Friday, March 25, 2016

TOP STORY >> Excel Ford approved for new location

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Planning and Zoning Commission on Tues-day approved the site plan for the new Excel Ford dealership on North Rockwood Road.

Excel Ford came back to the planning commission with a revised plan on how to deal with traffic flow on North Rockwood Road entering and exiting the dealership.

Excel Ford will widen a portion of North Rockwood Road and add a center lane for left-hand turns entering the 18,050-square-foot dealership at the corner of North Rockwood Road and West Main Street/Hwy. 89.

The city could not force Crye-Leike Realtors to share its driveway with Excel Ford for access to and from Hwy. 89. Excel Ford adding its own entryway from Hwy. 89 would also be too close to Crye-Leike’s driveway and conflict with the city’s master plan that requires 245 feet of separation between driveways.

Adding sidewalks along Rockwood Road would not be compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and be impractical because the slope is a severe grade, officials say.

The sidewalk would not go out to the Hwy. 89 intersection because the state is responsible for the right of way and the requirement for a crosswalk at that intersection.

The commission voted 4-2 to approve the site with no sidewalks.

Nancy Cohea and Chuck Prater voted against it.

Dennis Hyland was absent.

Commissioner James Reid voted for the site plan to make it a majority vote.

“I want to see this property go in. I’m not crazy about it going in without sidewalks. I do agree that we’ve come a long way with the (entrance and exit) onto Rockwood. Excel Ford is a good partner within the city. It is something we really wanted to see go in there. We wanted to do it so it was a good fit for everybody involved,” Reid said.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved the site plan for David Butler to build his Edward Jones financial office building at the corner of South Pine Street and Countrywood Street.

The commission unanimously approved the rezoning of 87 S. Pine St., from R-1 residential to C-2 commercial.

TOP STORY >> Military patients booted off rolls

Leader staff writer

“I pretty much feel like a second-class citizen now,” says a retired master sergeant, one of 1,400 area military-connected families who have had their primary care taken from them and wholesale transferred to either a quick care facility or to a nearly full base clinic.

The air base says it is prepared to take on the extra load.

The sergeant says, in 21 years of service, he “did what I was asked to do and went where I was told and the government does this.”

The “this” was revealed in a letter military members, retirees and families received from either the Jacksonville Medical Clinic or Cabot Medical Group saying that those two facilities would no longer be able to accept TriCare Prime patients.

The reason? TriCare officials wanted the two clinics to accept reimbursement for service 15 percent under what Medicaid pays.

That meant it cost more to care for the TriCare patients than the clinics were going to get paid.

“We were given 24 hours to accept the new deal from Humana, which manages TriCare. We argued to release the patients slowly to provide smoother care, but Humana said, once you are out of the network, no patients can be seen,” explained Jonathan Foster, manager of the Jacksonville Medical Care clinic.

“When did our health care become a negotiable item?” asked a retired Air Force technical sergeant. “This will affect a lot of people. I know change is hard, but this is a change that shouldn’t be happening.”

Foster said many of the patients had been with the clinic since 1998 when the last contract was signed. “We’ve been paid those rates ever since.”

That contract was actually signed with North Metro Hospital and the clinic had privileges with hospital so was able to treat the military-related patients under the contract. But the clinic gave up those privileges last year because of problems with the hospital management team and treatment of the clinic doctors.

The contract issues also have affected Cabot Medical Group clinic.

In a letter to the affected patients and on the Jacksonville clinic’s web page, Foster stated, “We regret to inform you that as of March 2nd, 2016 we are no longer a network provider with TriCare. We apologize for the short notice but Humana Military only gave us 24 hours notice. We have spent the last couple of months working really hard to negotiate a direct contract with TriCare. It has been a difficult decision for us to make but TriCare would not work with us.”

The statement continued, “We agreed to take a rate reduction, on what is already one of the lowest reimbursing insurances, we contacted our Congressmen and spoke to multiple people at Humana Military-TriCare about the effects this would have on our community, to no avail. We care deeply for our TriCare patients and we love serving you; however TriCare is demanding that we accept fees that are below our cost. We will continue to work to resolve this issue.”

In an interview with the Leader, Foster reiterated,”They were trying to make some pretty big cuts to our reimbursements that actually pushed our reimbursements below what it costs us to take care of patients, so we couldn’t accept those terms. We agreed to take a little bit of a cut, in the interest of keeping patient’s continuity care going, but we ultimately can’t take reimbursements that’s below what it costs us to take care of the patients.”

The two Air Force veterans, along with many other patients are not upset with the clinics or the new places they must go, but are upset with TriCare. “I fault TriCare more than anything,” said the technical sergeant.

“I get a card in the mail saying my new primary care manager is Arkansas Quick Care and that they will be accepting me as a patient March 25. But the clinic stopped accepting TriCare March 2. I called TriCare and asked what I needed to do between those two date and the response was ‘just call us if something happens.’”

Neither of the two military retirees has a problem with Dr. Terry Peery, the one and only doctor at Quick Care who now has 700 new patients. “We had an open house meeting there and he seems nice but its not the same as going to the doctor we’ve had for 13 years,”said the technical sergeant.

“The past couple of weeks, we have absorbed 700 new patients into our on-base clinic and our clinic is really going to continue that highest quality care they can for every individual who walks through that door,” said 2nd Lt. Margaret Kealy, spokesman for Little Rock Air Force Base.

Kealy added that the hospital clinic, part of the 19th Medical Group,is now at maximum capacity with a total of 14,700 patient.

The two military veterans and others have had meetings with U.S. Rep. French Hill, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, and U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, all with no luck.

“Hill’s people seemed concerned, but no one else did,” the master sergeant said, adding that Crawford’s office said the military insurance provider did nothing wrong.

Foster said he and others from the clinic met Wednesday with Boozman and representatives from the other legislators’ offices. “They are looking at what can be done in the short term to help these military patients. But for long term it is a systemic problem that will have to be resolved at the national level,” he explained.

“These patients are friends, family and some have been with us for 25 years We hate it. But we can’t operate on a contract that would cause us to close our doors,” Foster said, adding that most of the released patients that he has talked o understand. “Our goal is to make sure they get the best care possible. We worry about patients falling through the cracks during the switch over.”

TriCare Prime is a managed health care option available to active duty service members and their families; retired service members and their families; activated Guard/Reserve members and their families; non-activated Guard/Reserve members and their families who qualify for care under the Transitional Assistance Management Program; retired Guard/Reserve members (age 60 and receiving retired pay) and their families; Medal of Honor recipients and their families and others who qualify

Those in the program have an assigned primary care manager (PCM) who provides most of the care and is the one to make any referrals to specialists.

The contract only affects those patients under TriCare Prime. Both the Jacksonville and Cabot clinic can and are still seeing patients who have TriCare for Life,TriCare Standard or other TriCare insurance.

TOPS STORY >> 40 years after the storm

Special to The Leader

The news quickly dominated radio and television stations — a tornado had hit the business area of Cabot a little after 3 p.m., and there were reports of deaths and destruction along the nine-mile swath ripped by the twister.

Soon, calls came into now-Mayor Bill Cypert’s Blue Cross Blue Shield office in Little Rock telling him about the storm, but he didn’t hang around to field more calls. Instead, Cypert, who had moved to Cabot the year before, drove to his home on Mount Carmel Road.

It was March 29, 1976, and — as with events such as 9/11 — most Cabot residents who lived through the storm remember where they were and what they were doing that day. It will have been 40 years Tuesday.

It seems impossible, but from the twisted wreckage of that disaster the seeds of today’s vibrant downtown were planted.


Cabot was settled in 1873 but didn’t grow much until folks from Little Rock and the military personnel stationed at nearby Little Rock Air Force Base started moving in.

Just prior to 1970, the population had nearly doubled to 2,900, and continued to grow through the rest of the decade to about 4,800. More people meant more a growth in retail and other services, Cypert says.

As Cypert drove into town that afternoon, he was stunned by the damage.

In the days following the tornado, the Red Cross estimated that the tornado had destroyed 49 mobile homes, 28 homes and 24 apartment units. It significantly damaged another 12 mobile homes, 38 homes and 36 apartments.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John Robinson, now retired, rem-embers it well. It was his first tornado as a professional weatherman and the F3 storm left five people dead and 64 injured, with many hospitalized.

While the tornado sirens in Cabot sounded the alarm, National Weather Service Meteorologist Willie Gilmore says today’s information is much more accurate and there are multiple ways for people to receive information. In the 1970s, radio, television and city sirens were all they had, he says.

According a news report by Bob Steel on the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History website, the tornado started about five miles southwest of Cabot, and it grew to about the length of four football fields, carving a swath about nine miles long.

After Cypert knew that his family was safe — his young

After assured that his family was safe, his young daughter had been at school but she was home by the time he arrive, Cypert headed to the town’s business area.

In an approximately 15-block business area—part would later be rebuilt after the storm as a small downtown—every business was destroyed or heavily damaged, said Cabot Mayor Willie Ray as part of the Pryor Center oral history report.

It left about 6,000 without power, says Cypert. Also, he adds it was in the days before cell phones and because of the power outage, most homes were without phone service.

“It made communication difficult,” he says.

Twenty-two commercial establishments outside the business area sustained major damage.

Cypert says, “The state pulled out all the stops,” in order to help the small town.

The state’s emergency office estimated that the damage reached about $7 million and Cabot was declared a natural disaster area. A number of area law enforcement, military and other agencies quickly responded, even the Arkansas highway department brought in heavy equipment to help with the cleanup.

Business district bruised

Grocer and hardware merchant Jack Lowman, then owner of Lowman and Lowman, remembers that afternoon well. He started closing up shop as the sirens sounded. His wife, Pat, was already on her way to the high school where her daughter Jacque was a student.

Pat Lowman also has crystal-clear memories of that day, “They already had kids on the bus but they had to get them off and back into the school.”

She ducked in the school’s office with her daughter, but instead of a direct hit on the school, the tornado lifted as it roared overhead.

The school and the possibly 3,000 kids were safe.

Suzanne Baldwin, 14 in 1976, remembers that she didn’t go to school that day, but from her home in Ward she watched as the tornado passed.

Candy Miller of Cabot was right in the middle of it as a student at Cabot Elementary School and remembers the events vividly.

“It was a little after 3 [p.m.] and I thought it was a drill…We sat with our books over our heads, our backs against the wall [of the school’s hallway]. At first it was quiet and raining hard,” she recalls.

Outside, already kids had been loaded on the bus but the school’s staff quickly moved all the kids back inside.

Miller says she wasn’t scared but remembers she heard it and recalls the classroom curtains being sucked upward to the ceiling.

Cypert says, “Fortunately, the tornado jumped the school. If not, it would have been tragic,” he says.

Like Miller, his daughter Tammy, then in second grade, was at the elementary school.

No child injured

“Not a single child was injured and they [the school staff] did a great job of keeping track of all the kids and keeping them safe,” he says.

Lowman had remained at the store for a few minutes after his wife left, but soon headed in the direction of the school.

Within a few minutes, the tornado overtook Lowman and turned his truck around, and he recalls, “Houses were flying over my truck…It was scary.”

He admits he was lucky.

When he returned to his business on Front Street, he was shocked, and he says, “In the streets, there were people everywhere.”

The front of Lowman’s building was heavily damaged—later, the state health department made him throw all the food out.

Next door at the Buffalo Insurance Agency, four people were killed, including one child, and one person was buried alive under the rubble of the two-story building.

Everyone helped dig him out, Lowman remembers.

The agency rebuilt and is today located at 122 N. First St.

Without skipping many beats, Lowman moved his hardware business a few blocks away for about three months while his place underwent a redo.

Both Lowman and Cypert say much of the town’s rescue and recovery was because of the quick actions of then Cabot Mayor Willie Ray.

Lowman says, “He did an excellent job.”

Cypert, the town’s future mayor remembers, “I was shocked at the destruction I saw…I will never forget that the sun came out, making the damage more vivid, more real. It was indescribable.”

Like so many others, he did what he could to assist people.

Cypert also commends Ray, saying, “The mayor did a tremendous job and worked around the clock for days. He was a major calming factor and pulled out all the stops, pulling in country and state resources.”

However, Ray’s work didn’t stop with the disaster that left the town’s reeling and in shock for weeks.

Cypert says it’s impossible to adequately paint a picture of the traumatic events with words.

Fast forward 40 years

As with any tragedy, Lowman says the community came together and ultimately the tornado made Cabot stronger and better.

He feels Ray is largely responsible for the rebuilding of the business area, as well as the creation of a town square, and not only did the city survive, but Lowman says it thrived in the years following the tornado.

According to Cabot history, “During the rebuilding of the city, it was decided to build a new city hall, municipal courtroom, library (since relocated), and police station on the site of the debris-filled dividing point between the east and west sections of Main Street, creating City Plaza.”

It goes on to say that a new health clinic (now in another location) was built behind city hall” to help maintain the vitality of the older part of the city, and Centennial Bank built a branch that looks on the outside like the original Bank of Cabot, history accounts state. As well, “Highway 89, which follows the same path as West Main Street in Cabot, was redirected around City Plaza along one block of Second Street, to continue its path along Pine Street just south of the Cabot High School campus.”

Numerous subdivisions have sprung up and since the tornado, not only has Cabot grown in population and size; it has big-box stores and boutiques, and large grocery stores and family entertainment like the bowling alley and a movie theater.

According to the latest census numbers, Cabot’s population is now nearly 24,000, and the school district 2016 enrollment is at about 10,000.

While some towns never recover, there are success stories. Arkansas towns have experienced growth after a major tornado, including Dumas and Arkadelphia and nearby Vilonia, which suffered tornadoes in 2011 and 2014.

Vilonia déjà vu

A number of agencies came together to help with the revitalization of the Vilonia, including volunteers and churches from around the state, and organizations like Habitat for Humanity. There’s money for schools, a playground and more.

Marty Knight, Knight Business Solutions owner and consultant, and until recently a resident of Vilonia, spearheaded a grassroots rebuilding organization after the tornadoes.

The town had grown from about 700 since the 1970s to about 4,000 when the first twister hit.

“It’s a real challenge,” Knight says about bringing various groups together. One group might remember how things were and want to duplicate that, while new residents see a different future for the town.

The Rebuild Vilonia Committee talked with other cities that had experienced similar tornadoes and benefited from what they learned during their rebuild.

Despite the hard work involved, he says like Cabot, “It’s possible for a city to turn tragedy into opportunity.”

Comeback Celebration

Two years after the storm, Cabot Mayor Ray, who served as mayor for 19 years, put together the “We’re Back—Cabot” festival.

Pat and Jack Lowman attended the first festival that was held in the downtown area. The celebration was needed after the terrible events, Jack Lowman remembers.

Now simply known as CabotFest, the tradition continues with recent attendance recording topping 30,000 visitors, says Candy Miller, who these days works at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.

The three-day festival has grown to include live entertainments, rides, a carnival and food vendors, and she says the cricket-spitting contest is a big draw.

This year’s CabotFest will be held October 6-8.

Cypert says, “The original goal was to celebrate the city’s recovery…To say we are not dead but alive and thriving.”

He goes on to say that most of the town’s newcomers probably have little idea of the tornado, its destruction and the town’s eventual rebirth from the debris that covered the city.

“Residents paid a heavy price, there was death and financial hardships but the city pulled together and supported each other. It rebuilt and rebounded and the community spirit we see in the town today had its roots in the tornado.”

EDITORIAL >> Do not let our kids fail

About 45 percent of Arkansas’ elementary school pupils are failing, according to the state’s annual test, and the number is much worse in Pulaski County.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it starts with the state failing to let students know they are failing, flunking, flopping, floundering or flaming out.

Instead, they are told that they are “approaching standards” – well, that’s like saying, “When I pull out of my driveway, I’m approaching work.” True, but you’re still 25 miles and a McDonald’s stop away.

The state makes failing sound so sweet and innocent, like a flight attendant making the announcement, “We are approaching the runway.” Sounds so nonchalant, but that same attendant can come back on the speaker system a minute later and say, “We are now approaching a crash situation.”

Approaching or being close to, as the old saying goes, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

And students who absolutely bomb the state test are tagged as “not meeting expectations yet.” That’s like saying a middle-aged, 5-foot-9- inch overweight guy has not yet met his expectations of playing in the NBA.

Students need to be told the truth, and there’s no yet about it.

And, if that’s not bad enough, the state says students “not meeting expectations yet” are at Level One.

Level 1? Isn’t that a good thing?

Chances are a Level 1 college team will win the NCAA championship. Are they flunkers, floppers, flounderers and failers?

In almost 90 percent of the things we do, being at Level 1 is a positive thing, something to be proud of and brag about. So, why does the state use it as a lower classification?

Aren’t Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and the likes Level 1 quarterbacks? Hard to believe quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings on their fingers “aren’t meeting expectations yet.”

A local news station ranks a perfect weather day as a Level 1 day. A Level 5, which the state ranks its top students, is a not-so-nice day, according to the weather forecast, and can be a day of rain, wind, ice, snow, hail and maybe even a tornado.

A bio-safety Level 1 is not a bad thing, but a good thing, meaning exposure to infectious agents that do not ordinarily cause human disease. See, it’s good, not bad.

Level 1 leaders, according to experts, appreciate the trust placed in them and the opportunity to take charge. They are willing to place others before themselves. They handle authority well. They know how to use the resources that were given to them for the good of the organization.

That doesn’t sound like someone flunking, failing, flopping, floundering or flaming out.

The word “level” can easily be exchanged for division, group, rank or class. That would give us Division 1, Rank One (first), Group 1, Class 1 (First Class). None of that sounds like flunking or failing.

So how do students know they are flunking, failing, flopping, floundering or flaming out unless they are told directly and succinctly?

Keep it simple: “Hey, kid, you are failing, get it in gear.” But, no, the state would rather skirt the issue, and the result is more and more students are failing on a regular basis.

Last year, the state test showed 45 percent of middle school students (grades 5-8) bombed the test, or as the state put it were either “approaching expectations or had not met them yet.”

The Pulaski County Special School District had about 55 percent at the bottom.

Someone should tell the state that it “hasn’t met expectations – yet.”

Or, better yet, “Hey, Arkansas, you are failing, flunking, flopping, floundering and flaming out. Get it in gear!”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot wins last three at Memphis

Leader sports editor

Few high school baseball players get a full spring break, but none were quite as busy as the Cabot Panthers have been since school let out last Friday. The Panthers played two games that weekend in Oxford, Miss., before playing four games in the Best of the West Tournament in Memphis on Wednesday and Thursday. They went 4-2 in six games over six days.

The Panthers opened play in Oxford with a 7-2 victory over Olive Branch, Miss. Sophomore Dylan Billingsley threw four innings of one-hit ball and Cabot held a 3-2 lead when he left it to junior Logan Gilbertson. Gilbertson gave up five hits in three innings, but didn’t allow a run. Cabot posted four runs in the top of the seventh to set the final margin. Both teams finished with six base hits, but Cabot walked eight times and was better at capitalizing with runners in scoring position.

Jake Slunder went 1 for 2 and drove in three runs, two with his double in the seventh inning. Bobby Joe Duncan and Denver Mullins led Cabot with two hits apiece.

Later that day, Oxford pitcher Carson Stinnett shut out Cabot. He went all seven innings and allowed just three hits while striking out six Panthers in a 4-0 victory. Braden Jarnigan, Eric Larsen and Duncan got the hits for Cabot.

In the first game in Memphis, the Panthers mucked it up on defense and dropped a 5-4 decision to Briarcrest Christian School of Eads, Tenn. Chase Kyzer gave up six hits and four runs over six innings, but only one of those runs were earned. Brodey Schluter took the mound for Cabot in the seventh and the Panthers gave up another unearned run that gave BCS the victory. Cabot committed four errors to zero for BCA while both teams had seven base hits.

Cabot led 4-0 when the Saints came to bat in the bottom of the third. They earned their first two runs on four-straight base hits, but Cabot errors led the all three remaining runs. But the final run in the third came on an infield error. The tying run in the bottom of the fifth came on a two-out base hit after a leadoff error started the inning. The winning run in the bottom of the seventh was the result of Duncan’s second error of the game.

Cabot took an early lead when Blake McCutchen drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice by Duncan and scored on a sac fly by Mullins. A leadoff walk in the second by Larsen led to a sac fly by Jarnigan for a 2-0 Cabot lead. The Panthers made it 4-0 in the third on three-straight base hits, including a single by McCutchen, a Duncan double and another RBI single by Mullins.

The Panthers closed the week with three-straight victories. In their second game on Wednesday, the Panthers beat Collierville, Tenn., 5-2 behind a 13-strikeout performance on the mound by Gilbertson. He threw all seven innings, gave up three hits, four walks and no earned runs.

Cabot trailed 1-0 after two innings, but got four of its five runs in the top of the third. The rally started with a one-out walk by Brian Tillery. McCutchen singled and Duncan reached on an error at first base that allowed Tillery and McCutchen to score and moved Duncan to second base.

Mullins moved him to third with a groundout, and Larsen singled to center field to bring him home for a 3-1 lead. Slunder then walked and Jarnigan singled to left field to score Larsen.

Cabot’s final run came after a leadoff walk by Zach Morris was followed by an RBI base hit by McCutchen, who went 3 for 4 at the plate.

In the early game on Thursday, Cabot came from behind in the bottom of the last inning to win a wild game against Jackson Christian School, 13-12.

Cabot got 11 hits and JCS committed five errors to help Cabot out. The Eagles took a 7-0 lead in the top of the second as Billingsley struggled with the strike zone. The hard-throwing sophomore gave up one hit and no runs in the first inning, but failed to record an out in six batters faced in the second. He gave up two hits, three walks and hit a batter before yielding to Schluter. Two more runs after Schluter entered were charged to Billingsley.

But Cabot answered right back in the bottom of the same inning with its own seven-run rally.

It started with a one-out single by Dylan Thomas. Brett Brockinton and Rail Gillam walked to load the bases. Tillery entered as Gillam’s courtesy runner and McCutchen singled to center field to score Thomas. Duncan then hit a two-RBI double to center, and McCutchen scored on a wild pitch during Mullins’ at-bat. Mullins then singled to put runners on the corners for Larsen, who hit an RBI single to pull Cabot to within 7-5.

A passed ball advanced both runners into scoring position and Slunder singled to left to score Mullins. Larsen scored on a fielder’s choice at second base by Jarnigan that got Slunder thrown out at second, and the game was even again.

Cabot took a two-run lead with a triple by McCutchen, a single by Mullins and a JCS error in the third inning. The Eagles to one back in the fourth, and then scored four runs in the top of the sixth to take a 12-9 lead.

Michael Sheppard took the mound for Cabot to start the sixth inning and hit the first batter he faced. He then gave up a single, a double and a triple that gave JCS an 11-9 lead. But he retired the next three batters in order, giving up a sacrifice grounder in the process.

The Panthers got two back in the bottom of the sixth and won it with two more in the bottom of the seventh.

Mullins singled to start the sixth and Tillery ran for him. He moved to second on an errant pick-off throw, and to third groundout by Slunder. With two outs, Jarnigan drew a walk and Thomas hit double to right field that scored Tillery, and Jarnigan scored on a wild pitch to make it 12-11 JCS.

Sheppard settled in after the rough start, and retired the side in four batters in the top of the seventh.

Two walks and an error left the bases loaded with no outs for Cabot in the bottom of the seventh. Larsen then hit a hard grounder to shortstop that got McCutchen thrown out at home for the first out. Slunder took a pitch off the arm to drive in the tying run, and Jarnigan singled to left for the game winner.

Mullins reached base on every at-bat, going 3 for 3 with two walks. His courtesy runner, Tillery, scored three times. McCutchen went 2 for 4 with a two runs scored, a walk and an RBI. Duncan, Slunder and Jarnigan all went 1 for 4 with two RBIs and Thomas went 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI.

Sheppard got the win while Schluter went four innings, giving up two hits, two earned runs and two walks while striking out four.

Cabot closed the event Thursday evening with a 3-0 win in a five-inning game against Dyer County of Newbern, Tenn. Morris threw all five innings and gave up just three hits while striking out one and walking two. Cabot scored one run in the first and two in the fifth, with Larsen going 2 for 3 to lead the way. Larsen, Slunder and Mullins each drove in one run as Cabot compiled eight base hits. The Panthers (7-4, 1-1) will play a nonconference game at Benton on Monday before heading to Marion for a 7A/6A-East doubleheader at Marion on Thursday.

SPORT STORY >> Using books to live dream

By GRAHAM POWELLLeader sportswriter

Last week at Jacksonville High School, senior multi-sport athlete Stevie Eskridge made his college choice official when he signed a scholarship offer with Mississippi College, an NCAA Division II school just west of Jackson, Miss.

Eskridge’s scholarship is an academic one, but the senior Red Devil will get to live out one of his dreams, playing college football, when he joins the DII Mississippi school as a preferred walk-on this fall.

Eskridge, an All-Conference football player who also carries a 3.78 grade point average, is the son of Stevie Sr. and Wanda Eskridge, and has one sister, Brittany.

Eskridge’s play on the field is one thing, but his work ethic is another reason why he excels at it and was named a team captain.

“He’s a real smart, bright kid,” said Jacksonville soccer coach Donny Lantrip. “He’s a good kid, gives you 110 percent effort every time he’s out there on the soccer field. He’s a leader. He’s one of our captains.

“Being a senior, like I told him, the team is all on you seniors. How you seniors are is how these underclassmen are going to be. So it’s your team and they’ll follow your lead, so step up. And he’s stepped up and done everything he’s been asked to do.”

Eskridge says his work ethic comes from home. Eskridge’s father served in the military. The Eskridge family first moved to Jacksonville when Stevie was 8 years old, and they’ve been in Jacksonville ever since. Stevie said his father, who recently retired from the military, is his role model.

“I’ve watched my dad go to deployment here,” said Eskridge. “I’ve watched him do all this stuff in the military – run the Hercules Dining Facility on base, be one of the people that helps manage at the fitness center. In February of last year, I saw him retire.

“Being a kid in the military, it taught me how to become a better person in life; be somewhat the man of the house when he was deployed. It was just me, my mother and sister. It taught me how to be more like him in everything I do; taught me to be a respectful man, do what’s right in the classroom.

“He’s been a good man. He’s the man I want to be. I want to be more like him every day.”

Eskridge said he first came across Mississippi College at a college fair last fall. He met with a recruiter there, told the person he was also a football player, and the recruiter then told Eskridge how to get in contact with Choctaws head football coach John Bland.

“(The recruiter) said you can contact him by going to a website,” said Eskridge. “I filled out the questionnaire and stuff like that, and then about a week, two weeks later, I got in contact with coach Bland and then I talked to him a little bit.

“I kept emailing him, emailing him film from each week of my senior year and film from last year, my junior year. He told me stuff on what I can improve on and how my play is already, and stuff like that. Then I got back in contact with him around January, February.”

Eskridge said Bland told him the school didn’t have enough scholarship money to offer him a football scholarship, but said he wanted him to join the team as a preferred walk-on. Eskridge applied for enrollment into the school, and when he was accepted, he was awarded money for an academic scholarship.

Bland told Eskridge he wants him to play slot receiver at the collegiate level, which will be an easy transition for the Red Devil, who played receiver and defensive back in his three years with the JHS football team. But that wasn’t the only reason Eskridge said he chose the Choctaws.

“I was in contact with a few schools, but the thing that stood out with them, they seemed like they wanted me more,” Eskridge said. “I was in contact more with them than any other school.”

When it comes to possible career options, Eskridge said he’s interested in the sports management field, and said he’ll likely study kinesiology or exercise science while in college. As of now, though, he’s still a student athlete at JHS, and is focused on finishing out his high school days to the best of his ability.

The future Choctaw said football is definitely his favorite sport, but Eskridge has fun on the pitch in the spring as well, playing soccer – though it’s not a sport he’s played for very long.

“It’s a funny story,” Eskridge said. “This was in offseason my 10th-grade year and soccer season had already kicked off. The coach at the time kept coming to us, talking about do you want to play soccer? We need people, we need speed.

“I was like, well I’m already doing track right now. He was like, OK, OK, and then he kept coming. Then when there was only about 11 or 12 people on the team, he came up to me and he was like, ‘you’re playing tonight.’ I’m like, ‘playing what?’ He said, ‘you’re playing in tonight’s game against North Pulaski.’ I was like, ‘OK, let me call and tell my mom.’

“This is during the offseason when I’m lifting a weight. He comes up to me, walks up to the weight and says, ‘you’re playing tonight.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ After that, about the third game on the field it was worthwhile. I was like, am I cut out for this? Do I know what to do? I just watched and learned and did pretty fairly. This soccer, it’s a pretty thrilling game to play.

“That’s why I came back my next (junior) year, and that’s why I came back now and I’m one of the captains. Soccer is pretty fun.”

Eskridge is also very versatile on the soccer field, playing a number of different positions, but as of now, Lantrip has him playing mostly forward and defense. The senior captain earned the title, being one of the more respected players on the team, and does so with the way he works and carries himself, according to Lantrip.

“It’s just the way he presents himself,” Lantrip said. “He’s very confident in his ability and he’s a leader, not a follower. He’s easy to get along with and is very comfortable out on the soccer field. He respects his teachers, his coaches, and he’s always going to give you 110 percent every time he steps out on the field.

“We’ve got four seniors out on the soccer team and they lead the pack. If they’re up and ready to go, then the rest of them get up and ready to go. If they’re slacking on a day, then the rest of them will slack on a day. And that’s something I can say that those four seniors bring to the table, is every day they’re out there practicing they give me 110 percent.”

As far as being the leader and having the work ethic Lantrip describes, Eskridge says that for him it’s all about putting in the extra effort and having the satisfaction of knowing he gave all he had at the end of the day.

“I just work hard,” Eskridge said. “I can’t do anything less than that. I will not be satisfied with myself every day at practice or in the game if I don’t work hard and give it all. That’s what coach Bland at Mississippi College was liking. He said I’m the kind of player they want, because of how I work and the effort I give on the field.”

When it comes to long-term goals or looking at what he wants to do once his football-playing days are over, Eskridge said he’s given some thought to what lies ahead, but for the most part, he remains focused on the present and taking his life one day at a time.

“When it’s all said and done, right now I’m just living in the moment,” Eskridge said. “Being able to achieve my goal and my somewhat dream of playing college football, because when I started playing football it was something I wanted to do for as long as I can. And when coach Bland told me I could be a preferred walk-on, I was like, ‘OK, thank you.’

“I want to live in the moment, be happy that I can play college football and sky’s the limit now.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

EVENTS >> 3-23-16


The Cabot Farmers’ Market is looking for local vendors to participate. Its opening day is Saturday, May 7.

It will be open from 8 a.m. until noon every Saturday through Sept. 10 at 1122 South Second St., which is the parking lot of ReNew Community Church, formerly the Bancroft Building.

To register, call 501-920-2122 or email

Matt Webber, the co-manager of the farmers market, said, “This will be our ninth year, and it already promises to be an even bigger market. A farmers market contributes to the social and economic welfare of a town and helps produce a strong sense of community identity together. The farmers market will stand as a common ground where people can interact with local farmers and fellow residents of the community, as well as a local source of fresh produce.”

Shoppers and vendors are looking forward to a bigger market this year, and area growers, crafters, artisans and musicians are asked to sign up to showcase their products, Webber said.

Vendors can sell off the back of their trucks.

The Cabot Farmers Market is sponsored by Cabot City Beautiful.



The Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center will hold a six-week class for people who have or live with someone who has a chronic disease. The class will be held at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays, April 6 through May 11. The senior center is at 100 Victory Circle.

“A chronic disease is one for which there is no cure, i.e. diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and others. The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program encourages participants to learn to deal with emotions, pain and fatigue, healthy eating and working with health-care professionals and the health system and other topics,” according to the announcement.

For more information and to register, call 501-982-7531.


The Community Theatre of Cabot will host two fundraiser concerts at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday featuring several popular Southern gospel entertainers.

Tickets are $10 each. Reservations can be made by calling 501-941-2266 and leaving your name, number and request.

The nonprofit theater is at 1102 S. Pine St. in Cabot.



Iglesia NI Cristo Church of Christ in Jacksonville will hold a public meeting to discuss its evangelical mission at 6 p.m. Saturday. The church is at 236 Pearl St. Call 310-634-4647 for more details.

Parks director speaks to AARP on March 28

The Cabot AARP will hold a potluck and business meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, March 28. Cabot Parks and Recreation Director John Crow will speak about the city’s new water park.


Bridge and canasta players are needed Wednesdays at the Shepherd’s Center at Beebe Methodist Church. Canasta games start at 10 a.m., and bridge is at 1 p.m. Beginners are welcome.

For more information, call 501-843-2930.


The Jacksonville Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association will meet at 5:45 p.m. Monday at the Jacksonville Police Station, 1400 Marshall Road. For more information, call Eleanor Loyd at 501-412-4115 or email her at


The Jacksonville and Cabot chambers of commerce will hold their seventh annual joint luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 19 at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive.

John Corder, president and CEO of military contractor CymSTAR, will speak. RSVP before April 12 by calling 501-982-1511.

OBITUARIES >> 3-23-16


Erich L. Stocker, 76, of Jacksonville was born June 24, 1939, in Philadelphia, Pa., to Lydia and Ludwig Stocker.

He is survived by his wife, partner and best friend of 33 years, Francine Le Brant-Stocker; his two sons, Derek and Shawn; a daughter, Kim; three sisters, Inga, Sandy and Rebecca, along with seven grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by a sister, Doris.

Erich was the big brother, and he was adored and loved deeply by them.

He grew up in Hollidaysburg, Pa. After high school, he spent two years at Philadelphia Bible College. But he wanted adventure.

In 1959, he joined the Air Force. He worked in supply, flew on AWACEC121’s and C-130 loadmasters. He spent eight years in Anchorage, Alaska.

One of his most memorable missions was to transport a polar bear to a zoo in Massachusetts. That was exciting for him. He was in the cargo compartment the entire trip. His last years he was a standard evaluator, certifying other loadmaster performances.

In 1986, he retired as a master sergeant after 26 years of service. But he never stopped working.

He had a short stint working in shipping at Target before a six-year career at Central Flying Service, where he became manager of refueling.

In 1992, he purchased an auto pin striping decal and ground effects business. He called it Auto Graphics Plus. It was a one-man operation. In recent years, he spent Monday’s in Pine Bluff at the Trotter and Smart dealerships. They respected him and admired his quality work. It isn’t easy to put a pin stripe on a car or truck and keep it perfectly straight.

He loved all of his and Francine’s horses, as well as the many dogs and cats they had through the years. Francine helped Erich to learn to ride English and jump obstacles. In 1993, he was long stirrup champion on their beloved Twist of Fate sable.

Kiwi is his parrot. For 12 years, he sang “Happy Birthday” and “Rock a Bye Baby” every night before sleep. Francine joined them.

He loved golf, exercising at the base gym and browsing stores.

Football was enjoyable for him. Francine would watch it with him in recent years, which added to the fun.

He was a loving, caring and compassionate man, and he will be greatly missed.

The funeral will be private. Arrangements are by A Natural State Funeral Service in Jacksonville.

Donation may be made in his name to an animal rescue organization of your choice, as Erich was a great lover of all animals.


Nina Faye DeBord, 75, was born June 7, 1940, in Lonoke, the daughter of the late Emmett and Elaine Jones.

She entered Heaven’s gates on March 20 after a courageous battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and multiple sclerosis.

She was a member of New Hope Baptist Church and a former member of the Hazen Chapter Order of Eastern Star.

Due to her health, she reluctantly retired after 23 years as bookkeeper for IF Anderson Minnow Farm.

She was a loving and faithful wife of 50 years to the late Carl DeBord. She is survived by three children, Bobby DeBord and his wife Gale, Denise High and her husband Jeff, Rick DeBord and his wife Tamara; seven grandchildren, B.J. DeBord, Brandy Robison, Miranda Adams, Mandy Walters, Matt High, Luke DeBord and the late Blake Debord, and five great-grandchildren, Pacey DeBord, Faith DeBord, Haley and Kirsten Henry, and Caleb Root.

The family thanks the nursing home and hospice staff, who lovingly cared for her during her illness.

A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 23 at New Hope Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family request memorials be made to Lonoke Open Arms Shelter.

Arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Everett Dale Goff, 82, better known as Red, Sonny or Dale, was born Aug. 23, 1933, in McRae to Homer Andrew and Bertha Louise Goff. He passed away March 18.

Everett proudly served his country in the Navy. He made his living and was exceptional at commercial construction engineering.

Everett will be remembered for his friendliness. He was well loved. He was an avid reader. Everett truly loved and enjoyed music and all animals.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Sharon; four daughters and three sons, Robbie and David Williams, Terri and Mark Bishop, Tammy and Steve Ballard, David and Teresa Goff, Becky Stillman, and Buddy Goff, and 19 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren.

Everett was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Mary Ellen Ruble; a son, Jerry Goff; a grandson, Stephen Colby Ballard, and two sons-in-law, Michael Dearie and Michael Stillman.

Memorials may be made in his honor to Arkansas Southern Dog Rescue.

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 22 at Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe, with burial in Weir Cemetery in Searcy.


Mary Lynn Watkins, 86, of North Little Rock passed away on March 17 at Premier Health and Rehabilitation in North Little Rock.

She was born on Dec. 4, 1929, to Hugh and Pauline Barringer Thompson in Brookland (Craighead County).

She was preceded in death by her parents and a sister, Sue Thompson Thweatt.

She is survived by her husband of almost 65 years, Alvin Max Watkins; a son, Max Thompson Watkins and his wife Tracy of Marshall, Texas; a daughter, Susan Watkins Gertson and her husband Rodney of Edmond, Okla.; her grandsons, Wesley Watkins, Jesse Watkins, Daniel and Kimberly Gertson, Micah and Jannat Gertson, and Nathan and Claire Gertson; a great-granddaughter, Addison Watkins; a great-grandson, Jonah Gertson; a sister, Joyce Thompson Isaacs of Jackson, Miss.; a brother, Elvis Percy Diggs of Scott, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Mary Lynn was a faithful member of the First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, where she was involved in many ministries using her gift of hospitality. She also served in several leadership roles during more than 30 years of involvement in the Baptist Memorial Medical Center Auxiliary.

A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 24 First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville. Rev. Dr. Debbie Freeman will be officiating.

Interment will follow at noon at Arkansas State Veterans’ Cemetery in North Little Rock.

Arrangements are by Roller-Owens Funeral Home in North Little Rock.

Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville.


Michael Edward Burns, 36, of Jacksonville died March 15.

He was born May 16, 1979, in Waldron (Scott County). Michael worked as a carpenter. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, but his greatest love was his family.

Michael is survived by his wife, Cheryl Burns; his children, Summer Watts, and Jo Charette and her husband Dave; his parents, Robert and Debra Millar; her siblings, Angalique Hopkins and her husband Matt, Terray Morin, Kristina Warta and her husband Monte, and Robert Millar Jr.; her grandchildren, Josh, Jake, Kaylee and Kaden; her grandparents, Gerald and Jeannie Lyles, and Joan Neidig, and a host of nieces and nephews.

A memorial service was held March 22 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Kimberly Renee Blanton Stark, 41, of Sherwood left this earth on March 17. She was born July 13, 1974, in Little Rock.

Kimberly was a purchasing agent for Falcon Jet for 11 years. She enjoyed float trips and fishing.

Kimberly had a love for country music, California sunrises and sunsets, airplanes and horseback riding.

She had a contagious smile that would brighten the room.

Kimberly is survived by her mother, Brenda Parrow and her husband Michael; her stepfather, Lynn Banister and his wife Susan; a sister, Amy Clark; a niece, Hannah Clark; a nephew, Spencer Griffin, and a host of aunts and uncles.

The funeral was held March 22 at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Gary Michael Williams, 49, of El Paso passed away on March 10.

He was born on July 30, 1966, to Larry Williams and Ernestine Morrison Davis of Booneville.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Ernestine.

Gary was an avid outdoorsman and a self-employed aircraft mechanic.

He is survived by his father, Larry Williams and his wife Julie of Garland, Texas; two brothers, Jason Williams and his wife Stacy of Jacksonville, and Doug Williams of Little Rock, and five nephews, David, Mason, Peyton, Levi and Kyle Williams.

The family will hold a private memorial service at a later date.

Cremation arrangements are by A Natural State Funeral Service of Jacksonville.


Wesley (Hot) James Sr., 69, of Lonoke died March 18.

He is survived by his wife, Bridgette; his children, Stephanie (Lide Buddy) Bowlan, Tonya Miller and her husband Luke, Wesley James and Bobby James; a brother, Clifford James; four sisters, Mary Lister, Martha Ellis, Juanita Durham and Margaret Gann, and six grandchildren and three great-grandkids.

A private service will be scheduled at a later date.

Arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Brittian Hughes Clay, 40, of Sherwood passed away on March 19 at his home.

He was born on April 5, 1975, to Edwin Hughes and Brenda Hale Clay in Paragould (Greene County).

Brittian is survived by his parents; a daughter, Loren Clay; a son, Blake Clay, and a brother, Shane Clay, of Tennessee.

Cremation arrangements are by A Natural State Funeral Service in Jacksonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Solid defense leads Bears to win in CAI

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears acted as one of the host teams and got a win in the first round of the Central Arkansas Invitational on Monday at Sherwood Sports Complex. The Bears played clean defense and took advantage of four Russellville errors to take a 4-2 victory over the Cyclones.

“We’re young but we’re very talented,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “We’ve played pretty good defense all season. We’re not hitting like I think we’re capable of hitting just yet, but we have some depth at pitching. We’re still growing and still learning, but I think this team has a chance to be pretty good.”

Russellville scored first in the top of the first inning. Ryan Meador hit a one-out single to right field and Carter Thessing walked. After a sacrifice bunt, Caleb Hartgen singled to left to score Meador.

Sylvan Hills pitcher Nick Fakouri only allowed one base runner over the next four innings and the score stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth.

The Bears got a two-out double from Mackenzie Seats in the first inning, but he was their only base runner until the fourth. That’s when Zach Douglas drew a leadoff walk. Seats followed with a single and an error on a fielder’s choice grounder by Fakouri left everyone safe and the bases loaded.

Carson Sanders popped up to second base for the first out, but River Hunt singled to score Douglas and tie the game. The Bears seemed poised for a big inning, but the next two batters struck out to leave the bases loaded.

The Bears took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Coven reached on an error at shortstop to start the inning, and Ryan Lumpkin singled to left field. Douglas then hit a grounder to third, where an errant throw to first allowed Coven to score and left runners safe and in scoring position. Seats then got his third base hit of the game, scoring Lumpkin and giving the Bears a 3-1 lead. A pitch hit Sanders with one out, but Sylvan Hills again left the bases loaded when Hunt and JoJo Craft hit back-to-back pop ups.

“We really blew a couple chances to blow the game wide open,” Tipton said. “We’ve got to have better at-bats with runners on base.”

Russellville finally started touching Fakouri in the sixth, getting one run off three-straight base hits at the top of the lineup. But Craft took the mound and got three-straight outs to end Russellville’s rally and preserve a 3-2 lead.

The Bears added the game’s final run in the bottom of the sixth. Coven hit a one-out single and moved to third when a pickoff throw got past the Russellville first baseman. He then scored on a deep fly ball to center field by Lumpkin.

Seats went 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Coven had two hits as the Bears totaled seven base hits.

SPORTS STORY >> Mile High Madness in March

Special to The Leader

“How y’all doin’?” a woman asked in a thick Southern drawl, climbing down the stairs decked out in Trojan finery Thursday afternoon. It’s not something you hear too often in the Mile High City.

Selection Sunday had sent the Trojans to Denver last week and raised my hopes up that I would be able to not only see my alma mater in action but my first NCAA March Madness game as well. Fortunately, I was able to obtain tickets from University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s allotment of seats from the NCAA. As a big sports fan, it was something I hoped to check off my sports’ bucket list. My contact seemed as excited as I, happy that a Little Rock alumnus would be enjoying the game live.

Slowly the section for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s fans began to fill Thursday as the time ticked away for Game One of the first session for the NCAA Tournament in Denver. Little Rock’s team, seeded No. 12, was set to play in Game Two against the Purdue Boilermakers, seeded No. 5.

At the NCAA merchandise table, I was excited to find a Trojan March Madness shirt, as was a fellow fan. The older fan was excited to find out we were in the same section as him. “I’m so glad we’re able to sit all together. It makes it all that much better.”

The Little Rock fan section was across the court from our team’s bench but close to the spirit. Members of the UALR band came in with their instruments and phones out taking pictures of a once-in-a-lifetime-experience playing in front of thousands in a nationally-televised game.

The family of senior Roger Woods proudly wore shirts with his name and number on them and posed for photos with the giant head shot the band produced. UALR fans finding their seats greeted each other with excitement and familiarity. A few rows down, UALR alum and retired NBA star Derek Fisher was in attendance as well.

While it looked as though there were more Purdue fans than Little Rock fans, it did not sound like it. Chants of “Lit-tle Rock” filled Pepsi Center throughout the game. Iowa State fans in the next section, who stayed for the second game, became fans of Little Rock, the underdog. Several could be heard chanting “Lit-tle Rock” and “De-fense” as the game went on.

“I only came since there was an extra ticket but I’m a Trojan fan now,” one fan said sitting in the row behind me. He shared his friend was from Little Rock and he tagged along for the experience.

UALR’s current Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni and Development, and as of April 1, UALR’s Vice Chancellor for Advancement, Christian O’Neal, could be seen going up and down the rows speaking with the Little Rock faithful, thanking them for their support. He was the first to pass around the high fives as the Trojans came back from a 13-point deficit.

You could feel it in the air when both the fans and the players realized the game was not out of reach.

As the momentum swung in the Trojans’ favor, the fans got on their feet. The roar of the crowd was deafening as the last minute deep 3-point shot swished through the net. Exclamations of “Oh my God!” and “Can you believe that?!” were in the air. The 12th-seeded Little Rock Trojans sunk their teeth into the fifth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers and were not letting go.

Through two overtimes, the Trojan fans remained on their feet, cheering the team into the second round to face fourth seeded Iowa State. It was hugs and high-fives all around, keeping the united feel we shared throughout the game.

On the way out, two Purdue fans were discussing the game saying the Trojans could be a Cinderella of the tournament. (Alas, it turned out not to be.) Another Purdue fan was heard offering to sell his Saturday, round two tickets. Luckily, I was able to get tickets through UALR’s allotment from the NCAA again. I would now be able to see the next round of games.

By the time I passed the table an hour before Saturday’s game, the Trojan March Madness T-shirts were all sold out -- the first of the teams to do so.

Saturday’s game started a little quieter as the Iowa State fans who cheered on our team Thursday were now cheering for their own team as fourth-seeded Iowa State became our opponent. Still hoarse fans, such as myself, cheered on our team a little quieter and hoped we could will them to play at the their best.

As the game wore on, the fans who stood loud and proud two days before, were almost silent as we slumped in our seats.

The final buzzer sounded and a few Trojan players walked dejectedly back to their bench. The teams shook hands and the Trojan faithful, once jubilantly sharing high-fives, were patting each other on the backs and saying it was a good run.

Before returning to the locker room, senior guard Josh Hagins waved toward the Little Rock fans in acknowledgment.

The experience of being more than 900 miles from home, yet feeling at home while watching the Trojans play will be unforgettable.

Fans wearing Little Rock gear greeted each other as old friends in the concourse and shared reactions in the stands. Other teams’ fans cheered on their pick, some hoping for another underdog win. Though I don’t know when I will ever have such a chance again, as the old saying goes, there’s always next year for the Little Rock Trojans.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls knock off Lonoke in home stint

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits held a lead after three innings, but the Beebe Lady Badgers came back for a 6-3-nonconference victory last Wednesday at Beebe High School.

The Lady Badgers got on the board first with two runs in the bottom of the opening inning. Katlyn Gordon singled to start things off and Baylee Halford walked. Aleighu Porterfield then singled to load the bases for Haley Dinapoli, who doubled to left field to drive in two runs.

Lonoke got both runs back in the top of the second. Senior Jarrelyn McCall hit a leadoff double to left field, and advanced to third on a one-out base hit by Candace James. James went to second and McCall scored when the throw-in from right field went astray.

Madison Crow then singled to left to put runners on the corners with one out. Trinity Foley then hit a sacrifice fly that scored Madison McFadden, who was courtesy running for James, to tie the game.

Lonoke pitcher Maddie Poole retired Beebe in order in the bottom of the second inning, and Lonoke took the lead in the top of the third.

Abby Kyzer and Molly Harrison hit back-to-back singles to start the third frame. Mary Sumner grounded out to first base, but advanced the base runners. Pool then singled to score Kyzer and leave runners on the corners with one out, but the next two batters popped up and struck out to end the inning.

Beebe went down in order again in the bottom of the third, but scored two runs to reclaim the lead in the fourth.

Shanie Young became Beebe’s first base runner in three innings when she drew a leadoff walk from relief pitcher Foley. Tailor Kimbriel entered to run for Young, and moved to second when Caelyn Longing walked on four pitches.

Paige Sharp drew a third, and Hannah Crafton drew a fourth-straight walk, with Crafton’s pass scoring Kimbriel to tie the game.

Gracie Mason took the mound for Lonoke and got Gordon to fly out to shallow left field and Longing scored on the sacrifice. Halford then singled with a perfectly-placed bunt that scored Sharp and gave Beebe the lead.

Porterfield then hit one back to the pitcher that got Crafton thrown out at home, but left the bases loaded with two outs. Mason then fanned Dinapoli to get out of the jam trailing by just two runs.

The Lady Jackrabbits failed to capitalize on getting their first two batters on base in the top of the fifth. Kyzer singled and Harrison reached on an error with no outs. Kyzer was then caught stealing third before Sumner and Mason struck out.

Beebe got a leadoff double by Dinapoli in the fifth but left her stranded. Lonoke went down in order in the top of the sixth and Beebe added the final run in the bottom half.

Kimbriel hit for Crafton and tripled down the first baseline. She later scored on a wild pitch to set the final margin.

Crow and Kyzer led Lonoke with two hits apiece. The Lady Jackrabbits got nine hits to Beebe’s eight. Porterfield and Dinapoli each went 2 for 4, and Dinapoli drove in two runs with her two doubles.

Pool gave up three hits and two earned runs in her three innings of work for Lonoke. She struck out three and walked one. Foley failed to record an out after four batters. Mason threw the last three innings, giving up five hits and one earned run while striking out two and walking none.

Faith Rose threw all seven innings for Beebe. She gave up nine hits while striking out 10 Lady Jackrabbits, walking none and giving up two earned runs.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits defeat Badgers

Leader sports editor

It took five years, but Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery finally beat Beebe. Lowery’s Lonoke Jackrabbit baseball team got three extra-base hits and six RBIs from shortstop Casey Martin, and defeated the Badgers 7-5 Friday at Lonoke Ball Park.

“That’s the first time I’ve beat them since I’ve been head coach, so this one was nice,” said Lowery. “We played them every year and he’s (Beebe coach Mark Crafton) got me every time, a couple times by run rule. But hey, if we can set it up every game like we did today, getting two runners on base for our DI guy every time, we’ll do pretty good.”

Martin is a junior who has verbally accepted a scholarship offer from Razorback coach Dave Van Horn, but he wasn’t the only future Hog on the field. Beebe’s Angus Denton is a senior who has already signed with Arkansas, but Denton is a pitcher and did not take the mound on Friday.

Despite a senior Division I pitcher, the Badgers have not enjoyed a tremendous beginning to the season. Monday’s loss dropped the Badgers to 2-5, but they did sweep their conference opener against McClellan last week, and Crafton has some young players he believes are coming along. Three freshmen were in the starting batting rotation on Friday.

“Right now, the freshmen are out-hitting my sophomores and juniors,” said Crafton. “I feel pretty good about my seniors, but other than that we’re still trying to figure things out, see who’s going to fit in best.”

Lonoke scored first in the bottom of the second inning. Haven Hunter hit a one-out single and Martin followed that by roping a 0-2 pitch down the third baseline for an RBI double. He stole third and scored on a fly ball to center field by Savonte Rountree.

Beebe tied the game in the top of the third on two hits and two Lonoke errors. They took a 5-2 lead in the top of the fifth after Denton led off the inning with a triple to the wall in right-center field. He scored on a hit by John Finley. Bryson Halford walked on four pitches before freshman Noah Jolly advanced the runners with a groundout to second base. Freshman Quint Roberson then singled to score the two base runners.

Lonoke nine-hole hitter Kameron Cole hit the first pitch of the bottom of the fifth down the third baseline for a double and leadoff hitter Caleb Horton walked. Hunter struck out, but Martin tied the game on the first pitch of his at-bat when he drove a fly ball over the fence in right-center field.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the seventh when Lonoke was back at the top of the lineup. Horton hit a leadoff infield single to shortstop. Hunter laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the mound, but the throw went to second and was not in time, leaving everyone safe and bringing Martin to the plate. This time his shot back to the wall in right-center field fell short of a home run, but went for a two-RBI, game-winning triple.

Martin went 3 for 4 and was a single away from hitting for the cycle.

He also accounted for half of Lonoke’s base hits. Horton, Hunter and Cole each had one hit for the Jackrabbits (8-1, 1-0).

EDITORIAL >> Billionaires vs. Trump

The Republican establishment and the party’s wealthy donors are still hoping they can deny Donald Trump the presidential nomination. But Trump gets millions of dollars worth of free advertising with his telephone interviews on just about every news program on television almost around the clock seven days a week.

Trump was on TV Tuesday morning to discuss the terrorist bombings in Brussels just a few hours earlier. He can do these interviews in his pajamas and proclaim his expertise on terror without being challenged. Is there a presidential candidate who didn’t expect more attacks from ISIS?

But Trump gets to speak first and gets about 10 times more airtime than any of the candidates. At this rate, he will get a couple of billion dollars worth of free advertising. Even the wealthiest donors who oppose Trump couldn’t raise that much money.

There’s a growing number of desperate billionaires who are trying to stop Trump, including Little Rock’s Warren Stephens, who backed four losing candidates for president in this election. He recently gave $1 million to Our Principles PAC in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump. Several other billionaires gave $3.8 million to the unfortunately named OPPAC, which is running anti-Trump ads in the remaining primaries. That may not be enough to derail Trump’s nomination with all the airtime he’s getting for nothing. He hardly needs to self-fund his own campaign. The media are giving plenty.

These billionaires gave some $200 million to Jeb Bush and the other losers. Their bad bets included Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and at least a handful of others whose names we’ve forgotten.

Stephens and his half brother Steve Stephens have backed Bush, Rubio, Christie, Walker and also funneled $2.5 million last month to the Club for Growth and other anti-Trump groups. Club for Growth, which depends heavily on Steve Stephens’ millions, is also famous for attack ads against former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Thomas Ricketts, the former owner of the long-suffering Chicago Cubs, and his family gave more than $2 million to OPPAC. They should have instead poured more money into the Cubs and brought a World Series to Chicago after a 110-year drought.

Other billionaires gave less but significant amounts to the group, including William Oberndorf, a San Francisco investor who supported Bush. He gave $500,000 to OPPAC.

Another anti-Trump outfit, Conservative Solutions, last month received $25 million, including donations from Arkansas poultry magnate Ronnie Cameron, Russian-born oligarch Leonard Blavatnik and others.

These ads might help Trump secure the nomination. He has convinced Republican primary voters he’s their kind of billionaire: Brash and opinionated who luxuriates in his wealth, but is always available for interviews. Trump steaks may be awful and Trump wines mass produced, but most Republicans believe he’s on their side as they see jobs shipped abroad and the U.S. flooded with cheap foreign goods.

The anti-Trump billionaires still believe in free trade because it’s been good for them. They’re also a little jealous of Trump’s success. These reclusive billionaires are losing their grip on the Republican Party against an interloper who could not only upend the nominating process but change the party’s character.

No wonder they’re desperate to stop Trump, even it means helping Hillary Clinton win in November. They should have come together last summer, when there was still time to decide on a credible Republican candidate. A

TOP STORY >> Bringin’ home the bacon

Leader staff writer

“We always take champions,” said North Pulaski High School teacher Teresa Perkins after her restaurant management team took the gold at the recent Arkansas State ProStart Invitational Restaurant Management event at Pulaski Technical College.

“I always have faith,” Perkins said. After all, in the five years that she’s had teams in the competition, the high school has netted two seconds and three firsts.

But senior Ashley Felton, a member of the three-person team, said, “The winners were announced after we had lunch at the Governor’s Mansion and, when we weren’t named third, I figured we were either fourth or second,” she said.

Not first?

“No,” Felton said, “I thought a team from Arkansas Tech would take first. They did a great job.”

But, after that team was awarded second place, Felton knew North Pulaski had struck gold.

Management teams developed a proposal for the next hot restaurant concept and presented it to a panel of industry judges. Next, their ability to think on their feet was tested as they quickly solved challenges managers face on a daily basis.

Felton and her teammates, NPHS senior Hayley Walker and Sylvan Hills High School junior Olivia Meadows, had to develop a restaurant concept (a bacon and tropical fusion food truck). That included creating the menu, preparing items from the menu, pricing the menu items, figuring out how much they cost to make, applying an interior design and floor plan, marketing and everything involved in making their food truck — the Hula Hog — work efficiently.

Their concept focused on providing exceptional customer service to their “baconheads” by creating a fun-filled environment to relieve daily stress.

The team’s slogan, “Lei’d Back Bacon Time,” certainly tied in the bacon and tropical theme.

Felton said the team got the basic bacon concept from an idea NPHS culinary students floated last year that never came to fruition.

Perkins called the project, event and competition a “college-level project.”

The students, all in their first year of the NPHS restaurant management program, had to demonstrate exceptional teamwork, critical thinking and a good working knowledge of the restaurant field.

She said, once the group had the food truck’s name, everything just flowed.

Felton admits that, before she got into the high school’s restaurant program, she couldn’t cook. “I was great at burning cookies,” she quipped. But now she said she is confident in her cooking and leadership skills.

Each student on the North Pulaski team won more than $27,000 in scholarships toward a degree in restaurant management, culinary or hospitality management.

Now the local team, along with their teacher, will travel to Grapevine, Texas, on April 29-May 2 to attend the National ProStart Invitational.

As much as Felton enjoyed the competition and as much as she’s looking forward to the national event, she still plans to major in engineering in college.

TOP STORY >> Data breach is tracked to ex-employee

Leader senior staff writer

A former Pulaski County Special School District certified health insurance representative emailed herself personal data for virtually all employees who worked for the district between January 2012, when she started, and Feb. 26, 2016, when she left, according to communications director Deborah Roush.

A Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office complaint identified Erica Holmes as the employee in question. She was out of town and couldn’t be interviewed over the weekend, sheriff’s office spokesman Capt. Carl Minden said Tuesday.

According to the report, Holmes was not fired, but she was disgruntled with her former boss.

Because the employee left in February, her emails were routinely forwarded to her supervisor, according to Roush, who noticed that information that needed to go to the benefits department was copied and sent to her personal email.

Holmes’ email was then forwarded to PCSSD’s chief technology officer, Will Reid.

Reid discovered she had sent to her personal email information dating back to 2012 that included names and Social Security numbers. Some files had birthdays, signatures and other information.

Roush said the information had been “out there” since 2012, but there had been no complaints of misuse.

Reid told the investigator on Friday that he had found 192 emails that Holmes sent to her personal Yahoo email account, the report states.

The district is not done going through the 1,258 emails on the account, Roush said.

The district notified all employees by email Friday, the day the breach was discovered, Roush said.

“The purpose of this notification is to let you know about this data breach and to suggest steps that you may take to protect your information,” the notification states.

“At this time, we do not have confirmation that the information has been shared with anyone aside from this employee, although we will be able to update you as the police continue their investigation.”

The sheriff’s office and the district said it’s too early to know if this act was criminal, but it’s against policy at the district and, since the information was from health insurance records, it could be a violation of HIPPA.

In his report, Detective Ryan Geary said he was told Holmes was trained about proper procedure for handling and communicating personnel information.

“This was not a situation where Homes did not know this was a violation,” he said in the report.

There were also disability papers and spreadsheets with the employees’ names, Social Security numbers and what they were paying for their health insurance.

The district also contacted employees by telephone and placed a display ad in the Arkansas section of the statewide daily paper.

The notice from the district recommends employees or former employees closely monitor their financial accounts and contact their financial institutions if they notice unauthorized activity.

The district’s notification also suggested submitting a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission and credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to obtain free credit reports if employees find any misuse.

A help desk number was set up to answer employee questions, Roush said, but would not be active until school is back in session after spring break.

In total, Reid stated he found 192 emails that Holmes sent to her personal Yahoo email account.

By Tuesday, Reid had discovered 1,258 emails Holmes had forwarded or copied herself, some including spreadsheets.

“I advised both Roush and Reid we would need to determine whether Holmes was emailing this information to her personal account for malicious reasons, or was it a situation where she was trying to document that the information was sent to the recipient when requested,” Geary wrote in his report.