Saturday, November 11, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Comets outlast Titans

Leader sports editor

Controlling the tempo was the key to winning the basketball season opener between Jacksonville and Mills on Tuesday, and Mills did it just a little better en route to a 65-58 victory at The Galaxy in Little Rock.

The visiting Titans were in control in the first quarter. Their deliberate halfcourt offense took advantage of their superior size but Mills spent the second quarter and most of the third pushing the tempo and building a lead that reached as much as 12 points.

The Comets were up 49-37 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner called timeout and switched from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone defense. Mills grew content to take long shots, and Jacksonville worked its way back into the game.

Late in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville point guard Michael Terry penetrated and dished to postman Joe Phillips, who completed a three-point play and tied the game at 58-58 with 2:27 remaining.

But the Titans went scoreless the rest of the way and committed turnovers on its final three possessions.

Both of Jacksonville’s leading scorers and primary ball handlers from last year are playing college ball this year, and Joyner is taking a patient approach to bringing along the ball handlers this season.

“When we get Mike Terry and little Antoine Davis a little experience we’re going to be all right,” said Joyner. “Terry did all right handling the pressure, but then he got in foul trouble. And neither one of them is a true point guard. This team don’t have one. If we stay under control and run our sets, we’re better than them. But they got us out of it and they won. Overall though, I was encouraged. We needed a game that I could pull out the film and show them what I’ve been trying to teach them. They played hard. I can say that. I was pleased with their effort. This team’s going to have some potential.”

Jacksonville battled foul trouble the entire game. Terry and both starting post players, Christian White and Phillips, carried three fouls into halftime. Terry picked up his fourth about three minutes into the third quarter, and sat until late in the fourth.

Jacksonville led 16-12 at the end of the first quarter, but Mills took its first lead exactly halfway through the second when 6-foot-6 Parkview transfer Kevin Cross put back his own miss and was fouled. His free throw gave the Comets a 25-23 lead. Davis answered right back for Jacksonville, getting into the lane to draw a foul, and hitting a circus shot to make it a three-point play.

Mills turned up the defensive pressure and began picking up the ball in the backcourt. Jacksonville turned it over five times in the last half of the second quarter, and Mills took a 37-32 lead into intermission.

After stretching it to 12, Mills fell back into a slower game when the Titans switched to the zone defense.

“They switched to that zone and we got lazy and started settling for threes,” said Mills coach Raymond Cooper. “And the worst thing about it was we hit the first couple of them, so we thought we could just keep on shooting. They were disciplined and patient and we weren’t, and that’s why they got back into the game. But we pulled it out so overall I’m pleased. Any time you beat that program, you got a quality win.”

The turnover margin was the difference. Mills committed 14 turnovers while Jacksonville had 25. Mills’ four-year starter Grehlon Easter and Cross led all players with 19 points a piece. Patrick Greene, a transfer from Maumelle, added 14 for the Comets.

Senior guard Braylon Hawkins led Jacksonville in scoring and rebounding, with 15 points and seven boards. Phillips added 11 and White 10 for the Titans.

Jacksonville made 21 of 43 shot attempts, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. The Titans weren’t as good from the line, making 13 of 21.

Mills hit 24 of 51 from the floor, including 5 of 14 from long range. The Comets were 11 of 17 from the free-throw line. Jacksonville outrebounded Mills 28-21.

Jacksonville played at eStem along with the girls Friday night. The next game will be the home opener Nov. 21 against Monticello.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS football team no match for BHS

Special to The Leader

BENTON–The Jacksonville Titans traveled to the home of the Benton Panthers Friday night for the opening round of the state 6A football playoffs. The Titans, seeded No. 6 from the East, could not stop the Benton offense or get anything going offensively themselves, and fell 42-0 to the No. 3 West seeded Panthers.

Jacksonville finishes the season 3-8, while Benton improves to 7-4 and moves on to round two of the playoff picture to face West Memphis.

The Panthers scored on every first half possession but the last, and held the Titans to zero points to lead 35-0 at intermission. With the clock running under the sportsmanship rule in the second half, only one more touchdown was scored, and it was the opening kick off, returned by Benton all the way to the end zone.

“You got to tip your hat sometimes,” Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham said. “Benton did a good job preparing. We just stumbled out of the block and got behind quickly, and then it just kind of snowballed on us. We couldn’t get anything going, and if we did, we’d drive for a little bit, and then we’d have a fumble or a penalty. It was just a tough first half. But I’m proud of our seniors. We had great senior leadership this year. The guys laid it out there. We got some great kids, and I’m proud of what they did.”

The Titans had the first possession of the contest, but could only gain four yards before kicking the ball away field goal style.

Benton got the ball on the Jacksonville 40-yard line and converted on a fourth and 10 to help move the 40 yards in nine plays and take the 7-0 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gavin Wells and the extra point by Breck Rambo.

The Titans started at their own 22-yard line and moved the chains once before kicking again from field goal formation.

The Panthers scored this time after a drive of 83 yards, and on a 5-yard run by Zak Wallace. The lead grew to 14-0 with 2:00 remaining in the first period.

Jacksonville had a 25-yard completion from quarterback HD Martin to Tre Newson in its next possession, but again had to kick the ball away.

Wallace scored his second touchdown, again from five yards out, and the lead was 21-0 with 8:36 to go in the second frame.

The Titans picked up two first downs on their next possession, but then lost the ball by way of fumble.

The Panthers scored twice more before halftime to lead 35-0.

Benton’s Tristian Hutchinson then returned the second half kickoff all the way back for the only other touchdown of the game, setting the final margin.

Jacksonville had a 53-yard completion from Cam Holston to Braylon Mosby to the Panther 3-yard line, but Holston was then intercepted in the end zone with 2:28 on the game clock.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears get bounced early by Nettleton

Leader sports editor

NETTLETON – For the fifth year in a row, Sylvan Hills has lost in the first round of the playoffs, and Friday’s 35-33 loss at Nettleton was almost as heartbreaking as last year’s 36-35 loss at home to Watson Chapel.

This time the Bears were a four seed looking to upset 5A-East champion and top-seeded Nettleton.

Sylvan Hills trailed 35-26 late in fourth quarter, but still had an opportunity to win. Facing third and 12 yards to go, Sylvan Hills quarterback Ryan Lumpkin found receiver Peyton Terry deep in the back of the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 3:01 remaining in the game. Tito Mendoza’s extra point made it 35-33.

The Bears tried an onside kick and didn’t recover, but the defense stepped up and gave the offense the ball back with 1:22 left in the game. Darius Waddell set the Bears up nicely by returning the kick 30 yards to midfield. But after one incomplete pass, Lumpkin went deep again. This time it was intercepted with less than a minute to play.

Sylvan Hills had only one timeout left and wasn’t able to stop the clock enough to get the ball back. Nettleton lined up in victory formation for the final two plays and ran out the clock.

The key drive of the game was Nettleton’s final scoring drive of the first half. The Raiders led 14-13 when they began a drive at their own 28-yard line. Nettleton was called for holding on first down and the Bears got a sack for another 6-yard loss to set up second and 26 from the 6-yard line. After a short gain on a screen pass, the Bears were called for a personal foul that turned third and about 20 into first down.

Sylvan Hills stopped Nettleton again and then blocked the punt, but a Bear ran onto the field just before the snap, drawing an illegal substitution penalty that erased the blocked punt and gave Nettleton a first down. This time the Raiders took advantage of the mistake, and scored three plays later for a 21-13 lead going into halftime.

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow left the field at halftime making known to the officials his disapproval of their performance in the first half.

Sylvan Hills (6-5) got the ball to start the second half, but had to punt after one first down. The calls kept going Nettleton’s way in the third quarter. The punt return was fumbled, but the runner was ruled down. Another illegal substitution penalty on the Bears later in the drive gave Nettleton another first down at the Sylvan Hills 16-yard line. Two plays later the Raider’s led 28-13 with 8:55 to go in the third quarter.

Things started to look bleak for the Bears when they were stopped short on fourth down at the Raider 30, but they didn’t quit.

Defensive end Syphrus Givens got a sack on third down and forced a punt on fourth and 15. The Bears drove inside the Nettleton 30 when disaster almost struck again.

Nettleton intercepted a Lumpkin third-down pass and returned it about 5 yards when the defender was hit and fumbled. The Bears recovered, and since there had been a change of possession, got first down at the Nettleton 34.

A penalty and two incomplete passes made it third and 15, but Lumpkin found Waddell in the end zone for the score. The extra point made it 28-20 with 2:27 left in the third quarter.

The Sylvan Hills defense stepped up two more times to force punts. The offense came up empty after a blocked field goal at the end of the first possession. After the second consecutive stop, the Bears drove 66 yards in just 18 seconds to pull within two points.

Ty Compton ran for 7 yards on first down, and Lumpkin hit Devante White for 57 yards to the 2-yard line on second down. Compton then kept for the score, but a two-point conversion roll out pass was incomplete, leaving the Raiders up 28-26 with 5:01 remaining.

Nettleton (10-1) scored its last touchdown with 3:21 left.

Both teams went down the field with ease to start the game, but Sylvan Hills missed the tying PAT that left Nettleton with a 7-6 lead with 5:38 to go in the first quarter.

The Bears then got a defensive stop before grabbing their only brief lead of the game on the subsequent drive.

It was a seven-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a jet sweep for 15 yards and a touchdown by Deon Youngblood that put Sylvan Hills up 13-7 with 2:56 left in the first period.

But Nettleton answered with a 63-yard drive that took just 2:40 and the Raiders never trailed again.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers send Bulldogs packing

Leader sports editor

The Cabot defense went from unable to stop Springdale in the first half, to completely shutting down the Bulldogs in the second half, leading the way to a 43-21 Cabot victory in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs Friday at Panther Stadium.

The Bulldogs racked up 344 total yards in the first half and took a 21-20 lead into the locker room at halftime. They managed just 16 total yards in the second half as the Panther defense flipped a switch and dominated.

“We didn’t really change a whole lot,” said Cabot defensive coordinator Randall Black. “We just went back to our base defense, really. The kids just played hard. They played hard the whole game. We tried a couple things in the first half and we weren’t getting there. We just went back to the base defense and the kids made plays.”

The Panthers took the lead for good on the first drive of the second half. Halfback T.J. Rogers went 31 yards on the first play of the half. Cabot went from its own 27 to the Springdale 20 in just four plays, but a holding penalty put it behind the chains. That set up a 35-yard field goal by Mason Martin that gave Cabot a 23-21 lead with 7:47 left in the third quarter.

The Cabot defense forced a three-and-out possession, and Rogers returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to the Bulldog 9-yard line. But the first of two personal foul penalties on fullback Bradley Morales, for knocking a defender down well after the play was over, caused Cabot to come away empty.

The defense made up for the offensive mental lapse on the very next play. Linebacker Lucas Crumbly picked off a Layne Hutchins pass and returned it 40 yards for the score with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Springdale gambled on fourth and 1 on its next possession, opting to go for it and opting to throw. Hutchins had lots of time to find a receiver, but the secondary kept everyone covered until sophomore Hayden Matthews could get to Hutchins for a sack that gave Cabot the ball at the Springdale 33.

The Panthers (7-4) got to the 11 before more penalties backed them up and forced another field goal attempt. This time the snap was high and Springdale took over at the 17.

But again, Cabot’s defense forced three and out. Another good return set Cabot up again in Springdale territory at the 34. This time the offense didn’t squander the opportunity, even though it tried. T

hird and 8 turned into third and 13 after an illegal procedure penalty. While the referee was announcing the call, Morales was flagged for his second personal foul penalty, backing the Panthers up another 15 yards and setting up third and 28 from the Cabot 48-yard line.

Halfback Graham Turner plowed forward for 20 yards on third down.

Rogers got another 23 on fourth and 8 to set up first and goal at the 10. Five-yard runs by Turner and Morales finished the drive and Martin’s extra point made it 36-21 with 7:02 left in the game.

Springdale (6-5) picked up just 1 yard on its next possession before Jessie Windemaker got an interception and returned it 54 yards to the Springdale 1-yard line. Quarterback Cody Skinner, playing for injured Tommy Oaks, kept for the score on the next play to set the final margin.

“It’s a good win,” said Cabot head coach Mike Malham. “It gives us a winning season. Now we go up and get a shot at Bentonville. We’re going to have to play cleaner than we did tonight. We made some mistakes, but we overcame them.”

The Cabot Panthers scored the first two times they snapped the ball, but finished the first half with three turnovers and trailing by one point.

Neither defense had any answers in the first half. Springdale took the opening kickoff and cruised down the field, going 70 yards in 11 plays and twice converting on third and long.

Cabot answered with back-to-back one-play drives. Rogers went 75 yards on Cabot’s first play of the game. Noah Sorrell then went 68 yards on the second play after a Cabot defensive stop.

But Oaks got hurt, and Cabot’s last four possessions of the first half included three turnovers and one touchdown with a missed extra point.

Cabot had 480 total yards to Springdale’s 360. The Panthers were a bit more balanced, picking up 299 in the first half and 181 in the second.

Rogers finished with 14 carries for 213 yards, as well as two punt returns totaling 71 yards. He added one reception for 10 yards.

The Panthers will travel to Bentonville High next Friday to take on the 7A-West champions. It’s the first meeting between the two teams since the 2013 state championship game.

Friday, November 10, 2017

TOP STORY >> Cabot Christmas for Kids

Organizers of the Cabot School District’s Christmas for Kids toy drive are asking the public to donate new toys or make monetary donations to help buy new toys so that local kids can have a happy Christmas.

The program will accept donations through Dec. 17.

There are boxes at all Cabot public schools to drop off toys. Toys can also be dropped off at Centennial Bank, Fred’s, Dixie CafĂ© and Dollar General in Cabot and Ward.

To sponsor a family or to bring a family in need to the attention of Christmas for Kids, call Terena Woodruff at 501-843-3363, ext. 1029.

Checks can be mailed to Christmas for Kids, care of Bill Holden, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark. 72007.

“The true meaning of Christmas is giving. Last year, this committee helped approximately 2,000 children have a better Christmas. It was all possible because the people of Cabot pulled together and gave their time and money. Once again, your help is needed. You can help by donating new toys or by giving a monetary donation,” according to an announcement.

Families who need assistance this year with food or toys, are asked to visit Recipients must live in the Cabot School District area to be eligible.

To arrange for donated toys to be picked up, call Bill Holden or Rita Stewart at 501-743-3560.

Toys may also be brought to any elementary school in the Cabot Public School District today through Dec. 19 or leave a message for Shelley Montoya at 501-286-8912.

TOP STORY >> First Assembly turning 75

Jacksonville First Assembly of God, 221 N. Elm St., will hold a special service to celebrate its 75th anniversary at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, to be followed by a fellowship dinner at noon in the church dining hall.

Pastor Royce L. Lowe will speak at the celebration. He is the church’s 10th pastor. He and his family came to Jacksonville from Helena in June 1972. He grew up in Sebastian County.

The church was established Nov. 19, 1942, less than a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II.

Volunteers built the first church building on four tree-covered lots, using lumber from the Thompson Sawmill that once stood on the site of The Leader’s office on Graham Road, then a dirt road called Saw Mill Road.

The church is still at the original location, although with a new building, auditorium and education buildings. It now hosts a Spanish-speaking congregation every Sunday.

“This church welcomes everyone to worship, fellowship, evangelize our community. We want to be a beacon of light to our city. The Lord’s return is soon. Come and worship,” Lowe said.

“When the church started, it was close to the only school, downtown stores, the train depot and bus depot,” he said.

“Little Rock city buses came to Jacksonville several times a day. Military contractors, Ford, Bacon and Davis, was the new employer in this small town of 300. The ordnance plant worked 24 hours a day. The railroad brought in supplies for the plant and carried away finished detonators. Thousands of people worked here. Sugar, gas, lumber, cars and other things were rationed because of the war effort,” Lowe said.

In those days, a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp was on Main Street, and the men who worked there were drafted soon after World War II began. A women’s prison was on Centennial Road north of town.

“Because of a housing shortage, hundreds of prefabricated houses came by rail, and 30 houses a day went up in the new Sunnyside Addition. It quickly filled with families who had never lived in a house with running water,” Lowe said.

With the end of the Second World War in August 1945, the ordnance plant closed and Baby Boomers filled the church, many of whom walked to church.

In 1966, the Jubilee Choir was founded and still sings on Saturday night once a month.

TOP STORY >> Brooke case ends in fine, probation

Leader staff writer

Former Ward District Court probation officer Mark Brooke entered a guilty plea to patronizing a prostitute, a Class B misdemeanor, during a bench trial hearing Wednesday at the Lonoke County Courthouse.

Circuit Court Judge Sandy Huckabee sentenced Brooke to three months supervised probation, a $500 fine and court costs.

Brooke, with family in the audience, and attorney Hubert Alexander representing, changed his plea from not guilty entered in May.

Brooke was arrested on Jan. 18 by the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly soliciting prostitution from an undercover officer posing as one of his probationers. The sheriff’s office set up a sting after receiving complaints about Brooke’s alleged conduct with two women on probation.

A female deputy went undercover to investigate the allegations made against Brooke. The deputy went to Ward District Court on a made-up charge and was sentenced to probation. She met with Brooke that evening.

According to the affidavit, Brooke almost immediately had an inappropriate conversation with her. They talked about her job as a stripper at the Paper Moon Club in Little Rock. Brooke talked about private shows and how he liked performing a sex act.

The comments were made while he was advising the woman about her probation and when to contact him to come to his office.

The next day, the undercover deputy received a call from Brooke, saying he wanted to meet up later that day for a lap dance and extra activities.

Brooke made several other calls to the deputy. Investigators reported that Brooke’s conversations were clearly soliciting the woman for sex.

A meeting was set up and Brooke was taken into custody for sexual solicitation.

During an interview with detectives, Brooke confirmed he had a sexual relationship with one of the female probationers who reported the activities to the sheriff’s office and he had taken her to motels in North Little Rock.

He denied that it was in connection with her probation and it was on a personal level.

Brooke currently works for the street department in Ward, where his father Art is mayor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Benton must have to pay for pressure

Leader sports editor

The rebuilding Jack-sonville Titans have taken the approach this season of one step at a time. They took enough steps to make the playoffs, now they have a chance to take the step of pulling off an upset and making some noise in the Class 6A state tournament.

Jacksonville travels to Benton for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday, and head coach Barry Hickingbotham isn’t counting out his team’s possibility of surprising the prognosticators.

“They’re bigger and deeper than we are, but we’ve faced that this year and I like how we’ve stepped up to the challenge,” said Hickingbotham. “I feel like we’ll be ready for that. I’m proud of how our D-line has improved each week. I’ve been proud of our linebackers. I’m not going to say they’re going to try to beat us with the pass, but that’s kind-of been our weakness. But we’re going to get ready and try to get take that next step.”

Benton has been a team that wins with the pass for the last several seasons, but that strategy took a hit when starting quarterback Colen Morrow got hurt in week four, and then sophomore backup Payton Hudgins got hurt in week 7.

Since then, sophomore Gavin Wells moved from wide receiver and has steadily improved. He had his best passing game in last week’s win over Sheridan, completing 16 of 24 attempts for 271 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

“He’s a shifty guy,” Hickingbotham said. “When the quarterback wears number 80, it’s a little bit of a concern. He’s kind of like a little water bug out there. He’s hard to get your hands on. I don’t think he’s got the arm strength like they’re quarterbacks have had in the past, but he’ll throw it. He’s getting better. I still wouldn’t say they’re run heavy, but they’re running it more than they used to, and they’ve got a good back.”

Jacksonville is dealing with its own injury problems at quarterback, as well as on the offensive line. Starting quarterback Harderrious Martin suffered a broken hand at West Memphis. The senior has continued to play defense, and even though the injury is on his non-throwing hand, he can’t grip the ball well enough to be a main ball carrier on offense.

Junior backup Shavarris Curley did a very good job filling in for Martin for most of the game at West Memphis. He also made some plays against Marion, but struggled, as did the rest of the team, in the season finale against conference champion Pine Bluff.

“He’s learning as well,” Hickingbotham said of Curley. “A big problem last week was their defensive line was all over us. We lost our center and we’ve been kind-of beat up up front a lot this season. I don’t know if we’ve had more than two games in a row with the same unit. But we’re going to have to get one ready. They’re going to bring pressure. They play a 3-3 stack and they come after you. So we’re going to have to figure out a way to offset that and then we’re going to have to execute.”

“Malik (Curley) is going to recognize where the pressure is coming from to make his read. We’re working with him on that and he’s picking it up. He’s a hard-working kid. He’s kind-of been thrown in the fire, and he’s stepping up and accepting his role.”

SPORTS STORY >> Coach satisfied with Titan start

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys looked impressive in their exhibition outing Saturday in the jamboree they hosted at JHS. The Titans played one half against two different teams, beating Hot Springs 33-16 and then defeating Riverview 33-23. But head coach Victor Joyner warns not to read too much into the effort.

“It was pretty good, you know, for the first time out,” said Joyner. “I don’t think either one of those teams were full strength. But we did some good things at times. I thought defensively we were pretty good. Kids hustled and rotated well, protected the rim, didn’t give up anything easy. So it was all right. But this is nothing like the teams we’re about to get ready to play. We’re going to have to get a lot better.”

Joyner didn’t treat the scrimmages like real games either. He rotated two full units back and forth every four minutes with no other substitutions. It took a bit for the first basket, but once it was scored, Jacksonville made it three more in a hurry. Junior Joe Phillips scored by putting back his own miss. His fellow post player Christian White then got a steal and dished to Michael Terry for a six-footer. Terrythen stole the ball and hit a layup. Hot Springs got down the court and put up a quick shot, but it was blocked by Braylon Hawkins. Phillips grabbed the loose ball and passed to Caleb Kendrick, who made a 15-footer from the baseline that made it 8-0 and forced a Hot Springs timeout with six minutes left in the first quarter.

The Trojans finally scored after a long possession. Kendrick answered with a 3-pointer that made it 11-2 before the second five entered the game.

That group’s first bucket was a 3-pointer by freshman Ryan Maxwell Jr. (R.J.) that put Jacksonville up 14-2. The two teams traded scoreless possessions before the Trojans hit 1 of 2 free throws. R.J.’s cousin and classmate Jordan Maxwell then scored to make it 16-3 with 1:14 to play in the opening period. Hot Springs hit a 3-pointer moments later, but R.J. put back a Jordan Maxwell miss for the Titans’ last bucket of the period.

The Trojans scored last however, hitting both free throws after being sent to the line with less than two seconds to go.

Another Trojan trip to the line started the second period, and they hit 1 of 2. White then put back his own miss on offense, and then blocked a shot on defense. Hawkins followed the blocked shot with a 3-pointer that gave the Titans their biggest lead of the n night at 23-9.

Jacksonville went a little cold from the floor at that point. The defense got several stops, but the offense missed two shots on one possession, and then missed layups on the next two.

The Titans next three points came on two trips to the free-throw line before the second group checked back into the game with a 26-15 lead. That group held the Trojans to just one free throw over the last half of the second quarter.

Jalen Taylor got a steal and went the line. He missed the second shot, but R.J. Maxwell got the rebound and passed to Jordan Maxwell for the bucket at the 29-15 lead. Taylor knocked the ball loose again and Jordan Maxwell scooped it up. He passed to R.J. for another layup with one minute to go.

Hot Springs’ next possession ended with a steal by Antoine Davis, and that resulted in a fast-break slam by Jordan Maxwell for Jacksonville’s final points. Hot Springs again ended the quarter at the line and made 1 of 2 to set the final margin.

Jacksonville started slowly again against Riverview. Michael Terry started the scoring with an and-one. Kendrick then hit a 3-pointer for a 6-0 lead with 6:08 left in the first period. But that lead only lasted about a minute. Jacksonville went cold and Riverview tied the score with 4:55 on the clock. Hawkins got a putback and the first group left the floor with an 8-6 lead.

Taylor scored first for the second group, but Riverview hit a 3-pointer to make it 10-9.

Davis made 1 of 2 free throws on Jacksonville’s next possession. The Raiders then had a chance to take the lead, going to the line twice trailing by two points, but missed all four free throws. Davis then penetrated the lane and hit a floater for a 13-9 lead with 1:17 left in the first quarter. After another defensive stop, Jacksonville got a four-point possession.

Jabril Smith got the line and hit 1 of 2. R.J. Maxwell got the rebound and putback, and was fouled. He made the free throw for a17-9 lead. Taylor made 19-9 with 22 seconds left, and Riverview hit another 3-pointer before the buzzer.

Kendrick answered that three to start the second period, and Riverview answered right back to make it 22-15. White got a putback and Hawkins added another 3-pointer before Riverview scored again to make it 27-27 before the second group re-entered.

That four-minute span was the only one Jacksonville did not win outright, with both teams scoring six more point to end the contest.

SPORTS STORY >> Nettleton speed is concern for Bears

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills may have caught a bit of a break with how the three-way tie for first place in the 5A-East broke for seeding, but that doesn’t mean the Bears don’t have a very good team to face when they hit the road this Friday for the first round of the state playoffs.

Sylvan Hills, the four seed from the 5A-Central, travels to Nettleton to take on 5A-East Conference co-champion Raiders.

Nettleton, Batesville and Wynne each finished the season 6-1 in league play to share the championships. Each team went 1-1 against the other two, creating a triangle that had to go to tiebreaker points to clear up.

Nettleton was the high team in points with 72, while Wynne and Batesville each had 68. So Nettleton got the one seed, while Wynne and Batesville were determined by their head-to-head matchup, with Batesville winning 39-21 in week five.

None of the matchups among the top three were close. Nettleton hammered Batesville 48-21, and Wynne dominated Nettleton 27-0 last week, handing the previously unbeaten Raiders their first loss of the season.

“That conference is hard to figure out by looking at the scores,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow, who went to Wynne to watch the Raiders and Yellowjackets play last Friday.

And he’s right. While the three games among the three co-champs were all blowouts, Wynne and Batesville struggled with Valley View, each one winning by three, while Nettleton hammered VVHS, but only managed to get by Blytheville 21-14.

“Obviously you look at it and think, of course you’d rather play the team that lost 27-0 than the team that won, but they’re not bad at all,” Withrow said. “It’s all about the matchups and Wynne matches up with them just right. You don’t get to 9-1 if you’re not very good.”

Like many other teams, including Sylvan Hills, Nettleton operates out of the Spread offense and runs out of it most of the time. The main ball carrier is 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior Detavion Turner. When he doesn’t hand it to Turner, quarterback Deondre Henry is a 6-0, 175-pound speedster who’s capable of big plays as well.

“They’ve got a couple that’s probably faster than anybody we got,” Withrow said. “And they’ve got some big linemen that’s opened some big holes for them. A big key for us is not giving up the big play. That’s what Wynne did to them, and they controlled the clock. If you can control the clock and keep those guys on the sideline, you’re in good shape.”

It’s a little odd to hear Withrow talking about ball control. The Bears have been a big-play offense the last couple of years. But that slowly changed as this season progressed. He likes that his squad was able to change and find an identity after a bit of a rough start to the season.

“We’ve kind-of morphed into a power running team because we’ve kind-of had to,” Withrow said. “Denny (offensive coordinator Denny Tipton) has done a great job of re-inventing us a little bit. We weren’t as comfortable throwing it early on. It was one of those things we had to change a little bit, but I’m comfortable throwing it now, out of what we’re doing now. We need to establish the run and go play action and that sort of thing, but I think we can do it. We’ve got guys that can catch the ball.”

Senior Payton Terry has made highlight reel catches in each of the last two games. Darius Waddell and Deviontae Muldrow have also been capable wideouts, while Cole Miller (6-5, 230) and Alex Curry (6-3, 230) make big targets at the tight end spot when needed.

But with the new run-first offense, seniors Deon Youngblood and Ty Compton have been the load bearers. Youngblood gets about two thirds of the carries, but Compton also plays nearly every snap on defense.

“You just have to take your hat off to the effort Ty Compton has given us this year,” Withrow said. That guy has done it all.”

Youngblood, however, has begun playing defense in the last couple of games as well. In fact, before the Bears played Parkview in week eight, the SH coaches decided to that several players were going to go both ways.

“The last couple weeks we decided we had to use some guys on both sides,” Withrow said. The only deal you get into is trying to manage it. It’s been pretty good so far. Some of them struggled at first but we felt like the athleticism was needed, and it makes us better.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bulldogs attack through air

Leader sports editor

Cabot may be the higher seed and the home team for this weekend’s first-round playoff matchup with Springdale, but that won’t make it a big favorite. The Panthers (6-4, 3-4) are the No. 4 seed from the 7A-Central. Springdale (6-4, 3-4) is the five seed from the 7A West. For most of this century, the West has been the much stronger conference, but the Central has made strides in recent years.

There was no Central team in the state championship game for almost a decade, but Cabot ended a nine-year drought for Central teams with an appearance in 2013, and North Little Rock played for the title last year. There still hasn’t been a Central champion since Little Rock Central in 2004.

But the main thing that jumps out when comparing the seasons is Friday’s two combatants have had a common opponent. Springdale opened the season with a shocking 19-17 win over Conway. Five weeks later, the Wampus Cats handed Cabot by far its worst beating of the year in a 49-14 mercy rule game.

Making the Springdale-Conway game even more odd, Conway hammered 7A-West champion Bentonville 35-16 in week three, and Bentonville demolished Springdale 49-21 in week five.

“They’ve only lost to the four power teams up there, and they beat Conway in the opening of the season, said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “So they’re not going to be awe of us. I can tell you that for sure. We’re going to have to play smart and not beat ourselves with penalties and turnovers. We had seven procedure penalties last week against North Little Rock. Seemed like every time we got the ball westarted with first and 15. That’s going to get us beat every time. We’ve got to do better than that or we’ll be through.”

Malham likes the way his defense has played the last few weeks, despite losses to Bryant and North Little Rock among those games. Springdale, however, presents a different challenge.

“They’re going to throw it around,” Malham said. “I think our defense has gotten better the last three games. Of course North Little Rock didn’t throw it as much. We played good defense at Northside but they’re running it more this year. Bryant didn’t throw it deep a lot, mostly short passes. Springdale is going to test our secondary. Southside is really the only team you’d say just sort of wore us out (through the air). I think we’ve gotten better since then, but Springdale is going to be a similar kind of challenge.”

Springdale has actually run a few more running plays this year than passing plays, but the base offense is predominantly pass-oriented.

The rushing numbers were skewed by several blowout wins over the lower tier teams in the conference.

Senior quarterback Layne Hutchins has completed 60 percent of his passes this year for 2,072 yards.

He has thrown 19 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He spreads the ball around as well. Three receivers have more than 30 catches this season.

Senior Kamon Robinson leads the team in receptions with 42 for 539 yards. Senior Alex Thompson is the yardage leader even though he’s played in only nine games.

He has caught 36 passes for 636 yards. Junior Jaden Cornelius has 30 receptions for 411 yards, and 11 other players have caught passes for the Bulldogs this year. Four of them have at least 10 passes.

Juniors Garrett Vaughan and Jonathan Lopez are the leading rushers. Vaughan missed three games this year, but still has 93 carries for 551 yards. Lopez has played in all 10 games, and he as 75 carries for 406 yards. Hutchins is the third-leading rusher with 77 carries for 370 yards.

The team’s best player is senior defensive lineman Isaiah Nichols. The 6-4, 275-pounder has scholarship offers from Arkansas and other major Division I programs.

“We’re so little on the offensive line,” Malham said. “We haven’t done a bad job, but when five of them are less than 200 pounds and you’re playing against guys like that, it makes it tough. But I think we’ve done all right. We just have to eliminate the penalties, keep taking care of the football and play good defense. It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully we can get us a win and keep going.”

EDITORIAL >> State readies Medicaid cuts

Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Significant changes to the state’s Medicaid expansion program proposed by Governor Hutchinson — including work requirements and a change in eligibility that would remove tens of thousands of Arkansans from the rolls — were slated to begin Jan. 1. The state is still waiting for federal approval necessary to move ahead.

The governor has consistently stated that he is confident the changes will be approved, but with the proposed implementation date less than two months away, state officials could face challenges staying on schedule.

At a press conference on Oct. 17, Hutchinson expressed some anxiety about the timeline for federal approval given the challenges ahead in initiating new program infrastructure. “It’s very important that we get that word in the near future, just because you have to give notice, you have to change some of the IT systems,” he said. “So there’s work to be done and we are anxious for that to be approved.”

More than two weeks later, the state has still received no word from federal officials.

“We do not yet have a timeline for approval but hope that it is soon,” Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb said. Asked whether the Jan. 1 start date was still feasible at this point, Webb said, “Once we get that approval, we will need 60 days to implement those changes. We will revise the implementation timeline once we get that approval.”

More than 300,000 Arkansans are currently covered under the Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance to adults who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (that’s around $16,500 for an individual or $34,000 for a family of four).

The federal Affordable Care Act provides most of the funding for states that have chosen to expand Medicaid. Arkansas opted to do so in 2014, during the Gov. Mike Beebe administration, via a unique approach then known as the private option, which used Medicaid funds to purchase private health care plans for eligible low-income Arkansans.

Hutchinson kept this policy — which he re-branded Arkansas Works — in place, but received federal approval for a new waiver of Medicaid rules to implement a few changes last year, including imposing small premiums on certain beneficiaries.

The election of President Trump opened the possibility for additional changes that the Obama administration would not approve. In June, the state submitted a request for a series of amendments to the Arkansas Works waiver, which would institute four major alterations.

First, the state would reduce the number of people eligible for the program, limiting enrollment to those who make less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level (that’s around $12,000 for an individual or $24,500 for a family of four). According to the DHS, that means around 61,000 current beneficiaries — those who make between 100 and 138 percent of the FPL — would be removed from the program.

Second, the state would impose work requirements on most beneficiaries who remain. Those between the ages of 18-49 would be required to work 80 hours per month; if they were not working, they would have to participate in job training programs or certain approved volunteer activities. Beneficiaries must be in compliance for nine months out of the year or they would be removed from the program for the duration of the year. Beneficiaries 50 or older would not be subject to the work requirement; exemptions would be available for others who met certain criteria, such as caring for dependent children.

Third, the state would eliminate 90-day retroactive eligibility. Currently, enrollees in the program are retroactively covered for any medical expenses arising in the three months before enrolling. The Obama administration already granted a waiver that would allow the state to begin coverage only once a beneficiary was enrolled but attached certain conditions for the state to prove that it would protect continuity of coverage. The state is now asking the Trump administration to remove those conditions and allow it to eliminate retroactive coverage immediately.

Fourth, the state would end a little-used premium assistance program for those with access to employer-sponsored insurance that Hutchinson instituted in the original Arkansas Works waiver; only one beneficiary ever participated in this program.

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans. Find out more at

TOP STORY >> Staff trained for Library of Congress project

Leader editor

Three members of The Leader’s newsroom received training Thursday about how to conduct interviews for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

Retired Col. Anita Deason led the training session. She is Sen. John Boozman’s military and veterans affairs liaison. Since 2015, Deason has interviewed dozens of Arkansans, many who served during the Second World War, for the Veterans History Project, which began in 2000.

Veterans of all branches and time periods are eligible to be interviewed, and they do not have to be combat veterans.

Deason has focused primarily on World War II as that generation becomes fewer in number every day.

“Sen. Boozman put me on this project to bring new life into it, because Arkansas wasn’t doing too much, but it literally brings new life to veterans and their families, so it’s a beautiful project,” Deason said.

Deason recalled interviewing a 98-year-old World War II veteran who was having difficulty sharing his story. At their first meeting, he had trouble focusing and recalling his military days.

She encouraged the man’s sons to try to help him organize his thoughts. They found a trunk with letters, files and photos from his time in the military, which triggered his memory.

When Deason returned, the man gave a terrific interview, she said. Once it was published, he was invited to participate in a Veterans Day parade and had an outpouring of support from his community.

That’s the kind of effect Boozman was hoping for when he hired Deason in 2015.

“(The senator) wanted Arkansas to be more engaged with the project. He wanted that because his own father died at age 68 or 69. He was a retired master sergeant in the Air Force during World War II, a waist gunner on a B-17, and because his father died so early, he had regrets that he never sat down and had those conversations with him about what it was like,” she said.

“When I heard Sen. Booz-man’s story, it made me step back. I tell people it just kind of gut kicked me because I was the same way. My father served in World War II in the Navy in the Philippines and died right after my 19th birthday (at age 65). I never talked to him (about the war). It filled me with a lot of regrets, too,” Deason said.

“This has been a very personal project. It’s kind of a way to thank my dad,” she said.

An instructor from the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress was sent to Arkansas to teach Deason how to conduct the interviews. About 1,500 veterans from Arkansas have been interviewed for the project.

A dozen of the interviews can be found online at the senator’s website, About once a month a new one is released by Boozman’s office. They are often featured in The Leader if they have a local connection, and many do.

The work is painstaking and time consuming. Deason’s office is swamped with requests to conduct interviews. The senator’s office tries to release one every month, she said.

Deason has other responsibilities in the senator’s office, such as helping veterans with benefits and support services, so she’s limited in how many of the veterans interviews can be done.

In hopes of fulfilling more of the requests, Deason trains people on how to do the interviews.

The Library of Congress wants a precise style. There are three ways to make a submission: Interviews must be at least 30 minutes long, videotaped preferably, but audio recordings are accepted; memoirs of at least 20 pages in length, and a combination of 10 photos, maps, pieces of artwork or military documents.

Submitting memoirs and the group of documents like pictures, sketches and official military letters do not require an interview with the veterans. So family members of deceased veterans can make the submission posthumously.

Submissions in any format require a copy of the veteran’s military release form known as DD 241.

Deason gave The Leader’s Christy Hendricks, Jeffrey Smith and Jonathan Feldman the Library of Congress Veterans History Project field kits, which are information booklets detailing submission requirements and the more than 30 suggested questions that should be asked.

Deason gave tips to The Leader staff on how best to do the interviews and shared her experiences and common distractions, such as grandfather clocks and rocking chairs that can take away from the quality of the interview.

She directed reporters to local chapters of the American and Veterans of Foreign Wars to find veterans to interview.

“I like to get those people who don’t get any recognition. There are a lot of great stories out there that aren’t being told because they’re not raising their own hand, tooting their own horn,” Deason said.

Deason told The Leader staff not to overlook veterans who may not have dramatic stories to share. The Library of Congress is a “repository of people’s experiences,” she said so everyone, perhaps unknowingly, may have something to share with historians.

To arrange session for the Veterans History Project, call Deason at 501-372-7153.

To request a Veterans History Project interview with The Leader, call Jonathan Feldman at 501-982-9421 or email

TOP STORY >> $700 district bonuses

Leader editor

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board on Mon-day unanimously approved $700 Christmas bonuses for all contracted employees and may give another bonus in the spring semester.

The bonuses will be given on Nov. 20, Superintendent Bryan Duffie told teachers in an email Tuesday morning.

“The board and I thank you for the hard work you are doing to help our scholars and help each other. The organization is stronger through your dedication to our school district,” Duffie said.

Kevin Messick, project manager at Baldwin & Shell Construction Company, updated the school board on building progress of the $16.5 Bobby Lester Elementary School on Harris Road and the $66 million Jacksonville High School at the old middle school site downtown.

Bobby Lester Elementary School, which will have a FEMA tornado shelter that’s nearing completion, “has really taken a great turn over the past couple of weeks,” Messick said.

“And then the high school, we’re still playing in the dirt,” he said.

Messick said construction on the school buildings should begin by the first of the year and that concrete footings have already been poured for the main building.

In the coming weeks, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the high school and ribbon cuttings for the new multi-purpose buildings at Murrell Taylor Elementary and Bayou Meto Elementary.


Chuck Stein, who advises the district on its facilities, and was previously the state Department of Education’s director of partnership funding and transportation, said he submitted to the state an application for partnership funding for a new middle school and a new preschool at Pinewood Elementary.

Stein said a state inspector has visited Pinewood and the current middle school at the old North Pulaski High School.

He said he will be informed about the status of those funding requests next week.

The district, on Stein’s recommendation, is pursuing state funding to build a new middle school and elementary school at the current high school site off Linda Lane. It is cheaper to build new campuses rather than renovate the old ones under the state’s construction financing system.

Multi-purpose facilities about 90 percent complete, and air conditioning is likely to be added to the projects, he said.


Gregory Hodges, assistant superintendent for elementary curriculum and support services, presented annual report to the board.

He reviewed test scores, the graduation rate and facilities needs.

Hodges said on the whole, the district’s students are only proficient 52 percent in English, 22 percent in reading, 23 percent in writing, 21 percent in science and 26 percent in mathematics.

“Those numbers, of course, are nowhere close to where we want them. We understand there’s an urgent need to improve them. We are making steps to make sure that takes place,” Hodges said.

He said the district is planning to bolster its curriculum and review its teaching strategies in hopes of improving grades.

Other academic improvement strategies JNPSD is pursuing are Generation Ready, a K-12 education consultancy program, and the Arkansas Leadership Academy for all of its principals.

Duffie told the board the state Department on Education will provide the district with advice, based on the level of support needed, to address academic problems.

Hodges said the district is working to improve its discipline rates.

“We realize we do have some discipline issues. We are working on how to address some of the behavioral issues we are seeing,” Hodges said.

Jacksonville High School graduated 194 students, with 24 honor grads, last year. They earned $2.4 million in scholarship offers and their average ACT score was 16.9.

Hodges also presented the board with the annual report by Dr. Tiffany Bone, assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum, student services and desegregation. Bone, who is the district’s second in command, attended the meeting but was suffering from laryngitis so had trouble speaking.


JNPSD is adopting the Second Step Social and Emotional Learning program, which can help students develop “skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, friendship skills and problem solving,” according to

Phonics First and Eureka Math are also new initiatives the district is beginning that may help improve discipline, Hodges said.

Duffie presented his annual superintendent’s report beginning with current student enrollment is 3,875, eight fewer than last year.

Of the ACT Aspire scores, the state’s standardized test, Duffie said, “There’s definitely opportunities for growth using strategies Mr. Hodges talked out,” Duffie said.

“So far, all is well,” he said about the district’s finances, noting that payroll increased $300,000 since last year.

Duffie proposed promoting the district’s events and programs by either hiring a full-time employee to work on public relations or by hiring a marketing firm.

Board members favored having an in-house employee manage those responsibilities. No action was taken.

Amy Arnone is executive assistant to the superintendent and school board and handles the district’s public relations as well.

Cabot School District and the Pulaski County Special School District have directors of communication.


At the end of the meeting, the school board approved 10 expulsions for the remainder of the school year. The students will not be allowed to return until August, when the 2018-19 school year begins, and will be given probation for a year.

The board lengthened three of the expulsions that had been recommended by school officials to be until January, but the board unanimously voted to extend the term of the punishment through the remainder of the school year. At least one incident was reported to police and a school employee was struck by a student in another.

In other business, the board unanimously rejected one transfer request to attend school in Vilonia, and another other to attend school in Cabot was rejected 6-1.

Board member Jim Moore was unanimously approved to be liaison to the Arkansas School Boards Association.

The board unanimously approved a plan to sell its unwanted electronics.

The board unanimously voted to hold its next election in May, declining to hold a November election.

The board unanimously accepted several resignations.

Three members of Murrell Taylor Elementary School choir group, the Titan Trebles, sang “We the People,” a song about the Constitution, at the start of the meeting.

TOP STORY >> Early voting on liquor in restaurants

Leader staff writer

“It will give Sherwood the greatest opportunity for growth that we’ve seen in quite a while,” said Mayor Virginia Young.

The “it” is a vote set for Tuesday to allow restaurants to sell alcohol by the glass in Gray Township, a dry area that banned alcohol sales in most of Jacksonville and much of Sherwood more than 50 years ago.

Early voting ballots can be cast from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. weekdays, through Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive in Jacksonville, and at the Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive in Sherwood.

Early voting will also be held at the Pulaski CountyRegional Building at 501 W. Markham St. in Little Rock from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. through Friday and on Monday.

The alcohol ban affects about 50 percent of Sherwood and 90 percent of Jacksonville.

“We do believe more restaurants will come to the city if the vote is approved,” the mayor said, and even though she doesn’t have any hard numbers, she thinks the economic impact will be great, especially along Hwy. 107.

Paul Wilson, a developer who is currently building a small center at the corner of Hwy. 107 and Oakdale Road and is a member of the Sherwood committee pushing for the vote, said he’s excited about the possibility of alcohol drink sales.

“We’ve been meeting weekly and working hard to educate voters that this is not about liquor stores or bars. It’s about drinks on premises, specifically for restaurants,” he said.

Gas stations and grocery stores will still be banned from selling alcohol if they’re already in a dry area. The vote is only for restaurants to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks.

Wilson has a restaurant, the Woodland Bakery and Bistro, going into his center, and they are looking forward to serving alcohol.

“But no matter the vote, they are coming in and will succeed,” Wilson said.

But Wilson said having the option to serve alcohol increases the chances of more restaurants coming in, then other businesses and then more homes and maybe a grocery store and more restaurants.

“Once one is successful, others will come,” Wilson said.

Only residents who live in Gray Township are eligible to vote in both cities. In 1953, Gray Township voted to become dry. A series of other votes followed over the next few years that kept the area dry.

But the township is now defunct, having been replaced by precincts.

Wilson said he understands the original vote. “It was a different time back then. The vote was understandable, but it needs to be changed now.”

In Sherwood, the township’s boundary begins at Maryland Avenue on Hwy. 107 and near Austin Bay Court off Brockington Road. So residents living north of those streets toward Gravel Ridge and Jacksonville and up to the back gate of the air base can vote.

Some of the Sherwood neighborhoods eligible to vote include Millers Crossing, Austin Gardens, Austin Lakes on the Bay, Gap Creek and Indianhead.

Sherwood Alderman Ken Keplinger is also a strong proponent of the vote. “I’m definitely for it. It will bring in a strong economic boost for that portion of Sherwood. The extra revenue will allow us to serve our residents better.”

Even though Sherwood and Jacksonville are working hand-in-hand and the vote in both cities is on the same day, it is two separate votes. One area could get approved but not the other.

The combined Jacksonville-Sherwood committee includes co-chairs Wilson and Dr. Bob Price from Jacksonville; Sherwood chamber president Brooks McRae; Sherwood chamber director Marcia Cook; Sherwood City Attorney Steve Cobb; Sherwood Alderman Marina Brooks, as well as Robin Benetz, Jacksonville Alderman Les Collins, and Jacksonville residents Mike Wilson, Mindy Strand, LaConda Watson and Karen Abrahamson.

Neither Wilson, Keplinger nor Price have seen or heard much opposition.

“I have talked to only two people in the last several months that are opposed to local option. I have contacted many people in the process of the campaign and have not encountered any organized opposition,” Price said.

“In cities (where restaurants can sell alcohol), population has increased, which has driven the need for additional business. As a result, sales tax has increased, which has helped with city government expenses. Cities have been able to provide greater safety measures for citizens by updating old equipment such as ambulances, fire trucks and police cars,” Price explained.