Friday, September 17, 2010

FELDMAN >> POWs recall their world war ordeal

World War II veterans make stop in Jacksonville and share their stories.

The former POWs who were shot down over Romania during the Second World War arrived at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History in their tour bus a little after 11 a.m. Thursday.

Nearly 1,200 of them were held in captivity in Romania, where they had bombed the oil refineries over Ploesti and the huge rail station in Bucharest.

They talked about their experiences, including their dramatic rescue from the POW camps in August 1944, when U.S. planes airlifted the men to Italy. They were shipped home from there that fall.

Hundreds of them used to attend the reunions—Friday was National POW and MIA Recognition Day — but their numbers are dwindling. Just over 100 of them are still living, and only about a dozen are well enough to travel and attend their reunions anymore.

They were staying at the Double Tree Hotel in Little Rock, where one of the former POWs fell and was having hip surgery while the group visited Jacksonville.

They were here to honor the memory of the late Russell Huntley of Jacksonville, one of their fellow POWs who passed away several years ago.

Maurice Braswell, 87, the outgoing president of the Association of Former POWs in Romania, said although their number is dwindling, the veterans still enjoy getting together and reminiscing about their experiences.

“We share memories,” said Braswell, a retired judge and prosecutor from Fayetteville, N.C.

“We had 1,877 POWs who came back on the boat into New York Harbor,” he recalled. “Just 113 of them are still alive and only 13 can travel now.”

The oil refineries just north of Bucharest fueled the Nazi war machine, so the Germans were desperate to hold on to them and kept producing oil until the summer of 1944, when the relentless bombing effort and the advancing Soviet Army finally broke them.

Hundreds of B-24s flew over the Romanian oil fields and the Bucharest rail yards from the summer of 1943 to the summer of 1944 and were met by Messerschmitts and heavy artillery fire.

When hit, they had 15 seconds to get their parachutes and jump before their planes exploded and then hoped the enemy didn’t kill them.

They flew over Europe in their 20s and now are as old as the Civil War veterans who were still alive when these veterans were born.

The former POWs are in their late 80s and early 90s now and came from all over the country. Many of them get around pretty well and their memories are still sharp, but a couple of them were in wheelchairs.

Despite heavy losses — casualties were nearly 40 percent — the 10-men crews kept pounding the oil fields for a year. The bombing was so fierce, five airmen received the Medal of Honor for heroics in one day.

Dr. Jim Ware, a 90-year-old retired dentist from Berkeley, Calif., was a co-pilot who was shot down in May 1944.

“Three of our crew got killed,” he said, sitting in a wheelchair in front of an exhibit at the museum. “The Messerschmitts got us. We were on fire. The windshield was blown out. There were bullets coming through the floor. Two engines were out and our plane exploded.”

Ware said a thick seat was what saved his life. He reached for his parachute and ejected.

“There was a piece of aluminum in my leg,” Ware said. “As we were coming down, a German pilot circled around me. I thought he was going to kill me. Instead, he flew off.
“The kindness of the enemy was what saved me,” Ware said.

He landed near a group of German soldiers. “They ushered me to their cabin and had me lie there. I was in a state of shock and shivering. This German soldier saw I was shivering, and he threw his coat over me.

“I’m very lucky,” he said.

Ware, who graduated from the University of California after the war, has been married 67 years, but his wife didn’t go to the reunion. “She doesn’t like airplanes,” he said.
Lynn Chinn, 88, of Bella Vista, was at the reunion with his wife, Catherine. A tail gunner, Chinn was shot down in May 1944.

“We had just dropped our bombs and got hit by flak. We all bailed out and the plane blew up,” he said, standing with a walker. “I flew 13 missions in France and Germany. This was the first one over Romania.

“We have 23 candles for people who died this year,” Chinn said.

Glen Funk, 91, is still a cutup, even though he, too, was in a wheelchair. Funk, a B-24 pilot, was on his 11th mission when his plane was hit over Ploesti.

He couldn’t find his parachute at first because he’d changed planes for the mission.
He found a parachute that let him jump out of the plane before it blew up.

Most of his crew ejected safely, but he says, “I’m the last one still alive.”

The Kansas native said, “I was shot down on D-Day. I didn’t even know we’d landed in Normandy.”

Ken Barmore, 87, of Santa Cruz, Calif., was another pilot. He was shot down on his first mission in May 1944.

“We were shot as we were trying to go home after we dropped our bombs,” he said.
In the POW camp, he and Ware became friends. When they were airlifted from the camp in September 1944, the pair formed a jazz band on the boat back to the U.S.

Lew Sleeper, 87, a retired investment banker from Tucson, Ariz., was on a mission over the Bucharest rail depot when he was shot down.

“It was the third largest railroad yard in Europe,” Sleeper recalled during the reunion luncheon at the museum. “We had 15 seconds to get our parachutes and get out. Five of our crew were killed.”

The survivors were held in an abandoned Red Cross building near the rail yards, which the allies kept pounding almost weekly.

“There were 18 of us in the building. Five 1,200-pound bombs went off in the next room, but the walls were so thick, we survived,” Sleeper recalled.

The Romanians capitulated in August 1944, and the Germans were on the run. A Romanian officer flew to Italy with a U.S. colonel to tell the Americans about the POWs, who were quickly airlifted out of the country.

The POWs were spead out all over the area — some were staying with Romanians in their homes — but everyone was accounted for and took off in the huge airlift — 22 of them in one plane.

There was a memorial service Saturday for the airmen who’d passed away, including Russell Huntley, whose family had invited the group to visit the Jacksonville museum.
In a few years, the survivors will be in their 90s, and only a handful will make it to the reunions then. But if you’d been at the military museum on Thursday, you would have heard their stories first-hand and seen the legends they call the Greatest Generation.

May they live to be 100.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TOP STORY > >Board slams door on city

Leader senior staff writer

Two of three Jacksonville-area school board members led the fight Tuesday night, joining three others, to prevent the Jacksonville Education Foun-dation from resuming talks with Pulaski County Special School District officials aimed at paving the way for a new Jacksonville-north Pulaski County school district as soon as legally possible.

The board in 2008 approved the move in principle and later approved boundaries for the district, then shut off discussion until after a ruling on the district’s unitary status. That’s been before District Judge Brian Miller for months.

Representing the foundation, attorney Patrick Wilson told the board it was time to repeal its year-old resolution suspending negotiation toward detachment of just such a district from PCSSD.

The board, admittedly tired of what it perceived as in-your-face tactics by the Jacksonville district supporters, voted 5-2 to cut off further discussions “until Pulaski County Special School District is declared unitary.”

Jacksonville school board member Bill Vasquez called Wilson’s request political, then got political himself. Gwen Wiliams, the other Jacksonville-area board member, also voted against reopening discussions.

“What this district will look like is the business of this board,” Vasquez said. “A third party (Jacksonville Education Foun-dation) doesn’t have a dog in that hunt. It’s the superintendent’s job and the state education board’s to make those decisions,” he said.

He accused Wilson and former state Rep. Will Bond of being registered lobbyists for the foundation.

“I understand the (Jackson-ville) board of aldermen has put a large pool of money at your disposal. Mike Wilson has opened a charter school. Ben Rice wants to sue us. These people did not support me when I ran for office,” Vasquez said.

Wilson asked Vasquez if he favored a stand-alone Jackson-ville-area school district.

Vasquez, speaking loudly and forcefully, spit out the names of people he considers his enemies who support a Jacksonville district—including “Daniel Gray, who has already said he would run against me.”

He told Wilson, “You don’t have a place in this discussion.”

Vasquez said only 20 percent of the people of Jacksonville really want their own district and the rest just want “clean, safe, good schools.”

“When the judge rules, we’ll know what to do next,” Vasquez said.

“You got a resolution (favoring a stand-alone district) and boundaries. This is a third party trying to use this board,” he added.

After some heated exchanges, Vasquez and the other two school board members who vote reliably with the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers were joined by Mildred Tatum and board president Tim Clark in defeating the effort to rescind the old resolution and reopen talks on how to best form the new district.

Clark, who said he actually supports allowing new talks, nonetheless voted against the measure in order to have standing to bring the matter up again in the future.

The three voters the union can count on are Vasquez, Williams and Sandra Sawyer.

Also opposing the foundation’s effort to reopen talks was the Jacksonville NAACP. According to spokesman Rizelle Aaron, who dropped out of the race for mayor, the group originally supported detachment, but in the past year felt snubbed by the foundation and the city in their efforts to achieve a stand-alone Jacksonville-area district.

Voting in favor of continuing talks were Charlie Wood and Danny Gililland of Sherwood, who represents part of Jacksonville and north Pulaski. The two are being challenged in Tuesday’s school board election by candidates supported by the unions.

Williams said she was against negotiations for several reasons. First, Superintendent Charles Hopson was working to make things better in Jacksonville and should be given more time. Also, she didn’t want to offend Judge Miller, who has the case under advisement. She also thinks black Jacksonville residents are excluded from the process and she doesn’t think they want their own district.

Sawyer said the district, under a new superintendent, with new demands from the state Legislative Audit Committee, doesn’t have the resources to help work toward the eventual new district. She also said it seems Jacksonville-area blacks were not part of the conversation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Wrong way for NLR

We have no interest but neighborly goodwill in the deal that Mayor Patrick Henry Hays has been trying for two years to put together with a developer who is supposed to one day produce a new hotel and parking deck for downtown North Little Rock. Our neighboring city’s good fortune is usually our good fortune, too.

But dangerous public policy has a way of traveling down the road. We wouldn’t want it to happen here.

John Gaudin, who has developed other projects in the Argenta neighborhood downtown, owns an old building, the Rye Furniture Co. building, and he wants to parlay that into a new hotel. The deal is complicated. He and the city would swap properties, his furniture building for four city-owned lots that are scattered around downtown. He might develop the four lots or he might not. Then when he reaches a deal with a hotel franchise, he could buy the furniture building back from the city and build the hotel. For its part, the city would build a parking deck nearby, which would make the hotel more economically feasible.

Every step has been a close call for the mayor. Nineteen months ago, only hours before the year-end deadline for changing the tax rolls, he got his city council to create a development district consisting of disconnected parcels of land downtown by using a tricky constitutional amendment and implementing legislation permitting what are called “tax-increment financing districts.”

The growth in property taxes in the development district is to be used to support the city’s payment on bonds to build the parking deck. But a court decision put most of the tax revenue from development districts off limits for cities. A lawsuit by the North Little Rock School Board is challenging the city’s right to take the remaining tax revenues left by the previous decision.

The tax revenues are those approved by the city’s voters for the city’s public schools and the schools need the money more than the city does.
You can see why people began to get a little nervous about their mayor’s resourcefulness. The sheer complexity of the deal raises flags.

Monday, Mayor Hays brought the land swap before the city council, where he is accustomed to getting what he wants. He lost a vote or two during the argumentative hearing and the council split 4 to 4. The mayor had to break the tie with his vote and the state newspaper reported that he was visibly angry with his council members.

Meantime, the mayor promises that the city will not put any more public funds into the development besides the school taxes that will be recouped from the city’s schools. If it doesn’t, it is hard to see how the deal can work. Also, the owner of the nearby Wyndham Hotel, who doesn’t like the city using public funds to support a competitor, says he may raise petitions and refer the whole deal to the voters. The odds are that the hotel will never materialize, but it is not safe to bet against Mayor Hays.

The most troublesome part is the city’s confiscation of school taxes to help a private business development. We have always thought tax-increment financing, although it is now in the state Constitution, violates an older constitutional prohibition against taking taxes that people vote for school purposes and using them for any other purpose. Even if the courts were to find it constitutional, it is terrible public policy. We don’t want to see it coming down the road to other cities.

TOP STORY > >Base school gets more recognition

Leader senior staff writer

Arnold Drive Elementary School on Little Rock Air Force Base was one of just four Arkansas schools designated last week as a Blue Ribbon School by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The announcement came hot on the heels of the announcement by the University of Arkansas that Arnold Drive was the third-highest achieving elementary school in the state.

“We’re in third place, including charter and magnet schools,” principal Julie Davenport said Tuesday of the recognition by the University of Arkansas. “We have some very strong teachers who have been here quite a long time and some new.”

Nationally, 304 schools received the designation as 2010 Blue Ribbon schools for academic achievement. The four in Arkansas all were elementary schools, and only Arnold Drive was in central Arkansas.

“We were notified last year that we had been nominated so we did the pretty extensive paperwork,” said Davenport. “We went ahead and were waiting. If we made our average yearly progress then we knew we would qualify.”

The Blue Ribbon schools program honors schools that are either academically superior or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement, according to Duncan.

“Blue Ribbon schools are models of improved student achievement from which others can take inspiration,” she said.

Blue Ribbons schools are recognized and honored for helping students achieve at high levels, Davenport said. “Ours have been achieving proficient and advanced on benchmark exams. It also takes into account progress on closing the achievement gap on subpopulations. Our scores are pretty much the same for all economic, race and gender subpopulations,” she said. “Across the board, our children show progress.”

Arnold Drive Elementary has about 250 students and about half are on free or reduced lunch. The average percentage of students on free or reduced lunch on the top 20 list is 32 percent.

Free or reduced lunches are markers for economic distress.

Davenport said it was a poor reflection on the way the military is paid if 97 percent of her students have parents in the Air Force and half of those qualify for the free and reduced lunches.

“We have absolutely outstanding teachers and staff and cooperative parents,” she said. A learning community supports staff and masters goals and skills at each level.

Two school representatives will be honored in Washington on Nov. 15-16, she said, although the designation doesn’t fund the trip to the nation’s capital.

“Last year, our fifth-graders were 100 percent proficient or advanced in math and 92 percent in literacy. That’s the top of the district and top of the state,” Davenport said.

“Fourth-graders scored 96 percent (proficient or advanced) in math and literacy,” she said, and “third-graders were 96 percent in math and 87 in literacy. It is consistent from year to year.

“Teachers really honing in on what the children need and making sure they master the skills they need,” Davenport said. “I’d pit these teachers against any and they come out on top every time.”

Davenport said this is her second year as principal at Arnold Drive but her 20th year as a principal in four states, at eight different elementary schools.

Arnold Drive also led the Pulaski County Special School District in volunteer hours worked last year, she said.

“This is a wonderful recognition which honors the high level of commitment the administrators and teachers at these four schools have made to help students achieve academic success,” Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said recently.

The other three schools were Calico Rock Elementary School in Calico Rock, Kingston Elementary School and Salem Elementary School in Salem.

The website gives Arnold Drive a five-star rating, placing it 16th among the state’s 457 elementary schools, but the same website give PCSSD just one star and ranks it 172nd out of 236 state school districts.

TOP STORY > >Annexation plan: Many in area say they’re against it

Leader executive editor

People who live north of Jacksonville near Hwy. 67/167 met at a church Monday evening to fight the city’s plan to annex the area.

They met at North Jacksonville Baptist Missionary Church near the strip joints, liquor stores and a lingerie shop. Lyndon Whitledge, the longtime pastor, summed up the group’s feelings about the annexation plan, which goes before the voters Nov. 2:

“I’m against it,” said Whitledge, who lives in town but whose church is in the affected area.

About 40 residents listened and spoke out and agreed to put up yard signs and mail out cards that will have a simple message:

“Vote no to annexation and higher taxes.”

They fear losing their independence and their animals and barns if Jacksonville swallows up 2,200 acres where they live.

Not everyone at the meeting was hostile toward Jacksonville. Richard Robertson, who opened the meeting, said, “We’re friends of Jacksonville, but this is not in the best interest of Jacksonville.”

But emotions ran high for most of the hour-long meeting.

“Jacksonville has problems they can’t take care of,” said another resident. “Why take on more?”

It was like a town hall meeting, tent revival and Tea Party rally rolled into one. These are independent people who don’t trust government and don’t think they get good value for the taxes they pay.

The Tea Party is not much of a political force in Arkansas, but you feel its presence at city council and at quorum court meetings and at public forums like this one.

There was talk of filing a lawsuit because many residents think the annexation is illegal. They hate the idea of urban living, especially the costs that go with it.

“Why do they want us?” someone asked.

“Code enforcement will check how tall your grass is. They’ll make us stop burning leaves on our property. But they were burning them at the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield,” said another, hinting at a double standard.

Jacksonville officials say the area is where the city should expand. They’ll also annex a smaller area south of town, where there’s no opposition.

The city lost Gravel Ridge in an annexation fight with Sher-wood. Gravel Ridge residents voted to go with Sherwood, but this time the vote will include just city and rural residents, who are outnumbered 10-1.

To win them over, officials have said they might not ban farm animals and barns if the area is annexed, but residents are skeptical.

One resident said he was cited by the Pulaski County Humane Society for not feeding his animals. He denied the charge and said he was harassed because he has spoken out against annexation.

“I’ll fight them to the end,” he vowed.

“I don’t trust city hall,” Whit-ledge said, standing behind a lectern, as if he were sermonizing about the devil and his temptations.

“The grandfather clause is not a good thing,” Whitledge insisted. Those who own farms would lose them if they sold them or passed them on to their children, he said.

“Property rights are worth fighting for,” Whitledge said. “Freedom is something worth fighting for.”

“This is winnable. You need to get Jacksonville on your side,” said a Jacksonville man.

The city will hold a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday before the council meeting.

“We’re not hurting anyone,” Robertson said, urging residents to attend. “We want to be left alone.”

TOP STORY > >Early voting under way in school races

The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers hopes to replace two of its most reliable foes on the Pulaski County Special
School District Board on Tuesday with two candidates more to their liking.

Incumbents Danny Gililland and Charlie Wood are being challenged respectively by Tom Stuthard of Jacksonville and Gloria Lawrence of Sherwood, and the district’s teachers’ and support staff’s unions are outspoken in their support of the challengers.

Lawrence is a former teacher and PACT member, Stuthard is married to a Sylvan Hills math teacher who belongs to PACT.


Early voting is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday at the Jacksonville Com-munity Center and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood, and through Monday at the Pulaski County Regional Building at Markham and Broadway in Little Rock.

There will be no weekend early voting at any site.

Regular polls in zones 4 and 5 will be open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Currently, the unions are on the short end of a rigid 4-3 vote, but if they win either seat, they seem likely to either control the school board or at least have a board sympathetic to their needs.


Wood, who represents Zone 4, has been an outspoken school board member throughout his term, helping to secure funding for a new Sylvan Hills Middle School and helping impeach Mildred Tatum as school board president.

Wood is particularly upset with the teachers-contract provision that allows teachers to carry over personal leave and vacation time from year to year.


Lawrence, who retired in June after almost 29 years as a teacher, says she is running because of concerns about the district’s financial condition and the board’s continued efforts to sever ties with the union.

She taught for 23 years at Sylvan Hills Middle School.

She is married to Jim Law-rence, a retired Army colonel.

She said when the board voted to decertify the union she decided to retire and run for the school board.

Lawrence questions spending decisions made by the current board: $81 million for a new high school in Maumelle and paying Rob McGill $87,000 when his term ended as acting superintendent, hiring school-attendance secretaries, an interim liaison at Jacksonville High School and a New York lawyer to help fight PACT in court.


Danny Gililland of Sherwood holds the Zone 5 board seat. He was first elected in 2006.

Gililland, 52, owns a Popeye’s franchise. He and his wife, Lynda, have lived in north Pulaski County for more than 20 years.

Gililland said when he came on the board, he was against the idea of a separate school district for Jacksonville and north Pulaski County, but has since changed his mind about that.

He “voted consistently against new schools for Maumelle and Sherwood.”

He firmly believes the district would be better served without a teachers union, which he says fights over petty issues that cost the district too much money.


Tom Stuthard of Jacksonville, who says it is time for a change, is challenging Gililland.

The Air Force veteran, spouse of a district teacher and union member, and parent of two children who have graduated from PCSSD schools, says he has been thinking for several months about challenging Gililland, one of four members who want to oust the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers as the collective bargaining agent for teachers.

Stuthard, 55, works full-time as a maintenance mechanic for the postal service. He retired from the Air Force in 2004 as the base’s equipment-control officer after serving 21 years.

Stuthard’s wife, Sharon, is a long-time PCSSD employee who teaches math at Sylvan Hills High School.

She has also taught at Jacksonville High School and years ago, at Jacksonville Junior High School South.

TOP STORY > >Civil War 147 years later

Leader article by Rick Kron

As members of both the Union and Confederate fell wounded to the ground, Dyan Dohnert, a medicine woman, ran out onto the battlefield to render care.

Even though she was a true Southerner, she still tried to save the injured Union soldiers, all except one.

“He was goin’ die anyway, so I shot him and stole his horse,” she said, not in an interview in 1863, but Sunday after a re-enactment of the Battle of Reed’s Bridge in Jacksonville.

She had her leather medicine bag open and was checking on her supply of spirits and homemade needles while in the comfort of a rocker under the fly of a canvas Confederate tent.

She was retelling her actions in the re-enactment to two other southern ladies in the encampment, Dot Hardage, one of the best cooks there, and Kayla Kalkbrenner, an ice angel.

“I would have taken that Yankee’s gun too, ’cept I couldn’t find it,” Dohnert said.

She and the ladies were part of more than 150 re-enactors that set up camp at the battlefield most of the week and performed two re-enactments of the 1863 battle for crowds that parked in makeshift parking lots up and down Hwy. 161.

About 500 people watched the battle on Saturday and slightly more were on hand Sunday.

Besides the battles, there was a wedding and an old-fashioned barn dance Saturday evening.

Kalkbrenner, from Pine Bluff, who as an ice angel walks the battlefield providing soldiers with water and ice. She said, “We are just regular people with a love for history.”

She’s in college working on a degree in fashion design and a minor in history. She hopes to work with designing historical outfits. Kalkbrenner has been going to re-enactments since she was a wee one. “My dad saw a flyer about battlefield groups, got hooked and we’ve been at it ever since,” she said.

Hardage, from Dumas, spent most of Saturday making and icing a five-layer cake for the wedding. “This is our hobby. An expensive one, but our hobby. We get to spend time with friends, visit historical places and enjoy great camaraderie,” she said.

“It’s something we truly believe in and it’s very fulfilling.”

Hardage added, “We are here as historians.” She and her husband have been active participants for more than 10 years.

Dohnert, who has been involved in re-enactments and living histories for about eight years, has performed in seven states and once on television. She said she tries to be as realistic as possible.

She said there were a number of medicine women working during the Civil War. Dohnert said as the Union advanced into
Arkansas, there were two surgeons at Arkansas Post.

“The second volley of shells killed them both and women had to jump in to do the doctorin’,” she said.

Dohnert said medicine women often followed the troops “wiping snotty noses and taking care of feet.”

Feet were important, she said, since troops on both sides walked a million miles plus. “Did you know that 78 percent of our boys returned home without shoes and many of them walked barefoot for the last two years of the war?” she said.

Dohnert and Kalkbrenner belong to the First Arkansas Confederate Infantry, while Hardage is a member of the Ninth Arkansas Confederate Infantry.

She said all the cooking done in Dutch ovens and as close to realistic as possible. “We do pre-make a lot of things now and then, and just heat it up in the Dutch ovens.”

Kalkbrenner piped in, “That keeps the bugs out of the chicken and dumplins’.”

Kalkbrenner is a former president of Arkansas Children of the Confederacy and said she does a lot of living-history shows at school and other functions.

“When the Delta Queen used to stop in Pine Bluff, we would dress in period outfits and meet it,” she said. Her dad and boyfriend do about 20 to 25 shows a year.

The ladies said that most of the re-enactors own both Confederate and Union outfits, and each handmade outfit can run hundreds of dollars.

“Nobody wants to be the Union soldier, but we need someone to fight and we can’t get any Union troops to come down here usually,” said Hardage.

Kalkbrenner said what makes the Reed’s Bridge re-enactment so special is that it’s on a real battlefield. “It’s a privilege and something special,” she said.

Because of the respect the re-enactors have for the battlefield, they make sure they leave it in pristine condition.

After Sunday’s battle, more than a dozen of the participants went through the battlefield picking up cannon fodder, paper and anything else that was on the field that needed to be picked up.

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits banged up but ready

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke coach Doug Bost has spent as much time rearranging the Jackrabbits depth chart as he has planning strategy the first two weeks of the season.

Bost’s strategy will also shift with new personnel filling in at critical positions as the ’Rabbits prepare for their third straight road trip when they travel to McGehee on Friday.

Injuries have taken their toll on the ’Rabbits since the second week of practice when projectedstarting quarterback Tarrale Watson went down with a fractured ankle. That put receiver Logan DeWhitt behind center until he sustained a shoulder injury late against Star City in the season opener.

DeWhitt recovered to start at Beebe last week and played midway into the second quarter before the hard-hitting Badger defense got him down again. That put another starting receiver, senior Darius Scott, behind center as the third-string quarterback.

The Owls (1-0) are coming off a bye week after opening the season with an upset victory over Stuttgart two weeks ago. The Jackrabbits are 2-0 after dramatic victories against Star City and last week at Beebe, but have paid a hefty price with three starters out and questionable to return anytime soon.

Starting right tackle Justin Carpenter suffered a shoulder injury against Beebe in the first half. Sophomore Nelson Brown filled in for the rest of the game, and is expected to see plenty of reps in practice this week to prepare for McGehee.

Junior Benton Garringer will also make his way into a starting spot this week in place of senior right guard Brandon McKinney, who went out late in the Beebe game with a knee injury.

“They’re going to get full reps this week,” Bost said. “We’re going to have to count on them to be ready.”

Scott’s move to quarterback also leaves an open receiver slot, which sophomore sensation Eric Williams will fill. Williams has backed up starting tailback Keli Bryant with success in the first two weeks and scored the winning touchdown against Star City in the opener.

Williams had three straight rushes for 23 yards in the second half against Beebe to help the Jackrabbits move the ball deep into Badger territory on their tying drive.

“I’ve been pleased with how hard he hits the hole,” Bost said. “He’s probably just a half step slower than Darius, and for no bigger than he is, he’s strong as an ox. I think it may help us getting him on the field to play for us.”

McGehee has its share of speedy players, including senior running back T’Cambry Green. Green, a 5-10, 220-pound senior with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, is high on the college prospect list after rushing for almost 1,300 yards his junior season.

“They’re an experienced team,” Bost said. “Of their 11 on offense, eight of them are seniors, and I think it’s the same for their defense. So it’s a strong senior group, and they’re similar to Beebe in that they want to run the football.”

Getting a look at McGehee’s Wing-T offense should benefit Lonoke once 2-4A Conference play begins next week.

“First of all, they have speed all over their roster,” Bost said. “You can see that on film. That will help us get ready for Newport and Marianna to see that kind of speed, and what they run is very similar to what we will see from Clinton when we play them.”

SPORTS>>Badgers still seeking victory

Leader sportswriter

It’s another tough test for Beebe this week when the Badgers travel to Phillip Weaver Stadium in Vilonia Friday for a Class 5A non-conference game.

The Eagles are 2-0 with victories over Sylvan Hills and Wynne. Beebe has been competitive in its first two games, but the Badgers could not finish drives in a 39-13 loss to Greenbrier in Week 1.

The Badgers started strong last week against Lonoke and built a 14-0 lead, but the Jackrabbits defense limited Beebe’s Dead-T offense to less than 60 second-half yards and Lonoke claimed a 26-21 victory.

The Eagles return six offensive starters and six defensive starters from last year’s team that went 6-5.

“We knew going in this year, especially with Greenbrier and Vilonia, that it would be tough,” Beebe coach John Shannon said.

“They both had a lot of people coming back, and were good last year. We’re going to have our hands full.

“Hopefully we will get better and improve. We saw a lot of improvement from the Greenbrier game to the Lonoke game, but we still need a lot of improving this week to go out and compete this Friday.”

Beebe’s running game had its moments last week, but injuries not only sidelined two of its best backs in Colby Taylor and Jay Holdway, it also halted the Badgers’ momentum.

Trailing with less than five minutes to play, the Badgers had to go to the air. As a result, the blitzing Lonoke defense sacked quarterback Scot Gowen two straight times.

Beebe’s defense struggled to contain Lonoke’s speedy receiver/quarterback Darius Scott, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and used his speed to sustain drives going on third and long.

The Badgers’ defense will contend with another explosive back this week in Vilonia junior wingback James Sax, 6-1, 210 pounds, who is one of the slot runners in coach Jim Stanley’s Double-Wing offense.

Sax is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season as a sophomore and is no stranger to the Badgers after burning them on a long kickoff return for a touchdown last year.

The task for Beebe is to find a way to simulate Sax’s 4.5 speed on the practice field.

“It’s tough,” Shannon said. “We have to work hard all week and make sure we’re taking good angles while accounting for his speed. We have to find a way to limit him; we know we’re not going to completely stop him, all we can do is try to limit him from having a big game.”

Beebe prides itself on being bigger and more physical than most opponents, but Stanley carries a similar philosophy at Vilonia.

The Eagles have plenty of size up front in 270-pound senior center Derrick Dunn and 250-pound junior guard Chris Calhoun.

“They have a program like us where they live in the weight room and do the right things as far as fundamentals,” Shannon said.

“This is usually one of the most physical games we have all year. Their kids work hard, and it’s going to take a big ballgame on our part to hang with them.”

SPORTS>>Bears try to go for two straight

Leader sportswriter

There was a sense of urgency at Sylvan Hills through much of the 2009 season.

The Bears went without a victory until Week 6, when they squeaked out an ugly, 3-0 decision over Crossett, but Sylvan Hills went on to earn a playoff spot by winning four of its last five games.

Last week’s 24-15 victory over Little Rock Christian put the Bears in a better position than a year ago. Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said the victory was a relief, but that there are also plenty of areas to improve as the Bears prepare to face Little Rock Parkview on the road Friday.

“They’ve gotten better,” Withrow said of his inexperienced team. “We’re not ready to put on a clinic — we still had our moments of not getting lined up, and we’ve got to get our place kicking going a little bit better.”

The Bears went 0 of 4 on extra-point conversionattempts Friday. Senior kicker Kevin Wang hit the crossbar on one kick, another attempt ended in a fumble, and a pair of two-point conversion attempts also fell short.

“One of the worst things in the world is not being sure if you can make an extra point after a touchdown,” Withrow said. “I think Kevin can do it, he just needs to relax and he’ll be okay. We’re working on it, we’re just not getting it done.”

The ground attack accounted for all of the Bears’ 341 offensive yards last week, as they did not complete a pass in four attempts.

Senior Nate Clark led the way with 18 rushes for 159 yards and two scores. Junior tailback Trey Bone gained 91 yards on 13 carries, while senior Greg Atchinson carried 15 times for 63 yards.

Quarterback/defensive back Michael Maddox is also coming off a solid performance against Little Rock Christian. Maddox intercepted two passes and rushed for one of the Bears’ four scores.

“It’s good to get off on the right foot and get going a little bit,” Withrow said. “They got a taste of what it’s like to win, and they liked it.”

The Patriots, picked to finish third in the 6A-East Conference in the preseason, started out with a loss to Little Rock rival Mills. Parkview recovered last week with a 21-14 victory over Pine Bluff Dollarway.

Junior quarterback Chris Winston leads the Patriots’ offense, but it’s senior tailback Chris McClendon, 6-2, 215 pounds, who poses the biggest threat. The all-conference back runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and bench presses 255 pounds. He was listed as a wide receiver in his two previous years, but he has rushed for 851 yards with 450 yards receiving.

“I think this is going to be a really good test for us,” Withrow said. “They’re really athletic. You give them a gap, and they’ve got the speed to go all the way with it. It will be a good test to see how far we’ve come.”

SPORTS>>Falcons finding foundation, face Warriors

Leader sports editor

By all accounts, Little Rock Christian is already experiencing a down year after losing Arkansas’ all-time leading high school rusher Michael Dyer to graduation, and then to Auburn.

But the Warriors (0-2) will get no pity from North Pulaski coach Terrod Hatcher.

“No, no, no,” Hatcher said. “Our history isn’t great here. We’re just playing to win. I don’t listen to what they say about any team.

“I just try to prepare my players and see if we pull out a win.”

Hatcher, the former offensive coordinator, is in his first year as head coach and will be trying Friday to help the Falcons (0-2) to their first victory of the season, which would be only their fifth in six-plus years.

North Pulaski is coming off a promising showing against Pulaski Oak Grove last week, and Hatcher and the Falcons will be trying to build on the positives they saw in the 36-12 loss.

“I think we played really well. I don’t think we made any big mistakes as far as offense or defense,” Hatcher said.

After getting blanked 56-0 at 7A/6A-East conference member Searcy in its opener, North Pulaski, of the 5A-Southeast, played consistently and statistically better against Oak Grove.

The offense moved the ball and scored its first points, with Marvin Davis rushing for a 21-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and a 15-play touchdown drive in the first half that cut the Hornets’ lead to 8-6.

Among the big defensive plays for North Pulaski was a fourth-and-goal stop with linebacker Darius Cage making the tackle at the 5. Cage also scored North Pulaski’s first touchdown at running back.

“I’m impressed with how theyplayed, and they performed really well,” Hatcher said. “I’m trying to get them ready for conference and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

It wasn’t the play-in, play-out performance that cost the Falcons on Friday, Hatcher said, it was a few isolated plays.

Oak Grove scored on a trick play with running back Eric Parks taking the snap and completing a touchdown pass to the quarterback. The Hornets also had a fumble return and an interception return for touchdowns.

“We had a jump ball that went the other way,” Hatcher said. “We had a fumble and we had an interception for six points. If we eliminate those plays the game is even.”

Sylvan Hills, which North Pulaski will meet later in conference play, won 25-15 at Little Rock Christian on Friday.

Hatcher said his team’s trip to Little Rock gives the Falcons a chance to not only tune up for conference one last time, but to maybe get an idea how they will do against a common opponent.

“You always do that when a team plays somebody and you measure yourself up against them,” Hatcher said. “And I think we’ll probably do that same deal with Sylvan Hills and hopefully we’ll measure up.”

Falcons linebacker/running back Willie Frazier is questionable with a leg injury, which could be a problem for the Falcons’ defense. Hatcher noted that with Dyer and his 8,000 yards, plus tight end Dakota Mosley, all gone to Auburn, the Warriors are more of a passing team.

“We’re going to have to play pass defense,” Hatcher said. “They pass the ball. I think that’s probably their strong point right now.”

When the Falcons have the ball, Hatcher said, he doesn’t want to force things but rather string positive plays together. “We just want to make sure we get first downs,” he said. “We’re not looking for the big play. We’re not looking for the 80-yard touchdown. Once you move the sticks you’ll get in the end zone so we’ll see what happens.”

SPORTS>>Trojans pose test as Devils hit road

Leader sports writer

Getting that first victory didn’t take long for Jacksonville last year.

Getting that second? That was another story.

This season’s Red Devils go for two in a row at Hot Springs on Friday after getting their first victory under first-year coach Rick Russell, 34-10 at Benton last week.

No winning streak materialized for Jacksonville last year. After Mark Whatley’s team beat Vilonia in Week 2, it didn’t win again until wiping out Little Rock Hall 46-0 in Week 6.

And that was it as the Red Devils finished 2-8.

Whatley left to join the Springdale staff and Russell, the former Jacksonville defensive coordinator, arrived from North Pulaski to lead the Red Devils.

“Wining is a habit and so, unfortunately, is losing,” Russell said.

With that in mind he’d like to string two victories together with a good performance at Hot Springs in Jacksonville’s last tune-up before opening 7A/6A-East Conference play.

“We’ve still got some kids anticipating to break into some rotations with our offensive and defensive scheme,” Russell said.

“We’ve got to get in there and make sure everyone we think is going to help us down the road gets some experience.”

Russell said he was glad to have his first victory as head coach already out of the way, especially in the second of three straight games away from home the Red Devils will play to open the season.

Jacksonville lost to Cabot in the season opener at War Memorial Stadium.

“I thought it was a great win,” Russell said of the Benton victory. “ It was kind of a relief because Benton was a lot better football team than people give them credit for.”

A bad snap on a Jacksonville punt and a fumble led to Benton’s 10 points. When Jacksonville wasn’t helping out its opponent, it was playing a pretty solid game, Russell said.

“We started off a little bit sluggish but I think the kids played well for the most part,” Russell said. “They played football for the entire game and played well.

“We had kids execute and make some athletic plays.

“It was important to me but it was more important to me for us to compete against our best and play for the complete 48 minutes.”

Quarterback Logan Perry passed for three touchdowns, two to D’Vone McClure, while the Red Devils defense came up with an interception.

Jacksonville had a 12-play, 80-yard scoring possession that ended with Perry’s 31-yard pass to Jamison Williams in the first half. The Red Devils struck for two touchdowns in the closing minutes of the second quarter and then shut out the Panthers in the second half.

Jacksonville will finally have its home opener a week from Thursday when it plays Mountain Home in a 7A/6A-Central game.

The game will be aired on statewide television.

SPORTS>>Har-Ber back at Cabot

Leader sports writer

Cabot coach Mike Malham said both teams’ systems worked Friday night.

But it helped Cabot that it borrowed a little bit from the system favored by Pulaski Academy.

Cabot matched its Dead T running game against the empty backfields and multiple-receiver sets of Pulaski Academy and came way with a 35-34 victory in Little Rock that wasn’t clinched until the Panthers recovered a late fumble and ran out the clock.

At times each team pulled off what it does best.

Cabot turned in a pair of clock-consuming touchdown drives, one in the first half and one in the second, and held the ball for 9:48 of the third quarter, while Pulaski Academy took a 14-0 lead on quick-strike touchdown passes of 87 and 43 yards.

“What they did worked; they put up 34 points, and what we did worked,” Malham said.

The difference may have been the onside kicks. Pulaski Academy, nationally known last year for never punting, continued to go for it on fourth down against Cabot and attempted onside kicks after each score.

The Panthers started near midfield on the two scoring drives that pulled them within 20-14 at halftime. They started at their 50 to open the secondhalf and drove for their first lead, then scored on two straight possessions to go ahead 35-26.

The Panthers’ final score came after they surprised Pulaski Academy with an onside kick of their own and Chase Boyles recovered at the 50.

“We said ‘Let’s see if we can get us a break’ and it worked out,” Malham said.

But the drama didn’t end with Cabot’s 11-point lead. Lawson Vassar completed a touchdown and conversion pass to pull Pulaski Academy within 35-34, and after Boyles recovered yet another onside kick, Cabot quarterback Zach Craig fumbled and the Bruins recovered at the Panthers 40.

But with two quarterbacks in the game, Fredi Knighton tried to lateral back across the field after taking a pass from Jack Snider, and Snider couldn’t hang on to the lateral.

Linebacker Riley Hawkins recovered for Cabot and the Panthers finally hung on for the victory.

“We tried to give it back with another turnover there at the end,” Malham said. “But the defense did step up when it had to.”

Cabot fumbled four times and lost three in the first half as it fell behind 14-0. Fullback Spencer Smith fumbled on his first carry but went on to rush for 186 yards and all of Cabot’s touchdowns.

“He had a good battle at fullback,” Malham said. “I didn’t like the time he put it on the ground. The offensive line, I think, did a good job.”

Unless someone was counting heads on the sidelines, it was hard to tell Cabot and Pulaski Academy come from different classifications. Cabot is a large-school, 7A member of the 7A/6A-Central Conference while Pulaski Academy plays in the 7-4A.

“They might not have as many but they’ve got some good players,” Malham said.
Malham said the Panthers’ matchup with the Bruins was valuable because of the experience the Spread offense gave his defensive secondary.

“That was good for our defense because they hadn’t seen a passing game like they’ve got,” Malham said. “They do a lot of stuff and they do it well, they’ve got some kids that can run and catch. I thought our D-backs, we’ve got three new ones back there, and I thought they did a pretty god job.”

While not much of a passing team themselves, the Panthers play in the summer 7-on-7 leagues to hone their pass defense, and the experience, plus games with teams like the Bruins, should help Cabot in conference play.

The Panthers play their last non-conference game and first against a 7A opponent, when Springdale Har-Ber returns to Panther Stadium Friday. It was Har-Ber that edged Cabot from the state semifinals last year with a touchdown pass with less than two minutes left.

This year, Har-Ber has beaten El Dorado, the top team in 6A, 42-13, and it also took down Stillwater, Okla., 63-20. Har-Ber is ranked No. 1 in 7A and is No. 10 in the USA Today national high school poll.

“It only gets tougher,” Malham said. “Now after PA we get to look forward to Har-Ber coming in.”