Friday, November 21, 2014

SPPORTS STORY >> Cabot swim teams victorious at home

By GRAHAM POWELL
Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School boys’ and girls’ swim teams each took first place in their first home meet of the season Wednesday at the Veteran’s Park Community Center in Cabot.

The Panthers totaled 443 team points to easily outpoint North Little Rock, whose 329 points were good for second place. Valley View finished third out of the eight teams competing in the boys’ division, finishing with 162 points. Jonesboro finished fourth with 149, and Lonoke finished fifth with 129.

In the girls’ division, the Lady Panthers were even more dominant. The Cabot girls totaled 540 points, which was more than double the points that second-place North Little Rock totaled. The NLR girls finished with 242 points.

Jonesboro finished third out of the 11 teams competing in the girls’ division, totaling 215 points. Greene County Tech took fourth place with 199, and Valley View finished fifth with 116.

The Cabot boys finished first overall in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 4:31.24, beating second-place NLR by more than 10 seconds. North Little Rock finished that relay event in 4:43.79.

The Panthers had two different swimmers finish first in individual events. Payton Jones won the 200-yard freestyle race, as well as the grueling 500-yard freestyle race, and Jordan Woodson won the 200-yard individual medley.

Jones was the only swimmer to finish the 200-yard freestyle in less than two minutes. He won that race in 1:54.96, beating Jonesboro’s Colby Neves, who finished second, by more than 10 seconds.

Jones won the 500-yard freestyle by almost two full minutes. He finished that race in 5:15.47, beating Andrew Stuff of NLR, who finished second with a time of 7:10.71.

Woodson’s winning race was much closer. He finished the 200-yard IM in 2:14.24, which barely beat NLR swimmer Josh Hale’s time of 2:14.27.

The Cabot girls won two different relay events Wednesday. The Lady Panthers won the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:47.78, beating second-place Jonesboro’s time of 1:51.67.

In the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Cabot girls finished first with a time of 4:19.06 – more than a minute faster than second-place NLR’s time of 5:20.04.

Haylee Beckley and Jessie Baldwin each won two separate individual events for Cabot. Beckley won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races, and Baldwin finished first in the 100-yard backstroke and breaststroke races.

Beckley won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 2:07.76, beating second-place Sydney Adams, of Greene County Tech, who finished in 2:16.38. Beckley won the 500-yard freestyle race with a time of 5:35.38.

Baldwin won the 100-yard backstroke event by more than four seconds. Her winning time of 1:03.55 beat out Jonesboro’s Grace Tedder, who took second place with a time of 1:07.59.

Baldwin narrowly won the 100-yard breaststroke. She finished that race with a winning time of 1:11.87, which edged Lonoke’s Kayla McGee, who finished second with a time of 1:11.96.

McGee did finish first in the 50-yard freestyle race. She finished that event with a winning time of 0:25.40, beating Cabot’s Caytee Wright, who finished second with a time of 0:25.86.

Wright did win an individual event as well, though. She won the 100-yard freestyle race with a time of 1:00.07, beating second-place Mary Kline of Jonesboro, who finished in 1:01.38.

Cabot’s next swim meet will be Thursday, Dec. 11 at the Jacksonville Community Center, and it’s scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys pull away late against the Rockets

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ basketball team won its season opener Tuesday, beating the Catholic Rockets 51-33 with a dominant second-half performance at Panther Arena. Cabot led just 21-20 at halftime, but a renewed emphasis on rebounding and the ability to capitalize on Catholic foul trouble led to a runaway win.

“I was pleased,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “The jamboree we went to exposed some things we needed to work on, and I thought the boys responded to those things in practice and executed them better in this game.”

Foul trouble for both teams’ point guards played a big role in the game. Cabot sophomore Bobby Joe Duncan missed most of the second quarter, and the Rockets closed a 21-13 deficit to just one by halftime.

Catholic point guard Chad Wharton picked up his second and third fouls in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter, and Cabot went from up 24-23 to 36-25 over the next few minutes.

“I think you could see when Bobby Joe had to take a seat that we need him out there,” Bridges said. “Of course we don’t have everyone yet and when we get them all here and healthy we’ll have a lot more help there. But you could also see a difference when their point guard went out. I felt like we had a good advantage when (Wharton) wasn’t out there and I thought we did a good job of taking advantage of that.”

Cabot led 33-25 when Tyler Hill lobbed from the top of the key to post player Jared Dixon at the rim. Dixon was fouled and completed the three-point play with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

Wharton checked in after the free throw and drained a 3-pointer to cut the margin to eight, but he picked up his fourth foul with six seconds left in the third and went back to the bench to start the fourth.

Cabot forward Hunter Southerland missed the shot on the inbound play after the foul, but Dixon got the offensive board and putback to make it 38-28 going into the fourth quarter.

The first bucket of the fourth was also a Dixon putback. The 6-foot-6 junior got all six of his rebounds in the second half.

“I got on him a little bit at halftime because he didn’t have a single rebound for us,” Bridges said of his center. “I really needed him to respond to that and I was very pleased with how he did. He’s long and he’s so athletic, we need him to step up. I love how hard he works in practice, but he got to watching a little bit in that first half. I was very pleased, though, with how he played in the second half. We need that from him all the time.”

Seconds after checking back in, Wharton fouled out with 5:48 remaining, crashing into Dixon’s back going for a rebound. The Rockets struggled mightily on offense without Wharton on the floor, failing to score a bucket in the final quarter until 1:16 remained in the game.

Garrett Rowe led Cabot with 14 points, and drew the head Panther’s praises.

“I thought Garrett did a great job of being that guy that was steady for us the whole game,” Bridges said. “He’s been that way for us. He played with a lot of energy.

“I thought the whole team played with a lot more energy in the second half, and toughness. One thing I hadn’t been seeing in practice was the willingness to step in and take that hit to draw a charge. I think we drew three or four and that made me feel a lot better.”

Rowe also led the Panthers with seven rebounds, while Dixon finished with 13 points and six boards. William Hancock led Catholic with 11 points while Wharton scored 10.

Cabot held the Rockets to just 31 total shot attempts while forcing 21 turnovers. The visitors made just 10 of them, including 4 of 11 from three-point range.

Cabot hit 20 of 42 attempts from the floor, including 2 of 11 from outside.

The Panthers, 1-0, travel to Conway on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits top Carlisle

By GRAHAM POWELL
Leader sportswriter

The veteran-led Lady Jackrabbits’ basketball team dominated visiting Carlisle from the start of their nonconference game Tuesday night at the Gina Cox Center, as Lonoke improved to 2-0 on the season with a 62-31 win over the Lady Bison.

Lonoke, a team that returns every key player from last year’s group that advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals, led 16-1 after the first quarter. The Lady Bison (1-1), of Class 2A, were able to find more offense in the second and third quarters, but the early deficit was far too much to overcome the more talented and experienced host team.

“I thought we did a better job of competing in the second and third quarters,” said Carlisle coach Jonathan Buffalo. “It’s tough when you spot a team that good with that much experience a 16-1 lead in their own gym.

“We went on a little run in the second quarter and cut it to 18-12. I told them before coming over here, play hard and compete, because the next 18 games we play are the most important 18 games we’ll play all year.

“We only get two nonconference games, so we wanted to see what we could do, and test ourselves a little bit.”

Carlisle’s 11-2 run to open the second quarter began on a free throw by freshman starter Kylie Warren 44 seconds into the quarter, and ended with a 3-pointer by Molli Weems, which cut the Lonoke lead to 18-12 with 2:37 left in the half.

Lonoke coach Nathan Morris called timeout after Weems’ three, and the Lady Jackrabbits closed the first half with a 9-2 run to lead 27-14 at the break.

Carlisle enjoyed its best quarter, offensively, in the third, despite Warren sitting most of it after picking up her fourth foul with two minutes left in the second quarter. The Lady Bison scored 14 points in the third, but Lonoke maintained its double-digit lead at the start of the fourth.

The third quarter ended on a 3-pointer by Lonoke’s Jarrelyn McCall, which gave the host team a 44-28 advantage going into the final eight minutes. Warren picked up her fifth foul 12 seconds into the fourth, and 35 seconds later, Lonoke pushed its lead to 20 on a short baseline jumper by McCall, which made the score 48-28.

McCall then went on a scoring tear till being pulled near the 4:30 mark of the fourth, with Lonoke leading comfortably. The Lady Rabbits doubled the Lady Bison’s point total for the evening on a short jumper in the middle of the lane by senior guard Callie Whitfield with 1:40 remaining, which also set the final score.

Morris was pleased, for the most part, with the way his team played in transition Tuesday, and although Lonoke got the win in a big way, he notices some areas where his group will need to improve before conference play begins next week.

“We’re pushing the ball pretty well,” said Morris. “We’re getting it up and down the floor in transition, and that’s a plus, but we’re still not talking in transition very well. Defensively, we’re not quite rebounding the way we want to, and we’ve got to work on our shot selection a little bit.”

Morris was definitely pleased, though, with the way his leading scorer from a season ago performed throughout the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.

“She’s got a very good jump shot,” Morris said of McCall. “She’s got a good base, good balance, she elevates well, keeps those elbows high – she’s just a pretty dang-good jump-shooter, and midrange at that.”

Lonoke finished the game 21 of 53 from the floor for 40 percent. The Lady Rabbits made 17 of 28 foul shots for 61 percent, and outrebounded the Lady Bison 28-21. Lonoke finished with 13 turnovers; Carlisle had 29 turnovers in the game, but just eight in the second half.

The Lady Bison went 12 of 38 from the floor for 32 percent, and made 4 of 10 free throws for 40 percent.

McCall led all scorers with 20 points – 15 of which came in the second half. Amanda Sexton also had double-digit points. She finished with 13, and a team-high six rebounds. Whitfield had eight points. Kerasha Johnson had six points and a game-high six steals, and Ashlyn Allen added five points.

For Carlisle, Elex McClain led the way with 12 points. She also had five rebounds. Weems had seven points. Warren added six points, and Kayla Golleher had a team-high six rebounds.

Lonoke plays again next Tuesday at home against Heber Springs in the 4A-2 Conference opener.

Carlisle’s next game will be Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Palestine-Wheatley, which will be the 2A-6 Conference opener. Both games are scheduled to tipoff at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils hold back Lion surge

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils bounced back from a disappointing loss on Tuesday with a 74-67 win over the Searcy Lions on Thursday in the first round of the Citizen Bank Classic.

Jacksonville lost 80-63 at Hot Springs in its second game of the season before coming into Searcy High School to defend the tournament championship it won last year.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner didn’t start any of his usual starting five against Searcy, but not because of their performance at Hot Springs, and not because the bench played well on Tuesday, but because it played poorly.

“It was a blessing to get this win, but that was not the objective of this game,” said Joyner after Thursday’s game. “We’re trying to establish some depth. We’re going to have to run this year and you can’t run with six or seven players. We jumped out 25-13 on Hot Springs and I put that second group in. In about two minutes we were down. I started those guys tonight to find out if they were going to be able to play for me at all. They just have to get some confidence in themselves. They played a lot better today.”

In each of the first two quarters, players that usually come off the bench played the first five minutes, with typical starters, except Devin Campbell, who sat out to rest a sore knee, playing the final three.

The plan to get more people involved worked. All 12 Jacksonville players that took the floor scored at least one basket while 10 different Red Devils grabbed rebounds and six went to the free-throw line.

The Red Devils jumped out to a 6-0 lead on baskets by Craig Watson, Braylin James and Dajuawn Ridgeway. Searcy guard James Wade began to find his way through the press, and Jacksonville usually dropped back into an extended 2-3 zone. The game slowed down and Searcy answered with a pair of 3-pointers to tie the game with 3:38 left in the first quarter.

Joyner changed units and Jacksonville raced back out to a seven-point lead, but Searcy reserve Anthony Arnold came off the bench to drain back-to-back 3-pointers off the press break to cut the margin to one, where it stayed 17-16 until the start of the second quarter.

James hit a 3-pointer to start the second quarter and Malik Aaron got an offensive rebound and putback to quickly make it 22-16.

Lion forward Jeremiah Clifton then began to heat up, and stayed hot the rest of the game. He led Searcy to a 33-30 lead before Jacksonville’s unit change. From that point, the Red Devils closed the first half on an 11-2 run.

The last bucket came off a steal by LaQuawn Smith deep on Jacksonville’s end of the court. After chasing down his deflected pass, Smith lobbed to Tedrick Wolfe for an alley-oop dunk just before the buzzer, sending the Red Devils to halftime with a 41-35 lead.

Joyner began mixing and matching players in the second half, and the first group continued the momentum from the first half. The Red Devils built a 51-37 lead over the first six minutes, but Searcy closed the quarter with a 9-2 run to make it 53-46 at the start of the fourth.

Clifton continued to carry the scoring load for Searcy while Wade effectively broke the press with his dribble. The Lions had several possessions to tie or take the lead, but the Jacksonville defense came through when it had to. A Clifton three made it 61-58 with 3:32 remaining, but missed free throws hurt the Lions down the stretch.

Jacksonville answered the Clifton bucket when Smith scored on a nifty inbounds play. Wade then missed a pair of free throws and Jacksonville answered with a stickback by Wolfe for a 65-58 lead. Searcy’s Montel Williams then drained a three and Jacksonville turned it over on the ensuing possession. Williams then scored and was fouled to make it 65-63, but missed the free throw with 1:45 remaining.

Jacksonville sophomore Tyree Appleby got the rebound and dribbled the length of the court before dishing to Wolfe for a layup and a 67-63 lead with 1:38 left. Wade then missed a driving shot, but got his own rebound and kicked it out to Clifton for another 3-pointer that pulled Searcy to within one with 1:10 remaining.

Joyner called timeout and the Lions would get just one free throw from that point while Jacksonville closed the game out by hitting 7 of 8 foul shots when Searcy was forced to foul.

Wolfe led Jacksonville with a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. James added 13 for the Red Devils while Kahlil Hill scored eight.

Clifton led all scorers with 33 points while Wade added 11 points and seven assists.

Free throws played a big role as well. Jacksonville hit 17 of 22 for the game, including 9 of 10 in the fourth quarter and 7 of 8 in the final minute. Searcy hit just 15 of 29, and only 5 of 12 in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville outrebounded Searcy 31-22.

The Red Devils played Greenbrier on Friday and will face Benton at 4:30 today in the final round. Look for details of those games in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers rally into semifinals

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

HOT SPRINGS – A 31-year absence from the semifinal round of the football playoffs is over for the Beebe football team. The Badgers overcame two early turnovers, a 14-0 deficit and a nearly unstoppable Hot Springs tailback to beat the Trojans 42-35 Friday at Hot Springs High School.

The Badgers fell behind 28-14 to what could have been a dagger play on the opening possession of the second half. From that point, the Badgers outscored the Trojans 28-7 to punch their ticket to a semifinal berth against the Wynne Yellowjackets next week.

“I felt good about it because look, we’ve been here before,” said Beebe coach John Shannon about his team’s early deficit. “Whatever kind of adversity you can think of, this team has been through it. But they’ve persevered through all of it. I’m so happy for those guys.”

Trailing 20-14, Beebe’s defense had backed the Trojans up after the Badgers failed to cover an onside kick to start the second half, but on third and 12, Hot Springs, which usually lines up in the Wing-T or Flexbone, went with an empty backfield and running back Cleo Floyd at quarterback. Floyd rolled right and the Badgers sold out to stop him. But Floyd pulled up and hit a wide-open Kenneth Jones for a 31-yard touchdown and a 14-point lead with 8:27 left in the third quarter.

The Trojans scarcely had the ball the rest of the game.

Beebe answered with a nine-play, 60-yard drive that included two hard counts that got Hot Springs to jump off sides on third down. After Clayton Meurer’s 7-yard touchdown run, Beebe kicker Tyler Jones got a perfect bounce on a second on-side kick, and Bo Smith covered it for the Badgers at the Hot Springs 44. Meurer then went 30 yards on first down, Trip Smith went 9 yards and Jo’Vaughn Wyrick went 5 for the score. Jones’ extra point tied the game with 3:10 left in the third.

Hot Springs needed just two minutes to score when Floyd went 60 yards on third and 6 to put the Trojans back up 35-28.

The Badgers then got behind the chains with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a 1-yard gain. They got 17 yards on the next two plays to set up fourth and 7. The punt unit took the field but it was a fake – a fake that did not work properly, but worked nonetheless. The quick handoff was dropped and kicked. Wyrick chased it down 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, dodged one tackler and outran everyone else for the first down. The Badgers converted four more third downs on the drive, including a 32-yard run by Meurer to the Hot Springs 7. Nunez got the last two for the score and the tie with 7:30 remaining.

Hot Springs faced fourth and 3 on the ensuing possession, and Beebe senior Austin Huhn stopped Floyd short of the first down to give the Badgers possession with 5:26 remaining.

“That was just another senior who didn’t want it to end,” Shannon said of Huhn’s stop. They all played big tonight.”

What followed was a methodical Beebe drive – going 50 yards in 10 plays, including a 10-yard gain by Smith on fourth and 1 from the 15. Nunez kept up the middle on the next play for the score with 30 seconds remaining.

Hot Springs got to the Badger 34, but Connor Patrom intercepted a pass intended for Floyd with five seconds left.

The Badgers fumbled the opening kickoff and the Trojans recovered on the Beebe 27. Hot Springs scored in five plays to take a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

Beebe took over on its own 26 and drove down inside the Trojan 20, but Wyrick fumbled again while fighting for extra yards, and again Hot Springs covered.

The next Hot Springs drive wasn’t as fast, but the result was the same. The Trojans went 85 yards in 15 plays, with a key play being a 22-yard run by Floyd on third and 9. Floyd also got the last 2 for the score with 11:34 left in the second quarter.

A nice return by Wyrick set the Badgers up at their own 44, and this time they held onto the ball. The Badgers went 56 yards in 10 plays with Wyrick scoring from 4 yards out with 6:35 left in the first half.

Beebe defensive end Dusty Grier put Hot Springs behind the chains when he tackled quarterback Anthony Goffigan for a 2-yard loss. Floyd only got back to the original line of scrimmage on second down, and a third down pass attempt fell incomplete.

The subsequent punt went just 15 yards, and Beebe took over on its own 42.

The Badgers got behind the chains as well, but a 13-yard pass from Nunez to Meurer converted a third and 11. Wyrick gained 17 on first down from the Hot Springs 32, and Smith got 12 on the next play to set up first and goal at the 3. Two plays later, Nunez scored the first of his three touchdowns on the sneak to tie the game with 1:13 remaining in the first half.

Hot Springs went into halftime with the lead when Floyd went 67 yards on the first play of the ensuing possession.

Beebe finished with 407 total yards to just 289 for Hot Springs. Floyd had almost all of them, carrying 18 times for 223 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith led Beebe with 25 carries for 153 yards. Meurer carried 10 times for 118, including eight for 105 in the second half. He also caught three passes for 34 yards.

TOP STORY >> Cabot runoff election Tuesday

By SARAH CAMPBELL
Leader staff writer

Tuesday is Election Day in the runoff for Cabot alderman Ward 3, Position 1.

Doyle Tullos, who earned more votes than his two opponents in the general election but fell short of the required 50 percent, is facing off against Wendell Gibson.

Lonoke County Clerk Larry Clarke said, as of 4 p.m. Thursday, 262 people had early voted. “That’s not too bad,” for a runoff, he noted.

Clarke also said 91 voted Tuesday, 94 voted Wednesday, and 77 voted Thursday. He expects turnout to hit about 500 voters.

Alderman Angie Jones finished third in the general election earlier this month, losing her bid for re-election.

The official results were 2,490 (41.62 percent) for Tullos; 1,817 (30.37 percent) for Gibson and 1,676 (28.01 percent) for Jones.

Early voting for the runoff is at Re:New Community Church, 1122 S. Second St., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday.

On Tuesday, normal polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

The sites are Grace Fellowship Church at 601 W. Elm St. for Ward 1 residents, Cabot First Baptist Church at 204 N. Third St. for Ward 2 residents, Veterans Park Community Center at 508 N. Lincoln St. for Ward 3 residents and Mount Carmel Baptist Church at 163 Mount Carmel Road for Ward 4 residents.

Tullos is confident he will win. The candidate has been at the polls every day and said, “I’m going to be there until it’s all over Tuesday.”

He also said, “It’s going well…I think they want to put the best qualified person in office, and I have the best credentials for office.”

Jones, who will be leaving office on Dec. 31, has endorsed him.

She told The Leader, “I want someone in there the council can work with. I know that (Tullos is) somebody who loves Cabot and is wanting to be in there for the right reasons… He’ll do a good job.”

Gibson said he was at the polls Thursday and is also optimistic.

“We just hope the people will see a brighter future for Cabot and get out to vote for Wendell Gibson,” he told The Leader.

Tullos is retired and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The ASU and Arkansas National Guard Academy graduate has 35 years of management experience in state government and private industry.

Gibson is a licensed contractor and realtor who founded a construction company in 1995.

He and his wife own Arkansas Homes and Land Realty in Cabot.

TOP STORY >> Award is given to wing

The 19th Airlift Wing has been awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service from August 2012 through last July.

The wing and all supporting groups and squadrons contributed to the success of the award by performing peacetime and wartime missions at their best.

The 19th Airlift Wing is the world’s largest C-130 wing and base in the Department of Defense and is includes four groups, 21 squadrons and 17 staff agencies.

The 19th Airlift Wing continues to carry out missions in Afghanistan and the Middle East, where it’s been active since soon after the terrorist attacks in September 2001.

From supporting the combat airlift mission around the world, disaster relief efforts, unit effectiveness inspections and presidential visits and air shows, the 19th AW has been recognized for excellence in all they do and for contributing significantly to the Department of Defense’s and the Air Force’s overall mission readiness.

“I am extremely proud of you, your hard work and all of the amazing things you accomplish every day,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th AW commander. “I’m thrilled that many outside of our organization have noticed your extraordinary efforts as well.”

The Outstanding Unit Award is awarded to any Air Force unit — including the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard — that performs exceptionally meritorious service, accomplishes specific acts of outstanding achievement, excels in combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or conducts with distinct military operations involving conflict with, or exposure to, a hostile action by any opposing foreign force.

The Air Force Historical Foundation also recently presented its James H. Doolittle Award to the 19th AW for its contribution to airpower for more than 80 years.

In giving the award, the foundation noted that the 19th Airlift Wing “has displayed gallantry, determination and esprit de corps while accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions in multiple conflicts, and thus has made a sustained, significant contribution to Air Force history.” The 19th AW, also known as the Black Knights, arrived at Little Rock Air Force Base in 2008 and flies the all-new C-130Js in the Global War on Terror.

The wing is part of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Air Force Base.

TOP STORY >> Holiday events planned in area

By SARAH CAMPBELL 
Leader staff writer

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series notifying readers of holiday happenings. If you’d like your event listed, please call Sarah at 501-982-9421.

While only a few are hosting Thanksgiving events next week, the upcoming holiday season is set to be full of holly jolly Christmas fun.

First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville is hosting a Thanksgiving meal for the community and church members at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the family life center. Volunteers are still needed and should arrive at the church an hour before the meal if they would like to help with setting up, serving and/or cleaning up.

Jo Ann Silvi, the church’s office administrator, said she expects hundreds of people to attend.

The event is part of Mission 5000, which provides meals twice a week for those in the community who are less fortunate. The meals are at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays.

Average attendance is about 150, Silvi said, with Saturday’s meal sometimes feeding about 200.

Volunteers run the program with no paid staff. Food is purchased through donations and received from a local food bank.

About next week’s event, Silvi said, “For someone who might not have the chance to go and have a good Thanksgiving with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes…This is the opportunity to, at no cost, enjoy Thanksgiving.”

Other free meals planned include a Ward Community Thanksgiving supper from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. today at Cornerstone Assembly Church, 13 Brewer St., and a Thanksgiving Day dinner from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Beebe First United Methodist Church, 302 N. Main St.

The annual Cabot Community Thanksgiving Feast has been canceled. Organizers wrote on its website that they were too “overwhelmed” to host it because they started a new ministry over the summer in Mountain View. The website says, “We asked for someone in the community to take over the feast (with our guidance) but there was no one that could take on that huge responsibility.”

But all is not lost for Cabot residents in need. Re:New Church’s food pantry will be open by appointment on Tuesday.

They will give Thanksgiving food boxes to needy families who call 501-286-7966 to make an appointment. The food will have to be prepared at home.

Christmas will be in full swing for The Leader’s coverage area after Thursday.

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the 37th annual Holiday Craft and Gift Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the community center, 5 Municipal Drive. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 12-18.

The Christmas Gifts and D├ęcor Bazaar at the Ward Chamber of Commerce Com-munity Building, 80 W. Second St., will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on “Small Business Saturday,” which is Nov. 29.

The first of many parades will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2 on Main Street in Jacksonville. The fee to enter a float is $25. Proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club.

Call Laura Walker at 501-982-4316 or email her at lwalker@cityofjacksonville.net to register.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the parade is being held on a Tuesday because people had left early in the past for larger events in Little Rock. He added that 15 floats and one lighted truck had signed up.

Trophies for the float contests will be awarded during the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Jacksonville City Hall. That will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, with the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department’s new mascot, the “Holiday Hog.”

The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce has chosen economic development director Barry Sellers to serve as the grand marshal for this year’s Christmas parade on Saturday, Dec. 6.

The rain date is Sunday, Dec. 7. The parade’s theme is “A Candy Cane Christmas.”

Sellers was surprised to have been chosen after having moved to the community almost a year ago for his current post.

But, he said, “I just honored and humbled and very appreciative that I’ve been so welcomed.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place.”

Beebe’s parade will also be held on Dec. 6. It starts at 6 p.m. from the school campus on Badger Drive, and the theme is “Star Spangled Christmas.”

Judging for awards in civic, commercial, educational and religious categories starts at 5.

The parade will be scheduled for the following Saturday if there is inclement weather.

Parades in Cabot and Ward are set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, respectively.

Ward entries are being accepted through Dec. 12 while Cabot’s deadline is Dec. 8.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson, Wolff lead Razorback Women

By NATE ALLEN
Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Between them, Razorbacks forwards Jessica Jackson and Melissa Wolff from Jacksonville and Cabot led Arkansas’ 75-46 women’s basketball victory over the Savannah State Tigers Sunday at Walton Arena.

Arkansas answered Savannah State’s lone lead (1-0) with an 11-0 run. Other than Savannah State cutting it to 26-20, the Razorbacks never looked back — up 34-20 at half, and increasing that to up 21, 47-26 by 13:39.

Jackson and Wolff, 10 points each, tallied 20 of Arkansas’ 34 first-half points. For the game Jackson finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds and surpassed her 500th career point just two games into her sophomore season.

Wolff, career highs 17 points and 13 rebounds in Arkansas’ season-opening victory Friday over Nicholls State, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds Sunday while sophomore guard Kelsey Brooks scored eight in the second half to finish with 12 and Katie Powell scored seven second-half points to finish with 10.

“For Jessica to have 500 points two games into her sophomore year shows you she can score,” Arkansas first-year Coach Jimmy Dykes said. “I challenged her to get four offensive rebounds today and she got five and 12 rebounds total. So I see her growth as far as getting on the boards and she runs the floor better than last year. She has a chance to be really good.”

Jackson was hugely heralded out of high school, but junior Wolff is regarded as more of a blue-collar plugger.

Is Dykes surprised by her white-collar scoring?

“Wolff has surprised me with the confidence she has gained offensively,” Dykes said. “She was not an offensively confident kid when I took over this program but she jumps up and shoots that 15-footer as well as anybody I have. What doesn’t surprise me about Mo is her motor. I don’t know why they call her that but I would call her that because of her motor. It’s nonstop.

“She deserves everything she is getting, the back-to-back doubles-doubles. To me she is the heartbeat and pulse of this basketball team.”

Kenyata Hendrix’s 15 points led Savannah State.

Ezienne Kalu, Savannah State’s All-MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) Player needed 15 shots to score 11 against Brooks’ defense, Dykes said.

At home last Friday, Savannah State routed Columbia College 100-60 the same night that Arkansas opened its season defeating Nicholls State, 63-52 in Fayetteville.

The Razorbacks, 2-0, play their first road game Thursday night at Middle Tennessee State. MTSU is a NCAA Tournament team that “will show us where we are as a basketball team.” Arkansas will return to Walton Arena next Sunday afternoon against Northwestern (La.) State.

Savannah State next plays Thursday at home against Alabama State, whose men’s team played against the Razorbacks men Sunday afternoon at Walton after the women’s game. Dykes joked he was under the gun to win off the football success of Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks over LSU Saturday night and the women’s soccer team’s NCAA Tournament victory Friday at Oklahoma and volleyball team’s SEC victory over South Carolina Friday.

“There was a lot of pressure on me to win with the soccer team and the volleyball team and Bret Bielema winning Saturday night,” Dykes said. “I didn’t want to be the one to stop the winning.

SPORTS STORY >> Vault stars sign with Arkansas

By GRAHAM POWELL
Leader sportswriter

The prestigious University of Arkansas track and field team got two more big-time signees Monday at Cabot High School, when senior pole-vaulters Lexi and Tori Weeks inked their national letters of intent to join the Razorback track and field team next fall.

The twin sisters have made quite a name for themselves since joining the Cabot track and field team, setting numerous records during their high school vaulting careers, and Monday’s signing was just an example of how far they’ve come since breaking into the sport in seventh grade.

“In seventh grade, when we started pole-vaulting, I had no idea this would even be an option going into senior year, visiting different colleges and stuff,” said Lexi Weeks, “especially just being an Arkansan, and with the Razorbacks being so special all over the state, going to Arkansas is pretty crazy and exciting.”

“A lot of Arkansas athletes grow up wanting to be an Arkansas Razorback and just being able to put on that uniform next year is going to be really awesome,” said Tori Weeks.

Even in seventh grade, when the twin sisters first tried the pole vault, the two excelled, and that became an athletic focus for each of them as time passed.

In addition to the training they do with the Cabot teams and coaches, the Weeks sisters also train with track coach Morry Sanders, who coaches high school track at Lake Hamilton and is a coach on the Arkansas Vault Club.

“We started in the seventh grade,” Lexi Weeks said. “Our track coach told us to come to high school and just try it out. So we did and we started doing it and we realized we were pretty good at it, so we continued.

“Then we started going to Arkansas Vault Club to train with Morry Sanders, and he helped us out a lot and helped us get to where we are today.”

Sanders has been working individually with the Weeks sisters since they were in eighth grade, and he says they’ve been great to work with ever since the first day he saw them.

“I own a pole vault training facility that they’ve been coming down to since they were in eighth grade,” said Sanders. “I’ve known them for a while and they’ve been phenomenal since day one.

“I coach track at Lake Hamilton. We’re in the same junior high conference, and when they were in seventh grade, I saw these two kids who didn’t really know what they were doing, but they were full speed and they looked athletic.

“I said ‘if you girls put some time in you’ll be good at it,’ and it kind of went from there.”

The Weeks sisters have continued to make strides with each year that’s passed. Even as freshmen, Lexi and Tori Weeks were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state for the pole vault, but that was when rules were in place that didn’t allow ninth-graders to compete at the high school level.

That year, both Lexi and Tori cleared 12 feet on the vault, but had to sit out state high school meets because they were freshmen. The winning girls’ vault in the state that year was 11 feet.

In their first high school season, the Weeks sisters cleared 12 feet at the 7A state meet to finish one and two there, with Tori finishing first. Their stellar sophomore campaigns were topped by an even greater junior season.

At the most recent state meet, Lexi Weeks finished first after clearing 13-06.50, breaking the state record. Tori Weeks finished second, respectively, clearing 13-00.75. The third-place height cleared last year was 11-06.00.

A little over a week later at the Meet of Champs in Heber Springs, the Weeks sisters finished one and two yet again, with Lexi Weeks becoming one of the handful of high school girls in the nation, and the first in Arkansas, to clear the 14-foot barrier.

“As far as girls go, I’ve had a few girls that were very technically sound, but I’ve never had girls that were that technically sound and that athletic,” Sanders said.

“They’re just so athletic that it’s almost too easy. All I have to do is just explain something to them one time, and the next trip down the runway, they’re doing it. They’re both probably the best girls I’ve ever coached. They’re just phenomenal, and I’ve had some good girls over the years.”

The Weeks sisters have also done very well in sprinting, relay and hurdling events in their time at CHS, having racked up a number of top-five finishes at all of the big state meets, but the pole vault is where the sisters have excelled the most.

Although they’ve accomplished more than enough to appease most competitors, they each have set even bigger goals for themselves this year, their final one at CHS.

“My goal this year is to break the 14-foot barrier,” Tori Weeks said. “Right now my P.R. (personal record) is 13-3. I think I’m sitting in good position to jump 14, if not higher. I’d really like to see myself getting in the mid-14s this year.”

“I got 14 even last year at Meet of Champs,” Lexi Weeks said. “There’s an indoor record and an outdoor national record that I’m trying to break. The outdoor is 14-7.25 or something like that. So I’m aiming for that, and then after that, 15 would be the next goal, but that’s pretty high, so we’ll see about that.”

“Maybe in college,” Tori Weeks responded.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils get wins in boys’ and girls’ play

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

While the Jacksonville football team was seeing its remarkable season come to a close on Friday, the basketball team got its season underway with an 80-70 victory at West Memphis. The Red Devils went on a 13-4 run midway through the third quarter to open up a tie game, then held on in the fourth quarter for the victory.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was pleased overall with his team’s performance, but was at least glad to see his team find a way to win in the second half.

“It was an ugly basketball game,” said Joyner. “We’ve got some guys not playing in the moment, worrying about too many other things. We’ve got to get more focused on what’s going on out on the court. In spots we competed when we had to. It’s just that some people I thought were going to be the ones to step up didn’t do so. If we’d have had everybody playing like I think we should, we wouldn’t have had much trouble at all I don’t think.”

Joyner’s case in point can be found in the fact that the smaller Blue Devils outrebounded Jacksonville 35-30.

“They just outhustled us most of the game,” Joyner said. “That’s the pitiful thing about it. That’s what was so ugly. I can’t hardly handle players not hustling.”

The game was tied at 33 at halftime, but sophomore point guard Tyree Appleby went on a scoring streak in the third quarter to lead the Jacksonville run. Appleby’s scoring streak was aided by a Joyner adjustment that moved senior Devin Campbell, the team’s leading scorer last year, from the post to the perimeter.

“Appleby kept us in the game hitting big shot after big shot,” Joyner said. “Devin wasn’t getting enough touches. By moving him outside it made them adjust their defense and open things up for us a little bit. Appleby was able to get to the rim a few times and hit some big shots outside.”

The duo led Jacksonville in scoring. Appleby finished with a game-high 24, including 18 in the second half. Campbell added 20 while Tedrick Wolfe scored 12 and LaQuawn Smith added 10 for the Red Devils. Jacksonville hit 19 of 27 free-throw attempts while West Memphis made only 12 of 23.

The Lady Devils improved to 3-1 with a 70-48 victory over Pine Bluff Dollarway in the third-place game of the Mid-South Classic at Pine Bluff High School on Saturday.

Senior point guard Antrice McCoy matched her season average so far, scoring 26 points, including 16 in the second half.

The Lady Devils’ lead was only 20-19 at the break, but pressure defense and the inside-out game of McCoy and junior post Tatiana Lacy broke the game open in the final two quarters. Lacy scored 11 of her 13 points in the 50-point second half.

Sophomore guard Ale-xis James added 10 for Jacksonville while Desiree Williams scored eight and Asiah Williams added seven.

Both Jacksonville teams were at Hot Springs on Tuesday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. The Jacksonville boys also begin play in the Centennial Bank Classic at Searcy High School on Thursday. The Lady Devils will play in the West Memphis Classic beginning next Monday.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe, Trojans for semis

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

Giving just a cursory look at the two teams, one might not think Beebe and Hot Springs are that similar. Taking a more in-depth view reveals some striking similarities between the two teams that meet each other at 7 p.m. Friday for a 5A quarterfinal matchup in Garland County.

Picked by conference coaches to finish seventh in the eight-team 5A South, the Trojans, 7-4, won a share of the conference championship and earned a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. No one saw it coming, especially after they started the season with three-straight nonconference losses.

Beebe, also 7-4, was picked to finish third in the 5A Central, but also stumbled out of the gate with three-straight losses. Both teams had some injuries to deal with early, and both teams made a lot of mistakes in those losses.

Both teams play a power-run brand of football, both have multiple runners that are dangerous, and both racked up lots of yardage in close first-round victories.

It will be an ironic twist of fate for two teams that are used to being a unique opponent for conference foes.

“Anymore no one does what we do,” said Hot Springs coach Chris Vereen. “We see the spread every single week and I’m sure Beebe does too. So it is a concern to be playing a team that does something you’ve never see. But in another way I like it. We were in a track meet last week and I hate that kind of game. I like a 21-14 type of game.”

The Badgers lead Class 5A in rushing, averaging 345 yards per game and 45 rushing touchdowns on the season. Hot Springs is second in those categories, averaging 320 yards per game and 41 rushing touchdowns.

“We’re about as close to a carbon copy of each other as two teams can get,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “From coaches I’ve talked to, they made a lot of mistakes early on, but they’ve cleaned that up and are playing some good football right now, especially on offense.”

Trojan running back Clarence “Cleo” Floyd had 30 carries for 364 yards in last week’s 47-35 win over Little Rock Christian Academy, but it’s quarterback Anthony Goffigan that catches Shannon’s eye.

“That running back had a lot of long runs, but that quarterback is the main thing that worries me,” Shannon said. “I think he’s the one that’s really instrumental in what they do. He was their starter last year and got hurt, but he’s back now and he’s a dangerous weapon for them.”

Goffigan engineers Hot Springs’ modified Wing-T, which often lines one third of the T up as a slot receiver. Goffigan is an effective passer, but the extra receiver is often used to spread the defense out a bit to create running room up the middle.

Vereen knows a thing or two about the power running game, and knows he’s up against a coaching staff that is familiar with his style.

“Well there’s probably nobody in the state that knows what we’re trying to do better than coach Shannon. “Vereen said. “And he’s right. Goffigan is the one that makes us go. Some people might see that Cleo went for 300 and gear up on him, and next thing you know Goffigan’s gone for 240 on them. So I don’t think there’s going to be too much fooling coach Shannon and his staff. They know this style and it’s just going to come down to who executes better and eliminates mistakes.”

Beebe runs the Dead-T, and has enjoyed tremendous success offensively this year, that is when it hasn’t turned the ball over. There have been several fumbles this season, including 12 in the first three games. That problem had not come up much late in the year, but three fumbles, two of which were lost, in the third quarter aided Nettleton’s comeback after the Badgers built a 28-7 lead.

For the most part, Beebe’s running game has been exceptional since conference play began. Two runners, fullback Trip Smith and halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick, who moved in from Augusta during the summer, have rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and halfback Clayton Meurer has more than 700.

“We knew what Trip could do because he got almost 2,000 last year,” Shannon said. “We knew Jo was fast and would be good in space, but we didn’t know how good of a runner he would be between the tackles. Turns out he’s also a tough, tough runner. He doesn’t have nearly the amount of carries Trip has, but when we need a big play we put the ball in his hands.”

No team with that many rushing yards does so on the talent of backs alone. The Badgers offensive line has been exceptional this year as well. Shannon had high hopes for the unit since the spring, and is pleased with how it has played.

“Before the season started we sat down as a unit and talked about goals for that group,” Shannon said. “One of the goals was to get two guys over 1,000 yards. They were actually a little upset that we didn’t get it in the regular season. The starters were asking me for one more series against North Pulaski to do it, but I wasn’t going to do that to them.”

Wyrick had 964 yards after the regular-season finale, then had 158 in last week’s 49-48 win over Nettleton, a game in which all three starting running backs had 100 yards.

If the Badgers win on Friday, it will mark the first time in 31 years they have advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs. The last time a Beebe team made it that far was 1983, Shannon’s senior year at Beebe High School.

While the head Trojan didn’t guarantee a win, he did have one guarantee.

“I guarantee you it’ll be the first game finished on Friday,” Vereen said. “That clock may not stop that much because I don’t think there’s going to be too many incomplete passes. And I’m looking forward to it. It’s like we were saying over the weekend, it’s just going to be good old, hard-nosed American football at Hot Springs High School this Friday.”

EDITORIAL >> Right decision on consultant

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and the city’s controversial economic development consultant quietly parted ways during a divisive campaign for re-election that Fletcher won by 841 votes.

The consultant, Rickey Hayes of Owasso, Okla., had been paid about $250,000 over five years while Fletcher was mayor. Hayes did not report to the city council, and his results were meager. We never met the man, and you probably didn’t either.

Hayes did get Firehouse Subs for Jacksonville a couple of years ago, but he’s had little luck since, blaming a lack of prime real estate and saying big deals take a long time.

Hayes was paid about $90,000 in his first year working for the city part time — more than the full-time mayor and police chief — and even had the city pay extra for private planes to fly in executives who were considering opening businesses in Jacksonville. There’s no telling if they were for real.

The first of many times this newspaper called for Hayes to be fired was in August 2013. “When Hayes was hired, many longtime Jacksonville chamber members felt betrayed. The mayor had unintentionally alienated the city’s business community. It was a rough start for a new mayor who’d only hoped to reroute some city money and bring in some new businesses,” we said in an editorial then.

Fletcher and Director of Administration Jim Durham, the mayor’s second in command, were so hopeful that Hayes would eventually bring in businesses that they could not bring themselves to let Hayes go until the re-election campaign.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce lost some of its funding when Hayes was hired. But, now that he is gone, Fletcher and the chamber have buried the hatchet and promise to work together to recruit new businesses.

This last election shows that Jacksonville residents expect more. They want to see the city’s finances improve and be reassured that the city can pay for projects like the $3.2 million firing range. Hayes was a hot-button issue during the campaign. It was clear that he did not have many supporters among residents here. The mayor made the right decision to make a change.

EDITORIAL >> Enthusiasm for schools

The new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board was off to a good start at its first meeting Monday evening at city hall.

After a 35-year effort, the new Jacksonville district now has an outstanding board with impressive education credentials. The board elected Daniel Gray president, Ron McDaniel vice president and Carol Miles secretary. Patrick Wilson, who helped shepherd the new district into existence, was hired as the district’s attorney, a crucial post as the Pulaski County school districts are still trying to extricate themselves from the long-running desegregation lawsuit.

The first historic meeting was held without fanfare, but those who watched the swearing-in ceremony could tell that this board will lead the district in a new direction. This is a board that will offer students better schools and a better education and show the community that local control is the best and only way to run a school district.

We’ve seen how Beebe, Cabot and Lonoke school districts have grown over the decades. Local residents fund new schools almost every year because of grassroots efforts that make funding for new schools and programs possible.

Mayor Gary Fletcher encouraged that board to do its best for the 4,000 students in the district. Also in attendance was the redoubtable Bobby Lester, who led Jacksonville High School and the Pulaski County Special School District to new heights before it plunged into chaos soon after he retired.

Don’t be surprised if former superintendent Bobby Lester steps in to lead the district, at least while it takes its first baby steps. He has the practical know-how and a down-home touch that would help the district move forward with building plans, staffing and budgeting.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at city hall on the first Monday of each month. The next meeting will be on Dec. 1.

If you live in the Jacksonville area, try to attend the board’s next meeting and give the members a standing ovation. And, if you happen to spot former state Rep. Pat Bond (D-Jacksonville) — she sponsored legislation more than a decade ago that made the new district possible — thank her for ushering in a new era for thousands of students who have been neglected too long.

TOP STORY >> Hall of fame inductee served in Vietnam

By SARAH CAMPBELL           
Leader staff writer

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Danny Stedman, 66, of Sherwood was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame this month.

The Vietnam veteran participated in 85 combat missions and was awarded two Air Medals and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

Stedman told The Leader, “It was really a privilege to serve, and I learned that it’s just a blessing to be an American.”

He was also in the Arkansas Air National Guard from 1976 until 1999, serving in several leadership roles, including Commander of the 154th flying squadron.

Stedman is a former Sher-wood mayor, alderman, chamber president and was the chamber’s Man of the Year in 1985. He left the mayor’s post before his term ended, for health reasons.

As president of the local Rotary Club, Stedman led construction of the Sherwood Veterans Memorial in front of Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave., in 2005.

He was the Jacksonville chamber’s economic developer for three years, an adjunct professor at Arkansas State University-Beebe for years and is volunteering with the Service Corps of Retired Executives as a mentor for entrepreneurs.

“Just because you served in the military doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything else. You ought to do as much as you can to make the world a better place,” Stedman said.

In Vietnam, “I lost some friends…As they say, war is hell,” he continued.

Stedman was deployed there after he graduated from Southern State College (now Southern Arkansas University) in Magnolia, officer training school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; navigator training at Mather Air Force Base in California and proficiency training at Castle Air Force Base in California.

The veteran refueled bombers and fighter jets as part of a KC-135 crew.

“Probably one of the most harrowing experiences was the Christmas bombings of 1972, better known as (Operation) Linebacker II.”

That was 11 days of bombing North Vietnam and the second largest air battle since World War II, Stedman said.

The bombings encouraged the enemy to sign the Paris Peace Accords that ended the war, he explained.

Stedman was stationed in an emergency tanker at the gulf of Takhli, Thailand, where the crew helped damaged planes get to safety.

He said, “We saw the first one (B-52) get shot down, which was pretty moving…There was nothing we could do.”

As a navigator, Stedman used celestial bodies to guide planes to locations and to other planes for in-flight refueling

But, he said, “Navigators are pretty much going away. Their job has been eliminated by technology.”

About the soldiers’ return from Vietnam, he said, “That was a very sad time. The war was such a political war. There was so much divisiveness.

“It’s unfair that they took it out on us, but the American people were so disenchanted with it that we were kind of the bad guys. In reality, we were over there trying to protect their freedoms.”

That wasn’t everyone, he said, but no welcome home parade or public celebrations were held.

Stedman continued, “To a lot of us, it didn’t matter. We did our job. We did what we were supposed to do. We didn’t necessarily need all that recognition.”

But, he also said, the cold reception “was probably the worst thing about the war, other than the carnage and the death.”

After the Vietnam War, Stedman was on strategic alert deterrence during the Cold War.

He said, “We were at a moment’s notice to get to our aircraft and launch” in retaliation to a Russian attack.

Stedman was born in Warren but grew up in Fordyce.

His father, a World War II Army veteran, was a prisoner of war for 18 months in Europe after being captured during the assault on Rome.

His uncle was killed in Normandy during World War II, and his brother-in-law was injured while deployed in Iraq.

Two of his nephews are enlisted in the Army National Guard and were also deployed to Iraq.

Stedman said he was passed the torch and family is often left out of the equation when it comes to recognizing those who serve.

When he was deployed to Vietnam, Stedman left his wife, Barbara, and their 11-month-old daughter at home. The couple now have two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

About his 43-year marriage, Stedman said, “(My wife) was always, like, ‘Go do your thing, go do your job. I’ll take care of all this’…that takes a big burden off the veteran, the military person, to know that everything is OK back at the house.”

TOP STORY >> WWII bomber pilot Lt. Col. Wilmer Plate

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

Retired Lt. Col. Wilmer Plate of Jacksonville, a Second World War bomber pilot, last month published an autobiography, “The Storm Clouds of War,” about his combat experience flying B-24 Liberators during WWII.

Plate, 95, flew 31 missions with the 489th Bomb Group’s 10-men crew over Germany and France from May 30 to Sept. 27, 1944. Two of those missions were on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when their plane returned to England with 300-plus holes. It did not fly again.

Plate spoke about his life and shared some war stories last Thursday night at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

He was born on a farm in Bennett, Iowa, in 1919. His family moved to New Mexico as homesteaders and later settled in Crane, Texas, running a dairy farm.

In 1941, the family had to sell when a competitor began delivering pasteurized milk to groceries and businesses.

Plate was 25, married with a child and unemployed when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in June 1942. Plate was already a pilot flying small civilian planes.

In the 1930s, a pilot landed a plane on a gravel strip near Plate’s farm. He let the pilot use the runway in exchange for flying lessons. The pilot came by once a week and Plate eventually got his pilot license.

Plate went into the service in the aviation maintenance program in Tulsa, Okla., when he read a notice about the military needing pilots.

Plate passed the air cadet program in October 1942 without having the required high school diploma.

He also spoke about his pilot training at the museum.

“It was the best experience I had ever had. It was a PT-19, an open cockpit. The instructor taxied it out to the runway and said put your hand on the throttles and controls. We moved, and the tail comes up. We leave the ground. It doesn’t get any better than this,” Plate said.

He said the next best thing was learning to fly a B-24 at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. It was the biggest airplane in operation at that time.

“You get to take off. You push in the throttle. The adrenaline kicks in. The heart rate goes up. Soon you feel the lightness in the controls as you leave the ground. That is living,” Plate said.

Plate recalled flying in from a mission over Germany during the war. The men had flown for five hours. They were relaxed, descending from high altitude just over the English coast. The gunners had unloaded and broken down their guns. Plate was three miles from the base and heard, “WHACK.”

“I look out the left wing and there is a black flak shell that went off 50 feet from my wingtip,” Plate said.

He had to take evasive action and get out of the traffic pattern. The navigator noted where the flak came from, and it was from England.

After they landed and debriefed, Plate had got on a bicycle wearing his best uniform and went to the gate. He spoke with the commander of the station and asked if he was responsible for firing an anti-aircraft shell at a B-24. He said yes, and that it was a training exercise to track altitude, distance and direction.

Plate told him that he was in the bomber and it upset his nerves. This was a warning.

“If it happens again, I’m going to reload those 50-caliber machine guns on the plane. When I get through, there won’t be enough room to hide a bicycle,” Plate said.

“I never saw flak in that area again,” Plate said.

While in England, Plate and a bombardier met the Spindlers family at a local pub. The Spindlers invited them to their house one night for a meal. The Spindlers prepared a meal with their rations, a few cubes of meat, a couple of vegetables and a piece of bread.

“When we got back home to base, we raided the commissary and came up with all sorts of good things for them. From then on, when we came down (to the Spindlers), we brought some with us.

“These people invited us to stay at their house. We spent the nights sometimes. They were very nice. They lived directly under the flight path coming in to the air field. If we were out at the pub one night, they knew we were flying the next day.

“When the airplanes began flying in, (Mrs. Spindler) would go out in the back yard with her two children. When I flew over, I’d flash my landing light. They’d say, ‘OK girls let’s go in; the boys will be down soon,’” Plate said.

Plate then spoke about the importance of the crew chiefs. They were the ones who maintained and kept the airplanes safe while the crews were flying them.

“They don’t get any credit for that, and that’s not right,” Plate said.

“The crew chiefs would meet the pilots and crew when they came out and follow us around the airplane during pre-flight so we didn’t miss anything,” he recalled.

“Some of them would even follow us up into the cockpit to make sure we started the engines properly before we advanced the throttle. They were very protective of their airplanes,” he said.

“When we got the signal to taxi out, some would follow the plane out on their bicycle until we got to the take-off point. They would stand there and watch and see if we cleared the trees at the far end of the runway,” Plate said.

He continued, “When they knew when we were coming back, they would head to the runway and wait for the airplane to come in. They would stand there to salute them.

“If the airplane did not come in, they would sometimes stand out there for an hour hoping it might struggle back — and they would hang their heads and walk slow back to their revetment. Their airplane didn’t make it,” Plate said in a hushed tone.

Plate got out of the service in August 1945. He returned to the service in 1947, enlisting as an aircraft mechanic. He retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1971 after a 30-year career.

Plate and his wife, Helen, moved from Oklahoma to Cabot in 2006 and to Jacksonville in 2008 to be near family. Plate said another reason was the Little Rock VA Hospital had better services than the Oklahoma City VA Hospital. His wife passed away in 2011. They were married for 71 years. They have two daughters, Mary and Eleanor.

Plate was awarded many service medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.

TOP STORY >> History made with district’s first meeting

By JOHn HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Sworn in Monday evening, the first-ever Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District Board unanimously elected Daniel Gray its president.

Ron McDaniel was elected vice president and Carol Miles secretary.

The state Board of Education created the new district and approved the seven-member board Thursday.

Moments after the new board adjourned its Monday meeting, former PCSSD Superintendent Bobby Lester said he’d be interested in serving as interim superintendent.

LESTER TRUSTED

Lester, a PCSSD administrator for more than 30 years — half of that as superintendent — is widely respected and trusted by many area residents, and has long worked behind the scenes to help create the new, standalone district.

“I’m not interested in anything long-term,” he told The Leader, “but in the interim.”

Lester, a Jacksonville resident, is a consultant for McPherson/Jacobson, a national executive recruitment and development group that specializes in superintendent searches and salary studies, and has done both in the past for central Arkansas districts.

SWORN IN

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson swore in the board, which also in-cludes Norris Cain, Richard

Moss, Robert Price and LaConda Watson.

Local elected officials recommended the new board members from more than 50 applicants. They are noteworthy for the expertise they bring, according to state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), who chaired the selection committee.

Gray and McDaniel also serve on the PCSSD advisory board — which, in lieu of a PCSSD board, makes salary and other recommendations to State Education Commissioner Tony Woods and hears grievances and student suspensions and expulsions.

Since the state took over PCSSD in 2012, dismissed the board and fired Superintendent Charles Hopson, the state Education Commissioner —then Tom Kimbrell, now Tony Woods — has served as a one-man school board.

The board asked PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess to contact Woods for some help in identifying qualified applicants for the job.

After electing officers, the board’s first action was to hire Patrick Wilson of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings as its attorney. Wilson has worked for a standalone Jacksonville school district since 2009, attending virtually every meeting, conference and court date.

NO BETTER USE

Wilson thanked the board and said, “I cannot imagine a possible better use for my law degree than to help Jacksonville (get its own school district).”

The board also voted to hold regular meetings at 6:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Jacksonville City Hall.

As for the hiring of an interim superintendent and an assistant, Gray said, “We need to take our time.” Price said, “I’d like to slow down the superintendent process — don’t want to rush it.”

Guess, who will act as superintendent of the Jacksonville- North Pulaski District until it hires its own, encouraged the board to move forward on hiring a superintendent “with experience, one who understands the many facets of the job and who gets up in the morning ready to do more today than yesterday.”

He said there was a lot of work to be done, and suggested they act with some dispatch.

PCSSD FUNDS

Currently, the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District has no money of its own. But, as part of the desegregation agreement settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Price Marshall, Guess and his staff will pay bills and salaries and provide support services until the new district can stand on its own, with its own revenues.

By the same token, until that time, the tax and per-student minimum foundation aid for the new district will continue to be part of PCSSD’s revenue stream.

The two districts have a lot to work out in the one to two years they have to complete detachment and stand up a school district.

“There are several things to be done quickly,” Guess told the board. “Setting up board zones, determining the millage rate, the tax base of the district and profiling the district staff — how many administrators, teachers, secretaries, bus drivers (plus) a salary schedule that will attract and keep employees — are critical challenges that haven’t been done before because never before has a new school district been created in Arkansas.”

NO WASTED DAY

“You got new ground to plow,” Guess said. “I have the utmost respect for someone who can come in and begin to guide you and dig out answers to those questions.

“Time is of the essence,” Guess added. “Every day is important. You cannot afford a wasted day between now and the day Jacksonville-North Pulaski welcomes students.”

Price suggested that the group go through team building exercises as soon as possible, but Arkansas School Board Association staff lawyer Kristen Garner said it might be good to wait until they had an interim superintendent hired.

She told the board that, despite common perception, sometimes by school board members themselves, “The board doesn’t run a school district. It is over policy.”

The superintendent runs the district and administrators run the schools, Garner said. Using a building analogy, she continued, “You are the architects; administrators are the workers.

“I assume you’ll be called the Jacksonville School Board, but you may decide otherwise,” she noted.

Actually, the order signed by state Board of Education Chair Sam Ledbetter created the Jacksonville-North Pulaski County School Board.

YOU DON’T RUN DISTRICT

“Many of you may be on the eventual school board,” Garner said, “and you’ll have to deal with people who believe you run the district.”

She also said, “One of the enemies of a highly effective board is geocentric or other groups, like businesses, teachers or others that will be divisive, not productive.

“That is at the root of much dysfunction,” Garner said. “Guard against that. Discover your shared values.”

Gray promised her that many on the board had seen that in action with previous PCSSD school boards, which — by most accounts — were dysfunctional.

Garner also warned against improper communication among school board members. “It’s a Freedom of Information violation,” she said. Garner also passed out FOI handbooks.

They cannot discuss matters amongst themselves outside of meetings, Garner warned.

In the past, some board members drove to the PCSSD Central Office almost daily, trying to micromanage and control the superintendent.

Garner warned against subcommittees of the board, saying they were fraught with opportunities to violate the FOI. She also said that answering a board member or superintendent’s email with a “reply all” would also constitute an FOI violation.

“I would assume PCSSD policies are your policies until you adopt your own,” she also told the board.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “People are expecting great things of you...You were chosen for your hearts and your brains.”

A TEMPORARY INTERIM CHIEF?

Of Lester’s interest in the job, Gray said, “Lester has been an integral part of the process. He helped us get to this point and was influential behind the scenes. It would be silly not to use that expertise.”

Gray noted that most superintendents are currently under contract, and it’s possible that Lester could be “an interim-interim superintendent,” helping get the district started without committing to a two-year interim superintendency.

“We need somebody who is going to work for us every day so we can transition and be on our own sooner. Someone with passion and a hunger.”

Gray seemed to imply that perhaps Lester could act as superintendent while the board takes the time to locate a long-term interim superintendent.