Saturday, September 04, 2010

SPORTS>>South wins Panther civil war

Leader sports editor

It probably isn’t too surprising Cabot South Junior High and Cabot North played to a thrilling finish Thursday night.

What would you expect from teams that share the same playbook?

South’s Tyler Stone intercepted North’s fourth-down pass in the end zone as time expired to preserve South’s 14-8 victory in the season opener at Panther Stadium.

The defensive stand capped a scoreless second half and underscored the fact the teams, which feed talent to the senior high Panthers, run basically the same Dead-T offense used by the varsity.

“It’s just one of those games; it doesn’t matter what teams’ records are or whatever,” South coach Lee Melder said. “These kids are going to play hard against each other. It’s a blood battle and that’s what we expect.”

South took a 14-0 lead on two first-half touchdowns by leading rusher Keith Pledger, but North cut the lead on Jordan Burke’s long touchdown run in the closing seconds of the half, that, with the two-point conversion, capped the scoring.

“Having an opportunity to win the ballgame at the end, when we should be going in for the go-ahead score, I could not be prouder of this group of young men,” North coach Danny Spencer said. “They showed they’re ready to step it up.”

“We could have played a lot better but I’m never going to be disappointed in a win,” Melder said.

South recovered an onside kick to start the second half and drove to the North 29 but turned it over on downs. North marched to the South 16 but Levi Looney threw incomplete on fourth down.

“Our guys did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage at times,” Melder said. “But I’ll tell you what, North, especially in the second half, they took it to us.”

Glover Helpenstill recovered a fumble to end South’s next drive, and North drove to the South 6 with help from a pass-interference call that wiped out an interception.

“Us and the referee had opposing views on that,” Melder said.

After a timeout with 21 seconds left, Stone intercepted Looney in the front right side of the end zone as time ran out.

“We finally got the last shot in,” Melder said. “Tyler Stone, who intercepted that ball, did a great job defensively and he did a great job at halfback.”

Pledger gave South an early lead when he ran 10 yards up the middle and scored the conversion to make it 8-0 with 2:43 left in the first quarter.

The play capped a 51-yard drive that began after South recovered North’s opening onside kick.

South made it 14-0 when Pledger scored on a three-yard run, topping off a 74-yard drive with 31 seconds left in the half.

Burke dropped the ensuing kickoff and was pulled down at the 12, but he made up for it seconds later when he got through the left side and outran all pursuit for an 88-yard touchdown with 9 seconds left.

Looney kept for the conversion to make it 14-8 at halftime.

“Right back in the game, right at the half, that’s a big momentum changer,” Spencer said. “Big. But it started with the offensive line.”

Pledger gained 71 yards to lead South and Chris Henry added 48 while Kason Kimbrell had one pass completion of 21 yards.

“When we needed it, he did a great job on both sides of the ball,” Melder said of Pledger.

Thanks to his long run, Burke led North with 108 yards and Charlie Hancock gained 53.

“We’re not where we need to be but we’re knocking at the door,” Spencer said.


The Senators struck first on a 15-yard option play but the rest was all Red Devils.

Carlin Heard tied the game for Jacksonville with a 65-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

The score was tied 6-6 at the half before Randy Armstrong set up the go-ahead score for Jacksonville in the third quarter with a 38-yard run off a reverse that gave the junior Devils first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Again it was Heard crossing the goal line for the score. Quarterback Jacob Price hit Robert Harris for a successful two-point conversion pass.

Heard set the final margin with a 20-yard touchdown run.

SPORTS>>Lady Red Devils hold on

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils were looking for an easy conference victory, but the upstart Searcy Lady Lions club gave them all they wanted in a five-game nail-biter at the Devils Den on Thursday.

Jacksonville took the match 25-12, 22-25, 29-27, 12-25, 18-16 to begin 6A/7A-East Conference play.

The Lady Devils (2-1, 1-0) overwhelmed their opponents with strong serving in Game 1 before Searcy adjusted and came back to win the second game. The margin never exceeded two points for either side in the third game.

Searcy denied Jacksonville four match points in the final game and came back to take a 16-15 lead before two defensive errors and an ace by Jacksonville junior libero Taylor Ruple finally iced it.

“There were a lot of things we definitely didn’t do well,” Jacksonville coach Melissa Reeves said. “But I told the girls in the locker room that last effort is all you can really ask. They gave everything they had and showed me a lot of heart.

“But we’ve just got to correct so much.”

The lack of a dominant net player for either team made defensive play key, and Ruple delivered for Jacksonville with nine digs, and Katie Lawrence had five more.

“Defense is crucial,” Reeves said. “We’re still working on coverage and them knowing exactly where they are. We’re a little behind, but we have corrected some habits and are correcting other habits.

“We do get caught standing around watching a lot. When you play in 6A, you can’t sit around and wait for things to happen, you have to make things happen.”

But it was the Lady Red Devils’ service game that gave them the early advantage. Senior hitter Chyna Davis led the way in the first game with four consecutive aces as part of her game-high eight.

The aces took Jacksonville from a 5-4 deficit to an 8-5 advantage, and Sierra Davis kept momentum with three kills that allowed Jacksonville to build a double-digit lead.

Searcy’s serve-receive ratio improved in Game 2. After giving up nine aces in the first game, the Lady Lions surrendered only two in the second, and junior Michaelah Weaver closed the gaps in the backcourt to deny Sierra Davis the easy kills.

Chyna Davis had two kills midway through and another pair late that extended the game-three score to 26-26.

Lawrence then got her first kill of the match for game point, and Chyna Davis ended it with an ace on the back line that Searcy players protested was out.

The Lady Lions’ youth showed on the disputed play, as non-captains questioned officials on the call, which goes against protocol.

Jacksonville fell apart in the fourth game but gathered itself for the fifth. Searcy got out to a 4-1 lead on the service of junior setter Cheyann Bolin before the Lady Lions gave most of that lead back on defensive errors.

Sierra Davis tied it 8-8 with a kill before teaming up with Chyna Davis for a block that gave the Lady Devils their first lead of the game at 9-8.

Chyna Davis and Lawrence got one more kill each, and Searcy made two more errors before giving up one more ace to Ruple that ended it.

Jacksonville was hit-and-miss offensively, but senior setter Tyler Pickett gave the Lady Red Devils plenty of chances with a perfect match in the middle.

Pickett went 72 of 72 on sets through five games. Cierra Davis led offensively with nine kills while Chyna Davis added seven.

Cierra Davis also had six blocks.

Coyja Hood had four aces for Jacksonville.

SPORTS>>Lions tear up Falcons, spoil debut of Hatcher

Special to The Leader

The Searcy Lions gave their fans something to be happy about Friday night even if head coach Tim Harper wasn’t completely satisfied.

Searcy handed the North Pulaski Falcons a 56-0 loss to begin new head coach Terrod Hatcher’s career on a sour note.

Dezmond Stegall passed for 214 yards and four touchdowns, while adding close to 100 yards on the ground. That may have not been the best performance of the game by the Lions, as B.J. Slaughter had two receiving touchdowns, two interceptions and a punt return for the touchdown.

“B.J. really had a great game tonight,” Harper said. “He’s got great speed and is really one of the best wide receivers and defensive backs in the state. He’s going to be playing college ball somewhere.”

Jacob Mowrer had a solid second half for Searcy, catching touchdown passes of 24 and 66 yards in the second quarter.

Searcy’s offense was not rolling early however, as North Pulaski’s defense played well enough to keep the game scoreless through the first quarter.

North Pulaski’s inability to get anything going on offense eventually wore down the defense as it tried to hold off the Lions on the short field.

“We have to get the offensive line together,” Hatcher said. “They weren’t doing anything out there.”

The Falcons’ offense was plagued with four interceptions, a pair of turnovers and several mistakes that didn’t result in turnovers.

While the scoreboard didn’t show it, Searcy’s offense wasn’t clicking on all cylinders either. The Lions’ first score in the second half came on fourth-and-11 after the offense stalled for three straight plays deep in Falcon territory.

“We were completely out of sync on offense,” Harper said. “I don’t know if the guys were nervous because they actually have some expectations this year, but we’re so much better than that. We’ve got a long ways to go if we’re going to handle a team like Batesville next week.”

Searcy’s defense did earn plenty of praise from Harper after it shut down the Falcons. Andrew Moore added two interceptions to Slaughter’s pair of interceptions.

While North Pulaski’s defense was better than the offense, the eventual breakdowns didn’t please Hatcher.

“We had too many breakdowns all over the field on defense,” Hatcher said. “We have to get them straightened out before next week’s game.”

Hatcher was asked about what the Falcons needed to do to get ready for Oak Grove on a short holiday week.

“Oh, it won’t be a short week for those guys,” Hatcher said. “They’ll be on the practice field Monday.”

Hatcher, 23, is the youngest coach in the state after moving up from offensive coordinator late in the offseason.

He applied and took the job at the urging of his players when previous head coach Rick Russell departed after one year to return to Jacksonville as head coach.

Russell had been an assistant at Jacksonville for 14 years.

Hatcher played for Russell as a defensive back when Hatcher was at Jacksonville. Hatcher was also a running back for the Red Devils, and it was Russell who tabbed Hatcher as his offensvie coordinator at North Pulaski.

Hatcher was named Falcons head coach just before practice began on Aug. 2.

SPORTS>>Carlisle runs over Riverview in opener

Leader sportswriter

Riverview kept it close for a half until Carlisle’s grinding running game wore the Raiders down in the second half, and the Bison cruised to a 28-6 victory on Friday at Raider Stadium in Searcy.

Both sides had their share of the expected, early-season mishaps, including 60-plus penalty yards each way, but Carlisle’s four interceptions of Riverview junior quarterback Josh Roach proved to be the ultimate momentum killer against the Raiders.

“Their size seems to do it to us every year,” Riverview coach Stuart Hill said. “They’re double the size of us up front, and no matter how many people we ship in and out up front, it just wears on you.”

Carlisle used the passing game sporadically, but the Bison offense capped a dominant night by scoring their final touchdown with a 26-yard completion from quarterback Zach King to D.J. Miller that made it 28-0 with 2:44 left to play.

The Raiders never quit fighting, and finally found the end zone in the final minute when Roach scrambled four yards for the score. The drive started with three solid runs by backup fullback Zach Grimes, who moved the ball from the Carlisle 48 to the 23 before Roach broke free on a 19-yard keeper that set the Raiders up with first and goal at the 4.

“We make just a few more plays offensively, and it’s a different game,” Hill said. “We’re real close to making those plays. You know, a few little passes here just kept us out of it.

“Up front, we had trouble with their D-line, anyone’s going to have trouble with their D-line, I mean, they’re a top-five team because of their line.”

Carlisle took control mid-way through the third quarter on a drive aided by heavy penalties against Riverview.

Senior linebacker Chayse Parson was flagged when his hit on Carlisle ball carrier Braxton Petrus came just after the whistle. That moved the ball forward 15 yards, and another penalty against the Raiders, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct, moved it ahead half the distance to the goal line to give the Bison a first down at the Riverview 10-yard-line.

Carlisle converted on the next play when Caleb Carpenter ran it up the middle for the touchdown with 4:27 left in the third quarter to give the Bison a 16-0 lead following Blake Perkins’ successful conversion run.

Ben Walker gave the Bison a three-score cushion with 8:12 left to play on a 52-yard touchdown run.

Riverview’s defense sniffed out the tricky Wing-T runs for the most part in the first half, but better execution by Carlisle in the second half combined with winded Riverview defenders allowed the Bison to rack up the yards and score on three of their five possessions.

“Defensively, I think we are better,” Hill said. “Last year, we played as good a game defensively as we could, and we held them to 30-something.

“Tonight, the offense put us in bad positions, and we were close to shutting them down. I mean, we were that close.”

Ben Walker improved field position with a 28-yard run to the Carlisle 40, followed by a nine-yard run by D.J. Miller. Caleb Carpenter then went off tackle for a 29-yard run that pushed the ball to the Riverview 22, and Carpenter ran in for the score two plays later from 20 yards out.

Roach completed 11 of 23 passes for 114 yards and four interceptions, and rushed 12 times for 65 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders had 218 yards of total offense.

Walker carried 10 times for 97 yards and a touchdown while Carpenter had five rushes for 88 yards and two scores. The Bison finished with 374 total yards, 303 of which were on the ground.

SPORTS>>Wildcats strike back

Leader sports editor

Seth Keese’s knee looked completely healthy Friday night.

The only thing in better shape was his spirits.

Keese, Harding Academy’s senior quarterback, had close to 300 total yards as the Wildcats beat defending 3A state champion Fountain Lake 28-20 at First Security Stadium on Friday.

Fountain Lake knocked Harding Academy out of the 3A state semifinals last year and injured Keese’s knee with a late hit on the third play of that game. But Keese got even Friday, rushing for over 155 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 130 yards and two more scores.

“It feels great, this is probably the best I’ve ever felt,” Keese said. “Everybody on our team did amazing. It was awesome.”

Keese, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in last year’s playoff — though he finished the 42-10 loss — had surgery in December and rehabbed in the offseason, skipping basketball to do so. But after leading the Wildcats to a 21-6 lead and throwing in a 97-yard run to set up his second score, he said the hard work was worth it.

“We were so motivated,” Keese said. “I don’t think I said a word in the lockerroom before the game. This is the game I tore my ACL. This is the game I wanted to win. If we lost every other game and we won this, I’d be happy.”

But clearly, after Friday, the Wildcats expect win more.

“They were the No. 1 team in the state, it can’t get better than that,” Keese said. “We’re the team to beat right now. People have to come and prove that they’re better than us.”

Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote was clearly jubilant when he spoke to the Wildcats, whose only loss last year was to Fountain Lake, after their victory. But he cautioned his players that, while they could have a special season, they had won just one regular season game so far.

“We just played hard, I thought we were well-prepared and our kids executed our game plan,” Mote said. “It’s just a special bunch of kids and I think that was evident tonight.”

Keese had rushing touchdowns of 33 and 2 yards and had passing touchdowns of 5 yards to Corey Guymon and 6 yards to Jay
Bona with the last scoring completion making it 28-6.

Fountain Lake got touchdown runs of 35 and 15 yards from Dale Smith in the final 3:25, with Harding Academy playing many of its reserves. The late scores weren’t enough to diminish the effort of the Wildcats’ defense, which recovered a fumble and made four fourth-down stops.

“We played fast,” Mote said. “I felt like our kids did a great job of reading keys and we had a lot of people around the football.”

Harding Academy took a 14-6 halftime thanks to Keese’s two long runs, one that was decidedly longer than the other.

Keese capped a 58-yard drive on the Wildcats’ first possession when he ran in from the 33, but an offensive facemask penalty cost Harding Academy a chance at the conversion and left the score 6-0 with 7:27 left.

Harding Academy’s Seth Ransom sacked Coleman Crawford on third down to help stall Fountain Lake’s possession, and Jace Davis ended another Cobras drive when he recovered a fumble at the Harding Academy 1 with 7:20 left in the half.

Keese then broke off tackle and raced 97 yards before he was dragged down at the Fountain Lake 2. Keese ran it in on the next play and completed the conversion pass to Bona to make it 14-0 with 7:01 remaining.

“It was a zone right and it was a great block,” Keese said of his long run. “I didn’t get touched until the very end when I got horse-collar tackled. But it was great. I just kept running.

“Maybe if I was a little faster I would have scored.”

Fountain Lake took the high short kickoff at its 35 and the Cobras marched for reserve quarterback Michael Pope’s 1-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left in the half. The biggest gain of the drive was Mark Makin’s 12-yard run for a first down.

John Curtis’ extra-point kick failed to leave it 14-6 at halftime.

Keese led Harding Academy with 143 rushing yards in the first half and Makin led Fountain Lake with 76.

“Seth’s a great high school football player,” Mote said.

“He’ll have an opportunity to play somewhere and he’s a fierce competitor and obviously it meant a lot to him, third play of the ballgame last year, having an ACL, coming back off an ACL injury. He played fast between the lines tonight.”

Friday, September 03, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Our pupils are learning

Arkansas had had no shortage of good news about its schools since it began implementing the federal No Child Left Behind Act eight years ago. Like those in the other 49 states Arkansas’ children made roaring progress on the end-of-year exams that were supposed to measure how much kids learned of what they were supposed to learn.

Pupils at Arnold Drive Elementary School on Little Rock Air Force Base have consistently scored above the state average. The school is ranked third statewide in math achievement, 18th in literacy scores and eighth overall. Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot is 16th in math and 20th overall. Cabot Middle School North is 20th in math, while Magness Creek is 17th overall in the state.

More good news: Cabot's ACT scores are above both state and national averages.

There were laggards here and there, but generally schools made, or seemed to make, dramatic progress. The law was written in a way to effectuate that result, or at least that appearance. Each state could establish its own standards and its own way to measure success. State policy makers wanted to improve the schools but they also did not want to look bad. There were consequences for looking bad. It was impossible to say how much real progress schools in any state were making unless you happened to compare them on a nationally normed test. Then the schools didn’t look so good.

One result of the law was that in far too many classrooms, the incentives to look good on the tests were so overpowering that the tests became everything. Under pressure from administrators, teachers taught the state’s benchmark test and sometimes not a lot else. Knowledge and skill were subordinate to the test score.

This week, we had some real good news for education in the Natural State, not once but twice.

First, the smaller but more tangible good news. The state disclosed the first results from the Arkansas Advanced Initiative in Math and Science. Thirty-one secondary schools have joined the initiative, which is supposed to increase the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams and improve the instruction and raise scores on national Advanced Placement exams. Dr. Ann Robinson, a professor of education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, obtained a grant to join the national project. UALR and other state universities supervised the project, which was designed by Tommie Sue Anthony, a former Jacksonville teacher, Pulaski County Special School District gifted-education coordinator and now a UALR professor.

The results: Students in the original 10 schools posted an overall 68.9 percent overall increase in the number scoring 3, 4 or 5 on science, math and English AP exams, which was almost five times the national two-year increase of 13.6 percent. A score of 3 or above will qualify high school students for college credit in many colleges and universities or placement in advanced courses in other institutions of higher learning. The second group of 14 schools to join the initiative a year ago recorded a 73.6 percent increase, almost 10 times the national one-year average. For African-American and Hispanic kids, the results were even more dramatic. Minority students in the first group of 10 schools registered a 202.4 percent increase in passing scores on math, science and English tests.

That looks like unalloyed good news, unless you want to detract from it by pointing out that Arkansas students had a lot further to go than most. We’ll take it. Now, what will it take to bring this program to all Arkansas high schools?

The other, more cheering news is that Arkansas has joined the national commitment to reform the No Child Left Behind testing regimen so that it may indeed produce the grand results that described in the act: to make a literate and skilled citizen of every single child. It may prove to be President Obama’s worthiest contribution to the country.

Two groups of states, 44 in all, will scrap their state exams and strive for nationally normed tests that will measure not only the minimal knowledge required on most benchmark exams, but higher-order thinking skills. The tests will be computerized and given not just at the end of the year but several times during the year so that every teacher can see the students’ weaknesses and alter his or her lessons to compensate for them. The tests will be useful for the teachers rather than a final measurement of their and the students’ failures after it is too late to make corrections.

Arkansas and the other states agreed this year to adopt common academic standards in English and math that are certain to be more rigorous than their own. The two groups of states will pursue somewhat different strategies so that ultimately we can see which is the more effective. Arkansas is part of the group of 25 states called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. They will share $170 million of federal stimulus money to devise and implement the tests.

The initiative will put new stress on Arkansas teachers, but we imagine most of them will welcome it. The tests will immediately identify for teachers the concepts that their students have not yet learned and will require them to adapt their instruction to make use of the results.

“This could be one of the greatest challenges our teaching force has ever faced, to teach the new concepts embedded in English and math standards and to adapt to these new tests, Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research and the former commissioner of the national testing program, said last week.

It cannot come too soon. Gov. Beebe and the state Education Department deserve some credit for leaving the safety of the old testing scheme that allowed the state to brag every year and instead strike out boldly for the unknown. For all our kids, that good news is real.

TOP STORY > >Beebe: State is doing well

Leader senior staff writer

Arkansas is one of only four states in the nation not facing budget shortfalls for the fiscal calendar year, Gov. Mike Beebe told Sherwood Chamber of Commerce members at noon Thursday in a de-facto campaign speech.

Without mentioning or alluding to his November general-election challenge from Republican Jim Keet, the governor’s accent on good things happening in the state and the occasional use of the first-person singular, taking some credit, were clues that this is an election season.

Also, a recent education study places the state in the top 10 in improvement, he said.

“We’ve done our job,” Beebe told the chamber members. “Don’t quit now. Get back to work.”

He said no generation had been in a better position to change the national view of Arkansas as a poor back-woods state.

“It’s not ‘Thank God for Mississippi’ anymore,” he said. “We’re finally taking the position where we need to be in the front of the pack.”

He attributed the state’s lack of a budget shortfall to three things: “I’m a conservative budgeter, we’ve both lost and created jobs and people worked together,” he said.

Asked if the state’s balanced- budget amendment wasn’t responsible, the governor said that 40 or more states have balanced-budget requirements.

In Arkansas, “Once the legislature sets the budget, all (fiscal) authority shifts to the governor,” he said.

“With the stroke of the pen, the governor can raise and lower the flow of money,” Beebe said. “No special session (of the legislature) is required.”

Arkansas’ improvements and tax cuts have been in the face of the worst recession since the Great Depression, an observation he repeated two more times.

Nevada is facing a 56.6 percent shortfall, and everyone else except North Dakota, Montana and Alaska are facing shortfalls.

He said New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently asked him about “not going in the hole.”

While many cities and states used stimulus funds to plug holes in their budgets, to prevent laying off teachers, firemen and policemen, for instance, the General Assembly used its stimulus money on one-time expenses such as capital improvements.

This spring, Hewlett Packard opened a customer service and technical-support center in Conway in a $28 million facility that plans to eventually employ more than 1,000 employees, the governor said, and credited the Chamber of Commerce leadership from Little Rock, Conway and Benton, the three local communities that were considered with cooperating with each other. He said HP officials credited that as a factor when choosing between central Arkansas and 23 other locations for their expansion.

He also credited the General Assembly, saying, “They have provided me tools no other governor had.”

Specifically, that’s a quick-action closing fund to attract business to the state.

“Nobody likes Congress and nobody likes the General Assembly, but everyone likes their congressman and their representative,” he said.

Beebe provided leadership and took partial credit for cutting more than $600 million in taxes during its administration, most of it through reduction of the state’s sales tax on groceries.

He also asked for and got an increase on natural-gas severance tax, which puts about $30 million a year into state roads, and with raising tobacco taxes to fund a state-wide trauma-center system.

“We netted out $5 million in tax cuts,” he said.

TOP STORY > >Commander meets council members

Leader executive editor

Col. Mike Minihan, the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, introduced himself to mem-bers of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council at a luncheon Wednesday and hailed the return of 166 airmen from Iraq.

Later that evening, there was an emotional reunion on the flightline as scores of relatives and friends welcomed home the airmen. Many of them had been to Iraq more than once.

As the new commander, Minihan allowed loved ones and members of the media on the flightline, a practice that had been discontinued several years ago.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) also spoke at the luncheon and thanked Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who was present but did not speak, for arranging millions of dollars for improvement projects at the base.

The senator said “earmarks” is not a dirty words when it comes to funding worthy local projects.
Pryor also said he wants to make the base “BRAC-proof” and keep it off the endangered list in the next round of the base realignment and closure process.

For Minihan, a veteran C-130 pilot, last month marked a returnto the air base, where he was an aircraft commander with the 61st Airlift Squadron from 1991-94.

Minihan lived in Sherwood before he was assigned to base housing. He married the former Ashley Mixon here. They have three children, Adair, Mikey and Marley. Adair, the oldest, is a sophomore at Little Rock Central, Mikey, 11, attends Lisa Academy North and Marley, 6, is in first grade at the Lisa Academy.

Always upbeat, Minihan was diagnosed with thyroid cancer by a flight surgeon at the base hospital several years ago.

He underwent two operations and radiation treatments here and recovered from the cancer.

He is the son of retired Lt. Gen. Kenneth and Barbara Minihan.

Before his return to LRAFB, Minihan was vice commander of the 60th Air Mobility Command at Travis Air Force Base in California, which is responsible for worldwide air mobility operations involving C-5, KC-10 and C-17 aircraft.

The colonel told the community council the Air Force will mark its 63rd anniversary this month. President Truman on Sept. 17, 1947, signed into law the creation of the new military branch. Until then, the Air Force was part of the Army Air Corps.

The air base will mark the anniversary on Sept. 18 at Hangar 1080.

Pryor praised Snyder for helping to push numerous improvement projects through Congress worth millions of dollars. Snyder serves on the House Armed Services Committee but is not seeking re-election.

Snyder’s support for the base includes:

$9.8 million to rebuild the flightline, which has been in disrepair for many years.

$3.9 million for a Child Development Center. In the last several years, demand for childcare at the base has grown rapidly and is expected to continue.

$10.7 million for a C-130 fuel-cell corrosion-control hangar for environmentally safe repair of fuel cells as well as corrosion control of aircraft parts.

Consolidated Family Support Services at a cost of $6.8 million includes a community center, library, airman family-readiness center and thrift shop.

Airman dormitory costing $18 million.

Security forces operations facility for $10.4 million.

Joint Education Center received $9.8 million from the Air Force. Jacksonville contributed $5 million. Construction will be completed in November.

Pryor said he wanted to expand the avionics-modernization program, which extends the life of aging C-130s with updated features that save the military millions of dollars a year.

In addition, Snyder helped preserve the C-130J program, which was scheduled for elimination. Instead, some two dozen C-130Js are to be assigned at LRAFB.

The air base will hold its open house Oct. 9-10. A quarter million people are expected to attend.

TOP STORY > >Sergeant: Duty tough, home sweet

Leader staff writer

Tech Sgt. Matthew Palmer was one of 166 airmen who returned home this week to Little Rock Air Force Base. They were greeted with hugs from their loved ones after a deployment to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Palmer arrived Monday, stepping from a C-130 into arims of his wife, Kason. They’ve been married for two years and live near Ward. He has been stationed at LRAFB since 2008.

“That was really nice and cool to have everybody come to the plane, instead of being processed in the hangar,” Palmer said.
Palmer said this was his most difficult deployment, having been away for four months.

“We did have Internet access and were able to use e-mail and instant messaging to keep in touch. That made it much more bearable. It was still pretty rough for me,” he said.

Palmer is a load master with the 41st Airlift Squadron of the 19th Airlift Wing. He was stationed at a NATO base in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. It was his first deployment to the country supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

In Afghanistan, the crews made air drops to the forward operating bases. Palmer said the loads included Humvees, generators and soldiers, as well as air medical evacuations.

C-130s delivered food, water and other supplies to smaller operating bases when it was too dangerous for convoys on the ground.

Missions were flown day and night and over mountainous terrain. Some landings were on dirt.

Afghanistan’s hot and dry desert made an impression on Palmer. It was not sandy, but a fine talcum-powder dust.

“Everything kicks it up. It hangs around and is like a haze in the air. You can’t distinguish a horizon line,” he said.

Palmer has been in the Air Force for 10 years, three of those years as a load master. Palmer was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas. He did not grow up in a military family; his parents worked in the medical field.

He graduated high school in 1999 and then attended college for three semesters. Palmer wanted to be out on his own. He chose to join the Air Force in 2000 because it provided the best opportunities for him.

“The Air Force would take care of a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t have to worry about losing a job, being homeless or paying for medical insurance and you get to see the world,” Palmer said.

Palmer began his Air Force career as an aircraft-armament-system specialist for F-15C and E models.

He loaded missiles and bombs on the fighters and maintained the weapon-release systems on the planes.

He said it was a tough job. He worked on the F-15s electrical in all types of weather with temperatures of 40 below zero in Alaska to 130 degrees at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

In 2007, Palmer changed career paths from working with fighters to being a load master on cargo planes. He said the weapons field was not for him. Palmer said he applied for every enlisted flying job. His top choices were a load master, a flight engineer and a boom operator for aerial fueling on KC-10s and KC-135s.

“When my cross training was approved, that was the happiest day of my life. I wanted to fly on airplanes. I’ve always loved flying. I flew between Mom’s house in Boise (Idaho) and Dad’s house in Amarillo about twice a year,” Palmer said.

He recalled a moment that influenced his decision to change his job in the Air Force.

“I was on a flight with 60 people on a C-130. I remember the load master as the most comfortable guy on the entire flight at the back of the plane,” he said.

Palmer loves his job and says it is good to be an enlisted aviator because he is treated well and his work is appreciated.

TOP STORY > >Accusation of bribery appears to be political

Leader senior staff writer

Was the amateurish videotape purporting to show Pulaski County Special School District Board member Gwen Williams taking a bribe actually a clumsy dirty trick intended to embarrass the teachers’ union’s most stalwart supporter on the eve of the Sept. 21 school board election?

Or was the long-time school board member actually caught in the act of soliciting and taking a bribe?

The upcoming election may shift the balance of power in favor of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, wiping out board president Tim Clark’s anti-union coalition.

She is alleged in tapes and in a letter with implying she could get a concrete-sidewalk contract for a man if he would make it worth her while.

There has been no mention of any sidewalk work in PCSSD school board meetings and no contracts have been posted or awarded.

A videotape showing an unidentified man handing Williams an envelope as she sat on her front porch, a separate audio recording and a letter signed “Ricky Weathers” all were delivered to the homes of the other school board members. The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office says it has contacted a man by that name, who insists he didn’t sign the letter or know anything about the tapes.

In a different portion of the tape, $100 was placed in the envelope handed to Williams on tape. Her attorney, Willard Proctor Jr., says instead, it was a condolence card for the death of Williams’ uncle.

“Ms. Williams did absolutely nothing wrong,” Proctor said Friday. “She didn’t take a bribe. We believe she was set up to make her look bad and defame her. We know there are a lot of different things going wrong on the school board. People are motivated to do things that don’t make sense.”

Proctor stopped short of suggesting it was politically motivated.

School board member Char-lie Wood said he gave his copies to the statewide paper because sometimes the press can get to the bottom of matters better than the judicial system. He said both law enforcement and other media had copies of the tapes before he made them available to that paper.

It’s been alleged in blogs that Wood, who has worked long and hard to decertify the union as the teachers’ bargaining agent, could be up to mischief.

“That’s ridiculous,” Wood said Friday afternoon. “I was in Wichita Falls, Texas, in a bicycle race.”

He and Danny Gililland, another union opponent, are up for re-election to the board this month, and PACT is supporting their opponents, both of whom have ties to the union.

Currently, the union is on the short end of most board votes by a one-vote margin. If either Wood or Gililland loses, PACT is likely to be on the winning side of those votes, including a new vote to accept the union as the bargaining agent, and to accept the contract it had negotiated last December with the district’s negotiation team—a contract which union members ratified but the board refused to approve.

Wood, who talked with Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office investigators late Friday afternoon, said he was not linked in any way to the tapes and the letter, and knew nothing about them.

He said Williams is not up for re-election and is not running against him or Gililland and that there was no political benefit in implicating her in a bribe.

He did say that if Williams was accepting bribes, she should be caught, even if by a whistle blower.

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, who asked the sheriff’s office to investigate, is clearly upset that the matter was referred to the board members and not to his office or the sheriff’s office.

“It’s caused a lot of effort to be extended that didn’t have to be,” Jegley said Friday afternoon. “We don’t know the truth of the matter yet. It’s a big, old stupid mess. If someone thinks a crime has been committed, they ought to report it to the police.”

“We’re trying to find out who the black male in the video is and the person filming,” said Lt. Carl Minden. “We’re just engaged in fact-finding.”

Minden said the sheriff’s office had talked to most of the school board members, including Williams. He said she was not formally interviewed and is not a suspect.

“There’s an allegation but no way to confirm it,” Minden said. “The video is not going to be enough to put a charge on somebody.

“It’s hard to tell who’s the suspect and who’s the victim,” he said.

If Williams is the innocent victim, both the prosecutor and the sheriff’s office say no crime may have been committed, but that she could have civil remedies against anyone who may have defamed her. In other words, she could sue.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

SPORTS>>Vilonia tops error-prone Sylvan Hills in the Rock

Leader sportswriter

It was the kind of game that can age a team in a hurry.

The Vilonia Eagles opened the season with a 42-14 victory over the youthful Sylvan Hills Bears in the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Monday.

Vilonia scored on every first-half possession, including a touchdown in the final minute as it took a 29-14 lead. Then the Eagles tacked on a 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Drew Knowles, the game’s most valuable player, and a 55-yard scoring pass from Knowles to Michael Atkinson for the final margin.

“The kids sure have worked hard and I’m proud of them,” Vilonia coach Jim Stanley said. “And it’s a great honor for them to come here and play where the Razorbacks play. It’s a lot of fun for us.”

Sylvan Hills, breaking in newcomers like quarterback Michael Maddox and a new linebacker corps, showed its inexperience with 10 penalties for 74 yards, including flags for encroachment and a personal foul on Vilonia’s next to last scoring possession.

“Inexperience, bam, that gets you right there,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said.

Tempers also flared on the last play, as some pushing and shoving delayed the postgame handshake until coaches and officials could get players separated.

“I think they’re upset, which is good,” Withrow said of the Bears. “But we’ve got to learn how to control ourselves too.”

It wasn’t all bad for Sylvan Hills. The Bears stayed with the Eagles in the first half and turned in a goal-line stop in the second half while recovering two fumbles.

“I think we’re going to get better,” Withrow said. “I think we’re athletic in some areas. I think our offensive line did a good job. I think if we get better up front. I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty successful.”

Sylvan Hills’ inexperience showed during a first-quarter sequence when, with Vilonia leading 14-6, the Bears were forced to punt four consecutive times, two because of illegal formations and shifts and once because of another illegal formation that was offset by an illegal block by Vilonia.

“That is just rookies,” Withrow said. “Call it coaching or call it whatever. That’s just inexperience.”

Sylvan Hills also couldn’t get properly lined up during the stretch and had to burnits final timeout of the half with 1:42 to go in the 41-minute first period. However, when Maddox finally got the punt off, the Eagles’ Zac Mitchell dropped the ball and Sylvan Hills recovered.

“That is the best, the absolute best, we’ve protected and punted in four weeks,” Withrow said. “I didn’t think we’d get four off.

We kept punting and punting.”

That possession ended in another punt that pinned Vilonia at its 2, but the Eagles drove 98 yards and went ahead 21-6 when Knowles dashed through the left side on a 25-yard run with 8:13 left in the half.

Sylvan Hills responded with an 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Trey Bone’s two-yard run to pull the Bears within 21-14 with 1:46 to go.

Vilonia drove to the Sylvan Hills 4 and, facing fourth down with the final minute running off the clock, Trey Lewis got loose for a 19-yard scoring run with 32 seconds left. The two-point conversion following a Bears penalty on the extra-point attempt made it 29-14 at halftime.

“If we would have just gone in at the half at 21-14 we got the ball to start the second half,” Withrow said. “It was playing the way we wanted it to play. If we were in it at halftime, we’ve got a chance.”

Vilonia’s first two touchdowns came on David Crume’s four-yard run and a 27-yard run by Sax.

Sylvan Hills scored on Nate Clark’s two-yard run to pull within 7-6 but the snap on the extra-point attempt was low and Maddox’s pass attempt was incomplete.

Knowles completed just the one touchdown pass in five attempts but rushed for 143 yards and two more scores to earn MVP honors. Maddox was 5 of 10 for 46 yards and Clark led the Bears with 98 rushing yards.

“I thought we fought, I thought our offensive line opened some holes up and we had some yards,” Withrow said. “We had some opportunities, we just couldn’t cash in on a very, very good football team I thought.”

SPORTS>>Wallace bounces back in MSRA feature

Leader sportswriter

Wendell Wallace will most likely look back at 2010 as one of the worst years of his stellar career, but his winning performance at Beebe Speedway in the Comp Cams MSRA late model feature on Friday will not be part of that bad memory.

Wallace blew by fast qualifier Jon Mitchell on a lap 7 restart and cruised to a $2,000 first-place payday during the tour’s final stop at the quarter-mile facility.

Wallace, who started third, made his moves on the high side before settling into the top spot and drove consistently for the duration.

“The racetrack was widening out — it kind of surprised me,” Wallace said. “Those guys were still tucked at the bottom, and I knew it was time to go if they gave me that outside starting third. I knew I had one shot at it, so we rode up there and made it work.”

Friday was also the fourth and final race of the RiceTec Summer Showdown. Defending series champion Billy Moyer, Jr. came into the Beebe race holding the points lead in the mini series, and went on to claim the $1,000 bonus with his second-place run.

The race also had heavy championship implications. Trumann’s Kyle Beard led the season points for most of the summer until a parts failure at I-30 Speedway handed the top spot to Greenbrier veteran Bill Frye.

Beard started fourth in the feature at Beebe and was in position to make up ground with Frye starting in the 12th spot. But Frye worked his way up to third in the final running order to earn hard charger while Beard went backwards during the race to finish 10th.

The weekend result pushed Frye’s lead over Beard to 31 points with only three events remaining.

Mitchell’s lucky run through his heat came at the expense of Russellville’s Dewaine Hottinger, wholeaped out to a huge lead in the first heat and dominated until a problem with his suspension brought him to a halt in turn one just after taking the white flag. That gave the heat victory and pole start for the feature to Mitchell, while Hottinger had to go to the last-chance feature.

Hottinger’s luck soured further in the 12-lap consolation race when his No. 65 machine got caught up in a number of collisions caused by other drivers. Hottinger reached his breaking point late in the B feature when his clean pass on Brian Ritchie ended with the Hottinger’s car spinning on the backstretch after contact with the outside wall.

Hottinger’s frustration was evident before he climbed out of his car, as the steering wheel went flying out onto the ground. He got on the track to salute Ritchie as he went by before exiting to the pits with his car still mangled on the backstretch.

Hottinger was able to start the feature via a series provisional, but his wounded car was not able to make the 30-lap distance.

Mitchell’s lucky draw-in and even luckier run through his heat could not help him once he was added into the mix for the feature. The driver who refers to himself as “the Catman” fell back quickly once Wallace outpaced him for the point.

Moyer was not far behind and overtook Mitchell for second, followed by Frye and Vilonia driver Curtis Cook. Mitchell gave way to faster drivers until he settled into the sixth spot in the final running order.

Cook, the fan favorite known as “Hollywood,” gave the locals something to cheer about with his run from 14th to fourth place in the feature. He struggled in his heat but earned a transfer in the B main.

The track slicked over before the start of the feature, which played into Cook’s hands.

Cook worked his way through the pack methodically in his Lawson Farms/B and B Cabinets car, and appeared to be as fast as the front three late in the race. But with ground to make up and no cautions to bunch up the field, his head-turning run ended with him in the fourth spot.

Cook had a similar run going in his MSRA debut at Beebe back in late June, but a late-race accident took him out of the running.

“It’s a lot nicer than getting taken out in the last couple of laps, that’s for sure,” Cook said. “We first took off, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go or not. The car didn’t really go.

“I got on the outside and found some traction. It kept the car underneath me and it took off.”

For Wallace, 2010 has been a stark contrast to last season when he won five races by early May.

“That ain’t hard to figure out, this is my first win all year,” Wallace said. “We’ve had a terrible, terrible year — probably the worst I’ve ever had, but hopefully this will turn things around.

“We changed cars a couple of weeks ago and got this Victory Circle chassis, and things seem to be working a little better for us.

We’ve got a lot of big races coming up, we’ll see if we can win some more races.”

Two-time MSRA champ Joey Mack completed the top five, followed by Mitchell, Shane Harris, Jon Kirby, Brandon Smith and Beard. Beebe’s Wade Johnson found trouble several times beginning with his heat race and he finished 19th.

Beebe’s weekly winners included Jacksonville’s Mike McDougale in the hobby feature, Beebe’s Jacob Kurtz in factories and Derek Goshien in the mini stocks. Cabot’s Todd Joslin won his third E-mod feature race of the year while Robert Baker got his first victory of the season in the modified division.

SPORTS>>Turnovers lift Lonoke in upset over Star City

Leader sportswriter

PINE BLUFF —Lonoke used big plays to build a hefty lead over Star City then held off a furious comeback for a 38-29 victory in the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Golden Lions Stadium on Monday.

Star City cut a 32-13 lead to 32-29 with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter, then the Jackrabbits unleashed sophomore Eric Williams, who took Darius Scott’s handoff and cut up the middle 84 yards for the game-clinching touchdown on just his second carry of the game.

Williams saved the day, but it was Lonoke’s senior-led secondary that put theBulldogs in the hole. The unit intercepted Ty Towers four times, and junior linebacker T.J. Scott and freshman cornerback D.J. Burton returned one each for touchdowns.

“That was huge,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “That’s our veteran secondary. They stepped up to make plays. D.J., No. 22, actually a ninth-grader for us, caught one and ran it back, so he filled in good for us. So, yes, the secondary did good.

“The D-line got pressure on them, so the defense really stepped up.”
Scott, the Jackrabbits junior linebacker, got the first interception after Lonoke scored its first touchdown. Scott snagged Tower’s pass to the middle and cut left 39 yards to score, then added the extra point to put Lonoke up 13-0.

Senior Wes Plummer got Lonoke’s second interception with 8:41 left in the second quarter, and the offense converted with a 39-yard pass play from Logan DeWhitt to Blake Dill for the first of his two touchdown receptions.

The Bulldogs were on the move late in the second quarter when Burton pulled down the third interception for Lonoke and returned it 61 yards to give the Jackrabbits a 26-6 lead with 3:57 left in the half.

Lonoke added to its lead early in the third quarter after another Plummer interception when DeWhitt found Dill again, this time for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make it 32-13. Dill took advantage of the Bulldogs’ extra attention paid to Scott and finished with five catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Scott was used primarily on sweeps in the first half. But when DeWhitt was sidelined early in the fourth quarter after landing hard on his left shoulder, Scott became the quarterback.

“He said it popped out and popped back in, so thank God,” Bost said DeWhitt’s injury. “You see we struggled without him.”

Star City began its comeback at the start of the fourth quarter with a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ate only 52 seconds off the clock. The Bulldog defense then came up big when David Scruggs fell on a Lonoke fumble after a botched exchange between center Dra Offord and Scott at the Star City 41.

The ensuing Bulldog drive ended when Towers fumbled at the Lonoke 2, which resulted in a safety for Star City on the next play. The Bulldogs then started at their 49 and turned in another one-minute drive that ended in four plays when Rashod Davis scored from the 2. Drue Harvey ran in the two-point conversion to make it 32-29.

“Second half, you could tell all the scoring drives, we got tired,” Bost said. “Slipping off tackles. We were in the right position, but we just got so doggone tired. Lack of depth — that hurt us in the second half.”

Lonoke’s running game was inconsistent all night and all but stalled late. The Jackrabbits faced third and long at the 16 when Williams, a 5-6, 140-pound receiver, took Scott’s handoff and went left before cutting up the middle on his touchdown run.

“That did it right there,” Bost said. “If we would have had to punt, I had my punter out; Logan’s my punter. I was just praying we would get a first down, and he broke that sucker all the way. For a tenth-grader, that’s big-time for us.”

Dills’ 218 receiving yards led Lonoke as Star City focused on Scott in the first half. Plummer, exploiting lighter coverage, scored on a 47-yard pass from DeWhitt as time expired in the first quarter.

“Dill and Wes Plummer ran a wheel route off of that,” Bost said. “You could tell that everybody was flying to Darius, and that opened it up.

“Darius did a good job of taking that coverage away and opening up other people, and Dill found the holes. Real pleased with that.”

DeWhitt was 11 of 20 for 238 yards and three touchdowns and one interception while Bryant carried 16 times for 59 yards. Williams’ two runs totaled 91 yards and a score.

Towers completed 9 of 16 passes for 131 yards with four interceptions and rushed 11 times for 102 yards and a touchdown.

SPORTS>>Hawkins hauls in the hardware

Leader sportswriter

The final game of the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic set a precedent when Cabot senior linebacker Riley Hawkins was named the most valuable player following the Panthers’ 28-14 victory over longtime rival Jacksonville.

It was the first time in two years, or eight games, of the season-opening classic that a defensive player won the honor.

Hawkins led the Panthers with five solo tackles and five assists. One of those assists was a sack on Jacksonville quarterback Logan Perry for a five-yard loss.

But the play that earned the hardware for Hawkins, 6-1, 210 pounds, was when he intercepted Perry’s pass at the Cabot 30 with 6:12 left in the third quarter. Jacksonville was on the move following a Cabot touchdown that extended the Panthers’ lead to 21-6 when Perry looked for standout receiver D’Vone McClure.

Hawkins stepped in front of McClure for the interception and returned it 11 yards to the Cabot 41, which set up the Panthers’ final score eight plays later when Austin Alley sprinted 16 yards around the left side into the end zone.

“It feels awesome,” Hawkins said. “We’ve been busting our butts, working hard this week getting ready. It feels awesome; I can’t explain it, it feels great.”

It was far from a one-man show on the Cabot defense, which got strong performances from junior Chase Boyles, junior Bryson Morris and senior defensive tackle Jared Dumois. But many of Hawkins’ plays came at times when the Red Devils appeared intent on climbing back into the game.

“I just worked my butt off and tried to find the football,” Hawkins said. “Trying to be there on every tackle, just working hard.”
Cabot head coach Mike Malham not always generous with individual praise, was more than happy to compliment Hawkins.

“He started for us last year. He was our second leading tackler behind Spencer Neumann,” Malham said. “He’s really grown and come into his own this year. He’s got his 40 time down to about a 4.6, he’s grown a couple of inches, so we’re expecting big things from him this year.”

There was no dominant performance on the offensive side for Cabot, although senior fullback Spencer Smith had a respectable 16 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown.

It was not quite the night he had in the same game a year ago when he surprised the Jacksonville defense with 22 carries for 110 yards and three touchdowns during the Panthers’ 35-6 blowout at Panther Stadium.

“To tell you the truth, I really didn’t do that great,” Smith said. “I was running high. I could have done a lot better. The offensive line, they were opening up the holes. I need to get better and prepare better.”

SPORTS>>Panthers win brawl

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s group effort kept the traveling trophy from going anywhere Tuesday night.

The Panthers put a slew of running backs to work in a 28-14 victory over rival Jacksonville in “The Backyard Brawl” at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Four different backs scored touchdowns to help Cabot win the third straight season-opening rivalry game, which this year was part of the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic, and keep the trophy in the Panthers’ possession.

“It’s just good to get off to a 1-0 start,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham, who had 14 new players in the lineup. “With this money young kids, you give them a little confidence. Everybody wants to get off 1-0 and it doesn’t happen so we’re just glad to be 1-0. That was our whole goal for the last six weeks.”

Andre Auseio, Austin Alley, Spencer Smith and Mason James scored for Cabot, and the ball was spread around so much that voting members of the media opted for a defensive player, linebacker Riley Hawkins, as the game’s most valuable player for his 10 tackles and an interception.

Smith led Cabot with 82 yards and Jeremy Berry had 59.

“We’re pretty deep there,” Malham said. “We’re pretty deep there in the backfield.”

Jacksonville had its moments, as when Tirrell Brown, who replaced starting quarterback Logan Perry, hit Jamison Williams over the middle for a 91-yard catch and run for the final touchdown with 6:03 left in the game.

An 84-yard scoring run by the Red Devils’ D’Vone McClure with 2:03 left was erased by a holding penalty.

“The effort was there,” first-year Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “The missed assignments and the penalties and things like that, they’re all correctable. I think we’ll have a positive film session tomorrow and make those corrections and go forward and against Benton a week and a half from now I think we’ll be an improved football team.”

Cabot built on a 14-6 halftime lead when Auseio scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter and Alley ran 16 yards for a touchdown on the Panthers’ next drive to make it 28-6 with 2:24 to go. Hawkins got his interception to set up Alley’s touchdown run.

Cabot took a 14-6 lead after a penalty-plagued first half on touchdown runs by Smith and James while for Jacksonville Perry completed a touchdown pass to Williams.

Cabot scored first on Smith’s 2-yard run that capped an 81-yard, eight-play drive with 11:01 left in the half. Cabot’s Jeremy Berry recovered a fumble after a first-down run by Smith on the possession, which was aided by Jacksonville personal foul and encroachment penalties.

Jacksonville tried to go for it on fourth and 2 at its 28, and the incompletion led to Cabot’s second score on James’ 25-yard run that capped a two-play drive with 8:08 left.

“If you don’t score with them and they get ahead then they can get on cruise control,” Russell said, “and just run those dive and those bellies and those running plays right at you and keep the ball for 5-, 10-, 15-play drives. or 20-play drives even.

“So we felt we had a play that would work and we just didn’t catch it, we didn’t complete it, it was there and we just threw it a little bit behind the receiver.”

Jacksonville got a break on a pass interference call against Cabot’s Logan Spry, who bumped receiver D’Vone McClure, and the Red Devils drove for Perry’s 11-yard touchdown completion to Williams with 2:28 to go. Jared Dumois blocked Xavier Brown’s low extra-point kick.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Keet blames wife, others

Champagnolle’s Fourth Rule of Politics is that you never raise an issue that might expose your own liability. Jim Keet should have learned the wisdom of the rule last week.

Keet, the business candidate who moved to Arkansas last year to run for governor, had been hammering Gov. Beebe and other Democrats over the misuse of state vehicles, a long-running story developed by the reporters over at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Some officeholders — Beebe not among them — were not paying state or federal income taxes on the perk, as the law clearly requires them to do. Although Beebe doesn’t have a state car, he was supposed to be liable because it happened on his watch. (It also happened on the watch of his predecessor, Mike Huckabee, and others before him, but let’s stick to today’s news.)

A couple of reporters for the same paper, which has spoken highly of the Republican candidate, began to look into Keet’s own tax-paying history insofar as they could under taxpayer privacy laws. It turned out that for three years, Keet had taken a homestead property exemption on his real estate taxes and that he wasn’t entitled to it. He skipped payment of personal property taxes on an airplane that he had registered under a shell corporation in Nevada, and we don’t know if he paid sales or use taxes on the craft as the law requires if it is domiciled in Arkansas. Let us assume that he paid them, although his campaign headquarters says he is through talking about the issue. Keet’s Little Rock restaurant business has been delinquent from time to time in remitting sales tax receipts to the city, which restaurants and hotels are supposed to do each month.

Keet owned up to the mistakes, but he blamed his wife, the county tax assessor, his accountant and his employees. He paid the property taxes for 2006, 2007 and 2008 this summer when the campaign heated up and the county tax assessor alerted him that people were prying.

As a “courtesy,” County Assessor Janet Ward tipped off Keet this summer that people were asking about his taxes, and he was able to get squared away on his delinquent taxes before the newspaper reported on them.

We ought to cut Keet some slack on some of his problems. The county tax assessor mistakenly gave him the homestead exemption on his Chenal Valley house in west Little Rock while he was living in Florida and he didn’t correct the assessor’s mistake. He left it to his wife to handle their personal taxes, and Mrs. Keet said she just misread the line allowing them the homestead exemption for the years that it was not their homestead. She thought the line on the tax statement meant the county had won a lawsuit of some kind and was giving property owners like them a tax cut every year.

But the oversight on his airplane taxes is not so explainable. The county stopped assessing the plane for tax purposes in 2007 after Keet told the assessor that he lived and used the plane in Florida, which meant that he would be paying Florida taxes on the property. But he didn’t pay Florida taxes either. Keet explained that he believed that since he had created a Nevada corporation to own the plane and had registered it in that state, he didn’t have to pay property taxes because some Nevada counties didn’t assess airplanes. But Nevada taxes aircraft the same as Arkansas if the plane is actually there.

Keet said he registered the plane in Nevada because it was “easier” than registering it in Arkansas. What is hard about registering in Arkansas?

There is a cottage industry advising airplane buyers where to buy, sell, register and take delivery of airplanes to avoid property, sales and use taxes. Keet apparently did not understand the technicalities very well.

Taxpayers big and small use every legitimate means to lower their taxes, and we would expect a good businessman like Keet to do it, too. But a good businessman, especially one who is running for governor on those skills, makes sure that he strictly complies with the law because that is what the average taxpayer is expected to do.

And he doesn’t pass off the blame to his wife, accountant or employees.

TOP STORY > >Lifetime of perseverance

Leader staff writer

Hunter Baughman of Cabot, as his name suggests, is an outdoorsman. The 23-year-old can frequently be found in the woods hunting deer or on the lakes practicing for an upcoming fishing tournament.

Baughman was nine months old when he contracted bacterial meningitis. Doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital had to amputate both of his legs below the knees, all of his fingers on his left hand and portions of his fingers on his right hand. He spent three months in the hospital and had several surgeries.

He has adapted to his physical challenges. He doesn’t use leg prostheses, because they are uncomfortable and he feels more mobile without them.

He walks on his knees. He learned to keep his balance without having to brace himself with his arms. In public, Baughman prefers to use a manual wheelchair.

Baughman has not let his disabilities deter him from his goal of becoming a professional bass fisherman.

“I can walk. They work, they’re just short,” he said about his legs.

The outdoors has always been a major part of Baughman’s life. On his 16th birthday, his parents, Candace and Irvin Baughman, bought him an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission lifetime hunting and fishing license.

“It’s been well worth it, always will be,” he said.

His parents and both of his grandpas are outdoor enthusiasts.

“I looked up to great-grandpa, “Paw Paw” (Lloyd Keener) with fishing. He fished every day when we went to his house. We were always fishing,” Baughman said.

Keener was from Atkins; he passed away last year at the age of 94.

“I’ve always fished, I just like the sport of it. I grew up crappie fishing. I had a boat before I had a truck,” Baughman said.

He always practices catch and release while fishing.
Baughman began participating in bass-fishing tournaments at just 16. He regularly fishes in FLW and BASS regional tournaments. Last year, Baughman tournament fished for eight months, February to October, in contests around the state and in Missouri, Louisiana and Texas.

“I think I fished close to 200 days,” he said.

To get to the tournaments, Baughman drives his truck with his 20-foot Bass Cat boat in tow. The truck has an automatic transmission and has hand controls for the gas and brake. A remote-controlled wheel-chair lift is installed in the truck bed.

Last year he logged 3,000 miles towing his bass boat behind him.

“When I fish, the wheelchair stays in the truck. It doesn’t go with me,” Baughman said.

He has not modified his boat. A ladder was installed on the boat trailer for Baughman to climb up. Once in the boat, he walks on his knees and gets up to the boat’s seat. He has a boater’s license and has passed boater’s education.

To become a professional angler on tour, Baughman said you have to qualify through regional tournaments and have good sponsors. You have to be consistent to move up to the elite division.

“I’m blessed to have very good sponsors,” he said.

Baughman is sponsored by H2O Sportz and Marine in Sherwood, Dream Catchers Outdoor Adventures, Cabot Jigs, Best Car Wash in Little Rock, Bass 2.0, a bass-fishing website; McSwain Sports Center in North Little Rock and Fin, Feather and Fur in Jacksonville.

During one fishing tournament, Baughman and his cousin Brad Sherrill won $4,500. Baughman won $1,200 in another tournament fishing by himself.

The largest bass Baughman has caught was a 7 pound, 4 ounce largemouth at Lake Dardanelle.

Locally, Baughman fishes at the White River, Pickthorne Lake and Lake Barnett near Floyd. His favorite spot is Lake Hamilton.

Baughman was exposed to deer hunting at a very early age. His mother said she took her son hunting when he was two months old.

“I killed my first deer at 14 with a gun. I’ve hunted for many years before that. I’ve killed at least one deer every year since. I’ve been very fortunate with my hunting,” he said.

Baughman can hunt during the different deer hunting seasons from October through February, because he can use a bow and guns without any modifications.

He used to hunt with a crossbow, and three years ago learned he could use a compound bow.

He will be participating in the annual Heber Springs urban-deer bow hunt, which begins Labor Day and runs through November.

He passed the bow-hunting test to hunt deer anywhere inside the city limits to thin out the deer population.

“I’m excited about the urban hunt in Heber. It will be fun,” Baughman said.

When hunting, he rides his four wheeler to travel from his truck to his deer stand. He climbs up a ladder to a stand 10 to 15 feet above the ground. He hunts alone and has friends who help out if needed.

“I like being in the air to hunt,” Baughman said.

He estimates that he’s shot 25 deer in his lifetime.

Baughman is also an avid dove and duck hunter.

Keeping the hunting dream alive, Baughman belongs to Dream Catcher Outdoor Adventures, an organization based in Russellville that provides hunting opportunities for free to people with disabilities or are terminally ill.

The organization maintains 2,000 acres at four handicap-accessible hunting leases in Pope County. The leases are closed to the public and are exclusively for disabled hunters.

The organization allows people to enjoy the outdoors with fishing trips, hunting trips and bird watching. There are approximately 50 hunters who are members of Dream Catcher.

Baughman was on Dream Catcher’s first hunt. The largest buck Baughman has shot was a 12-point while at Dream Catcher.

He helps its founders Bobby and Cathy Bower with the group’s hunts.

Disabled hunters ride in a truck to a ground-level deer blind. The deer blinds are outfitted with wheelchair ramps.

“It is one-on-one with the hunter. We will sit in the stand with them. Some of these guys may only get to hunt once a year, and to see their excitement, that is what it is all about,” Baughman said.

“To an outdoorsman who used to hunt and fish, overcoming a disability and being outdoors again is a good feeling,” he said.

A farmer in Blackwell is letting the hunting organization hold a dove hunt on his property during Labor Day weekend. The hunt is open for Dream Catcher members and a member of their family. Baughman will bring Payton, his 8-year-old sister.

“Despite your disability, you can still go out and hunt and fish. Don’t let it stop you. There is no reason to. If there is a will, there is a way. I haven’t found anything I couldn’t do,” Baughman said.

“The only reason that I’m alive today and able to do the things I do is because of God and the help from my family,” he said.

Baughman was born in North Little Rock. His family moved to Cabot when he was 15. He graduated in 2005 from Little Rock Christian Academy.

He is studying business management at ASU-Beebe.Baughman will earn an associate’s degree in the fall and plans on getting a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro through classes offered at the ASU-Beebe campus.

Baughman believes his degree will help him when he becomes a professional fisherman.

TOP STORY > >Civil War site big draw

Leader staff writer

Two new cannons were dedicated on Saturday at Reed’s Bridge Civil War battlefield site on Hwy. 161 in Jacksonville. The replica cannons are located on opposite sides of the Bayou Meto. The cannons were made in Virginia and cost $7,000. They were purchased by the VFW Post 4548 and by the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The ceremony by the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society had a dozen Civil War re-enactors in military uniforms and women dressed in fashions from the time period. The soldiers shot their guns in salute to the cannons. Ann Hooper, president of the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, said the Battle of Reed’s Bridge had around 20 cannons during the fight.

“We hope to get more and one (cannon) in the works that fires,” she said.

The dedication leads toward the weekend of Sept. 11 and 12 for the Reed’s Bridge Civil War battle re-enactment. The two-day event commemorates the fight on Aug. 27, 1863 between Union and Confederate soldiers 147 years ago. The Confederates fought with the Union soldiers during their march to Little Rock.

The battlefield site opens to the public starting at 9:30 a.m. Soldiers will hold drills at 10 a.m. Sept. 11 and at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 12. On Sunday, a church service will be held at 10:30 a.m. The re-enactment of the Reed’s Bridge battle will take place at 2 p.m. on both days.

For the first time of the re-enactment, there is a cavalry with eight horses.

There will be excitement as Hooper said there will be cannon fire and explosions. She said the re-enactment is supposed to be educational. The battle will be as authentic as they can recreate it.

Admission and parking is free. Visitors are welcome to walk through the campsite and learn how soldiers lived. They are invited to bring their lawn chairs. Refreshment booths will be set up near the homestead and portable restrooms will be provided.

“We will make them as comfortable as we possibly can. We want them to enjoy it so they’ll come back,” she said.

A Civil War style wedding is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 for Karen and Tony Woodruff. Both are Civil War re-enactors from North Little Rock. The couple were married in a private ceremony earlier this year. They are now having the ceremony they can share with family and friends.

The battlefield site closes Saturday at 5:30 p.m. It reopens at 7 p.m. with 1860s period music and a dance held on the parking lot. Cookies, lemonade and punch will be served.

“It is going to be a fun time. It gives the re-enactors time to relax and get acquainted with other re-enactors and the public,” Hooper said about the dance.

Visitors can check out the newly constructed rustic buildings at the battlefield site. Two weeks ago a cabin was completed by Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society members Steve Shore and Mike Kish and with the help of 15 Marines from Little Rock Air Force Base.

For more information about the Reed’s Bridge battle re-enactment, contact Ann Hooper, president of Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society at 501-819-0485 or DannaKay Duggar of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History at 501-241-1943.

TOP STORY > >Artist’s community was his palette

Leader editor

The young people wearing red talked and laughed as they waited outside Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Little Rock on Saturday morning, giving an impression that they were entering a wedding.

But tears streamed down the faces of those who sat inside and the dozens more who lined the walls of the hall, leaving little room for guests who were still trying to enter when the service started.

They were there for the funeral of Luke Hunsicker, 29, who died on Aug. 22 from brain cancer. Hunsicker grew up in Sherwood with two brothers, Lee and Lyle; their mother, Elizabeth, and father, Spurgeon, an Air Force veteran.

The 500 people who attended his funeral were touched by Luke’s affability and generous spirit, which made him popular among even the unfriendly.

“In my opinion, he’s not gone,” Luke’s wife Sydney said as she was encircled by friends on the patio at the Rev Room, a Little Rock music venue where Luke’s wake was held.

He was present in the attendees at the funeral, whose lives he affected, she said, and waved her hand toward the people who surrounded her.

Luke had strength and courage that he used for good, she said.

He was an optimist who loved life and communicating with others, which he did through art, music and conversation. Luke was bassist for the popular band American Princes, with whom he toured the country several times until he suffered his first seizure in 2008.

Many traveled to the funeral from out of state to give their condolences, such as Nate Powell of Bloomington, Ind., and Michael Motley of Athens, Ga.

Luke pursued his dream and inspired creativity in his friends. At the wake, Matt Anders, who met Luke while they were attending Parkview High School in Little Rock, described the band he was in with Luke and Mark Lierly of Little Rock a few years ago as “the best time of his life.”

“Music was his passion,” his mother Elizabeth said during a short break she took from hanging photographs of her son to display at the wake while Lee and Spurgeon carried in dozens of pieces of artwork for exhibit.

“He never thought he was good enough,” Liz said of Luke’s opinion of his art, which led him to pursue music more seriously.

The self-portraits in the Rev Room defied his opinion of his art. They revealed a deeply introspective man, who was curious about his own existence and who engraved that curiosity into his work.

One drawing, sketched with yellow and brown pencil, depicted his head ballooned and contorted above a too-thin neck. His eyes bulge with forcefulness, inviting the viewer into the inner world of the artist.

Luke’s eyes in the drawing express a serious wonder that was as much a part of his personality as his sense of humor.

He was happy, as if he knew he didn’t have time to waste, perhaps sensing the short length his life would be. He suffered debilitating headaches in high school that became worse as he got older. A UAMS surgeon removed in December 2008 what he said was a benign tumor. After another seizure in 2009, a second tumor was removed. More tumors appeared.

Photos used in a film at the wake showed a bald Luke smiling and making faces as he lay in bed, a result of chemotherapy treatments he started early this year. Sydney’s aunt Betty Lou Hamlin spoke at the funeral of Luke’s unburdened personality. She challenged attendees to focus on what they learned from the lessons Luke taught by the way he lived. We can choose to be generous with our own ability to love, as Luke was, or isolate ourselves from others, she said.

“One of the things that was most impactful to me was the experience of Luke radiating love to anyone who came into the room,” she said.

“At the same time, he was a man who was able to receive love, to take it in without discounting or pushing it away and quite frankly, I don’t know a lot of people who have enough natural confidence to both give and receive love.”

Even after life, Luke’s body will serve other people. With Sydney’s encouragement, he decided to donate his body to Genesis Medical Education and Research Institute in Memphis to further science.

After Hamlin’s eulogy, Luke’s closest friends left their seats and walked onstage to perform. Many of these friends were members of bands, including American Princes. Those who weren’t musicians paid homage to Luke by joining in on tambourine and contributing backup vocals for a performance of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

They danced to the acoustic guitars, put their arms around each other, smiled and cried as they sang, “I want to celebrate, see the shining in your eyes, because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again.”

Sydney brought the family dog, whom she rescued with Luke, onstage during the group’s rendition of “All You Need Is Love.”

“All you need is Rugs, Rugs, all you need is Rugs,” she sang while holding her dog, demonstrating the sense of humor that bonded the couple in the life they shared until his death.

She had rehearsed the songs with her friends every night since Luke’s death. Many of them told her they had never had so much fun. “It’s not so bad that I got to spend every day of the last two years with the love of my life,” she said at the wake.

TOP STORY > >Candidate runs for First District seat in Congress

Leader executive editor

First District congressional candidate Chad Causey, a Democrat, is in a close race with his Republican opponent, Rick Crawford. Some polls show Crawford is ahead, while Causey insists they’re virtually tied.

Causey, who is 34, told The Leader last week the only polls he pays attention to are those that will open Nov. 2.

Causey, Rep. Marion Berry’s chief of staff, visited at the Small Farm Outreach Wetlands Water Management Center in Lonoke, where Berry was the featured speaker at a luncheon.

Berry is retiring this year.

Causey, who later visited The Leader in Jacksonville, said he’s traveling to all 26 counties in the First District and listening to voters.

“I hear their concerns,” he told The Leader. “They’re worried about their jobs, the economy, budget deficits, the national debt.

“They’re tired of the fighting in Washington,” Causey continued. “Our nation is at a crossroads. We’re $14 trillion in debt. We have the worst economy since the Great Depression.

“We must balance the budget, like everyday Arkansans,” Causey said. “We must create jobs and move toward energy independence. I don’t promise to have all the solutions, but I will work hard.

“No one will take this responsibility more seriously,” he insisted.

Causey was selling cell phones in Jonesboro when he went to work for Berry in 2001 as his driver, he said.

Causey attended law school at Catholic University in Washington while running Berry’s office.

The candidate said he would work to secure funds for military projects in the area if he’s elected in November.

Causey said he helped line up funding for the $10.8 million National Guard armory in Cabot while serving as Berry’s chief of staff.

“I played a role in securing funding for the Cabot readiness center,” said Causey.

The Guard armory on Hwy. 367, which will open next year, will be home to F Company of the 39th Infantry Brigade Support Battalion.

As a top congressional aide, Causey said he also helped arrange funding for the $14.8 million Joint Education Center outside Little Rock Air Force Base. Rep. Vic Snyder, who is also retiring, was the key sponsor of the legislation appropriating $9.8 million for the project.

Jacksonville residents also passed a sales tax that raised an additional $5 million for the center.

Causey said he’s also been active in behalf of Veterans Administration projects and will continue to help the air base if elected.

“I’m committed to supporting the air base,” Causey said.

He denied making personal attacks on Crawford. Causey’s campaign recently questioned Crawford’s Arkansas roots, pointing out that he went to high school in New Hampshire.

Crawford said he went to high school there while his father served in the military.

Causey distanced himself from such attacks. “I never once criticized my opponent for his service or his father’s service to his country,” Causey told The Leader.

He said everyone who served in the military should be saluted. “My grandfather served in World War II. My fiance’s grandfather served in World War II,” Causey said.