Friday, November 06, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Prosecution gets slammed

Back in April 2007, when Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and her deputies charged former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell with running a continuing criminal enterprise and propped her case up with a slew of seemingly unrelated criminal allegations, we thought she was overreaching.

That’s not how the jury saw it and neither did special Judge John Cole.

Campbell’s trial attorney, Patrick Benca, challenged McCastlain at every turn, asking for a directed verdict of not guilty and holding that there was no probable cause for the search warrant that garnered much of the physical evidence against Campbell and his wife.

Cole denied Benca and Campbell at each instance.

The jury found the Campbells guilty of a combined 49 criminal counts and recommended that the former chief be sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The Campbells asked to remain free on bond pending appeal. McCastlain argued successfully to lock them up immediately.

That was nearly 30 months ago.

Chief Justice Jim Hannah of the Arkansas Supreme Court, writing for the majority, on Thursday overturned the former chief’s convictions and remanded the case back to the prosecutor, now Will Feland, who is serving until McCastlain’s term expires next year.

The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence of a continuing criminal enterprise, said the judge erred in not dismissing the CCE charge and that there was, in fact, no probable cause for a search warrant of the Campbells’ home.

Kelly Campbell, the chief’s wife and co-defendant, was convicted of lesser offenses and received a 20-year sentence. She is eligible for parole next year but could be released sooner if her conviction is also overturned.

Here was a case of an energetic prosecutor overreaching. Who cannot understand the prosecution’s zealousness in the presence of rascality on such a large scale by a man hired by the people to protect them? It is a common failing of prosecutors, the impulse to throw everything at a crook in hopes that enough will stick that no jury would acquit him. But seasoned prosecutors learn that playing scrupulously by the rulebook is nearly always wise. It is certainly the safest. You don’t have outcomes like this.

The prosecutor introduced days of testimony about the sexual peccadilloes of the police chief’s wife, who used inmates and public facilities for her gratification. It made fascinating reading but, as the Supreme Court observed, it seemed to have nothing to do with the chief’s criminal labors and could have prejudiced the jury against him. The fruits of an illegal search were used against the chief, which the prosecutor should have known would produce a reversal.

Finally, there is the conspiracy statute, which produced the chief’s 40-year sentence. Conspiracy laws became popular in the 1970s because they gave federal and state prosecutors a new tool to nail underworld and public figures. You could round up a number of offenses and show that together they constituted a conspiracy, a “criminal enterprise,” which is worthy of a much longer sentence. The trouble is that conspiracies are hard to prove. The Supreme Court said Campbell’s trial fell far short of proving that all his crimes constituted a gang conspiracy controlled by the chief of police.

If the prosecution decides Campbell needs to be retried, it should be with discretion and care for the rules of jurisprudence.

There’s no doubt that the Campbells violated the public trust and the trust of friends, but defense attorney Benca says Campbell has served long enough and shouldn’t be retried, and we think maybe he’s right.

TOP STORY >> Library has full schedule for November

Jacksonville’s Esther Dewitt Nixon Library has a number of events scheduled during November as temperatures become cooler and people start moving inside.

Tyke Tales for the little ones, ages 3-5, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays. Storytime for ages 6-8, called the Book Bunch, is held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Merry Moppets, for the littlest ones, 18 months to 3 years old, will be held each Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Merry Moppets requires advance registration.

Thanksgiving dinner recipe cards will be given out at the front desk until Saturday, Nov. 21. Pick up recipe cards and share recipes with the rest of the community.

Other library offerings include Family Wii Sports Time at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7.

Knit and Crochet Day will be held at noon Thursday.

Those who wish to participate should bring a bag lunch and a knitting or crochet project.

A Thanksgiving puppet show with Jonathan and Amanda will be held at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16.

Native American Cookery: Thanksgiving Flipside will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. Native American expert Valerie Goetz will prepare traditional tribal dishes and discuss Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective.

Book chat will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. This is an opportunity for adults to discuss the books they’ve read over the past month.

YA and Teens will discuss books they have read over the past month during Book Yaks with Snacks at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Book Club Divas will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24 to discuss “Unaccustomed Earth,” by Jhumpa Lahiri. The library has copies of Lahiri’s novel at the front desk.

TOP STORY >> Education center ceremony Monday

Little Rock Air Force Base and Jacksonville officials will hold a groundbreaking for the joint-education center on Monday.

Leader senior staff writer

Site preparation has begun on the long-awaited $10.6 million Joint Education Center at Little Rock Air Force Base, with the official groundbreaking ceremony set for 9 a.m. Monday.

For years, Jacksonville community leaders in conjunction with base brass, have worked to realize a new college facility on the base but outside the security wire. It has been cited as a unique example of military-civilian cooperation.

So new is the idea that the Air Force had to figure out how to legally accept the city’s $5 million share of the project.

Because the existing center is “inside the wire,” it is difficult for Jacksonville-area residents to attend classes offered by six different colleges. That’s been particularly true since security concerns increased after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Currently, classes are held in a converted dormitory building, according to Nancy Shefflette, director of the ASU/Beebe school at the Joint Education Center.

The contractor, W.G. Yates and Sons Construction of Philadelphia, Miss., will build the new cooperative college at the corner of Vandenberg Boulevard and John Harden Drive.

That’s the same company that built the base’s $9.2 million, 68,000 square foot physical fitness center, which opened six years ago.

The Air Force’s contribution is $9.8 million and Jacksonville’s is $5 million, raised by local residents who approved a dedicated tax for that purpose in 2003.

Although the money available for the building totals $14.8 million, the contract is for about $4 million less.

“This is going to be a tremendous asset for the base populace and the north Pulaski communities,” said Shefflette. “We will have easier access to college level courses, freshman through graduate. We’ll be able to assist many, many more students.”

Although the building, reportedly to be 44,000 square feet, is about half the size of the original 80,000-square-foot proposal, it is designed specifically as an educational facility, with state-of-the-art communications capability, high-speed Internet and is also designed to accommodate students with disabilities.”

The contract includes all electrical work, mechanical work including installation of HVAC systems, plumbing work, site preparation, excavation and backfill and drainage. It also includes foundation construction and building erection.

TOP STORY >> First charter school dedicated

Lighthouse Academy principal Nigena Livingston addresses students, staff and guests at Thursday’s dedication.

Leader executive editor

Parents, students, teachers and staff, along with community leaders, helped dedicate Jacksonville’s new charter school Thursday — the first new school built in the city in almost three decades.

“Thank you, Jacksonville, for letting us move into our new home,” principal Nigena Livingston said during the dedication ceremony. “This is the school that was built for a better tomorrow.”

Some 340 students moved into the Lighthouse Academy, 251 N. First St., last week from temporary quarters at Second Baptist Church. Construction of the $4 million school got off to a late start in March, in part due to spring rains, followed by frequent torrential downpours through October.

The 28,425-square-foot building has classes from kindergarten through sixth grade. It is the city’s first new school since Murrell Taylor Elementary was built in 1981.

During a ceremony inside the school following a ribbon-cutting, pupils walked up to the microphone and discussed their hopes and goals for the school year.

“I want to get straight A’s,” one student said.

Said another, “I want everyone to pass and keep the school clean.”

“I want to live up to high expectations,” said a third.

“Today is a new beginning for the city of Jacksonville,” said Mayor Gary Fletcher. “You truly are chartering the course of our community for years to come.”

Fletcher compared the innovative school to the space program, when astronauts reached for the moon when he was still in school.

“Today is the beginning of a new frontier for Jacksonville,” the mayor said. He said the new school was another step toward “establishing our own school district.”

“You never took your eyes off the stars,” Fletcher said.

Mike Ronan, president and chief executive officer of Lighthouse Academies, based in Farmingham, Mass., called the school “a tremendous accomplishment, made possible by the individuals in this room.”

“Nov. 5 is a special day,” he continued. “One year ago, a charter was granted.

“The hard part is really in front of us,” Ronan said. “To fulfill the mission of this school. For Jacksonville, this really is a historic day.

“Someone else doesn’t make things happen,” Ronan said. “Someone else doesn’t solve our problems.

“We’re expecting nothing but the best,” he said. “Jacksonville has a bright future.

“All children must have access to free, high-quality education,” Ronan said. “I look forward to the day when this first group of scholars graduates from college and comes back to Jacksonville.”

“What a happy day for Jacksonville,” Alderman Kevin McCleary, a school board member, told The Leader.

“One thing I know for sure is that inside these walls, great things will happen,” said Phillip Carlisle, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce president.

He praised the efforts of city fathers and leaders who worked for the creation of the charter school.

Among those who were thanked for making the school possible were former state Rep. Mike Wilson, who helped organize the effort to bring a charter school to Jacksonville; the architect Chad Young and builder Jim Green.

Plans are to add classes through high school. There is undeveloped land nearby, as well as empty buildings across the street.

One organizer said the opening of the Lighthouse Academy was historic because for the first time in 80 years, Jacksonville residents have made their own decision about the future of the children’s education.

The Pulaski County Special School District, which includes Jacksonville, is headquartered in south Little Rock.

Trinity Mize, 8, of Cabot is a scholar in Nerinda Elliott’s third-grade class. “It was good,” she said after the dedication. “I liked the people that spoke. The song that the older scholars sang was good.”

Mize says of the school, “there’s a lot more stuff we do” than at her previous school. “It’s fun,” she said. “It’s more fun because you get to do a lot more fun stuff.”

Trinity wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She is the daughter of Craig and Kelly Mize of Cabot.

The school day lasts from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although recess is longer, “there’s a lot more work. I like doing it (class work) because it’s fun and I usually help people learn how to do what we’re doing if I know how. Like homophones and homographs and sometimes reading,” she said.

Her classmates use instruments in music class, she said. “We’re going to start painting in art,” Trinity added.

“Now that we’re in our big school, we get a lot more fun coloring work,” she said. “Like in math work, a number is a certain color.”

Leader staff writer Christy Hendricks contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Cabot’s Silver Screen now in 3D

Silver Screen Theater manager Joe Creamer (from left), concession worker Jera Self and projectionist Chris Rodriguez try out the movie house’s new 3D glasses. The theater showed its first 3D movie, “A Christmas Carol,” on Friday.

Silver Screen theater has undergone renovations, including a new facade.

Leader staff writer

Theatergoers in Cabot got an early Christmas present Friday – in the form of “A Christmas Carol,” starring Jim Carey, in 3D.

Silver Screen Theater in Cabot will be joining the 1 percent of the 27,000 theaters in North America that use the Dolby 3D Digital Light Projection System.

“We’ve done some renovations,” said owner Matt Smith. “All the seating is new.” Smith says that both the theater in Cabot and Searcy Cinema 8 will have new carpet, seats, signs, neon and facades, as well as the new 3D technology, once the renovations are finished. The Cabot theater renovations are finished and Searcy’s are still in progress.

The 3D Dolby Digital Light Projection System is “cutting edge technology, it’s the best 3D out there,” according to Smith.

“Dolby (newest 3D technology) has just hit theaters,” said Smith. “It’s come out since this past spring.”

The new generation of 3D glasses, made by Dolby, can be considered “green” because they are reusable. “These are not the old school 3D glasses,” Smith told The Leader.

He says the eyewear is sturdy and made to last. When purchasing a ticket, consumers will receive a pair of glasses that will be turned in to an usher when leaving the theater.

According to Arkansas law, films must be screened before theaters in the state can book a movie; so upcoming 3D showings have yet to be scheduled. Fifteen major motion pictures, featuring 3D, are slated for release in 2010. Among those are
“Avatar,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Piranha,” Shrek: Forever After,” “Toy Story 3,” “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Smith says the new seats in the theaters are high-back rockers and are also a bit wider. The seats also have popup arm rests with cup holders. When raised, the armrests allow the single seats to become a love seat.

Smith says the theaters have season specials, such as free popcorn on Thursdays in the fall and spring. Matinees are held at 2 p.m. anytime school is out. During summer months, the theater shows family films for $1 admission one or two mornings a week.

Ticket and concession prices will remain the same, Smith says. However, ticket prices for 3D showings will have a surcharge added. Smith says plans for the Cabot and Searcy theaters include adding four screens to each.

For times and ticket prices, visit or

TOP STORY >> Holiday harvests: gleaners fill food-pantry needs

Volunteers participated in a gleaning in August at a pear orchard owned by Oscar and Marisue Jones of El Paso.

Leader staff writer

Ever-changing weather and economic conditions that make farming one of the most challenging occupations also result in huge volumes of food going to waste in this country every year.

Weather extremes can cut into a farmer’s profits. Perfectly timed rains and idyllic temperatures can make for bumper crops which glut the market and depress prices, making harvest unprofitable.

Excessive rains, like the ones plaguing farmers this year, leave fields waterlogged, delaying harvests and damaging crops.

Unsold, weather-blemished food, though often still edible, is plowed under.

“The amount of food left in fields is beyond our imagination,” said Rhonda Sanders, executive director of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, which is building a network of farmers and volunteer gleaners during a time when some food pantries are having difficulty keeping their shelves stocked, especially with fresh fruits and vegetables. “We need to access food at every point we can, and this is a great way to do that.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 27 percent of all food produced in this country is wasted, about 1.5 tons per year for every person, while more than 17 percent of Americans live in poverty and are at risk of going hungry.


So far this year, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance has distributed 285,000 pounds of gleaned vegetables and fruit to Arkansas feeding agencies. The Society of St. Andrew, a national food recovery organization, has provided assistance in developing the Arkansas program, now in its second year.

Farmers who participate in gleaning programs are able to offset their losses – or even realize a modest profit – by claiming half the fair market value of donated food as a tax write-off.

Educating farmers about gleaning’s potential advantages can be slow work. Finding volunteers who can be available on short notice can be even harder. Their reward is getting to take the gleaned food back to a food pantry or soup kitchen in their community.

“The challenge is to work within the time frame of a farmer,” Sanders said. “Volunteers have got to be really ready. The best match is to pair a farmer with volunteers nearby.”

Some farmers have concerns about liability associated with gleaning, but according to Jackie Usey, program coordinator for Society of St. Andrew, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects them. “We’ve have never had so much as a complaint from a bee sting in 30 years.”


Oscar Jones and his wife, Marisue, of El Paso, who are no longer able to work their apple and pear orchard, decided to give gleaning a try again this year after having problems with an earlier volunteer group.

This time, all went well with a crew from Stallion Transportation in Beebe. In fact, it went so well that the volunteers may partner with the Joneses to care for the aging orchard and improve its productivity.

It is not about the tax advantage, Jones said. “We just don’t like to see it fall on the ground and donated just because some people could get some good out of it.”

Dale O’Neal, 53, who farms 250 acres in Scott, picked 2009 as the year to get back into growing vegetables, along with his mainstays, soybeans, wheat and rice. He has always raised a big vegetable garden for his family and enjoys sharing the bounty with relatives and friends.

Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, O’Neal had worked alongside his father tending acres of vegetables, which they sold at a roadside stand. It was a boom time for Arkansas row croppers, because grocery store chains with their international, year-round bazaar of every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable had not yet made it to small towns.

Produce was mainly what was available in season locally. The O’Neals couldn’t grow enough to meet the demand from customers hungry for their summer crops such as sweet corn, peas and melons. They even tilled up their front yard, he recalled. “They would be waiting for us; we’d be sold out by noon.”

When gas prices spiked to $5 a gallon in mid-2008, O’Neal read a news article about the high cost of trucking fresh produce from California to Arkansas. It convinced him that growing vegetables could once again be lucrative, especially with the resurging consumer demand for fresh, local produce. He was sure he could grow those same crops, save on transportation, cut out the middle man and beat the grocery store prices by selling direct at a local farmers market.

Looking back, O’Neal now says, “This has been the worst year to restart and get into this again.”

The record-setting rains brought him both abundance and ruin.

“At one time we had 7,000 watermelons on the ground averaging 25 pounds apiece,” O’Neal said. But four Tuesdays in a row, thunderstorms kept customers away at the Little Rock Farmers Market. “It was devastating to everyone there,” he recalled.

“We’d trade out among the other vendors for things we needed.” The rest, he hauled back home. Another time, he lined up what looked like a sure sale of a semi-trailer load of 1,000 watermelons to a Memphis distributor only to be turned away because three other deliveries had come in ahead of his that day.

It had been difficult enough even getting the crops out of the fields. Six laborers who helped with spring plantings disappeared at the time of a big watermelon harvest. O’Neal harvested what he could with a hurriedly assembled crew.

One rainy Tuesday at the Little Rock Farmers Market, O’Neal had so many watermelons left over that he was mentally preparing for a “watermelon giveaway” that weekend back home, when Michelle Shope, director of food sourcing and logistics for Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, stopped by to talk with him about the gleaning program. She explained about the tax incentive and how he would be linked with a crew of volunteers to do the gleaning and distribute the food.


Shope asked Dale Prater, who for 10 years has run Central Baptist Church’s food pantry in Sherwood, if he would be interested.

“They were looking for one food pantry that would take this project on and not mind a lot of hard work,” Prater recalled.

Since mid-June, Prater and volunteers have gone as often as three times a week to O’Neal’s and have gathered more than 56,000 pounds of vegetables that otherwise would have been wasted – watermelon, cantaloupe, peas, squash, okra, corn, peppers, cucumbers and pumpkins.

The food went to Fish Net Ministries in Jacksonville and Gloryland Church food pantry in Lonoke and several other programs in North Little Rock and Conway, including two transitional homes for former drug addicts. Prater and volunteers also make home deliveries to shut-ins at a North Little Rock housing project.

For Prater, O’Neal’s crops were an answer to his prayers.

“The demand for food is increasing at the same time that the amount of (donated) food is decreasing,” Prater said. “This is such a blessing to everyone. The O’Neals have been so giving. They’ve said, ‘Here it is – we want to share it with everyone.’”

About 50 families each month count on the Central Baptist Church food pantry for help. Since the economy went into recession, Prater has seen a difference in the people who line up each Wednesday afternoon at the food pantry door. There are more middle-class folks, homeowners and professional people who say they have never before been on public assistance of any kind. Layoffs are throwing more families into crisis, he said.

“Last week, there was a couple with three kids, both had lost their jobs that Monday,” Prater said.

On a recent Wednesday, Prater and volunteer Fred Davidson distributed food baskets containing summer squash from O’Neal’s farm along with spring onions, canned goods, and tilapia from Arkansas Food Bank. One North Little Rock grandmother has been coming there for about a year to get food for herself and her grandchild who lives with her.

“I am on disability; this place surely helps out,” she said, as she paused to inventory the sack full of groceries. “Got onions, that’s good. At the store, they’re high. Back in the summer there was watermelon, cucumbers and squash. It was delicious.

Today, there’s squash. I like to put that with my fried potatoes.”

Several others getting food that day were single moms or grandmothers who provide a home for their children and grandchildren. They were there because a crisis – a layoff or medical bills – had wrecked an already fragile family economy.

A woman who identified herself only as “Juanita” says the food is for herself, a son and his three children, who live with her.

“It doesn’t carry us very far, but it sure does help. I cook at my neighbor’s house because I don’t have electricity or gas. I am trying to get my disability started.”

Juanita is thin with short-cropped hair. “I am a stage 1 brain cancer survivor.” She pivots and touches a lump on her shoulder, then points to her arm. “I have two more tumors that need surgery. I am kind of surviving right now.”

A woman from Jacksonville explained that she turned to the food pantry after getting laid off in January from her job as a retail manager. She cares for her daughter, who “has been in and out of the hospital,” and two grandchildren, who all live with her.

In all its years of operation, the food pantry has never turned anyone away for lack of food. But it has been touch and go, at times lately. “We have been scraping and scrapping for nonperishable goods and it isn’t even the busy season yet,” Prater said.


Without the gleaning program, O’Neal says more than half of his crops would have gone to waste. Instead, he made money. With the federal tax write-off, he will be able to claim 50 cents on the dollar of fair-market value for the gleaned food.

O’Neal says he may even come out better growing vegetables than soybeans grown on the same land last year – despite the weather.

“I won’t know until my tax people gather up all the numbers, but I am a pretty good estimator,” he said, “I’ll probably do this again next year. You always plant a whole lot more than you can harvest, so this worked out good for everybody.”

He understands some farmers’ reluctance to let outsiders come on their land. “I’m old school. I don’t worry about everything that could happen. If I’ve got it, I want to share it.”

SPORTS >> Marion squeaks by Jacksonville with late interception

Jacksonville defensive back Kenny Cummings tackles Marion running back DeKendrick Smith at Jan Crow Stadium.

Leader sportswriter

Marion earned its No. 4 seed out of the 6A-East Conference the hard way, and got all it wanted from Jacksonville in the process in its 43-36 victory at Jan Crow Stadium on Thursday night.

In fact, the Patriots were 12 yards and 28 seconds away from a potential overtime that would have put their playoff berth in jeopardy.

But Marion junior linebacker DeKendrick Smith intercepted a Jacksonville pass at his 3 with 13 seconds left to secure the victory for the Patriots in a game that featured eight lead changes in the second half.

The Patriots (6-4, 4-3) took the lead for the final time with 3:12 left when junior Michael Snipes broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run, his second long score of the night. Justin Carlow ran in the two-point conversion to set the final score, but the
Red Devils took it to the wire with their final drive.

Jacksonville (2-8, 1-6) went 68 yards in nine plays and reached the Patriots’ 12 in the final three minutes.

But Smith sniffed out Red Devil junior quarterback Logan Perry’s pass attempt to senior receiver Devin Featherston in the end zone and pulled down the interception, returning it to the Marion 47 with 13 seconds left.

“It’s been like that all year,” Jacksonville coach Mark Whatley said. “We came out and battled. You can’t question the fight in these kids. There’s no quit in them. It seemed like the younger players were trying to send our seniors out on a good note.”

The defensive struggle of the first half gave way to a shootout in the final two quarters.

Marion finished with 469 yards, 254 of which came in the second half, while Jacksonville had 503 total yards with 310 in the second half.

Marion’s 14-7 lead at halftime quickly evaporated at the start of the third quarter, when Jacksonville junior running back John Johnson scored on a 90-yard run on the first play. Johnson hit the right sideline and accelerated to go untouched for the score.

The Red Devils then used gadgetry on their extra-point attempt. Price Eubanks lined up for his kick, but holder Featherston picked up the snap and threw to Perry, who found Nick Nowden in the end zone to put Jacksonville up 15-14.

Johnson’s 90-yard touchdown run was only one of many big plays by the fleet junior, who rushed for 201 yards on 12 carries and added two receptions for another 115 yards, picking up 69 yards and a touchdown on a catch for Jacksonville’s first score with 7:09 left in the second quarter.

“He can do some things when he gets in the open,” Whatley said of Johnson. “I thought the whole line did a good job up front as well. When he gets in space, he can make things happen.”

Johnson had a 3-yard touchdown run with 7:10 left in the third quarter to give the Red Devils a 22-21 lead after Eubanks’ successful extra-point kick.

Marion answered quickly with a 41-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jonathan Millikin, and threatened to stop Jacksonville’s momentum when it recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. But Featherston stopped a potential Patriot touchdown with an interception at the Red Devils’ 11.

Then Johnson went back to work, mostly on a sweep right play the Patriots struggled to stop. He racked up two straight 10-yard runs to move the ball to the Jacksonville 31 before fullback Antwon Mosby ran for 11 yards to put the Red Devils close to midfield three plays later.

Jacksonville moved near the Marion red zone on the ground, but it was a 26-yard touchdown pass from Perry to Featherston that finished the drive. Perry scrambled and found room near the line of scrimmage and zipped the ball to Featherston in the back of the end zone.

Featherston dragged his feet to stay within the back boundary to put Jacksonville back on top, 29-28.

Brandon Brownlee’s 56-yard touchdown run with 7:20 left to play put Marion ahead, 35-29, but Jacksonville answered again.

It took six plays and 2:19 for the Red Devils to go 80 yards.

D’Vone McClure got things rolling with a 23-yard gain on a double reverse that began with a handoff from Perry to Johnson, who took it 26 yards on the following play to the Marion 31.

Mosby had runs of 17 and 3 yards, and Perry finished the drive with an 11-yard pass to McClure with 5:01 left. Eubanks nailed the point-after, his fourth of the night, to give Jacksonville a 36-35 lead.

SPORTS >> Second-half rally lifts Cabot to title

Cabot defender Logan Spry grabs an end-zone interception to end Russellville’s first possession in Cabot’s victory that clinched the 7A-Central title on Thursday night.

Leader sports editor

RUSSELLVILLE — The season didn’t start the way Michael James planned, but it could end up the way he hoped.

Cabot’s senior fullback rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers held off Russellville 26-24 and clinched the 7A-Central Conference championship at Cyclone Stadium on Thursday night.

“It’s awesome man,” James said of this year’s title. “There’s nothing worse than being a senior and sitting out, not playing. I’m pumped up being back.”

James has dealt with injuries that kept him from significant action until midway through the season. But with his help Thursday the Panthers overcame the Cyclones in the second half, locked up a first-round bye in the playoffs and possible home-field advantage throughout.

“That was a heck of a ballgame,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “If you just wanted to watch a good ballgame, back and forth, they were ahead, we came back. A lot of momentum shifts.”

James rushed for more than 1,300 yards last year and was expected to have a banner 2009. But he missed the first two games with a shoulder injury, and then he suffered an ankle sprain that forced him to miss more action and still causes him pain.

But it hasn’t been enough to keep James off the field in the late going. As part of a group of seniors who have never won a playoff game, James is looking forward to this year’s return trip.

Cabot won the 7A-Central last year then, after its bye, was eliminated at home by Springdale Har-Ber.

“State championship, I want it bad. We’re going for it,” James said.

Russellville led 17-11 at halftime after Cyclones kicker Zach Hocker set a new single-season state record with his 18th field goal, a 48-yarder, in the closing seconds.

Cabot opened the second half with an 80-yard drive that included a 43-yard run up the middle by James and Spencer Smith’s 1-yard scoring run for the 18-17 lead with 8:41 left in the third quarter.

Russellville was forced to punt when a crowd of Panthers led by T.J. Bertrand sacked Barrett Hughes, and Cabot went 64 yards and scored on James’ 4-yard run. Malham then chose to go for two, and James scored on a pitchout to make it a two-score lead, 26-17, with 10:30 left in the game.

Russellville cut the lead when Hughes passed 10 yards to DeMarius Neal to make it 26-24 with 4:30 to go.

Cabot was forced to punt, but Panthers defensive lineman Jay Turpin hurried Hughes into an incompletion to bring up fourth an 7 at the Cyclones’ 31. Bertrand then turned in another sack, for a 9-yard loss, to get the ball back for the Panthers with 2:04 remaining.

“It was all the plays we didn’t make in the first half,” Malham said of the defensive stops.

From there, Cabot ran out the clock, with James getting three straight carries and the final first down that allowed quarterback Seth Bloomberg to take a knee in the victory formation.

“We started him at linebacker and then I had him at fullback,” Malham said of James. “When you have him for three years, I just have so much confidence in him.”

Malham was waiting on Friday night’s results to see who Cabot’s second-round opponent will be and was looking forward to the weekend off.

“It’s just nice to win a conference championship and say ‘Hey I don’t have to work next week, or I don’t have to work this weekend anyway,’ ” Malham said. “And then we’ll sit back and see who’s going to come to our place.”

Cabot pulled within 14-11 on Logan Spry’s 40-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the first half.

But Spry skied the ensuing kickoff down the middle instead of to the sideline, where Malham wanted it, and Andrew Tryon returned it 42 yards to the Panthers’ 37.

A 6-yard completion and a spike to stop the clock with 5 seconds left brought on Hocker, who made his 48-yard attempt with room to spare to set his field goal record.

Spry ended a promising first possession by Russellville when he intercepted receiver Averian Collins’ pass on a reverse to Cole Smith in the end zone.

Cabot went 80 yards on 15 plays and scored when James went off tackle on a 4-yard run with 2:24 left in the first quarter.

“He’s as good as he’s going to get so there’s no reason to hold him back any longer,” Malham said of James. “It’s do or die now.”

James had long gains of 10 and 11 yards on the drive, and Cabot ran him in from the 4 on the conversion after a Russellville encroachment penalty halved the distance.

Russellville responded with an 80-yard drive of its own and scored when Hughes passed 7 yards to Neal to pull the Cyclones within 8-7 with 8:24 left.

Hughes was 7 for 8 on the drive with long completions of 11 and 16 yards, plus the 17-yarder to Neal to bring up first and goal at the 7.

Cabot fumbled and recovered to stall its next drive and Russellville went 67 yards to score on Jacob Sparks’ 1-yard run and take the 14-8 lead with 2:54 left in the half. Hughes had 13-yard completions to Sparks and Averian Collins — who also had a tackle-breaking carry of 22 yards — and 11 yards to Smith.

Two officiating calls went Cabot’s way on the Panthers’ final possession of the half.

Cabot was forced to punt and Russellville was called for a block below the knees, with the yardage measured from the spot of the foul instead of the line of scrimmage to give the Panthers a first down at the Cyclones’ 36.

On second and 8 at the 23, Bloomberg attempted a pass to Joe Bryant in the right flat, but the pass was behind Bryant and looked like a fumbled lateral recovered by Russellville’s Logan Pruitt.

The officials called it an incomplete pass to give the Panthers new life, and a play later, Spry kicked his 40-yarder.

SPORTS >> She’s got next

Jessica Jackson has received major-college scholarship offers without a minute of varsity experience.

Leader sports editor

It starts innocently enough.

A young girl picks up a basketball and joins a team. She develops her game and then, as predictably as sunshine follows rain, the college recruiters eventually come calling.

That’s how it happened for Jacksonville’s Jessica Jackson, but at a pace unheard of around these parts.

Without playing a minute of varsity basketball, Jackson, a freshman, has become a recruiting darling with offers from two major colleges, including Arkansas. That’s a first for the Jacksonville program, coach Katrina Mimms said, but it’s a first Jackson deserves.

“She’s legit,” Mimms said.

It doesn’t matter that NCAA rules keep Jackson from accepting the offers — the other came from Texas A&M — until she is a
junior. What has impressed local observers is that she is being recruited at all at her age.

“You hear about it in boys but you don’t hear about it in girls as much,” Mimms said. “Both coaches told me that they had never offered a ninth-grader.”

Jackson, 6-2, is an inside-outside threat who can handle the ball and projects as a strong forward for Mimms. At the major college level she is being recruited as a guard.

“She just brings a person that the other team is going to have to defend because she’s so versatile,” Mimms said.

“I dribble a lot and shoot,” Jackson said.

Jackson took up basketball as a sixth-grader wanting to emulate her older sisters Jennifer and Kailyn. By most accounts her initial tryout, with the Arkansas Select winter program at North Little Rock’s Glenview Community Center, did not go well.

“There was a couple comments made that she couldn’t make it,” Jackson’s father, Jeff, said. “A couple said she wasn’t going to do anything and that’s when I went to work with her.”

Countless hours under Jeff’s supervision at the Jacksonville Community Center began to have an effect and Jessica blossomed into a standout with the AAU Arkansas Mavericks.

“She’s a type of kid that works tremendously,” said Jeff, a former center/forward at Carlisle High School. “She does the repetitions. She’s a hard-working kid.”

“I enjoy it,” Jessica said. “I don’t, like, practice every single day but I practice a lot. I get breaks but I practice pretty hard.”

Jackson has been to the Nike Invitational Top 80 camp in College Station, Texas; played in the AAU 13-and-under nationals near Cincinnati and was among renowned trainer Ganon Baker’s featured top 200.

With Jackson, the Mavericks 12-and-under team reached the national final four at Westchester, Minn. Last year, Jackson’s 13-and-under team finished third in the nationals at King Island, Ohio.

“I teach on advancement,” Mavericks coach Ed Durham said. “And she is very tuned in mentally and she understands the aspects of the game. She loves to work. I can’t work her hard enough. She’s one of those kids who wants to learn more about the game.”

Durham said he toughened Jackson and his teammates by working them against his 15-and-under national champions.

Apparently, Jackson was one who rose to the challenge.

“She might be an All-American type kid,” Durham said.

But as soon as he makes such statements, Durham throws up a flag of caution.

In his position, Durham has seen numerous players come and go and seen the stands full of major-college recruiters.

He knows that for every phenom like Jackson, there are numerous others whose careers hit a plateau or bottomed out.

“Just look at the NBA and tell me if the No. 1 lottery pick is still playing from the 2000 lottery class,” Durham said. “Those players vanish away very quickly.”

It remains to be seen if Jackson will be the player she is projected to be in high school, let alone college. Durham said Jackson must develop her strength, and Jackson admits her outside game and left-handed dribble still need work.

With Jacksonville, 10-16 and seventh in the 6A-East last year, Jackson won’t have to be the central figure and assume all the pressure of getting the Lady Red Devils to the state tournament.

Multi-sport standout Jessica Lanier, a 6-1 senior post, is finished with volleyball and Jacksonville should have solid guard play with Sherice Randell while senior Apollonia Sims returns at one forward.

“She’ll start outside,” Mimms said of Jackson. “We’re going to let her start outside because we have Lanier and another girl who can handle the inside.”

But if Jackson continues to progress, her ability will show and the heat from the recruiting spotlight will intensify. That means Jackson and her family can expect more offers though which they will have to sift.

Such attention can be notoriously hard on young athletes.

Wynne football player DeAngelo Williams was the centerpiece of a tug of war between Arkansas and Memphis and earned the wrath of many of the Razorback faithful when he rejected the Hogs for the Tigers before going on to run the ball with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

Little Rock Central’s Joe Johnson, now with the Atlanta Hawks, was THE recruit from the state when he signed with Arkansas and played two years, from 2000-01, before leaving for the NBA.

Perhaps women’s basketball doesn’t quite command the attention of the men’s game, but if one believes everything being said about Jackson, she could wind up as a female counterpart to Johnson among statewide recruits.

“She has a chance to be very special but it’s very early,” Durham said. “Don’t get me wrong. I try and let her dad and her know that. But if she applies herself she can be one of the most special girls players to come out of the state of Arkansas.

“But once again, it’s still early and I like to tell everybody that.”

So many things still have to happen for Jackson to meet expectations.

Beginning this season, she must consistently improve and live up to the hype; she must stay injury free; two years from now she must pick the school that best suits her; she must arrive on campus and again live up to expectations; she must stay eligible and keep her passion for the game even while dealing with all the factors that could burn her out.

Jeff Jackson said he expects to be hearing from close to 50 schools next year, if all goes well. And he wants Jessica to sign early to get her out of the recruiting spotlight as quickly as possible.

Jessica herself seems to have already learned the first rule of being a sought-after recruit: keep your plans close to the vest.

“I like to wait and see what kind of offers I get,” she said.

Perhaps the most important thing anyone can do for Jackson right now, with her horizons so inviting yet so wide and uncertain, is to simply let her enjoy being a high school freshman.

An admitted stage parent, Jeff Jackson nonetheless said that is exactly what he wants to do.

“We’re just concentrating on grades right now, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’re just concentrating on getting her out of the ninth grade and letting her be a 14-year-old girl.”

SPORTS >> Bears edge Badgers

Beebe’s Colby Taylor tries to dodge a tackle against Sylvan Hills on Thursday.

Special to The Leader

After three quarters it became apparent the team that made the first big mistake was the one that was going to see its season end at Sylvan Hills’ Bill Blackwood Field on Thursday night.

That big mistake came early in the fourth quarter, when Sylvan Hills capitalized and beat the Beebe Badgers 13-12 and grabbed the final playoff berth from the 5A-Southeast.

On a fourth down, Sylvan Hills (4-6, 4-3) punted from its 40-yard line. The Badgers fumbled the punt and Stephan Kettle recovered at the Beebe 20.

Three consecutive incomplete passes and an illegal motion penalty forced the Bears into another fourth-down situation from the 25. Jordan Spears found Devonte Britt open down the middle at the 10, and Britt took it in for the first score of the game with 11:16 to play.

“That was a huge play,” Bears coach Jim Withrow said. “You get in these games and it comes down to one or two plays, I am glad that we made one.”

Britt had six passes thrown his way during the game, but didn’t make his first reception until the final play of the third quarter, and he fumbled that one after the catch, but the Bears retained possession.

“Devonte Britt struggled early and then came out and made the big plays late,” Withrow said. “That is what seniors do.”

The Badgers (3-7, 3-4) responded with a seven-play drive that covered 72 yards and was capped by Colby Taylor’s 16-yard scoring run. Beebe missed a two-point conversion attempt when Nick Brewer and Michael Robinson stopped Adam Griffis at the goal line.

“We should have been doing that the whole game, but for whatever reason we didn’t,” Beebe coach John Shannon said of the scoring drive. “When we finally woke up, I thought that we were in good shape, but our two-point conversions really hurt us.”

Sylvan Hills’ Julian Broner fumbled on the first carry of the next possession, and the Badgers’ Spencer Forte recovered at the Bears’ 35. Six consecutive running plays, including the last five by Griffis, led to Griffis’ 1-yard scoring run.

Another missed two-point conversion left the Badgers with a 12-7 lead with 6:07 to play. Griffis finished the night with 123 yards on 29 carries.

Sylvan Hills started the next possession on its own 45. After a 20-yard pickup on the first play of the drive, the Bears ended up facing another fourth-down play from the Beebe 27.

After a timeout, Spears found Ahmad Scott on the right sideline and Scott made his way to the 6. A 3-yard run by Broner gave the Bears second and goal from the 3 and Spears took it in over the right side for the final score.

Sylvan Hills tried a conversion to make it a three-point game, but Spears’ pass attempt to Scott was incomplete.

After attempting just five passes in the first half, the Bears attempted 19 in the second.

“Our plan was to go to that all week, but we just kind of got away from it,” Withrow said. “We knew we needed to do that, so at the half we made a commitment to it, no matter what.”

Spears was 7 of 19 in the second half for 82 yards. Many of his incompletions were because of drops.

“I think our guys were just a little excited,” Withrow said. “We have guys that have caught a lot of passes for us this season, but they were just a little too excited.”

The Badgers began their final possession of the game on their 1-yard line with 54 seconds left after Spears’ punt was downed just outside the goal line. Beebe couldn’t move the ball past the 24, and Scott intercepted a final pass attempt as time ran out.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Nonsensical arguments

The raging but one-sided debate over energy and climate policy, which has focused on our little state because we have about the only two U. S. senators who straddle the fence on the great issues of the day, has produced some exotic arguments.

Nonsensical is another word that comes to mind.

You get some of it from network and local television shows, which now come with commercials from the oil, gas and coal industries and their friends warning that the climate-change bill moving glacially through Congress will drive up your taxes and drive down your living standard. Full-page ads in the daily papers bleat the same message: Capping the carbon emissions from refineries, power plants and big energy-consuming manufacturers and making the industries trade carbon credits to drive down the greenhouse poisoning of the atmosphere is going to cost you your job and destroy the economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office figures it will cost the average family the price of a postage stamp a day by the year 2020 without calculating the offsetting benefits of clean and renewable energy, which is the aim of the bill.

Then you have Claiborne Deming’s dog-and-pony show. If you haven’t been to one of the business forums around the state to hear it, you’ve read about it. Deming, the popular executive of Murphy Oil Corp., says the bill favors coal and electricity over the poor oil industry and that its penalties against the oil and gas industries will destroy the country’s economy and ruin us all while doing nothing to make China stop pumping so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. China is the real culprit, Deming said, because it recently passed the U. S. as the No. 1 producer of greenhouse gas poisoning. That’s true, but China has nearly 1.4 billion people and there are 310 million of us. Per capita, no one comes close to us in the volume of greenhouse poisons. Besides, China can’t make us change our energy habits, and our government can’t change China’s.

The Arkansas legislature joint tax committee listened to Deming’s pitch last month and rushed out a proclamation to Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor telling them they must block the cap-and-trade bill to save Arkansas. Lincoln and Pryor are pivotal to the industry’s strategy of blocking a vote on the bill in the Senate. It has already passed the House of Representatives, but with Lincoln’s and Pryor’s help, Republicans aligned with the petroleum industry can prevent a vote in the Senate.

Deming is a good fellow with at least one public-spirited stand to his credit — Murphy Corp.’s scholarship program for El Dorado youngsters — so no one in the media or any of the forums dared raise the obvious point. He is hardly a disinterested or even slightly objective analyst of the debate. Like the Middle East oil oligarchs, who also oppose legislation that would reduce the country’s and world’s oil dependency, Deming’s industry stands to lose, though not so much, if the nation moves to cleaner and more efficient energy sources or if petroleum and coal are forced to clean up their products. It is not so that the carbon industries’ interests are necessarily the nation’s best interest, but the campaign would have you believe it.

Our favorite of all the quaint arguments for maintaining the status quo on energy and climate policy came last week from Progress Arkansas, a new lobby group made up of the big energy industries and their business allies.

In a news release and testimony before the state Public Service Commission last week, Progress Arkansas boasted that Arkansas ranked 15th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in the per-capita consumption of electricity, oil and gas.

The point was that the government shouldn’t be trying to curb energy consumption or change energy habits.

Here is what it said: “Arkansans use a lot of energy, and that’s a good thing. It means we have industry and businesses here that provide jobs.”

We’re not kidding. That’s what they said. Arkansas a leader in industry? Hardly a state has a smaller industrial base or a lower average wage.

Their figures were right. The U. S. energy information center said that in 2007, Arkansans burned almost twice as many BTUs per person as California and the New England states, where the state governments have directed utilities and industries toward greater efficiency. Each Arkansan consumed 407 million BTUs, each Californian 233 million (at the height of the state’s prosperity). Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York burned even less.

That is a good thing for Arkansas?

Trying finally to do its small part toward protecting the climate and cutting the terrible waste in energy consumption, the Arkansas Public Service Commission was holding hearings on how to glean efficiency from Arkansas gas and electric utilities.

The commissioners didn’t seem terribly impressed by Progress Arkansas’ argument. But we’ll bet that it will still carry the day.

Watch our senators’ votes on the climate bill.

TOP STORY >> Have a beer before suit goes to trial?

Leader executive editor

The Jacksonville police officers who arrested Rizelle Aaron four years ago in Dupree Park committed several blunders, a judge ruled last week, allowing Aaron’s lawsuit against the cops to proceed for violating his constitutional rights and for falsely arresting him on what may have been trumped-up charges.

Aaron is the good Samaritan who tried to break up a drug deal at the park on Sept. 15, 2005. He confronted the drug dealers and then called police, who promptly arrested Aaron for no reason at all, Judge Brian S. Miller ruled.

He said Aaron does have a case against the officers, but not the city or the police department. The JPD later dropped all charges against Aaron, including criminal impersonation of a police officer. It turns out, he wasn’t lying when he told the officers he was a part-time cop.

Miller was ready to try the two police officers, Lieut. Bill Shelley and Officer Gregory Rozenski, this week, but their lawyer is appealing Miller’s ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and it could take up to a year before that court rules on the case.

Rozenski is still with the police department, but Shelley has left the force and has a job with the city’s public-works department.

In a sharply worded order against the pair for making an arrest without probable cause, Judge Miller found that Aaron was, in fact, a part-time officer with the England Police Department. The JPD eventually made the connection, but not before two of its finest busted Aaron.

“Instead of verifying that Aaron was a Part Time II officer with the England Police Department,” the judge noted, “the record shows that Shelley engaged in what can only be described as a Deputy Dawg, Keystone Kops type of questioning of Aaron regarding Aaron’s law-enforcement credentials.”

Aaron had gone to Dupree Park with his family to watch his son’s football game. The last thing he wanted them to see was a drug deal in the parking lot.

Shelley and Rozenski charged Aaron with four counts of criminal impersonation for nailing the four alleged drug dealers who had crack cocaine and other drugs in their car and admitted to police they had the drugs. The police report identifies them as the victims.

Aaron was also charged with four additional counts of false imprisonment, but, surprisingly, only one count of terroristic threatening. Why not 500 counts of terroristic threatening — for everyone who was at the park that day?

“There is no question that the Fourth Amendment right of citizens not to be arrested without probable cause is … clearly established,” the judge wrote. “A reasonable jury could find that on Sept. 15, 2005, it was objectively unreasonable for Shelley and Rozenski to believe that Aaron had committed a crime and that Shelley and Rozenski therefore lacked probable cause to arrest Aaron.

“The court believes (Shelley and Rozenski) were so disturbed by Aaron’s lack of police identification that they released the suspected drug dealers and ordered Aaron back to the park and arrested him,” Miller wrote in his order.

“There is nothing in the record remotely showing that Aaron told anyone he was a police officer for the purpose of injuring or defrauding anyone,” Judge Miller wrote. “Indeed, it is undisputed that he saw drug activity, and he called the police to the scene. The mere fact that he could not provide police identification to the Jacksonville police did not give Shelley and Rozenski probable cause to arrest him.”

Here’s another important point, although Miller doesn’t mention it: Like anyone else in Arkansas, Aaron could make a citizen’s arrest. He had the guts to confront the drug dealers and told them they were in a heap of trouble. He called the police, and for his troubles he found himself in handcuffs.

Miller, who is from Helena-West Helena, is the state’s newest federal judge: He’s tough, but fair — and very busy.

He will soon decide the long-running Pulaski County school-desegregation case, which could lead to an independent Jacksonville-area school district if he rules the three county districts no longer need court supervision.

He’s also been assigned the case of Damien Echols, the accused West Memphis child murderer who is facing the death penalty but hopes to have his conviction overturned.

Will Aaron’s case ever get to Miller’s court? Or will the two sides come together over a few beers and hash out their differences, the way Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard and police Sgt. James Crowley did last summer at the White House after their celebrated case made national headlines?

The Jacksonville case may not cry out for presidential intervention, but it does raise some important issues, such as the right of a citizen not to be picked up by cops just because they think he’s acting out of turn.

Was somebody protecting the drug dealers? What if Aaron had arrested Shelley and Rozenski instead? Imagine how Judge Miller would have ruled in that case.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville shunned by PCSSD

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District Board on Monday rejected the concerns of Jackson-ville board member Bill Vasquez in another budget dispute.

The board approved budgeting $20 million from the district’s $30.5 million building fund toward construction of a new high school in Maumelle and a new middle school in Sylvan Hills.

By adding the $20 million from the building fund to the $81 million in second-lien bonds, the district will have about $101 million to spend on those two schools.

The district has received low bids totaling $100 million if all low bidders sign contracts, according to interim Superintendent Rob McGill.

Vasquez said he objected to spending $20 million of the $30.5 million in the building fund on those two schools, saying some of that money should be reserved for a stand-alone Jacksonville school district.

“If we’re declared unitary in January, we’ll have to divvy up that money,” Vasquez said. “One-third should be for Jacksonville,” he insisted.

That set off Sherwood’s board member, Charlie Wood.

“When a few months ago we made a point to exclude Jacksonville from the ($81 million) indebtedness for Oak Grove and Sylvan Hills, I said this would happen.”

Jacksonville doesn’t want to share the debt, but wants to share the money, he said.

“We voted $900,000 for Jacksonville Star Academy for kids who aren’t performing,” Wood said. “We’re trying to give Jacksonville a fair shake.”

Vasquez responded that Jacksonville High School was in year six of school improvement, and the district had to do something or the state would take it over.

“It was not out of largess and magnanimity,” Vasquez said.

Board members Wood, Mildred Tatum, Glen Williams and Tim Clark voted in favor of the building plan fund.

The balance of the $30.5 million building fund included $2 million to renovate Pine Forest Elementary School, $1 million to finish repairing the Clinton Elementary School roof and $3.5 million to repair the Crystal Hill Elementary School roof.

That will leave $4 million uncommitted in the building fund prior to state matching funds, or $11 million including matching funds, which are not available until after the buildings are completed.

McGill told the board members that he hopes the district can sell some more second-lien bonds to finance improvements at other schools. He refused to suggest the amount of such bond sale, but said specialists from Stephens Inc. would meet with the board later in the month to discuss the options.

New media specialist Deb Roush told the board of efforts she had made toward giving the district its own Facebook page as a way to tell parents and students about upcoming events.

Tatum and Williams expressed their opposition to the plan.

“I don’t like Facebook,” Williams said. “I will not be a party to it.” She said she already gets enough e-mails and calls from unhappy constituents.

Roush said both Little Rock and Springdale districts had Facebook pages. “The news comes to you,” she said.

Wood said it was “just another tool, and I think you’re doing a great job.”

At the end of the meeting, the board used one of its favorite ploys to go into executive session, saying it would discuss the superintendent search committee and lawsuits, but that it qualified for executive session “because we might talk about (Superintendent) McGill.”

TOP STORY >> Sherwood neighborhood floods, city responds

Lynn and John McIntosh of Bronco Lane are spending more time outside to avoid the dampness and mold inside their home caused by last week’s flash flood.

Leader staff writer

Residents of nine homes on Bronco Lane in Sherwood are struggling to put their lives back together after flood waters from Woodruff Creek forced them to flee their homes Thursday night, when almost four inches of rain fell within a five-hour period.

On Monday, area residents affected by the flood watched as city workers loaded garbage trucks with their belongings, which had been reduced to rubbish by rushing water that swept through their houses.

The low-lying stretch of Bronco Lane is in a floodplain. It has a history of flooding. Long-time residents say this time was the worst they had ever experienced.

The monsoon-like rains ran off ground already saturated from recent downpours, quickly filling the creek and concrete culvert behind their homes.

By mid-evening, the creek was a torrent that collapsed fences, lifted vehicles, rose more than a foot inside houses and turned lives upside down.

Numerous calls to city hall from flood victims that started Friday and picked up again on Monday got the attention of Mayor Virginia Hillman. At noon on Monday, she made a visit to survey the damage.

She said any Sherwood resident who suffered flood damage – on Bronco Lane or elsewhere – should contact her office. She is exploring public assistance options and wants as much documentation as possible to bolster the city’s request.

“Hopefully we can do something to get some federal assistance,” Hillman said, adding that she is counting on the Sherwood community to help the flood victims.

“I hate it, some folks don’t even have content insurance.” Furniture, clothing, appliances, sheetrock, flooring, carpet and personal belongings were ruined by the rising water that was more than three-feet deep in the street late that evening. By

Friday morning, most of the water had receded.

“As we waded down the street, the water was up to our waists, the lights on the street were not even on,” said Mike Moore, as he recounted his family’s ordeal. “People were evacuating – we saw people carrying bags and kids.”

Less than an hour before, Moore and his wife Carrie had been sopping up water that had begun to seep under doors of their house.

In seven years they’ve lived on Bronco Lane, they had seen the swollen creek come into their backyard, but never once had it made it over the threshold.

Suddenly, the invading water was up to their ankles and they realized this time, it was different.

“We shifted into a different mode,” Carrie Moore recalled. “We were in shock, thinking, ‘This isn’t happening.’”

Realizing that leaving was their only option, the couple began to quickly gather up their two sons and a few belongings. Their plan to drive away was quickly dashed when they looked out their kitchen door into their carport and saw water lapping at the headlights of their SUV.

Rather than open a floodgate, the Moores exited through a bedroom window at the other end of the house. As they left, Carrie called 911. Once they reached higher ground, they and other evacuees were met by Sherwood firefighters and police.

The Moores have insurance on their house, but were shocked to learn that their policy does not cover furnishings or other belongings. Their home was contaminated by sewer water that backed up into their home during the flood.

“It would be nice to get some help,” Mike Moore said. “I would take a bag of towels, soap – something.”

The weekend at a motel and a trip to Walmart for shoes, clothes and other items cost the Moores more than $800. They estimate repairs to their house will take two months. With this one flood experience, they have had enough.

“We are going to fix it up and get out of here,” Mike Moore said.

John and Lynn McIntosh who have lived on Bronco Lane for 37 years say this flood was the worst of four they’ve endured. The couple seemed resigned to their plight, as they picked through their ruined belongings on Monday and told tales of past floods.

To let rising waters out, they would open a door at one end of the house, but then have to grab belongings before they were carried off.

“One year, my Christmas tree went out,” she recalled. Another year, she ventured outside, was overwhelmed by the swift-moving water and wound up clinging to a chain-link fence until rescued by a passer-by. She says it had to be an angel who helped her to higher ground, then disappeared. They say they can’t afford insurance or replacement of items lost over the years to the floods.

Jim Thrasher has lived at 7906 Bronco Lane for 20 years. On Monday, he and his wife Teresa and his son Jeff were cleaning up the damage.

Jim was scraping mud out of the inside of his car that was parked in the driveway when the flood occurred.

The Thrashers are staying with family in Cabot while they clean up their home. The work will take “at least a couple of weeks, probably a month,” Jim said.

“We got ready for something like this when Katrina came through, but nothing happened then. Now, it’s happened,” Jim said.

“The mayor said that the judge had declared the area an emergency to receive (Federal Emergency Management Agency) aid,” Jeff said.

Shena Maxwell had lived in 7910 Bronco Lane with her 2 year-old daughter Imani. She says the home is no longer healthy to live in, so she has rented a home in Levy.

Maxwell had flooding problems before, but nothing like the ones last week’s storm brought. “The backyard would always flood, but it never came in the house,” she said.

A lot of property was damaged, and she was not insured. “I canceled my insurance two months ago trying to save a penny. I’ve learned my lesson,” she said.

She was not impressed with the city’s response to the flood. “Why didn’t we see anybody from the city on Friday?” she asked.

She has lived in Sherwood all of her life, but said she doesn’t see herself moving back to town anytime soon.

Dennis Harris, who has lived on Bronco Lane since 1986, agrees that this time was the worst, with water rising “eight to nine inches” all through his house.

He said that his repeated complaints to the city – starting with Mayor Evans – led to Mayor Bill Harmon having the culvert dug out and concreted. That seemed to lessen the flooding. Harris thought that the problem was a thing of the past. He canceled his insurance after he paid off the mortgage.

“I thought it would be better; I didn’t think it would get this bad, but you never know,” Harris said. “The city needs to dredge the creek out.”

Harris’ son, Chris, and his wife, Salina, who live down the street, also had their house flooded. They say that a flood insurance premium is built into their monthly house payment, but their insurance company is denying that they are covered.

The waters that rose 10 inches throughout their house ruined all their furniture. They’ve been sleeping on air mattresses along with “a houseful of spiders and worms of all kinds” brought in by the flood. They say what has happened has been “a catastrophe,” but they have no plans to leave. They have a 600-square-foot addition planned. “We are going to stay – we have a little bit wrapped up in it,” Chris Harris said.

Chris was impressed with the mayor’s presence on Monday. “She’s really nice. She gave us phone numbers to call for help,” he said.

It is uncertain what the city of Sherwood can or will do to modify the Woodruff Creek culvert to prevent more devastating floods.

“If it is in a floodplain, you can do something to alleviate them, but it can be real hard to change Mother Nature,” Hillman said on Monday.

Leader staff writer Jonathan Feldman contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Flooding damage daunting

Leader staff writer

Just like a rising river, the swamp behind the Windwood subdivision in Beebe overflowed its banks Friday evening and ran into 15 houses, most of them on Torrey Lane.

Beebe Fire Chief William Nick said Mayor Mike Robertson was in the subdivision surveying the situation and called him to help residents evacuate.

Most residents left when it became clear that the water would continue to rise, Nick said.

“They got out when they could,” he said, but firefighters waded through knee-deep water and carried two small children out on their backs.

The rescue was between 5:30 and 6 p.m., he said, adding that the children were turned over to their father who arrived home at about the same time the children were brought out.

Continuing down the street, firefighters found themselves in water up to their waists and then to their chests, he said. But the water was not swift, only rising. Boats were available to take residents out if needed, he said, but the firefighters found no one else at home.

Nick said the water had receded by Sunday.

Clerk-Treasurer Carol Crump-Westergren said the flooded houses, which were built in a floodplain, were elevated according to the 2001 floodplain map. So in theory, they shouldn’t flood. Houses built according to the 2005 floodplain map didn’t flood, she said. The mayor said even though houses can be built in a floodplain, the city does not encourage it.

Tamara Jenkins, director of the office of emergency management in White County, was in Beebe Tuesday morning to look at the high water marks in Windwood. But later that day, she was in Georgetown, about 18 miles west of Kensett and a mile upstream from the point where the Little Red River and the White River converge and where flooding is frequently a problem.

The White River backs up into fields along Hwy. 36 there and then if the river continues to rise, it covers the highway too.

Jenkins said the Georgetown residents are accustomed to the problem and when it appears the river will cover the highway, some stock up with supplies and stay home until the water recedes. Some move out.

Last March, when the highway stayed under water longer than usual, rescuers brought some residents out by boat while other residents boated out to their cars, parked outside the floodwater so they could go to work.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams was out Tuesday with his department heads touring the areas where the water was the highest last week. Williams said they left notes on the doors telling residents to call city hall if they had water inside their homes.

Money for individual assistance could be available to help pay for damages through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, he said.

The city will also try to get money from ADEM for damage to the police department which had two feet of water in it Thursday evening.

Williams said he is working on a grant to help pay for a flood control project in the Highland area, where many of the 15 or so houses that flooded are located.

SPORTS >> Panthers’ pair finally tees off

Leader sports editor

It may have been worth the wait.

Cabot golfers Colby Benton and Kevan Sharp will finally tee off today in the Arkansas State Golf Association High School Overall at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock.

The 18-hole event was postponed from Oct. 15 because of rainy weather, which got decidedly worse as the month wore on.

But November opened under pristine fall skies, and if the weather holds, today’s rounds should be more pleasant than the rain-interrupted 7A state tournament the Panthers won in Fort Smith on Oct. 6.

“It looks like we’re going to finally get some weather for it,” Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett said.

Tollett said his players haven’t been gathering rust and didn’t expect the rest of the boys’ and girls’ fields of more than 20 — if the qualifiers from all classifications accept their invitations — to be rusty either.

“You don’t have to be in condition enough to have to run and jump and all that,” Tollett said. “It’s about timing and tempo. I think most of them probably lost three or four or five days. Ours were back on the golf course all weekend and I’m sure the others were back on the course as well.”

Cabot plays at Greystone Golf Course and the players sometimes use the Rolling Hills Country Club course. Tollett said the Hardscrabble course in Fort Smith, where the Panthers won their team title, is more hilly than Pleasant Valley but is more similar to today’s site than the other places the Panthers have played.

“We’ve played three matches in the rain, we’ve played under wet conditions,” Tollett said. “We’ve tried to play different types of courses just to get as much experience as we can.

“Regardless of the venue, we’ve challenged. We have some other golfers here who very well could have been there this week. Unfortunately they only take three kids from our classification.”

Benton shot a 72 and Sharp a 73 in the state tournament. Benton carried a 72.4 stroke average into the event and Sharp had a 73.2.

“They earned the right to participate in it,” Tollett said of the Overall. “They go out and have a good round and they’ll have a good chance to win. It speaks to the kids and the work ethic.”

The Overall has been reduced from 27 to 18 holes because of the installation of new greens on the third nine at Pleasant Valley.

“If you knock it in the water or catch one wrong and hit it over the green or something like that, you’re looking at a potential double bogey,” Tollett said. “And double bogeys can come back to haunt you. So you’ve got to keep it consistent, keep in the short grass, hit the greens and two-putt

SPORTS >> ’Rabbits looking to leap into playoffs

Lonoke’s Brandon Smith scored three, fourth-quarter touchdowns on Friday.

Leader sportswriter

Every first-year coach looks for progress from his team. Lonoke coach Doug Bost doesn’t have to look very hard.

Bost’s Jackrabbits came one step closer to a 2-4A Conference playoff berth with a 39-27 victory over Stuttgart last Friday. It wasn’t easy, as Lonoke needed a three-touchdown effort by senior tailback Brandon Smith in the fourth quarter to get it done.

The victory gave the league title to unbeaten Bald Knob and placed Lonoke, Stuttgart and Heber Springs in a three-way tie for second place with each holding a 4-2 conference mark.

But the ’Rabbits earned the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ricebirds with the victory on Friday, and Stuttgart’s 15-12 victory over Heber Springs in Week 4 now puts Lonoke in the position of having to beat Clinton by at least four points on the road this week to secure the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.

That would mean a home game at Abraham Field in the first round.

“We’re going to talk about taking care of this game and getting that first-round playoff game at home,” Bost said. “We’re out of school for meetings on Friday, so as a coach, that kind of gets you out of your routine.”

There was nothing routine about the way the Jackrabbits responded against the Ricebirds last week. Stuttgart held a 21-13 lead at the half, but Lonoke’s defense stepped up with a big stand just before halftime, and continued to pressure and deny for the final two quarters.

The offense, namely Smith, also did its part. Smith, after gaining only 9 yards rushing in the first half, came to Bost with a request to go to the air.

“He hung in there,” Bost said. “It seemed like it opened up for him after we had some success in the passing game. He came up to me and said the running game was not there, that they were keying in on him. So we ended up going to our passing game and had a big 50-yard touchdown pass to Darius Scott, and a 65-yarder to Brandon.”

Smith’s 65-yard catch and run, when Michael Nelson found him wide open over the middle, was Lonoke’s first play of the second half.

“I think that gave him some lanes after that, and in the fourth quarter, he was able to run for some big touchdowns,” Bost said of Smith.

Defensively, Bost had praise for junior lineman Antwan Wilkerson, who led the team in tackles with 10, including two for a loss and his biggest stop of the night, when he took down Stuttgart running back Reid Counce on fourth and 2 to force a turnover on downs, and Lonoke went on to score its final touchdown.

Bost also said Wes Plummer’s interception in the end zone late in the first half to end a Ricebird touchdown threat was a key to the victory.

The muddy conditions at Abraham Field on Friday did little to slow down the Jackrabbits, who went the entire game without a turnover. It was turnovers that killed Lonoke’s chances in earlier league losses to Bald Knob and Heber Springs.

“I think it shows a sign of improvement,” Bost said. “The field conditions were honestly terrible, so to not have any turnovers shows that they’ve come a long way, and that they’re learning a lot. As a coach, it makes you proud to see them getting better at taking care of the little things.

“Earlier in the year, in some big games, we turned the ball over and had poor execution and didn’t win. We’ve preached execution and taking care of the ball all along, and they began to respond. We definitely feel like we did win our biggest one to date for sure.”

But this week’s opponent, Clinton, is certainly no pushover. The Yellowjackets (3-3 conference) have some stake in the playoff outcome but would need the right combination of victories and losses by other 2-4A teams.

“They base out of a wing T, so we know they want to run it,” Bost said. “They will come out in the spread, but that’s not what they want to do — they want to run the football. We want to stop that and force them to pass. If we can do that, we feel like we’ll be playing to our strength.”,

SPORTS >> Bears and Badgers to put it all on line

Sylvan Hills senior quarterback Jordan Spears dives for extra yardage in a recent conference game.

Leader sportswriter

Forget point differentials, forget the outcome of other games around the conference and forget waiting to see how it all pans out the following week.

The premise to this one is simple.

Thursday’s 5A-Southeast Conference matchup between Sylvan Hills and Beebe at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood is for all intents and purposes the league wild card game.

The winner of the regular-season finale will go on to play in the first round of the 5A state playoffs the following week as the 5A-Southeast’s No. 4 seed.

The loser begins its offseason.

“This is it — this is what it’s come down to,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “The winner will go on and play in the playoffs; the loser will pack up their equipment and go home.”

The Badgers (3-6, 3-3) lost control of their playoff destiny with back-to-back losses to Mills University Studies and White Hall.

The Bears (3-6, 3-3) stayed alive last week with a 33-7 victory over Little Rock McClellan to set up the winner-take-all scenario.

Injuries throughout the season have forced Sylvan Hills to try a multitude of offensive schemes, including the rotation of four different running backs last week.

“We’re at a point now where it’s win or go home,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “You have all winter to heal up, so we’ll try a number of different guys. If we have a back that gets hot, we’ll probably ride him until he passes out.”

Bears senior quarterback Jordan Spears has not had the kind of passing numbers he looked poised to have after impressive sophomore and junior seasons.

But with leading receiver Ahmad Scott injured for the middle part of the season and all-purpose offensive player Juliean Broner relegated to defense for the same reason most of the year, Spears’ targets have been few.

Withrow said Mother Nature has also had an effect on thepassing game during the last month.

“I don’t blame it on any one thing,” Withrow said of the Bears’ passing game. “We got Ahmad and Broner hurt, and that took away from what we wanted to do. When your big-play-threat guys are gone, it’s hard to get consistency.

“And once we got them back it started raining and turned every game into a mud bowl. That’s kind of the way it’s gone for us.

It’s been a frustrating thing to try and deal with and stay positive.”

The Badgers have had their own offensive struggles, including four trips to the red zone that did not produce points over the last two weeks against Mills and White Hall.

The numbers have been there for Beebe, which had over 300 yards rushing in each game, but the jump from the first-down chains to the scoreboard has fallen short.

“They’re going to get yards just by their philosophy,” Withrow said. “The big thing for us is don’t give them a big play on first down. You give them 7 or 8 yards on first down, you’re in trouble. If you give them a third-and-long situation, it’s tougher for them.

“But another thing for them is that they’ve thrown the ball a little better here lately.”

Shannon is not as concerned about what Sylvan Hills does to his offense as much as what Beebe does to it.

“I feel like when we’re clicking on all cylinders, we can move the ball against anybody,” Shannon said. “But the past two weeks, we haven’t been consistent, whether it’s been turnovers or penalties or missing blocks. That’s going to be the key for us, is overcoming ourselves.”

Shannon and Withrow have streaks on the line as well. Each is in his third season, and the coaches have taken their teams to the playoffs in their first two years.

That makes this game about more than just trying to grab a playoff seed; it’s also about pride and tradition.

“We talked long and hard Saturday morning about what it meant to be a part of a program rather than just being on the team,” Shannon said.

“We told them that being part of this program meant trying to get to the playoffs every year and being one of the elite teams in the state. To do that, you have to be a consistent playoff team.

“We also talked to the seniors about their legacy; if they want to be the group that carried on that tradition, or if they would be the group that let the streak die.”

SPORTS >> Cabot wrangling Russellville for crown

Leader sports editor

After nine games, a statewide television debut, one stunning loss and one flood, the Cabot Panthers are just about where they hoped to be this time of year.

A season that began on the small screen against Jacksonville, in the state’s first commercial television broadcast of a high school game, wraps up at Russellville on Thursday with the 7A-Central championship on the line.

“We put ourselves in position to do what we needed to going into the last game of the regular season with a chance to win the conference,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “All the marbles are out there Thursday night. Hopefully we’ll play like we did last week and not the week before against Bryant.”

Bryant’s 35-7 victory on the muddy ground at Hornet Stadium was the only blot on Cabot’s season. Steady rains made the field a mess, but the weather got even worse last Friday, with flash flooding in the central Arkansas area.

This time, however, Cabot was back on its pristine artificial surface and made Van Buren pay in a 55-14 victory. Matt Bayles rushed for 191 yards and four touchdowns as the Panthers rolled up 520 total yards, all on the ground.

Bryant, meanwhile, was losing to North Little Rock — Cabot’s victim in Week 6 — and the outcome set Thursday’s deciding matchup between the Panthers and Cyclones.

“When you get down to the last game and you’re still in the thick of it, that’s not a bad season right there,” Malham said.

“Obviously, if we can win Thursday it will be a real good season.”

A victory over Russellville would give Cabot (8-1, 5-1) a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the 7A playoffs.

A loss, with the various tiebreakers, would drop Cabot to fourth and take away the bye, but give the Panthers at least a first-round home game.

“Of course we hope to do even more,” Malham said.

Last week’s game was more than just an exercise in releasing frustration against a down-on-its-luck opponent. If the Panthers had taken the Pointers lightly and fallen in an upset, this week’s championship game scenario would be off the books.

“If they didn’t figure it out against Bryant there’s not a lot that I can say,” Malham said. “They need to find out they’re not invincible and have got to be ready to play every week. When they are, we’re not too bad.”

Russellville (7-1-1, 5-1) suffered its lone loss to North Little Rock and tied Fayetteville in a non-conference game. The Cyclones, behind senior quarterback Barrett Hughes, are outscoring opponents an average 11.6 points a game and allowing an average 12.7.

“They’re pretty well balanced,” Malham said. “Like Bryant, they do a lot of formations. They can run or throw, of course Bryant did more running against us — I don’t blame them, it was worth it — but it’s about 50-50.”

Malham said at this point in the season the run-oriented Panthers, who thrive in the dead T offense, should be prepared to throw the ball a little more like they did in victories against Little Rock Catholic and North Little Rock.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more two dimensional,” Malham said. “They’ve seen what we’ve been doing all year.”

But win or lose Thursday, for Cabot, it’s all going to start on the ground.

“Hopefully we can move it on the ground,” Malham said. “If we can’t move it on the ground, it’s going to be a long night for us, that’s for sure.”

Cabot was able to rest its offense and many of its defensive players in the second half last week and should be rested for Thursday’s pivotal game.

“It didn’t hurt to get a little rest. We got on top of them pretty quick and things went right for us,” Malham said.

The Panthers should be at full strength this week, with the exception of absent running back Hunter Sales, who has pins in his wrist from an injury suffered against Little Rock Central in Week 7 and needs at least a couple of weeks to return, if he can make it back at all.

But Cabot was able to welcome injured senior fullback/linebacker Michael James back to the lineup in the North Little Rock game.Plus the Panthers have had plenty of depth in the backfield for most of the season.

“We’ve been fortunate enough there,” Malham said.