Saturday, October 29, 2011

SPORTS>>Blue Devils stout, rout Jacksonville

Leader sports editor

Fresh off a dominating defensive performance last week in shutting out a high-flying Parkview offense, the Jacksonville Red Devils were themselves utterly dominated Friday night on the banks of the Mississippi River, losing 53-7 to conference foe West Memphis. West Memphis trailed 7-6 with 6:21 left in the first quarter. From there it was all Blue Devils. West Memphis scored 40 points from the end of the first quarter through the third to invoke the sportsmanship, continuous clock rule.

The Red Devils stopped West Memphis on the opening drive of the game, but were on the lower end of a tilted field. West Memphis punted from midfield and pinned Jacksonville inside the 10-yard line.

Jacksonville punted after three plays. West Memphis fielded the punt at the 40 and returned it to the Jacksonville 19. Two plays later, Taz Watson scored from four yards out. The extra point was no good, making it 6-0.

Jacksonville junior Kevin Richardson took the ensuing kickoff at the 5-yard line, and went 95 yards for the score. The extra point gave the Red Devils a very short-lived and soon-forgotten lead.

It took West Memphis less than three minutes to go 76 yards in three plays for a 12-7 lead with 3:38 left in the first quarter.

Richardson threw an interception on the ensuing drive at the Jacksonville 22. Three plays later it’s 18-7 with 1:52 left in the opening period.

After another Jacksonville punt, West Memphis went to the air to close out the next drive. After six runs got the Blue Devils to the 15, the only pass play of the night for the home team was good for a touchdown. A two-point conversion made it 26-7 with 9:15 left in the half.

After another three-and-out by Jacksonville, West Memphis went 49 yards in six plays to make it 33-7 with 4:41 left in the first half.

Jacksonville got its first, first down of the game on the next drive.

A pass from Richardson to Dvone McClure for eight yards moved the chains. After another first down, a West Memphis defender picked off another Richardson pass and returned it 11 yards to the Jacksonville 44.

Watson split that amount into even intervals, scampering two times for 22 yards a piece and another touchdown that made it 40-7 with 2:20 left until intermission.

Jacksonville got it to start the second half and got another first down. The Red Devils then lost 11 yards on the next set of downs and were again forced to punt.

The Blue Devils returned the kick 55 yards for another score, setting the continuous clock rolling with 9:57 left in the third quarter.

The final touchdown came with 51 seconds left in the third at the end of a 49-yard drive.

The Red Devils finished with 113 total yards, including just 20 on the ground. Kevin Richardson and Tirrell Brown combined to go 10 of 23 through the air for 93 yards and three interceptions.

West Memphis finished with 442 total yards, 427 of those coming on the ground. The Blue Devils rushed 32 times for 311 yards in the first half.

Jacksonville closes the regular-season at home next week against Marion. Despite the loss on Friday, the Red Devils secured at least a four-seed in the playoffs and a first-round home game, thanks to Van Buren’s loss to Cabot on Friday.

SPORTS>>Unbeaten Bison roll over Jags

Special to The Leader

The Carlisle Bison celebrated senior night by defeating the McCrory Jaguars 18-6 in the Bison’s final home game of the regular season.

Carlisle (9-0) (5-0) faced not only the state’s leading rusher in McCrory junior running back Logan Best, but also one of the toughest and biggest defensive lines they have seen all year. But the Bison defense played tougher, and Bison sophomore running back Bo Weddle put on a show of his own as he outperformed the top runner in the state.

The Bison defense set the tone for the game by recovering a fumble on the Jaguars’ opening drive of the game. After a quick three and out, the Bison defense once again flexed their muscles on the Jaguars’ second drive. On first and ten, Carlisle linebacker Deron Ricks put a vicious hit on Best for no gain, and two plays later the Jaguars were forced to punt.

On their second possession of the game, the Bison needed only five plays to go 76-yards for a score. Weddle capped off the drive with 25-yard touchdown run, breaking several tackles along the way.

At the end of the first quarter, Carlisle led 6-0. The Bison went for a two-point conversion, but were stopped short.

McCrory (6-3) (5-0) responded with a scoring drive of its own, going 61 yards in 11 plays. Jaguar fullback Cody Davis ran the final 14 yards hard up the middle, and the Jaguars were also unsuccessful on their two-point conversion try. With 10:43 left in the first half the game was tied at 6-6.

The Bison then recovered an onside kick attempt by McCrory, and began marching for another score. Carlisle reached the Jaguars’ 6-yard line, but penalties, an incompletion, and a sack on fourth down ended any hope of getting points on the drive. But the Bison defense would once again come through. On the Jaguars’ next possession, they had fourth and inches on the Bison 47-yard line.

Bison senior defensive lineman Clayton Fields broke through and made a big tackle on the Jaguar’s Davis as he tried to go up the middle. The Bison took over on offense with just under two minutes remaining in the half.

Carlisle needed three plays and just over a minute to put points on the board. After a penalty made it first down and 15 for the Bison, Weddle ran behind superb blocking, and then showed impressive speed to outrun the Jaguars defense for a 40-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds remaining in the half. The Bison again failed on their conversion try, and led 12-6 at the half.

The Bison dominated the second half on both sides of the ball. Weddle ran for another long touchdown run, as the final points of the game came on a 36-yard touchdown run. Again Weddle followed solid blocking to the right side of the line, then cut back across the middle of the field and raced to the left corner of the end zone for a highlight-reel run.

Zach King intercepted a pass on the next and final possession of the game for McCrory.

The Bison defense held best to 143 yards rushing on 22 carries, well below his average per game. McCrory was held to 192 rushing yards total, and completed only one of seven passes for 11 yards.

“We knew Logan Best was coming in running behind a massive offensive line,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “He is a tremendous rusher — the best runner we have faced this year, and our guys knew coming in that this was a good quality opponent.

“They run the ball in many different ways, and they like to spread you out and then run behind their huge offensive tackles. I thought we did a tremendous job of bending but not breaking on defense.”

Carlisle ran the ball 50 times for 373 yards, as Weddle led the way with 163 yards on 18 carries and all three of their touchdowns. Braxton Petrus and Deron Ricks both had 60 rushing yards, and Zach King added 82 yards rushing for the Bison.

The Bison will play at Hazen next week 6-2A Conference title.

“It does not matter if we are 9-0 or 0-9, records don’t matter in this game,” Waymire said. “If you have never been to a Carlisle-Hazen game, I can tell you it is a great, great game, and we don’t have to worry about kids on either side getting up for this game. I have been here at Carlisle for six years, and I think the atmosphere for this game tops any game in the state.”

SPORTS>>Freshmen Devils get big win at Chili Bowl

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville’s freshmen Red Devils had little trouble keeping hold of the Chili Bowl trophy on Thursday at North Pulaski’s Falcon Stadium. Jacksonville won the annual game 41-0. The win was sweet, but the aftermath wasn’t. Jacksonville needed Sheridan to beat Maumelle in order to play in the River City Conference championship game, but the Hornets beat the Yellowjackets 16-8. That means that two teams Jacksonville beat, White Hall and Maumelle, will play each other for the title.

“We’d like to have the two we lost back, that’s for sure,” Red Devil coach Max Hatfield said. “We did-n’t have everybody out for two-a-days and were still learning early. But I’m proud of the way the kids came together and played so well later in the season.”

The Red Devils, 7-2, came out hot in their final game. They took the opening drive 78 yards in four plays with four different players getting the ball. Lamont Gause went for 11, Jarvis McChrston for 16, Laderrious Perry for 32 and Kerry Knight went the final 19 for the score with 6:50 left in the first quarter.

North Pulaski was putting together a decent drive, going 13 yards in 7 plays. That’s when Perry stepped in front of an NP pass, picked it off and returned it 18 yards to the Falcon 32.

It took three plays for Jacksonville to make it 14-0. Justin Abbott got the first 12 and McChriston got 17 more on his second reception. Quarterback Greg Jones did the rest and Knight got the two point conversion to make it 14-0 with 2:50 left in the first.

The Falcons then got a 10-play drive that went 22 yards before a fumble and a loss of 12 yards thwarted the drive.

Yet another Red Devil got in on the offensive assault on the first play of the ensuing drive. Jeremy Wilson went 31 yards to the NP 12. Knight got the rest and the conversion made it 22-0 with 4:30 left in the second quarter.

With 18 seconds left in the first half, Gause took the handoff around the left side for six yards and another score. The failed PAT left it 28-0 at intermission.

The Falcons fumbled a pitch on the first drive of the second half and Jacksonville defensive lineman Marquis Jones covered it at the Falcon 31.

Three plays later, another wildcat handoff left to Gause went 29 yards for the score to make it 34-0 at the 5:10 mark of the third.

The two teams traded possessions without a first down four times until North Pulaski began to move the ball midway through the fourth. But after their deepest penetration into Jacksonville territory, a pass was picked off by Keilen Richardson near the NP sideline. Richardson reversed field and raced down the visitors’ sideline 70 yards for the final score of the game.

Jacksonville finished with 216 total yards to just 78 for North Pulaski. The Red Devils spread it around well. No player had more than 46 total yards, but five players had over 30. Gause led the way with three carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns. Knight had 39 total yards, 31 rushing and eight receiving. McChriston led the team in receiving with two catches for 33 yards. And Wilson’s one run was good for 31.

Defensively, Jacksonville’s Courtland McDonald had two sacks and a tackle for loss. Makenley Northern-Wilson also had a pair of sacks in the contest.

Jason Schrunk led North Pulaski with 12 carries for 41 yards.

SPORTS>>Stuttgart wears down Lonoke

Special to The Leader

Lonoke looked competitive despite two turnovers in the first half against Stuttgart Friday night at James B. Abraham stadium, but the Ricebirds’ physical play was too much for the Jackrabbits to overcome in the second half.

With the help of a solid run game primarily from Stuttgart’s standout running back Keith Humbert, who racked up 263 yards rushing and three touchdowns on just 16 carries, the Ricebirds all but clinched the No. 2 seed in 2-4A conference play with a 38-20 win over the ‘Rabbits.

“Thirty three, he was a man in there and he was tough to bring down,” said Lonoke Head Coach Doug Bost about the strong game from Humbert. “He ran for a lot of yards on us tonight.”

Stuttgart got on the board first when junior quarterback Dontrell Brown hit senior wideout Jordan Daniels for a 42-yard touchdown pass, capping off a five play drive. Humbert, who is also the team’s place kicker, kicked the extra point to give the Ricebirds the early 7-0 lead.

Lonoke answered with a 10-play drive ending with junior quarterback D.J. Burton taking the quarterback sneak into the endzone with 4:09 left in the first quarter. T.J. Scott kicked the extra point to even the score at 7.

Lonoke’s defense forced a punt on the Ricebirds’ next possession, but Burton fumbled on a quarterback keeper and the Ricebird defense covered the fumble at the Lonoke 26. On the first play of the series, Humbert found a large hole on a sweep play and marched into the endzone from 26-yards out to give the Ricebirds a 14-7 lead.

The Jackrabbit offense had no trouble moving the ball on its next series as the offense managed to grind its way down to the Stuttgart 23-yard line, but another fumble from Burton resulted in yet another turnover.

The Ricebird offense responded with an eight-play drive that ended with Brown finding senior wideout Aaron Lockwood for another touchdown pass. This one coming from seven yards out with 0:26 left in the half. Humbert’s extra point attempt was no good, giving the Ricebirds a 20-7 lead going into the half.

“The two turnovers in the first half hurt us,” Bost said. “We were right there playing with them, moving the ball, and our two turnovers led to 14 points. It’s just a big hole we couldn’t get out of.”

Stuttgart didn’t slow down any in the second half, as the offense scored on its first play of the next two series. The first was a 54-yard touchdown run from Humbert with 10:15 left in the third quarter. The second was a 79-yard run, also from Humbert. Neither conversion attempt was good, giving the Ricebirds a 32-7 lead.

Lonoke answered when Burton hit receiver Blake Mack for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 5:40 left in the third to make the score 32-14, but Stuttgart scored on its next possession in just over four minutes with a quarterback sneak from Brown. The two-point conversion attempt was no good leaving the score at 38-14.

Lonoke sophomore quarterback Grant Dewey threw a touchdown pass as time expired to set the final margin.

“We were just behind with the turnovers and that hurt us early,” Bost said.

Lonoke clinched a spot in the playoffs last week with a win over Marianna-Lee, and will try and improve its seeding next week as the ’Rabbits travel to Clinton to finish the regular season. Kickoff starts at 7 p.m.

SPORTS>>Panthers run away from Pointers

Leader sports editor

For the last two weeks, the Panthers were heading towards a game in which everything finally comes together. That game arrived Friday night at Panther Stadium as Cabot hammered Van Buren 56-25 on senior night.

“They just played well,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “The kids played hard. We just had a pretty good game on offense. We took care of the ball in the first half. The defense made some plays. It was good for the seniors. Hopefully we can play good again next week and end on good note going into offseason.”

‘A pretty good game on offense’ is an understatement. Cabot rolled down the field every time it touched the ball in the first half. The only first-half possession in which the Panthers didn’t score was the last one, and only because quarterback Zach Craig took a knee to run off the final few seconds of the half.

The fireworks began on the first play of the game. Halfback Weston Conard went 64 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 11:46 left in the first quarter. He also scored the last touchdown of the half on a 14-yard run that made it 42-12 with 1:03 remaining.

In between Conard’s touchdowns, fullback Zach Launius put on a show. The 146-pound sophomore carried 12 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. His first score came on Cabot’s second drive, a 3-yard run that made it 14-0 with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

Van Buren then marched 71 yards in 17 plays and took only 3:11 to do it. The drive ended with a Jacob Eason pass to Wacey Connor for 10 yards and a touchdown.

Cabot answered right back. Launius went 22 yards to midfield on the last play of the first quarter. Senior fullback Ian Thompson picked up eight yards, and Launius scampered for 42 more on second down for his second score. Jesus Marquez’ extra point made it 21-6 with 11:13 left in the first half.

Van Buren’s next drive ended after Chase Boyles and Tyler Gilbertson sacked Eason for a three-yard loss. Cabot got it back and went 73 yards in just six plays with Launius breaking off the final 32 for a 28-6 lead with 7:08 on the clock.

After a Van Buren three-and-out, Cabot went 76 yards in nine plays with Thompson getting in on the fun. He finished the drive with a one-yard plunge that made it 35-6 with 2:07 left. Van Buren then got a one-play drive. Eason hit Williams Walton on a hook pattern. Walton broke a tackle and went 66 yards for the score.

“I thought we had that covered pretty good,” Malham said. “He broke a tackle and scored on us.”

The two minutes remaining was still enough for Conard’s final touchdown of the half. It was also enough time for the Pointers to run eight plays and get down to the Cabot 36. There, senior defensive back Bryson Morris intercepted an Eason pass at the 8-yard line and returned 14 yards to end the drive.

Morris started the second half where he left off in the first. Van Buren had first down at midfield, but Morris got another pick on a deep pass down the sidelines and brought it back out to the 21.

From there, things went poorly for Cabot’s offense, at least for a while. The Panthers put a pitch on the ground on an option play that was wide open to end their first drive. Van Buren answered with a touchdown that made it 42-18 with 6:19 left in the third quarter.

Cabot’s Mason Haley broke a 51-yard scoring run on the next drive, but a holding penalty negated the play and forced the Panthers to punt. That’s when things started to break Cabot’s way again.

Van Buren fumbled the punt and Seth Hoggard covered it at the Pointer 26. It took Cabot nine plays to get it in from there, but junior halfback Max Carroll finally scored on a 3-yard run on fourth and goal to put Cabot up 49-18.

Van Buren gained just six yards on three plays on the next drive. On fourth down, Gilbertson knocked down an Eason pass to give the Panthers the ball at their own 45. Launius got back in the action on the next drive. He took the first carry two yards, and the second one 53 for his fourth touchdown of the game.

Van Buren scored again with 1:01 remaining on a pass from Eason to Bradley Eversole to set the final margin.

“When you’re 1-7 you don’t take anything for granted,” Malham said. “This was a good one. The kids have been working hard and I’m glad for the kids tonight.”

While Van Buren was able to get some offense going at times, the Cabot defense made several big plays and never allowed Eason as the Pointer offense to get momentum.

Zach Boyd had two sacks. Brandon Schiefelbein, Gilbertson, Chase Boyles, Connor Bennett and Devin Crawford all recorded sacks in the game.

“We were worried about their quarterback,” Malham said. “We saw him break several long ones on film. He ran that speed option and got a few decent runs on us, but we never let him break that long one and that was good to see.”

Eason did most of his work through the air. The junior hurler completed 35 of 58 pass attempts for 353 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

His favorite target was Walton, who caught 13 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.

Cabot rolled up a whopping 577 yards of offense, including 537 on the ground.

Launius led the way with 251 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 carries. Conard carried just once in the second half for four yards. That brought his game totals to six carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

The Panthers go to Russellville to close out the season. The Cyclones are 1-8 and fell 27-7 to Conway on Friday.

Friday, October 28, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Hypocrisy in action

The mark of a successful politician, a congressman, for example, is the ability to take both sides of an issue and get credit for both. The mark of an honorable one is the courage to stay steadfast to a principle and accept the consequences of disappointing one side or the other.

We seem to see far more of the former and far fewer of the latter in these parlous times. The field of Republican presidential contenders is full of the “successful” variety, people who have forsaken one position for the opposite because it will give them traction with an important base of the party, the tea-party faction. The only exception we can think of is U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, whose ideas may be eccentric or even dangerous but nevertheless consistent.

The best weathervane in our memory was Sarah Palin, who joined the national ticket in 2008 with Sen. John McCain, who had made his mark fighting “earmarks,” those congressional pork appropriations sought by members of Congress to build support back home. McCain had denounced the famous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. Palin, who was Alaska’s governor briefly, announced that she had said “thanks but no thanks” to Washington for the bridge appropriation and every other earmark. But it turned out that she had supported the bridge-to-nowhere funding and, in fact, had requested more federal earmarks for Alaska than had been sought for any state except those with populations many times Alaska’s.

What prompts all this navel contemplation is a newsletter last week from Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, whose district includes Lonoke County. The newsletter (a Democratic analysis, by the way, reports that he had spent $59,102.26 on such mailings for the months of April, May and June) took credit for getting $400,000 from the federal treasury to help build a convention center in Jonesboro. The money came from the federal Delta Regional Authority. He said the construction would create several hundred jobs. It will create a few dozen anyway.

But here’s the thing. Crawford has joined the House Republican leadership in condemning this kind of federal spending—government stimulus to create jobs and economic activity—and specifically the Delta Regional Authority. He is a member of the Republican Study Committee, which recommended eliminating the Delta Regional Authority, and in his first days in Congress he voted for a Republican budget that slashed the authority’s spending in Mississippi River counties by $7.3 million from 2010.

We could pick on just about any other member of Congress, particularly Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, who decry federal spending except when it is in their districts. Senator John Boozman, when he was in the House of Representatives, never missed a chance to be at a ribbon cutting on a federal project though he loved to haze the “big spenders.”

Back in the spring, after joining Rep. Paul Ryan’s campaign to slash $1 billion from Head Start as the first step in shutting it down, Rep. Tim Griffin, our own congressman, made a highly publicized visit to a Head Start facility in Little Rock and got a picture of himself in the state newspaper reading stories to children. He got the fuzzy image of a champion of early childhood training for poor children.

The member of Congress who can say one thing, do the opposite and always get credit for both is no longer a rarity. The rarity is one who doesn’t try. In fact, after the retirement last year of Rep. Vic Snyder, we can think of none in our part of the world.

TOP STORY > >Son is certain murder victim was harassed

Leader staff writer

The man accused in the August killing of a Sherwood woman pestered her to date him for months, wanted to work in her garden and then asked her for money two days before she went missing from her Austin Lakes Home, according to the victim’s son.

Richard Cleary of Texas said his mother, when she was asked for money, probably confronted Carter Wilcoxson, 60, who pleaded not guilty this month to the capital murder of 74-year-old Katherine Cleary.

He said Sherwood Police have been intouch with his sister, but had not called him after being asked to do so. Cleary said he had learned more about his mother’s death from the media than the police.

According to a release, “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.”

Wilcoxson first met the victim when he was doing yard work for her neighbor about four months before she was killed.

Cleary said Wilcoxson asked his mother for work, but she loved gardening and did all of that by herself. Then he started coming around to ask Cleary out, her son said.

She told her son that Wilcox-son was “harmless, recently divorced and his ex-wife took everything.” Cleary said his mother refused to date an unemployed man who was almost 15 years younger than her.

Cleary said Wilcoxson was released from prison the same time he claimed he had been divorced. He was a “couch-hopper,” who did not have a residence and slept on friends’ couches.

Sherwood District Court Judge Butch Hale said the warrant to arrest Wilcoxson for capital murder said Cleary’s DNA was found on his shoe when he was arrested Aug. 23, one day after she was reported missing. He was first charged with drug possession and parole violation.

Wilcoxson was held without bond in the Pulaski County Detention Facility. He has been transferred to the state Department of Correction.

A trial date has not been set. The case will be handled by the Pulaski County Circuit Court.

His decades-long rap sheet includes convictions for drugs, theft and fraud, according to the court and the state Department of Community Correction. Wilcoxson was released on supervised parole in June 2009. That parole was revoked Oct. 11.

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, Rhonda Glass-burner-Strong, 51, of North Little Rock and Sonia Bell, 39, of Jacksonville were arrested a few days later after detectives followed activity on Cleary’s stolen credit card to the purchase of a flat-screen television at Walmart in Jacksonville. Cameras taped the two women using the card.

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

Glassburner-Strong and Bell were charged with felony theft by receiving and fraudulent use of a credit card.

No additional charges have been filed against the women, said Capt. Grady Russell of the Sherwood Police Department.

He said Wilcoxson and the two women were acquaintances. They also appeared in court for drug and theft charges around the same time he was in prison.

Lt. Dan Kerr of the Sherwood Police Department said Wednes-day that police had not been able to connect the two women to Cleary’s death.

The continuing investigation into her murder could result in other arrests and charges.

Cleary’s cause of death has not been released because of the ongoing investigation.

According to her obituary, she was a kind-hearted woman who was a member of the Moose Lodge and loved to sew, garden and square dance.

TOP STORY > >Fund will aid military students

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has been awarded a three-year $540,000 grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity 2011 grant program to fund “A Call to Arms: The Battle to Improve Literacy.”

The grant will help the schools implement READ 180 and System 44 programs created by Scholastic, Inc., that assist with increasing literacy achievement and promote positive reading attitudes.

Schools eligible to apply for the grant program must have a high percentage of military children enrolled. Northwood Middle School and North Pulaski High School were selected for the program.

“It’s (the programs are) really working for our kids. They’re growing,” said Lynn Terrill Walters, response to intervention coordinator for PCSSD.

The programs will be used by the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grades, and could be expanded to other grade levels in the future, Walters said.

The grant will purchase interactive whiteboards, computers, audio books and textbooks and professional development and training for teachers.

Each READ 180 and System44 class can hold up to 21 students and will have an interactive whiteboard, seven student computers and one teacher computer.

The research-based programs address individual student needs through differentiated instruction, adaptive and instructional software, high-interest literature, and direct instruction in reading, writing, and vocabulary.

The classes will offer students the opportunity to engage in relevant, fun lessons, using specially designed books and technology to take the embarrassment out of learning to read and to have a positive relationship with classroom teachers.

PCSSD has already piloted the programs during the 2010-11 school year with a total of 450 students from seven schools — Fuller Middle, Robinson Middle, Robinson High, Jacksonville High, Oakgrove High (now Maumelle High), Jacksonville Elementary (the program has continued at Harris Elementary) and Star Academy.

Students in those classes made significant reading gains, improving their skills by one-, two-, three- and four-year levels.

The purpose of the grant program, which will not make new awards again until 2014, is to improve achievement, increase educational opportunities, ensure student preparation for success in college and careers, and ease the challenges military- dependent students have due to transitions and deployments.

The Department of Defense gave more than $65 million to 57 military-connected local education agencies nationwide. Participating schools serve communities near more than 30 military installations.

PCSSD is the first district in Arkansas to receive this grant. The district applied for the grant in February and was notified of its approval at the end of July.

TOP STORY > >Vietnamese on goodwill tour

Leader editor-in-chief

Pham Quoc Toa, the vice chairman of the Vietnam Journalists Association and chief editor of the group’s magazine, looked comfortable sitting behind Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher’s desk at city hall Thursday afternoon.

Fletcher’s small office was crammed with nine south Vietnamese journalists and three interpreters from the U.S. State Department. Fletcher gave the journalists certificates that made them honorary Jacksonville citizens.

“I would appreciate your vote,” the mayor said.

They smiled and nodded their heads and thanked Fletcher, who then took them inside the council room, where they sat down behind the long table where council members meet.

Fletcher pounded his gavel to open the meeting. The journalists, who work for state-controlled media, had a glimpse at how democracy works.

The visitors are top journalists who work on colorful dailies and weeklies and on TV in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Dak Lak, Khanh Hoa and elsewhere. They’re a friendly group, mild-mannered, eager to take notes—seven men and two women journalists, along with three Vietnamese-American interpreters.

The delegation included:

n Phu Xuan La, head of propaganda, Dong Nai Newspaper;

n Dinh Kien Luong, editor-in-chief of Khanh Hoa newspaper;

n Loc Duc Mai, editor-in-chief of Da Nang newspaper;

n Ha Thi Minh Nguyen, managing editor of Laborer Newspaper, Ho Chi Minh City;

n Lien Duc Nguyen, chief representative of Vietnamnet, Ho Chi Minh City;

n Loan Thi Bich Nguyen, chief representative of Phap Luat Vietnam (Vietnam Law) Newspaper, Ho Chi Minh City;

n Toan Quoc Pham, vice president of Vietnam Journalists Association;

n Hoang Minh Phan, editor- in-chief/director of Binh Phuoc Radio and Television;

n Thang Minh Truong, editor-in-chief, Dak Lak Newspaper.

They arrived in the U.S. on Monday on a goodwill tour sponsored by the State Department as part of the international visitors leadership program. Their first stop was in Washington, where they met diplomats and journalists and visited the Newseum, a museum about the history of American journalism.

The Arkansas Council for International Visitors welcomed the journalists to Little Rock on Wednesday. They toured the downtown area and then came to Jacksonville.

They stopped at The Leader, where they saw a framed front page from Aug. 26, 1998 on the wall. The headline reads, “City to mark end of Vertac cleanup: $150 million Superfund project closes long chapter in Jacksonville’s history.”

They looked at the picture of the old Vertac chemical plant site and took copious notes in front of the wall.

Agent Orange was manufactured at the plant and was widely dispersed over Vietnam during the war.

Their country is still recovering, but many in the group are too young to have first-hand memories of the war.

The health effects are felt more than 35 years after the war’s end, they said. They reported babies born with birth defects and millions of gallons of defoliants still contaminating their nation.

They said the U.S. is subsidizing the cleanup of millions of gallons of Agent Orange in many sections of the country.

Their driver, a friendly Ukrainian named Felix Shidlovich, took the Vietnamese to the plant site, which now has a recycling center and a fire and police training center. The brownfield designation prohibits most other uses on the site.

They then went up the road to the C-130 display in front of the air base. They read the citation that said it was the last cargo plane out of Saigon in April 1975.

Lam Phan, a 75-year-old interpreter originally from Hue, looked at the 54-year-old plane and said he fled Vietnam on another C-130 two days before the fall of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.

He and his five children were flown to the Philippines and then to Guam. “There were three relocation centers in the U.S.,” he said. “We were flown to Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith. We later settled in Washington state.”

Before going back to Little Rock, the Vietnamese journalists said goodbye and invited their American counterparts to visit Vietnam soon.

TOP STORY > >Arts center planned for school site

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has no plans to reopen the Jacksonville Ele-mentary School or build anything on the 11-acre site, the superintendent told Jacksonville residents Thursday night.

“We can either sell it at fair market value or work a long-term lease agreement with another government entity like the city of Jacksonville,” he said.

Mayor Gary Fletch-er has made it clear he would like the site for the city.

“I’d like to move as fast as we can on the Jacksonville Elementary School property,” Mayor Gary Fletcher told about 100 people at a town hall meeting Thursday night.

He outlined his vision for the closed school which sits on 11 acres at the eastern end of Main Street.

The mayor’s vision is for a fine arts and sports complex, but the money would have to come from fundraisers, grants and other sources besides the city.

Pastor James Bolden said, “Anytime you have a vision, there’s a cost that should be welcomed. The name of our subdivision is Sunnyside, lets go on and make it sunny again.”

The mayor said, “The cafeteria would make a great community theater, and unlike many of the other buildings on the school property, is asbestos free,”

He also wants to keep one of the other buildings for a working art studio.

“The district has said it would leave the playground equipment for us and I’d like to see us add two basketball courts and a soccer field which could also double as a football field,” Fletcher said.

He also wants to add a through street to create traffic flow onto Spring Street to help revitalize business in those historic buildings. “It would also help with truck traffic turning off the overpass,” he explained.

Local artist Roberta Bonham McGrath loved the idea of an arts center and theater.

“Jacksonville has no shortage of artists in all disciplines. That includes painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians and literary artists. Our town has produced and harbors several world class artists,” she said.

“The establishment of a fine arts center could provide professional quality arts programming that would support, educate and inspire,” McGrath added

“We need to do something to bring people back into the area. If it stays as it is, transient traffic will increase along with thefts,” the mayor said.

Guess said it would be difficult, because of today’s codes, to build a good size school on the site.

He said the district had not had it appraised, but the mayor said the cost for asbestos abatement and removal would be between $30,000 and $70,000.

“As superintendent, I have to be a good steward of the district’s property, and I also want to be a good neighbor to Jacksonville.”

One resident asked if a multi-story school could be built on the site.

“A lack of a school hurts my property values,” she said.

This prompted Dorothy Broner to say that she liked the idea of the Jacksonville owning it, but didn’t want it to become an eyesore like a big storage site for the city filled with big trucks.

Fletcher said his plans weren’t etched in stone. That’s why I’m here to get ideas and suggestions from you, but I can say there are no plans to make it a storage site. It will have an educational use,” the mayor said.

Residents suggested adding tennis courts, a tutoring center and instead of the extending road cutting through the middle to have it at the southernmost end.

“Even if it becomes a pretty park, it will be better for area property owners,” Guess said.

Some residents had concerns with the lease. “Where would the money go that we give the district for the property, back into our schools?” asked Michelle Dutasaca.

Guess said the lease would not generate much money.

“I don’t care if its 50 cents, we need it put back into our schools,” she said.

The mayor envisions a non-profit foundation running the fine arts complex and has talked to Angie Mitchell, who puts together the annual Patriotic Spectacular, about being a part of that foundation.

Mitchell said she envisions a summer program that involves not just the fine arts and not just children.

“I see us expanding into music, having adult classes, and maybe even going into the culinary arts,” she said.

She told the crowd that the community center has no kitchen facilities for meetings and gatherings. “The school’s cafeteria has a full kitchen. It gives us another location for events and another selling point,” Mitchell said.

“It’s not a complex for the rich or for the poor, but a place for everyone to experience the arts,” she said, adding that the city has too much talent going outside of Jacksonville to hone their skills.

McGrath echoed those thoughts, “Jacksonville has the talent and expertise to create a proliferation of arts and culture in the city by virtue of a fine arts center. If done right, it would be the absolute perfect future for the former elementary school building,” she said.

“The minute this happens, the neighborhood and everyone will benefit. It will be like a magnet,” McGrath added.

The school property wasn’t the only item the mayor wanted to discuss.

He also said the city needs to have a board of volunterism and to push for more volunteers and new volunteers.

“We keep asking the same people to help and we are working them to death,” Fletcher said.

The mayor said the city is awash with volunteer opportunites.

He also took time to push the proposed gas severance tax issue that supporters are trying to get on the 2012 general election ballot.

“It would raise the tax on natural gas to seven percent, in line with surrounding states, and would not be borne only by Arkansans. “We are already getting our natural gas from those other states and paying seven percent or more. We shouldn’t take less when we send our gas out,” the mayor said.

He said the proposal would mean millions of dollars of new revenue for the state and $680,000 for Jacksonville to use on its roads.

And speaking of roads, he said he wanted Jacksonville to become a community for people, not cars. “I’d like to see the day when people stop driving through Main Street and stop and shop and walk down Main Street.

The mayor ended, the discussion, saying, “It’s time we update this city. Five years from now, you’ll tell people that you came out on a cold rainy night and changed the direction for the city.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

EVENTS >> 10-29-11


Boyd Veterinary Clinic, 300 John Harden Drive, will host a pet costume contest at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. Goodie bags and prizes will be given away.


The Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club will hold its annual holiday shopping and craft bazaar from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the old Jacksonville Walmart, site of the new Little Rock Expo Center.


A Reed’s Bridge Haunted Halloween will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. next Saturday at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield, South Hwy. 161 in Jacksonville.

A bloody barn tour, appropriate for all ages, and a haunted hayride will be held. A psychic will also be on hand. Parking will be available in the Reed’s Bridge re-enactment lots and a shuttle will be available.

Refreshments will be sold. Admission is $2 per person, with no charge for children 5 and under. Psychic readings are $5.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society. For information, call Ann Hooper at 501-831-8427.


Christ Church of Cabot will hold their Annual Fall Carnival from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 at their new location, 100 Gateway Drive in Cabot.

This year’s carnival will have free games, bouncy-houses, live music, Trunk and Treat Car Show, and more.

All proceeds will go to support Crossroad House for Girls in Cabot. For more information, call 501-843-2302 or email


Boyd Veterinary Clinic, 300 John Harden Drive, will host a pet costume contest at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Goodie bags and prizes will be given away at the event. Dress ‘em up and bring ‘em out.


Sharon’s Parent’s Association is having its annual chili cook-off at Sharon’s dance studio on James Street in Jacksonville from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. There will be a raffle, kiddie games and a talent show. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under. This includes all you can eat — chili, hotdogs, and a drink. For more information, call Tracy at 501-940-9703.


Christmas parade themes and dates have been set in Sherwood, Jacksonville and Cabot.

 The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Christmas parade at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. The theme will be “Christmas Around the World.”

For entry forms, contact Marcia Cook at the chamber 501-835-7600 or e-mail

 Cabot’s Christmas Parade is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11.

The theme will be “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” Dewey Faught, former director of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, will be the grand marshal.

Entry forms are available at the Veterans Park Community Center, the Cabot chamber and online at Deadline to enter is Dec. 3. Entry fee is $10.

For details, call 501-920-2122 or e-mail

 Jacksonville’s parade is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The theme is “Storybook Christmas.” Entry fee is $20. Deadline to register is Nov. 18. Entry forms are available at Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club, 1 Boys Club Drive.


Hearts and Hooves, a nonprofit therapeutic riding center in Sherwood, will hold its annual hoedown fundraiser at 6 p.m. Saturday. The event will be held at the group’s facility at 2308 Kellogg Acres Road.

The group helps people with special needs to ride horses and develop coordination, balance, flexibility and self-esteem while enjoying a physical activity in a social environment.

Tickets are $65 each, and tables of eight are $500. The price includes dinner, live music by Chuck Gatlin and Canvas, and a fashion show by the equestrians. There will also be a live auction, and Craig O’Neill will be the master of ceremonies.

For tickets, call 501-834-8509 or e-mail


The Lonoke County Republican Committee will have a fundraiser at 5 p.m. Saturday at the home of Alvin and Rita Schmitz, 1487 Dogwood Lane in Ward.

The event will include live music, games, prizes and food. Admission is free, but food will cost $10.

Attendees should bring lawn chairs. For more information, call Rita Schmitz after 5 p.m. at 501-743-0991.


Boyd Veterinary Clinic, 300 John Harden Drive, will host a pet costume contest at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Goodie bags and prizes will be given away at the event. Dress ‘em up and bring ‘em out.


Keep Sherwood Beautiful will hold a shred-a-thon from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Walmart Neighborhood Market, 8801 Hwy. 107 in Sherwood.

Residents are invited to have their unwanted personal papers, bills, old documents and bank statements destroyed for free.

Sherwood police officers will also be collecting expired or unwanted prescription drugs at the event.


Jacksonville residents are invited to bring their dogs to the city’s dog park from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 at Dupree Park, 1700 Redmond Road. The free event, dubbed Yappy Hour, will be held the first Sunday of each month.


A Tai Chi play day for all ages will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Jacksonville Community Center near the fountain behind the farmers market, 9 Municipal Drive. Tai Chi is a Chinese exercise regimen that works muscles and organs.


The following Arkansas AARP Drivers Safety Programs will be held free for veterans and active duty military members:

White County Medical Center on Friday, Nov. 4. Call Anna Overbay at 501-380-1057 for details.

Cabot United Methodist Church, Nov. 16. Call Jean Davenport at 501-843-5694 for details.

St. Jude Catholic Church, 2403 McArthur Drive in Jacksonville. Call 501-982-4891 for details.


The following churches and organizations in the area are planning festivals, haunted houses and more to celebrate fall’s arrival.


 Reed’s Bridge Haunted Halloween will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield, Hwy. 161 in Jacksonville. There will be a bloody barn tour, haunted hayride and a psychic on hand. Parking is at the Reed’s Bridge re-enactment lots and a shuttle will be available. Admission is $2 per person, with no charge for children 5 and under. Psychic readings are $5. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society. For more information, call Ann Hooper at 501-831-8427.

 Second Baptist Church, 1117 N. James St. in Jacksonville, will host its Harvest Share from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday. The event will feature many activities, including hayrides.

 First United Methodist Church, 308 W. Main St. in Jacksonville, will have its Main Event and trunk-or-treat from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The event will feature an inflatable house, performances by the worship choir in the Family Life Center and food.

 Zion Hill Baptist Church will sponsor a trunk-or-treat from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday. There will be games, snacks, drinks and fun for the whole family. Children may come in costume. The church asks there be no costumes with occult themes. The church is located at the intersections of Hwys. 89 and 107, approximately seven miles west of Cabot. For more information, call 501-988-4989 during the day or Pastor Terry Fortner at 501-985-9037 in the evenings.


 Christ Church of Cabot will hold its annual fall carnival from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at its new location, 100 Gateway Drive. There will be games, bouncy-houses, live music, a trunk-or-treat car show and more. Proceeds will support Crossroad House for Girls in Cabot. For more information, call 501-843-2302 or e-mail

 Briarwood Baptist Church will host a harvest fest at 2 p.m. Saturday. The church is at 1872 Willie Ray Drive in Cabot. There will be carnival games, prizes, a costume contest, entertainment, silent auction, bake sale and more. Concessions will be available and plate lunches will be $5. Proceeds will benefit a church member to cover medical bills. For more information, call the church at 501-941-2337.


 Sherwood will hold its Halloween Carnival from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at Sherwood Forest, 1111 W. Maryland Ave. There will be a costume contest hosted by T-Smooth of Power 92 Jams, a haunted house, booths, prizes, candy and a concession stand. Admission is free.

 First Baptist Church of Sherwood, 701 Country Club Road, will have its fall festival from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday. There will be inflatables, food and hay rides.

 Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church, 9008 Hwy. 107 in Sherwood, will host a fall festival from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Abundant Life Gym. The event will feature candy, games, a cookie walk, face painting, crafts and bingo with prizes.

 First Christian Church, 2803 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood, will host a trunk-or-treat to hand out candy Monday in the church’s parking lot. Sylvan Hills Community Church, 8019 Hwy. 107 in Sherwood, will also have a trunk-or-treat at 5:45 p.m. on Monday.


 Cornerstone Assembly will host a harvest festival beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday. The church is located at 13 Brewer St.


 First Baptist Church of McRae will host “God’s Big Top Fall Carnival” featuring Transcend. The event will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday and from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

There will be food and fun. Admission is free.


The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Jacksonville will hold its kick-off party at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Southern Oaks Country Club, 705 Foxwood Drive. The relay, which raises money for cancer research, will be held May 11.

The group will discuss this year’s relay theme, “Games For Life,” and share fundraising ideas. The meeting is open to the public. To volunteer or join a team, contact Andy Stoll at 618-707-0717 or e-mail or Gwen Hernandez at

TOP STORY >> PCSSD still struggling, Guess says

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District faces many challenges, but it is ready to meet them, Dr. Jerry Guess told the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.

Superintendent Guess said goals for the 730-square-mile district with more than 17,000 students include achieving unitary status because desegregation funding won’t last, implementing the common core curriculum, changing the culture in all schools to promote leadership and academic performance and addressing the causes of the district’s fiscal distress.

Guess said managing the district is difficult because it covers more land than Little Rock’s 97 square miles and North Little Rock’s 29 square miles,  but PCSSD has far fewer students than Little Rock. He also said property in Little Rock is assessed at $3.2 billion compared to PCSSD’s $2.3 billion and North Little Rock’s $706 million.

He emphasized that the district cannot continue to operate in the red with declining revenue. There will be no more meetings in expensive hotels, and traveling out-of-state won’t happen unless necessary or there is grant money to cover the cost.

Projected carryover for the district’s 2011 fiscal year was $9 million, but the year closed out at $2 million, a decline of $7 million.

The district will look at trimming its teaching, administrative and district staff, Guess said, and cutting the budget wherever it can without losing anything it needs to do to serve the public.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get things done. You have to have some concern for efficiency in what you do,” he said. “You have to strike a balance between serving the public and being efficient.”

Guess said one anomaly concerning PCSSD’s budgeting is that is receives $10,782 per student. The district has the 32nd highest per student expenditures, but ranks second and third in having the most students and staff.

He said operating PCSSD’s 24 elementary schools with enrollments ranging from 160 to 729 efficiently is one of the district’s challenges, but it is easier to manage its secondary schools, where that enrollment range, from 384 to 900, isn’t as broad.

The state Education Department took over the district in June, dissolving the school board and dismissing then-superintendent Charles Hopson. Guess was appointed to the position in July.

High absenteeism in the district is a serious problem. On a typical day, some 1,200 students are absent, which is too high. He wants parents to become involved in their children’s education.

Guess said, “There is no greater challenge than support from home and the significance of attendance.”

He acknowledged that PCSSD serves several unique communities. He said it’s no secret that Jacksonville wants its own school district. Sherwood wants out of PCSSD, too, and he is sure Maumelle could be talking about splitting too.

Guess said he understood, but it’s very difficult if not impossible to discuss severing the district right now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Nelson right on gas tax

The election is a year and a week away, but you can already sense the titanic effort that will be made to defeat the natural-gas severance tax that probably will be on the ballot. Last week, a business consortium filed the papers for a campaign organization that will work against the tax.

Naturally enough, it is called Arkansans for Jobs and Affordable Energy. You would not expect it to be called Arkansans for the Protection of Huge Gas Industry Profits, would you? The chairman of the campaign group is the president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Its vice chairman is the owner of a Conway equipment company and owner of land in Van Buren County that is leased for gas drilling. If voters were to approve the severance tax, she would share a little of that income with the state to repair the highways. She said Monday she did not want to pay any more taxes, a natural enough sentiment.

But you can be sure that the people filing the papers for Arkansans for Jobs and Affordable Energy will not be bearing much of the cost of the battle to defeat the severance tax. The gas industry—companies like Southwestern Energy and BHP Billiton (you know them as Chesapeake)—will put up the money for the campaign, and it will be plenty.

The tax is not yet assured of being on the ballot. Sheffield Nelson, the former state Republican chairman and twice its nominee for governor, is coordinating a one-man show to get it on the ballot. The attorney general has approved the name and ballot title, but Nelson still has to get the signatures on petitions—about 63,000—to get it on the ballot by next July. Nelson made a little money when he was in the gas business—he ran the state’s largest gas distribution company for a few years—but we doubt he will spend it all to persuade the voters to pass the tax.

On logic alone, it should not prove to be a hard task. Arkansas taxes natural-gas production less than most big gas-producing states, and the drilling and production are destroying highways and roads faster than the state can repair them. The 7-percent tax that Nelson proposes would be used for highway, road and city street work.

The piece de resistance ought to be that the tax would not be felt by Arkansans in any way—most of the gas is marketed outside Arkansas and there is no way for the companies to pass on the taxes to consumers—that is, unless you buy the Chamber of Commerce’s theory that the tax would stop Southwestern and all the other companies from drilling and producing gas in Arkansas and the industry would shut down and lay off all its Arkansas workers.

If the production companies would halt exploration in the Fayetteville shale and in south Arkansas if they had to pay the state 7 percent of value of the Arkansas gas they marketed, then why have not stopped production in Texas, Oklahoma and other states with comparable taxes? Oklahoma collects a tax of about 7.1 percent, Texas 7.5 percent, New Mexico nearly 9 percent when all the various levies are combined, and a number of other states more than the anemic Arkansas tax.

We all thought Arkansas was going to start collecting a healthy tax when the legislature assembled in special session in March 2008 to enact a tax. The goal was to forestall the 7 percent tax that Nelson proposed to put on the ballot that November. Nelson stopped his campaign when the legislature enacted a law that purported to tax gas at 5 percent of its wellhead value. But when the dust had settled it was clear that the law, which was written by lawyers for the gas companies, was not taxing gas at 5 percent but at either 1.25 percent or 1.5 percent. There were a couple of exceptions to the 5 percent rate, and it turned out that nearly all the gas fell under the exceptions.

So a chagrined Nelson decided to try again and not to be outwitted this time. He had some pointed things to say this week about the Chamber of Commerce joining up with the big gas companies against the people of Arkansas. He said the chamber had been “bought and paid for” by the gas industry.

There is a bit of irony in the Chamber of Commerce’s stance. One proposal that definitely will be on the 2012 general election ballot is a constitutional amendment that would levy a half-cent sales tax that everyone in Arkansas would pay. It would support a $1.8 billion bond issue to build a four-lane highway system connecting all regions of the state.

Now, the chamber thinks it is a great idea for the people of Arkansas to pay a hefty tax on everything they buy to build a new highway network that will be good for commerce but a terrible idea for out-of-state gas companies to pay a small tax on their huge profits from Arkansas’ finite natural resources to repair the roads they destroy.

You would think that its position would be hard to sell Arkansas voters. Wait for the coming media campaign and you will see how this works. Tell people the tax would kill jobs, drive up their heating costs and make everyone less well off. It will work every time. Nelson’s logic will just be beside the point.

TOP STORY >> Colonel won’t be home for Christmas

Leader executive editor

President Obama said Friday all U.S. troops would leave Iraq at the end of the year.

That doesn’t mean the U.S. military presence there will end. Some advisers will remain to help with the transition.

Col. Kirk Lear, former vice commander at the 314th Airlift Wing here, is assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. But he won’t be coming home until July. He’ll be one of 160 U.S. advisers who will stay when the troops come home.

Lear serves as aide to top military officials at the embassy. His connection with the 314th Airlift Wing, which has some of the best C-130 trainers in the world, should benefit the Iraqi military.

His son, Trevor, 18, is an honors engineering student at Purdue University in Indiana. He was the valedictorian at North Pulaski High School last year.

He emailed us Saturday about his dad’s year-long assignment in Iraq.

By way of background, Trevor wrote, “Last year, I was stationed at LRAFB with my father, Colonel Kirk Lear, and family. This July, he deployed to Baghdad. After news surfaced yesterday that ALL troops were coming home for the holidays, my excitement ran wild. That is, until I called my mom to confirm that we would be together over Christmas.”

His mother, Susan, told Trevor that his dad will have to stay a while longer. She’s still living on Little Rock Air Force Base with her daughter, Reagan, who also attends North Pulaski.

“Out of 45,000 troops currently in Iraq, he will be one of 160 who remain come Christmas,” Trevor wrote to us.

According to the Associated Press, about 157 U.S. service personnel are expected to work out of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad under Army Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.

“Like all families of soon-to-be deployed soldiers,” Trevor recalled, “the weeks leading up to his departure date were filled with emotion. I constantly found myself avoiding insignificant arguments and volunteering to pick him up, in his car, from work. It was all about taking advantage of what time I had with him, regardless of when and where. I wanted to savor every second I had with him.”

This was his dad’s first assignment in Iraq. He hadn’t been in a combat zone since Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 and the first Gulf War in 1991, which were before Trevor was born.

Col. Lear was assigned to LRAFB twice, the first time in 1994. “My son was six weeks old when we first moved here and my daughter was born here, too. We were very involved with the community and we absolutely loved it here,” he told the base newspaper two year ago, when he was the 314th vice commander.

The Lears have moved seven times during the colonel’s 25-year career. Some families have moved more often.

Col. Lear has also served at the Air Force Academy, Air Mobility Command headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and in Alaska and Japan.

“Over the course of my lifetime, my family has been extremely fortunate,” Trevor wrote us. “God has blessed us immensely, especially with my dad’s deployments, or rather lack thereof.

“Growing up, other than the many hours he put in to his units and the occasional TDY/late night during exercises, he was always home for dinner, involved in Boy Scouts with me, present at all my soccer games and cross-country meets, and he’s there for me whenever I needed it.

“In the end, we all share one overwhelming concern, whether or not our loved ones will return. We dread receiving the news that we will have to settle for that last hug we had, that last goodbye as tears streamed down our cheeks, or that last mental image of their face as we turned and walked away feeling abandoned. That’s one thing I’ve noticed recently: you never truly appreciate family as much as you should until you experience that emptiness that deployment brings.

His dad was scheduled to leave for Iraq on July 11, the colonel’s birthday, but he was told to wait. “That week I played catch with him every night and made the little things count. He left four days later,” Trevor recalled.

“There exists a feeling of absolute vulnerability that comes alive in those final days. Spouses may begin to worry about how their relationship will stand up to distance. Young sons and daughters, too young to understand the magnitude of such change, wonder where their mommy or daddy is going.

“My appreciation continues to grow for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have so valiantly fought for our freedom, as well as the loyal families who have endured more than imaginable,” Trevor wrote.

“Unfortunately, some soldiers haven’t returned,” he continued. “While I’m horrified by thoughts that my dad will be one of those men, I know that regardless, my dad, like many other fathers have, is serving his country in the most courageous way possible. And that makes me proud.”

TOP STORY >> Cabot offers small businesses help

Leader staff writer

A free service now offered at Cabot City Hall for startup and existing small-business owners could help them avoid the pitfalls that lead to failure.

John Twyford, a consultant working for the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s College of Business, said this week that the ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. Thursday at city hall will mark the official opening, but he already has several clients in the area.

“Lack of planning is the reason most businesses get into trouble,” Twyford said.

Add to that the lack of management and business experience, the lack of money and a bad location, and it’s easy to see why many small businesses no longer exist after five years, he said.

He can help with all those issues, Twyford said, adding that he wants small business owners to think of him as their chief financial officer on loan from the ASBTDC.

But he said, “I also sometimes call myself the business doctor because I do make house calls.” The service is made available through the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center’s Startup Arkansas project made possible by the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

Gwen Green, communication coordinator for ASBTDC, said the act recognizes the importance of helping small businesses to create jobs and improve the economy.

A big part of what Twyford will do for small-business owners is to help them prepare the business plans they will need to get loans, she said.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said he wants the city to become involved by making space available at city hall for Twyford to schedule appointments because so many small- business owners don’t understand the basics of running a business such as collecting sales tax.

Cypert’s proposed budget for 2012 shows virtually no increase in revenue despite an increase in new businesses.

The simple explanation for the contradiction, he said after introducing his budget last week is that many businesses are also closing.

Billye Everett, director of Cabot Chamber of Commerce, said the new service grew out of the chambers’ economic development committee, headed by local banker Gary McMillan.

Everett moved to Cabot from Pearland, Texas, where she was the president and CEO of the local chamber of commerce and got help for businesses from that state’s small business agency.

“It worked for me in Texas,” she said, but she added that the services now offered in Cabot are more than she hoped for.

Not only is help available for existing and startup businesses, Everett said she thinks if more businesses could locate in Cabot because the service is available.

A press release from the Cabot Chamber of Commerce and ASBTDC said the services available include financial planning, marketing, loan packaging and management issues.

Twyford’s territory is made up of Lonoke, White, Pulaski, Saline and Faulkner counties.

To schedule appointments contact Twyford at or 501-683-7700.

TOP STORY >> Old school could find new life as arts center

Leader staff writer

Want to know what the city wants to do with the closed Jacksonville Elementary School as an urban-renewal project? Or why Jacksonville supports the proposed gas-severance tax? Or maybe there are other concerns or complaints?

The place to be then is the town hall meeting that Mayor Gary Fletcher has called for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center.

“We had a town hall-style meeting last year when we were trying to annex acreage to our north and a lot of residents said they’d like us to have one on a regular basis,” he told the city council Thursday.

More than 250 people packed the community center for last year’s town hall meeting where the mayor gave residents an overview of the city’s finances, projects and growth. But annexation was the No. 1 topic of discussion.

This Thursday, the mayor plans to unveil what the city would like to do with the Jacksonville Elementary School property if it can obtain it from the Pulaski County Special School District. The school was closed this summer and the students reassigned to other nearby Jacksonville schools.

“We can’t let it sit unused too long,” the mayor said.

The city is considering turning the school into a fine arts center, adding a sports field and improving turns at the overpass for trucks.

The mayor also plans to ask residents at the town hall meeting to help collect signatures to get the proposed severance tax on the 2012 general election ballot. He told the council that the tax would mean about $680,000 a year for Jacksonville.

“The input we get from this meeting,” the mayor said, “can determine the future of our city for decades to come.”

Fletcher called last year’s town hall meeting one of the most important things he’s done as mayor.

He said the 7 p.m. meeting at the community center is open to everyone. Residents will get a chance to hear from many of the department heads.

“Financially we are tight, but okay,” the mayor said, “but down the road we’ll have to look at the services we are providing. This meeting will give people a chance to have input into any of the decisions we will make down the road.”

“We are working hard as an administration and as a city. We have a number of major projects in the works, but this is not a one man show. I want to hear from as many people as possible,” the mayor said.

He said the meeting is not about making everyone happy, but a chance to educate the residents on their city and to give them more of a voice.

In other council business last week:

 A group of third graders from Murrell Taylor Elementary opened the session by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Preamble to the Constitution. As the group was reciting the preamble, Alderman Kevin McCleary was behind them keeping pace, mouthing the words. “It brought back my Saturday mornings watching School House Rocks. We need that these days,” he said.

 Ivory Tillman, president of the local NAACP chapter presented a plaque to Theresa Watson, the community block grant director, for her work with the NAACP and the Sunnyside area residents, making them aware of grants.

 Mayor Gary Fletcher told the council that the inside wall had been removed in the pool area and the studs and internal metal looked very good. The city had projected that it would cost about $1 million to repair the ceiling and other internal damage caused by the cost of the caustic airflow in the pool area. “There doesn’t seem to be any hidden damage and that’s good news,” Fletcher said.

 In his monthly report to the council, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department responded to 220 rescue calls, 63 still alarms, 27 general alarms and had 253 ambulance runs during September.

No fire loss was reported for the month, but that will change in the October report because there have already been three house fires this month.

 Public Works Director Jim Oakley, in his monthly report, told the council that the animal shelter brought in 92 dogs and 68 cats during September. Four cats and 30 dogs were returned to their owners, 17 cats and 45 dogs were adopted out and 42 cats and 14 dogs were euthanized.

Four dog bite cases were reported during September.

A Shih Tzu bit a female on the lip while she was playing with it. A shepherd mix bit a woman who was trying to move it off the couch. Another Shih Tzu bit a woman on the mouth as she was trying to pet the dog.

All three dogs were quarantined for 10 days.

A Maltese mix, running loose, bit a woman on the leg. The dog was surrendered to the shelter and euthanized.

 In his monthly report, Police Chief Gary Sipes told the council that his department responded to 4,502 complaint calls during September.

Police arrested 312 adults and 40 juveniles during the month.

During the month, the city had no homicides, one sexual assault reported, two robberies, 15 felony assaults, 29 burglaries, 81 thefts, four vehicle thefts and no arson.

TOP STORY >> Neighbors feud over fence

Leader staff writer

The joys of a bonus for city employees in time for Christmas was overshadowed at the Sherwood City Council Monday night by feuding neighbors—a subdivision and an apartment complex.

Residents of the Park Crest Apartments and those from the adjoining subdivision, Austin Lakes, exchanged verbal punches, but the council took no action on the issue as it was not on the agenda, but only came up under old business.

At the council meeting in September, former city engineer Michael Clayton the told the council that the Park Crest Apartments met the definition of a public nuisance and suggested the council declare it one.

The council held off any action at the request of City Attorney Steve Cobb, who said he was dealing with the situation.

But whatever plan he was working on apparently had not come to fruition as of Monday night. Plus two weekends ago, the mayor and other volunteers tore down one of the two fences between the apartment complex and the Austin Lakes subdivision, adding to the problems.

It was clear that the apartment residents mobilized and were in attendance at Monday’s meeting, and so were the subdivision residents and the groups pointed out that the issue may go beyond the fence. All those speaking for the apartments were black and sat on one side of the chambers and all those backing the subdivision were white and sat on the other side.

Many tried to out-talk each other or over each other. Mayor Virginia Hillman chastised both groups, “We can all sing at the same time but we cannot all talk at the same time.”

Those in the subdivision blame apartment residents for knocking holes in the fence, coming onto their property, making threats and even firing off weapons into the subdivision.

Leslie Durbin told the council about bullets coming through the fence and even about a car that rammed the fence and knocked a portion of it down. Shawn Aday said he’d be happy to show aldermen a bullet lodged in his home that came from the apartments.

At the last meeting, Clayton said, “I’m not suggesting the city tear down a $10 million facility, but it gives you options. Let’s take the beginning step and declare it a nuisance.”

He told the council that the complex fits the definition of a nuisance. “Residents are scared; they’ve come to the city for help. Over the past three years, there have been 1,482 police calls to the apartments. It is having a negative impact on the city.”

Monday night he reiterated that the city has the power to deal with a nuisance. “Again, I’m not suggesting a bulldozer,” he said. “But we need to do something. Time is of the essence.”

Clayton had crime statistics available, but the mayor said the council couldn’t rely on them, only on those provided directly by the police department.

Police Chief Jim Bedwell told the council there had been reports of gun fire in the area and the police had “increased their presence and that crime had decreased at Park Crest.”

Wendy Dumas, the apartment complex manager, defended the facility and her residents. She said one of the subdivision residents raising the problems of the complex was Doris Anderson and that Anderson had threatened her and that no one had ever come to her office to discuss problems.

But Aday said he’s been there twice and the office was closed with a note saying it would be open on Fridays and Saturdays only. “I wish I had taken a picture,” he said.

Alim Muhammad, an apartment resident, complained that the problem went beyond the fence--that it was a bias and communication problem.

But later when a Leader reporter went to talk to him, the manager told him not to talk to “those people.”

Even when Mayor Virginia Hillman suggested it would be in his best interest to provide additional information to the press, he didn’t.

Lisa Wannamaker, the attorney for Ambling Management Company, which manages the income-based housing apartment complex at 100 Manson Road has said those assertions are groundless.

“We also believe that some of the complaints are founded in stereotypes and prejudice and are without legitimate basis. It is our hope that the residents of Austin Lakes will join with us to improve the quality of life for all residents of Sherwood, including those who live in Park Crest,” Wannamaker told the Leader

She added that the Park Crest fence had been completely replaced at a cost of $38,000 to the owner of the property.

Park Crest, the largest affordable property in Sherwood, was built in 1999, about five years before the development of the Austin Lakes Community, which features $100,000 to $250,000 homes.

In the past 18 months, more than half a million dollars in capital improvements and replacements have been made to Park Crest Apartments by the new owner, according to Wannamaker.

But Alderman Mary Jo Heye said there were still unlivable units in the complex.

In other council business:

 The council approved giving an $800 bonus to full time employees and up to $400 for part time employees who have logged in at least 1,000 hours this year, but the vote was not unanimous.

Aldermen Heye and Ken Keplinger voted against the bonus.

“Bonuses should only be for superior performance,” said Keplinger.

Heye said she would like the city employees to get the bonus “but everyone she has spoken to in the general public was not getting a bonus or a raise this year.”

 Alderman Tim McMinn asked the council to consider approving $40,000 for fire department operations even though the request was not on the agenda.

“We just spent $197,000 (on bonuses), what’s another $40, 000,” Keplinger said, throwing his glasses down.

McMinn said the fire department needed $10,000 for its Gravel Ridge operations and $30,000 for the Sherwood station. The request passed.

 Joey Parker, president of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce gave the council more information about how the chamber would handle economic development for the city. He said there would be quarterly public reports and an oversight committee.

He told the aldermen there would be some one-time start up costs.

He said, “The plan is that Sherwood needs someone who just promotes Sherwood, not only the metro alliance.”

The council voted to allow the mayor and the senior alderman, Steve Fender, to sign the final contract with the chamber.

The city has budgeted about $50,000 for economic development this year which has not been used yet, and Parker said next year’s costs will be about $135,000.

SPORTS >> Stuttgart’s defense is obstacle for Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

With half of the teams in the 2-4A Conference sitting at 1-4 with two weeks to go in the regular season, the 3-2 Lonoke Jackrabbits are in good shape to earn a playoff spot.

With Stuttgart and Clinton, both at 4-1 in league play, left to finish out the schedule for the Jackrabbits (3-5 overall), a clean sweep would mean a home playoff game for a Lonoke team that at one point appeared to be in danger of not reaching the postseason at all.

It’s a task that’s easier said than done. The Ricebirds will visit James B. Abraham Field this Friday sporting a defense that allows just 14 points a game, and has posted two shutouts.

“These last few weeks, we’ve carried an attitude of taking things one game at a time,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “So this week, our focus is on Stuttgart, and they are a very good football team.”

The Ricebirds, under first-year coach Billy Elmore, suffered their only league setback at the hands of a dominant Heber Springs team – a team that has all but locked up the 2-4A title with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Stuttgart opened its conference schedule by shutting out Southside Batesville 18-0 before falling to Heber Springs 28-21.

Since then, the Ricebirds have dominated in wins against Newport, Clinton and Cave City.

“It starts with their defense,” Bost said. “At one time, they were allowing just eight or nine points a game. Their front six defensive linemen and their linebackers are the strength of that team, there’s no doubt about it.

“On offense, they started out with a lot of I formation under center. Since then, they’ve added more spread and running the quarterback out of that a lot more. I’ve seen where he’s had some games where he’s ran for 125-150 yards. So it’s still a lot of the running game, there’s just a lot more diversity to it now.”

Another concern will be 5-11, 215-pound running back Keith Hubert, who already has 1,000 yards rushing for the season through eight games.

“They have four or five different receivers that they use, they’re definitely not a one-receiver type team,” Bost said. “But number 33 (Hubert), that’s their go-to guy. He can flat out run over you, and I’ve seen him out run defenses on film.”

Lonoke’s junior running back, Eric Williams, found gaining yards difficult against a Trojan defense that was obviously geared to stop him on the sweep last week. Williams contributed with strong kickoff returns that gave the ’Rabbits good starting field position most of the night, but he was held to less than 50 yards on offense.

But Bost said Williams does not live and die by the sweep play.

“We can line him up back at tailback, and he has good hands to receive,” Bost said. “He knows about three different positions out there on the field, so it makes it good that we can move him around.”

The Jackrabbits came up big last week with their 34-24 victory over Marianna-Lee, a team that had beaten Southside Batesville a week prior. Inconsistency throughout the 2-4A Conference has led to an obvious divide with Southside, Marianna, Newport and Cave City all at 1-4, essentially knocking them out of the playoff picture.

“I think it’s pretty fair to say that,” Bost said of unofficially clinching a playoff berth. “It’s certainly not out of the question to be able to earn a playoff game at home, but we’ll have to win out. Both of those teams have one loss, so if we could win out, we would be in second place.”

SPORTS >> Cabot girls take first in conference

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers took first place in the 7A Central Conference Cross Country meet on Monday at Rolling Hills Country Club in Cabot. The Lady Panthers easily beat second place Bryant with 21 points to the Lady Hornets’ 44.

The Cabot boys also turned in a good performance, taking second place and almost upsetting favored Little Rock Catholic. The Rockets edged out the Panthers 30 to 34, despite five Panthers finishing in the Top 10.

The Cabot ladies swept the top three spots and also put five runners in the Top 10.

Senior Emkay Myers won the event with a time of 19:09.61. Sophomore Allison Sinning took second, finishing in 19:18.44 and freshman Micah Huckabee finished third with a time of 19:44. 92. Freshman Rachel Murtishaw crossed the finish line fifth at 20:10.71, and junior Marlene Sheehan finished in 10th place with a time of 21:07.24.

“I guess our girls were favored, but they still did really well,” Cabot coach Leon White said.

The Cabot boys’ highest finisher was junior Casey Vaughn, who took fourth place with a time of 16:42.38. He barely beat out classmate Scott Foltz who was fifth with a time of 16:43.33. Freshman Lee Sullivan took sixth place, finishing in 16:44.45, Freshman Alex Simpson was ninth at 17:08.28 and senior Reed Harrell was 10th at 17:11.70.

Catholic’s Noah Findley crossed the finish line first with a winning time of 16:12.81. Central’s Jerry Melnyk took second and Catholic’s Brendan Taylor was third.

“Catholic was favored coming in here but we thought we had a chance to upset them,” White said. “It was really close and our guys did a great job. You usually expect to win when you make up half the Top 10. Catholic is just very strong and those two guys finishing ahead of us made the difference.”

Rockets Colin O’Mara and Adam Pryor finished seventh and eighth. The Cabot boys and girls will compete in the state meet at Harrison on Nov. 5.

SPORTS >> Cabot faces driven Pointers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers have shown improvement over the last two weeks, but still haven’t found the winning formula. Last-second plays lifted playoff-bound Little Rock Central and league-leading Bryant to victory over the Panthers in the last two weeks. This week Cabot faces another team that has lost to Central and Bryant, but the Van Buren Pointers lost each game by 20-plus points.

Van Buren has a bit more to play for than Cabot. The Pointers, by way of their win over Russellville earlier this season, still has a shot at a home playoff game at the 6A level. They are in the playoffs and have at least a five seed locked up, but can finish as high as a three seed if it wins its last two games. If it wins just one of them, it could earn a four seed and host a first-round playoff game.

“It’s a nice position to be in because we kind of have some control over what happens,” Van Buren coach Brooks Coatney said. “It’s kind of a difficult position to be in though because we now have a team in front of us that does something no one else does. That makes it a little difficult to prepare for.”

Cabot’s last two games have shown certain signs that the young squad is improving. After two weeks of not competing well, the Panthers mounted comebacks in the last two games before succumbing in the final seconds.

“The kids haven’t quit,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “When you’re 1-6 and down 28-14 in the fourth quarter you could just hang it up. To fight back and get back in it says something about your kids. They’re still playing hard and having fun. Now we just have to figure out how to hang on and get the win.”

While maturing physically and mentally plays its role in the recent performances, understanding what went wrong has been the key to Cabot’s improvement.

“You learn your lessons,” Malham said. “You make your mistakes and you learn from your mistakes. We didn’t turn it over against Bryant and that helps a lot. We turned it over five times against Central. If we don’t do that, we win that ball game. If we did turn it over five times against Bryant, we probably get blown out. It’s been enjoyable the last couple weeks competing against good teams. Now we want to win a couple.”

To beat Van Buren the first order of business is stopping junior quarterback Jacob Eason. The first-year starter is a speedy back who can run the speed option and throw the ball with precision.

“Their quarterback is fast,” Malham said. “He’s broken several long ones this year and speed has given us some trouble. We’ll have to play as good or better than the last couple weeks to keep him contained.”

For Van Buren, Coatney says the biggest challenge to facing Cabot is the same thing that everyone else says.

“The biggest factor is trying to get your kids prepared for what they’re going to be up against defensively,” the first-year head coach said. “I’m pretty familiar with it because I spent three years at Bryant preparing for it. It’s just hard to get it across to your kids. You watch a lot of film. The only was to truly prepare for it is to try to get a group of guys that can do a good job simulating it for your defense, and really get in there and hit. But you don’t want to get anyone hurt so it’s a fine line you have to walk the week of the Cabot game.”

SPORTS >> Bison schedule tough replacement

Leader sportswriter

Senior night at Carlisle will have the added entertainment of some new wrinkles as the Bison take on McCrory in a rare week-nine non-conference game at Fred C. Hardke Field this Friday.

Carlisle was originally scheduled to face Hughes in 6-2A Conference play, but the Blue Devils canceled their season back in August when only 10 players reported for duty. That left an opening for coach Scott Waymire to fill, and he found quite the worthy opponent in the Jaguars.

“We’re just fortunate we found someone to play,” Waymire said. “We didn’t want to have a bye week with our seniors, and we’re excited to have a chance to play this game against a good opponent.”

The Jaguars (6-2) have also been impressive in their unbeaten march through the 3-2A Conference and will take on Salem next week.

This week, they will bring the state’s leading rusher in Logan Best to give Carlisle’s defense a challenge it has yet to see this year. Best has rushed for over 1,800 yards through eight games, and has the support of a big, dominant offensive line.

“He’s a heck of a back,” Waymire said. “It’s going to be a great ballgame. You’ve got two Top-ten teams – it’s a playoff game in week nine. We want to look sharp and play well, but we’re going to have our hands full.”

There are essentially two schools of thought when presented with the prospect of having a bye in week nine. One of those being the opportunity to rest players for the season finale and playoffs, but the other, Waymire’s philosophy, is to keep your kids on the field to keep them sharp.

It is a move that proved to be good foresight on the part of Waymire considering his starting offense saw only one quarter of action in a 42-6 blowout win over Palestine-Wheatley last week.

“If you only play one quarter in two weeks, you’re going to come out flat,” Waymire said. “And the way I see it, good competition makes us better. And like I said, it’s only fair to our seniors, who have put in six years of hard work for us. They want to be out there playing.”

The Jaguars also have a dominant look up front on defense with a line that averages close to 250 pounds.

“They are massive up front,” Waymire said. “They have a Division-I kid at tackle who’s 6-4, 290, they have an inside linebacker that goes 6-2, 220. That front seven is going to be the toughest we’ve seen all year.

“They’re going to be the toughest defense we’ve faced all year. It’s going to pose a problem for our offense, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they try to overcome that.”

The game also gives the Bison a chance to show some new looks with potential playoff opponents beginning to scout.

“We’re taking this game like we did our first three non-conference games,” Waymire said. “We’re going to work on some new stuff and try to implement it. We want to give teams some different looks.

“We feel like we’re multiple on offense. Defensively, we want to do what we’ve been doing.”

Hazen will take on England in a big 6-2A matchup this week with heavy playoff implications.

If the Hornets come away from that one unscathed, it sets up a battle between unbeaten conference teams next week when Carlisle travels to Hazen.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville excited to play West Memphis

Leader sports editor

One goal is accomplished. Jacksonville has all but secured a home playoff game. But the Red Devils aren’t resting on that. They believe they can go to West Memphis and beat the five-time defending conference champions this Friday.

Injuries have depleted the roster, but that didn’t stop Jacksonville from turning in its best performance of the season last week against Little Rock Parkview. The Red Devils’ defense shined in the 9-0 win over a Patriot team that had averaged 31 points per game. What might be lost in that final score is how well the offense played. Jacksonville compiled 309 total yards and moved the ball up and down the field. The trouble came when it got close to the goal line.

Jacksonville hopes to continue that execution, and complete the drives this Friday. The Blue Devils have been somewhat of a conundrum this season. They are 7-1 overall, but have seen similar final scores in wins over teams as disparate as Fort Smith Southside (26-17) and Blytheville (28-14).

They suffered their first loss of the season two weeks ago against Jonesboro and struggled to a 21-14 win over Mountain Home last week.

Still, the Blue Devils will have big depth and size advantages against the Red Devils. Jacksonville coach Rick Russell also says West Memphis is very difficult to prepare for.

“They have so many different formations,” Russell said. “All we did on Monday was learn to line up. We have to recognize where we need to be based on their formation. After you get lined up, you got to know your reads. You’ve got to know your coverages based on their alignment.”

West Memphis is primarily a running team this year. The Blue Devils have had a balanced attack the last several years, but the 2011 Blue Devils try mainly to run over opposition.

“They’re going to have strong backs,” Russell said. “They’re going to block with those backs at the point of attack. Their receivers block very well. They’re just going to try to power football us.”

West Memphis’ offensive strengths make Jacksonville’s defensive goals clear.

“We want to get them in long yardage situations on second and third down,” Russell said. “We want them running to the sideline until we get people up there to make the tackle. We have to contain their sweeps, keep them in front of us and stretch things out. We want to force them to do things they’re not comfortable doing.”

Offensively Jacksonville will stick to the wildcat that it unveiled as its primary formation last week. Junior Kevin Richardson racked up 125 yards rushing out of the formation. The key will be completing drives once in the red zone. Last week, Jacksonville scored only twice, with only one touchdown, out of several trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Everything from fumbles to broken plays and penalties helped thwart promising drives once the end zone was in sight.

“That’s the last piece of the puzzle that we have to fine tune for us to be a complete football team,” Russell said. “It’s a decision you have to make once you’re down there inside the 5-yard line or so, whether to go under center or stay in the offense that got you there. Right now it’s a struggle for us to figure out which one we fit best in. But we have to do no matter what is eliminate some of the penalties that are backing us up once we’re down there. We need to understand how urgent it is, keep holding our blocks and put it in.”

Jacksonville will still miss the four starters that did not play against Parkview, but the play of several younger players last week has Russell worried less about that problem.

“We’re just so proud of all those kids that stepped up,” Russell said. “We believe if we can get the same kind of effort out of them, and this team, we can keep this thing close and go into the fourth quarter with a chance to win the football game. We’re excited about how we played last week and about how we executed the new offense. We’re pretty much assured a home game in the playoffs and every win is an added bonus. So we’re looking forward to these last two against two very good football teams.