Friday, August 20, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Rural areas get Internet

When Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed the High Performance Computing and Communication Act nearly 20 years ago, its author, Al Gore, promised that the “information superhighway” would transform business, medicine and education and enrich the lives of people in every corner of the country.

That proved to be only a slight exaggeration, but only now is a glimmer of that dream becoming a reality in much of our rural state. We have long been pretty sure that it was coming because Arkansas ranks last in the country in broadband access, but this week the federal government finally awarded the state $102 million to upgrade the broadband network and expand it to 474 community centers throughout Arkansas. The grant is to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which along with a partnership of universities and health-care institutions put up $26 million to match the grant.

The money will come from the much-maligned federal stimulus program, which critics say is a costly waste of dollars that expands only one thing, the national debt. The original premise was that the big fiber-optic expansion in some 35 states would create and preserve jobs over the three years that it will take to complete. It will surely create and save some jobs in Arkansas, but that will be the least benefit of the grant.

The 5,600-mile network will traverse rugged terrain and remote reaches of the state to bring the marvels of medical imaging, electronic classes and the limitless library of the Internet to hospitals, doctors’ offices, colleges, police and fire departments, the far-flung health institutions like human development centers and home health agencies, businesses and ultimately to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Living in a rural community far from the blue-ribbon health-sciences institutions in Pulaski County will not much longer mean substandard care. Doctors and other practitioners in small hospitals and clinics can consult with UAMS specialists for high-risk pregnancies, stroke, heart and cancer patients. An obstetrician at Fayetteville, whose clinic is already connected, told how he had sent images to UAMS specialists one night recently to get emergency help on fetal anomalies that he had detected. Soon that technology will be available in every emergency room in Arkansas.

One of Arkansas’ gravest problems is the lack of primary-care doctors and practitioners in rural parts of the state. Doctoring is too demanding and the access to technology and specialists too hard. We can visualize the high-speed, high-volume network making practice in small-town Arkansas more appealing.

The network will link all the institutions of higher learning, including the 22 two-year colleges, expanding courses and programs and enabling limitless teleconferencing and the sharing of massive quantities of research data.

The for-profit Internet service providers might have done all that, but it is not cost-effective for AT&T, Comcast or the others to do it. The big money is in urban areas. That is why electric cooperatives sprang up to take electrical service to the countryside in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s — the investor-owned utilities found it unprofitable. This is the 21st Century complement.

Is this going to be an economic stimulus or just another government boondoggle, as the Republicans say? It is hard to imagine how the government could better advance economic development in rural Arkansas — and the rest of it, too.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville moving ahead on expansion

Leader staff writer

It was called a forced shotgun wedding that wouldn’t last by one resident and a violation of private property rights by another, but the Jacksonville City Council went ahead with its annexation plans Thursday.

The council unanimously voted to move forward with the annexation, meaning the issue will be placed on the Nov. 2 general ballot despite threats of legal action by rural residents and a strong advertising push to get people to vote no on annexation.

The city wants to bring in about 3.8 square miles of land north of the city, mostly along Hwy. 67/167, and about .38 square mile to the south, off Hwy. 161.

Only Jacksonville residents and those living in the affected areas will be allowed to vote on annexation.

Before approving the ordinance, which follows state law and places the issue on the ballot, the council heard from both sides.

Jason Wilkerson, representing the chamber of commerce, said the chamber was 100 percent behind the plans. He said the chamber board voted to “fully support the annexation ordinance.”

Richard Robertson, representing most of the people in the packed chambers, in a passionate plea, tied the ordinance to that of a shotgun wedding.

“The suitor may be good looking, strong and make all the proper promises and be full of good intentions, but if the other party doesn’t want to be in this forced shotgun marriage, it will not be happy or successful.”

He said simply that residents north of the city didn’t want to be a part of Jacksonville because “We love our freedom. We don’t want government control, rule or bureaucracy.”

He reminded the council that the land is adjacent to Little Rock Air Force Base and that development of the rural area could lead to the closing of the base.

“It would be wise to take the long view and keep our area rural. You will not be happy when the area is dotted with a bunch of Oak Ridge Subdivisions which will flood,” Robertson said.

Robertson said the people living in the northern section that the city wants to annex could and would find a legal way to stop or delay annexation.

He said residents could and would mount a campaign against the vote.

“It would not be healthy for Jacksonville to find out what we can do,” he said.

“Why does Jacksonville want all that swamp and flood land anyway?”

Robertson asked that the city compromise and work together with area residents.

Alderman Kenny Elliot said the city was looking at compromises by making sure ordinances protecting the residents’ ways of life are on the books before the general election.

“I’ve talked to people on both sides of this issue and agree that we need to protect the rights of the rural landowners and everyone will be grandfathered in under their current use until their area is developed.”

He said ordinances would be in place before the election to put the residents’’’ minds at ease.

Alderman Marshall Smith, who along with Elliott will represent the northern land if it becomes part of the city, said that he stood ready to talk with the residents and to work with them to make this a smooth transition.

Alderman Terry Sansing took a different approach, saying that the packed house of anti-annexation people were not representative of the whole area. “I do not believe this is the feeling of 100 percent of the people,” he said.

He went on to say that many of the people in the area for the annexation were afraid to speak out for the ordinance because of the bully techniques of some of the anti-annexation residents.

Sansing read from an e-mail of a resident in the affected area who felt being part of Jacksonville was a good thing, but was afraid that if the person spoke up in public that his home would be vandalized.

Alderman Bob Stroud told the crowd that it was the council’s position to do what was best for Jacksonville. “Five years from now, you’ll be saying it’s really a good thing that you are in the city,” he said.

But some were still not pleased.

One business owner said he’d let his business burn to the ground before accepting help from Jacksonville Fire Department.

Another business owner, who lives in Cabot and will not be able to vote in the election, raised such a fuss over not getting to speak (even though he spoke at the three-hour public hearing Aug. 5) said that he was going back to Greystone and that he won’t live in Jacksonville, even though his business is in Jacksonville.

That prompted Jacksonville resident Jim Moore to tell the man that Jacksonville didn’t want him anyway. “Go back to Cabot and good riddance,” Moore said.

Now the council will work on various zoning ordinances to try and keep the area’s land use the way it is, and the residents will look at legal options.

Lost in all the hype is the .38 square mile to the south, which apparently has very little opposition to becoming a part of the city.

In fact, Alderman Reedie Ray told the council earlier this month that another section to the south of Valentine Road is ready and willing to become part of Jacksonville.

TOP STORY > >New 314th head welcomed

Leader staff writer

Col. C.K. Hyde on Friday morning turned over command of the 314th Air Education and Training Wing to Col. Mark Czelusta, with Maj. Gen. Mark S. Solo, commander of the 19th Air Force, officiating.

Hyde, the well-liked commander of the 314th, was visibly choked up at the end of his address to the troops, saying, “Families, your support has made a big difference to the airmen behind you.”

Czelusta, a command pilot with more than 3,100 hours at the stick, most recently commanded the 386th Expeditionary

Operations Group in Southwest Asia in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

His major achievements include selection as the Fifth Air Force Mobility tactician of the year.

He returns to Little Rock Air Force Base, where he commanded the 463rd Operations Support Squadron. While in command, that unit won the 2005 and 2006 Air Mobility Command Outstanding Operations Support Squadron of the Year award.

He was a senior fellow at George C. Marshall Center at Garmisch, Germany. He has been contingency plans branch chief of the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base and chief of the European Deployment and Distributions Opera-tions Center at Stuttgart, Germany.

He has won an outstanding aca-demic award at the Air Force Weapons School Nellis Air Force Base.

Major awards include the Bronze Star with one oak-leaf cluster and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak-leaf cluster.

Hyde leaves to become deputy director of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration for flying training at Randolph Air Force Base.

He told the airmen that with their sturdy aircraft and teamwork, they own the mission of training C-130 and C-21 airlifters, and with “focus on what matters.”

Solo said, “We don’t make all of this happen without the support of family. He cited many accomplishments under Hyde and noted the 314th’s storied history dating back to the early days of WWII.

“It’s been filled with warriors who didn’t know how to fail,” Solo said. “Leading from the front, the 314th was an integral part of every major operation in the European theater.

“Today the 314th is the benchmark for combat-airlift training around the world,” the general said.

He cited Hyde for “impressive achievements including the 314th earning the Air Force Outstand Achievement Award.

He maintained right mission focus, supported its people and was an excellent steward of the base, Solo said.

He said Hyde “pushed advancement of technology, settling for nothing less than perfection.”

During his tenure, the 314th graduated 3,400 students and overcame a C-130E training deficit in six months.

He cut 3,600 from in-air flight training time through use of state-of-the-art simulators and saved the Air Force $17 million.

In citing Hyde’s accomplishments and awarding him the Legion of Merit, Solo noted that the on-time training-graduation rate was 15 percent when Hyde arrived at Little Rock Air Force Base but 95 percent by the time he handed over command to Czelusta.

He praised Czelusta, who commanded in Kuwait and Iraq, as “a proven warfighter with an extraordinary career that has prepared him well.”

Solo called him “the perfect leader with an outstanding Air Force record.”

“You exceeded every expectation, every goal,” said Hyde. “You continue to accomplish our mission of training the best C-130 and C-21 combat airlifters to fly, fight and win. We are linked to our Air Force mission and the end is not flying. The end is winning.

“Combat-delivery skills are not enough. A strong foundation is essential for success in the long wars against terrorism and success on battlefields that we can’t predict.

“Most of you are combat veterans. It’s more than where you’ve been or what you’ve done that makes you warriors. It’s what you believe and what you are as part of an airlift-combat team.

“Teamwork starts at the 314th and extends around the world,” Hyde said.

“No airman soldier, sailor or Marine is ever alone while you are on duty. We deliver our troops, sustain them, bring them back home, Medivac them and return them with dignity when they fall.

“Your legacy is more than accolades. It’s the commitment that you instill in future warriors.”

TOP STORY > >Officer earns Tuskegee award

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

An officer with the 48th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base has been recognized by the Tuskegee Airmen for his excellence in professional and community service.

Maj. James O’Brien, 48th AS scheduling flight commander, earned the Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Military Award in the field-grade officer category.

He was presented the award during the 39th annual Tuskegee Airmen National Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m very honored to even be considered (for this award),” said O’Brien.

As the scheduling flight commander, O’Brien programmed and tailored flying schedules to meet student and instructor requirements while managing a 4,656-flying hour program.

He instructs combat mission planning, tactical formation, night-vision goggle airdrop/airland procedures for the Air Force, other military branches and allied students.

O’Brien has spearheaded the Combined Federal Campaign for the 19th Operations Group and raised $249,000.

He also acted as team leader for the American Lung Association Stair Climb event, raising more than $500 toward research programs.

He credits the award to his teammates and co-workers.

“(This award) is really a reflection of all the people I work and fly with,” said O’Brien. “Everything I’ve done hasn’t been by myself; it’s always a team effort. Everyone I’ve worked with has been strong and dedicated to doing their job well.”

O’Brien also credits his mentors throughout the years for shaping him into who he is today.

“I’ve had a lot of great mentors starting with my parents and my family,” the major said.

Drawing inspiration from mentors from the Air Force Academy and his strong religious beliefs, O’Brien said he has been “very fortunate to have those people to look up to and take me under their wing.”

O’Brien excelled in education as well, completing a master of business administration degree with a 3.9 grade-point average despite having to juggle deployments and squadron duties.

The major believes the award speaks of Team Little Rock as a whole.

“This is a reflection of Team Little Rock and the C-130 community in general,” said O’Brien.

“Whether we are fund-raising through the CFC, doing community projects, such as outreach programs to local hospitals, going on deployments (every squadron always has someone deployed) and making the mission happen or training ... all those things are recognized by this award,” he said.

Earning the Air Force-level award impressed O’Brien’s superiors.

“Major O’Brien’s commitment to the Air Force core values and professionalism as a combat airlifter were recognized as continuing the character and service of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen,” said Col. C.K. Hyde, 314th Airlift Wing commander. “I can think of no better association or honor.”

Like many airmen, the major is familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen, what they stood for and is proud to be recognized by them.

“The Tuskegee Airmen were the epitome of airmen and officership,” he said. “Their dedication to country was unquestionable as well as the pride they had in their work. If we could work toward half of their work ethic and dedication, then we would be that much better off in serving this country.”

O’Brien had the honor of meeting members of the original Tuskegee Airmen earlier in his Air Force career.

“Several of them made the trip out to Balad Air Base, Iraq, a few years ago while I was deployed and also to Maxwell AFB where I was attending squadron-officer school,” he said. “There was a long line toget in there (to meet them) but it was well worth the wait.

“At the time, I held them in such high esteem. And now, several years later, to be recognized by their organization is such a huge honor,” O’Brien added.

SPORTS>>Tipping cap to reporters with ethics

Leader sports editor

Who would have thought a cap would cause such a flap?

By now we have heard all about radio personality Renee Gork, who has so far become the biggest distraction of the preseason when she was fired for wearing a Florida Gators cap to an Arkansas press conference Monday.

Hogs coach Bobby Petrino, Mr. Button-Down No Fun himself, called attention to the cap and spelled Gork’s doom when he took her question and then said, “And that will be the last question I answer with that hat on.”

I don’t think he smiled when he said it — I watched the video clip — but it’s hard to tell with that guy. Remember, of course, that last season Florida beat Arkansas somewhat controversially, 23-20, in a game that featured a missed Hogs field goal and some questionable officiating calls.

Neither Petrino nor the university asked for Gork to be fired, though the coach and quarterback Ryan Mallett asked her not to come back. Nonetheless Gork’s employer, radio station KAKS-FM 99.5, summarily dismissed her.

If you think Gork is an isolated example of questionable sports media behavior, think again.

The day before Gork’s fatal press conference, a credentialed reporter and photographer were booted from the Denver Broncos’ lockerroom for getting autographs from former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow following a preseason game with Cincinnati.

Now, let’s be clear, every sports media member I know watches and enjoys our great games in his or her spare time. Some of us in the business even have favorite teams.

I myself love the Chicago Cubs, though given the creative ways they have crushed my hopes over the years, they must hate the heck out of me.

It just wouldn’t be any fun if we didn’t root for someone, and therefore I don’t deny Gork the right to own as many Gators caps as she wants. After all, she’s a Florida graduate. And that reporter and photographer? Hey, they can get their autographs as long as they take off their passes, buy a ticket and stand in line with the rest of the fans.

There used to be a time when reporters, particularly baseball writers, were much more cozy with the people they covered, dining and drinking with players and owners and keeping their dirty little secrets. But no more.

There is a reason why there are rules and guidelines against reporters showing bias.

There are reasons why, before most NCAA games, someone makes an announcement that cheering is an offense that will get you kicked out of a press box. There are reasons why they yank your press pass if you ask for an autograph by the batting cage.

First and foremost, how can one objectively report the hard facts if he sees himself as a friend of the team he covers?

As the cost of going to a game and the price of players, teams and tax-funded stadiums have soared into the stratosphere, reporters, at least the good ones, have become watchdogs.

If your tax money goes to a public funded university and that university spends millions on football, don’t you have a right to know how that program operates? If your tax money is going toward a monolithic new stadium while schools have to hold bake sales to buy paper, don’t you at least want to know how the team within that stadium conducts its business?

Good reporters are part of the system of checks and balances that keep sports programs honest.

In Gork’s case it wasn’t that she wore a team cap, it was that she wore the wrong one. KAKS bills itself as “Hog Sports Radio” and general manager Dan Storrs had this to say after Gork was fired: “This radio station is Hog Sports Radio. We are very biased.

We support the Razorbacks 100 percent.”

Don’t expect these guys to break any news about grade-inflation scandals or off-field misbehaviors any time soon.

Now, as high school football season begins, gridirons around Arkansas will be swarmed with sportswriters wearing the home team colors and calling themselves journalists.

The dirty word in this business is “homer,” and that’s what these guys are. These are the guys who think they are part of the program, who think the game can’t go on without them.

The homer, fans, is not your friend. The homer won’t tell you if kids are being passed academically just so they can play football; the homer won’t tell you if a coach mistreats a kid at practice.

The homer would rather stand on the sidelines and give high fives.

Keep an eye out for the homers. Don’t trust them.

Just keep it under your cap.

SPORTS>>Riverview hits on new front for its defense

Leader sportswriter

Riverview’s shift in defensive philosophy that came with new defensive coordinator Larry Davidson is perhaps the first significant change to the youthful Raiders program.

Now in their third year of varsity football, the relatively new Raiders are looking to improve on the 30.1 points a game they allowed in 2009. Riverview’s 4-4 formation was unable to prevent a pair of critical 2-3A Conference losses to Mayflower and Little Rock Episcopal, and the setbacks ultimately kept the Raiders from qualifying for the playoffs a second straight year.

Davidson, who was with Cave City last year and was a junior high coach at Newport before that, has installed a linebacker-heavy, 3-5 package. At 3-3Aconference member Cave City, Davidson’s Cavemen allowed an average 11 points a game with three shutouts and four games in which opponents scored once.

Their points allowed led all of the 3A classification.

“We feel like our strongest position on the defense is our linebackers,” Riverview coach Stuart Hill said. “He brought in the 3-5, and we kept it.”

The Raiders have depended on the hard hitting of senior linebacker Chayse Parson since he earned a starting spot as a sophomore two years ago. Parson has earned all-conference honors in his first two years of varsity, and has made more strides in the weight room during the offseason.
Parson, 5-10, 200 pounds, now benches just under 350 pounds and can squat almost 450. He led the team in tackles last year with 106.

The Raiders are inexperienced in some areas, but seniors and returning starters Dillon Johnson and Jordan Daniels join Parson as outside linebackers to form a seasoned crew in the heart of the defense.

Now that the Raiders are going into their third full season, the learning curve has flattened and the expectations have steepened.

“They are learning what’s asked of them, and we ask a lot,” Hill said. “It’s getting to the point where there are no more surprises, everyone knows what’s expected of them.”

Hill also has strong hopes for the secondary, which will include sophomore McKenzie Jones at the lone safety position.

“He’s done a fantastic job in camp,” Hill said. “He’s aggressive, he’s got speed. He’s the best we’ve had at that position so far.

It’s been safety by committee for the first two years, so it’s good to get him in there.”

Junior Tony Riley sat out last year injured, but earned one of the starting cornerback positions following his return. Hill has been impressed with Riley’s speed and said that playing 7-on-7 helped him get back into game shape.

The other corner spot is undecided, with Heath Hoofman, Dallas Johnson, Wes Eslinger and Dillon Hays all vying for the spot.

The Raiders will get their first test for the new defense Monday when they travel to Augusta for a scrimmage with the Red Devils. They will open the season Sept. 3 at Carlisle.

SPORTS>>Cabot well and kicking

Leader sports editor

The injured players are trickling back to Cabot just in time for the Panthers’ first test, a Monday scrimmage at Lake Hamilton.

The Panthers, of the 7A/6A-Central, had seven players dealing with aches and pains or other health problems, but at media day

Thursday coach Mike Malham was anticipating all but defensive lineman T.C. Carter (shoulder) would be back by the end of the week.

Carter is expected to return in close to two weeks.

The group of injured players included senior kicker/defensive back Logan Spry, a potential all-stater who dropped a weight on his foot and was still limping somewhat during Thursday’s media day.

“We’ve got a bunch of them back,” Malham said. “Really Carter is still a little bit away from contact with that shoulder but other than that I think we’ve got most of them, a majority of them, back.”

The returnees will help Cabot put forth a starting lineup at Lake Hamilton that Malham said is more or less set. His concern, as it has been all preseason, is finding a solid group of backups.

“For the most part we’re pretty settled. Somebody would just have to jump out and do something great,” Malham said. “We’ve been looking at them now since last spring and two-a-days so we kind of know where we’re at right now.

“We’d love for some of these second-teamers to step up and challenge some of these first-teamers, but I haven’t seen a lot of that.”

Malham is hoping the scrimmage, and especially the regular season, might reveal greater depth than he is seeing now.

“Sometimes you throw a kid in there when he has to play and he’ll step up and perform,” Malham said. “But they’re getting the reps. Second team gets as many reps, just about, as the first team. So there’s no excuse not to know what to do when you get your chance.”

Malham agreed the preseason has taken a toll and said the Panthers, down to one practice a day, should benefit from a lighter schedule as they move toward the season opener with Jacksonville at War Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31.

The Panthers only posed for photos and enjoyed a barbecue at Thursday’s function, and Malham said Tuesday would be set aside for weights and film study only, while the starters would sit out Friday’s team scrimmage.

Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday will be devoted to preparation for Jacksonville, and Aug. 30, the Monday before the Tuesday opener, would be set aside to work on the Panthers’ pregame.

“Their bodies should be getting back to normal,” Malham said.

Cabot will test out 13 new starters, including quarterback Zach Craig, against Lake Hamilton.

The Wolves, of the 7A/6A-South Conference, were 8-4 last year and reached the third round of the 6A playoffs before losing to Pine Bluff. Lake Hamilton last won a state championship in 2008.

“We’ve been scrimmaging them for five or six years,” Malham said. “They’re a good 6A team. They’ve won the state here within the last couple years.

SPORTS>>Wildcats on mission to help out

Leader sportswriter

The Harding Academy Wildcats are on a mission this season to repeat as 2-3A Conference champions.

But their mission in late July, just before the start of practice, was part of a higher calling.

The Wildcats traveled to Mobile, Ala., as part of a mission trip to work with inner-city kids and local churches. They held a peewee football camp for the younger kids in the area and helped with fundraisers, as well as ministered to people in the area by going door to door.

“It gives you a deeper appreciation for where you live, and the blessings that God gives you,” said Harding Academy coach Roddy Mote, now entering his fifth season overalland third as head coach of the Wildcats. “No matter what your economic status is, we all need a savior.”

In an era where the intentions of some faith-based private schools seem questionable at times, Harding Academy is an example of fellowship and outreach in all of its school programs, including its athletic department.

“We were sharing our faith,” Mote said. “And sharing the word of Jesus through the game that we play.”

The Wildcats raised funds to help the local children with clothing needs, and also raised money for a church. The average income of the church members is less than $8,000 per year, and it has an annual tithe intake of only $15,000.

The local school requires students to wear uniforms, and the money raised by the Wildcats went toward supplying children with the proper attire for the start of the school year. Mote said the trip not only raised civic and religious awareness in the neighborhood in Mobile, but also among his own players.

“There were some comments,” Mote said. “You heard guys saying, ‘I need to do this more often.’ ”

Since returning to Searcy, the Wildcats have been hard at work on their competitive mission.

“I think things have been progressing well,” Mote said. Our kids have been focused and continue to work hard. We’ve had a great preseason camp.

“I think we’re like most people toward the end of preseason, just ready to hit on somebody besides ourselves.”

The Wildcats will get their first opportunity to hit someone else when nearby Beebe visits First Security Stadium on Tuesday night for a scrimmage game.

That will lead Harding Academy into the start of the regular season against a very familiar opponent, Fountain Lake, which ended a dream season for the Wildcats last year with a one-sided victory in the 3A state semifinals.

The non-conference schedule will not get any easier from there with 4A powerhouse Heber Springs on tap for Week 2, and another familiar opponent, Des Arc, in Week 3. The Wildcats and Eagles had a spirited rivalry in the days of the former 6AA

Conference — a rivalry that even hinted at bitterness between the two programs from time to time.

“I think we’ll get an early check of how good we are,” Mote said. “Our non-conference schedule is real good. We’re excited to get the season started. The expectations around here are to make the playoffs.”

SPORTS>>Quarterbacks taking charge

Leader sports editor

Whatever the offense, someone needs to make it go.

Football season opens next week with a number of area teams breaking in, or trying to find, new quarterbacks while others welcome veterans back to the huddle.

From standout incumbent Seth Keese at Harding Academy to new signal caller Logan DeWhitt at Lonoke, each quarterback will carry the fortunes of his team under center.

No team appears more set at the position than Harding Academy, the defending 2-3A Conference champion and preseason favorite, which returns the all-state product Keese. The 5-11, 185-pound senior passed for 2,480 yards and 22 touchdowns out of the Wildcats’ Spread offense and rushed for 909 yards and 19 scores.

The only blot on the season for Keese and the Wildcats was the one-sided state semifinal loss to eventual 3A champion Fountain Lake, when Keese tore his ACL on a late hit on the game’s third play.

Though he finished the game, Keese, who already has a scholarship offer from nearby Harding University, had to skip basketball while he rehabilitated, but coach Roddy Mote said he looks good as new.

“He’s been doing well,” Mote said. “He looks like the Seth of old, I guess you could say. He’s playing fast, and we should be better there.

“We’re counting on him to have a great year.”

But Keese isn’t the only established quarterback in the area.

North Pulaski welcomes athletic junior Shyheim Barron, a threat to run or throw in the Falcons’ new Spread offense.

Barron, 6-1, 195 pounds, was also banged up with a strained knee last season, but he showed glimpses of his versatility with a 100-yard game against Little Rock McClellan.

“The best thing about him is not only can he throw, his feet move,” coach Terrod Hatcher said. “Being able to have a running quarterback in the Spread offense is very important. Very important.”

The Spread is considered t0 be a passingformation because it stretches the defensive secondary with multiple receivers and creates mismatches, but it also spreads the field and provides room for guys like Barron to run.

“I like throwing and running so it’s in my category,” Barron said. “It’s my choice to hand the ball off or keep it.”

The quarterback is just as important to teams that almost exclusively keep the ball on the ground.

At defending 7A-Central Conference champion Cabot, coach Mike Malham has presided over a three-way competition to determine who will replace three-year starter Seth Bloomberg in the Panthers’ punishing Dead T.

Malham has settled on Zach Craig, 6-2, 195 pounds. Craig, who transferred from Monticello two years ago and passed for 1,000 yards as a freshman, can throw; in the Dead T he shouldn’t get that many attempts.

However, Craig will do more than hand off the ball. The Dead T thrives on misdirection, making timing critical, and since Cabot frequently uses the option to get outside, the quarterback must be tough as he gets his fair share of carries.

“Most people are either going to throw the ball or they’re going to run the option,” Malham said. “I don’t know of too many football teams that don’t throw and don’t run the option. That would be pretty easy to defend I think.”

Beebe’s returning senior starter Scot Gowen will also direct the Dead T as the Badgers compete in the 5A-East this season. Gowen, 5-11, 185, rushed for close to 800 yards last year and rushed for 100 yards in three games.

“The big thing for him is that he’s worked on improving the little things a quarterback does,” Beebe coach John Shannon said.

Senior Dezmond Stegall is one of Searcy’s top returners as the Lions try to find balance in what second-year coach Tim Harper has been calling a “Spread Wing T.” Stegall, 6-2 195, fills the bill as a strong-armed quarterback who also has 4.65 speed in the 40-yard dash.

Jacksonville is shifting to a running attack after using the Spread last season, but big-play senior Logan Perry, 5-11, 180, returns at quarterback, where he will be handing off to physical, speedy senior Antwon Mosby and looking for multi-talented receiver D’Vone McClure.

Lonoke, the 4A state runner-up last year, took a hit in the preseason when leading quarterback candidate Tarrale Watson suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out until at least late in the season. But coach Doug Bost is comfortable with Logan DeWhitt, 6-3, 185, who focused on academics and did not play last year and was in a tight competition with Watson before the injury.

Lonoke, too, will be operating out of the Spread this year.

Sylvan Hills is another team welcoming back a quarterback who skipped last season. The Bears are going with 5-10, 165-pound senior Michael Maddox, a baseball standout who will direct the team’s Spread offense.

Riverview enters its third year of varsity football with its first new quarterback in junior Josh Roach, 5-6, 145 pounds, who got some quality playing time last year when two-year starter Grafton Harrell broke his thumb after throwing for 1,336 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Emulate O’Brien

Emulate O’Brien

Finally, there is a public official and politician who makes perfect sense in the great state-car war. Well, actually Pat O’Brien is the second one, after Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette broke its story in May about the use of government cars by state officials, Halter revealed that he had always paid state and federal income taxes on the courtesy car that the state provided him.

Since then, almost everyone who entered the fray, from the foolish responses of the attorney general and state treasurer to Jim Keet, who tried to make political hay of the story, has embarrassed themselves, or they should have been embarrassed.

O’Brien, the Pulaski County clerk who is running for secretary of state, did not make wild promises about transforming the government, which his ministerial office will not permit him to do, but he did make sense.

He does not drive a county car and he will not drive a state car as past secretaries of state have done. He won’t take mileage reimbursement for travel from his Jacksonville home to the Capitol. All the employees in the secretary of state’s office who use a state car — there are 27 cars — will sign a pledge not to use it for personal travel. Each car will have a conspicuous emblem on the doors and a plate that says “For Official Business Only.” That will be true even of the state Capitol police, who use the cars daily. He will review the need for every car and in six months, based on his current knowledge, he thinks he will turn back up to 30 percent of the vehicles.

That ought to be the policy throughout state government and most people must be surprised that it wasn’t. If Gov. Beebe would announce simply that it would be the policy throughout state government, we could go back to worrying about Medicaid and the destruction of state roads.

EDITORIAL >>Candidate’s bankruptcy

Who cannot feel some sympathy for Rick Crawford, whose race for Congress in east Arkansas, including Lonoke County, unlocked some unfortunate past — that he had run up a lot of credit as a young man and got the government to relieve him of the debt? It happens to too many of us. But who cannot feel disappointment, even anger, that he would try to mislead people about what he had done?

He asks people to trust him to represent them responsibly and to tell them the truth about all things public and private, which is the very nature of representative democracy. And he fails the first small test.

Crawford won the Republican nomination for representative from the First District in May, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette then disclosed during the summer that he had filed for bankruptcy 16 years ago in Missouri. He was relieved of $12,000 in credit-card, utility and other debts. Someone meanly pointed out his strong rhetoric about responsibility during the campaign:

“If businesses in America spent money the way the federal government does, they would be in bankruptcy.  If people ran their personal finances the way Congress does, they would be in jail. When is this reckless spending going to stop?  It will stop when we unite to send citizen legislators to Congress who will not cave to the Washington-loving professional politicians.”

It looked a little hypocritical. But Rick Crawford was not the first young man who fell on hard times. The bankruptcy list in the paper every week is so sadly long, the names of good people who lost their jobs or had a family member get sick without insurance and couldn’t pay their bills. Unlike today, those were boom times when Rick Crawford went to bankruptcy court for relief, but even the most prosperous times can leave individuals stranded.

Crawford owned up to the bankruptcy, but he said he had eventually repaid every dime of the debts. But the newspaper reporter did not take him at his word and began to check with creditors. There was a hospital in Columbia, Mo., that he had not paid for surgery and a hospital stay in 1993. When the reporter called University of Missouri Health Care, Crawford had already called to check on the status of his debt. The hospital told the reporter it was forbidden to disclose a patient’s records, even the status of his debt, without a waiver signed by Crawford. He refused to waive his privacy right.

But later he did. The hospital was given permission to disclose only one thing, which was whether at this moment Crawford still owes the hospital. The hospital said that right now he doesn’t owe anything. It could not say when he had paid the bill.

Crawford refuses to say whether he paid the bill this summer after questions were raised and after he had insisted that he had long ago repaid his debts. A campaign aide of the candidate said that was all he was ever going to say about the matter.

Crawford counts on the matter blowing over, and no doubt it will. The centrifugal force of an election season will soon have our minds chasing a hundred other chimeras, and memories are short. There is no reason anyone should store resentments of one man’s irresponsibility as a callow youth if only he had been honest about it — completely honest.

If you cannot trust a man to be honest about so trivial an affair in his own life, how can you vouchsafe any faith in what he says about matters that are truly grave?

TOP STORY > >Cabot teachers celebrate

Leader staff writer

Dr. Tony Thurman, the superintendent of Cabot schools, was – by his own admission – outside his comfort zone Monday morning as he donned a Hawaiian-print shirt and rattled an assortment of percussion instruments as he tried to sing along with a variation of the classic “Margaritaville” that described what going back to school is like for teachers.

The oil spill kept many from the beach this summer, Thurman said, so he, along with Assistant Superintendent Jim Dalton and
songwriter and lead singer Dr. Joey Walters, the assistant director of the Arkansas Activities Association, intended to bring the beach to them.

“Lost teacher’s edition,” “Dr. Thurman’s fault” and “Prozac” were all included in the rewrite that elicited thunderous applause from the 900 or so staff members who filled the cafeteria at Junior High North.

Essentially, he had been bullied into participation by his wife and close staff members who thought he needed to show his employees that he did know how to loosen up, Thurman said by way of an apology before the performance started.

The occasion was the annual district assembly, a mandatory gathering of teachers and administrators to kick off the beginning of the school year.

“The purpose is to provide information and to provide motivation and direction for the upcoming school year,” Thurman told
The Leader in an interview. “We are very appreciative of our staff and take this as an opportunity for the administration and school board to say thanks for their dedication to the students of our district.

“Our district is becoming so large that many of our staff never have the opportunity to visit with staff from other schools within the district. This gives the entire district the opportunity to come together at one time and hear one consistent message from our administration,” he said.

Also singing backup were Candace Thomason, who teaches fourth grade at Ward Central Elementary, and Mary Smithey who teaches business education at Junior High South. 

They were rewarded for their effort with framed pictures of Dalton and an Apple iPad for their classrooms.

The performance followed several speakers including Charles George, a former principal who was also an honoree at last year’s Cabot Schools Hall of Fame banquet who called Cabot schools “the jewel of this area” and told the teachers to become friends with their students but always maintain “a line of respect.”

While the students were out for the summer, Thurman gave the administrators a required reading list which included a book by John Maxwell that Dalton said contained noteworthy quotes that applied to the importance of body language and keeping a positive attitude when dealing with students. And he included several in his opening remarks for the assembly.

“Everyone communicates but few connect,” Dalton quoted Maxwell as writing. “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear your words. If your face is going to say something, it may as well say something positive. People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

He also told the teachers and principals to keep this in mind as the new school year gets under way: “If it weren’t for our students, we wouldn’t have a job.”

Since the assembly was also intended to inform, not just motivate and entertain, Thurman’s presentation included test scores that showed the district is above the state average in most areas and a building update.

He also said the district is financially sound. The 2009-2010 school year started with a $4.8 million carryover from the previous year, he said. This year’s carryover is $5.4 million which is about 8.1 percent of the budget.

The state watches school budgets and becomes concerned if a district doesn’t have enough for emergencies, he said. At one time, Cabot’s low carryover was a concern, but no longer, he said.

Mountain Springs Elementary is open, he said. But the $13 million combination cafeteria, health, physical-education and recreation complex at the high school is behind schedule and won’t be completed in the spring.

“We hoped it would be ready but that’s not going to happen,” Thurman told his staff.

TOP STORY > >Hopson hopes he’ll find unity

Leader senior staff writer

New Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Charles Hopson on Monday night laid out the limits of his authority and that of the board, referring to his role as that of chief operating officer as related to teaching, learning and operations.

The board, he said, was charged with making policy decisions. This board, which has micromanaged everything through the terms of at least the last three superintendents, may chafe at that restraint, but so far the members have been supportive of Hopson.

To succeed, Hopson must unravel the Gordian knot that is the relationship between the board, the union, and now the members of the just-formed personnel-policies committee. A Gordian knot is an intractable problem solved with a bold stroke.

Alexander the Great, according to legend, solved the original Gordian knot where others had failed, not by untying it, but by cleaving it with a blow from his sword. Hopson seems to be opting for a more subtle approach, but the challenge may be equally formidable.

Based on an e-mail he sent the board members, at Monday night’s special board meeting, Hopson read a prepared statement, taking responsibility for the controversial changes to the bell schedule, which affects the length of both the teachers’ day and the students’.

Hopson said educational matters were his purview and policy matters were the board’s.

“Our patrons seem confused about where your responsibility as board members begins and ends,” said the superintendent.

“Some of this may be the result of blurred lines with past superintendents, but that cannot and will not be the case with this superintendent and our public needs to hear that from me,” he said.

“I was hired to improve academic achievement. The bell schedule and educational minutes…are out of alignment with the rest of the country.”

He said he had received more than 30 e-mails from patrons about the bell-schedule change, which would have originally left elementary school students at the bus stop in the dark at 6:30 a.m.

Many blamed the board, and there is some evidence that the board had considered the matter previously. But, he said, “As a superintendent with a moral imperative, I cannot allow a decision I made alone as an instructional leader to be political fodder that marginalizes any … of you as board members.”

The bell schedule is my domain as superintendent, he said. It is not and never was anything that required a board vote, he said.

“It is not a policy matter.”

Hopson told the board and those in the meeting room that in June, “while the entire district was in limbo pending a decision from Judge Fox,” at the urging of board member Gwen Williams he had met with PACT president Marty Nix and they had discussed the bell schedule, which he hoped could be settled in mediation.

But the entire process ran out of time he said.

The district has a chief financial officer—Hopson has brought in retired Lt. Col. Derek Scott to be chief of facilities. Scott served 27 years in the Air Force, including 18 years managing large facilities, some of them in Iraq.

He also has hired Rodney Matheney as co-deputy superintendent for learning services. Matheney was West Campus principal at Conway.

TOP STORY > >District, teachers continue to battle

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District’s teachers will vote on proposed personnel-policy changes today, but the district’s teachers’ union late yesterday afternoon filed yet another lawsuit against the district, according to its attorney Clayton Blackstock.

The suit claims that a bonus offered by the board, if teacher approve the changes, is void. It would require a change in the district’s personnel policy. Furthermore, Blackstock said that the personnel- policies committee that proposed the changes being voted upon is not valid for this school year. It was elected last school year.

Blackstock said the suit could be moot, because he believes it’s unlikely that a majority of the teachers will approve the changes. Many more than half of the teachers are members of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, and a “yes” vote would nullify the union.

“They are going to vote for a one-time bonus and give up the right to have the union negotiate for them?” Blackstock asked. He said PACT has gotten great salaries and benefits for the teachers for 20 years and they wouldn’t want to vote that away.

Both the personnel-policies committee and the board sweetened the pot by promising a bonus—not a raise—of $1,100 to $1,800 if the personnel-policy changes were approved. “That would be a long-term disaster for the teachers,” Blackstock said.

PACT members scoffed at the bonus offer Monday night, calling it a transparent bribe.

PACT president Marty Nix said after the meeting that the union would not strike or walk out.

That said, the proposed changes have several teacher-friendly amendments and steers clear of some of the trickier questions, such as that of bellschedules and length of the school day.

To take effect, the policy must be approved by most certified personnel, not just a majority of those voting, according to the district’s attorney, Jay Bequette.

Board members Bill Vasquez and Gwen Williams fought tooth and nail to prevent the vote, invoking Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s most recent ruling.

Vasquez said the judge ruled that the professional ne-gotiations agreement—the contract—between PACT and PCSSD remained in effect, that the personnel-policies committee couldn’t present the changes to personnel policies now, nor could any policies take affect for the school year that starts Thursday.

Fox has ruled in the past that the board had improperly revoked PACT’s authority to negotiate for the teachers, that the district had not followed the law in forming its personnel policy committee and that it had not properly passed a set of personnel policies.

Bequette countered, saying that state law allows a majority of the teachers to approve immediate changes to the policies, and to implement those changes for the current school year.

Vasquez had the meeting interrupted to get copies of Fox’s order for each of the board members, then read several minutes worth of the order aloud during the reconvened meeting.

Vasquez said he thought the order proved that the PNA negotiated between the teachers and the district for 2006—2009 remained in effect and therefore it was improper and wrong, if not illegal, for the board or the certified personnel to approve changes to the personnel policies.

Those policies only exist in the absence of a contract, and he said Fox had ruled that the contract remained in effect.

The meeting was contentious, with the room packed with PACT members and media. Williams, who has voted against the union’s interest only once in several years, told her fellow board members that the teachers must have the proposed changes 10 days before voting whether or not to approve them.

She said Wednesday’s vote would fall far short of that mark. The PACT members were vocal, standing and cheering Vasquez and Williams, making derisive comments aimed at other board members and laughing at times. Several times, other board members asked security to quiet them.

“Things must be done de-cently,” Vasquez said. “We’re not sovereigns here, we’re surrogates.”

After board members Tim Clark, Charlie Wood, Danny Gililland and Mildred Tatum outvoted Vasquez and Williams to accept the personnel-policies committee’s report, teachers filed out into the parking lot where they displayed signs, chanted 36 days (until the school board election), sang “Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, goodbye.”

They are hoping to unseat board members Wood of Sher-wood and Gililland of north Pulaski County and replace them with more union-friendly board members. The school board elections will be Sept. 21.

Vasquez followed them out to the parking lot, where he led the group in prayer.

Earlier in the meeting, he said he would reveal his prejudices, saying, “I’m a Christian man, a Reagan Republican and a proud American.”

SPORTS>>Tickets made available for Jacksonville-Cabot

Tickets are now available for the Aug. 31 Jacksonville-Cabot Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic game at War Memorial Stadium.

Tickets are $7 and can be purchased in advance at Jacksonville High School and Cabot High School. Call Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson at (501) 425-7370 or Cabot athletic director Johnny White at (501) 743-3530 for information.

Jacksonville is holding its “Football 101” clinic for girls and women 16 and older at the high school fieldhouse at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Red Devils will hold their junior and senior high Red/White game at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the high school field.

A junior/senior high jamboree involving Jacksonville, Cabot and Mills is scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Jacksonville Junior High, Cabot North, Cabot South and Mills ninth-graders will take the field first, followed by a scrimmage between Jacksonville High School and Mills. Admission to the Arkansas Activities Association function is $4.

SPORTS>>New system pointing out football flaws

Leader sports editor

An old high-school football teammate of mine found our program’s records dating back to 1945 and shared them online.

Boy, did we play for a bad football team. I haven’t seen that many zeroes since the last time I watched “Tora, Tora, Tora.”

To give an example, my team’s record over my junior and senior years was 5-13, and that was the best two-year mark since 1975. To put that in perspective, it means I have to confess I graduated my little school in downstate Illinois in 1981.

Once our program records were posted, a bunch of aging, ex-gridiron greats like myself weighed in with mostly humorous commentary. Like survivors of a hurricane, we can laugh about it now.

I pointed out our opponents always had a knack for being bigger, faster and having more guys. And they excelled at running that “man-wide-open” play.

When opponents saw us on their schedule, I’m sure they lit up like my co-worker Jason King when he spies unattended loose change in the company break room.

The bottom line, of course, was that my team didn’t score enough points, which brings me to the latest Arkansas Activities Association initiative designed to improve high school football in Arkansas.

It’s all about points now.

“But it always has been,” you say.

Yes, it has always been about points on the field.

Now, however, our local large-school teams Cabot, Jacksonville and Searcy have to keep a second score on top of their Friday-night finals. To get to the postseason, it’s not enough to outscore your opponents and win more games than anyone else, the two statistics that have always mattered most.

This season, the 6A and 7A teams that are playing in the hybrid 7A/6A-Central and 7A/6A-East earn points for victories and quality of opponents in order to compile an end-of-season power rating that determines playoff seeding.

What happened to just beating guys?

True, there are geographic and student-population issues Arkansas has had to address in its high school athletics. The solution until now has been to keep adding classifications the way Cabot keeps adding strip malls.

We have seen high school football expand from a perfectly good four classifications to six, ranging from 2A to 7A. Grizzled sportswriters like myself have long decried this process on the basis that we’re giving away championships and playoff berths to teams that previously had to earn them.

Consider that Class 7A has only 16 teams, the smallest classification grouping in the nation.

Yet we still have similar-sized teams too far apart in our little state, making it hard for them to schedule a competitive and fair slate of games. And we won’t go into the AAA’s efforts to lessen disparities caused by the private- school powerhouses.

To make things geographically and competitively agreeable, the AAA created the two hybrid conferences, leaving the 7A-West full of only 7A schools and the 6A-South full of 6A schools. In those conferences it’s still about just winning games.

But for at least the next two seasons, a 7A/6A-Central team like Cabot collects 10 points for each conference victory and one point for each opponent’s conference victory. The total points are then divided by the seven conference games to determine a team’s power ranking.

A 6A team like Jacksonville or Searcy collects 10 points for any 7A/6A-East Conference victory, five for a tie and a one-point bonus for each 7A team played.

Some 6A schools are already manipulating the new system, adding non-conference, 7A opponents with an eye toward stockpiling points for the season’s end.

As it is with most compromises, the new system doesn’t please anyone, at least not around here.
Cabot coach Mike Malham objects because a 7A powerhouse like West Memphis, playing a slate of 6A teams in the 7A/6A-East, could fatten up and cruise to the No. 1 seed in the 7A while Cabot must play primarily 7A teams on its 7A/6A-Central schedule.

Searcy coach Tim Harper objects because the system hasn’t really alleviated travel concerns — schools are still scheduling whomever they want, wherever they are located, if it helps their power rankings at the end of the season.

I probably took too many blows to the head during my high school football playing days to think up a solution on my own, so I offer one I have heard discussed elsewhere — combine the largest two classifications into one, and take the top four seeds from each conference in the postseason.

It sounds simple, perhaps too simple, and the devil is always in the details.

But at least once the scoreboards are shut off on Friday nights, no one would have to do any additional math.

SPORTS>>Red Devils’ Russell says team is on track

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Red Devils may be tired of hitting each other, but they’re finding out a lot about themselves in the process.

The Red Devils held their second full-contact scrimmage at the end of practice Friday to wrap up their second week. The results have helped new coach Rick Russell and his staff determine who can fill many of the positions in question on offense and defense.

“The first two weeks have been successful,” said Russell, the former Jacksonville defensive coordinator who returned to the program after one year as head coach at North Pulaski. “The concentration and effort have been good. We’ve scrimmaged twice now, and it’s allowed us to start making some decisions on our depth chart.”

While Russell deemed thescrimmage a success, it also helped him pick out some areas requiring improvement.

“Things are definitely getting better,” Russell said. “We want to correct and eliminate any mistakes we made from the scrimmage. We have to make sure our linemen are ready and get prepared to scrimmage against Mills on Monday.”

The numbers are holding strong for Jacksonville with 76 players still on the roster.

Defensively, Russell liked what he saw out of linebacker Pierre Lewis and cornerback D’Vone McClure, and also had praise for offensive lineman Dominique Wyatt.

SPORTS>>Listing honors North Hills

Leader sports editor

The revamped Greens at North Hills golf course in Sherwood has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program Director Frances McSwain said.

The facility, once known as the Sylvan Hills Country Club, joins the Tyronza Commercial Historic District in Poinsett County on the register, which is the country’s official list of historically significant properties.

The golf course was constructed in 1927 and it reopened as the Greens at North Hills in the spring. The course is located at 7400 North Highway 107 in Sherwood.

“At the time when the Sylvan Hills Country Club was developing in the middle of the 1920s, the sport of golf was also beginning to develop and become popular with the public,” the National Register nomination said. “It was also during this time that golf course design was in its ‘golden era,’ which ended in 1931.

“The history of this golf course also represents a significant contribution to the growth of recreation and entertainment in Sherwood, Ark., dating from its construction in 1927.”

The Tyronza Commercial Historic District, located onSouth Main Street, features buildings dating to 1916, including structures associated with the founding of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union.

The Greens at North Hills officially opened May 29 after being idle for more than two years.

The former country club debuted as a public facility after a $7 million renovation.

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program is the Department of Arkansas Heritage agency that identifies, evaluates and preserves the state’s cultural resources.

Other agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Historic Arkansas Museum.

SPORTS>>Panthers’ personnel feel pain

Leader sports editor

Cabot coach Mike Malham would like to start hitting opponents before he runs out of players.

The banged-up Panthers will scrimmage at Lake Hamilton on Monday, and between now and then Malham is hoping to get some important players healthy as practice, among other things, has taken a toll.

“We’ve got some key personnel not being able to work right now,” Malham said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get them back.”

It isn’t enough Cabot needs to replace seven graduated defensive players, a quarterback and three offensive linemen while trying to find depth across the board. Now, Malham said, seven players are banged up or limited in some way.

Defensive lineman T.C. Carter isn’t expected back until the second week of the season because of a shoulder injury; it is hoped cornerback Mason Haley (knee) can return to practice this week and defensive end Zach Kerr (knee) is two weeks away.

On offense, running back Mason James is nursing a hip flexor; running back Jeremy Berry is easing back into action after being hospitalized with kidney problems in the spring and kicker/defensive back Logan Spry recently dropped a weight on his toe — not a good thing to have happen to a kicker.

“Man, I tell you we’ve had a bunch of them,” Malham said of the injuries.

Malham has settled on a quarterback, junior Zach Craig, while his competitors at the position, Bryson Morris and Zach Brown, are slotted to play defense.

“Right now he’s got that nod,” Malham said of Craig.

Of course, things could change if Craig, or any other player, doesn’t bear up in Monday’s scrimmage.

“I think we’ve done all we can do right now, we just need to see what happens when we go to war,” Malham said.

Malham said most of the Panthers’ offensive and defensive schemes are in place. When it comes to the Dead T running attack, Malham likes to keep it simple.

“Offensively it’s not like we have a big playbook,” he said. “Kids are going to make mental mistakes. You’ve just got to keep going over it and over it.”

Cabot went 9-1 in the regular season to win the 7A-Central Conference last year and came a late-touchdown pass shy of edging Springdale Har-Ber in the state semifinals.

The Panthers will begin to find out what it will take to get back to the postseason at Lake Hamilton on Monday. The Wolves were 8-4 last year and reached the second round of the 6A playoffs, just missing a state-final berth with an eight-point loss to Pine Bluff.

Nonetheless, Malham isn’t treating the scrimmage like a regular-season game and said he would probably devote part of just one day to prepare.

“I’d rather get ready for teams like Har-Bar, Pulaski Academy and Jacksonville,” Malham said, naming Cabot’s non-conference opponents.

But the Monday scrimmage will be good for one thing, Malham said. At least the Panthers can finally hit someone new.

“When you’ve been beating on yourself for two weeks, that gets old,” Malham said.

SPORTS>>Hatcher finds new equation

Leader sportswriter

High-school football teams usually look forward to Fridays.

It marks game day during the season, and the end of a hard week’s work during two-a-days. But for Lonoke, Friday has marked critical setbacks in the first two weeks of August.

On Aug. 6, senior receiver Scott Smith broke his collarbone while making a diving catch and was projected to be out for five weeks.

It was Lonoke’s first significant injury of summer camp and Smith’s absence was a big setback for the Jackrabbits.

But a broken ankle for junior quarterback Tarale Watson one week later, on Friday the 13th, could have been monumental.

Watson is scheduled for a medical evaluation next month, and the result could determine when, or if, he returns to the field.

“He’s going back on Sept. 27 and if everything looks good, they’re not ruling out him coming back at some point if everything is healing on its own,” Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost said.

The initial word Friday was Watson would have to wear a boot cast for up to three months, which meant until the end of the season.

Watson’s injury could have been even more disastrous without senior Logan DeWhitt on hand. Watson and DeWhitt battled for the quarterback spot throughout the summer, and Watson had just begun to emerge as the top candidate when his ankle was rolled during a tackling drill late Friday morning.

“I sat down and had a good one-hour meeting with Logan,” Bost said. “We have all the confidence in the world in him. He took about 90 percent of the snaps in 7-on-7, so the receivers are used to him.”

DeWhitt was scheduled to fill in at one of the receiver slots, and his move to quarterback has made way for sophomore Reed McKenzie to earn a starting receiver spot.

“He’s about 6-2 or 6-3, so he’s the same size kid as Logan,” Bost said of McKenzie. “He played receiver last year for the junior high, so he slides right in place there.”
Watson’s injury marked a bad end to an otherwise good week of practice for the Jackrabbits.

“The rest of the week, I was very pleased,” Bost said. “Even with the temperatures up like they were, everyone has been healthy, so the conditioning has to be there. We were pushing them and pushing them, and they kept responding.”

DeWhitt’s presence makes quarterback much less of a question mark, especially compared to Lonoke’s tailback situation.

Bost has gone with a rotation of three players at the spot, including defensive players T.J. Scott and Dre Offord, as well as Keli Bryant.

None of the three has made a push to lay claim to the position vacated by graduated all-state standout Brandon Smith, and now sophomore Eric Williams has emerged as a candidate.

“He’s about a 4.5 kid,” Bost said of Williams’ speed in the 40-yard dash and compared his speed to that of receiver Darius Scott.

“He’s a half-step slower than Darius, our fastest kid. He’s not a huge guy, about 5-6 or so, but he can duck behind those big linemen.”

Lonoke went with 4 p.m. starting times for its Monday and Tuesday practices before switching to 3 p.m. on Wednesday as the

Jackrabbits settle into their normal after-school routine.

It is the final week of practice Lonoke has to prepare for a home scrimmage against Oak Grove on Aug. 23.

Lonoke will begin the regular season against 8-4A Conference favorite Star City on Aug. 30 at the UAPB campus as part of the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic.

SPORTS>>Hatcher finds new equation

Leader sports editor

Terrod Hatcher knew math was in his future.

He just didn’t expect things to add up like this.

Hatcher, 23, became the youngest high school football coach in the state late last month when he took over the North Pulaski program, moving up after one year as offensive coordinator under former coach Rick Russell.

“It worked out that way,” Hatcher said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do at first. I knew I wanted to major in math. That was the only thing I liked. And then coaching just kind of worked out for me. I always wanted to but I didn’t know how far-fetched that was.”

Hatcher graduated across town at Jacksonville High School and started college at Arkansas State. But he transferred to Arkansas

Tech, where he earned a degree in mathematics.

“There’s always math openings,” Hatcher said. “It’s almost a job security in a way. And it’s just something I love. I teach pre-calculus and that upper-level math is always fun to me.”

But there was always the little matter of football.

Hatcher was a running back at Jacksonville and he was in the same class as linebacker Clinton McDonald, who was drafted by the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and now plays on the defensive line.

“We had some pretty good guys in that class,” Hatcher said.

At Arkansas State, Hatcher redshirted behind standout running backs Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey, who both briefly spent timein the NFL, which influenced Hatcher’s decision to transfer.

“Basically my tuition went up and my scholarships didn’t,” Hatcher said. “So I transferred to Arkansas Tech where I was getting paid some money to go there. That always makes a difference.”

Hatcher went through two-a-days at Tech, a member of the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference, but decided to focus on his degree and graduated with honors a year early. Yet Hatcher couldn’t quite get football out of his system.

So, while he followed the math track to employment at Jacksonville’s Fuller Middle School, Hatcher also accepted the football-coaching job there.

“I graduated in December and got a job in January at Fuller,” Hatcher said. “That’s the good thing about math.”

Last year North Pulaski coach Rick Russell tapped Hatcher to be his offensive coordinator.

“Of course I took the high school job,” Hatcher said. “And then it just so happens this head job rolled up so I was excited about that.”

Russell was a former defensive assistant at Jacksonville and knew Hatcher from his playing days with the Red Devils. When Russell returned to Jacksonville to become head coach last spring, the North Pulaski players clamored for Hatcher to apply for the Falcons’ head coaching job.

The Falcons had begun implementing the Spread offense, and the players wanted the continuity as well as Hatcher’s youthful enthusiasm.

“Everybody liked coach Hatcher,” starting junior quarterback Shyheim Barron said. “He knew what we were doing. We didn’t want anybody else to come in here and change it up so we needed coach Hatcher.”

Hatcher was named head coach just before August practices began.

“I think they responded well; they actually asked me to apply for the job,” Hatcher said of the “draft Hatcher” movement. “And so that helped a lot. I think the young coaching staff is going to help these guys. They feel like they can relate to us and they see us hopping around and bopping around so they’re hopping around.”

Some coaches are younger than others, but defensive coach J.B. Pendergraft, 62, said Hatcher’s youth isn’t a problem with the rest of the staff.

“I think he’s doing a great job,” Pendergraft said. “He listens. He asks questions and is really knowledgeable for his age. But the thing about it, whether he can coach or not, it doesn’t make any difference, he’s first class.”

Hatcher welcomes the veteran experience on the staff but made it clear he’s in charge.

“We can’t have youth without wisdom,” Hatcher said. “Nobody takes it as ‘He’s a young guy so I’m not going to listen to him.’

We work together.

“Everybody has input. We implement each other’s input. Whichever one works the best that’s probably what we go with, and of course I have the final say.”

Besides, the coaching staff has enough challenges as it is. North Pulaski is coming off a one-victory season and has won just four games the past six years.

If the new coach and math whiz can engineer just a few victories this season, it could be the formula for success the Falcons have been seeking.

“The biggest challenge is letting these guys believe they can win,” Hatcher said. “I think once we win then they’ll see how that feels, then they’ll believe that they can do it.”