Friday, May 01, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville will choose

Jacksonville voters will choose a new mayor on May 12, but early voting starts Tuesday at city hall and ends on Friday. Voters can also go to the Pulaski County Regional Building on West Markham in downtown Little Rock, where polls will be open till the day before election day.

This is an important election, the first truly contested mayor’s race in Jacksonville in almost 23 years. Your vote could make a difference. There are several outstanding candidates in the race with good ideas on how to improve Jacksonville.

The candidates are Tommy Dupree, Aldermen Kenny Elliott and Gary Fletcher, Randy “Doc” Rhodd, Jody Urquhart and Beckie Brooks.

Here’s a quick rundown of the candidates:

Dupree believes the other candidates are ignoring several important issues, including better oversight of the police and fire departments, which are mostly staffed by people who do not live in Jacksonville. He thinks they should live in the city they serve.

Elliott is the candidate most identified with Mayor Tommy Swaim, who is resigning in mid-term for personal reasons. Elliott says he wants to build on Swaim’s record and has the endorsement of several council members. His platform includes reviving neglected areas of Jacksonville, which qualify for stimulus programs that benefit disadvantaged communities.

Fletcher is a longtime alderman who has been telling voters that he could do better if he became mayor. He promises to attract new businesses, revive decaying neighborhoods, improve deteriorating schools, fill empty storefronts and stop the flight of professionals and others from the city. It’s a tall order, but he says he’s ready for the challenge.

Randy Rhodd, a motorcycle minister, is a colorful candidate, but a vote for him would be like supporting Ralph Nader. Although he is a long-shot candidate, he is genuinely concerned about poverty and joblessness in Jacksonville, and his presence in the race is refreshing.

Jody Urquhart is one of the more credible candidates in this crowded field. He brings new ideas and a youthful vigor to this race, and whether or not he gets into the runoff, he should have a bright future in Jacksonville politics. He, too, is a problem solver, and here’s hoping he’ll use those talents to benefit the city.

Beckie Brooks is the conscience of this race, a true Southern lady who says what’s on her mind and harks back to a less complicated time when people reasoned together to solve their problems. Even if she falls short in this contest, she has already made an impact through her straight-from-the-heart campaign.

Look at the candidates’ records. Go to our Web site,, and read the long responses to our recent questionnaire the candidates sent us.

Don’t just complain about the direction Jacksonville is going. Go to the polls and tell the politicians what you think. Your vote will make a big difference.

TOP STORY > >Source of water worries groups

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Quorum Court caved in to wealthy developers Tuesday night, endangering the long-term quality of Arkansas’ best and largest source of drinking water, which is certain to decline, according to Lake Maumelle water activists.

“Politics beat science,” according to Barry Haas, a spokesman for Citizens Protecting the Maumelle Watershed.

“This is not good news for the 400,000 people who drink water out of Lake Maumelle,” Haas said. “The only science we have is the Tetra Tech study the CAW ratepayers paid for. That plan has essentially been thrown away by the ordinance,” Haas said. “It leaves out all the import elements like minimum lot sizes, maximum undisturbed area and traditional sewage transport as only a last result.”

The Tetra Tech study, commissioned by the Central Arkansas Water authority, included input from scientists, landowners, developers, hydrologists, local officials and the chamber of commerce among others, and arrived at a consensus agreement that many thought would end the battle between the water authority and the developers.

Lake Maumelle is the primary source of drinking water for parts of central Arkansas, and CAW has agreements to supply water to Jacksonville, Cabot, Sherwood and Gravel Ridge, so both the quality of the water and the cost of the land are important to area customers.

Disregarding important parts of that two-year study of the lake, its geology, topography and permeability, area quorum court members Bob Johnson, Jeff Rollins and Rev. Robert Green were among the majority, approving the plan proposed by County Judge Buddy Villines and County Attorney Karla Burnett.

That plan plainly exasperated attorney Bruce McMath. McMath called it “The Deltic Plan.”

CAW’s current board sent the quorum court a letter stating that with a single exception, it doesn’t believe that chapter eight of the subdivision plan the court was considering “doesn’t protect the lake.”

Why didn’t the CAW board produce a Tetra Tech spokesman to answer the questions of the quorum court Tuesday night?

“The CAW board basically capitulated,” Haas said.

Environmentalists say the plan approved by the quorum court fails in many ways to protect the lake’s water quality from Deltic and other developers, prime among them the failure to require a minimum five-acre-lot size and to allow forced- sewage lines intended to carry waste out of the Lake Maumelle watershed.

In the fall of 2005, the contentious fight between Deltic and CAW appeared over when a judge ruled that CAW could condemn Deltic lands for a public purpose and pay for them.

They underestimated the wealth and political savvy of Deltic Timber, according to McMath, who has represented CAW in court and in negotiations. “They have always thought they would win,” said McMath.

“Counties can set limits on lot size,” he added. “You didn’t ask (the attorney general) the right question.

“We are inching our way to fall just short of protecting the water,” he said, when you substitute engineering control for conservation.

McMath said that when the lake becomes substandard or polluted, as it inevitably would, CAW would have to build a new water treatment plant, which would be extremely expensive for ratepayers—virtually everyone in central Arkansas.

If the sewer system fails, thousands of gallons of sewage would first plunge and later seep into central Arkansas’ primary drinking water source, Haas said.

CAW was struck a blow when its president, Jim Harvey, and its chief operating officer, Bruno Kirsch, both retired within months of each other. Both had advocated tenaciously for protecting Lake Maumelle water quality, McMath said Thursday. “They were fighters.”

Deltic has fought to build high- density middle-class and upper- middle-class homes on the lake at every turn, first trying in the legislature to strip CAW of its authority to exercise the right of eminent domain, then during the two-year study by Tetra Tech, in negotiations, in court and finally, in the quorum court, where all of its previous setbacks were reversed by that body.

McMath said there could be one possible legal challenge left of the ruling. Otherwise, he said, Deltic and the others are free to build with few restraints.

“They will end up polluting the lake,” McMath predicted.

“You have been misled,” said Kate Althoff, a longtime lake activist. “You have to make a decision (based) on false information.”

By a 10 to five vote, the court approved the most contentious of the four ordinances, enacting the subdivision and development code of Pulaski County. That’s the one that was approved in lieu of the plan that came out of the professional study and action by CAW.

Haas said the fight wasn’t over.

In three other ordinances, the court authorized the county judge to enter into an agreement with CAW for the maintenance and continued protection of the Lake Maumelle Watershed.

The court approved an ordinance to recognize and appropriate revenue from Central Arkansas Water into the planning department budget for one new position to do planning, maintenance and operation of the Maumelle watershed.

The final ordinance defined the area to be known as the Lake Maumelle Watershed.

SPORTS >> Falcons tab Russell as new football coach

Leader sports editor

Longtime Jacksonville defensive coordinator Rick Russell has been named new head coach of the North Pulaski Falcons.

Russell, who replaces current athletic director Tony Bohannon at the helm, was introduced at an assembly at the high school gym on Friday afternoon.

Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley said North Pulaski is getting a solid, well-rounded coach in Russell.

“They’re getting a good football coach, no question about it,” Whatley said. “Rick does an outstanding job, not only in wins and losses, but in making a difference in kids’ lives.”

Despite the fact that Russell has been defensive coordinator for the past eight years, Whatley said his expertise is not limited to defense.

“When you find a good defensive coach, he’s someone who knows both sides of the football,” he said. “You cannot be a good defensive coordinator and not know both schemes. He just knows the game.”

Russell will be entering a challenging environment with a program that has won just five games over the past six seasons. The Falcons ended a 32-game losing streak in the fall of 2007. Though they lost their final six games of that season, hopes were relatively high with the return of 16 starters last fall.

But after opening with a win over Searcy, North Pulaski never won again and Bohannon resigned shortly after the season ended. He has continued to hold the athletic director’s job and will be the ninth-grade football coach.

For Russell, who played football for both Lou Holtz and Frank Broyles at the University of Arkansas, it will be his first opportunity to run a varsity football program, though he has a wealth of experience at the high school and junior high level in various sports. Russell started the baseball program at Pulaski Academy and won two state championships as head coach.

“I’m excited to get started,” Russell said. “I’m not looking at (North Pulaski’s past struggles). When I came here, I was looking at the school, at the nice new facilities. They’ve got things in place here. The past has nothing to do with it. I’m only looking forward.”

High school spring football starts the middle of this month so Russell is coming to the program late. He said he has yet to be able to meet with his players and is uncertain what his roster might look like. But he plans to start meeting with them next week and begin evaluating his talent.

Priority No. 1, Russell said, will be conditioning and strength, and he’s confident that his weight program will make a big difference.

“We’re going to have spring football, but to be honest with you, it’s really going to be incorporated into more of an off-season program,” he said. “I have a great weight program that gets results. When I came in, the coaches told me that we’ve got speed here, but the one area we’re lacking in is strength.

“We’ll continue that off-season program through the summer and I think within six or eight weeks, you’ll see a difference in size and strength.”

Russell said his offensive and defensive philosophy will be to mold a system around the talent available to him and that flexibility will be a premium.

“One of the most difficult things as a defensive coordinator was when you went up against an offense that ran out of 15 or 20 formations,” Russell said. “Because you have to spend a lot of time learning how to line up for all those formations and less time focusing on stopping them. So we’ll be very multiple with the types of formations we’ll use.”

Defensively, Russell said he has always been partial to the 4-2-5 formation, but again with an eye toward flexibility.

“We can easily shift out of that into a 5-2 or a 6-2, or a 4-3 or any type of defense,” he said. “We want to build our strengths and hide our deficiencies.”

Russell indicated that not all of the assistant coaches would remain in place, though he was uncertain what changes might take place.

“We’re looking into that,” he said. “Some of the same coaches will be here and some will be in different positions — at junior high instead of high school. Coach Bohannon is helping me with determining how many coaches we need to hire or what positions are going to be available.”

After playing football for two years at Arkansas, Russell transferred to Ouachita Baptist and eventually finished up at Central Arkansas. After college, Russell was the junior high football coach at Sylvan Hills before moving up to assistant coach at the high school for the next five years. He was also head baseball coach.

After six years at PA, where in addition to being head baseball coach, he was head junior high football coach and then offensive coordinator at the high school, Russell headed to Nashville before coming to Jacksonville in 1995.

“I feel like I’ve got a plan to make kids better people and better players,” he said. “I believe that’s what a football program should be about.”

SPORTS >> Cabot moves on with an overtime win in tourney

Special to The Leader

Both Cabot and Rogers Heritage had a tough time finding the back of the net in regulation during Friday afternoon’s Class 7A state tournament game.

The Panthers wasted little time however in finishing the game in the first overtime period and taking a 1-0 win.

Cabot’s Michael Eckhart scored barely 30 seconds into overtime after the Panthers quickly got a pass over the top of the defense. Eckhart was able to use his speed to get into good position and bend a shot around the War Eagles’ goalkeeper.

“That was just a good, solid overall team win,” said Cabot coach Clark Bing. “Heritage is a good team and that was a good win.”

Cabot had a chance near the end of the game when a corner kick was almost knocked in with a header, only to be stopped by a diving save.

The Panthers needed a big save of their own to help send the game into overtime. The Eagles had an open shot on goal and a strong kick near the top of the net. Josh Luna stretched high and made a leaping save with just under a minute remaining in regulation.

“I thought we played better and controlled the tempo in the second half,” said Bing. “Still, they were able to break through and take a good shot. That was a great save by Josh.”

Cabot will hope the third time is the charm Saturday when it takes on the Conway Wampus Cats. Conway defeated Cabot 4-1 at Conway and 2-1 at Cabot this season.

“I think we’ve got the jitters out now by playing early and getting this win out of the way,” said Bing. “This will be Conway’s first game of the tournament and third against us this year. Hopefully we can find a way to win this time.”

SPORTS >> Beebe cruises past Paragould into quarters

Leader sports editor

Neither injury nor rust could slow down the Beebe Lady Badgers in the first round of the 5A state tournament on Friday afternoon.

The Lady Badgers had not played in more than a week, but smacked the ball around for 10 hits in a 9-2 cruise past Paragould at Sherwood Parks.

“With all the time off, we’ve been doing a lot of drills, getting out some old-school stuff,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers, in his first season at Beebe. “We were trying to get them to focus on driving the ball and it paid off today.”

But it wasn’t just offense for Beebe on Friday. The Lady Badgers got a great pitching performance from Megan Harris, who had not thrown in 10 days after suffering an injury. And their defense was nearly perfect. None was better than shortstop Nikki King, who flawlessly fielded all five grounders hit to her, including a magnificent backhand snag of a hard grounder to take away a single in the seventh.

“Nikki had fluid taken off her knee yesterday,” Chambers said. “She’s really a player. For her and Megan to come out and play the way they did after their injuries was pretty amazing. It showed they’ve got a lot of heart.”

Harris struck out eight, walked three and hit two others. She allowed only three hits and one earned run.

The Lady Badgers (18-7) take on the Hope-Greenbrier winner today at noon in the quarterfinals.

Beebe wasted little time jumping on the fourth-seeded Lady Rams, scoring two in the first. After King drew a leadoff walk, catcher Amanda Wheeler laid down the first of her two sacrifice bunts in the game. Ally Wallace then ripped an RBI double to the fence in right. One out later, Jordan Bass lined a 1-1 pitch down the line in left for another RBI double and a 2-0 lead.

Paragould got one of those back with two outs in the second on a double and an error in left field. It was Beebe’s lone miscue of the game, while the Lady Rams committed four errors.

King started off the Beebe third by beating out a bunt single, went to second on Wheeler’s sacrifice and came in on a pair of wild pitches to make it 3-1.

“Amanda wants to hit the ball like everyone else, but she knows her job,” Chambers said of Wheeler’s bunting. “Most of these games are decided by one run so we need her to do that.”

Wheeler gunned down a would-be base stealer in the fourth and Beebe broke open the game with a six-run bottom half of the inning, sending 10 to the plate and collecting five hits. Bass singled and Bethany Flenor walked. Shelbie Thomas lined an RBI single to left. Another run came in when the Paragould pitcher threw wild to first on Shelbie Tozer’s sacrifice bunt.

Kayla Jackson brought home Thomas with a ground out to first before King blooped a double over the first baseman’s head to make it 7-1. Wheeler’s grounder to short moved King to third and Wallace beat out an infield single to score King. Wallace scored when the Lady Ram center fielder mishandled Megan Harris’ line drive single.

From there, it was just a matter of cruising in. Harris pitched around a leadoff hit batter in the fifth. She hit another batter in the sixth and a pair of singles chased home Paragould’s only other run to set the final margin.

“I’m excited about this team,” Chambers said. “(Last year’s coach Terry Flenor) lost six that had played here forever. We’ve got three seniors and three juniors, but mostly sophomores. For them to do what they’ve done this year, I’m real proud of them.”

King, Wallace, Bass and Megan Harris had two hits each.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Mike Wilson (Revisited)

When Jacksonville’s own windmill tilter, Mike Wilson, sued the state four years ago to stop the legislature and the governor from violating the state Constitution’s ban on local and special legislation and from abusing the taxpayers excessively, he could not have known the mess he would cause.

Judging by the legislature’s efforts this spring to get around the sanctions caused by Wilson’s suit, matters are now incalculably worse than they were in 2005. The Arkansas Supreme Court eventually agreed with Wilson and said that, for example, a $400,000 appropriation of state tax funds to improve streets and sewers in Sen. Bob Johnson’s neighborhood at Bigelow (Perry County) was indeed a local bill that violated the Constitution. Voters in 1927 overwhelmingly adopted an amendment to stop the practice of appropriating state funds for local interests and otherwise passing state laws for narrow local applications.

Legislators in 2007 and again this spring fussed with ways to continue dividing up state funds to spend for projects that win them friends back home but do it in ways that might not bring the courts down on the practice.

This time, the lawmakers agreed among themselves to set aside a big chunk of the state’s surplus funds to divide among them for projects back home that would curry favor with local groups. The 35 senators were to get $897,000 each, and each member of the House of Representatives a smaller amount. A large allotment was set aside for the governor to use at his discretion for capital projects of one sort or another at state institutions.

The 59-page General Improvement Bill identifies all the hundreds of expenditures, although many are lumped together. You see, it is not a local bill but a single amalgamation of local bills, so it must be legal.

But everybody in the legislature, it turns out, is not happy with the way things turned out. Senators are wondering if they really did get their equal share of $897,000. You can’t tell by the General Improvement Bill, now an act. No one’s name is on any of the individual expenditures. The men in charge, the aforementioned Sen. Johnson, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway, the Senate chair of the Joint Budget Committee, took care of things privately with the state agencies that will dispense the money and, presumably, with the governor’s office and the Department of Finance and Administration.

It looks like Sens. Johnson and Baker fared a trifle better than the others — well, millions better. Sen. Baker got $10 million set aside for the Highway Department to build a new interchange on Interstate 40 in his town to serve the new Hewlett Packard plant. Johnson got $4 million set aside for the state Forestry Department to buy land in the Maumelle River basin to preserve in its natural state for the Central Arkansas Water system.

You will remember that Johnson got hammered, by us among many others, for trying to help Deltic Timber company develop land on the slopes of Lake Maumelle above central Arkansas’ big water intake, which would have imperiled our water quality in future years. At least he’s on the right side now, although the rest of the state may wonder about earmarking so much of the state’s taxes for a local project. We don’t want to examine this gift horse’s mouth too closely since it’s our water he is helping to keep pure.

Some senators think Baker and Johnson owe them a list that shows everyone is getting his equal share, his $897,000. Baker says calling the distribution equal might be “an editorial comment,” which we take to mean the distribution is really not equal.

Baker said a list identifying every senator’s projects and expenditures were the old way of doing things, which he linked with Sen. Jim Argue of Little Rock, who left the Senate last year.

Argue was happy to take credit. What the public needs, he said, is accountability. People should know exactly who in the government is responsible for every expenditure of their money, whether it’s legal or illegal. That — and much more — is what Mike Wilson would want. Shouldn’t the rest of us demand it, too?

TOP STORY >> Airstrip had a key role in WWI

Leader staff writer

Across from the Lonoke Cemetery is the Lonoke Golf Course, but before it was a golf course, it was Eberts Field, which served as an aviation-training field during World War I.

Lonoke County managed to outbid Pulaski County, offering rent-free 960 acres with a railroad spur connecting the field to Rock Island Railroad track. The U.S. government in November 1917 accepted the offer and the first cadets and soldiers arrived in spring 1918.

According to an article in “Southern Historical News” by Sherill Miller, executive director of the Lonoke County Museum, plans for the land called for 50 buildings. This would include 12 hangars with six planes each and barracks for 1,082 officers and students.

Instructors used the Lonoke Cemetery as a reminder of where cadets would end up if they made mistakes while flying. The training school had a no-fatality record.

It ranked second among aviation training fields maintained by the U.S. government. It was not uncommon to see hundreds of planes in formation over the field between March 1918 and March 1919.

Cadets trained in Curtis JN-4D planes, called the Flying Jenny. A second landing strip was located at DeValls Bluff for landing practice.

Despite the no-fatality record, there were some crashes mentioned in the local news. In May 1918, a flier landed on a mule attached to a scraper, killing the mule. In the same month, a plane landed on a steam roller.

In March 1919, Lt. F.G. Watson, with a cadet passenger, overturned near England High School while attempting a landing.

Also in March, a pilot ran out of gas near Cabot and got lost. A Cabot soldier visiting home offered to lead the way back to Eberts Field. The engine died and the plane landed in Jack’s Bayou near Lonoke.

All involved in the crashes, except for the mule, survived with little or no injury.
Some notable moments at Eberts included pilots entertaining around 4,000 people on Washington’s Birthday in 1919 with stunts.

The Arkansas Gazette was the first newspaper delivered by plane in Arkansas. Lt. C.E. Johnson of Eberts Field delivered 300 papers to Lonoke on June 18, 1919, to display the possibilities of aviation, according to the article, “Eberts Training Field’ on

In December of 1919, 72 buildings at the field were sold for $30,000 to Lynch Creekmore of Fort Smith with the Lesser-Goldman Cotton Co. of St. Louis. The buildings were moved to various locations and used for cotton warehouses.

The total cost of the field was $1,815,940.

The war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, before the first class graduated from the school.

In January 1919, discharge orders were given and by March, only 65 men remained at Eberts.

The field was named for Capt. Melchior McEwen Eberts, a West Point graduate. Ebert was an early Arkansas aviator.

He was killed during an exhibition flight at Columbus, N.M., on May 15, 1917 at the age of 28.

Since its closure, the field has served as a glider school, landing strip and is now the Lonoke Golf Course.

A marker with a brief history of Eberts Field was placed where the field had been during the Arkansas Sesquicentennial celebration.

The Lonoke County Museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

For more information, call 676-6750.

Visit the Web site at

TOP STORY >> PCSSD sees tax boost as way to fund two schools

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District will rely upon increased revenues from increased property assessments resulting in higher taxes to help pay off an $81 million second-lien construction bond if the state Board of Education authorizes the sale of that bond at its May meeting.

The PCSSD board made the decision in a special session Tuesday.

The bond is intended to pay for a new high school at Maumelle and a new Sylvan Hills middle school.

The state rejected an earlier repayment plan that would have required shrinking teacher’s pay and reducing the number of vice principals hired to help make the $5.5 million a year payments.

At the direction of the board, interim Superintendent Rob McGill, and acting chief financial officer Anita Farver and her staff pored over the district’s books looking for possible cuts both to pay off the bond and also to reduce the overall district budget.

The board interrupted the first day of its two-day financial workshop to discuss and vote on the revised bond application.

Jacksonville board member Bill Vasquez made the motion to approve and submit the application to the state, and Danny Gililland, Jacksonville’s other board member, seconded the motion.

Only board member Mildred Tatum voted against McGill’s new application, saying it required spending of all stimulus funds and other money without doing anything for the schools in her district.

Administrator Robert Clowers hand-delivered the new application to the state on Tuesday just minutes before the noon deadline required for the state board to consider it at the May meeting.

“We reviewed the district’s assessment history and determined that the property tax values have grown at an average rate of approximately 11 percent since 2004,” McGill said in his letter.

“The district’s 2008 assessed value increased by $206,111,504 over the 2007 assessment,” according to McGill. “This increase alone should produce approximately $3,541,678 in additional debt-service millage revenue beginning in the 2009/2010 school year.”

Stephens Inc. experts who have helped lead the district through the bond process have estimated the growth of revenues for increases in assessment even higher, according to Farver, but the district is using the lower numbers.

The estimated annual funds available for second-lien bond payments include revenues from the 2008 assessment growth, $3.5 million; operating revenues reallocated to the building fund, $2.8 million; and reduction in administrative expenses from eliminating three positions, $190,000.

Also, McGill told the board that he talked to architects Wittenberg Delony and Davidson and its construction manager Baldwin and Shell, telling them to make cuts until the Maumelle school costs no more than $55 million, excluding outdoor athletic facilities, and fewer furnishings for offices, labs and classrooms. They were also told to hold the cost on the Sylvan Hills middle school to $28 million.

The school at Maumelle had been estimated earlier this year at about $80 million.
“If we didn’t have the stimulus money, we’d be in trouble,” said McGill.

Stimulus money is planned to rebuild roofs at Crystal Hill and Clinton Elementary and remodel restrooms at several sites including Jacksonville Middle School.

Although Vasquez made the motion to approve the new bond application, he said the board is not looking down the line.

He said Jacksonville will lose 350 students to the new charter school next year and perhaps another 150 students who didn’t get in but whose parents have decided not to send them back. That’s about $300,000 a year that the state won’t pay PCSSD in minimum foundation aid.

He said the application also doesn’t take into account millions of dollars the district will lose when it’s released from the desegregation agreement and also when Jacksonville and north Pulaski County detach and form their own district.

TOP STORY >> Flood problems reported in area after downpour

Leader staff writers

Heavy rains Monday night flooded Cabot homes and created other flooding problems in White and Lonoke counties.

More damage may occur this week. The forecast calls for at least a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms through Saturday, leading to more possible flooding.

“About half the county is flooded,” Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman said Tuesday morning, mostly the northern half around Cabot.

Crews put up signs there closing the parts of Kerr Station Road, Dogwood, Hwy. 321 and Campground Road that were under water.

Troutman said he didn’t expect major problems as the water runs down quickly and leaves behind a few more potholes that would have to be filled.

But since flooding is always a problem in low-lying areas, the only way to deal with it is to make repairs where they are needed and hope that motorists steer clear of flooded roads.

“The best advice I can give anyone is to pay attention,” he said.

Tamara Jenkins, director of the White County Office of Emergency Services, said the worst flooding was in the northern part of the county around Judsonia and Searcy. In the southwest part of the county, water covered road such as Vernon Harvey, Arthur Kirk and the end of Gillham that runs into northern Lonoke County.

But Jenkins pointed out Tuesday morning that with rain in the forecast at least through the end of the week, even if the water runs down, flooded roads could easily flood again.

Residents of the Autumnwood subdivision in Cabot awoke Tuesday morning to find floodwater standing in their homes and garages.

Storm run-off from a night of heavy rain had seeped into three Hillsboro Drive homes near the intersection of Campground Road and Diederich Lane.

Bobby Thompson, the homeowner of 11 Hillsboro Drive, said this was the second time since 2003 that run-off water has came onto his yard.

“It got up to two to three feet in the backyard. I had a pool that was ruined,” Thompson said.

He said, “I think there needs to be a study on the drainage problem. There is no easy solution. It will be a long process to correct. I know the mayor knows.

“The water from Blooming Ridge and Krooked Kreek (subdivisions) has added to the flooding problem in the Autumnwood subdivision. The mayor was here this morning. I think he is generally concerned about the situation,” Thompson said.

Carrie Dunn leases the house at 10 Hillsboro Drive nearest the drainage ditch. She said she has lived in the home two years. It was the first time for her to have water enter the home. Water flooded the kitchen, hallway and part of her living room.

“It was pouring into the seams of the door. It was like a waterfall. I woke up at 5:45 and it was about three feet inside the house,” Dunn said.

She said she went to wake her neighbors to ask for help and noticed the water was going to flood their homes.

“When I stepped out into the street it was almost up to my knees,” Dunn said.

Jim Martin, the homeowner of 10 Hillsboro Drive, came with his family to survey the damage. The living room had fans and heaters drying the carpets. The city brought sandbags to stop more water from entering the home. More heavy rain is forecast.

Rick Kramer, the homeowner of 12 Hillsboro Drive, found his van parked in front of his house was flooded. Kramer said the water was two-and-a-half feet deep.

The van’s carpet and interior was soaked. Water did not enter his house.

Linda Gaudino lives on Thunderbird Drive off Diederich Lane. She said the neighborhood has a history of drainage problems.

She said the developers built houses on a filled four-acre catfish pond that had a natural spring. Gaudino said the city shows there is supposed to be a drainage ditch behind the subdivision.

“There is no ditch, water runs though the backyard and side yard. It was knee deep this morning. Water stands in the yards,” Gaudino said.

TOP STORY >> Golf course best use of the land, park study says

Leader staff writer

More than 150 people crowded into the Sherwood council chamber to hear representatives from ETC Engineering explain their plan for the city’s 16 parks.

Even though the audience made suggestions to improve many of the park plans and ideas, the vast majority were there to hear about park number 16—the 106-acre North Hills Golf Course property.

The city condemned and purchased the defunct golf course and country club last year at a price of $5.5 million and is making monthly payments of about $28,000 on the property.

The course has been dormant for about two years and the greens have died off and many of the sand traps have broken down. But many on the council want it to become an 18-hole golf course again.

The mostly pro golf course crowd applauded when Mizan Rahman with ETC agreed. “We did not look at the feasibility or the cost, but looked at what was the best use of the land,” he explained.

“Since it already was a golf course we felt that was the best use.”

Rahman added that his firm looked at the possibility of making a nine-hole course on the property and using the rest of the land for activities like a professional tennis center and a small water park.

“A nine-hole golf course would cost more than the 18-hole course,” he said, “because three holes would have to be completely redone for the nine-hole course.” Rahman also said the activity produced from a tennis center and a water park would be too intense for the area.

Rahman said he didn’t have any cost figures. That’ll be up to the city council. “Our job was to look at the best use for all the park lands, not the cost.”

Previous feasibility studies conducted in 2007 suggest it will take $1 million or more to get the golf course in shape and up to $500,000 a year for maintenance, equipment and personnel. Those studies suggested the course would lose money for the first three years before holding its own in its fourth year of operation—those figures were based on 23,000 to 30,000 rounds of golf being played there annually.

Landscape architect and golf course designer Steve Hales of ETI, at a council workshop earlier this month, suggested that it will cost $150,000 to rebuild the greens.

Other costs, according to Hales and others, just through 2009, include sprinkler system repairs at $100,000; maintenance and cart repairs at $50,000; clubhouse repairs at $50,000; signage, tools flags at $25,000; and equipment leasing at $28,000.

Salaries for six months would be $35,000 for a golf course superintendent; $13,500 for a full-time maintenance worker and $20,400 for two part-time laborers.

On a scale of 1 to 10, an initial investment of $500,000 would bring the course up to a 3 or 4 in quality, said Hales.

“Why don’t we do a trial run to just get it up and running to see how it holds up and to limit your investment, then later bring it to full potential,” Hales suggested at that workshop.

At the Monday night meeting, Karilyn Brown asked if the park study was really just a wish list and if the focus was going to be on the golf course, would it push back work and improvements for all the other parks.

Rahman said his company’s research highlighted those things that needed to be done now, then those that would be nice when money becomes available.

“You’ve got to have a plan or a dream as a starting point and then when money becomes available you do what you can,” he told the audience.

Carolyn Chalmers was worried about the cost of the golf course, citing the 2007 studies which said the greens’ fees needed to average about $24 per round and between 23,000 and 30,000 rounds of golf needed to be played.

Alderman Charlie Harmon said there has been no talk about fees except that they would be comparable to the courses around Sherwood. “It would be dumb of us not to be comparable,” he said.

Sherwood resident Steve Winchester said the land needed to be a golf course and as soon as possible. “Let’s take advantage of what we have. Let’s make it into something worthwhile. That land and that course mean a lot to a lot of people. Build it and they will come,” he said.

Another public meeting to discuss the golf course plans, as well as those for all the other parks is set for 5 p.m. Monday, May 11.

TOP STORY >> State readies for swine flu

Leader staff writer

Thousands of students in area school districts will go home this week with a copy of a press release from the Arkansas Department of Health urging the public and physicians to be on the lookout for the swine flu that has killed people in Mexico.

The release went out Sun-day. At that time, 20 Americans in five states had been infected. By Tuesday morning, Ed Barham, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Health, was reporting that the number had doubled to 40, but so far only one has been hospitalized.

Rick Duff, an administrator with Beebe Schools, said he got the release that will be distributed from Becky Land, community health nurse specialist with the Wilbur Mills Cooperative in Beebe.

Robert Martin, who is over student services for Cabot School District, said Tuesday that Cabot has policies in place for flu season and will be following those.

“We’re doing what we normally do when flu season is approaching,” Martin said.

“We have put out all of the precautions as far as hand washing and reporting sick children,” said Julie Miller, a Lonoke Elementary School nurse. “We sent the symptoms to all teachers, doing the normal stuff, and taking precautions,” she said.

Miller said the information came from the state Health Department through the local health cooperative.

Milt Garris, head of the Lonoke County Health Department, said the state Health Department was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracking cases and moving Tamiflu around as a preventative for people who are susceptible.

He said the Lonoke Health Department would be involved next fall with the schools, providing mass vaccinations for the regular winter flu.

Rob McGill, interim Superinten-dent of the Pulaski County Special School District, said school nurses were being vigilant, watching for students who present symptoms of the swine flu, but he said attendance was normal—parents weren’t keeping their children home.

“There are no cases in Arkansas yet,” Barham told The Leader, “but we are watching it very closely because we feel like it is only a matter of time.”

Although the virus is being called swine flu, Barham said it actually is made up of four components: two types of swine flu, a bird flu and a human flu.

Barham said it will likely take about six months to develop a vaccine for the new flu that could be included in the flu shots that become available in the fall.

In the meantime, the state has 286,000 doses of Tamiflu stockpiled that could reduce symptoms and shorten their duration, and 105,000 more doses should be available by the end of the week Barham said.

Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food and a person cannot get swine influenza from eating pork products. 

The infection appears to spread from person to person.  Drugs called antivirals (like Tamiflu) can reduce the severity of illness, if taken within 48 hours after symptoms begin.  Antivirals are not to be confused with flu vaccinations.

Influenza vaccinations prevent a person from contracting the disease. Antivirals help treat people that become sick.

The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes.

This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby.

Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.

The CDC in Atlanta has confirmed cases of swine flu in California, Texas, New York City, Ohio and Kansas.

Cong. Vic Snyder said Tuesday, “In the midst of this new infectious disease outbreak, it can be difficult to stay focused on long-term goals; but we must.  Well-funded medical research, access to primary care for everyone including those in rural and under-served areas, health care reform that ensures all Americans have access to affordable health care, affordable pharmaceuticals, good health education, and well-functioning infectious disease reporting systems are all vital to public health.  

“We must also recognize that these diseases infect the world, and we must continue to be advocates and supporters of under-served world communities; because if we don’t, we will all be more vulnerable,”  Snyder said.

Dr. William Mason of the state Health Department said, “We have activated our Emergency Operations Center and are working with state and federal officials to monitor the situation,” Mason said. “We are telling doctors that if they see patients with febrile influenza-like illness, they should collect a specimen for testing.

“We want Arkansans to know that at this time, we don’t have confirmed swine flu in our state. However, we are concerned about what is happening in our neighboring state of Texas and elsewhere across the country.

“The illness that we are seeing in the United States currently is not severe. All ill persons have recovered. There is the possibility that we will see severe illness in the future, and we want Arkansans to be prepared,” Mason said.

Mason provided these recommendations for the public:

– As always, people with respiratory illness should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading infections, including influenza, to others in the community.

– Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

– Wash hands frequently to lessen the spread of respiratory illness.

The symptoms of swine flu in humans are similar to the symptoms of seasonal influenza and include: fever greater than 100 degrees, coughing, sore throat, chills, headache and body aches, fatigue, respiratory congestion, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.

People experiencing these symptoms should stay home.

Anyone having any of the following warning signs should seek emergency medical care.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

– Trouble breathing.

– Bluish skin color.

– Not drinking enough fluids.

– Not waking up or not interacting.

– Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held.

– Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

– Fever with a rash.

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

– Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

– Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.

– Sudden dizziness.

– Confusion.

– Severe or persistent vomiting.

People with swine flu who are cared for at home should:

– Check with their health care provider about any special care they might need if they are pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema.

– Check with their health care provider about whether they should take antiviral medications.

– Stay home for seven days  after the start of illness and fever is gone.

– Get plenty of rest.

– drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated.

– Cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often and especially after using tissues and after coughing or sneezing into hands.

– Avoid close contact with others – do not go to work or school while ill.

– Be watchful for emergency warning signs that might indicate you need to seek medical attention.

For more information, go to or

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers take four seed into 7A state

Leader sportswriter

As long as there has been a high-school softball tournament in Arkansas, the Cabot Lady Panthers have been there.

The Lady Panthers will make their 11th consecutive trip to state on Friday when they travel to Bentonville as the No. 4 seed out of the 7A-Central Conference. They will play the West No. 5 seed on Friday at 4 p.m.

A first-round win over Rogers in last year’s state tournament broke a three-year drought of being one and done for Cabot, something coach Becky Steward said she hopes will lead to even more success this year.

“Hopefully we can take what we did last year and go a step further with that this year,” said Steward. “If they play like they are capable of playing, we can go in and make some noise.”

The Lady Panthers are led by the senior trio of catcher Pete Reed, centerfielder Becca Bakalekos and four-year starting pitcher Cherie Barfield.

Bakalekos has put up the best batting numbers as Cabot’s lead-off with a .457 average. Barfield’s numbers on the mound are equally impressive with a 15-7 season record, and an ERA of 1.11 to go along with 114 strikeouts and 21 base-on-balls.

Cabot’s opponent for the first round will most likely be Fort Smith Southside or Springdale. The lower seeds in the West were still not decided at press time, but both teams feature young rosters.

The mood in the Lady Panthers camp has been fairly casual during the past week after a dramatic 7-6 win over Bryant last Tuesday, according to Steward, who doesn’t mind the low-key atmosphere heading into the final week of the season.

“How well we do depends on the kids and how they feel,” said Steward. “They’ve been pretty laid back, which could be a good thing. They’re not pressing the issue on anything – they’re just practicing and going over the same routines that they’ve done all year.

“The weather is going to be the biggest factor. We just hope to go out and have a normal game and go on.”

SPORTS >> Lanier bests Fentor, but Lady Devils take 3 seed

Leader sportswriter

It was sweet revenge for a Jacksonville Lady Red Devils team still in pursuit of a higher tournament seed against visiting West Memphis on Friday.

Junior Lady Red Devils pitcher Jessica Lanier gave up only two hits while striking out seven in a 1-0 Jacksonville victory that concluded its conference season at 9-5. Lanier just out-dueled West Memphis hurler Shelly Jo Fentor, who recorded nine strikeouts and allowed five hits.

The Lady Blue Devils beat Jacksonville (12-7 overall) by the same score in their first league meeting on April 10 in West Memphis.

The win deadlocked both Lady Devil teams for third in the 6A-East Conference, but West Memphis wrapped up the No. 3 seed with a blistering 15-0 blowout over Jonesboro on Monday to win the tiebreaker.

“We were trying to get one more run to avoid all of that, but we didn’t get it,” said Jacksonville coach Tanya Ganey. “We played really good as a group and as a team. I thought that
all around, it was one of our best games as a team. We’ve been on the backside of that 1-0, so it was nice to be on the good side this time.”

Jacksonville’s likely opponent in the first round of the 6A state tournament will be host team El Dorado at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Paula Burr’s triple to deep right field in the bottom of the fourth inning not only set up the only score of the game, it was also the only time a runner for either team made it past second base.

Sophomore Riley Zink drove Burr in with a pop fly double down the third base line for the go-ahead run. Lanier and the defense took it from there.

“I’ve always told the kids that if you don’t let the other team score, all you have to do is get one run to win it,” said Jacksonville coach Tanya Ganey. “This group is a lot like last year’s team. Going into the seventh inning, they were still battling. That was the difference in the game for us.”

West Memphis tried to set up a dramatic finish with a one-out single in the seventh. But a terrific double play from Baylee Herlacher at short to Bock at second to Alexis Oakley at first sealed the win.

Jacksonville shortstop Herlacher was the only player to come away with more than one hit in the game.

The senior singled with a grounder into right in the bottom of the third, and just beat the throw to first after bunting in the bottom of the fifth. Both hits came with two outs, and Herlacher was stranded in both instances.

Lanier recorded the only other Jacksonville hit with a grounder to left center to lead off the bottom of the second inning.

The Lady Blue Devils pitcher responded by fanning the next three batters, and she went on to strike out six of the next seven batters she faced.

Lanier’s best run came in the fourth and fifth innings. She struck out all three batters in the top of the fourth, and the first two batters in the fifth until the West Memphis seven-hole grounded out to shortstop.

Mountain Home ended up as 6A-East champions for the second straight season, with only one loss to Jonesboro early on in conference play. Searcy took the No. 2 seed.

SPORTS >> Devils nail down 2 seed

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils went into Friday’s doubleheader with Marion needing just one win to clinch a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye at the state tournament this weekend.

Michael Harmon made certain to take all the drama out of it in the first game.

Harmon, still battling back from an early season hip injury, struck out 10 and walked only two as the Red Devils secured the bye with a 5-1 win over the Patriots at Dupree Park.

Jacksonville concluded the sweep with a 12-2 romp in the second game behind six RBI from Caleb Mitchell.

The Red Devils, who were rained out in a non-conference twin bill with Sylvan Hills last night, will open the state tournament next Saturday at Burns Park when they take on the winner of Little Rock Parkview and Lake Hamilton.

“I’ve seen Michael throw better, and I think he’s still feeling (out the injury) a little bit,” said Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows, whose Red Devils improved to 19-7 overall and finished the 6A-East Conference with an 11-3 mark. “He says his hip doesn’t hurt anymore so we need to get him back in shape where he can go seven innings.”

Harmon went the distance on Friday, allowing just five hits and losing his shutout with one out in the final frame.

Terrell Brown provided the firepower in the first game, going 3 of 4 and Logan Perry delivered a big two-run single.

Jacksonville jumped on Marion early, plating three in the first inning. After Mitchell walked, Patrick Castleberry lined an 0-2 pitch to right and Nick Rodriguez was hit with a pitch to load the bases. Perry lined a two-run single down the line in right and

Tom Sanders’ groundout brought in another to make it 3-0.

Harmon struck out two batters in each of the first three innings, escaping atwo-on, no-out jam in the second when he picked a runner off second base. A two-out Jacksonville rally came up empty in the second after Brown singled and Mitchell walked.

Castleberry grounded out to short.

But with two outs in the fourth, the Red Devils broke through again. Jacob Abrahamson was plunked with a pitch and Brown beat out an infield single. Mitchell grounded a single back through the box to bring home Abrahamson and extend the lead to 4-0.

Doubles by Devon McClure and Brown made it 5-0 in the sixth.

The Red Devils made the most of a lot in the opener, picking up only seven hits. But their bats came to life in a big way in the mercy-rule rout in the nightcap. And none of those bats were stouter than Mitchell’s. The senior third baseman belted a home run and a double, drove in six runs and went 3 of 3. Brown added to his three-hit game in the opener with a single, a double and two RBI in the second game.

Castleberry added two hits and two RBI, while McClure and Tommy Sanders also picked up a pair of hits. Jacob Abrahamson was 1 of 1 and scored three times.

Seth Tomboli struck out eight and allowed four hits over five innings to pick up the win.

With the re-emergence of Harmon, Jacksonville now has a deep pitching staff with Tommy and Noah Sanders, Tomboli, Michael Lamb, Perry and Jesse Harbin.

“We feel pretty good about who we’re going to put out there (for the state tournament),” Burrows said. “It was also a big deal to get that bye.”

SPORTS >> Clinton’s big day

Leader sports editor

With only 256 slots available for would-be NFL draftees, things can get a little harrowing come late Sunday afternoon of draft weekend.

Clinton McDonald, former All-State linebacker for Jacksonville High School, can tell you all about it. The All-Conference USA First Team defensive tackle for the Memphis Tigers this past season, shot up the draft prospect charts after a sterling showing at a pro-day camp last week. This, after dishearteningly and surprisingly not receiving an invitation to the all-important NFL combine in February.

The 6-2, 283-pound son of Larry and Bonnie McDonald of Jacksonville, re-opened scouts’ eyes with his 36 reps (in the 225-pound bench press), his 38-inch vertical leap and his average of 4.83 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Memphis pro day camp. He was suddenly projected as a sixth-, fifth or even fourth-round prospect heading into last weekend.

It was no surprise and of little concern to McDonald or his parents when his name was not announced on Saturday, when only the first two rounds are concluded.

But as Sunday dragged past noon and the fifth round came and went, then the sixth round, tension began to mount.

“It was very much frustrating,” said Larry McDonald. “It got to where I was getting tired of seeing all those other people’s names coming up and them talking about them doing this or that.

“We tried to handle it as calmly as we could.”

By early Sunday evening, time was beginning to run out. The Seattle Seahawks, in need of defensive line help, selected 247th … and took defensive end Nick Reed of Oregon. The Seahawks had consecutive picks but took Cameron Morrah, a tight end out of California, as the 248th pick of the 2009 draft.

Then, Clinton finally heard his name. The Cincinnati Bengals, picking 40th in the final round – 249th overall – selected Clinton McDonald, who became only the second Red Devil to be drafted into the NFL. Arkansas Razorback Dan Hampton was the first when he was taken by the Chicago Bears as a fourth overall pick in the 1979 draft.

Three other Red Devils —Robert Thomas, Adrian Wilson and Chet Winters — made it to the NFL as free agents.

Bonnie said all that waiting on Sunday just fed her son’s fierce pride and hunger.

“It basically drove Clinton’s momentum back up,” she said. “He felt he was better than a lot of the guys who were drafted before him. That just makes him have more to go out there and prove.

“When I talked to him (Monday), he said he had been at the gym all evening long just getting prepared.”


That pride which led to the work ethic all his coaches rave about was forged in the grassy area outside of the McDonald’s home off Wright Loop Road in east Jacksonville. Bonnie said Clinton and his older brother Cleyton would play football against the older junior high boys after school.

“They’d come home with torn shirts and bloody noses,” she remembers. “Those two were always competing against each other.”

Cleyton, who is 15 months older than Clinton, went on to play at Mississippi Valley State, and Bonnie said the elder brother inspired him, even if they were battling each other much of the time.

“It’s like the old scripture says, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’” Bonnie said. “Those two going up against each other all the time made them both sharper.”

Cleyton, 23, and Clinton, 22, are the two oldest boys in the McDonald clan. Caleb, 15, currently plays for the Jacksonville 9th-grade team. Then there is 12-year-old Courtland. The siblings are book-ended, age-wise, by girls — Cleyardis, 29, and Candice, 6.

The first coach who saw something special in Clinton was Bryant Washington in the Parks and Recreation League. He told Bonnie that Clinton, who was then just 12 years old, would play on Sunday one day. Washington was also tipped off to another quality that has served Clinton well ever since — loyalty.

“Back then, the Jaguars were the losingest team in the league,” Bonnie said. “But the kids on that team and some of Clinton’s classmates would come and pick Clinton up and take him to the ball park to play football.

“Larry had promised the coach of the Vikings that Clinton would play on (the Vikings). Clinton said, ‘I’ll play for them if they really want me to, but I just feel like these other guys (from the Jaguars) had been loyal to me and were coming and getting me and the other coach didn’t come and get me, so I feel like my loyalty ought to remain here with the Jaguars.’”

Clinton stuck with the Jaguars, who ended up beating the Vikings that year.

That same loyalty — and the demand for it — played a part in Clinton’s choice to become a Tiger. He had a lot of options open to him, including, his father said, Nebraska, Rice, North Carolina, Duke, Vanderbilt, Arkansas State and Arkansas. The Razorbacks, though, decided back in the fall of 2004 — Clinton’s senior year at Jacksonville — to go the junior college route in their linebacker recruiting and, suddenly, they stopped contacting Clinton.

Meanwhile, according to Larry McDonald, Mississippi Valley State had just assumed that Clinton would come there since his older brother was already on the team. Clinton orally committed to Arkansas State, but immediately regretted it, his father said. In the meantime, earlier scholarship offers began going to other players and Clinton’s options began to dwindle.

But one school remained loyal to him: the University of Memphis. It turned out that Randy Fichtner, the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator for central Arkansas, had kept Clinton’s scholarship available, much to the happy surprise of Clinton. That was the kind of respect and acknowledgment he was looking for. Fichtner also told Clinton that, if he came in prepared, he would see immediate playing time. Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts pretty much had a policy of redshirting his freshmen.

It was a good choice for Larry and Bonnie, too, who traveled to watch both of their sons play (Cleyton was then a junior at Mississippi Valley State). The trip from Jacksonville to Memphis was much easier and much more direct than the one from Jacksonville to Jonesboro.


McDonald ended up getting quite a bit of playing time as a freshman at Memphis, though most of it came on special teams. Still, he was one of only six freshmen Tigers to see action.

As a sophomore, he started 10 games and made 41 stops, including two for loss. He was also credited with half a sack and a fumble recovery. He began to come into his own as a junior, when he was named the Tigers’ Defensive Co-player of the Year and earned Conference USA honorable mention after starting all 13 games and leading the team with 9.5 tackles for loss. That included a team-high four sacks.

Despite suffering an ankle injury that caused him to miss nearly four games his senior season, he was still picked as a First Team All-Conference USA defender, finishing fourth in the league in sacks with seven. Four of those came in one game against Arkansas State.

“He’s the most complete player I’ve ever been around,” said Memphis defensive line coach Brent Pry. “As far as practice, preparation and game, he was just a well-rounded football player with the ultimate commitment. He’s been a great example to our younger d-linemen as far as work ethic.”

His failure to get an invitation to the NFL combine in February can be chalked up to several factors. Clinton had chosen not to get an agent — despite being pursued by four of them — until he finished his college career. Larry thinks Clinton’s high ankle sprain early in 2008 might also have contributed to the non-invite.

And Bonnie points out that the combine held open a lot of slots for juniors this year, bumping seniors who might otherwise have received invitations. That shunning fed Clinton’s determination, Bonnie said, and he worked even harder to make sure his pro-day camp would put him high up on scouts’ radar again, though Clinton’s performance in the Shrine Bowl practices already had those scouts sitting up and taking notice.

“Those numbers that he put up (at the camp) confirmed that he was what he was,” Larry said. “After that camp, the calls really started coming in, from the Seahawks, the Jaguars, the Bills and the Eagles.”

Pry said it’s hard to say just how far McDonald can go in the NFL, only that he thinks the Bengal organization got a steal.

“I know one thing, he’ll make them want to keep him,” Pry said. “If he’d been healthy, this could have been a really special season for him. He was just beginning to flower and reach his potential as a defensive tackle.

“He’s a guy I really enjoyed coaching. He was a coach’s dream.”


Jacksonville athletic director and former head basketball coach Jerry Wilson remembers McDonald as a supremely gifted athlete, and not just in football.

“He came in as a sophomore and stood there flatfooted and dunked the ball,” Wilson recalls. “I told him, ‘You need to play basketball.’ And I think he was all-conference. He was also good in track, but he knew where his future was.”

McDonald played football for Johnny Watson, currently the athletic director at Little Rock Christian Academy, who compares McDonald to Robert Thomas. Thomas went on to become a blocking back for the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmit Smith.

Both Thomas and McDonald, Watson said, were big, ran well and loved the weight room.

McDonald, with his size, played nose guard at the junior high level, but Watson said he decided to take advantage of his speed and turn him into a linebacker when he reached high school. With his ability to run and his 240-pound frame, McDonald dominated the 5A, and was named Outstanding Lineman his senior year.

“We knew he was going to be good, but he just got so much better his senior year,” Watson said. “Of course the higher up you go, the faster and more physical the game becomes.

“He put on 50 pounds (at Memphis) but he could still run.”

Both his parents say that Clinton, for all the acclaim and awards, didn’t necessarily receive the notoriety of others around the state his senior year at Jacksonville. Larry tells the story of the Arkansas High School All-Star game in 2005, when Clinton went largely unnoticed. Until, that is, he stood up Darren McFadden on a running play.

“It was kind of like nobody was paying much attention to him and McFadden was just running over everybody,” Larry said with a laugh. “Then McFadden ran into Clinton and McFadden got up and said, ‘Mac, you the man.’”

Few athletes are blessed with McDonald’s gifts, but according to both Watson and Wilson, it isn’t his only blessing. Wilson said the impact of Larry’s and Bonnie’s involvement in their children’s lives is something that can’t be overestimated.

“The really good thing about Clinton is the strong parental support he receives,” Wilson said. “His mom and dad don’t miss a game. That says a lot in this day and age, to get that backing from both parents.”

Watson also credited Clinton’s parents with their son’s success.

“He was all ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’” Watson said. “There was no fooling around with Clinton. And I think it was because of his mom and dad. They really supported him.

“I’ve been keeping up with Clinton and I knew he had a chance to make it. This is a great day for him.”