Saturday, October 22, 2011

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits get revenge on Trojans

Leader sportswriter

D.J. Burton won the battle of the scrambling quarterbacks over Marianna’s Joshua Smith as Lonoke held on to defeat Marianna 34-24 at James B. Abraham Stadium on Friday.

Burton led Lonoke’s rushing attack with 18 carries for 130 and three touchdowns, and completed 7 of 14 pass attempts for another 129 yards and a score. Smith, the Trojans’ 6-4, 190-pound senior stud, rushed 16 times for 79 yards and was 8 of 19 passing for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

The two quarterbacks generated a majority of the offensive highlights, but it was Lonoke’s secondary that made the biggest difference in the margin. The Jackrabbits (3-5, 3-2) intercepted Smith three times, including one pick by Burton in the final minute of the first half that led to a Lonoke score that gave the ’Rabbits a 13-12 lead at halftime.

“They had some big hits, and they knocked some balls down,” Jackrabbit coach Doug Bost said of his secondary. “That quarterback can throw it 50 yards off his back foot, so they did a good job.

“We heard last week that he had 200 yards just scrambling around, so we knew that was a good athlete and it showed tonight. He gave us some problems, but we stopped him when we needed to.”

Senior defensive end Austin Rowton put a stop to Marianna’s late scare when he tipped a Smith pass and pulled down the interception to set Lonoke up first-and-10 at the Trojan 21 yard line with a 27-24 lead and 2:06 left to play.

That led to Burton’s two-yard touchdown scramble with 44 seconds remaining. T.J. Scott set the final margin with his successful point-after kick.

Lonoke seized momentum to start the second half when it took its opening drive 79 yards in seven plays.

Blake Mack pulled down a pass from Burton on third and 14 to keep the chains moving early in the drive, and Burton ran for two more first downs. That set up a 42-yard touchdown pass play from Burton to Mack, who caught the ball in the middle of the field and broke right, shaking a final defender at the 2-yard line before diving into the end zone with 9:16 remaining in the third quarter.

A successful two-point conversion pass from Burton to Styver Hamric made it 21-12.

The Jackrabbits denied possession for Marianna on the ensuing kickoff when Brent Sims pulled down Scott’s onside kick at midfield. Lonoke capitalized on the opportunity with a 24-yard run by junior running back Eric Williams that set the ’Rabbits up with first-and-goal from the Marianna 2-yard line. It took Bryant just one play to punch it in and give Lonoke a 27-12 lead.

The Trojans (1-6-1, 1-4) pulled themselves back into contention at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth with a seven play, 57-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown run down the left side, cutting the gap to 27-18.

Marianna forced Lonoke’s offense off after three plays, and took over deep at its own 15-yard line. From there, the Trojans went 85 yards in 14 plays, and got help from a pass-interference call against Lonoke to set them up with a first down at the ’Rabbit 11-yard line.

Marianna scored on an 8-yard pass play to cut the score to 27-24, and forced Lonoke backward on its ensuing possession. The Trojans were set up to go on a game-winning drive at their own 31-yard line with 2:47 left on the clock and all three of their timeouts.

“They played all four quarters tonight,” Bost said. “They haven’t been doing that early, and they had to play right up to the end there.”

Burton drew first blood for Lonoke with a 50-yard touchdown scramble with 2:52 remaining in the first quarter. Smith answered for the Trojans with a 23-yard touchdown run that tied the game with 9:56 left to play in the half.

Marianna took a 12-6 lead when Smith completed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Noel at the 2:40 mark of the second quarter before Burton busted through from a yard out in the final 18 seconds to tie for Lonoke, and Scott added the extra point.

Lonoke had 302 total yards to Marianna’s 293.

The Jackrabbits will host Stuttgart next week.

SPORTS>>Freshmen Devils still eyeing title

Leader sports editor 

The freshmen Red Devil defense has dominated much of the year, and it came up with its biggest stop of the season on Thursday. Previously undefeated White Hall went for two after scoring late in the fourth quarter. A successful conversion would’ve put the Bulldogs up 15-14, but the Red Devil defense stuffed the play to help secure a 14-13 win and keep hope alive for a shot at the River City Conference championship.

“Defense has carried us all year,” Jacksonville coach Max Hatfield said. “They played lights out, and they won with heart last night. We left a lot of points out on the field, but they made up for it with their determination, their heart and good attitudes.”

There was still 2:54 left on the clock after the Bulldog touchdown, and they had no timeouts remaining. But the Red Devils gave the ball right back.

On first down from midfield, a screen pass was intercepted by a Bulldog interior lineman, who was brought down at the Jacksonville 45-yard line.

“That was a miscommunication,” Hatfield said. “We didn’t have a pass play called with the lead and them with no timeouts. We talked pretty earnestly about what to do next time we’re in that situation and you’re not sure of the play. We know next time to call a timeout.”

It turned out to not be a crucial mistake. The Red Devil defense did its job again, actually moving White Hall backwards 10 yards before taking over again on downs with seconds remaining. All that was left was for quarterback Greg Jones to take a knee in victory formation.

“It was a big win,” Hatfield said. “They knew they needed this one to stay in it. We made some mistakes but they stayed after it and came up with big plays when they needed them, especially on defense.”

Hatfield said much of the credit for the stalwart defense has been the help from high school coaches.

“Coach (Rick) Russell and coach (Larry) Burrows have worked with the defense all year long and it’s been good for everybody,” Hatfield said. “They get so much more instruction with more coaches out there, and it gets them ready for high school. They’ll know so much more when they get there. They’ll be way ahead of the game.”

While the offense wasn’t able to punch the ball in the end zone as much as it would have liked, it did control the football for most of the game.

The Red Devils got the ball to start the game and held the ball for six minutes before scoring on a 10-yard run by Jones. Jones had thrown a 34-yard touchdown pass earlier in the drive but it was called back for holding.

The Bulldogs took possession and got a first down on its first play, but punted on the second play of the second quarter. Jacksonville took the ball deep in its own territory and used up most of the rest of the half with another long drive that ended without a score.

The Red Devils took a 7-0 lead into intermission and got the ball to start the second half. After driving to the White Hall 35, a Bulldog stepped in front of a Red Devil receiver, picked off a Jones pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. The extra point made it 7-7 midway through the third.

The Red Devils used up the rest of the quarter two minutes of the fourth on their next drive, which ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Kerry Knight.

David Aguire’s second successful PAT gave the Red Devils a 14-7 lead.

Jacksonville piled up 254 yards of offense. Jones completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 139 yards.

The Red Devils rushed 24 times for 115 yards. Lamont Gause was the leading rusher with 40 yards on seven carries. Jarvis McChristian caught four passes for 45 yards to lead the receivers while Anthony Fields caught three passes for 38 yards.

Other River City games saw Sylvan Hills beat Watson Chapel 22-14, Robinson routed Bauxite 40-6, Maumelle beat Mills 24-6, CAC topped North Pulaski in a close one 22-12 and Sheridan shut out Pulaski Academy 24-0.

SPORTS>>Panthers lose in final seconds again

Special to The Leader

For the second straight week, the Cabot Panthers fought to the end but fell short Friday night to Bryant, extending the team’s losing streak to seven games.

Bryant’s senior kicker Jace Denker kicked a 31-yard field goal with 0:06 left in the game to give the Hornets a 31-28 lead that set the final margin. The Panthers tried to respond with a hook-and-ladder play to senior running back Weston Conard, but Bryant’s prevent defense stopped him after a gain of 15 yards.

“This is better than the first half of the season,” said Cabot Head Coach Mike Malham, “but Bryant’s got some talent. You can see in open spaces how good they are.”

Like last week against Little Rock Central, Cabot (1-7, 0-5) got on the board early, scoring on its first drive with a 23-yard run from fullback Zach Launius. Jesus Marquez kicked the extra point to give the Panthers and early 7-0 lead.

Bryant (7-1, 5-0) answered its next possession with a 7-play drive ending with a two-yard touchdown run from junior running back Jalen Bell.

After a couple of offensive possessions, Cabot’s Launius broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers on top 14-7. Bryant responded with a 2:30 drive ending with a nine-yard touchdown run from Bell.

Bryant’s offense found the end zone again with another touchdown run with 4:09 left in the half. This one coming from senior running back Karon Dismuke. Denker’s extra point gave the Hornets a 21-14 lead going into the half.

“Last week’s game went down to the wire, and this one went down to the wire,” Malham said, “so maybe we’re starting to get it right.

“About five sophomores played on the offensive line. The fullback that broke it (Launius) he’s a sophomore and we’ve got about three or four playing on defense. We’re young.”

The Hornets’ offense came out strong in the second half. After a 54-yard completion from Bryant quarterback Hayden Lessenberry to Sawyer Nichols, Lessenberry took the quarter back keeper into the endzone from a yard out. The extra point increased Bryant’s lead to 28-14.

After a three and out on the Panthers’ previous possession, Cabot’s offense found the end zone again when Launius punched it in on fourth and goal at the 1-yard line, capping off an 11-play drive to make the score 28-21.

Bryant’s next possession looked promising as the offense moved the ball into Panther territory. On third down, Lessenberry’s pass was intercepted by sophomore Jordan Burke, giving the Panthers the spark they needed.

The Cabot offense responded with another long drive. This one took 14 plays, ending with a seven-yard touchdown run from senior Weston Conard with 2:14 left in the game. Marquez’s extra point tied the game at 28.

Bryant’s offense countered with a 12-play drive to set up Denker for the field goal and the final score.

“Bryant’s got a good ball club,” Malham said. “They score points on everybody. Defensively we’ve been struggling this year because of the speed factor, but overall I was pleased. The kids played hard. They were down late and didn’t quit. They came back, tied it up, and at least made it interesting.”

The Hornets’ offense put together 353 total yards. Lessenberry finished the night 16 of 27 for 216 yards. Cabot’s offense found success again on the ground, finishing with 264 rushing yards, and 307 yards of total offense. Launius led the Panthers with 19 carries for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Cabot will host Van Buren. at 7 p.m. next Friday.

SPORTS>>Jacksonville stymies, blanks Parkview

Leader sports editor

The final score was not indicative of how completely Jacksonville dominated the Parkview Patriots Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The Red Devils controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and controlled the clock in a 9-0 shutout of a Parkview team that had not been held to less than 26 points all season.

It was the Red Devils second shutout of the season, and the one on Friday featured several sophomores stepping up to make big plays at key moments.

“We’re banged up,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “We told the younger players to pay attention, be ready when your time comes. If you play well you’ll stay out there. They just finished up a great junior varsity season. They kept getting better and it showed on the field tonight. We’re very proud of our younger players tonight.”

The Red Devils unveiled a new look on offense, and it paid big dividends even if it didn’t put a lot of points on the board.

Junior Kevin Richardson moved to quarterback to run the wildcat. He led Jacksonville’s offense with 13 carries for 125 yards. More importantly, Richardson led Jacksonville on two long drives in the second half that kept the ball away from Parkview’s vaunted offense and protected the Red Devils’ 9-0 lead.

After the defense held the Patriots on the first drive of the second half, Jacksonville went on a 13-play, six-minute drive that ended with a 4-yard pass on fourth and goal from the 6.

Parkview was unable to get a first down from their own 2, but Aaron Smith fumbled the punt and the Patriots covered at their own 28. After one first down, Richardson stepped up on defense and intercepted a Caelon Harden pass at the Red Devil 34 with 11:53 left in the game.

From there Jacksonville drove 15 plays to the Parkview 3-yard line. On first and goal, Smith fumbled and Parkview covered. Despite the turnover, Russell was very pleased with the nine-minute, 34-second drive that left Parkview needing two scores with just 3:19 left in the game.

“That was a big drive,” Russell said. “Mistakes are going to happen in football. We’d of course like to punch it in the end zone, but I’m very happy with the way we controlled the line of scrimmage and chewed up that clock. That was huge.”

Starting from its own 4-yard line, Parkview went on its longest drive of the game, but still only made it out to the 30. On third down and needing four yards for a first, Smith helped make amends for the fumble with a big stop for no gain on third down. On fourth, James Reddick, Darrelle White and David Johnson clogged the middle and stuffed Patriot running back Rashad Earls for no gain to give the Devils the ball with 1:49 left in the game.

Jacksonville needed one first down to seal the victory, and got it with a 5-yard run on fourth down by Richardson.

All the scoring came in the first half. Jacksonville had first and goal on four different drives and got inside the red zone six times, but only came away with one touchdown and one field goal.

The Red Devils opened the scoring with a 24-yard field goal by David Suairy that capped an eight-play drive with 10:56 left in the second quarter.

The Red Devils set the final margin with 4:01 left in the half with a five-play, 48-yard drive. Richardson scampered 23 yards on first down to the 25. An 8-yard run by Smith followed back-to-back completions to Brandon Brockman and D’vone McClure. On second and two, Richardson hit McClure in the end zone for the score.

The Red Devil offense piled up 309 total yards while the defense held the Patriots to just 112 total yards.

With the win, Jacksonville likely sewed up a four seed and a home game in the first round of the class 6A playoffs.

Jacksonville travels to West Memphis next week and ends the season at home against Marion.

Friday, October 21, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Still few new jobs

Every member of Congress is for jobs, and if political restraints prevent his voting for them he has a jobs plan of his own to prove that he’s for them. That is the current game in Washington, and it illustrates better than anything why Americans despair that their government can no longer solve problems.

The Senate Thursday night again stymied a part of President Obama’s omnibus jobs program. Legislation now needs a supermajority in the Senate—60 votes—and Republicans united to the last man and woman against it and were joined by two Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and, of course, Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Over in the House of Representatives, every Republican, including Arkansas’ trio, oppose every part of the president’s plan, which includes large-scale infrastructure work on highways, bridges, schools and air and rail improvements along with business tax incentives and help for local governments to preserve the jobs of policemen, firemen and school workers until local and state government revenues recover. To avoid raising the deficit, the expensive parts of the plan would be offset by a small surtax on people who earn more than a million dollars a year.

Polls show that every part of the president’s plan is endorsed by big majorities of Americans even if the man who proposed them is not so popular. Anyone who votes down the line against the jobs bills must erect some cover for himself unless he represents a “safe” district.

So Sen. Pryor and Rep. Tim Griffin, the Second District congressman, trotted out their jobs plan last week. Well, Griffin didn’t have a plan, but he held a forum at Little Rock and invited business people to come out and say why the Republicans are right about jobs—that businesses aren’t hiring because their taxes are too high and regulations are too annoying. When you cut their taxes and regulations, according to Griffin, you will unleash the mighty U.S. economic engine and it will create jobs by the millions.

Pryor did have a plan, a beautifully illustrated eight-page plan, in fact, but it was mostly a hymn to the various regions and economic segments of Arkansas. If the government would help the Arkansas Research and Technology Park at Little Rock, Arkansas farmers, Arkansas water projects like the Grand Prairie and Bayou Meto initiatives, the state’s shortline railroads, Arkansas airports, the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden, the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson County, the. . . . well, you get the idea. There’s something for every part of the state. His plan also includes lots of work on roads and bridges, like the president’s plan, but Obama is not mentioned. The president has been unpopular in Arkansas since the day he announced for president in 2007 and no Arkansas Democrat wants to be seen embracing the president.

But Pryor’s is a jobs plan. If every member of Congress had a similar jobs plan for his or her state and if the government could find the trillions of dollars to do them all, millions of jobs would no doubt be created.

Griffin’s “plan”? Not so much. Arkansas Republicans, including Sen. John Boozman, say the Obama plan is not worth doing because the jobs it would create would be only temporary. When the big Interstate 430-630 interchange in west Little Rock is finally finished, those jobs will be over. So?

Griffin’s plan is the Republican plan: lower taxes on corporations and people with lots of money (the “job creators”), eliminate health, safety and pollution regulations that hold back industries and do some form of “tax reform.” The businessmen and lawyers that Griffin invited to his jobs forum generally adopted Griffin’s line.

A corporate tax attorney said, “We’ve got the highest corporate tax code in the world.” Reducing corporate taxes would prevent jobs going to other countries, he said.

But he will get plenty of dispute about that. President George W. Bush’s Treasury Department did a study of global tax rates four years ago and reported that “the United States takes a below-average share of corporate income in taxes” compared with other developed countries. A more recent study concluded that in only one of 26 developed countries (Iceland) did corporate taxes take a smaller share of GDP than the United States. You see, no company pays 35 percent of its net income in taxes (the top rate) because of loopholes. A study this year by Citizens for Tax Justice shows that 12 of the most profitable U.S. corporations collectively paid an effective tax rate of minus 1.5 percent over the past three years. That means they paid Uncle Sam no taxes but rather was paid by the government.

If corporate taxes are so high that they discourage investment and hiring, why are corporations sitting on a record cushion of more than $2 trillion.

No, cutting corporate taxes and taxes on high incomes will not create jobs. Corporate and marginal personal income tax rates already are near their lowest since the beginning of World War II. If cutting those taxes creates jobs, why did it not happen in 2001-04 when individual and corporate taxes were slashed repeatedly and the tax cuts were followed by the worst jobs record since World War II? Congressman Griffin cannot find one example in our history where slashing taxes produced a big surge of hiring. All they can say is, well, there was some economic growth some years later so maybe the tax cut had something to do with it.

Here’s the self-evident truth about job creation. Businesses will create jobs when there is a solid demand for the goods and services those employees would produce. They won’t do it for any other reason. Every business, like each one of us, would enjoy paying fewer taxes. But taxes have nothing to do with our 8.3 percent unemployment rate. Absolutely nothing. If members of Congress can ever divest themselves of the myth they are on their way to a remedy.

TOP STORY > >Lonoke schools earn accreditation

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke School Board learned this week that the district earned accreditation from the AdvancED Accreditation Commission.

The commission confers the North Central Association Com-mission on Accreditation and School Improvement accreditation seal, which means that all Lonoke schools are accredited and the district has been natio-nally recognized as a quality school system.

The process of gaining this five-year accreditation term involves meeting high quality standards, implementing a continuous process of improvement and engaging in quality assurance through internal and external review.

Superintendent Dr. John Tackett said in a release, “It demonstrates to our community our commitment to excellence, our openness to external review and feedback and our desire to be the best we can be on behalf of the students we serve.”

In other business, members voted to accept Delk Con-struction’s $2 million guaranteed maximum price to build the district’s Arkansas Department of Emergency Management- and FEMA-approved safe rooms.

Bids for the project were opened in August. Low bids were accepted and the total cost is less than what was set aside for the project.

Arkansas’ Emergency Ma- nagement Department gave the district $1 million to construct a safe room for Lonoke Elementary School and Lonoke Middle School and it gave the district $829,910 to build a safe room for Lonoke High School and Lonoke Primary School.

FEMA will pay 75 percent of the total project cost while the district will pay the remaining 25 percent.

The board accepted the first reading of a recommended policy change that will adjust the district’s attendance policy to adhere to the new state law that eliminates excused absences.

The law states that all absences are the same. But districts have the leeway to set how many absences are acceptable before a student could lose credit.

The policy read for the first time at Monday’s meeting was based on the district’s current policy, which says eight unexcused absences could cost a student credit if there are not extenuating circumstances.

The new policy, if passed after a third reading, will state that students may lose credit after eight absences unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Board members voted to increase the base certified salary schedule by $600 and the base for classified staff by two percent. The board agreed in August to submit a proposal to do so to the classified and certified personnel policies committees for comment.

Tackett said the raises were essential for the district to remain competitive through recruitment and retention of qualified personnel.

The board agreed to order shades for classrooms and more furniture for the new high school at a cost of $16,876, a quote submitted by InnerPlan.

The district had $546,677 in savings to furnish the new school and only $417,516 was spent before the board approved the change order on Monday. This means it will spend $112,285 less than was set aside for that project and the additional savings could be used for capital improvements.

Members voted to authorize Tackett to sign documents required by law and submit an Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan to the Arkansas Department of Education. This action by the board is required for the district to use funds to support school improvement initiatives in each school’s Arkansas Comprehensive School Improve-ment Plan.

The board’s November meeting was moved to Nov. 14 so that it would not conflict with the Thanksgiving holiday.

Before adjourning, the board listened as parents of a Lonoke High School student pleaded for them to take action concerning an Oct. 7 insulin-syringe stabbing incident that has frustrated the family and caused them to fear for their daughter’s safety.

David and Rebecca Neitch and Remona Moore, the girl’s mother, were told they needed to follow the rules and be placed on the board’s November meeting agenda. David Neitch said they had been through the chain of command and are upset that nothing has been done to protect their child. He was upset his daughter would remain in danger for another month.

Several members approached the family after the meeting and recently-elected board member Matthew Boyles responded to the parents’ concern that no one was sympathetic to their plight.

Boyles, the newest board member, said, “I know all the men sitting at this table. They’re all compassionate.” But he agreed that the board has to follow procedures.

The family said the boy poked their daughter with an insulin syringe needle twice. He asked her the first time if she was bleeding and, when she said she wasn’t, he stuck her again.

He was suspended for five days and returned to school Monday.

The handbook says a student who brings a weapon to school should be suspended for one year or attend alternative school.

Assault charges have been filed against the boy, the parents told the board.

The incident occurred at 7:30 a.m. School nurse Julie Miller said she treated the student’s injury as soon as she was notified, which was around 12:20 p.m.

Her parents were not notified of their daughter’s injury until 1:30 p.m.

Miller said the boy told her he took the needle from a grandparent and that it was unused. She said she cleaned the puncture wound and recommended that the girl get blood work done.

The parents said they took their daughter to Arkansas Chil-dren’s Hospital and the family will have to wait six months to get the final results of tests for diseases she could have been exposed to, including HIV.

Officials say the district is working to resolve the situation.

TOP STORY > >UA officials bring big scholarships

Leader staff writer

University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart and other university officials presented chancellor scholarships to seven Cabot High School National Merit semifinalists Tuesday at the Cabot Public School Administration’s board room in front of family and school staff.

Each scholarship is for $8,000 a year for four years totaling $32,000. If the students make the University of Arkansas their first choice, an extra $2,000 a year is added.

The seven seniors awarded were Chloe Showalter, who plans to study pre-medicine; Brandon Kempf, who wants to study engineering; Jordan Reed, who is interested in international relations; Nathan Justus, who is interested in engineering; Michael McKinnie and Eric Walker, who have not yet chosen majors, and Harrison Cardillo, who wants to study chemistry and sociology.

“It is a great honor for officials from the University of Arkansas to make a special stop in Cabot to honor our National Merit semifinalists. We have many graduating seniors who choose the University of Arkansas as their college of choice out of high school. The partnerships we build with the U of A and every college within our state is of great benefit to our students as they make plans to further their education after high school,” Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman said.

School board vice president Corey Williams said he is proud the chancellor took the time to personally deliver the scholarships to the students.

“It shows the level of respect he has for Cabot High School,” Williams said.

“From the board’s perspective, we are proud of our students,” he said.

Gearhart promised the students that the university will help them achieve their goals.

The students can apply for University of Arkansas honors college fellowships and for the governor’s distinguished scholarship.

TOP STORY > >JPs agree to center lease deal

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Quorum Court voted Thursday night to appropriate the $200,000 state grant it received to purchase the former daycare building on Hwy. 70 that now houses the Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center.

The center, which helps law enforcement officers interview victims of child abuse, opened in cramped quarters in 2005 and moved into the larger facility in January. The vote to appropriate the grant money to purchase the building was unanimous.

The county will be the actual owner of the building, and the center will lease it for one dollar a year. If the center closes, the county resumes control of the building.

The quorum court also voted to support a resolution that will allow the Lonoke County Fire Chiefs Association to apply for a $130,000 state grant to improve the paging system for fire departments in the county.

Revenue from the half-mill voluntary tax that helps support the beaver-eradication program in the county is about half the amount it has been in the past, said Neal Anderson of the Lonoke County Conservation District. He asked the quorum court to increase it to support bounties.

Currently, the state pays $10 and the conservation district and the county each pay $5 for a total of $20 for each beaver killed.

The county’s portion of the bounty comes from the county judge’s road and bridge budget. County Judge Doug Erwin told the quorum court that he doesn’t have to ask their permission to pay an additional $10 for each beaver killed, but had promised to be open with his spending.

J.P. Adam Sims told the quorum court that he knew of one death in the southern part of the county that could be attributed to road flooding caused by beavers. The man who was killed saved his baby by holding him out of the water until help arrived but was unable to unbuckle his own seat belt and drowned, Sims said.

With the additional funds available, the bounty on one beaver will be $30. To collect, the trappers must present at least the round end of the beaver’s tail and the right, front paw. The pelts not required to collect the bounty may be sold to fur buyers.

In 2010, the voluntary tax for the conservation district brought in $18,653.25. The deadline for paying 2011 property taxes has passed and only $9,545.61 has been collected.

In 2010, the conservation district paid $16,080 in bounties on 804 beavers. So far this year, it has paid $16,740 in bounties on 837 beavers.

Beaver eradication programs never fully eradicate beavers but Anderson told the quorum court, “Our objective is to relieve the county of as many beavers as possible.”

The last item on the quorum court agenda was a presentation by Bill “Pete” Pedersen, a former member of the quorum court who said he had been trying for a year to address the quorum court about the misuse of tax money.

On top on his list of complaints was a recent audit finding that former County Judge Charlie Troutman overspent his 2010 budget by $1.2 million.

The current judge said in a later interview that his 2011 budget is about $4.4 million.

In January, he had about $900,000 in the road and bridge account but he had to pay a $92,000 settlement for an easement on the road Troutman built between Cabot and Austin.

Pedersen also had pictures that he said showed that Troutman had illegally spread fill dirt on his son’s property, chip sealed a driveway for J.P. Roger Lynch and used county gravel to build a platform for a metal building that houses the non-profit Hope’s Closet, located on the road off Hwy. 5 into Wal-Mart on property owned by J.P. Larry Odom.

County Attorney Jeff Sikes told the quorum court that he had talked to Pedersen about those issues a year ago and told him the quorum court had no authority.

If Pedersen thought the law had been broken then he could either contact the prosecuting attorney or hire a lawyer and file suit.

Erwin, who took office this year, said after the meeting that he intended to look into the allegations.

“I would be very disappointed if any elected official misused funds or used his position to receive additional benefits,” he said.

In other business, the quorum court:

n Appropriated $1,081 for the sheriff to use as drug buy money and to pay confidential informants.

n Declared a vacancy in the Dist. 13 position held by Mark Edwards, who was transferred to Washington state.

n Heard a report about a possible state grant to help pay for a computer parcel mapping program for the assessor’s office.

n Approved a change in the personnel policy book that would give only the county judge power to close county offices because of bad weather.

n Approved a resolution of support for a state grant to help build bathrooms at the fairground.

n Heard an update from J.P. Bill Ryker about a committee formed to look into security for buildings in the county where court is held. Ryker said the committee is working with federal marshals. Some money might be available from the state to buy equipment, but the county would have to pay wages for staff, Ryker said.

TOP STORY > >Air base rated ‘satisfactory’

Leader executive editor

Little Rock Air Force Base received an overall satisfactory rating after the 19th Airlift Wing’s Operational Readiness Inspection, the Air Mobility Command in-spector general’s team announced Friday. The inspection was held Oct. 11-18.

Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, called the inspection “a home run.”

“We’re very happy,” he said in an interview with The Leader on Friday afternoon. “I couldn’t be more proud of our airmen. They’re amazing to watch.”

“This is an exceptional group,” Minihan pointed out. “It’s a great team with a can-do attitude.”

He pointed out the wing is working under challenging conditions as it meets its obligations not only at home but also in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 100 inspectors fanned out on base and looked at the base’s ability to carry out its missions, including deployment, combat and redeployment.

Minihan said, “We met each of those pillars. We made no compromises.”

The inspection tested the 19th AW’s readiness for contingency operations capabilities, which focused on the wing’s ability to mobilize and operate in a deployed environment, as well as protection of the base.

He said it would have beeneasy to get a higher rating if the wing were not involved in combat missions in two countries.

“It would have been real easy if it were just an inspection,” the colonel said.

The ratings are outstanding, excellent, satisfactory, marginal and unsatisfactory.

The inspections are carried out every five years. A low rating would have meant the base would have undergone another inspection in six months.

He said the challenge is to “prepare for ORI and not compromise the war effort and our partner wing.”

The 19th AW is constantly on the go with dozens of planes and hundreds of airmen deployed overseas, he said. Yet the wing does its job well, Minihan said.

Six C-130s and 400 airmen, also known as the Black Knights, participated in the inspection.

The inspection team members evaluated the wing’s ability to survive, its operational skills and how airmen get the job done in accordance with Air Force guidance and instructions.

Scenarios included C-130 takeoff and deliveries, maintenance, convoy operations, weapons readiness, kidnappings and more.

Inspectors praised the wing’s strong points, including its operators, maintainers and medical crews.

“They praised our attitude and morale,” Minihan said.

Room for improvement in-cludes better adherence to regulation and better efficiency.

The airmen spent months training for the inspection, holding exercises regularly during which airmen and volunteers simulated various situations.

The crowd which gathered for the announcement responded with “We are Black Knights” after hearing the news.

“Everything we do is because of this great state,” a jubilant Minihan said. “We’re honorary Arkansans. You make it possible to carry out our mission.”

“ORI touches everyone’s life,” the colonel said. Despite the grueling schedule, community support makes the wing’s work easier, Minihan said.

“I’m proud of the hard work and dedication of our Black Knights. The men and women of the 19th never cease to amaze me with their superb skill,” Minihan told a group of airmen after the results were announced on base.

“The IG (inspector general) witnessed first-hand the professionalism, attitude and enthusiasm that fuels C-130 Combat Airlift. This week was a snapshot of the tireless efforts our airmen and families invest in our mission daily at home and abroad.”

The 19th Airlift Public Affairs contributed to this report.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Occupiers reach state

The protest movement of the season, an adaptation of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, reached Arkansas’ urban centers last week. Several hundred demonstrators, mostly young as far as we could tell, marched to the financial towers in Little Rock and Fayetteville and pronounced their unhappiness with . . . what?

Greed is the only word that seems to fit. “Corporate greed” was the most familiar utterance, but other manifestations of avarice as well came in for disapproval.

Devoid of leaders, by design apparently, the demonstrators did not have a coherent message beyond that, nor do they as yet have a program for correcting it. That is the trademark of the whole movement, which has spread in a little more than a week from Manhattan to cities across the country and to four continents.

Greed is a good thing to be mad about. Politicians and economists disagree about the precise sequence of events and the exact dynamics that have kept most of the industrial nations in thrall for what will be four years next month and that produced the great economic collapse of 2008. But every theory rests on greed—untrammeled selfishness that ignores risk, the lessons of history and the greater public good. They disagree only on who the big greedheads were and are.

The principal targets of Occupy Wall Street have been the big banks, brokerages and mortgage houses that took advantage of the effective end of government regulation and the cries for a pristine free market and rushed to make every last buck they could through whatever investment artifice they could dream up, heedless of all the dangers that 150 years of market and government history had taught.

They knew intuitively that government would bail them out if history repeated itself, indeed would have to bail them out or see the country sink into another great depression. Of course, the government did save them. Many rewarded themselves for their solid faith in the government by giving themselves giant bonuses.

That was the genesis of the Tea Party movement. The political extremes, left and right, were outraged at the bailouts. But that was in the fall of 2008 and the early months of 2009, when the economy was shedding more than 700,000 jobs every month. The movement metamorphosed from there into many forms—hatred of the young president who inherited the mess, the efforts to reform the nation’s eroding health-insurance system, the whole conservation movement and almost every government undertaking to protect the people—from air and water rules to food safety.

Big social and economic movements always go skittering off in weird directions sooner or later and the Occupy Wall Street (or Little Rock or Fayetteville, or Des Moines) movement no doubt will, too, like the Tea Party did.

But will it have some salutary effect, or even any significant effect for good or bad before it dissipates? The Tea Party is credited with the giant upheaval in 2010 that brought the Republican Party to power in the U.S. House of Representatives and produced major Republican gains in many statehouses, including Arkansas. We are not sure it deserves so much credit, but it deserves at least a little even here in central Arkansas.

While the Tea Party and the Wall Street protests share a common fountainhead—President George W. Bush’s big financial bailouts—the analogy stops there, at least as far as we can judge. There was one protest in the Little Rock march against the Federal Reserve, a nonsensical target of many tea partiers and the perennial libertarian presidential candidate, Ron Paul, but the Federal Reserve protester and his friends seemed to be only tolerated by the rest. The Fed’s chief contribution to the collapse was longtime chairman Alan Greenspan’s pivotal support for removing the tethers from commercial and investment banks so that they could lend any way that was instantly profitable and trade any kind of security they could dream up.

What the core protesters resent is not the existence of the central bank but the government’s continued coddling of the banks, investment houses and corporations in general. In that, the Wall Street protesters have a better grasp of historical forces than the Tea Party or the central voices of either party. Tea partiers lamented encroaching socialism. Remember the rowdy town hall meetings in Arkansas where tea partiers screamed that the health-insurance bill was plunging the country across the last divide into a socialist state?

These protesters know that the reverse is true. The country has been heading pell mell toward an oligarchy, not socialism. Almost every tax change the past 30 years, nearly every economic restructuring in Congress and nearly every U.S. Supreme Court decision affecting commerce raised the well-being and power of corporate and moneyed interests. The Citizens United decision, which gave big financial interests unfettered power to buy elections, was the consummation. Our favorite sign at the Little Rock rally was a hand-lettered placard that said, “I couldn’t afford a politician, so I made this sign!”

Even the health-insurance law they call Obamacare exemplifies it. Democrats writing the act turned away from the single-payer system envisioned by Harry Truman and pushed for 50 years by reformers like Edward M. Kennedy and instead embraced the insurance-industry plan crafted first by Richard Nixon and supported by a line of Republican corporatists from Gerald Ford to Mitt Romney.

So the “Occupy” movement, we believe, is healthy. May it grow and resist the importunings of the Kochs and the great selfish interests that acquired the Tea Party movement and bankrolled its candidates from Little Rock to Philadelphia.

But change the political dynamics of Arkansas or the United States? Alas, we don’t think it will.

That takes money.

—Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> DNA evidence leads police to murder suspect

Leader staff writer

Sherwood authorities confirmed Tuesday that DNA evidence led them to the man they arrested Monday and charged with the capital murder of an elderly Sherwood woman.

Sherwood District Court Judge Butch Hale said he issued the warrant to arrest Carter Wilcoxson, 60, after victim Katherine Cleary’s DNA was found on his shoe when he was arrested on Aug. 23 for charges related to drug possession and parole violation.

That was two days after she was reported missing and the day her body was found.

Police said Wilcoxson, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday, was a “couch hopper” whose relationship with the victim continued after he stopped working in her neighborhood.

A “couch hopper” is someone who does not have a residence and sleeps on friends’ couches, said Josh Adams with the Sherwood Police Department. He could not say if Wilcoxson and Cleary were friends or dating, or if they had a business relationship.

“I have no idea. Only he would know that and he’s not talking to investigators,” an investigator said.

Wilcoxson appeared at Sherwood District Court Tuesday morning and pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He is being held without bond in the Pulaski County Detention Facility.

The case will be handled in Pulaski County Circuit Court, where he has appeared numerous times over the last two decades.

According to the Pulaski County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Wilcoxson was convicted of felony theft of property and a drug charge in 1991, burglary and several counts of fraud in 1992, fraudulent use of a credit card in 2001, possession of a controlled substance in 2001, attempt to deliver a controlled substance, fraud, commercial burglary and theft by receiving in 2005, and two felony counts of possession of methamphetamine earlier this year.

According to the state Department of Community Correction, Wilcoxson was re-leased on supervised parole in June 2009 and that parole was revoked on Oct. 11. He received and served part of a 15-year-sentence behind bars after he was convicted of residential burglary and forgery in 1997.

Cleary was reported missing from her Austin Lakes home in Sherwood on Aug. 21, after police responded to an alarm at her home and found her car gone. Neighbors say the house was in disarray.

Two women, Rhon-da Glassburner-Strong, 51, of North Little Rock and Sonia Bell, 39, of Jacksonville were arrested three days later after detectives linked 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.

Hale confirmed that one of women told police that she had been with Wilcoxson, and he had dumped something near Boyd Road just outside Jacksonville city limits. Investigators found Cleary’s body there in a ditch.

Glassburner-Strong and Bell were charged with felony theft by receiving and fraudulent use of a credit card. They have not incurred any additional charges, said Capt. Grady Russell of the Sherwood Police Department.

He said Wilcoxson and the two women were acquaintances. They have also been in and out of court for drug and theft-related charges around the same time Wilcoxson was.

Glassburner-Strong’s past convictions include about half a dozen drug offenses (the most recent involves cocaine), one felony theft by receiving charge and a few counts of prostitution.

Glassburner-Strong’s probations have been revoked multiple times. In fact, she was due in court on Sept. 22 for sentencing on her 2009 case involved drug charges and her revocations.

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.

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

Appearing in court within the same time frame 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 and was set to be released from it in December.

The continuing investigation into Cleary’s murder could result in other arrests and charges. Her cause of death is not being released because of the investigation.

According to a news re-lease, “The Sherwood Police Department has remained in contact with the family of Ms. Cleary during the course of the investigation and will continue to do so.

“The family’s cooperation and understanding during such a difficult time for them has aided us in our ability to conduct this homicide investigation,” the statement said.

Lt. Carl Minden with the Pulaski County sheriff’s office said deputies helped Sherwood police identify Glassburner-Strong and Bell, recover Cleary’s body and locate her car.

One of her neighbors told The Leader, before quickly closing his door, “it worries me it happened that close to us.”

Another neighbor, Mike Harsha, said, “I’m glad it now seems to have finally come to an end.”

TOP STORY >> Boy nearly killed by drunk driver

Leader staff writer

Last November, Karissa Jackson of Beebe thought she would lose her son after the vehicle she was driving was struck by a drunk driver in White County. That driver is now in prison for multiple drunk driving charges.

Her son, Christian, 10 at the time, was airlifted from the El Paso accident to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He was not expected to survive the flight.

Karissa, her daughter and another passenger suffered minor injuries and walked away from the accident.

The impact shattered Christian’s skull, exposing his brain. He underwent emergency surgery at ACH to stop the bleeding and remove debris from his wound. Surgeons removed more than half his skull to allow for swelling.

Christian’s neurosurgeon told his mother that despite his unstable vital signs, the surgery could save his life, but he would not lead a normal life if he survived.

“I now know miracles happen,” Karissa says. “On the way to ACH that night, I called my friend Gayle and had her start a prayer chain. I knew that was the only way my son could make it. When I saw him in the car, with his open skull fracture, I knew he was dead.”

“Christian’s first neurosurgeon was a blessing,” Karissa says of Dr. Ian Johnson. Despite Christian’s failing vital signs, Dr. Johnson did the emergency surgery. “Another doctor would have probably let him go. There is probably not another neurosurgeon that would ever do such a thing.”

Christian was in a coma for two weeks after the accident, but he showed slight movement in his limbs and his pupils began to react to light. His doctors were impressed, calling it miraculous.

After two months at ACH, he could say a couple words and eat after having been on a feeding tube for more than a month. He began to walk.

He has survived the odds, making remarkable progress thanks to his family, doctors and the people at Timber Ridge Neuro Restorative Ranch in Benton.

Although he sometimes has trouble finding the right words, he can now speak in full sentences.

“Christian is still making great strides toward a full recovery,” his mother said. “I guess we won’t really know until the progress stops. He has come a long way, but at the same time has a long way to go.”

Christian is getting physical and speech therapy, according to his mother.

“He will continue to get those therapies until he no longer needs them,” she said. “He has at least one more surgery and that will be to put in a prosthetic skull.”

Doctors are expanding skin that’s still left on his head, according to his mother. The expander will give him enough skin to cover the prosthetic skull. “The big surgery is going to be in approximately five months.”

“They (Christian’s doctors) don’t really say what his recovery can be, and I don’t ask because I know they don’t really know,” Karissa said. “They can speculate but that’s about all. In the hospital, they told me he may never speak again, but he is.”

Dr. Barbera Honnebier is Christian’s plastics/reconstructive surgeon. The Amsterdam-born doctor specializes in pediatric and adult plastic and reconstructive surgery.

“She has been amazing,” Karissa said.

Christian will have a new neurosurgeon, Dr. Gregory W. Albert.

The drunk driver who hit the Jackson family, Tracy Norman, attempted to leave the scene of the accident, according to witnesses, but was pulled from his truck by a bystander.

“He crossed the center line,” Karissa said. “I swerved, but not enough. All the kids and myself were wearing our seat belts.”

“I went to every court date and even testified against him,” Karissa says of Norman. “After I told the court what happened to Christian and how our lives had changed from what this man did, he got in front of the court and told the judge that it was a bad day, he was having woman troubles.

“The judge told him flat out, ‘I don’t know how to keep you from doing this again besides you killing yourself doing it, and, quite frankly, I hope you do so,’” according to Karissa.

Norman has been convicted of nine felony DWIs, according to

He is serving a six-year sentence for a DWI 4 – a felony, and 20 years for first-degree battery at the Cummins Unit in Grady. To be charged with a felony DWI, a driver will have had three misdemeanor DWIs before the fourth, pushing Norman’s total to 12 DWIs.

Norman was driving on a suspended license at the time of the November accident involving the Jackson family.

According to a recent report, 14,417 Arkansans are five-time DWI offenders or driving under the influence of drugs according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report to Congress. In addition, there are 34,554 three-time offenders in the state. The report was released in May.

In 2009, there were 585 traffic fatalities in Arkansas, with 168, or 29 percent, of those involving a driver with a blood alcohol content of the legal limit of .08 or higher.

But these numbers are just for fatalities. There are also survivors of drunk or impaired drivers whose lives are changed forever.

Christian’s speech isn’t what it was before the accident, according to Karissa.

Christian and his sister Cydney lost their father, Terry, a month before the accident.

“He does miss his dad terribly. An amazing thing is that Christian is still himself. He has some deficits, and he even knows those deficits. He knows that he used to be able to do things he can’t do now. He does get frustrated, who wouldn’t, but he also keeps going.”

Karissa says her family’s finances have been stretched thin. “We make it,” she says, “but just barely.

“I suppose it’s somewhat tougher than it would have been had it not happened with us having to go to all the doctors visits,” she explained. But with the economy the way it is, it’s tough all over.”

“I can’t really say the accident has discouraged me,” Karissa said. “I went back to nursing school shortly after Terry (Christian’s father) died. And after the wreck, I was somehow able to finish what was left of my last semester of nursing school.

“I know I would not have been able to do that, had it not been for my family, but definitely had it not been for my fellow nursing students.

“Not only did they bring me dinner every night, Christian was in ICU, but they helped me to study,” she said of her classmates. “They were there for me when I needed them the most. Those girls and guys were my rock. That is something I will never be able to repay.”

Christian’s sister has been very supportive of her brother. “She saw him that night, and she knew it was really bad,” Karissa said. “She told my mom that ‘some of bubby’s brains flew on me.’”

“She has been great about it though,” Karissa says. Cydney has had some regression since the accident, being terrified to ride in a car at first and having to have pillows and things in the car to protect her.

“She didn’t like to be in a room by herself,” Karissa said. “She definitely had to have some abandonment problems, losing her father and with me being gone for two months at the hospital with Christian.

“She exaggerates and tells fibs. She remembers being told Terry passed away and is still struggling with that,” Karissa says.

“She can’t wrap her little mind about why,” her mother said.

“She will just ask why. Her heart is broken about it, and so is Christian’s.”

A fund has been set up at Centennial Bank in the name of Karissa Jackson for Christian Jackson.

TOP STORY >> C-130s take off in virtual flight

Leader executive editor

We’re taking off from Little Rock Air Force Base and flying over the wide-open skies above Jacksonville on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

I’m sitting in the pilot’s seat on the right side of the cockpit and holding on to the throttle as if my life depends on it.

Col. Mark Czelusta, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, is my co-pilot. I know he’ll keep us airborne.

There are others flying with us, including Lieut. Col. Chris Kennedy and Maj. Alex Miller, who reach over my shoulder and move switches and knobs on the instrument panel to keep us on course.

To the right is the All-American Drop Zone near Camp Robinson. We’re heading south toward downtown Little Rock over Hwy. 67/167 toward I-40 and I-30 and the Arkansas River.

We turn right near the Little Rock airport and the downtown skyline and fly north toward the base, 1,500 feet in the air at about 350 miles per hour.

Lake Maumelle is down below. We’re flying back toward the drop zone. Czelusta will drop a pallet weighing 14,000 pounds. Software directs him toward the target down below. It’s a direct hit. Bullseye.

“This is very realistic. It looks pretty much like this,” Czelusta says, referring to real missions he’s flown.

We’re sitting inside a $20 million C-130J simulator made by Lock-heed-Martin and its Canadian partner CAE. The simulator is about as wide but much taller than the huge pallets crews on cargo planes drop in war zones in Asia and the Middle East.

Placed inside a two-story room, the simulator is on top of a hydraulics system that allows it to move as if it were in flight. With the help of digital photography, the scenes outside the cockpit are exact replicas of the Arkansas terrain and beyond. There’s also fog and turbulence.

The base has eight C-130 simulators and one for the avionics modernization program for older planes, worth about $180 million. Six other simulators are spread across the country.

The training goes on almost around the clock and lasts four to six months.

“Two weeks after graduation, students can go into combat,” the colonel said.

“Little Rock is truly choice number one for training,” he said. “We have the entire package.”

Before we went inside, Czelusta walked through the sprawling campus where the nine simulators are housed. Some of the buildings are more than 30 years old, while others look more recent.

They’re several blocks from the flightline, near the $9 million gym where airmen can work out just about any time.

Few outsiders know about the buildings or have seen the simulators. I hadn’t been inside one in the 24 years I’ve been at The Leader.

More than 40 countries send their teams to LRAFB for training. Belgium, Canada, Denmark, India and Norway are training here now.

Last year, nearly 2,000 students trained on the simulators.

“We can do all the training on the simulators,” Czelusta said. “They’re as good as flying. The quality is exceptional. There are 50 courses and infinite scenarios.”

Before the simulators became the predominant mode for instruction, the air base used 50 planes for training. Now it uses 18 planes.

Simulators are much cheaper than real flying. Fuel savings are phenomenal: The machines cost about $1,800 an hour compared to $5,500 an hour in a cargo plane.

Czelusta said 520 civilian contractors do most of the training — 370 on the older C-130Hs, 161 on the new Js and 20 on the avionics modernization program. They all have combat experience.

Czelusta, who has been assigned to LRAFB several times since 1995, is in charge of the world-champion wing that won seven trophies at last summer’s air rodeo competition at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. The wing was named best Air Mobility Command wing and the best airdrop wing in the world.

The 314th was also named 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.

The best C-130 airdrop crew award went to LRAFB’s 19th Airlift Wing.

Czelusta’s crew flew a C-130 E-model, the oldest plane used at this year’s competition. The C-130, built in 1962, was recently retired to “a boneyard” out West.

It’s a well-run operation: Charles Hyde, Czelusta’s predecessor, is now a brigadier general who commands a wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

When we fly to Kandahar in the simulator, we approach the desolate mountains surrounding the airstrip. You think you’ve flown back in time. Czelusta and most everyone in the cockpit has flown there in a real C-130.

“It’s all yours,” Czelusta said.

I take control of the plane and approach the flightline. It’s not a straight path. I’m zig-zagging toward our target, still awed by the experience of flying to Khandhar, which might as well be on the other side of the moon.

I become complacent. The crew inside the simulator must be wondering how close I’ll get to the flightline. I’m still thinking of Afghanistan, but we’re back in Jacksonville.

I crash, and a red screen blocks out the cockpit’s window. A buzzer goes off, but everyone’s OK.

SPORTS >> Runners did well at Pepper

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys cross country team couldn’t rack up another win in the massive Fayetteville Chile Pepper 5,000 High School Invitational on Saturday, but it was able to get a top-20 team finish. The boys squad finished 15th out 59 teams and 479 competitors. The girls squad finished 28 of 49 schools in a race featuring 380 runners.

The invitational was only half of the high school event. There was also an open event for junior varsity runners, which consisted of 500 more runners from 42 schools on the boys side. The Cabot JV took 18th in that event. The girls did not participate in the open.

The four races included nearly 2,000 runners from eight different states, including Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama and Virginia.

Although the Cabot girls did not finish as highly as the boys in the team standings, senior Emily Myers and sophomore Allison Sinning had the top two individual performances for Cabot at the event.

Myers finished 18th out of 380 with a time of 18:52.2. Sinning was 27th with a time of 19:17.4.

For the boys, Scott Foltz was Cabot’s top finisher, crossing the finish line 53rd with a time of 16:35.5. Junior Casey Vaughan finished 74th of 479 with a time of 16:47.7

Also finishing in the top half of the invitational field for Cabot was senior Reed Harrell, who crossed the finish line in 17:14.8 for 120th, and senior Forrest Lair, whose time of 17:20.4 was 138th best.

Southlake Carroll High School in Texas dominated the event. The school had six of the top 10 boys finishers, although Cale Wallace of Cypress Ranch High School in Texas won the event with a time of 15:00.5. Carroll’s 22 total points far exceeded second-place Bentonville’s 155. Edmond Memorial High in Oklahoma was third while Colonial Forge High School of Virginia was fourth and Houston High of Houston, Tenn., rounded out the top five. Bishop-Kelly, Okla., was sixth; Hewitt-Trussville, Ala., was seventh; Cordova, Tenn., was eighth; Deer Creek, Okla., ninth; and St Mark’s School of Texas finished out the Top 10 in the boys invitational.

Southlake Carroll also won the girls invitational with 28 points. Colonial Forge was second with 107. Cy-Fair, Tex., was third and Branson, Missouri was fourth.

Arkansas schools fared better overall in the girls race. Bentonville was the highest in-state finisher, coming in fifth. Rogers was seventh, Rogers Heritage finished eighth and Lake Hamilton took ninth-place. Platte County, Mo., rounded out the Top 10.

Southlake Carroll and Bentonville finished first and second in the boys open as well. Southlake Carroll made it a sweep with a win in the girls open race. Batesville finished fifth in the girls open, topping the Arkansas schools.

SPORTS >> Carlisle will try to use backups at Palestine-Wheatley

Leader sportswriter

Mismatch is the only way to describe Carlisle’s road game at Palestine Wheatley this Friday.

The unbeaten Bison find themselves at the top of the 6-2A Conference standings with three weeks left in the regular season while the Patriots, under third-year coach Charles Sartin, are simply trying to build on the momentum from their first win of the season last week against Marvell.

Carlisle (8-0, 4-0) is headed for a week 10 showdown with Hazen, the other unbeaten team in 6-2A, but have to stay up for weaker opponents the next two games.

“You never want to overlook anybody,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “Their numbers are down. They have a small senior class there in terms of boys in that class, and that will hurt any school, especially a 2A school. But coach Sartin has done a good job of keeping the kids upbeat. They’re going to spread it out and go no huddle. They’ll go for it – onside kicks, just playing like they’ve got nothing to lose, and that’s always a concern.”

The Patriots (1-6, 1-3) play a style similar to that of Pulaski Academy with a wide-open attack and a no-punt philosophy. Defensively, they feature a 4-3 front.

Des Arc gave Carlisle one of its toughest tests of the season last week, but the Bison broke an 8-8 tie at halftime to dominate the second half on their way to a 28-8 victory. It also proved to be one of the most physical games, and Waymire will most likely hold out some of his linemen from this week’s game to recover from the tough battle in the trenches last Friday.

“We’ve got some big ballgames coming up, and the playoffs coming up,” Waymire said. “It’s a chance to give some of the younger guys some experience, and that’s always paid off for us in the long run.”

The victory over the Eagles also guarantees at least a No. 2 playoff seed regardless of what happens in the final three weeks of the regular season.

“It’s a big win anytime you beat Des Arc,” Waymire said. “It keeps us in the hunt for a showdown with Hazen in week 10. One thing it did was it secured a home date for the playoffs. We don’t want next week (against Hughes) to be our last at Fred Hardke Field, we want to play as many at home as we can.”

Being senior laden has served the Bison well this season, and Waymire has also been pleased with the development of some of his younger players. Junior quarterback Chris Hart was invaluable against Des Arc with three touchdown passes.

Austin Reed and running backs Bo Weddle and Deron Ricks are underclassmen who have also been contributors. Waymire has been pleased with several sophomores on special teams, including Jordan Sheets.

Being unbeaten through seven weeks has put the Bison at the top of the Class 2A rankings, and it keeps their preseason goal of going through the regular season unbeaten alive.

“That’s one of the goals we wanted as a team,” Waymire said. “We’ve faced some tough competition, but we’ve got some breaks, and we’ve played well. This senior class has been devoted to that goal of finishing the regular season undefeated, but we’ve got two Top 10 teams coming up, so it’s going to be real tough.

SPORTS >> Nothing gets easy for Cabot

Leader sports editor

Things keep getting tougher for Cabot in what has been one of the toughest schedules in school history, according to head coach Mike Malham. This week, the Cabot Panthers face the Bryant Hornets.

Bryant is a team that entered the season with several question marks dotting a youthful roster. The Hornets’ season started dubiously, losing a high-scoring shootout to Fort Smith Northside 40-35. Since then, those two teams have gone in opposite directions. Northside is 1-4 in conference play so far in the West, while Bryant has reeled off six consecutive victories, and sits alone, undefeated at the top of the 7A Central standings.

Cabot’s season has been a roller coaster offensively and bad defensively. One bit of momentum the Panthers have heading into the showdown with the league leader is that its offense started working properly again last week.

Although the Panther’s first four games only resulted in one win, the offense was efficient in all four losses. Cabot piled up over 300 rushing yards in losses to Pulaski Academy, Springdale Har-Ber and Conway. Then even the offense began to sputter in the second half against Catholic and was absent in a shutout loss to North Little Rock two weeks ago. Suddenly against Central at last week’s homecoming game, The Panther offense came back to life, running up 385 total yards, including 369 on the ground.

Zach Launius broke the 100-yard mark for the first time with 110 yards on 21 carries.

SPORTS >> Beebe’s focus is title chance

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badgers may not need a last-second miracle against Greene County Tech this week like the one they received to win their homecoming game against Blytheville last Friday, but coach John Shannon does not want to take the struggling Eagles lightly.

The Badgers still have a chance to contend for a 5A East Conference championship after Batesville’s victory over Wynne last week, but they first must eliminate GCT and then Nettleton next week in order to get a week ten showdown with the Pioneers for all the marbles.

Junior Pearson Sloan became the hero of homecoming for Beebe when he recovered a Chickasaw fumble in the end zone in the closing seconds to score the winning touchdown and put a wild exclamation point on the Badgers’ second-half comeback. The Badgers (5-2, 3-1) trailed by 11 heading into the final quarter, but held true to their modus operandi of wearing down opponents and striking late.

“He started as a backup,” Shannon said of Sloan. “His playing time has been increasing steadily. And then he makes a play like that – you know it has to be a big confidence booster for him.”

The Eagles (2-5, 1-3) have struggled this season under fourth-year coach Jeff Conaway. They opened their season on a difficult note in a 45-6 loss to Jonesboro, but rebounded the next week to down Hoxie 35-21. They ended non conference play with a loss to Marion in a wild one, 82-51.

They picked up their only East win against Forrest City in week four before losing to Wynne, Blytheville and Nettleton last week, 40-34.

“They’re pretty good offensively. I think they’ve struggled some defensively,” Shannon said. “They spread you out, and they’ve put up some big scores. What they really get you with is the screens. They have about six or seven different screens, and it puts you in binds. We have to play disciplined and be able to stop it.”

Beebe’s constant strategy of keeping the ball in its hands is particularly important this week against the Eagles, who have been held to only one score in their season-opening loss to 6A Jonesboro.

“We’re hoping to be able to keep the ball, and keep pounding on them,” Shannon said. “We have to show up and work hard every day. We’re not superior to anyone, we’re just a hard-nosed football team with a game plan of wearing the other team down.”

Shannon noted that one more win will most likely give the Badgers enough to earn a seed in the Class 5A state playoffs, but two more will put Beebe in position for its ultimate goal, a shot at the 5A East title. That would mean hosting Batesville in a repeat of last year’s championship game at Pioneer Field.

If Beebe defeated Batesville and Wynne won out, the three would split the title and seeding would be determined by season records. But if Wynne is defeated in any of its last three games, the winner between the Badgers and Pioneers would take it all.

“Our main goal is to play Batesville for a shot at the conference title,” Shannon said. “But Greene County Tech is one of the toughest places in this conference to play on a Friday night.”

SPORTS >> Devils need complete game against Pats

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s football team will try to rebound from a disappointing loss to Searcy when it takes on the Parkview Patriots this Friday at Jan Crow Stadium in Jacksonville. The Red Devils (3-4, 2-2) suffered another late collapse in the loss to Searcy, reminiscent of its road loss to Jonesboro earlier in the season.

In that game, Jacksonville led going into the fourth quarter and lost 34-22. Last week, Lions led 27-19, but Jacksonville had the ball and was driving when disaster struck. A turnover led to another Searcy score that put the Red Devils behind by two touchdowns.

From there, the Lions added another touchdown to turn a close game into a lop-sided loss.

“It was very similar to Jonesboro except that we didn’t have the lead,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “I guess it was our second play on the drive to tie it up. We turned it over, and they went and scored. That changed the game. After that, we were pressing. They stopped us and went and scored again, put it out of reach. It was disappointing. We’re still searching for that complete game. We expect that to be this Friday night.”

Jacksonville’s defense will certainly have to be in form against the Patriots. Parkview has scored at least 26 points in every outing so far.

Recently, all those points haven’t resulted in many victories. The Patriots (4-3, 1-3) just ended a three-game losing streak with a 28-7 win over Little Rock Hall last Friday. It was their first conference win of the season. In its first three league games, Parkview lost 56-28 to Jonesboro, 46-34 to Searcy and 54-26 to Marion.

“Parkview is a good football team that scores a lot of points,” Russell said. “They’ve moved the ball and scored on every team they’ve played. We’re going to have to be sure and protect the football. You don’t want to give an offense like that extra chances. Defensively we’ll have to play good technique and run to the football really well.”

The details to earning a victory aren’t the main thing Russell is concerned about. For most of the game in Jacksonville’s recent losses, he feels his team has played well enough to win. It’s the lapses that have cost his team. So the key to victory this Friday is simpler than getting all the details right.

“We just have to play hard and smart and play good technique for 48 minutes,” Russell said. “We put in our game plan, but after that we just have to work as hard as we can to put 48 minutes of execution together. That’s really what it comes down to.”

The Red Devils have endured a brutal season on the injured list. There is good news on the front. Tight end and defensive end David Johnson, who was taken off the field in an ambulance last week, has only suffered a sprained neck and will make a full recovery.

The Red Devils and Patriots kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday.