Saturday, November 12, 2011

SPORTS>>Falcons get new coach his first win

Leader sports editor

The inexperienced Falcons won their first game this season, and first-year coach Roy Jackson is 1-0 as the head of a high-school basketball program. North Pulaski didn’t just win, but pummeled Joe T. Robinson 62-28 at home Tuesday.

The win was a big turnaround from the previous Saturday, when North Pulaski was handled easily by Conway and Jacksonville in the preseason Jacksonville Jamboree.

Jackson was glad to see his team perform well, and happy to start his career with a win.

“Man, it feels wonderful,” Jackson said. “The kids played hard. They could’ve got discouraged about the jamboree, but they just kept working. I think that’s the kind of team I’m going to have. We’re going to take some lumps early on but these kids are going to work hard.”

The first quarter was close and sloppy. Neither team was able to run much effective offense. North Pulaski ended the first frame up 12-10, and the skittish play on both sides continued through much of the second quarter.

“I think they were just too anx ious at the start,” Jackson said. “They weren’t being patient and waiting for good shots. We’re small so that’s something we’re going to have to learn to do. We did a lot better job in the second half.”

North Pulaski began to pull away just before halftime, taking a 27-18 lead into the break. Not only did the offense get better in the second half, the defense did as well. Pulaski Robinson’s 10 first-quarter points was its best quarter. Each one after that, the Senators’ output went down by a basket. North Pulaski held Robinson to just six field goals the entire game. The senators got 16 of their points at the free-throw line.

Jackson, though, wasn’t as impressed as those statistics might indicate.

“We really didn’t play defense that well at all – not to my standards,” Jackson said. He explained what he meant.

“We started in man and weren’t moving our feet like we’re supposed to,” Jackson said. “We were reaching and got into foul trouble, so we had to sit back in a zone. When we went to that zone, they just struggled hitting their shots. They got some good looks, they just weren’t making anything.”

North Pulaski started zone trapping in the second half and ran away with the game, despite senior post Jeremiah Hollis picking up his fourth foul less than a minute into the third quarter. He’s the team’s only true post player, but the Falcons’ quickness made getting the ball up the floor problematic for the Senators.

“They had a couple of guys with some size so we had to do something to try to negate the fact that we didn’t have a post player on the floor,” Jackson said. “Fortunately I thought we played a lot better and a lot smarter defense in the second half.”

The Falcons outscored Robinson 24-6 in the third quarter, taking a 51-24 lead into the final frame.

Hollis checked back in to start the fourth quarter and the Falcons went inside immediately. On their first possession, the ball went inside to Hollis on the box. He turned into the lane and hit a short jumper that made it 53-24. Second later, the Falcons’ pressure forced a turnover. Senior Marvin Davis got the ball on the wing and nailed a three pointer that invoked the mercy rule with 7:24 left in the game.

Now that game one is out of the way, the Falcons have some time to evaluate their performance before the next outing. North Pulaski’s first road game is next, a trip to always strong Little Rock McClellan on Nov. 18.

“It’s good that we have 10 days to work on some things,” Jackson said. “It gets tough right now. McClellan is good and after that it’s Jacksonville. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

The Lady Falcons will also begin their season at McClellan on Friday. They will also host the crosstown rivarly on Nov. 22.

SPORTS>>Jackrabbits give away ball, game to Panthers

Leader sportswriter

Heartbreak is the only way to describe Lonoke’s 42-35 loss to Clarksville in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.

The Jackrabbits (3-8) trailed 42-35 and were facing fourth-and-goal with less than a foot to go and just more than two minutes remaining when a fumble gave possession to the Panthers. Clarksville punted, and Lonoke drove down to the Panther 23, but gave up the last of four interceptions for the game to help Clarksville put it away.

“Turnovers hurt us,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We’re down 28-14 at half and come back. The kids competed, never gave up. The defense came alive in the second half, and I’m just proud of the kids’ effort.”

Quarterback Grant Dewey found D.J. Burton for a 30-yard touchdown pass for Lonoke’s first score near the end of the first quarter. Burton scored again for the Jackrabbits before halftime on a running play that cut Clarksville’s lead to 28-14 at intermission.

The Panthers (5-6) went up by three scores again on their first possession of the second half, but Lonoke quickly answered with a 98-yard touchdown on a kickoff return by junior Eric Williams.

Burton put Lonoke back in the game to start the fourth quarter when he intercepted a Panther pass deep in his own territory. He converted into points on the next play for the Jackrabbits with a 60-yard touchdown run.

Williams scored on the ground again late, but the Jackrabbits could not find a way to get the tying score they needed in the closing minutes.

“I’m just proud of my seniors,” Bost said. “I appreciate all their hard work, and the leadership they’ve shown this year.”

Next week, Clarksville will travel to McGehee for the second round of the playoffs to face the Owls, who received a bye on Friday as the champions of the 8-4A Conference.

SPORTS>>Beebe hangs on to upset Chapel

Leader sportswriter

What started as a rout for Beebe quickly turned into a shootout as the Badgers outlasted a quick-striking Watson Chapel team 54-48 at Wildcat Stadium in the first round of the 5A state playoffs on Friday.

The Badgers (7-4) held the ball for the final eight minutes with help from a successful fake punt that resulted in a first-down run by senior Jay Holdway. That set Beebe up with a new set of downs at the Watson Chapel 45 with 6:10 left to play, but the Wildcats utilized all three of their time outs to drag out the final 13 plays by the Badgers.

The Wildcats (7-4) ran a total of 12 offensive plays in the second half, but still managed two fast scores to keep themselves in the game until the end after falling behind 21 points in the first quarter. The victory marked the first for the Badgers in the postseason since 2008.

“We knew we would have trouble with their athletes in open space,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “We wanted to hang on to the football and run out the clock. The kids just fought hard. That was a fantastic ballgame, and I’m so proud of the kids for not getting discouraged.”

The Badgers reclaimed the lead with their first possession of the second half after recovering a Watson Chapel fumble at their own 35-yard line.

Beebe went 65 yards in eight plays, with senior quarterback Dustin Stallnaker carrying the ball the final 26 yards to put the Badgers up 41-34 following Stallnaker’s successful two-point conversion run.Matt Pursell came up with another big defensive play for the Badgers on the second play of Watson Chapel’s next drive, intercepting Jerome Easom’s pass and returning the ball to the Wildcat 34.

This time, the Badgers took it in with eight plays, six of which featured Holdway, including his five-yard run up the middle with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter. Pursell added the extra point to make it 48-34.

The Wildcats answered in one play, a 48-yard touchdown pass from Easom to Jordan Stargill, and Easom’s two-point keep cut it to 48-42.

Holdway scored again for the Badgers, this time through the air with a 15-yard toss from Stallnaker increased Beebe’s advantage to two scores again at 54-42.

The Wildcats added one more score with a five-play, 48-yard drive that was their longest of the night, capped off with a one-yard run by Devonte Battle with 7:59 left to play.

Easom finished 8 of 12 passing for 210 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for Watson Chapel.

“Their quarterback had a great night tonight throwing the ball,” Shannon said. “And our kids, for whatever reason, just didn’t tackle well once they caught the ball.”

The Wildcats had momentum and had appeared to force Beebe out in three downs at the Badger 39, but the snap went to Holdway at the up-back position. Holdway scrambled to the 45-yard line to move the chains, and the Badgers secured the game with four more first downs to run the clock out.

“We look at that every time we line up to punt,” Shannon said of the game-winning call. “We hate to give up the football. If a team is going to give it to us, we’re going to take it. We got the first down, and were able to run the clock out.”

Beebe looked dominant early when Holdway took the first play from scrimmage 47 yards down to the Watson Chapel 3-yard line. He ran it in for the score two plays later to give the Badgers a 6-0 lead with 10:57 left in the first quarter.

Beebe took over again at its own 48-yard line after three plays and a punt for the Wildcats.

It took 12 plays to increase their lead with a one-yard scoring run by Michael Kirby to finish it, putting Beebe up 14-0 following a two-point run by Stallnaker.

The lead increased to 21-0 when Kirby scored again on a 16-yard run with 3:01 remaining in the first quarter.

Stallnaker added 114 yards on 19 carries for Beebe as part of the Badgers’ 511 yards. He also completed 2 of 3 passes, both to Holdway, for 54 yards. Kirby had 15 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns, and Jeremy Van Winkle carried six times for 61 yards.

The victory keeps the Badgers alive in the Class 5A playoffs. Next week, they will travel to Cardinal Stadium to take on Camden Fairview.

The Cardinals beat Morrilton 28-21 in their first-round game Friday.

SPORTS>>Cabot’s Pearson will play college golf at Delta State

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s success in golf is still paying dividends with the recent signing of senior Parker Pearson to Delta State University.

Pearson signed in front of his family, friends and coaches at the Cabot High School Media Center on Thursday, following a senior season in which he shot an average 72.6 in tournament play.

His senior year was a success, but it was the two state-championship winning teams in 2009 and 2010 that put Pearson and his teammates on the map.

“Parker, for the last three years, has been an integral part of our golf program,” Panthers golf coach Ronnie Tollett said. “He’s been one of our top-six kids, even with the group we had when he was younger. He’s not only followed in their footsteps, he became the same type of leader as the seniors the year before were.”

Delta State is in Cleveland, Miss., and has a young golf roster with four freshmen making up half the total personnel for Statesmen coach Sam Dunning.

Pearson also qualified for the Optimist International Golf Championship in Florida, and has won two summertime Arkansas State Golf Association junior tournaments at Rebsamen and the prestigious Randy Beaver Invitational at Rolling Hills Country Club.

Though the Panthers did not repeat as state champs a third time this year, Pearson was among the first-round leaders of the state tournament, and he was named to the 7A all-state team.

“I’ve worked really hard all my life, and it’s finally paid off,” Pearson said following his signing. “It feels really good to have the decision made, and to take it to the next level.”

Pearson’s signing makes the third player from the recent dynasty to receive a college scholarship for golf behind current UALR freshmen Hunter Smith and Colby Benton.

“I definitely had big expectations, with all my friends signing last year,” Pearson said. “I was always the underdog with them, as a year or two younger. The Cabot team definitely developed me and made me have higher expectations.”

Pearson started playing golf at the age of 8 and made the leap into junior-tournament play when he was 12. There were offers from some in-state colleges and a few out of state, including Southern Mississippi, but Pearson liked what he saw with the golf program at DSU.

“They just moved to the Gulf South Conference, so they play some really nice courses,” Pearson said. “It’s big-time for me, and it just seems like a good fit.”

Pearson will graduate from Cabot High with a 3.8 GPA or better, and plans on majoring in pre-dental.

SPORTS>>Sheridan dumps Red Devils

Leader sports editor

Third time was the charm for Sheridan. In their third playoff game in four years at Jacksonville’s Jan Crow Stadium, the Yellowjackets finally got one over on the Red Devils, winning 15-10 and advancing to the quarterfinal round of the class 6A state playoffs.

Not only was it Sheridan’s first win in three tries against Jacksonville, it was the team’s first playoff win in 21 years. The fact that the Yellowjackets beat a team they had twice previously lost to made no difference to Sheridan coach Louis Campbell.

“It don’t matter who it was,” Campbell said. “This was Sheridan’s first playoff win in 21 years. It doesn’t matter if it was the Green Bay Packers, we’re just happy to get a win in the playoffs.”

Sheridan’s Dalton Seamon went 66 yards for a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first half to make it 15-10, and that’s how it stayed for the remainder of the game.

Sheridan made plays it needed to make in order to keep drives alive and keep Jacksonville’s offense off the field. That was a goal coming into the game and Campbell was glad to see his team execute that game plan.
“We were able to convert some third downs and just keep hold of the ball,” Campbell said. “The real key though, except for one time early on, we didn’t give up anything cheap. We kept them from making those big plays they’ve been able to make this year.”

Sheridan wasn’t without help. Jacksonville made many mistakes, many of which were at crucial junctures.

The Red Devils were flagged 12 times for 90 yards. Two Red Devils were ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, as was one Yellowjacket. Sheridan was penalized four times for 30 yards.

“We just made too many mistakes,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “We thought the game would come down to who made fewer mistakes. Sheridan made fewer mistakes.”

Jacksonville also had 11 plays for negative yardage, many coming on wide receiver screen plays that Sheridan figured out after giving up 62 yards on the first one.

Sheridan’s pass coverage was also good enough to force four sacks. Red Devil quarterback Tirrell Brown usually had time to throw, but struggled to find open receivers. There was also an incomplete backwards lateral that lost five yards and four complete passes for negative yardage.

Those things hindered the Red Devils throughout the first half, but sank them in the second.

Jacksonville had one of its best drives going to start the second half. The Red Devils started at their own 20-yard line and went 53 yards in four plays. Brown rushed for nine, Kevin Richardson broke loose for 18, Brown hit D’Vone McClure for eight, and freshmen Lamont Gause rushed for 18 to put Jacksonville at the Sheridan 27. The Yellowjackets then jumped off side to set up first down and five at the 22-yard line.

From that point until the end of the game, Jacksonville netted -2 yards. On that drive, Jacksonville went from first and five at the 22, to punting on fourth and 31 from the 48-yard line.

The Jacksonville defense played well overall, but couldn’t get Sheridan’s offense off the field at big moments — the biggest coming late in the game. A stop on fourth and 4 would’ve given the Red Devils the ball back with just less than a minute left. Instead, Sheridan went for it, and completed a 24-yard pass to the 4-yard line to seal the victory.

The penalties started on the first drive. Jacksonville was flagged for illegal procedure twice before it could get a play off. The Red Devils overcame the trouble with a screen pass to senior D’Vone McClure that went 62 yards to the Sheridan 31, but they weren’t able to capitalize, failing on fourth and four and turning it over to Sheridan on their 25-yard line.

Jacksonville still got on the board first. Randy Armstrong picked off a Flores pass on the Yellowjackets third play, giving Jacksonville the ball at the Sheridan 16.

Three plays got seven yards, setting up a 26-yard field goal by David Sawrie that gave the Red Devils a 3-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville’s defense forced another punt and started at their own 9, and went backwards from there.

A pass to McClure lost two yards. McClure got the call again on second down, and ran backwards into the end zone where he was tackled for a safety. That made it 3-2 with 1:20 left in the first.

Sheridan got their first lead on the ensuing possession. Going 40 yards in five plays. Four-straight runs by Dalton Seamon followed a 20-yard run by Flores. The last one was good for two yards and the score.

It was the first of three lead changes in the second quarter. The last two were in the final 24 seconds of the half.

Brown hit Kevin Richardson for a 41-yard gain to the Sheridan 14 on third and 9. Brown then hit Cedric Young for 14 and a touchdown with 24 seconds left in the half. Sawrie’s extra point made it 10-9.

Sheridan took over on its own 34. The first play was a shotgun read play to Seamon that had gained very little the whole half, but this time it went for 66 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Seamon finished the game with 20 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Sheridan compiled 261 total yards while Jacksonville gained 242.

Friday, November 11, 2011

EDITORIAL >>State taxes and religion

Not one but two members of the Arkansas legislature run daycare centers that pound their religious doctrines into preschool children. There is nothing wrong with that as long as parents know that their children are getting religious training, in both cases the teachings of the Assemblies of God church, and as long as the school is paid for by the parents, the legislators themselves, their churches or other private sources.

But not by the government—not the taxpayers of the state or the country. That would put government in the business of inculcating a particular religion, which is something that the first Europeans who took refuge on American soil abhorred and which the U.S. Constitution forbids. Americans seem to be not so hot for the separation of church and state any longer, but those who want the government involved in religion want it to support only their particular beliefs and none other.

As it happens, the preschool centers run by both Sen. Johnny Key and Rep. Justin Harris, who represent constituencies in northwest Arkansas, operate with federal dollars and also at some cost to the state government, which regulates them and (supposedly) sees that they follow the law. Key and Harris are tea-party Republicans who regularly lambaste government spending, particularly federal spending.

Americans United for Sepa-ration of Church and State, the watchdog for Jefferson’s favorite doctrine, has complained about the lawmakers’ businesses. Federal monies cannot be spent for religious indoctrination and there is no doubt that religious instruction constitutes a big part of the work at Harris’ business, which he calls Growing God’s Kingdom, and Key’s operation, the Noah’s Ark Preschool.

Now the state Department of Human Services is checking on the schools’ program to see if there is any taint of religious instruction, either general or sectarian, which the department was supposed to have been doing all along. Both places got certified to get state and federal money back when Mike Huckabee was governor. No one would have been surprised that Rev. Huckabee had his bureaucrats give unusual forbearance to the church schools’ use of taxpayer money, but Huckabee surrendered the government to Mike Beebe five years ago.

Rep. Harris’ daycare center gets almost $1 million a year in government money, mostly federal. Key’s operation is smaller, but the federal government gave him $194,400 this year.

It is safe to say that without federal support they would be out of business or else they would be much smaller operations.

Both Harris and Key say they keep all the religious training sort of separate and that they pay for church materials out of their own pockets. Sure they do.

Rep. Harris suggests that the complaints are part of a campaign against God and religion. He posted a bit of Scripture on his website this week implying that he was supposed to be ashamed of his religion but that he was not. No one should apologize for his religion. But religious instruction should be done at home and in the church, and spiritual values should be inculcated there, by both instruction and personal example. If you are going to do it in an educational institution, from preschool through high school, you should do it free of either government support or restraint.

Their hypocrisy is equally troubling. The political careers of both men were built on hostility to the federal government—rampant federal spending and government intrusion into private spheres. Both men have been leaders in the Republican effort the last six months to prevent the state from getting federal dollars to build a private insurance market where Arkansans can shop for the best and cheapest medical insurance.

They and their colleagues say the country and the state need to slash or abolish socialistic spending programs. But not, of course, the most socialistic program of all—government-funded training of 3- and 4-year-olds. That would be meddling with their own livelihoods.

Let’s see if the bureaucrats and their boss, the governor, are willing to enforce the law when it affects the livelihoods of two powerful legislators who have oversight over agencies that deal with children’s affairs. Key is a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee, which sets the parameters of all spending programs, and the Senate Education Committee. Rep. Harris got himself situated on the House Education Committee and the Children and Youth Committee, the better to look after his personal affairs.

Haven’t we seen this before?

TOP STORY > >Benefit for young heart transplant patient

Leader staff writer

Prevail Fitness in Cabot is holding an equipment marathon starting Monday to raise money for the family of an 11-year-old Jacksonville girl who has had two heart transplants in less than a month.

Cheyenne Walters’ family always knew her heart didn’t work as well as it should. Surgeries were part of her life from birth. But last month, the heart they thought would only require maintenance had to be replaced. But a week later, her body rejected the new heart, and she had to have a second transplant. Her mother, April, has been at her side continually.

On Thursday, the Warren Dupree Elementary student was taken off the critical list at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, but when she will be able to go home so that her life can get back to normal is not known.

Cheyenne is one of five children. In the beginning of her hospital stay, her grandmother, Glendia Flowers of Jacksonville, took care of her brothers and sisters.

But Glendia, 60, died unexpectedly in her sleep on Oct. 25, shortly after the second transplant, and Cheyenne’s uncle, Eric Flowers, a sales manager at Prevail Fitness and a single father with two children of his own, took over their care.

Flowers describes his niece as fun-loving, witty and strong.

“She’s absolutely stronger than any child you’ve ever known inyour life. To endure what she has, she’s given us strength,” Flowers said.

Registration for the 26-mile equipment marathon is $10. The marathon will kick off with a 5K run at 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 24.

There is no charge for the run. Organizers say it is also a way to get a large group together to pray for Cheyenne. T-shirts for the event are $5.

To help with feeding six children, Sheka Elder, a massage therapist at Prevail Fitness, is collecting coupons to take grocery shopping at least twice before the end of the month.

Elder, who is married to an airman and has three children, said she has been shopping with coupons for only a few months but she has been able to cut her grocery bill from about $1,000 a month to about $400.

She normally spends about 20 hours a week clipping coupons and searching websites for coupons she can print.

But now she has Andrea Sayers, the owner of Prevail Fitness, and Bekah Hensley, an employee, helping her with coupons for the Flowers family.

Donations of coupons and cash are needed.

“The more we get, the more we will be able to buy,” Elder said.

Donations may be made at Prevail Fitness, at any Metropolitan Bank location and online at

Make checks payable to the Cheyenne Walters Fund.

For more information, call Prevail Fitness at 501-843-4500.

TOP STORY > >State lists 22 schools as faltering

Leader staff writer

Not a single secondary school in Jacksonville, Sherwood and Beebe has reached federal and state guidelines for educating students and remain on the state’s school improvement list.

Most Cabot and Searcy schools continue to do well.

In a report released Thursday, the state placed 480 schools, or 45 percent of all public schools, on the list, including 22 schools in the area. Another six are on alert.

The state used benchmark and end-of-course test scores to determine if a school was reaching the required goals.

Depending on the scores, schools are considered achieving if they meet their goals; on alert if they miss their goals for the first time, or they go on the school improvement list and are ordered to make target improvements, whole school improvements, targeted intensive improvements, whole school intensive improvements or fall under state direction.

Sylvan Hills Middle School made the dreaded list for the ninth year in a row and was in the state- directed category, which is one of the reasons Pulaski County Special School District closed that facility at the end of the 2010-2011 school year and opened a new $60 million Sylvan Hills Middle School campus this year.

The district won’t know if the new building, improved classrooms and added technology will improve test scores until results are reported in late June or early July.

Both Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools are now in year eight of school improvement and are under some form of state monitoring or oversight. Jacksonville High School brought in its third principal in less than three years to help stymie the academic bleeding.

Northwood Middle School made the list again for the eighth straight year and is also under state monitoring.

Sylvan Hills High School is also under state oversight and has entered its seventh year on the school improvement list.

Beebe’s middle school and junior high are on the list for the third year in a row and are in the targeted improvement category.

The high school has also been placed in the targeted improvement category by the state and is in the second year of school improvement.

The best of the worst is Jacksonville Middle School, which is in its first year of school improvement, under its current configuration, and has been placed in the whole school improvement category. The school formerly had separate campuses for the boys and girls.

Schools under state direction must take steps like replacing the principal or hire a school improvement specialist to assist the principal. Other state required actions could include replacing at least half the staff, closing the facility or converting it to a charter school.

For the 2010-2011 school year, an elementary school had to have about 78 percent of its students score proficient or advanced on the math and literacy portions of the benchmark, meaning those students are at or above grade level. Similar levels are required for algebra and geometry end-of-course exams as well as the high school literacy exam.

Federal guidelines from the No Child Left Behind Act dictate that all students will be on grade level by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.


At the elementary level, schools in PCSSD that are on the improvement list are Harris and Oakbrooke elementary schools and both are in year three of school improvement or in the whole school improvement category.

Clinton and Sherwood elementary schools are in the first year of school improvement, or what the state calls targeted improvement.

Warren Dupree and Cato elementary schools are in alert status, meaning they failed to reach the required threshold this year, and if they fail next year, they will be placed on the list.

Murrell Taylor Elementary, which is in its fifth year of school improvement, or whole school intensive improvement, did make its goals in the 2010-2011 school year. However a school must hit the mark two years in a row before it can come off the school improvement list.

Elementary schools doing well include Bayou Meto, Tolleson, Sylvan Hills, Pinewood, Arnold Drive and the since-closed Jacksonville Elementary.


In Cabot, the only two schools on the improvement list are Cabot Middle School North and the Academic Center for Excellence. The middle school, which has been on the school improvement list and is considered to be in the state’s targeted improvement category, made its goals last school year, but must go one more year to get off the list. The ACE is in year one of school improvement and is in the whole school improvement category.

Three schools, Cabot Learning Academy and both junior highs, are on alert status, meaning they didn’t meet all the test score goals in 2010-2011.

The remaining 11 schools in Cabot are all listed as “achieving,” meaning they are doing well.


The two elementary schools in Beebe are achieving, but the others aren’t. The middle school and the junior high are both in their third year of school improvement and also in the targeted improvement category. The high school is also under targeted improvement and is in the second year of improvement.


The city’s two elementary schools and its high school are meeting test score goals and achieving.

Southwest Middle School has been placed on alert and Ahlf Junior High is on the school improvement list in the targeted improvement category even though it met goals in 2010-2011.


All four of Lonoke’s schools are on the state improvement list.

The high school, elementary school and primary school are all on the list for the fourth year and are under whole school intensive improvement. The middle school is on the list for the first year and is in the targeted instruction category.


Jacksonville Lighthouse Aca-demy and Lisa Academy North were placed on alert status for failing to meet all the test score thresholds in 2010-2011. Carlisle Elementary School was placed on alert status while the high school was placed in year one of school improvement and the whole school improvement category.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville serious contender for state fair

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville may have a better shot at recruiting the state fair to its 445-acre site off the North Belt freeway after North Little Rock voters this week rejected raising their sales tax by a penny.

Half of the sales tax increase would have gone toward improving infrastructure and the other half would have paid for more firefighters and police officers.

The Arkansas Livestock Show Association, which puts on the state fair for 10 days each fall and runs a variety of non-fair events the rest of the year, was waiting to see if North Little Rock would purchase 2,000 acres with the sales tax revenue and invite the state fair to be the main tenant there.

“Our strategy is to look at all our options. Jacksonville has set the bar by offering 450 acres of land from the start. We haven’t done this in 70 years. We want to do it right,” said Ralph Shoptaw, general manager of the association.

The fair board will meet Dec. 15 to discuss its next step, he said. He added that the fair has a good relationship with Jacksonville and Mayor Gary Fletcher.

Two years ago, the city offered the board the $2 million gift of undeveloped land along I-440 and Wooten Road, a break on utilities and an already built highway interchange. Most of the land is owned by Entergy. Jacksonville would acquire the land through eminent domain.

Fletcher is ready to wow the board with a presentation at its meeting. His goal is to make it clear that the fair moving to the city is realistic, even with the financial burden of building it from the ground up.

“I always thought we had a good shot at the fair. I’m trying to put somemeat to the bones,” he said.

Fletcher said he’s looking at prices to construct a 200,000- square-foot events center and the move would be several years of transition, mentioning that it took six years to construct the roof of Barton Coliseum.

Fletcher said the fair could operate in Little Rock as it is being established in Jacksonville.

He said the impact of the fair would be enormous for the city.

“It would be a shot in the arm. It would be huge economically,” Fletcher said. “I think we’ve lost that the fair is the people’s.”

He said the fair could bring between 500 and 650 jobs and as many as 400 non-fair events to Jacksonville, but the city has a plan B.

“We are prepared to move on,” he said.

Jacksonville has been talking to several sources about getting a regional fair at the location if the State Fair doesn’t decide to take advantage of the city’ offer.

Fletcher said the city should be in charge of its own destiny rather than let others decide its future.

According to a consultant’s study given to the board in March, relocating the fair would take several years and cost $200 million. After the study was released, Fletcher questioned some of its figures.

The fair’s current home on Roosevelt Road in Little Rock consists of 148 acres. State fairs across the nation average 366 acres.

Also, crime – or the perception of it – keeps potential visitors away from the fairgrounds, according to the study. It cited police reports, various crime statistics and, apparently, the words of state fair management.

The fairgrounds have been on Roosevelt Road since opening in the 1940s.

Fletcher said Jacksonville has already proven its ability to make a project like the fair successful because it donated land to the Department of Defense in the ‘50s. The result of that investment was the Little Rock Air Force Base, which has an impact of $700 million in the area.

The study said a new fair could have an arena with 5,000 fixed seats, a primary exhibition building of 100,000 square feet, a year-round park for up to 2,500 recreational vehicles, and various horse and livestock facilities totaling 280,000 square feet.

It also said the association could expect significant increases in paid attendance, parking fees and camping fees if the fair was relocated.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

EDITORIAL >> More clerks needed

It wasn’t supposed to happen.

Several women, one of them pregnant, stood in a long line during lunch hour at the Jacksonville post office with just one clerk on duty.

Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general, had promised on radio last month that he’d make sure more clerks would be on duty in post office lobbies during lunch hour.

A caller had complained about long lines every time she went to the local post office on her lunch hour.

She said that’s the only time most people can go to the post office because they work all day. But there’s never more than one clerk working behind the counter, she insisted.

The postmaster promised that would change. Somebody pointed out that McDonald’s doesn’t cut back during lunch hour, so why should the post office?

“How will you fix the problem?” the skeptical radio host asked the postmaster general.

“They’ll stagger their lunch breaks,” he insisted.

The polite host almost gagged in disbelief.

The postmaster general makes $265,000 a year. When was the last time he visited a post office?

The postal service is hurting. More customers are paying bills online and using competitors for letters and packages.

Post offices are shutting down across the country. Closer to home, Austin and Garner have lost their post offices. If things don’t improve, there will be no lines in post offices because there will be none left.—Garrick Feldman

EDITORIAL >> Boozman likes stimulus here

The old English proverb “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too” may be right, but in politics there’s no harm in trying. Our junior U. S. senator, John Boozman, is the most adept or at least the most consistent at trying.

You will remember back in June Boozman gave a pep talk to people interested in the Bayou Meto Basin Project. They need $614 million in federal assistance—“government spending” in the lexicon of the day—to complete the big irrigation project that will nourish farms facing a dwindling water supply.

Boozman was in a spot be-cause he had joined Republican party bosses in condemning federal spending and promising to give up “earmarks,” the individual appropriations by members of Congress to benefit their districts. Boozman had championed earmarks when he was in the House of Representatives.

So he told the Bayou Meto partisans that they needed to get President Obama to include the irrigation money in his budget. But those projects don’t get into executive budgets.

All the money so far has come from congressional earmarks. So the implicit message from the senator was, I’m for you, but I’m not going to help you, and if you don’t get the money blame President Obama, not me.

Last week, he joined other Republicans in voting against an omnibus appropriation that included $60 million for the National Center for Toxicological Research at Pine Bluff. He’s against all that federal spending, you see.

But for the consumption of people back in Arkansas, the senator’s spokesman issued a statement saying that he was extremely pleased to see money in the bill for the research center.

Some people might not know that he actually voted to stop the spending at the center. His vote is all that counts; a statement is meaningless.

Then the Jonesboro Sun reported this week that a representative of Senator Boozman showed up at a meeting there on the federal program to provide money to help people insulate their homes and lower their energy bills.

It was part of President Obama’s big 2009 stimulus package, which Boozman condemned as wasteful and useless. Jonesboro officials praised the president’s stimulus, which doubled the amount available for weatherization and created numerous jobs in the region.

Boozman’s representative said the senator was vitally interested in those kinds of programs, which he said could better people’s lives. The representative did not mention that Boozman had actually opposed it.

If he were pressed, we imagine he would explain that he is only opposed to spending money in other states.

Do you call that statesmanship or raw opportunism?

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

EDITORIAL >> Give a hoot, don’t pollute

The way to save and create jobs, according to the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, is to halt those silly government rules that are supposed to protect public health and safety and let workers organize and bargain collectively for their pay and working conditions.

Our own Rep. Tim Griffin this week posted on his Facebook page a list of 10 regulations that he wanted stopped or repealed because he said they killed jobs. Actually, it was not Griffin’s list but one sent out by Majority Leader Eric Cantor for Republican congressmen to tout. The job-killing rules were supplied by the National Association of Manufacturers and the energy industry.

Their memorandum predicts how many jobs will be lost when the rules are implemented. Massive job losses are predicted from restrictions on air and water pollution. Other groups, of course, predict just the opposite, both new jobs and massive public benefits in the way of protected health and safety. It’s an area where everyone is free to make exaggerated claims.

Let’s take a couple of them. Griffin and the Republican phalanx in the House say that an Environmental Protection Administration rule on cleaning up and disposing of coal ash would cause 100,000 people to lose their jobs. They don’t think power companies should have to do a thorough cleanup of coal ash at generation sites or restrict the commercial use of the ash in any way.

By magical coincidence, just as they were issuing their list, a massive pile of coal ash from an old power-plant site in Wisconsin collapsed and spilled into Lake Michigan. The company said it wasn’t very dangerous because, as the Republicans say, coal ash isn’t very poisonous. Coal ash contains 24 known pollutants, including boron, cadmium, arsenic, lead, mercury and dioxins, all deadly.

Griffin wants to stop the EPA from requiring power plants to dispose of coal ash more safely at the 1,300 coal-ash dumps. But Griffin doesn’t have a coal-ash dump in his district—Arkansas’ other three congressmen do—so why should he be worried about the health effects of the ash, the contaminants that are left after the burning of coal?

Other regulations seek to reduce the air contaminants from carbon, nitric acid, mercury and other effluents from power plants and industrial boilers. Industry and congressmen like Griffin believe the health benefits from reducing the poisons in the atmosphere are far outweighed by the extra costs imposed on industries and, perhaps ultimately, on consumers. The EPA and environmental groups claim the opposite, that the cost benefits from a healthier society—reduced medical costs, greater productivity and the like—far outweigh the immediate expense to industry of being better stewards of their environment.

Remember, too, that the National Association of Manufacturers, utilities and the energy industry have been issuing frightening projections for 40 years about the economic costs of protecting the air and water, ever since President Richard Nixon proudly signed the Clean Air and Water Acts. They never came true. But the smog over congested cities diminished, acid rain went away (though not completely), and rivers and harbors were cleaned up and made useful again for recreation and water supplies.

No, halting the enforcement of clean air and water standards or rules to protect consumers and workers won’t create jobs or preserve them. Here in Jacksonville we have special reasons to know the pain when government doesn’t protect us from heedless industrial conduct.

TOP STORY >> Cabot dealing with cyberbullying

Leader staff writer

Derogatory comments and threats posted last weekend about Cabot students on a free Internet discussion website forced parents, police and school administrators to get involved to find the people behind what they consider cyberbullying.

The Cabot Police Department, the State Police and the Cabot School District are working together to investigate cyberbullying that is continuing to occur under the Cabot forum on the website

The posts and comments spread like wildfire, once some posts are deleted, new ones appear.

The messages are posted by people using anonymous or false names. More than 3,000 individual topics have been posted on the Cabot message board.

Lt. Scott Steely said the police department received about 50 complaints on Monday from parents about comments that began to be posted Friday night. By Monday, more than 200 individual names had appeared with comments posted ranging from one to 104 comments.

Authorities are trying to identify the Internet Protocol addresses of the hostile messages to determine who is posting the comments.

An IP address is a unique set of numbers that every computer connected to the Internet has.

Cabot police are also looking at unique identifying numbers from smart phone users who post on the website.

Police plan to file criminal charges against the cyberbullies. Cyberbullying is a class B misdemeanor with a punishment up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

“Using a computer to harass or annoy is illegal,” Steely said.

Some of the comments were positive, but some were threatening and harassing. Several of the posts were crass and hateful regarding a student’s sexual orientation, preference or history. Others refer to the girls named on the post with demeaning language. Steely believes most of the people leaving the messages are teens.

Even though a majority of the comments were posted after school hours and off school property, the district is taking a stand. On Monday afternoon before school was dismissed, students were informed about the cyberbullying.

The Cabot Public School handbook states, “Electronic acts of bullying are prohibited whether or not the electronic act originated on school property or with school equipment, if the electronic act is directed specifically at students or school personnel and is maliciously intended for the purpose of disrupting school or has a high likelihood of succeeding in that purpose.”

According to the handbook, bullying is defined as pointed comments or questions intended to embarrass or humiliate others.

The heartless comments directed at specifically named students has Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman fired up.

“It is mean, cruel and it’s not acceptable behavior. No student should have to deal with the posted messages on a national website. We’re not going to tolerate it. We will punish the students accordingly. We mean business,” Thurman said.

The handbook lists the punishments for cyberbullying, ranging from a conference with a student to expulsion.

He said some people regard posting degrading messages as entertainment. They can leave comments with aliases and fake e-mail accounts without being held accountable.

The posted messages caused disruptions at the high school and both junior high schools. Students are asking questions. Parents are calling school administrators.

Thurman said students who did not know about the website will want to know about it now.

“All the kids are talking about it. It’s a lot of unnecessary drama,” Thurman said of the disruption.

According to Cabot police, Topix will not remove the comments at the request of law enforcement, only with requests from parents and the child involved.

“I had to give them more personal information to get Topix to flag (review) the comments than to post a comment,” Thurman said.

He said the website informed him it would take up to three business days to review comments.

The website is not censoring or preventing new messages from being posted, he explained.

Topix did put a banner message on the forum for posters to think about their messages. Cyberbullying is a crime in Arkansas. Identifying information may be shared with authorities if they provide a court order.

Thurman recommended parents have a discussion with their children about the posts.

“There is nothing more important than for families to be able to discuss these issues together,” Thurman said.

“Parents need to notify the building administrator if these continue. We also need information on who they think may be posting the inappropriate comments. Our counselors are prepared to help students who are dealing with these postings as well,” Thurman added.

The police department is asking parents of the children involved to contact Steely at 501-843-6166 or e-mail about cyberbullying complaints.

TOP STORY >> A water line is dedicated to J.M. Park

Leader staff writer

A $10 million water line into Cabot was dedicated Tuesday in memory of J.M. Park, the man who arguably knew better than anyone how important water is to a city.

The line will eventually connect Cabot’s water system to Central Arkansas Water’s Wilson Treatment Plant south of the Arkansas River and is sized to provide water to Cabot residents beyond 2080.

Park, who died in January, was the original chairman of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, which took control of the city’s water and wastewater departments in 2006 and built the $10 million waterline as well as the sewer treatment plant that now serves the city.

He was president of the Bank of Cabot when it was the only bank in town. And he was a resident of Cabot when water was so scarce that many people collected rainwater in cisterns for household use.

Mayor Bill Cypert, who served on the commission with Park, said Park often spoke about the poor quality of the water. Park called his white shirts and underwear an embarrassment, Cypert said. The water either tasted bad or had no taste because there was no water. And some wells contained so much natural gas that flames shot from faucets if you held a match to them.

Gary Walker, the current commission chairman, said he met with Park shortly before he went into the hospital for surgery in early January.

Park wanted to make sure that the waterline was finished on schedule and on budget and he wanted Walker’s promise that Cabot WaterWorks would continue to put its customers first, Walker said.

Like Cypert, Walker also said he got to know Park while serving together on the commission.

Park was passionate about bird hunting and he was a stickler for starting meetings on time and finishing with business quickly, he said. But mostly he was passionate about getting for Cabot what he didn’t have for much of his life, a reliable source of water.

Park’s widow, Carolyn, and daughter Susan Esche accepted the plaque dedicating the waterline called the Cabot WaterWorks Northbelt Transmission Line.

“I’m a little old to be doing this but isn’t it wonderful it’s going to happen,” Carolyn Park said her husband told her.

“J.M. would have been so pleased to see this come to be,” she said.

Esche said her father often talked about the work of the commission and was excited about what they were doing even though some might not find it exciting.

“You’ve got to keep the taps running. You’ve got to keep the toilets flushing if you want your town to grow,” Esche said her father told her.

TOP STORY >> For PCSSD, infusion of more funds

Leader staff writer

A new state law has provided the Pulaski County Special School District with a one-time windfall of $15 million because taxes are distributed earlier. The district will use the money to budget for 2011-12 without slashing at least $4 million and get back on track in 2012-13.

Without the windfall, PCSSD’s approved budget for 2011-12 would have been in the red by about $4 million.

“Obviously that couldn’t happen, so substantial cuts would have to have been made in the 2011-12 budget. As it is, we were able to budget expenditures at about the same level as the prior year and utilize the current year for planning how to deal with what could be a budget problem in 2012-13,” William Goff, the district’s chief financial officer, wrote in an email to The Leader.

The windfall will amount to an $11.5 million carryover in operating funds, up $6 million from last year.

Expenditures for teacher salaries will go up by about $1 million from the $77.7 million in 2010-11 to $79.3 million for 2011-12 to accommodate for the estimated costs of experience and education increments. Goff said the district is not projecting any change to salary schedules and any vacancies that do not have to be filled will not be.

“There we hope to spend less than the amount budgeted,” he explained.

PCSSD is hoping to save about $958,000 on food service because its bakery operation has closed. This means that items will be bought directly from vendors and labor costs will be reduced, Goff said. The district will also use more than $600,000 of inventory purchased during 2010-11.

“We tried to budget realistically but hope we can operate on less than the amount actually budgeted,” Goff added.

Goff said Act 871 of 2011 requires an accounting change. The change means the district can record $15 million in revenue from property taxes collected from its fiscal year, March through June, in the same year the funds were collected. Before, PCSSD would have had to defer the money to the following school year, 2012-13.

The district therefore has all the property tax revenue collected in 2010-11 and will have all property tax revenue collected by June 30, 2012, to budget for this school year.

He said PCSSD has to look at what’s required to comply with law or accreditation standards and things that are considered optional. Out of what is optional, it has to decide which costs have the most positive effect on student achievement in order to cut things that are optional and have the least impact on student achievement.

“The financial requirement is that we maintain a sufficient legal fund balance and provide for all requirements found in law and standards. The financial goal is that we maintain a sufficient legal fund balance and provide our students with a world-class education that far exceeds law and standards,” Goff said.

PCSSD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Guess said the 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 fewer students. 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 added that residents pay 40.7 mills that go to PCSSD. Every school district in Arkansas receives 25 mills under the state’s uniform millage rate. For PCSSD, each mill generates $2.3 million. Each mill in Little Rock generates $3.2 million.

Of PCSSD’s 40.7 mills, 14.8 go to pay off debts and 0.09, which generates $2.1 million, is used for technology.

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

SPORTS >> Jamboree pairs Devils, Falcons

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville and North Pulaski met for the first time this basketball season on Saturday in the Jacksonville Jamboree. The preseason exhibition included several teams from all over the state, with each team playing four total quarters against two other teams.

The Red Devils and Falcons closed the event against each other, and each took the floor against Conway.

Although just an exhibition, Jacksonville flexed its muscle as one of the better teams in the state. North Pulaski, taking the floor for the first time under new coach Roy Jackson, showed that replacing nearly all of its varsity roster means it will need time to grow under the new system and with each other. Timing is something the team has.

“It’s just going to take time,” Jackson said. “I thought our kids played really hard. They did some things well. We just have a lot of inexperience. We’re going to have some rough spots here and there, but getting it together by conference time is our goal. The kids are working hard so I think we’re going to get there.”

North Pulaski is also small, and Conway took advantage of that, out-rebounding the Falcons 15-8 in route to a 44-20 final after two quarters of play.

Conway caught fire from outside and stayed hot throughout its two quarters against the Falcons. The Wampus Cats hit eight three pointers. They only scored four two-point field goals, with the other 12 points coming at the free-throw line.

North Pulaski wasn’t poor from the floor, its main problem was getting shots off. The Falcons hit eight of 18 attempts. Three were three pointers. Conway hit 12 of 30 from the field.

The Falcons took a break and Jacksonville went against the Wampus Cats. The two teams went toe-to-toe through the first quarter. Conway was still better at rebounding, but Jacksonville was able to get to the rim for some easy buckets. The Red Devils hit eight of 11 shots in the first quarter, but because of Conway’s second-chance buckets, the game was still close, 20-19, at the end of one quarter. Conway hit just six of 18 from the floor, but out-rebounded the Red Devils 9-3 in the first quarter.

“We didn’t do a good job of boxing out,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “That’s going to hurt us bad when we get in there against a team that’s shooting a high percentage. We’re going to be working on that.”

The game took on a whole new look in the second quarter. Jacksonville buckled down defensively and held Conway scoreless for nearly six minutes. The Wampus Cats first bucket came at the 2:23 mark. It was also an offensive putback of a missed free throw, but by then, Jacksonville held a comfortable 32-19 lead.

After scoring no points for 5:37, Conway closed with 11 in the final 2:23, but Jacksonville still prevailed 37-30.

Jacksonville was just too much for North Pulaski. The Red Devils ran out to a 20-4 lead in the first quarter and went on to win 38-13.

“Overall I thought my guys played hard and kept the intensity level up,” Joyner said. “We didn’t do many different things offensively. We didn’t see any zone defense. But I thought our execution was pretty good with the offense we did run.”

With several returning starters from last season, Joyner gave reserves most of the playing time. There were a few that played well enough to earn Joyner’s praise.

“Joe Akins really showed a lot of poise for a sophomore,” Joyner said. “He made some nice moves and got some good shots. De’ Shjon Penn raised his stock getting in there and crashing the boards for us. Crashawn Hayes did too. Those two came in and gave us a lift in rebounding because we were not boxing out like we were supposed to.” Dewayne Waller led Jacksonville in scoring with 14 points.

SPORTS >> Chapel uses commitee of ball carriers

Leader sportswriter

Running backs by committee will be the theme for both teams as Beebe travels to Watson Chapel for the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday.

The Badgers (6-4) wrapped up their 5A-East Conference schedule at home last week with a disappointing 28-14 loss to outright champion Batesville on senior night last Friday, earning the No. 3 seed.

The Wildcats (6-4) put a damper on Sylvan Hills’ last game of the season with a 51-21 victory over the Bears to help secure the No. 2 seed out of the 5A Southeast Conference.

Senior halfback Jay Holdway has led Beebe’s rushing attack this season, and has plenty of support behind him. Junior Michael Kirby joins Holdway as a starting halfback with sophomore fullback Eric Thorn in between. The added depth from halfbacks Rory Moore and Jeremy Van Winkle gives coach John Shannon several options.

“I think Beebe is a tremendously polished football team on both sides of the ball,” Watson Chapel coach George Shelton said. “They’re hard-nosed between the tackles, and their offensive line really wears on defenses. Their running backs are outstanding, and their quarterback is a polished ball handler – very impressive.”

The Wildcats also have depth at running back, as Shelton said he normally uses five to six different players in the backfield on Fridays.

Holdway led the way again against Batesville, and Shannon also commended senior quarterback Dustin Stallnaker, who led one of Beebe’s biggest passing attacks in recent memory on Friday.

Defensively, it was senior Bradley Gann leading the way again this season with 12 tackles against the Pioneers.

“He’s been solid for us all year,” Shannon said. “He’s been leader for us also. It started back in January, he established himself as a leader then. And now, he just doesn’t do it with his mouth, he also does it with his actions.”

Watson Chapel essentially took Beebe’s place in the 5A-Southeast Conference during the Arkansas Activities Association’s classification shuffle last year. Beebe moved to the East with the likes of Batesville, Wynne and Forrest City, while the Wildcats joined Monticello, Sylvan Hills and Mills University Studies in the Southeast Conference..

The Wildcats have been successful under Shelton’s watch with three straight trips to the state semifinals, including an unbeaten conference run last year. Though rebuilding somewhat in 2011, Watson Chapel still easily made its way into the postseason with conference wins over Crossett, Monticello, North Pulaski, Mills and Sylvan Hills.

“They look like they’re pretty athletic,” Shannon said. “They’re a hard-nosed team – they like to run the wishbone. We match up pretty well. I think it will come down to who plays the most physical on Friday.”

Shannon said the teams are close on paper, with Watson Chapel holding perhaps more athleticism while the Badgers could have a little bit of a size advantage.

“Hard nosed” was a term used by both coaches when discussing the upcoming game. Shannon, who was a longtime assistant under Mike Malham at Cabot, and Shelton, who came up under another local legend in longtime Pine Bluff coach Marion Glover, are both proponents of the old-school style of between-the-tackles football.

“I guess their coach trained under coach Malham up at Cabot, and you can definitely see the similarities,” Shelton said of Shannon. “They play old-fashioned, smash-mouth football. And that’s what I like to see – good, old-fashioned American football, and it’s good to see.”

SPORTS >> Red Devils hosting familiar first-round foe

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s football team is in the playoffs for the third time in four years. For the third time in four years, the Red Devils will host Sheridan in the first round at 7 p.m. Friday at Jan Crow Stadium.

Things have gone well for Jacksonville in the previous two meetings. The Red Devils narrowly escaped in 2008 with a 13-12 victory over a Yellow Jacket squad that was making its first-ever third-straight trip to the postseason. In 2010, things weren’t so difficult, as Jacksonville cruised to a 31-7 victory.

Now the Yellow Jackets are making their sixth-consecutive trip to the playoffs, but still haven’t been able to get that elusive playoff victory.

Jacksonville and Sheridan each have 5-5 records this season. Jacksonville enters the playoffs riding high after a minor upset over favored Marion to end the season. Sheridan comes in off a tough 28-21 loss to Texarkana, a game Sheridan coach Louis Campbell, who spent nearly two decades as an assistant coach as administrator at the University of Arkansas, believes his team should have won.

“We moved the ball on them and put ourselves in position to win the game,” Campbell said. “The defense couldn’t get off the field in third-down situations, and we turned it over three times. So it doesn’t matter how well you play most of the time, you do those things you’re not going to beat anybody, especially legitimate playoff teams like Jacksonville. We’re definitely going to have to improve in those areas or we’re going to get beat.”

Jacksonville began the season running primarily out of the pistol formation with senior Tirrell Brown taking almost all the snaps at quarterback. Later in the year the Red Devils began running a wildcat-style offense with junior Kevin Richardson engineering the show. In the last few games, both offenses have been utilized and with some success.

Recent history shows that Sheridan’s conference, the 6A South, has been a stronger league than Jacksonville’s 6AEast, but Campbell believes the East has closed the gap this year, and that Jacksonville’s offense presents some different challenges than his team has faced.

“They run a lot more wings and slots than we’ve seen this year,” Campbell said of Jacksonville. “They’ve got great athletes that can make people miss. We’ve seen on film where some of those kids have been able to turn nothing into big plays. That’s the thing that concerns me.”

Jacksonville’s versatility is also an advantage, according to Campbell.

“They do a lot of different stuff so you have a lot of stuff you have to prepare for,” Campbell said. “That does make it harder to hone in exactly they’re going to be doing come game time.”

One of Sheridan’s strengths this season has been its ability to keep from giving up the big play. Campbell gives his linebacker unit most of the credit for that.

“Our linebackers have played really well as a group,” Campbell said. “Except for a couple of games, our defense has done a good job of running to the football and making tackles.”

Sheridan has suffered some injuries this season at tailback, but they’ll be full strength this week.

“We’re probably as healthy as we’ve been in a while,” Campbell said. “We don’t have that as an excuse. We moved the ball pretty well last week, we’re just can’t turn it over like we did and expect to win.”

SPORTS >> Cabot’s Wolff to go to Lady Razorbacks

Leader sportswriter

Cabot senior Melissa Wolff may be headed for the big time, but she still has to hear it from her high-school coaches from time to time.

Wolff, who will sign her National Letter of Intent to play basketball for the University of Arkansas at noon today, was asked what part of her game needed improvement as she sat in the coaches’ office following the Cabot Basketball Bash intramural scrimmage on Monday night.

Wolff said her outside shot and defense needed some work, but Lady Panthers coach Carla Crowder and assistant Charles Ruple, who were both seated at their desks attending to other business, didn’t hesitate to chime in.

“Blocking out,” Crowder said.

“Did you say SOME work?” Ruple added.

The lighthearted critique from Wolff’s coaches is no indication of how vital she has been to the Cabot girls program since arriving as a sophomore in 2009.

She led the team in scoring as a sophomore and a junior, and proved to be a tough full-court defender last season as she led the Lady Panthers to a 7A Central Conference runner-up finish and an appearance in the state semifinals in early March. The word on Wolff got out early on the local level, and she raised her profile over the summer by playing on the Arkansas Mavericks AAU team, which played in a lot of exposure tournaments in northwest Arkansas.

Wolff and the Mavericks even got the chance to scrimmage with the Lady Razorbacks at a camp.

That got the interest rolling and by mid-summer, Wolff was verbally committed.

“I’ve always wanted to be a Razorback,” Wolff said. “So, that was a really awesome opportunity for me. I’m really happy.”

Wolff’s solid 4.0 GPA helped her cause in attracting NCAA Division I interest. She plans on majoring in kinesiology to pursue a career in physical therapy, and already has a number of advanced-placement classes to her credit.

Wolff wasted no time taking her official visit to the campus, and went at an opportune time, during the football Razorbacks’ home opener against Missouri State on Sept. 3.

“It was really cool,” Wolff said. “We got to go during the first home football game, so it was kind of a big deal there. We got to go down on the field, and they just kind of took us down before the game. Then, we just basically went and hung out with the team. It was just a lot of fun.”

With the early signing out of the way before the start of the season, Wolff and her teammates are hoping to build on their successful 20-10 season a year ago. The Lady Panthers finished runners-up to North Little Rock in the 7A-Central Conference with a record of 10-4, and made it to the state tournament semifinals.

Wolff will help lead a team with plenty of talent and size, including senior classmates Sydney Wacker, Micah Odom, Sarah Fowler and Laci Boyett, as well as a strong junior class that includes point guard Jaylin Bridges and Elliot Taylor.

“We’re hoping for a state championship, a conference championship – and we’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Wolff said. “We all work very well together and we work hard. We’ve been working this summer, and hoping for the best.”