Friday, July 15, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Bring back O’Brien

Another week, another baffling escapade by Secretary of State Mark Martin.

The previous week Martin had issued a news release bragging that he had not spent all the secretary of state’s budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30—something achieved by every constitutional officer every single year for a long time. His savings paled beside those of Governor Beebe, who saved 25 percent of his budget but who didn’t issue a news release about it.

Thursday, Martin an-nounced that he had drawn up a legislative redistricting plan that created a House of Representatives district in northwest Arkansas where Hispanics would be in a clear majority and able to elect a Hispanic to the House. The secretary of state is a member of the Board of Apportionment but an ineffectual one. The reapportionment decisions will be made by the other two members, the governor and attorney general.

A couple of weeks earlier, Martin had ridiculed the idea of creating a Hispanic district. A “non-starter,” he said. He would not support a plan that gave Hispanics a House seat.

It was thought that creating a district favorable to Hispanics would be highly unpopular in Republican northwest Arkansas, his home, where the growing Hispanic population is widely hated. Martin had capitalized on the anti-immigrant fervor when he was in the legislature and running for state office.

But the idea became popular in some Republican quarters. It was a way to collect Hispanics in one district and dilute their vote in other districts, thus protecting Republican seats. So Martin decided to get ahead of that small pack by touting his own plan to create a Hispanic district. His political antenna failed him. It is still a highly unpopular idea in Republican precincts.

It is all immaterial. Gov. Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will draw the districts and they will pay no attention to creating a Hispanic district. They will adopt a plan that protects as many incumbent legislators as possible and help Democrats to the small extent that is possible.

What Mark Martin thinks or wants does not matter. Sadly, that is becoming true about everything. To think that we might have had—and very nearly did have—the circumspect, efficient and boring Pat O’Brien in the office, doing what is supposed to be done and not embarrassing himself or us. —Ernie Dumas

EDITORIAL >>The right to pollute

When is the law perfectly meaningless?

When it stands between a big energy company and what it wants.

Once again, a court has held that American Electric Power, its subsidiaries and partners and the government agencies that serve them trampled on the law to speed the construction of a giant coal-burning power plant downwind of us in southwest Arkansas. Once again, it makes no difference. Construction on the 600-megawatt station continues apace. Work on the plant began before the utilities had even the first regulatory go-ahead and it’s barely slowed as one court after another has ruled that the law had not been followed in the regulatory process. The plant will open next year and begin providing power to its principal beneficiaries in Texas and Louisiana.

This time it was a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld an injunction issued last year by U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson Jr. Wilson’s order stopped the builders from poisoning fish and wildlife habitat by discharging dredge and fill materials into wetlands and stream channels. But construction continued and it will now.

The court was fairly blistering. The utilities and builders simply ignored warnings by the Corps of Engineers about building on the wetlands and dumping dredge waste and fill material into the wetlands and streams. The law requires that utilities get clearance from the Corps of Engineers before doing that, but American Electric Power didn’t wait for the Corps.

The case now goes back to the district court—Wilson angrily gave up the case last year and a Nebraska federal judge was assigned to it—and the utilities say they are sure he will say destroying the wetlands will be OK.

The state Public Service Commission and the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission by split votes said the plant was needed and that the environmental damage would be acceptable. The Arkansas Court of Appeals and the Arkansas Supreme Court both ruled unanimously that the PSC had ignored the law in granting approval. The utilities decided then that the plant, which was more than half finished, would be converted to a merchant plant so that it would not need the state’s approval. It will simply market its electricity to the subsidiaries and elsewhere rather than embedding the construction costs in its rate base and earning profits on the investment from customers in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The plant was never needed. There is an ample amount of cleaner power available from existing power plants—a giant gas-burning merchant plant in Union County could meet the needs for many years. The Arkansas site was ranked about the lowest of a number of sites in three states, but Texas was stopping construction of coal plants because of the unwholesome volume of mercury, sulphur, carbon and nitrogen poisons they emit. Arkansas regulatory agencies were known to be a pushover, so Hempstead County was chosen.

The law is proving to be nettlesome to the big power producer, but it is merely an inconvenience. By the end of 2012, the Turk plant will be sending 6 million tons of carbon dioxide our way. But you can’t see it or smell it, so we shouldn’t be bothered, right? Texans will thank us for our generosity.

TOP STORY > >Women file suit over their arrest

Leader staff writer

Two Laotian women living in Cabot’s Greystone who were convicted in October 2010 of prostitution have filed a federal lawsuit against Lonoke County, the county sheriff, two deputies and the Cabot couple who owned their home.

The women, along with the man who was cleared in court of using their services, allege that their arrests were illegal and motivated by racial and religious prejudice.

They are asking for punitive damages of a non-specified amount. They want the landlords to give back their $5,000 deposit on the house and they want the sheriff to return the $7,100 his deputies took from their home and bank accounts.

Lonoke County Pro-secutor Chuck Graham, who inherited the prostitution case from Prosecutor Will Feland, said this week that he hasn’t been served and can’t speak about any of the specifics because he hasn’t seen a copy of the lawsuit. However, one thing is sure: He can’t give back the money seized during the arrest because the women have appealed their conviction to circuit court.

“It’s still evidence and we might need it in court,” Graham said.

Reggie Koch, the Little Rock lawyer representing Jerry Richard, A.E. Sayasavnh Samontry and Pornpiemon Phouangmany, said in the suit filed July 7 that disdain by their white, Christian neighbors for the Laotian culture that was evident at Samaontry’s home (shared by her husband and Phouangmany, her sister) led to a racially and politically motivated investigation into the activities there and the illegal arrests that followed.

In October, Cabot District Judge Joe O’Bryan listened to about six hours of testimony put on by the prosecution before finding the women guilty of running a house of prostitution under the guise of a massage business at 105 Ridgecrest Square, which would have also been illegal since they didn’t have a city permit to run a business in their home

The women were each fined $590 and given 30-day suspended jail sentences, provided there are no more offenses. All the charges were misdemeanors. They have since moved to Texas and no date has been set for their appeal to circuit court.

Since the sheriff’s department made the arrest inside city limits, the county was responsible for prosecuting. John Huggins, the deputy who prosecuted the case, said after the judge’s ruling that he was satisfied despite the not-guilty verdict for Richard.

“From our perspective, that prostitution house that we believe was operating for a long time has been shut down. That’s what we’re happy about,” Huggins said.

Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis and then-Mayor Eddie Joe Williams expressed displeasure, when the three were arrested, over the sheriff coming inside city limits.

Technically, the sheriff has jurisdiction over the entire county, but as a matter of courtesy, cities usually take care of all the territory inside their incorporated limits and the sheriff takes care of the unincorporated areas. Davis said then that he had heard complaints about the house, but that his department takes more time building a case.

Richard had been divorced from Samontry for two and a half years and she was remarried to a Laotian at the time she was convicted of prostitution. Richard said then that the case should have been dismissed for lack of evidence.

“I’ve known her for 12 years and obviously we have a lot of fun together,” he told The Leader as the left the courtroom in 2010.

The evidence against the women included a black book with names of men believed to be customers, a sheet of paper containing prices, pictures of scantily clad women taken from a computer that were identical to those on an internet site advertising adult entertainment and a packing slip for 1,000 condoms.

Detectives who entered the house after watching traffic for about two days said during the trial in district court that Samontry was naked except for a towel. Richard was lying naked except for a towel across his genitals on a cot spread with white towels.

Kevin and Bonnie Blakely —who along with the sheriff, and deputies Jim Kulesa and Keenan Carter are named in the federal lawsuit—lived next door to the house they rented to Jimmy and AE Samontry for $1,300 a month.

Bonnie Blakely testified in district court that men driving expensive cars came and went most days until about 10 p.m.

“I’d sit on the back porch and just watch,” Blakely said during the October trial.

Men would drive by slowly as if looking for a particular house, she said. Then the garage door would open; they would drive in and the door would close behind them; they would stay about an hour and leave.

“It looked like prostitution going on,” she said.

Blakely said she recalled that she called Cabot police in the summer of 2009 after she had been watching the house for several months. The Cabot police took no action, she said, so she called the sheriff’s department in May 2010.

At one point, the Samontrys rented a house across the street and apparently worked from it for three months until they were evicted, Blakely said.

They didn’t appear to live in it, she said, because she would see several Asian women walking across the street to her rental house at about 10 p.m.

Koch says in the complaint filed in federal court that the sheriff had no authority to arrest Richard on the misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute because the alleged offense was not committed in the presence of a law-enforcement officer and the deputies did not have a warrant for his arrest.

By Arkansas law, the arrests are considered false imprisonment, the complaint said.

TOP STORY > >Sentence extended 8.5 years for Cabot resident

Special to the Leader

George Wylie Thompson, 65, of Cabot was sentenced to 8½ years in prison Friday following his convictions late last year on a variety of federal firearms and gambling charges.
U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson gave Thompson about a two-year break for his service as a Marine during the Vietnam war.

The sentencing of Thompson closes a case that also netted prison sentences for two North Little Rock aldermen: Sam Baggett and Cary Gaines. Baggett reported to prison late last month to serve 23 months at the Federal Correction Complex in Forrest City. Gaines is serving four months at a federal prison in Millington, Tenn., and is scheduled to be released in October.

Thompson was convicted Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court in Little Rock of eight counts of federal firearms charges, gambling charges and marriage fraud.
Wilson gave Thompson 103 months on the firearms convictions, 60 months on gambling convictions, and 12 months on a conviction for aiding and abetting marriage fraud. All those sentences will be served concurrently. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a range of 121 to 151 months.

Wilson declined Thompson’s request that the sentence be served concurrently with a 10-year sentence he received in March for an October 2008 conviction on federal cocaine-trafficking charges. A co-defendant, Richard Deleo, of Somerville, Mass., was sentenced to 12 years. Both Thompson and Deleo still face racketeering charges in Massachusetts.

Wilson gave Thompson a bit of leniency for his service in Vietnam, from 1963 to 1967, as a door gunner of a UH-1 Huey “gunship.” Wilson briefly recounted his own service in the Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin, where he witnessed the heroism and courage of helicopter crews sent out to rescue downed American pilots.

While other judges may not have given Thompson any leniency for his service, Wilson said, “That’s their discretion. I’m going to give him some credit for it.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Harris said he didn’t want to dismiss or downplay Thompson’s service, except that Thompson has sought to use his service as a crutch every time he has faced sentencing. “He is now 65,” Harris said.

“He’s been committing crimes for the past 25 years and, at some point, he’s got to grow up and quit doing this stuff.”

He also said Thompson, a first lieutenant in the Marines, was court-martialed for an incident in which he stabbed a lance corporal in 1967 in Okinawa.

The lance corporal survived.

Wilson also gave consideration to Thompson’s health but decided not to grant any leniency for what he termed “some problems most of us his age or older” deal with. Wilson said he’ll recommend that Thompson serve his time at prisons in Fort Worth, Texas, or Springfield, Mo., if any special medical treatment is needed. If no specialized treatment is needed for Thompson, Wilson will recommend that he serve his sentence at the federal prison in Texarkana.

Asked if he’d like to speak, Thompson said he would. In brief remarks from the defense table, flanked by his lawyers, Blake Hendrix and Jason Files of Little Rock, Thompson thanked his lawyers for their work, Judge Wilson for considering his health, medical staff who have been treating him, and friends and family for their support.

Thompson was convicted in 1989 and 2003 on drug charges and served time for those convictions. Authorities were investigating Thompson and Deleo on suspected drug dealing when a court-authorized telephone wiretap permitted them to key in on Baggett and his relationship with Thompson.

That extended investigation also brought an indictment of Gaines, on charges that he was seeking to rig city bids and pay Thompson for gambling debts.

TOP STORY > >Cabot mayor gets earful

Leader staff writer

About 100 of Cabot’s almost 25,000 residents turned out Tuesday night for a town hall meeting called by Mayor Bill Cypert, who said he wanted input from them on major issues in the city, including a $70 million bond issue for improvements.

Claps and cheers from the group told the mayor that they are ready for the change in garbage collection that he says might be necessary if service doesn’t dramatically improve in one month.

But they also clapped to praise how the parks are being run, an indication that at least those present weren’t ready for any major upheavals such as disbanding the parks commission and turning parks over to the mayor to run as they were just a decade ago.

“We think y’all are doing an excellent job and we want y’all to keep it up,” said Rose Easter, president of the softball association.

Matt Moudy—who has been in the news over the last two years for his efforts to open a free clinic in Cabot for uninsured adults in Lonoke County—told the mayor that Cabot parks are falling behind others in the state such as Conway, Benton and Bryant that have a tax to raise money for parks.

Joe Fergus, the program director for Cabot parks, addressing concerns by city council members that activities for seniors are limited, said, “Tell us what you want. We want to be a parks and rec for the entire community.”

Cypert has promised he won’t ask for any new taxes, but he does propose asking voters in 2013 to extend the existing one-cent tax they approved in 2005 for about $40 million in bonds to repair streets, help build the com munity center and build the sewer treatment plant and railroad overpass.

Cypert says that existing sales tax could support about $75 million in bonds for improvements in parks, traffic and other infrastructure.

“A growing city will always have an infrastructure tax,” he says.

The voiced opposition to the mayor’s proposal is that it is too far away. Some members of the city council say traffic needs to be addressed now, not in a year and a half. Moudy said Tuesday night that parks need attention now, not later.

“What’s it going to hurt? Put it to a vote and if they reject it, they reject it,” he said.

Cypert says he wants to keep the bond issues together like they were in 2005, when residents approved each expenditure individually by a 2-1- vote. Furthermore, he needs time to gather information and he doesn’t intend to put his plan to a vote during a presidential election year when the odds of it passing would be slim. He wants a special election in 2013.

Stephen Tipton, chairman of the parks commission, said there is a 10-year-plan for parks that was put together by the staff that is estimated at $20 million, but the commission welcomes input from residents.

A 200-acre plot off Willie Ray Drive that is now home only to a BMX track could be the site of a proposed water park and more ball fields, he said.

Jerrel Maxwell, head of the city’s public-works department, asked residents to mow all the way to the streets instead of stopping at ditches. He also asked them to stop putting signs on utility poles, which is against the law, and to pick up their signs within 24 hours.

Alderman Rick Prentice addressed the fire-protection situation for the area around Magness Creek and Greystone. If it weren’t for a fire truck parked in a makeshift station at Hwy. 5 and Mountain Springs Road, residential insurance rates for the area would skyrocket.

The mayor’s response was that an architect could be chosen this week.

Construction will start in 2012 and the building should be completed, staffed and equipped by 2013.

Cypert said before the meeting that he felt like asking residents to tell him what was on their minds was a bit risky. From his reaction to the size of the crowd and their questions, it was obvious that he was pleased he took the risk.

“We’re going to have one every six months,” he announced at the end.

SPORTS>>Cabot run-ruled with more hits

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s senior American Legion team lost its final regular-season game in bizarre fashion Tuesday. The Centennail Bank squad was run-ruled by the Kerwin’s Sporting Goods-sponsored Fort Smith Sportsmen. Making the 13-3 loss so bizarre was the fact that Cabot outhit Kerwins in the mercy-rule shortened ball game.

Cabot used four different pitchers in the game, and they combined to give up just four base hits. The Fort Smith offensive onslaught was due largely to the seven walks, two hit batters and four errors given up by the Centennial defense.

Fort Smith got five runs in the first inning on just one hit, and even it didn’t get out of the infield. The Sportsmen added three more runs in the third without the benefit of a single base hit.

Cabot entered the Zone 3 tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock with an overall record of 15-8, and suffered from bad luck in getting the No. 4 seed out of the four teams that were tied for first place.

Cabot, Jacksonville, North Little Rock and Russellville all tied with 7-3 district records. State Deputy Commissioner Jarrel Howard decided to have the four teams draw for seedings, which ended with North Little Rock and Russellville getting the top two seeds and first-round byes in the tournament.

Cabot did get some good fortune in the odd way the brackets were laid out. As the four seed, it got matched with sixth-seeded Sylvan Hills in the first round, a team it beat last weekend 17-1.

Third-seeded Jacksonville was pitted against fifth-seeded Conway in the opening round in game two last night. Jacksonville also recently beat Conway, and has beaten the Cougars twice this season. But it had to rally from five-run deficits in both games to come out on top.

If Centennial Bank wins its first round game, it will play again at 4 p.m. today against tournament host North Little Rock. A loss means a 4 p.m. Sunday matchup against Russellville, Jacksonville or Conway.

SPORTS>>Wilson stressing to teammates to get hay in the barn

By Nate Allen

This summer Tyler Wilson strives to make short work at becoming the Arkansas Razorbacks starting quarterback.

Make that shorter work, not in hours but on form. That’s been a major goal as the fourth-year junior from Greenwood emerges from the backup shadows to quarterback the Razorbacks in voluntary workouts with two-year Razorbacks record-setting starter Ryan Mallett now in the NFL with New England.

“I wanted to work on my release technique and try and get the ball out of my hand a little quicker,” Wilson said when he was among Razorbacks the UA selected to meet with media last week. “I have a longer release and I want to shorten that up.”

How has it gone?

“It’s been good,” Wilson said. “I have reaped some benefits and am throwing the ball with a lot more zip and a little more accurate.”

Wilson seeks to take charge on a permanent basis like he did throwing for 335 yards and four touchdowns replacing an injured Mallett during last season’s loss to national champion Auburn.

“You can always continue to work on little things and for me that’s what that was,” Wilson said of a small step he hopes pays big dividends, “and continue my leadership role and make sure we are on time and it’s looking right. I am a guy who likes to see drills look right and look correct for me to be happy with the end of the day. If it’s sloppy, I am not really happy. I think we have had a good season and those are things I am working on.”

The summer pace zips from “voluntary” to mandatory with official practice beginning Aug. 4.

“I stress it every day,” Wilson said of the summer conditioning worked around UA summer school classes. “I say to the guys, ‘Man, the clock is ticking. Everything we do in workouts is on the clock and what we do to put the hay in the barn before we get to two-a-days is vital.”

The Hogs work at a blistering summer conditioning pace but even a harsh taskmaster conditioning coach like Arkansas’ Jason Veltkamp makes allowances for a lingering and dangerous heat wave.

“Bottom line is you’ve got to get them all to the game,” Veltkamp said. “My job is make sure they’re all there, strong, powerful, fast and in good shape, but also they get there. You’ve got to take care of them at the same time and make sure your horses get in the race.”

With offensive tackle Ant-hony Oden’s 2011 presence cast in limbo since a DWI charge earlier this month, media asked the selected UA players about the Hogs known-to-be-available offensive tackles, senior Grant Freeman, January-en-rolled true freshman Brey Cook of Springdale Har-Ber and January-enrolled junior college transfer Jason Peacock.
With 2010 fifth-year senior starting tackles DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez graduated, the Hogs were depending heavily on journeyman fifth-year senior Freeman and newcomers Cook and Peacock even before Oden’s situation arose.

All four understandably struggled in the spring block ing Arkansas premier defensive ends Jake Bequette, tabbed first-team Preseason All-SEC by the SEC coaches, and Tenarius Wright, selected by coach Bobby Petrino to be among the players representing the Razorbacks at this week’s SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

“They are looking good,” Bequette said. “I was really proud of those guys in the spring the way they stepped up. There was some rough action for them in the spring but I think this summer has forced them to come together and jell together. I think you are going to see a lot of improvement in fall camp and in the games this fall.”

Fifth-year senior Freeman knows the drill well, but the summer has been particularly eye-opening for rookie tackles Cook, not to be confused with fifth-year senior starting guard Grant Cook of Jonesboro, and Peacock.

“Peacock and Brey Cook have come a long way,” Arkansas third-year sophomore starting guard Alvin Bailey said. “Especially for it being their first summer here.

It’s a demanding league and they both know that Coach K (offensive line coach Chris Klenakis) will tell you that every day. It’s not high school. It’s not juco any more.”

Turns out the two big new trucks parked at practice meant more work for the Hogs, not Bob Barker coming out of retirement.

“I was hoping it was like “The Price is Right,” where you got to take one of those babies,” Bequette said. “I guess not today. Maybe later.”

The Hogs didn’t drive the trucks, they pushed them competing with other Hogs.

“That was something the coaches do to kind of break up the monotony of just weights and running,” Bequette said. “You know it’s not easy, but it’s fun, just to get the competitive juices going and do something different.”

SPORTS>>Gwatney limps into postseason with poor play

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team limped into the Zone 3 tournament that began last night at Dupree Park.

Not only does the squad enter the postseason with a loss, losing 10-8 to Benton Tuesday night, but it faces the prospect of barely having enough players to play. Rules require teams to have at least 12 players in the dugout. Jacksonville has exactly that many, but injuries have put keeping that many in danger.

Centerfielder Colt Harmon left a game early at Sylvan Hills on July 8, and hasn’t returned. Other players have played sparingly because of injuries and illnesses. Jacksonville will field a team for the tournament, as another rule allows teams to move a player up from the junior squads if needed, but it doesn’t seem to be at full strength.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do about it, if there’s anything we can do about it,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “It’s not just that we have players out, we haven’t been playing very well lately either.”

Jacksonville took a 5-0 lead in the first inning at Benton, but blew it with numerous walks, hit batters and errors.

Patrick Castleberry provided the highlight of the inning with a three-run home run with no outs in the first. Jacob Abrahamson singled and Kenny Cummings walked to set up the dinger for Castleberry, but Benton scored the next eight runs of the game to take command.

The McClendon Appliance squad chipped away at Jack-sonville’s lead at first, scoring one run in each of the first, second and third innings.With Jacksonville’s bats falling silent, Benton then put together a five-run fifth to take the lead.

The Red Devils mounted a comeback in the sixth when the eight and nine hitters got on base, and leadoff hitter Jacob Abrahamson driving them home with a two-run single.

Benton added two more runs in the bottom of the same frame to extend its lead back to three runs. Jacksonville tried to rally again in the seventh. Gwatney scored to make it 10-8 and had two runners in scoring position with one out, but Benton pitcher Corky Welch struck out the next two batters to end the rally.

“We just aren’t focused like we were earlier in the season and we’re not coming to the ball park to play ball,” Hickingbotham said. “I’ve got four or five who are really working at it, and four or five who aren’t. When we come to play, I really believe we have the best hitting lineup in the district. This is one of the most talented teams one through nine that I’ve ever had. But when we don’t come to play, we lay down.”

Jacksonville has lost only four of its 20 games this season, and has been run-ruled in two of the losses, once by Cabot and once by Russellville. Although not a run-rule loss, the loss to Benton was more similar to the bad losses than the 5-4 decision it dropped at North Little Rock in extra innings.

“That was just a tough, pretty well-played game by both teams, but our other three losses were games where we just didn’t show up.”

Jacksonville suffered bad luck in the draw for the zone tournament. With four teams tied for first place, teams drew for seedings with the teams that drew the top seeds getting the byes. The byes went to North Little Rock and Russellville, while Cabot and Jacksonville had to play last night.

Another strange detail to the tournament format was the four seed playing the six, while the three seed played the five.

Usually, the higher seeds play the lower seeds. As it is, Cabot played sixth seeded Sylvan Hills last night while Jacksonville and Conway followed.

The Cabot-Sylvan Hills winner plays North Little Rock today at 4 p.m., while the Jacksonivlle-Conway winner will face Russellville at 7 p.m.

SPORTS>>Locals litter top of CASL ranks

Leader sports editor

Member teams of the Central Arkansas Swim League will compete in their final regular-season meets today, and qualifiers will advance to next week’s huge Meet of Champions that will be held at UALR.

The event will include all silver and gold qualifying swimmers, plus the top eight bronze-level swimmers in each category.

Several swimmers in all age groups and swim strokes have already qualified for the Meet of Champs, with others very close with today’s final meet as their last chance to qualify.

Cabot girls dominate the top 10 in the 18-under freestyle, and litter the top 10 in almost every category.

“We have had a lot of success with our older girls,” Cabot coach Debbie Skidmore said. “Obviously they are performing really well this year.”

Five of the top nine 18-under freestylers are members of the Cabot Piranhas. Megan Owens, Allison Sinning, Ashley Weaver, Jenni Vaughan and Frances McFadden are second, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth respectively in that event. Weaver and Owens are second and third respectively in the backstroke and butterfly, and Owens leads all swimmers in the league in the breaststroke and individual medley.

Weaver and Sinning are also in the top five in the IM, while MacFadden is currently sixth in the butterfly.

For the older boys, Sherwood’s Will Axsom and Cabot’s John Santiago lead the league in races. Axsom has the top time in the freestyle at 23.94 seconds, while the 16-year old Santiago leads the way in the breaststroke at 31.89. Also in the breaststroke, Sherwood’s Christopher Heye has the third best time, and teammate Shan Scott is fifth.

Axsom also has the second-best time in the backstroke, and is third in the butterly.

In the medley, Axsom is followed by Cabot’s Seth Fox, Heye and Santiago.

Cabot’s Riley Young is in the top five in 14-girls butterfly and IM. Cabot’s Brent Brockel is currently second in the boys 14-under freestyle, and joining him in the top five is Sherwood’s Cordell Taylor, who is fourth.

Cabot’s Payton Jones shows up in the top five in the boys 14-under backstroke while Brockel is third in the butterfly and IM.

Sherwood’s Delaney Haral-son and Erin Woodward show up in the top five in several girls 12-under events, along with Lonoke’s Kayla McGee.

McGee is currently ranked No.1 in the freestyle and breaststroke, and second in the butterfly. Haralson is at the top in backstroke, butterfly and IM, and second in the two events that McGee leads.

Cabot’s Catyee Wright is fourth in the freestyle while Woodward is fifth. Woodward is also third in the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, and second in the medley.

Sherwood Sharks dominate the top of the 12-under boys. Christopher Heye is either first or second in every event heading into the MOC. He leads the freestyle, breaststroke and IM, and is second in the backstroke and butterfly. Joshua Hale and Brendan Daugherty are also in the top five in several categories.

Perhaps no division is dominated by one team as much as the 10-under girls are dominated by Sherwood. The Sharks hold at least the top two positions in every event in that category. Anna Jaworski has the fastest time in the freestyle with Madison Engel right behind. That duo also leads the backstroke, with teammate Brianna Hanley in third and Cabot’s Rachel Sweeney fourth. Sherwood swimmers hold all five top positions in the girls 1-under breaststroke.

Jaworski, Engel, Allison Copeland, Hanley and Alaya Smith make up the top of that division. Jaworski also has the best time in the butterfly with Hanley at second and Engel fifth, and Engel is first in the IM, 18/100 of a second ahead of Jaworski.

Sherwood’s 10-under boys are almost as dominant. Joseph Potts has the best time in every single event. Vincent Jaworksi joins him in the top five in the freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and IM. Tristen Bowan is second in the backstroke and butterfly, while Nicholas Heye is second in the breaststroke and fourth in the IM.

Sherwood’s Isabelle Sexson leads the 8-under girls in the butterfly and IM. Teammates Alyssa Riley and Olivia Tipton are second and fourth respectively in the freestyle and butterfly. Riley is also fourth in IM.

Michael Sexson is second overall in the boys 8-under freestyle and backstroke, while teammate Michael Hathaway is third in the butterfly, and fourth in the freestyle, breaststroke and IM. Sexson is also fourth in the butterfly and fifth in IM.

In the youngest division, Carly Morrow of Sherwood is third in the freestyle and backstroke, but it’s the butterfly where the Sharks are strongest. Sarah Rounsaville, Faith Wallace and Morrow take up three of the top five slots in that event. Morrow and Rounsaville are also fourth and fifth in the breaststroke.

The Sharks 6-under boys hold the top three rankings in three of the five events, but strangely none show up in the top five of the IM.

Michael Potts, Jacob Hale and Maddux Bowen are one, two and three in the freestyle, with Cabot’s Cameron Johnson not far behind at fifth.

Potts, Hale and teammate Aaron Heck lead the way in the backstroke. In the breaststroke it’s Potts, Maddux then Hale. In the butterfly, the same trio are all in the top five, but Cabot’s Johnson interrupts the stronghold on the top three positions by edging out Bowen for third-best time. Due to the large number of participants, the MOC will be broken up into two meets. The younger age groups will compete in the morning with the older ones competing in the afternoon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Jobless rate still terrible

 It is as predictable as the planetary orbits. The U. S. Labor Department releases its monthly report showing that the unemployment rate has ticked up a tenth of one percent and the congressional communication offices whir into action, or at least the Republican offices.

Everywhere, Republican congressional offices released statements condemning the president and his party for killing jobs or at least not creating them. Were a Republican the president, Democratic offices would be doing it.

Reps. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro and Steve Womack of Rogers were the first to get their statements on the wire. All are variations of the same theme. Crawford said the president and the Democratic Senate refused to take steps to put people to work. Womack said government regulations and the big national debt were stifling job creation. He blamed President Obama and the Democrats. Rep. Tim Griffin of Little Rock was on the radio mourning the president’s refusal to do anything about jobs. Sen. John Boozman said, “The president and his allies in Congress have refused to provide the help” that jobless Americans need.

But there was one shocker. U. S. Sen. Mark Pryor defended the president, saying that it was unfair for Republicans to blame Obama for not creating jobs when they had blocked all his proposals to stimulate job creation. He named three or four of them.

Obama has been abysmally unpopular in Arkansas since long before he even won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, and Democratic officeholders in Arkansas have been loathe to defend him on anything or to have the slightest association with him. What possessed Pryor to suddenly engage in such candor? We have no idea. Perhaps it was the memory of his colleague, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who ran away from Obama in 2010 and still got clobbered.

What is missing in all the monthly lamentations about unemployed people—and it is a tragedy worth mourning—is any hint of the significant history of the problem or a recognition of the grave economic dynamics that are at work. You can’t make political hay from them, so it is better to stick to a few simple talking points: too much regulation, high taxes and debt. We had fuller employment when regulation was much stiffer and taxes much higher (the 1960s and 1990s) and when the debt was a bigger share of GDP (world wars).

A little history: The unemployment rate in June was 9.2 percent. Job creation has been slow for five months. But remember that the U. S. economy was losing an average of 775,000 jobs a month when Obama took office and the jobless rate crested at 10.1 percent in October 2009. It was in double digits only one month.

It is helpful to remember that during the Ronald Reagan recession that followed his big tax cuts in 1981, the unemployment rate shot to 10.8 percent and stayed above 10 percent for 10 consecutive months. Multiple tax increases and a government spending binge, along with depressed borrowing rates, brought unemployment down and produced fairly robust job growth during Reagan’s last four years.

We have rock-bottom interest rates now, but it is a negligible factor because no business needs to borrow or invest with its own surplus capital because there is no demand. All the Obama proposals to bolster demand but two—lower payroll taxes and extended unemployment insurance—have been stymied in Congress: first, alternative-energy incentives (Japan, Germany, France and China are creating millions of renewable-energy jobs, but the U.S. virtually none), then airport, highway, small-business research incentives and more. We have to note that Republicans are not entirely to blame. Southern and Western Democrats, including our own with the exception of Vic Snyder, blocked the energy bill at the behest of the petroleum and coal industries.

But all those pale beside the housing crisis, the deepest in 75 years. The U.S. economy follows the housing market. We are reaping the harvest of 10 years of folly—relaxed regulation and self-control in commercial and investment banking, the subprime lending fury, the development of mortgage securities that relieved lenders of risk—and we are not close to the end. Foreclosures continue apace, home values continue to decline and homebuilding is a distant prospect.

Blame for the bubble and collapse is plentiful and extends to two presidents (but not Obama) and both parties. The failure to make more than feeble steps to do something about the mortgage crisis can be apportioned in a bipartisan way, too. The Republican Congress refused to consider serious steps to provide mortgage relief to millions of underwater homebuyers, and President Obama, guided by treasury and central bank advisers sympathetic to the financial industry, made feeble and ineffective efforts to get banks to reformulate troubled mortgages. Banks make money on foreclosures, not on renegotiating amortization terms.

If we must wait until all the underwater mortgages shake out and the housing market recovers, and that seems to be the political reality, the economy is going to limp along for years, not months. The suffering of American families will know no surcease.

But that seems immaterial. What counts is who gets assigned the blame. That will be Barack Obama. As Senator Pryor says, that is unfair, but it is how this game is played.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood course has rich history

Leader staff writer

The “tour” of the historic Sylvan Hills Country Club golf course, now known as The Greens at North Hills, was an indoor presentation at the clubhouse because a tournament was being played Friday afternoon.

Rachel Silva of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program began her talk by welcoming everyone to another stop on the program’s “Sandwiching in History” tour.

In 2010, the golf course was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for being part of the development of recreation in the Sylvan Hills community and the city of Sherwood. The course contains roughly the same land area and basic layout today as it did when it opened 84 years ago.

During the presentation, one attendee, Ann Beck, asked if Silva had a picture of the little house her grandfather, Bert Mead, used to live in. The house was located near the entrance to the course. Mead was the golf pro, Beck said. He used to do much of the caretaking and sell things out of the pro shop.

After the presentation, Silva found a picture of the house Beck’s grandparents lived in, and Beck was astonished.

“Oh my gosh, it gives me chills,” she told Silva. “This just means the world to me.”

Silva spoke about visionary Justin Matthews Sr., who built the course in 1927 as a draw for homebuyers to purchase houses in his 1920s residential developments, Park Hill and Sylvan Hills. “Golf communities” didn’t become popular until the 1970s.

Matthews made the fortune that allowed him to invest in real estate from Rose City Cotton Oil, which he owned. As a businessman and a member of the state’s first highway commission, he also had a hand in improvement districts in North Little Rock, the paving of the Arkansas-Missouri Highway (Sylvan Hills Highway, Hwy. 5 in the 1940s, Hwy. 107 and JFK Boulevard), Lakewood subdivision and the Old Mill.

After giving a brief overview of the Sylvan Hills community that would become Sherwood, Silva continued, highlighting all that the country club has been used for.

Matthews gave ownership of the course to the Sylvan Hills Improvement Corp., which sold it during the Great Depression to executives who began operating it as a nightclub.

The clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1935. Milk cows grazed on the course in the mid-1930s and it was used as a quail and bird hunting operation from 1941-45.

Then a group of original club members returned as war veterans, purchased the land, built a new clubhouse in 1946 and restored it. To generate financial support, slot machines were placed in the clubhouse.

The audience laughed when Silva related that individuals buried those slot machines when they were tipped off that the club would be raided after Gov. Sid McMath took action against illegal gambling in the state.

The machines were found and confiscated anyway although a few were kept in the clubhouse’s basement until the second fire in 1961.

Firefighters broke the machines, newspapers reported their existence and the gambling was stopped.

On a side note, Silva mentioned the Miss Sherwood Contest held to raise money for the city of Sherwood’s first budget. The women who competed collected one penny per vote. Together they earned $525.

In 1956, the name of the club was changed to North Hills Country Club. The second clubhouse burned down in 1961, when owned by Metropolitan Trust Company. The current clubhouse was completed in 1963.

In the late 1970s, Robert Trent Jones Sr. redesigned the golf course to better handle the increased golfing activity it had received. It is the only Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course in the state.

The north nine holes were changed the most because they had played against the contour of the land. Although the holes were changed, they are located in about the same place now.

The success of the golf course was up and down from the 1980s into the 2000s. It closed in May 2007, but when an offer was made to develop it as a residential neighborhood, Sherwood residents fought for its preservation. The city bought the property in July 2008 and opened it as a public course, The Greens at North Hills. The clubhouse is available for special events and meetings.

Mayor Virginia Hillman, who was in attendance, said, “It’s an attractive golf location. I hear a lot of positive comments about it. It was an interesting presentation. I learned a lot.”

TOP STORY >> Gutsy newspaper goes after villains

Leader executive editor

A tenacious investigative reporter, a great editor and a courageous newspaper — Nick Davies working under Alan Rusbridger at the British Guardian — helped bring down the most powerful media company in the world: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, now exposed as a criminal enterprise, with several present and former employees facing prison sentences for hacking into cell phones and computers for more than a decade.

Murdoch, a villain right out of James Bond, bullied, blackmailed and bedded down politicians for favors going back to the 1970s.

Called the Dirty Digger most of his life, he is now a pariah everywhere. Murdoch’s former Conservative allies in Britain have come out against his takeover bid for BSkyB, a European satellite channel where he’s a minority stockholder.

His company’s stock is in a free fall — down more than $1 billion in a week. News Corp. could be headed for bankruptcy if thousands of its hacked victims — there are said to be some 4,000 — file huge claims against the company. Criminal and civil penalties could cost the company billions.

The Guardian doesn’t have one-tenth of one percent of News Corporation’s resources, yet Davies, Rusbridger and their staff have produced the most astonishing series of exposes since Watergate. Expect similar results: The mighty will go to prison, their names synonymous with evil. (Check out It’s one of the best websites for news — a must read every day.)

Like Woodward and Bern-stein’s revelations of White House skulduggery nearly 40 years ago in the Washington Post, the Guardian has published its scoops about News Corp. lawbreaking for several months and encouraged Davies and his colleagues to keep digging.

The news gets more dramatic every day. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday that News Corp. hired known criminals. Murdoch’s papers stole Brown’s financial and medical records, including information about his young child’s chronic illness.

It was also reported that News Corp. employees in this country tried to hack into the phones of those killed on 9/11. The company owns Fox News and the New York Post, which tells you a lot about News Corporation’s journalistic standards.

News Corp. executives, the Guardian reported, lied under oath when they insisted only a couple of employees misbehaved.

But Davies, Rusbridger and the Guardian team revealed the truth: The highest officials at News Corp. authorized the hackings, including a former editor, Andy Coulson. He later became the chief spokesman for the embattled British Prime Minister David Cameron, who will probably not survive the scandal. Coulson was arrested last week. There will be others.

It was also revealed that News Corp. employees routinely bribed politicians and the police and then paid hush money to cover up their crimes.

The Guardian reported on July 4th that the News of the World hacked a young murder victim’s cell phone while the police were still looking for her, which made her parents think she was still alive since someone was checking her messages. This was the story that made all Britons realize that Murdoch and his goons were cruel and insane.

Politicians are no longer afraid of him. Even his family finds him an embarrassment.

As more revelations piled up last week—including the hacking of cell phones belonging to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and the victims of a terrorist attack in London — News Corp. made a strategic retreat and announced it would kill off the News of the World.

More than 200 people lost their jobs to protect Murdoch and his toadies — including his son James, who has admitted paying hush money to hacking victims, and another top executive, Rebekkah Brooks, who could be indicted, along with Coulson and others.

Les Hinton, who heads Dow Jones, a News Corp. subsidiary that runs the Wall Street Journal, has also been implicated in the coverup in England.

More than 70 years ago, the Guardian led a crusade against another world-class villain — Adolf Hitler — while the Times of London, some 40 years before Murdoch bought it, editorialized in favor of appeasing the Nazis. The Times didn’t think it was worth fighting Hitler.

Murdoch would have seen business opportunities in Ger-many. He has business ties in China, where he has a prosperous satellite television channel, which forbids criticism of the communist regime.

In its last edition Sunday, the News of the World proclaimed in huge type on the top right of p. 1, “World’s greatest newspaper” — making stuff up to the end.

What does it profit a man…

TOP STORY >> Hot enough to sting your eyes

Leader staff writer

It’s hot. Hot enough to sting your eyes and burn your fingers touching the steering wheel. Water seems the best way people are coping with the triple-digit heat.

“It’s really hard to keep bottled water in stock. Any pack size of water, if it is in a bottle, they buy it,” Cabot Knight’s assistant store manager Chad Wilson said.

Brick mason Reyes Mendez was working with a crew setting bricks at Cabot High School HPER (health, physical education and recreation) building entrance. He said he drinks cold water a little bit at a time, so he does not get sick.

Plumbing foreman Earl Cason was sweating it out inside the cool shade of the HPER building.

“We try to work on places out of the sun, or work on the places in the direct sun in the morning when it is cool,” Cason said.

Manuel Cuerto of Conway, a lawn-care worker, was using an edger on the grassy islands in the Kroger parking lot. He was dressed to battle the sun with a long-sleeved shirt, a bandana to shade his neck and a hat. Cuerto said he takes 10 to 15 minute breaks during the heat and drinks water and Gatorade.

Cabot Waterworks employees were busy working in the hot weather. Crew member Jeff Loeschener and crew leader Jimmy Hankins were pressure testing a new 8-inch water main at Fourth and Cherry streets.

Loeschener said to work in the heat, you have to drink water and cool off every now and then.

“The more you are in it, the more you can stand it,” Loeschener said.

“You have to pace yourself,” Hankins said.

Cabot Waterworks general manager Tim Joyner said crews were repairing more leaks in the last two weeks since the ground dried out.

“It tends to pull the connections apart, as the ground loses moisture it settles and subsides,” Joyner said.

He said in the past, water lines were improperly installed. As the ground dried, large rocks would move and break pipes.

“We had to replace two miles of water lines when the water and wastewater commission took over in 2006,” Joyner said.

“The commission put in more stringent requirements and inspectors monitor pipes being installed,” Joyner said.

The Cabot community outdoor pool on Richie Road has seen an increase in swimmers since temperatures have gone up.

“The water here is actually cooler compared to Indian Head Lake,” Stacey Minard of Cabot said.

“There’s not much you can do to beat the heat. It is hard to cool the houses these days with kids running in and out,” Minard said.

Minard said both the Cabot outdoor pool and Splash Zone in Jacksonville are simple and easy for little kids. She brought her children Abby, 8, and Ayden, 3, to the pool.

“I don’t have to worry about drowning. They have lifeguards everywhere,” Minard said.

Natalie Chism may have the coolest job this summer serving snow cones inside the air-conditioned Brain Freeze shaved-ice stand, at Cabot Knight’s grocery parking lot along South Pine Street.

“We’ve opened in May and business has gone up tremendously, but it’s kind of slow until people get off of work. We go through 500 to 700 blocks of ice a week,” said Chism.

A block of ice makes around 10 to 15 snow cones.

The best-selling snow cones are homemade ice cream with cream, cake batter, ‘tiger’s blood’ and banana cream. They also serve new flavors-red velvet cake and Razorback red, wild strawberry, wild cherry and tropical punch mixed together.

“The kids like sour grape or rainbow,” Chism said.

For residents who have no air conditioning, the Cabot Senior Citizens Center on 600 N. Grant St. is available as an emergency cooling center during the day.

The center has games to play and cable television for seniors needing to get out of the heat. If someone needs to cool off they can call the senior center at 843-2196 or the mayor’s office at 843-3566.

TOP STORY >> Farmers dry after deluge

Special to the Leader

Too much water, then not enough—that’s been the farm story in most of Lonoke County and some surrounding areas, according to Chief Lonoke County Cooperative Extension Agent Jeff Welch.

First the rains came and the rivers rose, then the water no sooner receded than dry, hot weather forced farmers to water as fast as they could, Welch said.

The National Weather Service has characterized the weather in eastern Oklahoma and southern Arkansas as a “flash drought.”

In southern Lonoke County, Dick Bransford agreed with Welch’s assessment.

First “we had water standing over the top of everything,” Bransford said. Then heat and drought.

“The biggest damage was water damage,” Welch said. “Over three or four days, we had 16 inches of rain. That put a lot of fields underwater. The low ground, not planted, was delayed about three weeks.”

Then it was right into the heat and drought and the farmers have been running long and hard, but in many respects they are still behind.

“A lot of fields had 10 or 15 percent taken out of production,” Welch said.

“It’s been tough going out there,” said Bransford. “I had a couple hundred of acres up when Crooked Creek came up for a couple of weeks and when it went down, the rice was gone and we replanted.

“I had some green beans a couple years (that made) about six tons an acre,” he said. “Last year it was three tons, this year one.

“That doesn’t pay expenses.”

“We had 540 acres of cotton and rice planted and we had to replant half. It’s going to be late and not a very good stand.”

Bransford said he got a good price for a good wheat crop, and planted the field back in soybeans.

He also planted cotton behind wheat. “I’ve never done that before.”

But floods and heat aren’t the only problems the farmers are facing.

“We’ve got pigweed four inches high and can’t kill it,” Bransford said. “It’s a major, major problem. It’s resistant to nearly all the herbicides. Roundup acts like fertilizer for it.”

He said a herbicide used on corn has a chemical that will kill out the pigweed, and rice also gets rid of it pretty well.

“We’ll still have a decent crop on corn,” Welch said. “Soybeans are coming along, but there’s a real problem planting beans behind wheat. It’s hard to get a stand with the top dry.”

Among the 1 percent still planting soybeans were growers in Lonoke County, said Keith Perkins, extension agent there for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

“Producers are cleaning up rice and soybean fields and some are discovering that the pigweed in their soybean fields are glyphophate resistant and their pre-emerge herbicides did not get activated due to dry conditions after application,” Perkins said. “A lot of rice fields have received mid-season nitrogen applications and some sheath blight is beginning to show up.”

“On cotton, we’re in decent shape,” Welch said, but earworms are a big problem, “even with BT,” a natural pesticide. He said the earworm pressure is on both cotton and soybeans. “We’re spraying for that. It’s continuing to build.”

Welch said he checked the data, and the prevalence of moths trapped (to track worm infestation) is the highest it’s been in at least four years.

“The egg lay is 80 percent viable as far as producing small worms.”

Welch said the heat and dryness affect fungi that serve as a natural deterrent to the insects.

Still, “we’re optimistic. We have high prices. The farmers keep working and working.”

The crop report issued July 5 found 88 percent of corn at silk stage, 28 percent at dough and 5 percent at dent. Cotton was 83 percent squared and 12 percent setting bolls. Rice was 2 percent headed and sorghum was 43 percent headed.

Soybeans were 99 percent planted, 93 percent emerged, 22 percent in bloom and 5 percent setting pods. The state’s winter wheat harvest was reported complete compared with 98 percent the previous week.

SPORTS >> NP getting football up and rolling

Leader sports editor

Falcon football has been in adjustment mode throughout the summer. The team has been slowly adjusting to new North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram, who has spent much of the summer trying to get his family and belongings moved up from the Crossett area, where he spent the last several years as head football coach and athletic director. He finally completed that task and will officially begin leading workouts with the team next week.

“I finally got moved up here, so I’m here full time now,” Ingram said.

He has meetings planned with parents and players of Northwood and NPHS.

He has held one meeting with parents of Northwood student athletes, with the goal of understanding their concerns, and making them aware of his direction and goals.

“I think the meetings were positive,” Ingram said. “The timing wasn’t good. A lot of parents were on vacation and unable to make it, so we’re going to have another one with them, and we’re going to have one with the high-school parents too.”

Ingram didn’t, and doesn’t, want the meetings to be a one-way conversation, but he does want to make clear his objectives.

“I want to know about their concerns and observations about the program as a whole,” Ingram said. “The ones I did meet with, I was very impressed with their demeanor and the interest they seemed to take in the program. I also want them to get to know some things about me.”

For example, Ingram says he will be a very hands-on head coach.

“I’m going to be involved with the kids and I’m probably going to be in houses talking to parents and family,” Ingram said. “I want them to know I run a very disciplined program. For example if their kids want to play for me, they’re going to have to get in the books. I don’t have a lot of rules or a lot of guidelines. I basically have one. Don’t mess up.”

Ingram also wants to build community-wide support for the NPHS athletic program, something he sees has been lacking in the past, and something he feels its critical to the success of any program.

“If we’re going to build a program, it’s going to take a whole community buying into what we’re trying to do,” Ingram said. “I would like to build relationships that will help develop that kind of commitment from the community, and I want them to know that my commitment to them is second to none.”

Ingram will have practices twice per week for the rest of the summer until official preseason practices begin, but the team has been meeting at the field house for workouts throughout the summer.

“The coaches who are here have been keeping that weight room open and we’ve had good participation,” Ingram said. “We’ve had a good turnout. We haven’t done any conditioning yet, so we’ve got a lot of work to do and very little time to do it.”

Ingram says the team may be surprised when conditioning begins, but believes he’s seen some things from the players so far that tells him they will get through it.

“We’re going to do some things in practice that’s going to test their will,” Ingram said. “If we can get through those things, I think we’re going to be ok, and we’re going to have a group of young men who will be ready to work hard and build this program.”

SPORTS >> Jacksonville participation high for summer workouts

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devil football team is back at work after the dead period that ended July 3. The squad has been working out and practicing throughout summer break, sans the dead period, every Monday and Thursday for two hours each day.

Jacksonville head coach Rick Russell has been very pleased with participation numbers, with a total of about 50-60 players from ninth through 12th grades showing up for mid-summer drills.

“We’ve got kind-of-a depth chart right now,” Russell said. “We’ve had everybody here this summer that we’re counting on. I’m thinking we’re going to have a full ship.” They will be heading to a team camp of sorts on July 21 at Arkansas State University. The camp will break down into a lineman’s camp, and a 7-on-7 competition, which Russell believes works best for his team.

“Well you know the linemen get left out of 7-on-7, so we jumped on the chance to get our linemen some work and make it a whole-team activity. I think the kids are really looking forward to it.”

Many teams take part in weekly 7-on-7 meetings with the same group of teams each week. Jacksonville has done it in the past and Russell believes that can be helpful, but looks forward to the chance to compete against some teams that aren’t quite as familiar as the ones nearby.

“When you’re always competing against each other, it’s competitive but it also gets mechanical. When you get different teams out there, the competitiveness really comes out, the execution gets a little more intense. Like I said, we’re really looking forward to it.”

In practices so far, there haven’t been 60 players at every workout, with some players in American Legion or other baseball teams, some have played AAU basketball, but Russell says the players have met the basic obligations.

“We want everyone to make at least 80 percent of the workouts and I think we’ve had that,” Russell said. “We want them to have a little bit of a summer too, but in this day if you don’t work during the summer, you’re falling behind. I want kids who play baseball to play baseball. That’s a summer sport and I think a sport in season takes priority over one that’s not. But we’ve had the kids here and I’m very proud of that.”

Russell expressed some specific praise for certain players, starting with defensive end Aaron Davis.

He rotated in the lineup last year, but has worked himself into a starting role for his senior year.

“He has had a really good spring and offseason,” Russell said. “He’s increased his size, strength and quickness and worked hard to do it.”

Dustin Hamilton has also impressed coaches.

“He’s been at every summer workout and worked extremely hard,” Russell said. “We have him at starting offensive guard and he’s worked at linebacker too.”

Jacarius Jordan was a safety last year who has improved his quickness and may work at cornerback this season and likely to play offense as well, according to Russell.

“He had a tremendous spring offensively,” Russell said.

He will be joined in the offensive backfield by Cortez Brown, who Russell says has stepped into the role as starting fullback.

“He’s the best fullback we’ve got and one of the best outside linebackers. We don’t want too many people going both ways, but him and (Jacarius) have really looked good on both sides of the ball.”

Another name that Russell spoke specifically about was Demerio Williams. Williams also impressed offensively after having played mostly defensive end last year.

“In spring we moved him to linebacker and he looked really good,” Russell said. “He also had a good spring on offense at tight end. We put him there to see what he could do, and did great. He caught the ball, he was blocking really well, very aggressive.”

Kevin Richardson has turned into somewhat of a utility player, and one who the Red Devils will be counting on.

“He made all conference for us at safety last year,” Russell said. “He’s another kid who has some moves on offense and he’ll probably play some slot receiver for us. He’s also our backup quarterback and he does it all well. We’re very proud of him.”

Returning quarterback starter Tirrell Brown has also looked good and Russell sees him picking up where he left off.

Practice for football teams across the state officially begins in less than three weeks, and Russell believes everyone will be healthy heading into those preseason drills.

“It’s been a short summer,” Russell said. “We got out so late and depth is always an issue, so one of the things we’ve tried to do is keep everyone healthy.”

SPORTS >> Babe Ruth falls twice at Benton

Special to The Leader

The 14-Under Babe Ruth State Tournament came to an early end for Jacksonville Saturday evening in Benton.

Lake Village hit the ball well and took advantage of several errors to send Jacksonville home from the losers bracket, 16-10.

“We kept digging ourselves holes and couldn’t get out of all of them,” said Jacksonville coach Jason Carpenter. “We made way too many errors, but you have to give them credit, that team can hit.”

Jacksonville again began the game as the visitors and took the first lead, but again quickly lost it.

Courtland McDonald was hit by a pitch to lead off the game and moved into scoring position on a single by Donte Harris. A walk to Ryan Mallison loaded the bases, and a fielder’s choice by Laderrious Perry brought home McDonald. A strikeout and groundout stranded two runners.

The bottom of the first was a nightmare for Jacksonville as Lake Village batted around with the first seven batters scoring, taking a 7-1 lead. Five hits and four errors put Jacksonville in the early hole.

Jacksonville showed fight in the second inning with five runs to get right back in the game. Justin Abbot and Peyton Traywick both reached on errors by the shortstop and came around to score after two walks and a hit batter.

Jake Carpenter hit a two-out shot that was too hot for the third baseman, bringing home Harris and Mallison.

Jacksonville kept battling and took the lead in the top of the third after relief pitcher Austin Huhn shut down Lake Village in the bottom of the second. Following a groundout, Huhn helped himself with a double to left and scored on a single by McDonald.

Mallison reached on an error with two outs, but ended the inning getting thrown out at home trying to score from first on a long double by Perry.

“As deep as that was, I thought the cutoff man would try to get the out at second,” Carpenter said. “So I sent Ryan and their guy made a perfect throw home.”

Still, McDonald scored on the play to give Jacksonville an 8-7 lead. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, that lead would again be short-lived.

The heat got to Huhn, who came off the field following three consecutive hits, two wild pitches and a play where he hustled and dove trying to get the runner. Mallison came in to pitch relief, but by the time the inning ended, Lake Village had taken a 12-8 lead.

Both teams went down in order in the fourth inning, including a four-pitch bottom half by Mallison.

Jacksonville made up some ground in the fifth with Justice Austin reaching on a walk, stealing second and later scoring on a balk.

McDonald also walked, was balked to second, but was then surprisingly caught stealing third for a huge second out. Harris and Mallison reached by being hit and walked, and a single by Perry drove in Harris and would have scored McDonald. A grounder to the pitcher ended the inning as Jacksonville pulled closer with the score 12-10.

The final innings didn’t go as well for Jacksonville in its quest for a come-from-behind win.

Lake Village added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, then really made things difficult with three runs in the sixth inning. Jacksonville was held scoreless in its final two at bats.

In two tournaments, Jacksonville won its first game in Lakewood, then lost four consecutive there and in state.

“A couple different breaks and we win every game we’ve played,” said Carpenter. “These guys have got a lot of talent, it just didn’t all come together for us in time. But I’m proud of the way they kept fighting and came back today.”

SPORTS >> Zone 3 jumbled, seedings unsure

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and Cabot enter postseason play with positive runs in recent games. But the tournament-seeding process for the Zone 3 senior American Legion baseball tournament is going to be a mess, or it may be very easy. Somehow, the six-team division ended up with a four-way tie for first place. Cabot, Jacksonville, North Little Rock and Russellville each ended the regular season with 7-3 records against teams in their own zone.

The coaches and American Legion officials meet tonight to work out the seedings for the tournament. The top two seeds will get a bye in the first round, which could turn out to be crucial in a tournament with so many teams so equal.

Who gets the byes, and therefore saves their starting pitching, will be the crucial aspect.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and this has never happened,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said.

There are tiebreaker rules in place, but with such an extreme situation, it could come down to drawing names from a hat.

“I don’t like it but that looks like what it’s coming down to,” state deputy commissioner Jarrel Howard said.

All four teams split their season series with each other, and all four won both games against Conway and Sylvan Hills, giving each team seven wins and three losses.

Conway and Sylvan Hills also split and ended with 1-9 records, but Conway won the two-way tiebreaker and will get the No. 5seed. Jacksonville and Cabot each have winning streaks heading into postseason play.

Cabot had won three in a row heading into last night’s regular-season finale against Fort Smith, as well as winning five of its last six.

Jacksonville has won seven straight, with its last loss coming on June 20 at North Little Rock.

In its most recent games, the Centennial Bank squad hammered Sylvan Hills 17-1 on Friday, then beat Little Rock Blue 4-3 on Saturday for its fourth consecutive victory.

It also played at Fort Smith last night after Leader deadlines for a final tune up before postseason play.

Cabot got 16 base hits, walked twice and saw three batters hit by pitches, giving it 21 base runners in the lop-sided win over the hosting Bruins.

Defensively Cabot got another gem from Cole Nicholson, who went the distance with a two-hitter, albeit just a three-inning distance.

Six Cabot batters had multiple hits in the game, with Brandon Surdam and Casey Vaughan leading the way with three hits and two RBIs apiece.

Bryson Morris, Justin Goff, Tyler Erickson and Chip Morris each had two hits in the win.

Saturday’s was an unusual affair, with Cabot coach Jay Darr trying to get some final work in for several pitchers before postseason play begins on Thursday.

Seven pitchers threw one inning each as Cabot held off the Little Rock squad.

Bryson Morris, who entered in the fifth inning after Little Rock’s final run, got the win.

Jacksonville surprisingly had to come from behind last Friday to beat Conway, but ended up doing so in dominant fashion, winning the game 16-6.

The Gwatney squad is still nursing some injuries to key players. Centerfielder Colt Harmon has been out since leaving early against Sylvan Hills last Thursday. Second baseman Kenny Cummings also left that game early, and has played sparingly in the last two regular-season games.

“We’ve got to have them,” Hickingbotham said. “I’ve only got 13 on the roster and you have to have 12 in order to play in the tournaments.”

The tournament is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday at Burns Park.

SPORTS >> Centennial junior team bows out of state

Leader sports editor

The Cabot junior Centennial Bank squad went two and out at the state tournament over the weekend in Sheridan, failing to score a single run in two games. Game one was an extreme pitchers’ duel, with Texarkana winning 1-0 in nine innings. In game two, Cabot had the misfortune of facing Bryant’s ace, even though it was a second-round game, and fell 5-0.

Bryant was forced to forfeit its first-round game against Jonesboro in the second inning when a batter used an illegal bat. Because Bryant had only nine players at the game, the player’s disqualification meant the team did not have enough players to fill a lineup. That meant an automatic forfeit loss for the Black Sox, but it also meant that they could throw their ace the next day. Cabot faced the No.1 starter in its opponents rotations in both games.

The scoreless outings proved too much to overcome for the youngest team to qualify for state. Even on the most youthful team in the tournament, it was the most youthful player on the team who got the most production offensively.

Josh Dollarhide got both of Cabot’s base hits in the loss to Texarkana.

Adam Hicks turned in a phenomenal performance on the mound. He threw eight innings, giving up eight hits while striking out four and walking one with one intentional walk.

Texarkana scored in the ninth inning off of Glover Helpenstill, but it was a runner that Hicks left in scoring position, giving the starter the loss despite the outstanding performance.

Texarkana got nine total base hits, eight off the starter.

Cabot swung the bats a bit better against Bryant in searing heat that soared above 100 degrees on Sunday, but couldn’t get the timely hit when it had scoring opportunities.

Centennial got seven base hits and three batters walked, but left every runner stranded in the game, including leaving the bases loaded twice.

Cabot got another good performance on the mound, this time from Lee Sullivan.

Sullivan also gave up eight base hits, but five of them went for extra bases and four were with runners on base.

The state tournament appearance leaves the junior Centennial squad with a 16-12 season record.

The AA team saw similar results in its zone tournament at Heber Springs. That team fell 9-7 in the tournament opener against the tournament host Heber Springs, then dropped a 15-6 decision to Pine Bluff in the next game to finish the year with a record of 7-13.