Saturday, October 01, 2011

SPORTS>>Badgers remaining in 5A East

Leader sports editor

Beebe is staying in the 5A East when play begins in the next conference alignment cycle next season. On Thursday, the Arkansas Activities Association voted to deny Helena-West Helena Central’s appeal that would have swapped HWHC and Beebe. The actual vote was a 9-9 tie, but a simple majority was needed for the appeal to be approved. One board member, Andrew Tolbert of Warren, was absent from the meeting.

The newest alignment, as it was originally drawn up by the AAA and as it will remain, has HWHC in the new 5A Central conference along with seven Pulaski County schools, including Jacksonville, North Pulaski, Sylvan Hills, LR McClellan, Mills, Little Rock Christian Academy and Pulaski Academy.

Beebe will play in the East with Batesville, Forrest City, Wynne, Nettleton, Greene County Tech, Paragould and Blytheville.

Geographically, the alignment isn’t as logical as Helena’s proposal, but it’s the one that Beebe wanted for reasons other than a geographical fit.

The AAA has moved Beebe to a different conference in each of the last three alignments, which take place every two years. To the Badger coaches and administrators, developing some consistency and athletic rivalries was a larger issue than saving some money on travel.

Beebe superintendent Belinda Shook actively lobbied the voting board members at the meeting to keep the Badger sports programs in the 5A East.

Shook cited several reasons for wanting to remain in the East, including the need for school rivalries and conference stability. Shook also noted that Beebe would like to remain in a conference with schools of similar academic test scores.

Beebe athletic director Jerry Jordan spoke with The Leader on Friday about the board’s vote.

“We’re glad we’re where we are,” Jerry Jordan said. “It’s never good when you have to move from one spot to the other over and over again. Four years ago they moved us to the Southeast and that disrupted our junior high programs quite a bit. We struggled for two years there and finally found some stability in the East the last two years, so we’d like to stay where we are.”

Besides stability, Jordan believes gate revenue will be greater in the East conference than in the new Central, which would offset the added travel costs.

“We figured that up,” Jordan said. “Dr. Shook and Mr. Crisco (assistant superintendent Hal Crisco), looked at those numbers and the travel expenses came to about $100 more per trip. It wasn’t anything staggering. And the gate product we will generate will more than offset that.”

Board members who voted to approve Helena’s request were Wesley Berry of West Memphis, Bobby Acklin of North Little Rock, John Ciesla of Greenwood, Carl Easley of Wynne, Nathan Gills of Glen Rose, Alfred Hogan of Marion, Frank Holman of Lincoln, Jimmy Floyd of Paris and Jerry Newton of Poyen.

Those who voted to deny Helena’s request were Joe Couch of Bergman, Howard Morris of Riverview, Rick McLaughlin of Hot Springs Lakeside, Max Adcock of Mineral Springs, Gary Hines of Emerson-Taylor, Albert Murphy of Genoa Central, Mickey Pierce of East Poinsett County, Fred Walker of Izard County and Suzanne Bailey of Waldron.

There were 10 appeals by 10 different schools. Seven were approved.

Siloam Springs’ proposal to restructure the 6A and 7A classifications was denied, but the boarded voted 16-2 to allow the proposal to go out in a mail ballot to the 33 schools in those classifications. The ballot vote deadline is Oct. 19.

Pine Bluff Dollarway’s request to be moved to a different conference was denied because Dollarway sent in its request after the deadline. All other appeals were approved, including requests by Catholic High, Deer, Dermott, Lavaca, Magazine, Southside Bee Branch and Johnson County Westside.

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills defeats NPHS

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills avenged one of its earlier season losses Tuesday night, beating North Pulaski 3-1 at home in a return match from a five-set loss in the first conference roundrobin.

The final three games of the match were all nailbiters, which is becoming the norm when the Lady Bears play the Lady Falcons.

Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway believes there could be a little extra emphasis when these two teams meet.

“Well, we’re so close,” Treaday said. “We’re part of the same district. All the kids are friends. I try to not put any more emphasis on one game than another, but I think there might be something to this becoming a rivalry.”

North Pulaski got out to a small early lead in game one, but the Lady Bears took control and won the opener 25-18. From that point, it was back and forth.

Game two saw several lead changes with neither team pulling out in front. The Lady Bears were able to grab a small lead late then trade points until winning 25-22.

The third game was more of the same, only the Lady Falcons ended up on top 23-25.

Treadway has seen his team blow 2-0 leads this year, and tried to rally his playerss heading into game four.

“I told them we don’t want to go five games with this bunch,” Treadway said. “We really needed to focus, go out and grab an early lead and try to stop their momentum.”

Treadway’s pep talk didn’t work.

The Lady Falcons came out hot and took control of game four from the start, eventually pulling out to a commanding 20-12 lead. Treadway called timeout to try and stop the onslaught. This time things did change, as North Pulaski started down a familiar road of losing big leads late.

Sylvan Hills broke serve after the timeout to make it 20-13. Val Jarrett then served four straight points to 20-17 before the Lady Falcons broke back.

The visiting team only served once and the Sylvan Hills service break made it 21-18. Darin Flippo then served two in a row to make it 21-20.

North Pulaski then got three points before another break made it 24-21. That’s when sophomore Michelle Sorensen served five straight, including one ace, to bring the Lady Bears back for the win. On match point, Senior Zaneb Rehman got a kill from the middle of the front row that put a stamp on the victory.

“It was pretty much just straight down,” Treadway said. “I’ve been wanting her to be more aggressive at the net so that was really good to see.”

Overall Treadway was very pleased with his team’s performance.

“We started out playing one of our better games of the year,” Treadway said. “Our passes were really crisp and we were getting a lot of good swings on the ball. We knew they were going to come back. They’re having trouble this year just like we are, but that’s a pretty good team. The girls just dug deep you know. They got in a hole, but they came out of it and I’m proud of them for that.”

The Lady Bears lost their second match of the week, falling in three games to CAC by scores of 25-16, 25-16 and 25-15.

The week’s results leaves Sylvan Hills 3-6 in conference play and 5-9 overall. The Lady Bears are in fifth place in the conference standings, but trails CAC by two games and loses the tiebreaker if they end up with the same record.

“That loss hurt us because it means we’ll need CAC to slip up in order for us to get to state,” Treadway said. “We’re not mathematically out of it, and we’re going to keep playing hard.”

SPORTS>>Red Devils let one slip on the road to ’Canes

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville almost pulled off an upset at Jonesboro on Friday. The Red Devils came from behind to lead 22-21 with less than four minutes left in the game, but ultimately lost to the high-octane Hurricane 34-22 in Craighead County.

The Red Devils took the lead with a 62-yard pass from senior quarterback Tirrell Brown to senior receiver D’vone McClure on third and eight. The two point conversion was also a Brown-McClure hookup, and it gave Jacksonville its first lead of the game with 6:33 left in the final quarter.

Jonesboro answered with a 60-yard drive that ended with a Martin Stafford 1-yard plunge with 3:24. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, leaving it 27-22.

Jacksonville turned it over on downs at its own 28-yard line on the ensuing drive, and Jonesboro needed just three plays to score again. The extra point made it 34-22 with 1:40 left in the game.

Jacksonville didn’t give up just yet. The Red Devils drove the field, but Jonesboro picked off a Brown pass at the 1-yard line with 1:05 left to seal the victory.

While the second half was all fire works, the first half was a dud for both offenses, that is until the very end.

Jonesboro took the ball at its own 2-yard line with 1:42 left in the half, and went 98 yards in 90 seconds to take a 7-0 lead into intermission. Jacksonville’s best sustained drive was actually in the first half on its first possession. The Red Devils marched to the Hurricane 3-yard line, but Brown was hit in the backfield and fumbled at the 10, where Jonesboro recovered the loose ball. The drive ate up over nine minutes of clock.

Jacksonville’s second chance to score came on the fourth play of an 80-yard drive.

This time the Red Devils used a little deception. Brown pitched to junior halfback Kevin Richardson and the Jonesboro defense bit.

Richardson then unloaded to a an open McClure for a 50-yard touchdown that made it 7-6 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.

Jonesboro again wasted no time in answering. The Hurricane drove 60 yards to score and go up 14-6 with :23 left in the third. The key play of the drive was the 36-yard touchdown on second and 21 immediately following a Red Devil sack.

After another Jonesboro kickoff sailed into the end zone, Jacksonville scored on the very next play.

This time it was Brown to junior Brandon Brockman for an 80-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion from Brown to Richardson tied it at 14 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.

Jonesboro went up 21-14 on an 8-yard run by Stafford with 7:50 left in the game.

Jacksonville finished with 378 total yards while Jonesboro compiled 390.

Brown completed 14 of 31 pass attempts for 262 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Richardson’s completion gave Jacksonville 317 passing yards for the game.

Jonesboro did all its damage on the ground. The Hurricane ran for 310 yards.

The loss drops the Red Devils to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in 6A East games. Jonesboro improved to 3-2 and 2-0.

The Red Devils will host Little Rock Hall next Friday for their homecoming game.

SPORTS>>Rockets roll over Panthers

Leader sports editor

To temple for Hail Mary’s isn’t just part of the Rosary anymore for Catholic High. Rocket quarterback Zach Conque completed a 44-yard hail mary to Jordan Temple to end the first half, spelling the beginning of the end for the Cabot Panthers in a 28-6 Catholic victory.

The touchdown that ended the half put Catholic up 21-6 and helped break open a game that had been a defensive struggle.

Catholic moved the ball up and down the field, but penalties, turnovers and timely Cabot sacks managed to stall most Rocket drives. Several times Cabot’s defense backed Catholic up, but much of the night, the Rockets were able to still convert first downs, usually with Conque scrambling out of the pocket for big gains.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the effort,” Catholic coach David Estes said. “They played hard and they deserved to win, but we played disgraceful football on offense tonight. I thought our defense played tremendously well. I was very proud of them.”

Cabot’s offense struggled to run the ball, and while the passing game saw receivers running open most of the night, connections were few and far between.

The Panthers got the ball and scored on the opening drive of the game. The key play was a 63-yard hookup between quarterback Zach Craig and tight end Ethan Brown that gave Cabot first and goal at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, James Haley scored with 10:22 left in the first quarter. It was the last time until the late in the third quarter Cabot would sniff the end zone.

Catholic answered immediately on the following drive. The Rockets went 55 yards in eight plays, with the key play coming on second and 21. Conque was flushed out of the pocket and ran 18 yards to the Cabot 12, where he ran out of bounds and was hit late. That gave Catholic first and goal at the 6. Two plays later on third and seven, Conque was flushed again, and this time scored with 6:39 left in the opening frame.

The two teams traded possessions until late in the second quarter. Catholic took over on its own 23 with 8:43 left in the half, and marched that distance in 10 plays, going up 14-6 with 4:12 on the clock.

Cabot gave it right back when Craig was hit attempting a pass and fumbled. After a scramble for the ball, Catholic covered it 22 yards behind the line of scrimmage at the Panther 26. The Cabot defense held though after Jake Vaughan sacked Conque for a 10-yard loss, forcing a punt, but Cabot went backwards again and punted three plays later.

That set Catholic up at its own 47 with 1:03 left in the half, and the touchdown pass to Temple three plays later.

The second half was more of the same. Cabot went backwards on its next two possessions, but the defense found ways to stop Catholic when Rocket penalties didn’t.

In the fourth quarter the Panthers started moving the ball, but interceptions in the red zone thwarted each advance.

Cabot had a chance to score after a 70-yard punt return by Chase Boyles gave Cabot first and goal from the 10, but things went terribly awry from there. The Panthers ended up punting on fourth and goal from the 42. First it was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a two-yard gain. Halfback Wes Conard was tackled for an eight-yard loss and Craig was sacked on third down for an 11-yard loss.

The final nail in the coffin came late in the fourth quarter on third and three. Craig had a receiver all alone, but threw his pass low where junior linebacker Cole Boardman could reach it in the flat with no one in front him. Boardman took it the distance to set the final margin with 6:05 left in the game.

Cabot got it back and marched down the field again, but Boardman got another interception, this one at the 1-yard line, and returned out to the 22 with 1:59 left.

Catholic finished with 340 total yards to 232 for Cabot. The statistic of the night is that 168 yards of Cabot’s offense came through the air. Craig completed seven of 13 attempts with three interceptions.

Conque dominated the game. He was 18 of 26 for 202 yards passing, and had seven carries for 92 yards to lead the Rockets’ ground attack.

The results leaves the Panthers 1-4 on the year and 0-2 in conference play. Catholic improved to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league play.

Cabot will face North Little Rock next week. The Wildcats lost 20-17 to Conway on Friday.

SPORTS>>Defense does it for Beebe

Leader sportswriter

Defense saved the day for Beebe as the Badgers ground out a 25-12 win over Forrest City at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium on Friday to stay unbeaten in the 5A East Conference.

The Badgers (4-1, 2-0) moved the ball at will in the first half, but halftime adjustments on defense by the Mustangs (0-4-1, 0-2) allowed them to hold Beebe to less than 100 yards of offense in the second half.

Forrest City also had its chances to overtake Beebe’s 19-12 halftime lead, but fumbled the ball away at the Badger 9-yard line midway through the third quarter, and gave up an interception and 49-yard touchdown return by senior cornerback Dakota Lovston with 4:31 to play.

“It’s a win – we knew it was going to be tough coming in,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “Forrest City is always one of the most physical teams we play all year. They’re always real physical and have good linebacker play, and that was no different tonight. The scary thing is that they’re a young team; they’ll have most of them back next year.”

The Mustangs took a page out of Beebe’s playbook in the second half with long, sustained drives that limited the Badgers to just six touches in the entire third quarter, including Forrest City’s drive to start the second half that went 70 yards in 14 plays before running back Bobby Allen coughed up the ball at the Beebe 9-yard line. Sophomore linebacker Augustus Wisdom fell on the ball for the Badgers to end the threat.

“That was big,” Shannon said. “They had momentum, they were driving, they picked up some first downs. We got a pass interference call when we intercepted the football. So, they had a lot of momentum going their way, and that was huge that we got a turnover when we did.”

Beebe went three and out to set the Mustangs up at their own 46, but the defense got the ball again when sophomore lineman Dusty Skinner stepped between Forrest City quarterback Ethan Adams and Allen on the handoff exchange and stole the ball from Adams’ hands with 1:52 left in the third quarter.

That led to Beebe’s only promising drive of the second half, but that drive ended when senior halfback Jeremy Van Winkle fumbled the pitch from quarterback Dustin Stallnacker for a three-yard loss on fourth and 3 from the Forrest City 18-yard line with 7:05 left to play.

“We were able to establish the dive in the first half,” Shannon said. “Second half, we didn’t have the ball very much. Their offense did a great job. They did a good job of holding on to the football and eating up the clock – kind of like what we like to do. Our defense finally rose up and stopped them when we needed to stop them.”

It was the first game back for junior Michael Kirby after sitting out the last two weeks with a shoulder injury, and the 5-4, 149-pound halfback delivered right away when he broke free for a 58-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage for Beebe to give the Badgers an early 6-0 lead with 10:29 left in the first quarter. Kirby’s services were needed more than ever with senior halfback and team leader Jay Holdway out for the game due to a team violation. Kirby finished with eight carries for 95 yards.

“Kirby had a big ballgame,” Shannon said. “He’s been solid for two years now, and it was good to have him back in the lineup.”

Stallnacker added to Beebe’s lead with 11:21 left in the half when he faked to Eric Thorn and kept it for a five-yard touchdown run. Stallnacker also tried to run in the conversion play but was stopped short to leave the score at 12-0.

The Mustangs caught one of their few breaks on the ensuing kickoff when Matt Pursell attempted an onside kick, only to have Forrest City lineman Tevin Beanum field the ball at midfield and run it back untouched to make it 12-6. They tied it with 5:57 left in the first half on a 25-yard touchdown pass play from Adams to Scott Gracey, but Beebe got the last word in the half with a 33-yard scoring run up the middle by Van Winkle with less than a minute to play.

Van Winkle had 12 carries for 72 yards while sophomore fullback Thorn served as workhorse for the Badgers with 18 carries for 59 yards. Beebe finished with 322 total yards, 232 of which came in the first half.

For Forrest City, Adams was 12 for 19 passing for 107 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Allen carried nine times for 87 yards, as the Mustangs had 205 total yards.

Beebe will travel to Wynne next week while Forrest City will host Batesville.

Friday, September 30, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Padding expenses

You may think we sue too much in this country, but here is a lawsuit you can get behind. A public-interest foundation called the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court to stop Arkansas legislators from drawing illegal reimbursement for fake office expenses and travel.

It is not so much that lawmakers — all but a few of the 135 — are enriching themselves at the public trough, but that they, and the state, are flagrantly violating the Constitution. We are always worse when the Constitution is ignored, particularly by those who are sworn to uphold it.

Amendment 70, which was ratified by the voters in 1992, fixes the salary of the part-time legislators but allows them to raise it every year to reflect the cost of living. It prohibits any other form of compensation for their work but allows them to recover their expenses as long as they are documented and actually related to their legislative work.

But legislators complained that the pay ($15,869 this year) did not compensate them for the lost time away from their jobs and businesses when they attended legislative sessions and committee meetings at Little Rock and the expense reimbursement rules were too confining. So the House and Senate developed elaborate systems to pay themselves much more by claiming daily expenses the year round. They claim their businesses or their homes as legislative offices and set up “consulting” businesses in their homes. The state then pays them rent, mileage and expenses and for advising themselves on how to do their legislative business. None of it is documented. They sign a simple form every month saying they incurred the fixed expenses that month — the same amount every month.

The suit said that state Sen. Jerry Taylor of Pine Bluff, one of the defendants, had collected $129,633 for undocumented expenses since he went to the legislature in 2007.

The Public Law Center said it was not averse to the legislators collecting better salaries but that it should be aboveboard, transparent and with the public’s approval. Legislators will feel better about themselves when the courts end the practice and they can say they are observing their oaths again. We know the public will be happier.

TOP STORY > >Chamber planning to lead the charge

By Rick KRON
Leader staff writer

The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce has a new director and a new charge. It has become the lead or point organization for the city’s economic development and its efforts to pursue an independent school district.

The new director is Marcia Cook, and the council gave the chamber the nod Monday night to be its contact for economic development.

Mayor Virginia Hillman told the council that the city had budgeted $50,000 to try, once again, to build an economic development program. Hillman said she felt teaming with the chamber was the best option, adding that there were things the chamber could do that the city couldn’t.

“We are in need of an economic development department,” the mayor explained, “We do not want to be left behind.”

Chambers’ president Joey Parker said the annual cost to run and fund the venture would be about $136,000. “We are not talking just a person, but a whole wing, a new division of the chamber,” he said.

“This is something you can’t stop after just a few months,” Parker said. “It’s a long-term commitment.”

When asked how the chamber could ensure better success than previous economic development incarnations, Parker said, “The reputation of the whole chamber is riding on this,” he said.

Although details still have to be worked out, Parker said the chamber representative would make quarterly formal reports to the council and would have monthly meetings with the mayor and others.

The resolution passed by the council authorized the mayor to contract with the chamber for the purpose of providing economic development services. Before the program can officially start, the mayor will have to bring back the contract and details of the program for the council to approve.

“This is not something we just thought of last night,” Parker said, “We’ve been working on this for a long time. This is strictly about putting the best offense out on the table to represent Sherwood.”

Cook, who has been the executive director for just five days, said, “I see Sherwood as a great place to live and a great place to work, but sometimes we aren’t aware of all the services and product we have to offer each other.”

“We don’t always have to go to Jacksonville or Little Rock for a service or product,” she said.

Cook, who has been a member of the chamber since 2005 when she formed Pinnacle Performance Solutions, a business coaching and consulting firm, sees her executive director role as “developing the chamber more. I want it to have more value to its members and to the city. I want to attract and keep business.”

Cook doesn’t see herself as the economic development person who goes out to call on potential business.

“I think we’ll hire someone specifically for that, but the details haven’t been spelled out yet. All I know is that there is a lot of potential out there,” Cook said.

TOP STORY > >Educator groomed as principal

Leader staff writer

A single mother of three, Felicia Kelly drives an hour and 15 minutes – one way – to her job five days a week as principal of the Lighthouse Academy high school in Jacksonville.

Kelly, who lives in Forrest City with her three sons, is the startup principal at College Prep Academy, which will have its first high school class next year.

“I love my job,” Kelly told The Leader. “The support I receive from Mr. Whitfield, Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Broadway is unbelievable. They give me the resources I need to be successful. If I’m successful, the scholars will be successful.”

Kelly is referring to Norman Whitfield, the lead principal; Dr. Phillis Nichols Anderson, the vice president for the Southern region, and Lenisha Broadway, regional director of Lighthouse Academies.

Kelly is serving as the Upper Academy principal, which includes grades fifth through eighth.

The school adds one grade each school year and will open the College Prep Academy in 2011-2012 school year by adding a ninth grade.

“He’s helping me. He’s basically mentoring me, preparing me for my role next year,” Kelly says of Whitfield. “I’m truly learning the Lighthouse model.”

She expects the transition to the College Prep Academy next year should be relatively smooth.

“This year I’m working with the same scholars as I will have next year,” she said. “The transition to high school should be easy. I’ve gotten to know them. They’ve gotten to know me. Hopefully, it will be smooth.”

As part of her duties as the Upper Academy principal, Kelly works directly with students.

“I’m in the classrooms,” she said. “I’m speaking with students to make sure we (the school staff) are meeting their needs.”

“I expect a lot from them,” Kelly says of the teachers. “So that they will expect a lot from students.”

Kelly works with teachers to make sure they are knowledgeable in the Lighthouse culture. “I do expect our scholars to be on their best behavior,” she said.

Kelly says that Lighthouse students understand that national tests help them.

The North West Evaluation Association tests break down what skills are or are not mastered by the scholars by grade level.

For example, if an eighth-grade student scores at a tenth-grade reading level, that student will read books at that level during DEER, a daily reading time. The test lets teachers and scholars know, according to grade level, where the scholar is at, allowing individual goals to be set for each scholar on their level of learning. The Northwest Evaluation is given three times during the school year.

The Learning Institute’s assessments evaluate a scholar’s skill level according to Arkansas standards.

“The focus really is on the scholar,” Kelly says of the charter school. “All decisions are made for the scholars.”

Kelly is beginning her 15th year in education. She taught at Forrest City for 10 years, West Memphis for two years and at Miller McCoy Academy in New Orleans for two years. Kelly moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when an opportunity to teach at a new charter school opened.

She trained through the New Leaders for New Schools program, which is a principal training program. The program operates on core beliefs that include every student can achieve at high levels, great schools are lead by great leaders and delivering high-quality public education to all students is critical to a just society.

Kelly taught at the New Orleans charter school before becoming a principal in Jefferson Parrish, La. “After all this time in New Orleans, I decided to come home to Arkansas,” Kelly said.

“It’s phenomenal,” Kelly says of the Lighthouse students. “When I made the transition back (to Arkansas), I thought this is the best!’ They are doing what we expect them to do.”

Kelly has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UALR and a master’s in educational administration from Arkansas State University.

“At the end of the day, my passion is making sure all students get an education, no mater what their situation,” Kelly said.

TOP STORY > >Metroplan moves on building roads

Special to the Leader

Road improvements in Jackson-ville, Sherwood and Cabot remain high on the agenda for Metroplan, which accepted Lonoke’s membership at its Wednesday meeting.

The group also announced the postponement of stricter ozone regulations because of the cost.

The four-laning of Graham Road is among a handful of small, but important, area road projects listed on the Transportation Improvement Program for work between now and the end of 2012, according to Metroplan.

Long on tap, Jacksonville has acquired the right of way and most utility relocation is complete along a one-mile stretch of Graham Road running from Oak Street to Loop Road, according to Metroplan’s Casey Covington, director of the Central Arkansas Regional Transportation Study.

Covington said bids would be let for the project this fall and it is expected to cost between $5 million and $7 million.

Cabot is working with Metroplan, hoping to get a traffic signal at the intersection of state Hwy. 38 and state Hwy. 367 at the north end of the city and also a right-turn lane from state Hwy. 89 onto Panther Trail at the Cabot Junior High School South, according to Mayor Bill Cypert.

Currently, there is only a single southbound lane on Hwy. 89 and at the beginning and end of the school day, vehicles dropping off or picking up students spill out into that lane, bringing traffic to a halt, he said.

Other obligated funds on the project for 2012 include:

n About $350,000 for a roundabout in Ward at the intersection of state Hwy. 367 and state Hwy. 319. Mayor Art Brooke says the city has much of the money needed and that County Judge Doug Erwin had agreed to add funds that should make the project doable. The engineering has been done and no right of way is needed, Brooke says.

n Roughly $450,000 for right of way and construction of a traffic circle at the intersection of Main Street and Harris Road in Jacksonville.

About $150,000 for planning, engineering and construction of a traffic signal at Kiehl Avenue and Oakbrooke Drive in Sherwood.

Planning and engineering for improvements of Maryland Road between state Hwy. 107 and Oakbrooke in Sherwood.

An as-of-yet undetermined project in Ward.


On the motion of Erwin, a Metroplan board member, the board unanimously approved the application of the city of Lonoke to join Metroplan, an application presented by Mayor Wayne McGee.

“The county judge said it would really be beneficial to the city to join,” McGee said after the meeting. “I don’t see how it could do anything but help.”

The city’s decades-old effort to build a second I-40 interchange, this one at state Hwy. 89 on the west side of Lonoke, had made great progress in the past couple of years, but has bogged down for lack of funding in a slow economy with a reluctant Congress.

McGee said the state Highway Department had completed the design work and most of the right-of-way acquisition and utility work was completed. But the project still lacked about $2 million to $3 million for construction.

Former Cong. Marion Berry “got us the first $5.4 million,” McGee said. Berry did not run for re-election.

McGee said the city had met recently with new state Highway and Transportation director Scott Bennett and with Central Arkansas’ new highway commissioner, Tom Schueck of Little Rock.


New, more stringent ozone regulations, which had been expected to go into effect before the 2012 ozone season, have been recalled by the Obama Administration “in deference to the cost and impact on businesses in this fragile economy,” Metroplan director Jim McKenzie told the board.

Summer heat is a factor in ozone creation, and this summer the central Arkansas ozone levels exceeded the allowable limits. Even under the old levels, another such summer next year could take the area out of compliance and could result in curbs on starting or increasing certain industries in the area or new road construction.

“It is unclear whether the ozone regulations will revert to the Bush regulations of 75 parts per billion or the previous level of 85 ppb,” McKenzie said.

There was brief discussion of a bridge design to replace the deteriorating Broadway Bridge over the Arkansas River joining Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Metroplan designers prefer a six-lane bridge plus a 23-foot- wide bike and pedestrian lane, while the Highway Department, largely for budgetary purposes, prefers three southbound lanes, only two northbound lanes and a 16-foot pedestrian bikeway, according to Bennett.

Covington said regardless, the bridge would be inadequate for capacity within two decades, and new to the discussion is an eventual additional river bridge from Chester Street.

TOP STORY > >Census shows diversity in several communities

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville is the most diverse city in the area and is still a town full of renters, according to the latest data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sherwood has the most homeowners and Carlisle has the oldest population, while Austin has more Native Americans in its midst than African-Americans.

Percentagewise, Jacksonville also has the most empty or vacant homes.

And most area cities have slightly more female residents than male residents, with the exception of Ward.

U.S. Census figures show that Jacksonville has 10,936 occupied housing units and 49 percent, or 5,362 of them, are renter-occupied. Beebe is also split about half and half between owners and renters. Of Beebe’s 2,874 occupied homes, 45.1 percent, or 1,297, are rentals.

Carlisle has 36.4 percent of its homes occupied by renters, Ward stands at 34.1percent, Cabot is at 30.7 percent renter-occupied and Sherwood is 29.5 percent renter-occupied.

In Austin, just 17 percent of the homes are renter-occupied.In Jacksonville, 11.9 percent of all housing units are empty or vacant, according to the census bureau.

Ten percent of Ward’s housing is vacant, 8.7 percent of Carlisle’s housing units are empty, 7.7 percent of Beebe’s housing is vacant, 5.6 percent of Cabot’s housing units are empty, 5.5 percent of Sherwood’s housing is empty and 5.2 percent of Austin’s housing is empty.

Population patterns

Jacksonville’s population is listed at 28,364. The most populous age group is 20- to 24-year- olds, who make up 9.9 percent of the population. The median age of the city’s residents is 30.8. The population is 49.3 percent male and 50.7 percent female, meaning there are about 400 more women then men in the city.

The population is 57.7 percent white (the lowest among area cities), 32.7 black (the highest among area cities), 6.7 percent Hispanic, 4.1 percent are mixed race, 2.1 percent Asian and 0.6 percent Native American.

Cabot’s population is listed at 23,776 and the largest age group is in the 5- to 9-year-old range at nine percent of the total population. The median age of Cabot residents is 32.3.

The population is 48.3 percent males and 51.7 percent females, meaning there are 800 more women then men in the town.

The population is 93.1 percent white, 4.1 percent Hispanic, 2.2 percent are mixed race, 1.6 percent black, 1.5 percent Asian and 0.6 percent Native American.

Sherwood’s population is listed at 29,523 and the most populous group at 7.7 percent is 30- to 34-year-olds. The median age of Sherwood residents is 37. The population is 47.4 percent male and 52.6 percent female, meaning there are 1,500 more women then men in Cabot.

The population is 75.3 percent white, 18.5 black, 4 percent Hispanic, 2.4 percent are of a mixed race, 1.6 percent are Asian and 0.5 percent Native American.

Ward’s population is listed at 4,067 and the most populous group is 25- to 29-year-olds, at 11.9 percent of the total population. The median age of residents is 28.5. The population is 49.5 percent male and 50.5 percent females, meaning there are 40 more women than men in Ward.

The population is 94 percent white, 3.1 Hispanic, 2.7 percent mixed races, 1.2 percent Native American, 1.1 percent black and 0.6 percent Asian.

Austin’s population is listed at 2,038 and the most populous group is 20- to 25-year-olds, making up 15 percent of the total population.

The median age of Austin residents is 28.1, the youngest in the area. The population is 50.4 male and 49.6 female — the only city where the men outnumber the female. Overall, there are 18 more men than females in the town.

The population is 94.2 percent white (the largest percentage in the area), 4.3 percent Hispanic, 2.4 percent mixed race, two percent black, 0.4 percent Asian and 0.3 percent Native American.

Beebe’s population is listed at 7,315 and three groups are tied for most populous age group at eight percent each. Those groups are 15- to 19-year-olds, 20- to 24-year-olds, and 25- to 29-year-olds. The median age of Beebe residents is 32.4. The population is 48.1 percent male and 51.9 percent females, meaning there are 250 more women then men in the city.

The population is 89.5 percent white, 5.8 percent black, 2.6 Hispanic, 2.6 percent mixed race, one percent American Indian and 0.4 percent Asian.

Carlisle’s population is listed 2,214 and three groups tied for most populous at 7 percent each. Those groups are 5- to 9-year- olds, 10- to 14-year-olds and 45- and 49-year-olds. The median age of Carlisle residents is 41.7, the oldest in the area. The population is 46.3 percent male and 52.7 percent females, meaning 160 more women than men.

The population is 85.6 percent white, 12.5 percent black, 1.4 percent Hispanic, 0.9 percent mixed race, 0.2 percent Asian and 0.2 percent Native American.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TOP STORY >> Fire victims receive help

Leader staff writer

Esther Canoy is thankful to the people who helped her on Sept. 15, the night a fire burned her house down at 5747 Hwy. 294 in Lonoke County near Jacksonville.

Around 10:30 p.m., Canoy and her four grandchildren—two 4-year-olds and two 2-year-olds— were in her bedroom watching SpongeBob SquarePants while having some popcorn and Juicy Juice.

Canoy went to the kitchen and heard the smoke detectors go off. Then she saw the bedroom was on fire.

“Everything happened so fast. I’ve never had problems with my house. I just don’t understand,” she said.

“I had a fire extinguisher, but the fire was spreading so fast. The kids were standing against the wall. I told them to get out of there,” Canoy said.

When she threw water on the fire, the flames climbed up the drapes and the windows cracked. Canoy and her grandchildren escaped unharmed.

Canoy said she owes a great deal of thanks to her neighbors.

“Verna and Carl Thompson, I couldn’t ask for better neighbors or friends,” she said.

They take in her mail and watch over her property.

“The Kisers took my grandchildren in (during the fire). They put socks on their feet and let them have a place to sleep,” Canoy said.

During the fire, she said a motorist stopped and let one of Canoy’s dogs stay in his jeep. Another motorist stopped and called 911.

“I don’t know who they were, but I wanted to thank them. There are many kind people who were here for me,” she said.

The South Bend Volunteer Fire Department extinguished the fire. Canoy said to herself, “They are risking their lives to put out my house,” as she watched the firefighters battle the flames.

“They brought out my ‘babies’ (five cats and dogs that died from smoke inhalation, and a puppy that burned in the bathroom) and laid them on blankets,” Canoy said. Two other dogs survived the blaze.

The Lonoke County Humane Society brought Canoy dog houses and food for her dogs.

People have stopped by offering clothing, dog food and diapers.

Canoy said Gerald Grummer, owner of the Jacksonville Western Sizzlin’, told her that if she was ever hungry, she could come and eat. Employees Julie Adair, Terry Polton and Israel Davis offered clothing and gave a basket of shampoo.

Canoy once worked part-time at the restaurant.

Jim and Suzy Schmidt of the American Red Cross drove her to North Metro Medical Center and stayed with her while she was examined.

The Red Cross gave temporary housing for a few days at the Best Western Inn to Canoy and her two grandchildren she is raising.

They come back to the house every day. The kids play with their toys and swing set in the yard. Canoy said it is peaceful.

EDITORIAL >> Lu Hardin goes free

Luther Hardin, or “Lu” as he wanted to be known in print, finagled to get $300,000 from the university he ran so that he could settle his gambling debts, but a federal judge concluded Monday that he should serve no time in the penitentiary, although it is swollen with men and women who did less but never enjoyed status, wealth or their community’s esteem. Thus does justice appear again to favor station and privilege, which is not how we like to imagine our country.

Nevertheless, we find it hard to insist upon the retribution that blind justice seems to require for Lu Hardin. Only six months of actual prison time might have served that end, although a $300,000 con job would have netted a poor man much more. But U.S. District Judge James Moody thought his penalties had been severe enough from the loss of livelihood, career (careers, if you count his lofty political ambitions) and reputation.

Shortly before his fall, Hardin was basking in the lavish encomiums of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page, which yearned for other universities to be led by men of such sterling character and wisdom. Afterward, the paper attacked him with all the savagery of a spurned suitor. What a penance that must be for Lu Hardin to read.

Somehow we are loathe to fault Judge Moody for his leniency, although it may be that we, like the judge, are under the sway of Lu’s vibrant familiarity and charm and his unctuous solicitousness.

He was everyone’s friend and champion, including people in the media. That quality made him a superb politician, and had he not fallen so disgracefully it might have made him governor or U.S. senator, his great ambitions. He lost a race for the Senate in 1996 and with the help of Mike Huckabee built his résumé and public presence for another run, probably in 2014. That prospect, like his reputation, has vanished forever, and for a man of Lu Hardin’s needs that is harsh punishment indeed.

Judge Moody said he was moved also by Hardin’s penitence, the fact that he repaid the money (once he was caught), his kicking the gambling habit, the outpouring of affection from friends and family and by Hardin’s cooperation with the FBI’s continuing investigation of his affairs at the University of Central Arkansas. What untold crimes could that involve if Hardin himself did not spearhead them? We shall have to see.

Hardin was cutting legal and fiduciary corners to get what he wanted for the school, including better pay for the head football coach than the law allowed, but what brought him down was self-aggrandizement. He had persuaded the board of trustees to approve a $300,000 bonus to keep him from looking for another university job. According to his account, he got addicted to the slots and card tables and his gambling debts swarmed.

Desperate for quick money, he wrote a memo to the board advising it to give him the bonus immediately rather than later, and he attached the names of three other university officials as if it was their idea, not his. They knew nothing about it. The board awarded him the bonus. He first lied to the media about it, then confessed his dishonesty when the three officials let it be known that they had known nothing about the memo they supposedly wrote.

The board bought out the remaining years of Hardin’s contract in 2009 and he quickly took a job at even higher pay as president of a Christian college in Florida, Palm Beach Atlantic University. (He was given to preaching a lot, too.)

When he was indicted on charges of wire fraud and money laundering by a federal grand jury, he resigned that job, too, and pleaded guilty.

Hardin was given a five-year suspended sentence and ordered to do 200 hours of community service each year. He is no threat to anyone, except perhaps to himself.

Has justice been served? Not if you are a serial hot-check artist serving three years at Cummins. If you balance Hardin’s disgrace with the public’s need for safety, maybe so.

TOP STORY >> Family grieves over murder

Leader staff writer

Family and friends may never know what happened to Alesia Maize because the only suspect in her murder died in a traffic accident only hours after her beaten body was found following a domestic dispute. A relative says he left a note at the scene.

The 46-year-old Maize was found dead in her Links apartment at 3514 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood on Sunday. She would have embraced her first grandchild in a matter of days and was nervous about being a grandmother.

“He (Robert Romes) robbed her of that,” the victim’s cousin, Vicki Gadd-Reed of Ohio, told The Leader.

Romes, 50, of Little Rock was driving Maize’s 1997 Chevrolet Malibu east on I-440 near an overpass over I-40 when he veered to the right off the roadway and struck a guardrail. The car flipped several times, eventually coming to a stop at the center guardrail on I-40.

He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. A motorist who witnessed the accident stopped in the center lane to protect Romes and called police.

Romes was airlifted to Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. Sherwood police were unable to speak with him due to his condition.

Sherwood detectives are still investigating the case, said Capt. Grady Russell. The evidence may lead them to another suspect or back to Romes.

Police named Romes as a suspect because they were told the couple had been arguing. Maize’s death is believed to be associated with a domestic dispute.

The department is not releasing the cause of death for her or what was found at the scene.

Gadd-Reed said she heard from another family member that Romes left a note at the scene and Maize was beaten severely.

Gadd-Reed saw her cousin in Ohio last month, when Maize and Romes paid a visit to some of Maize’s relatives. Gadd-Reed spoke to Maize on the phone every Sunday.

She said Maize told her the couple wanted to marry. The cousin joked with Maize about her age, saying Gladd-Reed would be the “flower girl” at a Romes-Maize wedding.

Romes has a child who called Maize “mom,” and he seemed to be “holy, a man of God,” at the time, Gadd-Reed said.

His Facebook profile “about me” section reads, “Bless the Lord. Glad to be in his service!”

Gadd-Reed said Maize met Romes before he went to prison and she waited for him to be released. Maize visited and wrote to him while he was incarcerated. Gadd-Reed said Romes told her cousin, “Once I get out, I will make your life better.”

In 2004, Romes was prosecuted in six criminal cases, according to the Pulaski County Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

He was convicted on two counts of felony forgery, two felony counts of robbery, two felony counts of theft by receiving, a felony count of theft of property, a felony count of breaking and entering and a few related misdemeanor charges. He was sentenced to 25 years for robbery because he had previous convictions.

Romes was released on parole on Feb. 28, according to the Arkansas Department of Correction. It is unclear how Maize met the man she fell in love with.

What the family and friends who loved her can do now is grieve and remember the “church-going” mother, daughter and friend she was. Maize always wore a smile and would have done “anything for anyone,” Gadd-Reed said.

“If you had a problem, she’d had the problem once before and would tell you how to get through it,” she added.

Maize is from Dayton, Ohio. Her father is a Pentecostal preacher and the family traveled a lot. She met hundreds of friends and acquaintances along the way, if her Facebook profile is any indication of the lives she touched. Her friends list totals 1,417.

Queenie Tasha Canady-Byrd, Maize’s best friend, said in a Facebook message to The Leader, “I want people to know she was wonderful. She loved being around her family, and her goal was to keep a decent job, be a good grandmother and one day find the right man.”

Nearly 100 users have posted farewells on a memorial Facebook page titled, “RIP Alesia Maize.” Their goodbyes call her an angel and say her laughter will be missed.

The page was created less than 24 hours after a relative discovered her body. The relative went to check on Maize because she couldn’t be reached by phone.

She was the oldest of two siblings, a brother and a sister. She worked as a receptionist at the state Capitol and liked her job, Gadd-Reed said.

Maize leaves behind her father, 86-year-old grandmother, son, daughter, brother, sister and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Hers will be the third funeral the family has held in the past few months. They mourned Maize’s 90-year-old grandfather and another relative before her death. Services for Maize will be held on Friday and Saturday.

This is the third homicide reported in the city this year and the second for Sherwood in the past two months. Ironically, Sunday, the day Maize’s body was found, was the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

Sherwood police are also investigating the August murder of 74-year-old Katherine Cleary, a 5-foot, 90-pound elderly woman whose body was found on Boyd Road after one of two women arrested for using her credit card at Walmart said they left some of her belongings there.

TOP STORY >> Organizers want a record turnout

Jacksonville’s Wing Ding Festival is Saturday at Dupree Park. The event promises lots of fun, food, fishing and live music.

More than 30,000 people attended last year, while organizers are hoping to top that this year.

The sixth annual Leader Publishing World Championship Chicken Wing Cook-off will begin at 9 a.m. and end around 6 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

Today is the last day to register for the cookoff. Contact Matt Robinson by phone at 501-412-8055 or by e-mail at

The entry fee is $45 per team.

One of Wing Ding’s most popular events, the chicken wing cook-off draws wing-grilling afficionados and fanatics from all over.

Awards are given out for the chicken wing cook-off in four categories: People’s Choice, first place is $500 and a trophy; second place is $250 and a plaque; Judges’ Choice, first place is $250 and a trophy, and second place is $50 and a plaque; Showmanship, first place is trophy, and Most Creative Wing Sauce, first place is trophy.

All cooking must take place at the competition. Pre-cooked items will lead to a disqualification. Teams must provide their own tables, chairs, cooking utensils, cooking equipment, paper towels, 16-quart ice chest for wing storage, ice and trash bags. Canopies and umbrellas will be the team’s responsibility.

Judging takes place between 2 and 2:30 p.m. with winners being announced at 4 p.m. People’s Choice ballots include two wings from each team and will be available for $5 throughout the competition. Wing coupons will be sold for $2 for four wings at the Leader Publishing tent only. Teams are not permitted to sell directly to the public.

Teams may sell wings after the judging if they wish.

A showmanship trophy is awarded for best booth design, costumes, music and crowd participation.

Booth setup begins at noon Friday. Public displays and demonstrations are encouraged. Decorations are not mandatory, but chicken-inspired costuming is definitely a plus.

The 2010 defending champions, team Ooo-Fah, will use its teriyaki wings to defend against four newcomers.

First Electric, Crain Ford of Jacksonville, PH Wangs and Black Hound BBQ have assembled teams and hope to take bragging rights and $500 from Ooo-Fah.

In other events, the Major League Wing-Eating Championship will return this year. Visits by two national eating champions are also on tap.

Prize payouts are $1,500 for first place, $750 for second, $500 for third and $250 for fourth.

Several other exciting Wing Ding events are slated.

Ashland Specialty Chemical will host a fishing derby at 7:30 a.m. at Dupree Lake. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will stock the lake for the derby. Prizes will be awarded hourly for the biggest and the smallest fish. A grand prize will be awarded at noon for biggest fish and for the most weight caught.

Registration is free and will take place at the west side of the lake.

There will also be a Jacksonville Gym Stage and Chili’s of Jacksonville’s Major League Eating Competition at the Jacksonville A&P stage; Cash’s Corner Children’s area, paddleboat rides and more.

First Electric Cooperative Poultry Paratroopers assembly will begin at 9 a.m. with jumps beginning at 10 a.m. Jumps will take place every hour until 3 p.m.

First-place awards will be given in the following two categories: longest drop time and closest to the landing pad.

The Central Arkansas Volleyball Association will host an all-day draw tournament on a grass field. Registration fee is $10. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. with play beginning at 9. Proceeds benefit Central Arkansas Volleyball Association. Top two team members receive Wing Ding shirts.

Exit One Eleven, a country band from Little Rock, is scheduled to perform.

For more information about Wing Ding, visit

Schedule of Events


7:30 a.m. to noon fishing derby

7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Wing Ding 5K

9 a.m. Volleyball tournament

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CenturyLink food court

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. children’s games at First Arkansas Bank and Trust Cash’s Corner

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. North Metro Medical Center’s heart tent

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Leader’s chicken-wing cookoff

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. First Electric’s poultry paratroopers contest

Noon Chili’s chicken-wing eating contest

Noon to 6 p.m. paddleboat rides

SPORTS >> Clarendon is a more talented opponent

Leader sportswriter

As the 2011 high-school football season reaches its mid point, the Carlisle Bison are still looking for their first true test. The undefeated Bison may get that test this week when an athletic Clarendon team visits Fred C. Hardke Stadium this Friday.

The Lions (1-3) have been inconsistent in a string of four non-conference games, including last week’s 38-28 loss to Woodlawn. The road trip to Carlisle will serve as their 6-2A Conference opener after a schedule realignment.

“We’re kind of surprised at their start, but these are the ones that count,” Bison coach Scott Waymire said. “Their kind of a spread-type team, and they’re athletic. Their quarterback Jameson Jackson is a question mark for them this week. He’s an explosive back if he’s healthy. They may have a speed advantage over us, so we’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage.”

Carlisle (4-0, 1-0) opened league play on an impressive note with a 55-8 clubbing of Marvell last week in a game that was at mercy-rule status at the end of the first quarter.

Waymire has assessed the Lions to be much like Riverview, Carlisle’s opponent to start the season.

That could bode well for the Bison considering they downed the Raiders 42-6, but the head Bison said he believes strong defense will be the key in this one.

“Our guys know they’re going to have to fly to the football and follow through on their assignments,” Waymire said. “And to be honest, we’re a little faster team wise than what we have been in recent years. But we will still have to play fundamental football.”

The Bison running-back corps will also see more action this week after a light night against Marvell last week. Braxton Petrus carried just three times for 78 yards while Bo Weddle had two carries for 37 yards.

“They didn’t get a lot of carries, but they all did a good job,” Waymire said. “We’ve been real fortunate to have a good group of kids who practice hard Monday through Thursday.”

As for the Bison’s string of blowouts through the first month, Waymire is quick to point out their 30-21 victory over Bauxite in Week 2 was as close a finish as they would like to see from an opponent.

And with England, Des Arc and Hazen all waiting down the road, he said the remainder of their schedule does not get any easier.

“Bauxite gave us all we wanted,” Waymire said. “We know those games where we have to play all 48 minutes are coming – I promise they are. We have Clarendon this week, England next week, so our guys know we’ve got some tough ones coming.”

SPORTS >> Goodwin solid in decision

Leader sportswriter

The countdown ended for Archie Goodwin last week, and when the final cut was made, the University of Kentucky was the only school still standing for Sylvan Hills’ 6-5 senior shooting guard.

It marked the end of a long decision-making process for Goodwin, a top-five national basketball recruit since the end of his sophomore season. It came as a surprise to few who have followed his career, although it caused considerable heartbreak among Razorback fans.

Goodwin fielded so many offers from Division I schools that he pledged to release a top-ten list of preferred schools over the summer.

Kentucky remained at the top of that list through the cut from top 10 to top five, and when the list narrowed to three, it was Kentucky, Memphis and Arkansas.

“I just feel like that with the players, and the great fan base at Kentucky, it was just what I was looking for,” Goodwin said in an interview with The Leader.

Kentucky coach John Calipari expressed deep interest in Goodwin early on, and spared no travel expense to woo the youngster.

Calipari was on hand at the Sylvan Hills gym in January when the Bears pulverized a stunned Watson Chapel team, and also caught a road game against Crossett. That’s not to mention the practices he attended, along with trips to catch Goodwin playing AAU basketball for the Arkansas Wings, and home visits once the no-contact clause was removed following Goodwin’s junior year.

“They had their eye on him since early last year,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said. “They were the first ones to really pursue Archie. It wasn’t something I knew was going to happen, but once it got down to the top five, I was not surprised with how it turned out.”

Goodwin’s stats improved as the hype increased, going from just over 22 points per game his sophomore season to 29 points last year as a junior, including a career high 52 points against North Pulaski last February. He averaged close to 40 points a game through the Bears’ three state tournament games at Alma.

Once Goodwin made his decision public last Tuesday night, message boards across Arkansas lit up with disappointed responses. But Goodwin was frank when it came to addressing those disappointments.

“It doesn’t affect me,” Goodwin said. “I feel like this was the best decision for me. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s their problem – not mine.”

Now that the recruiting process is over, Goodwin said he and his Bears teammates can now focus on the unfinished business of claiming the 5A state championship. Sylvan Hills went unbeaten through their 5A-Southeast Conference schedule last year and had a stellar run through the state tournament in Alma, but the host of that tournament ended the Bears’ dream season in the finals at Hot Springs in early March.

And for Davis, he hopes the attention from Goodwin’s signing can serve as a catalyst for other players, including post player Devin Pearson, point guard Dion Patton and utility player Larry Ziegler.

“I was really kind of indifferent towards the whole deal,” Davis said of the multiple coaches’ visits last year. “As a coach, you know there are certain things you have to prepare your guys for – the need to stay sharp and focused.

“We feel like we have several others that will be getting attention. I think you’ll start to see those guys get some looks from people. There have been some colleges that have been in contact with them, and I think that will pick up as the year goes along.”

SPORTS >> Cabot faces talented, erratic Rockets

Leader sports editor

Sometimes an unpredictable opponent is harder to prepare for than one you know will be good. The Cabot Panthers try to get things back on track when they travel to War Memorial Stadium to take on a Catholic High team that has looked like world beaters at times, and inexplicably bad at other times. The Panthers haven’t enjoyed a win since week one, and faces a Rocket team that has had its own ups and downs so far this year.

The Rockets are 2-2 and like Cabot, 0-1 in conference play. They opened the season with a 38-10 win over Springdale, then lost a non-conference game against North Little Rock 20-13.

Next was a 62-31 win over Fort Smith Northside, then a loss last week in the conference opener 35-25 to Bryant.

Despite the erratic season, Cabot coach Mike Malham sees a team full of weapons when he looks at film of Catholic High.

He starts with quarterback Zach Conque when talking about the Rockets.

“He runs that spread and he does a good job of putting the ball in the air,” Malham said. “He’s got those big, tall receivers and they’ve been very efficient offensively this year. They can score.”

Defensively Cabot hasn’t been able to stop the passing game so far this season. Malhan goes back to the youth in his team’s secondary.

“Right now we don’t match up,” Malham said. “We’re playing so many young kids and certainly shows.”

On offense Cabot continued to move the ball last week despite only scoring seven points. Just like in the previous week, mistakes cost the team a bundle of potential points. Just like against Har-Ber, a pitchback went awry inside the red zone.

On another drive inside the Conway 20 there was an interception. Later, there was a 4-yard loss from inside the 1-yard line that thwarted a scoring opportunity.

“We’re just not doing the little things right right now,” Malham said. “We’ve moved the ball every week. We’ve had first downs, lots of yardage, just not any points. We’re not capitalizing when we have the opportunity. You get down to the one-foot line and then turn somebody loose and get a big loss. We just have stop making those mistakes.”

It’s not just the defensive secondary where the sophomores are prevalent. There are four starting on the offensive line, and five playing considerable minutes.

Defensively and offensively though, Malham likes the class of 2014.

“These kids are going to grow up,” Malham said. It’s a good class. We’re playing about 10 of them right now and that’s because they’re the best we have. When they get older they’re going to be really good.”

SPORTS >> Badgers’ defense must get focused

Leader sportswriter

Favor is in the corner of the Beebe Badgers again this week with winless Forrest City coming to visit A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium this Friday for the second week of the 5A-East Conference schedule.

The Badgers (3-1, 1-0) are riding high from their third-straight victory of the season after downing Paragould in a 56-24 blowout last Friday.

Though the Rams were without a win in 2011, it was the first big road trip for the Badgers, who came through in decisive fashion with a number of big runs for touchdowns.

But the 24 points given up by Beebe’s defense is a concern for head coach John Shannon.

“It was just a matter of kids not taking care of responsibilities,” Shannon said. “With everything that happened, we were going out and not executing. The kids have been working hard all year. Sometimes, you just have those letdowns.”

But Beebe’s offense was far from a letdown against Paragould with three backs posting triple-digit running stats, including senior quarterback Dustin Stallnacker.

Stallnacker has been the Badgers’ unaccountable X-factor in an offense that is starting to enjoy more depth than any other Beebe team in many years.

Senior halfback Jay Holdway has been the dependable workhorse for the Badgers through the first month, but sophomore fullback Eric Thorn had a breakthrough game against the Rams with over 170 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Junior halfback Michael Kirby has been out for the last two weeks with an injured shoulder, but should be back in time to help against Forrest City. That pair along with subs Rory Moore and Jeremy Van Winkle give Shannon and the coaching staff room to explore multiple looks in the backfield of their Dead T offense.

“I feel good about our backs,” Shannon said. “We seem to get better and better each and every week.”

Shannon has also been pleased with the work up front from his experienced offensive line. Right guard Lucas Ratz graded out the highest against Paragould at 94 percent.

“The offensive line had their best game of the year,” Shannon said. “The entire line did a great job.”

When it comes to the Mustangs (0-3-1, 0-1), who will be trying to recover from a conference-opening 28-14 loss at the hands of Greene County Tech last Friday, Shannon is most weary of their team speed, an obstacle they overcame in a come-from-behind victory against local non-conference rival Lonoke in Week two.

Forrest City works out of a Pro-I type formation, and also utilizes the trendy Spread passing formation. The Mustangs have a mix of experienced players and young, unproven linemen.

“We’re nervous about them just because they’re hard nosed with some good team speed,” Shannon said. “It’s hard for us to show our defense that kind of speed in practice, just because we don’t have any kids who are that fast.

“I think the battle on the line will be the deciding factor. I think if we can stop them on big plays and contain their speed, we’ll be alright. If they’re able to mix it up on us and get some big gains, we’re going to be in trouble.”

SPORTS >> Red Devils’ toughest test yet

Leader sports editor

The Red Devils are coming off their best performance to date, especially on defense, after they shut out Mountain Home last Friday 27-0. The Bombers entered that game with a season-low scoring total of 27 points. This Friday, the Devils will need to be even better when they make another long road trip to Jonesboro.

As good as Mountain Home was in scoring 34, 37 and 27 in wins over Nettleton, Harrison and Batesville respectively, Jonesboro has scored more against much better competition. All of Mountain Home’s competition was from class 5A; only one of Jonesboro’s was.

Unlike Mountain Home, the Hurricane won’t enter their matchup with Jacksonville undefeated. Like Mountain Home, their low point output so far this season is 27. The difference is that Jonesboro put 45 on Greene County Tech, 35 on Conway, 27 on Fayetteville and 56 on Parkview. Jonesboro lost 49-35 to Conway and 50-27 to Fayetteville, two teams that will almost certainly finish in the top two or three in their 7A conferences.

Jonesboro’s offensive prowess is not lost on Jacksonville coach Rick Russell.

“We have to be good,” Russell said. “There’s no question this is the best team we’ve played so far this year. We’ve made a lot of progress the last couple of weeks, but what we’re going to have to do is keep getting better. We feel good about our chances in the football game, but we’re going to have to elevate our performance and execution, that’s for sure.”

Jonesboro’s offense starts with senior running back Zac Brooks, who has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss, Stanford and a number of other major Division I colleges. While Brooks is the team’s best college prospect, he’s not its fastest player.

“They’ve got another one a little bit faster than him,” Russell said. “He’s smaller, but they have playmakers all over the field.”

Junior Martin Stafford played safety last year, but has become a major offensive weapon this season.

Of course the man that makes things go in Jonesboro’s spread offense is quarterback Moe Malugen. Malugen is similar to Mountain Home’s quarterback, who Jacksonville shut down. The main differences are that Malugen is a senior instead of a sophomore, and has more and better weapons to whom he can deliver the ball.

“He leads the show really well,” Russell said of Malugen. “It’s tough to get him in trouble because he’s so elusive. His receivers do a good job of coming back to the ball. They’ve made a lot of yards and a lot of big plays after he has escaped the pocket. We’re going to try to get pressure on him, but we’re going to have to get precise pressure on him because he’ll hurt you if he escapes.”

Jacksonville is getting better, and it’s not just because the scores indicate it.

Defensive end Braylon Terry has come on strong in recent weeks and worked his way into the starting lineup. That allowed Carter Grandison to take over as starting center. A spot that was troublesome the first two weeks, indicated by the frequent snap miscues.

“That’s been a big positive for this team,” Russell said. “The main thing it does is gives us a bigger and stronger offensive line. Carter’s got a little more size and strength and we’ve seen improvement in that area.”

The Red Devils are also getting healthy. Everyone should be at or very near full speed this week.

“We’re going in the right direction,” Russell said.