Saturday, October 31, 2009

SPORTS >> Blue Devils cruise past Red Devils in blowout

Leader sportswriter

The same fate awaited Jacksonville on Friday that has befallen every other West Memphis opponent this season – a blowout loss.

The Blue Devils scorched the Red Devils 42-0 at Hamilton-Schultz Field in West Memphis to remain perfect at 9-0 and 6-0 in the 6A-East Conference.

The Red Devils (1-8, 1-5) fell behind 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, and the Blue Devils set the game’s final margin before the end of the first half.

“They got on us right out of the box early and scored quickly, and we couldn’t get anything going,” Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley said. “We knew we were going to have our hands full. They’re a good team, and they outplayed us tonight.”

Jacksonville’s game plan to spread the field was hampered by the mushy field conditions resulting from the recent, heavy rains that blanketed the state and caused flooding in several areas.

“It got so dadgum muddy out there that it was hard to control the ball,” Whatley said. “We had a couple of plays here and there, and we got pretty good protection from the line, but we just didn’t make the connections, and we didn’t run clean routes.

“A lot of that had to do with the field conditions, though. It was like a pig sty out there all night.”

And it ruined Jacksonville’s game plan.

“We tried not to run the ball, we tried to keep it spread out and keep them out of the box,” Whatley said. “We just came up short.”

Junior wide receiver Kenny Cummings was one of few bright spots for the Red Devils with several catches, two of which turned into Jacksonville’s biggest plays.

The Red Devils will close out the season next week with senior night and a home game against Marion.

“We hope we can go out on a good note with it being senior night next week,” Whatley said. “Hopefully we can go out and win and take that into the off season and figure out what we need. And a lot of that comes down to preparation.”

The loss more than likely cost Jacksonville its last hopes for one of the six playoff berths from the 6A-East.

Searcy and Mountain Home, who both beat Jacksonville earlier in the season, notched victories on Friday. Searcy shut out Little Rock Hall 45-0 and Little Rock Parkview, which beat Jacksonville last week, stopped Mountain Home 33-14.

Jacksonville’s lone conference victory was over Hall in Week 6. The Red Devils’ one non-conference victory was at home against Vilonia in Week 2.

Jacksonville’s struggles Friday shouldn’t have been all that surprising, coming as they did against a West Memphis team that was outscoring its opponents by an average 23.8 points a game, an average that climbs to 32.6 in 6A-East games.

The Blue Devils entered the night holding opponents to 14.6 points a game and keeping its conference opponents to 10.2.

Its five blowout victories entering Friday gave Memphis a points per game average of 42.8 in conference.

Jacksonville’s average margin of defeat was minus 4.5 points.

SPORTS >> Diamond State produces gems

Leader sports editor

With pinpoint control and a couple flips of his gloved right hand, Benton’s Cliff Lee called first dibs on the World Series spotlight Wednesday night.

Lee, the lefty getting the Game 1 start for the Philadelphia Phillies, silenced the New York Yankees with 10 strikeouts, no walks and two catches heavy on style points but far apart on the degree-of-difficulty scale.

He was as indifferent as a French waiter when he nonchalantly caught Johnny Damon’s sixth-inning pop-up, and he was so cat-quick with his behind-the-back snare of Robinson Cano’s eighth-inning come-backer that Lee could only shrug at his own bad self.

“I don’t get nervous,” the low-key Lee told a nationwide audience after his 6-1 victory.

Obviously. Lee already has the 2008 Cy Young award in his pocket and is 3-0 in the 2009 postseason while striking another blow for Arkansas baseball supremacy.

Yes I said Arkansas BASEBALL supremacy. Quit sniggering into your plastic Hog hat.

Look no further than the Game 2 winner, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, of North Little Rock via Central Arkansas Christian High School, which I’m sure is where Burnett developed his interest in tattoos and piercings.

There was a possibility Lee could have faced Burnett in Game 1, had the ALCS played out differently. As it is, the fact two front-line starters from the Natural State are competing in the same Series is something to celebrate.

If you know there is more to Arkansas baseball than the “Diamond Hogs” in Fayetteville then you know this state has its share of World Series heroes and baseball heroes in general.

But this seems like a good time to do the list, so with apologies to those left off because of space, here goes.

Brooks Robinson. He honed his game with the American Legion Doughboys at Little Rock’s Lamar Porter Field before he went on to become the “vacuum cleaner,” at third base in a Hall of Fame career with the Baltimore Orioles.

Robinson’s daring and flawless fielding led to 22 Gold Gloves and earned him MVP honors in the 1970 World Series. Sparky Anderson once said, “He can throw his glove out there and it will start 10 double plays by itself.”

Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean. He was born in Lucas and will be remembered as much for his Ozarks-flavored charm as the 150-83 record and 3.02 ERA he posted with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs from 1930-1941 and in one 1947 comeback game.

“It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up,” Dean said. Though injuries shortened his career, he backed it up enough to reach the Hall of Fame and pitch in two World Series before going on to an equally colorful broadcasting career.

George Kell. The Swifton native and 10-time all-star batted .306 from 1943-1957. His best years were with the Detroit Tigers and Kell, who kept an auto dealership and home in nearby Newport until his death in March, earned Hall of Fame induction on a veteran’s committee vote in 1983.

Bill Dickey. His railroad-employee father moved the family to Arkansas from Louisiana early in Bill’s life and Dickey went on to play for the Little Rock Travelers before breaking in with the Yankees, where he spent all of his Hall of Fame career from 1928-1946.

Dickey was an 11-time all-star with a .255 World Series batting average. If there is a blot on his career it might be that he managed the 1947 Travelers to a record 103 losses. But the Travelers certainly forgave Dickey; their North Little Rock home Dickey-Stephens Park is partially named for Dickey and his brother George.

Lou Brock. Born in El Dorado, Brock played in three World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals during his 18-year, Hall of Fame career. Brock was a six-time all-star and was the one-time stolen base king with 938, plus a career .293 batting average.

Brock is known for being part of one of the worst trades in baseball history. After three-plus seasons the Chicago Cubs shipped the future superstar to the St. Louis Cardinals for Lou Broglio and Bobby Shantz, making the deal a steal in more ways than one.

Erwin Charles “Preacher” Roe. The Preacher, who got his nickname from his family and not because he went to Harding College in Searcy, was born in Ash Flat. Roe was 127-84 with a 3.43 ERA and spent his best days with the Brooklyn Dodgers, from 1948-54, making him one of the original “Boys of Summer.”

Our honorable mentions include Pine Bluff’s Torii Hunter, whose Los Angeles Angels just missed the World Series this year.

Hunter is as an electrifying outfielder who once ran through a minor league fence and who robbed Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game.

Hunter is a likable straight shooter who appears to play with joy. Someone please get this guy into a World Series soon.

And let’s give it up for Kevin McReynolds, the former Sylvan Hills Bear and former Razorback who played in a World Series with the 1984 San Diego Padres and batted .265 in 12 seasons. If you want an autograph, you probably can find McReynolds in a duck blind not far from here.

Did I call Arkansas the Natural State earlier? For the above reasons, maybe we can go back to calling it the Diamond State.

SPORTS >> Fast final curtain falls on local teams

Jenny Evans hits a return for the Cabot Lady Panthers in recent action.

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears couldn’t make their successful regular season carry over into the state tournament.

No. 4 seed Central Arkansas Christian beat Sylvan Hills 3-0 in the 5A first round Tuesday at Siloam Springs.

The Lady Bears (15 -6) went undefeated in conference to claim their second straight 5A-Southeast title during the regular season, but found a tough, opening-round opponent in the Lady Mustangs, who rushed out to a 2-0 lead by winning each of the first two games 25-9.

Sylvan Hills fought hard to stay alive in Game 3 but came up short 25-19.

“I told the girls that of the 16 teams playing today, only one of them will end the season with a win,” Lady Bears coach Harold Treadway said. “Down the road, a lot of people will only remember how things went in the tournament, but when they look
back they’re going to know that you have to have a good year just to get there.”

Tuesday was the final match for seniors Dee Dee Lewis, Tanisha Romes, Tyler Pearson, Laura Roberts and Brooke Frehenback.

“There wasn’t really a superstar player among the five of them, they were just a group of girls that played really well together and complemented each other,” Treadway said. “I’m going to miss all of them, and I missed not getting to coach them for their entire senior year.”

Treadway was absent for much of the regular season while serving his third tour in Iraq with Air National Guard. Assistant Laura Allred led the Lady Bears for the bulk of their successful conference run.

The Lady Bears, along with Beebe and North Pulaski, will play in an all-new conference next year with Little Rock Christian, CAC, Batesville and Vilonia.

“It’s going to be a tough conference,” Treadway said. “But it will be better for everyone in the conference. It will help those four teams that make it to the state tournament. I’m excited about the girls we have coming back, and I’m excited about the conference as well.”

The Cabot Lady Panthers had the misfortune of drawing defending state champion Bentonville in the first round of the 7A tournament in Van Buren on Tuesday.

The Lady Tigers, the 7A-West’s No. 1 seed, downed the Lady Panthers 25-13 and 25-16 in the first two games before closing out the match with a 25-20 victory in Game 3.

For Cabot, it was the end of an exciting road just to make the postseason.

The Lady Panthers earned the 7A-Central No. 6 seed with a come-from-behind victory over Van Buren in the final conference match of the season.

Benton ended the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils’ season Wednesday night with a 3-0 victory in the quarterfinal round of the 6A tournament in Jonesboro.

The Lady Panthers, the No. 1 seed from the 6A-West, advanced to the semifinals by winning 25-8, 25-11 and 25-17.

For the Lady Red Devils, it was the end of a successful season in which they earned a No. 4 seed out of the 6A-East and handily defeated Little Rock Fair 3-1 in Tuesday’s opening round. Jacksonville won the first two games 25-11 and 25-12, but fell 24-26 in Game 3.

The Lady Red Devils put the match away 25-18 in Game 4 to advance.

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons ended their season with a 3-0 loss to Alma in the 5A first round on Tuesday.

The Lady Falcons, the 5A-Southeast’s No. 2 seed, took a decisive 25-9 loss in Game 1 before making things close in the second game, losing 25-23. The Lady Airedales, the No. 3 seed from the 5A-West, won 25-18 in Game 3 to advance to the quarterfinal round, where they fell to Wynne 3-1 on Wednesday.

5A-Southeast No. 3 seed Beebe lost its first-round match with Greenwood 3-0 on Tuesday.

The Lady Bulldogs, the 5A-West’s second seed, won 25-14, 25-8 and 25-6, and advanced to the semifinals Wednesday with another shutout over Nettleton.

SPORTS >> Quarterback hurt, Falcons falter

North Pulaski Falcons sophomore runner Willie Frazier picks up yardage against Mills in Friday night’s loss to the Comets at Falcon Stadium.

Special to The Leader

An injury to North Pulaski quarterback Shyheim Barron proved to be the turning point in a hard-fought defensive game in which the Mills Comets beat the Falcons 20-6.

The game was tied through three quarters, but after Barron’s injury the Falcons turned the ball over three times in the final 13 minutes.

Barron had the Falcons (1-7, 1-5 5A-Southeast) driving for what would be a go-ahead score before the injury. North Pulaski had a first down on the Comets’ 20-yard line, then Barron ran a quarterback keep and gained three yards, but the play was negated by a holding penalty and Barron was helped off the field.

“He went down with a knee injury late in the third quarter and that took us out of rhythm on offense a little bit,” Falcons coach Rick Russell said. “But the kids competed well and we gave it our best shot. We are proud of them.”

On the next snap, reserve quarterback Marshall Shipley tried to run a keeper, but the Comets Anthony Bizzell ripped the ball out of his hands and returned it to the 39.

“When Barron went down, our next quarterback came in,” Russell said. “With the wet ball and him not having a chance to take any snaps to warm up, we had some turnovers. The weather probably had something to do with that. Sometimes that happens in football, and I think that is what happened. He controlled the ball well when he had a few reps under his belt.”

After the teams traded punts, North Pulaski started a drive at its 44, but another fumble on the first play gave the ball back to Mills. This time Chris Neal recovered at the Falcons 43.

The Comets responded immediately as Clark took a pitch around the right side and went 43 yards for a score.

“We did enough in the second half to win the game, and we will take it,” Comets head coach Patrick Russell said. “You will always take a bad-looking win over a beautiful loss anytime.”

Shipley threw an interception on the next Falcons possession and finished the game 2 for 4 for 5 yards.

“We played hard. We were right there tied in the fourth quarter,” Rick Russell said. “Mistakes are part of sports. The team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win the game. On the first turnover, they scored right away and that was it. But our kids played hard.”

Following the fumble, the Comets (5-3, 3-2) drove 61 yards and took the lead on a 5-yard run around the right side by Stephen Clark, who finished with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Clark was limited to just 11 yards on a pair of carries in the first half.

“He is a good back, who started getting into the flow,” Patrick Russell said. “He is a big back that has a chance to break some tackles and we started pitching it to him. That is what you have to do in the option. You can’t just rely on the dive and the quarterback keep, you have to pitch the ball.”

Mills relied heavily on Clark’s running in the second half, as he picked up 102 yards and both fourth-quarter scores that iced the game.

“They were running the option in the first half and we did a pretty good jump of stopping them,” Rick Russell said. “In the second half, they started overloading and running the sweep to him. They had more blockers than we had out there. They were chipping away and finally broke one. Give them credit, they did what they had to do to win. We stopped them, and then they made some plays and we didn’t.”

In the first half, neither offense played particularly well, as the Falcons compiled just 58 yards while the Comets had 52.

After forcing the Comets to punt on the first possession of the game, North Pulaski orchestrated a seven-play drive that covered 51 yards and scored when Billy Barron went up the middle on a 3-yard run that gave the Falcons a 6-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter.

SPORTS >> Panthers pop Pointers

Cabot running back Spencer Smith celebrates the Panthers’ victory on Friday.

Special to The Leader

The dive was the call, 11 in the box was defensive strategy and Matt Bayles was the main beneficiary in Cabot’s comfortable, 55-14 victory over Van Buren Friday night at Panther Stadium.

The Panther senior halfback shredded the Pointer defense for 191 yards and four touchdowns in just the first half, and he did it on just nine carries.

Once Bayles broke past the initial line of defense, he had open field in front of him and no one who could catch him from behind.

The 5-10, 170-pound senior scored on runs of 7, 71, 86 and 1 yards, but he wasn’t the only one to reap the benefits of the play that is one of Cabot’s standards.

Junior halfback Jeremy Berry got just three carries, but he scored on two of them, once from 9 yards out and again from 55 yards away.

Heavily favored despite a big loss last week and looking for a solid performance, Cabot got what it was after. Coach Mike Malham wanted to see his team come out focused and intense after suffering a sloppy 35-7 loss at Bryant, and he was pleased with what he saw.

“It was good to see us show up tonight ready to play,” Malham said. “Last week we were beat from the word go, but we came out a little bit more focused and executed the offense. I thought the defense played well too. They’ve got a pretty good offense that’s been putting some points up against some pretty good teams. We were able to slow that down and keep them out of the end zone.”

Cabot compiled 520 yards, all on the ground. Smith also went over 100 yards for Cabot, totaling 112 yards on 11 carries.

The victory lifts Cabot to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in 7A-Central play. It also sets up a showdown with Russellville in week 10 for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and at least a share of the conference championship.

Cabot had seven possessions in the first half and scored seven touchdowns, taking a 48-7 lead into intermission. Van Buren got on the scoreboard in the first half only after falling behind 35-0, but did so with an impressive four-play, 76-yard drive.

Turnovers helped put the Pointers into an early hole. Cabot defensive back Joe Bryant intercepted a Tyler Spoon pass on the game’s second play and returned it 26 yards to the 9.

Berry then scored on Cabot’s first play, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead just 21 seconds into the game.

It would only take another 32 seconds before Cabot got the ball back, this time on a fumbled option pitch that was recovered by Hunter Sales at the Pointers 21.

It took Cabot five plays to get the needed yardage, with Bayles getting the last 7 for the score with 8:47 left in the first quarter.

Van Buren finally held onto the ball long enough to punt, but it only set up Berry’s 55-yard scoring run on the first play of the ensuing drive.

After another Pointer three-play series, Bayles got his second score on yet another one-play drive.

Van Buren then put together a decent drive that went 57 yards, but Powell Bryant put an end to it when he tipped a pass and intercepted it in the back of the end zone and ran it out to the 5-yard line.

An off-sides penalty got the Panthers to the 10, and two Spencer Smith runs put it at the 14 to set up Bayles’ 86-yard carry that made it 35-0 just 13 seconds into the second quarter.

After Van Buren’s first touchdown, Cabot marched 65 yards in eight plays, with the final 43 yards coming on Smith’s run up the middle for a 42-7 lead with 5:54 left in the half.

A long kickoff return by Joseph Snapp gave Van Buren the ball at the Cabot 26, but the Pointers gained 3 yards before turning it over on downs.

From there Cabot embarked on its seventh scoring drive of the half.

The Pointers scored first in the second half with a 13-play, 93-yard drive, and Cabot capped the scoring with a 32-yard run by sophomore Austin Alley with 9:37 left in the game.

Van Buren finished with 348 total yards.

EDITORIAL >> Tax dollars at work

Yesterday, the refurbished and expanded communications office of the Arkansas House of Representatives put out a three-page release to Arkansas newspapers and broadcast stations. The breathtaking news?

The manager of the city pound at Little Rock and a fellow lawmaker heaped praise upon Rep. Pam Adcock of Little Rock for sponsoring a dramatic law last spring that is going to revolutionize the handling of stray animals. The law, Act 692 of 2009, lets people buy a decal for their license plates that says “Support Animal Rescue and Shelters.” The proceeds of the decal sale, if there are any, will be divided among cities that have animal shelters.

You didn’t know that, did you? The newspapers carried only a brief mention of the bill at the time, leaving the citizenry uncognizant of the majestic leadership of their lawmakers in this critical area.

There will be many more such pronouncements. House Speaker Robbie Wills fired the House’s longtime press officer in September and expanded the little communications office so that the people of Arkansas will get a better picture of the great work that their legislators are doing.

In addition to the staff, the House pays a $5,000 monthly retainer to Little Rock public relations man Craig Douglass to help promote the legislators. Douglass’ company lost out on the advertising contract for the Arkansas lottery. The taxpayers owe him something all right, but see what they’re getting for their dollars.

—Ernie Dumas

EDITORIAL >> South Pulaski inhospitable

Those who prefer suburban governance to the big city should be thankful they live north of the great divide, the Arkansas River. Our sisters on the southern fringe of the metroplex can’t seem to get the hang of self-government. The towns of Wrightsville and Alexander are forever in the news, answering to the state auditors or federal investigators for the misuse of their puny treasuries.

This week, the disclosures in federal court about law enforcement and municipal governance in Alexander (pop. 614) were especially alarming. Alexander will take its place as the poster city for racial profiling, an evil that has plagued law enforcement everywhere but which we like to think is a rare and fading phenomenon.

Not in Alexander. Several Hispanics sued the city, its policemen and a towing service alleging that the city targeted Hispanics, who were mostly poor, to fill the town’s coffers. The testimony this week from men who were arrested along with a former city attorney and a former auxiliary cop was shocking. As bizarre as anything was the revelation in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that this town of 600 has six full-time and seven part-time policemen, all busily writing citations. They bring in a lot of money for a hamlet. At that rate, Jacksonville, Cabot, Ward, Austin, Lonoke or Beebe would have hundreds of full-time and part-time policemen.

The allegations centered mainly on one policeman, Tommy Leath, who has since been promoted to assistant police chief for training. While many Hispanics live in the southern part of the county and in neighboring Saline County, the population of Alexander is only 2.3 percent Hispanic. But in one two-month period in 2007, 53 percent of the 115 traffic citations Leath wrote went to Hispanics. About half of the citations were for driving with an obstructed view. Hispanics are mostly Catholic and many hang rosary beads from their rearview mirrors. Others had a small air-freshener hanging from the mirror or small stickers on the corner of their rear windows.

That would get them stopped, cited and searched for other violations — not carrying a driver’s license, faulty lights or brakes, no proof of liability insurance. Their cars would be confiscated and towed. Their cases would be postponed repeatedly in traffic court. It would take days and $300 to $400 in towing and storage fees to get their cars back. These were the poorest people in the vicinity, their vehicles usually old and decrepit.

A former city attorney testified that when she took the job in 2007, the courtroom would be full of Hispanics. She convicted many but dismissed other cases because there was no evidence about what the “obstruction” was. She received a letter from the mayor warning her that if she dismissed any more cases, the lost city revenue would be taken out of her paltry pay as city attorney.

Thus did the government, which ought to be the protector of the poorest, become their exploiter.

A church youth director who served a while in 2007 as an auxiliary policeman worked with Leath. “We’d sit around and we’d look, and if they looked Hispanic we’d try to find probable cause to pull them over,” the man testified. “He knew that most of them didn’t have their driver’s licenses, and it would be an easy ticket and an easy tow.” He said the policeman joked that if anyone complained that he was targeting Hispanics, he would point out that his wife was of Hispanic heritage.

Since then, the policeman has shed the Hispanic wife and taken up with the youth director’s wife, who happens to be the Alexander court clerk. They are engaged to be married. She testified for him in the federal suit Thursday.

Leath insisted that he had never targeted Hispanics. They just happened to be the ones violating the law about visual obstruction. For her part, the mayor said she just didn’t believe that her policemen would single out people because of their ethnicity.

We have had a little experience on this side of the river with corrupt and discriminatory law enforcement. It does not engender confidence in government. Our advice to the city fathers and mothers on the other side of the county is that they treat people evenhandedly and finance their government services in ways that do not encumber the backs of the poor. Fewer cops and a salary cut for the mayor would be a good start.

TOP STORY >> Beebe clinic in short supply

Daniel Holland of Beebe, along with hundreds of others, gets a free seasonal flu shot Friday at the Beebe Health Unit from clinic coordinator Becky Snodgrass.

Leader staff writer

Demand for the H1N1 vaccinations and seasonal flu shots was so high that the Beebe Health Unit ran out on Friday. The clinic doors were locked by 2:15 p.m. and dejected residents walked to their cars in hopes of getting shots on another day.

A few residents were in luck when the clinic reopened briefly after staff found an additional supply of seasonal flu shots. By noon, the White County Health Unit had given 225 seasonal flu shots and 48 swine flu nasal vaccines.

Daniel Holland of Beebe was one of the few who missed the long lines in the morning.

“I was supposed to have a shot at work, but I had to go to an alternate source.

“I want to prevent being sick this year if at all possible,” Holland said.

In Cabot, 700 flu vaccinations were given by noon at the Veterans Park Community Center.

The line thinned out by late morning.

Administering the vaccinations in Cabot were students from both Baptist Health’s School of Nursing and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Nursing, along with nurses from the White County Regional Medical Center and Arkansas Department of Health.

Milton Garris, Arkansas Department of Health administrator for Lonoke County, said the flu clinic had a solid turnout. The clinic still had shots to give out at noon. He said the average wait was 30 minutes.

“There were a couple hundred waiting when the doors opened at 9 a.m. We’ve been steady all day,” Garris said.

The flu clinic allowed nursing students on-the-job training for their future careers.

UALR registered nursing student Kelsey Whitlock said, “You definitely get practice on giving shots for when you get out in the working world. You are not as nervous.”

Hannah Gibson, also a registered nursing student at UALR, said the flu clinic had been an eye-opening experience. She said it is important for nursing students to volunteer. Gibson said it was encouraging to see nurses helping the nursing students and the community.

TOP STORY >> Angel Tree at Salvation Army takes donations to help needy

Maj. Diane Johnson of the Jacksonville Salvation Army holds two “angels” that will be available for adoption. The Angel Tree program begins on Friday, Nov. 13 and runs through Dec. 14. Donors are needed to help needy families.

Brandi Fisher, a Salvation Army volunteer, fills out paperwork to help a family applying for the Angel Tree program. The Jacksonville Salvation Army helps families in northern Pulaski County, Lonoke County and White County.

Leader editor

The holidays are fast-arriving and for many families who can afford to give, this is the season to do it.

Many families who need help can be seen waiting in a line outside the Salvation Army to receive assistance, according to Justin Simmons, who directs social services for the charity in Jacksonville.

Maj. Diane Johnson, who directs the Salvation Army in Jacksonville, and Simmons recently set up an angel tree in the office at 209 S. Oak St. The tree allows caring members of the community the opportunity to help families who can’t afford Christmas this year.

“In the past two days (the first days the tree was set up), 50-plus families have signed up (for help),” Simmons said.

Going by that number, he expects 25 families a day who will come into the Salvation Army looking for help to have Christmas this year.

That number shouldn’t be surprising, however heartbreaking, given increased unemployment this year.

Angels can be bought Friday, Nov. 13 through Dec. 14. The office is open from 9:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office accepts clothing donations and canned foods and other non-perishables year round. For Christmas, Simmons said he would like to see all the donations that are given to families be new items.

Angels can also be bought by calling Simmons at 501-985-1331. “We’re also looking for bell ringers for the upcoming holiday season,” Simmons said.

Bell ringers can be seen standing outside popular stores like Knight’s and Walmart to collect Christmas donations for Salvation Army to give to the needy.

Volunteers are especially needed to buy angels, which represent specific families for whom Salvation Army has determined their needs. These are basic needs, Simmons said, that many might not even consider as usual Christmas gifts, such as clothing and shoes.

“We try to give children at least one toy,” Simmons added. “We also try to give a jacket, a shirt, a pair of pants, and hopefully a pair of shoes,” but there may not be enough donations to provide shoes this year, Simmons said.

In addition to donations, volunteers are badly needed to help out at the Jacksonville office.

Simmons handwrote and mailed about 300 letters to churches and other groups looking for volunteers but he didn’t hear back from many, he said, possibly because many churches and non-profit organizations are already busy providing for their members who need help this year.

“We don’t have enough volunteers this year,” he said.

Families who sign up for Christmas help will also be given $25 gift cards in place of a food basket, so volunteers can focus on getting clothing and gift donations together.

Many families depend on Salvation Army throughout the year for extra food.

Simmons said, “We depend solely on the community” for donations to help needy families. For now, the Christmas season has him working hard and hoping more volunteers will arrive soon.

“We’re trying to get Christmas for these kids,” Simmons said. “We want (them) to have smiles on their faces Christmas morning.”

TOP STORY >> Thousands get flu shots

Jacksonville kindergartner Alex Moix gets a seasonal flu shot from Brenda Webb, an Arkansas Health Department registered nurse, at the Jacksonville Community Center on Thursday. More than 1,900 people were vaccinated at the clinic.

Leader staff writer

Rainy weather that continues to dog the state added another complication to community mass flu clinics already contending with shortages of vaccine for the swine flu. Every county in the state had at least one location where free flu vaccinations were provided. The clinics – 92 in all – opened on Thursday and continued through Friday.

By noon yesterday, 119,851 doses of the seasonal and H1N1vaccine had been given statewide at the mass clinics.

In Jacksonville on Thursday, 1,900 people braved the threat of storms to receive the free vaccine; a total of 2,280 doses of the seasonal and H1N1 vaccine were administered.

A second mass flu clinic is already set for Dec. 5 in Jacksonville to ensure that everyone wanting the H1N1 vaccine will get it.

Yesterday, at the mass clinics in Beebe, 458 doses total of flu vaccine were given, bringing the total doses of vaccine given over a two-day period in White County to 2,177. On Thursday, a mass clinic was held at the Searcy health unit.

By mid-afternoon Friday, the state Health Department had inoculated 1,261 people at Cabot’s Veterans Park Community Center, with about 200 of those receiving both the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 swine flu vaccination, according to Milt Garris, director of the Lonoke County Health Department.

He said there was plenty of vaccine on hand to finish out the clinic, which was slated to run until 5 p.m.

He said they had given the H1N1 vaccine to children from six months to 4 years old, to pregnant women and to people between five and 18 years of age with medical conditions.

“We expect to get more vaccine in to do the school clinics at Cabot on Nov. 4 and Nov.5,” he said.

About a week ago, school clinics were held at Lonoke, where about 800 doses of vaccine were given and at Carlisle, where about 700 doses were given.

The vaccines are being paid for by the newly instituted tobacco tax, he said.

Garris said he didn’t know of the weather interfered with attendance at the clinic. Everyone was able to wait inside, he said.

The clinics at a few locations got off to a “rocky start” on Thursday due to “the combination of bad weather, heavy demand and a limited supply of H1N1 vaccine,” said Paul Halverson, director of the Arkansas Department of Health. “We wish that we would have had sunny skies so that families and children wouldn’t have to have been in damp, cold conditions. We appreciate the public’s patience and understanding as we undertake the largest mass-vaccination effort in the state’s history.”

Jacksonville health unit administrator Patricia Henderson was glad that she decided to move this year’s annual flu clinic to a more spacious location and booked a conference room at Jacksonville Community Center. The past two years, the clinic was held at the local health unit. Last year, the number of people showing up doubled from the year before and cars overflowed the parking lot.

“We just out-grew it, and then with H1N1 coming along, this was the right thing to do,” she said. “The city has been just wonderful, helping us set up, directing people. Nothing I asked for did they not give me.”

When the doors opened at 8 a.m., the line of early birds spread across the parking lot. Some had a wait of up to an hour and a half, but by 11 a.m., “maybe 10 people were in line,” Henderson said. “I think it started like any clinic would start with 300 already lined up, but it went well. No one was turned away.”

Susan Winkler, administrator of the Searcy and Beebe health units, deemed the Beebe clinic a success – a first at that location – but that “at one point it hit pretty hard, with a line out the door and around the building,” but that volunteers kept traffic in the parking lot from turning into a bottleneck.

Winkler called the school and community mass flu clinics “a wonderful thing to provide to the community,” but “the staff gets slammed pretty hard.” Some nurses left the clinic last night “with numb and sore hands from filling out all the paperwork.”

The clinics are not close to done for Health Department staff, Winkler said. With two community and five school clinics behind them, 21 more school clinics – and at least one more community clinic – will occur in White County between now and December, meaning work weeks of 50 to 60 hours. “There has got to be a better way to do this,” she said.

The H1N1 flu vaccine continues to be in short supply nationally, forcing health officials to sharply restrict who gets the vaccine first to those most at risk of severe complications if infected.

“This follows priority group guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” said Paul Halverson, director of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). “If we have plenty of vaccine, the recommended priority groups include pregnant women, children ages 6 months through 24 years, health care workers and emergency medical responders, people caring for infants under 6 months of age, and people ages 25-64 years with underlying health conditions.

“If there is limited vaccine, the CDC guidelines for priority groups shift to pregnant women, people caring for infants less than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical responders, children ages 6 months through 4 years and children and adolescents ages 5 through 18 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications,” Halverson continued.

But due to the extreme national shortage of H1N1 vaccine, the state Health Department “was forced to further narrow the priority group to pregnant women, children 6 months through 4 years and to those children who are age 5 through18 with underlying medical conditions,” Halverson explained.

Lonoke County resident Malanya Donaho took her son, Gideon, and grandfather, Walter White, to the Jacksonville clinic. Only her son, who is 7 years old, would be getting the H1N1 vaccine.

“He’s got asthma and a bad immune system,” Donaho said. “He got the regular shot yesterday, but they didn’t have the H1N1.

I was afraid to wait. There’s too much of it around. It is kind of scary.”

The ADH expects the supplies of the H1N1 vaccine to increase significantly in the next month. Additional mass-flu clinics will be scheduled so that any Arkansan wanting the H1N1 vaccine can get it. The vaccine will also be distributed to about 900 health care providers.

Meanwhile, health officials advise that everyone get the seasonal flu vaccine; both vaccines are needed to protect against both strains of the flu virus.

Leader staff writer John Hof-heimer contributed to this report.

Friday, October 30, 2009

TOP STORY >> Deluge brings rescue efforts

Officer Michael Tippin with the Sherwood Police Department checks out a section of East Lee Street that flooded Thursday night.

Tyrone Lee makes his way to dry land Friday morning after retrieving items from his apartment at New Brittany Apartments on Jacksonville Cut-off in Gravel Ridge. Rescue workers pulled people from cars in the area all day.

High waters spill over South Rockwood Road in Cabot, making driving hazardous and causing vehicles to spray water into traffic.

Leader staff writer

Four area fire departments using boats and other rescue equipment evacuated about a dozen people Friday morning from a trailer park off Tom Box Road in north Pulaski County.

Also, a number of people had to be rescued Friday morning from the roofs of their floating cars at Hwy. 161 and the railroad overpass in Jacksonville and another person was pulled to safety as their car continued to float away on Jacksonville Cutoff near the one-way bridge on Main Street.

The Ward Fire Department ran rescue missions all night as the rain fell, pulling one family from a car that had stalled in four feet of water on Hwy. 319 and Lewisburg Road and saving dogs in the city’s animal control kennels off Hwy. 367.

Ward Police Chief Charlie Martin said firefighters waded in water up to their armpits to get the dogs to safety.

Friday afternoon, the Sherwood Fire Department personnel had to rescue a woman who tried to drive through a flooded Rixey Road. Water was still running high on that road Friday evening.

The latest onslaught of rains to hit the state dropped more than five inches of rain on the area in less than 24 hours, and may have contributed to one traffic death in Cabot.

Tabitha Goode, 31, of 1771 W. Mountain Springs Road in Cabot was killed late Thursday in a three-car accident on Hwy. 5 at Shirley Lane.

Tiffany Chinn, 19, of 42 Hummingbird Lane in Cabot was injured.

According to the State Police report, Goode was traveling south on Hwy. 5 in a 2004 Chevy Cavalier when she crossed the center line and sideswiped a 2006 Honda Accord, turned sideways and was struck by a 2004 Kia Rio driven by Chinn.

The driver of the Accord, Carla Odwyer of Conway, was not injured.

The roads were wet and it was raining at the time of the accident.

Although state Hwy. 67/167 was never officially closed Friday, one man said he left home in Beebe at 8:30 a.m. and it took three hours to reach work in Jacksonville as floodwaters raced across all the highway lanes and rain pelted down throughout the morning.

“There was one lane southbound, one lane northbound open because of the rising water,” said Randy Ort, spokesman for the state Highway and Transportation Department. “The main issue was one lane each way and no frontage roads.”

Both northbound lanes were open by mid afternoon, good news for commuters headed north from the Little Rock area.

Parts of Hwy. 31 were also flooded during the morning rush. Raging floodwaters caused a small bridge section to collapse on Batesville Pike north of Maryland Avenue outside Sherwood.

Jacksonville Public Works Director Jim Oakley agreed with Ort that the morning commute was a mess. But by late afternoon, he said the only roadways still covered with water or blocked were a southbound lane on Hwy. 167 near the northern edge of the city, parts of Redmond Road around Dupree Park and the old West Main bridge.

North Pulaski, Gravel Ridge, Sherwood and Jacksonville fire departments responded with boats and rescue equipment to Tom Box Road about 9 a.m. and stayed on scene for a couple of hours.

Gravel Ridge Fire Chief Andy Traffanstedt said the four fire departments, along with MEMS, responded. “There were about 11 trailers in the area and water was either up to the doors or running into the homes,” he said.

The chief said it wasn’t a life-saving operation, but the people had to get out. “We had four boats out checking all the homes and evacuated 11 people. A number of others said they would stay,” he said.

Traffanstedt said Jacksonville stayed on the scene with its boat and helped First Electric crews turn off electricity to prevent problems.

The trailer park operation wasn’t the only weather-related call for the Gravel Ridge department. “We had about eight vehicle rescues—people in the vehicles and on rooftops, mostly on Jacksonville-Cato Road,” the chief said.

The Ward kennels are adjacent to the city ball field and sewer-treatment plant. Mayor Art Brooke said the fear was that water had gotten into the plant, and he was relieved to learn that it was still dry.

Parts of eight or nine streets inside the city were covered with water and the mayor said firefighters made sure no one drove through them. Morning found them on the freeway between Ward and Austin, where a car had washed off into the ditch.

Beebe was wet, Mayor Mike Robertson said Friday afternoon, but $100,000-plus spent on cleaning ditches over the past two years kept the city drier than some of the surrounding areas.

By late Thursday afternoon, the only real trouble spot was the Windwood subdivision where the water that was creeping into backyards earlier in the day had filled the streets in the back of the subdivision and was inching its way toward the houses.

The houses in the most danger of flooding are in the flood zone, the mayor said.

“It comes from the bottoms and it’s always going to be this way,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Flooding that caused problems in the new Southfork subdivision is being corrected with tons of gravel to raise the streets out of the water and ditching to make the water flow away. Robertson said about 200 tons of gravel was hauled into Southfork Friday and that much more will be brought in Monday. The payoff is that residents there were able to get home Friday evening.

Total rainfall for Thursday and Friday in central Arkansas topped 5.3 inches, giving the area 16.58 inches of rain for October, and making October the wettest on record, which go back to 1878.

The previous record was 15.35 inches in October 1984. This October is also the wettest month since January 1937.

For the year, rainfall totals are close to 68.5 inches, making the year — with two months to go yet — the fifth wettest on record.

If central Arkansas gets a little more than seven inches of precipitation between now and the end of December, then 2009 will be the wettest on record, surpassing the old record of 75.54 inches set in 1882.

(Leader staff writer Joan McCoy contributed to this article.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TOP STORY >> Charter academy moves into new building

Principal Nigena Livingston welcomes students for their first day of classes at the new school. Livingston led them in a couple of rousing chants, then talked with them about self-discipline and humility.

Leader staff writer

After more than two months holding classes at a temporary location, the Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy opened at its permanent North First Street location Tuesday morning.

Wet weather marked the first day at the gleaming new facility as it had for many weeks throughout construction, from a delayed groundbreaking in March to now preventing completion of the school’s parking lot, driveway and playground. All that must wait for drier weather.

But, on this day, what mattered to staff, board members, students and parents gathered for a school assembly was that they were finally at their “home,” as several called it.

Keri Urquhart, president of the school’s board of trustees, told students (called “scholars” at the school) that it had only been a year and a half since charter school organizer Mike Ronan had offered his assistance to Jacksonville residents.

“In that short time, we have enrolled 340 bright young scholars, built a brand-new school, and hired wonderful, hardworking teachers,” Urquhart said. “This school is going to do great things.”

Assemblies at the school are a venue for character education. This morning was no different. Principal Nigena Livingston led students in a couple of rousing chants, then talked with them about self-discipline and humility.

Humility, she explained, is about “being humble, letting your actions speak louder than your words, not bragging, doing something not for a reward, but because it is the right thing to do.”

After the assembly, board member and city council member Kevin McCleary expressed elation about the new school and its new building.

“This is one way to get a new school in Jacksonville, the first one in 30 years,” he said. “I think the whole community is excited. I am excited, and I don’t even have any children here.”

A grand opening celebration at the school, to which the entire community will be invited, is set for Nov. 5.

Parent Lisa McCranie said that despite the delay in getting into the new building, she is pleased so far with the education her son, first-grader William McCranie, is receiving.

At home, he recites the rhymes and songs utilized for memory work in the classroom. “He is always singing, and he loves his teacher. I feel good for the kids – they’ve done lots of good stuff for them, but feel it can be even better now that we’re home.”

Patricia Castellano is pleased with “the discipline, how they are serious about the uniforms and don’t say one thing and do another. That will help the children in the future stick to rules.” Her 11-year-old son, Giovanni, tells her, “‘I can’t wait for tomorrow to go to school.”

“He says that he thought he wouldn’t like it. He didn’t want to leave his friends. But now he loves it.”

Beth Barlow wanted her son, Trinten, to attend the new school because of its emphasis on college preparation. She attended Mount St. Mary in Little Rock, a parochial high school with a similar academic focus. “It made the transition to college very easy,” she said.

Other than that, she looks forward to some smoothing out of the morning and afternoon “picking up and dropping off process, but that will come in time.”

Nicholas Kann is pleased so far, as a parent – his daughter, Cailey, attends fourth grade there – and as a college student with aspirations of becoming a primary school teacher.

Based on classroom observations at the school, Kann says he appreciates its “higher standard of education and emphasis on core areas – math, science and the arts – what the students will actually need and use.”

Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy was founded in November 2008 with the granting of a five-year charter by the state Board of Education. As an open-enrollment charter school, it is a public school open to Arkansans regardless of place of residence. Although required to meet state educational mandates, an open-enrollment charter school is governed by a local, independent board of trustees.

The school is part of the Lighthouse Academies school system, which has 10 other schools – two in Chicago, one in New York City, three in Gary, Ind., and three in Indianapolis. Lighthouse Academies is a national nonprofit, charter-school-management organization whose mission is opening and operating of schools in urban areas that have been underserved historically.

Construction of the 28,425-square-foot building got off to a late start in March, in part due to spring rains. Frequent bouts of wet weather ever since have plagued the project.

Even after the building interior was finished, the weather twice delayed the move. There haven’t been enough sunny days to dry out the ground so that the parking lot could be built or the driveway finished.

Project planners finally gave up on waiting for enough dry weather to lay asphalt and instead put in a temporary gravel surface to make driving and parking possible.

“We scraped away as much mud as we could and will have to wait ‘til it dries out to get asphalt down,” said Jim Green, general contractor for the project.

“We’re still looking forward to getting the parking lot paved and landscaped and a playground built so the kids will have a place outside to play,” said Livingston, adding, “The inside looks great.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Decision near on health care

Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor have expressed doubts about Sen. Harry Reid’s just-introduced health-care bill, which includes a so-called public option. The Arkansas Democrats are reluctant to align themselves with the Senate majority leader’s bill that seems too liberal to some of their constituents. But because the public option would allow states to drop out of the program if they don’t like it, there’s still a chance Lincoln and Pryor will reluctantly join fellow Democrats in the next few weeks and throw their support behind a bill that will be the most comprehensive overhaul of our health-care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid 45 years ago.

Both sides know there’s much at stake, and Republicans are continuing their rearguard action against reform. They will hold a rally Thursday in Little Rock.

A commercial financed by the Family Research Council recently went on the air that warns of supposed financial hardships that health-care reform would place on future generations. In the ad, a little boy is waved out of the door and sent off to work by his grandfather, who tells the kid he needs a paycheck to pay for his surgery.

The point the commercial tries to make is discredited by its own argument: health care will be so expensive in the future, children will be forced to work. But it’s the children of baby boomers, and many baby boomers themselves, who are already in financial straits because of past policies with appalling consequences that younger generations are now seeing first-hand for themselves. We’re already strained financially. Scare tactics won’t work on people who are struggling.

The agenda pushed through Congress in the last several years didn’t help young people go to college or receive job training, or families meet vast health-care and mortgage payments or reduce waste in government services. Instead, those policies led the country into a financial meltdown.

The thousands of people bankrupted by medical bills have left the institutions that cared for them holding the bag. That results in job losses for the employees who work at those institutions and places a hardship on cities where those institutions are located at a loss. Before you know it, there’s health crisis across the country.

Reforming health-care costs that would contribute to a healthier work force would make America competitive globally, something we need now more than ever in history. Reform would also leave more money for other deserving sectors of the economy, such as infrastructure. The failure to guarantee the health of the American people for the past century, while just one small part of the fractured economy, has drained other parts of American society.

Attempts to remediate the problem, such as faith-based groups that provide free medical care to needy people, have eased some of the burden on those struggling to pay their bills. Just like individuals, local governments are also feeling the strain of an overburdened health system.

Hospitals are reporting that they must charge private insurers, and their clients, more for services because government payments are not high enough. Most hospitals are tax-exempt organizations, and that status should count as a government contribution to their bottom line.

There are other ways that health reform could contribute to hospitals and keep money in patients’ pocketbooks. Proponents of health-care reform have suggested that it would save money by insuring people when they’re young, which would decrease costs by the time they become eligible for Medicare. If they’re healthy when they are 65, cost for their health care will be substantially less.

Most of the bills under consideration in Congress include preventative care that is cheaper than emergency care. Health-care reform could save us billions of dollars over time and pour more money into a struggling economy because healthy people make for a more productive society.

TOP STORY >> Prisoner dies after injury

Leader senior staff writer

The State Police investigation into the circumstances of a major head injury received by an inmate at the Lonoke County Jail last week turned into a homicide investigation with the death of that man Sunday, according to a State Police spokesman Bill Sadler.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences notified the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office at 12:23 a.m. Sunday that Jerry Dale Luker, 39, died at the hospital, according to a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Sadler said when the investigation is concluded, the file will be turned over to the Lonoke County Prosecutors’ Office.

“We were hoping Mr. Luker would recover from his injuries,” Sheriff Jim Roberson said. “The sheriff’s office will continue to fully assist the Arkansas State Police investigators with the investigation and prosecution of those responsible.”

Luker was in the Lonoke County Jail awaiting transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction to serve a 36-month sentence for fraudulent use of a credit card and felony probation violations, according to the sheriff’s office.

While in custody, Luker received a head injury in the cellblock’s restroom, according to the report. He was scheduled to soon be transferred to the correction department.

Officals would not comment on possible suspects and declined to say whether or not jail guards or inmates may have been involved in Luker’s death.

TOP STORY >> Grant pleases ASU-Beebe

Leader staff writer

ASU-Beebe has been approved for a $452,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for an emergency-notification system and security cameras.

Dr. Eugene McKay, ASU-Beebe chancellor, said a notification system that is supposed to alert students and staff of emergencies via cell phones was installed more than a year ago. It has been tested at least three times with poor results.

Some students had their phones turned off and didn’t get the message, he said. Others were using their phones when the alarm call went out.

The new system will use voice-over Internet-protocol technology, which essentially means phones connected to the Internet.

Those phones are already installed in all the offices, he said.

The federal money will pay for phones in every classroom. If the campus is in danger from a terrorist attack, a shooter on a rampage or even a tornado, all phones can be rung simultaneously to get the warning out.

The phones will be installed on three campuses – Beebe, Searcy and Heber Springs – sometime next year after the federal money is received and the project bid, McKay said.

Funds not spent on phones will pay for security cameras at building entrances.

“I think just having them up will make the campus more secure,” McKay said.

McKay said much of the credit for securing funding for the security project goes to Stephanie Nichols, the lawyer he hired as his assistant who took the request to Congressman Vic Snyder and then worked with Snyder’s office for six months until the project was approved.

“I am very pleased to support these projects which provide our first responders the technology and work environments to efficiently and effectively respond to emergencies,” Snyder said when his office announced that the funding had been approved.

“The safety of our faculty, staff, and students is a very high priority for ASU-Beebe,” McKay said. “I am very grateful to Congressman Snyder and our other congressional delegates for their support of this funding.”

TOP STORY >> Flu shots go fast, but there’s more

Leader staff writer

Arkansans hoping to get the seasonal flu shot at the Jacksonville Medical Clinic will have to look elsewhere. The clinic has used up its entire allotment of 4,000 doses.

The best deal in the area is the mass flu clinic this Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., because the vaccine for both the seasonal flu and swine flu are offered for free by the Arkansas Department of Health.

Plenty of doses of the seasonal flu vaccine should be on hand, clinic organizers say. But because the supply of H1N1 flu vaccine is limited, it will be offered only to groups considered at especially high risk for complications if they contract the flu: pregnant women, children from 6 months to 4 years of age, and children ages 5 to 18 years of age who have an underlying medical condition such as asthma.

State health officials say that eventually there will be enough H1N1 vaccine for all Arkansans wanting it.

But for now, shipments are only trickling in and when that will change is unknown. This means that the H1N1 vaccine is in short supply for community and school clinics, which were scheduled months ago. Health Department officials say that additional clinics may be scheduled once the supply of vaccine increases.

Dr. Alan Storeygard, a family practice physician at Jacksonville Medical Clinic, says his office is “always busy with respiratory complaints” – cough, congestion, aches and pains. What is different now is the influx of young people. The challenge for a physician is that these symptoms are associated with a variety of ailments besides the flu, including mononucleosis, strep throat or a simple cold virus.

“You can’t tell who has got it and who hasn’t without a lab test,” Storeygard said. “We had a pair of sisters come in, one looked really sick and the other didn’t. It turned out the one who seemed less sick had it. The other didn’t.”

With a lab test, those with the flu can begin taking an anti-viral, such as Tamiflu, “which seems to be helping,” Storeygard said.

To get some solid numbers on who is coming down with the flu, Storeygard yesterday sifted through several months of test results from his lab for type A influenza. Both seasonal and H1N1 strains are type A, but because the seasonal flu has not yet arrived in Arkansas – health officials believe – that leaves H1N1 as the only possible cause behind a positive lab-test result.

Storeygard found that the first test done in his office to come back positive was on Aug. 3. Out of 763 tests to date, 88 were positive, for individuals ranging in age from 1 year to 66 years. Of the 88 positives, 51 were for people ages 20 years or younger.

Taking into account the age distribution for the Jacksonville population, based on a rough comparison with U.S. census data, Storeygard’s findings suggest that the H1N1 flu is indeed affecting a disproportionately higher percentage of children.

Free shots

Thursday: Jacksonville Community Center, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Friday: Cabot Community Center, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Dec. 4; Beebe Health Unit, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> JHS ladies advance in state

Allison Cox sets the ball in a 6A-East league match.

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils advanced to the second round of the 6A state tournament at Jonesboro on Tuesday afternoon with a 3-1 win over Little Rock Fair.

The Lady Red Devils (East No. 4) dominated the first two games to take wins of 25-11 and 25-12, but the Lady War Eagles (South No. 5) kept themselves in the match with a 26-24 extra-points win in Game 3.

“We rolled over them to start out with, but then we got lackadaisical and too overconfident,” Jacksonville coach Justine Rial said. “That came back to bite us. But we came back with a good team effort in the end. I guess we got tired of letting them hang around.”

Hang around is what Fair did in the first half of Game 4.

But when the Lady War Eagles called timeout with the Lady Red Devils holding a slim 16-14 lead, Rial let her team know that is was time to put it away.

“I told them, ‘alright, you gave them a good tease, now go and put it down’ and my goodness, they put it away quick after that,” Rial said. “I don’t know, they just found a way and pulled themselves together.”

Jacksonville went back to its early domination in the final points to claim Game 4 25-18 and put an end to Fair’s season.

The win pits the Lady Red Devils with the 6A-South No. 1 seed Benton.

The Lady Panthers earned a bye in the first round by winning the South title in the regular season.

Benton was also Jacksonville’s opponent the last time it reached the second round of the 6A state tournament two years ago.

“They are supposed to be very good, but we’re hoping for the best,” Rial said. “We have heard that they are like a Marion or a Jonesboro, but we played both of those teams really tough.

“As long as we can go out and play the way we know how to play and have confidence in ourselves, we should be fine.”

SPORTS >> Lonoke, Stuttgart plan to sling mud

Leader sportswriter

The conditions should be prime for a classic battle at James B. Abraham Field in Lonoke this Friday.

That means the conditions should be muddy.

The series between Lonoke and Stuttgart always provides for a hard-fought battle, but throw a wet, mucky field into the mix, and the fight for a potential No. 3 seed out of the 2-4A Conference could be even more ugly.

“When we started the season, we said our strength would be in our running game,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “The conditions definitely make it tougher to pass, so you need to have a couple of running backs that can pound on people.”

The Jackrabbits were able to have a balanced night offensively despite the bad field conditions last week in a 29-0 victory over Marianna-Lee.

Senior quarterback Michael Nelson had 195 yards passing, and rushed for 57 more yards. Senior running back Brandon Smith picked up the bulk of the ’Rabbits yards on the ground with 19 carries for 131 yards.

But the Ricebirds have the ability to counter Lonoke’s firepower with senior all-conference quarterback Zach Boleware, who led Stuttgart in a 28-point fourth quarter to lift his team to a 47-16 victory over DeWitt last week.

“He’s definitely the leader of that team,” Bost said. “He runs that mid-line option, and he can ride his back and then pull the ball out at the very last second and pull around. We have to make sure we have someone assigned to him and assigned to the back.”

Wet, sloppy field conditions are not really new to central Arkansas teams. October has seen its share of adverse weather, which has boded well for Lonoke.

Friday’s victory over Marianna-Lee was the Jackrabbits’ third straight, and all of them came on a muddy field.

Bost does not believe it is the weather that has helped as muchas simply holding on to the football.

“We’ve done some good things here lately,” Bost said. “One thing we’ve done is cut out all of those turnovers. That was something that really plagued us, and we’ve done a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Rivalries can sometimes be broken down with a review of common opponents, but that does not appear to be the case with the Jackrabbits and Ricebirds.

Their records against five common opponents — Pulaski Robinson, Heber Springs, Bald Knob, Batesville Southside and DeWitt — are both 3-2. Lonoke has outscored those combined opponents 140-62, while Stuttgart has outscored them 139-92.

Those numbers become even more confusing when examining Lonoke’s 21-7 loss to Heber Springs while Stuttgart beat Heber 15-12. Robinson beat Stuttgart 37-28 in Week 2, while the Jackrabbits beat Robinson 27-0 to open the season.

“That’s what we told the kids, that there’s no way to compare our records against like opponents,” Bost said. “We both put up pretty similar numbers against Southside and DeWitt, so it appears to be two pretty evenly matched teams on paper.”

The Ricebirds will go into Friday’s matchup trying to hold on to second place in the 2-4A Conference. Bald Knob sits in the driver’s seat at 5-0, while the Ricebirds are a game back at 4-1.

From there, Clinton, Heber Springs and Lonoke sit in a three-way tie for third with only two playoffs spots available.

“It’s a key week in a lot of conferences,” Bost said. “It will probably start to clear itself up quite a bit after this week. It’s always a battle when we play those Ricebirds, and we’ll probably see that again on Friday with those second and third playoff seeds on the line.”

SPORTS >> Red Devils try to flag down victory

Jacksonville’s D’Vone McClure (5) was the victim of a disputed pass interference call on Friday night.

Leader sports editor

It may be no consolation to Jacksonville and coach Mark Whatley, but the Red Devils are keeping pretty good company — company like the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Los Angels Angels.

As SEC officials and Major League umpires were being taken to task last week for multiple blown calls — some affecting the Razorbacks against No. 1 Florida and the Angels in the Major League playoffs against the New York Yankees — Jacksonville suffered a costly, questionable call of its own in last week’s 26-21 loss to Little Rock Parkview.

Parkview scored the winning touchdown with 7:07 left, but the drive was aided by a late, controversial pass interference call on the Red Devils’ D’Vone McClure.

The flag came at least five seconds after a deep pass near midfield fell incomplete, with McClure on the coverage and apparently in good defensive position. The 15-yard penalty extended the Patriots’ drive and led to Christopher McClendon’s 10-yard touchdown run.

“We’re sitting there third and 18 and they throw up a prayer and that prayer got answered with a pass interference call,” Whatley said. It looked like a no-call to me. That’s the way it turned out.

“It’s a shame, but by the same token there’s probably points throughout the game we could have overcome it and it not be an issue.”

Whatley also felt defender Nick Nowden was mauled on a hold that wasn’t called as Parkview scored its final touchdown.

“They absolutely tore Nick Nowden’s jersey off him,” Whatley said.

Jacksonville (1-7, 1-4) almost shook off the mishaps with some late heroics, but with 5 yards to go for a score and 20 seconds left, the Red Devils surrendered a sack of Logan Perry for a 15-yard loss. They hurried to the line and snapped the ball with 6 seconds left, but Perry’s final pass sailed out of the end zone incomplete.

“It’s like I told them after the game, ‘Nobody can question your guts and nobody can question your commitment to fight for four quarters,’ ” Whatley said. “If that’s what this game is supposed to teach them, then they’ve learned it.”

Whatley pointed out Jacksonville ultimately had itself to blame for the loss, thanks to plays like the interception Parkview returned for a touchdown.

“We’ve done that too much this year,” Whatley said. “Dadgum it, we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

The challenges continue this week as Jacksonville travels to West Memphis.

The Blue Devils (8-0, 5-0) are outscoring opponents by an average 23.8 points a game, 32.6 in conference. West Memphis effectively runs the wing T while its defense is effectively fast, Whatley said.

“Defensively they run all over the field,” Whatley said. “Their defensive tackles are as fast as our wideouts.”

SPORTS >> Championship still within Cabot’s reach

Leader sports editor

It may be a good sign that Cabot coach Mike Malham still has a sense of humor, even though there wasn’t much to laugh about in last Friday’s surprising, 35-7 loss on the muddy grounds at Bryant.

“It’s just one of them things, man,” Malham said. “It’s a good thing this is just a game. When you win, football is everything.

When you lose, it’s just a game.”

Cabot’s loss, its only one this season, came largely because of Bryant running back Chris Rycraw who, despite the mud, lit up the Panthers for 188 yards and four touchdowns.

Even subtracting Bryant’s kickoff return for a touchdown that opened the game, and the ensuing onside kick the Hornets recovered that led to another score, Rycraw would have been the decisive factor.

“We had kids that just missed tackles all night long,” Malham said. “Rycraw made people miss. At times we didn’t play real good technique and went around blocks. You give a good running back a little seam and he’s going to take you.”

Heavy rain during the week and a Thursday night junior high game helped turn the natural grass surface at Hornets Stadium into something resembling modeling clay, leaving Cabot looking considerably slower than its host.

“I don’t know if the muddy field, mentally, that had something to do with it,” Malham said. “But both teams played on it. They certainly handled it better than we did, that’s for sure.”

With its victory, Bryant forced a four-way tie atop the 7A-Central with Cabot, Russellville and North Little Rock. All four are 4-1 in the conference, though Cabot has won its head-to-head match-up with North Little Rock.

Bryant plays North Little Rock this week, and Cabot, after playing host to Van Buren in its home finale this week, travels to Russellville to close out the regular season.

“It’s all still there for the taking,” Malham said of a conference title.

But the Panthers (7-1) need to turn in a better effort than they did on Friday.

Logan Garland took the opening kickoff 85 yards up the left sideline to open the game, then Sammill Watson fell on Jace Denker’s onside kick at the Cabot 42, setting up a drive Rycraw capped with a 23-yard, broken field run that made it 14-0 with 8:57 left in the quarter.

Cabot was down 28-0 at halftime and didn’t score until Matt Bayles turned in a 23-yard run with 2:12 left in the third quarter.

“They played and we didn’t,” Malham said of Bryant. “The got after it. I don’t know, it was just one of those nights. Nothing seemed to go right from the opening kickoff and it seemed to get worse.

“I don’t know where our kids’ minds were at. We didn’t play. Not only were we supposed to be one of the best teams in the state, we looked like about the worst team in the state.”

More than anything, Malham said, the Panthers need to sharpen their tackling.

From a mental standpoint, they need to sharpen their focus.

“Maybe it’s a wake-up call,” Malham said. “Maybe the kids will wake up and see, hey, you’ve got to be ready to play every night. You’re not just going to walk on the field and have people lie down for you.”

Malham noted that at least the loss came now, when there are still games to play, than in the postseason, when one loss means the end of the season.

“They’ve got a chance to have a great season, they’ve got a chance to have an average season,” he said. “They’ve got to decide what to do with it.”

Malham said the worst Cabot could do, if it wins its next two games, is to finish as a co-champion and still earn a first-round bye and second-round home playoff game.

Either North Little Rock or Bryant is assured of a second conference loss this week, and if the Panthers beat Van Buren on Friday it could set up a showdown for the 7A-Central championship at Russellville at the end of the year.

If head-to-head play doesn’t break a tie, additional tiebreakers are based on points scored in conference games, with the cutoff at 13.

“Right now, you just have to wait and see,” Malham said. “If it ends up in a three-way tie you look at points. I’m not worried about points right now. We just want to get another win on Friday night. Winning takes care of everything.”