Saturday, September 19, 2009

SPORTS >> Youngsters get their time

Special to The Leader

Everyone got to play. That was about the best thing to come out of the Cabot Panthers’ 48-0 victory over Little Rock Hall Friday night at Scott Field in Little Rock.

The mercy rule was not invoked until midway through the third quarter, but only because of a missed extra point late in the second half that left the halftime score 34-0.

Other than two fumbles, one of which appeared to happen after Cabot’s Spencer Smith had crossed the goal line, the Panthers performed flawlessly on offense. From the first string to the fourth, everyone moved the ball effectively against the Warriors.

“I thought we executed very well offensively,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “Fumbles like that are going to hurt us in a close game, so we can’t have that. We didn’t play the starters very much, but we didn’t want to sit them too much because we don’t want them off for two weeks before conference starts.”

Cabot used very little of its offense, running between the tackles on every play. No passes, no options, just hand off left and hand off right. It was all it needed. The Panthers compiled 395 total yards to just 66 for Hall.

The defense was effective too, getting the Panthers on the scoreboard on the second snap of the game. Deep penetration led to a tipped pitch, which defensive tackle Jay Turpin plucked out of the air and ran 14 yards for the first touchdown of the game with 11:14 left in the first quarter.

Hall went backwards again on its second drive, and a tipped punt set the Panther offense up at the Warrior 27. Just under three minutes later, Smith dove in from the 1 and the extra point made it 14-0 with 7:31 left in the first quarter.

The defense held Hall again with no yardage on three plays, and the offense this time started in its own territory at the 47.

However it only took five plays with halfback Matt Bayles going the final yard for the score with 4:02 left.

Hall went three and out two more times, totaling minus 2 yards. The Cabot starting defense didn’t play after the second quarter clock showed 9:50, but in five Warrior possessions, it held its host to minus 12 total yards.

Cabot fumbled the ball away on its next two possessions, but still found time for two more touchdowns in the final 3:44 of the half. The fourth score came on a 13 yard run by Hunter Sales, the fifth on a 7-yard run by Jeremy Berry.

Sophomore Chase Campbell became the workhorse in the third quarter. He carried six times on the opening drive of the half, including a 3-yard run with 7:39 on the clock that triggered the mercy rule.

The final score came with 5:10 left in the game on a 10-yard run by junior halfback Andre Ausejo. It was Ausejo’s third trip to the end zone on the drive, but the first one that wasn’t accompanied by a Panther penalty.

Smith led the Panthers with 74 yards on nine carries. Sales totaled 70 yards on six carries. Campbell carried eight times for 62 yards and Berry had 47 on six rushes.

The Panthers are now 3-0 and will play host to archrival Conway next week to open 7A-Central play.

SPORTS >> Rabbits fail to capitalize against CAC

Leader staff writer

Missed opportunities came back to bite Lonoke on Mustang Mountain.

The Jackrabbits had a chance to go up by two scores over Central Arkansas Christian heading into halftime, and missed out on two other scoring opportunities in the second half as CAC handed Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost his first loss, 21-7, on Friday.

“We knew CAC was a great team, and we knew that defensively, they were going to blitz the heck out of us and they did that,” Bost said. “We didn’t really get our running game going until the second quarter. If we could have gone up 14-0 or 10-0 at halftime, we would have felt really good about it. But we go three and out to start the third quarter, then they scored from there.

“We had three touchdowns we didn’t get, and three interceptions. We really didn’t have any turnovers in the first two games, but it hit us tonight.”

Lonoke’s only score of the game was set up after an interception by Jackrabbits sophomore linebacker T.J. Scott with 6:32 left in the first half. Lonoke had the ball at its own 16, but a bad snap pinned the Jackrabbits at their 2.

A rush for Brandon Smith was stopped at the line of scrimmage on second down, but he broke through on the next play for a 98-yard touchdown run with 5:21 left in the half. Scott added the extra point to give Lonoke a 7-0 lead.

The Jackrabbits (2-1) tried to add a 20-yard field goal with 2.7 seconds left in the half, but it was wide right.

CAC (2-1) tied the score with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jay Bona to Jonathan Johnson at the 5:21 mark of the third quarter.

The Mustangs did not get their go-ahead score until 2:54 left in the game on a 1-yard run. CAC added the game-clinching touchdown with 2:18 left to play when Logan Wright intercepted a Lonoke pass and returned it 31 yards.

Lonoke had 284 yards of total offense. Quarterback Michael Nelson was 9 of 25 for 82 yards with three interceptions. Smith had 19 carries for 160 yards and Morgan Linton had five catches for 42 yards.

CAC had 249 total yards. Bona was 13 of 25 passing for 124 yards.

“We were short-handed tonight; we had three starters out,” Bost said. “But we had other guys who stepped up and competed hard. It was our first road game, and we wanted to come away with a win, but it all starts next week.”

The Jackrabbits will begin 2-4A Conference play next week at Heber Springs.

SPORTS >> Eagles stop Beebe charge

Leader staff writer

The only fourth-quarter score spelled doom for Beebe against Vilonia on Friday.

The Badgers (0-3) pulled to within four points late in the third quarter, but could not generate another score, as the Eagles pulled away to 35-24 victory at Bro Erwin Stadium.

Senior fullback Adam Griffis scored on a 1-yard run with 2:31 left to play in the third quarter and ran in the two-point conversion to cut the Eagles’ lead to 28-24, but Vilonia sophomore standout running back James Sax iced the game on an 11-yard touchdown run with 9:56 to play.

The Eagles defense took advantage on a pair of key stops on fourth down. The first led to the second score of the night, and the second led to the final touchdown that put it away for Vilonia.

“It was back and forth there, and we were running out of time,” Badgers coach John Shannon said. “We went to something we weren’t completely comfortable with and ended up turning the ball over. We tried to throw the ball late and gave it to them.”

Junior quarterback Scott Gowen put the Badgers on the scoreboard first with a 27-yard touchdown run with 3:06 left in the first half and he ran in the two-point conversion to make it 14-8.

Vilonia quarterback Eric Ebmeyer put the Eagles up by two scores early on with touchdown runs of 1 and 32 yards.

Sax, who led Vilonia with 130 yards on 15 carries, also proved dangerous on special teams. He took the kickoff that followed Gowen’s touchdown and went 52 yards to give the Eagles a 21-8 lead at halftime.

Griffis struck first for the Badgers in the second half with a 33-yard touchdown run and ran in the two-point conversion with 11:09 left in the third quarter. Larry Lewis answered later in the quarter for the Eagles with a 7-yard run for the score.

Gowen led the Badgers with 115 yards on 17 carries. Vilonia had 331 yards of total offense, compared to 317 for Beebe.

The loss made three setbacks in a row to start the 2009 season for the Badgers.

“Right now, there’s a little frustration,” Shannon said. “We just have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, because conference starts next week. I told the guys that the first three games are fun to win, but next week is when it starts to count.

We have to pick things up quick, and go to Crossett next week and win.”

SPORTS >> Warriors pull away from Falcons

Leader staff writer

The good news for the North Pulaski Falcons was that they held all-state running back and major college prospect Michael Dyer of Little Rock Christian to 116 yards rushing in the first half — and had 10 more yards of total offense in that time.

The bad news was the Warriors capitalized on every Falcons mistake for 28 first-half points on their way to a 35-6 victory on Friday at Falcon Stadium.

Dyer broke free on a 50-yard sweep left to give Christian (3-0) a 14-0 lead with 8:39 left in the second quarter, and scored the Warriors’ next touchdown on a 15-yard screen pass from quarterback Jessie Stone with 4:17 left in the half.

Dyer finished with 116 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown, and had two receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown.

“Yeah, I’m happy with that. We won, and just came out and played a good game,” said Dyer, who was limited by coach Justin Kramer to just offense.

The scoreboard did not reflect the bright spots for the Falcons (0-3), which included 258 yards of total offense compared to 248 for Little Rock Christian.

“Starting the game, we played really well,” North Pulaski coach Rick Russell said. “We just have to go to the next play a little better. The mistakes have got to be left behind when we make them, and go to the next play and try to execute. And they did that for the most part.

“We do have some things to build on, and we’re going to correct some of the mistakes and hopefully be a better football team.”

The Warriors enacted the mercy rule with 7:35 left in the third quarter when Stone found Dakota Mosby for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Nathan Gay added his fifth straight successful extra point to make it 35-0.

The Falcons were determined to avoid the shutout, and Shyheim Barron led the offense down the field in the final five minutes, finding Arlando Hicks for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the field with 23 seconds to play.

Mat Ingersol’s extra-point attempt was wide right to keep the final margin at 35-6.

Junior linebacker Darrius Cage was keyed in on Dyer in the first half. Dyer’s first carry was for only 3 yards, as Cage burst through the blocking to take him down at the Falcon 48.

The Warriors went for a pair of pass plays, both of which were incomplete.

Cage and Billy Barron then teamed up to stop Dyer for a 2-yard gain on the first play of Christian’s next possession. But Stone set up Dyer’s first touchdown run with a keep for 15 yards that pushed the ball to midfield.

“I’m very proud of the defense,” Russell said, praising defensive coordinator J.B. Pendergraft. “They flew to the football. They listened to their coach. Coach Pendergraft had a great scheme, and they ran to the football and played well against him, they really did. I’m proud of them, they kept us in it in the first half.”

North Pulaski moved the ball 67 yards to the Christian 6 to start the game, but the Warriors forced a fourth and goal.

Quarterback Shyheim Barron scrambled and avoided the sack three different times, but finally threw into the hands of Christian
defender Keaton Curtis, who returned the interception 98 yards for the first score of the night.

“That’s been the story all year,” Russell said. “We get to a good start out of the box, and something bad happens. We’ve just got to learn to deal with adversity and keep plugging. I think they did that a little bit better than they have the last two games.

Stone went 0 for 5 before finding Dyer for the score mid-way through the second quarter, but he finally got the passing game in order on the Warriors’ next drive. It took two plays to put Christian up by four scores.

The first was a 23-yard pass to Tyler Bass that gave the Warriors a first down at their 49. The next was a fade to Elliot McElhanon that turned into a 51-yard touchdown play with 1:40 left in the half.

It was season low rushing numbers for Dyer, who now stands at 643 rushing yards for the season, 885 yards short of Vernon Hicks’ state record.

“I’m very excited about how our defense played tonight,” Dyer said. “When the defense is that good, I’m excited. I just do my part. Some days it’s just 115 (yards), or whatever it is, but I just do my part. No big deal.”

Dyer also did not shy away from college talk after the game.

“I’m going to Auburn tomorrow,” Dyer said, anticipating a visit with offensive coordinator, former Arkansas assistant and former Springdale High School coach Gus Malzahn. “Coach Malzahn invited me to come and sit down. I’m going to enjoy it and just have a good time.”

Stone was 5 of 14 passing for 115 yards and three touchdowns.

Syheim Barron was 7 of 11 passing for 146 yards and a touchdown, with an interception for the Falcons.

SPORTS >> Turnovers, penalties sink Red Devils

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville veered into trouble against Mills on Friday.

The Red Devils committed six turnovers, plus penalties, and couldn’t contain the Comets’ veer offense at critical times as Mills won 24-14 at Jan Crow Stadium.

“We played ugly football tonight no question about it,” Jacksonville Coach Mark Whatley said of the four lost fumbles and two interceptions.

The Red Devils also committed five penalties for 50 yards.

“We’re a better football team than that and for us to play better we’re going to have to play from our heart and our head a little better,” Whatley said.

Just as costly to Jacksonville, in its final non-conference tune-up before opening 6A-East play next week, was the running of Mills junior halfback Stephen Clark, who had 159 yards on five carries, scoring on two long runs and setting up a touchdown with another.

“He’s been kind of a rookie and hopefully tonight was kind of a coming out party for him,” Mills coach Patrick Russell said. “He certainly figured it out a little bit. Three plays there he probably had 150 yards of offense or more and it makes me look a lot smarter.”

Mills led 18-7 at halftime and made it 24-7 when Clark went right and scored on a 59-yard run with 4:48 left in the third quarter.

During a fourth-quarter sequence, Mills fumbled, Jacksonville fumbled it back, then the ball popped out again on a Mills rushing attempt and Jacksonville’s Reggie Crudup grabbed the ball out of the air and the Red Devils started on their 26 with 9:35 left in the game.

Jacksonville drove for Keith Mosby’s 1-yard touchdown run that cut it to 24-14 with 5:58 left. John Johnson had a 12-yard carry on the possession, Logan Perry had a 15-yard completion to Tyler Crook, Mosby had a 12-yard carry and Perry hit D’Vone McClure on a 21-yard gain to the 3.

The Red Devils got a defensive stop, but their final possession ended with another lost fumble and the Comets were able to bleed the final minute off the clock.

“You don’t block, you don’t tackle and don’t take care of the football you don’t win a lot of games,” Whatley said.

Jacksonville plays at Mountain Home in its first conference game next week. Mills, of the 5A-Southeast, plays host to Monticello.

Mills took an 18-7 halftime lead with help from two long runs by Clark.

The halfback broke through the right side to cap the opening possession with a 54-yard run with 9:20 left in the first quarter of what turned out to be a penalty- and mistake-marred half.Mills defensive lineman Rico Perkins recovered a fumbled snap by Jacksonville’s Logan Perry at the Red Devils 44 with 4:06 to go in the quarter, and after one play Clark turned in a 29-yard run for first and goal at the 5.

Quarterback Chris Hampton took it in from there for the 12-0 lead with 3:12 to go and the Comets’ second attempt at a conversion failed.

Jacksonville drove from its 29 on the next possession, with Perry completing four passes, including a 28-yard connection to Keith Mosby, and scored on a 38-yard run by Doug Sprouse to pull within 12-7 with 11:07 left in the half.

Mills specialist Scott Jones mishandled the ensuing kickoff but got loose for a 42-yard return, and the Comets drove to Red Devils 14 before being thrown back, with Crudup dropping Hampton for a 5-yard loss to set up fourth and 13.

But Hampton intercepted Perry to end Jacksonville’s next possession, and Mills drove from the Red Devils 49 and score when Patrick Johnny made a falling down catch of Hampton’s 15-yard pass to the left corner with 16 seconds left. The conversion run failed and Damon Sewell intercepted Perry in the closing seconds to leave it 18-7 at halftime.

Sewell was injured on the play and treated by paramedics throughout the halftime break. He was immobilized and taken away, and appeared to be moving his hands and feet.

“He was tackled with his head down and felt some tingling and things and got a little groggy so for a precaution they took him,” Russell said.

Jacksonville committed four penalties for 30 yards in the first half and Mills committed four for 35.

Friday, September 18, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Blanche finds her groove

Back in the 1970s, the news reports regularly described Rep. Wilbur D. Mills of White County as “the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee,” Sen. John L. McClellan as “the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee” and Sen. J. William Fulbright as “the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Glory days those were when little Arkansas boasted three of the most influential men in Washington, whom presidents approached deferentially, and callow members of Congress knelt to touch the hem of their garments.

We were never sure what Arkansas got out of their immense prestige. Our large quotient of elderly and poor got Medicare and Medicaid, thanks to Mills’ power and legerdemain with the legislative process. We gained a measure of international peace from Fulbright’s intellectual labors. We got the Arkansas River navigation system thanks to McClellan and Sen. Robert S. Kerr of Oklahoma, his Appropriations teammate. (Dale Bumpers, an Appropriations member but never chairman, probably got more and worthier pork for the state.) Regardless, we felt important in Arkansas, like we had a big hand in the country’s destiny.

A quarter-century after that, the next generation of eminences, Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, were gone from the Senate, too. Bumpers had chaired the lightly regarded Senate Committee on Small Business, but he was known as Congress’s foremost orator and a lawmaker of unusual intelligence and principle. David Pryor was known as the best-loved member of the Senate, on both sides of the aisle. Since 1999, when both had departed, it has felt like Arkansas was the wimp of Congress. We have always had a problem with our self-esteem in Arkansas.

Last week, that suddenly changed. Although the word “powerful” is yet to be attached to her title, Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln is the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition. The death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy caused a shuffling of chairmanships that left Agriculture open to its ranking Democrat. She is the first woman to chair the committee and one of the youngest chairs ever.

Agriculture is one of the big committees. Its portfolio is huge, touching the food, fiber and energy that we consume and export around the world. Blanche Lincoln was suddenly transformed from one of the four score or more ciphers in the U. S. Senate to someone who counts. It is a big deal.

So big that this week the editorial page of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, which has scorned her since she went to the Senate in 1999, sang her praises and found the most majestic portrait of her it could find to place at the top of the column. The political firmament shakes.

Some were saying that it virtually assures Sen. Lincoln’s re-election next year. Polls have shown her floundering below 50 percent in job approval and faring poorly against any of a big field of Republican nobodies.

A big committee chairmanship raises Lincoln’s national prestige considerably, but we are not sure it means that much to ordinary Arkansas voters. In the end, her re-election will depend upon whether voters like her instinctively more than her opponent, whoever it will be, and whether they think of her as a person of principle regardless of her stand on specific issues.

Her vacillating stance on nearly everything the past several years — health care, labor reform, tax cuts, the war, climate change, you name it — has damaged everyone’s fair image of her. Maybe her newfound authority will put some starch into her backbone. We hope so. We like Blanche Lincoln.

For sure, the chairmanship will reinforce her standing with some big constituencies: farmers, the forestry industry and the Arkansas-based food and retail giants like Tyson, Walmart and Riceland. They already supported her, but re-electing her now will become a crusade.

There is simply too much at stake. An example: In 2007, Sen. Lincoln blocked the certain passage of a farm-law amendment that would have put a $250,000 cap on agricultural subsidies for any farm operation, a reform sought by urban-state liberals and some conservative Republicans. They had the votes, but Lincoln’s threatened filibuster forced them to abandon it.

Such is the power of the chairman of the Agriculture Committee that nothing she disapproves will ever likely even surface.

Lincoln champions the cause of every Arkansas business, whether it is worthy in the national context or not, and she is now in position to protect and advance their every interest.

That is some potent support in any statewide election.

Let us extend our congratulations to the senator for having achieved such exalted status for our poor state. And let us hope that she uses the power not simply for the protection of parochial interests but balance those interests with the national welfare. We are, after all, Americans first, Arkansans second.

TOP STORY >> Parents prefer charter schools

Leader senior staff writer

Enthusiastic but very different community meetings were held Tuesday evening when residents and officials discussed changing Jacksonville Star Academy and Harris Elementary School into conversion charter schools.

The schools will still be part of the Pulaski County Special School District. But they will be eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in start-up money and also special waivers from the state Education Board.

Two parents, each with a child, attended the Star Academy meeting and other interested Jacksonville residents visited with district officials at the old Jacksonville Girls Middle School. But an hour later, about 45 people filled all the available seats in a Harris Elementary computer lab.

The Star Academy is a special credit-recovery, dropout-prevention program that helps students get back on track for timely graduation. This year 61 students from Jacksonville High School students are involved.

Classes are small and instruction concentrated. The students take all ninth-grade classes in the first semester, all 10th-grade classes in the second semester and return to high school for 11th grade, if successful. They also have to take a math class in the summer.

Deborah McAfee, the district’s grants administrator, told the Star Academy group that district officials would like to expand the program to include students from other high schools and eventually to home-schooled students.

Cassandra Steed told McAfee that her daughter Kaiesha loves the Star Academy.

“I had a sister who died last week and (Kaiesha) didn’t want to go to the funeral — didn’t want to miss even a day of school,” Steed said.

“I’m more focused than I was in regular school,” Kaiesha Steed said.

“She’s interested and that’s the important part,” her mother said. “This is the most interest she’s shown in the last five years.”

Several administrators and board members Bill Vasquez and Danny Gilliland attended both meetings. Board member Gwen Williams attended the Harris meeting. Harris is in Williams’ zone.

This was not the first rodeo for most of the parents attending the Harris meeting. The school, where a large percentage of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches, is climbing out from academic distress and parental involvement has been good.

It already has a health and science focus. Some of the people at the meeting were on the steering committee that helped the school make that transition.

At least two people volunteered to help if the school and district redouble efforts at science-based elementary education.

NASA already partners with the school. Several community tutors were working in the multimedia center Tuesday.

McAfee said the district wants to get the money and leeway from the state to equip the rooms with microscopes, smart boards and more computers when needed.

The school can use the money — $150,000 a year for three years — to set up science labs for chemistry and biology.

There is a “PE for Life” program that teaches children about nutrition and exercise and taking care of themselves throughout their lives to help them stay healthy, McAfee said.

Principal Lou Jackson, formerly at Sylvan Hills, seemed very enthusiastic about the opportunity. She had already invited an University of Arkansas at Little Rock public school liaison who specializes in science to help implement the new program.

“I started the science lab at Carver Elementary School,” said Lola Perritt, the UALR director of the Central Education Renewal Zone. “We equipped my science lab like a high school science lab,” she said. “I want to allay some of your fears. Kids absolutely love science. It looks great to me.”

Perritt said she also helped write the state benchmarks for science.

“It’s a different strategy for engaging the child,” McAfee said. “Harris plans this, not Deborah McAfee,” she said.

“We hope the enrollment will increase and hope the teachers will stay,” she said. The teachers will get professional development help geared toward the new programs.

She said she hopes the teachers will be excited and commit to stay for three years.

“What’s going to change is the excitement about learning,” McAfee said.

TOP STORY >> Budget set, cuts to be considered

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board on Thursday night unanimously approved a $65.6 million operating budget for 2009-2010 that is $1.6 million larger than last year’s without including the $1.8 million in additional state money for the district’s 3.9 percent growth rate.

Dr. Tony Thurman, school superintendent, explained to board members that he didn’t include the additional $1.8 million as revenue because he is trying to cut spending. Growth money is based on quarterly enrollments. If enrollment goes down, the district has to pay money back to the state, he said, so growth money is revenue that can’t be completely counted on. When it comes in, it will go into the building fund, which is not part of the operating budget, he said.

The $33 million budgeted for teachers’ salaries is up $2 million from last year and includes $1,000 raises in the base pay, that Thurman said he would give if possible. Pay increases of 30 cents an hour is included for classified staff.

Operations and maintenance is up from $6.2 million to $6.8 million, in part from opening the new junior high school. Debt payment on construction is up from $3.7 million to $4.2 million.

The budget includes a $4.8 million carryover. Local revenue is projected to increase from $17.5 million to $21 million because of the higher millage approved by voters and higher assessment. The projected carryover in June 2010 is $5.3 million.

Thurman told the board that the state wants school districts to carry over about 8 percent of their operating budgets. The projected $5.3 million is 8.06 percent.

The operating budget does not include the $19.3 million in the building fund that will pay for the construction that is ongoing across the district.

In other business, Bill Holden, head of custodial services for the district, talked about efforts to stop the spread of the H1N1 flu that Thurman said is causing absenteeism among teachers and students similar to the seasonal flu.

Holden said teachers are emphasizing hand washing. His staff uses a new sanitizer on all desks and non-alcoholic, foaming hand sanitizer stations have been placed outside cafeterias, offices and at the entrances used by children when they come in from recess.

Holden said he researched to find a non-alcohol-based product endorsed by the Center for Disease Control because the alcohol-based foams are flammable.

Thurman praised Holden saying the district had to have products to help fight the flu but vendors knew Holden would not tolerate inflated prices. He made it clear price gouging would not be allowed.

“He’s like the guy you want to take with you to buy a car,” Thurman said.

During a construction update, Thurman said the district will pay $300,000 to bring the football stadium into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. That project will start in December.

The district has purchased the Funtastics building on Highway 321 and will remodel it for the alternative school and charter school known as the ALE and ACE (Alternative Learning Environment and Academic Center of Excellence).Thurman told the board that an auction of the equipment in the building netted about $60,000 that will be used to help pay for the remodeling.

The board unanimously approved these officers for the 2009-2010 school year: Wendel Msall, president; Ken Kincade, vice president; and Dean Martin, secretary.

The Thursday meeting was the first for new board member Corey Williams who was elected Tuesday. Williams was sworn in by District Judge Joe O’Bryan.

TOP STORY >> Fallfest is evening event this year

It was so hot last year during Beebe Fallfest that some performers had the misfortune of passing out on stage.

So this year the festival will be held from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the weather will be cooler.

But even though the event, set for Saturday, Sept. 26 will be only six hours long, organizers say it will be better than in years past with a carnival-like atmosphere.

Festivalgoers can also enjoy catfish and barbecue prepared by local vendors. In addition to catfish and barbecue, standard festival fare such as funnel cakes, hotdogs, corndogs and cotton candy will be available.

Event chairman Jesse Boyce said a food court will be available for festivalgoers who would rather sit and eat than walk around with their food, an idea borrowed from Cabotfest.

Entertainment for the event will include a pep rally with the Beebe Badger football team and cheerleaders, gospel singing by the Freedom Four and a performance by Beebe Martial Arts.

The Paper Boys, a classic rock band, will perform from 7 to 9 p.m.

The downtown section of Main Street will be roped closed to traffic for the event.

Beebe Chamber of Commerce is in charge of the festival for the third year in a row and Boyce said he is convinced it can be a moneymaker if it offers enough to draw a crowd.

In the past, the booths for businesses and organizations have offered information and possibly stickers for the children, but little else, he said. This year, booths will have games. The Kiwanis Club, for example, will have a goldfish game for children.

TOP STORY >> One family’s journey to America

The Kwangkeow family celebrates after Mike was sworn in as an American citizen at the Clinton Library on Thursday.

Mike, right, during the singing of the national anthem at this oath ceremony.

Leader senior staff writer

When the Arkansas lottery kicks off later this month, how can anyone win a prize dearer than that won by Visarut “Mike” Kwangkeow and his family about seven years ago?

The Kwangkeows, interested in emigrating from Thailand to the United States to pursue the economic and educational benefits, were chosen by lottery to be allowed to immigrate, Mike remembers.

Today, his parents are about 55, his brother is 27, his sister is 31 and he is 19.

Thursday, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright swore him in as a U.S. citizen.

A Parkview High School graduate, Mike has worked about 20 hours a week since August 2008 at The Leader doing layout and graphic design. And while his English needed some tuning up when he arrived to the U.S., today he understands and speaks English like a native, sometimes even adding a little slang to his sentences.

He’s in his second year at Pulaski Technical College, where he’s studying graphic arts and computer science.

He immigrated with his mother, father and older brother. His sister joined them about a month ago. The family lives in Jacksonville.

Saturdays they sell pan-Asian delicacies in a concession trailer at the Beebe flea market. Their featured treat is the Sam egg roll, named for his father.

Before they immigrated, both of his parents were teachers in Chainat, he said.

Since arriving his mother has worked at Walmart in Jacksonville.

His brother works at Maybelline.

Being a citizen will open up a lot more opportunities, he said. “It’s something to be proud of.”

“We knew there was a better standard of living, a lot of opportunity to make many things happen,” he said.

Still, he does miss friends and the traditional Thai cooking, and toward that end, his mother and sister both dream of opening a restaurant here, one of the traditional paths employed by immigrants seeking a piece of the American dream.

The family was supposed to settle in California. But his mother had a friend living in Jacksonville who opened her home to them while they were getting settled.

“We like it here,” he said.

Mike said that in the U.S., “It’s easier to be myself, to make a living and to live a happy life.”

“I do feel different. Now I’m an American,” he said.


Leader staff writer

At least 60 area outlets are among the 1,600 businesses ranging from gas stations, convenience stores, tobacco shops, liquor stores, pawnshops and laundry mats that have received permission from the state to sell scholarship lottery tickets.

Local stores are busy setting up machines that will sell the lottery tickets.

Tickets will go one sale starting Monday, Sept. 28 .

Alford Tobacco at 1400 W. Dewitt Henry Drive in Beebe had their lottery machines installed at the store last Saturday.

A satellite dish for the lottery was installed the week before.

The store clerks are attending classes on the lottery this upcoming week in Little Rock.

Customers are itching for the first day that scratch-off lottery tickets go on sell next Monday, Sept. 28.

Tobacco store owner Judy Alford said, “We’ve had a good response. People are excited about it. We are thinking about opening earlier. People are asking when we are opening that day.”

The tobacco store opens for business at 7 a.m. Alford expects there will be crowd waiting in line.

Store clerk Regina Worthy said, “It is going to be busy, fast. The daily and weekly customers, most of them will play. Most have said they would buy 20 (tickets) the first day.”

Customers at Alford Tobacco expressed a growing interest in playing the lottery.

“You are dang right. I will buy tickets everyday if I can and if I have the money,” Todd Allison of Beebe said.

“If I am in here, I’ll buy one,” Marty Dean of Beebe said.

Bobby Holt of Jacksonville said he enjoys gambling. Holt traveled out of state to play the lottery.

Chase Coleman of El Paso considered playing the lottery. He said, “Maybe. I’m not against it. If I have a little extra money to spend, I don’t see why not.”

Christopher Brannen of Austin said, “Everyone is going to buy tickets the first day. I am going to wait a few weeks.”

Bridgette Frazier, with the state lottery commission, said the No. 1 question the commission gets is: “When can we buy lottery tickets? That’ll be Sept. 28.”

She said the second most asked question is when does the Powerball start? That’s Oct. 31.

Frazier said the lottery is starting with four different tickets: A $1 ticket, two different $2 tickets and a $5 ticket with prizes ranging from $2 to $100,000.

“We plan to add new tickets every month,” she said. Christmas-style tickets will come out in November and the state online pick-three and pick-four games will start in December.

“Eventually a retailer will have about 20 different lottery tickets for sale,” Frazier said.

The net profits from the lottery will be used to fund college scholarships.

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who pushed the lottery idea, said he expects the lottery to bring in $100 million for scholarship use.

Local retailers approved to sell the tickets are:


Junction Arkansas Station at 24109 Hwy. 107, J&J Mart at 2215 N. First St., In and Out convenience store at 4071 Hwy. 294, In and Out Express at 705 S. First St., Han’s Citgo gas station at 1521 S. Hwy. 161, Flash Market at 2255 John Harden Drive, Extra Stop convenience store at 1527 W. Main St., YKH Citgo at 120 Marshall Road and Discount Tobacco at 501 S. James St.

Tickets will also be sold at Jones Food Mart at 3701 N. First St., T-Rick’s convenience store at 14815 Hwy. 107, Family Mart at 713 S. First St., Victory Lane convenience store at 1801 Military Road, Express Mart at 1530 W. Main St., CJ’s Country Market at 7404 Batesville Pike, Olmstead Trade Center at 9240 Jacksonville-Conway Road, H&D Mini-Mart at 14218 Hwy. 107 and Macon 66 gas station at 22311 Hwy. 107.


The Crackerbox convenience store at 9250 Brockington Road, the EZ Mart at 2200 E. Kiehl Ave., Kiehl Phillip’s 66 at 8524 Hwy. 107, Murphy USA gas station at 400 W. Maryland Ave., Come N Get It convenience store at 1706 Batesville Pike, Payless Tobacco at 250-B W. Kiehl Ave., Flash Market at 8623 Warden Road, Tobacco World at 14509 Hwy. 107, Lucky Mart at 14508 Hwy. 107 and Sherwood Beverage at 4099 E. Kiehl Ave. will sell tickets.

Tickets will also be sold at Wildwood Phillip’s 66 at 2428 Wildwood, Kiehl Avenue Liquor at 4200 Kiehl Ave., Superstop gas station at 8604 Hwy. 107, Big Red store at 3900 E. Kiehl Ave. and the Stop One Food Mart at 3011 E. Kiehl Ave.


Tickets will be sold at Murphy USA gas station at 208 S. Rockwood Road, Crackerbox convenience store at 1324 W. Main St., Alford Tobacco Store at 521 W. Main St., The Washboard at 100 N. First St., Pumps Foodmart at 3001 S. Hwy. 89, Nash’s convenience store at 914 W. Main St., Doublebee’s convenience store at 111 Bill Forster Memorial Road, Cabot Main Street Shell at 1120 Main St. and DB Tobacco Shoppe at 3290 S. Second St.

Tickets will also be sold at Ace Liquor Store at 8106 T.P. White Drive, the AC convenience store at 12135 Second St. and the Big Red Store at 12410 Hwy. 5.


The Lonoke Shell at 1695 N. Center St., the Tobacco Superstore at 504 N. Center St., Doublebee’s convenience store at 100 Dee Dee Lane, Furlow Grocery at 10623 S. Hwy. 89 and the Crackerbox convenience store at 1954 N. Hwy. 31 will be lottery proprietors.


The Flash Market at 409 Hickory and Bill’s Sales, Rentals and More at 602 Elm St., both in Ward, and Dude’s Place at 3811 Hwy. 38 in Austin will sell lottery tickets.


Doublebee’s convenience store at 3097 Hwy. 5 and El Paso Shell at 1820 Hwy. 64 will sell lottery tickets.


The Flash Market at 2015 DeWitt Henry Drive, Alford Tobacco at 1400 W. DeWitt Henry Drive, Alford’s 66 gas station at 101 W. DeWitt Henry Drive, C&C Conoco at 1104 W. Mississippi, Movie Mania at 306 DeWitt Henry Drive and the Big Red store at 21 W. Hwy. 64 will all sell lottery tickets.


The Kwik Stop at 211 E. Race St., Murphy USA gas station at 3509 E. Race St., Flash Market at 1250 Truman Baker Dr., Holy Smoke’s Tobacco Shop at 811 S. Main St., Tobacco Superstore at 1501 W. Pleasure and Exxon Foodmart at 1720 W. Hwy. 36 will sell tickets.

Tickets will also be sold at Doublebee’s convenience store at 3401 E. Race St., Doublebee’s at 2620 W. Beebe-Capps, Doublebee’s at 3127 E. Race Ave., A&B Kwik Shop at 2355 Hwy. 16, AC convenience store at 1199 N. Maple Ave., AC store at 3247 W. Hwy. 36, AC store at 2000 S. Main St. and the AC store at 316 S. Benton Ave.

Tickets will also be sold at Terry’s Conoco at 500 W. Pleasure St., Tobacco Superstore at 2712 E. Race St., JB’s Express at 1010 Booth Ave., and the Tobacco Station at 2909 E. Race St.

Leader staff writer Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

EDITORIAL >> City seeks meeting with UP on crossing

Gary Fletcher, Jacksonville’s new mayor, is working to correct a wrong and open the barricaded Graham Road railroad crossing, which has cut off a third of the city’s residents.

After Jacksonville officials informed the state High-way Department about plans to open the crossing, the department, voicing no objections, suggested the city negotiate with the Union Pacific about opening the crossing.

The city this week requested a meeting with the railroad. If a crossing is built, Jacksonville will probably refund Union Pacific $75,000 the railroad gave the city to close the crossing to make way for the Main Street overpass. The city might also have to pay the railroad the cost of the new crossing. But Jacksonville could recoup that money in a year or two from sales taxes that were lost when several businesses shut down because of the closing.

No economic-impact study was made before the city chose to close the crossing. Everyone knew that retail businesses had no chance of surviving with traffic being diverted to Main Street. That means people in Sunnyside have no place nearby to shop for milk or orange juice or buy gas or go to the laundromat.

Since many of the neighborhood residents are poor, they often have no cars and cross the railroad track on foot when they go shopping elsewhere.

The barrier has forced residents and emergency vehicles to make detours over the Main Street overpass. One unintended consequence has been reduced traffic on Graham Road as many locals and nearby Lonoke County residents have mostly abandoned the road and driven to Cabot and Lonoke to shop without a detour.

That reduced traffic means that Graham Road is no longer a top priority for widening. But putting a crossing there will mean more traffic, more convenience and more business for everyone on both sides of the track.

EDITORIAL >> When schools reach the top

The Leader’s education reporters often put the spotlight on area schools that do well in the field of academic excellence. In two recent articles — the latest appeared last Saturday headlined, “Two schools here rank high in state” — we reported on high benchmark scores for Arnold Drive Elementary School at Little Rock Air Force Base and Magness Creek Elementary School in Cabot.

Arnold Drive Elementary is the fourth-best school in Arkansas based on recent benchmark test scores. Cabot’s Magness Creek Elementary ranked sixth overall in the state.

Cabot Middle School North and South, along with Searcy’s Southwest Middle School and Westside Elementary, were listed in the top 20 schools in the state.

The rankings come from a report published last month by the University of Arkansas’ Office for Education Policy.

Based on the research in “Outstanding Educational Performance Awards: Highlighting Top Achieving Arkansas Schools, 2009,” Magness Creek was in a six-way tie for fifth in the state based on its math benchmark scores. The school has 95 percent of its third, fourth and fifth grades scoring proficient or advanced.

Arnold Drive Elementary was in a six-way tie for sixth, with 94 percent of its students scoring proficient or above in math.

Looking at the literacy scores, Arnold Drive had the fourth best score in the state with 92 percent of its students achieving proficient or advanced on the 2008-2009 annual state exams. Magness Creek Elementary was in a five-way tie for ninth with its third-, fourth- and fifth-graders having a proficient or better rate of 87 percent.

All schools are supposed to be at 100 percent proficient or advanced by the end of the 2013-2014 school year to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But Arnold Drive, Magness Creek and several others are well ahead of the rest of the pack.

When both the math and literacy scores are combined, according to the report, Arnold Drive is the fourth-best school in the state with 93 percent of its third, fourth and fifth graders scoring proficient or advanced. Magness Creek is one of four schools with a 91 percent passing rate, making it the sixth-best elementary school in the state.

In the middle school category, grades 6 through 8, Cabot Middle School North and South finished in a five-way tie for seventh best in the state. Both schools had 86 percent of their students proficient or advanced in math. Searcy’s Southwest Middle
School was right behind them.

Cabot Middle School South and North both had combined proficient or better rates of 84 percent, putting them in a three-way tie for seventh best in the state. Southwest Middle School ranked fourth overall.

The mission of the U of A’s Office for Education Policy has been to look at pressing academic issues. But in their latest report, the authors of this report pointed out, “Every once in a while we think it is okay to stray from issue analysis and simply share some good news. So, in this report we merely aim to highlight excellent performance and give our congratulations.”

The students, parents and staff at Arnold Drive and Magness Creek can all take a bow, and so can all the their counterparts in the area who are striving to do their best. You make us proud.

TOP STORY >> Reed’s Bridge staying focused on its plans

Steve Shore of the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society stands inside the park’s new replica 19th Century cabin.

Encampment participants prepare a camp fire dinner at the end of Saturday’s events at Reed’s Bridge in Jacksonville.

Leader staff writer

About 200 people came out Saturday to learn about Jacksonville history and see the newest additions at the Reed’s Bridge battlefield.

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, led by Steve Shore and Mike Kish, both of Jacksonville, hosted a Civil War encampment.

“Next year, the emphasis will be on the battle,” Kish said.

The group hopes to organize another battle re-enactment similar to the one held there last year.

The men spent much of Saturday showing off their latest projects: a replica of a 19th Century cabin and accompanying barn.

Both projects aim to re-create the Civil War period for visitors and give them a feel for what life would have been like for people near Reed’s Bridge, according to Shore and Kish.

All afternoon, impressed visitors streamed in to see the rustic amenities. On their way out they congratulated Shore and Kish, who completed much of the work alone.

Shore said that he’s even had a few requests to rent the cabin for overnight stays. The cabin has a stone fireplace, a small table and a loft bed with a window (Shore calls the window a 19th Century air conditioner) that was working well Saturday.

The cabin may prove to be as attractive to vandals as it does to curious locals, but that doesn’t seem to worry Kish.

“It’s sort of like a new car, sooner or later it’s going to get dinged up,” he said.

The group is busy planning future projects.

“We’re planning on having a Halloween party if we get the barn done,” which would include a haunted trail, Shore said.

Flashlights would be forbidden and only candles could be used, he said.

Kish and Shore remain focused on finishing construction of the barn, which may take a couple of months.

They are also planning to plant 19th Century varieties of tobacco, cotton and fruits, creating a kind of historically-minded community garden.

They also see an opportunity to attract kayakers from the Bayou Meto canoe trail that borders the park.

Kish and Shore envision the park as a place that could bring the community together in a way that few other institutions can.

TOP STORY >> Carlisle says its land best for fair

Leader staff writer

Carlisle, a Lonoke County city 35 miles away from Little Rock with a population of only 2,500, has made a proposal that the state fair board might find hard to resist.

Located just off I-40, Carlisle has more to offer as the site for a new state fairgrounds than easy access, says Mayor Ray Glover.

It has almost 2,000 acres owned by the Rockefeller family that has already been through every environmental test required for industrial construction. It has water and sewer available. It’s flat with no trees and it’s dry enough to raise crops.

The price?

That’s negotiable. The mayor said Monday that he hopes negotiations start as soon as the board has had time to sort through all the proposals and decides that Carlisle’s is one of the best.

“We’re ready to go down here,” Glover said. “If they wanted to start building a new fairground tomorrow, they could. That’s the way we’re way ahead of everyone else.

It’s just flat, clear land. There would be no preparation needed to the site.”

Glover was elected mayor three years ago, when he said he started getting the site ready through a program for economic development sponsored by Entergy.

The land was certified for construction in May, he said. The plan was to attract industry, but then he heard that the state fair needed to move, and he realized Carlisle had to perfect spot for it.

Asked if he thought it was a disadvantage that the land is in Lonoke County instead of Pulaski County, Glover said not at all.

“The State Fair and Livestock Show is 10 days out of the year,” he said. “They’re talking about building a fairground for $100 to $150 million. Don’t you think they’ll have events there every week to pay for it? Carlisle is 35 miles from Little Rock and 90 miles from Memphis. Don’t you think they’d want to draw from both? And here, they could.”

TOP STORY >> State fair can have acreage, city says

Leader executive editor

Jacksonville officials hope history will repeat itself.

They’ll give the Arkansas Live-stock Show Association about 400 acres of land worth about $1.2 million if the group moves the state fair to southeast Jacksonville.

Just as Jacksonville leaders did more than 55 years ago, when they raised $1 million to donate land to build Little Rock Air Force Base, city officials says they’ll buy or swap the land off Wooten Road and donate it to the state fair board.

They are joining with private individuals to raise the money for the land, but it would mostly come from city coffers.

“We have in hand commitments for a large portion of the cost, and we expect city council approval for the remainder,”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher wrote to the livestock association.

Part of the site, which is off South Hwy. 161 and I-440, is in Jacksonville. The city would annex the remainder if the fair moves there.

The city plans to negotiate with seven landowners, including Entergy, to buy the land or swap some city-owned property for the land.

Jacksonville also has money set aside for economic development. The city’s advertising and promotion commission also has funds available raised through the 1-cent hamburger tax.

Several individuals have agreed to give hundreds of thousands of dollars, some anonymously, to buy the land.

The fair board is considering giving up the old fairgrounds on Roosevelt Road in Little Rock and move within 35 miles of the capital city if a suitable site is found.

Several cities, including Carlisle, Conway, North Little Rock and Benton on Tuesday submitted proposals to get the fair from Little Rock.

Cabot had expressed an interest in the state fair, but it lacks suitable land.

The proposed Jacksonville fair site, which is accessible from the Rixie Road exit at the North Belt Freeway and Hwy. 67/167 in south Jacksonville, is six times the size of the current fairgrounds, Fletcher said at a press conference on Monday.

Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration, delivered Jacksonville’s proposal to the livestock commission.

“I think we’re going to get it,” Durham said. “We have water and sewer to the property. It’s a great location.

“Ours will have to be the best proposal,” Fletcher said.

“It’s almost like this land was created for the fair,” Fletcher told The Leader last week. “We’ve got the premier spot for it. We can’t wait to present it.”

“It’s centrally located, it’s accessible, and there’s no congestion.”

“The fair needs to be relocated,” Fletcher said. “I feel like we have the best site to offer.” He said the site meets all the criteria set by the state fair board:

At least 250 acres with access and visibility from a four-lane highway;

Suitable terrain with minimal disruption to wetlands;

The land is within 35 miles from the old fairgrounds;

Available utilities.

“It will be easy for people to access,” Fletcher said. “That should increase attendance.”

The mayor said many people have told him they haven’t gone to the state fair in recent years because of traffic congestion there.

“We’re centrally located,” Fletcher said. “We’ve got the perfect land. It’s the most logical for the fair to come here.”

Fletcher said the city would have the same special relationship with the fair board as with Little Rock Air Force Base.

Col. Gregory Otey, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, sent a letter to the livestock association, praising Jacksonville’s commitment and spirit . He cited the city’s support of the base and donating $5 million to help build a joint-education center with the air base.

Letters of recommendation were also sent by Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), former Rep. Mike Wilson of Jacksonville and others.

If a suitable site is found, the new fairgrounds will likely cost $100 to $150 million and could be completed in three to five years. Funding would come from bonds and long-term loans and fundraising by the livestock association.

Ralph Shoptaw, general manager of the fairgrounds, said beer sales are an important part of the income. Alcohol could be served at the Jacksonville site because it’s not in a dry area.

The commission is working with Thomas Engineering Company of North Little Rock and Mike Berg Company, Buyer’s Real Estate Agent of Little Rock. Their ideal site would be flat but not in a wetland, accessible and visible from an interstate or four-lane highway with utilities available.

The fairgrounds are 70 years old and it is too small, critics say. There isn’t enough room for parking and the 33,000-square foot Hall of Industry needs to be at least 100,000 square feet to accommodate some of the businesses that have been turned away because of lack of space.

Then there is difficulty in getting to the fairgrounds, located in an older, deteriorating part of the capital city.

The 10,000-seat Barton Coliseum at the fairgrounds is considered outdated. A new arena would be built at the new site.

Attendance at the state fair has doubled in recent years from about 200,000 to about 400,000. But Fletcher thinks more people would come to Jacksonville, which has a better location and has less congestion.

Conway, Pine Bluff and Benton are also interested in getting the state fair. The board will also consider proposals submitted by private land owners.

Leader staff writer Joan McCoy contributed to this article.

TOP STORY >> Pantry feeds hungry in Lonoke

Freddy Thomason helps run a pantry that opened in Lonoke in June. He says the recession is affecting more people.

A sample of what people at Lonoke's Family Resource Services Center on Thursday took home.

Leader senior staff writer

Just inside the front door of Lonoke’s Family Resource Services Center, seven senior citizens wait for food from the center’s food pantry.

None wanted their picture taken and none agreed to be identified by name, but all agreed they were grateful for the free food they receive every two weeks.

The pantry is in a converted auto-parts store on Center Street that Lonoke Methodist Church makes available to the organization.

“I never thought I’d see the day I had to come down to a place like this,” said one woman. “The first day, I cried.”

She said when her husband died and she got sick, all she had was one Social Security check and “nothing went down,” she said of her bills, including utilities.

Another woman said she would go hungry at times without the food she gets from the pantry.

The center, which opened in June, is run by Freddy Thomason, 53, a self-employed auctioneer who was born and raised in Lonoke.

“The so-called recession hit us later (than most), and people are in need—especially seniors on fixed income,” he said.

“We try to fill the gap. People on fixed incomes are living check to check and they can’t (always) buy all their food and then pay bills,” he said.

The pantry is a project of the Lonoke Ministerial Alliance and is run mostly with volunteers.

Many low-income children in the area depend on free or reduced breakfasts and lunches at school. The pantry tries to meet the extra burden of helping those families, Thomason said.

The pantry serves residents of the Lonoke School District.

“I’m on the board and the pantry director,” he said. “It’s my job to make sure we get the food in and out.”

Apparently he’s doing a good job, because the pantry has sent more than 300 families home with $1,600 worth of food in its first three months of operation.

Most of that food is either donated or sold at rock-bottom prices by the Arkansas Rice Depot and the Arkansas Food Network.

The pantry will soon be distributing commodities for the Department of Agriculture.

Knight’s Grocery store in Jacksonville orders food by the case for the pantry and sells it at cost, Thomason said.

Pat Dickinson is the volunteer director and volunteers Thursday included Emma McCrary, wife of the state representative; former county clerk Prudie Perceful; Thomason’s wife, Sheila; Charlotte Kinslow and several others.

A family of two recently would have received frozen chicken nuggets, frozen mixed vegetables, canned vegetables, bread, spaghetti, spaghetti sauces, rice, juice, canned fruit, potatoes, frozen cupcakes, other dessert-type snacks and other items worth probably $40 at the grocery store, Thomason said.

Budgeting and nutrition classes will be taught at the center this fall.

The pantry is open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Call 501-676-6321.

The Family Service Center/Lonoke Pantry is applying for tax exempt status, Thomason said. In the meanwhile, they operate under the nonprofit umbrella of the Central Arkansas Develop Council, and donations are tax-deductible.

The pantry is open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The phone number is 676-6321

TOP STORY >> Schools director sets his agenda

Leader staff writer

Cabot is the fastest-growing school district in the state and one of the best, according to Tom Kimbrell, the newly appointed commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education.

He starts his job on Sept. 28, the same day as the lottery.

“I’m a proud Cabot resident,” he told the Cabot Rotary Club on Tuesday. “The school district has been very good to my two children.”

But not all districts are growing. Many are shrinking and not performing well, he said.

“We’ve got school districts that are failing kids,” he said.

His job at the Department of Education will be to help those districts do better, he said.

He predicted that some of those that don’t and those in areas with shrinking populations and enrollment of less than 350 will have to consolidate.

Within a few years, there will be some county school districts, he said.

In 1965, Arkansas had 412 school districts, he said. Now because of consolidation there are 244 and 16 charter schools.

Kimbrell said the governor believes strongly in education.

And he agrees with the governor, he said, that the Department of Education needs some reorganization.

“We’ve got to get people in the right places at the Department of Education,” he said. “There are great people over there working but not in the right places.”

Kimbrell’s address to the Rotarians was a history lesson on where Arkansas schools are now and how they got there.

At the start of the Civil War, the state had 727 public schools and 757 teachers, he said. In 1874, the state legislature mandated free public school for children 6-21. By the early 1900s, local property tax was the funding source. By 1926, after the state legislature had mandated free public education and then told the counties they would pay for schools with property tax, the number of school districts had increased to 4,734 school districts in 1926. By 1941, consolidation and that number had shrunk to 2,800.

Lawsuits have forced the state to equalize the money available to school districts to ensure that they would offer courses the state requires and that their facilities would be adequate.

But one of the major tasks still ahead, he said, is to help struggling districts provide better educations for their students.

The governor confirmed Kimbrell as the new commissioner of education Monday after the State Board of Education voted unanimously to hire him.

“Tom shares my philosophy that education is Arkansas’s top priority and he knows that we can continue increasing student achievement through strong standards and rigorous curriculum,” Beebe said in a press release. “He has also proven his ability to work with the diverse range of individuals and groups it takes to build an excellent education system.”

SPORTS >> Tune-up time is running out in third week

Leader sportswriter

Week 3 is the final chance for coaches to fine-tune their teams before conference season begins, and some of our local teams need a lot of it. Cabot is one that already appears to be tuned up, and will have some light work ahead this week before jumping into the 7A Central fire at home against Conway next Friday.

Jacksonville found itself some momentum with a big victory over Vilonia last week, and hopes to make it 2-0 at home this week versus Mills. North Pulaski will have its hands full with one of the top high school running backs in the nation this week, and Sylvan Hills will try to stay alive through one more week in its brutal non-conference schedule.

Beebe and Lonoke each have shootouts in front of them with Vilonia and CAC respectively, while Harding Academy hosts an offensively dynamic Arkansas Baptist team. Searcy has shown some impressive defensive muscle early on, and the Riverview Raiders look to go 3-0 against a tough Harrisburg team this week.

The vast and diverse Leader prediction panel went 5 of 7 in our picks last week. Let’s see how the final week of non-conference picks go.


The 2009 season is beginning to look like a mirror image of last year for Mark Whatley’s Red Devils: A hard loss to Cabot to start the season, followed by an inspiring victory over Vilonia in Week 2. That may not be good if you look at the 31-19 setback they suffered at the hands of the Comets last year.

But that was at Mills Stadium. This year’s contest will be right here at Jan Crow, which means the Red Devils will have the JHS faithful behind them. That will be enough for Jacksonville to even the score.


There are only two words you need to know about this game — and those are Michael and Dyer. The bruising 5-9, 210-pound senior running back for the Warriors has already picked up 527 yards rushing in two games, and needs only 1,000 more to become the state’s all-time leading rusher in high school. We just hope he doesn’t pick all of those yards up against our rebuilding Falcons this week.




The Bears’ non-conference schedule, which coach Jim Withrow refers to as a “tour of Afghanistan,” will conclude this week at Wildcat Stadium, and not a moment too soon. Sylvan Hills always comes out and shines in its conference campaigns, and that’s a good thing, because the first three weeks can sometimes be hard to watch.


Perhaps no one plays as exciting a non-conference schedule as the Badgers, who start out every year with Greenbrier, Lonoke and Vilonia — and they match up well against all three. Beebe lost to Lonoke for the first time in five years Friday, and also dropped its first game to Greenbrier in five years the week before.

If reversing trends is going to be the theme for the Badgers in 2009, that could be a good thing this week, because Vilonia has won four of the last five games the teams have played since the series picked back up in 2004.


Saying that there’s not a lot of love lost between these two programs is like saying Kanye West can sometimes be just a bit unkind. These folks can’t stand each other, and for us, that makes for a great game with lots of action. Last year’s contest featured about as much offense as you can pack into a 48-minute ballgame, and the teams appear to be pretty equally matched once again this year.


If the Lions can hold a team like Batesville to only 17 points and less than 300 yards like they did on the road last week, it could mean trouble for the War Eagles this Friday. The offense may be a little behind the eight-ball right now, but sophomore quarterback Dezmund Stegall continues to develop with every snap, and could potentially turn into an impact player under center.

Searcy has already begun to gain respect and grow confidence in its first two games under Tim Harper, so just think what putting a victory under their belts could do for the Lions.


This is another game with potential to be wide-open throughout. The Wildcats and Eagles execute the spread as well as any of the smaller schools in the state. The defenses could have their hands full come Friday at First Security Stadium.


Stuart Hill has said from the beginning that he wants his team to play against the elites of 3A football, and you can’t get much more elite than a very impressive Harrisburg team, which has outscored its opponents 96-8 in the first two weeks of the season.

But those victories were against a down Cross County program and a Hughes team that has not been to the playoffs in four years. We expect the Raiders to give them all they want in this one.

SPORTS >> Falcons to get visit from standout Dyer

Leader sports editor

Here he comes.

North Pulaski will be the latest team trying to stop Little Rock Christian standout Michael Dyer when the Warriors visit Falcon Stadium on Friday.

Dyer, the state’s most sought-after recruit this season, rushed for 340 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s victory over Morrilton. The week before, he led the Warriors past Pulaski Oak Grove with 187 yards and four touchdowns and had a pair of late touchdown-saving tackles at linebacker that preserved the 28-22 victory.

Dyer enters this week with 6,122 career yards and 61 touchdowns and is on the wish list of most major college programs in the region including Arkansas and Auburn.

Dyer appeared to be leaning toward Auburn as the season opened but has since backed away and said only that he is keeping his options open.

“Oh man, yeah, he’s the best back in the state, probably one of the best backs in Arkansas football history,” North Pulaski coach Rick Russell said. “They give him the ball a lot. They use him as a decoy. Last week, I guess, they played Morrilton and they keyed on him a lot and then the quarterback kept for a 30- or 40-yard touchdown.

“Not only can he beat you but keying on him can beat you if you don’t play assignment football.”

Little Rock Christian lines up in a variation of the shotgun that coaches are calling “the pistol” because the quarterback doesn’t line up as deep. Dyer, a muscular 5-9, 210 pounds, lines up behind the quarterback and the Warriors split two receivers wide of the tight end on one side with another tight end on the other side.

Russell said the Warriors’ running game is somewhat one dimensional, but with Dyer, Little Rock Christian has the dimension it needs in the backfield.

“It’s going to be a pretty good offense to prepare against but, yeah, it starts with Mr. Dyer,” Russell said.

It doesn’t always end with Dyer. Among their other weapons, the Warriors have 6-6 tight end Dakota Mosley, who starred at the U.S. Army Combine in San Antonio in January.

“He’s a big-time player,” Russell said. “He’s a major college prospect also. He looks like a college player right now.”

After losing 40-7 to Dumas and 27-7 to Pulaski Oak Grove, the Falcons, who have won just 10 games this decade, could be forgiven if they were feeling a little beaten down. But Russell, the former Jacksonville High defensive coordinator in his first year as North Pulaski head coach, said the team is trying to build on the positive elements each week.

“The kids don’t like losing. Nobody likes losing and I’m glad they don’t,” Russell said. “There was a lot of disappointment Friday night but we went back to work Saturday morning.”

One of the bright spots has been the Falcons’ running game featuring Billy Barron and former quarterback Darius Cage. But Russell said North Pulaski needs to get its passing attack, led by sophomore Shyheim Barron, in gear or opposing defenses can simply load up on the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

With Dyer coming to town, motivation won’t be a problem, Russell said.

“The kids see a high profile player and they get excited about playing against him to see how they match up,” Russell said.

SPORTS >> Red Devils find two ways to win

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley wanted to start the season using as few two-way players as he possibly could.

But Whatley isn’t about to give back the two-way effort running back/linebacker Keith Mosby turned in against Vilonia on Friday night.

Mosby, a junior, returned an interception for the game’s first touchdown in the 31-21 Jacksonville victory and he rushed for 85 yards and two more scores. He also forced two fumbles, with the Red Devils recovering one, and his two rushing touchdowns came on consecutive possessions after the Eagles had pulled within 17-14 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.

Whatley said Red Devils assistant Jerry Wilson tries to rest Mosby when possible, but sometimes that’s not possible.

“He had a great game and he held up well,” Whatley said. “And it’s hard to leave a kid with that kind of ability sitting over there on the sideline.”

Mosby got Jacksonville started with his interception return on the fourth play of the game. Under pressure from defensive end Nick Nowden, Eagles quarterback Eric Ebmeyer tried a shovel pass that went right to Mosby, who ran 32 yards for the first score with 10:09 left in the first quarter.

With Vilonia threatening late in the game, Mosby was instrumental in the pair of scoring drives that helped Jacksonville clinch it. He handled the ball on the last three plays of the drive that put the Red Devils up 24-14, scoring from the 10, and he carried on the last four plays of the next drive and scored on a four-yard run for the final margin with 3:01 to go in the game.

“He got us started out of the gate well, got an interception,” Whatley said. “Just one of those nights. In the situations where we got down close we were able to get to our big package and he’s the tailback in our big package.”

Whatley agreed Mosby played well on defense and when he touched the ball on offense, but said he wants to see Mosby improve offensively without the ball on things like blocks and carrying out fakes.

“It’s all correctable,” Whatley said. “He’ll get better.”

The Red Devils got an additional boost from the return of receiver Devin Featherston, who missed the opener at Cabot with an ankle sprain.

Featherston, a favorite target of quarterback Logan Perry, had just three receptions for 29 yards, but one was a diving catch of Perry’s 14-yard pass for a first down to set up a second-quarter Jacksonville touchdown. Featherston’s second reception was for 11 yards and a first down as the Red Devils drove for their final score.

“The confidence level that Logan has in him,” Whatley said of Featherston’s impact. “I think he made two big first-down catches for us that we had to have. Of course he’s not 100 percent yet. He’s still got a little limp in his get-along but with his athletic ability and his speed and his hands, he gives you an opportunity to stretch the field a little more.”

Whatley said he still wants to use as many one-way players as possible, especially on the offensive and defensive line. It’s valuable to be able to have both units together on the sidelines to make adjustments, Whatley said, and it’s nice to keep them fresh, especially late in the game.

“Late in the first half, late in the second, we got to standing up defensively,” Whatley said. “And when you stand up they’re going to blow you out of there.”

Vilonia’s double-wing offense was the second straight run-oriented scheme Jacksonville has faced. The Red Devils had to contend with Cabot’s dead T in the season opener and will face a third rushing team at home against Mills this Friday.

The Comets run the veer, and they run it with determination, Whatley said. That makes it more important to keep a defensive line fresh.

“They’re just loaded with athletic ability,” Whatley said. “They can run. The quarterback, the fullback, they believe in what they’re doing. They run a lot of veer. Third and 20 and they run the veer. They know what they’re going to hang their hat on.”

The Red Devils lost to Cabot and beat Vilonia to open last season, and this week Whatley wants to draw the line at repeating history with Mills.

“Last year we came off a win at Vilonia and went to their place and they put it on us pretty good, 31-19,” he said. “We better be ready to play football every Friday.”

SPORTS >> Backfield boost

Leader sports editor

A pleasantly surprising offensive line and a wealth of talent at running back have left Cabot coach Mike Malham about as pleased as he can be this time of year.

The Panthers have beaten Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills by a combined 70-13 and wrap up non-conference play with their first
road game at Little Rock Mills on Friday.

“We’re as far along as we can be,” Malham said. “We haven’t really been challenged. We were better than the two (teams) we played but we did what we were supposed to do. I’ve seen games like that where we don’t do what we’re supposed to do.

Upsets happen every week.”

Cabot, the defending 7A-Central champion, only has one returning offensive lineman — right guard Walter James — but the reconstituted group of blockers has kept the Panthers’ dead-T offense chugging along. Cabot gained 342 yards in last week’s 35-7 victory over Sylvan Hills and 328 in the 35-6 victory over Jacksonville in the season opener.

“I think our offensive line is getting a little better every week,” Malham said. “I think they have a chance to be better than they were last year.”

Michael James gave the Panthers a big boost when he returned from a preseason shoulder injury to get some playing time last week. James gained more than 1,300 yards last year and was expected to rotate at fullback this year while starting at linebacker.

Now that James is back, Malham can return to his plan as James joins Spencer Neumann at linebacker.

“James and Neumann are the two best and they’re going to start and if I need them on offense I’ll use them on offense too,” Malham said.

James hasn’t played linebacker since he was a freshman, but Malham said his athletic ability and hard-nosed play make him an ideal starter.

“I think with James back, you get a kid that weighs 190 and runs a 4.6, 4.7 in the 40 who has been starting for three years,”

Malham said. “Even though it hasn’t been on the defensive side, he knows what it’s like to be in the thick of it.”

James’ return and the emergence of Spencer Smith in the first two games give the Panthers six quality running backs and more depth in the backfield than Malham has seen in awhile.

“We’re so deep at running back right now. Usually I can’t find enough to fill that backfield with three backs,” Malham said.

“We’re two deep. We’ve got quality all the way through running back. We had six kids with the first group.”

Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills may not have posed the same challenges they did in the past, but Malham said he is not worried about his team getting a sterner test in the early going.

“Right now it looks good but if you don’t take care of business it may not look as good,” Malham said.