Saturday, September 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Linton’s first start comes against ’Bama

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks are down to their last true fullback.

So that fullback, third-year sophomore walk-on Morgan Linton of Lonoke, rather than the offensive lineman, linebacker and tight end also practicing at fullback, is the first fullback that Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton plans to use against Alabama.

Arkansas, 1-1, is minus injured fullbacks Kiero Small and Kody Walker as it prepares to meet the 2-0 reigning national champion Crimson Tide in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m televised opener for both teams at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Lack of proven fullbacks, with Small breaking his foot in practice last week and Walker breaking his leg against Lousiana-Monroe, perhaps contributed to the Razorbacks’ reluctance to run the ball as their 28-7 lead with 9:44 left in the third quarter withered to a 34-31 overtime loss against the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in Little Rock.

Linton, practicing in a yellow caution jersey most of last week, was just minor role player last Saturday.

Now the sturdy 5-11, 240-pounder apparently is healed and ready to go.

“Morgan Linton is now our starting fullback,” Horton said after Wednesday’s practice, “and we’re taking a look at Grady Ollison (the redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Malvern) and we’re also taking a look at Austin Jones (the linebacker transfer from the Air Force Academy) from the defensive side of the ball.”

Austin Tate,the junior tight end from Harrison, who has played some H-back in the past, also has been discussed as a fullback possibility but as the team’s best blocking tight end he’s usually already in the game for obvious short-yardage running situations requiring a fullback.

Lead blocking for the tailback in short yardage is the obvious fullback priority.

But the fullback can be involved in a myriad of other blocking aspects including picking up blitzes, serving as a safety valve receiver and occasional ballcarrier and primary receiver.

“There’s a learning curve for Grady and Austin,” Horton said. “Obviously, Morgan knows what to do and he’ll step in and perform well. He’ll do good. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Morgan. But we sure don’t need to get anybody else hurt. We’re kind of running out.”

If want-to alone could do it, Linton would get it done for Arkansas.

Growing up in Lonoke he never can remember not wanting to be a Razorback. So much so that he paid his own collegiate way at Arkansas over offers for a full scholarship ride to some smaller schools.

“I had scholarship offers from a few smaller schools around the state,” Linton said during the August preseason. “But I am a lifelong Hog fan. It’s been my dream ever since I was a little kid to be a Razorback. To be able to come up here and run through the A and fulfill that dream has definitely been incredible for me.”

SPORTS STORY >> Conway pulls away late, defeats Cabot

Special to The Leader

CONWAY — The Cabot Panthers moved up and down the field all night on Conway, but fell apart a few times in the red zone, dropping a 31-21 decision to the Wampus Cats at John McConnell Stadium on Friday. An interception in the end zone, a fumble and penalties all hampered good Panther drives and left the visiting team scoreless on three occasions.

Wampus Cat running back Jeff Anderson rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries and Conway came up with big plays on fourth downs on the way to the victory.

The Wampus Cats (2-0) played their first four-quarter game of the season after having games called off early because of lightning the first two weeks. Cabot fell to 2-1.

With most of the game played in a steady rain, the Wampus Cats were engaged in a old-style Cabot-Conway grind-it-out contest when Kevasia Tate turned the game around late in the third quarter. After Cabot had drawn within 17-14 on a 7-yard run by Kyle Edgar, the Conway defender tossed about Edgar on a sweep on fourth down and recovered the resulting fumble at the Conway 45.

Four plays later, quarterback Cody Rhodes found Brandon Cox all alone behind the Cabot defense for a 43-yard gain. Anderson scored from 4 yards out on third and one to put Conway up 24-14 with 8:25 left.

After the Panthers failed to convert on fourth down, T.J. Ruth gave the Cats some breathing room with a 16-yard run. Cabot scored in the final minute on a 29-yard run by Zachary Launius, who led the Panthers with 133 yards rushing.

The first half featured long drives by each team.

The Cats took the lead on their second possession, driving 91 yards in 10 plays using a steady dose of Anderson, who set up the touchdown with a 34-yard run. Brannon Kotch, an offensive lineman running from Conway’s “Big Cat” formation, scored from a yard out to put the Wampus Cats up 7-0 with 1:18 left in the first quarter.

Cabot drove to the Conway 23 but had a wide open receiver drop a probable touchdown pass on fourth down. The ’Cats then used Anderson, Kotch and Brandon Cox on a steady drive to the Cabot 15, where Matt Cummins booted a 32-yard field goal. Devin Dooley made a diving interception on fourth and inches at the Wampus Cats 30 to preserve Conway’s 10-0 lead going into halftime.

Cabot came back with its traditional grinding offense to drive 70 yards in 11 plays to draw with 10-7 with 7:31 left. The Panthers scored on a fourth-down pass from Kason Kimbrell to Keith Pledger.

With the rain subsiding, the Cats opened up their offense with Rhodes passing 37 yards to Cox and 19 yards to Austin Morgan to set up Anderson’s 14-yard run to extend Conway’s lead to 17-7 with 6:26 left in the third.

Cabot came back with a 47-yard drive with Edgar scoring on a sweep to pull within 17-14 with 4:26 left in the third.

Next week, the Panthers will open their 7A/6A East Conference schedule with a home game against North Little Rock at Panther Stadium. The Charging Wildcats improved to 2-1 with a 47-10 bludgeoning of Pine Bluff on Friday.

The Wampus Cats will begin 7A/6A Central Conference play on the road at Russellville next week. The Cyclones fell to 2-1 on the season with a heartbreaking 17-14 loss to Alma on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Zebras no match against Wildcats

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats made the most of their home opener and made a statement to the state by hammering previously undefeated Pine Bluff 47-10 Friday at Charging Wildcat Stadium in what had been billed as the Bolding Bowl.

North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding finally got a win over older brother Bobby after two previous meetings. The two downplayed the rivalry all week, but Brad Bolding let it be known there was some spirited competition.

“We’ve been blowing that off,” the younger Bolding said. “Obviously he’s put a thumping on me a couple times and it feels good to do that to him. He’s got a very good football team.”

Bobby Bolding said he wanted his Zebras to control the football and keep North Little Rock’s offensive athletes off the field. His team executed that strategy perfectly in the first quarter and still found itself down 20-3 at the end of it.

Special teams was a point of focus all week for the Wildcats after giving up most of the 30 points it allowed in last week’s loss to Longview, Tex. in the kicking game.

North Little Rock’s work on the kicking game became apparent on its first kickoff return. Sophomore Fabian Lewis took the kick at the 6-yard line on the left side, ran to his right, faked a reverse to Rodney Bryson and raced 94 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

“That was our main focus after last week when we should have won the game,” Bolding said. “We really concentrated on special teams, playing full speed, changed some personnel. That was a sophomore that returned that and I’m real proud of him. We thought we could set it up with Altee and draw attention to him. Of course our wall did a great job of setting up. We just celebrated behind him and didn’t do anything stupid.”

The special teams work wasn’t evident early on, as Pine Bluff ran the opening kickoff to the Wildcat 47.

From there the Zebras got a 29-yard run by tailback Walter Ashley, but had to settle for a35-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 10:13 left in the first quarter.

That was almost all of Pine Bluff’s highlights as North Little Rock began the onslaught with Lewis’ touchdown.

Pine Bluff then had its best drive of the game but it came up fruitless. The Zebras went 59 yards in 15 plays, converting four third downs, all of which were more than 10 yards. The Wildcats finally stopped them at the 11-yard line, where Pine Bluff missed a 28-yard field goal.

On North Little Rock’s first play, Altee Tenpenny took the sweep left and went 80 yards for the score. Sandy Burk’s extra point made it 14-3 with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

Pine Bluff let the ensuing kickoff drop and it bounced over Ashley’s head. He collided with a teammate trying to retrieve the ball and Bryson covered it at the Zebra 15-yard line.

On the next play, Tenpenny took another sweep left and ran untouched for the score. The extra point was no good, leaving it 20-3 with 2:36 left in the opening quarter.

Pine Bluff had the ball for 13:47 of the 15-minute first quarter.

Things got worse for Pine Bluff in the second quarter. Pine Bluff was held to three and out on its first possession of the second and punted the ball back to North Little Rock.

The Wildcats started on their own 34 and went on their only long drive of the game. It took the hosts 13 plays to go the 66 yards for the score. Tenpenny got the last two carries, going eight yards apiece and scoring his third touchdown with 5:21 left in the first half.

On the second play of Pine Bluff’s next drive, Martinez Butler picked off a Clements pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block. The Wildcats started at the Pine Bluff 36 and needed just four plays to score. Tenpenny got the call again at the 17-yard line. He danced up the middle, cut to his left, dodged one tackler and scampered in for his fourth touchdown of the game.

North Little Rock went for two and converted a throwback pass to Cameron Williams to go into halftime up 35-3.

The second half belonged to the other talented running back, Juan Day. The 6-foot, 2-inch junior scored both of North Little Rock’s touchdowns in the second half. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff at their own 35 and drove to the Pine Bluff 20-yard line in just five plays. The key play was a 21-yard pass and catch from sophomore quarterback Heath Land to senior wideout Evan Peters on third and 6.

Junior fullback Deion Tidwell rumbled 9 yards on first down setting up Day’s 20-yard scoring run up the middle.

The extra point was blocked, leaving it 41-3 with 9:43 left in the third quarter and the sportsmanship clock rule in effect.

Pine Bluff fumbled the ball on its first play of the ensuing possession. Nose guard Javian Williams drilled Pine Bluff fullback Kelvin Sergeant to jar the ball loose. Sophomore Roderick Jefferson covered it at the Pine Bluff 38-yard line.

The Wildcats kept it on the ground and got it to the Pine Bluff 8-yard line with first and goal, but went backwards from there. Tenpenny was dropped for an 8-yard loss with a holding penalty tacked onto the lost yardage. It set up first and goal from the 26. After two more plays, Day plowed up the middle from 15 yards out for the Wildcats’ final touchdown of the game.

Pine Bluff finally got into the end zone with a 3-yard run by junior Trever Hunt with two minutes left in the game.

Tenpenny finished with 17 carries for 147 yards and four touchdowns. Day finished with six carries for 51 yards and two scores.

The Charging Wildcats had 315 total yards to 211 for Pine Bluff.

Ashley, Pine Bluff’s college prospect running back, ran for 29 yards on his first carry, but finished with six carries for 32 yards.

North Little Rock, 2-1, begins 7A/6A East conference play on the road at Cabot. The Zebras, 2-1, will host Texarkana in their opening game in the 7A/6A South.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers earn their first win in 7A East

Leader sports editor

The Cabot volleyball players have been the road warriors since conference play began last week. Three of its first four games have been on the road, but a lengthy trip garnered a victory when the Lady Panthers beat West Memphis in straight sets. It was Cabot’s first league win of the season, but the jubilation didn’t last. The Lady Panthers packed up and went to Jonesboro on Thursday where they were beaten in straight sets by the Golden Hurricanes.

Cabot coach Deanne Campbell still thinks her junior-laden team can build on its first 7A/6A East victory.

“Jonesboro is so good and so experienced, we’re just not where they are yet, but we’re getting there,” Campbell said. “Against West Memphis I feel like fundamentally, it was the best we’ve looked.”

Tuesday’s win over the Lady Blue Devils was Cabot’s from start to finish. The Lady Panthers won by scores of 25-16 and 25-15 twice. Juniors Lakin Best and Bailea Uhiren continued to lead the team in kills with senior Brilee Staten setting the hits. But junior Raven Gilbert is becoming a contributor as well.

“Gilbert is starting to get some time with varsity because her swing is really coming along,” Campbell said. “We have a lot of players that have really improved, including our varsity players. West Memphis was the first time we’ve come out and taken control and been in control the whole match. There have been moments against even some of the top teams when we’ve taken control, but then couldn’t hold it. But in that match our blocks were there, our sets were there, passes, serves. It was a really good outing.”

Cabot played closely with the Lady Hurricane, save for one exception. Jonesboro’s Nikki Tagupa’s serve was more than the Lady Panthers could handle. In each of the three games, the score was even when Tagupa took serve and scored eight-straight points.

“She has a really sharp curve on her serve and we’ve never seen anything like that,” Campbell said. “That’s what I mean by the experience other teams have. One of my best seniors came up to me during the match and said, ‘coach I’ve never seen that before.’ That was a learning experience and something that’s just going to make us better. The great thing about this group is they never get down and never quit. After a loss, they talk and try to figure how they can learn and get better from it.”

The traveling Panthers aren’t finished with the windshield time just yet. They take part in the Russellville tournament today. Cabot’s is pooled with Russellville, Lonoke and Springdale and its first match is at 9 a.m.

The second pool consists of Bryant, Alma, Waldron and CAC, while the final pool features Morrilton, Little Rock Central, Beebe and Mount St. Mary’s. The Lady Panthers finally play home match on Tuesday when they take on Mountain Home.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils escape Maumelle

Leader sportswriter

The wet conditions meant sloppy football at times in Jacksonville’s week three non-conference matchup against Class 4A Maumelle, but the Red Devils found a way to get it done as they beat the Hornets 12-7 Friday night in Maumelle.

Jacksonville (1-2) earned the win by putting together a solid team effort, but the two biggest playmakers on the field were to no surprise the biggest contributors. Senior quarterback Aaron Smith and receiver/defensive back Kevin Richardson made play-after-play throughout the game that helped the Red Devils clinch the win.

“They were outstanding tonight,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell about Smith and Richardson’s play. “That’s the way we expect them to play. That’s the ability level they have and the integrity they have as kids. They should shine every Friday night.

“We challenged them this week. We said we want to see your names in the 5A (category) of the best performances in the state, because that’s the caliber of kids that you are. And we need you to start performing at that level,’ and tonight they did.”

Smith completed 50 percent of his passes for 162 yards and one touchdown with one interception. He also finished the game with 30 carries for 180 yards rushing and one touchdown. Smith’s first touchdown on the ground was also the first score of the game.

With 7:04 to play in the half, Smith capped off a nine-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper. The extra point attempt was no good, to leave the score 6-0 Jacksonville.

The Hornets (0-2) were able to move the ball on the ensuing drive after picking up three first downs, but on fourth and long at the Jacksonville 40, Maumelle attempted a fake punt that backfired for a one-yard loss.

Jacksonville turned the ball over on downs its next possession, and after a Maumelle three-and-out, Jacksonville coasted to halftime with a 6-0 lead.

Maumelle showed promise in the second half after sophomore corner Braylon Waits intercepted Smith’s pass at the Hornets’ 40-yard line. Waits returned the pick all the way to the Jacksonville 36. It took the Maumelle offense just four plays to find the end zone as senior quarterback Terry Rhoades hooked up with receiver Carson Pate for a 12-yard score.

Hunter Cockrell’s extra point was good and the Hornets led 7-6 with 4:20 to play in the third quarter. However, it took Jacksonville just three plays and precisely one minute of game play to score again.

On third-and-10, Smith found Richardson wide open down the visiting sideline and Richardson dashed 66 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was no good as Jacksonville held a 12-7 lead.

Maumelle’s offense came close to scoring on two separate drives late in the fourth quarter, but both possessions ended with an interception from Richardson at the Jacksonville six-yard line.

Richardson’s two late picks and Smith’s ability to move the chains with his feet on the Red Devils’ final drive allowed Jacksonville to run out the clock and get the win.

“They played hard,” Russell said of his team. “We still have some things to clean up, but they played hard. They played for 48 minutes tonight.

“I’m not talking about a complete game as far as minutes. I’m talking about a complete game as far as execution, and tonight I think there were some mistakes. But consistently we competed for 48 minutes tonight, and that’s what we were shooting for. That was our goal.”

The majority of Smith’s yards through the air went to Richardson, who had 135 yards receiving to go with his touchdown. Jacksonville totaled 393 yards of offense compared to Maumelle’s 185.

The Red Devils will begin their 5A Central Conference schedule next week against Helena-West Helena Central at home.

Friday, September 14, 2012

EDITORAL >> Wider highway will benefit area

Plans to resurface and widen Hwy. 67/167 between Jacksonville and Cabot are welcome news coming from the state Highway Department, which has dragged its feet on major road projects in this area, especially the half-century delay in building the North Belt freeway.

Six lanes of new pavement will make a good first impression for motorists going to Jacksonville and Cabot. For starters, the Hwy. 67/167 improvement plan at a cost of $18 million to $20 million is a steal compared with the $600 million that is needed to complete the North Belt.

For years, drivers have suffered on the corroded stretch from Jacksonville to Ward, which hasn’t been resurfaced in decades. Since the southern portion from Redmond Road to I-40 has been widened, the highway’s poor condition has been especially noticeable when driving north.

Cabot is also set to receive several new interchanges and bridges.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher hopes voters will approve a half-cent gasoline tax for 10 years, which may be tough considering the lagging economy. In all, Jacksonville would contribute $5 million to the Hwy. 67/167 revamp. A new sales tax could also help finance a bond to build a $25 million interchange.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert is also exploring asking voters to extend the city’s one-cent sales tax to pay for several infrastructure projects as reported today in The Leader. These projects will pay off by supporting the area’s growth, ultimately attracting new businesses and residents.

EDITORAL >> Officials must step down

Two legislative audit reports released Friday paint unflattering pictures of two longtime state officials. Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner was criticized for investing state funds with a favorite broker, costing taxpayers at least $58,000 in excessive fees and millions lost in potential interest income.

Shoffner’s shortchanging the state’s taxpayers was first uncovered by diligent reporters who noticed the treasurer’s favoring one broker over those more qualified. New legislation will almost certainly call for more financial oversight and limit the treasurer from funneling state funds to campaign contributors and close friends.

Shoffner wasn’t at Friday’s audit meeting, but she will be hauled before the committee as soon as next week. She will be subpoenaed if she doesn’t show up voluntarily, or she could do the right thing and resign.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee cannot fire Shoffner, who is an elected official, but voters can make sure she never again holds an elected office in Arkansas.

A legislative audit also slammed former state Sen. Bill Walker of Little Rock, who runs the state Department of Career Education as if it were his personal fiefdom.

The problem is that the department has a $55 million budget, much of which is wasted on Walker’s pals. The audit committee noted that the department failed to follow purchasing procedures, such as taking bids for $77,000 in furniture purchases.

Walker has approved undocumented expenditures, extended loans to employees that remain unpaid, spent lavishly on banquets and outings, hired employees without proper college degrees and, as we’ve pointed out before, also hired an unqualified lady friend as an interpreter for the deaf.

Walker appointed Clara Taylor, who, according to one report, “was not certified as an interpreter, scored second lowest among nine applicants and failed to translate a simple video in either of two types of sign language.”

When the deaf community complained to Gov. Beebe, Walker put Taylor in another position in his department.

Taxpayers see their money wasted at the Department of Career Education, the treasurer’s office and no doubt elsewhere. But there’s hope: A Walker protege, Robert Trevino, who headed the department’s rehabilitation services, resigned late Friday.

The right thing would be for Shoffner and Walker, both Democrats, also to step down. If they don’t, the Arkansas Democratic Party can expect more losses in November.

TOP STORY >> DAR kicks off Constitution Week

Monday marks the start of the national celebration of Constitution Week, a tradition started by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1956.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher signed a proclamation Tuesday to promote Sept.17-23 as Constitution Week.

On hand for the event were members of the Major Jacob Gray DAR chapter including the club’s Constitution Week chairwoman Mary Ford, vice regent Eleanor Swineford, member Mary Lee Schultz, who also serves as Arkansas DAR honorary state regent; and member Junelle Mongno, who is also the DAR state historian.

The week long commemoration of America’s most important document may be one of the country’s least known official observances.

The U.S. Constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history to maintain their liberties and freedom, and to ensure those inalienable rights to every American, according to a DAR news release.

In 1955, the DAR petitioned Congress to set aside Sept. 17-23 annually to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week. The resolution was signed into law on Aug. 2, 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The celebration emphasizes citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution and preserving it for posterity; informing the people that the Constitution is the basis for America’s great heritage and the foundation for our way of life, and encourage the study of the historical events that led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.

The Constitution is the oldest document still in active use that outlines the self-government of a people.

The landmark idea that men had the inalienable right as individuals to be free and live their lives under their own governance was the impetus of the American Revolution.

“We must remember and teach that those who wrote the Constitution believed that no government can create freedom, but that government must guard freedom rather than encroach upon the freedoms of its people,” said Merry Ann T. Wright, president general of the DAR.

“The Constitution by itself cannot guarantee liberty. A nation’s people can remain free only by being responsible citizens who are willing to learn about the rights of each arm of government and require that each is accountable for its own function. Therefore, Constitution Week is the perfect opportunity to read and study this great document, which is the safeguard of our American liberties,” Wright said.

“We encourage all citizens across the country to take time this week to guard that which is committed to us by our forefathers...our freedom," Wright said.

The DAR has served America for 122 years as its foremost cheerleader. In 1928, the DAR began work on a building as a memorial to the Constitution. John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial, was commissioned to design the performing arts center, known as DAR Constitution Hall.

Today, DAR Constitution Hall is the only structure erected in tribute to the Constitution.

The group is the largest women’s patriotic organization in the world.

It promotes patriotism through commemorative celebrations, memorials, scholarships and activities for children, and programs for new immigrants. For more information about DAR and its programs, visit or call 202-628-1776.

TOP STORY >> Cabot sets budget of $73 million

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board on Tuesday night approved a $73 million budget for this school year, which shows an increase in revenue of about $3 million over last year.

As usual, about 80 percent of that amount will be spent on salaries and benefits.

About $1.26 million of the increase comes from the state, which has increased the per pupil amount paid to school districts, called the state foundation money, from $6,144 to $6,267.

Since Cabot has an enrollment of 10,236 students in K-12, the state foundation money is $48,172,376.

Dr. Tony Thurman, school superintendent, told the board that he intends to have a proposal for raises for district employees for them to approve before Christmas.

Districts typically time raises to coincide with the after-Thanksgiving shopping sales.

Thurman told the board that employees have been hit hard by recent increases in their health insurance premiums and that the pay raises will help offset those additional expenses.

The budget includes $3.7 million for debt payments on the construction in recent years.

The projected balance when the school year ends is $6.8 million, almost 10 percent of the total budget.

In a breakdown of the revenue for the district, 66 percent comes from the state and 33 percent from county residents who support the school district with their property taxes.

TOP STORY >> Fish farmers call it quits

Leader senior staff writer

A year ago, Lonoke fishmonger Robert Murtha told The Leader the writing was on the wall for Arkansas farm-raised catfish.

After 20 years of farming, then another 20 years dressing and selling fish from his roadside shed on Hwy. 31 just east of Lonoke, Murtha sold the shed cover and headed to the house.

“I took the sign down yesterday,” he said Tuesday.

When his shed burned to the ground several years ago, he rebuilt and soldiered on, but now high feed prices and foreign competition have done what that fire couldn’t.

“I’ve retired,” Murtha said. “I’m tired of fighting.” Catfish feed has risen from about $200 a ton to as much as $600 a ton over about five years, according to some reports.

The rise in feed prices, fueled in part by increased demand for corn from which to make ethanol, already was a problem for catfish producers, but with a drought- driven reduction in the corn harvest, prices have risen dramatically.

FEED UP 50 percent

Feed prices are up 50 percent compared to this time last year, Roger Barlow said Tuesday. Barlow, vice president of the Catfish Farmers of America and president of the Catfish Institute, said it’s no accounting trick. It absolutely costs more to produce a pound of catfish than the farmers can sell it for.

Domestic pond catfish prices are $3 a pound, but fish imported from China and Vietnam cost about $2 a pound, which is important to restaurants running on a thin profit margin.

“You’ve got an industry at levels that are not sustainable,” he said.

The producers are squeezed between rising feed prices and the downward price pressure caused by that foreign competition.


Catfish pond acreage has declined 50 percent in the last five years, Barlow said, and it’s likely to decrease more.”

A year ago, Lonoke County had three farms producing catfish or fingerlings among their stock. But Larry Raper has quit the business since then, citing feed prices, according to Anita Kelly extension aquaculture specialist out of Lonoke.

“They are losing money with every fish they raise,” she said.

“The ones that are still in business are adjusting how and when they feed their fish,” Kelly said, and some have gone through a national training program aimed at implementing such efficiencies.

Catfish farming is most prevalent in the poorest regions of Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, and it provides jobs in those depressed areas, Barlow said.

He said some farmers have already converted their ponds into soybean fields.

Kelly said some are planting rice in their ponds since they are designed to hold water.

“We are encouraging people to eat U.S. farm-raised catfish to help the industry out,” she said.


Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has refused four recent shipments of Vietnamese pangasius with residues of nitrofurans.

That fish is sometimes sold as U.S. catfish.

“Studies have shown that residues of nitrofurans ingested by consumption of contaminated product are bioavailable,” according to a FDA press release forwarded by the Catfish Institute.

“When consumed, nitrofuran residues are absorbed by the consumer’s body and again form tissue-bound residues. Since the compound is considered to be carcinogenic and genotoxic, consumption over time of product contaminated with nitrofurans may present a human health risk,” the FDA said.

Jeff McCord, a consultant for the Catfish Institute, said that only about 2 percent of imported seafood is inspected and tested at U.S. ports.

Fish that is rejected too often finds another U.S. port in which to unload, or else they go further south to other countries, McCord said.

Nitrofurans have been banned for use or consumption in the U.S. for about 20 years.

The fish also contained other antibiotics that ingested by people could help some bacteria develop resistance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Great show on air base

The Blue Angels put on two tremendous shows over the weekend at Little Rock Air Force Base, capping off another successful open house. For almost an hour, more than 200,000 people watched the precision flying team near the flightline on Saturday and on Sunday, under beautiful skies and temperatures in the 80s.

This was perhaps the Blue Angels’ best performance at the base. There were several other thrilling performances besides the headliners, including the C-130 airdrops, John Klatt’s Air National Guard demonstration team, the B-2 stealth bomber, disabled American veterans flight team, Super Hornet CF-18, Otto the Helicopter, Fat Albert and many more.

There was also a small Soviet plane with a red star owned by Richard Dawe, president of Ozarka College in Melbourne, wearing his Navy Reserves uniform. It was a fitting symbol for the demise of the Soviet empire

Col. Mike Kirby and his hard-working staff deserve our gratitude for putting on a great and thrilling show.

TOP STORY >> County clerk warns on voting scam

Every election season, countless political chain e-mails begin circulating, usually with the intent to promote one point of view or another.

Many of those e-mails include false or misleading information, including a recent example that begins “Please pass the word along. The voting rules have changed.”

The e-mail goes on to imply that individuals who haven’t voted since the 2008 presidential election are now ineligible to vote and have to re-register.

When asked about the email, Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk Larry Crane said, “That’s completely false. If you’ve voted in Pulaski County at any time since the end of 2007, you’ll be able to vote in the elections this fall. That includes people who voted in the 2008 presidential election. If you’ve moved within Pulaski County since you last voted, please give our office a call at 340-8683 so we can update your voting address. Otherwise, just come out and vote.”

The clerk’s office is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of voter registration records in Pulaski County.
With the 2012 general election just over two months away, Crane is encouraging Pulaski County residents to register to vote.

“I want to make sure that people are ready to make their voices heard. You can only vote if you’ve registered ahead of time,” said Crane.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 general election is Oct. 9.

Voter registration applications are available from the clerk’s website,, or at local libraries, state revenue offices and the clerk’s office.

Registered Pulaski County voters can also click the “Check Your Voter Information” link on the clerk’s homepage to verify registration information or locate polling places.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election will begin on Monday, Oct. 22.

In addition, several lower-profile elections are on the schedule this fall.

School board elections are Tuesday. Early voting for the election has begun.

TOP STORY >> Open house brings 200,000 to air base

Leader staff writer

The Blue Angels drew more than 200,000 people to Little Rock Air Force Base on Saturday and Sunday for the 2012 Heritage and Heroes Open House and Air Show.

“It was near perfect weather. I don’t think you could have custom-ordered better weather. We are humbled by the massive outpouring of support for our air show by more than 200,000 of our neighbors. It was a tremendous honor to show off our base to them,” LRAFB spokesman Arlo Taylor said.

Petty Officer First Class Eric Rodley, a spokesman for the Navy’s flight demonstration team, said, “The air show was great. Everyone in Arkansas treated us really well. The crowd was great. We appreciate everyone’s support out there.”

People were turned away when the gates closed 15 minutes after the start of the Blue Angels performance. The gates were closed to prepare for outbound traffic flow, Rodley said.

About 11 million people see the squadron during air shows every year. The Blue Angels also visit more than 50,000 people March through November at schools and hospitals, according to the squadron’s website.

The website says 16 officers voluntarily serve with the team, and every year it chooses three tactical jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to replace the members who are leaving.

The Blue Angels have 16 jets — four single-seat F/A-18 A models, nine single-seat F/A-18 C models, one two-seat F/A-18 B and two two-seat F/A-18 D models.

The closest the jets fly to each other is 18 inches during the Diamond 360 maneuver. They can reach speeds of about 1,400 mph and climb 30,000 feet per minute.

The jets travel between 120 mph and 700 mph during air shows. The highest they fly is 15,000 feet during vertical rolls and the lowest is 50 feet during the sneak pass.

The team also has one Lock-heed Martin C-130 Hercules, which is known as Fat Albert, which cruises at 375 mph.

Blue Angels pilots have to have an aircraft-carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical flight hours.

The same is required of the events coordinator, who must also be a naval flight officer or a weapons systems officer.

The Marine Corps pilots flying Fat Albert have to be aircraft commanders with at least 1,200 flight hours.

The demonstration pilots, the events coordinator, maintenance officer and flight surgeon spend two years with the Blue Angels. The other officers usually serve the squadron for three years.

Capt. Greg McWherter, a native of Atlanta, is the “Boss,” the commanding officer for the Blue Angels. The chief of naval air training selects the “Boss,” who must have commanded a tactical jet squadron and have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight hours.

The other Blue Angles officers are Lt. Commander John Hiltz of Fort Mitchell, Ky.; Capt. Brandon Cordill of Hernet, Calif.; Maj. Brent Stevens of Knoxville, Tenn.; Lt. Commander C.J. Simpson of Coon Rapids, Minn.; Lt. Commander David Tickle of Birmingham, Ala.; narrator Lt. Mark Tedrow of Charleroi, Pa.; event coordinator Lt. Commander Todd Royles of Willow Grove, Pa., and C-130 pilot Capt. Benjamin Blanton of Ventura County, Calif.

The squadron’s enlisted team has 105 members, according to the Blue Angels website.

That team takes care of maintenance, public affairs and provides medical support and coordinates events. There are five technical representatives in charge of financial matters and logistics.

TOP STORY >> Five schools here named among best

Leader staff writer

Five area schools have been named to the state’s top 25 list by the University of Arkansas.

Little Rock Air Force Base’s Arnold Drive and Cabot’s Stagecoach made the list of top elementary schools.

Cabot Middle School South, along with Searcy’s Ahlf Junior High and Southwest Middle School, are among the top middle schools in the state.

The university’s Office of Educational Policy ranked the schools based on the results of the 2011-2012 Benchmark test scores.

The university ranked schools based on the percentage of students who scored proficient or advanced, and on “GPA” — which breaks down the proficient and advanced scores even further.

On the GPA scale, each test score category is assigned a grade point: Below basic scores received a one, basic scores were awarded a two; proficient scores were given a three and advanced was worth four. The best score a school could get would be a GPA of 4 if all students scored advanced.

Arnold Drive was ranked as the 16th best elementary school in the state with 95 percent of its third, fourth and fifth graders scoring proficient or advanced on the Benchmark exam. The school had a GPA of 3.71. The best school in the state, Melbourne’s Mount Pleasant, had a GPA of 3.89.

Cabot’s Stagecoach is the 21st best elementary school in the state with 94 percent of its third, fourth and fifth graders scoring proficient or advanced. The school had a GPA of 3.68.

Ahlf Junior High in Searcy is ranked this year as the 14th best middle school in the state. Its students were 89 percent proficient or advanced on the Benchmark and had a GPA of 3.43.

Cabot’s Middle School South was listed as the 15th best middle school with the same numbers as Ahlf, 89 percent proficient or advanced and a GPA of 3.43.

Southwest Middle School in Searcy is the 21st best school with 87 percent scoring proficient or advanced on the Benchmark and a GPA of 3.41.

The rankings are based on school performances on both the literacy and math Benchmark scores.

The university also looked at state rankings based just on math scores and just the literacy exam.

The top elementary math school in the area is Stage-coach, ranked 10th in the state at 97 percent proficient or better and a GPA of 3.75. Of the 505 elementary schools ranked, the average was 82 percent and the average GPA was 3.27.

Among middle schools in math, Cabot Middle School North is 19th in the state with 86 percent proficient or better and a GPA of 3.39. Cabot Middle School South and Ahlf Junior High are tied for 20th at 87 percent and a GPA of 3.38.

Of the 355 middle schools researched, the average GPA was 3.01 and the average percent of students scoring proficient or better was 72 percent.

Looking at just literacy scores, Arnold Drive is the 11th best in the state with 95 percent of its third, fourth and fifth grade students scoring proficient or better and a GPA of 3.75.

The statewide average was 83 percent with a GPA of 3.30.

At the middle school level in literacy, Cabot Middle School South is the 13th best tied with Searcy’s Southwest Middle both at 91 percent and a GPA of 3.48. At 16th best in literacy is Ahlf Junior High at 91 percent proficient or better and a GPA of 3.47.

Statewide, the average was 80 percent and a GPA of 3.17.

The university has been delving into test scores since 2003, looking for trends and patterns to help other schools improve their test scores.

Among trends noticed are that higher performing schools tend to have fewer students on free and reduced lunch. The state average is around 65 percent, but the average of the top 25 schools is closer to 35 percent.

The top schools are also larger campuses than the state average and have a lower minority population. The statewide minority student population is about 35 percent, while the high performing schools are around 19 percent.

SPORTS STORY >> Fans’ priorities are out of order

Leader sports editor

The Arkansas Razorback fan base is divided since the eighth-ranked Hogs lost 34-31 to hapless Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Fans’ expectations for this season were as high as any in a few decades, and the loss to a team that’s not had a winning season since 1994 has dashed those expectations.

Now it seems that about half the fan base wants to rehire Bobby Petrino and fire athletic director Jeff Long for firing Petrino in the first place. And those fans are wrong.

Some try to revise history and minimize the egregious offenses Petrino committed. Others just have their priorities out of line and believe winning at football is the most important thing to consider. They don’t care that he cheated on his wife, hired his mistress for a job she wasn’t qualified for, wrecked his motorcycle with her aboard, lied to his boss (Long), allowed Long to send out a press release he knew was false and finally called his own press conference and lied to the media and fans about the whole incident. And let’s not forget he paid the woman he was sleeping with $20,000. There’s a word for that which won’t be used here, but it pertains to an old saying about an even older profession.

And he hired this woman for a job in the football department. For the fans whose priority No. 1 is Razorback football, that fact alone should tell you that Razorback football was no longer Petrino’s top priority, but even that misses the point here.

The point is that fans who want Petrino back have misprioritized the important things in life.

Some fans just want him back because he won games and that’s all that matters.

Some will try to argue that his success brought millions of dollars to the program. But that’s a tenuous rationalization Even if it’s true, money is not the most important thing here either. It rarely is in truth, it’s just treated that way because our priorities are out of line.

Fans who are against rehiring Petrino are often called self righteous, or morality peddlers or Bible thumpers. One was even told to keep his morality to himself and at his worship services.

The late writer David Foster Wallace once made this profound observation.

“Here’s something that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there’s no such thing as not worshiping. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – is that pretty much anything else will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”

One might also add, worship sports or competition and winning, you’ll die every time you lose and sacrifice some truly important things like family, integrity, honesty and courage for something that’s not really that important, like winning at football.

Don’t want to feel eaten alive every time the Hogs fail? Put them in their proper place in life’s priorities.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison lose key back with Seminoles next

Leader sportswriter

Although Carlisle has yet to play a full 48-minute game this season, the Bison were able to dominate Mountain Pine 50-0 for three and one-third quarters last week and will travel to class 3A Osceola on Friday for the final non-conference game of the season.

Unlike Mountain Pine, which is going through a rebuilding year, Osceola (1-1) will be a formidable opponent for Carlisle (1-0). All-conference senior running back Korliss Marshall ran for 1,421 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago, but isn’t the only one in the Seminoles’ backfield that can give opposing defenses a headache.

Fellow senior Jamal Jackson, who is also the team’s defensive leader, ran five times for 97 yards and two scores in last week’s 18-0 weather-shortened win over Gosnell. Carlisle has a stable of backs as well, but will be without junior standout Bo Weddle for the remainder of the season after he suffered a torn ACL on the Bison’s first possession against Mountain Pine.

“I found it out (Monday),” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire about Weddle’s injury. “He came and spoke with me after practice and let me know the results. The good thing is he’s a junior. He’ll have surgery in the next couple of weeks, and I know he’s going to come back and have a great 2013 season. He’s a super kid in everything he does, and he does everything right.

“So we hate this, but you know that’s part of the game. You can’t replace a guy like Bo Weddle if he’s not in the lineup because of his attitude and his character. What you see on Friday nights from him you see Monday thru Thursday. You just can’t replace that stuff but we have guys that will have to fill in.”

Junior running back Deron Ricks has already been expected to have a big increase in carries this year after rushing for nearly 700 yards as a sophomore. But with Weddle out, even more will be expected of the big bruiser.

Fullback Josh Mathis could see a significant increase in carries as well to help assist Ricks in the backfield.

It’s no secret that Carlisle likes to run the ball, but other than all-state left tackle Clayton Fields; the Bison front will be undersized compared to the Seminoles’ defense.

“They’re athletic and big which are two dangerous combinations,” Waymire said of Osceola. “They got a big fullback/linebacker that’s about 6’1, 220 in Jamal Jackson. He’s a heck of a player and they’re big up front.

“They probably average 265 (pounds) across. So we definitely have our hands full on everything that we’re going to do. We just have to come out and play.”

Weddle, who also led the Bison defense in tackles last season at linebacker, will leave a big void at the position. Mathis and Ricks, both linebackers, are expected to step up in an attempt to fill that void along with others.

The injury Weddle sustained was the topic of discussion after last week’s game, but the Bison’s success in the passing game has also been noted.

Last week senior quarterback Chris Hart threw for 125 yards and four touchdowns against the Red Devils. Two went to junior wideout Austin Reed and two went to junior Justice Bryant.

Hart proved to be a prolific passer last year after throwing for more than 500 yards and 11 touchdowns (one interception) in limited time at the position.

Osceola’s senior Maurian Carr has finally earned his shot as the Seminoles’ starter after playing back-up the previous two seasons.

Carr’s athleticism will give the Bison defense another thing to prepare for in addition to the play-making abilities of Marshall and Jackson.

Weddle’s production on the field will no doubt be missed for the remainder of the season, but Friday night’s game at Osceola promises to be good game between two solid teams.

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons tackling Senators

Leader sportswriter

North Pulaski will try to pick up its second win of the season this Friday when the Falcons (1-0) host 7-4A Conference member Joe T. Robinson (1-1).

With the first two weeks of the season already over, it’s unclear which team has the advantage going into this week’s game. After North Pulaski’s week one nail-biting 13-12 win over J.A. Fair, the Falcons trailed 14-0 against class 4A Maumelle before the game was cancelled due to lightning with 8:47 to go in the second quarter.

Robinson lost by 29 points in its season opener at Hot Springs, but the Senators responded Saturday with a 16-14 win over Fair at Charlie George Stadium in Little Rock. Turnovers, fumbles in particular, have plagued both teams in their games this season.

The Falcons lost five fumbles in the red zone in their win against Fair, two of which were inside the War Eagles’ 5-yard line. Robinson lost four fumbles on Saturday in its win over Fair. With teams this evenly-matched, the one that will have the edge this week will be the team that doesn’t turn the ball over, and commits the fewest penalties.

“It was a bad mixture of play-calling on my part,” said North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram about last week’s game against Maumelle. “I made some calls that shouldn’t have been made at the time because of some of the issues we had going on, but I take responsibility for that.”

North Pulaski’s offense was in the negative last week until quarterback Steven Farrior broke away for a 51-yard run. But due to the lightning, whatever momentum the Falcons’ offense had was quickly suspended.

Austin Allen, one of the top athletes and playmakers on the North Pulaski roster, was named the starting quarterback in the summer. But after suffering a torn ACL, Allen is out for the season. Therefore, the Falcons have been running a quarterback-by-committee type of offense.

In the past two weeks, Farrior and sophomore Doug Gates have been getting the majority of the reps at the position, but senior Ashton Nichols has been competing for playing time as well.

Robinson has only six seniors on its roster, but is full of talented sophomores.

Quarterback Kristian Thompson ran six yards for a score with 4:46 to play in last week’s win over Fair – then punched in the game-winning two-point conversion.

Fair’s final scoring threat was also shut down by Thompson.

At safety, Thompson intercepted a tipped pass at the Robinson 20 early in the fourth quarter.

North Pulaski’s other focus on defense will be to stop the Robinson running backs, which are also young but rich in potential.

“I’m very impressed with their running backs,” Ingram said. “They’ve done a great job of carrying the football. They don’t go down after first contact. We’re going to have to gang-tackle those guys, because their feet don’t stop moving.”

Robinson may have a good group of backs, but so does North Pulaski. In the Falcons’ week one win, junior running back Damon Thomas racked up 116 yards on 22 carries. Damon Thomas also had an 11-yard reception on third and long that set up the Falcons’ final touchdown.

Versatile junior Fred Tho-mas had 98 yards of offense for the Falcons in week one, averaging 10.7 yards-per-carry. Friday’s match-up will be a competitive one and Ingram hopes his team will be ready.

“They’re a good football team,” Ingram said of Robinson. “They’re well-coached and they have a lot of underclassmen. But they play hard for four quarters.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot faces biggest test against Conway

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers are still unbeaten after two weeks of football, and are 2-0 since all games that at least got started are considered official. The Panthers were ahead of Catholic High 28-7 with seven seconds left in the first half when the game was stopped because of lightning.

They face their toughest test to date this Friday, according to head coach Mike Malham, when they face rival Conway at Panther Stadium.

“I thought Catholic was a little better than Jacksonville and I think Conway is going to be better than Catholic,” Malham said. “Conway scrimmaged North Little Rock and played them pretty even, and everybody knows how talented North Little Rock is. These next two weeks, we’ll really find out if we’re a contender.”

The Panthers’ offense struggled for much of the game against Jacksonville, but the defense shut down the Red Devils’ offense.

It was the opposite against the Rockets. Catholic could not stop Cabot’s offense. The Panthers had four possessions and scored four touchdowns. The Rockets’ offense moved the ball with ease after their first possession.

Turnovers thwarted two Catholic drives; one was an interception in the end zone.

On the final possession of the game, the Rockets were on the Cabot 8-yard line when play was stopped. They did it almost entirely through the air.

“That’s always our big concern – don’t give up the big play and covering the pass,” Malham said. “Catholic did a good job in the second quarter of moving the ball on us. Conway gets guys out in open spaces too and tries to let their athletes make plays. So we’re going to find out how good our defense is.”

Cabot’s offense was nearly perfect. The Panthers gained 283 in one half of play, all on the ground. Junior halfback Max Carroll led the way with three carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

“The offense looked pretty good,” Malham said. “When you score every time you get the ball that’s pretty good. We didn’t have as many missed assignments as we did against Jacksonville. Hopefully we can continue to progress because it just gets tougher. If we can I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”

Jeff Anderson is Conway’s leading rusher. Anderson is a big back with good speed. Anderson is 6-feet, 220 pounds. He’s offset by Duron Brown, who is only 5-6, 170, but has 4.5 speed.

Brandon Cox is the team’s fastest player with a hand-held 40-yard dash time of 4.35 seconds. He’s listed as a receiver, but will frequently take the ball in the backfield.

“They’ve got some speed that gave us trouble last year and they have those guys back,” Malham said. “Like I said, we’ll find out how good our defense is real soon.”

Cabot’s matchup with Conway has also become a big rivalry in recent years, the significance of which Malham does not downplay.

“I think it’s pretty big,” Malham said. “The kids know that and they like to play Conway. Every time Cabot and Conway play, wherever it’s at, the crowd is loud and the stadium is pretty packed. I think both towns kind of enjoy this thing.”

SPORTS STORY >> Concerns in house for Devils

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville comes off a disappointing showing at Benton last week to prepare for yet another road game. The Red Devils will try to rebound from their 34-20, three-quarter loss at Benton against the Maumelle Hornets on Friday.

The Hornets played less than Jacksonville last week. They led North Pulaski 14-0 halfway through the second quarter when that game was halted due to inclement weather.

Maumelle played less than that its first week of play when it trailed Hot Springs Lakeside in the second quarter when that game was stopped for bad weather.

It gives the Red Devils little to study in preparation for this Friday’s game, but head coach Rick Russell says his main concern is his own team.

“We got what film we could of them, but this is more about us and what we’re going to do to get better and bounce back,” Russell said. “I was very pleased with how much the offense progressed, but defensively we were a little disappointed. We just didn’t tackle very well. The big plays killed us and a lot of it was missed tackles. We had times where technique got us too, but we have to tackle better. Wallace Foote (Benton’s star running back) is an incredible athlete, one of the best in the state, but we had him hemmed in a couple of times and let him get loose.”

Starting the season against Cabot, who runs the tightly packed dead T offense, to facing the spread attack of Benton was a big adjustment to make in one week. Maumelle doesn’t run a wide open spread, but is more similar to Benton than to Cabot. Russell expects a better defensive performance this week.

“You know you work for weeks teaching to run downhill, shoot the gaps and play very aggressively against Cabot, then you have to come back and get them out of that and try to get them to stay back and read,” Russell said. “We didn’t do that as well as we needed to and that’s my job to make those adjustments and have them prepared. So I’ll take the responsibility for that. We’re going to be better.”

After being held scoreless against Cabot, including gaining just one first down in the second half, the Jacksonville offense executed some big plays and moved the ball well against Benton.

“We ran the ball better and we threw it better,” Russell said. “Aaron Smith played a good game. He’s becoming the kind of quarterback you want back there. He made some good decisions on his reads and he made some good throws. We’re still having too many drops. That’s the last piece of the puzzle that makes a play work, catching the ball. Everybody else can do everything right.

“The ball is placed where it needs to be, but you have to catch it. And we’re going to get there too. We just have to play and practice with a little more focus – get a little more determined.”

While conference play, which determines playoff berths and positions, doesn’t begin until week four, the Red Devils are approaching this game as if it were that important.

“This week there is urgency,” Russell said. “We’re treating this like our first conference game. We’re treating this like a ‘have-to-win’ game because we need to be playing like we’re capable of playing when conference starts. If we can play like that, and be as good as I think we can be, this can be the best team we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. I like this team.”

SPORTS STORY >> Brothers collide in Wildcats’ matchup

Leader sports editor

The brothers Bolding meet for the second time in their careers Friday when Bobby Bolding’s Pine Bluff Zebras visit North Little Rock to take on Brad Bolding’s Charging Wildcats. The two met once before when Bobby was coaching perennial contender Stuttgart while Brad was helping turn Mayflower’s program around. Stuttgart won that meeting big, but 2012 is a different situation.

Again it’s older brother Bobby who is coaching at the more storied program in Pine Bluff, but Brad has almost all the other advantages, as Bobby Bolding so clearly defines.

“Well their offensive line is bigger and stronger than our defensive line,” Bobby Bolding began. “Their defensive line is bigger and stronger than our offensive line. Their defensive backs are faster than our receivers. Their running backs are bigger than our linebackers and faster than anybody we’ve got on defense. And their kicker kicks it farther than ours does. So I don’t really see us with any advantages at all.”

The Zebra head coach did find one good thing to say about his squad.

“Well our kids love to play football,” Bobby said. “So we’ll show up and compete. We have a contract so we sort of have to.”

Brad Bolding knows better. Pine Bluff has put up huge numbers on offense in its two games this season against good competition. The Zebras routed Fort Smith Northside 53-27 in their first game, then beat down city rival Watson Chapel 48-12 in a game that wasn’t even that close.

North Little Rock is also coming off a disappointing loss at Longview, Texas, and Brad Bolding thinks his team has its work cut out this Friday.

“Obviously that tailback of theirs is a dandy,” Brad said about senior Walter Ashley. The senior ran for nearly 2,000 yards last year and has almost 400 all-purpose yards in two games this season. “This year they’ve got a quarterback that can throw it too. I think QB was a question mark for them coming into the season, but they’ve found one that’s really become a dual threat. That offense is hard to stop. Nobody they’ve played has done it yet.”

Brad Bolding says one of his team’s main priorities right now is fixing the things that went wrong in last week’s 30-14 loss. The offense turned the ball over twice times with a lost fumble and an interception. It also gave up a safety on a reverse to end the game.

Worse and more disconcerting for the head Wildcat, was special teams’ play. North Little Rock gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, lost a fumble on a kickoff, missed a field goal and had an extra point blocked.

“We blew it on special teams,” Brad Bolding said. “We held their offense to 209 yards, 10 yards passing. Offense made some mistakes but we played well enough on offense and defense to win the game. We missed an opportunity to go down there and beat an elite Texas team on their field. For us to go down there, drive five hours and wallow around on special teams like that was disappointing. And that’s something we feel like we spend more time on than maybe anybody in the state.”

The team has added extra meeting time early in the morning this week to go over what went wrong and how to correct it.

“We have to correct it,” Brad said. “In close games, special teams is something you’ve got to have. The name ought to tell you how important it is. It’s not called special offense or special defense. So it’s a big part of the game and we have to understand that and treat it that way.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Democrats convention

Friday’s lackluster employment numbers could hurt President Obama’s re-election effort — 96,000 new jobs are barely enough for people entering the workforce for the first time — but the strong endorsement by former President Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention should advance Obama’s chances.

Clinton, who has looked frail lately, still made the longest speech at the convention and could have gone on till past midnight if was asked. He spoke for almost an hour, twice as long as the president, vice president and Mrs. Obama. He easily took the top prize for best speech at either political convention. 

Clinton can work a crowd, especially when he speaks like an Arkie: “Obama 250,000, Romney, zero,” he said, speaking of new jobs in the auto industry as a result of the bailout, which Mitt Romney opposed.

Clinton knows how to do the numbers and balance a budget. After all, he did it for 12 years while he was Arkansas governor: He’s the last president who left office with a budget surplus — they were supposed to go into a lock box, remember? — and thinks it’s easy arithmetic: End the wars and raise taxes on millionaires.

Clinton, who has a slight tremor now, often shook his hands as he spoke, insisting that Democrats are better at job creation than Republicans.

“Well, since 1961,” Clinton told the convention, “the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!”

He was too modest to tell the crowd half those jobs were created during his presidency. Maybe he would have told them if he’d been given more time. Still, it was the best speech of his career.