Wednesday, October 01, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Shielding Palin

We are inclined to be philosophical about Gov. Sarah Palin’s dearth of experience and knowledge if she can prove to the country that she is smart and honest, but secrecy and subterfuge are qualities that ought to be disqualifiers for the job of vice president or president.

So it was deeply troubling to see that Palin — or perhaps it was her new handlers in the John McCain organization — pulled the curtains over her administration’s personnel actions, specifically the efforts to fire a state policeman who used to be her brother-in-law.

Palin fired the public safety director after he refused repeated entreaties from Palin’s staff and her husband to get rid of the man, who was in a child-custody battle with the governor’s sister. A legislative committee dominated by members of her own party began an investigation to see if the trooper pressures violated the law. Palin welcomed it and said she and her staff would cooperate fully. Hold me accountable, she said.

That was before McCain picked her as his running mate. Now her husband and members of her staff are refusing to answer subpoenas and testify about what they did. Palin, or rather her spokespeople in the McCain campaign, say it is a Democratic witchhunt. The Alaska attorney general, appointed by Palin, says Palin’s husband and everyone in her administration should ignore the legal subpoenas. Can you do that in Alaska?

All questions about Palin’s activities and record as governor the past 20 months and as mayor of the town of Wasilla now are answered — though real answers are seldom forthcoming — by representatives of the McCain campaign. Palin staff members, including her press secretary, are now forbidden to answer any questions about what she did.

America does not need another vice president like that. Dick Cheney has stonewalled congressional inquiries about his conduct for nearly eight years. Now he is refusing to turn over documents that are required by a law governing executive branch records. Cheney maintains that, unlike the president, he is not a part of the executive branch of government and not subject to the laws.

John McCain has promised an open and accountable government. He disqualifies his running mate by cloning her in the image of Dick Cheney. He should let Sarah be Sarah so that Americans can decide whether she is suited to run the country.

EDITORIAL >>Bailout plan must pass

Congress this week confronts a dilemma none of us ever wants to face, a choice between two distasteful, unpopular and potentially ruinous courses. The House of Representatives on Monday took the riskiest and we believe the unwisest course when a majority defeated the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout of troubled banks. It will have another chance tomorrow, and all of us should pray that courage prevails.

It is worth noting that Arkansas’ delegation in the House, a Republican and three Democrats, voted for the package and in a remarkable show of unity issued a joint statement. When has that ever happened?

No one can be even vaguely confident that the bailout will work — that is, that it will restore enough liquidity in the banking system to break up the thrombosis in the credit market. If it doesn’t, we are headed for deep trouble indeed, all of us. Without credit, the American economy will grind to a standstill and so perhaps will the major economies of the world, which have absorbed part of our bad debts. We have had global recessions before, and two global depressions, and we do not want to go there.

So a vote for the bailout is a huge political risk for members of Congress who are running for re-election in five weeks. All of us, conservative and liberal alike, have a not wholly irrational horror of using our tax dollars to rescue men and institutions whose greed and carelessness put the country in such peril. The politically safer course is to vote no and hope that the disorder does not visibly worsen by Nov. 4, election day. Every member of Sen. John McCain’s home-state delegation and nearly all from George W. Bush’s Texas took the safer route and voted against their leaders.

For once we are convinced that we elect sturdier sorts in Arkansas. Their constituents are no happier about a financial bailout than Texans and Arizonans, although it doubtless helps that none of the four here has a serious race on his hands.

Whatever the chances are that the massive government purchase of bad debts will work, they are odds that any patriotic lawmaker ought to take. If the chances were only one in three that credit would be unlocked, it would be worth the risk. Who, after all, would thoughtfully choose the odds for a global depression?

TOP STORY > >Hospital closes maternity unit

Leader staff writer

The birthing center of North Metro Medical Center closed its doors last night at midnight. Babies have been delivered at the hospital since it opened more than 50 years ago. The service is being discontinued because New Horizons for Women, the clinic providing the hospital’s obstetrical services, no longer has adequate physician staffing to do so.

About 100 women had already made plans to deliver at North Metro before the announcement in August about the closure.

With assistance from the clinic, all have made other arrangements with a different physician and hospital. This has been the most challenging for the 50 or so Medicaid recipients, because New Horizons for Women is the only obstetrics clinic in a wide geographic area that accepts Medicaid patients. Another quarter of the patients affected have commercial insurance or are self-pay, and the others have Tri-care insurance with the military.

“We were the only obstetricians in north Pulaski who would take Medicaid patients before they got a (Medicaid identification) number,” because of the bureaucratic red-tape and delays that are involved, Margie Litton, business manager for Horizons for Women, explained.

In the past, the clinic had five obstetricians – a sufficient number to share the unpredictable demands of delivering babies and other types of emergency ob-gyn care. But last year, physician Jesse Kane resigned, and recently Leasa Prince also left the practice. That left one full-time physician, Karen Grant, and two who work part-time, David Taylor and Renee Montgomery.

That was just not enough staffing, and the hospital chose to not step in and bring in another obstetrician, as it had with the hiring of Kane a few years ago.

“It is too hard to do obstetrics by yourself, to be on call weekend after weekend, and all the phone calls,” Litton said.

The clinic will remain open and continue to provide gynecological care, including annual exams, family planning, and infertility diagnostics. Grant is also contemplating a new service for teens – a consultation with a doctor to learn about gynecological health issues.

No hospital employee lost his or her job as a result of the discontinuing obstetrical services.

“We have not laid anyone off; everyone has been retained at the hospital,” Amy Arnone, hospital spokesperson, said. “A few of the women who wanted to continue working with women and babies, however, found a position elsewhere.”

No decision has been reached about how the hospital’s birthing center and nursery will be used, Pat Bond, member of the hospital’s board of directors, said.

The closure comes at a time in which the hospital administration and board are reviewing options to strengthen the fiscal position of the hospital, while maintaining services essential to the community, primarily the emergency room. Under consideration is elimination of some services that are not strong revenue generators and the possible addition of an after-hours clinic.

The board’s stance on the clinic concept is that plans are on hold for now, but “all of us want it,” Bond said. “We need more coverage, because things that are not emergencies put a drain on the ER; an emergency room is a huge cost to a hospital. This would be a great service and a great help.”

For “some months,” hospital leadership has been searching for a financial partner or buyer for the hospital. According to Bond, all potential investors have had “some Arkansas connection,” but no firm deal has emerged.

“We are continuing to talk to some folks, but everything tends to take longer than it is supposed to,” Bond said, agreeing that the current credit crisis is not helping matters. “But there are a lot of things going for the hospital – where it is located, a good service area – which can be very attractive. Hopefully, something will work out.”

To date, no services have been eliminated at the hospital out of financial necessity, nor have any layoffs have occurred, although rumors to the contrary have circulated for months in the community. The hospital board remains committed to keeping North Metro Medical Center opened to serve Jacksonville and the surrounding area.

“There are too many people in the community to not have services, so we will continue working on this,” Bond said.

TOP STORY > >Drug abuse: Who is most at risk?

Leader staff writer

A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so.
– Joseph A. Califano Jr., former U.S. Surgeon General.

Could keeping a teenager drug free be as simple as regularly sitting down to dinner as a family? Yes, say researchers who monitor patterns of family life and substance abuse.

Since 2002, the National Center on Addiction and Sub-stance Abuse (CASA) has studied the relationship between family dinners and substance abuse.

The results are striking. Compared with youngsters who have family dinners five or more times per week, those having fewer than three family dinners per week are three and a half times more likely to abuse prescription drugs or use marijuana or illegal drugs, and are also more likely to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco.

Teens who eat dinner often with family also have a more positive outlook about a drug-free future: 62 percent say they will never do drugs compared to 43 percent among those who infrequently have dinner with their families.

The surprising thing is, the vast majority of teens – 84 percent – say they prefer having dinner with their families rather than eating alone, shattering a stereotype held by many adults that teens loathe having to join them at the dinner table. For those kids who regularly have family meals, the percentage is even higher – 92 percent. Even 16- and 17-year-olds would rather eat with family than by themselves.

A high percentage of teens, 47 percent, feel that dinner is the best time to talk with parents about something important to them.

So, do these findings by researchers necessarily prove that family dinners reduce youth substance abuse or do they simply help describe families in which teen drug use and drinking is less likely?

According to mental health professionals who help teens with addiction problems, positive parental involvement is paramount to preventing the problem in the first place.

Teens most at risk of substance abuse are those who lack parental supervision and nurturing, are having difficulties in school, lack social skills or are anti-social or have aggressive tendencies, according to Rob Cunningham, director of Horizon Treatment Program, a counseling and guidance center in Fort Smith. Regular family meals are a way to connect with kids and them navigate daily stresses that otherwise may set them up for accepting pills, a drink or cigarette from a friend.

So, how do parents protect their children from harmful influences without clamping down on their lives so harshly that trust is destroyed and kids rebel?

Parents need to communicate clear standards and rules against use of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. And they need to set a positive example by not using illegal drugs, alcohol, or tobacco and by being “judicious in the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs,” says Cunningham.

Teens less likely to abuse drugs have parents “who know and communicate with their youth’s peers and the parents of peers,” Cunningham said. Parents must be able to “answer the questions of who, when, where and what of their children’s activities.”

Tony Thurman, superintendent of Cabot Public Schools, agrees. “It is imperative that parents stay involved and know exactly who their child is friends with no matter how old they are.” But, he observes, staying up on the social life of a teen is trickier these days, because some of it is happening in cyberspace.

“Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have made it even more challenging and dangerous since teens can now connect with negative influences without ever making personal contact,” Thurman notes. “It is my opinion that these networking sites have become a dangerous and negative outlet for many teenagers.”

Thurman cautions parents about how they discipline kids who experiment with alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.

“I highly recommend that parents be very careful about removing activities such as band, athletics, forensics, dance or other activities as a punitive measure,” he said.

“It is extremely important for students to find that supportive and positive peer group in which to interact and identify.”

Parents who fail to keep tabs on their teens’ school night socializing with friends add to the risk of their drinking, smoking or using drugs.

The risk increases with how late kids stay out. When kids stay out until after 10 p.m. on a school night, the presence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs is likely, say 46 percent of teens surveyed by CASA. For kids home by 8 p.m., the likelihood is 29 percent.

But hanging out at a friend’s house is no guarantee that alcohol or drugs won’t be present. A quarter of teens surveyed by CASA said they know a parent of a peer who uses marijuana; 10 percent said that they know a peer’s parent who smokes marijuana with teens.

Rena Kinney, a recent high school graduate, says her parents’ approach helped her steer clear of alcohol, drugs, and drinking.

They set high expectations for her behavior, but allowed her some freedom to chart her own course.

“My parents are very, very strong Christians – it’s, ‘You don’t do drugs, you don’t drink.’ They told me, ‘You can try it, but you won’t like it. We can’t stop you from doing it.’ That they did not try to enforce it on me made it a lot easier. They never told me, ‘You can’t.’ Instead, they said, ‘We prefer that you don’t do that.’ Saying you can’t do something, to a teenager, you know, that just makes you be rebellious.”

As a result, Kinney avoided crowds that had a reputation for that kind of thing. “I tried to stay away from that – I was raised differently,” she said. “You could tell the kids who were doing drugs; it messed them up and I didn’t want that happening to me.”

TOP STORY > >Adding 19th Air Wing enhances combat readiness

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base today becomes the most important C-130 component in the U.S. military as the 19th Airlift Wing, part of Air Mobility Command, is to be reactivated as the base’s host wing and takes on operational control from the 314th Airlift Wing and Air Education and Training Command.

The 314th Airlift Wing will continue to train C-130 air crews as a tenant wing at the Jacksonville air base.

Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz assumes command of the 19th AW during the change of command ceremonies this morning, relinquishing control of the 314th AW to Col. Charles Hyde, a command pilot with more than 3,700 hours in both the C-130E and C-130H, as well as the T-37.

Hyde comes to Little Rock from Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, where he was the vice commander of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, the primary tactical airlift hub for resupply missions supporting coalition operations in Iraq and providing combat support to land-component forces throughout Kuwait and Iraq.

According to senior leaders in the Air Force, an AMC airlift wing at LRAFB was the best way that the Air Force would meet today’s mission requirements.

As a result, a series of realignments took place on base and numerous aircraft and units were also reassigned, which shifted the wing’s mission focus from student training to mobility employment.

This shift means a deployment increase for the men and women of The Rock as they fulfill the mission of AMC — to deliver maximum war-fighting and humanitarian effects for America through rapid and precise global air mobility.

“(My wife) Jodie and I are excited to be a part of Team Little Rock — the Home of Combat Airlift,” said Hyde, the former squadron commander at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
“My grandfather worked on the C-130 assembly line many years ago, and I’m thrilled to be a part of an organization dedicated to training the world’s best combat airlifters in the mighty Herk,” the colonel said.

“Our mission is important; we are a nation at war, and the 314th Airlift Wing provides the foundation of tactical skills and combat airlift ethos essential for success in the war against terrorism and success in future combat or humanitarian missions,” Hyde said.

While serving as Little Rock’s host wing, the 314th AW supported both AMC’s 463rd Airlift Group and the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing. As AMC activates the 19th AW, it will inherit the mission and tradition of excellence of the 314th Airlift Wing, including base operating support responsibilities such as maintenance, medical services, and mission support.

Col. James Johnson is the 19th Airlift Wing vice commander while Col. Mark Vlahos remains 314th Airlift Wing vice commander.

Johnson comes to Little Rock from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he was a liaison for U.S. Transportation Command, the single entity charged with directing and supervising execution of the strategic distribution system for the Department of Defense in peace and war.

A former airlift navigator in the C-141, he was the liaison to Central Command, the U.S. military authority responsible for U.S. security interests in 25 nations stretching from the Horn of Africa through the Arabian Gulf region, into Central Asia, overseeing both Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, with over 190,000 U.S. troops across the region.

He was also the liaison to Special Operations Command, the command of more than 45,000 Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force Special Operations forces given the mandate to lead, plan, synchronize, and as directed, execute global operations for the Department of Defense against terrorist networks. As a liaison he facilitated and shaped the timely understanding of worldwide transportation and distribution requirements, capabilities, and processes.

Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Brinkley is the 19th Airlift Wing command chief and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Turcotte Jr. is the new command chief for the 314th Airlift Wing.

The 19th Airlift Wing dates back to 1927 when the U.S. Army Air Corps created the unit as the 19th Observation Group.

Previously known as the 19th Air Refueling Group, stationed at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, the group was inactivated in May 2008 as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

TOP STORY > >Probe continues to focus on trio for mass killings

Leader senior staff writer

Maj. Andy Shock of the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office refused Tuesday to confirm that Ronald Dean Charles, formerly of Jacksonville and Cabot, was the informant and person who told investigators he killed 15 people in three states and led to another man’s arrest last week.

If Shock couldn’t confirm it, neither could he deny it.

“I can’t confirm or deny anything,” said Shock, spokesman for the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, when asked if he could deny that Charles was the informant and the man who had confessed.

A source familiar with the situation has identified Charles, 31, as the man who led Jacksonville Police to the remains of a woman on the property of Wright’s Cabinets on Cory Road and who identified George Alan Smith, 31, in connection with the woman’s death.

Smith, a former employee at Wright’s Cabinets, was arrested by Jacksonville Police and is currently in the Pulaski County Detention Center in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

Charles is currently awaiting trial with Troy Crook, 29, of Jacksonville, charged with killing cousins Bobby Don Brock, 45, and Lonnie Franklin Brock, 62, near Vilonia last spring, according to documents on file at the Faulkner County Courthouse.

Both Charles and Crook had been in the Faulkner County Jail, but Charles was moved to the Clinton Jail last week.

Although they think they know the identity of the woman whose body was found near the cabinet shop, they won’t identify her until her remains have been positively identified by the state Medical Examiner’s Office, according to April Kiser, a public information officer.

Kiser also refused to say what the suspected murder weapon or weapons were and where police found them.

Charles is believed to have led police not only to the body, but also to the suspected murder weapons.

She said Jacksonville police are not looking for any other bodies.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, which spent about two days looking for a second body in northern Pulaski County near Jacksonville, have called off their search and don’t expect to continue unless new evidence is discovered, according to spokesman John Rehrauer.

For the Brock killings, Charles and Crook are charged with two counts each of capital murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of theft of property and two counts of being felons in possession of a firearm in connection with the deaths of the Brock cousins.

Firearms were among items allegedly stolen by the pair during commission of the crimes, according to the felony information on file with the Faulkner County Circuit Clerk.

TOP STORY > >Best little music fest in state

Leader editor

Saturday’s Jacksonville Wing Ding Festival at Dupree Park could be the best little music festival in the state.

Headliners will include blues artists Willie Cobbs of Smale (Monroe County), Robert Bilbo Walker of Clarksdale, Miss., and Maurice John Vaughn of Chicago. Vaughn and his group have played at the festival for the last couple of years.

Several more musical acts will perform on the city’s new portable stage sponsored by Arkansas Federal Credit Union.

Starting off the music will be Contemporary Christian bands Altering Aphelion of North Little Rock and Latitude 31 from Benton. They will be followed by Luster, a rock-and-roll band, and the pop group Pricecrew, both from Jacksonville.

Kiddos, a husband-and-wife group from Siloam Springs, will present children’s music.

Cobbs is a harmonica wizard and soul-blues singer who was born in Smale and is a gentleman farmer there. He told us in a telephone interview, “I’m looking forward to playing so close to home.”

He wrote “You Don’t Love Me,” a blues standard that was recorded by the Allman Brothers, Albert King, Booker T. and the MGs, Grateful Dead, Sonny and Cher, Otis Rush, John Mayall and others.

The reggae star Dawn Penn recorded it as “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No),” helping Cobbs build up his royalty checks.

He says modestly that he has made “several hundred thousand dollars” letting other people record his song.

Cobbs, who is still going strong at 76, spent several years in Chicago, where he played with many of the blues greats before moving back to Arkansas to take care of his ailing mother.

He says he likes to compose his songs in his back yard, finding inspiration in his rural surroundings.

He leases out 500 acres of farm land in Monroe County and grows his own vegetables, including collard greens, sweet corn, potatoes, okra, peas. and more.

Cobbs was heading out into his garden when we called him. He says he grows enough vegetables to share them with people in the area if they get hungry in these hard times.

His CDs include “Pay or Do 11 Months and 29 Days” (Wilco), “Down to Earth” (Rooster Blues) and “Jukin’” (Bullseye). He’ll have several of his CDs for sale at the festival.

Appearing with Cobbs will be Maurice Jon Vaughan, a multi-instrumentalist who has recorded with several veteran Chicago blues musicians, including Eddie Boyd.

The festival will also feature the flamboyant Bilbo Walker, who will probably be decked out in his trademark white suit, looking much like a performer in Las Vegas or a flashy country star.

There is a touch of country in his music, but mostly it’s down-home blues with a serving of rock and soul and a powerful guitar.

He’s a lot like Chuck Berry: They both do the duckwalk, but Bilbo can walk forward and back.

“Chuck Berry can’t walk backward,” Walker told us.

He’ll have his CD “Rompin’ and Stompin’” (Fedora) for sale.

Joining Walker and the band will be his daughter, Estelle Taylor, who sings better than he does, said her proud dad. “She puts on such a beautiful show,” Walker said.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TOP STORY > >Armory gets funding from House; Bush will sign bill

Leader staff writers

The Defense Department’s $10.8 million share of a new Cabot National Guard Readiness Center — they used to be called armories — is on its way to the president’s desk, part of a $600 billion continuing defense resolution.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who was in Washington last week trying to get support for a north interchange when funding for the armory was approved, pointed out that the project is moving much faster than anyone predicted it would. It should have taken up to five years, but in one year, the land was purchased and money for engineering appropriated. Now, the federal money to build it has been approved.

“It’s hard work paying off,” Williams said. “On big projects like this, you have to stay focused and maintain relationships. It takes perseverance.”

Nearly $1 billion of the $1.98 billion worth of projects and construction in Arkansas headed for the president’s desk is for rearming the military with rockets, mortars and missiles manufactured in Camden, East Camden and Texarkana, but about $14.8 million was earmarked for Arkansas National Guard projects in Cabot and in Jacksonville.

Representatives Vic Snyder, Marion Berry and Sen-ators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor helped secure funding for the 38,000 square-foot Arkansas National Guard readiness center in Cabot.

“Our men and women in uniform protect and defend this country with honor,” said Berry. “This funding will further their mission through university research, equipment purchases and facilities construction. We must ensure that the armed forces are the best equipped and trained in the world.”

The readiness center will include an assembly area, administrative office space, supply and storage areas, classrooms, latrines, kitchen, military parking and a maintenance training bay.

“Right now, we don’t show it to be constructed within the next five years,” said Capt. Chris Heathscott, public information officer for the Arkansas National Guard.

Heathscott said Little Rock architects Lewis, Elliott, McMorran and Vaden were recently awarded the architectural bid. He said the same firm did the design work for the Cabot and Beebe school systems.

“This is listed as the number one priority for long-range construction for the Arkansas National Guard,” he said.

The bill also contains $4 million for a properly sized and configured engine inspection and maintenance facility for the 189th Air Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.

It is intended to better support the maintenance and training mission of the 189th Airlift Wing in support of its nine C-130J aircraft.

The facility will include aircraft engine inspection space, maintenance areas, tool and equipment storage as well as appropriate office, bathroom and locker space.

“It is important for Congress to support these worthwhile military projects,” Snyder said.

These projects have been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and lack only the president’s signature, said a spokesman for Berry, a Gillette Democrat.

Williams said those who started working on the project in 2001 included Jason Carter, Fred Campbell, Moose Cullins, David Hipp, former Mayor Joe Allman, former school superintendent Don Elliott, Charles George, Bill Devoss and Gary McMillian.

The readiness center will replace the temporary facility that opened in the industrial park on Hwy. 367 late in 2006.

Currently, 137 National Guard members are from the Cabot area, though not all are members of Cabot’s Foxtrot Company, which is the part of the 39th Support Battalion.

But that large number was one of the reasons Cabot was a desirable location for a new armory, Lt. Col. Shillcut said.

The local match, provided by the city and state contributed, about $400,000 for the purchase of 15.5 acres for the new center.

“Arkansas’ military installations, universities and companies play a critical role in our national security,” said Pryor. “This funding will ensure our men and women serving in the military have the resources they need to accomplish their missions and meet emerging threats.”

“A strong national defense requires the very best in military training, equipment, and technology, and Arkansas’s military installations and growing defense industry are key to achieving America’s national security goals,” said Lincoln. “These state and local priorities will boost our state’s economy and allow Arkansans to continue to play a critical role in strengthening the U.S. military.”

SPORTS>>Red Devils should get past ’Cane ... barely

Leader sportswriter

It’s hard to believe that the 2008 season has already completed its first month. We were oh-so-close to a perfect mark for the first time last week until those darned Bulldogs from White Hall knocked off Sylvan Hills. The upside was that our 8-1 record gave our numbers for the season a good boost up to 23-8.

There are some extra hard picks for Week 4. The Badgers, Jackrabbits and Wildcats all have good chances at dominating wins, but most of the other local games are toss-ups.


This is a vital 6A-East matchup that features two teams which opened league play with wins last weekend. Fourth-year Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley has a young football squad, but also has an upperclassman in Patrick Geans, who might just be one of the most underrated running backs in the state.

Randy Coleman’s success at Jonesboro has been immediate with a 3-1 record so far. Coleman’s hurry-up style offense is a drastically different look from former coach Jim DeVazier’s slot I set.

The defensive line appears to be the major strength of the Golden Hurricane, which could pose a problem for a young quarterback like Red Devil sophomore Logan Perry. Perry had an outstanding performance against Mountain Home last Friday, but may have to rely more on his backfield than his arm this week.

Jacksonville 25, Jonesboro 21


This series has proven quite dynamic over Cabot’s first two seasons in the 7A-Central.

The Panthers got their conference season off on the right foot with a win over Conway, and now look to make it 2-0 in Central play with their first conference home game. The buzz is loud over in that part of Lonoke County right now, which will mean an even bigger crowd than normal.

It will be another close one, but the Panthers will be too pumped up by the crowd to let it slip.

Cabot 21, Catholic 17


Badger fullback Sammy Williams has flirted with 200 yards since the first game of the season, and this could be the week. This battle of full-house offenses doesn’t look very lopsided on paper. In fact, the numbers on North Pulaski’s offensive line are somewhat larger than Beebe’s in a few spots, but the biggest difference between these two clubs is the level of execution.

Beebe will pick up its first conference road win as they prepare next week for what very well could be an early 5A-Southeast Conference title game against Monticello. It’s the start of a two-game home stand for the Falcons, who will host White Hall next week.

Beebe 35, NP 7


This one might be the hardest pick to date, but here goes.

The Sylvan Hills defense has been mostly solid, but the offense has not put up a lot of big numbers so far. Mills is practically in the same boat, not counting the unexpected beating it handed Jacksonville two weeks ago.

Both teams lost their openers last week, so the loser of this one will be pretty far back in terms of getting to the playoffs. The Comets appear to have a few more weapons at their disposal while the SH arsenal is still trying to reload after losing their Swiss Army Knife of a quarterback from last year.

Junior Jordan Spears is still young at the quarterback spot for the Bears this year, while the Comets have experienced and quick senior Bentrell Cobbs.

Mills 18, Sylvan Hills 14


The Bulldogs have a terrific quarterback in Chad Cates, but unfortunately for them, they lack the physical line to stave off the fast and physical Lonoke defense. Heber Springs spent the entire second half running away from Joel Harris and company, and featured more team speed than what Bald Knob will present.

Bald Knob coach Paul Johnson has said that intelligence and field awareness can make up for shortcomings in athleticism and size at certain spots on his defense, but the biggest thing the ’Dogs will probably end up being aware of is how difficult it is to catch Michael Howard and the Jackrabbit receivers.

Rollins Elam will take this quarterbacks’ duel, hands down.

Lonoke 55, Bald Knob 23


The Mike Morrison-coached Lions are one of few 2-3A teams expected to give much of a challenge to Harding Academy this year. England now runs out of the double-slot after finding themselves dissatisfied with last year’s 4-7 showing in their former conference.

The Wildcats have not missed a beat in switching from the Shoemaker to the Mote era, and should come away with win number five this week.

Harding Academy 45, England 26


The Raiders have to start building their tradition somewhere, and in the first few years, a lot of that will depend on getting wins against fellow upstart teams such as this week’s Ramblers.

Basketball is tops at both of these White County schools, but we believe that Riverview will eventually be a school known for being good in all sports. Rose Bud does have the advantage of having two years of varsity play already under its belt, but many of its skill players have just as limited experience as the Raiders.

Riverview made history in its season-opening win over Marked Tree at home, and will get their first-ever 2-3A Conference win on the road this Friday.

Riverview 38, Rose Bud 32


Now that six seeds will go to the playoffs for both conferences in Class 6A, a game like this now takes on more meaning than ever. Both teams have really tough games ahead of them next week (Parkview at Marion, Searcy hosts West Memphis), so a win here for either team will be big. The Patriots have had a slightly better showing than Searcy to date, and should be able to rebound from last week’s heartbreaking 47-46 loss to Jonesboro.

Parkview 31, Searcy 22

SPORTS>>Falcons will try to rebound from disappointing setback

Leader sports editor

One team is coming off what its coach terms one of the most disappointing in seven years. The other one just played its best, most complete game of the year.

When Beebe travels to North Pulaski to take on the reeling Falcons this Friday, all the cards would seem to be stacked in the Badgers’ favor. Beebe (3-1 and 1-0 in the 5A-Southeast) put it all together in a 42-27 cruise past Crossett last Friday night.

North Pulaski, on the other hand, let one slip away in a 22-15 loss at McClellan.

“It’s still getting to me,” North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon said on Monday. “I was proud of the way we came back in the second half, but you can’t just play one half. “The first game at Searcy, we played the first half but didn’t come out the second half.”

The Falcons fell to 1-3 and 0-1 last Friday when they allowed McClellan to twice escape long-yardage situations in the final five minutes while clinging to a 1-point lead. The Lions then torched North Pulaski for a 48-yard pass to the 3 to set up the winning touchdown.

Other than that pass play and a 63-yard run in the first quarter, the Falcon defense was stellar all night, limiting the Lions to 240 total yards.

“We had a good defensive game plan and we stuck with it,” Bohannon said. “We got beat on a long pass and a long run. But the defense and the special teams got it back for us and gave us a chance.”

Unfortunately, the Falcon offense didn’t pitch in. After a pretty good showing the week before in a lopsided loss to Little Rock Christian, the Falcons could get almost nothing going on offense against McClellan, especially in the first half, when 26 plays netted 30 yards.

But the Falcons rallied at halftime, stripped the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half and scored to cut the gap to 14-9. Jerald Blair’s interception and return to the 2 midway through the final period set up the go-ahead score.

“We hope what we did in the second half will carry over (to Friday),” Bohannon said. “But we just didn’t move the ball like we should have. That’s will be one of the things we really work on this week, maintaining possession. Beebe will keep the ball all night if we let them. That’s the way the (Wing T) works when you run it like your supposed to run it.”

The North Pulaski offensive line, which figured to be one of the strengths heading into the season, opened up precious few holes on Friday. What yardage Billy Barron, Bryan Colson and Darius Cage got came mostly from hard running. Bohannon chalks up the offensive line woes to the loss of Dylan Sheffield to injury in Week 2.

For Beebe head coach John Shannon, consistency on both sides of the ball had him especially pleased after some spotty early-season performances.

“We had a couple of good drives and then we’d sputter in the red zone,” he said. “We did that against Greenbrier and we did the same thing against Lonoke. Friday night, we were a lot more consistent. The defense tackled a lot better, the kids flew to the ball a lot better. It was kind of like we were finally starting to figure things out.”

Shannon isn’t so sure a disappointing loss to Vilonia the previous week wasn’t a good thing, and may have served to convince his team that it had to show up focused and ready every week.

With tailback Brandon Purcell on the sidelines with a turned ankle most of last Friday, Shannon was able to find another option to feature back Sammy Williams: the forward pass. It worked to perfection. Pound, pound, pound with Williams, who finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns, then play-action pass for big gains. Quarterback Roger Glaude made the most of his four pass attempts, completing three for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Purcell is expected to return for Friday’s action. Shannon said he is not looking past North Pulaski’s 1-3 start and is concerned about their physical play.

“They haven’t been blown out by anybody,” Shannon said. “Their defense is playing a lot better. They got three huge guys on the line and a big ol’ fullback. They’re a dangerous team.”

For Bohannon, it’s become an issue of pride.

“The thing about football is, like life, you have to play to represent yourself,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to get them to understand is that everybody has to represent themselves well. And that’s what they did in the second half.”

SPORTS>>Bears’ coach is preaching urgency after shaky start

Leader sports editor

Jim Withrow is as puzzled as he is frustrated.

And he’s plenty frustrated.

“After watching us at practice last Wednesday, if you’d have told me we’d only score seven points (last Friday against White Hall), I’d have thought you were crazy,” said the Sylvan Hills head coach.

But seven is all the Bears could muster in falling to 1-3 with a 21-7 loss to the Bulldogs. It was pretty much the same story for Sylvan Hills as it had been through the first three weeks of the season: The defense played well enough for the Bears to win, while the offense struggled to find a rhythm, or even an identity.

“We struggled as an entire team,” Withrow said. “The defense played well but not as well as it could play. And the offense was an uninspired mess. In my nine years as a head coach, I’ve never seen anything like it.

“But at the end of the day, it resides at my front door. It’s my fault.”

Whoever deserves the blame, a simple fact remains. The Bears need a win and they need one this Friday. After inspiring performances — at least defensively — against a couple of 7A schools in Cabot and North Little Rock, this Friday’s game at
Mills might have seemed like one you could pencil into the win column for Sylvan Hills.

But Mills’ eye-opening 31-19 win over Jacksonville in Week 3 and the Bears’ ongoing doldrums makes this one anything but a cruise for Sylvan Hills.

“It may be just one of those years where I don’t know if anybody is much better than anybody else,” said Withrow, who coached at Mills until coming to Sylvan Hills in 2007. “I mean, Jacksonville beats Vilonia, then gets beat by Mills, who got beat pretty bad by Monticello last week. And Monticello lost to Vilonia.”

In other words, you better show up every week. Mills features a three-pronged threat in fleet and shifty quarterback Bentrell Cobbs, bruising 225-pound fullback Tim Stigall and quick tailback Zae Jones. The trio combined for 329 rushing yards in that win over Jacksonville.

And the Mills’ defense limited a potent Red Devil offense to just 250 total yards.

“We hope it’s not a slugfest,” said Withrow. “If they decide to give it to (Stigall) 30 times, it looks like he can carry it 30 times.

Their quarterback can sling it a long way and he can run it too. And their tailback can make some moves. All three present a problem.”

Withrow figures if the Bears can get the offense going, things should take care of themselves. Sylvan Hills had some success against White Hall, but mistakes once again plagued them, ending drives and costing them points.

A bad snap resulted in a 42-yard loss and a recovery for a White Hall touchdown, and a dropped pass in the end zone cost the Bears seven more points. Add to that misreads and some poorly-run receiver routes and it all has Withrow scratching his head.

“It was shocking to me,” Withrow said, still reeling from the performance more than 48 hours later. “I felt like we were going to win that game. Lawrence Hodges broke off a big run (to put Sylvan Hills up 7-0) and we were kind of looking around like we were on our way. We never did anything after that. It blew me away, some of the stuff we did.”

The Bears did manage a couple of sustained drives in the final period, but couldn’t cash it in.

Withrow said the Bears will try to get back to a balanced attack and clean up the mistakes. He said he has talked to older coaches, who tell him it’s just a matter of running the plays over and over and, eventually, everything will click.

One thing that might just help the Bears’offense is, strangely enough, the return of linebacker Michael Robinson, who missed the first three weeks with an injury, and played sparingly last week. His return to full strength will mean fewer defensive reps for Hodges at linebacker and fresher legs at his fullback position.

Withrow is also hoping for the return of senior safety Casey Cerrato, who has been hurt since the season opener.

“We don’t know if he’ll be ready this week or not, but we hope so,” Withrow said. “Just his presence as a leader out there really helps you.”

Withrow said that, given the circumstances, the emotion of returning to the site of his former coaching reign will take a back seat to other considerations.

“It might seem a little odd to be dressing in the visitor’s dressing room or being on the other sideline,” he said. “But this is a game we need to win. There’s no need to panic, but there is a need to pick our game up. Using the phrase ‘We’re young’ has gotten old.”

SPORTS>>Surprising Rockets invade Cabot

Leader sportswriter

What Cabot coach Mike Malham likes to describe as trench warfare will be on full display at Panther Stadium this Friday when Catholic High School visits for Week 2 of the 7A-Central Conference season to face the unbeaten Panthers.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Rockets (2-2, 1-0 conf.) have faced the toughest competition in the state so far, with close losses to top-ranked Fort Smith Southside as well as Northside in non-conference play, and wins over 6A Benton in Week 2 and last week’s league opening victory over Bryant.

“Catholic does a little bit of everything,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “It’s going to be our biggest test to date.

They’ve played some good competition. They’ve taken Northside and Southside down to the wire. It won’t be easy. Nothing’s going to be from here on out. It’s only going to get tougher every week.”

The Catholic offense has benefited from the strong play of junior quarterback Taylor Bartlett over the first month of the season. Bartlett led the charge during the Rockets’ big comeback over Bryant last week, finishing 19 of 23 for 239 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Malham is looking for answers from his own offense. The numbers have been respectable, if sometimes ineffective. Last week, the Panther offense moved the chains consistently with 18 first downs and over 350 yards of total offense, but that translated into only three scores in a 21-7 win at Conway.

“We moved it well between the 20s,” Malham said. “We just weren’t producing scores. We had to settle for a field goal on one trip, and we had to have a fake punt just to keep another drive going. I don’t know that our offense is as good this year as what it was last year, and that’s a shame. We’ve got veteran linemen and eight of our starters back from last year. It’s a shame, because in this league, you’re going to have to score some points. There are a lot of good offenses out there.”

It’s not time to hit the panic button for Malham, but bringing in younger personnel at the interior is not out of the question.

“We’re not going to abandon ship,” Malham said. “But if some of those guys don’t start grading out better, we may go with some of our sophomores in those spots.

“It was kind of funny, because I didn’t think we moved the ball that much until I went back and looked at the film and said ‘golly’. We drove the ball, but then we had a holding penalty on one drive that hurt us. Another drive, we had fourth-and-nine and didn’t do anything. It was blown assignments, and several other mistakes. You have to have points to show for it when you move the ball like that. We’re just not happy with that situation right now.”

The saving grace for the Panthers so far this season has been their defense. Jacksonville scored a pair of touchdowns in Week 1, but every other opponent has been held to one score or less.

“We’re confident that our secondary can do well,” Malham said. “Right now, our offense has been hot and cold up to this point.

We had a couple of games where we didn’t even have to punt, and other games where we slowed down, but our defense has been pretty solid every week.”

Ethan Coffee and Justin Wortman were two Panther defenders who came up big last week. Coffee fell on an early Conway fumble that helped give the Panthers early momentum, and Wortman ended the Wampus Cats’ last-ditch effort with an interception that led to an insurance score.

The Panthers held Conway to only four first downs last Friday.

Since joining the 7A-Central Conference in 2006, Cabot has split with Catholic.

“Catholic has been a good series up to this point,” Malham said. “It’s probably pretty even. I don’t know the exact record, but we played them for many years non-conference up until about five or six years ago.”

SPORTS>>Arkansas-Arkansas State matchup long overdue

Leader sportswriter

Intrastate rivalries are one of the best traditions in college football … unless you happen to live in Arkansas.

You can go back to 1911, when the Arkansas State University Aggies first fielded a football team, and scan their media guide year by year, and you will find only one game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. It was the 1944 season finale, with the Hogs taking a 41-0 win, although ASU did not play a complete season that year.

Actually, you have to look in the Razorback media guide for that, because ASU did not keep records from 1942-44.

What you will mostly find in the earlier years are games against Arkansas College, Arkansas Teachers, Arkansas A&M, and a few in-state schools that still exist.

For years, ASU fans have understood that a game with the Razorbacks would not take place with iron-fisted University of Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles at the helm. His fear of casting a state spotlight on someone other than himself and the Hogs simply made it a non-option.

But the old man is finally gone.

He may still be an advisor, and he may still have a plush office in that corporate-sponsored football heaven named after him, but Broyles no longer pulls the strings. With former Pitt AD Jeff Long now calling the shots on the Hill, it’s time for the Indians … er … Red Wolves and Razorbacks to take to the field against one another.

The most ironic thing about the whole matter is that Arkansas would most certainly have dominated the series had it ever come to fruition. ASU may have given them a good tussle back in its early-70s heyday, but the Hogs had the superior team for the most part throughout the years.

It would have been a lopsided series, in other words. But the thought of even one loss to another in-state school was too much for old Frank’s fragile ego to consider.

Now ASU fans and alumni are more serious than ever about seeing a Hogs–Wolves matchup.

Yes, the fact that ASU has one of its best offenses in school history while the Hogs are rebuilding from the ground up has made the cries all the louder. But the desire has been there all along, and will continue to be long after Bobby Petrino has built the Razorbacks back up to the SEC-contending level they were at a few years back.

The stakes have changed over the years. The Red Wolves are no longer an inferior NCAA Division II school in an obscure conference. They now have the same DI status as the University of Arkansas, and are proud members of the up-and-coming Sun Belt Conference.

Just for kicks and grins, let’s list some other premier in-state matchups. Let’s see, well there’s Florida vs. Florida State, Ohio vs. Ohio State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, Missouri vs. Southeast Missouri State, Iowa vs. Iowa State, Temple vs. Penn State, UNLV vs. Nevada-Reno, Colorado vs. Colorado State, New Mexico vs. New Mexico State, among others.

And I’m sure Nebraska wouldn’t back down from playing another Nebraska school if only there was one.

Maybe it’s the promise of a new era in Fayetteville, the excitement over now having a brand new nickname, or just the fact that ASU quarterback Corey Leonard would absolutely smoke Casey Dick in a showdown, but Wolves fans have never been more determined to make this happen.

But given the politics and the economics behind these matters, Red Wolf nation will continue to hold its breath until it actually comes to pass.

And if it does, we could even pay tribute to the great Mr. Broyles by featuring a traveling trophy depicting a small bronze man with a football in one hand and an enormous pile of cash in the other.

SPORTS>>Devils looking for shootout

Leader sportswriter

This week’s battle at Jan Crow Stadium will feature two teams that could very easily end up in the mix for the 6A-East title.

Jacksonville and Jonesboro are both coming off big wins to start off the conference season. One of those teams will take their first blemish in league play on Friday when the Hurricane visit at 7 p.m.

Jonesboro (3-1, 1-0) needed a late comeback to overtake a surprisingly stout Parkview team in a 47-46 thriller, while the Red Devils (2-2, 1-0) recovered from a Week 3 embarrassment at Mills to thump Mountain Home 42-17 behind a 14-of-15, 4-touchdown performance by sophomore quarterback Logan Perry.

Jonesboro coach and alum Randy Coleman said he would like to see a little less drama this week.

“It was a game that had it all,” Coleman said. “We had a 13-0 lead, they come back and go up 32-13, and we had to scratch and claw our way back. It was a fun game. The game went on past 10 o’clock, and we weren’t planning on being on the field that late. That’s when the sprinklers came on. Every drama you could possibly have was there.”

However dramatic the win may have been, the physicality of the game took a toll on Coleman’s defensive depth chart. Starting free safety Chris Robinson suffered a concussion during the game, and is doubtful for Friday. His backup was ejected, and outside linebacker Tarus Green went down for the year with a torn ACL.

Slot linebacker Cedric Washington also suffered a head and neck injury, and will most likely miss a couple of games, according to Coleman. Anotherlinebacker also came away with a serious concussion at the completion of the Parkview game.

“A week ago, I would have told you we were okay,” Coleman said. “But we took a hit with all the injuries we had against Parkview. We could have done without the injuries. We hope the doctor’s report on Chris comes back in our favor. It’s kind of a 50-50 deal at this point, but it’s a possibility that we’re going to need some other people to step up.”

The good news for the Red Devils is that they have gone through the first month of the season virtually unscathed. Head coach Mark Whatley said everyone is okay up to this point in terms of injuries.

One of Whatley’s larger concerns for this week is how the Jonesboro secondary will react to his explosive receiving corps, in particular senior Demetris Harris. Harris hauled in six passes, four of which went for touchdowns last week against the Bombers.

“Football is kind of a funny sport,” Whatley offered. “One week, you’ll have a guy step up when someone else is cold, and then the next week, someone else will step up and make the big plays.

“Whether or not they double up on Demetris remains to be seen, but we feel like we have plenty of other people who can be effective. Stan Appleby had a really big game up at Vilonia.”

Stopping Jonesboro receiver A.J. Steele (6-1, 207) will be a vital key defensively for Jackson-ville this week, according to Whatley. His concern is Steele’s ability to turn short passes into big gains.

“They have been putting up big numbers,” Whatley said. “Their quarterback is throwing very well, and taking what’s there. ( A.J. Steele) is a concern for us, and his yards after the catch.”

Coleman said he expects a shootout on Friday.

“These teams are evenly matched,” Coleman said. “Both teams will have chances to score quickly, Jacksonville probably a little more so than us. They have an explosive defense, so if we don’t get in there and compete, it could be a long game for us.”