Saturday, December 03, 2011

SPORTS>>Freshmen Red Devils undefeated

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville freshmen basketball team is off to a good start so far this season. Under first-year coach Tirrell Brown, the Red Devils are 4-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play after winning their River City opener 57-23 Thursday night over Bauxite.

Brown’s squad is very athletic and talented. Learning the hig school system and teaching the discipline it takes to play high-school ball under Victor Joyner has been the main area of focus so far for the squad.

“The kids are talented basketball players,” Brown said. “We just have to combine that talent with basketball IQ. We’re a conduit for coach Joyner, and we’re trying to get them ready for what he expects.”

Joyner, above all else, expects effort, and that’s what Brown is teaching. Brown has experience coaching at Jacksonville Middle School, and knows most of the players on the freshmen team. Stepping up the intensity and tweaking the game plan for the high school level is his biggest change.

“I have a pretty good handle on the discipline and the organization,” Brown said. “I’ve done a great deal of learning from coach Joyner and coach (Jerry)Wilson. The kids know me and know my expectation. We have a lot of talent. The thing we’re going to struggle with on the floor is discipline.”

Brown has already benched players for entire games, and recent performances on the floor indicate the players are taking to the intensified expectations and growing from them.

“We’re getting good effort,” Brown said. “They play hard. We just have to stay disciplined. Are we going to block out? Are going to triple threat when we get the ball. Is the point guard going to get us into our sets. We’re talented, but we’re teaching them it’s the little things that make you win or lose.

“Coach Joyner has a thing he calls 50-50 balls,” Brown said. “Those loose balls that are there for whoever is hustling the hardest. He wants at least 70 percent of those 50-50 balls. You can’t coach that. That’s just effort, so we’re trying to get the kids to give everything they have. And for the most part they do. This group works.”

Jacksonville’s other games have included a 47-17 win over North Pulaski, a 30-12 win over Pulaski Academy and a 39-37 win at Sylvan Hills.

Jarvis McCriston went the length of the floor and hit a layup at the buzzer of that game to lift the Red Devils to victory. Kerry Knight had 17 points to lead all scorers in the game.

Jacksonville gets back to conference play on Monday when it hosts White Hall. The freshmen Devils will be back on the road Thursday to face Joe T. Robinson High School.

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills survives close call from Beebe

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills boys beat Beebe 68-65 Tuesday night in Sherwood, but it may have been the Badgers who sent a shot across the bow. The Bears, who return five starters from last year’s state runner-up team, has added talented sophomores and two transfers, and boasts one of the top prospects in the nation, are favored by most to win the class 5A state title.

Beebe has four starters back and are expected to be good, but maybe not as good as it has looked so far. What the Badgers have done in their first two games is send a message that they are a real force this season.

“We’d like to think that we have that type of group,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. Going into the season we felt like we had a team that could compete for a conference championship and get to state. Tuesday I think proved to our kids that they could play with the big boys. After that there’s really nothing we’re going to be wide-eyed by.”

Sylvan Hills scored the first four points of the game, but Beebe went on a 10-3 run to take a 10-7 lead with 4:05 left in the first quarter. Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis called timeout, and his squad took control immediately afterwards.

The Bears went on an 11-2 run to take an 18-12 lead. It was first of several small runs the Bears would make and threaten to take control of the game, but Beebe had an answer each time.

“We handled some adversity pretty well,” Marshall said. “We handle their runs well. I thought that was a sign that we’re a better team than last year. They beat us by 17 last year and have that same team back, plus some. It was a great game and great learning experience. We made some mistakes, but you’re not going to win a state championship in November.”

Sylvan Hills led 21-15 after one quarter, but the Badgers scored the first six points of the second quarter to tie the game. The run included an alley-oop dunk from Austin Burroughs to Dayton Scott, who also got a defensive rebound and went the length of the court for a layup that tied the game.

From there, Sylvan Hills again took control, thanks largely to the defensive pressure of point guard Dion Patton. The Bears gradually built a 34-25 lead with about three minutes left in the half. Beebe closed the half with a mini-run and cut the margin to 36-32 at the break.

The Badgers picked up where they left off to start the third, scoring the first seven points of the second half and taking a 39-36 lead. Another Scott dunk made it 41-38, but the Bears again took control after that. Sylvan Hills went on an 11-0 run, capped off by back-to-back three pointers by Trey Smith, the second one from about 28 feet, that put the home team up 49-41.

Foul trouble then began to plague the Bears. Kentucky-bound Archie Goodwin picked up his third foul with 5:02 left in the third quarter. Shortly afterwards, starters Larry Zeigler and Devin Pearson also picked up their third fouls. Another alley-oop from Burroughs to Scott came at the buzzer to end the third quarter with Sylvan Hills leading 51-47.

Beebe quickly tied it early in the fourth but Sylvan Hills went on an 8-0 run to take a 59-51 lead off a steal by Patton and an assist to Goodwin. In the process of the run, Pearson picked up his fourth foul and was forced to take a seat. Beebe then began working it inside to Scott and again climbed back into the game. Scott scored six straight points from the Beebe’s halfcourt set and pulled to within 59-58 halfway through the fourth quarter.

Sylvan Hills got it to 63-58 on two free throws by Patton and a layup by Smith, but Beebe got it back to one with 1:00 remaining on a layup by point guard Brandon Fuller.

Goodwin hit two free throws with 37 seconds left. Patton then made the play of the game, picking Fuller’s pocket at midcourt with 15 seconds left and drawing a foul. He hit both ends of a one-and-one trip to the free-throw line to put the Bears up by four with 13 seconds remaining.

Scott hit a layup and was fouled. He hit the free throw with 2.4 seconds left and Beebe fouled Smith with one second on the clock. Smith hit both free throws and Goodwin stole the inbounds pass to seal the victory.

The Bears hit 21 of 27 free throws while Beebe made just nine of 17.

“Obviously if we’re better from the line we give ourselves a much better chance to win the game,” Marshall said.

Goodwin finished with 31 points to lead all scorers. Payton scored 29 for the Badgers. Patton and Smith added 12 apiece for the Bears, who are now 4-1. Burroughs and Zach May added 12 each for the Badgers, who are now 1-1.

The Lady Badgers had very little trouble with their hosts Tuesday, beating the Lady Bears 56-26. Beebe scored the game’s first six points, but Sylvan Hills scored the next five, indicating the game would be at least as competitive as the previous matchup between the two teams at the Mount St. Mary’s tournament. Beebe won that game 56-26, but Tuesday’s game looked like a mismatch.

Beebe coach Greg Richey called timeout after the Lady Bears’ run made it 6-5. Beebe came out of the break and scored 13 straight, and the Lady Bears never threatened after that.

Kamesha Wright hit a three pointer to make it 18-8, but Beebe then scored the next 12 in a row to go up 30-8 with five minutes left in the second quarter.

The Lady Badgers led 38-12 at halftime and 54-17 after three periods.

Whitney Emison led Beebe with 14 points. Jamie Jackson added 10 for the Lady Badgers, who are now 3-2. Wright led Sylvan Hills, 0-4, with 10 points.

SPORTS>>Pressure lifts Owls to victory over ’Cats

Leader sportswriter

The Abundant Life Lady Owls pressed their way to a 50-30 non-conference victory over Episcopal Collegiate School on Tuesday.

The Lady Owls (3-5) allowed just four points by the Lady Wildcats in the second quarter as part of a full-court defensive attack that created numerous turnovers and easy transition scores for Abundant Life.

“Our defense started out strong,” Lady Owls coach T.J. Wreyford said. “Second quarter, I thought we played outstanding defense. We took it up a notch and really picked up on them.”

Junior guard Lauren McClendon led the Lady Owls with 14 points while Courtney Waddell finished with 13 points, including three, three-point baskets.

“Courtney really helped us out a lot with the three threes,” Wreyford said. “It opened it up some inside for Michelle to get some layups.”

Waddell’s outside shooting kept Episcopal’s defense spread out and gave post player Michelle Allen an open lane to the goal for 10 points and 10 rebounds. Emily Turner rounded out high scorers for Abundant Life with eight points.

“We put some full-court press on them in the second quarter,” Wreyford said. “That gave us some momentum. We kept the lead the whole game and just kept increasing that lead.”

McClendon is on track early to repeat as the team’s leading scorer again this season after a breakout sophomore year. At 5 feet 8 inches, McClendon may not get looks from major Division-I colleges, but Wreyford said he believes she has the talent to play at the next level.

“She’s a left-handed guard, and she’s hard to guard,” Wreyford said. “She’s super quick. She’s one of our team leaders, even as a junior.

“She’s also our primary ball handler. As she goes, we go. Her only weakness I would say is that she needs to develop an outside shot, but she can definitely score on a drive or a fast break.”

The Lady Owls returned to 5-2A North Conference play Friday at Mountain Pine.

SPORTS>>Lady Panthers top Paragould

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers upped their season record to 3-2 with a hard-fought 61-53 road victory over Paragould on Tuesday.

Three players finished in double figures for Cabot, led by senior and Razorback signee Melissa Wolff, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Junior Elliot Taylor also had a double-double performance with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Senior post player Laci Boyett added 10 points and five rebounds while Sydney Wacker pulled down six rebounds.

“I thought they did an excellent job on the boards and on defense,” Cabot coach Carla Crowder said. “They continue to get better. The girls are excited about their improvement.”

The Lady Panthers took a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and led 29-24 at halftime, but the Lady Rams stayed within striking distance in the second half.

Cabot outscored Paragould 13-9 in the third quarter to set the stage for a fourth-quarter shootout in which the Lady Rams scored 20 and the Lady Panthers scored 18 points.

“It was a close game,” Crowder said. “They are a very good team. They are a lot like we are, so we were excited to go in and get a win at their place.”

The Lady Panthers also helped their cause by shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line.

Next up for the Cabot teams will be the first games in their new gymnasium for the invitational tournament starting Monday. The Lady Panthers will open the first round against Harding Academy at 6 p.m. Monday. The Cabot boys will follow at 7:30 p.m.

SPORTS>>Missing starters hamper Falcons

Leader sports editor

The difficulty of coming back from three-straight losses was compounded by illness and injury for North Pulaski on Thursday. The Falcons dropped their second-round game of the Hot Springs Trojans Invitational to Lafayette County 55-46, but were playing without two starters.

They weren’t just any two starters, they were the two tallest players on an otherwise small Falcon squad. Center Jeremiah Hollis and power forward Corviouseia Allen missed the game. Hollis is out with pneumonia and Allen has a nagging knee injury that was acting up. That left North Pulaski with basically a team of guards to battle a Lafayette County squad that featured two big inside players.

Despite the loss, Falcon coach Roy Jackson was the most pleased with his team since its season-open ing win over Joe T. Robinson.

“One thing about it, the kids played hard,” Jackson said. “I was very satisfied with the effort. Even though we lost, I thought it was the best effort we’ve had since the first game. We played solid man defense. I can really see we’re getting better every game.”

Jackson bragged the most on forward Fred Thomas, who played more minutes than usual, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s not but about 5-foot-10, maybe 5-11,” Jackson said. “That team had some big boys down low. We were boxing out just like we work on, but you get those big guys, sometimes they can just push you out of the way. But my kids were battling man. They were working their tails off. Fred especially, I was very proud of that young man.”

Poorly executed offense in the third quarter and a huge free-throw differential were the two main factors in the game.

North Pulaski led 29-26 at halftime, controlling tempo most of the first two quarters. The Cougars came out in the third quarter and slowed things down and turned it into a halfcourt game.

“I’m sure their coach told them at halftime they needed to work it inside,” Jackson said. “They were able to do that. We just weren’t patient when we got the ball on our end and just had some bad shot selection. Then they hit a three and that really got them going.”

Lafayette County outscored North Pulaski 17-5 in the third quarter and took a nine-point lead into the final frame. Each team scored 12 in the fourth quarter, with most of the Cougars’ points coming at the line.

Both teams made just 50 percent of their free-throw attempts. The difference was that North Pulaski shot 10 free throws, while the Cougars attempted 32.

North Pulaski made one more field goal than did Lafayette County, but the difference was the 11-point advantage at the foul line.

“We still have some things we need to work on,” Jackson said. “Shot selection is the main thing, but we have to shoot our free throws better, too.”

North Pulaski plays at 11:30 a.m. today against Gurdon to close out the tournament.

SPORTS>>Bison dominate EPC

Leader sportswriter

Complete domination at the line of scrimmage was the key to Carlisle punching its ticket to the 2A state championship game. The Bison blasted East Poinsett County 34-7 in the semifinal round at Fred C. Hardke Field on Friday.

The Bison (13-0) stopped the Warriors (11-1) at the Carlisle 6-yard line on their opening possession, and carried that momentum to the offensive side for a 94-yard scoring drive and never looked back.

Moving the chains did not pose a problem for the Bison, who showed early on that their weight-room program was superior by bullying the Warrior defense at the line for big running holes. Carlisle scored on five of its eight total possessions.

“Last week, I wasn’t real pleased with our offensive line,” Bison coach Scott Waymire said. “I thought we missed some assignments. A lot of that had to do with Gurdon’s D-line, but I wasn’t real pleased.

“We told them that we had to control the line of scrimmage to beat these guys because they’ve got too many runners. I thought we did a tremendous job on defense and just played outstanding.”

Sophomore Deron Ricks came up biggest for the Bison defensively with two strips of EPC quarterback Darius Barnes, including his first at the 10:48 mark of the second quarter that stopped a promising drive for the Warriors at the Carlisle 28-yard line. That led to a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive that also included the Bison’s only pass of the night, a 12-yard delivery from senior quarterback Zac King to Ricks on third and nine at the EPC 32-yard line to keep the drive going.

Sophomore Braxton Petrus finished the drive on the following play with an 11-yard touchdown run up the middle with 5:19 left in the half to put the Bison up 14-0.

Petrus finished with 135 yards rushing.

“Petrus is a heck of a young man,” Waymire said. “He started playing football as a ninth grader, and he has turned himself into the football player he is now by dedicating himself to the weight room. You couldn’t ask for a better young man than Braxton Petrus.”

Ricks worked his magic again just three plays into EPC’s ensuing drive when he stripped Barnes to give the ball back to the Bison at the Warrior 16 yard line.

“Big strips, big strips,” Waymire said. “He’s a good ball player. He’s a heck of a defensive ball player, and he’s done a tremendous job for us all year. He had an outstanding game for us.”

The Bison went up by three scores to start the second half on a seven-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown scramble by King up the middle of the field at the 8:21 mark of the second quarter. EPC stopped the two-point attempt to keep the score at 20-0.

The Warriors finally got on the scoreboard just before the end of the third quarter with a three-yard run by Barnes with 13 seconds remaining. The score was set up with a pass-interference call on a long throw from Barnes to senior A.J. Turner.

Carlisle safety Chris Hart had already broken up a couple of big pass plays, but was called for hands to give the Warriors a first down at the Bison 26-yard line. The boost did not last long, however, as Petrus dashed 63-yards on first down of Carlisle’s ensuing drive to increase the lead once again, 27-7 following a successful extra-point kick by Deric Herring.

East Poinsett County still had 12 minutes to make up the three scores, but on fourth and two at the Warrior 43-yard line, Carlisle linebacker Jake Caveness busted through the line untouched to take down running back Trevor McDaniel for a two-yard loss and hand possession back to the Bison, again with excellent field position. That led to the final score of the night, an 11-yard keeper by King and extra-point by Herring.

Hart got his revenge for the pass-interference call late in the game when he intercepted Barnes in the end zone on fourth and goal from the Carlisle 21-yard line.

The Bison scored on their first possession with a 12-play, 94-yard drive that ended with a four-yard run by Bo Weddle. Petrus tacked on two more points with his successful conversion run to give Carlisle an early 8-0 lead with 45 seconds left to play in the opening quarter.

Petrus led the Bison with 16 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Weddle added 82 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while King rushed five times for 51 yards and two scores. Carlisle had 419 total yards.

The Warriors finished with 259 yards, led by Barnes’ 15 carries for 74 yards.

The Bison will play at War Memorial Stadium next Saturday in the 2A state championship game against Strong, which defeated Junction City 23-19 in the other semifinal game on Friday.

“We get a chance to go back,” Waymire said. “And it’s sweet for our kids, sweet for our town, and hopefully, we can win us one.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Feds control exchanges

It’s official. When the final phase of the new health-insurance law is implemented in January 2014, uninsured individuals and businesses will buy insurance through a national exchange in Washington, not one tailored for Arkansas.

State Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford announced Friday that the state was giving up on establishing an Arkansas exchange, which would give people a wide choice of insurance plans and premiums devised by insurance companies specifically for Arkansas people and the Arkansas health-care system. Republicans, at least the GOP contingent in the state Senate and House of Representatives, were against a state exchange, so Gov. Beebe decided to let them have their way and give Washington the job.

For most people, who are already insured either through employer-based group plans, individual policies or one of the government health programs, it will make no difference. For those who will be expected to buy an insurance policy or pay a tax to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, it may make a lot of difference or perhaps very little.

No one at this point knows what the national exchange that will be put together by the federal government will look like or how the plans and premiums that would have been offered by a peculiar Arkansas exchange would differ. But Arkansas almost certainly will be worse off. The state will not be regulating the market and perhaps not even collecting the normal premium taxes, which presumably will go to the federal government.

The insurance industry, business groups, Gov. Beebe and the state Insurance Department wanted the state to devise and operate the exchange, for obvious reasons. Regulators at Little Rock would be closer and probably more amenable than those in Washington and the premiums and services might have been more suitable. But who knows for sure?

There is much blame to go around for this perverse turn of events—perverse because Republican calculating has now produced the one result that this generation of Republican leaders abhorred: federal regulation. Gov. Beebe and a craven band of Democratic lawmakers must bear some of the onus, too.

Arkansas Republicans have made great strides the past two years by invoking the name of the black president who was and continues to be intensely unpopular in Arkansas. Republicans for almost every office last year ran against Barack Obama and the insurance-reform law that became associated with him, although he initially opposed significant parts of it. It is now called “Obamacare.”

The central provision of the law requires people who are not insured and can afford it—those with family incomes above 133 percent of the federal poverty line—to buy an insurance policy or else pay a small but growing tax. The federal government would help families pay for the policies until family incomes exceeded 400 percent of the poverty line. The so-called “mandate” was to end medical cost shifting from the uninsured sick to people who do have insurance and it will enable insurance companies to cover everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions.

Each state would create a marketplace, called an exchange, where people and businesses could shop for a plan that fit their needs. There would be a national exchange where people could shop if their state did not set up an exchange or the state exchange did not supply good options.

Republicans attacked the law in court, primarily on the basis of the mandate, and the U.S. Supreme Court will rule by next summer. The insurance mandate, by the way, was a Republican idea, launched first by President Nixon in 1973 and fought for in the 1990s by congressional Republicans (notably including current presidential frontrunners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney).

This spring, Republican state lawmakers fought a bill authorizing the state Insurance Department to use federal dollars to plan and establish the exchange. The Republicans did not have quite a majority in either house but hammered “Obamacare” so fiercely that a number of Democrats sided with them and sidetracked the bill into an interim committee. Democratic legislators feared being linked with the president in any way in their 2012 re-election races.

Beebe could still obtain a federal grant to do the planning for the exchange, but he said he was not going to do it unless there was a modicum of Republican support. Republicans stood fast in hearings this fall: no to anything remotely associated with President Obama, no matter the consequences.

When Beebe capitulated and said OK, you’re going to get what you sought, Republicans set out to blame him for the coming federal regulation. They said, in effect, “the governor should have had the courage to stand up to us.”

And they were right. Leadership is doing what is best for the people when there is no political gain in it. Beebe met the underhanded politics of the other party with some clever politics of his own. He should have done what he knew and said was the right thing to do. It is not his finest hour.

TOP STORY >>Dispatcher exonerated in shooting

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher and part-time road deputy who shot and killed his neighbor Nov. 20 was back at work Friday after a state police investigation said the shooting was justified.

“I hate it, but in our line of business, it happens,” Sheriff Jim Roberson said of the death of Michael Perry at the hands of deputy Eric Moore.

By the time Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham got the call about the shooting early on Nov. 21, investigators had already talked to witnesses whosaid Moore was defending himself.

The shooting was on Clinton Freeman Road near Cabot.

Witnesses said that before the shooting, Perry had tried to run some people down with his vehicle and then rammed Moore’s.

When Moore came out of his home to see what had happened, Perry attacked him with a bar and Moore shot him.

The incident was the first altercation between the two men who had lived as neighbors for some time, according to the prosecutor. Graham said he had been in contact with the state police but the reason for Perry’s aggressive behavior was not yet known.

Reports that he was not taking his prescribed medication will be either confirmed or refuted by the autopsy report that is not yet complete, Graham said.

TOP STORY >>Center emphasizes wellness

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Senior Center celebrated its new name Wednesday as the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center. It is one of five centers designated as a senior wellness center by the state’s Division of Aging and Adult Services.

The state has approximately 190 senior centers.

Beverly Dunlap, program coordinator for the Department of Human Services’ Division of Aging and Adult Services, presented a certificate of recognition to the Jacksonville center.

To be designated as a certified wellness site, the center is required to provide members with the seven dimensions of wellness: social, emotional, physical, spiritual, vocational, intellectual and environmental.

According to Dunlap, 14 percent of the people in the state are 60 years or older. By 2025, that number will rise to 24 percent.

She said 39 percent of the state’s senior adults say they do not participate in any physical activity.

Only 25 percent said they eat the recommended five or more fruits or vegetables a day.

Dunlap said 80 percent of older adults have a chronic health condition and 50 percent have two or more chronic conditions.

Dunlap said the benefits for seniors to be involved with a wellness center are a longer life, a reduction in the rates of disabilities, better mental health and lower health costs. The results are fewer visits to the hospital and shorter stays.

She said a wellness center can attract a more diverse group of program participants. It draws more attention to the programs, increases the number of volunteers and possibly increases funding with support of the local government and opportunities to apply for grants.

Jacksonville director Christy McMillion said the center is targeting the growing senior population, the baby boomers. She said they are independent, active and are accustom to having more choices.

“It will always be a place to stay young,” McMillion said.

Mayor Gary Fletchers said the while the center is a place where seniors crochet and play dominoes, many older adults want to stay active and need a place to exercise.

“It’s a red-letter day for our city,” the mayor said.

The center started in 1974 as the Jacksonville Elderly Activities Program in a single-wide trailer on Martin Street.

It expanded with the help of a $400,000 community development block grant in 1984 to its location on Victory Circle. The property was donated by the Bart Gray family, where the Graco Theater once stood.

The center is a place for seniors to socialize, stay active or have a hot meal at lunch during the week. The cost to join the center is $20 a year for anyone age 60 and over.

Transportation is available to bring members to the center and return them to their homes Monday through Friday. The service is also available for medical appointment and to go shopping.

Seniors can take part in exercise programs geared toward older adults such as Zumba Gold, line dancing, tai chi and bean bag baseball. They can complete in the Senior Olympics.

The center also has the Peer Exercise Program Promotes Independence that offers programs on balance and how to prevent falls.

The center has classes to teach people hints on how to make their life easier living with a chronic illness.

The Jacksonville center offers Super Noggin, a brain fitness program to keep the brain active and strong and help with physical health. The center also has a six-week educational program for people to manage their diabetes.

The center will still have ceramics and hold bingo games. A weekly dance and live music is held every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9: 30 p.m. Admission is $5 and is open to the public.

“I like the friendliness of the people. The different activities we do. The different games we play. Anything to stay young,” said Shirley Jackson of North Little Rock.

Ida Casson of Jacksonville said, “I like the fellowship and the warmness of the staff and the many activities. The food is very palatable. They have very good menus”.

Gwendolyn Harper of Jacksonville said she likes attending the annual fundraising roast. She also said she loves the center’s staff.

On hand for the renaming event were Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, former mayors Tommy Swaim and James Reid, state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and state Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Alderman Reedie Ray, chamber of commerce members and past and present senior center board members.

The center receives support from the city of Jacksonville, the city of Sherwood, CareLink, Heart of Arkansas United Way, ElderChoices, a state Medicaid program, through donations.

Construction of a $500,000 storm shelter at the center for residents is planned next year. According to City Engineer Jay Whisker, the shelter will be 2,400 square feet and hold 350 people. The city was approved for an 80/20 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA is providing $400,000 and the city will pay $100,000.

During the threat of a tornado, the shelter doors can be opened remotely allowing residents to seek safety anytime, day or night.

The center will be able to use the shelter as an exercise room when severe weather is not threatening.

TOP STORY >>Districts change absence rules to state standards

Leader staff writer

Local schools are adjusting their attendance policies next semester to comply with a new state law that eliminates excused absences.

The law means parents don’t have to get documentation to justify their child missing classes because all absences are considered the same.

The law does not set a minimum number of absences before a student could be denied promotion or graduation. That decision is left to the local school districts.

For the Pulaski County Special School District, that number is 10 per semester.

If those 10 absences are from one course, the student will not receive credit for that course. But excessive absences will not be a cause for expulsion or dismissal of a student.

Days missed because of in-school or out-of-school suspension won’t count toward the allowable number of days absent. The state law also suggests schools reduce the numberof absences from school by favoring in-school rather than out-of-school suspension.

On top of the additional absences allowed by the state law, PCSSD will grant more for purposes approved by the principal or his designee, such as visiting prospective colleges, to obey a subpoena, to attend an appointment with a government agency or if the student is sent home because of illness.

In Cabot, students can miss nine days in a semester. Parents will be notified when a student misses four days of school.

The rest of the district’s policy is the same as PCSSD’s, with the exception of granting students an additional absence if they went to a doctor and received a note for the visit.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman said in an e-mail, “The change from the previous system of ‘excused’ and ‘unexcused’ absences has not been without a lot of questions and concerns from everyone involved. The law was difficult to develop into a policy that was effective, reasonable and could be understood by parents and students.

“Our board members worked extensively this past summer with the law to make a policy that was as reasonable for students and parents as possible but maintains the priority of students being in attendance.”

Lonoke district students will be allowed eight absences per semester. There is a clause in the district’s policy that allows for students who have “extenuating circumstances” to work it out with the administration.

The Beebe district allows 10 absences per semester and Searcy allows 12.

When students are absent half of the total days a school district allows them to miss, the law says their parents must be notified.

That notification has to be by telephone on the day of the absence or by regular mail sent the next day. A community truancy board, if one exists, must also be notified.

Before a student accrues the maximum number of absences, parents must contact the school or district administration for special arrangements regarding the student’s absences.

If special arrangements are granted, the agreement and its conditions have to be written down and signed by the parents, the student and someone representing the administration.

If a student exceeds the number of absences allowed or violates an agreement, the district or adult education program they are enrolled in must notify the prosecuting attorney and the community truancy board, if it exists.

The student’s parents could be subject to a $500 fine plus court costs and fees.

The law encourages schools to grant additional absences to students who participate in officially sanctioned activities such as the Future Farmers of America, Future Homeowners Association and 4-H program.

The law requires a school district to grant additional absences at the discretion of the superintendent for a student to visit with parents or legal guardians who are members of the uniformed services and have been called to active duty, are on leave from active duty or returned from deployment to a combat zone or combat support posting.

Teenagers involved in the poll workers program for high school students must be granted additional absences while working as an election page or official.

The State Board of Career Education is required to adopt an attendance policy for 16- and 17-year-olds enrolled in an adult education program that requires a minimum attendance of 10 hours per week.

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville balks at high rate increase

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s sewer rates will go up, but not yet and not by a big chunk.

The city council Thursday balked at the idea of hitting residents with an all-at-once hike in this economy, especially since the city had recently raised its water and sanitation rates. The council asked the utility to come back to the next meeting with plans for incremental increases.

Alderman Mike Traylor led the charge in voting down the planned increase by a 7-2 vote. His concern was the fairness of the proposed flat rate. Some residents were going to see a small decrease, while others were going to see a 50 percent increase.

During the public hearing over the rates, one resident suggested the utility go back to the drawing board and start over. Another one favored an incremental increase.

“We just had a water rate increase and a sanitation rate hike and now you want to slap us with a high sewer rate increase,” said Jim Moore, a Stonewall subdivision resident.

The new plan called for a flat rate fee of $6.00 per 1,000 gallons used with the minimum charge being for 1,000 gallons. Currently the lowest fee of $11.98 is based on 2,000 gallons, then it’s $3.98 for every 1,000 gallons after that. “We need to understand what we are voting on,” Traylor said.

The utility said it needs increased income of $1 million over the next five years. Traylor said under the new plan about 20 percent of the residents will see a decrease, meaning theother 80 percent of the residents will have to make up the difference to get to the million dollar mark. “That’s increases of 20 to 50 percent,” Taylor said. “That’s not being fair to everyone in the city.”

Traylor proposed keeping the current minimum charge and applying a straight across the board percentage rate of 13 percent the year first, 10 percent the second year, eight percent the third year, six percent the fourth year and three percent the fifth year.

Thea Hughes, director of the wastewater utility, said the commission had not run the actual numbers to see if Traylor’s plan would work. She added that Traylor’s plan favored commercial users over residents.

The utility had looked at an incremental increase that had the rates start next-year at $5.50 per 1,000 gallons and go up 25 cents each year until it reached $6.50 per 1,000 gallons, higher than the all-at-once fee.

Traylor said his step increase would start at $3.98 per 1,000 gallons and go up to $5.84, adding that the first two years would be pretty lean for the department.

Alderman Reedie Ray, favored the utility’s plan, said, “I understand the needs are now, not two years from now.”

Jacksonville’s wastewater system has now gone 15 years without a permit violation. “Few facilities can claim such a feat,” said Joan Zumwalt, chairwoman of the city’s sewer commission.

According to a wastewater report, the city’s system successfully treated 1.92 billion gallons of wastewater in 2010, all without a plant permit violation. No violations were cited during plant and solid waste inspections by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and no problems noted during biomonitoring testing.

But in spite of those achievements, the utility ended up in the red last year.

The sewer department operated at a loss of nearly $741,000.

Alderman Terry Sansing told the council that he was a bite-the-bullet type of a person, but in this case he preferred an incremental increase. “That’s what my constituents are saying. Small bites are easier to handle in this economy,” Sansing said.

Alderman Kevin McCleary said the phone calls he was getting were clearly for the smaller step increase. “It will give the department what it needs,” he said.

While the debate bounced between the big jump and one of the two increment plans, the council solidly agreed that outside customers needed to continue to pay one and a half times more than city customers.

Alderman Kenny Elliott was upset that the new plan call for the outside customers to get a break on what they were paying. Hughes pointed out that there were only 20 customers outside the city and financially it didn’t make much difference.

Elliott said it was not a money issue here but a selling point to be in the city.

The utility was instructed to go over Traylor’s plan and present details for both step plans at the next council meeting.

The city system includes around 164 miles of sewer lines and 3,500 manholes. Some of the lines date back 60 years.

During 2010, the wastewater utility repaired 6.5 miles of main sewer lines, repaired or replaced 115 manholes and used television equipment to inspect nearly 16 miles of sewer lines.

Although grease remains a major problem for the sewer utility, the number of main line problems related to grease was slightly down from 2009. In 2010, the utility had 29 grease calls compared to 30 in 2009 and a high of 68 in 2007.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SPORTS EVENTS >> 11-30-11


The Leader would like to hear from all coaches in all sports in our coverage area. Please e-mail results, statistics or information to or fax to 501-985-0026 or call 982-9421.


The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring a women’s volleyball league that begins in January. Games will be played on Tuesday and Thursday nights beginning Jan. 3. Interested participants can register for the league at the Jacksonville Community Center through Dec. 22. Registration fees are $25 for community center members and $30 for non members.

For more information, call Megan at 501-982-4171, or visit


G&S Promotions will hold a gun show at the White County Fairgrounds in Searcy from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6. Children 12 and under are free.

There will be a large selection of new and used rifles, shotguns, handguns, knives, ammo and accessories. Customers are encouraged to bring their own items to be bought, sold or traded.

For more information, call 918-659-2201 or e-mail The fairgrounds are located at 802 Davis Drive.


The Jacksonville High School Booster Club is holding the annual Flapjack Pancake Breakfast at Applebees on Saturday. The event runs from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the North Little Rock Applebees restaurant. Cost is $7 and proceeds will benefit the Jacksonville High School Booster Club.


The Cabot Athletic Department announces the following tips for attending basketball games at Panther Arena this season.

Parking will be available in the main student parking lot on the north side of the campus and across Lincoln Street in the CAO parking area and adjacent to the tennis courts. Due to continued construction on campus, fans are discouraged from parking in the lots on the south side of the campus.

Tickets may be purchased at the ticket booths on the north side of the arena adjacent to the newly constructed Panther Wall. This is the only access point to the arena.

There is no reserved seating. The north side behind the team bench is the home side. The student section is in the middle of the west end nearest the concession stand. Upon arena entry, all fans will proceed to the concourse level via stairs or elevator. No access will be permitted at floor level.

When junior varsity games are played in the old gym, fans wishing to see games in both competition sites will enter the old gym and be hand stamped for admission in the arena.

No outside food or drink will be allowed in the arena.

Selected Cabot basketball games will be broadcast live on Cool 104.7 Replays will be shown on CHTV with audio provided as part of a collaborative effort between CHTV and Cool 104.7

For more information, please contact the Cabot Athletic Department at (501) 743-3530.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Griffin bill a long shot

Every vulnerable freshman congressman—veteran ones, too—must engage in a bit of theater for the voters. You are not going to get bills passed, but you must act like a mover and shaker.

So Rep. Tim Griffin announced the other day that he was introducing a bill to end pensions for members of Congress and that when he got that done he was going to end pensions for all other federal government workers except people in the military and post office employees (too many of those voters in the Second District). The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette carried the story above the fold on the front page Monday: “Griffin aims to end lawmaker pensions.” His predecessor, Vic Snyder, never got such attention in 14 years in Congress.

Few would mourn if Griffin were successful in ending congressional pensions or if the government retirement system were reformed in some other way. But it is not going to happen. The head of the federal workers union scoffed when he was told of Griffin’s bill, the most recent in a number of similar bills. “Much ado about nothing,” he said of the notion that Congress would eliminate its own pensions.

“That will be the day,” he said.

Our sentiments exactly. But millions of voters want to hear that some punishment is going to be meted out to members of Congress (current approval rating, 9 percent) and government workers, whose standing with the public is only marginally better than that of congressmen, senators, people in the media and bank robbers.

Reforming or eliminating government pensions is the rage this year, even more so than in the past. A number of congressmen have introduced bills or announced that they were joining as sponsors. Rep. Howard Coble of Florida declined to participate in the retirement system when he went to Congress 27 years ago and has introduced bills from time to time to alter the system. He’s trying again to change the worst feature of the federal employees retirement system, the authority for members of Congress to draw a small pension at the age of 62 after serving only five years in Congress. Coble would not allow them to qualify for any pension except Social Security unless they had been in office at least 12 years.

Griffin’s bill is not going to become law, although the House leadership will give him and other vulnerable congressmen good committee hearings and perhaps a committee vote on their bills before the next election. But everyone will take care to see that none of them is passed because, if one did, President Obama would sign it in a minute.

Federal employees have a softer landing than most American workers. Their retirement consists of Social Security (yes, federal workers and members of Congress pay into Social Security like everyone else), a pension based on their length of service and pay and funded by matching contributions of 8 percent from the worker and the government (that’s you, the taxpayers). They also may contribute to a 401(k) account, but it is not matched.

Time was when most big employers and many small ones provided separate retirement plans funded by employer and worker contributions. But more and more businesses in the past two decades have ended or scaled back their employee retirement plans and left retirement planning to workers. Many offer 401(k) plans, which allow an employee to put part of his or her earnings into a savings plan that will not be taxed until money is withdrawn. Griffin said government workers should enjoy no better retirement than private employees who have no retirement except Social Security.

This is supposed to be a budget-balancing strategy. But ending congressional pensions altogether would not reduce the deficit by more than a fraction of a hundredth of one percent. Eliminating all federal retirement plans would indeed make a dent in the deficit and, of course, in the comfort of workers’ senior years.

That is only idle conjecture because no one has any expectation that Griffin’s bill or any of the others will become law. That is not the plan. The plan is for Griffin to get credit for beating up on Congress and government workers and trying single-handedly to close the budget deficit. It seems to be working very well, but we won’t know until Election Day.

TOP STORY >> Two ex-commanders here named generals

Two recent former commanders at Little Rock Air Force Base, Gregory S. Otey and Charles K. Hyde, have been promoted to brigadier general.

Nominated for promotion Mon-day, Otey is a senior executive officer to the vice chief of staff at Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon. He was commander of the 19th Airlift Wing here from 2009-10.

A 1987 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he earned his pilot’s wings in 1989.

Otey is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours in military aircraft, including the C-130E and the state-of-the-art C-130J.

Hyde, who commanded the 314th Airlift Wing here in 2006-08, is now the commander of 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

He leads a wing composed of six groups and 29 squadrons across three bases in Germany, Spain and Belgium.

The wing’s mission is to conduct the Air Force’s only airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation flying operations, as well as provide rapid-mobility and expeditionary-combat support for military operations.

After leaving LRAFB as a colonel, he was the deputy director of intelligence, operations and nuclear integration for flying training headquarters at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

He is a 1987 distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy.

TOP STORY >> District courts seen draining county budget

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin and several area mayors met at noon Tuesday for catfish and some hard discussion about how much the county should pay to help run the district courts in their cities.

“We want them to get their fair share, but we don’t want to pay more than we have to,” Erwin said.

But after more than an hour everyone left, and no decision was made. Some cities get more help than others, but the county doesn’t know how much is being paid for what.

Lonoke County Treasurer Karol DePriest tried unsuccessfully to get the mayors to stay until the matter was resolved. The county must pass a budget, she said, and she needs to know how much it will cost to for the district courts.

Erwin and DePriest said the requests they receive to reimburse the cities for running the district courts are only dollar amounts with no breakdown to explain where the money goes.

Mike Dolan, a member of the Lonoke County Quorum Court, commented that the county probably should have attempted before now to get control of the situation.

State law says the county must pay half the salary of the judge and clerk and could pay a portion of other expenses and worked out between the county and cities.

But the discussion revealed that there is no formula for determining how much each city is paid. There were only deals made in the past that apparently few if any in the meeting room at the courthouse annex were privy to. And whether any of those deals were in writing was unclear.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said he didn’t know why the county paid half of all expenses associated with the Cabot court, but it does and he’s not prepared to change that for 2012.

Jeff Sikes, attorney for the county, said in absence of an agreement for 2012, the county should, by default, hold to state law and pay half the judge’s salary and half the chief clerk’s salary.

“My budget is done,” Cypert responded. “If I have to go back to the city council and ask them for another $200,000, it’s not going to be pretty.”

Questions about paying for the county’s five district courts – Cabot, Ward, Lonoke, Carlisle and England – arose during budget meetings after Ward submitted information that appeared to indicate that its court would cost the county $188,000 in 2012 compared to $60,000 in 2011. Henry Lang, a member of the quorum court, said those numbers made bells go off for the budget committee.

But as it turns out, the $188,000 was Ward’s entire court budget, not what it expects the county to pay in 2012.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke became slightly indignant over the implication that he was asking for more than the city was entitled to.

Brooke said Ward District Court has sent the county $140,000 in fees collected in Ward so far this year and that he didn’t think it was too much to ask for some of that back.

“I simply want the reimbursement we’re entitled to,” Brooke said.

Carlisle Judge Ray Glover left the meeting early but not before saying he thinks the money should be distributed more fairly.

Contacted after the meeting, the county judge said what bothers him is that he doesn’t know what the county is paying for because there are so many deals in place.

He will take the matter before the quorum court, he said. But he added that he is not inclined to pay more than he has to. And all the county has to pay is half the salary of one judge and one clerk for each district court.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville looks at reducing budget

Leader staff writer

“It’s a hard budget,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said as he was putting the finishing touches on the city’s 2012 general fund budget. “We are looking at 2009 revenue numbers because of our loss in population.”

The mayor will present a budget of about $19 million to the council at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at city hall. At this point, it’s down about $3 million from this year but contains no lay-offs or reduction of services.

But the council will consider increasing sewer rates and court costs to help balance the budget.

A public hearing has been set as part of the council meeting to get input on sewer rates, which will go up, but the question remains does it go up all at once or in many small increments. The city is looking at an “all-at-once” increase. “Raising it in increments does make it less at the beginning, but in the end you have a larger rate increase,” the mayor said.

The utility needs the increase to meet operating costs and fund improvements. Last year, the utility ended up about $400,000 in the red and that amount had to be covered by the city.

The council will also vote on an ordinance to raise municipal-court fees and fines by $20.

Court operations are funded by the city and the increase would help offset costs. “The city gets just a small amount of the fines and fees currently collected,” the mayor said, adding that “people need water and sewer, but they don’t need to speed.”

Also on the council agenda:

 The council will vote on changes in the agreement the city has with the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority.

 The council will accept bids to repair the roof at the community center pool. The pool has been closed since March because of roof instability and damage. A new airflow system is also needed to take more of the corrosive moisture out of the air.

The mayor said the bids are less than expected and the new roof should be finished about 30 days after the work starts. “We’ll be able to reopen the pool then as we work on the Pool Pak (airflow system),” he said.

SPORTS >> Panthers and Ladies to open HPER Arena next week

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s boys and girls basketball teams open their new and long-awaited arena as they simultaneously open their first Pre-Holiday Basketball Tournament on Monday.

The only two games on the docket for Monday are the Cabot games. The Lady Panthers get the honors of playing the first-ever game on the new floor at 6 p.m. against Harding Academy. The boys follow immediately afterward against Paragould.

Lady Panther coach Carla Crowder says her squad is eagerly anticipating that first game.

“They’re so excited they can’t hardly stand it,” Crowder said of her players. “It’s something they’ve been waiting on and looking forward to for a long time. They’re fired up and ready to go.”

The girls bracket is loaded with top-quality teams from around the state, including three defending state champions. England, Shiloh Christian and Watson Chapel each won their respective classification titles and will be on hand next week at Cabot.

“We just wanted to get as many good teams as we could in it,” Crowder said. “Year in and year out we want good teams and good coaches. All the teams have high caliber coaches and good people. We want it to be a high-level tournament each year.”

The boys tournament doesn’t boast three defending state champions, but does include playoff teams like Searcy, Paragould and Watson Chapel, as well as postseason staples such as Wynne and Benton.

Panther coach Jerry Bridges says his players are also excited, but no more excited than he is.

“I’m right there with them,” Bridges said. “We all feel like little kids on Christmas morning. “Let’s go baby, we’re ready.”

Bridges expressed gratitude to the school administration and community for their effort and support in getting the arena built. It was on the immediate agenda when Bridges was hired five years ago, but he’s been patient given other circumstances.

“Sometimes things happen that’s out of your control,” Bridges said. “Junior High North burned down but we rallied together the Cabot way and we got it now. It’s been a long wait, but it’s here now and we’re very excited and grateful.”

Bridges wants his team to show its gratitude in every game and practice.

“One thing we talked about, let’s be worthy of this facility,” Bridges said. “By that, we mean to give everything we’ve got every day and every night.”

The tournament picks up again Tuesday and will feature games every night through Saturday.

First-round girls games Tuesday include Searcy taking on Shiloh Christian at 4 p.m. Nettleton then hosts powerhouse Watson Chapel at 7 p.m.

The final first-round game will be played next Wednesday when defending class 2A state champion England battles Jessieville.

On the boys side, Searcy and Shiloh Christian face off at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, while Wynne plays Watson Chapel at 8:30 p.m.. The boys first-round concludes at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when Benton takes on England.

Boys and girls second round and consolation brackets run through Thursday and Friday, with four games on each night.

Play winds down with six games on Saturday, including the boys and girls championship games scheduled for 6:00 and 7:30 p.m.

The Cabot boys have one game left before the tournament, a road game this Friday at Pine Bluff High School.

SPORTS >> Red Devils set for tough week

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville boys basketball team’s win over North Pulaski last week seems to indicate the squad has bounced back from its disappointing season-opening loss to Mills. The Red Devils will find out in its upcoming set of games that includes some rigorous competition.

First up for Jacksonville is Little Rock McClellan. The Lions also have a big win over North Pulaski, and the southwest Little Rock campus is a notoriously tough place to play.

Following that Tuesday night matchup, Jacksonville heads over to Little Rock Hall on Saturday to take part in the Battle of the Border.

That event pits some of the best teams from the Little Rock area against some of the best from Memphis. Jacksonville takes the floor at 5 p.m. against Memphis Arlington. After that, Jacksonville takes part in the Wampus Cat Invitational at Conway that begins Monday.

Jacksonville’s biggest area of focus after the loss to Mills was turnovers. The Red Devils committed too many in that game. They were able to turn that tide in the win over the Falcons.

McClellan presents a different type of challenge than Mills. Instead of being small and quick like the Comets, McClellan is long, but still athletic.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner, who drove to Memphis to scout Saturday’s opponent, says Arlington is the team that looks a lot like Mills.

“They aren’t very big, but they are very quick and they put a lot of pressure on you,” Joyner said. “I think we’ve made progress with our guards because we’ve focused very much on taking care of the ball. But we’ll find out for sure this weekend how much progress we’ve made.”

It’s no wonder that Arlington plays tough defense. Its new coach is Memphis State legend Keith Lee, the West Memphis product who led the Tigers and their notorious defense to the NCAA Final Four in 1985.

Joyner suspects he may not have seen the whole team, but even the crew he saw still won the game Joyner watched by nearly 20 points.

“I haven’t found out for sure if they still have some kids in football,” Joyner said. “I heard they still had a couple of power forwards that weren’t with the team yet. So we may see a couple of guys Saturday that we didn’t see last week.”

Arlington didn’t run with the ball and force the tempo like many teams in the Little Rock area. The team features one of the top sophomore classes in Tennessee. Joyner was impressed with their poise.

“They looked really organized,” Joyner said. “They didn’t rush, they didn’t panic. They were very deliberate and didn’t get rattled. They were very poised for a young team.”

Joyner said the squad had two players of concern, a 6-3 shooter and short, powerful slasher.

“The tall guard was left handed and has a nice stroke from outside,” Joyner said. “The little guard looks like a football player. He’s really strong off the dribble. They didn’t look real deep, but those are two outstanding players that we’re going to have to contend with.”

Jacksonville gets a bye in the first round of the Conway tournament. They will have almost a full week off between games after Saturday.

The first round begins Monday with Jonesboro playing Bentonville. The winner of that game plays Conway on Friday. Jacksonville also plays Friday against the winner of a 6 p.m. Tuesday matchup between North Pulaski and Fayetteville.

SPORTS >> EPC wants revenge at Carlisle

Leader sports editor

When Carlisle lines up to face its semifinal opponent Friday in the class 2A state playoffs, it won’t just be against a top-notch team. The Bison will face a top-notch team bent on revenge. East Poinsett County hasn’t tasted defeat since losing in overtime in last year’s playoffs on the same field they will meet on this Friday.

The Bison won that second-round showdown in overtime, 34-28. EPC has since reeled off 11 wins this season and has scarcely been tested. The Warriors’ closest regular-season game was a 34-14 win over McCrory in week two. Their average margin of victory in the regular season was 43.6 points per game.

They hammered Carlisle’s conference rival Des Arc 35-6 in their first playoff game. They were taken to the wire last week in a 12-6 win against perennial powerhouse Bearden.

EPC returns 10 starters on each side of the ball from last year’s team, including Arkansas Razorback commitment A.J. Turner. But Turner is far from the team’s only weapon.

“Turner is the big one but they’ve got tons of weapons,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “Turner is a great player offensively and a great defender. But the young man Darrius Barnes averages 15 yards per carry. He’s very dangerous. One of the most dangerous offensive players we’ve seen all year.”

Through the regular season, Barnes actually averaged a shade more than 17 yards per carry from the quarterback position. He has 1,400 yards on the ground and 23 rushing touchdowns this season.

The Warriors have a dynamic duo of tailbacks that alternate lining up next to Barnes in EPC’s spread offense. Junior James Sturdivant and sophomore Trevor McDaniel, along with fullback Dray Young, have combined for 1,440 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Turner, who is 6 feet 3 inches, 200 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash is 4.5 seconds, is one of only three Warriors that play on both sides of the ball.

He projects as an outside linebacker for the Razorbacks. He plays inside linebacker and wide receiver for the Warriors. He has recorded 192 tackles this season, breaking the school record of 177 he set last season.

“Without a doubt he’s our backbone,” EPC coach Brian Weathers said. “He’s our energizer. He had 17 solo stops last week and he had 30 tackles against McCrory. On offense he’s a weapon because he’s very difficult to guard one-on-one. Most people have to spy a safety over him and that helps free up the other guys.”

The home team will have the advantage in experience in big games. Carlisle has had numerous semifinal appearances in school history. This is the first time East Poinsett County has ever been this deep the playoffs. It’s also the first time the team has ever been undefeated this late in the year. Having a chance to avenge their last loss may add extra meaning to the Warriors first semifinal appearance.

“To me it doesn’t necessarily add anything to the game, but for the kids it might,” Weathers said. “I know this all started for us last year after the Carlisle game. We made a commitment to dedicate ourselves to the weight room because of Carlisle. They showed us we have to get a lot stronger and more physical to get to the next level. The kids really did commit to that and the whole thing started in that locker room after the Carlisle game.”

The Bison don’t have the kind of size they had last year. The team lost all but one of the starting behemoths on the 2010 offensive line, but Weathers isn’t taking anything for granted.

“They’re still as big and physical as just about anybody else,” Weathers said. “They may not be as big as last year, but they’re still big for this level and very physical. I don’t see much of a weakness there at all, even if they’re not all returning starters.”

Carlisle’s major task is stopping an offense that has averaged 48.1 points per game, 53.6 in the regular season.

Carlisle saw a speedy team against Danville and a powerful team against Gurdon in the playoffs. EPC has both.

“They have a great combination,” Waymire said. “They’re very similar to Danville in that you can’t focus on one person. The main thing we have to do is be sure tacklers. We have to gang tackle and wrap up. Those guys can make people look silly if you don’t wrap up and hang on. So that’s the No. 1 thing. We also can’t give up the big play. Last year we gave up the big play several times and that’s what kept them in it and made it close.”

Offensively the task is clear. Better execution than last week is a must.

“I didn’t think we did a very good job offensively against Gurdon,” Waymire said. “They beat us off the ball a lot of times and gave us fits. We have to play perfect football. We expect them to play perfect football. We can’t miss assignments. We missed assignments last week. We have to cut those things out if we want to keep playing.”

Win or lose, it’s the Carlisle seniors’ final home game. A loss ends the season and a win means a trip to War Memorial Stadium for the championship game.

Waymire hopes for a huge crowd this Friday.

“We have a big senior class and it’s the last time they’ll be playing under the lights at Fred Hardke Field,” Waymire said. “This is a great group of kids that has done a tremendous job of representing us and this community. I hope everybody that can will come out and support these kids in their last game here.”

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits win opening game against Falcons

Leader sportswriter

HOT SPRINGS – The Lonoke Jackrabbits kicked their season off in style with a dominating 58-36 victory over North Pulaski in the first round of the Hoopfest tournament at Hot Springs High School on Monday.

The Jackrabbits were strong defensively from the start, limiting the Falcons (1-3) to just one field goal until the final two minutes of the first half. North Pulaski struggled from the floor as it trailed 11-2 at the end of the first quarter and 19-10 at the break.

Lonoke continued its defensive assault in the third quarter and also improved its own shooting as the Jackrabbits stretched their advantage to 42-19 by the end of the third quarter.

“They were definitely ready to play,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “We played so hard defensively. That’s kind of been our focus. They understand that as hard as we play defensively, things will become easier on the offensive end.”

Campbell pulled most of his starters at the beginning of the fourth quarter. North Pulaski responded with a full-court press that allowed the Falcons to erase some of the deficit. Eric Mouton got the Falcons to within 46-34 with 3:16 left to play with an inside basket, but North Pulaski scored only one more basket in the final three minutes.

“They’re so athletic,” Camp-bell said of North Pulaski. “And you think at any given time, they can get a cheap one here or a cheap one there to kind of get them rolling. Our kids were pretty solid defensively. I give our kids credit, they came out and played hard with a mentality to guard.”

Sophomore Blake Mack led scoring for Lonoke with 13 points. Senior and team captain Tarrale Watson added 12 points while another underclassman, Jamel Rankin, scored 11 points, all in the second half.

Rankin got going at the 4:28 mark of the third quarter when he got a steal that led to free throws that upped Lonoke’s lead to 34-13. He converted a basket and free throw with 2:13 left to play in the third that made it 39-17, and hit a three pointer in the final minute to give the Jackrabbits a 42-17 lead, their biggest of the game.

“Jamel can be a special player,” Campbell said. “He understands that he still has a lot of work to do, but he’s willing to put in the time to work hard. He has some people around him who push him. He makes us go; he’s definitely our best ball handler, and he sees the floor well.

“Even though he’s a sophomore, he’s a leader for us. We try not to label kids so much on classification, but whoever wants to be a leader, go be a leader – we’ll take it. ”

Lonoke held the Falcons without a player in double scoring figures. Senior Marvin Davis led the way for North Pulaski with eight points while Daniel Drone finished with seven points. Post player Courvausier Allen added six points for the Falcons.

The Jackrabbits advance to play Little Rock Christian Academy in the winner’s bracket on Thursday, while the Falcons will play Lafayette County earlier that evening in the consolation bracket.