Friday, June 06, 2014

TOP STORY >> Girl survives as tree falls on bed

Leader staff writer

Winds hitting at least 75 miles an hour rushed through the Sherwood-Jacksonville-Cabot area Friday afternoon dropped a massive tree on a the corner bedroom of a house at 405 Graham.

Penny Balogh’s 12-year-old daughter, Becca, was in the corner bedroom of the house when the tree came tumbling down literally cutting the house in half. It scared her, but she was not injured.

The girl, who was lying in bed when the tree fell, said, “I was very terrified. The lights went out. About 10 seconds later, I felt debris falling in.”

A number of friends and family members responded quickly to help the family salvage what they could from the damaged part of the house.

The same straight-line whoosh of wind dropped a tree at the edge of The Leader’s parking lot. It fell on an employee’s car, causing severe damage.

A 36-year-old woman in Jacksonville was hit by lightning from the same thunderstorm cell that brought the high winds and about three-fourths of an inch.

She was touching an air conditioning unit at Pathfinders on West Main when lightning hit, traveled through the unit and into her. She was reportedly in stable condition at North Metro Friday afternoon.

The thunderstorm darkened homes and businesses throughout the area, especially in Sherwood and McAlmont. Numerous power lines were reported downed from Sherwood to Cabot and in Lonoke.

In Jacksonville — along Main Street — McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Knight’s Super Foods were among many business shut down most of Friday afternoon.

Knight’s in Beebe also had to close because off a power outage caused by the storm.

Interim police chief Kenny Boyd said the winds were rough. “We were lucky. Damage seems to be minimal for the amount of winds I saw,” he said.

Jeff Hood with the National Weather Service said 75 mph winds were recorded at Little Rock Air Force Base.

“That wind was nothing to play with,” he said. Hood said the weather service got reports that the high winds blew out the windows at Russell Honda in Sherwood.

The storm threw a number of Pulaski County Special School District computers offline, forcing many teachers to delay the start of their summer vacation until sometime Monday.

As of 3:30 p.m., First Electric Cooperative crews were working to restore power to approximately 6,400 members after severe weather moved through the co-op’s service areas Friday afternoon. Approximately 4,200 of those members were in Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties.

Entergy and North Little Rock were reporting about 1,750 customers without power in Sherwood and McAlmont. Another 600 Entergy customers were in the dark in Jacksonville.

At its peak, First Electric had 7,600 customers without power

At 5 p.m., approximately 5,480 members were still without power.

The weather service is calling for “unsettled weather conditions” to continue through the weekend and into the first part of next week. The forecast calls for upper level impulses to track southeast and interact with the stalled front hanging over the state that produced scattered showers and thunderstorms, many strong and severe, through Wednesday.

TOP STORY >> Liquor laws may change in Arkansas

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville and Sherwood may not need their wet-dry petition signatures if a constitutional amendment to make the entire state wet splashes onto the November ballot and passes.

The Jacksonville and Sherwood chambers of commerce support the statewide effort that would expand alcohol sales to every county and negate the need for their own petition for a local-option election. But supporters aren’t counting on the amendment.

Chamber officials from both cities have hired Impact Management Group of Little Rock to spearhead the campaign for the local-option election signatures.

The local-option petition would allow residents of defunct townships in the area to vote on whether half of Sherwood and most of Jacksonville remain dry or go wet — allowing alcohol sales without private-club licenses.

Proponents of the proposed amendment include a Little Rock lawyer, a former Walmart executive and the Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants while Walmart, Kum and Go and other retailers are funding the initiative, Arkansas Business reported.

A little more than 78,000 signatures — 15 percent of the state’s registered voters — are needed by July 7. The proposal specifies that the amendment would make only prohibition unlawful. It allows for regulation.

Jacksonville chamber director Amy Mattison said she has heard that signature collectors are focusing on dry counties with large populations like Faulkner rather than wet counties like Pulaski. But, she has seen them in several Walmart stores, Mattison added.

Michael Langley, director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, said — if the proposal reaches the ballot and is approved by voters — it would go into effect on July 1, 2015.

If the initiative were successful, that would mean another 220 liquor-store permits and 800 or more permits for off-premise beer sales statewide, Langley explained.
He said the ABC is not taking a position on the ballot proposal but, “If it’s the will of the people, we will do whatever we can to implement the will of the people.”

Sherwood Economic Development Director Barry Sellers said the city is not opposed to the amendment, but they aren’t going to count on it either.

He said Sherwood has gathered about 1,000 of the 4,200 signatures needed for a local-option election.

If voters do choose to repeal the dry status, that could mean full-service restaurants and grocery and convenience stores selling beer, adding $10 million to Sherwood’s economy and $450,000 to Jacksonville’s economy.

About enlisting Impact Management Group in the effort, Sellers noted, “This way we’ll have people on the ground everyday” instead of just volunteers on the weekends.

Signatures are being collected door-to-door and at the Mapco gas station on Hwy. 107.

Jacksonville must gather 4,400 signatures. Proponents have 1,999 so far, chamber director Amy Mattison said.

About the statewide ballot proposal, she added, “I think it’s a great initiative. Either way we’re going to go wet.”

Mattison also said partnering with Sherwood on the affordable contract with Impact Management Group would fill a void left by grassroots volunteers who can’t gather signatures on a full-time basis.

Robert Coon with the firm said he hopes to have the necessary signatures for both cities by early or mid-August so the issue can be voted on during the November election. A special election could be held if that deadline is not met, he noted.

About the statewide ballot proposal, Coon agreed with Sellers and Mattison. “Obviously, if it solves the economic development issues in Jacksonville and Sherwood, that would be great.”

But, he said, “We’re not necessarily putting all our eggs in that basket.”

Coon continued, “Generally speaking, I think things are going well…We’ve got a game plan put together.”

Impact Management Group was hired just a few weeks ago, he said.

Coon explained that, although volunteers have worked hard and the campaign has a social media presence already, the firm wants to increase that presence and canvas neighborhoods in a methodical way.

“Getting in front of that voter is always the challenge,” he added.

TOP STORY >> D-Day 70th anniversary

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Honor. Valor. Bravery. D-Day evokes images of men storming the beaches and paratroopers piercing the skies. Without the efforts made by allied air forces, D-Day would not have been possible.

On June 6, 1944, several squadrons that would later be assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base participated in one of the most significant operations of the Second World War. With approximately 13-18 C-47 aircraft per squadron, the 314th Troop Carrier Group had a significant role in D-Day’s success.

Under the watchful eye of the 314th TCG, the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron, 32nd TCS, 50th TCS, and 62nd TCS, all contributed to the success of the invasion of Normandy. The squadrons carried out more than 100 sorties between them, distinguishing their organization through extraordinary heroism and determination.

The day the entire world had been anticipating for four long years had finally come. This would be the first phase of one of the greatest military operations of World War II.

The history of these Team Little Rock units is a reminder of a rich heritage and a reminder also that history is made every day.

Each squadron played a significant role in the success of D-Day. Their actions are recorded by World War II veterans and the squadrons at LRAFB who strive to keep the heritage strong.

Although the mission was completed, it was done at a steep cost. Many men died and aircraft were shot down or damaged and rendered unflyable.

According to a citation written to the 314th Tactical Carrier Group, the pilots and paratroopers all risked their lives at Normandy.

“The troop-carrier planes moved thousands of Allied troops over the beaches of Normandy, ensuring the Allies had as many men and advantages as possible during the significant battle. While the squadrons from the 314th TCG were accomplishing their mission, they did it selflessly while unarmed and unarmored, flying at minimum altitudes and air speeds over water and into the face of the enemy,” the citation reads.

61st TCS

D-Day and the preparation necessary for the invasion gave the 61st Tactical Carrier Squadron the opportunity to utilize the training they had received since arriving in the United Kingdom.

Changes in the daily operations included using black-and-white stripes as additional identification on all the aircraft, which gave the members of the 61st TCS the nervous anticipation of involvement in the event.

On June 5, 1944, the aircraft departed, carrying many paratroopers ready to open the western front. At 4:45 a.m., the 61st TCS planes dotted the dark sky.

After the successful drop of paratroopers, 17 aircraft assigned to the 61st returned with minimal damage to aircraft and no injury to any combat personnel.

Only one aircraft was severely damaged, and it was flown to England, where repairs were made.

The 61st Airlift Squadron at LRAFB is the 61st TCS’s successor. The Green Hornets are now a 19th Airlift Wing unit and transitioning from the C-130H to C-130J aircraft.

50th TCS

D-Day found the 50th TCS trained and ready. Many of the pilots and crew were veterans of the campaign in Italy. The operation began, as all similar operations do, with a restriction; passes were revoked, visitors kept away and outside phone calls were diverted.

The crews of the 50th TCS were given a preliminary briefing on the night of June 3, 1944, but weather prevented the team from taking action.

Knowing that every hour wasted was one hour of opportunity for German forces to get closer to the Allied forces at the demilitarized zone, leadership began to express deep concern and anxiety over the mission to follow.

Finally, after much anticipation, 18 of the 50th TCS’s C-47s took off for France carrying men and equipment from the 82nd Airborne Division. As the paratroopers came closer to the drop zone, they grew increasingly quiet. Each paratrooper jumped out of the back of the C-47, hoping and praying that they would not become susceptible to the bullet-riddled sky.

Only one fatality occurred during the late hours of the night. First Lt. Sidney Dunagan was fatally wounded from a shot through his chest while running a second pass over the drop zone to drop off the remaining paratroopers.

The 50th Airlift Squadron is the 50th TCS’s successor. The Red Devils are now a 19th AW unit that employs the mighty C-130H3.

62nd TCS

June found the 62nd TCS anxiously awaiting their role on D-Day. The 62nd TCS supplied 18 aircraft with crew members, 44 officers and 36 enlisted men for the mission, dropping paratroopers on the Cherbourg Peninsula in the early morning hours of June 6.

After the drop, only 16 aircraft returned to the base. One aircraft, piloted by Capt. Charles Cartwright, did not return, and it was last reported by pilots of the same element making a second pass over the drop zone.

The other aircraft were damaged during flight and made emergency landings at Keevil, England. First Lt. Glemm Grimes and 1st Lt. David Mondt, the pilots of the damaged aircraft, suffered head wounds from enemy machine gunfire.

The 62nd Airlift Squadron is the 62nd TCS’s successor. The Blue Barons are now a 314th Airlift Wing unit with the C-130H2.

32nd TCS

The 32nd TCS had only six planes for the first mission to France with only six crews to participate in what is often referred to as history’s greatest military undertaking.

The troops of the 32nd TCS had many questions. The crew members and participants did not know how long the flight would be, whether the mission would be during the night or during the day, where the drop zone was or how long they would be over land.

During the briefing just hours before the mission, their questions were answered. As the aircraft from the 32nd TCS flew over the water, they could see all the reassuring lights from the Navy vessels at sea.

After jumping, paratroopers recalled seeing parachutes all around them in fields of orange, green, red and white. One crew member recalled that, while he saw all the parachutes, he did not notice any people moving and it all seemed unreal.

No paratroopers were shot while leaving the aircraft and the bundles unloaded by the crew chiefs reached the ground safely, providing much needed supplies for troops on the ground.

The 32nd was deactivated Nov. 1, 2005, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

More than 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy during the invasion. By the end of June 11, 1944, approximately 326,000 troops, 54,000 vehicles, and 104,000 tons of supplies had successfully entered France.

According to the D-Day Memorial Foundation, the Allied forces lost 4,413 troops on D-Day alone. Over the course of the Battle of Normandy, the Allies would eventually suffer more than 209,000 casualties.

While the battle took its toll on the 314th TCG and many other forces, numerous instances of individual heroism and collective efforts of the group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for the second time.

Before the invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent a message to the troops:

“You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven the many months. The eyes of the world are upon you,” he said. “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened; he will fight savagely….I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

With the help of forces like the 314th TCG, full victory was what the Allies got. The 314th TCG helped the Allies seize a valuable piece of French territory, providing a turning point in the war.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Red vanquishes two foes

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Red junior American Legion team won three-straight home games this week. On Tuesday, the Centennial Bank team got a mercy-rule win over Jacksonville by hammering the Gwatney Chevrolet juniors 13-3 in five innings, and on Thursday, Cabot beat the Sylvan Hills juniors in a doubleheader. Cabot narrowly won the first game 8-7, but won the second 10-4.

Cabot jumped on Jacksonville (3-3) early in Tuesday’s game at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Field. The Red Centennial Bank team scored four runs in the first inning of that game, and pushed its lead to 9-3 by the end of the fourth inning.

Michael Shepherd, who pitched all five innings for Cabot, kept Jacksonville off the board in the top of the fifth, and the Red Centennial Bank team put the game away inthe bottom part of the inning.

A stand-up double by Jacob Davis started things off for the Red team. Eugene Germer entered the game as Davis’ courtesy runner, and he advanced to second base on a ground ball by Nicholas Belden.

Michael Harvard grounded out the following at-bat for the second out of the inning, but the contact put Germer at third base. Blake McCutchen walked the next at-bat, and with runners at the corners, McCutchen stole second base.

The Jacksonville catcher tried to catch McCutchen stealing, but the throw wasn’t in time, and Germer scored from third base on the throw to second, making it 10-3 in Cabot’s favor.

Brandon Jarnagin walked the following at-bat, and leadoff hitter Denver Mullins also walked after Jarnagin, which loaded the bases.

That brought Easton Seidl to the plate, and Seidl ended the game with a bases clearing, stand-up double to deep left-center field, which made it 13-3 Cabot and ended the game because of the 10-run lead after five innings sportsmanship rule.

“That was only our second game,” said Cabot Red coach Justin Moore of Tuesday’s game. “Our first game was Sunday. We didn’t swing it very well in that game, but we were using wooden bats. It was a wood-bat tournament, and (Tuesday) I felt like we could come out swinging it well.

“We wanted to get that game (Sunday) out of our system, and start putting the bat on the ball. We did that well early. Our pitcher (Shepherd) came out. He was a little shaky early, but he got out of it. He battled.

“From the fourth inning on, our pitcher started dominating – throwing that little sinker down, down, down; and he kept them off balance and did a great job for us.”

Shepherd earned the win by giving up just two hits and two walks in the five innings of work. He also recorded three strikeouts.

Davis led Cabot at the plate against Jacksonville. He was 2 for 2 with three RBIs. Mullins, Jarnagin, Seidl and Bobby Joe Duncan had one hit apiece for Cabot. Seidl also had three RBIs.

Brandon Hickingbotham and Tyler Montgomery had Jacksonville’s two hits Tuesday.

Thursday’s game-one win over Sylvan Hills didn’t come easy. Cabot trailed 7-6 going into the sixth inning, but Germer, who got the win on the mound in that game, kept the Bruins off the board for the second-straight inning, and the Red team set the final score its next at-bat.

Germer reached base on an E4 to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and Shepherd followed Germer’s at-bat with a single to left field. Cabot’s leadoff and two-hole hitter flew out during their at-bats, which brought Mullins to the plate with two outs.

Mullins gave Cabot the lead for good with a stand-up triple to deep center field, which allowed Germer and Shepherd to score with ease and make it 8-7 Centennial Bank. Germer kept Sylvan Hills off the board once again in the top of the seventh to give Cabot the hard-fought win.

Germer was the third Cabot pitcher to take the mound in that game. He entered the game with two outs in the top of the fourth and his team trailing 7-6. He walked one batter in his three and one-third innings of work, but gave up no runs and no hits and recorded four strikeouts.

“He was the player of the day today,” Moore said of Germer. “He came in and shut the door in the first game, and got on base in that sixth inning when we scored and took the lead. He came in there and shut them down.”

Cabot didn’t have near as much trouble with the Bruins in game two. The Red Centennial Bank squad scored the first three runs of the game. Sylvan Hills cut its deficit to 3-2 with two runs scored in the top of the third, but Cabot answered with seven runs scored in the bottom part of the inning to lead 10-2 and all but put the game out of the Bruins’ reach.

Sylvan Hills added two more runs in the top of the fourth, but after its at-bat, the game was called because the one hour, 30 minute time limit had expired.

Cabot combined to outhit Sylvan Hills 21-8 in the two games played. Davis led the way offensively. He was 4 for 5 on the day. Mullins and Seidl each finished the day 3 for 5. All of Seidl’s hits went for extra bases. He hit a two-run home run to left center in the first game, and had a double in each game – finishing the two games with four RBIs total.

Joey Bond was the only Bruin with multiple hits Thursday. He was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.

The Cabot Red team (3-2-1) plays at home again today against Hot Springs Lakeside at 3 p.m. The Sylvan Hills juniors (0-2) also play again today in a home doubleheader against Pine Bluff. The first part of their twin bill at the Sherwood Sports Complex starts at 4 p.m., and the second game will follow at 6 o’clock.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe earns its first win

Leader sports editor

The Beebe junior American Legion team got its first win of the season in the first round of the Jacksonville Junior Invitational on Thursday at Dupree Park. Beebe beat the Searcy Silverbacks 10-8 after falling behind 8-0 in the first two innings.

Searcy scored five runs in the opening inning and added three more in the second while Beebe was held to a solitary infield single through that period, but that all changed in the third when the Badgers scored all 10 runs.

Beebe coach Michael Lawrence was proud of his team’s perseverance in getting that first win.

“We’re a very young team,” said Lawrence. “We’ve only had two practices. We played in that North Little Rock tournament over the holiday weekend and didn’t have much success, although I think we did improve. For them to hang in there and get this win after that bad start, it really shows some character.”

The bottom of the third inning started with Blaine Burge drawing a walk and Dawson Burge singling to left field to put runners on the corners. During Jake Majors’ at bat, Searcy pitcher Josh Allender balked when Dawson Burge took off to steal second, scoring Blaine Burge from third.

That prompted a pitching change by Searcy and it all fell apart for the Silverbacks from there.

The new pitcher walked the next three batters in a row on just 14 pitches, with Chase Underwood’s walk driving in Dawson Burge for Beebe’s second run.

After a strikeout, Quint Roberson walked to score Majors. Ty Searcy then laid down a perfect bunt along the first baseline that scored Alec Matlock and left everyone safe.

Leadoff hitter Tyler Woodall then walked to score Underwood and prompt another pitching change. Blaine Burge singled to left field in his second at-bat of the inning to score Roberson. Dawson Burge was hit by a pitch to score Searcy. Jake Majors hit a routine grounder to second base that went through the fielder’s legs, allowing Woodall to score. Matlock walked to score Blaine Burge and Dawson Burge scored from third on a wild pitch to finish the wild-scoring inning. Underwood popped up to first base and Ethan Hicks struck out to end the frame.

Hicks, who took the mound with one out in the first inning, inheriting a 5-0 deficit and two base runners, got back-to-back outs to end the third, but struggled with control in the second. He walked two, hit one and gave up a single in the second inning as Searcy built its 8-0 lead.

But Hicks regained his control and held Searcy scoreless over the next three innings to get the win.

Beebe, 1-4, is scheduled to play Conway at 6:30 p.m. today at Dupree Park in the tournament’s third round.

SPORTS STORY >> New JHS coach is coming full circle

Leader sports editor

New Jacksonville football coach Barry Hickingbotham met with players and coaches for the first time on Friday, getting started on the tenure he said he’s been aiming for since getting into coaching in 2002.

“I can remember sitting in the coaches’ office at what’s the middle school now, sitting with coach Eugene Stuckey my first year in 2002, talking about becoming the head football coach at Jacksonville Junior High and eventually the high school as well,” said Hickingbotham. “It’s very exciting and very humbling to get the job you’ve dreamed about.”

Hickingbotham is as deeply rooted in Jacksonville as any candidate could be. He graduated JHS in 1987 as a standout athlete in football and baseball, and was a key clog in one of the most successful and sustained runs in JHS and Jacksonville American Legion baseball history.

He spent the first 10 years of his coaching career in Jacksonville before spending last season at Atkins as offensive coordinator. The homecoming and the welcome he’s received in coming back this week moved him.

“You always hope things will come full circle,” Hickingbotham said. “Coach Russell and I have talked about me taking over for him anyways. I never really expected to be back this quick, but I’m glad I am. Being in Atkins this week taking care of some things and driving back into town, and seeing “welcome home Barry,” on the Bart Gray Realty sign, that’s when you know you’re home. The support and the encouragement I’ve received from this community has been overwhelming. The many phone calls I’ve received, the congratulations. You just get the feeling, the sense that the community is ready to get behind you and be a part of this thing again. It’s come from all directions and that’s very humbling, and very motivating.”

Hickingbotham needs to be motivated because he has lofty goals, but he knows they will take time to achieve.

“I want to make the team a part of the community like it used to be,” Hickingbotham said. “Spending a year in Atkins you get to see what that’s like. You walk into the donut shop and people are asking you, ‘you going to win tonight coach?’ Everybody’s there on a Friday night. I want to fill Jan Crow Stadium up like it was in the early 80s.

“We’re going to hit the hallways and find the players that need to be out there, get the numbers back up there. One of the things I want to get out of talking to the team is to find out who some of the players are that aren’t here, and then take steps to get them here.

“We’re going to get involved in the elementary schools, going to work on our kids being seen. We’re going to try get community pep rallies and tie in something with the Red-White game. There is a vision, and I am going to do my best and work my hardest to see that vision fulfilled.”

The past couple of years have been ones of uncertainty among the coaching staff and that seems to have taken a toll on participation. Two members of the coaching staff stepped away from football in 2012 and Hickingbotham left for Atkins last year. Some confusion concerning the proper role of volunteer coaches shook up the staff last season as well. Then, the resignation of head coach Rick Russell in early May left no one to run spring practice as the man in charge.

Assistant coach Adam Thrash and athletic director Jerry Wilson oversaw some workouts and offensive practices, but numbers were in the high 30s, the lowest Jacksonville has seen in many years.

“It’s going to take time and energy and focus, but I believe a lot can be achieved here,” Hickingbotham said. “We’ve got about a two-week period before the dead period to shore up all the loose ends and get all the uncertainty issues worked out. Come July 6, we want to be able to bring the kids in here and give them a clear idea of what we want to do and how we want to accomplish it. That’s when we’re going to get down to business and start trying to lay the foundation.”

SPORTS STORY >> Huge third lifts Cabot past rival

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot senior American Legion team put together a seven run two-out rally in the third inning Tuesday against the Gwatney Chevrolet seniors of Jacksonville, and the Centennial Bank squad was able to hold on late to beat the Chevy Boys 10-9 at the Cabot High School Baseball Complex.

There was plenty of offense on both sides in the first three innings of play as 18 of the game’s 19 total runs scored came in that time. Jacksonville led 4-3 after the first inning, and pushed that lead to 7-3 by the end of the second.

Jacksonville upped its lead to 8-3 in the top of the third with a stand-up RBI double by leadoff hitter Courtland McDonald that sailed to the fence in center field. Deaundray Harris scored from third base on the play after walking the previous at-bat and advancing all the way to third on an errant pickoff move at first base.

Cabot, though, was able to take advantage of Jacksonville’s failures to find the strike zone in the bottom part of the inning. Gwatney starting pitcher Derek St. Clair issued two-straight walks to start the inning.

He struck out the next batter he faced, but Dylan Bowers walked the next at-bat to load the bases. Lee Sullivan lined out following Bowers’ walk for the second out of the inning, but leadoff hitter Conner Vocque walked after Sullivan’s lineout, which allowed Landon James to score Cabot’s fourth run of the game.

Things went downhill from that point on for Jacksonville. After Vocque’s RBI walk, Ryan Logan hit a bases-clearing triple to right field that got past the Gwatney right fielder and allowed him to go into third base standing up.

Logan’s three-RBI hit cut Jacksonville’s lead to 8-7, and Kason Kimbrell tied it up at 8-8 the next at-bat with a single up the middle of the diamond. Cleanup hitter Tristan Bulice was plunked by St. Clair following Kimbrell’s hit, putting runners at first and second for the Centennial Bank squad.

That brought Landon James back around the order after he led off the inning with a walk, and he gave Cabot its 10-8 lead after hitting a stand-up double to right-center field, which drove in Kimbrell and Bulice.

“Landon James made some good plays at the plate,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross of his team’s third-inning rally. “He got that double and Ryan Logan hit a triple that unloaded the bases, and it worked out.

“The thing with these boys right now is they’re relaxed. Sometimes they can be too relaxed, but I don’t think they ever really gave up. They knew they could hit the ball and they knew they could manufacture some runs, but I definitely think we can improve.

“They (Jacksonville) definitely outhit us. They were hitting the ball really hard.”

Cabot actually outhit Jacksonville 10-8, but the Gwatney seniors only had four strikeouts total for the game and reached base on two of Cabot’s four errors and had several hard-hit balls that were right at Cabot fielders.

Cabot’s lineup struck out seven times total in the game, but reached base on eight walks issued by Jacksonville. The score remained 10-8 till the top of the fifth, when the Chevy Boys cut their deficit to one while setting the final score in the process.

Harris singled down the third baseline to start things off in the fifth for the visitors. Ryan Mallison walked two batters later, and Harris and Mallison advanced to third and second base on a double steal.

With two outs, three-hole hitter Greg Jones walked the following at-bat to load the bases, and cleanup hitter Blake Perry walked as well to score Harris and give Perry his fourth RBI of the night.

Cabot got out of the jam by striking out the next batter faced, but Jacksonville gave the Centennial Bank team another scare in the top of the seventh.

The Chevy Boys had runners at the corners with two outs in the inning, but Logan, who came in to relieve Sullivan on the mound in the seventh, got the next out with his first strikeout of the game, and therefore, earned the save on the hill as a result.

Kimbrell officially got the win on the mound for Cabot. He came in to relieve Gavin Tillery in the third inning, which helped stymie Jacksonville’s production at the plate. Kimbrell was Cabot’s third pitcher to throw at that point, and Logan was Cabot’s fifth pitcher of the game.

Logan, Kimbrell and Grayson Cole led Cabot with two hits each. Logan’s three RBIs led the team in that category.

Harris, Perry and Mallison led Jacksonville with two hits apiece. Perry’s four RBIs was a game-high.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Badger fans get glimpse of team

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badger football team showed its largest numbers in the John Shannon era Friday at the annual Red-White spring scrimmage at “Bro” Erwin Stadium.

Beebe took to its turf Friday with 64 players that were divided evenly between varsity and junior varsity players – one team sporting black jerseys and the other wearing white jerseys – which in turn, led to a physical and competitive scrimmage.

With the even mix between the varsity and junior varsity players, there were early miscues on the offensive side of the ball for both teams, but regardless of those offensive miscues, each defensive unit showed promise that was noticeable from the start.

“We mixed up our JV guys with our varsity guys, so we knew it was going to be a little bit sloppy because our JV guys are a little bit behind, especially with the formations and some of the plays,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “They’re not as far along as our varsity guys.

“But overall, I was happy with the effort. I think that’s the most physical our defense has been this time of year in a long time around here, so we’re excited about that. We scrimmaged last week with our ones against the ones and it was real physical all week.

“We’ve got I think 64 kids on the team, the most we’ve ever had, and we’re excited about the future around here. We just hope that we can stay healthy. That’s going to be abig key, and improving each and every day.”

Even though both teams played solid defense at times throughout the scrimmage, there were plenty of offensive bright spots that came as the scrimmage progressed. Senior Aaron Nunez is back at the quarterback position after missing the majority of last season with an ACL tear. Friday’s scrimmage was the first real test to see how Nunez would react in a competitive game-type of setting since his surgery, and his play on the field drew plenty of praise from his head coach.

“I was pleased with Nunez,” Shannon said. “Nunez is coming off that knee surgery. This was really his first experience on it. He didn’t show any hesitation or anything like he was worried about it. He got in there and he ran the option extremely well.”

There was one play in particular that showed Shannon that Nunez is back at full strength. Augusta transfer Jo’Vaughn Wyrick took an option pitch from Nunez 60 yards down the home sideline for a touchdown – a run that was the result of Nunez’s patience, as he waited till he drew the last defender to him before he pitched the ball, and he took a big hit as a result, but got up without any problems.

“The one long run JoJo (Wyrick) had, Nunez stood in there till the last moment and pitched it and took a big hit, but that’s what we’ve got to have,” Shannon said. “It made me feel good about him, because I know now that he’s not worried about it.”

Wyrick, a junior, showed plenty of promise as a skill player. He made several plays on offense and did so from different spots. Wyrick lined up at running back and receiver, and Shannon said he may end up playing defense as well.

“He’s one of the fastest kids we’ve got on the team,” Shannon said of Wyrick. “He looked good running the ball. He caught the ball extremely well, and he’s still learning, too. Everything’s still new to him, and we think he’s going to help on offense or defense or maybe both.

“It depends on how good of a condition he gets in this summer, but he’s definitely good enough to help us on both sides of the ball.”

Another skill guy returning for Beebe is their leading rusher from a year ago, junior running back Tripp Smith. Smith had a stellar sophomore debut last year, as he became one of just three backs in the state to rush for 2,000 yards during the season.

He had several solid runs inside Friday, thanks in part to the blocking up front that opened up several holes for him and the rest of the Badger backs, but he showed his ability and speed on a 50-yard touchdown scamper on a run outside the left tackle.

“I thought Tripp ran the ball extremely hard inside and off tackle, which is what we like to do,” Shannon said.

The annual scrimmage marked the end of spring football for the Badgers, but they’ll have an active summer with summer workouts, 7-on-7 activities and team camps.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears scrimmage for school

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Bears just missed the rain at their annual Blue/White spring football scrimmage Friday afternoon at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood, and head coach Jim Withrow said his players were excited to get to showcase their play in front of their fellow students, who were let out of classes early to watch the scrimmage.

“We let the kids out and we scrimmaged in front of the school, and it was something they all looked forward to,” said Withrow. “Being that way, sometimes you can get a little too excited and make a few mistakes here or there. But, you know, for the most part it was a pretty good deal.”

The Blue and White teams were split evenly between varsity and junior varsity players in order to make for a more competitive scrimmage.

As Withrow said, because of the level of excitement his players had by playing in front of their fellow students yet again, along with the mix of varsity and JV players on each team, it led to some miscues early on both sides of the ball. But as the scrimmage progressed, the teams were able to get in a groove and made some solid plays on both offense and defense.

Sylvan Hills’ top offensive weapons are back from last year’s 7-4 playoff team. Senior quarterback Tra Doss showed in the scrimmage why he was an All-State player at the position a year ago, and fellow seniors Marlon Clemons, the team’s top running back, and wide receiver Nathan Thomas produced as usual – all for the White team.

“Our older guys, Tra Doss, Marlon Clemons, Nathan Thomas, those guys all made several good plays,” Withrow said. “You could just tell those guys are three-year starters and understand what they’re doing.”

Doss, like he did many times his junior season, threw a touchdown and ran for another on a short-yard play. Clemons scored on a 40-yard run, and Doss’ TD pass was a 35-yarder to Thomas.

When asked whether or not those three seniors have shown much improvement from last year, whether it be getting stronger in the weight room, getting faster or just having a better grasp of the playbook and taking what the defense gives them, Withrow said without any hesitation that they’ve done all three.

“All three,” Withrow said, “all three. They have a better understanding of what we’re trying to do, but one thing for sure is they’re all faster and stronger. They’ve done a lot of good work in the offseason.”

Withrow said the teams’ defensive play wasn’t bad, and showed some bright spots at times throughout the scrimmage. As far as individual efforts he was pleased with, Withrow said linebackers Joe Craft and Tyler Reeves and strong safety Hunter Phillips all played well on defense.

“All three of those guys did a really good job,” Withrow said. The head Bear added that the scrimmage itself, although it had its chaotic moments, turned out to be a pretty good experience for everyone involved.

“It went pretty good,” Withrow said. “We tried to split the teams up fairly even, and when you split ’em all up it gets a little chaotic, but as a whole, I thought the kids did a pretty good job. There are some things we saw that we need to build on, but there was a lot of good positive stuff, too.”

The Bears finished the spring football period with 67 players on their roster, and Withrow said they’ll have a busy summer with summer workouts, 7-on-7 meets as well as team camps – which begins next week.

“We’ve got five or six guys that are headed to individual combines,” Withrow said. “Next week we’ve got a camp at Ouachita Baptist and the next day we’ll go to (Pulaski) Robinson for a 7-on-7 tournament.”

In July, the Bears are scheduled to participate in 7-on-7 meets at Benton and Malvern, as well as two additional team camps, which will also help some of the team’s later additions that recently came from baseball and track, along with the players that are currently recovering from injuries, get more accustomed with the team’s offense and defense.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney juniors win big

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior and senior teams split a doubleheader at Sheridan on Monday. The junior Chevy Boys won 14-3 while the senior team lost 15-5 after a rough third inning.

The two teams have played a disparaging number of games, with the win lifting the junior team’s overall record to 4-6, while Monday’s loss was the season opener for the senior squad.

“It’s basically the first time the senior team has picked up a glove and a ball in more than a week, and it looked like it,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “I thought (pitcher James) Tucker was doing extremely well and then we let the bottom fall out of it in the third inning. Four or five mistakes all right there together and it just killed us. We couldn’t field a thing. We looked like a bunch of goats in a hailstorm out there.

“But really it’s all my fault. We haven’t had a chance to get them out there and practice. We’ve had 10 junior games already and they’ve just been waiting to get on the field.”

The miserable third inning on Monday left Jacksonville with an eight-run deficit, but the team rallied for five runs in the top of the fourth to cut Sheridan’s lead to three. But that was all the team would muster.

The Yellowjackets helped their visitors out by issuing free bases to the three of the first four batters of the fourth inning. Ryan Mallison walked before Deaundray Harris struck out swinging. Troy Allen was hit by a pitch and Donte Harris walked to load the bases and bring up leadoff hitter Derek St. Clair. He singled to drive in two runs and Blake Perry singled to drive home another. Perry was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Kaleb Reeves before Greg Jones and Laderrious Perry drew two more walks. St. Clair scored on a passed ball and Reeves scored on Laderrious Perry’s walk to cap the Chevy Boys’ run production.

The junior team scored eight runs in the top of the first inning to take quick command of their game. The big early lead also gave junior coach Barry Hickingbotham a chance to play all 24 players that make up the current junior roster.

American Legion rules dictate that a team can certify a maximum of 18 players by the June 15 deadline, so the father-son coaching duo relishes the opportunity to evaluate as many players as they can as much as they can.

“We’ve been fortunate so far in how much we’ve been able to play everybody,” Bob Hickingbotham said. “We got to split into two teams at the North Little Rock tournament and we’ve run out to big leads in two other games. Then we had a doubleheader where everyone got to play.”

No one got to bat more than twice, but Cayden Sample, A.J. Jackson and Jordan Wickersham all went 2 for 2 for the junior Chevy Boys.

Ean Collie started on the mound and got the win. Payton Traywick and Dillon Morse pitched well in relief, though the margin was too large for Morse to officially get a save.

Both teams played at Cabot on Tuesday, and the Gwatney Chevrolet Junior Invitational Tournament begins at 5:30 p.m. today at Dupree Park. Benton Blue faces Conway to start the tournament and Cabot Red faces Sheridan at 7:45.

Beebe plays Searcy at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Jacksonville faces Cabot Red immediately after. Two more games are set for Friday with six games scheduled for Saturday starting at 9 a.m. The semifinals and championship game will be held Sunday starting at 1:30 p.m.

The senior team gets back to action on Monday at Benton.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ new coach an alumnus

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson said last week he wanted to move quickly on hiring a new head football coach, and the process indeed was quick. After interviewing nine candidates on Tuesday, the four-person selection committee chose Barry Hickingbotham to recommend for hire by the Pulaski County Special School District.

Hickingbotham is a 1987 graduate of Jacksonville High School and rejoins his alma mater after spending last season as offensive coordinator at Atkins High School, where he helped their Red Devils to their winningest season since 2007.

He signed with Louisiana Tech football out of high school, where he still holds the school record for punting yardage in a season.

Hickingbotham was late into coaching and joined the staff at Jacksonville as a middle school coach in 2002. He spearheaded fundraising efforts to build the sorely needed new middle school field house that also serves as practice facilities for high school spring sports teams.

He took over as head middle school football coach in 2006 before bring promoted to the high-school staff by then head coach Mark Whatley in 2009.

Hickingbotham served as offensive coordinator for two years under head coach Rick Russell before taking the same job at Atkins last year. He replaces Russell, who turned in his resignation early last month.

Hickingbotham also served stints at JHS as assistant baseball coach, including the 2011 state championship year, and was the head softball coach in 2013, leading that team to a No. 2 seed in the state tournament after it had failed to make the playoffs the previous two seasons.

The search committee was made up of Wilson, PCSSD director of athletics Danny Ebbs, JHS principal Bill Barnes and head basketball coach and dean of students Vic Joyner.

Wilson gave several reasons why Hickingbotham stood out among the nine candidates.

“His presentation was excellent,” said Wilson. “He showed a commitment to get Jacksonville back to where it once was as far as being a contender. We’ve seen his commitment in action over the years through his work ethic. He’s a part of this community and he’s dedicated to it. We know he will work diligently.”

Hickingbotham takes over a program that is in a rebuilding process. Last year’s season started with huge expectations and ended in a disappointing 4-6 finish and the team missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.

It was also a senior-heavy team with five players signing to play college ball, and some of the underclass talent has already transferred or left the program for other reasons.

“We made it clear to all the candidates that this is at least a two-year project just building the program back up,” Wilson said. “If everything works out we’ll be our own district in a couple of years and have an opportunity to be a formidable 6A program once again. I think that made this job very attractive to a lot of people.”

Hickingbotham was not available for comment when the news was released last night. He was helping coach the Gwatney Chevrolet American Legion baseball team at Cabot.

EDITORIAL >> Tension rises in Sherwood

It’s campaign season. That might not be any more evident than it is during Sherwood City Council meetings.

Council members have been bitterly divided over ordinary municipal business, and Mayor Virginia Hillman, who is facing two opponents for re-election, has been the recipient of much of the ire.

In The Leader’s 27 years, we cannot recall so much division over a city’s plan to build a public library. Sherwood’s is one of the oldest and smallest branches in the Central Arkansas Library System.

The conflict is largely over some aldermen not wanting to hold a special election to raise property taxes to pay for a much-needed library. They’d prefer to put it before the voters during the general election in November. To them, it would be undemocratic to sneak in a vote on property tax — a $200 annual increase for a $150,000 home — in August, when many people are on vacation or otherwise uninvolved with civic matters.

Fair point, but we’re not sure a special election would automatically ensure approval of the measure. Consider the recent defeat of Pulaski Technical College’s effort to increase property taxes countywide. That took a lot of grassroots organizing.

When CALS director Bobby Roberts recently told the council of the plan to hold the special election this summer, he was not pleased to hear of the alternative plan to put it on the November ballot. He said the library system, not the city council, is responsible for setting the election date and that a lawsuit against Sherwood may be filed if it interferes because construction plans would be delayed.

Roberts also knows a fight to raise taxes in November would be tough.

The other issue that’s reached a boiling point is the now-canceled plan to build a police firing range on Trammel Road. Residents were alarmed when they were belatedly told of the plan to build an outdoor shooting range near their homes.

City officials abandoned the plan almost as soon as the opposition to it formed.

Hillman, frustrated, said this newspaper called Police Chief Jim Bedwell a liar. A resident who believed the city was sneaking in a firing range in her backyard said that. We know the mayor was simply imprecise with her words. But it illustrates the level of discord at city hall right now.

To be clear, here’s the quote again: Virginia Jones of 828 Trammel Road told us, “So many times that man has told me, ‘You won’t even know we’re out there.’ Liar! Of course I’m going to know they’re out there.”

Tough words. Did she exaggerate? Perhaps, but no more so than saying the shooting noise would be unnoticeable.

Being mayor is a high-pressure job. It’s not easy. Hillman was elected after former Mayor Danny Stedman resigned for stress-related health problems.

Hillman’s opponents, Don Berry and Doris Anderson, can’t beat her by claiming Sherwood is heading in the wrong direction because of mismanagement. Look around, the city’s population is growing and businesses keep opening there, and Hillman deserves to share the credit for the city’s successes.

To move forward, council members should support a timely library vote. Do it for the kids.

TOP STORY >> City thinks it’s exempt over noise

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s shooting sports range is exempt from the noise ordinance, according to city council minutes obtained through a Freedom of Information Act.

Furthermore, in all council and planning commission minutes from mid-2012, when the range was first talked about, public concern about noise was nonexistent. The city found only three references in nearly two years of minutes referencing noise discussions of any kind — and none from residents.

Since the $3.2 million facility, officially called the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex, opened noise — loud, constant popping of gunfire — has caused a lot of angst among some Foxwood residents.

Some are considering lawsuits to close the facility down, but that might be hard to do because of the noise exemption that was passed Feb. 21, 2013, more than a year before the facility opened.

The city has hired an engineer who specializes in noise issues and has designed noise abatement solutions for other shooting ranges. He is taking sound samples to determine the best solution.

In council minutes from that meeting, City Attorney Robert Bamburg said the new ordinance (Ordinance 1477) was patterned after several other cities that had similar circumstances regarding a shooting zone.

Bamburg said the “shooting range and mechanical devices that create sounds and alarms would be exempt.” One legal expert told The Leader the city can’t exempt itself from making too much noise.

Also at that meeting, Bamburg said “events that are held between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on public property would be exempt.” He gave the high school cannon as an example. Even though that boom reverberates throughout the neighborhood surrounding the school when a touchdown is scored, it is not considered to be “loud and raucous.”

Noise has to be loud and raucous to be in violation of the noise ordinance and that usually applies to noise after 10 p.m., Bamburg said.

At that meeting, Aldermen Mike Taylor questioned where measurements are taken to determine the loudness of the noise. Bamburg said they are taken 50 feet from the building or the site of the noise.

An amendment was put forth by Taylor for measurements to be taken 50 feet from the property boundary. The council approved the amendment.

At the same February 2013 meeting, the council approved zoning for the range and a short-term loan agreement to cover construction costs.

Eight months later, at a city planning commission meeting, the commissioner approved the site plan for the shooting complex. At that meeting the main concern was not noise disturbing residents but the sun getting in shooters’ eyes.

Tommy Bond, the consulting engineer on the project, said the “direction of the range was tilted slightly to the northeast and there was concern that the shooters would have to face the morning sun, so the direction was shifted due north.”

The commission then discussed designating the complex and the surrounding land as a city park since the facility would be city-owned and operated.

Bamburg told planning commissioners that there was “a conditional-use provision for park facilities that would apply to the facility, which would be part of the process along with annexation issues.”

About 60 acres on the east side of the complex are in Lonoke County.

Bond told the commission that about 2,000 feet was dedicated to the fallout or safety zone for the range and that wetlands had been marked off to ensure they weren’t damaged.

But there was no conversation about noise.

The commission approved the plans “contingent upon the city ensuring that the facility meets all planning and building codes.”

Gov. Mike Beebe, who spoke at the facility’s ribbon cutting in May, said the 160-acre complex at 2800 Graham Road was “one of the finest — if not the finest — shooting ranges in the region.”

“Jacksonville has always had a vision to make the community bigger and better,” Beebe said. “Somebody had to have a vision. This land is absolutely beautiful.” He said the complex will attract families and will get young people involved in shooting sports “for generations to come and will enrich countless lives.”

But not everyone agrees with the governor.

Some Jacksonville residents have complained strongly about the noise at the firing range.

And some residents in the nearby Foxwood Estates subdivision say they can hear shooting from the complex.

One of those is former Police Chief Gary Sipes, who resigned at the end of May to run for mayor, partly because he felt the city was not working sufficiently toward a solution of the shooting range noise.

Mayor Gary Fletcher has promised the city would do something to decrease the noise, but he wants to look at the suggestions from the sound engineer before asking the city to commit money. Sipes, who lives in Foxwood Estates with his wife, DeJuanna, said he’s not happy with the noise at the new firing range. He said the shooting range backs in to his yard. He said he would recommend limiting shooting hours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

TOP STORY >> VA isn’t the only problem

Leader publisher

It’s never a good time to visit a government office, where they’re usually understaffed and busy. You might stand in line for 20 minutes at the post office, but you can always come back later — unlike thousands of sick veterans who sit for hours waiting for medical attention at VA hospitals.

We knew a Vietnam veteran who sat in terrible pain for 20 hours with a ruptured appendix at the VA hospital in Little Rock. He was rolling on the floor before he was finally attended to. In Vietnam, he dumped napalm that was probably made in Jacksonville.

He’s a tough old guy who lived to talk about his experience. Others haven’t been as lucky.

A federal investigation might reveal how many veterans have perished for lack of proper care — probably thousands just since the start of the Afghan and Iraq wars. Veterans from other wars have been neglected for decades.

Politicians are good at sending young people to war but are less eager to help them when they’re sick. A recently opened VA hospital in Las Vegas is the first such new facility in 20 years.

Four-month waiting periods are routine at VA hospitals, which lack qualified doctors and staff. The hospitals in Phoenix, Gainesville, Fla., and probably many others hid the long waiting list from auditors. The scandal has cost Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former Veterans Affairs secretary, his job.

But count yourself lucky if you walk out of government offices alive, as unpleasant as they often are. Have you been to the Social Security office on Kiehl Avenue in Sherwood? First, you have to find it since it’s hidden behind some trees. Then you have to find a parking spot. The parking lot is way too small for the number of visitors.

Then you check in on a big monitor that doesn’t seem to work. Regular visitors will tell you to press hard on the monitor so you can punch in your name and social security number while the bored security guard is texting.

The line at the Jacksonville post office at lunch hour last Wednesday reached to the door while one clerk took care of a customer who needed stamps for at least 50 manila envelopes.

The clerk kept printing out postage for about 15 minutes while about a dozen people looked at each other, wondering if her colleagues would come up and help her take care of the customers. Except, at the post office, they’re never called customers.

The post office isn’t the VA, where people writhe in agony, but it’s still annoying to stand in line at a government facility because employees have more pressing business to attend to at lunch hour, like figuring out what to have for lunch.

The service desk has at least three registers, but usually only one clerk will help customers around 11:30 while colleagues make themselves disappear.

No wonder people are paying bills online and avoiding the post office as much as possible.

But wait: A clerk, perhaps the postmaster, came out from behind the wall to tell someone why home delivery stopped at her home. But the clerk soon disappeared and customers started to leave.

Half an hour later, three clerks were taking care of customers, although the line wasn’t moving much faster: One family was applying for passports, and the same clerk who was running out postage for all those manila envelopes was doing the same thing for another lady with a bunch of manila envelopes. Clearly a lot of people run their business out of the post office.

Complaining about the post office is a useless exercise. We’ll just put up with the inconvenience. But the thousands of veterans who risked their lives and limbs for their country deserve better.

The Vietnam veteran I mentioned earlier isn’t doing well these days. He’s old and infirm, but even the VA couldn’t kill him, although it tried.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood range takes direct hit

Leader staff writer

Even though plans for an outdoor shooting range in the Trammel Estates area of Sherwood were scrapped a week before the recent city council meeting, it didn’t stop salvos from being fired by the mayor, aldermen and residents toward each other.

Mayor Virginia Hillman made it clear numerous times at the May 27 council meeting that it was not her intent or the city’s intent for this to be an issue.

“This was not done intentionally, and there are no plans for an outdoor shooting range in that area now,” she said at last week’s council meeting.

She quickly added that the range had become a political issue and that she was not going to have any name calling from the council or others. She was particularly upset that a newspaper called Police Chief Jim Bedwell a liar. “Our chief is not.” This newspaper did not call him that, but did quote a resident who believed he was.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye was upset that the city circumvented state law by making the five-acre, $18,500 purchase without going through the council first. “The paperwork was not signed by the police department, but by the city of Sherwood. There’s a process, and we need to follow it,” she insisted.

Resident Jason Mitchell, speaking for the neighborhood where the shooting range was going to be placed, just wanted assurances that it was not going to be built there and that there would be better communication next time.

Hillman said the acreage was purchased with police department drug money and the purchase had been cleared by the Department of Justice as a reasonable use of the money. “That fund usually doesn’t have much money in it, but maybe the council should oversee it similar to other large cities,” the mayor said.

Heye also expressed concern about “what now?”

“Now that we have this property, what are we going to do with it?” she asked.

Alderman Tim McMinn said that, if the city ever sells the acreage, that the money needs to be returned to the drug fund. “It’s not the city’s money.”

Alderman Charlie Harmon said the important thing was to extract the city from this mess now. “What are our options with the property? With overseeing the drug fund? These are questions for the city attorney, and he’s not here tonight,” Harmon said.

City Attorney Steve Cobb, the mayor said, was on a long-planned vacation set before the controversy came up.

The police chief also did not attend the meeting.

Hillman reiterated that this was no quick hidden purchase. “It’s been talked about at our budget meetings. The chief’s been looking for a site for a while. He looked at other possibilities before this one. There was no malicious intent.”

Chief Bedwell had said previously that the range would save at least half of the $6,500 spent per year on officers traveling to and from ranges outside Sherwood.

But, Hillman said, “I just don’t think (the outdoor range is) going to be a good move right now.”

The uproar over the outdoor range began when city equipment was used earlier in May to move donated dirt to the 5.13-acre lot that is zoned for single-family homes. The dirt came from the construction site for the new Mapco Express gas station being built at the intersection of Kiehl Avenue and Brockington Road.

The outdoor range would have had six lanes and 12-foot berms on three sides with trees planted outside the berms. Bedwell said, “I think the impact would have been a lot less than (the opposition) thought.”

His goals were to save the city money and keep officers in Sherwood rather than 20 to 30 minutes away so they could respond to an emergency in the city more quickly.

Bedwell said that, over the last four years, officers have spent 866 hours driving to and from the Cabot, Camp Robinson and Jacksonville ranges.

Alderman Toni Butler complained that the council was not working as a team. “I’m finding out things from the newspaper instead of the city. We are like a family and need to work things out in private before taking it out in public.”

Harmon chimed in that the Freedom of Information Act “handcuffs” the city. “We have to argue in public,” he said.

Don Berry, a mayoral candidate, said after the meeting the purchase was a clear violation of Sherwood ordinances and Arkansas statute.

He said it was “misguided and without regard for the citizens’ quality of life or property value.

“Sherwood missteps in planning and execution have become so routine that several aldermen think this is the way to circumvent the right way to plan, budget,” Berry said.

“Leadership must always put the public trust and confidence ahead of all other priorities by acting with full transparency and involving the approval of a well-informed community board of directors – our city council,” he said.

TOP STORY >> World-class pigeons

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County resident Dave Hafner had his flock of Birmingham Roller pigeons compete Thursday in the prestigious World Cup Roller Fly international competition.

Hafner, co-owner of Fin, Feather-n-Fur taxidermy in Jacksonville, raises roller pigeons at his home on Kerr Station Road south of Cabot.

Roller pigeons are bred for their aerial-acrobatic performances. The kit (a group) of 20 pigeons fly from the coop into the air. They fly in a looping pattern overhead. Then, for some odd reason, they do backward somersaults, dropping several feet in the air until they fly out of the tumble and rejoin the group in flight.

Hafner represented the Missouri-Arkansas region of National Birmingham Roller Pigeons in the competition. The region has 20 competitors.

Four-time World Cup Roller Fly champion Heine Bijker of The Netherlands, arrived at Hafner’s home to judge his birds. Bijker was traveling the U.S. and Canada judging other roller pigeons for the competition.

“It’s just for bragging rights, no more than that,” Hafner said.

Several roller-pigeon breeders from across the state came to Hafner’s house to watch the judging.

Hafner’s birds were not up for the performance. They did not roll as a group but flipped individually, causing a low score. Perhaps they were affected by the rain.

Hafner said his interest in pigeons began when he was a youngster. He had wild birds as pets and was introduced to someone who had roller pigeons. He returned to roller pigeons after college.

“There are not very many of us anymore,” Hafner said.

Hafner has 70 roller pigeons. Hawks can be a big problem for breeders. They snatch the pigeons out of the sky because they are not fast and tumble. Hafner said his biggest expense is feed.

“Compared to golf, it is cheap,” Hafner joked.

According to the Arkansas State Roller Association’s website, roller pigeons originated in Birmingham, England, some 300 years ago. Competitions grew as British breeders wanted to see who had the best performers.

Bijker has been raising rollers pigeons and competing for 25 years. The sport does not have a large following.

“It’s too difficult and complicated for what we want our birds to do. We want to have 20 birds roll at the same time,” Bijker said.

Bijker said roller-pigeon owners have to choose if they want an individual performer or a group. The birds have to be bred to work together.

“You want a team, harmony, a family. The birds have to behave in the group at the beginning. If a bird fights, it’s out,” Bijker.

Bijker said the roller pigeons should be treated well for them to give their best performances.

He said some breeders believe in raising their birds in harsh conditions.

“They should look like athletes. They should not be starved or tortured. That doesn’t make sense. They should be in open lofts. They don’t have to be kept in dark boxes. A lot should change,” Bijker said.

A man from Oklahoma who raises roller pigeons was watching the judging.

“I’m still in awe when a pigeon starts rolling. What they do is incredible,” he said.

People interested in pigeons can contact the American Pigeon Museum and Library in Oklahoma City, which will have a grand opening June 13-14.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

TOP STORY >> Entergy builds service facility

Entergy Arkansas opened its new $6.2 million building at 7801 John Harden Drive in Jacksonville on Wednesday afternoon with a wire-cutting ceremony and public tours.

Twenty-three employees will work out of the 17,000-square-foot facility on 30 acres.

The office will help the utility provide service to approximately 26,000 customers in Jacksonville, Little Rock Air Force Base, Cabot, Sherwood, Scott and parts of North Little Rock.

Entergy President and Chief Executive Officer Hugh McDonald welcomed visitors, including Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert and Sherwood Alderman Ken Keplinger, on Wednesday before cutting a cable to officially open the facility.

McDonald said in a news release, “Entergy Arkansas turned 100 years old in December, and, during a good part of that century, the histories of Entergy Arkansas and Jacksonville have been intertwined.

He continued in the news release, “We’re proud to be a part of Jacksonville, and we want you to know that this new service center represents a long-term commitment to this community as we begin our second century of providing electric service in Arkansas.”

Fletcher said, “It’s always good seeing something of that caliber built in your city. I’m very appreciative of Entergy and its commitment to the community.”

He noted that the new office is organized to be even more responsive to customers.

The move from 2001 Marshall Road in Jacksonville began in October 2013, according to the release.

Jay Hartman, Entergy’s manager of customer relations, explained that the move from the old building boosted morale. Hartman cut the cable a second time for the grand opening.

The new location is larger and much more efficient, he continued. According to the release, the Green Building Initiative has certified it with two Green Globes. That means the facility meets rigorous efficiency standards for how it was built and how it operates, the release continued.

The building features an indoor bay for mechanics to work on vehicles and conference rooms. Neither was available at the Marshall Road location, Hartman said.

And the break room there doubles as a safe room with concrete walls designed to withstand severe weather.

Hartman said, “We’re definitely excited about the new building and are looking forward to being there serving that area.”

The facility has a Cabot mailing address but is located within the commercial corridor Jacksonville annexed a few years ago.

EDITORIAL >> Don’t restrict TV debate

Frank Gilbert, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor, this week criticized Arkansas television stations for not inviting him or Josh Drake, the Green Party candidate, to a televised debate this fall.

Gilbert and Drake will be on the ballot in November, but not in this debate, unless something changes. Gilbert hinted he might sue if he’s not invited to the debate.

The debate will include only Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross.

KATV in Little Rock, KAIT in Jonesboro and KHBS/KHOG in northwest Arkansas will air one debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Oct. 7.

Gilbert denounced the stations for failing to include new party candidates in the debate.

“The decision to ignore and therefore silence half the candidates in this race is inexplicable,” Gilbert said. “The stations have chosen to ignore their mandate to work in the public interest. They have also ignored the majority of Arkansans who believe we need a third political party,” he continued.
Gilbert called KATV’s explanation for limiting the debate to the two major parties, “A lame excuse.”

A KATV employee told him the station uses the Commission on Presidential Debates rules, which exclude third-party candidates.

“There is no reason for anyone in Arkansas to follow those rules,” Gilbert says. “It has nothing to do with us. It overlooks the fact that Arkansas has a 3 percent threshold for maintaining party status. More importantly, it ignores the absolute fact that Arkansans deserve to hear more than two points of view.

“If the commission and KATV had their way, there would only be McDonald’s and Burger King. Hardee’s, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Taco Bell, Sonic, Pizza Hut, KFC and hundreds of other fast-food outlets would be ignored and shuttered. If we deserve choice and variety at lunch, we definitely need a broader political menu,” Gilbert said.

When asked if a lawsuit was possible, Gilbert said, “I’d rather not, but it’s up to the media moguls and their political pals.

“These broadcasters need to rethink their decision. Just because the old parties will be buying more advertising is no reason to ignore other candidates,” he said.

Gilbert says the television stations favored the old parties because they’re spending millions of dollars on television advertising. He has accused several Arkansas television stations of bias and failure to serve the public interest.

Hutchinson and Ross should reach out to Gilbert and Drake and invite them to the debate. Voters would be more inclined to watch with the other candidates participating in the proceedings.

TOP STORY >> Early voting set to start Tuesday

Leader senior staff writer

In the final and certified Lonoke County primary election results, including recounts, absentee and provisional ballots, the numbers didn’t change much and the outcomes not at all, according to County Clerk Larry Clarke.

Clarke himself lost re-election to former clerk Dawn Porterfield in the Republican primary.


With primary runoff elections June 10, early voting will begin Tuesday.

Runoffs will be held in the following races:

In a bid for re-election, Assessor Jack McNally finished second to Jerrel Maxwell in a three-way race, but Maxwell fell short of the needed 50 percent plus one votes to avoid the runoff. The winner of the runoff has no challenger in the November general election.

For Butler Township con stable, Justin McCallister will run against Roger Williams. McCallister was in the news recently — since the May primary — for impersonating a law enforcement officer and confiscating a cell phone. McCallister is not currently affiliated with any law enforcement agency.

Leslie Rutledge got 47 percent of the votes in her bid for the Republican attorney general candidate and will face David Sterling again in a runoff. Finishing third was Patricia Nation, reportedly a resident of Jacksonville.

The winner will face Democrat Nate Steele in November.


Tim Lemons got 61 percent of the vote to beat Darlene Byrd, both of Cabot, for the House Dist. 43 position currently held by House Speaker Davy Carter of Cabot.

Carter was among the primary architects of the private-option Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, and Lemons says he wants to take another look at the program and the real numbers now that it is set in motion.

He said Tuesday afternoon that he was not hard set against the health insurance that now covers as many as 250,000 working poor Arkansans. Lemons said that, if the private option or Obamacare were rolled back, the state would need to find an alternative for those folks.

“I don’t know that dismantling it is the way,” he said. “It’s easy to stand back and say I’m against something, but we weren’t there during the hours and days and weeks of discussions.

“I know we have to do something, the system is broke.”


Lemons says the numbers that the Department of Human Services is providing are “flawed, and we need to re-examine them.” He said he couldn’t say how they were flawed.

He called encouraging the reports by hospitals that indicate fewer uninsured people are seeking care and that the hospitals are providing less uncompensated care and more compensated care.

Lemons said he’s afraid the private option will cause the state financial hardship. He said a couple of state legislators say they have a new program that is much more sound.

Questioning Obamacare — or the Affordable Care Act, as it is officially known — goes along with Lemons’ intention of “keeping federal control out of our state.

“I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure the 10th Amendment is upheld,” he said.

He also wants to promote autism awareness, noting that he has a special-needs brother, and that a friend’s child is autistic.

Lemons wants to try to reduce taxes, preferring to tighten the belt and reallocate taxes. “I’m pro-life and for traditional marriage, “ he said, “and for the Second Amendment gun rights.”


Porterfield, the former county clerk who lost her office to Clarke two years ago, turned the tables, winning it back.

Formerly a Democrat, she ran as a Republican in a county where it is now difficult for a Democrat to win countywide office. She faces no opponent in November.

“I’ve always seemed to have some really good supporters on both sides,” she said.

She said Clarke is election and computer savvy and made some changes in the office that she’ll keep.

“I haven’t heard anything bad about how he was running his office,” she said.

His employees can apply for jobs in her office, and people currently in the voter registration and in the probate office are holdovers from her administration.

What would she change?

“Some of the record books need refurbished,” she said.

TOP STORY >> Interim chief appointed as Sipes leaves

Leader staff writer

Capt. Kenny Boyd, a 26-year veteran of the Jacksonville Police Department and an FBI Academy graduate, has been selected to serve as interim chief through Jan. 1 or longer, according to Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

Former Police Chief Gary Sipes gave up the post Friday to focus on his run for mayor in November. He and Fletcher said they agreed on the resignation date.

Boyd wants residents to know “it’s business as usual” while he’s in charge.

About being selected, he said, “I was humbled, excited that they had the confidence in me to allow me to continue the service this police department provides for the citizens of Jacksonville. I want the citizens to know that the service will continue in a professional manner.”

Boyd is interested in applying to be the permanent chief, but said serving as the interim chief gives the city a chance to try him out and him a chance to try out the position.

Boyd also said officials had not decided yet who would step up to run the support services division in his stead.

Boyd’s management philosophy is “the leader has to set the example. If you believe in your philosophy of serving the citizens of Jacksonville and stand by that, then others will get on board with that.

He continued, “Based on my experience, you’ve got to communicate. Whether it’s through the citizens or internally, it’s all about communication…Communication is paramount in this business.”

He also said, “We’ve come a long way and we’re going to continue to move forward so we can provide the citizens of this city the service and protection that they deserve.”

Boyd added that he thinks the staff is already on board.

“The support from everyone at the police department has been great. I expect that to continue without any problems. It’s all about serving the citizens. We’ve got to be able to hear them and hear their concerns and do what we can to assist them,” he said.

Fletcher said he also interviewed Patrol Capt. Richard Ward and Criminal Investigations Capt. Kelley Smiley. “I’m very excited that I had three top-notch people to choose from,” he noted.

But “he’s the one I felt needed to be there,” Fletcher said. “I have full confidence that Chief Boyd will continue the highest level of professionalism…I’m excited about the future of our police department, and they’re in good hands.”

The mayor added that any of the three captains would have done a great job running the department.

Fletcher noted that Boyd served as interim chief before Sipes was hired in 2008.

“One thing that I really liked in our interview is he brought some fresh ideas, some fresh eyes to old things that have concerned me,” he continued.

The mayor also said it’s not a one-man job. He was confident that Boyd, Ward and Smiley would work well together.

Boyd agreed. The interim chief said, “We’re going to carry on as a team.”

Fletcher said Boyd brings a lot of experience to the table and is well respected by everyone in the department.

Boyd is from Austin and graduated from Cabot High School.

His law enforcement career began in 1988 when he was hired as a Jacksonville patrol officer.

Boyd has never applied to work in another police department because of the “camaraderie” he felt in Jacksonville.

He said, “Even though I did not grow up here, I still consider Jacksonville as my town. This is where I spend all my hours.”

Boyd transferred to the criminal investigations division in 1989.

He helped investigate the 1993 murders of Debra Reese and Christine Lewis, daughter of the late Alderman Robert Lewis. Ledelle Lee was convicted of the Reese murder and two rapes, but is also suspected of killing Christine Lewis. Lee received the death penalty and is awaiting execution.

But unsolved cases — like Margie Thompson’s murder — and cases that involved kids stay with him too, Boyd said.

Asked about mistakes he’s made, Boyd said nothing stands out.

But, he explained, police officers always think about the what ifs — what if they’d gotten to a scene sooner or done this or that.

“You just have to move on,” Boyd said.

He worked as a detective until 1993, when he was promoted to sergeant for the patrol division.

Boyd returned to the criminal investigations division in 1994.

He was promoted in 2001 to the rank of lieutenant and transferred to the training and community-oriented policing section.

Boyd transferred again in 2005 to serve as the assistant patrol commander. That was a lateral move rather than a promotion, he noted.

Boyd was promoted to his current rank of captain in 2007. He has been captain of the department’s three divisions — patrol, criminal investigations and support services.

In 2011, Boyd graduated from the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. He called doing so one of his greatest triumphs.

Boyd has also completed management courses through the Criminal Justice Institute and the School of Law Enforcement Supervision.

He is a member of the FBI National Academy Associates Arkansas Chapter and the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police.

Boyd has been married to Jacksonville officer Regina Boyd for 29 years. They have a 22-year-old daughter.

And the interim chief has been coaching youth football in Cabot for eight years.

During his junior and senior year of high school, Boyd worked for an egg processing plant.

He has also been a volunteer firefighter since age 17.

After graduating from high school, Boyd worked as a welder for a few years.

Then his wife was hired as a dispatcher for the Lonoke Police Department.

Boyd said he got to know the Lonoke chief and rode with him until something clicked.

The interim chief said he liked what he saw and went into law enforcement to do something different every day.

“You get to help people. You may not ever know that you helped them. Usually, when we’re dealing with someone, it’s at a low point in their life. So you have to have compassion to do this job,” he continued.

Boyd also said, “(Law enforcement) gets in your blood. That’s where it’s at. You just don’t feel right not doing it.”

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney juniors split at Morrilton Sloughing around in mud

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet junior team played a doubleheader in the mud Wednesday in Morrilton – or most of one. Because of rain delays, the two teams called off game two in the fifth inning when Wednesday became Thursday. Jacksonville led game one 4-0 before falling apart in the fifth inning and losing 9-7. They led game two 6-2 when the clock struck midnight.

“I don’t know if you’d call it playing baseball or not,” said Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We got out there and sloughed around in the mud for about six hours. We didn’t hit the ball very well and we didn’t play very good, but 90 percent of that is my fault. We hadn’t had them out there practicing enough. We just haven’t had a chance to.”

After a scoreless first inning, Hickingbotham decided to try to use the field conditions to his advantage, and began bunting nearly every batter. The strategy worked. When Morrilton was able to field the ball cleanly, throwing the wet, muddy ball on a line to first base proved difficult. Several throwing errors, combined with a few walks, led to Jacksonville taking an early lead.

The Chevy Boys maintained that lead until the roles were reversed in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jacksonville pitchers walked five batters and fielders committed five errors. Combined with three base hits, Morrilton put nine runs across the plate in the decisive inning.

“We just made a whole bunch of mistakes in the field and we walked the whole ball park,” Hickingbotham said. “That was just a terrible inning. We made a little comeback with the bats, but we were too far behind.”

Jacksonville added a run in the top of the sixth and two more in the seventh before making the game’s final out.

Hickingbotham was pleased with the pitching effort he got from game-one starter Colton Goodman, who plays high-school ball for Des Arc. He also thought Tyler Montgomery of North Pulaski showed potential.

“Those two pitched pretty well,” Hickingbotham said. “Montgomery got hurt for the second time. He got hit in the head. I think he’s going to be a pretty good player but it’s hard to tell. He’s been out there twice and had problems both times. But he’s showing some potential.”

A total of 24 players made the trip to Morrilton. Hickingbotham is still approaching games with a focus on seeing everyone play more-so than winning.

“There’s just so many of them,” Hickingbotham said. “If I had more help I’d go ahead and certify two teams. We have plenty to do that with. But as it is, I’m probably going to have to eliminate some of them. We played all 24 of them. Everybody who didn’t play in game one played in game two.”

The game-two players hit it well and built a comfortable early lead. Morrilton scored two runs just before the game was halted.

“We didn’t even start the second game until 10:05,” Hickingbotham said. “Some of these kids are still in school. So we just had to end it. Probably should’ve done it earlier.”

Jacksonville will finally play a home game when they begin play in the Gwatney Chevrolet Junior Invitational on Monday.

“We’re going to try to practice some before the tournament because that’s the main reason for the mistakes,” Hickingbotham said. “We’ve got a lot of pretty good little ball players on this junior team. Once we get the best nine out there on the field, I think they can be pretty good.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bison again looking for new coach

Leader sportswriter

The search for a new head football coach is underway at the Carlisle School District, as Carlisle superintendent Jason Clark and Bison head coach Brandon Barbaree confirmed Thursday that Barbaree has accepted an administrative position in the Pangburn School District.

In Barbaree’s only season as Carlisle’s head coach, the Bison finished with a 12-2 overall record and advanced to the class 2A state semifinals where they lost to eventual state champion and perennial 2A power Junction City.

On Wednesday, Barbaree was hired as principal of Pangburn Middle School. Even though Barbaree is leaving the school, he and his current staff at Carlisle are still overseeing spring football practices as the search for a new coach begins.

“Word travels fast, and we’ve already received e-mails and phone calls about the position,” said Clark on Thursday.

Clark said the search for their new coach began immediately on Thursday, and although he added the school district would like to get through the hiring process in a timely fashion, Clark said there won’t be a rush to make a hire and that the position will be open for as long as it takes to hire a new coach.

“It’s still early, but we don’t have a deadline or anything like that in mind,” Clark said. “The position will be open until a new coach is hired.”

Barbaree spoke with The Leader Thursday evening, and said the opportunity to spend more time with his wife and kids had a lot to do with his decision to leave coaching altogether.

“I just needed a change,” said Barbaree. “I don’t see my own kids as much as the ones I coach. They’re still young and I hate missing things as they’re growing up, and I just want to spend more time with them. I’ve kind of reorganized my priorities, I guess. Like I said, I just want to spend more time with my family.”

Carlisle’s football program has long been rich with tradition, but the Bison had one of its more talented teams last season, which in turn, led to high expectations and team goals. The Bison’s stellar season lived up to those expectations, but Barbaree admitted the way the season ended took something out of him.

“To be honest with you, that team last year had as good of a group of kids as you could ever coach, and that’s all the way down – from the seniors to the sophomores,” Barbaree said. “They were unbelievable to work with.

“The kids worked as hard as they could. They gave everything they had. A couple things happened. Our senior quarterback (Austin Reed) tore his ACL. We had a kid step up, Chase Brazeal; he fought and found a way to lead us.

“Then we have a chance against Junction. We’ve got the ball with three minutes to go and we’re driving, and our running back (and leading rusher), DeRon Ricks, tore his ACL. I just felt that this was about as good as it could get without winning a state championship, and when we lost, it didn’t tear me apart, but it kind of took something from me.

“I felt like I gave everything I had to the team, and I just needed a change. But I do appreciate everything Carlisle has given to me. The two years I’ve been there were unbelievable, and I really, really do appreciate everything they’ve done.”

Barbaree took over head coaching duties last year after former Bison coach Scott Waymire accepted the head coaching vacancy at class 4A Trumann. Barbaree spent a year as an assistant at Carlisle before taking over as head coach, and before that he was the head coach at England.

Barbaree turned the football program around at England, leading the Lions to their first winning season in more than 20 years in 2010.

Under Barbaree’s lead, the Bison finished second in the 2A-6 Conference this past season behind conference champion Des Arc, but had a much stronger showing against Junction City than the Eagles did.

Carlisle challenged the Dragons like no other team had, and had the champs on the ropes till a pick six with 39 seconds remaining gave Junction City a 38-28 win in the semifinals. In the state championship game a week later, the Dragons hammered Des Arc on their way to a 60-0 blowout victory.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank team celebrates season 10

Leader sports editor

The Cabot American Legion baseball program is a celebrating a decade of smooth operation when it plays its first home game on Monday at Brian Conrade Wade Field, after years with no consistent guidance and a few years without a team,

Elizabeth Frantal took over the program and has been directing it since 2004. With the help of sponsorships from American Legion Post 72 and Centennial Bank, Cabot’s best high-school level baseball players have had a hometown team for 10-straight years.

“When we tried starting this back up 10 years ago we had very little to work with,” Frantal said. “Rayburn Sporting Goods gave us some leftover uniforms that swallowed most of the players up, but we took what we could get. Now with the help of Centennial Bank, their financial supports the last 10 years has made it possible for us to grow our program. We had one team of 11 players that first year and now we have three teams every year with about 40 total players on average.”

The program has also had the benefit of former players giving back of their time to help coach once their eligibility is up. This year there is a record high of alumni on the coaching staff, with four former players making up the six coaches.

Chris Gross, who played for the first team 10 years ago and still has the record for most home runs in a season, has been coaching for eight years. He will be the head coach of the senior team this season. His assistant will be Casey Vaughan, who is a 2013 graduate of Cabot High School and played for the Centennial Bank squad. He played for Crowder Community College in Missouri this season.

The Junior White team also has two former players coaching in Joe Bryant and Bryson Morris. This is Bryant’s second year to help out with the team and Morris’ first. Like Vaughan, it’s also Morris’ first year out of the program as a player. He played this season for Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Fifth-year coach David Smith, who is not a team alumnus, leads the Junior Red team but is the head coach of the Cabot Panther Freshmen team. His assistant is Justin Moore, who is in his second year helping out the program.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have so many of our former players show such an interest in getting involved and helping us out the way they have,” Frantal said.

Monday’s home openers against Conway will be free admission to veterans and military families. It will be a doubleheader with Junior Red team taking the field at 5 p.m. and the senior team playing the nightcap immediately afterwards.

“It’s hard to imagine this much time has passed,” Frantal said. “It was tough when we first started out, but there was a need to have this program in Cabot. There was no reason not to have a program like this in our town. Once we got started and began to grow, the support we’ve received has grown along with it. We wouldn’t be where we are without the financial support of Centennial Bank or the sponsorship from Post 71. We’re very, very grateful for all they’ve done.”