Saturday, November 24, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits’ pressure is Robinson’s demize

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke’s season opener at Joe T. Robinson was close after a quarter of play, but in the second quarter, the Jackrabbits turned up the heat with their press defense and dominated the rest of the way en route to a 59-28 blowout win over the Senators on Tuesday.

The Jackrabbits held a narrow 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but that all changed at the start of the second. Lonoke scored the first seven points of the second quarter, and forced four turnovers during the run with its full court press.

“I thought we did a really good job of putting a lot of pressure on (Robinson) and speeding them up, and putting them in situations they’re not comfortable being in,” said Lonoke coach Dean Campbell. “We talk all the time – presses are for turnovers, steals, and quick shots.

“So if you could either get a steal or force them to take a quick shot, that benefits us and we can go the other way and do some things on the offensive end.”

Nicholas Robinson’s layup broke Lonoke’s scoring run with 5:23 to play in the half, but a three pointer from junior Jamel Rankin sparked another scoring run for the Jackrabbits. After Rankin’s three ball, Lonoke outscored the Senators 11-4 to take a 32-15 lead at the break.

Being the first game of the season for Lonoke, a little rust was to beexpected. But the Jackrabbits have also had to deal with injuries that carried over from football season, which ended two weeks ago. Returning starter Blake Mack wasn’t on the floor at tip off, but entered the game midway through the first quarter as he’s been recovering from an ankle injury.

“We had a good week of practice,” Campbell said. “We’ve had some injuries of course and guys are banged up from football still. Dra (Offord) has had a little bit of a knee issue and he’s still working on getting better. Blake has been out most of the time with his ankle, which I think he hurt in the Clinton (football) game.

“He’s been off of it quite a bit, and you could tell once he got in. He hasn’t been playing that much, but he’s continued to play hard. We’re still trying to grow together as a group after one week of practice. I know we have summer stuff, but when they’re away with football, it’s hard to gel and figure out who fits together and who doesn’t fit together after a week.”

Like the second quarter, the ‘Rabbits scored the first seven points of the third before the Senators (1-3) could manage a basket. Three-point baskets from Dra Offord, Darrius McCall and Caleb Bracey helped push Lonoke’s lead to 50-23 by the end of the third.

A two pointer by Offord with 5:50 left to play put the sportsmanship rule in place as Lonoke led 55-25.

Less than a minute later, Offord banked in another three, which forced a Robinson timeout. During the timeout, Campbell sat his starters, and the final margin was set on a free throw by sophomore Braylon Bryant as time expired.

The ‘Rabbits out-rebounded the Senators 37-20 in the game, and had 14 takeaways to Robinson’s seven. Lonoke shot a less than stellar 41 percent at the free throw line, but made 56 percent of its three pointers.

Rankin led all scorers with 14 points. Offord finished with 12 points. Junior guard Darian Young scored seven points. Mack scored six points and grabbed six rebounds.

Lonoke’s next game will be Monday against Little Rock Christian in the Hot Springs Invitational tournament.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls left behind at Conway

Leader sportswriter

A close game quickly turned into a rout in the waning minutes of the third quarter as Conway increased its defensive pressure against Cabot, allowing the Lady Wampus Cats to claim a 90-64 victory at Buzz Bolding Arena on Tuesday.

The Lady Cats (3-1) led 52-50 at the 2:30 mark of the third quarter before finally wearing their visitors down to stretch the close margin. Conway outscored the Lady Panthers 17-2 during the final two-and-a-half minutes of the period to hold a 69-52 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Senior Elliot Taylor led the Lady Panthers (4-1) with 21 points and three steals, but no one had an answer for Conway senior Enjonae Chambers, who scored 22 points in her first game back from a shoulder injury.

“We started out starting four sophomores,” Conway coach Ashley Nance said. “They have so much to learn about my philosophy, I mean, they’re a very talented group.”

Chambers, a two-time all-state player, underwent shoulder surgery during the summer, and had not been on the court in any situation until Tuesday. The rust dissipated for Chambers quickly, however, as she hit her first of five three-point baskets at the 4:35 mark of the first quarter to give the Lady Cats an early 14-8 lead.

“This was her first game back,” Nance said. “She really hasn’t had any contact. We knew she was that big of a difference. We thought once we combined all that and get just a little more mature, we could be really good. We made a few adjustments on our press, and we really feel like that’s our game.”

Things took a turn for the worse against Cabot when senior point guard Jaylin Bridges picked up her fourth personal foul with 6:27 left to play in the third quarter. The Lady Panthers led most of the second quarter and took a 43-41 lead to start the second half when Abbey Allgood scored inside with an assist from Alyssa Hamilton. But Bridges reached in on Conway’s Jordan Danberry on the ensuing possession and was forced to check out of the game.

Bridges came back in the game during the final minutes, but the damage had already been done by Conway’s press.

“With the press, if you’re watching from the stands, you’re thinking, ‘man, they score a lot off the press,’” Nance said. “And they do. But if you add up how many we score off of it and how many they score off of it, if we’re in the positive, we’re good with that.”

Taylor got most of her team-high 21 points the hard way for the Lady Panthers with tough inside drives. She did manage a cheap one at the 5:57 mark of the opening quarter when Bridges found her for a backdoor assist to cut Conway’s early lead to 8-6. Kianna Speight gave the Lady Cats an 11-6 lead with a three pointer, but Taylor came back with another inside shot, followed by a basket on an inbounds play with an assist from senior Ally Van Enk.

The two schools have been conference opponents in the 7A/6A Central for a number of years before Cabot moved over to the 7A/6A East conference. But Nance said the fact that games are now nonconference between the two has not put any kind of damper on the level of competitiveness.

“Coach Crowder does a great job, it doesn’t matter who’s on the floor,” Nance said. “You’ve got to take them serious every single night. They just got through winning the Mount St. Mary tournament, haven’t lost a game. They have Elliot Taylor and the Bridges kid, seniors from a state-championship team. You take those two kids, you can do some damage.”

Hamilton added 17 points and eight rebounds for Cabot and Bridges finished with 10 points. Allgood led rebounding for the Lady Panthers with nine. For Conway, Speight added 19 points.

Cabot will host Paragould Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears run past Hornets in season’s first outing

Leader sports editor

An entirely rebuilt Sylvan Hills basketball team looked like a squad that had been playing together for some time on Tuesday. The new-look Bears routed Maumelle 76-50 in its season opener in Sherwood, drawing praise and maybe even a little bit of shock from head Bear Kevin Davis.

“I am a little surprised,” Davis said. “I did not really know what to expect because when you start almost completely over like this, you just don’t know what it’s going to be like until they take the floor against someone. It’s just one game and we have to know there are going to be rough patches, but overall I am very pleased with what I saw tonight.”

It was a three-pointer onslaught in the first half. Sylvan Hills hit seven total three pointers in the first two quarters. Ronnie Hinton hit two while Nathan Burchett and DeMonte Davidson hit one each in the first quarter. Delsin Parker hit two in the second quarter and became an offensive force that Maumelle had no answer for.

After scoring just four points in the first period, Delsin dropped in 20 more over the second and third quarters to finish with a game-high 24 points. Parker and most of the other starters did not play in the fourth quarter.

“I know he’s very quick and he’s hard to handle defensively, one on one,” Davis said. “In practice, it’s easy to tell he’s a hard guy to keep in front of you. What I was pleased to see was how he was able to finish once he dribbled into traffic and got near the rim. There will be games in this league we’re going into, where that will be a little more difficult. That’s where you hope to see the ability to find an open teammate.”

Sylvan Hills built a 12-point lead in the first quarter and scored the first bucket of the second to go up 26-12. Maumelle then went on an 8-0 run to get back to within 26-20.

That was the Hornets’ last hurrah. The Bears answered with a 10-0 run to make it 36-20 with three minutes left in the first half and Maumelle never got within 14 the rest of the game.

Sylvan Hills lead reached 20 points with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Parker dribbled to below the right wing and zipped a pass inside to Davidson for an open layup that made it 60-40.

In the fourth quarter, Trajan Doss gave the Bears their biggest lead of the game when his old fashioned three-point play gave the home team a 26-point lead with 3:20 left in the game.

“Another thing I liked is that we did a good job of running the offense and doing what we had planned to do,” Davis said.

Sylvan Hills made 45.8 percent of its shot attempts, making nine of 18 attempts from three-point range. The high shooting percentage, especially from outside, was one thing that did not surprise the Bears’ head coach.

“I have shooting drills that I score them on,” Davis said. “After the first time, I noticed they were even scoring higher than last year’s (state championship) team. So I did it a few more times and they were better than last year’s group every time. So I really feel like we have a pretty good shooting team this year. I was a little surprised the first time I noticed that, but I wasn’t surprised by it tonight. Again, you never know what to expect until they play the game, but I knew they’re capable of shooting the ball very well.”

Even with Parker’s 24, six Bears finished with at least seven points. Burdette scored 12, Hinton 11 and Davidson 10. Doss came off the bench to pitch in eight points while post player David Johnson finished with seven points and nine rebounds.

Kendall Donnerson led Maumelle with 14 points and 10 boards.

Sylvan Hills’ next game will be Tuesday at Beebe.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison lose in waning moments to Hornets

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s season came to an end against the fleet legs of Mineral Springs junior quarterback Kendrick Langston, who bolted for a 49-yard touchdown run with 1:09 remaining to lift the Hornets to a 22-21 victory in the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A state playoffs at Fred C. Hardke Field on Friday.

Mineral Springs (8-3) was without the services of senior all-conference running back Rashad Williams, who was suspended from the game after being ejected from the round-two victory over Poyen a week prior. That put extra work on the shoulders of Langston, who came through with 28 carries for 193 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Langston’s rushing accounted for all but 54 of the Hornets’ total yards.

“The kids stepped up. I can’t say enough about the kids,” Mineral Springs coach Nick Evans said. “Everything they did – great job fighting until the very end. The never-give-up attitude the kids have taken on this year is really what kept us going.”

The Bison (10-2) took the momentum late in the fourth quarter, going on a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Chris Hart to junior wide receiver Justice Bryant to take a 21-16 lead with 1:59 left on the clock. Carlisle went for a two-point conversion, but junior running back Deron Ricks was stopped just short of the goal line.

That gave the Hornets one final chance against a Bison defense that had been stingy against Langston and company most of the second half, but Langston broke left after getting through the line on his third-straight rush of the possession to advance Mineral Springs into next week’s semifinal round where it will travel to Bearden, a 35-7 winner over Magnet Cove on Friday.

“He came over to me on the sideline,” Evans said of Langston. “He said, ‘coach, if we get the ball back, just give it to me.’ And so, he had that look in his eye – he’s had it all year long, and right there is just another example of what kind of kid he is.”

The Bison defense was dominant early, pushing Mineral Springs back five yards in three plays on its opening possession.

Things got worse for the Hornets on their punt attempt when punter Avante Evins bobbled the snap and barely got a handle on the ball before Carlisle senior John Reynolds dragged him down at the Mineral Springs’ 19-yard line.

The Bison went to work fast, with short gains by Ricks and Bryant before Ricks busted through with a 5-yard touchdown run at the 7:48 mark of the first quarter. Ricks also added the point-after kick to give Carlisle a 7-0 lead.

“It was a great ballgame,” Bison coach Scott Waymire said. “You have to give Mineral Springs credit. I thought they did a tremendous job. They made big plays when they had to. They were fortunate and got a couple of turnovers off of us. I’m proud of our guys and what they’ve accomplished this week. They kept fighting, and we just ran out of stuff.”

The Bison threatened to come back one more time in the final minute. Carlisle took over at its own 25 with just 57 seconds left on the clock and two timeouts, but Hart found junior receiver Austin Reed for a 28-yard pass play on first down. Reed got out of bounds to stop the clock, as did Hart on the following play when he scrambled out of the pocket for a 10-yard gain.

Hart then completed to Reed again, this time for a 15-yard gain to move the ball all the way down to the Hornet 27-yard line before luck ran out on the Bison. Hart looked for Reed again on the next play in the middle of the end zone, but Evins came down with the interception in the end zone, his second of the night against Hart.

“They had a real good run,” Waymire said of Hart and the senior players. “Those guys have won 33 games in three years, been to the quarterfinals all three times and the state championship game. I’m very proud of them, small senior class, and a fun group of guys to coach. It’s never good to lose, but looking back, those guys had a heck of a three-year career for us.”

Bryant scored Carlisle’s second touchdown with 4:38 remaining in the first half on a 30-yard run down the left side, and a two-point conversion pass from Hart to Reed made the score 16-15 Hornets at the half.

Mineral Springs brought a rabid fan base with it to Hardke Field, and the spirit of the players on the sideline during every play made the importance of the game evident.

“We kind of walk around with a chip on our shoulder,” Evans said. “We feel like everybody is kind of against us, I mean, maybe we deserve some of it or whatever, but football is so important to all these kids.”

Bryant rushed 16 times for 115 yards and a touchdown to lead Carlisle. Ricks had 18 rushes for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Hart was 5 for 11 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown along with two interceptions. The Bison finished with 184 total yards.

SPORTS STORY >> Season ends in heartbreak

Leader sportswriter

Facing an 18-point deficit with just over 10 minutes to play, North Little Rock rallied to take a one-point lead over Fayetteville with less than a minute to go in the class 7A state semifinals, but a 38-yard field goal with just seconds remaining gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 victory Friday at North Little Rock Stadium.

The game looked as if it was all but over after Ryan Starr’s 18-yard field goal put Fayetteville up 24-6 with 10:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. North Little Rock struggled offensively throughout the third quarter, and it took some trickery for the Charging Wildcats to find the end zone for the first time in the fourth.

On third and 15 at the Fayetteville 39-yard line, quarterback Payton Holmes connected with standout running back Altee Tenpenny on a double reverse play. Tenpenny lined up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation, and handed the ball off to Fabian Lewis who was in motion.

Lewis took the handoff and handed it to Holmes, who then found Tenpenny wide open in the flat. Tenpenny took the reception and followed his blockers all the way to the end zone with 8:52 to play. Tenpenny also ran in the two-point try to make the score 24-14.

“They’re an explosive team,” said Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton of North Little Rock. “When we kicked the field goal to make it 24-6, I thought seriously about going for it. You know if they don’t make it, they have to go 99 (yards). But we kick the field goal, and sure enough, next thing they do is score and they’re right back into it.”

Fayetteville’s next drive ended with another field goal from Starr, this one from 32-yards out with 6:41 to play which made the score 27-14. It took just two plays for NLR to find the end zone again.

After a completion for negative yards on the first play, sophomore quarterback Heath Land connected with Deion Tidwell at the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line.

Tidwell broke free from the safety and corner on the play, and dashed 68 yards for the score. The two-point try was unsuccessful, but Fayetteville’s lead was cut to seven with 5:43 to play.

The Bulldogs’ next possession ended when quarterback Austin Allen’s pass was intercepted by Wildcats senior linebacker Marcus Lindsey at the Fayetteville 45-yard line.

North Little Rock was able to move the ball inside the Fayetteville 5-yard line on the ensuing drive, but failed to punch it in as the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs.

The Bulldogs appeared to be in good shape after the defensive stand, but were forced to go three and out on its next possession, and Gary Vines returned the punt to the Bulldogs’ 17-yard line.

With 32 seconds on the clock and with no timeouts, North Little Rock scored on a hook and lateral play. Land passed the ball to Bailey Williams near the sideline, and Williams pitched the ball to Tenpenny who went five yards into the end zone to cut the deficit to one.

The Wildcats lined up for the extra point, but Land took the snap and rolled left and connected with Vines in the back of the end zone for the successful two-point conversion, which put NLR up 28-27. It was the Wildcats’ first lead of the game.

Fayetteville’s offense took the field with 27 seconds on the clock, and Allen’s first pass was an 11-yard completion to Braydon Cook. Cook was injured on the play, which stopped the clock. Allen’s next pass was complete to receiver Jordan Dennis in the middle of the field, and Dennis ran the ball all the way to the NLR 28-yard line.

With 11 seconds on the clock, Starr took the field for his longest attempt of the game, and in clutch fashion, Starr booted the ball through the uprights to put the Bulldogs back on top 30-28.

“I’m just proud of our kids,” Patton said. “They didn’t quit, they didn’t give up. It was just an all around good team win. I didn’t think we had it sealed up until we were running on the field at the end. This gets your blood going. When you’re in a tight ball game with a big crowd, semifinals with a trip to Little Rock on the line, that’s what you want.

“Give Ryan Starr credit, that was a huge, huge victory for us. I think for the year he’s like 11 out of 12 or 12 out of 13. The kid’s been money. To go out there in that situation with a lot riding on it, he’s got ice water in his veins.”

North Little Rock (10-2) out-gained Fayetteville (9-3) in total yards. The Wildcats finished the game with 362 yards of offense. The Bulldogs totaled 308. Land completed 9 of 13 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Holmes completed 50 percent of his passes for 63 yards and one touchdown.

Tenpenny finished his last game as a Wildcat with 19 carries for 52 yards and one touchdown. Allen completed 18 of 36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Fayetteville will play archrival Bentonville for the third straight year in the class 7A state finals next Saturday. Kickoff starts at 6:30 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Today, support small business

Welcome to Small Business Saturday — a day where we focus on and salute the backbone of our community’s economy.

Sure everyone can see those big box retailers from the highway, and we are glad they are here, but without the small businesses there would be no big box retailers, no Jacksonville, no Cabot, no Sherwood, no Lonoke, no central Arkansas to delight and enthrall residents and visitors.

This is a day that the local chambers of commerce should be jumping on and expounding the history, contributions and importance of small businesses, which make up 90 percent or more of their memberships, but since they choose not to, let’s do some reminiscing.

With a quick look down Jacksonville’s Main Street one sees Chambers Drug, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Double R Florist, Unique Furniture, Bart Gray Realty, and by turning left, Whit Davis Lumber.

Chambers is one of those old-fashioned drug stores with something for everyone. Sure the prices don’t always drop to those of the big boxes, but service is par excellence and then there’s that wonderful soda fountain.

Most old timers have had a chance to sit at a soda fountain and enjoy a malted shake, hamburger and fries, but it’s something that should be a bucket list item for young and old alike.

Most folks may not think of First Arkansas Bank and Trust as a small business, but it started right here on Nov. 5, 1949, at 109 W. Main St. in Jacksonville with three employees. Named Jacksonville State Bank, it was the first bank to open for business in Jacksonville and has expanded regionally to about 30 branches. Bank founder Pat Wilson was one of a small group of men who had the foresight back in the early 1950s to convince the military to built an Air Force base in the Jacksonville area.

Little Rock Air Force Base, which could be considered a local small business itself, pumps more than $700 million into the local economy. So if not for First Arkansas Bank there may not have been an Air Force base and Jacksonville could have become just a miniscule dot on the map.

Then there’s Whit Davis Lumber Plus, a business that continues to do solid business despite big box competition from all directions. What’s its secret? Competitive prices, sure, but its personal service just can’t be matched. It has three stores: Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbrier.

But it started in 1953 when Whit Davis and his wife, Miriam, invested almost all they had, $25,000, to purchase the assets of a small business called Oliver Lumber Company. They changed the name to Whit Davis Lumber Company, Miriam kept the books, and the only other adult employee was the yard man/truck driver. Current man-in-charge, John A. Davis-III, was in the sixth grade and had 15 minutes to get to work there after school in those days.

An early company motto was, “We either have it in stock or we will get it for you tomorrow.” And another, “We Satisfy.” Those mottos are still the cornerstone of their service.

And let’s not forget area stalwart, Knight’s Super Foods. As big box grocers either come and go or ignore the potential of the area, the Knight’s family has focused on the three “G’s” — good prices, great products and greater customer service.

Knight’s has been in business for 40 years and has stores in Cabot, Beebe and Jacksonville. Their website says it best: “Thank you to our loyal customers, without you we would not be in business today.”

To Knight’s and all the small businesses in the area, too numerous to mention them all here, we’d like to turn that around and say, “Thank you to our loyal small businesses, without you we wouldn’t be here today.”

TOP STORY >> Cities request entries for holiday events

Cabot’s annual Christmas parade has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.

This year’s parade theme is “It’s a Dr. Seuss Christmas!” Participants are asked to select an idea or image that represents their favorite memory or interpretation of the theme and use it to design a float. Several marching bands, clowns and veterans groups have already signed up to march with Santa Claus.

Entry forms, parade rules and route maps are available at the Veterans Park Community Center, the Cabot Chamber of Commerce office and online at

The deadline to register is Monday, Dec. 3. Completed forms, along with a $10 entry fee, should be sent to Cabot Christmas Parade P.O. Box 1101 Cabot, Ark. 72023.

For more information, call 501-920-2122 or e-mail

 Jacksonville’s 54th annual Christmas parade will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.

This year’s theme is “Rockin’ Christmas.”

The entry fee for floats and vehicles is $20. For more information or to participate, call the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club at 501-982-4316.

 The Beebe Chamber of Commerce will host its annual lighted Christmas parade at 6 p.m. Dec. 8. This year’s theme is “A Rockin’ Christmas.

The parade entry fee is $10 for organizations and businesses wanting to enter a float.

Floats will be judged in four categories: civic, commercial, education and religious.

Classic cars, tractors, motorcycles, horses, four-wheelers and bicycles must be lighted.

All entries must be lighted. Entry forms are available at the Beebe Chamber of Commerce office in city hall or at

Entry forms must be turned in by Nov. 26. For more information, call the chamber at 501-882-8135.

 Sherwood Advertising and Promotions Commission will host the annual Christmas parade at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 along Kiehl Avenue.

This year’s theme is “Christmas Around the World.” Santa has already RSVPed and no other Santas will be allowed.

For more information and parade rules, call the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce at 501-835-7600 or Tom Brooks at 501-350-6759.

 Ward will host its annual Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony beginning at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.

Visit for parade entry or call the city of Ward reception office at 501-843-7686.

TOP STORY >> Safe Haven opens thrift store

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Safe Haven, a non-profit, opened a thrift store on Thursday to support its domestic violence shelter.

The store is located in the former Safe Haven office in the Cabot mini-mall on North First Street. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“So many are having a hard time. This will benefit the community and the shelter,” store manager Julie Bohannan said.

Bohannan said the reason for opening the store is to support the shelter. All proceeds go to paying the shelter’s bills. Many federal and state grants Lonoke County Safe Haven relies on were cut in October with more cuts expected. Safe Haven is a shelter for women and their children to escape abusive situations. The shelter supplies them with meals and health items. The store will also pay for utilities and staff salaries.

“We also use this for clients. (Often) they’ve just came with the clothes on the back and they can come and get what they need,” Bohannan said.

She said the thrift store was set up with a lot of volunteers and hard work. The paint on the walls was donated by Sherwin-Williams. The shelving was donated by Scott Lumber.

The thrift shop’s paint colors have special meaning. Teal is for sexual assault victim awareness. Purple is for domestic violence awareness. Green is because Bohannan liked it. The store has clothing, some with tags; household items, baby items, toys and bicycles.

All items are donated. A majority of the clothing is priced at $1. The more expensive pieces are $2 to $5.

If people want to donate they can bring clothing to the thrift store. If they want to donate to the shelter, they can bring items to the shop and they will be transported to the shelter’s home. Because it’s a non-profit donors can receive a tax receipt.

A store ribbon cutting will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 6.

TOP STORY >> JHS band tight knit and tight on stage

Leader staff writer

Talk to any of the 75 members of the Jacksonville High School Jukebox Band and they will tell you it’s all about being family first and a band second.

It’s a philosophy that band director Darel McField brought with him from Pine Bluff five years ago, and the students have really grabbed hold of it.

That belief really hit home last week when freshman Greg Young’s mom suddenly died. “He was told about around 2 p.m.,” McField said, “and he left school, but was back that evening because he wanted to be with family — the band.”

Young, who plays the marching French horn, said softly on Tuesday night, “They were just there for me. The whole band signed a card and they all let me know they cared. That’s what being a family is all about,” Young said.

Wearing a band T-shirt that said “Work hard/play hard,” said the band is a chance to represent the school in a positive way and show the talent that the school has. He still remembers the first football game he played at with the band. “The crowd was large and cheering for us, more than the football team,” Young said, adding that the band’s philosophy of family first, band second is something that you just have to be in the band to fully appreciate.

McField, affectionately called Mac by the band members, ran the band through a four-hour practice at the high school Tuesday night getting them ready to march in the Thanksgiving Parade in New Orleans. During a break, he said, “We have a special thing going on here. Our band is very diverse, all races and socio-economic levels, and they are all family. We are here for each other emotionally and financially.”

Senior Asia Mason added, “We have nerds, geeks, athletes, all types that might not hang together in school, but in the band we are all together, all family.”

McField, who is proud of the band in so many ways, said its latest accomplishment was getting picked to be in the Thanksgiving parade. “The parade officials picked just 12 out of 550 bands that applied. I think our family attitude was part of the reason we were picked,” he said.

The band left Jacksonville about midnight Wednesday, heading down to Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade in New Orleans. The band is the only Arkansas band that was invited to march and perform during the Bayou Classic events.

“We’ll have Thanksgiving down there as a family,” McField said Tuesday, “and we have a full day of activities planned for Friday. It’ll be fun.”

It’s their second Louisiana trip this month.

The band competed in the in the Carroll High School Battle of the Bands in Monroe on Nov. 3 and brought home the Grand Champion Band trophy with an overall score of 98.9 points. The JHS Jukebox Band grabbed first-place honors in flag line and for drum major. It received a superior rating for feature twirler and for band.

Mason, who switched over to trumpet from clarinet three years ago, loves the band and said its nickname “Jukebox” is perfect. “My interpretation is that it’s because we can play all kinds of music from concert and classical to old school and new school. Like a jukebox we have something for everyone.”

McField said he always gives his bands a nickname and Jukebox just seem to fit this group. The band is so uplifting and the music is something everyone can dance and relate to.” He added that the band is more than a marching band. It is a show band with its own signature style. “There is no one like us in the area,” McField said.

Even though he is known as a band director he made it clear the music is secondary. “All band directors, football coaches need to focus on making the students better people, work on their communication skills and self discipline. We are a family first, we respect each other and help each other become better. When we do that the music takes care of itself.

Senior bass clarinetist Adam Hargis couldn’t agree more. “Mac pushes us, but always in a positive way. I take a lot of what he says to heart. I was raised to always pull myself through the tough times, but Mac put his stamp on it, too. And then I’ve taken it and applied it to the academic side, and I’m getting straight A’s.”

Both Hargis and Mason talk about how everything the band does is turned into a life lesson. “We had a three-hour delay getting to Monroe because of bus problems, and Mac turned it into a life lesson to make us better,” said Adam. Mason added that not only is the band about life lesson, but also having fun. “This band is just so different. When we had that bus problem, instead of complaining or worrying, we made a fun time out of it. We are always learning and having fun.

Sophomore Morgan Lloyd a flutist-turned flag captain, concurred. “Everything we’ve done has been memorable because we are all family, all loyal and there’s never a dull moment.”

But the band isn’t fun and games Mason cautioned, “If you want it, you’ve got to work for it.”

TOP STORY >> Vertac a fading memory

Leader staff writer

Construction of the new $6 million, 37,000-square-foot police headquarters building on Marshall Road in Jacksonville nears completion just as the decades-old Vertac case on that property could end after a Dec. 19 hearing.

The new police department building will be completed in four weeks and officers could move in after the first of the year, according to Mayor Gary Fletcher. The building will also house a 911 center, a FEMA safe room and three training classrooms.

Already at the site are the police firing range, fire training grounds, street department and recycling center.

But the land wasn’t so useful in 1979, when the Environmental Protection Agency found that it was contaminated with dioxin, a toxic waste. Herbicide manufacturers Hercules Inc., a Delaware company, and Vertac Chemical Corp. were blamed. Vertac bought the land in 1976 from Hercules, which had owned it since 1963.

The property was cleaned up in 1998 with $150 million from the federal Superfund program, which oversaw the destruction of thousands of contaminated barrels from the old chemical plant.

Hercules spent $120 million and Vertac contributed $3 million to the cleanup of 93 acres. They finished paying their portions of the bill in 2007.

Hercules, attorney Lee Thalheimer of Little Rock and the state Department of Environmental Quality have asked that U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. close the case by approving a final settlement agreement.

Thalheimer has been the court-appointed receiver since 1986. He is responsible for securing and realizing the assets of Vertac and managing the affairs of the company.

Anyone who is opposed to the settlement must file a written objection with the district clerk’s office at 600 W. Capital Ave., Room A149, in Little Rock by 5 p.m. Dec. 7.

Fletcher said, “For all of us who understood what took place here to clean the site, it’s already been put to bed. For most people, it’s a foggy memory. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a dead issue. This is just the legal, judiciary process. The site is clean, has been clean, for years. It’s a beautiful site. The wildlife, the vegetation is as healthy here as it is anywhere else.”

He said federal agencies could take much of the credit for that.

“They were here watching, making sure that process was taken care of. We got extra attention.”

The mayor added that people have more to fear from pesticides that are sprayed on residential lawns than they do from the brownfield, the designation Vertac acquired after the cleanup.

The mayor was more excited about what lay ahead than the site’s past. Fletcher is looking forward to federal and state agencies using Jacksonville’s state-of-the-art training complex, which will be “centrally” located in the region “a couple of blocks from (Hwy. 67/167).”

“It’s the envy of everybody. It’s good for the morale of our people. It’s also a great recruitment tool,” he said about the new public safety building. Fletcher added that police officers who have toured the work-in-progress “get big grins on their faces.”

The city is spending $3 million it saved and $2.5 million it borrowed to build the fire and police training grounds.

FEMA gave the city $500,000 to cover the cost of building a safe room.

The hall that runs from one side of the building to the other is a little longer than a football field, the mayor said.

Fletcher said, “This (building) will probably take care of our needs for the next 60, 75 years.”

The color scheme for the facility is red, blue and beige. Areas with red accent walls will be used by firefighters while areas with blue accent walls are for police.

One of the many highlights of the building, Fletcher said, is the evidence room. He said the evidence room the police department uses now is much like a home’s storage room.

The new room will be temperature-controlled, which will keep the evidence in good condition. Deteriorated evidence can’t be submitted to court when cases come to trial years after the crime is committed, the mayor said.

The facility will offer a record-keeping office for fire training, movable sectional flooring in the 911 center to make expansion or organizational changes easier, a glass entrance, a code enforcement office at the front of the building, a garage-like room for police officers to bring in cars that could contain evidence, a gym equipped with exercise machines, locker rooms with showers and a kitchen.

A few small rooms have canine doors that lead to a fenced area outside. Police officers with canine partners will be able to leave their dogs there when they come in to make reports, the mayor said.

Fletcher said that right now, the dogs are left in running cars. Having a space where they can go inside and out as they please will be better than wasting money on gas and vehicle maintenance, the mayor said.

The 3,000-square-foot safe room will double as an auditorium where events like the annual police awards dinner can be held, Fletcher said. He added that the safe room would be able to withstand an F5 tornado.

The mayor said what is going on in the Vertac case would not impact what is happening at the site now.

The proposed settlement agreement the judge will consider at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 19 requires the following:

Until it is declared that no environmental hazard remains, East Bay Realty Services, a subsidiary of Hercules, has to treat ground water and monitor the property.

Hercules must respond immediately and appropriately to any incident that involves the release of hazardous substance from the site or threatens public health, welfare or the environment. The company will also submit a follow-up written report to the EPA.

The property cannot be used for residential purposes or any projects that involve exposure to soils. So, a nursing home, day care center, playground or church cannot be built there without the written approval of environmental authorities. The site’s groundwater and surface water can’t be used. Drilling, mining, excavation and backfilling with untested or hazardous soil is also prohibited.

State and federal environmental authorities will continue to have access to monitoring wells, pressure-measuring devices and streams. Fencing has to restrict some parts of the property.

TOP STORY >> Community feast for all

Leader staff writer

With the aroma of turkey wafting in the air and sounds of the Detroit Lions scoring a touchdown from the TV, many people spent Thursday together at Cabot’s Thanksgiving Community Feast.

This year, Cabot United Methodist Church was the host church for the third-annual event. Over 320 people came out to pick up or to sit down to a free hot home-cooked dinner of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, creamy corn, green beans, baked beans and stuffing. Diners had to save room for the tableful of cakes, pies and brownies.

Some people came to the community feast for economic reasons, others wanted fellowship and some just wanted to help.

Cabot residents Cindy Yates came with her mom, Carolyn Morris

“I lost a son in April and wanted to do something different. We brought food and we wanted to meet some new people. This is awesome,” Yates said. Yates has another son serving in the Army, stationed in Germany.

“I usually host several neighbors for Thanksgiving, so I invited them up here,” I think every community should have something like this,” Yates said.

Ruby Ohlhaver of Cabot was thankful to be having a Thanksgiving meal with her 9-year-old daughter, Jennavieve at the Cabot Community Feast.

“My favorite part of dinner is being with my family,” Jennavieve said. She gave the meal a thumbs-up and liked everything on her plate.

“I think it’s really nice. There are a lot of people who are alone. The food is good,” Patricia Jones of Austin said.

She was with her son, Chris and friend, Charlotte Westphahl of Ward.

“We are alone, who is going to make a turkey? This is much nicer. You don’t want to be cooking a big meal for yourself,” Westphahl said.

While many were enjoying the feast, several volunteers were having a good time serving others.

One of the volunteers was 7-year-old Stori Majors of Cabot. She was beaming with a bounce in her step helping serve guests and clearing away their dirty plates.

“There are a lot of people who need help. It makes me feel a little bit happy, because I actually get to be involved and helping people,” Majors said.

“I’m thankful so many people came out and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal,” organizer Dane Moore said.

“Thank you to the volunteers and donations. There’s no way we could’ve done it without them. Honestly, we can’t thank them enough,” Heather Moore said.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Voluntary tax

A voluntary tax of two and one-quarter mills for nonprofit organizations will be on property tax statements in Lonoke County next year as it has been for a decade. But this time, nonprofits will be called contract agencies rather than special agencies to satisfy a legal requirement from the state.

The county this week sent letters to all 11 nonprofits — including the Lonoke County Council on Aging, Lonoke County Exceptional School, Lonoke County Fair Association — asking them to provide services to the county and they will be eligible for the voluntary tax.

But as reporter Joan McCoy wrote in The Leader last Saturday, nonprofit groups that don’t come through by the end of the year with details about their services will not be eligible for a share of the $60,000 the voluntary tax brings in every year.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin and the members of the quorum court appeared confident last week that calling the nonprofits contract agencies and requiring them to actually have a contract for services with the county would keep the county out of trouble with the state legislative audit.

But many appeared dismayed that the non-profits hadn’t already provided Erwin with the information he requested in September.

They must sign up for the program to keep the tax. They should not ignore the generosity of county taxpayers or the warnings from auditors.

EDITORIAL >> Legislators in key posts

The selection of three Republican legislators from this area should improve the chances of bipartisan legislation passing next year, including tax reform and perhaps the expansion of Medicaid and establishing health-insurance exchanges online.

Rep. Davy Carter (R-Cabot) was elected speaker of the House last week after a vote to void the election of Rep. Darrin Williams (D-Little Rock), who was to have been the first black speaker of the House. That fell through when Democrats lost control of the Legislature on Nov. 6.

This is the first time Republicans have controlled the legislature since Reconstruction.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) was elected Senate majority leader to serve under Sen. Michael Lamoureux of Russellville, who was named Senate president pro tem. State Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Searcy was chosen majority whip.

Lamoureux replaces Sen. Larry Teague, a Democrat from Nashville, who was elected Senate president pro tem before Republicans took charge of the state Capitol.

Carter shrewdly moved up to speaker when he reach out to Democrats and unseated the earlier favorite, Rep. Terry Rice (R-Waldron).

Williams said his job will be to keep the Republicans united.

Carter was elected with overwhelming Democratic support. Most Republicans voted for Rice. Carter told The Leader last week his job is to build consensus among state legislators. The House is almost equally divided between 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green Party member, but he said he’s up to the challenge.

Health care and tax reform will be the biggest issues to work through in 2013, he said. The biggest challenge of the legislative session will be the $100 million shortfall in Medicaid, which could require scaling back benefits and letting Washington pay for most of the increased expenses.

Carter could craft agreements on both issues, particularly Medicare expansion supported with generous federal subsidies, which would benefit our overstretched hospitals, including North Metro Medical Center, which gives away millions of dollars in charity care every year.

Agreement is also needed on health-insurance exchanges to keep Washington from taking charge of the insurance marketplace in the state.

The Obama administration has extended the deadline until February for states to start health-insurance exchanges, or the federal government will do it for them. It would make no sense to give up state control to the feds.

Key lawmakers could negotiate a deal that would include tougher eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients, including drug testing that Carter has supported in the past.

Gov. Mike Beebe has said he supports an expansion of the Mediciaid program to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That expansion would require a three-fourths majority in the Legislature, but it’s not beyond reach. Legislators have passed bipartisan bills on more difficult issues.

In the meantime, congratulations to Carter, Williams and Dismang for taking key positions in the legislature and working toward the betterment of Arkansans.

TOP STORY >> Black Friday almost here

Leader staff writer

Local merchants are offering Black Friday specials and Small Business Saturday deals to kick-off the Christmas shopping season.

Nick Koulianos, manager of Stage in Jacksonville, said the store will compete with larger stores by opening on Thanksgiving night from 8 p.m. until midnight and offering big deals on Black Friday when it opens on 6 a.m.

He said this is the first time Stage will be open on Thanksgiving and is offering 300 exceptionally good deals, Koulianos calls them doorbusters, continuing into Black Friday from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving sale features a “buy one item, get the second item free.”

“The first 25 people in line on each day will be given $25 gift cards. One of the gift cards is valued at $100,” Koulianos said.

He said Stage wants to give shoppers a reason to come to Jacksonville and stay in town. Get a refreshing night’s sleep and then get back to Black Friday’s shopping frenzy. Stage’s Thanksgiving weekend sale extends through Tuesday.

The Furniture Store in Cabot is offering Black Friday door busters from 9 to 11 a.m. with big savings on Serta Motion Perfect Foundations and other Serta products. There’s also a selection of $25 furniture items while they last.

The Furniture Store is at 111 S. Adams in downtown Cabot. Owner Cyndi McElmurry likes to say, “Shop us first. You will shop us last.”

Others offering Black Friday deals are Cabot’s Merle Norman Cosmetics with 20 percent off storewide. Owner Camille Stout is putting together gift sets for the holidays to take some of the pressure off when it comes to selecting gifts.

She’s offering a kit of brush essentials, something almost every woman would like to have. She’s also running a special on lip polish and eye makeup kits as well as Hussy gift sets. Visit the store at 924 W. Main St. in Cabot.

Others who are having big markdowns for Black Friday include Crafton’s Furniture and Appliance in Jacksonville and Searcy.

Crafton’s is offering its lowest prices of the year, financing and free local delivery.

Dotty Oliver, proprietor of Oliver’s Antiques on Burman near the Knight’s shopping center in Jacksonville, is offering her own Black Friday deal with 20 to 50 percent off all day on Friday.

“We’re marking our display farm tables down. These large popular tables are great items for this time of the year,” she said.

Mind Over Matter is having a Black Friday special offering two massages for $85.

The salon, run by licensed massage therapists, is at 1011 W. Main in Jacksonville.

In Beebe, Warehouse Furniture, 1700 Dewitt Henry Drive, is having a Black Friday sale with low, low pricing on recliners. Storewide discounts will last until Dec. 31.

Also in Beebe, Sport It! opens its doors from noon to 4 p.m. on Black Friday with special deals on Skechers, muck boots, Max4 and Bottomland pullover jackets. CAV 50 cal. muzzleloaders will go for $199.

Knight’s Super Foods and other grocers are open on Thanksgiving.

Orr Nissan, 3131 E. Beebe- Capps Expressway at Exit 45 in Searcy, has Black Friday bonus cash.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the community,” said Amy Mattison, chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Shopping locally generates sales taxes that help support city services — the police department, fire department, the library and schools.

Small businesses add employment and enhance a community’s overall quality of life.

“Local businesses care about the community. They bring diversity and character. They support adult and youth programs,” Mattison added.

Mattison said if the community doesn’t support their local businesses, they’ll go out of business and that causes a negative impact on the community.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) on Tuesday encouraged Arkansans to shop at their favorite locally owned small businesses this weekend in support of “Small Business Saturday.”

TOP STORY >> Council in Cabot passes ’13 budget

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council met for 15 minutes Monday night and passed the 2013 budget with no discussion since the council’s budget committee had said more than a month ago that they were ready to approve it.

The budget includes $11 million in the general fund, up from the budgeted $10.4 million for 2012. But the entire budget, which includes funds that can only be spent for streets, the library and the senior citizen center, is $13.6 million.

Employees will receive 2 percent pay raises except the new ones or those who have reached the top of their pay scale. Christmas bonuses are $175 this year.

The 2 percent increase will raise Eddie Cook’s salary as director of operations from $54,340 to $55,427 in 2013.

The city’s highest salary goes to the mayor who has said he will not accept the 2 percent raise and will remain at $89,544. Other top paid employees are Police Chief Jackie Davis with a proposed salary for 2013 of $87,596, Fire Chief Phil Robinson with a proposed salary of $80,647 and Public Works Director Brian Boroughs with a proposed salary of $75,264.

The budget includes $92,578 for the city council, $532,007 for the mayor’s office, $225,711 for the city attorney’s office, $375,999 for the clerk’s office,$3 million for fire protection, $3.6 million for police, $288,936 for district court, $464,127 for public works and $295,415 for animal control.

The budget for public works does not include the more than $400,000 a year that is supposed to come in from the state-wide, half-cent sales tax approved this month by state voters.

• The council also voted without discussion to pay up to $100,000 for the old service station and lot adjacent to the city hall parking lot. Mayor Bill Cypert has talked about buying the lot for several months. He says that just tearing down the old station will improve the appearance of the corner at North Second Street and Pine Street, which is important for continuing growth in Cabot.

• The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city clerk to set up a separate bank account for donations to animal control. Currently donations are kept in a safe at animal control, where the former director was fired after money went missing.

The mayor introduced Mike Wheeler as the new animal control director. Wheeler, the former assistant director, will hire someone to fill his old position, the mayor said.

• The mayor also introduced Matthew Hood, the new human resources director.

Hood was the assistant HR director for Sherwood before he came to Cabot.

• Council members will be sworn in at 10 a.m. on Jan. 1 at the council room at the city annex, the mayor announced.

• A special council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 4 to appoint a council member to replace Alderman Patrick Hutton who won the election but is resigning from the council. Dallan Buchanan, who ran against Hutton, will almost certainly be on the list of possible appointees, but sources say his may not the only one.

TOP STORY >> Most schools in area need improvement

Leader staff writer

Arnold Drive Elementary was named one of just five exemplary schools in the state by the Arkansas Department of Education this week.

This is an even bigger honor considering two of the exemplary schools are charter schools.

Arnold Drive was the only school in central Arkansas to be placed in the state’s top category for schools.

Most of the other Pulaski County Special School District and Cabot schools were placed in one of three much lower performing categories: Needs improvement, needs improvement focus or needs improvement priority.

Two schools — Jacksonville High School and Harris Elementary — are in needs improvement priority, the state’s lowest category.

The education department named 563 schools across the state as needing improvement, including 34 area schools.

Along with Arnold Drive, the four other exemplary schools in the state were Kipp Delta Collegiate High School in Helena, Clinton Junior High, Hass Hall Academy and Cotton Plant Elementary.

Twenty-two of the 305 schools in the next best category are local schools.

Cabot schools in the achieving category are Westside Elementary, Southside Elementary, Ward Central Elementary, Cabot Middle School South and Cabot Junior High North.

Other achieving schools included Lonoke Middle School, England High School, Lisa Academy North Elementary, Lisa Academy North Middle School and Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter.

Area PCSSD schools in the achieving category include Clinton Elementary, Oakbrooke Elementary and Sylvan Hills Middle School.

Among the area PCSSD schools listed as needing improvement are Bayou Meto, Cato, Pinewood, Warren Dupree, Tolleson, Sherwood and Sylvan Hills elementary schools, Jacksonville Middle School, Sylvan Hills High School, North Pulaski High and Northwood Middle.

In Cabot, the “needs improvement” schools include Eastside, Central, Northside, Magness Creek and Stagecoach elementary schools; Cabot Junior High South, Cabot Middle School North, Cabot High School and Cabot Learning Academy.

Other area schools needing improvement include Lisa Academy North High School, Jacksonville Lighthouse Middle School, Jacksonville Lighthouse Flightline Academy, Beebe Middle School, Badger Academy, Searcy’s Sidney Deener Elementary School, Searcy High School, Southwest Middle School and England Elementary School.

Also needing improvement are Lonoke Elementary, Lonoke Primary, Lonoke High School, Carlisle Elementary and Carlisle High School.

Needs Improvement Focus Schools are the fourth rung down and include 109 schools across the state and two from the local area: Murrell Taylor Elementary and Cabot’s Academic Center for Excellence.

The lowest category, which is for schools needing the most help or improvement, is needs improvement priority level. Area schools in this category are Jacksonville High School and Harris Elementary.

Overall, 37 schools are in this category and receiving the most oversight from the state.

These classifications re-place former categories under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The categories fall under the state’s new accountability system.

The new system measures student performance on state assessments looking at data in three ways — student achievement, student growth and graduation rates at high schools.

Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, explained Monday that a school that needs improvement is not necessarily a failing school but that it has missed a number of its targets or goals and the staff needs to reevaluate what they are doing.

According to the state Education Department, the system maintains a focus on helping students achieve proficiency in both literacy and math, but also gives credit for improving performance along the way.

Monday, November 19, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot dominates NLR girls

Leader sportswriter

Saturday’s championship game of the Heavenly Hoops Classic featured two of the top teams in the 7A/6A East Conference.

Cabot, the defending class 7A state champion, dominated North Little Rock in the first quarter, and was by far the more aggressive team down the stretch as the Lady Panthers handed the Charging Lady Wildcats their first loss of the season, winning 67-43 at Mount St. Mary Academy.

Cabot forced several North Little Rock turnovers in the opening quarter that led to points at the other end for the Lady Panthers. On the flip side, Cabot committed just two turnovers in the quarter, and by the end of the first the Lady Panthers held a commanding 22-6 lead.

“We had to come out and play like that,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder after the game. “Our kids just played real well, and I’m real proud of them. We didn’t really know what to expect, because we haven’t seen (North Little Rock) enough this year. They’re young and they’re going to get better and better every game, and we know that. So we know that we have to be prepared when we play them.”

The Lady Panthers scored the first four points of the second quarter to push its lead to 20, forcing a NLR timeout. Each team scored after the timeout, but after a three pointer by Cabot senior guard Jaylin Bridges, the Lady Panthers led 31-8 with just over 5 minutes to play in the half.

After Bridges’ three, the Lady Wildcats found some rhythm offensively and outscored the Lady Panthers 12-6 to make the score 37-20 at the break. However, once the third quarter got underway, Cabot regained the upper hand.

It wasn’t a dominant quarter for the Lady Panthers, but Cabot outscored NLR 15-9 in the third to lead 52-29 at the start of the fourth. The Lady Wildcats did all they could to make a run in the final quarter, but Cabot had an answer for almost every NLR basket.

“We just got outworked really,” said NLR coach Daryl Fimple. “They were way more physical. When you’re young, that’s part of the game – that you tend to take a backseat to them a little bit. But heck, they were shooting from 2 feet and making it. We did a horrible job defensively of talking and trying to make adjustments.”

North Little Rock’s youth showed at times in the game, especially in the opening quarter. Due to injuries, freshman guard Kyra Collier had to step in and play the point against Cabot’s relentless defense, a task difficult enough as it is, especially for a freshman.

“Of course when you’re starting a freshman point guard some of that stuff gets kind of rough,” Fimple said. “(Cabot) did a good job of taking the rhythm out of our offense. We just couldn’t make a layup, and they could. They shot a bunch of them and made a bunch of them. I’d like to see how many we actually missed. It was quite a few.”

The Lady Wildcats couldn’t manage to narrow the margin in the final quarter, and with 3:32 to play, Cabot sat four of its starters. Senior guard Ally Van Enk, the last Lady Panther starter on the floor, was pulled with 2:37 on the clock. North Little Rock guard Melissa Bridwell made 2 of 2 free throws with 53 seconds to play to make the score 67-43.

Cabot out-rebounded NLR 25-12 in the game, and won the turnover battle by committing 21 to NLR’s 31. Each team made one three pointer, but the Lady Wildcats were the better team at the free throw line. Cabot made 52 percent of its free throws on 23 attempts, and NLR made 75 percent on 24 attempts.

“We just need to continue to work real hard,” Crowder said about her team moving forward. “We’re working really hard trying to do a good job of blocking out, and we did a pretty good job of doing that most of the game. That’s what we need to keep concentrating on, and playing good fundamental defense.”

Elliot Taylor led Cabot with a game-high 14 points. Alyssa Hamilton scored 12, all in the first half. Van Enk scored 10 points and had five steals. Bridges and Danielle McWilliams had nine points apiece.

Sophomore Malica Monk and senior Jasmin Mays were the only Lady Wildcats to finish in double figures. Mays scored 13 points, and Monk scored 10.

North Little Rock (3-1) played at Central Arkansas Christian yesterday, and will resume play Nov. 27 against Jacksonville at home. Cabot (3-0) played at Conway yesterday and will play its next game against Paragould at Panther Arena on Nov. 27.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke ladies come back on White Hall

Leader sports editor

The Lady Jackrabbits suffered their first loss of the young basketball season in the first round of the Southeast Classic last week, but bounced back and closed with two wins to improve to 3-1 this season. Lonoke lost its opening game 54-41 to Pine Bluff on Tuesday. They came back and won two close games, beating Dumas 45-42 on Thursday, then coming from behind to beat White Hall 42-41 on Saturday.

“I think we did some growing up in this tournament for sure,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “Even in the loss to Pine Bluff there were still some bright spots. They’re probably just better than us right now. In the other two games we showed some signs of growing up. We handled some adversity and found a way to win.”

The two victories came in different ways. Lonoke built a nice lead and had to hang on to beat Dumas. In Saturday’s game, the Lady Jackrabbits trailed 31-24 after three quarters before outscoring White Hall 18-10 in the fourth to get the victory.

Callie Whitfield went 3 of 4 from the three-point line in the fourth quarter to lead the rally. Kerasha Johnson then hit the game-winning free throw with seconds left to earn the victory.

“They were throwing different defenses at us and I thought we handled things ok,” Morris said. “Callie really got us back into things. She got two three pointers off our transition and kicking it back outside. She got another out of our offense.”

Lonoke managed just six points in the third quarter after 6-foot-1 sophomore Eboni Willis got into foul trouble. Willis scored 10 points, including eight in the first half.

“We went to her and she was really effective in the first half,” Morris said. “When she got into foul trouble we had a little trouble figuring out how we wanted to attack and we got a little behind. I was really proud of the girls though. They could have easily, easily just said we’re beat, let’s just finish this one out, learn from it and try to get better. But they didn’t do that. They fought to get back in it and found a way to win.”

Whitfield led Lonoke with 13 points. Johnson and Savannah Holman each added seven.

The Lonoke boys and girls played at Joe T. Robinson on Tuesday after Leader deadlines. It was the season opener for the boys. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. Lonoke’s boys and girls will be back in action on Monday in the Hot Springs High School Invitational.

SPORTS STORY >> NP ladies knock off J.A. Fair

Leader sports staff

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons got their second-consecutive win of the season, beating JA Fair 40-10 Monday night in Little Rock. The Lady Falcons were slow out of the gate, struggling to score out of the half-court sets. Once first-year coach Stacey Dalmut called for pressure, North Pulaski began to dominate the game.

“It took us a little bit to get warmed up,” Dalmut said. “Once we started doing what we do, which is apply a lot of pressure, we started playing pretty well.”

The North Pulaski ladies started the season with a 44-38 loss to Pulaski Robinson, but followed that with a 57-37 win at Des Arc. The second win on Monday already exceeds the Lady Falcons’ win total from a year ago. Three freshmen moved up to join the varsity squad this year, but the other returning players are vastly improved, according to the head coach.

“You would not believe the difference between this year’s team and last year’s,” Dalmut said. “The freshmen help, but all the girls have worked so hard. They worked through the summer and have just worked their tails off. It’s pretty good feeling to see that work pay off with a couple of wins here early.”

Kiarra Evans led North Pulaski on Monday with 14 points while Raigen Thomas added 11.

The North Pulaski girls play again on Tuesday at Malvern, and are off more than two weeks before resuming play with a home game against Lonoke on Dec. 14.

The North Pulaski boys are off to a good start as well, backing up a season-opening win against Pulaski Robinson with a 45-42 victory over J.A. Fair on Saturday at Fair High School.

This year’s early success for the Falcons under second-year coach Roy Jackson is a contrast to North Pulaski’s slow start last season. The non-conference victory over the War Eagles was significant for Jackson and the team for two reasons, playing away and facing a defensively-tough opponent.

“It was a defensive game,” Jackson said. “Fair is a grind-it-out kind of team, their coach likes to play to keep the game in the 40s, and that’s what ended up happening. It was a good test for us to play that style of ball. We may face something like that again later on in conference.

“The kids stepped up really from the second quarter on defensively. In the first half, we had some good looks, but the shots just weren’t falling for us.”

The Falcons started to increase the pressure in the second quarter with a full-court press, taking Fair out of its early comfort zone in which it outscored its visitors 16-10. North Pulaski’s increased defensive pressure helped its offense create more opportunities, and the Falcons came back to lead 23-22 at halftime.

“Our press bothered them a little,” Jackson said. “We got them to turn the ball over some, and that helped a lot for us to be able to come back.”

RaShawn Langston led the Falcons with 17 points while Joe Aikens added eight points, four assists and four rebounds. For Fair, Alante Plant led the way with 12 points.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Jackson said of back-to-back victories to start the year. “Winning the first one is important, but any time you can back that up and go out on the road and win, that’s big. The kids are feeling like they can play with anybody right now, so that confidence goes a long way, especially looking down the road.”

The margin stayed close the rest of the way, with North Pulaski leading 36-34 at the end of three to set the stage for a battle in the final eight minutes.

After a year of adjusting with the coaching change from Ray Cooper, now head coach at Mills University Studies, to Jackson, the Falcons appear early on to be back to their tradition of winning ways.

“It’s a much better start,” Jackson said. “I’m really not comparing teams, because last year was a different situation. We’ve had the opportunity to have a good, full year with spring and summer, it’s made a big difference. Last year, I got the job at the end of the year and everything, so we didn’t have that chance. They know what I expect and I know a lot more about them. They’ve got their feet wet, and they’re out there with a lot more intensity this time.”

SPORTS STORY >> Charging Wildcats close to their goal

Leader sports editor

There are four teams left in class 7A football, and two of the most talented meet Friday night at North Little Rock Stadium. The Charging Wildcats (10-1) host the Fayetteville Bulldogs (8-3) in a game that sends the winner to War Memorial Stadium for the state championship game.

Both teams are loaded with college-level, even SEC-level talent. North Little Rock’s most high-profile player is senior running back Altee Tenpenny, who has verbally committed to Alabama. Fayetteville has two Razorback commitments, senior quarterback Austin Allen and linebacker Brooks Ellis (6-3, 220).

Both teams have several other players who are garnering NCAA Division I attention and could likely sign with major programs on national signing day in April.

“I don’t know if we’ve played anybody as talented as they are,” Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton said of North Little Rock. “In fact, I think I’d have to say they are the most talented team we’ve played.”

North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said almost the same thing about Fayetteville.

“They’re right up there with Longview,” Bolding said of the Bulldogs. “They’re definitely in that category. I don’t get too caught up in players on teams. We have a lot of respect for Fayetteville, but our focus is how we execute.”

Fayetteville’s three losses have come against some of the top teams in three different states. The Bulldogs started the season 0-2 after losses to Memphis University School and 10-time Missouri state champion Jefferson City. They reeled off seven straight wins before closing the regular season with a 24-17 loss to Bentonville. The Purple Dogs have averaged 34.8 points per game while giving up 19.9. The defensive number is somewhat skewered by the 91 points given up in the first two games. Since then, Fayetteville has allowed just 14.4 points per game.

North Little Rock averaged 38.8 points per game and has given up just 10.1 points per game. Even that number is high for what the varsity defense has actually allowed. The two high-games against the Wildcats this year was Longview’s 30 and Jonesboro’s 20. Longview scored two touchdowns on short fields after turnovers. The Wildcats also spotted Jonesboro a two-touchdown lead in the first three minutes after fumbling twice inside its own 20-yard line. Pine Bluff, Searcy and LR Central all scored late touchdowns against the junior varsity defense.

The Bulldogs will present some looks that North Little Rock hasn’t seen much this year. Unlike most of the teams on the Charging Wildcats’ schedule, Fayetteville looks to establish the passing game first, then come with the running game. Still, the Bulldogs have a pretty balanced attack.

“We want to establish the pass and let Austin Allen do what he does,” Patton said. “He’s really good. This is no disrespect to North Little Rock or anybody they’ve played, but they’ve not seen a quarterback as good as Austin Allen. On the flip side, we’ve not seen a running back as good as Tenpenny or Juan Day. They’re going to want to run the ball on us, win the battle in the trenches, control the clock and keep our offense off the field. So it’s going to come down to who wins that battle in the trenches.”

Bolding agrees with that assessment.

“It always goes back to winning in the trenches,” Bolding said. “The game is going to be won at the line of scrimmage. I think with us able to keep running different backs at people, just keep bringing different guys at you, we’ve been able to wear teams down. We just have to execute at the line like we’re capable of doing. Those Fayetteville kids have some pretty good size themselves, so no doubt it’s going to be a bigger challenge.”

Tenpenny has 1,328 rushing yards this season and averages 7.6 yards per carry. Day, who missed two games with a concussion, has 892 yards on 101 carries. That’s an average of 8.8 yards per carry. Rodney Bryson, who lines up at receiver almost as much as running back, has carried 69 times for 524 yards for an average of 7.6.

North Little Rock tries to be a balanced attack as well, averaging about 130 yards passing per game, but Patton is focused on stopping the run.

“I don’t know if you can stop them,” Patton said. “Nobody has all year. Tenpenny, Day and Bryson are all fantastic athletes and they can all score on you at any time. We have to play good gap control and tackle well. And we can’t let the passing game get involved. That just opens things up even more for them and they have some dangerous receivers as well.”

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle trying to get back to semis

Leader sportswriter

With last week’s 37-20 second round playoff win over East Poinsett County on the road, the Carlisle Bison return to Fred C. Hardke Field on Friday for a class 2A quarterfinal matchup with Mineral Springs.

The Hornets have won big over the last month, and have gotten better each week. Since losing to 2A-7 Conference foe Murfreesboro in week seven of the regular season, Mineral Springs has won five straight as its offense has averaged 52 points per game during the stretch.

Mineral Springs’ defense has given up only 14 points over the past five weeks. Last week, the Hornets, the No. 3 seed from its conference, eliminated Poyen with a 48-8 win. In the opening round of the playoffs, Mineral Springs beat 2A-6 Conference member England 54-6. The same England team Carlisle beat 30-14 the week before.

“They’re real athletic,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire about this week’s opponent. “They have an athletic quarterback, and they have some athletic big boys at the skill positions. They have a senior running back that’s rushed for over 5,000 yards (career) in Rashad Williams. So they definitely have some good athletes down there and they’re big up front.”

Carlisle’s defense will have to prepare to stop Mineral Springs’ spread offense, but fortunately for the Bison, they got a head start as far as preparation goes last week as they faced East Poinsett County’s spread attack. Although Carlisle is facing a different team, in many ways the Bison will have the same approach in practice this week.

“They have all the things you want if you’re on their side,” Waymire said of the Hornets. “They’re going to spread the ball out and the offense kind of runs through the Williams kid and their quarterback (Kendrick Langston). Both of those guys have real good hands, and you have to stop those guys. There are a lot of similarities to what we faced with EPC.”

Waymire went on to say the biggest thing for his team this week will be to eliminate big plays. Against England, the Hornets broke loose for several big plays. Williams ran for 147 yards against the Lions and senior wide receiver Evante Evans made plays on both sides of the ball.

Evans caught a 54-yard touchdown pass, ran 9 yards for a touchdown, and returned an interception 70 yards for a score. Other than giving up big plays on offense, the Bison will need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, which has been a key factor to Carlisle’s success this season and in year’s past.

The Bison defensive front will have its hands full this week as Mineral Springs’ two starting tackles are listed at 6-foot-2, and weigh around 315 pounds. Senior Derrick Muldrow, who has a 530-pound squat, anchors the right side, and junior Ju’marcus Lacy controls the blind side.

Carlisle’s offense was more run-heavy last week at EPC, and junior Deron Ricks’ physical style of running wore down the Warrior defense in the second half. Ricks had the majority of Carlisle’s 288 yards of offense with 180 yards rushing and one touchdown on 17 carries.

Justice Bryant was also a big-time contributor in the backfield as he rushed 15 times for 79 yards and two scores. The Hornets run a 4-3 on defense, with Muldrow and Lacy starting at the two defensive tackle positions.

Both are returning starters at the position, and last season Muldrow led the Hornets with 113 tackles with 29 of those being for loss, and was named the Southwest Arkansas Defensive Player of the Year by the Texarkana Gazette.

Carlisle (10-1) and Mineral Springs (9-3) have gotten healthy at the right time as well. Williams was banged up a few weeks ago, but is back at full strength for the Hornets, and Carlisle’s starting center Christian Cotton returned to the line last week after sitting out the first round opener against Mount Ida with a shoulder injury.

“This time of year if you’re ever fortunate enough to play past Thanksgiving, it’s supposed to get difficult,” Waymire said. “A lot of things right now are based on breaks, based on health. And if you can stay healthy and your kids still enjoy playing this time of year, and want to keep fighting and playing, then good things happen.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the winner of Friday’s game will play the Bearden/Magnet Cove winner in the semifinals.