Saturday, October 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Titans in tough scrap with unbeaten Devils

Special to The Leader

WEST MEMPHIS – Jacksonville head coach Barry Hickingbotham threw the kitchen sink at West Memphis here Friday night, and it ended up giving the Titans a legit shot to upset the Blue Devils.

The Jacksonville offense shortened the game by using the entire play clock through most of the game and Hickingbotham switched quarterbacks, all of which put the Titans in position to make a run at the hosts before West Memphis pulled out a 24-14 victory.

The Titans (3-5 overall, 2-3 in the 6A-East Conference) controlled the time of possession through the first three-and-a-half quarters and substitute quarterback Shavarris Curley was solid in replacing regular starter H.D. Martin.

Hickingbotham said he wanted to play Martin sparingly because “he’d gotten banged up the last game (against Little Rock Hall).
Curley was superb.

He completed 18 of 24 passes for 155 yards and no interceptions against a vaunted Blue Devil defense that has dominated in most games this season.

“Curley did a heck of a job and competed hard,” Hickingbotham said. “He missed a few reads, but he also made several good reads.”
Hickingbotham said he would make a decision on his starting quarterback sometime next week for the game against Marion.

Although Martin saw little of the playing field, he managed to break loose for a 69-yard touchdown with 9:39 to play in the fourth quarter that sliced West Memphis’ lead to 24-14.

“(Martin’s) very elusive and he showed it on that play,” Hickingbotham said.
Other than Martin’s 69-yard touchdown, it was a slow go for the Jacksonville ground game. West Memphis held the Titans to 11 first-half yards on the ground, but Curley’s short passes found a crease in the Blue Devil defense.

West Memphis jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a 32-yard field goal by Dylan Wiggington and a 1-yard touchdown from quarterback Michael Troxler.

But the Titans came back with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Curley to Deboous Cobbs to make it 10-7.

The Blue Devils (8-0, 5-0) led 24-7 at halftime thanks to a touchdown by Kelvin Love, who replaced regular starting running back Guren Holmes, who injured his knee after rushing for 101 first-half yards, and a 37-yard touchdown pass from Troxler to Amaurius Stinnett.

West Memphis head coach Billy Elmore wasn’t happy with his team’s focus after it recorded a big win at Jonesboro last week ahead of facing Pine Bluff next Friday night for a game that should determine the conference champion.

“We were flat, no doubt about it,” Elmore stated. “You never know what goes through the minds of 17-year-olds. But it’s still a victory and we’re playing for the conference championship next week.”

The Titans held West Memphis, a team that came in averaging 40.7 points per game, scoreless in the second half.

Jacksonville had one last shot at the Blue Devils when Tamad Tyler recovered a Troxler fumble at the Titan 10 with 1:50 to play. But the West Memphis defense dug in and forced the visitors to turn it over on downs with 24 seconds to play in the contest.

The Titans (3-5, 2-3) will host Marion at Jan Crow Stadium next Friday. The Patriots (3-5, 2-3) lost 41-12 to Pine Bluff on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bryant converts third downs, prevails

Leader sports editor

The No. 1 ranked team in the state had a fight on its hands when it went to Panther Stadium on Friday, but the Bryant Hornets did just enough to earn a 17-10 victory and keep its undefeated record intact.

The Hornet offense wasn’t flashy, but it was efficient. The Panthers continually got pressure on sophomore quarterback Jake Meaders in passing situations, but rarely got him down. Meaders repeatedly escaped the pressure and completed passes downfield to convert third and long or gain enough yards for a short fourth-down try.

Cabot, usually the ball control team, had only five possessions the entire game. Bryant had six possessions and held the ball for more than 26 minutes.

The Hornets got their first and used five minutes of the clock to go 83 yards. The touchdown came on third and 9 when Meaders got away from the pass rush and found Brandon Murray in the end zone from 17 yards out.

Cabot started the next drive on its own 22, and immediately went backwards, starting its first offensive series with an illegal procedure penalty.

The Panthers got back in front of the chains on a 12-yard run by T.J. Rogers, and moved downfield with little trouble until it they reached the red zone.

A high option pitch lost 7 yards on second and 5 from the Bryant 9. An option keeper by quarterback Tommy Oaks lost two more yards and set up fourth and 14 from the 18-yard line.

Cabot place kicker Mason Martin made a 35-yard field goal, but Bryant was called for roughing the kicker, and Panther coach Mike Malham sent his offense back on the field for first and goal at the 9.

Two runs got 2 yards and an overthrow in the end zone set up another field-goal opportunity. This time Martin hit from 25 yards out to make it 7-3 with 11:12 left in the half.

The drive was 18 plays and took 8:03 off the clock.

Bryant almost matched it with its next drive. Starting on its own 8 after an illegal block on the kickoff return, the Hornets converted twice on fourth down to keep the drive alive.

A sack, the only one of the half, by Logan Bell almost resulted in a safety, but Meaders slipped out of his grasp and got back to the 2-yard line for a 6-yard loss. Latavion Scott then picked up 2 yards to set up third and 14 from the 4, but Meaders scrambled away from pressure for 13 yards on third down. The Hornets rolled the dice on fourth down and handed to Scott, who barely got the distance needed for a first.

Cabot forced third and 8 on the next series, but again Meaders got away from pressure and found Murray for a 7-yard gain. Once again the Hornets went for it fourth and 1 from its own 27. Cabot hit Scott 2 yards deep in the backfield, but he broke the tackle and picked up 4 yards for the first.

On the next series, Meaders was flushed out of the pocket and towards the Bryant bench, and found Randy Thomas for a big 27-yard gain to the 24.

Cabot’s defense finally got the stop, but kicker Martin Ramirez made a 32-yard field goal attempt with 5:05 left in the half.

The drive was 16 plays long and took 6:02 off the clock.

Cabot got just one first down on the next drive and punted from its own 45.

Bryant then drove from its own 21 to the Cabot 18, but Ramirez missed a 35-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the half.

Cabot’s first drive of the second half ended when Oaks’ passed on an RPO play and it was picked off. On the ensuing drive, Bryant continued to make big plays after Cabot would win first and second down. The Hornets got lucky on third and 11 when Cody Skinner had an interception in his hands. But the ball slipped through his hands, bounced off his helmet straight up into the air high enough for Pittman to get to it and picked up 14 yards.

A sack by Dylan Dowda on the next series forced a third and 10, but Bryant again got an 18-yard pass to Murray for the conversion. Later in the drive, on fourth and 4, Meaders hit Ja’Kalon Pittman for a 17-yard gain. Scott got the next 20 on the ground on the next play for a 17-3 Hornet lead.

Cabot answered right back with its best drive of the game. The big play came on second and 11 when fullback Adam Flores sprang loose for a 47-yard gain. Noah Sorrell ran for 10 yards on the next play and later scored from 1 yard out. The extra point set the eventual final margin with 9:49 left in the game.

Bryant finished with 372 total yards to just 185 for Cabot. Meaders completed 19 of 29 pass attempts, including 9 for 9 in the second half, for 230 yards. Scott finished with 190 total yards from scrimmage. He carried 23 times for 127 yards, and caught four passes for 63 yards.

Cabot (4-4, 2-4) travels to Fort Smith Northside next week. Bryant hosts undefeated North Little Rock in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers beat PA in league title game

Leader sports editor

With just a few hiccups along the way, the Beebe Lady Badgers won the 5A-Central Conference championship in dominant fashion, beating Pulaski Academy 3-1 Thursday night at Little Rock Christian Academy.

It was Beebe’s first conference championship since 2014, and first-ever conference tournament title. Scores in the match were 25-18, 27-29, 25-14 and 25-17. In the rapidly paced match, Beebe piled up 44 kills once it got its offense rolling.

That took just a little while in game one, but Beebe coach Audra Higgins was pleased with how her team regrouped from the slow start.

Higgins explained what she said to her team during a timeout with an 11-5 deficit.

“I really didn’t say anything except to remind them that they already know how to overcome and get through this,” said Higgins. “I know that because they’re reaching the point in practice now, where they will turn to me and tell me what went wrong before I even have to point out the mistake. They’re understanding more and more, and this one was all them. They pulled through it.”

The turnaround in game one came right after a kill by Reaven Seymore cut the margin to 12-8. That brought libero Brianna Duncan to the service line, and Beebe ripped off 11-straight points, 12 including the service break, for a 19-12 lead.

The service points started with a PA miscommunication that let a pass drop without a set. The Lady Bruins then flubbed a free-ball before Seymore got a block to make it 12-11. After a PA kill attempt sailed long, senior Lani Wolfe got a kill, followed by two more by Seymore that put Beebe up 15-12 and forced a PA timeout. After the break, Duncan served back-to-back aces, Autumn O’Rourke got a kill, and Seymore got another one before PA finally broke serve to make it 19-13.

But the Lady Bruins served long, and then committed a substitution violation that put Beebe up by eight. Two aces by PA’s Carson Miller gave her team some brief momentum, but kills by Wolfe and Libby Hill ended the opening game.

Game two was about as close as one could get. Neither team led by more than four, and PA never led by more than the two-point margin of victory.

Beebe only briefly led by more than two and not until the 20th point. Seymore took serve with the score tied at 17-17. She served an ace and Wolfe got a kill. A kill by O’Rourke gave Beebe the biggest lead up to that point, and another Seymore ace made it 21-17. But the Lady Badgers couldn’t hold the lead.

Seymore then served long to make a three-point game. A kill by PA’s Evelyn Griffith cut it to two, and back-to-back aces by Megan Harrison quickly knotted the match again at 21. Beebe (14-10) helped the Bruins take the lead when Duncan touched a serve that was going well long, and Higgins called another timeout.

Wolfe got a kill after the break to make it 22-22, and neither team led by more than one until kills by Harrison and Griffith gave PA the 29-27 win.

Beebe responded well with its most dominant game of the match, but that also took a bit to get started. PA (19-10) maintained the momentum for the first few moments of game three, taking a three-point lead at 5-2 and maintaining it until 8-5.

Beebe outscored the Lady Bruins 20-6 from that point.

Beebe finally got the jump on PA and grabbed an early lead game four. The Lady Badgers began to stretch the lead when Lexi Devore served back-to-back aces to finish a five-point run that made the score 13-6. PA battled back to within 18-17 with the help of a pair of aces by Harrison, but the Lady Bruins did not score again the rest of the way as Beebe closed with a 7-0 run. A kill by Wolfe broke serve and sent Wolfe to the service line. Griffith hit wide twice to put Beebe up 21-17. Wilson then got a kill and Miller’s back-line swing went into the net. Hill then got a block at the net to set up match point, when Miller again hit the net to end the match.

Griffith led all players with 18 kills, but Beebe had four with at least eight. Seymore led the way for the Lady Badgers with 14 kills. Wolfe added 10 while O’Rourke and Layla Wilson finished with eight apiece. Seymore also led all players with six blocks.

Duncan served three aces while Seymore and Devore had two each. But Beebe was also aced 10 times and missed nine serves. Those are the two major points of focus as it prepares to face 4A-East four seed Nettleton (18-11-1) in the first round of the state tournament next week in Harrison.

“Serve receive and serving will be two main things,” Higgins said. “We’re understanding more, we’re recognizing better we’re playing faster. But we’re giving away too many points in those two areas.” Beebe will try to become the first team in three years to knock a 5A-East team out of the state tournament before the semifinals. The East has made up 100 percent of the final four the last two seasons. The match is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits take thriller from SBHS

Leader sports editor

The 4A-Central Conference tournament in Heber Springs didn’t go the way the Lady Jackrabbits wanted, but it ended well. A slew of missed serves led to a 3-1 loss to a twice-conquered CAC team in the semifinals, dropping Lonoke to the third-place match against Southside-Batesville.

On Wednesday, that match had a little bit of everything except a Southside win, as Lonoke (26-6-3) pulled out a 3-0 victory, including a thrilling marathon in game two. Scores of the match were 25-17, 38-36 and 25-20, all for the Lady Jackrabbits.

Going into Tuesday’s semifinal match, Lonoke had beaten CAC 2-0 in a tournament, 3-0 in a full match at CAC, and then made it six-straight games by winning game one. But the service errors became a huge factor and the Lady Mustangs won the next three games to pull off the upset.

There were still a lot of missed serves on Wednesday, but there was also a lot of offense and a lot of aces for which the Lady Southerners could never find an answer.

“We did respond well,” said Lonoke coach Laura Park. “We were really disappointed in the way we played and losing to a team we had beaten already. But I was proud of the way they put that behind them and came back to play pretty well tonight.”

After entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed, Lonoke will now carry the No. 3 seed into the state tournament that will be held at Southside-Batesville.

“Losing to CAC made it a tougher pathway, but the girls know you’ve got to play the best eventually anyway,” Park said. “In fact, one of my seniors made the comment before this game, we may have to take a three or four seed, but it just means get the No. 1 seeds out of the earlier. And she wasn’t being cocky. She was just making the same point, that we have to play the best anyway.”

Game one, the widest margin of Wednesday’s match, was played almost entirely without senior outsider hitter Keiunna Walker, who took a ball to the face early. She sat the rest of game one, but the Lady Jackrabbits didn’t miss a beat.

Junior Brooke Hill stepped in and the Lady Jackrabbits cruised through the opener. Seniors Kennedy White and Kayla Shelton led the way at the net through game one, but it was back-to-back aces by junior Emily Armstrong that stretched Lonoke’s lead to its largest up to that point at 14-7.

The largest margin of the game came on a kill by White that made it 18-9 and forced Southside’s second timeout. Sydney Hallum and Gracie Mason later served aces, and yet another ace by Armstrong closed out game one.

Armstrong started game two exactly the same way she ended game one, with another ace, but her next serve was into the net, and Southside scored the next five points in a row. The Lady Southerners (22-6-1) maintained a lead between four and six points until a tip kill by Hallum cut it to 18-15. The margin then stayed at least three until another kill by Hallum cut it to 21-19. With senior Lindsey McFadden serving, Lonoke took its first lead of game two.

A kill by Walker made it a one-point deficit. A net violation tied the match and a kill attempt that sailed long gave the Lady Jackrabbits a 22-21 lead. Neither team led by more than one from then until point 38. The Lady Southerners had the advantage nearly the entire extra play, but Lonoke wouldn’t yield.

Southside had 10 match points to just three for Lonoke, but the Lady Jackrabbits got their final match point on a block by White. Hallum then placed a serve where Southside had to scramble just to get it back across. That allowed Lonoke to set up an attack, and Walker finished it off with a huge kill that landed inside the Southside attack line to end the game.

The Lady Southerners scored the first point of game three, but Lonoke got the next three and never trailed again. Southside got to within one when Walker stepped under the net into Southside’s court, but Kennedy White got two kills and another big block to put Lonoke back in control with a 17-13 lead.

The Lady Jackrabbits finished with 41 kills and 12 aces as a team. Despite missing most of game one, Walker led the way at the net with 16 kills. Shelton had eight kills and three blocks. Armstrong had seven kills and four aces. White had six kills and three blocks. Hallum finished with four kills and three aces and Pool had three blocks.

Lonoke’s first-round match at state will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday against 4A-Northwest No. 2 seed Berryville. The Lady Bobcats are 28-6-1 this season, but have only lost twice this season to an in-state team. Each loss was to Shiloh Christian, one in the season opener on Aug. 22, the other on Thursday in the 4A-Northwest Conference tournament championship game.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke picks way past CAC

By RICK KRON Leader staff writer

Five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt was more than enough to help Lonoke secure a 45-7 win over Central Arkansas Christian on Lonoke’s home field Friday on Homecoming night.

The CAC offensive plan appeared to be pass, throw, lob pass as more than 95 percent of its attempted plays were through the air.

The Jackrabbit defense keyed in on that plan often during the game where the mercy rule –letting the clock continue to run—went into effect late in the third quarter.

CAC’s Garrison possibly set a record for interceptions and incomplete passes as he threw 5 picks and more than two dozen of his passes were incomplete.

The Jackrabbit’s offensive plan was run, run, run with Xavier Hodge doing the yeoman’s work.

The Jackrabbits drew first, second and third blood in the game.

Two plays after Tallon Swint blocked a CAC punt, Michael Hodges bullied across the goal line on a 17-yard run down the home team’s sideline and Nick Tate added the extra point, it was the Jackrabbits out front of the CAC, 7-0.

Two series later, Hodges grabbed a pick six off an errant throw by CAC quarterback Eli Garrison. Hodges scurried 35 yards into the end zone.

Getting the ball back, it took the Mustangs just two plays before throwing an intercept, this time to Tyler Washington, However the Jackrabbits couldn’t do anything with the interception and gave the ball back to the Mustangs on downs.

After taking a 14-0 lead with 4:45 still left in the first quarter, Lonoke tried to surprise the Mustangs with an onside kick, but CAC recovered, starting off at midfield, but three plays later Dalton Smith snagged a Garrison pass at the 20-yard line and took it back 23 yards.

Xavier Hodge rushed five straight times before quarterback Daniel Seigrist, on a keeper, scooted 39-yards for Lonoke’s third touchdown in the first quarter. Another extra point by Tate made it 21-0 with 1:48 left, enough time for CAC to get on the scoreboard.

The Mustangs scored on a pass from Garrison to Gentry Miller. With the extra point, it was Jackrabbits up by 14 at the end of the first quarter.

The Mustangs started to move the ball at the start of the second quarter, taking it all the way to the 12-yard line. On the next running play CAC’s Blake Smith rushing up the middle fumbled and Hunter Kyzer recovered it for the Jackrabbits. But the team couldn’t get any traction, giving the ball back to CAC.

Three plays later Washing-ton nabbed his second interception and took 11-yards to the 29-yard line. Seigrist, on a keeper, cut over the left tackle and took it 11-yards for another touchdown. With the extra point, it was now 28-7 at halftime.

Lonoke received the opening kick-off of the third quarter. Smith took the opening kick from his 10-yard line to the Mustangs’ 10-yard line. And with less than 30 seconds gone in the third quarter, a 10-yard run by Braidon Bryant made it 35-7.

For the next five possessions it looked like a trench warfare game with neither side moving the ball much until CAC fumbled and Smith recovered it on the 19-yard line. Four runs by the quarterback put Lonoke ahead 42-7 and initiated the Mercy Rule with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Before the end of the quarter Washington grabbed his third interception near the 38-yard line just inside the sidelines. Starting the fourth quarter Bryant fumbled and CAC recovered but a block-in-the-back call canceled their touchdown run and the Mustangs just couldn’t move the ball.

Shawn Lake scored the final touchdown for Lonoke with a 33-yard scamper down the line with seven minutes left in the game.

The win improves Lonoke’s record to 4-5 overall. CAC drops to 0-9.

Friday, October 20, 2017

TOP STORY >> Spruceup at animal park

Leader staff writer

Laura Wingate and Lily Miller with Girl Scout Troop 6660 gave the Ward City Council a presentation Monday on proposed additions to the city’s animal park. The troop will cover the cost of its Silver Project, the highest award a cadet Girl Scout can earn.

The council approved the proposed additions to the animal park.

“We wanted to do something for the community and give back,” Miller told the council. “We decided to make the animal park more enticing.”

The troop already has tires, paint, a basket and tennis balls, but will be holding a fundraiser at a later date to help purchase other needed items. The current sign for the animal park is falling down and the troop plans to replace it with a sign made of memorial bricks.

The troop will team up with the Ward Animal Shelter during one of its fundraisers to get some of the dogs adopted also.

Parks and Recreation Director Karen Dawson will supervise the project along with help from Animal Control Officer Kelly Zoller.

Mayor Art Brooke gave an update on the Hwy. 367 and Hwy. 319 intersection improvements. Traffic lights are planned for the intersection, with a completion date sometime in 2018.

The mayor has written a letter saying the city guarantees its $160,000 share required to complete the work.

Originally, the city’s cost was more than $300,000, but there are discussions for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to take over the project, which will reduce the city’s cost.

“We’ve had some discussions with the highway department,” Deborah Staley, executive assistant to the mayor, told The Leader. “One of the suggestions is that they handle the project. At this time we don’t have a signed agreement.”

The mayor will meet with Metroplan on Wednesday to find out more.

David Stanley with Lemons Engineers told the council that the wastewater treatment plant construction is still on schedule, and design plans for Safe Routes to School are being submitted for review.

The city council also approved the purchase of two dump trucks for a total of $21,000 at Monday’s meeting.

Scott’s Lumber Company, which is closing Oct. 28, offered to sell the trucks to the city. The trucks are a 1993 International and a 2005 International. “We have a couple needs for that particular style dump truck,” Brooke said.

The street department will use one for picking up brush, tree limbs and other hauling. The water department will also use one of the trucks.

The planning commission brought proposals for final plats on 1 Huntington Place, lots 107-119 and 131-138, a replat for part of Oakland Park blocks 60 and 73, replat of Guyot Addition lots 1, 2, 3, 10, 11 and 12 and Oakland Grove block 33.

Deputy Operations Director Charles Gastineau updated the council on the city’s low-to-moderate income ratio. After surveying 574 homes around the city, the LMI percentage, which began at 8 percent, rose to 61 percent. Of the 487 occupied residences, 192 were found to have a high income, 177 moderate and 118 low. There were 146 female heads of household, 105 elderly (over age 64), 81 handicapped and 21 multi-family households.

The updated LMI means the city may be eligible for grants to help with projects like a youth or senior center or multipurpose center.

The mayor appointed Alderman Ron Bissett as chairman for a committee to develop an ordinance on parking. Due to narrow streets in some areas, emergency vehicles could have trouble getting to a location they’re called to if a vehicle is parked in the street.

“We’re trying to respond to emergency calls. We’re putting equipment on the road to go and rescue somebody and the equipment is not cheap,” the mayor said. “If you take it down a road you can’t get through, you can’t provide the service. That’s a disservice to those in need. It’s very difficult to try to develop a workable solution.”

The committee is tasked with finding “an ordinance we can live with.”

TOP STORY >> Drinks-by-glass vote on Nov. 14

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville volunteers on the Committee for Progress Now are working hard in their campaign to inform residents and encourage them to vote on Nov. 14 to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks by the glass, which, they said, is a catalyst for economic growth.

Community leaders in Jacksonville and Sherwood want the law changed in the defunct Gray Township to allow restaurants to serve wine, beer and spirits with meals.

Gray Township covers 90 percent of Jacksonville and 50 percent of Sherwood.

Downtown planning and development director Dr. Robert Price, who is leading the Jacksonville effort, said with three weeks left before the election, the Committee for Progress Now in Jacksonville is trying to raise $6,500 to meet its goal of $23,500.

Price has said it’s the No. 1 objective in a 13-step plan to spur economic growth and revitalize downtown Jacksonville.

A “Toast of the Town” fundraiser was held Thursday at the Southern Oaks Country Club to collect donations for advertising, signs and mailers.

Mayor Gary Fletcher and state Rep. Bob Johnson (D- Jacksonville) were in attendance.

“Everybody is positive about it. We don’t know of any group opposed as far as we know,” Price said.

“It is not about liquor stores and bars, it’s about restaurants. A North Little Rock family plans to open an independently owned restaurant at the closed Cody’s Cafe on Municipal Drive. They inquired about serving alcohol,” Price said.

Buffalo Wild Wings and other restaurants went elsewhere to avoid the hassle of getting a private license in Jacksonville, he said.

“Drinks by the Glass” will lead to more businesses coming to Jacksonville, leading to more jobs and increasing property values, he said.

“They have to get out and vote,” Price said.

He said the law against serving alcohol passed in 1953 when Little Rock Air Force Base was being built. Community leaders did not wants bars and liquor stores drawing in the airmen as in other communities.

Even though Sherwood and Jacksonville are voting on the same issue on the same day, they are separate elections, meaning one city could become wet, and not the other.

TOP STORY >>‘Unknown Sailor’ still awaits medal


Cabot resident JoeAnn Taylor is working with two of the five remaining USS Arizona survivors to get her late father, “The Unknown Sailor” Joe George, a medal from the Navy for saving six sailors while disobeying orders during the attack on Pearl Harbor but was later commended for his action.

USS Arizona survivors Donald Stratton, 95, and Lauren Bruner, 97, are determined to get George a medal for his heroism 76 years later. The Stratton family has been working on it for 16 years. It was decades before the survivors found out it was George who threw them a rope so they could escape from a sinking ship.

Taylor, Stratton and Bruner went to the White House last summer to push for a medal for her dad. She spoke about him last week to Cabot High School American history students.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Joe George, then 26, was on the USS Vestal, a repair ship moored to the USS Arizona battleship. George was a farmer from Georgia who got a full football scholarship to Auburn University. His father would not let him take the scholarship, so George left home and joined the Navy. He was 6 feet, 200 pounds. He was a “smoker” (boxer) for the ship.

“My father was the typical sailor. He was youthful and liked to drink. He was on liberty (permission to go onshore) when he got into a bar fight. The military police brought my father back to the ship, confined for the weekend,” Taylor said.

The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,400 Americans and wounded over a 1,000. President Franklin Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next dayand took the United States into the Second World War.

“On that calm Sunday at 7:45 a.m. general quarters was called to man the battle stations. They heard bombs going off and bullets being shot from planes. My father’s ship, the Vestal was bombed right away and went up in flames. He was helping to put out fires,” Taylor said.

She said the USS Arizona was fully loaded with a ton and half of ammunition. A huge bomb hit the middle of the Arizona. It sucked some of the fires out on the Vestal father’s ship. Most of the people on the Arizona died. They jumped off the ship into the fiery water with sharks circling.

The Arizona was leaning. Bruner, Stratton, Harold Kuhn, Russell Lott, Earl Riner and Alvin Dvork were in the ship’s director when the bomb hit.

Through a gap in the smoke, they could see George on the deck of the Vestal. They screamed, “Hey, Vestal,” and got his attention.

Taylor said her father was a knot specialist and made a “monkey fist” on the end of the rope line. The sailors were 70 feet in the air and he threw the knot to them. They made a line to the Vestal and crossed the rope hand-over-hand.

“The executive officer of my father’s ship comes along and tells him to cut the line, because their ship was going to be pulled over by the Arizona. My father would not do it and let those men die,” Taylor said.

“The sailors went to a hospital ship and my father went on with his duties. He did not get hurt, but the six sailors were not able to know who George was to thank him. He is mentioned in their memoirs as ‘The Unknown Sailor,’” she said.

Taylor said George was interviewed in 1978 for an oral history project on Pearl Harbor at the University of North Texas in Denton. It was the first time he publicly gave out his identity.

George had a 20-year career with the Navy and then worked 20 years as a rigger at the Alameda Naval Air Station on San Francisco Bay in California.

When he retired, George and his wife, Teresa, moved to Cabot in 1970. She had family who had a farm on Hwy. 89 in north Pulaski County. George died in 1996 at age 80.

Taylor moved to Cabot in 1999 to be near her mom.


In July USS Arizona survivors Bruner, Stratton and Ken Potts went with Taylor to Washington to have George recognized with a medal.

They had breakfast with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and toured the World War II Memorial. The Arizona survivors had never been to Washington.

They visited several senators’ offices for these men to tell her father’s story.

“Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was very emotional when he found out I was George’s daughter. He worked immediately on a Senate resolution to honor my father to get the Navy to take action. It is moving to hear people talk about my father,” Taylor said.

The group also went to the Pentagon and met with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Taylor said servicemen and women lined the hallways to cheer the Arizona survivors as they walked by.

The survivors also met with President Trump in the Oval Office at the White House.

“He was gracious, genuine and elegant. I feel he was genuinely interested in all of us. He said he was proud of my father and the Pearl Harbor survivors,” Taylor said.

“Joe George stopped at nothing to save these men. A well-known man who goes down in history with USS Arizona,” Trump said, according to Taylor.

The Navy has made no decision on awarding George a medal.

The USS Arizona survivors and Taylor are going back to Pearl Harbor in December for the 76th anniversary.

The World War II Foundation is making a documentary about “The Unknown Sailor.” Film crews went to Washington and recorded the visit. The film, narrated by actor Gary Sinise, is scheduled to air on PBS television on Veterans Day 2018.

American history teacher Bennie Brock said Taylor’s presentation “is a real world connection to history. The students can read it in a book, but this gives them something tangible.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> NCAA makes a mockery of collegiate amateurism

Leader sports editor

NCAA sports are no longer amateur competitions and NCAA athletes are no longer amateurs. That’s the logical outworking of the NCAA’s decision that the University of North Carolina violated no NCAA rules with an 18-year long, incontrovertible academic fraud scandal in which phony classes were set up in a phony department that benefited mostly members of the athletics programs.

The NCAA ruled that, since UNC also allowed some non-athlete students to sign up for the classes and receive passing grades, that it was not a systemic effort to aid the athletes.

This means every major university that brings in most of its revenue from athletics, will set up the same classes.

UNC also had to answer for this systemic fraud before a national accreditation board. In a brazen display of hypocrisy, the (ahem) university acknowledged the fraud and showed deep contrition in an effort not to be sanctioned or even stripped of its accreditation.

But in front of the NCAA, the same UNC representatives argued that no fraud had taken place.

The NCAA, in an even grander show of hypocrisy, knew about the accreditation hearing, knew UNC’s argument there, and still accepted the about face in its own hearing.

Once a longtime proponent for not paying NCAA athletes, that argument is no longer tenable.

Rules are still in place that require athletes to have a certain grade-point average, but all it takes now to conger up a phony GPA is make up fake classes and let a few non-athletes take advantage of it.

This isn’t, any longer, some nefarious scheme practiced only by the most ethically deprave coaches and administrators. It is a bona fide, legitimate way to run a program, according to the NCAA decision on UNC.

The whole thing is absurd.

The ruling means NCAA athletes no longer have to be students, and that means, with the millions of dollars the universities are making, that those players should be getting something in return.

A phony degree won’t mean much in the real world once a potential employer sees the utter lack of training and skill from four years of playing football or basketball and learning nothing else.

There is no excuse, then, for allowing NCAA members to use the labor of these athletes to make millions on top of millions of dollars for four years for basically nothing but room and board.

The only argument for allowing it before the UNC ruling was that the players were getting something – something almost invaluable – tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in scholarship money and an opportunity to earn a college degree – even a masters.

That argument is now gone, and the athletes should be getting a cut of the cash.

One could still argue the opportunity is still there, but that argument should be laughed to scorn. Tell an 18-year old kid he can either take the really challenging courses and earn the degree while juggling the demanding athletics schedule, or he can sign up for the fake classes and get straight A’s without lifting a finger.

That athlete isn’t going to be thinking about the long term, real world implications of that decision.

There is no longer a tenable argument for not paying the athletes; at least the ones that play the sports that bring in the cash.

The best-case scenario is for universities members (and they are members by choice) to leave the NCAA and start another organization with ethics and the will to defend them. But short of that, the next best thing is to make college sports semi pro. Let the teams represent a university, but in name only. Don’t require players to be students and pay them a fair market value.

If you still think that sounds ludicrous, take it up with the NCAA.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot must be perfect against Bryant

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers have to find a way to stop the trend in the wrong direction, and the task doesn’t get any easier as the undefeated Bryant Hornets visit Panther Stadium Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Cabot enters the game in the wake of a 16-14 loss at Little Rock Central. The loss looks bad on paper at first glance. The Tigers were 1-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play going into the game, but a closer look reveals that four of their five losses are to teams with a combined record of 28-0.

One of those 7-0 teams that beat Central was Bryant. The Hornets beat the Tigers 35-20 one week before the Tigers beat the Panthers.

Bryant, however, won’t be as strong offensively this week. Centralknocked Bryant’s starting quarterback, Ren Hefley, out of action for five to six weeks with a broken collarbone.

Hefley’s absence wasn’t much of a problem last week.

Jake Meaders took over and led the Hornets to a 30-19 win over Fort Smith Southside.

“He’s not as good as Hefley, but he’s not bad,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “They’re solid everywhere. They’re big on both sides of the line. Defensively they’re as good as anybody we’ll see all year. That running back (Kris King, 5-8, 190) is one of the best in the state - very strong. They’re ranked No. 1 and undefeated for a reason. They’re solid all the way across.”

Cabot also beat Southside 43-41 in Week 4. Catholic High is another common opponent the teams share. Cabot won at War Memorial Stadium 43-21. Bryant beat the Rockets at home 49-17.

A key to an upset this week will be ball security.

Cabot lost three fumbles last week, including one in which the ball was dropped at the 2-yard line as quarterback Tommy Oaks was about to cross the goal line untouched.

“I hope that was a once in a lifetime thing,” Malham said. “I know it’s the only time in my whole coaching career I’ve seen it.”

Until last week, penalties had been a bigger problem for Cabot than turnovers. The Panthers were only called for three the entire game, but one nullified a long touchdown run by halfback T.J. Rogers.

“That was a completely bogus hold they called us for on that one,” Malham said. “We did a lot better with the penalties, but one of them they called us for was a killer.”

Cabot will have Division I defensive line prospect Dayonte Roberts back in the lineup this week after a four-game absence.

“We thought we might have him back last game but we didn’t,” Malham said. “He could’ve helped us in there. We’ll have him back for this one. He won’t be in game shape, but he’s going to have to play.

“We just had some bad things happen to us last week. You just have to put it behind you and move forward. We have to focus on this week now because we’re going to have to play perfect. Bryant’s too good to give away anything.”

SPORTS STORY >> Titans secure state berth

Leader sports editor

There was some adversity to overcome, but the Lady Titan volleyball team found a way to do it on Saturday in a crucial first-round match of the 6A-East Conference tournament. Jacksonville rallied from a big game-two deficit to get a 3-0 sweep of West Memphis and guarantee itself no worse than a four seed in the Class 6A state tournament that begins next Tuesday in Greenwood.

The match hinged on Jacksonville’s comeback in game two. West Memphis had controlled the game up to leading 23-16, but the Lady Titans rallied for nine-straight points for a 25-23 lead.

A stunned group of Lady Blue Devils was never in game three and Jacksonville cruised the rest of the way. Scores of the match were 25-18, 25-23 and 25-14.

The game two comeback was the biggest deficit Jacksonville had overcome for a win all season, and was a great sign for coach Savannah Jacoby.

“It was definitely a sign of growth and maturity,” said Jacoby. “They knew why they were behind and they knew how to fix it. They started playing together as a team again. When they do that, they’re a totally different team. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they kept their composure and overcame adversity today. It’s very encouraging.”

The Lady Blue Devils’ biggest lead in game two was 22-14, and Jacksonville appeared on its way to letting the match become tied at one game apiece.

Sophomore Chandee Wesley got a tip kill to break serve, and then aced West Memphis to make it 22-16. The Lady Blue Devils’ 6-foot freshman Delanie Johnson then got her seventh kill of game two for the 23-16 lead.

But Johnson was long on a kill attempt on the next point, and Jacksonville took serve trailing by six.

From there, Titan senior Italian exchange student Federica Bossi served out the match. Junior Basia Brown got a kill to make it 23-18 and West Memphiscoach Erin Neeley called timeout.

It didn’t help.

Bossi aced the Lady Blue Devils (5-18) out of the break and Aaliyah Burks got a tip kill to pull the Titans to within three. The pressure began to cause cracks in West Memphis’ composure, as a pair of Lady Blue Devils collided on an easy free ball to make it 23-21.

Johnson then miss-hit a kill attempt into the net, and Lady Blue Devil Cameron Aaron stepped across underneath the net to tie the game. Johnson then hit long again, and Bossi drilled another ace to finish off the nine-point, game-winning rally.

Jacksonville sophomore Blair Jones served four-straight to start game three, and the lead grew from there. The margin hit double digits for the first time at 17-7 on back-to-back aces by senior Brittney Eskridge.

Bossi led the team in two categories. She finished with seven kills and four aces. Brown had six kills and Eskridge five. Jones and Burks had three apiece and Wesley finished with two. Jones and Lindsey Holt each had three aces, Eskridge and Wesley had two apiece and Brown served up one. The team finished with 15 aces.

Saturday’s other tournament match saw Mountain Home hammer Searcy by scores of 25-6, 25-13 and 25-14. Jacksonville (10-16) traveled to No. 1 seed Jonesboro (24-5) on Tuesday after Leader deadlines. The winner of that match plays the winner of Mountain Home vs. Marion on Thursday. The losers of Tuesday’s matches meet on Thursday to determine the three and four seeds.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabs coast into 4A playoffs

Leader sports editor

Not a lot of effort was required for the Lady Jackrabbits to qualify for the Class 4A state tournament on Monday, but that wasn’t the goal going into the 4A-Central Conference tournament at Heber Springs.

All Lonoke had to do to qualify for state was beat Helena-West Helena Central for the fourth time this season. That was done in short order. The Lady Jackrabbits swept the Lady Cougars 3-0, with scores of 25-9, 25-8 and 25-4.

Lonoke coach Laura Park substituted nearly everyone with her team leading 15-1 in game three. She left Maddie Pool on the floor to serve, but she came out at 18-1 as well.

Lonoke entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed after sweeping through the Class 1A-4A District 9blended conference without losing a single set all season. Central (7-11 overall) got the eight seed despite going 5-9 in league play.

Teams from two other districts, 7 and 8, are also in the 4A-Central, and those leagues are a bit tougher that District 9. Lonoke, however, had also beaten every team it had played from those leagues, including third and fourth seeded Baptist Prep and Central Arkansas Christian. Lonoke has not faced second-seeded Southside-Batesville.

In Monday’s matchup, unforced Lonoke errors were almost the only way Central could score. In game one, seven of the Lady Cougars’ nine points came off missed serves by Lonoke.

There were, however, also 11 Lonoke aces. In game two, the aces were down to 10, but the missed serves were cut to just two. Emily Armstrong served the Lady Jackrabbits out to a 12-0 lead to start the second set. She dropped in eight aces while Keiunna Walker added two kills, Kennedy White had one and Central swung wide on its lone kill attempt.

The Cougars finally broke serve when Walker’s kill attempt hit the net.

Game three started similarly to game two. A Walker kill broke serve to start the game, and Armstrong served 13 in a row before Central could break back.

Three-straight aces took it from 7-0 to 10-0. An alignment violation on the Cougars made it 11-0. Two more aces followed another kill by Walker for a 14-0 before Central got its second and last kill of the match to stop the bleeding.

The Lady Jackrabbits (25-5-3) finished with 30 aces. Armstrong served up 16 of them. Other statistics were in short number. The Lady Cougars didn’t get the ball back over the net until the ninth point of game one, and only managed two service returns the entire first game.

They managed to get it back eight times in game two and 10 times in game three.

Monday’s win guarantees Lonoke a spot in today’s final round.

The game to determine the three and four seeds in the Class 4A state tournament will begin at 4:30 p.m. The tournament championship is set for 6:30 p.m. at Heber Springs High School.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke group to present its five-year plan

The first in a series of forums by Lonoke 2022, an economic development and beautification group, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Lonoke First United Methodist Church, 220 S. Center St., to discuss the city’s economic and community development plans.

The town-hall meeting “will explain the next steps for the implementation process and give the citizens of Lonoke an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback,” according to the announcement.

The program will conclude with progress updates and a question-and-answer session.

For more information, visit

In May, the Lonoke community, along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, unveiled a five-year plan to create a “more visible, attractive and connected community. This citizen-led initiative called Kick Start Lonoke successfully concluded Phase 1 of the community’s work focused on generating ideas for a unified vision for Lonoke’s future.”

Phase 2, which begins this month, is being renamed Lonoke 2022, “a nod to the five-year window of time associated with the plan’s timeline and the 150th anniversary of the town’s founding.”

Ryan Biles, a volunteer with the initiative, said, “Citizens from every neighborhood in Lonoke have been excited about getting to work and putting this plan into action. Everyone has been asking what’s next, and we are excited to launch ‘Lonoke 2022’ as our next step forward together,” Biles said.

TOP STORY >> Auschwitz exhibit at Harding

The Stevens Art Gallery at Harding University is featuring a free art show titled “A Town Known as Auschwitz: The Life and Death of a Jewish Community.”

The display, which originates from the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City, contains historical records from the 16th Century through the post-war period.

“A Town Known as Auschwitz” runs until Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Stevens Art Gallery is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturdays.

“The exhibit is primarily an attempt to tell the world about a community, much like your hometown, where people of different religious beliefs live and work together,” said John Keller, art professor and curator of the Stevens Art Gallery. “Unfortunately, under the Nazi regime, it was transformed into the infamous town known to the world as Auschwitz.”

In the article “Before Auschwitz Was Auschwitz” in The New York Jewish Week, journalist Jonathan Mark describes the impact of the show:

“The exhibit is nothing less than a resurrection, a walk down streets and through the marketplace where we meet the wise men and the wise guys; the young moms of the public high school parents association; the young Zionists preparing for kibbutz life; and chasidic rebbes, artists, whiskey makers, lawyers, tailors, children — and ghosts.” The display corresponds with this year’s Harding Read, Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” and the American Studies Institute distinguished speaker Eva Kor.

“Eva Kor, Corrie ten Boom, and this exhibit all tell a story about the importance of community, the power of faith, and the need to forgive and be forgiven when we are faced with severe trials…and we most assuredly will be at some time in our lives,” said Keller. “This show is history, and it is history we need to remember.”

The art gallery will have special hours to support other events happening on campus.

Saturday, Oct. 21

The gallery will be open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. as a part of Homecoming activities.

Saturday, Oct. 28

Free screening of “The Hiding Place” movie, 4:30 p.m., Rialto Theatre (100 W. Race Ave., Searcy). Gallery will open from 6:30-7:30 p.m. following the movie.

Tuesday, Nov. 7

American Studies Institute Distinguished Lecture: Eva Kor, Auschwitz survivor, 7:30 p.m., Benson Auditorium. Event is free and open to the public. Gallery will open immediately following the speaker and remain open until 10 p.m.

For more information about this exhibit as well as other upcoming events in the art department, visit

To learn more about special events and services offered by the university, visit

TOP STORY >> Beebe native fought in WWII

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) honored the service and sacrifice of World War II veteran Garland Gable in “Salute to Veterans,” a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Gable, 91, grew up on his family’s farm outside of Beebe alongside his six siblings.

He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and stayed close to home for basic training at Camp Robinson.

Gable laughs about the shoes he was first issued. “I got a pair of shoes. I believe they were 13s and I wore a 10,” he said. “I told the sergeant they were so big I could just jump straight out of them.”

Gable was assigned to the 69th Infantry Division and continued his stateside training at Camp Shelby, Miss., before boarding a ship to Europe.

The “Fighting 69th” landed at Le Havre, France in January 1945 and traveled in cold, freezing rain to the front lines in Belgium.

“We had a blanket and a sleeping bag. The snow was about eight inches deep and we slept in the woods,” Gable recalled the night before relieving the 99th infantry on the frontlines. “While we were relieving them, the Germans turned loose the artillery. We had men killed before we got started.”

Gable advanced with the division through Germany. He says he never thought he was going to be killed, but he wonders how he made it out alive from Weissenfels, Germany.

An armored division reported the area was all clear, but that’s not what he experienced. “They fired on us,” Gable recalled. “My company went across an open field. There wasn’t any protection. The snipers were firing.” Gable and two of his comrades were separated from the rest of the company and while trying to decide where to go, one of them was killed by a sniper.

He describes what followed as “doomsday.”

“A freight train pulled up with about 20 boxcars on it. The doors opened and the Germans just poured out,” said Gable, recalling how he found cover among grass and weeds and was looking for a way around a barbed wire fence when he saw a German tank in an open field.

“I didn’t run backwards, but I went the wrong way. I went across the field. It’s probably 300 yards. The dumbest thing I ever did in my life. He opened up on me with that thing. The bullets were going under me, over me, everywhere, but I got away from him,” Gable said.

While he lost his helmet, he thought he was safe, but faced more fire. He’s unsure of what followed because he doesn’t remember. Somehow he managed to reunite with his platoon, but he still doesn’t know how he got there.

The 69th Infantry Division captured Leipzig in eastern Germany and saw the atrocities the Nazis had committed against Jews at Leipzig-Thekla, a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp.

“It was the most awful place you ever saw,” Gable said. Gable earned several military honors for his service including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

He was medically discharged after the war because he suffered from shell shock, today known as post- traumatic stress disorder, something he still deals with.

He later became a preacher and started three churches. Today, Gable calls Conway home.

“I am grateful for Garland Gable’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Gable’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.