Saturday, July 14, 2012

SPORTS STORY>>Bruins fall at home to Russellville

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills senior American Legion team’s inability to produce runs early against Russellville’s Post 20 team put the Bruins in too big of a hole to climb out of as Russellville left Mike Bromley Field in Sherwood Thursday with a 7-3 victory.

Russellville starting pitcher Jace Power, who earned the win with seven strikeouts in the complete game performance, kept the Bruins off the bases for the majority of the game. But in the second inning, Sylvan Hills had a chance to put runs on the board with the bases loaded and no outs.

The next ball was hit to the pitcher’s mound for a double play at home and first base, followed by a strikeout. Sylvan Hills didn’t produce a run until the fifth inning, and after four, Russellville held a comfortable 5-0 lead.

ball tonight,” said Sylvan Hills coach Brandon Eller. “Baseball is a funny game. If you make mistakes or you don’t do things right, it’s hard to win. We had the bases loaded with no outs (in the second inning), and we hit into a double play and don’t even score one. You have to score there.”

The Bruins did rally in the fifth, scoring three runs with two outs in the inning, which started when Jimmy Sandefur hit a stand-up double to deep center field. Leadoff hitter Greg Atchison and Dylan Boone both walked to load the bases, and Mitch Meyer hit an RBI-infield single that bounced off the pitcher’s glove.

Sandefur scored as the ball rolled between first and second base. Cleanup hitter L.J. Wallace then walked to bring Atchison home, and Connor Eller singled to the gap in left field, driving in Boone on the play.

Russellville, though, wasn’t going to allow Sylvan Hills to seize the momentum. In the next inning, Russellville added two more runs to set the final margin. Post 20 leadoff hitter Jordan Hans reached on an E5 to start the inning.

Jonathan Hawkins then singled to the gap in right field, advancing Hans to third. Hans scored on a groundout to shortstop by Corey Hottinger, and Hawkins scored the final run of the evening on a stand-up double to the wall in right-center field by cleanup hitter Corey Scheide.

Sylvan Hills has been one of those teams this summer that often starts slow in games, but can turn it on in the later innings and almost score at will. It just didn’t happen Thursday night, and the loss makes it that much more noticeable to Eller.

“I guess it’s a problem and a blessing,” Eller said. “We’ve been able to fight late all year, but we let ourselves get behind a lot. I don’t know if it takes us a while to get going. The pitcher (Russellville) threw tonight was pretty good, but we have to compete a little better. We have to make plays.”

Connor Eller led the Bruins at the plate with two hits and a RBI. Wallace, Meyer, Sandefur and Blake Holmes each had a hit apiece. Sylvan Hills will travel to Little Rock on Monday and Bryant Tuesday before starting the Zone district tournament on Friday.

SPORTS STORY>>McClure signs with Indians

Leader sports editor

Former Jacksonville Red Devils baseball and football standout D’Vone McClure signed with the Cleveland Indians on Friday and reports to the Arizona League today.

McClure, who graduated from Jacksonville in May, was drafted in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft on June 5, and received a signing bonus of $765,000.

“I’m just really excited,” McClure said Friday afternoon. “This is what you work hard for. This is what you dream of. I just want to give God the glory and move forward and do my best.”

McClure signed an NCAA national letter of intent with the University of Arkansas in November and rumors were spreading rapidly on Thursday that McClure had turned down the Indians and would be a Hog. McClure doesn’t know how that rumor began.

“I wasn’t saying that,” McClure said. “That’s just rumors that get started somehow, but I never told anyone anything like that.”

McClure attended a Major League mock camp with other prospects last summer and was projected as a mid-teen round pick when the 2012 high-school season began.

McClure impressed scouts with his progress this spring and became an early-round prospect midway through the high school season.

At pick No. 143, McClure was drafted slightly lower than his projection, which was mid-to-late third round, but his signing bonus was still more than double the pick value for his draft slot, which is set by MLB. The pick value for the 143rd selection is set at $314,000.

SPORTS STORY>>Cabot wins zone tourney

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank Junior American Legion Team 1 is the Zone 3 tournament champion, cruising through the tournament with four wins and no losses, and only being seriously threatened in one game.

Cabot opened play in the state tournament on Friday night against Paragould and will continue play on Saturday in Sheridan.

Heading into state, Panther coach Chris Gross feels good about how his team has played lately.

“They’ve been playing really good actually,” Gross said. “They’re hitting the ball really well. It’s a totally different team from when the season started. They’re playing together really well and getting quality at bats.”

The Panthers opened with a 14-1 win over Conway. They beat Sylvan Hills 8-4 to advance to the winners’ bracket finals, where they handled Jacksonville 16-11. Taking on Clarksville, which battled its way out of the loser’s bracket, the Panthers escaped 1-0 before facing Jacksonville again on Tuesday night for the tournament title. The Gwatney Chevrolet team beat Conway to get back to its rematch with Cabot.

This time it wasn’t as close as the first one, with Cabot winning 16-3.

The Panthers piled up 13 base hits in the championship game with leadoff hitter and starting pitcher Riley Knudsen leading the way. Offensively, Knudsen went 3 for 5 with two doubles and five runs batted in. He also went the distance on the mound, giving up just two hits while striking out eight and walking five.

Cabot pounced early and controlled the entire game. The Panthers plated eight runs in the top of the first inning and were never threatened. They added three in the top of the second to make it 11-0 before Jacksonville got on the board with two in the bottom of the second.

Gavin Tillery also had three hits in the game while Lee Sullivan and Tristan Bulice got two base hits each. Sullivan also finished with three RBIs.

Gross believes the team’s 40-game schedule is a big reason why it has come on so strong at the plate.

“We’ve just been playing a bunch of baseball,” Gross said. “We haven’t had a lot of hitting practice or anything. We’ve gained a lot of experience at the plate just through playing a lot, and we just started to feel really comfortable up there.”

In the previous game against Clarksville, the game’s only run came in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jonathan Latture beat out a grounder to the gap between shortstop and third base. Clarksville’s shortstop made a good stop, but Latture beat the throw for an infield single. Dalten Hurst then hit a line drive to the gap in right-centerfield for an RBI double that proved to be the game winner.

Landon James started on the mound and threw four innings, giving up three hits while striking out four and walking no one. He yielded to Tillery, who pitched the final three innings, giving up just one hit while also fanning four and walking none.

Cabot’s pitching has also been solid in recent weeks, leaving Gross feeling very confident about that aspect of his team’s game as they head to state.

“I don’t know if we have the deepest in the tournament because I don’t know what everyone else has,” Gross said. “But I do think we have a lot of depth at pitching. I believe I have four solid starters that I can count on to pitch a whole game.”

Cabot, 26-14, finished with five base hits with Knudsen, Adam Hicks and Sullivan getting on each along with Latture and Hurst.

The Panthers have now won 11 of their last 12 games and have scored 118 runs in those 11 wins.

A win on Friday means Cabot will play at 7:30 p.m. today against the winner between Jonesboro and Sheridan.. A loss means a game at noon against the loser of the same game.

SPORTS STORY>>Panther seniors get three victories

Leader sports editor

The Cabot senior American Legion baseball team had a great week for three games and six innings, but the last inning of the week on Thursday wasn’t as good.

The Centennial Bank Panthers started the week with a win over Little Rock Blue on Tuesday, beat Sheridan 7-3 on Wednesday, slammed Conway 11-1 in an early game on Thursday, then blew a 7-1 lead in the last inning against North Little Rock to fall 10-8 in Thursday’slate game at Cabot City Park.

Power was prominent in Thursday’s game as the Panthers hit three out in the two games. It was two home runs in the last two innings that did most of the damage in Cabot’s final five runs that led to the run-rule stoppage in the fifth inning.

Cabot built a 6-1 lead after three innings with four runs in the first and two more in the third while giving up a single run in the top of the third.

Dustin Morris was excellent on the mound, holding Conway to just two hits in his five innings of work. He also struck out nine Cougars, including striking out the side in the second inning.

He was also hot at the plate as the only Panther to get multiple base hits. His second hit was a big one. With teammate Justin Goff on base after a single to right-centerfield in the bottom of the fourth, Morris drove one to the same spot; only his just cleared the fence for a 9-1 lead.

In the bottom of the fifth, Tristan Bulice singled bringing Casey Vaughan to the plate. Vaughan then hit a shot to the same spot as Morris’, giving Cabot an 11-1 lead and ending the game.

For much of the nightcap against North Little Rock, missed opportunities told the story for the Colts while blown opportunities told Cabot’s story. Through six innings, North Little Rock left 10 runners on base. Cabot left just seven on base in the game, but was thrown out on the base paths five times, twice at third and three times at home plate.

Patient base running likely would have ended the game with another run-rule win for the Panthers.

Cabot slowly built a 3-1 lead through five innings with a single run in each of the first, second and fourth innings. But the second innings should have been much bigger. Five Panthers went to the plate in the second, and all five got base hits. One scored, three were thrown out at home plate and one was left on base.

Compounding the shortfall of the aggressive base running in the second inning, the first two batters of the third inning got base hits as well.

Dustin Morris led off the second inning with a single to left field. Cole Thomas then singled to right and Morris moved to second. Tyler Wilkie then singled to right and Morris tried to make it home, but was thrown out, leaving Cole and Wilkie at third and second base. Nine-hole hitter Scott Burnett then doubled to left, scoring Thomas, but Wilkie also tried to score on the play and was also thrown out. Bryson Morris then stepped to the plate and singled to centerfield. Burnett also tried to round third and score on the hit and was gunned down at the plate.

In the third inning, Bulice led off with a single to left field and Vaughan followed with an infield single to third base. When the throw went to first, Bulice tried to get to third, but was thrown out.

Cabot added an unearned run in the third inning after getting another runner thrown out at third base. Wilkie reached on an error at shortstop and scored two batters later on an RBI single by Bryson Morris.

Still leading 3-1, Cabot seemed to take control of the game in the bottom of the sixth when Bulice smashed a pitch over the fence in left field with the bases loaded. Dustin Morris and Thomas led of the inning with back-to-back base hits. The next two batters went down, but Bryson Morris drew a walk to load the bases. With two strikes, Bulice’s grand slam made it 7-1 with one inning left to play.

Bryson Morris, who took the mound in the sixth in relief of starter Ryan Logan, struggled to find the strike zone and was left on the mound for the duration of the inning. North Little rock scored nine runs in the seventh off just two base hits. Bryson Morris walked five, hit two batters and gave up the base hits, the last a bases-clearing triple by Michael Hodge that gave the Colts their first lead of the game at 10-7.

Bryson Morris then struck out Evan Johnson to finally end the inning, and Cabot almost made a comeback with a two-out rally.

Tyler Carter flew out to centerfield to start the inning and Goff singled to left field. He was thrown out on a fielder’s choice by Dustin Morris, leaving Morris safe at first base. Thomas then singled for the third time in the game.

Wilkie also singled with a slow bouncer down the third baseline. Wilkie beat the throw to first, but it was also off the mark, clearing the way for Dustin Morris to score and make it 10-8. That brought Bryson Morris back to the plate, who was 3 for 3 with a walk, but Morris struck out looking at a called third strike on a full count.

It was the last of several ball-strike calls that drew the ire of fans and coaches from both sides of the field.

The week’s three wins and one loss leave Cabot with an overall record of 14-12. The Panthers’ next game will be at 7 p.m. Monday at home against Little Rock-Continental Express.

SPORTS STORY>>Gwatney rally earns win in seventh inning

Leader sports editor

SHERIDAN – Jacksonville’s junior American Legion team saved its best for last, the very last, in the first round of the state tournament at Sheridan.

The Gwatney squad overcame a big deficit by scoring nine runs in the last inning to beat Genoa Central 16-12 and advance to the second round of the winners’ bracket.

Trailing 12-7 heading into the top of the seventh inning, Jacksonville coach David St. Clair had a simple message for his squad as it prepared for its last at bat.

“I told them to score six runs,” St. Clair said. His squad did him three better.

Jacksonville didn’t make an out until the ninth batter of the inning. Fifteen Chevy Boys went to the plate. It started with eight-hole hitter Ryan Mallison drawing a walk off relief pitcher Jared Oats, who took the mound in relief of starter Justin Swecker.

Courtland McDonald then walked and leadoff hitter Troy Allen was hit by a pitch for the third time in the game to load the bases. Derek St. Clair then singled to drive in one run and Austin Allen drew another walk for an RBI. That prompted a quick hook from Genoa coaches for Oats. They brought in first baseman and cleanup hitter NickPurifoy to take the mound, but he didn’t fare much better. Kaleb Reeves, Justin Abbott and Greg Jones got consecutive singles off Purifoy before he finally recorded an out when Blake Perry popped up to the catcher. LaDerrious Perry and McDonald then got back-to-back RBI singles and Troy Allen reached on an error by Purifoy that scored LaDerrious Perry and left runners on first and second. St. Clair bunted them into scoring position and Purifoy intentionally walked Austin Allen before striking out Reeves to end the inning.

Derek St. Clair took the mound in relief in the bottom of the seventh and things started poorly for him. He walked the first two batters, but a big play at first base got him out of the jam.

Troy Allen, who had been behind the plate for six innings, made a leaping snow-cone catch of a Cale Ridling line drive, and beat Lane Hughes back to the base for an unassisted double play. Purifoy then flew out to centerfield for the final out of the game.

“Troy’s just a gamer,” David St. Clair said. “He just finds a way, whether it’s at the plate or in the field. He’s just a bulldog out there.”

Jacksonville got out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first with the help of an error and a wild pitch, but the Dragons stayed close with two in the bottom of the first.

They took their first lead with three runs in the bottom of the fourth that made it 7-4. Jacksonville tied it in the top of the fifth, but Genoa Central took apparent command of the game with five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Blake Perry took the mound with one out in the fifth inning in relief of starting pitcher James Tucker.

Perry was rocked for four hits and three earned runs before getting out of the fifth, but retired the side in order in the sixth to end up with the win. St. Clair got the save while Tucker settled for a no decision. Tucker gave up nine runs, but only five were earned due to five Jacksonville errors in the infield.

While the infield struggled, Jacksonville’s outfield was outstanding, especially Austin Allen, who made two big catches that helped stop Genoa onslaughts in the middle innings.

“Those two Allen boys,” David St. Clair said. “Austin is as good a centerfielder as there is in this state.”

Austin Allen struggled at the plate, but did get a double to deep left-center in the first inning for the first of his two RBIs.

Troy Allen got just one base hit, but reached base in five of his six at bats, including three HBPs, one two-RBI double and once on an error. Abbott led the Chevy Boys offensively. The five-hole hitter finished with three base hits, including two doubles and three runs batted in. Derek St. Clair, Jones and Blake Perry each got two base hits.

The Gwatney squad finished with 16 total base hits while Genoa got 13.

Jacksonville faces Tex-arkana at 5 p.m. today at Sheridan. The Razorbacks barely escaped Jonesboro-Armor 10-9 with three runs in the last inning of their first-round game.

EDITORIAL>>Triumphing over adversity

In July 1995, Serbian fascists murdered more than 8,372 men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia, because they were Muslims. The massacre motivated NATO to increase its air strikes to halt Europe’s first genocide since the Second World War. More than 100,000 Muslims were killed in the conflict and two million were displaced from their homeland.

One of those displaced included Muhamed Mehmedovic. He is now a senior airman at Little Rock Air Force Base who is set for deployment, perhaps in Afghanistan.

As reported by Airman 1st Class Regina Agoha in this week’s Combat Airlifter, the newspaper at the air base, Mehmodovic was 6 years old when his family fled Srebrenica. He said about 80 percent of his family members who stayed behind perished in mass executions, shelling and sniper attacks. Victims were buried in unmarked graves, many of whom are still being exhumed for proper burial. (The article is reprinted in The Leader on p. 1A.)

Mehmodovic’s family fled north to the city of Tuzla, where he and his family survived on supplies air dropped by NATO forces. In 2002, he immigrated to the United States using a special program for survivors of the Bosnian genocide.

After graduating from high school in St. Louis, he joined the Air Force, inspired by the airdrops that kept him alive as a small child. When he returns from deployment, Mehmodovic will train to load supplies for airdrops. He hopes to help vulnerable people like the victims of Srebrenica.

The 17th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica was marked on Wednesday. During the ceremony, 520 recently identified bodies were reburied.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York, who is a Holocaust survivor, spoke at the ceremony.

“Shalom, Salam,” using the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace, the rabbi greeted the crowd.

“Silence is not a solution, it only encourages the perpetrators and ultimately it pays a heavy price in blood,” the rabbi said.

“(It’s time) for humanity to say in one clear voice: These crimes against people will end! Here on this sacred day we say, never again!” he said.

Then the crowd chanted “Allah Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic.

The war, which lasted from 1992-1995, ended when the western world was motivated to end the killings. Led by Gen. Wesley Clark of Little Rock, NATO quickly overpowered the technologically and strategically inferior Serbian military.

Today, many Serbs, including its current president, deny the genocide. But the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, where the world’s most violent and shameful leaders are brought to justice, has since convicted many of its planners, sentencing them to die in prison.

We are proud Senior Airman Muhamed Mehmdovic is fighting for us, and we are proud that our country fought for him.

TOP STORY>>Crops surviving, but profits drop

Leader senior staff writer

Despite a six-week long drought, most area farmers aren’t having trouble making a crop, but they expect trouble making a profit.

“Everything’s planted and up and looks good,” said Dick Bransford, one of the last farmers growing cotton in his area, but “it’s costing an arm and a leg for fuel,” Bransford said.

“We’re running 17 t0 20 wells and don’t hardly shut them down. And fertilizer went double this year,” he said. “Not because of high oil prices, but because they can.”

Bransford said last year, fertilizer was $400 a ton, but because of the warm winter and spring, farmers planted early this year and the suppliers were caught off guard.

So his fertilizer cost $800 a ton, though some producers got it for $700 and even $600 a ton a little later on.


“We’re all hit hard, but so far everybody’s surviving,” he said. “We don’t know about next year, especially with the new farm bill coming in.”

Bransford, who farms with his son, Rick, in the Pettus area, says one of his wells has gone dry. He’s pumping both out of the ground and using relift stations to pump water from on-farm reservoirs.

The Bransfords have about 450 acres in cotton this year, and they’re planting soybeans behind the just-harvested wheat. They have about 500 acres in rice, 300 acres in corn andthe balance in soybeans. “We’re not hurting on price, but expenses are eating us up,” he said.

While there have been occasional showers in Arkansas the past few days, Bransford said he and his neighbors received “absolutely zero” precipitation.

He hasn’t seen rain since about the first of June.

Eventually, his acreage is among 300,000 acres that will be irrigated from the Arkansas River thanks to the $614 million Bayou Meto Basin Water Management Project.

The first water moved by gigantic pumps near Scott will take 1,750 cu. ft. of water per second from the river—that’s sufficient to fill 40 in-ground, back-yard swimming pools a minute.

The first of that water should be available in time for the 2013 growing season. It’s been 19 years getting to us,” Bransford said, and
Gov. Mike Beebe, with support of the Arkansas delegation, requested and has received a drought disaster declaration for 69 Arkansas counties, making farmers and ranchers eligible for financial assistance to help them recover from drought-related losses this year.


Over at Holland Bottom Farms, Larry Odom, who works some soybeans and sweet potatoes near Cabot says he’s been busy keeping his fruits and vegetables watered.

Strawberries are the biggest part of Odom’s farm income and they, along with his peach trees are drip irrigated.

The strawberry season is over, but the “the peaches are stressed some. It runs us ragged trying to keep up with everything, applying fungicide, pesticide, watering, running to market—we’re putting in a lot of hours.

He says the cloudy days and relatively cool — in the nineties — temperatures of the last few days have brought a little relief to the string of unforgiving 100-degree-plus days. His farm received about 0.2 in. of rain this week, which isn’t much help.


“We keep on hoping for a big one,” he said, “hoping that somewhere we’ll get a pretty good shower.”

Otherwise, “at some point we have to decide what to keep.”

Part of the soybean fields may be let go if he can’t get some rain to help refill his 70 acres of reservoir, which he fills from a nearby creek in the rainy season.

“We could set the pasture afire,” he said. “Anything on the farm will burn except the dirt.”

His neighbors need rain for the cattle. They already are using their stock of feed hay they put up earlier in the year for next winter.

TOP STORY>>Smoke detector in fatal fire was 9 years too old

Leader staff writer

The smoke detector at the Jacksonville duplex apartment where a family of five died from smoke inhalation after a small kitchen fire in March should have been replaced nine years before the tragedy, according to a recently released report on the tragic incident.

Funderland Singleton — the fiancé of mother Marilyn Beavers and father of their children Dequan Singleton, 10, Sydni Singleton, 9, Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4 — says he is still pursuing a lawsuit against the city and the Housing Authority, which leased the home at 3A S. Simmons Drive to them.

Singleton, a truck driver, was on the road when the fire occurred.

According to a report that was provided to The Leader in response to its Freedom of Information Act request, there was one smoke detector in the apartment and it “failed to operate.”

But maintenance men with the Housing Authority told investigators that the detector was going off when they discovered the bodies.

Stephen Ray, a criminalist with the State Crime Laboratory, wrote in a section of the 250-page report, “Based on visual examination of the wiring for the smoke detector, it appears that the wires have been cut.”

In a summary of the incident, Jacksonville FireMarshal Capt. Mike Williams wrote that the assistant fire marshal, Thomas Baldridge, contacted the detector’s manufacturer.

The company said the model had not been recalled, but it was made between 1990 and 1993 and had a 10-year life expectancy. It should have been replaced in 2003.

The housing authority’s executive director, Phil Nix, refused to be interviewed and, in an e-mail to The Leader, said he had no comment.

City officials have been advised by the city attorney not to comment on the incident.

Singleton has hired a lawyer and an investigator to find out what happened to his family.

He said, “There’s a bunch of stuff going around that isn’t true.”

Singleton said he was disturbed by the coroner’s claim that his fiancé was drinking on the night of the blaze.

The report states that her blood-alcohol content was 0.14 percent, or twice the legal limit for drivers. She did not have drugs in her system.

The children had not con-sumed drugs or alcohol, according to the report.

Singleton said he was upset when he heard the allegation about alcohol use.

He said, “I just hate to hear them say that. I’m not saying she never drank. With the kids around, that never happened. She would never drink around the kids. She would never disrespect them like that. She was a great mother.”

The report goes on to say that the range was on when firefighters finally entered the apartment, and apparently someone in the home had been cooking in the evening.

The fire marshal said the fire started on the stove and was contained mostly to the kitchen area.

Singleton didn’t believe that someone was cooking and said that his fiancé had purchased already-cooked chicken for dinner.

He said he has receipts to prove that and the family was eating ice cream when he called to check in around 2:30 a.m.

Singleton said, “There was no reason for her to cook. I don’t believe she was cooking.”

The estimated time of death for the five victims was not in the lengthy report and could not be confirmed by press time.

But Singleton said what he heard — that the family died before firefighters responded to the apartment for the first time at 5:50 a.m. on March 22 — is wrong.

Jennifer Gray, who lives next door in 3B, had called 911 because she smelled smoke.

The firefighters left after 30 minutes when they found no sign of a fire. Gray was told smoke had drifted from another fire across the freeway, about a mile away.

That fire leveled an unoccupied home at 3400 Northeastern Ave.

According to the report, firefighters did a walkthrough of Gray’s apartment, an external walk around the duplex and used a thermal imager, a device that detects heat.

They knocked on the door of 3A, but no one answered. So, they didn’t go inside.

Gray told a detective, according to the report, that she “didn’t think the firemen walked around the apartment complex,” and “the firemen were playing pranks on each other and not taking it seriously.”

She was told to contact maintenance with any other concerns. She reported the smoke smell to them about an hour later.

Maintenance men entered the apartment around 7 a.m.

They found three of the children in their beds. The mother and one child were in the bathroom.

The fire had gone out by the time firefighters arrived for a second time at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire marshal wrote in the report that it is likely that Marilyn Beavers, the mother, put out the blaze because her arms were burned. None of her children were burned.

An internal investigation into the fire is under way.

TOP STORY>>Greers Ferry pipeline begins

Leader staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe was the first speaker at the groundbreaking for the Lonoke- White Water Project on Friday in Ward, and he summed up what most of the speakers after him would say.

The project has been a collective effort of hundreds of people over many years that was started by some, kept alive by others and then passed along to those who would get it started, “a dream that died many, many times and has been reborn many, many times,” the governor said.

Money for the $57 million project to bring water to the area from Greers Ferry Lake will come from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Construction is expected to begin Aug. 1. Beebe said some of his first work out of law school was for rural water associations, helping to build systems to take city water into the country.

“If you give someone paved roads and city water, they can build a community,” he said.

The Lonoke-White Project has been almost two decades in the making. In that time, the estimated cost has almost tripled and the makeup of the membership has changed several times. When completed, it is expected to serve about 80,000 people.

Lawrence McCullough, USDA state director, said the Lonoke-White Project was one of the first things he heard about when he started his job four years ago. On Friday, he brought a mock check for $24,543,000 representing the amount his agency will provide for the project, saying he had never signed a loan check for that size.

“This is the biggest loan I’ve ever had anything to do with,” McCullough said. “This is big.”

Randy Young, head of the ANRC, talked about the cooperation among the members of the Lonoke-White Project that made that got it to where it is now.

“We’ve got eight public utilities agreeing on one thing in this project,” Young said.

The ANRC will provide a $30.9 million loan as its share of the funding.

Sen. Mark Pryor called the beginning of the project a great example of local, state and federal cooperation, an example that Washington should follow.

“(The project members) identified the problem, pulled together and fixed it,” Pryor said.

“You’re an inspiration to all of us.”

“What we’re celebrating is a great partnership,” Sen. John Boozman said.

Congressman Tim Griffin talked about the possible economic impact of the project.

Building infrastructure, which includes providing ample water, creates jobs, Griffin said.

“This is a great day for y’all and I’m happy you included me,” he said.

Cong. Rick Crawford said his effort on behalf of the project was insignificant in comparison to that of others.

“Any contribution I made has been incidental to the years and years of work done by others,” Crawford said.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke presided over what was called the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority Project fund-ing and groundbreaking celebration and introduced the guest speakers.

Brooke joked that Gov. Beebe supported funding by the ANRC in part because they wore him down.

“There were times when he got tired of seeing Lonoke White coming to his office,” Brooke said. “He finally said ‘give them the money.’ I’m so proud he did that.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SPORTS EVENTS >> 7-18-12


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 Central Arkansas Bengals youth football program is now registering players and cheerleaders from the Jacksonville-Sherwood area for the upcoming season. The Bengals practice and play at North Pulaski High School and registration is $35 for players and cheerleaders. For more information or to register, call Jay Smith at 501-307-9565 or Dominique at 501-765-3309. Information is also available at or on the team’s facebook page at CABengalFootballCheer.


Jacksonville Middle School football team’s first football practice will be from 7:30-9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1. Physicals is required before players can practice.

For more information, call head football coach Zach James at 501-658-8946.


The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department is now holding registration for the new fall youth softball league.

Registration deadline is Monday, Aug. 27. Interested participants can register at the Jacksonville Community Center. For more information, call the Jacksonville Parks and Rec at 982-4171.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Base school shines again

In two years, the federally mandated, state-required benchmark exams will go the way of the dodo bird and be replaced with another assessment tool. But in the meantime, the state will use the scores to determine which schools are succeeding and which ones are failing.

Combing through Benchmark test data provided by the Arkansas Research Center verifies what most people in the area already know: Cabot schools are doing well and schools in Jacksonville and Sherwood are failing.

Before we praise the Cabot School District, there is a bright spot in the beleaguered Pulaski County Special School District, which runs roughshod over the schools in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

That bright spot is Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force.

Here is a school built more than 50 years ago to be used temporarily, and like most Jacksonville schools, it is ignored by district officials, yet its third-, fourth- and fifth-graders have surpassed the state average on the Benchmark exam in literacy and math every year since the research center started tracking test scores back in 2008.

This year, Arnold Drive’s fourth- and fifth- graders were 100 percent proficient or advanced in literacy and were almost there in math. The third-graders just missed perfection in math and literacy, scoring 95 percent and 90 percent proficient, respectively.

So the question is twofold: Imagine what Arnold Drive could do if PCSSD really cared about Jacksonville schools. And if Arnold Drive can do this well against all odds, why aren’t other area schools succeeding just as well?

All the Jacksonville and most of the Sherwood area schools are clearly outdated, lacking in space and technology, so that’s not the difference.

Is it Arnold Drive’s principal? If so, why isn’t the district using her as a model for other schools across the district?

Is it the teachers? They are doing a great job—the test scores show it—but are they the only great teachers across the district? That answer had better be no, otherwise PCSSD could be in worse shape than anyone imagines.

Is it the kids? Possibly. The student body does come from military families for the most part, which means a higher rate of two-parent families, a steady paycheck and the security of a roof over their heads.

That does make a difference, but is it the reason for a 40- to 60-point gap between Arnold Drive and Harris Elementary? It’s doubtful.

The commitment is there for better schools—for more Arnold Drives. The desire is everywhere but at a central office on Dixon Road in Little Rock housing the school district’s core leadership. Until the district stops spending millions on lawyers and lawsuits, it will be hard to dedicate the resources necessary to replicate Arnold Drive, which needs to be rebuilt because of the age and condition of the building.

How good are Cabot elementary schools? The details will be published in Saturday’s edition and, hint, the news is very good.

How about the secondary schools across the area? Those test scores will be delved into next week.

But let’s just look at the district numbers as a whole: Over the last five years, from third-grade through eighth-grade, on both the math and literacy benchmark scores, the Cabot School District has scored higher than the state average every time, every year, every grade.

The Beebe and Lonoke school districts had mixed numbers according to the research center statistics, but almost always, the districts surpassed the state averages. Beebe third-grade district-level scores were the best in the area with 97 percent of third-graders scoring proficient or better in math.

But in PCSSD, from 2008 through the 2012 tests, third- through eighth-graders beat the state average only for scores in math or literacy once—this year, at the district-level, in third-grade literacy.

Carlisle also beat state averages most of the time, but it was the only district in the area to actually end up with worse scores over the five-year period in some grades.

Although many people have problems with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates these tests, the lofty goal has to be admired—all students are supposed to be able to read, write and work math proficiently at their grade level by the end of the 2014 school year.

PCSSD students would have benefited tremendously if the district had not ignored Arnold Drive Elementary for so long and had looked to other school districts like Cabot for inspiration. All kids want a chance to learn and improve their lives.

That can be achieved only when all schools become centers of excellence. Accepting anything less is cheating our kids and stealing their future.

TOP STORY >> Writer talks of famous nephew

Leader senior staff writer

I was a fan of “Mad Men” long before my nephew, Charlie Hofheimer, got a recurring role on the Emmy-winning television show, and a fan of Charlie Hofheimer long before “Mad Men.”

Despite major roles in “Fatherhood” with Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Music of the Heart” with Meryl Streep and significant roles in “Black Hawk Down,” “Boys,” with Winona Ryder and “The Village,” Charlie is probably best known as Peggy Olson’s left-wing journalist boyfriend Abe Drexler on “Mad Men.”

I’d like to think the 1960s anti-war, anti-corporate reporter he portrays, clueless about courtship and women, is based on me, but I never met any of the writers, so just a happy coincidence, I guess.

Charlie, who parachuted into the Broadway play “The Lyons” a few weeks ago to replace a lead character leaving for another project, said he thinks the “Mad Men” appearances kept him fresh in the minds of the play’s director Mark Brokaw and writer Nicky Silver, who asked him to read for the part, then hired him.

He already knew them from other plays and auditions.

Charlie appeared on Broadway a few years ago in a short-lived production of “On the Waterfront” and appeared in the Wendy Wasserstein play “Old Money” at Lincoln Center, so he’s no stranger to the stage.

With Charlie set to play Curtis Lyons, a dysfunctional family’s gay son with an imaginary boyfriend, I knew I eventually would go see the play. But with lackluster attendance after the star, Linda Lavin, didn’t win the best actress Tony Award last month, the producers announced the stage would go dark July 1.

Although I had just visited my brother Craig—Charlie’s father—in Brooklyn and my daughter Julia in Philadelphia, I turned my car around and headed northeast to see the show.

My biggest fear was that Charlie would turn in a perfectly adequate performance for which I would try to manufacture enormous enthusiasm. But the truth is, the play was wonderful and Charlie, who had the largest, juiciest role, was masterful—and on such short notice.

He had real presence and I would have been impressed no matter whose nephew he was.

I came back the next night and loved his performance again. My brother probably saw the show eight times during the two-and-one-half weeks Charlie was in it.

Charlie’s great work on stage seems to have re-energized his agents and representatives, and when I talked to him last week, he was fresh from an audition for “The Office.”


Charlie says this about his “Mad Men” experience:

The major characters in “Mad Men” are stern and stiff and most of their humor is ironic or sarcastic, but off set, the cast is warm, friendly and family-like.

The cast seems more concerned with making art than making money, he said.

“The most remarkable thing about working with them, as an actor who’s spent a ton of time on episodic hour dramas (read “Law and Order,” “Special Victims Unit, “CSI,” “The Good Wife”), the ‘Mad Men’ cast is the most family oriented,” he said.

Elizabeth Moss, who plays his girlfriend and copywriter Peggy Olson on “Mad Men,” had orchestrated the “base camp” as a comfortable living-room type setting, plants and all, for cast members, production assistants and others to relax when they weren’t on set. There is a feeling of camaraderie, he said.

That’s given him a better opportunity to appreciate the stars, like Jon Hamm (Don Draper) and John Slattery (Roger Sterling), with whom he has had few scenes.

“My first appearance was Slattery’s directorial debut,” Charlie told me.

“He was excellent, supportive and knowledgeable.”

“I’ve seen Jon Hamm come off a 12-hour shoot and sit down and talk and play cards,” according to Charlie. “He’s playful and kind.”

He describes Hamm more like the guy we see on 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live than like Don Draper.

The show is not much of a money maker for the cable AMC network, but they have stuck by it as an example of the excellence to which they aspire, and use “Mad Men” to help brand their network—kind of a flagship.

“The show’s reputation precedes itself, purely character driven,” Charlie said. “It’s a show respected and valued for its acting.”

“It think it’s affected my career by giving me a better reputation,” he said.

He said Mark Brokaw, the director who asked him to read for “The Lyons,” mentioned “appreciating my work on “Mad Men.”

Almost everybody within the industry watches. It has won the Emmy for best drama for several years running.

Charlie said the “Mad Men” plots are closely held secrets, and he doesn’t know if Abe Drexler’s story arc has run its course or if he’ll be back a few times next season.

“The audience and I are left to suffer from suspense, wondering if Abe still lives with Peggy or has been sent to Vietnam,” he said.


When Michael Esper, the original Curtis Lyons, left for another project, Charlie, with three weeks notice, learned the script, rehearsed and opened the June 12 in the play.

Of his reception by Lavin, and Dick Latessa, both Tony winners, and the others, “They were warm and friendly. It could have been tricky stepping into the family. I was shocked at how warmly and openly they embraced me.”

By luck of the draw, my other brother Stephen and his friend, Sally, who frequently travels from Connecticut to see Broadway plays, already had tickets to the show, so they saw his performance about four shows in.

Attendance at “The Lyons” was on the soft side, and the producers were apparently hoping Lavin would win best actress at the June 11 Tony awards and get a boost in attendance. When that didn’t happen, the producers decided to close it, leaving Charlie with a scant 19-day run.

“The ending was abrupt, but that can hardly tarnish what was otherwise an amazing experience all round,” Charlie told me about two days after the last performance. “It was one of most interesting dynamic characters I’ve had pleasure of diving into.

“I became more familiar with (Nicky Silver’s) writing and...the tonal shifts that required me to explore some of the more broad possible choices. I’m so curious to know what I would have learned from Curtis over another month of shows.

“It’s been a huge boost to my confidence and validation of the hard work I put in. I traveled a distance in a short time,” Charlie offered.

“Two days ago, I was (still) on stage. I’ve been coming down off the adrenaline high. But today it’s back to the grind, finding the next job.

“I’ve fallen into dry spells off my best jobs. Impossible to quantify. It’s a good pitch for my reps, coming off two seasons of “Mad Men” heading into a lead role in a Broadway play. This is a more meaningful step forward.

“I hope they perceive this as a renaissance for me—a step up from the guest star tour that has characterized the 18 months prior to “Mad Men.”

He said he hopes he’s moving into parts that are important with people who are equally invested in story telling, not just going to work.

But “you need to continue to be invested in things you can control. Acting is the aligning of the stars,” he said, but he, his fiancé and a friend have a small production company called Filament Features ( that “allows me to invest in projects I find meaningful with people I enjoy.”

They have produced music videos and two feature shorts so far.

Charlie and his actress-fiancé, Shannon Lucio, live in Hollywood.

She’s a beautiful, down-to-earth gal from San Antonio who keeps Charlie grounded.

She stays busy as an actress and may be best known for her role as Lindsay Gardner on “The OC.”

She would prefer to be recognized for her recurring work on “Prison Break” or her role in “Trueblood.” She’s constantly working in guest parts, including a recurring role on “Gray’s Anatomy.”

Her latest project, “Day Break,” is breaking records for a web-content production, Charlie said. It’s one of the first times talent on that level has been in a web production.


An actor since before he began elementary school in Brooklyn, I was there the first time Charlie was “discovered.”

I was visiting my brother Craig and sister-in-law Alice and we went out for dinner at what may have been an Asian restaurant.

I’m thinking Charlie was maybe 5, and while the rest of us dunked egg rolls, Charlie stood on the booth seat, making eyes at people behind him.

After a while, a couple stood to leave and stopped by our booth, the woman said, “I know this is going to sound strange, but I’m a casting agent, and here’s my card if you think you’d like him to be an actor.”

She said he was really engaging, or words to that effect.

Charlie’s parents did not take the bait the first time, but after a second, similar approach by a different casting agent soon after, they started hauling the tyke to auditions, mostly for commercials.

Now you might think this happens to all cute kids in New York, but let me assure you his little sister was a cute-as-a-button, curly-haired Shirley Temple type who never got such an offer. Ruth has grown up to be an accomplished artist who’s apprenticing as a remodeling designer with her father.

“I knew the melodrama of my life, in terms of acting and the stress my acting put on my family...that it had locked her in as a teenager and I’m overjoyed to see her blossom into a self confident person who seems to not have her suns raise and fall on a man or external validation.

“She’s got this incredible dynamic that is her painting, I’m utterly enamored of her skills.”

As a kid, Charlie was in some commercials and played a trick or treater on “Saturday Night Live.” His first movie, with lines, was “Boys” with Winona Ryder.

Charlie said one of the favorite things anyone has ever said to me, when he was about six or seven and I was his ride from a relative’s house in Ann Arbor, Mich., to his home in Brooklyn.

We were playing as I drove and I offered to make him a rock salad sandwich. He said he would make me a worm-salad sandwich.

He then sat silent for a few moments before he said, “Uncle John, are you a man or are you a kid?”

TOP STORY >> Principal is walking tall at JHS

Leader editor-in-chief

Jacksonville High School was in awful shape last July when Henry Anderson took over the failed school in a failed school district.

The place was rundown, morale was terrible and test scores were falling along with graduating rates.

The state Education Department had just taken over the Pulaski County Special School District. Teachers and staff grumbled because their unions faced decertification.

Suddenly, Anderson, 41, showed up like a new sheriff in town and told his staff: Help me clean up this mess or go teach someplace else.

“It’s been an exciting, roller-coaster year,” Anderson told the Jacksonville Rotary Club meeting Monday at Southern Oaks Country Club. But, he said, he’s seeing some encouraging results.

Test scores have improved, he said. Math and literacy scores are up 9 to 10 percent. There’s still a long way to go, but Anderson has inspired teachers and students to care about test scores.

Graduation rates are way up. Only 15 of 166 seniors failed to earn diplomas this year, a big improvement over recent graduation rates of a little more than 50 percent. One of the 15 students who didn’t graduate, Anderson said, was only half a credit away.

“If we can get them on the right track, they’ll be able to graduate,” the principal said.

Anderson is tired of seeing the school called one of the worst in the state. He wants JHS off the needs-improvement list and make it as good as it was 30 and 40 years ago, when it offered advanced-placement courses that were among the best in the state.

“We got a clean bill of health this year,” he said. “We’ve become a model. The school district is sending principals to our school to see what we’re doing right,” Anderson said. “The U.S. Department of Education will visit us to see how the school is making these improvements.”

Back in June 2011, before Anderson showed up, the high school was so bad, it qualified for a multi-million school-improvement grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Jacksonville received a $2 million improvement grant from the department. Three other failing high schools — all in the poverty-stricken Delta — received slightly lesser amounts.

The four high schools — the others are Helena-West Helena, Marvell and Dollarway — were ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state, which qualified them for the school-improvement grants.

This is a grant you don’t want to shout about, but Anderson doesn’t mind bringing it up. He said Jacksonville is doing so well, it will get an additional $1.7 million this year and $2 million more in 2013, or as much as $5.7 million over three years.

Students now have computers in labs and classrooms and several iPads. There’s campus-wide wireless Internet, Promethian interactive whiteboards, equipment for science labs, recording equipment for band, choir and television-production classes, access to on-campus licensed social workers, credit recovery and concurrent enrollment with Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock.

The school district is paying for a $750,000 remodeling this summer, which includes a new front entrance and improvements in the library and cafeteria.

The principal wants to reward teachers who do a good job. “We’ve got a school to turn around,” he said. “We want the best and the brightest.”

He expects teachers to do more and not take off as soon as the bell rings.

“When you’re paid $75,000 a year, and you say you don’t have to call anybody after 3:05 p.m. That’s got to change,” Anderson said. “If we don’t see improvement, they’re terminated. It is what it is.”

That’s his mantra: Teachers must teach and students must learn.

Anderson means business. “If you don’t like it here, you can go someplace else,” he said bluntly. He was talking about students and teachers.

“If you’re going to get into a fight, you’re going to get arrested,” he added, talking about students.

He’s rebuilding the math faculty so parents don’t have to hire tutors to teach their kids.

There’s more blunt talk: If kids go out to McDonald’s or Taco Bell for lunch and don’t come back, he’ll have them arrested because Jacksonville has a daytime curfew.

That means students can’t be out on the streets when schools are in session.

Jacksonville High School hasn’t had a parent-teachers organization in years. But now, it’s forming a parent-teacher-student group that will hold monthly meetings.

Barry Hickingbotham, the assistant football coach, told the Rotarians that Anderson is the real deal.

“If he wants something done, he means it. That’s why our school is turning around,” the coach said. “If you miss two weeks of school, you miss two weeks of sports.”

“He’s what we need. Our school is improving,” Hickingbotham said.

Anderson bought a house in Jacksonville. “I’m the first principal in years who’s done that. Kids know where I live. They toilet papered my house.”

But that’s all right with him as long as test scores improve and the school gets better and more kids graduate.

“I’m loving it,” he said.

Someone told Anderson he could be the next superintendent when the state gives back the district to local control.

“I’d love it,” he said.

“We’ve got a great school,” Anderson said. “We still have lots to do. Our kids deserve so much more.”

TOP STORY >> Ward gets big check

Leader staff writer

Ward got a welcome kick in its economic pants Monday night when Woody Bryant with the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority presented Mayor Art Brooke with a check for $206,000.

The amount covers what the city gave to the water project about six years ago to help get the $50 million project off the ground.

The money will go to the city’s water department, which actually provided the funds in the first place.

“It will allow us to start some projects that have been on hold and we will put some of the money in a contingency fund to help in case of emergencies,” the mayor said.

He added that it could cost as much as $20,000 to repair or replace one of the city’s water pumps. “It can happen. Just a few years ago we had a major flood that caused $178,000 worth of damage to our equipment,” Brooke said.

Alderman Charles Gastineau was happy to see the check. “It’s been a long time coming and this project has been declared dead more than once,” he said.

But the project is very much alive with a groundbreaking set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Ward Chamber of Commerce. Gov. Mike Beebe, along with Rep. Tim Griffin and Rep. Rick Crawford are scheduled to be at the ceremony.

Ward was the first of a number of entities to be repaid now that the project has secured its funding.

In September 2011, the LWPWA received a $24.5 million federal loan for construction. The federal loan is combined with a commitment of up to $30.9 million from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission for the authority to pump water from Greers Ferry Lake.

The plans call for an intake structure to be built at Greers Ferry Lake, which will ultimately be able to draw 30 million gallons of water a day from the lake.

The beginning capacity of the intake will be 10 million gallons a day.

The water will go to a nearby treatment plant that will also have a 10 million gallon a day capacity at the startup and a 24-inch transmission line to bring the water into the local area.

The eight entities and their nearly 40,000-plus customers will be responsible for the loan repayment, and rates have already been increased for most to cover the payments.

Bids on the $50 million Lonoke-White water project were opened in early June and the groundbreaking will be Friday, with construction starting in earnest in August. It should be completed by July 2014.

Not all the members need the water now. But they know they will need it in the future for growth or if the state forces them to shut down their wells or their wells go dry.

Membership in the project has changed over two decades. The members are now Austin, Beebe, Furlow, Grand Prairie/Bayou Two, Jacksonville, North Pulaski, Vilonia and Ward.

Beebe, the member that put the White in Lonoke-White, pulled out and came back.

Cabot, at one time the member with the largest population and the one that hurt the project’s chance at a grant from the USDA, pulled out in favor of buying water from Central Arkansas Water. Lonoke city, one of the most recent members, also pulled out.

The project was once controlled by Community Water Systems, which is headquartered at Greers Ferry.

CWS completed a rural water system for Faulkner and Cleburne counties about 17 years ago that was partly funded with federal grants. But not long after, grant money became unavailable and the Lonoke-White project began a long struggle for funding.

A lawsuit that concluded about six years ago put ownership of the project in the hands of its members.

But CWS retains ownership of half of the 205 or so acres at Cove Creek as well as shared use of the 2.85 acres on the lake where the intake structure will be built.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers even at Catholic 7-on-7

Leader sportswriter

There was something different about the way the Cabot Panthers’ offense looked in the 7-on-7 football meet Monday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Cabot’s traditional run-heavy Dead-T offense was put aside for the six-team, all-passing exhibition, and the Panthers finished their first game with an 11-8 win over Vilonia. Cabot lost its next two, 15-3 to Little Rock Catholic and 18-3 to 7A/6A East conference foe Little Rock Central. But Cabot rebounded in its final game of the day with a 12-0 win over Benton to finish on a high note.

Although the Panthers won’t put their main focus on moving the ball through the air this upcoming season, several of their opponents will. Cabot entered the meet with the primary intention of testing its depth in the secondary, and strengthening some of its weaknesses on both sides of the ball through competitive repetition.

“That’s our weak part,” said Cabot defensive coordinator Randy Black about the secondary. “We played nine kids today, so we didn’t just play our best group. We have to find some kids. It’s still wide open. We had some that made some plays, but we’re not doing the little things right.”

It wasn’t just the secondary where the Panthers used their depth. In the first 15-minute game against Vilonia, backup quarterback Grant Bell was 3 for 3 passing, including a 15-yard touchdown pass, followed by a successful two-point conversion which ended up being the final possession of the game.

Cabot didn’t have any luck moving the ball in its next two games against Catholic and Central, but scored its three points in both games on interceptions from the secondary. According to traditional 7-on-7 scoring rules an interception results in three points for the defense, plus possession at the 40-yard line.

In the Panthers’ fourth game of the day against Benton, the Cabot secondary played lights out, intercepting the ball on Benton’s first drive. Bell came in again to relieve starting quarterback Kason Kimbrell about halfway through the contest, and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to put the game away. The Cabot defense finished the game as it started, intercepting the ball on Benton’s final possession to earn the 12-0 shutout win.

Even though the Panthers were a bit out of their element in the all-passing competition, Black won’t use that as an excuse. Instead, Black sees where improvements need to be made if the team expects to compete for a conference championship this fall.

“Definitely, we have to talk and communicate better,” Black said. “We did a bad job of talking and making sure everyone was on the same page. I did see the desire. We got after it and we hustled. We have some kids that want to play and they’re trying hard. So, bottom line, I like the desire. But we have to get smarter.”

Despite lack of communication at times, the Panthers’ secondary grabbed a total of five interceptions in the four 15-minute games played. Kimbrell was 6-18 passing combined on the day for 59 yards. Bell was 8-17 passing for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

SPORTS STORY >> Cricket new addition to Dupree Park

Leader sports editor

Cricket is coming to Jacksonville’s Dupree Park, and very soon. The pitch is built, the bowling carpet is down, the field is lined and teams are already in place. There are some minor cosmetics still left to complete before the first match can be played, but it could take place as soon as Saturday.

Andy Patel, owner of the Jacksonville and North Little Rock Best Western Hotels, and Jacksonville Advertising and Promotions Commission member, began lobbying Jacksonville City Council to build a cricket pitch at Dupree Park last fall. Patel, Shash Goyal, Sam Pothi and Andrew Desai spearheaded the drive to get a cricket field going in Arkansas, due largely to growing interest in the sport and the growing need to provide more places to play.

“We have so many people wanting to join our league, and with only three places in central Arkansas to play, it limits the amount of people that can be on a team and actually get to play,” Goyal said. With more fields, there is room for more teams and therefore more players.

Pothi, who is president of the Central Arkansas Indian Cricket Association, started the CAICA in 1989 in Rose City. It disappeared when he moved to Dallas in 1991, but he gotit going again when he moved back in 1994. Since then, the association has added two fields in Burns Park in 2001.

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department agreed to build the field in the southeast corner of Dupree Park, which is within the flood zone. Patel and his group wanted to share the soccer fields, but agreed to the compromise since Cricket is primarily played in the summer when flooding is rare.

“It was a good compromise,” Patel said. “The parks and rec department, specifically Kristen Kennon, suggested that part of the park since the soccer fields need time to recover. Kristen and Kevin House have been very helpful and we very much appreciate the time and effort they put into helping us get this done.”

There was a limit to how much parks and rec could help. The city built the field’s pitch, which is a raised surface where the bowler, or pitcher in baseball terms, bowls to the batsman. But there is also a carpeted concrete surface on top of the pitch and there was no money left to pour concrete or install a carpet.

“Kristen suggested we see Mayor Fletcher because she said she had no more money to allocate to this project,” Patel said. “Mayor Fletcher suggested we talk to A&P because the sport will bring many teams in when we hold tournaments.”

The CAICA hosts a tournament every year on Labor Day weekend which brings between eight and 10 teams from Arkansas and surrounding states.

“We thought it was another way to promote Jacksonville and bring out-of-state money to this community,” Patel said. “It also would bring more cultural diversity and have a positive impact in that way.”

The A&P agreed and put up the money for the concrete and carpet. The city has spent approximately $4,500, with about $1,000 for the turf and $3,500 for concrete and carpet. There is still a small ledge where the pitch is not level with the carpet and the slope down into the field needs to be smoother. There should also be thick grass growing up to the bowling lane, but the field would be playable with the repaired ledge. If that is taken care of this week, Patel says Dupree Park will host its first game on Saturday.

“The team is just waiting for the call,” Patel said. “If the city can get it in playing condition by Thursday, we will play on Saturday.”

The CAICA, which is the home organization for the Little Rock Cricket Club’s Blue and Red teams, is a certified member of the United States Cricket Association, which is a permanent member of the International Cricket Council. That means CAICA players are eligible for national teams and international competitions. Goyal says that cricket will be an Olympic sport in 2016.

“We are officially recognized so if someone from our organization is playing very well, the USCA could come look at him and possibly select him,” Goyal said.

With the addition to the new field in Jacksonville, the CAICA is looking to add a third team, which would be called LRCC-Yellow.

There are four other teams in Little Rock and one in Jonesboro that rounds out the cricket teams in Arkansas. Most of them have formed in the last four or five years.

“This sport is growing so rapidly,” Pothi said. “Five years ago we were going to places like Tulsa, Monroe, Wichita, Hattiesburg, all over just to play. Now there are six teams in central Arkansas, one in Jonesboro and 10 in Memphis. Five years ago Memphis only had one.”

Cricket is growing nationwide as well. There have been international competitions in Miami the last two years. There are now international cricket grounds in Dallas, New Jersey, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot is site of NFL-HSPD

Leader sports editor

Cabot High School hosted Arkansas’ first National Football League High School Player Development Camp last weekend, with about 80 players from several area schools participating. The Army National Guard teams with the NFL to host the camps around the country that focus not on only skill development, but character development as well. Members of the Arkansas Army National Guard were on hand to handle that part of the training during the Cabot camps. The program also emphasizes safety, concussion awareness and life skills.

Command Sgt. Major Larry Rankin, who has two sons on the Cabot Panther football team, was instrumental in bringing the NFL-HSPD to Arkansas.

“The NFL sees a need for high school players to develop football skills, but to develop character skills as well,” Rankin said. “The NFL has a good history of being involved in communities in ways other than football related. They know most of these kids are going to play their last high school game, hang up the pads and that’s going to be it. These camps help teach kids things they’ll need in life and not just football because football isn’t going to last much longer for most of them.”

Rankin also sees the camps as potentially having a positive impact on the Army National Guard.

“It’s important to me because our team, the National Guard, looks for the same type mentality, character and athleticism that many of these high-school athletes have,” Rankin said. “For those that may end up joining our team, it’s important to teach these character development skills early on.”

The camp began Friday evening with a three-hour session. Two more three-hour sessions were held Saturday morning and afternoon with position specific drills, non-contact scrimmaging and some 7-on-7 competition. With 13 coaches from five different schools on hand teaching football skills, campers got a good amount of specific training. The NFL demands at least a 10:1 ratio of players to coaches, and the Cabot camp exceeded that.

“These coaches are the experts on that end of things and we were very fortunate to have so many volunteer their time for this cause,” Rankin said. “Several Cabot coaches volunteered to be a part of this and coach (Clark) Bing organized it for us. He’s done a great job of planning this whole thing out and running things in an organized way. Coach Roberts (Cabot athletic director Steve Roberts) had the wisdom to see the need for camps like this and allowed us to use these great facilities here at Cabot.”

The National Guard also brought a rock climbing wall, which served a few different purposes, according to Rankin.

“Well it’s something a little different for one thing,” Rankin said. Another thing is we use it to teach teamwork. We have a team competition on it to help teach that aspect. Part of it also is character development, overcoming fears. For some people one of their fears is heights, and we encourage those kids to face that head on.”

The NFL’s early plans for the national guard presented camps were to have an NFL player involved, but they grew so fast that became impossible. There are currently over 200 NFL-HSPD camps that take place from April to August each year. Over 120 players signed up for the event, but Rankin was still pleased with the 80 or so that participated.

“For the first year I am pleased with the turnout,” Rankin said. “I think things have gone extremely well and I expect, I hope at least, that there will be more and more in Arkansas as this becomes more widely known.”

SPORTS STORY >> Team 1 secures spot in junior state

Leader sports editor

While most of central Arkansas still has not received much benefit from the front that was supposed to bring rain, North Little Rock’s Burns Park, the site of the Junior American Legion Zone 3 tournament, has been targeted by storms. The result has been a hindering of the tournament schedule with four games so far being postponed and the tournament being extended at least a day.

Cabot Junior Team 1 prevailed in the winner’s bracket, beating Jacksonville 16-11 in a wild game on Sunday night and will have be beaten twice for the zone title.

Both finalists will advance to the state tournament. Cabot Team 1 has secured a spot at state by winning its first three games. Jacksonville faces Clarksville to determine the other team that advances.

Early tournament results saw Cabot Team 1 beat Conway 14-1 and Jacksonville beat Beebe 16-1 on Friday before a storm hit and postponed the day’s final two games. Play resumed on Saturday with Sylvan Hills beating Cabot Team 2 and North Little Rock beating Clarksville.

Cabot Team 1 beat Sylvan Hills 8-4 and Jacksonville beat North Little Rock 7-6 in the last inning. In the loser’s bracket elimination games, Conway toppled Cabot 2 and Clarksville bested Beebe.

On Sunday, Clarksville beat Conway and North Little Rock while Cabot Team 1 held off Jacksonville.

Monday’s games were rained out, leaving Jacksonville and Clarksville to battle for a spot in the state tournament and the right to play Cabot Team 1 for the Zone 3 title and No. 1 seed. The winner of that game will have to beat Cabot twice.

Cabot Team 1’s win over Jacksonville seemed easy for four innings. After falling behind 1-0in the top of the first inning, the Panthers spent their next four at bats building a 13-2 lead. Cabot scored two in the first inning, four in both the second and third innings and three more in the fourth.

Jacksonville began battling back by scoring five runs in the top of the fifth inning and four more in the top of the sixth to make it 13-11 with an inning and a half left to play.

But Cabot scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth, and brought Landon James to the mound in the seventh. He gave up just one hit, facing four batters and stopping Jacksonville’s offensive onslaught to preserve the victory.

The Panthers got 12 base hits to Jacksonville’s nine. Cabot’s Tristan Bulice led the way, going 3 for 4 with a double and four RBIs. James drove in three runs on just one base hit, but it was a big one, a bases-clearing double to left-centerfield. Gavin Tillery and Lee Sullivan got two base hits each for Cabot Team 1. The Panthers are now 24-14 on the season and have won nine of their last 10 games. They have scored a total of 101 runs in their last nine wins.

The state tournament begins Friday at Sheridan.