Friday, December 10, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Regulators do their job

We-Never-Thought-We’d-Live-to-See-the-Day Dept.: An Arkansas regulatory agency leads the nation in oversight of a polluting industry.

No one will call it a crackdown, as some are calling a few of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s recent rulings on horizontal gas drilling, but the state Oil and Gas Commission deserves people’s gratitude for adopting a rule this week requiring operators in the Fayetteville shale gas play to reveal all the chemicals they use in the fracturing process.

The agency did not stop the exploration companies from using benzene, methane or other poisonous chemicals when they blast water and sand through shale to release natural gas, but it said they had to tell people exactly what went into each production well and each storage well they drill and in what proportions. Even minuscule amounts must be reported because even trace amounts of some chemicals are extremely dangerous.

Wyoming and Arkansas are the first states to require the disclosure, but much of the country is expected to follow suit. Hydraulic fracturing, which opened north-central Arkansas to gas production on a huge scale six years ago, has set off a drilling boom from New York to Louisiana in the south and Montana in the northwest. It is an economic bonanza for many in the shale regions, bringing income for the owners of mineral rights and new jobs, but also new alarms about environmental and road destruction and water contamination. Our neighbors to the north have not escaped it.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has investigated a few complaints about contamination of water wells around shale wells but—surprise!—has not been able to link fracturing to nearby poisoned wells. In Texas, where the shale development began around Fort Worth, the Arkansas agency’s counterpart, the Texas Railroad Commission, has found no nexus either.

But to the Railroad Commission’s and the industry’s consternation, the Environmental Protection Agency this week found that there were dangerous levels of benzene and other chemicals in two water wells serving homes near well sites and it connected the poisons to the drilling. The EPA said the contamination violated the Safe Drinking Water Act and ordered an immediate remedy. The Texas regulatory officials, as everyone expected, denounced the EPA’s meddling.

The disclosures of what exactly goes into each exploration will give landowners, neighbors, the Department of Environmental Quality and, yes, the EPA the information they need to get to the truth. The industry says there is no connection between the drilling and water contamination because the wells typically go far deeper than the aquifer that provides drinking water. They may be right but we need to know. In Texas, the EPA found the exact compounds from the gas wells in the drinking water.

The Oil and Gas Commission moved swiftly on another, more speculative front. It halted new permits for disposal wells that store fracturing fluids for a month while it tries to determine if there is any basis for widespread concerns that the wells may be causing the eruption of minor earthquakes in the drilling zone this year. That sounds dubious to us, but geoscience is far beyond our ken.

But it is heartening that there is a state regulatory agency that seems to have the public interest at heart and not merely the agency’s constituent industries.

TOP STORY > >Drugs, weapons focus of Friday testimonies

By stephen steed

Special to The Leader

Prosecutors on Friday continued their portrayal of George Wylie Thompson, 65, of Cabot, as a three-time felon committed to illegal activities, including possession of firearms, running illegal gambling operations, and arranging a sham marriage.

They contend that Sam Baggett, 56, a North Little Rock alderman, helped him acquire guns and ammunition even though Thompson, as a convicted felon, could not legally possess firearms.

Witnesses Friday – the third day of testimony in the trial of Baggett and Thompson in U.S. District Court in Little Rock – included a Little Rock man who testified that he used Thompson as a bookie, an FBI agent who was part of a surveillance team investigating Thompson; a Hot Springs man who said he sold a rifle and scope to Thompson, and a Texas man previously convicted of trafficking more than a ton of marijuana.

Thompson faces eight charges, including being a felon in possession of guns and ammunition, possession of unregistered silencers, conducting an illegal gambling operation and marriage fraud. Baggett, who has remained on the North Little Rock City Council since his indictment, faces six charges, including selling guns to a felon and making false statements to federal agents.

Don Pucek of Little Rock testified Friday he placed bets with Thompson on football games and estimated that at one time he owed Thompson about $7,000 in gambling debts. He made weekly payments on his debt and also gave Thompson a shotgun to put toward it. Clay Ellison of Hot Springs said Thompson responded to his newspaper ad through which he was trying to sell a rifle. Thompson bought the rifle for $450, Ellison testified.

Noland McCoy, an FBI photographer, testified that he shot surveillance photographs of Thompson completing those deals.

Forrest Cole of Garland, Texas, said he gambled, usually on poker, at games attended by Thompson on his property in northern Pulaski County. Cole was convicted in 2002 of trying to sell more than a ton of marijuana. On cross-examination Friday, Cole conceded that his testimony for the prosecution could result in his being freed from supervised release, a sort of probation.

The investigation of Thomp-son began as a probe into his alleged bookmaking operations but unexpectedly expanded into firearms violations, according to prosecutors.

On Dec. 4, 2008, the first day of a court-authorized wiretap on Thompson’s telephone, agents recorded a telephone call in which Baggett asked Thompson what kinds of ammunition he wanted. The next day, Thompson called Baggett to price the ammo. Tapes of those calls and others were played for the jury during the week.

On May 12, 2009, authorities raided Thompson’s home in Cabot and a piece of property on the Pulaski-Lonoke County line, confiscating 147 guns, almost 88,000 rounds of ammunition and five silencers. About three weeks later, agents visited Baggett at his Levy barbershop, which also doubled as his gun store, questioned him for a time, then returned the same day with a warrant. The government contends Baggett lied to federal agents about his dealings with Thompson during those visits.

Those guns and ammo were on display Wednesday and Thursday for the jury of seven women and five men.

Defense lawyers for Baggett and Thompson said the government’s case rests on the credibility of its witnesses. Five colleagues of Thompson have pleaded guilty to gambling charges and await sentencing. Another defendant caught in the same web, former North Little Rock alderman Cary Gaines, pleaded guilty last Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, by working with Thompson in an attempt to rig contractor’s bids on city contracts. Gaines resigned as alderman shortly before his indictment.

John Wesley Hall, Baggett’s attorney, said in his opening statement that those six will be testifying for the government in hopes of getting leniency.

Another Thompson colleague, Tony Milner, served as a third party to buy guns and ammunition from Baggett on behalf of Thompson, prosecutors say. Milner also has pleaded guilty to gambling and firearms charges and is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors say Milner first bought a gun from Baggett for Thompson in 2007. That gun was among the 147 seized more than two years later.

Baggett did not know Thompson was a felon until the May 2009 raid, Hall said. Thompson had two drug convictions at the time – one from federal court in 1989, one in state court in 2003. Last October, he was convicted of another drug charge in federal court. Also, Milner purchased the gun from Baggett, filled out the required paperwork and said the gun was for himself, Hall said.

Jason Files, one of Thompson’s attorneys, said the ammo found on Thompson’s property was an investment, not for shooting or for resale. Files conceded that Thompson is a bookmaker but that his gambling operation didn’t violate federal law and didn’t merit federal charges.

Thompson also is charged with marriage fraud – by accepting $10,000 to “arrange” a marriage between an undocumented alien and Milner, prosecutors claim. Files said in his opening statement Tuesday that Milner is still married to the woman. “He (Milner) didn’t think it was a fraudulent marriage until he started talking to the government,” Files said, noting that only Thompson has been charged with marriage fraud.

The trial resumes Monday. Prosecutors said Friday they hope to wrap up their case by the end of Wednesday. Baggett’s lawyer said their defense will, in large part, be determined by whether Thompson testifies – a decision not yet reached, or at least not announced, by his legal team.

TOP STORY > >Hopson: Combine schools, cut costs

By john hofheimer

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Charles Hopson has signaled that he will ask the school board Tuesday to consider combining some schools and shutting others down as part of the cost-cutting strategy board president Bill Vasquez has asked him to prepare.

Vasquez called upon Hopson to identify cost-saving measures, saying he was particularly concerned that the district be prepared for the sudden or eventual end of about $17 million a year in state aid for desegregation.

In his Dec. 6 “Superinten-dent’s Corner,” posted on the district’s website, Hopson forewarned district patrons, “Facility repurposing is the huge elephant that has been walking around this district for a long time.”

Facilities “is the single area that has probably cost the district hundreds of millions in the past 15 years. We will tackle it. This is a risk I am willing to take rather than succumb to the inertia of fear,” he wrote in his column.

Hopson and his staff will introduce and discuss the Vision 2020 Facilities Plan with board members at the Monday workshop.

It will be a busy week for Hopson, staff and board members, with a four-hour board workshop slated for 5 p.m. Monday, a board work session followed by the regular board meeting Tuesday and a Wednesday morning appearance before the state Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which is still scrutinizing the district, looking for remedies to past financial problems.

The Vision 2020 Facilities Plan, which apparently calls for closing one or more schools and combining them with others, as well as fixing some schools and building new, long-overdue schools, could be among items discussed at the 4:30 p.m. board work session and its approval is slated for discussion at the regular December meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“What I will be proposing to the board may not be popular with some, but the long-term stability of the district and the safety and well-being of our students and staff will be the primary focus of a proposal from our executive director of operations aimed at trimming several million through facility repurposing,” he wrote.

“We have to build new schools, and they have to be equitable,” Hopson has said.

Retired Col. Derek Scott has been surveying the state of the district’s buildings to determine which need fixing, which need remodeling, which need replacing and apparently, which need to be combined with another and closed.

Communications director Deb Roush said the authority to close, combine and build schools resides with the board, and that communities would need to have input into the decisions.

Hopson and chief financial officer Anita Farver will brief the board about the district’s current financial situation at the Monday workshop.

The board is expected to vote on new contracts with the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff at the regular meeting Tuesday, and it needs to confirm that there is sufficient money for proposed pay increases.

Board member Mildred Tatum asked for the workshop, but both she and board member Sandra Sawyer will be out of town for the workshop, called by Vasquez.

Also on the agenda for the board workshop is a report by attorney Sam Jones on desegregation and legal issues and staffing updates by deputy Superintendent Paul Brewer.

At the regular board meeting, in addition to voting on new contracts for teachers and support staff and the Vision 2020 Facilities Plan, the board will consider a request for installation of artificial turf at Jacksonville, Mills and Sylvan Hills high schools, and revision of the Pacific Educational Group contract—that’s the group that was hired to teach administrators and teachers how to deal effectively with issues of race and poverty.

TOP STORY > >Business owner helping cousin

By christy hendricks

Leader staff writer

Matthew Shillingsburg, 6, of Palm Bay, Fla., was diagnosed with B cell leukemia on Thanksgiving this year. Schillingsburg, a cousin of Brandy Huffman, owner of the Littlest Cake Shop, will spend the next three-and-a-half years undergoing daily chemotherapy treatments.

“It’s already in 40 percent of his body,” Huffman said of her young cousin. “He is their miracle child. She wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids.”

Shillingsburg and his family will have to travel more than 80 miles from their Palm Bay home to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando monthly. To help the family with travel and medical costs, The Littlest Cake Shop will hold a silent auction fundraiser set to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday and run through 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17.

The Schillingsburgs have applied for a research study where experimental treatments will be used, according to Huffman. “You have to be accepted for the program,” she said. “It’s based out of Dallas.”

“I’ve been amazed by how much people are willing to help a child who doesn’t live here,” said Huffman.

“We know it’s close to Christmas and it’s hard for everyone. We’re trying to make it where people can come in and bid at a lower cost and still be able to give the items as gifts.”

Many items have already been donated for the fundraiser, including items received on Thursday from The Cheesecake Factory, Body Designz, Buck’s Mobile Service, and a company wishing to remain anonymous donated auto parts.

Other items donated in-clude a petty skirt and bow from Pink and Blue Children’s Consignment, two $10 gift cards from 3 Flamingos, deluxe backyard party pack with two inflatables from Space Walk of Cabot, a paint-your-own pottery piece from Sassy Classy, a one month tanning package from Hair Cuts & More, hand and foot treatment and nutrition consultation from Shalee’s Day Spa, two mini-photo sessions from Melissa Conn, Caesar Stone cutting board from Linco Countertops, a Coach purse and a blanket from Charlotte Cook, Scentsy Warmer “Zensy” and scent cubes from, $30 gift card from Nutrition World, one lane for six people and shoe rentals from AllFam Bowling, two orders of 50 wings from Hooters, a pink rubber watch from the Mobile Purse Lady, a beaded necklace from Deb’s Designs, glass candy earrings from Jenny’s Gems, glass Christmas-tree-beaded bracelet from Jenny’s Gems, a Zebra beaded pin and beaded snowman earrings and beaded butterfly earrings from Katy Welch, Fruits of the Spirit Swarovski pearls from Gale Cockrell, a silver and stone pendant from Dana Morrison and a gold and stone pendant from David Colclasure.

For more information, or to donate or bid on an item, stop by the Littlest Cake Shop, located at 1102 S. Pine St. Suite 9 in Cabot, call 501-843-8080 or visit

TOP STORY > >City to keep building on fields at old Vertac site

By Peggy Kenyon

Special to The Leader

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed tough new standards for allowable dioxin levels — 10 times as strict as standards were a decade ago — will neither halt nor delay use of Jacksonville’s police/firefighter training facility, city officials said. The facility will be completed early next year at the old Vertac site, where Agent Orange was once manufactured and where traces of dioxin remain.

“As far as I’m concerned, it will not affect our plans,” said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher on Friday. “The police and firefighter center is going on as scheduled. Every administration (in Washington) brings in a new agenda, but we’re moving on.

“It’s just about a massive push that we’ve got to save the Earth, but where do you draw the line? Sometimes government regulates so much that you can’t even live. They regulate you to death.”

Fletcher also told The Leader he would be willing to camp out on the old Vertac site and would be more concerned about the carcinogens emitted by his campfire than from the soil, which received a clean bill of health from the EPA a decade ago after a $150 million cleanup.

“There’s nothing here to warrant any review,” said Fletcher, who also wants to build new police headquarters on the Vertac site. “I think the new (Obama) administration is looking at strengthening the limits of the cleanup minimum, but I don’t think there is any need to revisit Vertac.”

It’s not clear if EPA officials could end any current or future operations at the old Vertac site.

rent or future operations at the old Vertac site.

Cecelea Pond-Mayo, a media specialist for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, explained that this issue is being handled at the federal level, not by the state agency.

“We’re going to have to wait and see what happens,” Pond-Mayo told The Leader. “The EPA is rethinking its dioxin standards.”

Since the cleanup ended in Jacksonville in 1998, the EPA considered dioxin soil concentrations of less than 1,000 parts per trillion as safe for residential areas. It has considered 5,000 parts per trillion to 20,000 parts per trillion safe for commercial and industrial zones.

The proposed new standards would dramatically lower the safe levels to 72 parts per trillion for residential areas and 950 parts per trillion for commercial and industrial sites.

The EPA and the state Depart-ment of Pollution Control and Ecology (now ADEQ) supervised the cleanup, which began late in 1993 and was completed in September 1998.

DPC&E had collected $10.4 million from the bankrupt Vertac firm to pay for the cost of burning less dangerous wastes at the site.

The EPA had sued two other companies that were involved in the plant operations, Hercules and Uniroyal, for the cost of the rest of the cleanup.

A chemical plant had operated at the Marshall Road site for some 40 years, before shutting down in 1987. Herbicides and pesticides were manufactured there, including the defoliant Agent Orange used in Vietnam.

Thousands of barrels of hazardous wastes, such as dioxin, were stored at the site, including 2,700 drums of 2,4,5-T and 28,000 drums of 2,4-D wastes. The 2,4,5-T waste, the most dangerous, was incinerated in Kansas, while the 2,4-D waste was burned on site.

About 6,300 drums of contaminated ash from the incinerator went into a burial mound at the site. Over the decades, thousands of other drums were buried under ground while the plant was operating.

Some 34,000 drums of contaminated salt, a byproduct of incineration, were also moved off site.

Jacksonville saw one of the last major remedial actions in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the finishing touches are being put on the police watchtower along with its state-of-the-art computerized firing range and the burn building for firefighters to train to fight three types of fires — commercial storefronts, apartment complexes and single-family dwellings, which will be near the Jacksonville Recycling Center off Marshall Road, which will take up several acres on the old Vertac site.

Additionally, a concrete pad is in place for all emergency personnel as well as public-works employees to enhance their driving skills.

Initially, the city opted to set aside $4 million for the project that included only the firing range with moving targets hooked up through a computer system inside the police watchtower, the burn/training tower for firefighters and the driving pad.

In the summer of 2009, however, Kullander Construction of Little Rock submitted a bid of $2.5 million — much lower than city officials expected.

That’s when city officials looked at the possibility of building a structure to house emergency-personnel classroom training.

“Instead of remodeling and expanding the 911 communications center at its present location (off Harris Road near North Pulaski High School), we decided to take those funds of $400,000 and build it over there (off Marshall Road),” City Engineer Jay Whisker told The Leader.

The new 911 communications center will be housed inside the proposed multi-purpose structure, according to Whisker. Another idea cropped up to create a safe room in a portion of that structure in case of a tornado. In fact, the training classroom will double as the safe room with reinforced concrete to withstand the force of a tornado, according to city officials.

There is also discussion about relocating the Jacksonville Police Department at the same site.

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes said Friday he feels somewhat blindsided by this issue and its possible impact.

“Sure, I’m concerned about it, but it’s kind of early to comment until we can find out more about what’s going on,” Sipes said.

Whisker said a new police headquarters could be built on the Vertac site, if funds allow. The police station could be housed in the same structure as the future police/firefighter training classroom and 911 communications center.

The police department wanted to spend $350,000 for an upgrade of its existing structure off Main Street in downtown Jacksonville, according to Whisker. That project could include only the remodeling of the evidence room and part of its Criminal Investigations Division.

Tentative plans also include putting the entire Jacksonville District Court system in the Main Street police station. The court’s administrative office is now in a structure behind the Main Street police station. The courtroom now is inside the existing police station.

Earlier this year, JPD officials voiced concerns over the current structure’s plumbing, climate-control issues of being miserably hot in the summer and cold in the winter in certain offices and even rain pouring into the police chief’s office.

There are numerous water stains on the ceiling.

Garrick Feldman of The Leader contributed to this report.

SPORTS>>Meredith, Santo won in booth

By todd traub
Leader sports editor

It seems oddly fitting the Dallas Cowboys won on the same day a legendary former quarterback reached the ultimate end zone.

And it  seems somehow proper the Chicago Cubs lost one of their most beloved figures in late autumn and not when the season is full of life and Cubs fans still think their team has a chance.

Farewell to Don Meredith and Ron Santo, who found second homes in the broadcast booth and made televised games all the more enjoyable. Meredith, Dallas’ quarterback from 1960-68 died Sunday — game day — at age 72 and Santo, the Cubs’ third baseman and veteran broadcaster, died Dec. 3 at age 70.

As the Cowboys (4-8) won their third game in four tries, Meredith, who died of complications with emphysema and a brain hemorrhage, was being remembered as a fun-loving gunslinger who revolutionized broadcasts of the game he once played.

Santo, who died of complications from bladder cancer, is remembered as a one-time player whose love for his team bubbled over when he went on the air.

The Chicago Bears originally drafted Meredith but traded him to Dallas, where he helped the Cowboys begin their growth from a bumbling, expansion product into America’s Team, though I don’t recall voting on that.

Meredith passed for 135 touchdowns and helped Dallas to three playoff appearances before he retired in 1969. Like baseball great Dizzy Dean, Meredith had a knack for making his folksy style work in the broadcast booth.

It was Meredith, sparring with the verbose Howard Cosell or singing Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out the Lights” when a game was winding down, who helped give Monday Night Football the off-kilter appeal it has since tried to recapture. Meredith’s first stint on MNF was from 1970-73 and, after ABC tried ex-jocks Alex Karras and Fred Williamson in his place, Meredith returned for a second run in 1977-84.

In its efforts to recover the edge it had in the Meredith-Cosell-Frank Gifford era, MNF attempted a few ill-fated experiments. Who can forget the work of comedian Dennis Miller or conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh?

I’d like to, but it was so horrible I can’t.

Santo was a nine-time all-star who batted a career .277 with 2,254 hits, 342 home runs, 1,331 RBI and five Gold Gloves. He was a member of one of the better Cubs teams of his era, the 1969 club that blew a nine-game National League East lead to the New York Mets.

Santo played the last of his 15 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, but is forever linked to the Cubs.

Santo did games on radio and television for 21 years and wore his loyalty on his sleeve as he openly rooted for the Cubs or despaired of their failures. His allegiance endeared him to fans, and the Cubs honored Santo in 2003 by raising a flag with his jersey No. 10 on the left field foul pole next to the No. 14 worn by “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks.

As players, Meredith and Santo never won the biggest prizes.

Meredith was just 1-3 in the playoffs and was the losing quarterback in one of the NFL’s greatest games — the 1967 NFL championship in Green Bay called the “Ice Bowl” because it was played in minus 13 degrees. Meredith was long gone when Dallas won the first of its five Super Bowls in 1972.

Santo never even got to the postseason but came closest in 1969, the year of the Cubs’ epic collapse.

In an infamous photo from that season, Santo stands in the on-deck circle during a critical September game at Shea Stadium while a black cat released by Mets fans circles him. When the season ended, the Cubs had gone from nine games up to eight games back while the Mets went on to win their first World Series, an event the Cubs haven’t won since 1908 or reached since 1945.

Santo continued to come up short in his sad quest for acceptance into the Hall of Fame. His disappointment as the hall denied him each year and his battles with health problems like the diabetes that cost him part of both legs, further led Cubs fans to open their hearts.

Santo called his post-playing life with the Cubs “therapy” and said his broadcast career may have prolonged his life. He once arrived at the Cubs’ spring training park in Arizona with one prosthetic leg wrapped in team colors.

Meredith and Santo could have died unhappy and bitter over their disappointments as players. Instead, each time one of them entered the booth, he brought some part of the young man within who simply loved the game — and they made us love it a little more.

SPORTS>>Local teams rich with all-state, all-conference picks

By Jason king
Leader sporswriter

The lists for all-conference and all- state football selections were released this week with local teams well represented.

Three of the area’s Class 5A schools and 4A member Lonoke combined to place eight on the all-state roster while boasting a total of 16 all-conference players.

Sylvan Hills had all-state selections Nate Clark and Alex Smith, as well as all-conference players Jake Dillon, Michael Maddox, Jaleel Henson, Edwin Smith and Jacob Denson. The Bears went 3-7 and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in four years. A small number of upperclassmen were spread more thin by injuries but Clark and Smith rose to the challenge.

Smith is a three-year starting defensive end and left guard and was named the fifth-best lineman in the 5A-Southeast Conference this year. He was also an all-conference selection as a junior. 

“Not only is he a great football player, but he’s a great kid,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached.”

Clark started the year as a running back and outside linebacker, but injuries to teammates forced him to shuffle through multiple spots, including quarterback. 

Clark was also punter and punt returner as well as a kickoff returner and a safety at times. Through it all, Clark accumulated just over 1,100 yards rushing and led the Bears at quarterback in the final three games. 

“It was an unbelievable job for a guy who didn’t play any last year,” Withrow said. “Especially when conference began – he really turned the corner. It was outstanding, the way he played and the way he carried himself.”

It began in Week 8 with a 42-24 loss to Monticello in which Clark rushed for over 300 yards and had another 150 passing. He also had strong performances in the final two weeks in close losses to West Helena and state semifinalist Watson Chapel.

Representatives from Southern Arkansas University visited the Sylvan Hills campus during the week expressing interest in Clark and Smith, as well as all-conference offensive tackle Jacob Denson.

Dillon, 5-10, 230 pounds, was a starting right guard and defensive tackle. Maddox, a quarterback and free safety, made the all-conference list despite battling injuries. Junior Edwin is an all-conference center and defensive tackle while Henson, a sophomore, will return at linebacker after his all-conference season.

North Pulaski had a pair of all-state selections in three-year senior linebacker/running back Darius Cage and two-way lineman Schyler Spencer. Junior running backs Derrick Hart and Nick Dunn made the all-conference list, along with sophomore center Luke Phillips.

Beebe’s conference runner-up showing in the 5A-East resulted in four all-state selections and eight players named all conference. Seniors William Conley, Colby Taylor and Scot Gowen, along with junior Jay Holdway, were named all state.

Taylor, a senior fullback, rushed 129 times for 1,497 yards and 18 touchdowns. The quarterback Gowen had 100 carries for 548 yards and five rushing touchdowns and threw for three more scores in the Badgers’ run-based Dead-T offense.

Conley, who started at nose guard for two seasons, led the defense with 63 tackles, including 10 for losses and two sacks and blocked a field goal and a punt.

“It’s going to be tough to replace all of them,” Badgers coach John Shannon said. “They are all three-year lettermen. William anchored our defense for two years and Gowen was also our quarterback for two years. Colby did a good job coming in a fullback after being a halfback last year. Those three will be hard to replace.”

Holdway, a junior, rushed for 827 yards on 129 carries and scored 14 touchdowns.

Hunter Weimann, Jason Ferguson and Ethan Boyce were all named first team all-conference for Beebe, while Andrew Morgan, Reece Totty, Shaquille Bailey, Matt Pursell and Tyler Love all made second team.

Lonoke did not have any all-state players after a 6-4 season that saw the Jackrabbits fail to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. But four seniors and two juniors landed on the all-conference list. 

Juniors Tyler Grady and T.J. Scott contributed on both sides. Grady played on the lines while Scott was a running back and linebacker as well as place kicker.

Senior defensive backs Darius Scott, Blake Dill, Justin Smith and Wes Plummer also played at receiver, with Scott adding running back and quarterback duties in a couple of games.

Dill made key receptions during early victories while Plummer had vital defensive stops. Smith left his mark with a standout performance against Southside Batesville in which he had four interceptions.