Saturday, September 08, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle blasts Mountain Pine

Special to The Leader

Compared to last week, it was a beautiful, warm night in Carlisle for the start of the game as Carlisle hosted the Mountain Pine Red Devils. However, this week’s game was also stopped by lightning with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter with the Bison winning 50-0 at Fred C. Hardke Field on Friday.

The Bison were stopped in the first quarter of last week’s season opener against McCrory, and although they managed to get further through Friday’s contest, they are still two weeks into the season without completing a full 48 minutes.

Bo Weddle returned the opening kick-off to the 37-yard line. Weddle ran the ball to the 43 on first down. On fourth and three, the Bison’s Deron Ricks picked up a first down to the Mountain Pine 41.

After a holding call, the offense was backed up and held until Ricks took the ball and ran with it to the 4-yard line. Chris Hart connected with Austin Reed for the touchdown. The extra point was no good.

The Bison’s Justice Bryant recovered a fumble on the kick off. Following a penalty, on the second play from scrimmage, Hart connected with Bryant for a touchdown. Again, the extra point was no good.

On the next possession by the Red Devils, the defense held again, forcing a punt. The Bison started on their own 47. They were without Bo Weddle, their all-state running back, who suffered a knee injury on the first series.

After an incompletion on fourth down, the Mountain Pine offense took over on their own 47. Again, the Bison defense held, forcing a punt. Hart returned the punt, but a penalty moved the ball back to the 22.

The Red Devils took possession on the Bison 44. After a completion by Austin Meeks, the Red Devil offense stalled again. In the second quarter, on a fourth down attempt, Josh Mathis intercepted the pass and took the ball to the 18. Hart on second down again connected with Reed for the touchdown.

The point-after attempt was unsuccessful to keep the score 18-0 with 10:58 remaining in the half.

The Red Devils began their next possession on their own 45-yard line. On second down, Clayton Fields picked up a fumble and ran it into the end zone. The two-point conversion was successful to make the score 26-0 Bison.

After another punt, the Bison offense started a midfield. Ricks took the ball to the Mountain Pine 5 on first down and punched it in for the score two plays later. Bryant converted the two-point try for a 34-0 Carlisle lead.

Hart connected with Bryant for the Bison’ next score with a 68-yard touchdown pass and followed with a conversion pass to Reed for a 42-0 halftime lead.

Mountain Pine got first possession to start the second half. The Red Devils moved the ball into Bison territory with three first downs before turning the ball over on a fumble. Carlisle took out most of its starting skill players and went with Chase Brazeal at quarterback. Clinton Hampton secured the final touchdown for the Bison with a 66-yard run, as Tyler Youngman set the final margin with a successful two-point run.

Lightning moved in to start the fourth quarter, and the game was finally called around the eight-minute mark.

Ricks led the Bison with eight carries for 109 yards. Hart was 5 for 11 passing for 125 yards and four touchdowns.

“That’s something the coaching staff will work on,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said of the frequent penalties. “I was pleased with the way Ricks, Bryant, Hart and the receivers stepped up (when Weddle went out). I was also pleased with the defense and the effort.”

SPORTS STORY >> Consistent play earns NP ladies win at JHS

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski volleyball team beat rival Jacksonville 3-0 Thursday at JHS to improve its overall record to 2-2 this season. The Lady Falcons controlled the action from midway through game one until late in game three, but overcame the game-three lull to dominate the end of the match and preserve the three-game sweep.

“We were a lot more consistent tonight,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “Brianna Lyons played extremely well tonight. We passed better. We didn’t make our setter run as much. We just did a lot better. I hope we can build on this and get some team chemistry going. That’s been a big part of the problem so far.”

Jacksonville led halfway through game one. The Lady Red Devils held a 14-12 lead when North Pulaski’s Emily Long took serve. The junior setter served up an ace, then scored four more points on serve to give the Lady Falcons a 17-14 lead and force Jacksonville to call a timeout.

After the break, North Pulaski added one more point before the Lady Red Devils broke serve. Jacksonville scored one point on goal and North Pulaski’s Casey Mullen then served four straight points for a 22-16 lead that the Lady Falcons turned into a 25-18 win in game one.

Long took serve again to start game two and reeled off three straight points. The Lady Falcons never trailed in the 25-16 win.

Game three was back and forth in the early going. The game was tied at 11 until the Lady Red Devils reeled off four straight points on Bailea Mitchell’s serve. The streak finally stopped when Long got in position to set up a hit, but dunked it behind her head and into an empty spot in Jacksonville’s side of the court to make it 15-12 Lady Devils.

The two teams traded side outs until the score was 18-15. Mullen took serve again for North Pulaski and the Lady Falcons scored seven consecutive points on serve, including two aces by Mullen. North Pulaski won game three 25-20.

Lyons led all players with seven kills. For Jacksonville, Mitchell led with six kills despite being the smallest player on the floor.

North Pulaski improved to 2-1 in conference play while Jacksonville fell to 1-2.

The Lady Red Devils travel to McClellan on Tuesday then host Helena-West Helena Central on Thursday.

North Pulaski has three matches next week. The Lady Falcons travel to White Hall for a non conference matchup on Monday. They’ll host Mills in a 5A Central match on Tuesday then travel to Little Rock Christian Academy on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Mother Nature the victor

Lonoke was just starting to find its groove when Mother Nature intervened, bringing heavy rain, strong winds, and most significantly, close lightning to A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium in Beebe to end the annual Highway 31 match up between the Jackrabbits and the Badgers in a no contest on Friday.

The Jackrabbits were ahead on the scoreboard 14-7 following a dazzling 72-yard touchdown catch and run by junior receiver Blake Mack. Mack took the screen pass on the left side from junior quarterback Grant Dewey and cut toward the middle of the field to weave his way through Beebe’s linebackers before heading back to the left side and into the end zone untouched with 41 seconds remaining in the first half, and ultimately, the game.

But just as the half hit, so did the storm. Fans waited in their vehicles for close to an hour to ride out the monsoon-like conditions, but officials finally called it just before 9:45 p.m.

Beebe threatened to strike first in the opening possession with a 13-play drive that started at the Badger 28-yard line and went all the way to the Lonoke 9, but a procedure penalty against the Badgers and a fumble on the next play gave possession to Lonoke after a heads-up recovery by senior defensive back D.J. Burton.

The ’Rabbits could not get anything going on their opening drive and gave it back after two incomplete passes and a short two-yard rush by senior tailback Eric Williams. Beebe took over again at the Lonoke 45, and this time, the Badgers closed the deal.

Junior fullback Eric Thorn took Beebe down to the 18-yard line with a 27-yard run, and scored Beebe’s only touchdown two plays later on a 17-yard dash to the goal line.

Pearson Sloan added the extra point to give the Badgers a 7-0 lead at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter.

The Jackrabbits finally got going when they took possession at the Beebe 41 with 9:38 remaining.

Williams toted four different times early in the drive for a combined 30 yards. Mack caught a pass from Dewey good for 12 yards to set Lonoke up with a third-and-one from the 4-yard line. Burton then got the call to go behind center in the Wildcat formation and punched in for the score. Junior kicker Jose Garcia added the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:03 remaining.

Thorn had 13 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown for Beebe. For Lonoke, Dewey was 3 for 6 for 87 yards and a touchdown, with two of those receptions for 84 yards to Mack. Beebe will play at Vilonia next Friday while Lonoke will play at Little Rock McClellan.

SPORTS STORY >> Benton has lead as game canceled

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville battled class 6A Benton in a competitive first half Friday at C.W. Lewis Stadium, but the Panthers went into the half with the lead after a trick play that resulted in a 52-yard touchdown run that put Benton up 28-20. Benton added a score in the third quarter after a special teams error set the Panthers up at the Jacksonville 20. With second remaining in the third quarter, the remainder of the game was called off with Benton leading 34-20.

The Red Devils started strong as the offense found the end zone on its opening drive. It took Jacksonville just seven plays to score after sophomore running back Lamont Gause dashed 28 yards into the end zone on a well-timed option pitch from senior quarterback Aaron Smith.

John Herriman’s extra point gave the Red Devils a quick 7-0 lead. Benton went three-and-out on its first drive after three incomplete passes, but after Jacksonville turned the ball over on downs, the Panthers responded with a 10-play drive capped off by a 28-yard touchdown reception from Boone Cox.

Starting at its own 28-yard line, Jacksonville retook the lead when Gause broke away down the home team sideline 63 yards for another score. Herriman’s extra point put the Red Devils back up 14-7.

However, Jacksonville gave Benton’s offense a gift after the Red Devils failed to convert on another fourth down at their own 34-yard line. An illegal shift penalty backed Benton’s offense up, but on the next play, junior quarterback Tarek Beaugard connected with wideout J.V. Davis for a 44-yard score to tie it up at 14.

The Panthers grabbed their first lead with 2:14 to play in the second quarter after Beaugard hit standout running back Wallace Foote on a screen pass that resulted in a 33-yard touchdown. Jacksonville scored on its next possession on a double pass.

Smith connected with Kevin Richardson on a lateral pass to the sideline, and Richardson found Terrell Moore wide open up field for a 33-yard touchdown. Herriman’s extra point attempt was blocked though with 41 seconds to go in the half.

After Benton returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 47-yard line, the Panthers lined up as if they were going to take a knee to end the half. But on the snap, Beaugard rolled left and snuck the ball into Foote’s stomach, and as the Red Devil defenders chased Beaugard, Foote took off and found the endzone on a 52-yard run after eluding the Jacksonville secondary.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats get away with win at Cabot

Leader sportswriter

The end result may have been the same, but North Little Rock had to work much harder the second time around against a scrappy Cabot team determined to defend its home court in a 3-1 victory for the Lady Charging Wildcats at Panther Arena on Thursday.

North Little Rock easily downed the Lady Panthers in a nonconference match a week earlier, but with 7A/6A East Conference points on the line, Cabot was not willing to go down without a fight.

Junior Lakin Best helped lead the Lady Panthers late in game two with five of her match-high 15 total kills, while Cabot also contended strongly in the final two games with leads midway through both frames before the Lady Wildcats finally prevailed.

“I knew it was going to be tough coming in here because it was conference,” North Little Rock coach Becky Matthews said. “And they were coming off of a loss. I knew this was likely to happen. We didn’t come out pushing hard, and it gave them a little bit of life. Slack off at all, and they can come back, and that’s what happened. I didn’t feel like our defense was very good tonight, and that hurt us.”

The Lady Panthers (1-5, 0-2) gave notice early they did not intend to fade quietly as they pushed the first game to extra points. North Little Rock seniors Kelsie Claussen and Jaelyn Wayne finally found a way to secure the two-point margin required to win with a kill by Claussen and a block from Wayne to end game one 27-25. Cabot got a big moral victory by winning the second game 25-18, while the Lady ’Cats (3-1, 2-0) took the final two games 25-18 and 25-19.

“Both sides did real well on hitting,” Matthews said. “We weren’t reading the cross-court hits very well. Our blockers weren’t getting there. We had some good moments too – I wasn’t upset with our hitters.”

Senior Kendra Tillman proved best at putting a crimp in Cabot momentum as the Lady Wildcat hitter came up with big kills at key times to prevent big scoring runs by the hosts. Tillman finished with nine kills.

“She’s real smart about tipping and other things,” Matthews said of Tillman. “We kept telling the setters to go to her. Sometimes girls are on, and sometimes they are off, and she was having a good moment, so we were utilizing that.”

Cabot junior Bailey Uhiren led the way for the Lady Panthers in the second game with six kills, while Best came on strong late in the game with two kills, and junior Taylor Bitely served up an ace at the end to secure the victory.

“It’s a process – Rome was not built in a day,” Lady Panthers coach DeAnna Campbell said. “All I care about right now is the same thing I’ve cared about since I took this job and that’s the fact that we’re moving forward and getting better every game. I’d like to get it done this year – we’re taking games off people now.”

The Lady Panthers had their chances in the fourth game with a lead that went as high as 13-8 before North Little Rock gradually worked its way back into contention to tie the game at 15 and eventually pull away in the closing stages.

“It only takes three games to win,” Campbell said. “If we take a game off North Little Rock, who just killed West Memphis last week, and push them to double-digits, then come tournament time – that’s our goal. We want to get in the state tournament. If we can keep pushing good teams, then we should level out and get wins.”

Cabot won the hitting battle overall with 41 kills to North Little Rock’s 38. Best led all hitters with 15 kills for the Lady Panthers while Uhiren added nine kills and Bitely had six kills along with a team-high three blocks. For North Little Rock, Tillman and Keedra Johnson led with nine kills each, while Tillman led the team in blocks with five. Wayne had seven kills and four blocks while Claussen finished with six kills.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot offense, lightning lights up the Rockets

Leader sports editor

Lightning shortened Friday’s meeting between Cabot and Catholic High with the Panthers leading 28-7.

The Panthers dominated most of the first half in their home opener, but the tide had started to change and the weather interrupted play on a crucial fourth-down play.

Catholic had fourth and 2 at the Cabot 8-yard line when the stadium was cleared. After a nearly 90-minute delay, the rest of the game was canceled.

The Panthers got off to a fast start, scoring the first 28 points of the game. Catholic did not stop a single Cabot drive in the first half. The Panthers had four possessions and scored four touchdowns.

Two were long runs on double handoffs to halfback Max Carroll.

The senior got his first carry of the game on the fifth play. The inside handoff went to Chris Henry, who handed it to Carroll going the other way. The play fooled the entire Catholic defense and Carroll raced 63 yards untouched with 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Cabot’s defense gave up one first down on the Rockets’ first drive, but forced a punt and got the ball back on its own 6-yard line.

The Panthers ate up chunks of yardage for the first five plays, moving the ball out to the Catholic 41-yard line. That’s when the double handoff was called again.

This time it only fooled 10 of the Rockets’ 11 defenders, but Carroll outran his man to the end zone. Jesus Marquez’s extra point made it 14-0 with 5:41 left in the first quarter.

Catholic committed its first major mistake on offense on its next drive, and it came on the heels of its best play to that point.

Quarterback Zach Pinter found receiver Jacob Currence for a 34-yard gain, but Cur-rence fumbled while being tackled. Cabot’s Matt Griffin picked the ball up at the Cabot 44 and returned it to the Catholic 34.

Halfback Chris Henry went 20 yards on first down. Fullback Kyle Edgar got 11 on the next play and Zach Launius got the last three for another Cabot touchdown. The extra-point made it 21-0 with 3:55 still left in the opening quarter.

Catholic put together a nice drive and Cabot had no answer for the Rocket passing game. The Rockets drove to the Panther 8-yard line, but defensive back Jacob Ferguson intercepted a Pinter pass in the back corner of the end zone to give the Panthers possession at the Rockets’ 20.

There were no big plays on Cabot’s next drive, just a methodical march down the field. The Panthers converted three third down plays and one fourth-down attempt.

Max Carroll took the option pitch 7 yards on third and 8. Quarterback Kason Kimbrell then kept the ball for 3 yards on fourth down.

Kyle Edgar got 6 yards on first and goal from the 7, and Launius did the rest. The drive took 17 plays and ate up eight minutes of clock. The extra point made it 28-0 with 4:57 remaining until halftime.

That’s when Catholic made its move. The Rockets went almost exclusively to the air and Cabot couldn’t stop it. They marched 86 yards in 10 plays, using just more than three minutes to get into the end zone.

The final play was an 18-yard pass to Currence. Cabot was also called for pass interference on the play, which was assessed on the kickoff.

Kicking off from the Cabot 45, Catholic elected try an onside kick and covered it at the Panther 32-yard line. Two Catholic penalties forced the Rockets into a fourth-and-13 situation, but they converted it when Pinter hit Hamaker for a 19-yard gain at the 16-yard line with 28 seconds left in the half.

Two incomplete passes were followed by a Pinter draw play that gained 8, setting up fourth and 2 at the Cabot 8-yard line with 7 seconds remaining. That’s when the stadium was cleared due to the weather.

Friday, September 07, 2012

TOP STORY >> Fat Albert: Uplifting flight

Leader staff writer

A C-130 of a different color will be flying in the skies over Jacksonville this weekend during the Little Rock Air Force Base air show.

The Blue Angels will be showing off the maximum performance of Fat Albert, a slightly modified C-130 T-model flown by Marines.

On Friday, I was able to hitch a ride. The cargo hull of Fat Albert looks like most C-130s, except the red mesh cargo net seats are replaced with cushy blue ones.

The Fat Albert crew worked at getting the passengers pumped up for the ride.

The excitement built as the plane’s rear-cargo ramp doors closed as we taxied down the flight line.

We were told the flight would simulate a hostile flying environment. It was 20 tough minutes. We were told in a pre-flight meeting the C-130 would fly low, gaining speed, then pull up hard to a 45-degree climb, until the plane lost speed and wanted to drop from the sky.

Then the pilot would level it out and accelerate. Fat Albert would make several steeply banked turns.

Then the plane would be forced nose down at a 25-degree angle for a landing.

The ride didn’t seem that easy. It felt like the start of a regular C-130 flight with the slow taxiing bounces of the runaway.

The engines roared as we lifted a few feet in the air, then an increasingly crushing force pressed me down as the plane angled upward.

My camera felt like I was lifting a bowling ball as I tried to take a photo against the 2-Gs the planes was pulling.

As the plane leveled out, the passengers tightly buckled in, we watched as the flight crew grabbed hold of a ladder strapped to the floor.

Then it felt like jumping a car over a hill, only better. We went zero gravity for a few seconds.

It’s an unusual sensation to go from feeling like you’re going to be smashed down through the bottom of the plane, then bubble up seeing people floating and feeling weightless, then go into negative G’s with the feeling of being pulled away.

Looking out the window was a blur of brown, green and blue. I didn’t look out too often. I didn’t want to get sick.

Then I started looking at some of the other riders, and they were feeling the same way. We soon began the fast, steep descent until I felt a bump and smelled burning rubber from the tires touching down.

But we all pulled through and no one got sick. It was a ride I soon won’t forget.

The Blue Angels began flying Fat Albert in the 1970s. The plane was affectionately named after the popular Bill Cosby cartoon of the time.

Once a year, Fat Albert makes a stop at the LRAFB rail shop to service the dual-rail system in the cargo area.

Staff Sgt. Casey Brey, a loadmaster on Fat Albert, said this C-130 was built in 1991 and has been used by the Blue Angels since 2001.

The C-130 carries thousands of pounds of cargo and 45 crew members for the Blue Angels each week from mid-March to November, performing at 35 shows and 65 demonstrations.

The crew consists three pilots, two flight engineers, one flight mechanic, one navigator and a loadmaster.

Brey came to LRAFB 10 years ago and trained at the loadmaster school.

Flight mechanic Jim Fullarton said, “I have an awesome time at this job. It is an extraordinary opportunity,”flight mechanic Jim Fullarton said.

TOP STORY >> ‘Rock and Role’ for everyone

Leader editor

The Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council’s new Rock and Role campaign will take center stage at this weekend’s air show and open house when an estimated 250,000 people visit.

Merchandise that promotes the importance of the air base to Arkansas will be available on the flight line in a booth near the commanders’ tent. T-shirts, tumblers, decals, patches, dog tags and collapsible water bottles with the Rock and Role logo will be sold to promote the base, which contributes about $700 million to the state’s economy every year.

“There’s just a great relationship between the base and community. There’s something that makes this place unique,” said Roger Sundermeier Jr., of First Arkansas Bank and Trust, who developed the Rock & Role brand.

The community’s connection to the base has been honored twice with the Abilene Trophy, which annually recognizes a community that provides the “finest support” to an Air Mobility Command unit.

The LRAFB Community Council won the trophy in 2010 and again this year.

The Rock and Role logo, which features an outline of Arkansas behind two C-130 planes, says, “The Little Rock Difference” and asks, “What’s Your Role?”

“ROLE” stands for Responsive, One Team, Leading and Excellence.

“The base can be a model for how we go forward,” Sundermeir said.

The branding strategy already seems to be working. When the Blue Angels landed on Thursday, its pilots and crewmembers wanted Rock and Role merchandise, said Sundermeier, who is marketing director at First Arkansas.

“It’s kind of cool. The Blue Angels will have shirts designed in Jacksonville,” he said.

The idea for “the Little Rock difference” came from Col. Mike Minihan, former commander of the 19th Airlift Wing. A committee headed by Larry Wilson, president and chief executive officer of First Arkansas Bank, came up with the concept over the last six weeks.

TOP STORY >> Blue Angels aim high

Leader staff writer

The Navy Blue Angels coasted to a stop on the flight line at Little Rock Air Force Base on Thursday morning, but not before showing off a few stunts.

They are headlining the 2012 Heritage and Heroes Open House and Air Show today and Sunday. The show starts at 10 a.m.

Capt. Greg McWherter, a native of Atlanta, emerged from the No. 1 jet Thursday and started sweating bullets from the intense sunshine and humidity that greeted the pilots.

He is the “Boss,” the commanding officer for the Blue Angels. The chief of naval air training selects the “Boss,” who must have commanded a tactical jet squadron and have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight hours.

McWherter joined the Blue Angels in 2008 and was here for the show that year. He has been in the Navy for 22 years.

McWherter explained how the Blue Angels do what they do.

He said, “Most people associate the Blue Angels with six demonstration pilots. We’re actually 130 sailors and Marines all working together nonstop to put on the great show that they’re going to see this weekend and we practice the building blocks. Whether it’s the pilots or the maintainers, we learn some of the very basic techniques. We refine them and tweak them to give them a little bit more entertainment value. But basically, the same things you’ll see out here this weekend are things any Navy and Marine Corps aviator can do given the extra training. You ask how we do it.

“(The answer is) a lot of focus, teamwork and trust and tons of practice.“

McWherter said the air show has many functions.

“It’s education, recruiting and really along the way we want to hopefully inspire folks to get fired up about what we do in the Navy and the Marine Corps. When it comes to education, the average taxpayer doesn’t get a chance to go out to an aircraft carrier or ride in a tank, and they don’t get a chance to see firsthand what their sailors and Marines are doing on a daily basis,” he said.

“We can be in their backyard doing an air show and show them firsthand that pride and professionalism. That’s a great way to pay back the American taxpayer,” McWherter continued.

He said the best thing about the show is meeting and greeting the audience, which is expected to be 250,000 people strong.

“We love flying. We love visiting the community, but my favorite part of every air show is talking to folks in the crowd before and after the show. It’s a lot of fun. The questions you get from folks young and old is just amazing. It gets you excited. You forget how neat the U.S. military is for folks who don’t see it on a daily basis,” McWherter said.

He added that being at LRAFB is something special

“We send our C-130 aircraft here to get modifications and work done on repairs every year. We really rely on the men and women on this base to help us accomplish our mission. It’s really great to be able to bring our team here to show them what they’re supporting. That is fantastic,” McWherter said.

Petty Officer First Class Jeremy Green, a native of Hope, was happy to be back in his home state. This is his second year with the Blue Angels, working on life-support systems, such as ejector seats and oxygen tanks.

Green said, “There’s nothing more exciting then getting to come home. I grew up on a farm and trying to explain the things I do in the Navy is a little hard. So they can come out here and see. ‘Oh, OK, there’s a jet, I see what he’s talking about.’ Pulling chalks out from under the tires, you know things like that.”

Green said his job is “fun. It becomes second nature.”

Being with the Blue Angels has required him to do things that aren’t related to life support, such as engine changes. That kind of work requires four people, he said.

Green said he joined the Blue Angels because “who wouldn’t want to?”

He continued, “The best part of the whole show, for me, is when we get to stand out front and you know you’re right there in front of the friends and family section and they announce your name and where you’re from. It makes you feel proud.”

Green joked that his family and friends probably wouldn’t make it to Saturday’s performance because they will be going to the Razorbacks game.

He comes back home at least twice a year to hunt and fish. His 7-year-old daughter, Allison, likes squirrel hunting, Green said.

Being enlisted has its challenges, he said.

“The hardest thing for me was I did an eight-month deployment on the U.S.S. Roosevelt early in my career. When I left my daughter, she was six months old, and she was just getting to where she could take her first step. She was walking early, and I think she did it for me. The hardest thing was just the thought of her learning and growing and not being there to see it,” Green said.

Service members interested in being Blue Angels have to apply for the job.

McWherter said, “We’re very selective about who we pick. We think that every sailor and Marine can do this. They all bring an incredible amount of skill. They bring a passion for serving their country and an incredible gift for telling the story about what the Navy and Marine Corps do.

“But (what is) most important for us is the team dynamic. We need to bring people to this team who help contribute to a very healthy team environment. We spend the better part of 300 to 320 days a year together on the road traveling. We have to get along. Everything we do is based on trust and teamwork,” he said.

As for the weather, McWherter said it does play a role in how the Blue Angels prepare for an event.

“As a commanding officer, I think about how it affects the entire team. As our men and women are out here working on the aircrafts day in and day out, we want to make sure they can get out of the sunshine and have plenty of water. The hotter it is the more fatigue sets in and the more we worry about dehydration. Jets generally like cool, clean, calm air,” he said.

This year, McWherter said, the military is commemorating the War of 1812 bicentennial.

“Two hundred years ago our country went to war to defend open access to the seas and that was the first time the American public saw the vital importance of a strong Navy,” he said.

“The interesting thing is that 200 years later, we’re still fighting piracy on the open seas. We’re still combating terrorism and fighting for freedom around the globe. The same boldness, ingenuity and courage that defined our sailors and Marines 200 years ago still resonates in the sailors and Marines you’ll see this weekend,” McWherter said.

He said performing in an air show is “like riding a roller coaster. Your body gets used to it. It’s a very strenuous workout.”

Even the Blue Angels’ uniforms have a purpose, McWherter said.

“It’s a traditional uniform. We like it. You get kind of used to it. We represent the Navy and Marine Corps. We all need to be in uniform. We need to look fit. This uniform makes you stay in shape,” he said with a laugh.

McWherter didn’t become interested in the Blue Angels until later in his career when a friend suggested he apply for a position with them. But he knew what he wanted to do with his life at an early age.

“I grew up loving all things aviation. I think I was a standard kid. Things that went fast and made noise excited me. When I was in high school, I saw a movie called ‘Top Gun’ and I said, ‘That’s it. I want to go out to an aircraft carrier. I want to be a naval aviator, shoot some missiles, drop some bombs, do all that,’” McWherter said.

The lineup for both days, in order, is the Canadian Skyhawks, Mike Rinker, the Canadian Force’s CF-18, the flash fire jet truck, John Klatt Airshows, Airfield Seizure (AR National Guard, USASOC Black Daggers/C-130 Cargo Drop/Mass Paratrooper Drop), the Ladies for Liberty, the Air Combat Command Heritage Flight (F-4/P-47), Otto, Mike Rinker again, the U.S. Navy Super Hornet, John Klatt Airshows-Max Adrenaline, the DAV B-25, Fat Albert and the Blue Angels.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Bill Walker needs to go

Former state Sen. Bill Walker of Little Rock runs the state Department of Career Education — not very well — but he may be on his way out after he hired an unqualified lady friend as an interpreter for the deaf.

At the start of the long Labor Day weekend, Walker announced he’d made a mistake when he picked his protege as a sign interpreter. He was hoping no one would notice that he’d been chewed out by Gov. Mike Beebe.

Let’s review Walker’s appointment of lady friend Clara Taylor: According to one report, “Taylor was not certified as an interpreter, scored second lowest among nine applicants and failed to translate a simple video in either of two types of sign language.” Just the person for the job to help the deaf.

Still, Walker says he thought she was the best qualified because she signed for the deaf at his church and was a contract worker at his funeral home, whatever that means.

After the deaf community complained to Gov. Beebe, Walker started ducking for cover and put Taylor in another position in his department.

Combine Walker’s $140,393 salary with Taylor’s $35,319 pay, and you’re talking $175,000 a year wasted on these two dubious state employees. Multiply that sad scenario 100 times across the state bureaucracy, and you’re talking $17 million a year wasted. We know of several schools that would benefit from that amount of state aid.

Neither Walker nor Taylor are qualified, but in Arkansas, it’s usually not what you know but whom you know. Walker knows Gov. Beebe very well — they served in the Senate together — which is how the funeral director became the head of career education. Maybe he could teach embalming to the unemployed.

The right thing for everybody would be for Walker to step down. If he doesn’t resign, Beebe should name a qualified successor to run the department.

TOP STORY >> Tuition rules will help students

Leader staff writer

New federal guidelines will help ensure students receive a quality education without going into massive debt, an education leader said.

Melody Toney, the education and training section chief at the Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center, spoke to the Cabot Rotary Club on Tuesday about the new rules.

Toney oversees the tuition assistance program for service members, veterans, their spouses and other family members.

The new rules were issued via an executive order from President Barack Obama, she said.

The goal of the order is to strengthen oversight, enforcement and accountability involving benefit programs that help service members, veterans and their families with tuition and fees.

Toney said the federal government wants to stop schools from encouraging people to take out institutional loans rather than applying for federal student loans first, recruiting new students with inappropriate gifts and failing to provide them with information like graduation rates and other indicators of how successful the school has been.

Another goal is to prevent schools from recruiting individuals with serious brain injuries and emotional problems without providing them academic support and counseling.

Toney said the order establishes a centralized office to deal with complaints and those complaints are sent up the chain of command to be taken care of.

The Defense Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other agencies will address the complaints.

She said one of the new rules is that the schools must tell potential students the total cost of their programs.

“They have to know up front how much the degree is,” Toney said.

The schools must also inform students how much of that is covered by federal benefits, what type of aid they may qualify for, their estimated student loan debt upon graduation, how many students finish the programs and other facts that may help them compare educational institutions, she said.

If a student has to miss class temporarily or put off their studies to fulfill their service duties, such as being deployed, the schools must readmit them to the program, she said.

They have to provide an educational plan for each student too, Toney said.

The schools will also be required to put in place a standard refund policy, she added.

They must accept credit cards and may be reviewed by a third-party company, she continued.

Toney also shared an overview of the joint education center, which opened in January 2011. The old facility, she said, was a 1950s barracks.

Construction of the $14.8 million center on Vandenberg Boulevard in Jacksonville was funded by the Air Force and a city sales tax that raised $5 million.

She said the center has $72,000 worth of furniture and 783 parking spaces.

Six colleges — Arkansas State University-Beebe, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, Park University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Southern Illinois and Webster University — provide several degree programs.

Toney said the campus offers the only certified upholstery class in the South that students can receive credit for.

She also said Jacksonville High School students are attending classes and earning college credit from the center this semester.

The campus is looking into adding more degree programs through ASU-Beebe, Webster and Park universities, Toney said.

The new facility also allowed the campus to have morning and afternoon classes, she added.

TOP STORY >> First and last Vietnam casualties

Leader executive editor

Marine Pfc. James (Ricky) Maxwell of Center Ridge in Conway County was buried last week in Morrilton.

He was 18 years old when he was killed in May 1975 off the coast of Cambodia during an assault on an island to rescue the crew of the U.S. merchant ship Mayaguez. The crew was captured by communist Khmer Rouge in international waters.

It took 20 years to recover Maxwell’s remains and another 17 years to identify them after his brothers gave DNA samples to military investigators.

Maxwell was one of the last Americans to die in Southeast Asia.

Tim Tribble, one of the Marines who survived the fighting on the island, called Maxwell’s younger brother, Paul, before the funeral, and told him, “I waited 37 years to tell you. Your brother was a hero.”

Maxwell joined the Marines in 1974, when he was 17. In mid-May 1975, he and dozens of Marines were headed into the last battle of the Vietnam War.

The war ended for most Americans in April 1975. But U.S. forces had one more battle to fight on the island of Koh Tang to rescue the crew of the Mayaguez.

Eight Air Force Jolly Green Giant helicopters were carrying 179 Marines in the first assault on the island. More reinforcements were brought in during the three-day battle, but they met fierce resistance from some 200 Khmer Rouge, who shot down several helicopters and killed 18 Marines as they landed on the beach.

Maxwell’s helicopter was shot down on May 15 before it could land on Koh Tang. The pilot and co-pilot were killed, along with several others.

Paul Maxwell said Tribble told him how his brother had died. Despite earlier accounts, he wasn’t killed in the helicopter and washed out to sea.

“Ricky and Tribble and another Marine got out of the helicopter,” Paul Maxwell said.

The helicopter had landed in shallow waters, Tribble told him. The three surviving Marines shot at the enemy, but their weapons jammed. Maxwell was shot in the neck and died near the water.

Tribble and another Marine swam out to sea and were rescued by the Navy. Other survivors were also picked up in the ocean.

“My brother died saving lives,” Paul said. “He should have received the Medal of Honor instead of a Purple Heart.”

When the Marines finally reached the Mayaguez, they found it deserted.

According to the Air Force National Museum web site, besides the 18 dead, 50 others were wounded. In addition, “23 more Air Force personnel died in a support force helicopter crash in Thailand due to mechanical failure.”

The Mayaguez crew was later found on a small boat out in the sea.

The war lasted officially for 16 years. Two generations fought in the war. Maxwell’s father, William, was an airman stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base who was in Vietnam in the late 1960s. His family believes he died from bone cancer in 1970 because of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

James Maxwell’s remains were discovered in 1995, but it took several years to identify the men who were killed on the island. His family gave blood samples requested by the military, which helped identify the bones recovered off the island as Maxwell’s.

Remains that could not be identified through DNA will be buried at Arlington Cemetery later this month. Relatives of the fallen service members have been invited to attend the ceremony.

“I love my brother,” Paul Maxwell said. “Thank God he’s come home.”

The names of the fallen on the Vietnam Memorial Wall start from the beginning of the war in 1959 and end in 1975. James Maxwell’s name appears just before the last line. Ahead of him are the names of 58,265 Americans who were killed or are missing. Five more are listed under him.

If you go back to the first panel at the memorial, you’ll see the name of another Arkansan, Army Maj. Walter Hugh Moon, a Green Beret who was killed in Laos more than 50 years ago.

Moon, who was from Rudy in Crawford County, was a World War II veteran and a special forces commander in Laos. He was among the first group of military advisers sent to Southeast Asia during the Eisenhower administration. Hundreds more arrived after President Kennedy took office.

Moon’s name is among the first listed on the memorial — executed in captivity in Laos in July 1961.

Moon was the 14th American casualty of the war and the first Arkansan killed in Southeast Asia. Moon’s name appears on the third line of the Vietnam Memorial. The first name is that of Army Maj. Dale Richard Buis of Pender, Nev., an adviser to the Vietnamese military who was killed in July 1959.

Moon’s infantry unit came under attack deep in Laos in April 1961. Some of his men scrambled into the jungle and survived, but Moon and several others were captured.

Moon tried to escape several times and was wounded the last time he tried to get out of the POW camp. According to other POWs, he deteriorated physically and emotionally and was executed that summer.

He was 38. His body was never recovered.

TOP STORY >> Big crowds awaited at open house

There will be something for everyone at the 2012 Heritage and Heroes Open House and Air Show Saturday and Sunday at Little Rock Air Force Base. The gate opens at 8:30 a.m.

The air show starts at 10 a.m. and continues until the headlining performance of the Navy’s Blue Angels at approximately 2 p.m. on both days.

Other acts include the Team Little Rock C-130 “Day in Afghanistan” capabilities exercise; demonstrations by the Canadian Forces CF-18 team and the Navy Super Hornet teams.

Also precision parachuting by the Army Special Operations Jump Team Black Daggers and the Canadian Skyhawks, aerobatics by Mike Rinker and Pink Floyd and nostalgic B-25, F-4, P-47 and P-51 heritage flights.

Ground displays include the gigantic C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III, B-52 Stratofortress, FexEx 727, a vast array of C-130s, including the AC-130 gunship, T-1 Texan and T-38 Tweet trainers, TC-135 and KC-135 aircraft, and Army UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-72 Lakota helicopters.


Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team, John Klatt Air National Guard Team, Super Hornet CF-18, Jet Fire truck run, Two Ship Air National Guard demonstration, Liberty Bells, Capabilities Exercise and Heritage flight demonstrations, Otto the Helicopter, Mike Rinker flies Pink Floyd, Canadian Forces CF-18 demonstration, B2 stealth bomber flyby and the Blue Angels.


Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team, John Klatt Air National Guard Team, Super Hornet CF-18, Jet truck run, Two Ship Air National Guard demonstration, Disabled American Veterans B-25 Flight Team, Otto the Helicopter, Mike Rinker flies Pink Floyd, Capabilities Exercise demonstration, Liberty Bells, Super Hornet demo, jet truck race, Heritage flight demonstration B2 stealth bomber flyby and Blue Angels.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats face off at Longview

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock takes a long trip to face a Texas high school football powerhouse this Friday when it takes on the Longview Lobos. Longview went 12-2 last season, won its conference championship and advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs in class 5A-Texas’ largest classification. The Lobos have several starters returning from that team, but suffered a terrible start to the season when they fell 41-8 to Coppell, Texas last Friday.

Longview coach John King wasn’t at all pleased with how his team began the season, but doesn’t think it is as bad as it appeared in its first game.

“We didn’t play well, really in any area,” King said. “Didn’t pass it well, didn’t defend the pass well, made mistakes in our kicking game. We’ve got a lot to improve, but we have some good football players.”

Coppell led 21-0 at halftime then scored on the opening drive of the second half. One bright spot for Longview last week was running back Tori White, who rushed for 128 yards.

“He did a good job for us and we had some pretty good run blocking at times,” King said. “We have to be more consistent.

Wide receiver Justin Spader also had six catches for 78 yards in the loss.

Longview runs multiple formations, but its base offense is a two-back pro set. North Little Rock enters the game with an advantage in experience with 18 returning starters to Longview’s 11, but Wildcat coach Brad Bolding isn’t taking anything for granted.

“They’re a good football team,” Bolding said. “This is a traditional Texas powerhouse. They’re never going to be bad. The offense struggled a little bit but they’re got almost a whole new offensive line. They’re going to learn from game one and I’m sure they’re going to be ready. That’ll be a wakeup call for them.”

King didn’t mention specific North Little Rock players that he’s concerned about, but does recognize a quality team.

“They’re big, physical, fast and well coached,” King said. “They’re a fine football team. There are just a whole lot of unknowns. We don’t know a whole lot about them and they don’t know a whole lot about us except for what you can get from one game film.”

The Lobos’ team speed is one of Bolding’s concerns.

“They play fast,” Bolding said. “I’m not sure we’ve seen that kind of team speed.”

While the Charging Wild-cats’ week-one opponent, Lake Hamilton, doesn’t possess the Lobos’ kind of speed, Bolding was pleased with how well his defense shut down the Wolves’ traditionally powerful offense.

“I thought defensively we played great,” Bolding said. “We held them to 74 total yards. We had an interception return for a touchdown called back. The defense gave us great field position.

“Offensively, I thought we played well for about two quarters. After that I thought we let up.”

The Wildcats’ compiled 384 total yards with senior Altee Tenpenny leading the way with 84 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns.

“Our run blocking was really good at times and then we had some breakdowns,” Bolding said. “If I was going to five our offense a grade I’d give it a high D. We’re really nitpicking every little thing. The more experience you have, and we have a lot of experience, the tougher the grade is.”

SPORTS STORY >> Moving forward is Devils’ objective

Leader sports editor

Overcoming adversity was the theme at practice after Jacksonville lost its football season opener to Cabot last Tuesday.

Beginning Monday, the theme has been game preparation for Friday’s 7 p.m. road game against the Benton Panthers.

“The kids responded really well,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. We talked about when mistakes happen, we need to rise to the occasion instead of letting that interfere with how we attack each play and perform.”

After preaching putting bad things behind, the coaching staff would be remiss to dwell on what went wrong against Cabot. While those things were addressed and attempts were made to correct them, there were also some positives that came from last Tuesday’s performance.

“We need to be physical every play and I think our defense was,” Russell said. “We feel good about what we’re doing on defense. They know what to do and how to do it. They’re communicating well. And I thought our interior linemen held their own against Cabot as well as any group we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Benton also suffered several mistakes in its season-opening loss to Arkadelphia, which happened to take place at War Memorial Stadium right before Jacksonville and Cabot took the field.

The Red Devils only watched the first quarter before going to the locker room to get ready for their game, but the game film shows some things they have to be aware of come Friday night in Saline County.

“That number one (senior running back Wallace Foote) is a very fast player who’s very elusive in space,” Russell said. “We’re going to have to play great technique and when we get a hand on him, we’re going to have to be good tacklers. I think every running play they ran except one went to him or the quarterback keeping it. So we know who we have to key on.”

Benton won just three games last year, but one of them was a 41-14 blowout of Jacksonville at Jan Crow Stadium. That game exemplifies what Russell has been talking about since last Tuesday.

“We’re in the lead in the second quarter and they score, just bang, bang, bang right before halftime, and we never recover from it,” Russell said. “You make a mistake like that, you have to take a breath, get over it and move onto the next play. They’ve got athletes and opponents are going to make big plays from time to time. We have to have a short memory, continue with our technique and keep playing. I think if we can do that, we’re going to have a great football team.”

The Red Devils are still set at quarterback even though starter Aaron Smith and co-starter Kevin Richardson each left the Cabot game midway through the third quarter. Smith was suffering from cramps. Russell says he probably could have continued, but the team trainer recommended he not go in.

“In my honest opinion we have the best team trainer in the state of Arkansas in Dr. Calhoun,” Russell said. “If he recommends something, we go by that.”

Richardson left with a knee injury after a 49-yard kickoff return, but it was only a bruised knee. Both players have been at practice and at full speed this week.

That doesn’t mean they’ll be the only ones taking snaps. Junior Reggie Barnes finished the Cabot game at quarterback and has continued to progress in practice.

“I thought Reggie did a good job of coming in and managing the game for us,” Russell said. “He’s continued to improve and he could become another factor for us. We just want to make sure we have players in there at the right spots at all times. I don’t think there’s going to be many changes, but there will be a few changes like there always are.”

SPORTS STORY >> Hwy. 31 rivalry resumes

Leader sportswriter

There are only 20 miles of road that separates Lonoke and Beebe geographically, but the philosophies of the two teams could not be more different.

Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost will bring his high-flying brand of spread football north to face Badgers coach John Shannon’s ball-control oriented dead T offense this Friday at Bro Erwin Stadium in another installment of a local rivalry that dates back almost 50 years.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in their season openers last week. Beebe had a series of ill-timed mistakes that kept it off the scoreboard in a 35-0 shutout loss at Greenbrier while Lonoke lost 44-35 to Star City in a game that had more twists and turns than Hwy. 31 itself.

“Our kids and their kids know each other,” Shannon said. “We’ve been playing each other forever. Some people call it the battle of Hwy. 31 and others call it a couple of other things, and it’s always been a good ballgame – it’s usually a close ballgame.”

The Badgers trailed Greenbrier 14-0 at the end of the first half, but had three trips inside the Panthers’ red zone.

“The biggest thing was just our youth,” Shannon said. “We moved the ball pretty well. I felt pretty good about how we moved the ball, it’s just that every time we got inside their 10-yard line, one of our sophomores would make a crucial mistake.

“The second half, I just think Aaron tried to do too much. Three fumbles, three interceptions – you just can’t give Greenbrier a short field over and over like that, they’re too good a team.”

The biggest potential loss for the Badgers last week was when senior halfback and leading defender Michael Kirby sustained a concussion, which makes his status questionable for this Friday. The margin of defeat to the Panthers last week was a big one, but Shannon said much of the result was due to mistakes that can be corrected with a little more experience for a Badgers team which starts plenty of sophomores.

“35-0 is bad, don’t get me wrong,” Shannon said. “But I thought the game was closer than what the score indicated. We made mistakes, but you have to expect that with four sophomores on offense and four on defense.”

Greenbrier balanced its game between the run and the pass, something the Badgers will face again this week against Lonoke. Jackrabbits junior quarterback Grant Dewey threw for over 250 yards and two touchdowns last week against Star City, while senior tailback Eric Williams used his speed to rack up 100 rushing yards and two more touchdowns.

“Lonoke is very similar; the biggest difference there is they have great athletes,” Shannon said. “Greenbrier had good athletes, but Lonoke has great athletes, and they can make you look silly in a hurry. That’s what happened last year, we couldn’t touch them in the first half, and next thing you know, they’re up by 21 points.”

The Jackrabbits were on pace to take a runaway victory from Beebe early last year, as they jumped out to a three-score lead before the end of the first quarter. But the Badgers adjusted their defensive approach against the speedier ’Rabbits and slowly got back into contention, eventually pulling off the comeback win 36-33. Shannon hopes to get the same end result again this Friday, though he could do without the falling-behind part.

“We have to tackle well,” Shannon said. “Defensively, we can’t let them get out in the open, and we just have to pound the ground game on them and try to wear them down.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers have to be better

Leader sports editor

The Catholic Rockets blast into Panther Stadium on Friday as a non conference opponent for the first time in six years. They’re bringing an inexperienced offense to face Cabot and the two teams are coming off different results in their openers.

Cabot played their opener last Tuesday and beat Jacksonville 28-0. Catholic opened with a resurgent Little Rock Central and lost 28-13.

Cabot coach Mike Malham still thinks his team will have to improve this week to get its second win.

“We got out of the first one with a win, but we have to get better because Catholic is probably going to be better than Jacksonville,” Malham said.

The Panthers played excellent defense against the Red Devils, especially in the second half. Cabot allowed just one first down in the final two quarters and preserved a shut out. The offense struggled early. Cabot went into halftime leading just 7-0, but better execution and Jacksonville turnovers turned it into a big win.

“Our offensive line I thought could have looked a little better,” Malham said of last Tuesday’s game. “We got better as the game went on so hopefully we can pick up where we left off and keep getting better.”

Catholic coach David Estes believes Cabot is better already than the team his Rockets played last year.

Estes’ team lost eight starters on offense to graduation, including standout quarterback Zach Conque. Conque accounted for 294 of Catholic’s 340 yards of offense in last year’s game against Cabot at War Memorial Stadium. He passed for 202 yards and ran for 92 more in a 28-6 Rocket victory.

Now the key players on offense are the running backs. D.J. Brown, Joseph Mariani and Jeffrey Rogers handle most of the running game, with Brown leading the way.

“I don’t know that we have that big-play ability we had last year,” Estes said. “What we’re about this year is controlling the line of scrimmage, controlling the clock and playing solid fundamental football.

“I look at Cabot’s game film this year and I see Cabot. They have more speed in their offensive backfield. Their line is a year older and a year better and they have a little more speed in the defensive backfield. We’re going to have to be a better team than we were last to beat them.”

The Rockets’ core of running backs is an impressive-looking group to the head Panther.

“Their running backs looked good against Central,” Malham said. “They get after it pretty good and they run hard. I thought we tackled pretty well against Jacksonville. They had some speed guys and we did a good job of getting them down when we got hold of them. Catholic is going to be different. Their backs are big and strong and we’re going to have to be physical.”

Malham was also pleased with his running backs, despite the lack of offensive numbers against Jacksonville.

“I thought our backs ran well,” Malham said. “Even when we didn’t get the blocking we need, we got some yards that our backs fought for and got on their own. Like I said, the blocking got better later in the game and we’re just going to keep trying to improve.”

Catholic’s week-one opponent has struggled in recent years. The Central Tigers didn’t win a game for two seasons before going 3-7 last year. Estes wasn’t pleased with his team’s overall performance, but did see something he thinks his young squad can build on.

“We had a lot of first-game nerves and we just have to get them calmed down and get them to run things like we run it in practice,” Estes said. “We did that one time last week and we went down and scored. We have a chance to become more consistent and if we can do that, we’ll be a better team than we were in our first game.”

Malham believes Catholic’s loss was more indicative of Central’s improvements than a drop-off by Catholic.

“Central has just gotten better,” Malham said. “Coach (Ellis) Register has the kids back out. Their numbers were down and now they’re back up. He has some talented kids on that football team. And that was a close game. Central scored right at the end to make it two touchdowns, but if they were to play 10 times, they might go 5-5.

“I think our game is close like that going into it. To me it’s a toss up.”