Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TOP STORY >> Cabot, Beebe National Merit semifinalists

Leader staff writer

Eleven high school seniors from Cabot and one from Beebe are among the 144 Arkansas seniors recently named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

The 11 students from Cabot and one from Beebe are among 16,000 who scored high enough to be named semifinalists. The designation makes the students eligible for about 8,400 National Merit Scholarships worth $36 million.

In Arkansas, only Little Rock with 42 and Fayetteville with 18 had more National Merit semifinalists than Cabot. Conway had 12, but one was a home-schooled student.

The semifinalists from Cabot are Layne M. Bernardo, Alyssa C. Cantrell, Anthony B. Cardillo, William D. Carman, Jeffrey L. Graham, William J. Otter, Carson T. Patterson, Bradley R. Puder, Kevan T. Sharp, Hayden D. Summerhill and Kaitlyn N. Thomas.

The semifinalist from Beebe is Bernard R. Smith.

Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe Schools, said this week that she had been Smith’s elementary principal.

“I always knew Bernard was a smart kid,” Shook said. “We’re proud of him.”

Carla Choate, a counselor at Beebe High School, said she is completing paperwork to help meet eligibility requirements for Smith to become a National Merit scholar.

“This is fairly unusual,” Choate said. “We don’t have one every year.”

Melissa Elliott, director of gifted and AP programs at Cabot, says a rigorous curriculum beginning in middle school combined with opportunities for students to prepare for high-stakes tests is the secret to Cabot’s success.

“The semifinalists are the highest-scoring students for each state, and they represent less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school juniors,” Elliott said.

“We ranked third in the state this year with our 11 semifinalists,” she said. “The insistence on a rigorous curriculum throughout the district is perhaps the most important and direct factor in our success.

“Our district is cognizant of the necessary components needed to achieve higher scores, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that students who desire to improve their scores have every opportunity to do so.

“Though high-stake exams are most often associated with our secondary schools, the foundation starts in our elementary schools and is reinforced at our middle-level buildings by staff that have high expectations for students and instill a work ethic required for them to be successful,” she said.

Last year, about 1.5 million high school juniors became part of the scholarship program by taking the 2009 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

TOP STORY: More warnings for PCSSD

IN SHORT: Troubled school district takes steps in reaction to “early indicators” of fiscal distress.

By John Hofheimer
Leader senior staff writer

The discovery earlier this year by the state Bureau of Legislative Audit of unauthorized purchases and sales of about $439,000 of school property, improper reimbursements of some school board members, overpayment of former Supt. James Sharpe and poor oversight of other financial matters has prompted the state Board of Education to “pre-warn” the Pulaski County Special School District that it could be headed again for fiscal distress.

The state is required to warn every district by Aug. 31 if it has found “early indicators of fiscal distress.”

The specific indicators for PCSSD were: State or federal audit exceptions or violations and failure to comply with state law governing purchasing or bid requirements. The district has already taken action on several problems.

“I learned about the early indicators of fiscal distress last week at…a meeting with Bill Golf, assistant (Arkansas Education Department) commissioner for finance,” the district’s chief financial officer said Friday.

“The early indicators of fiscal distress mirror the issues listed in the legislative audit report,” said Anita Farver, the PCSSD chief financial officer.

“In my opinion, we just need to comply with district, state and federal policies at all times, with all fund sources, on all expenditures without deviation.

“Tracking expenditures was an issue,” Farver said. “This issue is being corrected with our financial data base being moved to the state server. All expenditures are now processed through the Arkansas Public School Computer Network.”

The state Education Depart-ment put PCSSD in fiscal distress in 2005, from which the district emerged in 2007 after careful oversight by the state.

At that time, the district’s reserves had run unacceptably low.

This time, the district is being warned that it has not been sufficiently careful with its money.
The state legislative audit found that about $430,000 worth of district equipment was ordered, then sold by its mechanical systems supervisor, James Diemer, who subsequently pleaded guilty to theft of property.

In addition, school board members Mildred Tatum and Gwen Williams and former school board member Pam Roberts were found to have billed the district for reimbursement for non-reimbursable items, such as theater tickets.

Tatum over-billed the district by $2,788, Williams by $619 and Roberts by $270.

As recently as the Sept. 14 meeting, the board was considering taking action on measures intended to further tighten its own financial oversight, things which Farver says will not only help satisfy the Legislative Audit Bureau, but also the concerns of the Education Department.

The board unanimously approved revisions of the district’s business-procedure manual regarding out-of-district travel, local travel reimbursement and perhaps most importantly, prohibiting blanket purchase orders.

Instead, every purchase order will be submitted and approved individually, Farver said. A blanket order was defined as “written authorization in the form of a purchase order for a department or departments to purchase indefinite quantities of goods and or services from a specific vendor for a specified period of time, usually one year.”

The board is also considering an agreement with U.S. Bank for “procurement cards.”

The proposal, by Farver, would automate the procurement process to reduce unauthorized spending, slash administrative costs and enable the district to better manage purchasing by analyzing spending patterns.

They would be issued at the cabinet level during the first year of implementation to be used for approved purchases.

The board also voted to discontinue the practice of cash advances for out-of-district travel for board members to insure accountability.

TOP STORY >> Gas suit could trim taxes for schools

IN SHORT: Couple goes to court to keep their wells from being assessed at a higher rate.

Leader staff writer

As the ages of lawsuits go, the one filed in April by a White County couple to stop the county from assessing their property at a higher value and collecting additional taxes because it has gas wells is still in its infancy.

The couple’s attorney has asked for a judge to decide the case’s merits without a trial and the judge hasn’t done that. Neither has the judge declared it a class-action suit as the couple requested or dismissed it as the county tax assessor and collector have asked.

So when the Beebe School Board voted earlier this month to oppose the suit four months after it was filed in circuit court, it did so in plenty of time to have its position considered.

And that position, said Dr. Belinda Shook, is that the district needs whatever tax money is available.

“I owe that to the staff and students,” Shook said. “I’m supposed to look out for them. That’s my job.”

Kenneth Joe and Mary May, through their attorney Richard Mays of Heber Springs, filed suit April 1 saying the tax is an illegal exaction for several reasons: Since the property tax is assessed on the land before the gas is removed, taxing the royalties is a double tax. The gas companies pay a severance tax, so the gas is being taxed twice. The property owners pay an income tax on the royalties, so the assessment is a double tax. And besides, the assessment is not an accurate reflection of the royalties being paid to property owners. It is too high.

Contacted this week, White County Assessor Debra Lang said she is simply following state law.
She’s been assessing land with gas wells at a higher value since the wells started producing in 2006.

“I’m just doing my job,” she said, adding, “And don’t think I didn’t ask at the state level before I started. This is a lot more work for us.”

Lang said she sees no real difference between farm land and land with mineral royalties.
“We assess agricultural land based on the value of the crop,” she said.

“Gas is a crop, more or less. The land has more value because it has a product,” she added. The assessment is based on gas production and that production is subject to tax, she said. The assessment is based on actual numbers from the gas companies, Lang said. If production goes down, so will the tax assessment.

Shook said she doesn’t know exactly how much will come to the Beebe School District from the gas royalty assessment. Each district gets only the tax from gas production in its district.

But schools are counting on every dollar they can get to make it through the recession.

Currently, Floyd is the only area in the Beebe School District with gas wells, but the district wants any additional property-tax revenue it can get from that area or any other that might be developed inside the district.

TOP STORY >> FBI report lists area crime rate

IN SHORT: Jacksonville and Beebe are the most violent per capita, while Austin and Searcy are the safest, according to recently released 2009 data.

Leader staff writer

Along Hwy. 67/167 in central Arkansas, Beebe is the most violent city per capita to live in followed by Jacksonville, according to recently released FBI statistics for 2009.

Austin is the safest, followed by Searcy, according to the report. Most communities have seen an increase in crime.

The report tracks violent crimes at the city, county and state levels. Violent crimes include murder, rape and sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault. The report also lists property crimes, burglary, larceny and theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Arkansas averages 5.1 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, based on the FBI figures. This is up 3.4 percent from 2008.

Area cities over the state average include Beebe with eight violent crimes per 1,000 residents, Jacksonville at 7.5 violent crimes per 1,000, Lonoke had six violent crimes per 1,000 people, Sherwood was at 5.9 violent crimes per 1,000 and Ward at 5.3 per thousand residents.

Only Austin and Searcy were below the state average.

Austin had a skimpy .4 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, Searcy was at three violent crimes per thousand people and Cabot had 3.2 violent crimes per 1000 residents.

In fact, your chances of being a violent-crime victim in Beebe is about 20 times greater than in Austin.

Beebe also had the most murders in 2009—three. Sherwood was the only other city in the area to have a murder in 2009—it had one.

Going from worst to best, Beebe (population 7,096) had 58 violent crimes in 2009, including three murders, six rapes or sexual assaults, one robbery and 48 aggravated assaults, up from 2008. The city also had 310 property crimes, 135 burglaries, 155 larcenies or thefts, 20 vehicle thefts and one arson.

Jacksonville (pop. 31,480) had 235 violent crimes in 2009, including 17 rapes or sexual assaults, 38 robberies and 180 aggravated assaults, which are down from 2008.

The city also had 1,473 property crimes, 369 burglaries, 1,036 larcenies or thefts, 68 vehicle thefts and 10 arsons. The city had no murders in 2009.

Lonoke (pop. 4,636) had 28 violent crimes in 2009, including two rapes or sexual assaults, two robberies and 24 aggravated assaults, up from 2008.

The city also had 209 property crimes, 66 burglaries, 140 larcenies or thefts and three vehicle thefts. The city had no murders.

Sherwood (pop. 24,888) had 148 violent crimes, including one murder, six rapes or sexual assaults, 21 robberies and 120 aggravated assaults, which are up from 2008.

The city also had 1.096 property crimes, 239 burglaries, 782 larcenies or thefts, 75 stolen vehicles and two arsons.

Ward (pop. 4,086) had 22 violent crimes, including one rape or sexual assault, one robbery and 20 aggravated assaults, down slightly from 2008. The city also had 117 property crimes, 38 burglaries, 78 larcenies or thefts, one vehicle theft and no arsons. Ward had no murders for the year.

Cabot (pop. 24,766) had 81 violent crimes in 2009, including 12 rapes or sexual assaults, six robberies and 63 aggravated assaults, up from 2008. The city also had 810 property crimes, 329 burglaries, 461 larcenies or thefts and 20 stolen vehicles.

The city had no murders or arsons in 2009.

Searcy (pop. 22,647) had 70 violent crimes in 2009, including seven rapes or sexual assaults, 14 robberies and 49 aggravated assaults, up from 2008. The city also had 1,203 property crimes, 426 burglaries, 737 larcenies or thefts, 40 stolen vehicles and six arsons.

Austin (pop. 2,054) had just one violent crime for all of 2009 and it was an aggravated assault.
The city also had 19 property crimes, nine burglaries, eight larcenies or thefts and two motor-vehicle thefts. In 2008, the city had no violent crimes.

TOP STORY >> Board sees 2 veterans booted out by voters

IN SHORT: Lawrence and Stuthard oust Wood and Gililland from PCSSD, tilting power toward teachers union.

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff won big Tuesday in the Pulaski County Special School District school board election, replacing two anti-union incumbents with candidates of their own choosing.

Former teacher Gloria Lawrence defeated Charlie Wood for the Zone 4 Sherwood seat 1,080-364, while Tom Stuthard defeated Danny Gililland 515-367 to represent Zone 5 in northwest Jacksonville and north Pulaski County.

The unions needed to pick up only one seat to shift the balance of power and thus effectively put a stop to the heated and expensive effort to decertify the unions as the collective bargaining agents for the district’s employees.

Both Wood and Gililland served one term on the board and worked to decertify the unions.
Lawrence taught 23 years at Sylvan Hills Middle School, where she was a PACT member. She retired in June. She ran in support of PACT.

Stuthard, a Jacksonville resident, campaigned on change. He wants to curb spending and is amenable to firing bad teachers.

He’s an Air Force veteran. His wife is a district teacher and a union member. They are parents of two PCSSD graduates. He is a postal worker.

SPORTS: Beebe, Paragould still seek success

Leader sportswriter

The start of conference play this week could not come at a better time for Beebe or Paragould.
The Badgers and Rams are both 0-3, but the losing streak ends for someone when Paragould visits Bro Erwin Stadium to start 5A-East Conference play on Friday.

“Both of us are wanting that first win of the year,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “Plus it’s the first conference game, so it’s a big ballgame in more ways than one. Hopefully we can do better this week and come out with some fire and win it.”

Last week’s result against Vilonia was similar to Beebe’s opener at Greenbrier in which the Badgers kept it close through the first three quarters only to watch the game slip from their grasp in the final minutes.

Beebe was also in position to beat Lonoke in Week 2 until the Jackrabbits rallied for two scores in the final six minutes to steal the victory.

“It’s like the defense goes out and gets a stop and the offense doesn’t do anything, or the offense scores and then the defense gives up something,” Shannon said. “Some of it has been not having the right personnel in at the time. A lot of it is the mental aspect that we’ve got to be able to have each other’s back.

“Hopefully, we can finish it this week.”

Lonoke used all-purpose player Darius Scott to come from behind and beat Beebe two weeks ago, but that experience could be a benefit to the Badgers this week when the defense contends with Rams senior Chance Sugg.

Sugg is similar to Scott in size, speed and abilities. He can play multiple receiver spots, as well as tailback and quarterback, and picked up over 2,000 all-purpose yards last season.

The three early losses exposed some areas needing improvement for Beebe, but there have also been flashes of the team Shannon wants to see.

“We’d like to have a win, but we’ve gotten better each week,” Shannon said. “I feel pretty good about things, but there are some things we’re going to have to do like tackle better. It seems like every time we get something going, we have a turnover or a costly penalty.

“We’ve played well for three quarters, we just haven’t put it together.”

Paragould is one of two teams picked to finish lower than Beebe, which is No. 6 in Hooten’s preseason conference polls. Paragould was picked seventh and Nettleton eighth.

But Beebe’s and Paragould’s combined 0-6 record has set the stage for a fight to gain not just confidence, but also valuable points in the apparently balanced 5A Southeast.

“That’s what I’ve been preaching to the kids is that in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t mean a lot.” Shannon said. You always want to get that win, but now the games are counting for right now.”

OBITUARIES >> 09-22-10


Wendi Michelle Hall Snell, 36, of Jacksonville lost her battle with chiari malformation on Sept. 18.

Waiting in heaven were her grandparents, L. G. Teague (Grandpa) and Ivy (Granddaddy) and Alice Hall (Nanny Mutt).

She leaves to cherish her memory, her husband, Joel Snell; her precious daughters, Emily Grace and Olivia Clare; parents, Billy and Pam Hall; grandparents, Larry “Dubby” and June Bonham (Nanny Cokie); sister and best friend, Misty Cagle and her husband Brian, and nephews, Brice and Brady. She is also survived by her mother-in-law, Janice Snell; two brother-in-laws, Robert and his wife Misty Snell, and Lee and his wife Wendy Michelle Snell, and niece and nephews, Kaylan, Nathan, and Hayden.

Wendi graduated with honors from Jacksonville High School and received her teaching degree from the University of Central Arkansas. While teaching, she continued her education and received her masters degree. She received the Bobby G. Lester Excellence in Education Award.
At Murrell Taylor, where she was a math specialist, she was on the leadership team, a member of the Arkansas Leadership Academy Team Institute, a member of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a member of National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, a member of the Pulaski County Math Curriculum Team, and conducted professional development for Pulaski County Special School District.

She was one of two founding sponsors of Murrell Taylor Student Council and a member of Murrell Taylor PTA.

Wendi’s goals in life were getting married, having children and teaching school. She achieved all of these goals with unwavering love and giving. Wendi was the go-to girl at Murrell Taylor, touching each and every teacher and student whom she came into contact with.

Wendi’s right arm was her mom. They were almost inseparable, especially during Wendi’s failing health.

Thirty-six years was not enough for someone with a heart as big as hers. Her legacy will continue to touch many more lives as her organs have been donated so that others can have a better life.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked donations be sent to the Wendi Snell Memorial Fund at Murrell Taylor Elementary School, 1401 Murrell Taylor Drive, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076.

Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Ron Fewell, Dr. Redding, her neurosurgeon, the Baptist Health family, and the Aurora team for their care and concern.

Visitation was Sept. 21, at Second Baptist Church in Jacksonville. Funeral service with celebration of Wendi’s life will be at Second Baptist Church at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22. Interment following in Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Cabot.

Family requests for all to sign her guestbook. Visit

Arrangements by Wood Bean Family Memorial Center, 2620 W Main St., Jacksonville, Ark. 72076 (501) 982-3400.


Barbara Hamilton Reed, 74, of Winter Haven, Fla., lost her battle with cancer Sept. 16.

She was born Sept. 16, 1936. She graduated from Lonoke High School, received a bachelor’s of science degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in physics with honors from Purdue University.

During her early career, she did research, lectured and taught government personnel radiation nuclear physics and worked in a number of other countries for the United States.
After teaching 19 years in the Sarasota, Fla., high schools, she retired to Winter Haven, Fla., was an avid water-sports participant, and enjoyed traveling to all continents. She was a lifelong Methodist.

She was preceded in death by her parents, James B. and Jewel Hamilton Reed, and is survived by three cousins and her extended family in Florida, the Fred McCoy’s of Auburndale and many friends and ex-students who benefited from her knowledge.

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28 Lonoke Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Good Shepherd Hospice, 105 Arneson Ave., Auburndale, Fla. 33823. Arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Irene M. “Rene” McCollum, 85, of Jacksonville passed away Sept. 18.

She was born on April 23, 1925, in Morehouse, Mo., to Frank and Ida Elder.

Mom was certified as an airline stewardess, nurse and beautician, but her job in life was a full-time wife, mother, grandmother and Christian servant. Until her final days, her motto was “If God gives me the day, He gives it for service to Him.”

She worked faithfully even to the age of 84 with people of all ages in her church. Most will remember her as “Miss Huggie,” since her mission became to hug everyone she came near, to show the outpouring of God’s love to all.

She was a member of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

She is survived by her son, James D. Carr Sr. of Jacksonville; her daughter, Rebecca Hardwick and her husband John of Jacksonville; her stepsons, Bill McCollum and his wife Betty of Lenexa, Kan., Bobby McCollum and his wife Mary of Dallas; 10 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husbands, James O. Carr, William Howell, and Robert McCollum, two sisters and two brothers.

The funeral was Sept. 21 at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Burial was in Mayflower Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, 401 N. First St. Jacksonville, Ark. 72076 or Pet Angels of Jacksonville, 217 S. Redmond Road, Jacksonville, Ark. 72076.

Arrangements were by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

SPORTS: Lonoke finally at home

Leader sportswriter

It’s doubtful Lonoke coach Doug Bost would ever agree to wear ruby slippers.

But his sentiments this week are much like Dorothy’s when she uttered the memorable phrase from the “Wizard of Oz” — “There’s no place like home.”

Lonoke will end a streak of seven road games dating to last November when the Jackrabbits open 2-4A Conference play against Heber Springs at James B. Abraham Stadium on Friday.

The Jackrabbits (3-0) were technically the home team in their season opener against Star City, but the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic game was held at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The last real home game for Lonoke was in the first round of last year’s 4A playoffs when the Jackrabbits manhandled Clarksville 48-21 to start off a four-game postseason streak that took them to the 4A state championship game against Shiloh Christian at War Memorial Stadium.

“We’re excited about it,” Bost said. “We’re looking for a lot of energy. At McGehee last week, there just wasn’t a lot of intensity. We’re looking forward to being at home, having a full crowd and to hear the band playing It’s always good to have your first home game of the year.”

Heber Springs (2-1) started the season with a 34-6 blowout of Mountain View before stunning 3A powerhouse Harding Academy 28-14 in Week 2.

The Panthers suffered their first loss Friday against former conference foe Bald Knob, 34-16.

“They’re a well coached football team,” Bost said. “Their strength appears to be their offensive and defensive lines — they’ve got some big old boys up there.”

The biggest key to victory for the Jackrabbits defensively will be containment of junior tailback Markeyvus Mays.

The 5-11, 175-pound junior has speed similar to former Panther running back Braylon Mitchell, who is now a redshirt freshman at the University of Arkansas.

“He has 600 yards of rushing in three games, so he’s someone we will have to key in on when they have the football,” Bost said of Mays. “He’s probably the fastest back we’ve seen so far. We have to contain him and not let him outside, make him run between the tackles.”

Things look more promising for Lonoke’s offense with senior quarterback Logan DeWhitt back. DeWhitt left the first two games early with injuries to his left shoulder, but went the distance against McGehee last week with the help of a brace that helps keep his shoulder in place when he makes contact with other players or the ground.

DeWhitt finished 12 of 23 for 189 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against McGehee.

Senior receiver Darius Scott also put up big numbers, but in a category many would not expect. Scott had 14 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown, with two receptions for 25 yards.

Scott, listed as an outside receiver, is also DeWhitt’s backup at quarterback, but he finished the McGehee game at tailback after starter Keli Bryant was banged up.

“He’s our leading rusher right now,” Bost said. “A lot of those yards he gets when he’s at quarterback, but we can also put him in a speed motion. When someone gets dinged up, he goes to tailback.

“He played four positions last week — inside receiver, outside receiver, quarterback and tailback. The kid knows four different positions; I like that.”

Another senior, Blake Dill, ended up with the best receiving numbers last week with 6 catches for 73 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, Jeremiah Griffin led with 11 tackles, while Wes Plummer had 10 and linebacker T.J. Scott had nine.

SPORTS: Dogfight the goal for Bears

Leader sportswriter

Coach Jim Withrow wants to see Sylvan Hills play with a little more “dog.”

It’s a reference to consistently playing with enthusiasm, but with the White Hall Bulldogs coming to Bill Blackwood Field on Friday to open 5A-Southeast Conference play, Withrow’s comments become more timely.

“They’re always physical up front,” Withrow said. “We’ve got to go in with a mentality knowing it’s going to be a little bit tougher, but if we don’t understand that now, we won’t ever understand it.

“We’ve got to play with a little bit of dog in us and start getting after it. Playing hard one down and taking the next two off doesn’t work. If we can figure that out, we have a chance to win some games. If we don’t figure that out, then we’ll be running in quicksand the rest of the year.”

The Bulldogs (0-3) were picked to finish in the top half of the conference after a 9-3 season and a trip to the second round of the playoffs last year. But they have lost all of their first three games by a touchdown or less.

White Hall started the season with a 22-15 loss to Hot Springs Lakeside before a 17-13 loss to Stuttgart in Week 2 and a 16-15 loss at Sheridan last week.

“They look like they’re searching for an identity,” Withrow said. “You hope that you can take advantage of them struggling — hopefully it will take another week for them to straighten it all out. But their running back, Richardson, he’s the real deal.”

Senior A.J. Richardson, 5-10, 180 pounds, rushed for over 1,200 yards last year and is listed as one of the fastest players in the conference with a 40-yard dash time of 4.4 seconds.

“There’s no doubt, it’s time to rise to the challenge,” Withrow said. “He’s a good back; it’s time we somehow stop the run and get more physical.”

Stopping the run was something Sylvan Hills struggled with last week against Little Rock Parkview and dynamic senior Chris McClendon, who scored four times.

The Patriots went on to win 42-7 to put the Bears 1-2 in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Sylvan Hills lost in similar fashion to Vilonia to start the season before picking up its first victory at Little Rock Christian in Week 2.

“I think it helps us to understand how hard you have to play and what it takes to win,” Withrow said. “Our learning curve was maybe a little faster than what most people go through, but I kind of felt like we took a step back last week. I hope we give out a better effort this week.”

There are always unknowns going into conference play, but one thing Withrow is banking on is for Friday’s result to carry his team a long way — in either direction.

“I think this is the most important game we’ll play all year,” Withrow said. “We need to get in there and give ourselves a chance. A win will be huge. To come out 1-0 in conference takes a little of the heat off of you, to come out 0-1, you’re up against the wall.”

SPORTS: Cabot heads for key tussle with Conway

Leader sports editor

In the Mike Malham rankings, this week’s opponent Conway isn’t too far behind last week’s opponent Springdale Har-Ber.

Malham, Cabot’s coach, leads the Panthers into their 7A/6A-Central conference opener at Conway this week. While Har-Ber, which beat Cabot 28-10 on Friday, is the No. 1 team in the state and ranked in several national polls, Malham said Conway, No. 2 statewide, has potential to be just as good.

“They look pretty good,” he said. “They’re very good on offense. In fact I don’t know if they’re not as good or better than Har-Ber. They got skill people pretty much running around everywhere.”

Har-Ber scored on its first three possessions Friday night but Cabot kept pace until the offense stalled in the third quarter.

Malham said a handful of plays, or plays not made, may have made the difference.

In the first half the Panthers appeared to make a stop on two different third down plays, a tackle at the line of scrimmage and a sack, but each time the ball carrier escaped for a first down leading to a score. Malham also pointed out a holding call that went against Cabot in the second half and likely cost the Panthers a touchdown.

“Just a little play here or there can make a big difference in a ballgame,” Malham said. “Stat-wise we had about 280 yards offense, which isn’t that bad, and they had about 320 so it wasn’t that big a difference.”

Malham, who had to replace 14 starters this season, was more encouraged than discouraged by the Panthers’ performance Friday.

“We hung in there toe to toe with them anyway,” he said. “And in the third quarter we didn’t do very much. All in all I’m not disappointed. I think we’re getting a little better each week.”

Cabot scored all of its points in the first half on two sustained drives. The first lasted 15 plays and ended with Jesus Marquez’s field goal and the second went 14 plays and ended with Zach Craig’s three-yard keeper up the middle that cut it to 14-10.

Marquez was kicking in placed of Logan Spry, who played in the defensive backfield but didn’t kick because of a pulled stomach muscle.

“Stats don’t win games for you but I think our kids competed well against what’s supposed to be the best team in the state,” Malham said.

Malham said Friday’s game could impact the conference race for the rest of the season. If Cabot doesn’t beat Conway, averaging almost 48 points a game, Malham isn’t sure who else in the 7A/6A-Central will.

“I will say this — it could be for all the marbles Friday night,” Malham said. “If we don’t win Friday night, they may run the table and we’ll be chasing them all year long.”

Malham said it’s hard to say which high schools are truly best in the nation, but after taking a look at Conway’s work out of the Spread, he is pretty certain the Wampus Cats deserve to be ranked up there with Har-Ber in the state.

“That’s just a tossup. There’s so many teams around the country,” Malham said of Har-Ber’s national rankings. “I can see why they’re picked No. 1 in Arkansas. I can see now why they’ve got Conway No. 2. They can play.”

Malham likes his teams’ chances at Conway if the players produce the same effort they showed against Har-Ber, and make the sure tackles when they have the chance.

“We played some good defense at times and then we’re not thinking very good sometimes,” Malham said. “You’ve got to be able to stop the run and you’ve got to be able to control the ball on offense and we really didn’t stop the run very well against Har-Ber.”

SPORTS: Falcons on road to battle Cougars

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski will be trying to make up for a backward step or two when it opens 5A-Southeast Conference play at West Helena this week.

The Falcons were shut out in their opener at Searcy, showed signs off offensive life in a 36-12 loss to Pulaski Oak Grove, but failed to reach the end zone in last week’s 14-3 loss to Little Rock Christian.

Part of the problem was a thumb injury to starting quarterback Shyheim Barron that forced the Falcons to go to backup Marvin Davis.

“That didn’t help,” coach Terrod Hatcher said. “It was a coaching mistake and we didn’t have our backups ready to play. That’s a coaching loss right there.”

Hatcher set out to correct the situation during the week, getting Davis more repetitions in practice while awaiting a doctor’s decision on Barron. If cleared to play, Barron will line up at running back and in the secondary.

“There’s no way we can’t have him on the field,” Hatcher said. “And it actually might help us because it frees him up and he’s going to start as safety this week so it’s going to help us defensively.”

North Pulaski’s only points last week came on Spencer Johnston’s first-quarter field goal while Falcons quarterback Marvin Davis threw an interception that led to a touchdown and was sacked on third and 15 after North Pulaski had crossed midfield.

North Pulaski twice got inside the Christian 5 and came away with no points.

The Falcons’ defense, meanwhile, had its moments as it kept the team in the game.

Schyler Spencer sacked Logan Hays to end one scoring threat and the Falcons got an interception that led to Johnston’s field goal. North Pulaski grabbed two turnovers in the first half and Christian only ran five plays in Falcons’ territory in the first two quarters.

But offensively, Hatcher said, the team went backward.

“We had good plays,” Hatcher said. “We had a couple big ones get away from us and that’s what we can’t let happen when conference starts.”

After playing at home just once in the opening three-game stretch, North Pulaski (0-3) hits the road again to play West Helena.

“We’re not focused on where we’re playing,” Hatcher said. “We’re just trying to get where we need to be and playing football. We’re just focused on conference and we think we can shock a few people and actually pull it together come conference time.”

West Helena is picked to finish second behind 5A-Southeast favorite Watson Chapel. West Helena went 6-5 and reached the playoffs last season, bowing out in the first round to Pulaski Academy.

West Helena has a strong-armed quarterback in Markeith Jacobs, 5-10, 175 pounds, and a power back in DeKeathan Williams, 6-2, 200. Coach Russell Smith has touted receiver Aubrey Garner, 6-3, 195, as one of the best in the state.

SPORTS: Jacksonville Ready for close-up

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils are always trying to put on a good show.

This time the show will be televised.

For the second time in three weeks Jacksonville is stepping out of the traditional Friday night routine, this time playing Mountain Home in the 7A/6A-East Conference opener in a Thursday night game to be broadcast on statewide commercial television.

Jacksonville is at Jan Crow Stadium for the first time this season, and coach Rick Russell said the Red Devils, on a two-game winning streak, are more excited about playing at home — and about opening conference play — than they are about having their exploits aired on KARZ-TV.

“This week we won’t talk about the TV,” Russell said. “We’ll talk about Mountain Home and what we have to do to beat them.”

Jacksonville is no stranger to the bright lights. The Red Devils played Cabot on a Tuesday to open last season, and the game was the first to be commercially broadcast statewide in Arkansas.

This year’s season opener was also against Cabot, also on a Tuesday night, and was part of the fanfare of the four-game, Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

“We’re excited to get conference started,” Russell said of this week’s game. “It’s our first home game is what we’re really excited about.”

The Thursday kickoff means the Red Devils are on an accelerated-preparation schedule. Jacksonville combined its Monday and Tuesday workouts into one practice Monday, and was holding its Wednesday workout Tuesday.

“I think playing that first Tuesday against Cabot helped us understand what we have to do to adjust our schedule,” Russell said.

The pace hasn’t given the players much time to think about how they will look on TV, and while Russell was happy to talk up the game in the preseason to build excitement, he said he doesn’t have to do that now.

“I think it’s going to be a motivational factor in that we want to execute and play well,” he said.
The Red Devils at least look like they’re ready for their close-up. Jacksonville, in its first year under Russell, has already done what it took all of last season to accomplish — win two games.
After losing to Cabot in the season opener, the Red Devils posted a 34-10 victory at Benton and on Friday they won 42-21 at Hot Springs.

“We’ve played really well,” Russell said. “I think we’ve competed for 48 minutes and the effort was there.”

The Hot Springs victory featured Jacksonville’s most complete offensive performance to date.
Behind quarterback Logan Perry, the Red Devils passed for 205 yards and they rushed for 238.
Perry kept for 107 rushing yards and accounted for all of the passing yardage. He completed five passes each to D’Vone McClure and Jamison Williams, who had 90 and 91 receiving yards, respectively.

Russell praised his coaching staff, including the spotters in the booth, for their work with the offense.

“We have four or five guys up in the box talking to the offensive coaches, telling us where the hot spots are and the creases are,” Russell said.

Jacksonville is hoping to pack Jan Crow with its “White out,” promotion, in which fans are encouraged to wear white in a takeoff of the NFL’s broadcast blackouts when games are not sold out.

Athletic director Jerry Wilson said all middle school and elementary school children will be admitted free if accompanied by an adult with a paid admission.

EVENTS >> 09-22-10

Highway banquet is Tuesday in Cabot

Cabot will hold its third annual Arkansas State Highway banquet at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church, 204 N. Third St. The dinner is sponsored by Cabot Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee.

The event gives city officals and residents an opportunity to discuss improvement plans to the area’s roads.

Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Cabot High School’s Forensics Department will entertain.
Tickets are $25 or $200 for a table of seven. Call 501-843-2136.

Helicopter pilot to speak in Jacksonville on Thursday

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History, 100 Veterans Circle, will host a roundtable discussion at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with two helicopter pilots who served in Vietnam.

Bill Mulcahy was in the Navy and served three tours in Vietnam flying with the Vietnamese Air Force, the U.S. Army and the Navy’s only helicopter gunship squadron in Vietnam. In addition to serving in Vietnam, Mulcahy also wrote the operation order for the Apollo 13 mission.

Joining Mulcahy will be Jim Grant, a helicopter pilot who served two tours in Vietnam. Grant served with the 3rd Brigade, 7th Cavalry of the First Air Cavalry flying H-13’s as a scout pilot. While in Vietnam, Grant was shot up twice, shot down twice and crashed once.

Jacksonville church to celebrate its new thrift store

God’s Holy House Church, 607 W. Main St. in Jacksonville, has opened a thirft store to benefit the church’s programs. The store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It accepts donations. The store also provides temporary tatoos 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday. To celebrate the occasion, the church will hold a concert at noon Saturday. For more information, call 501-291-5925.

Lonoke County Fair kicks off Thursday with parade

The 2010 Lonoke County Fair and Livestock Show is under way at the Lonoke County Fairgrounds, Hwy. 89. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the event.

A parade will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday and a Red Neck Rodeo jackpot-speed event will be held at 7:30 at the fairgrounds. Bullnanza is set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A crosscut saw contest will be held at noon Saturday and a youth talent show follows at 1 p.m. The Lonoke County fair queen will be crowned at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Cabot Cleanup is Saturday, volunteers are sought

Cabot Fall Cleanup has been set for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Volunteers are needed to help collect litter from the city’s streets.

The event is sponsored by Cabot City Beautiful, and held in conjunction with the Great Arkansas Cleanup.

Cabot residents, community groups and businesses are welcome to participate. To register or for more information, call 501-920-2122 or email

Lonoke County Republicans hold Lincoln Day lunch

The Lonoke County Republican Committee will hold its annual Lincoln Day event at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 in the Cabot Middle School North cafeteria, 38 Spirit Drive. The group usually hosts a dinner for Lincoln Day, but in order to schedule U.S. Senate candidate Rep. John Boozman and 1st District congressional candidate Rick Crawford as speakers, it will instead be held at lunchtime. Tickets are available in advance or at the door until 11:30 a.m. The cost is $30, $50 for couples or $200 for a table. For more information, call 501-743-1400.

EDITORIAL: Character vs. deceit

Tim Griffin, who seems to be coasting to a seat in the House of Representatives from central Arkansas, must have blanched when he saw that the W. H. Bowen School of Law at Little Rock had invited five of the fired Republican U. S. attorneys to come discuss the politicization of the Justice Department. Griffin is running as a new face who is going to Washington to clean it up.

Hardly anyone in the district knows that he spent a decade in Washington as a political operative whose job was to tear down Democratic candidates and officeholders, first as an investigator for a Republican congressman, then for the Republican National Committee and finally for the White House political director, Karl Rove. Nor do many know of his pivotal role in the U. S. attorneys scandal.

Griffin, using his White House connections, managed to get Bud Cummins, the U. S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, fired so that he could get the job for a few months and build his résumé for a run for Congress. He did not suspect that Cummins’ dismissal and the firing of eight other U. S. attorneys who had not pleased the White House political office would blow up into a scandal that would force the resignation of the attorney general of the United States.

Rove arranged for Griffin to be appointed U. S. attorney under a provision hidden in USA Patriot Act amendments that allowed him to escape questioning and confirmation by the Senate, the only U. S. attorney ever to be appointed in that way. U. S. Sen. Mark Pryor intended to question him about his role in the removal of Democratic voters from the rolls in Florida in the 2004 presidential election. (Griffin told Pryor in a private conversation monitored by the Justice Department that if the voter “caging” happened, higher-ups had made the decision to do it.)

Griffin cannot be relieved at what transpired at the law school. Cummins adhered to the party rule that a good Republican does not speak ill of another who is running for office against a Democrat. Cummins refused to talk about Griffin or say whether he would vote for Griffin, his Democratic opponent Joyce Elliott or skip that race.

“He had a role and I think it’s been documented in the investigation,” Cummins said. “I don’t really have anything to add.” He was talking about the investigative report on the firings by the inspector general of the Justice Department two years ago. It detailed Griffin’s conniving to get Cummins’ job. Officials in the Justice Department and the White House said Griffin told them Cummins was known to be lazy, although the Justice Department ranked Cummins among its top five prosecutors. Justice Department officials eventually acknowledged that Cummins was not fired because he was doing a poor job, as they first announced, but to make room for Griffin.

Another of the fired prosecutors, Paul Charlton of Arizona, was not as discreet as Cummins. Charlton and Carol Lam of California, who spoke at the law school, were fired shortly after they began investigations of a couple of crooked congressmen who happened to be Republicans with close ties to the White House. Congressman Randall “Duke” Cunning-ham of California would eventually go to prison. Congressman Richard “Rick” Renzi of Arizona was indicted on 35 counts of fraud but has not stood trial. President Bush and Vice President Cheney had gone to Arizona to campaign for Renzi, and the White House apparently was miffed that a Republican they had appointed was trying to send another Republican to prison.

Charlton seemed to be madder about Cummins’ mistreatment than his own.

“I’ve seen the video in which Mr. Griffin wept as he said he no longer felt that public service was worthwhile, and it struck me as more than ironic that he was in that state of mind after he had essentially destroyed Bud Cummins’ chance to stay in office as U.S. attorney, even though Bud was doing a terrific job,” Charlton said. “He had slandered Bud while he was a U.S. attorney and used his position with Karl Rove to move Bud out of office. Bud handled it very much like a gentleman and with a great deal of grace, and I don’t think I could say the same of Mr. Griffin.”

The Arizonan had kept abreast of Tim Griffin’s career since the prosecutor fiasco. He said Griffin had lied about the number of cases he had prosecuted and the number of felony jury trials he had worked in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps. He said it did not speak well of the man’s character.

“I think how many prosecutions and felony jury trials you’ve had means something, especially for anyone who wants to take the job of U.S. attorney,” Charlton said. “If you misrepresent that, then you need to be held to account for that.”

Truth and courage mean something, too, if you are asking to be the people’s representative in Washington. Cummins and Charlton remind us of Griffin’s one failing as a candidate. It is not his ideas — they are rote Republican — but his refusal to answer questions about the U. S. attorney episode or his activities during his 10-year career inside Washington politics. He waves questions aside by saying that he only wants to talk about the future. The past, they say, is prologue.

Monday, September 20, 2010

SPORTS >> Patriots roll over Bears on big night from back

IN SHORT: McClendon scores four rushing touchdowns to lead LR Parkview past Sylvan Hills.

Leader sportswriter

The Little Rock Parkview Patriots cruised their way to a 42-7 victory over Sylvan Hills on Friday to hand the Bears their second loss of the season.

The Patriots (2-1) got a four-touchdown performance out of senior running back Chris McClendon and triggered the 35-point sportsmanship/timing rule against the Bears (1-2) early in the fourth quarter.

The rule calls for the clock to run almost continually when a team takes a lead of 35 points or better.

“When they got off the bus, we looked at each other and said ‘This ain’t good,’ ” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We could not match them physically; we were out there with as many as five or six sophomores on defense at one point. They are an impressive group physically.”

Bears quarterback J.D. Miller engineered Sylvan Hills’ only scoring drive in the fourth quarter by moving the ball with timely pass plays, while running back Willie Johnson capped off the series with a 25-yard touchdown run with less than eight minutes left to play.

“I think it’s a good wake-up call,” Withrow said. “We had four sophomores and two guys who didn’t play last year out there on defense. They weren’t playing bad, but I think they realized how physical the game is.”

Parkview scored on the first play from scrimmage with a swing pass that caught the blitzing Bears defense off guard and turned into a 65-yard touchdown.

Sylvan Hills did not capitalize on a big opportunity in the second quarter when a long pass play from Miller to Anthony Featherston ended with the Patriots stripping Featherstone of the ball deep in Patriots territory.

The youthful Bears opened with a loss to Vilonia then rebounded to take a road victory at Little Rock Christian.

“I don’t like to look at the negative without considering the positive,” Withrow said. “We’ll look at this as a learning experience and go from there. I think we’ll get better as we go along. We had some young guys who made plays tonight, and who were in position to make plays.”

SPORTS >> Red Devils’ balancing act beats Trojans

IN SHORT: Jacksonville gets 205 yards in the air and 238 on the ground to win.

Special to The Leader

HOT SPRINGS — Hot Springs did what its coach asked Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to stop Jacksonville.

The Red Devils put a balanced attack to work and beat Hot Springs 42-21, taking their second consecutive victory under new coach Rick Russell. The Red Devils (2-1) won just two games overall last season.

First-year Hot Springs coach Chris Vereen asked for fundamentally sound football on both sides of the line and a focus on assignments. He also wanted to see the Trojans convert their energy in practice to a game night performance at Holt Memorial Field.
Hot Springs improved in most areas, gaining 429 yards, but turned the ball over six times in a 42-21 home loss, dropping to 0-3. Jacksonville totaled 443 yards, 205 passing and 238 rushing.

Quarterback Logan Perry carried six times for 107 yards and completed 12 of passes for 205 yards. D’Vone McClure had five catches for 90 yards and Jamison Williams had five for 91.

“I honestly felt like we were good for four quarters tonight,” said Vereen, whose team lost to Pulaski Robinson 42-21 and Glen Rose 32-14 in the first two weeks.

“The effort was there the entire night and we ended up with over 400 yards of total offense,” Vereen said. “We moved the football, the kids played hard and we didn’t give up when we got down.

“The kids fought all night long, and that is also one thing we liked about the first two games. We got effort for four quarters. You can’t have over 400 yards of total offense against Jacksonville and not have effort — but goodness gracious, the turnovers.”

Jacksonville scored on its first possession, with McClure breaking loose for a 26-yard run to cap a 53-yard, seven-play drive. Aaron Shore’s extra-point attempt sailed wide, leaving it 6-0 with 5:08 off the clock.

Chris Hughes plunged one yard for a tying touchdown and Andrew Ellars kicked to put the Trojans ahead, 7-6, with under the two minutes to go in the first half.

Jacksonville responded with a four-play, 73-yard scoring drive for a 12-7 halftime lead. Perry threw for 41 yards on the possession and ran the last 17 yards for the score.

Jacksonville quickly scored 16 points early in the third quarter for a 28-7 lead.

On second and 30, Perry broke loose up the middle for 75 yards and then hit McClure on a two-point pass. Sophomore Shaquille Davis ran 13 yards for the other touchdown and passed to McClure for two points.

Hot Springs pulled within 28-14 on Hughes’ 12-yard run and Ellars’ extra point with 6:23 left, but Jacksonville settled matters with a pair of touchdowns and conversions.
Following an interception, Christopher Woods scored from 21 yards out with 4:56 left. Brandon Brockman later returned a fumble 90 yards, with Shore’s point after making it 42-14.

Rolando Johnson ran 73 yards for Hot Springs’ final touchdown and Ellars kicked the extra point.

“You can’t win football games turning the ball over like we did tonight,” Vereen said. “When you look and you have 400 yards of total offense, and you have 21 points to show for it, that’s not very good.

“Anyway you look at it, at worst, every 80 yards of offense should equal a score, and a lot of times less than that.

“It just all goes back to the turnovers. That’s the bottom line.”

Hughes led the Trojans with 98 yards on 16 carries and Johnson added 92 on 13 carries.
Quarterback D’Andre Hood completed five of 12 passes for 128 yards and one interception. Tyree Sampson had three catches for 105 yards.

SPORTS >> Eagles bruise Badgers behind ground game

IN SHORT: Vilonia content to keep ball in hands of backs.

Leader sportswriter

Beebe had little choice but to win the time-of-possession war.

That was thanks to a Vilonia offense that proved it needed little time to strike, as senior quarterback Drew Knowles led an Eagle ground assault that steamrolled to a 41-14 victory over the Badgers at Phillip D. Weaver Stadium on Friday night.

Vilonia ground out 396 total yards behind Knowles, who led all rushers with 17 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns and was content to keep the ball on the ground with no pass attempts.

Beebe (0-3) carried out its game plan of sustained drives through the first three quarters. But when the Badgers found themselves down 26-14 late in the third, quarterback Scot Gowen went to the air with disastrous results, as the Eagles grabbed back-to-back interceptions.

“Our offensive line did a great job,” Vilonia coach Jim Stanley said.
“And Drew Knowles did a good job of leading the option for us tonight. We’re still making too many mistakes, but overall, I was happy.”

Beebe took its first drives of each half for scores and held the ball longer than Vilonia. The Badgers’ running game was fairly consistent, but Gowen’s 0 of 6 performance through the air, the two interceptions, and a near interception thrown by backup Jordan Brockway, put Beebe’s biggest offensive weakness on display.

“We were banged up from the Lonoke game coming in,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “The kids fought hard, and we had opportunities, but we missed assignments here and there. That came back to bite us.”

Beebe lost momentum on a drive just before the end of the first half when Gowen was injured on a keeper that moved the ball to the Vilonia 25-yard line following a personal foul penalty against Vilonia.

Brockway led the offense most of the third quarter and put together the Badgers’ final scoring drive of the night to start the second half.

Beebe started at its 20 following a touchback by Vilonia junior kicker James Gardner, but halfback Jay Holdway bought some room with runs of three and four yards to the Badger 27.

The Badgers used short gains to fight their way to midfield before Holdway broke free on Beebe’s longest run of the night on a 50-yard scoring play that cut Vilonia’s lead to 20-14 with 7:21 left in the half.

Taylor led the Badgers with 23 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown while Gowen had 10 carries for 71 yards. Beebe had 244 yards of offense.

Vilonia showed its own clock-grinding ability with a 12-play, 72 yard scoring drive on its first possession. Running back James Sax established himself as a useful decoy while Knowles chalked up runs of 14 and 16 yards and his 15-yard touchdown run with 6:18 left in the first quarter.

Beebe one-upped its host with a 14-play, 73-yard scoring drive that ran the first-quarter clock to under 30 seconds. Jordan Doss added the extra point and the Badgers took their only lead, 7-6.

But the Eagles dominated the second quarter with two unanswered scoring drives. Knowles continued to strike with keeps set up by fakes to Sax and Lewis. The senior quarterback ended up with 12 carries for 118 yards in the first half along with two touchdowns.

His biggest play, a 38-yard run midway through the second quarter, was part of what turned out to be the Eagles’ only drive that ended without a score. Beebe’s defense held on fourth and one at the Badgers 11 to take over on downs.

Lewis gave the Eagles their second score on a 19-yard run that capped a brief four-play, 45-yard drive, and Knowles scored with 3:02 left in the first half on a two-yard run to give Vilonia a 20-7 lead.

The Eagles finished the first half with 228 yards, all on the ground.

After a pair of physical games, Shannon said some mending time is needed.

“We’ll have to get well in a hurry,” Shannon said looking ahead to the 5A-East Conference schedule. “And we’ve got to get some mistakes fixed. The real season starts next week.”

SPORTS >> Har-Ber a handful for Cabot

IN SHORT: Nationally ranked Wildcats survive scrappy effort by Panthers thanks to big first half.

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

Cabot was never out of it.

Unfortunately, the Panthers could never quite get into it, either.

Long-time playoff nemesis Springdale Har-Ber scored on its first three possessions and went on to a 28-10 victory over Cabot at Panther Stadium on Friday.

It was the Panthers’ first game against a 7A opponent this season and the fourth time in four years Har-Ber has beaten Cabot, with three victories coming in the 7A playoffs.

“I hope we play them one more time this year,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said, looking toward this year’s postseason after the Panthers (2-1) suffered their first loss.

Malham was encouraged by the way the Panthers stayed with the Wildcats (3-0), answering Har-Ber’s first two touchdowns with scores of their own. Har-Ber was ranked in the top 25 of more than one national high school poll and had scored more than 100 points in its first two games.

“We seem to be getting a little better each game,” Malham said. “Our worst half offensively was this second half tonight. But I think our defense is getting a little better and a little better. They’re very good on offense, they’ve got everything back from last year and won it last year.”

Cabot did all of its scoring in the first half while Har-Ber added a third-quarter touchdown in the second half, which bogged down on penalties and miscues by both teams. Har-Ber made it 28-10 when Ryan Luther passed 17 yards to Jeremy Vongvone as time expired in the third quarter.

“We hung in there good and had our chances,” Malham said. “And really the defense gave us some chances in the second half and all of a sudden our offense didn’t move it.”

The half began when Cabot’s Spencer Smith and Jesse Roberts collided to fumble the kickoff. Har-Ber took the gift and promptly went backwards on a series of penalties and a sack by Cabot’s Jason Sled, then the Wildcats extended a Panthers drive with an offsides penalty.

But Cabot wound up punting, and its remaining possessions ended on a failed fourth-down conversion, a fumble after reaching the Har-Ber 37, another fourth-down stop and an interception.

Bryson Morris picked off a Har-Ber pass in the end zone for Cabot.

“I thought it was two different halves,” Har-Ber coach Chris Wood said. “I thought offensively we played good in the first half. Defense was so-so. Second half I thought the offense made a lot of mistakes, just kind of hit cruise control there and Cabot had everything to do with that; they came after us and they caused some turnovers.
“But our defense played better in the second half.”

Spencer Smith led Cabot with 78 rushing yards and a touchdown. Luther passed for 133 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead Har-Ber.

Har-Ber took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards to score on Luther’s 21-yard pass to Evan Johnson, who got behind Morris in the end zone on the fourth-and-5 attempt.

The Wildcats overcame false start and holding penalties on the drive, and the big gain was a 26-yard completion from Luther to Vongvone.

Cabot responded with a 65-yard scoring drive, but it stalled when Austin Alley took a two-yard loss on fourth and nine and the Panthers settled for Jesus Marquez’s 27-yard field goal that made it 7-0 with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.

Marquez stepped in as kicker because a pulled stomach muscle limited senior Logan Spry to defensive back duty only.

Har-Ber came back with a seven-play scoring possession that featured Gordon Welch’s 10-yard run for a first down followed by Luther’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Brett Stith that made it 14-3 with 10:10 left in the half.

But Cabot answered again, this time with a 14-play, 70-yard touchdown drive.

The Panthers picked up a fourth-down conversion on Andre Ausejo’s four-yard run to the Wildcats 44 and Jeremy Berry raced to the outside on a 20-yard carry for a first down to the Har-Ber 14.

Smith carried for first and goal at the 3 and Craig carried up the middle from there for the touchdown that cut it to 14-10 with 4:40 left.

But the Panthers couldn’t silence the Wildcats. Har-Ber drove for another touchdown and got a boost from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cabot that helped it survive a 7-yard loss on a low snap and gave the Wildcats second and two at the Panthers 23.

Tucker Lee carried twice and then Luther ran it in from the 12 to make it 21-10 with 1:25 left in the half.

“It was sloppy but coming in to Cabot and get a win, 28-10, I think is huge,” Wood said.

“Cabot’s going to be in the thick of it come Thanksgiving. They’re a really well coached team. I’ve got so much respect for this town and this community. It’s how football should be.”

SPORTS >> Warriors stop Falcons short of end zone

IN SHORT: Field goal all North Pulaski can get from LR Christian.

By Jason Gibson
Special to The Leader

Little Rock Christian Academy shook off last week’s loss to beat visiting North Pulaski 14-3 on Friday night.

“I thought we got better this week” said Little Rock Christian Academy Coach Justin Kramer, whose team lost to Sylvan Hills last week. “Our defense did awesome. Keeping the Falcons to three points was great.”

North Pulaski scored on Specner Johnston’s field goal in the first quarter following an interception.

Warriors linebacker Daniel Williams intercepted Falcon’s quarterback Marvin Davis taking the pass 47 yards to the Falcon 18. On the next play Logan Hays passed to Byron Milton in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

Down 14-3 the Falcons (0-3) took the kick off to the 45-yard line but the drive stalled after Luke Hall sacked Falcon quarterback Davis on third and 15.

After the punt the Warriors (1-2) took over at their 19. With Logan Hays at quarterback, the Warriors moved to their 39. Facing third and 16 Hays dropped back and passed to Ethan Archer for a 40-yard gain that took the ball to the Falcons 19.

The Warriors would move the ball down the Falcon 4 after a personal foul on the Falcons. On first down the Warriors handed the ball off to Logan Kuhn, who went up the middle for a two-yard gain.

On second down the Warriors again gave the ball to Kuhn but the were called for holding.

With the ball moved back to the 13, the Warriors went the air. Hays passed to Kuhn but before he could score he fumbled and the Warriors recovered in the end zone, but another holding call that nullified the touchdown.

The penalty brought up third and 18. Hays dropped back and threw over the head of his receiver. On fourth down North Pulaski called for a blitz and Schyler Spencer sacked Hays to that the Warrior threat.

The Falcons took over at their 25-yard line. On first down the Falcons handed the ball off to sophomore Dwayne Davis, who took the ball up the middle to the Warriors 39 for a 40-yard run.

Davis would finish the night with 41 yards on three carries. Three plays later the Falcons were looking at a third and 17. And Davis threw a screen pass to Darius Cage for 38 yards to the Little Rock Christian 4.

On first and goal Derrick Hart was stopped for a four-yard loss. After a three-yard run by Cage the Falcons were looking at third and goal from the 5.

Davis dropped back to pass, finding no one open he ran with it but was taken down for a four-yard loss by Tyler Otis.

The Falcon came out of the huddle with Cage split to the right and two receivers to the left.

Davis faked a pass to Cage then threw a wide receiver screen to Hart, who broke a tackle and ran for six yards before being dragged down three yards short of the goal line as the Warriors took over on downs.

The Warriors committed two turnovers and only ran five plays in North Pulaski territory in the first half.

The Warriors defense was the difference, keeping North Pulaski out of the end zone on two possessions in which the Falcons were inside the 5.

North Pulaski Coach Greg Hatcher said his team “went backward” after scoring 12 points in last week’s loss to Pulaski Oak Grove.

The Falcons looked good at times, Hatcher said, but just could not find the end zone. He went on to say “they did not know how to win.”

North Pulaski plays Little Rock Central next week.

EDITORIAL >>AG&FC run amok

A cartoon by the late great George Fisher in the Arkansas Gazette put the state Game and Fish Commission atop Mount Olympus and observed that the commission answered only to God. The wildlife agency was installed in the state Constitution nearly 70 years ago on the theory that it needed protecting from the governor and the other conniving politicians, those in the state legislature. Administrators and the appointed commissioners who ran the agency enjoyed unparalleled power that was largely unchecked by either the executive or legislative branches.

If Fisher could only see them now!

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published more of its detailed research on state government vehicles Thursday and the abuse thereof. It showed that the Game and Fish Commission had 613 employees but 658 vehicles, a little more than one vehicle per worker. The agency needs more vehicles than many agencies (all the agencies have more than they need) because there is hauling and construction work to be done at the fisheries and the wildlife wardens need vehicles. But more than one per employee?

The agency is a poster child for a government run amok — a government that has run amok for many years. State cars were a perk for underpaid state employees. The only trouble was that the cars were supplied to the highest-paid people in every department and at the colleges, not the drudges who did the work.

But Game and Fish is a special case. It is worse for two reasons. The first is that, like the state Highway Commission, it enjoys unusual independence from the ordinary strictures of government. Voters enshrined both agencies and their governing commissions in the state Constitution, Game and Fish in 1944 and the Highway Commission in 1952, on the theory that if the governor and legislature couldn’t touch them, their decisions would be made for the good of the people and not to satisfy politicians.

The second was the misguided constitutional amendment ratified by the voters in 1998 that levied a one-seventh of a percent sales tax and divided the revenues forever between Game and Fish and the state Parks Department. Whether their needs are lesser or greater than the rest of the government, those agencies get that money automatically every year — it’s about $60 million a year — and Game and Fish spends its money more or less as it pleases.

Governor Mike Huckabee, who liked to fish, campaigned for the tax. You may remember when he made his famous trip down the Arkansas River on his bass boat at the head of a flotilla, stopping at every city to hold a media event in which he urged people to go to the polls and vote for the tax. They did. He boasted that it was his tax — that is, until he ran for president and claimed to have been the tax-cuttingest governor in history. When he was asked about the conservation sales tax, he said, oh that was the voters, not me.

With another $25 million to $30 million flowing into the agency, it had to spend it somewhere. Its operating budget jumped from about $30 million in 1998 to $57 million in the next eight years. It raised the number of employees by a fifth. The agency already carried as many vehicles as employees, but the vehicles became bigger and newer. The top dogs in the agency, according to the Democrat-Gazette, have 2010 or 2009 model cars.

One commissioner interviewed by the paper said he cast the only vote several months ago against buying 50 new cars. He did not have any objection, he said, except “one or two” of the vehicles they were replacing were pretty new. Who wants to drive a two-year-old car?

But the vehicle policies at Game and Fish are not going to change. The governor can’t change them. The legislature can’t change them. A newspaper article, editorials and letters to the editor aren’t going to change them. They have that money to spend, and you wouldn’t expect them to leave it in the treasury, would you? The tax and its use are spelled out in the state Constitution. The commissioners cannot be removed or moved.

Only the voters can change the Constitution. Mike Huckabee made it sound so wonderful on his voyage down the Arkansas. Next time someone wants to put a tax of any kind in the Constitution, let’s pay more attention.

TOP STORY >> Volunteer firefighters’ alert system is broken

IN SHORT: Several departments are affected, but Lonoke County Quorum Court seeks remedy.

By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer

The paging system that calls volunteer firefighters to fires and medical emergencies in northern Lonoke County is on the blink and no one knows who’s in charge of repairing it.

There are several volunteer fire departments in northern Lonoke County. Those affected by the problem include Ward, Austin, CS&Z and Mountain Springs.

Cabot is on a separate system from the volunteer departments and Fire Chief Phil Robinson said it is problem-free.

Justice of the Peace Barry Weathers brought the situation to the attention of the Lonoke County Quorum Court on Thursday night, saying he stood beside Ward Fire Chief Randy Staley when his pager went off. Only about one-third of the call was understandable, Weathers said, adding that Staley told him that was the best it had been in weeks.

Contacted Friday morning, Staley said the problem has been bad for “quite a while and really bad for six to eight months.”

Sometimes only the tone comes through and sometimes garbled speech. Often he calls the dispatcher on the phone to get the information repeated, sometimes saying, “Just give me the address and I’ll find out what the problem is when I get there.”

To their credit, the dispatchers always come through with the emergency information he needs, Staley said. But what he really needs to know is who’s in charge.

Jimmy Depriest, head of the county’s office of emergency services, and Sheriff Jim Roberson attended the quorum court meeting and both said they weren’t responsible.
The sheriff said he would check with Myra Bryant, over 911, to see if her office is responsible.

Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman said if the fire departments aren’t getting their pages then the county has a problem and asked Weathers and Justice of the Peace Tim Lemons to find out who is in charge of repairs.

Staley said he’s “not one to stir up a stink” but that’s all he really wants.
“When you’ve got so much static on a line, that’s a problem,” Staley said. “I just want to find out who’s over this so I can go talk to someone and solve the problem.”
Staley said he thinks the trouble might be with a repeater located somewhere on Highway 5. A representative for Motorola told him it could be the antenna or possibly a cable.

Staley said he believes the system was installed about 20 years ago by the Lonoke County Fire Chiefs Association with the understanding that someone, the county judge maybe, would maintain it.

“Just tell me who is over it so when we do have a problem we can go talk to them,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Give us district

IN SHORT: Jacksonville questions validity of school board numbers on support.

By Rick Kron
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville mayor is willing to bet his job that the Pulaski County Special School Dicstrict’s board members are wrong.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Bill Vasquez, who represents the Jacksonville area on the board, said only 20 percent of Jacksonville wants a separate school district.

Thursday night, after the city council was briefed about statements made by Vasquez and other board members at the school board meeting, Mayor Gary Fletcher said he would put up his mayorship over the issue.

“The majority of the people in Jacksonville want their own district,” he told the council. “If I’m wrong and don’t know the feelings of our residents, then I shouldn’t be mayor. But I know the residents want this,” he said.

“I’m willing to put my seat up and want the school board members to do the same, but they won’t.”

Fletcher said the city council, which is diverse and represents the city well, is united in the effort for a separate school district. “We plan to go to the next school board meeting as a body and voice our unity and concerns,” he said.

The school board meets at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at the district’s central offices off Dixon Road.

Attorney Patrick Wilson, who briefed the council, said all of Jacksonville needs to attend that meeting and sign up to speak. “If you sign up, they have to give you up to two-and-a-half minutes to voice your opinion.”

Alderman Kevin McCleary asked Wilson why the school Board does not want to talk about a new district. Did you ask Vasquez why?”

Wilson said he asked Vasquez twice and twice got no answer.
Fletcher said Vasquez, at Tuesday’s meeting, called Jacksonville a third party for wanting to be a part of the negotiations. “This has nothing to do with you (the city),” Vasquez told Fletcher.

The mayor called Jacksonville’s relationship with the school district a bad marriage. “And we want a divorce.”

A kink in the city’s unity seems to be the local chapter of the NAACP.

Rizelle Aaron, a spokesman for the group, told the council, after asking for permission to speak as the council was trying to adjourn, that if the city wasn’t going to recognize the NAACP, then it would not support the call for a separate district.

Alderman Marshall Smith responded, “What does this mean? Are you going to pick up your toys and leave? That’s not the way to do it.”

Besides Vasquez, school board members Gwen Williams, Sandra Sawyer, Mildred Tatum and Tim Clark voted against reopening negotiations for the new district, which had been tabled for about a year.

Williams and Sawyer think blacks in Jacksonville have been left out of the debate and don’t want a separate school district

TOP STORY >> Redraw PCSSD, group asks

IN SHORT: Jacksonville school district proponents ask state education director for help, citing district’s failures.

Leader senior staff writer

As the cost of Pulaski County’s 20-year-old desegregation agreement nears $1 billion, a group of frustrated Jacksonville residents Friday petitioned state Education Department Commissioner Tom Kimbrell of Cabot to reorganize the county’s schools, create an independent Jacksonville-north Pulaski County school district or do something.

In a two-page letter to Kimbrell and members of the state board of education says a state of emergency exists and “your assistance will be appreciated,” but it stops short of asking the board to take over the Pulaski County Special School District or to create a new, standalone district. It does not ask any specific remedy.

Attorney Ben Rice, who wrote the letter, said he’s suggesting the board reorganize the school district “to allow the north Pulaski-Jacksonville area to have a separate school district, independent of PCSSD. We have no preference as to whether there is a simple detachment or a dissolution of PCSSD, with our area being allowed to go its own way.”

Currently, PCSSD and the North Little Rock School District are awaiting a ruling from District Judge Brian Miller on whether or not they have achieved unitary status and are released from the desegregation agreement.

The letter, supported by several documents and a half-inch thick stack of petitions with about 2,000 signatures favoring a standalone district, asks Kimbrell and the board of education to do something, according to state Rep. Mark Perry, who says he hand delivered the bound petition to Kimbrell’s office Thursday afternoon and that copies also were mailed to the nine member state Board of Education.

“We’re not spelling it out,” Perry said. “We’re giving them facts they may not have been aware of. They’ll do what’s in the best interest of the kids of Arkansas.”
Perry said neither the creation nor the timing of the delivery of the packet is related to the Pulaski County Special School District’s rejection Tuesday night of the Jacksonville Education Foundation’s proposal to resume talk aimed at a standalone Jacksonville-North Pulaski school district. Nor is it intended as a reflection of the administration of the new PCSSD superintendent Charles Hopson. “Dr. Hopson, I think, will do a good job.”

“We’ve been working on this for a couple of months,” Perry said. “We have a legislative audit going on. (The legislators are) “bringing them back in to figure out how much misspending there’s been.”

“Sooner or later, something has to be done. Whether or not the court stays involved, I don’t care. What’s going on now is not a remedy.”

Those who signed the document were not from any one of the groups working toward a standalone Jacksonville-North Pulaski district.

The letter was signed by more than a dozen Jacksonville area residents including Perry, Ben Rice, Alderman Reedie Ray, Bishop James. E. Bolden III, Pat Bond, who is chairman of the Jacksonville Education Foundation, Mayor Gary Fletcher, J.P. Bob Johnson and Daniel Gray.

The letter calls the following to the attention of the director and the board members:
• The state has funded desegregation efforts at the districts with more than $896 million.

• In 2003, more than 4,000 registered voters signed a petition calling for detachment election for creation of a new district, but PCSSD successfully challenged hold of such an election in court.

• The state General Assembly appropriated $250,000 for a feasibility study, completed in 2006 which shows such a district would be financially feasible.

• The Jacksonville City council on Aug. 21, 2008 passed a resolution in support of a standalone school district.

• Second feasibility study in 2009 again showed a new Jacksonville-North Pulaski district to be financially feasible.

• The PCSSD board in 2008 approved a resolution in favor of a Jacksonville-North Pulaski district subject to federal court approval, and later it approved boundaries for such a district.

• Approximately one-third of the PCSSD tax revenue comes from the Jacksonville-North Pulaski area, but only 3 percent of the revenues spent for maintenance and construction in the past decade was spent on schools in that area.

• Attorney John Walker found that Jacksonville had been “disfavored in the expenditure of PCSSD funds for facilities.

• Public school enrollment in Jacksonville-North Pulaski had declined nearly a quarter in the last decade.

• A recent state Legislative Audit found extensive financial mismanagement and lack of oversight in the PCSSD, including activities by some board members.

• An impasse exists between the PCSSD board and the unions representing teachers and support staff.