in DeWitt.

The Dragons (0-6, 0-3) nearly pulled off an upset against Marianna-Lee two weeks ago, but whatever momentum they gained in that game was quickly dowsed last Friday in a 60-26 blowout loss to Clinton.

Being back at home will be welcome for the ’Rabbits this week, especially if the surface at James B. Abraham Field is not saturated.

“Southside had the worst field you have ever seen in your life,” Bost said. “They don’t have a practice field, so they had to practice at their game field. So it was just holding water.

“There was no grass on the field, just water and mud — it was just terrible. So we found out real quick during pre-game warm ups that it was going to be hard to throw and catch.”

The numbers told the story in the mud-bogged game.

Senior running back Brandon Smith carried only nine times for 55 yards and two touchdowns, while fullback Morgan Linton carried four times for 14 yards and two scores. T. J. Scott had three carries for 35 yards and a touchdown, and senior Darius Scott added the other Lonoke score on a 32-yard run, his only carry of the night.

Quarterback Michael Nelson attempted only four passes the entire game, two of them completions for 55 yards. In all, the Jackrabbits had 217 yards of total offense.

“We needed that,” Bost said. “We addressed it last week and went back to basics. We preached about hanging on to the football. We had one fumble late in the fourth quarter, so we were proud of the way everyone held on to the football.

“We were able to play second teamers the whole second half last week. That was good for us since we’re low on numbers and can’t play a junior varsity schedule.”

DeWitt, under second-year coach Doug Corley, was expected to be a program on the rise this year. But the Dragons are still winless after six games, and are in danger of posting their seventh consecutive season of two victories or less.

Bald Knob warmed them up to conference play by handing DeWitt a 44-8 loss in Week 4, with Lonoke, Stuttgart and Heber Springs still to play.

Bost said his team was confident and healthy heading into Friday’s game, but will still keep an eye out for gadgetry on DeWitt’s part.

“They run that wing T, so they use a lot of deception with crossing backs and pulling guards,” Bost said. “You have to play assignment football — you have to stay at home and not chase a fake, because if you do, you’re going to end up out of position.”

Lonoke is tied for fifth in the 2-4A Conference standings with Marianna after three weeks. Bald Knob and Clinton both sit atop the conference at 3-0, while Heber Springs and Stuttgart share third place with 2-1 records.

With Heber Springs and Clinton still left to play Stuttgart, Bald Knob and each other, the fight to enter the postseason is still wide open.

“We’re anywhere from a No. 2 seed to a five,” Bost said.

“We obviously can’t control what everyone else does, so we’re concentrating on winning out the next four weeks and just letting the cards fall where they may.”

SPORTS >> Red Devils, Lions on upswing

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got back into the victory column Friday and is hoping to keep it going in this week’s 6A-East game at Searcy.

The problem, Red Devils coach Mark Whatley said, is once-struggling Searcy has gotten a taste of success too.

“They’ve learned how to win again and that makes them dangerous,” Whatley said.

The Red Devils (2-4, 1-2) ended a three-game losing streak last week with a resounding, 46-0 homecoming victory over Little Rock Hall.

Searcy, on the other hand, had to travel to consistently dominant West Memphis and suffered a 40-3 loss. But the Lions, under first-year coach Tim Harper, have scored victories over Little Rock Parkview and Little Rock Fair after winning just three games the previous four seasons.

“We just feel like maybe our best days are ahead of us. That starts now. That’s our little motto is ‘Right now,’ ” Harper said.

Harper said that in their losses the Lions (2-4, 1-2) did as much to hurt themselves with turnovers — like the interception thrown on the first play at West Memphis — and miscues as their opponents did, and he feels like his young team is beginning to cut down on such mistakes.
Whatley agreed.

“They’re a much-improved football team,” Whatley said. “They do a lot of things offensively that cause problems. Multiple formations. He does a good job of doing things to set up things.”

“There’s glimpses of exactly what I want them to do,” Harper said. “Last week we had a couple runs that were just hard-nosed football. That’s the kind of system I want. We want to run the football tough but I don’t want to be tied into the running game so much we can’t throw it.”

In a plus for Searcy, the team gets to return to Lions Stadium after having to play scheduled home games at Bald Knob because of faulty light standards.

“The lights are fixed,” Harper said.

All the better to see a flashy Jacksonville offense that Harper said features faster skill players than West Memphis has.

“Do we think we can play with Jacksonville? Yes sir,” Harper said. “Do we think we can get beat by Jacksonville? No doubt about it. We can get beat by anybody, but the point is, Jacksonville, they’ve got great speed and that’s the thing that scares you the most.”

Jacksonville showed plenty of offense in its two losses leading up to Friday’s victory. The Red Devils scored 28 second-half points and rolled up well over 400 total yards in the 35-27 loss at Mountain Home, and Jacksonville jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Jonesboro before falling 28-14.

But it was the defense led by linebacker Michael Thornabar and defensive back Jacarious Jordan that led Jacksonville (2-4, 1-2) to last week’s palate-cleansing victory.

Thornabar, who suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the season, had three fumble recoveries and Jordan had two interceptions and blocked a punt.

“I still think this game is won with team performance,” Whatley said. “But I’d have to tip my hat to our defense to put us in the situations they put us in.”

The big plays gave the Red Devils field position for scoring drives of 27, 9, 22 and 42 yards in the first quarter, which ended with Jacksonville leading Hall 25-0.

“The plus side of the field four times and then the offense turned around and did something with it,” Whatley said. “But I think that was the big key, getting out hot on them and I think that was the big difference in the ballgame.”

Whatley agreed it was satisfying to see a complete game out of his team, but he said there was no reason not to expect it.

“We’ve played hard and pretty good the last three weeks,” Whatley said. “We just hadn’t been able to come out of there with a victory. I hadn’t been able to fault the effort we’ve played with at all this year, which says a lot for our football team.”

But the race for the 6A-East’s six playoff spots is tightening. West Memphis and Jonesboro are 3-0 in the conference and play each other this week, while Mountain Home is 2-1 and three others, including Jacksonville and Searcy, are 1-2.

“It’s the same as last week,” Whatley said. “We’ve got to win the rest of them. We can’t drop any more. The Mountain Home loss and the Jonesboro loss puts you behind the 8-ball.”

Searcy is in the same boat, but trying to grow up as a team at the same time.

“Our kids are pretty resilient,” Harper said. “They’ve been through a lot before I got here. Unfortunately we’ve learned a lot about losing. We’re going to keep a positive attitude, keep working hard and everything is going to get better.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

TOP STORY >> Navy veteran receives coat of arms

Norma Henry’s family joined her at Spring Creek Living Center on Tuesday to receive the coat of arms from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Buller (right). They are her granddaughters, Ann Reichenbach (left) and Amy Mattison; daughter, Linda, with husband, retired Master Sgt. Jerry Reichenbach; and friends, retired Chief Petty Officer Jerry Hobson of the Fleet Reserve Association and Merle Wilson of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES).

Leader staff writer

Surrounded by family and neighbors, Norma Henry, 86, a resident of the Spring Creek Living Center in Cabot, was presented on Tuesday with the coat of arms for her service in the Navy during World War II by Lt. Cmdr. Tim Buller.

After graduating from high school, Henry volunteered to enlist in the Navy when she was 20. She was sent to Hunter College in New York City for basic training and was then stationed at Naval Air Station at Terminal Island, Calif.

“She was very involved in the political arena and service. The Navy was her No. 1 focus in life,” Henry’s daughter, Linda Reichenbach, said.

Henry served her country for three years, from July 1943 to August 1946, as a chief storekeeper. One of her duties included managing a soda fountain at the base.

After her enlistment, she learned she would be stationed in San Diego. Henry instead got out of the Navy and went back to her hometown in Minneapolis, Kan.

Henry was born on June 10, 1923 and raised in Minneapolis, Kan. Henry’s father was a wheat and cattle farmer. She lived in the same town for 80 years.

Poor health brought her to Arkansas, where she lived for two years with Linda and her husband Jerry in Jacksonville until she moved to the Spring Creek Living Center.

She was the youngest of six children; Henry had three brothers and three sisters. She was known as “Pete.”

“Pete is (my mother’s) nickname since she was 4,” Linda said, explaining the origins of the name.

“One day while wearing her brother’s overalls, she walked into the center of the room and announced to her family, ‘My name is Pete.’”

“Her grandparents and everyone called her Pete. Kids who went to school with her didn’t know her name was Norma Jean.”

Linda described her mom as a tomboy. Henry would climb trees and she was an avid softball player.

Henry played as a catcher through high school.

Shortly after returning from the Navy, she married Melvin Goure in 1946.

Henry was a homemaker. Reichenbach said later in life her mother went to school and became a licensed medical technician at age 60. She handled medicines at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in her hometown.

Goure worked for Ottawa County maintaining roads. Henry was married to Goure for 11 years until his death in 1961. She has three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Henry later remarried.

Henry’s son, Ron, went into the Navy in 1970 on the USS Gray during the Vietnam War. He was a fire-control technician on the destroyer where he was in charge of aiming and firing a gun on the ship. He spent four years in the service and received a medical discharge. Afterwards, he worked with computers.

Henry’s second son, Jerry, was disabled. He cut yards and did handyman work.

Both sons passed away in 1999.

Linda was a homemaker and part-time school bus driver. She and Jerry have five children, Sean, Rakale, Amy, Ann and Kurt.

For the past 14 years, she has been a seamstress at Price-Rite Cleaners in Jacksonville.

She said her mother always has had a strong belief in duty to her country. Henry was an active member and president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary and the American Legion Auxiliary. She also donated blood at every chance she could.

Being involved in the election process was important to Henry when she lived in Kansas, as it continues to be today.

“She was on the election board and manned the polls,” Jerry Reichenbach said.
Linda recalled her mother saying, “One must always vote.”

“She was very angry because she didn’t get to vote in the last election,” Linda said. “I didn’t get her an absentee ballot. She never missed a chance to vote.”

There are things you don’t miss and that is it,” Linda Reichenbach said.

Jerry Reichenbach added, Henry would say, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”

Henry was active in her community in Kansas. She also enjoyed playing Canasta and dominoes with friends back home.