Friday, August 26, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Tax rich less, poor more?

Republicans—well, everyone else, too—ought to be alarmed about the course of the Republican presidential race, where the debate is increasingly controlled by the zaniest element of the moment.

The nation has been consumed all year about how to wrestle the federal budget deficit under control again after a 10-year binge of spending and tax cutting. The growing and shrinking field of candidates for the GOP nomination has been drawn into the battle, some of them reluctantly. The party’s position, down almost to the last person, has been that no one’s and no corporation’s taxes should be raised to help get the budget back into balance. President Obama has proposed repeatedly that those earning more than $250,000 a year—in Arkansas, that is about 20,000 of the 1.3 million tax filers—go back to paying the same top marginal rate that they were paying in 2001, when taxes were cut and the budget careened out of control. He would also close a few loopholes that allow major corporations to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars in annual profits.

Suddenly, Rep. Michele Bachmann broke out of the field of tax opponents. She favored making one group of Americans pay higher taxes: the poorest half of the people. Before the week was out, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman Jr., the one moderate in the field, said they, too, favored a tax on those people. We expect the others to jump aboard, too. We wonder how our congressmen, who have embraced every proposition from the conservative budget camp, will weigh in on the idea.

It happened this way. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Republican leader of the House, happened to point out that 53 percent of individuals paid all U.S. federal income taxes, and he thought that was unfair. The 47 percent who had no income tax liability last year are getting the benefits of citizenship without making a contribution, he said. He stopped short of saying that Congress should actually raise tax rates and remove enough deductions and exemptions until they all paid some federal income taxes.

But Bachmann did. She said that everyone—every person who is out of work or on low wages and seniors, including those in nursing homes, should be required to pay some federal taxes. Perry has been saying the same thing and he also favors replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax of some kind that would require people of low and modest incomes to pick up a much larger share of the national tax burden.

Everyone paying something has the sound of elemental fairness. The idea that nearly half the country are freeloaders is, indeed, repellent. But Bachmann, Perry, Cantor and the rest grievously misstate the case for tax fairness.

It is true that 47 percent of individuals and families had no federal income tax liability last year. Even the Bush tax cut of 2001 increased the numbers who do not owe federal income taxes when it adjusted the rate on the lowest incomes and increased some credits. When low- and moderate-income families claim the same deductions, credits and the personal exemption that all taxpayers claim, nearly half wind up owing no tax. The earned income-tax credit for people who work for very low wages relieves millions of the small tax liability they ordinarily would owe.

But they are not tax scofflaws and freeloaders. Most of that 47 percent pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the richest Americans do. The income tax bears only a little more than half of the burden of paying for federal services. Social insurance taxes—employment taxes that are recorded for social insurance programs like old-age and survivors insurance, Medicare hospitalization and disability insurance—and excise taxes on gasoline, cigarettes and a variety of other products and services account for more than 40 percent of all the government revenues. Those taxes land more heavily on the poorest half of the population than on the better-off half.

While the poorest 47 percent of Americans owe no income tax, they effectively pay a rate of 15.3 percent of their incomes, every dollar of that income, in payroll taxes. That includes the employer share, but the economic impact is that the employer share of FICA taxes is an employee benefit that otherwise would be direct income if the government did not require the contribution on the worker’s behalf. Put excise taxes on top of that. And, of course, people of low and moderate incomes pay the lion’s share of state and local taxes, which are mainly sales, excise and property taxes. Most payroll taxes—all but the Medicare tax—are levied on only the first $106,800 of income. The taxes are not collected on unearned income such as interest, dividends and capital gains, but the average worker pays the taxes on every dime of his income. That is why Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, said his secretaries and clerks paid a larger share of their incomes to support the government than he did.

When the politicians tell you how unfair it is that the richest 1, 2 or 5 percent pay such a large share of federal income taxes, consider these figures: If you divide the country into fifths, from the poorest fifth to the richest fifth, the share of the nation’s personal wealth breaks down this way: The poorest fifth of Americans own one-tenth of one percent of the wealth, the next poorest fifth have two-tenths of one percent, the middle fifth own 3 percent of it, the next-to-richest fifth own 13 percent and the richest fifth own 83 percent. The average annual family income of the poorest fifth is $18,000, and of the richest fifth $200,000.

What Bachmann, Perry, Cantor and the rest should be lamenting is not the amount of taxes that the poorest 47 percent of Americans pay, but the pitiful share of the nation’s great wealth that they own. That share has been sinking for 30 years and more dramatically the past decade. There is an issue for a presidential candidate. —Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY > >Residents fire off on fireworks

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville will control and police the use of fireworks even if they’re legalized, Aldermen Reedie Ray, the chairman of the fireworks committee, assured the 20 or so residents at Thursday’s public hearing.

“I’m not saying that they’ll be legal or illegal, but they will be controlled and policed,” Ray said at the end of the public hearing on whether or not to allow the use of fireworks within the city at certain times.

Currently the city bans all fireworks, except those by professionals or other groups who have received permission.

Alderman Bob Stroud, a mem ber of the committee, after listening to the residents, said, “As you’ve spoke, I’ve tallied six against fireworks and two for them. And everything everyone has said tonight, for and against, is true.”

Stroud said that the truth of the matter was simple, “You aren’t going to stop kids from shooting fireworks—you just aren’t. You need to control it. Seems to me if we have this window of opportunity, they’ll get it out of their system, we’d be better off.”

He added that the fines for using fireworks outside the window need to be increased to where parents will pay attention to what their kids are doing.

Ray told those in attendance that no decision was going to be made at the meeting, but that the committee would come back together in about two weeks and make a decision and take it to the city council for approval.

Alderman Aaron Robinson, also on the committee, said it was a difficult task because he could rebut every pro and every con brought up. “It’s going to take a lot of work from us to figure out what to do,” he said.

Among those against the idea of letting Jacksonville residents shoot off fireworks was Kathy Wadekamper. “Besides fireworks being bigger, stronger and more powerful than ever, my reasons against the idea are the mess and the fire danger,” she said.

Wadekamper said she likes to walk every morning “and you should have seen the mess in our neighborhood and on our street after the Fourth of July and we don’t shoot off fireworks. There was debris everywhere. It sure didn’t look pretty. She said the fireworks trash didn’t disappear until the rains washed them away.

She was also concerned about the fire danger especially from fireworks that shoot high in the sky and can land on roof tops.

“The fire chief said at the last meeting that the city didn’t have many grass fires from fireworks, but that’s from residents shooting them illegally. Imagine if all the residents were shooting them because they became legal. I think we’d have a big problem,” Wademaker said.

Alderman Terry Sansing, one of four aldermen attending the public hearing, but the only one to speak on the issue, said he was firmly against liberalizing the fireworks ordinance and had always voted against any relaxing of the ordinance. He said fireworks were dangerous and disturbed the peace. “I have no intent on changing my vote,” he told the six-member committee which included city officials and residents.

Bobby Kyzer and Roy Wadekamper also spoke against the idea of shooting fireworks within the city limits.

“It doesn’t matter if the window is one day or two days, it won’t work. You’ll have complaint calls from days before to days after,” Kyzer said.

Roy Wadekamper added, “I don’t know how you can turn it on and off.”

Also opposing loosening the fireworks ordinance was Rizelle Aaron. He said that while it might decrease 911 calls, ambulatory calls would increase “and people will continue to complain, that’s what they do.”

He also thought the possible change went beyond the need of decrease complaint calls and keep police on the streets instead of chasing down firecracker users. “Lots of deals were struck to get that voluntary annexation,” he said, referring to the Hwy. 67/167 business corridor just north of the air base to the county line.

Among the businesses there is a fireworks company. Aaron said the city had worked a deal to allow that business owner to sell fireworks this past Fourth of July.

Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration, begged to differ.

“All businesses along that corridor were grandfathered in. We’ve always done that. The liquor stores, the private clubs and the fireworks business were all allowed to continue to operate. There was nothing special done or promised.”

On the side for fireworks was Delores Johnson, a grandmotherly woman, who admitted up front that every Fourth of July she fires off fireworks—yes, illegally, and will continue to do so, if the ordinance isn’t change. “The parents need to step up and be responsible,” said.

Kay Noles, who along with her brother operate a fireworks stand south of the city limits agreed.

“I won’t sell to kids unless their parents are there. But I can’t make sure the parents are watching them when they shoot the fireworks, and I’m not going to be everybody’s mother,” she said.

Jacksonville resident Keith Weber also spoke for the use of fireworks. “I’m for it, with an asterisk. Legalize it, but enforce it,” he said.

Weber went on to suggest using code-enforcement officers rather than police to respond to calls. He said the ordinance should require people to clean up after themselves and make individuals responsible for any fire damage. He said the city should require parents supervise children who shoot fireworks.

Weber also suggested the city allow nonprofit groups like churches to sell fireworks. And then tax it,” he said.

Committee member Jim Moore expounded on the dangers of fireworks. “I’m talking about Roman candles, but I have research on rockets, M-80s, 500-gram fireworks and more.”

He said a Roman candle explosion has the same extreme force as a bullet, and that most people held Roman candles in their hands. “The real issue is enforcing the ordinance,” Moore said, adding that he didn’t think the solution was to open up the city to fireworks.

Noles told the committee that sparklers, not Roman candles, are actually the most dangerous fireworks. “No one would think that, but people come in search of the metal sparklers, which we don’t sell, because they want to tie them together. And it creates a sparkler bomb that can be heard from long distances and really hurt someone.”

Sparkler bombs are constructed by binding together as many as 300 sparklers with tape, leaving one extended to use as a fuse. The resulting blast can approach the power of a stick of dynamite. Federal laws ban making, having or using them. But there are websites that show how to make them. One of those websites carries the caveat, “These are at your own risk, we are not responsible if you blow your arm, leg or face off.”

Alderman Kevin McCleary, another committee member, said a lot of good ideas were presented by both sides. “Now we have to make sure we do the right thing for the city,” he said.

TOP STORY > >Wings celebrate trophies

Leader staff writer

The world champion 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base has gained two new trophies and handed off one to its sister wing, the 19th Airlift Wing, after
Air Mobility Command discovered a programming error in the 2011 Air Mobility Rodeo scoring system.

The 314th is now also the best Air Mobility wing and best airdrop wing in the world after the scoring error was corrected. The 19th Airlift Wing took the best airdrop air crew title away from the 314th.

The 314th had previously won six trophies during last month’s competition in Washington state. They included best C-130 team, best C-130 airdrop wing, best C-130 maintenance skills team, best C-130 maintenance team and best overall maintenance skills team.

Col. Mark Czelusta, 314th Airlift Wing com mander, said that when he announced the loss of the best C-130 airdrop air crew trophy to the 19th Airlift Wing, “the place erupted into cheers. They were just beaming.”

It is the only trophy the 19th Airlift Wing, which was named best C-130 wing at the rodeo in 2009, earned this year.

“This has always been a team effort, reflective of the partnership of the 314th and the 19th,” Czelusta added.

Czelusta said, “I’m thrilled and honored to be the commander of these forces. Our nation clearly deserves them and I am humbled to be with them.”

The 314th Airlift Wing will be presented the 2011 Air Mobility Rodeo Best Air Mobility Wing trophy during a ceremony on base Monday morning. The 19th Airlift Wing will be presented the Best C-130 Airdrop Aircrew in a separate ceremony,

More than 40 teams and 2,500 people from the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and several foreign countries participated in the competition.

Air Mobility Command officials found the programming error on Aug. 18 after doing another check of the results before posting the detailed scores for rodeo competitors to access.

“There is an automated process in the scoring algorithm which improperly assigned a median score for an event,” said Maj. Gen. Frederick H. Martin, director of operations at AMC headquarters and rodeo commander.

“This program error was not found in testing,” he continued. “All manual scoring processes were triple checked; however, there was not a final check for one critical portion of the automated scoring process.”

The error was isolated to the C-17 and C-130 Container Delivery System airdrop scores. No international team awards were affected.

Rodeo is the Air Force’s and Air Mobility Command’s premier air-mobility competition. The competition held the last week of July at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., draws the “best of the best” from air forces around the world.

TOP STORY > >Flood deadline for aid Monday

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville residents interested in having FEMA buy or raise their flood-ravaged homes need to contact the mayor’s office Monday morning to be included in a packet the city is sending to the federal agency.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said his office will do everything it can for people who are still suffering from the aftermath of May’s storms, but there is no guarantee FEMA will help because the agency has limited resources.

FEMA pays 75 percent of the cost for buyouts that are approved. The other 25 percent has to come from state or local agencies, but the city can’t foot the bill because it doesn’t have enough money to do that, Fletcher said.

The other option is raising the foundation of a house, but that sometimes costs more than homes are worth.

He emphasized that priority is given to worst-case scenarios. The pool of money can only be stretched so far and the number of applicants are already double the amount FEMA can help.

Michelle Dutasaca, a resident of Westwood subdivision off Marshall Road, said the mayor’s office has been very responsive in providing information on what she can do about her home, which also flooded in 2005.

She said her neighborhood has had problems with drainage, but it’s been difficult to get residents to organize into a group so they be heard.

FEMA hasn’t followed up with one of her neighbors and the Red Cross hasn’t helped, Dutasaca said. “This has to move beyond the mayor…it (flooding) hurts the whole neighborhood,” she said.

Fletcher said he hasn’t heard much from other Westwood residents. He said those he has gotten in touch with aren’t interested in a buyout because they don’t want to leave the homes they’ve become accustomed to or they don’t want to lose what they’ve put into the houses.

As for drainage problem, he added, “We work on our ditches constantly. But we’ve only got a limited amount of money each year to set aside for those projects and it never goes far enough.”

The flooding issue is a regional — not a city — problem and the problem starts upstream, Fletcher said. Geographically, the city is a bowl and water from Bayou Meto, especially parts that aren’t in areas incorporated and maintained, backs up in Jacksonville.

Bayou Meto is about 105 miles of running water that moves slowly already because of the winding path it cuts before it empties into the Arkansas River. Beavers build dams in those unincorporated areas that slow the flow down even more.

Jacksonville has a beaver contract to clear out dams in the city. But it can’t afford and doesn’t have the authority to deal with places outside city limits that may be causing back flow.

Fletcher added that the city hired some loggers to clean out the section of Bayou Meto that runs from the Taramount Subdivision to the freeway and that helped with some of the drainage issues the area had.

Flooding encompasses three kinds of water flow, Fletcher continued. Those are rainwater, back flow from Bayou Meto and water from communities north of the city. Some water from Vilonia, for example, ends up on Westwood properties.

Many Jacksonville residents have blamed Waste Management’s Two Pine Landfill for causing the recent floods. But Fletcher said there were floods in Jacksonville before the landfill was built. He said City Engineer Jay Whisker found documentation of flooding in 1968 and 1969 that mirrors the flooding of the past few years.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) is organizing a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and Jacksonville and Sherwood city officials. But Fletcher said he didn’t know the details yet or whether North Little Rock will also be represented. Griffin said, “I believe the Corps should study this problem, and I will continue to work with the Corps to find a solution for the flooding.”

TOP STORY > >JPs vote to apply for state funding

Leader staff writer

Despite fierce opposition, the Lonoke County Quorum Court passed a resolution of support Thursday night that will allow a relatively new Cabot nonprofit organization working to prevent teen pregnancies to apply for a state grant to buy a van.

Three justices voted against it.

JP Janette Minton was the most vocal of the three who voted against the resolution that will allow Crossroad House to apply for a $25,000 state grant.

Alexis Malham and Mark Edwards also voted “no.”

Minton told mother and daughter Ophelia Mosley and Desiree Kelly that since their outreach and housing program includes advice against unprotected sex, she couldn’t support their resolution.

Abstinence is the only message that she could support because it is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and disease, Minton said.

“I know your heart is right and you’re good people, but your message is wrong,” Minton said.

Mosley responded that abstinence is a component of the state-approved program that her daughter takes into schools across the county. But birth con trol is also taught if the schools allow it.

Mosley, a veteran social worker, said anyone who had ever seen a pregnant 9-year-old would understand that teaching abstinence alone doesn’t work.

“It’s always abstinence is best – but,” Minton said.

Crossroad House got its nonprofit status in April and has a board that includes a Cabot police officer. It has room for six girls and their babies. Mosley said oftentimes young mothers in foster care can’t keep their babies because their foster parents won’t allow it.

The goal of Crossroad House is to keep young mothers together with their babies and work with them to prevent future pregnancies as well as helping them prepare to support themselves.

JP Alexis Malham told Mosley that she had checked with Cabot’s Academic Center of Excellence and no one there had heard of Crossroad House.

Pregnant girls in Cabot go to school at the center.

Mosley explained that she has only recently received notification that she will be getting her first girl.

She will contact the center about classes for the girls she takes in, but the preventative program is in the schools with younger girls, not high school age girls, she said.

“They never heard of you,” Malham said.

Mosley said in a later interview that she hadn’t contacted the center because it was too soon.

“There’s no use talking to them about girls I don’t have yet,” she said.

TOP STORY > >Pair accused in murder no strangers to legal system

Leader staff writer

The two women arrested in the the death of 74-year-old Katherine Cleary of Sherwood have been in and out of criminal court for at least a decade.

According to the Arkansas Department of Community Cor-rections, Rhonda Glassburner-Strong, 51, has been on probation since March and was to remain on probation until March 2014 for her latest brush with the law. But her laundry list of run-ins in the court system began in 2001.

Glassburner-Strong’s past convictions include about half a dozen drug offenses (the most recent for cocaine), one felony theft by receiving charge and a few counts of prostitution. Glassburner’s probations have been revoked multiple times. In fact, she was due in court on Sept. 22 for sentencing on a 2009 case involved drug charges and revocation of her probation.

The sentences for crimes committed in close proximity were also concurrent. If they had been consecutive, she would have been behind bars when Cleary went missing this week.

Also, if Glass-burner-Strong had stayed out of trouble, according to Pulaski County Court, she could have had her records sealed because of a plea bargain she agreed to.

Appearing in court around the same time was Sonia Bell, although her record is significantly lighter. Bell was charged with felony theft by receiving in 2001 but the case against her wasn’t prosecuted.

She was later convicted of two felony possession of a controlled substance offenses, one in 2003 and one in 2009. Bell was sentenced to four years, but served two in a community correction center. She has been on parole since November 2010. She was set to be released from parole in December.

Glassburner-Strong and Bell were arrested on Tuesday after detectives followed activity on Cleary’s stolen credit card to the purchase of a flat-screen television at Jacksonville’s Walmart. Store cameras taped the two women using the card.

One of the women told police they had dumped some of the victim’s belongings on Boyd Road. Investigators found Cleary’s body in a ditch there.

She had been missing since 4 a.m. Monday, when police responded to an alarm at her home, 300 Big Indian Road. Cleary and her vehicle were gone and there were not signs of forced entry.

A surveillance camera on a neighbor’s house may have captured the kidnapping, but the police are not releasing any information about that.

The women have been charged with felony theft by receiving and fraudulent use of a credit card and are being held at the Pulaski County Jail.

Police spokesman Josh Adams has said police believe there may be more individuals involved and Cleary may have known someone involved in her kidnapping and murder.

The cause of death for the 5-foot, 90-pound elderly woman has not been determined. The state Crime lab is conducting her autopsy.

Lt. Dan Kerr of the Sherwood Police Department said at least one elderly woman called to request extra patrols in her neighborhood after the incident.

Doris Anderson, who lives down the street from Cleary, said, “I’m still in a daze over it. Everybody in the neighborhood has been on edge…we should not have to sit in our homes with guns in our hands watching television. We are sleeping with guns.”

She also said she even followed an unfamiliar vehicle that was driving in the neighborhood one afternoon this week. The driver was someone looking for a house to buy.

She said that it was typical for neighbors, who treat each other like family, to keep an eye out for one another.

Anderson described her neighbor as a sweet lady who liked to garden.

“We all wish we could see Ms. Cleary in here home again, but that is a wish that will never be fulfilled,” she added.

Anderson said the police have been doing an excellent job investigating the case, but Sherwood needs more officers on the streets to stem the recent influx of crime.

“People are left to defend their own homes and their own lives the best they can. Unfortunately, Miss Cleary was unable to do so.”

SPORTS>>’Rabs season kicking off at Pine Bluff

Leader sportswriter

The first game of the high school football season could be one of the best.

The matchup between Lonoke and Star City was a thriller last year with two teams composed of similar-style athletes, and little has changed heading into the 2011 edition of the Hooten’s Kickoff Classic at Golden Lion Stadium in Pine Bluff.

Lonoke prevailed last year in a 38-29 thriller in which the Jackrabbits took advantage of multiple Bulldog turnovers to build a huge lead in the first half, only to watch Star City mount an impressive second-half comeback.

“I think we match up withthem pretty well,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “It will be a battle in the trenches – they have a lot of size at the line and so do we. So it will be a lot of big boys going up against each other. I think we’re pretty equal. The biggest difference between us at this point is that they got to have a full two-hour scrimmage and we had about 15 minutes.”

Lightning cancelled the Jackrabbits’ scrimmage against Maumelle on Monday after just two possessions for each team. But enough happened in that short period of time to give Bost an idea of what to work on.

“With the offense, a lot of it was nerves,” Bost said. “But when they can see it on film, they have a better understanding of it. Our defense, if they can come out and play like they did the other night, they can keep us in the game.”

The Bulldogs have four returning starters on the offensive line, and have most of their receivers from last year. Gone is quarterback Ty Towers and running backs Hosia Rochell and Demitri Goins, but Bost, who watched Star City scrimmage against Monticello on Tuesday night, said the running game is just as effective.

“They are a good football team,” Bost said. “They have a lot of size up front, and they have good speed at the skill positions. Their first two possessions, they had about an equal amount of passing and running, and they moved it down the field for two quick scores.”

The biggest drawback of the shortened scrimmage on Monday was virtually no touches for Lonoke’s running backs. Eric Williams, who surprised Star City last year with a late touchdown run that put the ’Rabbits back up by two scores to seal the victory, is one of four juniors who make up the Lonoke running-back corps, along with senior Keli Bryant.

Kenny Johnson, Brent Sims and Dra Offord are the other three juniors, along with junior quarterback D.J. Burton.

“I’ve been seeing them all summer,” Bost said. “They didn’t get a chance to play much the other night, but I know their speed, and I’m excited to see them get out there.

“As far as D.J., he didn’t get much of a chance to use play action, and I think that will be his strength.”

SPORTS>>Badgers’ offense rules preseason scrimmage

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badgers looked exactly like they were supposed to for the most part during a three-team scrimmage with Trumann and Harding Academy at Alumni Field/First Security Stadium in Searcy on Tuesday night.

The Badgers scored with long, sustained drives against both Wildcats defenses without any turnovers and defended the running game well, but Harding Academy used the spread-pass game to get some good hits against Beebe’s secondary.

Much like last year’s scrimmage between the three teams, Beebe and Harding Academy appeared to be closely matched while Trumann’s defense took it on the chin from both of its opponents.

“Offensively, I thought we did pretty good,” Badgers coachJohn Shannon said. “There was no big play, but we played our style of ball – three, four yard gains.

“Defensively, we were pretty good. We were very vanilla against the spread with our coverage package.”

Beebe started against the Trumann defense and scored twice in 15 plays. The first was an eight-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard run by senior halfback Jeremy Van Winkle, and the second concluded in seven plays, capped by Jay Holdway’s eight-yard run.

The Badgers did not have it quite as easy against the Harding Academy defense, but did move the ball consistently, scoring in nine plays. Sophomore fullback Eric Thorn shined during the series against the Wildcats with runs seven and eight yards before scoring with a 17-yard touchdown run down the left hash.

Stallnacker looked comfortable leading the offense, and showed off his own running abilities out of the option. Senior halfbacks Holdway and Michael Kirby had limited touches, but Thorn and Van Winkle saw plenty of action. Matt Pursell also came away with some good runs both as a halfback and second-team quarterback.

“We wanted to give everybody a look,” Shannon said. “We only ran four different plays. We already knew what Holdway and Kirby, our seniors could do. We gave Thorn some totes, and we ran plenty of option.”

Stallnacker showed a knack for misdirection, and picked up 16 yards in three option sneaks against Harding Academy’s defense.

“I thought Stallnacker did a pretty good job,” Shannon said. “He had a bad pitch there early, but he settled down after that.”

The first part of the scrimmage consisted of each offense on the field for 15 plays against an opposing defense starting at their own 30-yard line. If the offense turned the ball over either in play or on downs, they started over from the 30.

The second part was a goal line drill in which the offense was given eight plays from their opponent’s 10-yard line.

Beebe scored five times in eight plays in their goal line drill against the Trumann defense. Stallnacker took it all the way in on the first play, Thorn scored from five yards out on the second play and Holdway took the 10-yard distance on the following play.

Senior reserve halfback Rory Moore punched it in from a yard out on the sixth play and Thorn wrapped up the session with another score—this one a two-yard touchdown run.

“I was pleased with the running backs,” Shannon said. “The line did a pretty good job, but we’re going to have to get a lot better.”

Although overall pleased, Shannon still found areas in need of improvement.

“We pretty much saw what we were expecting to see,” Shannon said. “The sophomores looked good at times. Other times they looked like sophomores. We just have to get back and continue to work hard.”

SPORTS>>Season opener rematch for Bears

Leader sportswriter

The days of coaches boasting about how their team should have the advantage are over.

The case of Vilonia coach Jim Stanley and Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow is proof of that as the two prepare their respective teams for the season opener at War Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Eagles defeated the Bears handily in last year’s opener 42-14 in a game that saw Sylvan Hills hang in there for a half before Vilonia took control late.

“We got to watch their blue-white game,” Stanley said. “They’re big. They’re bigger, faster – a lot better than they were last year.

“We’ve got a long way to go. We’re missing assignments, just still have a lot of improving to do. We have a couple of returning starters, the rest are sophomores and juniors,” Stanley said.

One of those returning starters for Vilonia is four-star senior running back James Sax. Sax, at 6-1, 212 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.53, is one of the most heavily recruited backs in the state. Sax did not have his way against the Bears last year, but did contribute with an early 27-yard touchdown run.

“I don’t know that you stop him. You just have to see if you can slow him down some,” Withrow said. “You have to know where he is at all times, and you have to make sure you tackle him when you get to him. If he starts breaking tackles, it could be a bad night for us.”

As impressed as Stanley was with Sylvan Hills during its scrimmage, Withrow thought the same of the Eagles in their scrimmage against Marion.

“We watched their scrimmage,” Withrow said. “They looked like a good, hard-nosed football team. James Sax is a stud, and the quarterback did a good job leading the offense.”

Although realistically the two teams have many of the same obstacles to overcome in terms of inexperience and depth, Stanley sees Withrow’s group as having a leg up heading into Tuesday.

“Last year, we were a pretty experienced team,” Stanley said. “That was a good ball team. It’s kind of like a reversal of roles this year. This year, he’s got the experienced team. They’re big and they’re fast, and that’s a scary thing in football.”

Withrow is not as confident as Stanley thinks he should be, but he does like his team’s chances a little better than last year.

“To an extent,” Withrow said. “We don’t have as many guys who never played in a football game like we did last year. Last year, it was almost like we had to piece together a team. Yeah, we’re still young this year, but we’re laying the foundation for success down the road.”

The Eagles beat Marion 27-23 in their scrimmage Tuesday, but Stanley saw plenty of things that made him nervous.

“We’re still trying to get guys lined up in the right spot,” he said. “I mean, there are plenty of things for us to improve on. When we looked at the film and graded everybody out, we realized how far we’ve got to go. I was proud of them in our scrimmage. We have about five or six sophomores starting, and they played hard against a good, quality team.”

The Bears started several seniors last year, but most of them had seen little playing time prior to the start of the season.

“I think we had that false sense of having a few more seniors last year,” Withrow said. “A lot of people felt like we started a bunch of new people last year, and just assumed we would have them back this year. But that’s not the case. The kids we have now, we can build something with. They’re good athletes.”

SPORTS>>Panther ladies starting on track

Leader sports editor 

The Lady Panthers got the volleyball season under way with a tri-match split against Morrilton and Lonoke on Tuesday. The three teams convened at Cabot High School to play a pair of best-of-three matches. The Lady Panthers lost the opener to Morrilton 30-32, 25-23 and 25-17. Later, they beat Lonoke 25-14 and 25-16. Morrilton also swept Lonoke and left with a 2-0 record.

On Thursday, the Cabot ladies hosted Batesville and lost a lengthy, hard-fought match in five games. Scores in that one were 25-15, 22-25, 25-23, 21-25 and 7-15.

Cabot coach Deanne Campbell is being patient with her young, sophomore-laden team, and saw good things from the first week of play.

“They’re playing hard and they’re doing a good job of keeping the ball alive,” Campbellsaid. “That’s what we’ve worked hard on, was not making mistakes. We’ve had a lot of long volleys because we’ve done well at the things we’ve worked. We now have to take that and get better.”

One of the areas that can improve is Cabot’s service game. The Lady Panthers only missed three serves the entire five-game match against Batesville, but didn’t put the Lady Pioneers on the defensive with the service game.

“Again, we’re young and we’ve worked extensively on getting the serve in,” Campbell said. “Now we have to take that and start serving tougher. Now we need to get more aggressive with our serves.”

While keeping the volleys alive is a good thing. Campbell would also like to see her squad do more to try and end them.

“We’ve done great at not making mistakes,” Campbell said. “But now we need to start trying to score our own points instead of waiting for our opponent to make a mistake.”

Campbell is confident her team can make those adjustments and execute the next step of the plan, because in the first three matches, it has executed the things she has been teaching.

“They’ve have done really well at the things we’ve worked on,” Campbell said. “They know where they’re supposed to be and how to get where they need to be. I see them doing all the things we’ve worked on up to this point. They’re just young, and we’re a team that’s still learning. But I’m very pleased so far with how they’ve responded to everything we’ve been teaching them.”

Game experience is what Campbell believes will be the key to improving the aggressiveness on the court.

“Right now I think they’re still thinking a lot out there,” Campbell said. “They’re doing all the things we’ve asked of them, but they’re still having to think about it. Just getting game experience and getting older is going to help that. They’re going to get more comfortable out there and not have to think about those things as much, and then they can focus on the aggressiveness.”

Cabot’s next match is a rematch with Morrilton on the road next Tuesday.


Leader sports editor

The towns are abuzz, the press conference is over and practice sessions are honed in from general improvement to opponent-specific strategy. The 2011 football season is about to begin, and it starts with central Arkansas’ biggest rivalry north of the river. Tuesday night, Cabot and Jacksonville face off at Panther Stadium in what has been dubbed the Backyard Brawl, as the two teams battle for the traveling trophy that goes home with the winner of this 35-plus-year rivalry game.

Cabot has owned the series in recent years, winning the last four in a row, as well as 13 of the last 15 matchups. Jacksonville won two consecutive in 2005 and 2006, and won both with relative ease.

Cabot won 28-7 last season, but the game was more competitive than the score indicates.

That fact is not lost either coach this year, and many suspect this may be one of the fiercest, most competitive and best-contested Cabot-Jacksonville matchups in many years.

“They played us really good last year and they have a lot back,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “They have about all their skill people back and they have some athletes. I think they’re better this year and I know they’re expecting to be better. We’re going to have to be ready to play every play because they’re coming in here to do one thing, and that’s win this ball game.”

Cabot will still have a slight size advantage and a huge depth advantage. Jacksonville will have the advantage in speed and experience. The Red Devils have very few key players with no experience, while Cabot will be playing seven sophomores in significant roles.

Cabot will start three newcomers in the secondary and four on the offensive line.

“The lineman have gotten better,” Malham said of his offensive sophomores. They’re the best we’ve got, that’s what they’re starting. I think they’re going to be real, real good, but not yet. They’ve got decent size, can move pretty good and they’re pretty aggressive. They just have to learn. Hopefully they’ll learn fast.”

Jacksonville coach Rick Russell doesn’t think Cabot’s youngsters will be that much of a disadvantage for the host team.

“They’re just like always,” Russell said. “Those kids start learning that system in seventh grade and very little changes about it. It’s a methodical offense. They know what they’re running and they run it really, really well. Their players are always extremely sound in their technique, and we’re going to have to match that.”

Jacksonville coaches were present at Lake Hamilton when the Wolves threw four long touchdown passes against Cabot’s young secondary in last week’s scrimmage game.

Jacksonville has its own strong-armed quarterback and a stable of speedy receivers. It hopes it can have the same kind of success on Tuesday.

“We feel like we have some receivers that can get in some space,” Russell said. “We’re just going to have to be able to hit them.”

Malham knows stopping the pass will be a big key to beating Jacksonville.

“We got back here, and we got to work on the mistakes,” Malham said. “We just have three young ones back there. Hopefully we did a lot of growing. Their receivers are big and fast. Their quarterback is about 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and can throw the heck out of it. It’s going to be tough.”

Cabot doesn’t expect Jack-sonville’s new offense to present any challenges it hasn’t already faced. He’s mainly worried about the athletes who will be running that new offense.

“It’s not nothing we haven’t seen,” Malham said. “They’re going to do some one-back, some two-back, go out of the pistol like Har-Ber does. They’re going to run a little wing-T out of the shotgun. It’s going to be a good test. We’re just going to see if we can adjust in the act.”

Even with all the different factors playing into this year’s game. Both coaches have simple ideas on where the key to victory lies.

“We’re going to have to play smart, take care of the football and get it in the hands of our playmakers in space,” Russell said.
“Our best chance is to hang onto the ball,” Malham said, “to not let them have a lot of snaps. We don’t have the speed they have. We need to limit their opportunities as much as we can.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Don’t stick us with vouchers

The Heritage Foundation put on a good show at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock Monday for supporters of private education. Only about 50 people, who included a few curious critics, were on hand, but that belies the success of the venture. This was the beginning of a big push to change Arkansas law in 2013 to divert millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools, and the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette gave them half a page of coverage.

That is not a bad thing. Arkansans need to beware these siren calls for “educational reform” and it is good to be forewarned.

The Heritage Foundation brought in Rod Paige, President Bush’s first education secretary and the principal author of No Child Left Behind, the omnibus school-reform law that was supposed to do miracles for the nation’s children but is now almost universally acknowledged to be the biggest bust in educational history.

He was accompanied by a Heritage Foundation scholar and Virginia Walden Ford, a champion of public vouchers for private education and tax credits for private-school scholarship donors.

She was supposed to have credibility because she is an African-American graduate of Little Rock’s Central High School. (See, even black people are for private education!)

All three said the public schools tended to be no good because they were protected from competition. Schools, like everything else in society, are better if there is competition, Paige said. He instituted competition into the Houston public schools when he was superintendent, and the Houston Miracle propelled him to the top school job in the country. After he left, they discovered that massive cheating had elevated the Houston schools’ magical test scores. Teachers admitted artificially raising test scores, for which they received cash bonuses from the administration.

Paige and Ford remarked upon the superiority of charter and private schools, although the preponderant research has shown that private and charter schools do no better and often much worse when you screen students for family wealth and the education levels of their parents. Paige understandably singled out the KIPP schools, where strict regimens for students and parents have produced extraordinary achievement by poor children.

But vouchers and tax credits for scholarships? The legislature now would not pass such crippling laws, but in 2013 that may be possible with a significant Republican majority.

Beware of who would pay and who would lose. With vouchers, the taxpayers would pick up the lion’s share of the cost of private schools everywhere, and the public schools’ treasuries would shrink by that sum.

Tax credits for private-school scholarships sound harmless, but remember that these are tax credits, not mere deductions, so the state would be funding the scholarships. Everything that is labeled reform is not good.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

TOP STORY >> Arkansas children still suffer more

Leader staff writer

Even though substantial improvements were made to the lives of Arkansas teens, the state only moved up one position — 47th — for overall child well-being this year, according to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book.

Factors that showed gains in the lives of teens statewide included more teens in school and graduating, fewer “idle” teens and fewer teenage births.

The state jumped one place in its ranking on teenage births. The percent of teenage dropouts fell from 9 percent in 2008 to 7 percent for 2009. The number of “idle” teens, those not in school and not working, dropped two points from 10 percent in 2008.

Some of the indicators that determine the overall child well-being ranking are overall child poverty (27 percent for the state), the percentage of children in single-parent families, teenage births, low birth-weight babies, infant mortality rate, child death rate and teenage death rate.

Another indicator of child well-being is the number of children who receive free and reduced lunches at local schools. In the Pulaski County Special School District, 7,843 (44 percent) students received free lunch and 1,653 (9 percent) had reduced lunches during the second nine weeks of the 2010-11 school year.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Cabot School District had 3,633 students — 37.5 percent — eligible for free or reduced lunch for the 2009-10 school year. The Beebe School District had 1,521 — 47.7 percent for the same year.

Tara Manthey, communications director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said poverty was the most influential factor in the child well-being ranking for Arkansas.

“We will always have a low ranking in overall child well-being until we address poverty on different levels,” she said.

Manthey added that her organization would like to see individual cities fund high-quality after-school programs and see that children who eligible for services like ARkids and Arkansas Better Chance Preschool Program are actually receiving those services.

Arkansas could also address poverty by instituting an earned income tax credit modeled after the federal credit that helps working families pay for shelter and other things, she continued.

The most recent statistics for county-specific figures were recorded in 2009 and are available through the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families website, at

In Pulaski County, 23,681 (25.4 percent) children under 18 lived in poverty and 43.5 percent were in single-parent families.

The county had about the same as the state average 27 percent for child poverty and was a little higher than the state average of 38 percent for single-parent families.

In Lonoke County, 3,284 (18.3 percent) children under 18 lived in poverty and 30.8 percent were in single-parent families. Both were between eight and 10 points lower than the state average.

In White County, 4,088 children under 18 (22.5 percent) lived in poverty and 33.4 percent were in single-parent families. Both were within about five points of the state average.

Other figures are measured in rates per 100,000.

In Pulaski County, the rates were 58.5 for teenage births, 10.6 for low birth weight babies, 7.6 for infant mortality, 22.8 for child (ages 1 to 14) deaths and 79.9 for teenage (ages 15 to 19) deaths.

The rates were within 0.3 to 2 points of the state averages of 59 for teenage births, 8.9 for low weight babies, 7.3 for infant mortality and 22.1 for child deaths. The county’s rate for teenage deaths was more than 10 points higher than the state average of 63.7.

In Lonoke County, the rates were 45.7 for teenage births, 7.5 for low-birth weight babies, 6.7 for infant mortality, 21.2 for child deaths and 43.5 for teenage deaths. The rate for teenage births was more than 10 points lower than the state average and the teenage death rate was about 20 points lower than the state average. The other rates were within a few points of the state figures.

In White County, the rates were 54.3 for teenage births, 6.8 for low-birth weight babies, 6.8 for infant mortality, 34.8 for child deaths and 33.3 for teenage deaths. The county’s rates were a few points lower in most of the rates compared to the state averages.

The county’s rate for teenage deaths was about half that of the state and its rate for child deaths was about 10 points higher than the state’s rate.

New statistics on child deaths, teen deaths and infant mortality were delayed this year, so the state’s ranking in those areas is the same as last year. Several child-safety laws passed in the last few years may have a positive impact on those.

All three counties had a lower percentage of children living in poverty than the state average. Lonoke and White counties had a lower percentage of children who were in single-parent families compared to the state figure.

EDITORIAL >> 'Bundled care’ makes sense

If all goes well, Arkansas is about to save a bundle of money in its giant Medicaid program, and many of the 770,000 Arkansans who patronize it will get better medical treatment, too. As we said, if all goes well. . .

A few ideas that sound good do not function well in application, but Gov. Beebe nevertheless deserves credit for trying it. It is called “bundled care,” and it is among the many little-known features of the much-maligned Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, more derisively known as “Obamacare.”

Congress could not bring itself to mandate some of the ideas for controlling the mushrooming cost of health care in America because of opposition from insurers or medical-provider groups, so it tossed a number of them out as pilot projects. States or other entities if they liked can experiment with the concepts, and if they work, the rest of the health-insurance system, including Medicare, Medicaid, veterans insurance and commercial networks, might embrace them at some future date. If they don’t work, they can be tossed aside with negligible harm.

Bundled care was an option for states to take in funding their Medicaid hospitalization and physician-care programs for indigents and children. Like every other state, Arkansas is struggling to pay for its Medicaid services, although the federal government pays nearly 78 percent of the costs, one of the highest shares in the country. Tidy payments from federal stimulus funds have kept the state’s Medicaid program shored up, but now that the stimulus funds are exhausted, the state faces the prospect of either raising more money for Medicaid (read “taxes”) or making serious cuts in benefits or reimbursement. When his Medicaid director suggested taking Washington up on the Affordable Care Act deal last year, Beebe jumped at it—that is, after a thoughtful spell.

Monday, Beebe said he has no guarantee that bundled care will work—that is, save money and improve treatment—“but you have to try.”

Now, when a patient gets a heart bypass, gallbladder surgery or whatever, all the providers—surgeons, anesthesiologists, other specialists, the hospital and therapists—separately bill the patient and his insurers. Under bundled care, the insurer—in this case Medicaid and its administrator—will pay a single sum for the whole episode of treatment. The payment will be distributed among the providers. It also requires collaboration on the treatment, including aftercare. The idea is that the patient and third-party payer will obtain economies of scale and the patient will be assured coordinated treatment. All the providers will avoid needless procedures and expenses and the prospect of a relapse because their own incomes depend upon it.

It is not exactly a stab in the dark. Some of the leading health-care institutions in the country have implemented bundled care in small doses with good results. A Medicare bundled-payment demonstration project for heart-bypass surgeries saved about $42.3 million, about 10 percent of the expected costs, and patients saved $7.9 million in coinsurance. The coordinated aftercare saved returns to the hospital and lowered the mortality rate.

President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services decided that the concept was so promising that it is now pushing the idea to be tried on a bigger scale than in the few brave states like Arkansas that are experimenting with it on a limited scale with their Medicaid programs.

Revamping the payment system will not be without controversy or resistance, particularly among specialty providers of care. It may mean reduced income, and many doctors already refuse Medicaid patients owing to Medicaid’s lower reimbursement rates. The Beebe administration has hired the giant global business consulting firm of McKinsey and Co. to design the payment system. It will get $3 million for the job. If they do it well, it will be worth the money. If it does not function well, Beebe will hear a lot more about it. For now, he gets good marks for trying.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke-White water project back on again

Leader staff writer

The on-again, off-again funding for the almost two-decade-old Lonoke-White Water Project appears to be on again.

The board that runs the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority approved during a special meeting Tuesday six resolutions that essentially show the agencies that are expected to provide the funds that they are serious about building their treatment plant and water line to bring water to the area from Greers Ferry Lake, and they will have enough revenue from the sale of the water to repay the funds.

Dave Fenter, finance manager with Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which might provide about half the funding for the $50 million project, said after meeting that the important thing for the public to know is that the funding isn’t certain. But he said the governor has looked over the project and so has Randy Young, the head of ARNC, and it looks good to them.

The cities and water associations that are part of the project include Jacksonville, Ward, North Pulaski Water, Beebe, Austin, Furlow, Grand Prairie Bayou Two and Vilonia.

There are still several conditions that the members of the project must meet before the agreements can be signed but the members know what those conditions are and they are sure they can meet them, Fenter said.

The public also should know that if the funding goes through, the project won’t get started until possibly spring of 2012.

ARNC’s attempts to fund the project in the past have failed because the money was to have come from the Environmental Protection Agency. And federal EPA money can’t be used for projects where the need is not immediate. The water associations and cities that will benefit from the Lonoke-White Project have enough water for their immediate needs. The project is to take care of growth and to conserve ground water.

The $25 million or so that will be ARNC’s part of the funding will come from bonds backed by the state.

“The EPA is not involved,” said Woody Bryant, the project director for Lonoke-White Public Water Authority.

But another federal agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, is expected to provide almost $25 million for the project.

Ricky Carter, with USDA, told the LWPWA board that his earliest correspondence about the project was almost 20 years old. It’s a good project that is worthy of funding, he said. But he also said that funding isn’t certain. There has been a misunderstanding between his office and the office in Washington that must be resolved.

To ensure that the money is repaid, the Washington office wanted many of the contracts for purchasing water elsewhere voided. Carter said not only is that not possible financially, it’s not practical. The Lonoke-White Project is permitted through the U.S. Corps of Engineers to take from the lake only 4.4 million gallons and the combined usage of all members is about 10 million gallons a day.

When the project is completed, it will provide about 36 percent of the water used by members, Carter said. Member wells will provide 32 percent and 32 percent will be purchased elsewhere.

Carter said he had hoped to hear from Washington by the Tuesday meeting that the confusion had been cleared up. No answer came, but told the LWPWA board, “The longer it takes, the better it looks.”

TOP STORY >> State won’t rescue cities like schools

Leader executive editor

Cities across Arkansas are going broke in the double-dip recession. Alexander down in Saline County is questioning a former bookkeeper about shortages in two city funds.

Even a well-run city like Jacksonville had to dip into its reserves to balance its books.

It gets much worse elsewhere in Arkansas.

The phones at Gould City Hall were disconnected last week. No one answered the phone at the police department or at the ambulance service.

Gould is named after the 19th Century railroad robber-baron Jay Gould. No wonder the town is broke.

We asked the governor’s office if the state might take over the financially distressed town, the way the Education Department took over the troubled Pulaski County and Helena-West Helena school districts.

The answer is a definite no.

“We hadn’t found a statute regarding municipalities that was similar to what you had referred to regarding school districts,” Matt DeCample, the governor’s spokesman, told us.

The public schools closed in Gould seven years ago. Students go to nearby Dumas and Star City.

Gould (population 1,100) has no tax base to speak of, so it can’t afford public schools even with support from the state.

Gould has a gas station-convenience store and a clinic, which is run by the Daughters of Charity, a Catholic order of nuns.

The library is open twice a week. The summer reading program offered kids cake and juice. People go there mostly to use the computers and just to cool off.

The air conditioning is turned off for part of the day to save money. A recent storm blew part of the roof off and buckets around the library catch the water when it rains.

The Southeast Arkansas Regional Library runs the library in Gould, so it’s not bankrupt like the city, but it’s not exactly flush with cash either.

Speeding tickets helped keep the town afloat, but a state law put a limit on how much money towns could make off traffic tickets.

It was easy money, some of it probably going into officials’ pockets, especially if the fines were paid in cash: A cop making $15 an hour can bring in 20 times that much in fines.

But, like the rest of the economy, business isn’t what it used to be — not since the legislature told communities they must find more honorable ways to fund their budgets.

After losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from speeding tickets, Gould went broke. The IRS filed liens against the city. Most suppliers want cash on delivery.

The city council made worldwide headlines when it passed ordinances banning groups from gathering in Gould.

Maybe because of its financial problems, Gould’s city council went off the rails last month and passed ordinances meant to supercede the U.S. and state constitutions. Residents couldn’t form new organizations or meet in groups without the city’s approval.

The council was acting like the Taliban. They stopped short of telling the women to cover their faces, but the town’s residents were scared.

A couple of hardliners even beat up the mayor.

Residents were afraid to speak out, but the newly elected mayor is outspoken and says he’ll clean up the town.

Mayor Earnest Nash Jr., who was allegedly attacked by relatives of a council member, says both he and the town will recover. He’s doing fine now, but he was pistol-whipped last month by a couple of thugs who have now been indicted for assaulting the mayor.

They were mad at Nash for opposing a couple of ordinances that banned any new organizations in town or groups holding meetings. You couldn’t form a new church or hold a prayer meeting without council approval.

The mayor thought the ordinances were crazy and unconstitutional.

The ordinances have since been repealed. A lawyer for the Arkansas Municipal League says the town needs a city attorney who could teach them about the finer points of constitutional law.

Nash, who is an Army National Guard veteran and a preacher, says he will not be intimidated.

“They’re not going to scare me off,” he told us recently. “They can’t stop me from meeting with my constituents.”

Gould is broke, and so is Alexander. There will be many others. But unlike the failed public schools, these cities will flounder on their own. No state rescue is in the cards for them.

SPORTS >> Rabbits, Hornets cut short

Leader sportswriter

Mother Nature got her fill of high-school football scrimmages rather quickly on Monday.

And in the case of the benefit game between Lonoke and Maumelle at James B. Abraham Field, she didn’t even allow anyone to score before it was called just 15 minutes after the start due to dangerous lightning in the area. Stormy weather had already left its mark on the stadium after a lightning strike two weeks earlier knocked out the entire visitors’ side lighting.

That put a rush on getting through Monday’s scrimmage, but with dark clouds and lightning approaching fast out of the northeast, the Jackrabbits were left with the ball on the Hornets’ 1-yard-line.

It was only the team’s second possession after its first attempt on offense went three and out.

But in that short time, junior quarterback D.J. Burton was able to show off his scrambling ability.

Lonoke’s defense also looked good in its brief time on the field, ending Maumelle’s first drive with no yards allowed, and an interception by junior safety Kenny Johnson to end the Hornets’ second possession.

“I was pleased with the way the defense came out,” Lonoke head coach Doug Bost said. “They had energy – running around, talking – all the stuff we want to see on defense. They had a couple of big pops, so that looked good right there.

“Offense, we just couldn’t really get in a rhythm I guess you could say. We had the ball there on the 1. We really needed to punch that in, but that’s when they called the game. Ten plays is probably what we ran, so we’ll look at the film tomorrow. We’ll try to learn from it and get ready for next week.”

Burton and the Lonoke offense looked shaky on their first possession with a fumbled snap on first down and an incomplete pass that was close to being a fumbled lateral on second down, but faced with a third down and 15, Burton was able to break away on the left side for a nine-yard gain. They went for a pass on fourth down but fell short.

Burton went for another run during the second possession on third and 20, picking up 24 yards to set the ’Rabbits up with a first-and-goal at the Maumelle 10-yard line.

“That’s D.J.’s first time ever playing quarterback in a real game situation,” Bost said. “I think he had a little bit of nerves. He fumbled that first snap and then went the wrong way on another play. But he settled down and started making some good reads on the veer, and he had some big runs for us.”

Burton also caught a break when his intercepted pass was called back on a penalty for roughing the passer.

The teams were sent back to their locker rooms while fans set up to wait out the delay in front of the concession area, but the lightning strikes became closer and more frequent, leaving officials no choice but to call it a game a little after 7:30.

“It’s disappointing, because we needed to go up against a good team to see where we are and get us ready for next week,” Bost said. “But we don’t have any control over that.”

The Jackrabbits will open the 2011 high-school football season on Monday when they take on Star City in the first game of the Hootens’ Kickoff Classic at Golden Lion Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

SPORTS >> Cabot gives up big play, but moves ball at Lake Hamilton

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers visited Lake Hamilton Monday night for their annual Arkansas Activities Association’s benefit game against the Wolves. Offensively it wasn’t that bad.

Defensively, the Panthers were beat over the top four times for long touchdown passes. Outside of the four big pass plays, the Cabot defense played well. Each team’s first string ran 60 plays, and Lake Hamilton averaged very few yards per play on 56 of them. It was the other four that had head coach Mike Malham concerned.

“That did not go like we wanted it to go,” Malham said. “The big concern is giving up the big plays with that youth in the secondary. We only have one senior back there and the rest are brand new.”

The scrimmage was broken up into the 15-play series for each starting rotation. The starters played four series apiece. Cabot’s first possession was a patented Panther drive, using all 15 plays and scoring on the final play.

The Wolves scored twice in their first 15 plays. Through the rest of the starters’ 15-play series, Lake Hamilton scored two more times and Cabot failed to get in.

After the regular series, each team took two red-zone possessions. Cabot did much better near the goal line, scoring on both of its possessions while keeping the Wolves from scoring.

“I thought we got a little better as it went on,” Malham said. “That’s why we play these games, to get some experience for the young kids to feel more comfortable. Some of them get out there for the first time when it really counts and it’s like tunnel vision. The more they do it the better they’re going to get.”

Cabot proved its depth was much better than its host when the second teams took the field. The Panther backups scored on every possession but the very last, while not allowing Lake Hamilton much of anything offensively.

“Our seconds wore ‘em out,” Malham said. “We’re deeper than they are and our seconds did really well.”

Cabot will play its annual Red-White intrasquad scrimmage game this Friday night. Starters will see very limited action in that game as the team prepares to host Jacksonville in the season opener on Tuesday night at Panther Stadium.

SPORTS >> Devils battle hard in scrimmage

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils played their annual Red-White game Saturday night at Jan Crow Stadium. Second-year coach Rick Russell split his team up evenly, with an equal amount of starters on each side.

The Red team featured starting quarterback Tirrell Brown, who impressed the coach with a pair of deep passes.

The main offensive highlight was a deep pass over the top to junior tight end Brandon Brockman. Brockman was double covered but had gotten behind the defensive secondary. Brown’s pass fell right into his hands over the outside shoulder in stride.

“He made some really good passes,” Russell said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He’s got to handle the pressure a little better, but I was very pleased with his overall play.”

Russell said the thing that pleased him the most was the competitiveness of the game.

“The way they competed through the conditions,” Russell said. “It was hot. We were proud of how they went out there and competed hard in that kind of heat and humidity. It gave us some of experience fighting through the fatigue that we’re going to need.”

Besides a few big pass plays and one or two good runs of 15 yards or so, it was the defenses on both sides that seemed to win most of the battles throughout the scrimmage.

“We were really pleased with how the defense ran to the football,” Russell said. “They played good technique, they got in the correct position, and then they made the tackles they needed to make. I think they only missed three or four tackles all night long, with our first stringers.”

Senior linebacker Demerio Williams was all over the field defensively. He was winded towards the end of the game, but he still impressed Russell.

“He was very aggressive and really got after it defensively,” Russell said. “He needs to get in better shape because he’s going to play both ways for us, but he did a great job.”

The main problem in the game was footballs on the ground. Several snaps went awry and starting running back Kevin Richardson fumbled three times.

“We need to work on securing the football,” Russell said. “You got to get the snap to get the play started. We’re in a modified shotgun right now and it’s taking a while to get used to that and the rhythm of the ball being a little closer than normal. I was disappointed in that.”

Russell has a plan to help remedy the problem.

“We’ve been keeping our centers and quarterbacks after practice and snapping 30 or 40 balls,” Russell said. “Well that’s not enough. Now we’re keeping them to snap 60 to 100 balls because we have to get that corrected.”

Jacksonville got its first real look at how its starters handle game situations last night in the Arkansas Activities Association’s benefit scrimmage game against Mills. Look for a recap of that game, plus a preview of the Backyard Brawl season opener at Cabot in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.