Saturday, September 22, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits yield late to Panthers

Leader sportswriter

The second half belonged to Heber Springs as the Panthers took advantage of Lonoke turnovers and overcame the defensive struggle of the first half for a 21-6 victory over the Jackrabbits at James B. Abraham Stadium on Friday in the 4A-2 Conference opener for both teams.

Lonoke (2-2, 0-1) got its only score of the game with 10:51 left to play when junior reserve quarterback Nick Watson found Blake Mack for a 51-yard touchdown pass that cut the Panthers’ lead to 14-6, but Heber Springs (2-1, 1-0) quickly answered with one last scoring drive that went 80 yards in just four plays with Chandler Marquardt bulling his way in for the final yard with 5:42 remaining.

Watson gave the Jackrabbits a boost early in the fourth quarter after taking over for starting junior quarterback Grant Dewey, who was intercepted three times by the Heber Springs secondary, but Watson also fell victim to the Panther defensive backs with a late interception.

The first half ended with no score, as both teams moved the ball at times, only to turn it over or lose field position to untimely penalties.

“I really felt like we shot ourselves in the foot,” Heber Springs coach Steve Janski said. “We knew it was going to be a war. We knew coach Bost and Lonoke was going to be a tough game, especially with it being here, but we shot ourselves in the foot. Dropped pass in the end zone for a touchdown, we’re driving the ball and turn it over again on a drive, and then we had penalties back us up.

“We regrouped, and we really battled it out, and I really owe it to our summer conditioning.”

Heber Springs finally put points on the scoreboard on its first drive of the second half. The Panthers went 67 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a 51-yard pass from senior quarterback Michael Kramer to Clint Ligon that set Heber Springs up with a first and goal from the Jackrabbit 8-yard line.

Kramer called his own number on third down from a yard out and punched it in for the touchdown with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter. Dillon Moore added the extra point to give Heber Springs a 7 -0 lead.

Lonoke gave the ball back in one play when Dewey threw his third interception of the game, this one to Panthers defensive back Eddie Irvin, who returned it inside the Jackrabbit 20, but an illegal-block penalty backed it up to the 35-yard line.

The Lonoke defense held but a good punt by the Panthers backed the host team up at its own 2-yard line. The Jackrabbits moved the markers once out to the 17, but a seven-yard loss for junior D.J. Burton and a sack on Dewey for a loss of seven more yards penned punter Blake Gooden deep in the end zone to kick the ball back to the Panthers.

That set up Heber Springs with great field position at the Lonoke 23-yard line, and from there, it took four plays for the Panthers to get in, including three-straight rushes by Gunner Nelson. The last was a three-yard run to score with 10:23 remaining to put the Panthers up 14-0.

“The defense did a good job,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “They held them out down there in the red zone three or four times. Four turnovers on offense – that’s going to get you beat. That’s what hurt us. They pretty much just rushed three like we thought they would, and their three were whipping our five way too much tonight.”

Lonoke’s first drive ended on downs as the Panthers took over at their own 39-yard line. That series ended with a punt, which penned the Jackrabbits deep in their own territory at the 10-yard line.

Penalties for a false start and block in the back pushed Lonoke back further until Dewey connected with Blake Mack for a 32-yard pass play to set the Jackrabbits up with a new set of downs at the 37. That was as far as the offense went, however, as Ligon pulled down an interception intended for D.J. Burton at the Heber Springs’ 44-yard line. Dewey’s pass found Burton, but the ball bounced off the senior receiver’s hands to put Ligon in position for the easy pick.

The Panthers returned the favor on their ensuing drive when Kramer fumbled the snap and junior lineman Bubba Lewis fell on the ball for Lonoke. But it was three and out for the Jackrabbits, with a Blake Gooden punt sending Heber Springs back to its own 27-yard line at the 11:27 mark of the second quarter.

Kramer found Ligon on third down for a 56-yard pass play to move the Panthers all the way to the Lonoke 16-yard line, but the Jackrabbits stood up on defense and took advantage of an illegal-shift penalty to hold them at bay. Heber Springs went for it on fourth down but came up short, as both teams traded possessions four more times before the half.

Lonoke finished with 178 yards offense, led by 65 yards on 15 carries by senior tailback Eric Williams. Mack had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Dewey was 4 for 10 for 35 yards and three interceptions while Watson was 4 for 8 for 79 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

For Heber Springs, Kramer was 8 of 17 passing for 143 yards, five of those tosses went to Ligon for 125 yards. Marquardt had nine carries for 105 yards and a touchdown, as the Panther racked up 349 yards offense.

Lonoke will go on the road to Newport next week while Heber Springs hosts Stuttgart.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison roll, plow over Palestine

Leader sports staff

Friday marked what could potentially be the start of another dominating 2A-6 Conference run for Carlisle as the Bison whipped Palestine Wheatley in a 48-0 shutout at Fred C. Hardke Field on Friday.

The Bison (3-0, 1-0) ran the table on league competition last year with an unbeaten campaign on their way to the 2A state championship game, and have jumped out to an equally strong start in 2012.

“I was pleased with our guys,” Carlisle coach Scott Waymire said. “We opened up conference with a victory, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. Clinton Hampton and Brandon Page stepped up because of injuries.”

Junior running back Deron Ricks got things started for the Bison with a one-yard touchdown run at the 6:08 mark of the first quarter, and Clinton Hampton added to the early lead with a 14-yard touchdown run with 4:28 left to go in the opening period.

Ricks struck again for Carlisle before the first 12 minutes expired with a 19-yard TD rush with 1:20 remaining in the first to make it 18-0.

Senior quarterback Chris Hart snuck in the next Carlisle score with a six-yard run, and completed a successful two-point conversion pass to Austin Reed to give the Bison a 26-0 lead.

Hart scored from the air later in the second quarter with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Justice Bryant with 3:44 remaining until halftime. The Bison cashed in another two-point try with Hart connecting to Braden Reed to give Carlisle a 34-0 lead.

The Bison put up one more score before the half with a six-yard touchdown run by Ricks with 43 seconds left to play in the second quarter, and a two-point conversion run for Reed made the halftime score a lopsided 40-0.

Waymire called off the dogs in the second half, but Tyler Young set the final margin with 5:27 remaining on a 14-yard touchdown run. Ricks had 13 carries for 103 yards and three touchdowns, along with a fumble recovery and interception on the defense.

Bryant finished with eight carries for 75 yards as a replacement for injured all-state running back Bo Weddle, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

“With Bo going down he’s had to step up for us and he’s done a good job,” Waymire said. “We played well on defense. We just have to keep rolling, stay healthy and get better.”

Carlisle finished with 286 total yards. Hart completed 5 of 14 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Palestine Wheatley finished with 126 total yards, 99 of which came on the ground.

The Bison will play at Des Arc next week.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils pick off Cougars

Leader sports editor

A rough start finally smoothed out for Jacksonville while things kept getting bumpier for Helena-West Helena Central. The Red Devils dazzled in their home opener, beating the Cougars 35-0 at Jan Crow Stadium on Friday. With starting quarterback Aaron Smith sitting out with a deep thigh bruise on the heels of his best game to date last week, junior Reggie Barnes turned in a nice performance, completing 13 of 21 passes for 171 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

“He was outstanding,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “He made the right reads and he took care of the ball for the most part. He made the one bad throw very early and after that he was outstanding. I couldn’t be more pleased with his performance. He’s looked like that in our last two JV games. We tell him those games are preparation for Friday night. And he carried over just what he had been doing in those games to this one.”

The defense was even better than last week when it held Maumelle to 165 total yards. The Red Devils gave up just 106 total yards to the Cougars, with the last 12 on the throwaway play before the buzzer ended the game. The Devil defense gave up just 29 total yards in the second half.

“They play a similar offense to ours and you have to play assignment football,” Russell said. “We did that tonight. We played smart and flew to the football. And we tackled when we got there. We didn’t have anybody getting loose after missed tackles. This was a great total team effort tonight.”

Senior receiver Kevin Richardson had his best game of the season for the second consecutive week. Offensively Richardson caught five passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, and carried one time for 11 yards and another score. On defense, he recorded two interceptions, returning one 70 yards for the first touchdown of the game.

“He’s a complete player,” Russell said of Richardson. “He’s one of the fastest kids in the state. He’s smart. He’s goes hard. He’s just getting better and better and we’re going to need that to continue.”

Jacksonville’s first three drives ended with two punts and an interception. Helena-West Helena’s first two drives ended with one punt and two interceptions, both by Richardson.

The second was on third down and 14 for HWHC on its own 39-yard line. Quarterback Delane Bedford threw deep where Richardson outjumped the intended receiver, who fell down on the landing. Richardson raced straight up the visitors’ sideline where he ran into lots of traffic near the Cougar 35, but he tap danced through a pair of defenders then burst through another tackle and had clear sailing the remaining 30 yards.

Sophomore John Hermann kicked the first of five extra points to make it 7-0 with 5:10 left in the first quarter.

Braylin Terry stopped Helena’s next drive with an interception that set Jacksonville up at the Cougar 38. Barnes hit Richardson for 29 yards on first down to set up first and goal at the 9. Two plays later, sophomore running back Lamont Gause took the inside handoff, cut left, broke a tackle at the 5 and scored to make it 14-0 with 1:23 left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville forced a punt on HWHC’s next drive and took over at its own 48. On first down, Barnes rolled right after taking the shotgun snap. Patiently waiting for the play to develop, he found Gause streaking across the field and threw a strike. Gause turned up field for a 22-yard gain to the 30-yard line. Things went backwards for a few plays after that. An illegal procedure penalty was followed by a sack for an 8-yard loss. Xavier Amos got 13 of it back with a nice run, but Jacksonville was left with fourth and 10 at the 30. Helena-West Helena came with a blitz from the outside, but Barnes stood in the pocket to deliver a perfect pass over the middle to a streaking Richardson for a 30-yard touchdown connection. The PAT made it 21-0 with 10:05 left in the first half.

Jacksonville forced another punt and scored one more time before halftime. Barnes was flushed out of the pocket on third down and 11 and picked up 25 yards, but was hit late after going out of bounds. That gave Jacksonville another 15 yards to the Cougar 11, but Barnes missed the rest of the half.

Richardson took his place at quarterback and scored on the next play. He dropped back to pass, but after finding no one open, he ran left, broke a tackle and scored with 7:01 left in the half.

Helena-West Helena’s next drive chewed up most of the remaining clock. Jacksonville got two more interceptions on the drive, but the first was negated when Nykel Worthen was stripped from behind during the return. Worthen’s interception and fumble happened on fourth and 8, and gave the Cougars new life because the change of possession meant a new set of downs for HWHC (1-3, 0-1).

It didn’t matter. Seven plays later, Randy Armstrong got Jacksonville’s fifth pick of the half to close the second quarter.

Jacksonville had to punt on its first possession of the second half, but invoked the mercy rule on the next possession.

Starting from their own 31, the Red Devils marched 69 yards in nine plays. The final play was the final big hookup between Barnes and Richardson. This time it went for 38 yards and the game’s final touchdown.

Jacksonville (2-2, 1-0) finished with 240 total yards. The Red Devils will be back on the road at Little Rock McClellan next week.

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside ladies sweep NP, JHS


Leader sports staff

With playoff berths and seeds on the line, the Sylvan Hills volleyball team came up with a crucial pair of wins this week against North Pulaski and Jacksonville.

It went from complete domination to complete letdown for North Pulaski on Tuesday as Sylvan Hills rallied back from a two-game deficit to pull off a miraculous 3-2 comeback victory over the Lady Falcons at the SHHS gymnasium in a 5A Central Conference grudge match.

The Lady Bears (7-5, 5-2) struggled to simply get the ball back across the net in a dominant game-one performance by North Pulaski. The Lady Falcons (5-4, 4-3) carried that early momentum into the second game, but Sylvan Hills rallied back in the third game. Things got worse for North Pulaski in game four as communication on the court and the early serving consistency went away, and by the time the fifth game rolled around, it was the Lady Bears who stood dominant under the leadership of dynamic senior Val Jarrett.

North Pulaski won the first two games 25-5, 25-17 before the Lady Bears claimed the last three 25-14, 25-19, 15-5.

“They had us more than on the ropes – they had us buried,” Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway said. “We didn’t come out ready to play. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know why, and they hit the ball extremely hard. We couldn’t pass for anything.

“You could see that the momentum had really shifted. We had a lot going for us – they had trouble passing the ball, there was a little bit of argument amongst the players and everything, so I told them if we could get a good start, we had a pretty good chance.”

The Lady Falcons showed up with a serve game second to none as standout setter Emily Long stroked Sylvan Hills with 21 straight points behind the line, including seven aces in game one. Sylvan Hills won the first two points in the game, but Long’s reign at the serve line took it to 21-2, and she finished off the set with a pair of kills.

Long paired up with senior Shelby Floyd in the second game, as the Lady Falcons broke an 11-11 tie with a 10-2 run. Long then assisted Megan Chargualaf and Shayla Evans for kills to give the Lady Falcons game point at 24-17, and Chargualaf finished it off with an ace.

The Lady Falcons played hard and executed well in the first two games, but once Sylvan Hills found momentum, the Falcons came undone despite a nice-sized fan section urging them to pick it back up. Head coach Ben Belton also sent plenty of encouragement their way, and began calling frequent time outs in game four in an attempt to rally his team. Belton was candid and honest in his remarks following the match.

“I don’t know – somebody tell me,” Belton said. “You don’t serve the ball well, you don’t play at the net very well, and then with everything else that ends up going wrong, you get beat. Serving was terrible. First set, we dominated them. We’re that much better than they are – I don’t care what the score was when it was said and done – I feel like we’re a lot better team than they are.

“Give them credit. They fought, they deserve to win. They won, and that’s the end of that.”

Unforced errors helped the Lady Bears in the third game as much as anything, but Jarrett and junior hitter Michelle Sorensen started taking over at the net in the fourth game. Jarrett put down her third kill of the frame to give Sylvan Hills a 20-13 lead while Sorensen scored a pair of aces before spiking it for a 24-17 lead. Jarrett then put an exclamation point on the game with a kill at game point.

Jarrett took over at the service line to start the decisive fifth game with four straight aces and eight points.

“She’s capable of serving,” Treadway said of Jarrett. “And we needed every serve that she did. She’s capable of putting it in the lobby. She’s capable of putting it in the net, tonight, she put it where she had to.”

Jarrett led the Lady Bears with six kills and five aces while sophomore Brooke Rainey added six kills. Junior Ashton Williams had four kills and two aces for Sylvan Hills.

Long led the way for North Pulaski with 10 aces and seven kills to go along with 13 assists. Floyd had nine kills and three aces while Chargualaf added six kills and four aces.


The Lady Bears kept the momentum going with a 3-1 win at Jacksonville (4-6, 3-4) on Thursday. Sylvan Hills won game one 25-21, but dropped game two 19-25 after building an 8-2 lead. Lady Red Devil sophomore Chanell Roy served up six straight points to give Jacksonville a 10-9 lead it would not relinquish.

The Lady Red Devils fell apart in game three. Jacksonville coach Kendra Sauheaver called timeout with Sylvan Hills leading 16-7. At that point, the home team had scored just one point on serve. The Lady Bears’ biggest lead was 18-7 before Jacksonville rallied to make the final score more respectable.

Game four was an anomaly of volleyball. The Lady Bears threatened to run away and win in a rout when they jumped out to a 7-1 lead. But Jacksonville scored 13 of the next 14 points, turning a 7-1 deficit into a 14-8 lead for the home team. Roy again served six straight points to tie the game before Jacksonville was called for lifting.

After quickly regaining serve, Senior Katie Lawrence scored six more to give the Lady Red Devils their biggest lead. Treadway called his second timeout of the match and got his team back on track. A kill by Sorensen tied the game at 19 and put Jordie Flippo at the service line. Flippo led all players in points on serve, and immediately added two more with back-to-back aces.

Jacksonville got its service rotation back around to Roy and Lawrence, but the Lady Devils were unable to score on either’s serve. Sorenson, who is not typically a front-row player, got two more kills, and Jarrett put an emphatic end to the match with her ninth kill.

After the match, Treadway talked about leaving Sorensen in the lineup during her front row rotation.

“I play rotations that sometimes not everyone is happy with,” Treadway said. “I thought Michelle was doing the things that was going to help us win this match. We made this too hard because we weren’t playing very focused and were making a lot of mistakes. I felt like she was at least not going to get us beat, and she ended up doing more than that.”

Sorensen finished with five kills, but three came in the last seven points of the match.

While Jacksonville didn’t get the win, it did perhaps find some depth. Roy had not played with the varsity all season, but was called upon with other players out with injuries. She led Jacksonville with 19 points on serve.

“I knew she could serve very well,” Sauheaver said. “I don’t know if I expected her to lead us. But she’s been very solid in junior varsity games. She stepped up for us.”

Lori Shore had 11 points serving for Jacksonville while Lawrence had 10. Lawrence led all players in the match with 17 digs from the back row. Alunte Pettis led the home team with six kills.

Flippo led all players with 27 points on serve, including six aces.

The Lady Bears take part in the Greenbrier tournament today before hosting the same Greenbrier team on Monday. After that it’s back to conference play with a road match at McClellan on Tuesday and a home match against Mills on Thursday. Jacksonville travels to Mills on Tuesday and hosts league-leading and undefeated Little Rock Christian Academy on Thursday. North Pulaski hosts winless Helena-West Helena Central on Tuesday and travels to Pulaski Academy on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats outlast tough Panthers

Leader sportswriter

In Friday’s 7A/6A East Conference opener, Cabot did just about all it could to hang with a highly-talented North Little Rock team, but in the second half the Charging Wildcats were simply too much to handle as they won 33-14 at Panther Stadium.

Last week at Conway, Cabot gave up 312 yards rushing in a 10-point loss. North Little Rock, led by standout senior running back Altee Tenpenny, had equal success as the Wildcats racked up 294 yards on the ground. But Cabot was also torched through the air.

Quarterbacks Payton Holmes and Heath Land completed 14 of 17 passes combined for 159 yards and two scores. Cabot’s secondary has had to overcome injuries that started in the summer and the inexperience showed against the Wildcats.

“We lost one last week and his replacement went out quick,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham about the Panthers’ secondary. “So now we’re down to another set. That’s been our weakness in the secondary because of the speed factor. But I thought the kids that played, played hard and they made us miss in the open field some, but good athletes are going to do that.”

Cabot got the ball first and had a promising start. The Panthers’ Dead-T offense melted just over seven minutes off the clock as they marched 15 plays down the field with 14 straight runs. On the final play of the drive with all eleven defenders stacking the box, quarterback Kason Kimbrell found tight end Keith Pledger in between the hash marks for a seven-yard score.

Jesus Marquez kicked the extra point to give Cabot an early 7-0 lead. But it didn’t last. It took North Little Rock just three plays and 54 seconds of clock to score after Tenpenny burst 53 yards down the visiting sideline for the touchdown. The extra point was good and the score was tied at 7.

The Wildcats took the lead on its next possession after Holmes hit junior running back Juan Day on a screen pass. Day took the reception 18 yards into the end zone and after the extra point, NLR led 14-7.

Cabot used some trickery to catch the Wildcats’ defense off guard on the Panthers’ fourth drive. On a fake sweep to Max Carroll, Russ Rankin took the ball and ran 61 yards to the Wildcats’ 10-yard line. Three plays later, Kyle Edgar punched in the score and after the EP the score was tied at 14.

The Panthers’ defense forced a turnover on a fumble by Tenpenny with under two minutes to go in the half, but what happened on Cabot’s ensuing drive changed the game.

Cabot turned the ball over at its own seven-yard line on a failed option pitch.

Three plays later and with 49 seconds to go in the half, Holmes hit tight end Cameron Williams on the opposite side of the field for a six-yard score. Sandy Burks’ extra point was good and North Little Rock led 21-14 at the break.

The Wildcats’ offense picked up where it left off in the second half and found the end zone again on a 13-play drive capped off by a six-yard score from Tenpenny with 6:36 to play in the third. Cabot’s offense tried to answer with 18 straight runs after starting on its own 24. But on fourth and goal inside the 1-yard line, the Panthers were stopped as fullback Zach Launius tried to plow his way into the end zone.

“We came out swinging and I thought our guys controlled the line of scrimmage,” said North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding. “That’s where the game’s going to be won, and we needed to open the holes for our running backs. We have several special kids back there.

“Our defense did a great job. That big fourth down there on the inch-yard line was a huge stop. It kind of stopped the mojo on their side, but hats off to Cabot. What they do is tough to stop.”

Day ran in the final score of the night on a 51-yard run with 6:32 to go in the fourth.

The Wildcats’ offense more than doubled Cabot’s in total yards with 453 to the Panthers’ 224.

Tenpenny led all ball carriers with 174 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

Day totaled 114 yards of offense to go with his two touchdowns. Launius led Cabot’s rushing attack with 81 yards on 18 carries.

Cabot will travel to Marion next Friday to try and get its first win in 7A/6A East play. North Little Rock will host West Memphis.

Friday, September 21, 2012

TOP STORY >> Sheriff hopefuls prepare for Q&A

Leader staff writer

The quarterly meeting of Cabot Chamber of Commerce members set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the National Guard Armory will include a question-and-answer session with the candidates for Lonoke County sheriff.

Prosecutor Chuck Graham said Friday that chamber members have been asked to submit questions. He will sort through them over the weekend to eliminate duplications and add questions of his own if necessary.

Austin Police Chief John Staley, the Republican candidate, and Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Dean White, the Democratic candidate, will be given time for opening statements about their plans for the department before they start answering questions. They will also be given time after the question and answer period if they need it, Graham said.

Staley said Friday that he would like to see the questions beforehand.

“It would be good if we don’t have to stutter and stammer,” he said, adding that he always responds to questions honestly even when he knows his answers may not be popular.

Contacted Friday afternoon for sample questions, a chamber employee said questions were still coming in from members but those questions would not be revealed until the forum.

White said Friday morning that Graham invited him to the lunch saying he would be allowed to tell chamber members about himself and why he wants to be sheriff.

He was a little surprised to learn from the newspaper that he would be required to respond to questions, he said.

“But if they want to ask questions, I don’t have any heartburn with that,” he said, adding that he thought it would be best and also fair to let them take turns being the first to answer. And like Staley, White said, his answers will be honest regardless of what the audience wants to hear.

Staley is a lifelong resident of Ward and an alderman there. He has been in law enforcement since 2000. He has worked as a patrol officer, school-resource officer, field-training officer and chief crisis negotiator for a special response team.

White, who is 15 years older than Staley, has been in law enforcement for 26 years and 22 years of his career was in Lonoke County. He has worked his way through the ranks at the sheriff’s office.

TOP STORY >> City’s beauty pageant turns 25

Leader staff writer

Next Saturday marks the 25th Miss and Mr. Cityfest Pageant in Jacksonville.

The pageant, which started on a flat-bed trailer with 25 contestants, now boasts 80 to 100. This year the pageant will be held at the Jacksonville Community Center.

To celebrate 25 years, a new style of trophy will be presented to winners and the winners of the older categories – Junior Miss and Miss Cityfest – will get round crowns similar to those given at the Miss Arkansas pageant. Unlike a tiara, which has a comb on each side, these crowns encircle the entire head.

Another change to the event includes a former winner, Emily Moler Neal, as emcee. “Her daughter won last year,” said Twitty. “It’s the 25th year and now these girls that were in the pageant 20 years ago have kids in the pageant.” Usually, the previous year’s Miss Cityfest winner emcees the pageant to get some practice in public speaking.

The annual event began in 1987, when Twitty was asked to host a pageant for the Jacksonville Junior Auxiliary. When the Cityfest festival name was changed to Mums, Music and Muscadines, Twitty got permission to continue using the Cityfest name for the pageant. With the cancellation of the Wing Ding festival earlier this year, the Cityfest pageant is now the city’s biggest event, aside from the Christmas Parade.

“It’s always been for charity,” Twitty said. Proceeds from the event benefit the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

A unique aspect of the pageant is that the Junior Miss and Miss Cityfest winners help Twitty and Lisa Bamburg with a Santa Shop for families and patients at Arkansas Children’s Hos-pital who won’t be home for Christmas. Bamburg, who helps Twitty with pageant paperwork, donates all the gifts for the Santa Shop. Families can shop for free. Only the Junior Miss and Miss Cityfest are allowed to help with the Santa Shop due to hospital restrictions.

“A lot of the families we service are there because of cancer, so they have very strict rules,” said Twitty. “It’s kind of emotional at first. You have to be strong for the parents. We’re fortunate to be part of it.”

“We used to do a lot of ribbon cuttings,” Twitty said about winners. “But due to the ribbon cuttings being held during the day, it was hard for the kids to get out of school to do them.”

Some notable pageant winners include Taylor Carlisle McGrew and brothers Daniel and Kris Allen, a winner of American Idol.

The pageant is open to all girls ages 18 and under and boys ages 3 and under. With a couple of exceptions, pageant sponsors are local businesses. Judges do not live in Jacksonville.

To enter, call Twitty at 912-9422 before Thursday.

TOP STORY >> Help solve murder mystery

Leader staff writer

There will be scandalous love affairs, treacherous blackmail and a cold-blooded killer waiting to be discovered by participants who dare to take a stab at solving the Lonoke Country Museum’s “Murder at Old Town” on Thursday and Friday.

The two-hour interactive murder mystery starts at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $15. That price includes a meal of homemade stew and corn bread.

“I’m looking forward to finding out who did it myself. I have no idea,” director Sherryl Miller said about the nonprofit’s fundraiser.

The proceeds will help the museum expand its genealogy room. The new space for that will open up behind Old Town, the scene of the fictitious crime.

Old Town is a large display that features partial, life-size models of Lonoke buildings in the 1800s.

They include a bank, county jail, church, school, hotel, railroad depot, doctor’s office, bakery, blacksmith, millinery — where women bought ribbons, gloves and hats — the W.H. Eagle & Company mercantile store and the McCrary and Co. mercantile store.

The ancestors of state Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke) owned McCrary and Co.

There is even the painted silhouette of a “lady of the night” — a prostitute — on the balcony above the hotel, Miller’s co-worker, Pat Harris, pointed out.

The display include mannequins that represent Lonoke’s historical figures from that time period.

Miller said the museum just added sound effects to the town.

“I like showing off the museum,” she said, explaining that those who attend the murder mystery will find clues scattered throughout the building about who may have committed the fictitious murder.

The clues will be in plain view behind windows containing displays and most will be in Old Town, where the victim’s body will be found.

Miller said some of them will lead the participants in the wrong direction.

There are six suspects. The participants will be provided a picture and biography of each one. The museum did not hire actors for the event.

“The character names are really funny,” Miller said. One them will be a rich man named “Casholotta.”

Some of the suspects are mannequins in the Old Town display, but trying to get a confession out of them won’t do the players much good.

“The character names are really funny,” Miller said, explained that one of them is a rich man named “Casholotta.”

A mannequin wrapped up in a sheet will be the victim. The victim is the wife of a local rancher from the town, according to Harris.

The person who solves the murder will receive a small trophy and certificate. Door prizes will be given out during the event.

Miller said the materials, food and prizes were donated. Volunteers are helping set it up.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

It closes from noon to 1 p.m. every day for lunch.

In addition to Old Town and the genealogy room, the museum has a wildlife display and three-dimensional miniature models dedicated to the Civil War, World War I and World War II.

One of the model is of the Civil War battle at Brownsville, Ark. The Yankees wiped out the entire town. The people from there rebuilt their lives in Lonoke to be closer to the railroad tracks, Miller said.

TOP STORY >> D.C. lobby enters local race

Leader senior staff writer

Secretive Republican Super PACs, like Americans for Prosperity, could spend $250,000 by Election Day to try to foil state Rep. Barry Hyde’s bid for the state Senate in November, Hyde said Friday.

Already they they have sent two mailings attacking him with falsehood and innuendo, he said, spending an estimated $60,000.

And Hyde is just one of at least half-a dozen Democrats targeted around the state, including state Rep. Jim Nickels of Sherwood.

Hyde said residents in his district are receiving dishonest direct-mail fliers from the Washington-area Super PAC using misleading information accusing him of voting for what it calls the expensive Affordable Care Act and suggesting voters call him to express their displeasure.

“While we need genuine reform, we can’t afford the president’s trillions and send more of our healthcare decisions to Washington,” the flier read. “So why did Barry Hyde support President Obama’s Healthcare Plan?”

Hyde may or may not personally support the Affordable Care Act, he said, but it’s the law now. Neither he nor any other state legislator voted for it, he said. That was the job of Congress.

The fliers don’t mention his opponent, state Rep. Jane English, a Republican, who recently moved into the district from north Pulaski County.

Hyde, a North Little Rock Democrat, and English are seeking the seat vacated by state Sen. Mary Ann Salmon, who is term limited.

English said neither she nor her campaign was consulted on the attack from the conservative out-of-state PAC that is the political arm of the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch founded the Tea Party movement.

“I’ve not seen any of those things,” English said Friday of the fliers. “I never received a copy.”

“I have no control over that. I’ve done my own mailouts, Barry has — lots of folks on all sides. It’s the political season.”

Neither Hyde, Nickels nor any other state legislator in Arkansas voted for the Affordable Care Act — some call it Obamacare. It was an act passed by Congress, signed by the president and found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Every allegation is poorly researched and far out there,” Hyde said. “They aren’t trying to pass facts on; they want to mislead. They want voters to think a vote against Barry Hyde is a vote against Barack Obama.” State Democratic Party chairman Will Bond said, “They are trying to nationalize local elections.”

According to Candace Martin, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, “These PACS share one thing in common. They don’t have any accountability to the public; they don’t have to disclose donors and they don’t have to check any of their facts.

“We’ve seen some mailings throughout the state,” Martin said. “Previous ones have been criticized in the media for being misleading in nature. But they mail regardless of whether or not they have a commitment to the truth.”

From that flier attacking Hyde: “The simple truth Arkansas can’t afford Pres. Obama’s health-care plan, so why did Barry Hyde vote to support it? On March 29, 2011, Barry Hyde voted for House Bill 1226 spending millions to set up the key part of Pres. Obama’s health-care plan in the state of Arkansas.”

House Bill 1226 was the annual funding bill for the state Insurance Department, and some Republicans threatened to scuttle the bill — which they could do with 25 votes — unless the Democratic leadership agreed not to include about $1 million to study state implementation of health exchanges, Hyde said.

“The connection they are trying to draw is that the department obtained a $1 million grant to study health-care exchanges — required by the Affordable Care Act,” Hyde said.

“If there has to be an exchange we should do it in Arkansas,” Hyde said. “We want Arkansans in charge of Arkansas’ health care. We are sure Arkansans would be more frugal in developing the exchange. Since we didn’t vote to study a local exchange, it will be done in Washington, D.C. by default, he said.

He said English didn’t vote for it — or against it. She abstained.

“I voted for the appropriation for the insurance department, but half of the Republicans voted as well to approve department of insurance,” Hyde said.


“It’s very dangerous when out-of-state billionaires try to take over the Arkansas Legislature,” Nickels said Friday.

He said that in the previous mailer, Americans for Prosperity said he and other Democrats had voted for a diesel tax.

“We didn’t vote for the diesel tax. We voted on whether to let the people tax themselves a quarter-penny for better roads,” Nickels said. That referred act will be before voters on the November ballot.

“The only thing correct on that flier was my name and phone number,” he said. Of the few constituents who called, most were supportive after he explained the situation to them.

EDITORIAL >> Best schools in spotlight

Too often when schools are in the news, it’s for a negative reason. It happens not only here, but across the country. So it was with great pride when The Leader last week spread the word about five top achieving schools in the area.

What made the report truly stand out is that the rankings were based on student performance, not the size of lesson plans or the amount of documentation or how well the principal met deadlines. No, this ranking by the University of Arkansas’ Office of Educational Policy was an unbiased look at the important stuff — student achievement.

It was unbiased in that this group didn’t know a Pulaski County Special School District fiasco from a PCSSD ruckus — it had blinders on, allowing it to focus solely on Benchmark test scores.

Not only did the report take the information provided by the state, but it delved into it even further. The thinking was if two schools were both 90 percent proficient or better, which school was the better one? One school could have had all its students in the proficient range, which is very good, while the other could have all of its students in the advanced range, even better, yet both would look the same on paper.

With this in mind, the Office of Educational Policy developed the GPA or grade-point average method of looking at the Benchmark scores. Students were assigned a number from one through four based on their test scores: Advanced received four points, proficient was worth three points, basic was awarded two points and below basic got just a point. In this way, the OEP could really see what schools were doing.

Using the GPA method, the group saw that Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base and Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot were doing an outstanding job.

Ninety-five percent of Arnold Drive’s third, fourth and fifth graders scored proficient or advanced on the literacy and math portions of the 2011-2012 Benchmark exams, nearly perfect, and that equated to a GPA of 3.71, cum laude honors at any high school or college.

Those scores helped rank Arnold Drive as the 16th best elementary school in the state. Looking even closer, because of matching GPA rankings, the school was actually tied for 10th best in the state, just 0.15 of a percent out of first place, amazing!

Stagecoach was ranked the 21st best school in the state with 94 percent of its students scoring proficient or better on the Benchmark exams, which equated to a GPA of 3.68. Again, because of identical GPAs among the leaders, Stagecoach was actually tied for 13th place — news that should elate everyone.

There was also good news at the middle- school level, where Ahlf Junior High in Searcy and Cabot Middle School South tied with identical percentages and GPAs. Both schools had 89 percent of their students scoring proficient or advanced, which equated to a GPA of 3.43. Those numbers put them in a tie for the 12th best school in the state, but because of other ties among the leaders, the listing shows Ahlf as the 14th best middle school and Cabot as the 15th.

Another school in Searcy, Southwest Middle School, also made the top 25 list, coming in 21st with 87 percent proficient or advanced and a GPA of 3.41.

Congratulations to all the students, teachers and staff for an outstanding job. We are proud of them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

EDITORIAL >> We are all Americans

In honor of Constitution Week, here are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks at the transfer of remains ceremony for four State Department personnel who were murdered last week in Benghazi, Libya.

The speech was given at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Friday.

Secretary Clinton is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which lobbied Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower to create Constitution Week in 1956.

Secretary Clinton:

Today we bring home four Americans who gave their lives for our country and our values. To the families of our fallen colleagues, I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest gratitude.

Sean Smith joined the State Department after six years in the Air Force. He was respected as an expert on technology by colleagues in Pretoria, Baghdad, Montreal and The Hague. He enrolled in correspondence courses at Penn State and had high hopes for the future.

Sean leaves behind a loving wife Heather, two young children, Samantha and Nathan, and scores of grieving family, friends and colleagues.

Tyrone Woods, known to most as Rone, spent two decades as a Navy SEAL, serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts, from Central America to the Middle East. He had the hands of a healer as well as the arms of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic.

Our hearts go out to Tyrone’s wife, Dorothy, and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter and Kai, born just a few months ago, along with his grieving family, friends and colleagues.

Glen Doherty, who went by Bub, was also a former SEAL and an experienced paramedic. He too died as he lived, serving his country and protecting his colleagues.

Glen deployed to some of the most dangerous places on Earth, including Iraq and Afghanistan, always putting his life on the line to safeguard other Americans. Our thoughts and prayers are with Glen’s father Bernard; his mother, Barbara; his brother, Gregory, and his sister, Kathleen.

I was honored to know Ambassador Chris Stevens. Over his distinguished career in the Foreign Service, Chris won friends for the United States in far-flung places. He made those people’s hopes his own.

During the revolution in Libya, he risked his life to help protect the Libyan people from a tyrant, and he gave his life helping them build a better country.

People loved to work with Chris. And as he rose through the ranks, they loved to work for Chris. He was known not only for his courage but for his smile – goofy but contagious – for his sense of fun and that California cool.

In the days since the attack, so many Libyans – including the Ambassador from Libya to the United States – have expressed their sorrow and solidarity. One young woman, her head covered and her eyes haunted with sadness, held up a handwritten sign that said “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam.”

This has been a difficult week for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men.

We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.

The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.

There will be more difficult days ahead, but it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fundamental fact that America must keep leading the world.

We owe it to those four men to continue the long, hard work of diplomacy. I am enormously proud of the men and women of the State Department. I’m proud of all those across our government, civilian and military alike, who represent America abroad. They help make the United States the greatest force for peace, progress and human dignity the world has ever known.

If the last few days teach us anything, let it be this: That this work and the men and women who risk their lives to do it are at the heart of what makes America great and good.

So we will wipe away our tears, stiffen our spines and face the future undaunted. And we will do it together, protecting and helping one another, just like Sean, Tyrone, Glen and Chris always did.

May God bless them and grant their families peace and solace, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

TOP STORY >> Memories stay alive in old-timers’ group

Leader executive editor

The old-timers meet most afternoons at McDonald’s inside the Jacksonville Walmart.

Most people just walk past the small corner restaurant as they enter the store. But if they looked left, they’d see a handful of older men and a couple of their wives seated near the middle, talking quietly about old times and politics and troubling news from around the world.

The oldest in the group is 93 and the youngest is 75. The group includes veterans of three wars: the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam.

The men might not hear as well as they used to, and they all have medical problems, but they’re sharp mentally and are as trim as they must have looked 60 years ago.

“This used to be a much bigger group,” somebody says.

They used to celebrate their birthdays with cakes and candles. But now they joke they need so many candles, they’re a fire hazard, so no more cakes or candles.

About 35 seniors belonged to the group when they first started meeting more than 20 years ago in the old Walmart across the highway.

Now only six or seven show up on most days, some with their wives, who sometimes go shopping while their husbands talk. Some of them are widowers, so hanging out offers them companionship and a chance to gossip.

“Our day’s not complete if we don’t meet here,” somebody says.

This may be the last generation that gets together without iPhones or texting. Over coffee and tea, they discuss the election and turmoil in the Middle East. Sometimes there’s just quiet, as if they are lost in their thoughts, thinking about starting out life almost a century ago.

Odes Goodsell, who is 83, and his family all worked at the Jacksonville ordnance plant during the Second World War when he was 16.

He was born in a shack on Republican Road north of Jacksonville in 1929. “A bootlegger’s wife delivered me,” he says.

Many of them met their wives while they were in the military. Bob Hall, who at 93 is the oldest in the group, met his wife, Doris, at the Pine Bluff Arsenal during the Second World War. He was from Michigan and she was from Nashville (Howard County).

He is a retired school superintendent and a prolific letter writer to newspapers.

Hall wrote recently about growing up poor, like most everyone else in his old-timers’ group: “We were living in a small community in northern Michigan and owned our home (purchased for $400).”

His father died in 1929, a few months before the Depression started, leaving his mother to raise three boys. She sold woolen socks door to door. They grew their own vegetables, and Bob had a paper route.

Then they hit the jackpot in the 1930s: “During my junior year in high school, my father’s mother, who lived in California, died and left each of us boys $300,” Hall recalled.

“All three of us decided to go to college. After the first year, both of my brothers decided to take other full-time jobs. I stuck with it for four years, graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree. During those years, I held down three part-time jobs while carrying a full academic load. It didn’t hurt me one bit.”

He’s an unabashed liberal and a New Deal supporter. Although he gets some ribbing for his left-leaning views, most of the group grew up benefiting from the New Deal’s many programs, including health care, Social Security and more.

They or their families had jobs with the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.

“They were the backbone of the military,” says T.P. White, who, at 91, is the second oldest in the group.

He says his initials don’t stand for anything, but when he went to work for Douglas Aircraft in California 70 years ago, they said he needed a first name, and he came up with Thomas.

White just had facial surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and was wearing a bandage on the left side of his face.

He talks about growing up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and moving to California with his family when the war started.

White moved here after the Second World War and helped demobilize Camp Robinson. The only place he could rent a home was in Jacksonville, and he’s been here ever since.

The city named the access road along Hwy. 67/167 T.P. White Drive. A retired car dealer, he was an alderman and was on the Jacksonville Planning Commission for 34 years. He helped plan new subdivisions and Hwy. 67/167, which was built in the 1960s.

He’s frustrated that the North Belt is still not completed, although it was on the drawing board when he served on the planning commission.

Dana Browning, 80, a Korean War veteran and a former ROTC instructor at Jacksonville High School, is from West Virginia. He met his wife, Fran, when he was stationed in Amarillo, Texas.

Delano Jolly, 75, also met his wife, Sharon, when he was stationed in Texas before heading out to Vietnam in 1964. He was there, on and off, until 1970.

“It was dangerous for those military boys to go to Texas. They’d get captured,” says White, grinning.

Jolly used to fly on reconnaissance planes in Vietnam. Six years ago, he was inducted into the Hall of Honor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“Others here deserve that honor,” says Jolly, who’s originally from South Carolina. “We used to be the strongest military in the world. Now we’re weak.”

“We’re all Republicans,” somebody says.

“No, I’m not,” White says. “I’m not obligated to any party. I vote both ways.”

“This is the sloppiest (presidential) campaign I’ve seen in 70 years,” says Jolly.

But nobody gets upset in this group. Looking back on his long life, Bob Hall says, “I can’t complain about the way they treated me.”

TOP STORY >> Help save young Tanner

 Tanner Varnadore's cancer returned weeks before school started.
He plays alone because treatments compromise his immune system.

Leader staff writer

Tanner Varnadore, a first-grader at Magness Creek Elementary in Cabot, has battled acute lymphocytic leukemia for three of his six years.

He’s never really known life without a port for the drugs he gets every month to keep the cancer at bay.

This summer, his family was hopeful that he had been cured but tests at the end of July showed that not only was the cancer no longer in remission, it was more aggressive than before.

Now, his only hope for a normal life is a bone marrow transplant in December at a hospital in Texas. But his family needs help from the community to cover expenses during the four or five months he and his mother will have to stay in Texas.

A family friend, Phil Taylor, is organizing a catfish dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at the Cabot Junior High North cafeteria to raise money for the trip.

Tickets are $10 each for catfish and chicken strips with all the usual side dishes prepared by Crossroads Café and Catering.

Dinner will be served from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Local singers including Glen and Leigh Pool and Tiffany Taylor, daughter of Arkansas Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, will perform.

The event will also include a silent auction. So far the items to be auctioned include a shotgun with case, floral arrangements, a children’s party with a space walk and balloons, golf at Greystone including the cart and two duck hunting trips to DeWitt.

Kathy Thomas, Tanner’s maternal grandmother, says Tanner has always been a good sport about the treatments he must have to survive.

“He doesn’t cry. He likes his doctor and he has a favorite nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital,” she said.

During the times when his immune system is so compromised from the chemo drugs that he can’t be around other people, even his younger and older brother, he plays alone.

Thomas said she hopes the guests at the dinner will include some of the soldiers from the local armory. Tanner loves playing with his collection of plastic soldiers and he would be thrilled to spend time with real ones.

The cancer returned just weeks before school started. Tanner enrolled, but he doesn’t go to school. His teacher comes to him three days a week.

His treatment in Texas will begin as soon as a bone marrow donor is found and a bed is available. And as soon as possible after the treatment, he will start his school work again so he doesn’t fall behind.

“He’s smart,” his grandmother said. “He’s like a sponge. Anything you tell him, he just gets it.”

All tickets must be sold by Sept. 28. Donations for the auction are needed. For more information or tickets, call 501-454-9184, 501-454-8564 or 501-743-1321.

TOP STORY >> Code unit to focus on businesses

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville code enforcement officers are shifting their focus from residential to commercial properties and say they’re trying to work with people instead of against them.

Code enforcement was reassigned to the police department in December and took on a new approach. The code officers now patrol sections of the city rather than responding when complaints alert them of a violation.

Code enforcement officer Charles Jenkins said his department has issued 11 warnings and citations in the past six months, an average of two per month.

The Leader has received several letters complaining about the department’s efforts to clean up the city and questioning whether the city is tiptoeing around businesses that are violating the ordinances.

Jenkins said, “Anytime you have change, even change for the better, you have folks who are unhappy with the change and we understand that. A lot of times when I talk to them what I say isn’t what I would want to hear either.”

But, he added, “If you take the time to communicate and just tell them to do something, but explain why, most people will understand.”

He also said the department has seen an increase in residents calling to let them know that a neighbor may be violating a city code. The officers have “cultivated a sense of immediate response,” Jenkins said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “They can’t let those negative comments keep them from doing their jobs. It’s an election year and a lot of this is politically motivated. There are enough positive things happening in this city and in our schools that I don’t want to get lost in the negative thoughts of a few people. The vast majority has appreciated it.”

He said a least one Cabot resident has called the city to say Jacksonville is looking better and he hasn’t heard from any of the letter writers. Fletcher said Jacksonville residents with negative or positive input could easily reach him at his office.

He added that code violators who are physically or financially unable to bring their properties up to code could turn to many of the city’s churches for help.

Jenkins explained that some residents might be confusing a warning with a ticket because both are left on their windshield if their car is parked on the street or looks inoperable. A warning is orange. A citation is green and it’s the department’s last resort, he said.

Fletcher said the city has demolished 38 buildings since the new initiative.

Jenkins said, “I think people have the wrong perception of Code Enforcement. They think we’re just out looking for opportunities to make life difficult for people and nothing could be further from the truth. We’re actually trying to make life better for everybody.”

He said, “Our first priority has been residential areas because that’s where initially we saw the most need. They’re where the bulk of it was. Now we’re getting into the commercial areas.”

Fletcher said, “Nobody is getting any less attention than anyone else. We don’t play those games.”

Jenkins said violations at businesses are just more noticeable to the public because the businesses are located on busy thoroughfares.

Jenkins said recently code enforcement asked the owners of the closed Joe’s Coffee Legends at 1930 W. Main St. to fix the front of the building because it was falling down and infested with “critters,” like a family of possums.

He said the owners tore it down and paid for the repairs.

The owner of the closed KFC Restaurant on North First Street lives in California and is in litigation with the chain, Jenkins said, citing another example.

Code enforcement can’t legally do anything to that property with the exception of immediate safety issues. They can board up windows, but doing much else is usually out of the question.

The officers often encounter residential properties, many of them rental homes, which are owned by someone who lives out of state. That is even more common when dealing with businesses, Jenkins said.

In those cases, it is more difficult for code enforcement officers to contact someone to get the property up to code, he said. That condition delays how fast the officers can act, Jenkins said.

He said he was confused about one of the letters that appeared in The Leader recently. It mentioned windows being inspected for energy efficiencies.

Jenkins said his department has nothing to do with that. The only time the officers look at windows is when they are broken or unsafe in some other way. He said how efficient the windows are should be decided by the homeowner.

He said another issue residents have voiced concerns about is parking.

Jenkins said Little Rock code states that people can’t park in yards and they are allowed to park in the street.

It’s the reverse here, he said.

Jacksonville residents are allowed to park in their yard, parallel to their driveways, but they are not permitted to continuously park on the street.

According to Jenkins, people can’t “play musical cars” by parking different vehicles at different houses.

The “continuously” applies to the action of parking on the street rather than being attached to the car, he said.

Visitors can park on the street for a couple of hours, but it can’t be there for hours several days in a row. Code enforcement officers don’t work on the weekends, Jenkins added.

He also said people don’t realize how long it takes the city to take care of an unsafe building. In March, he showed The Leader a house on Stevenson Street. The inside had been destroyed in a fire. The demolition of that house is set for this week.

TOP STORY >> Principal’s firing upheld by judge

Leader staff writer

Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore on Monday upheld the Cabot School Board’s decision to fire former Northside Elementary principal Suzanne Proctor.

Proctor went on vacation last September without notifying the central office as district policy requires.

Because of that ruling, Proctor’s petition for reinstatement, damages and attorney’s fees were denied.

The ruling came the day before the election for school board. Proctor, now a high school English resource teacher in Little Rock, ran for Position 3 and lost to Mark Russell.

The judge said in her ruling that the board’s decision to fire Proctor for knowingly leaving her building with no administrator in charge was “supported on a rational basis, and therefore was not arbitrary and capricious” and that there was no evidence that the termination was discriminatory.

Proctor was notified on Sept. 9, 2011, that she was suspended with pay and that Dr. Tony Thurman, district superintendent, would recommend her termination to the school board.

She appealed that decision during a school board hearing last October. Her request during that hearing for more time to prepare was denied. And even though her attorney said the board room was so small that people had to stand in the hall and therefore the hearing was not open to the public as Proctor requested, the judge ruled that it was.

Proctor was out of her building three days last year: Sept. 1, 2 and 6.

For the first two days, the assistant principal was also away, and the school counselor was presumably the person in charge.

The period when Proctor was away from her building was the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. Testimony during the October 2011 school board hearing revealed that the trip with a friend was scheduled several days in advance, in plenty of time for her to notify Thurman that she would be gone.

Any woman would have done the same thing, she said. It was better to go away than stay home and wallow in self-pity, Proctor said during the school board hearing. Her only mistake was violating Thurman’s notification policy, she said. She believed that her staff was capable of carrying on in her absence.

But the school board ruled that her absence jeopardized the safety and well being of students and that her firing was justified.

By ruling against Proctor, the judge upheld that contention.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies play well at Russellville

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panther volleyball team enjoyed a relatively successful weekend at the 12-team Russellville tournament. The Lady Panthers finished fifth overall after taking a two seed out of pool play and into the bracketed tournament.

Cabot started out playing nearby rival Lonoke and beat the Lady Jackrabbits 25-19 and 25-23. They then split with Springdale, winning game one 25-21 and losing game two 19-25. Afterwards they faced tournament host Russellville and lost 22-25 and 19-25.

“We played pretty decent I guess,” Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell said. “We won more games than we lost and we didn’t go home early. I’d like for us to get over that hump and really beat one of those 7A teams, but we’re getting closer and closer. We split our two games with Springdale but we got the higher seed in the tournament because we scored more overall points than they did. We played Russellville a lot closer than they did.”

Cabot went to bracket play and beat another 7A team and conference rival Little Rock Central. The Lady Panthers won the match 25-14 twice, but Campbell warns that the Lady Tigers will be a different team when Cabot goes to Central on Thursday.

“They didn’t look like they were giving their best effort,” Campbell said. “They had a kid go out with a concussion that had to go to the hospital. They didn’t look like they wanted to be there anymore. It was just a bad weekend all around for them. They’re going to be much tougher when we go there on Thursday and we’d better be ready for that.”

The Lady Panthers were knocked out of the tournament in a 2-1 loss to Bryant. While Cabot wasn’t happy about losing, it was significant that the Lady Panthers became the first squad to take a game off the Lady Hornets this season.

“She told me they had beaten everyone in three games,” Campbell said of Bryant’s coach. “They’re tall and athletic and have a senior lineup, so it was great for us to really dominate that one game.”

Scores in the match were 19-25, 25-16 and 8-15 for Bryant. The lost game against Cabot was a sign of things to come for the Hornets. Bryant went to sweep Russellville in the semifinals, but lost the tournament championship match in three games to Mount St. Mary’s.

The Lady Panthers played host to Mountain Home last night. Look for details of that match and Thursday’s match at Central in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORT STORY >> Carlisle taking on improved Patriots

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s homecoming ceremonies will take place on Friday when the Bison kickoff 6-2A Conference play against Palestine-Wheatley at Fred C. Hardke Field.

The Bison (2-0) pulled off a dramatic 22-18 win last week at class 3A Osceola to finish its non-conference schedule.

This week’s challenge won’t be as daunting for Carlisle, but the Patriots have improved from last year’s 1-9 squad with a solid group of sophomores.

“Palestine’s a little better than they were last year,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire. “They have some young guys, and have a pretty good group from junior high last year. They’re playing some young linemen, but have two senior backs that they lead with.

“It’s one of those things where we’re going to come out and worry about us right now, because we have some things we need to work on to get better as a team. So those will be the things we’ll focus on this week.”

When asked what the team needs to work on in particular this week, one of the main things Waymire pointed out was finding players to step up and contribute. Injuries have already had an effect on Carlisle’s starters this season, and with some ofits key players banged up, more will be asked of the Bison’s underclassmen.

“We’re getting some of our younger guys some reps to get ready for (Palestine-Wheatley),” Waymire said. “We’re trying to get our number twos ready to go, because now some of our number twos were number three before we started the season. The injury bug’s got us, and we’re just trying to get solid two-deep.”

Junior all-state running back Bo Weddle was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in week two against Mountain Pine. Fellow junior Deron Ricks has carried the load for the Bison since Weddle’s injury.

Last week against the Seminoles, Ricks rushed 19 times for 137 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown. Versatile junior Justice Bryant splits time at receiver and running back on offense. Last week, Bryant contributed in the backfield with 14 carries for 44 yards.

Waymire mentioned that Jordan Sheets and a couple of sophomores could get plenty of reps this week at running back as well. Palestine-Wheatley (1-2) has already matched its win total from a year ago after beating class 3A’s Drew Central 44-20 in week two. Last week the Patriots lost to Piggott 36-6.

“They’re physical and they execute real well,” said Palestine-Wheatley coach Charles Sartin of Carlisle. “They have a lot of experience. Even without Bo they’re the team to beat and everybody knows it. We’re going to try to survive and get past them so we can move on to somebody we can handle.”

If the Bison hope to win big on Friday, the defense will have to focus on senior running backs Gabe Harris and Desmond Ray, who complement each other in the backfield. Harris rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown last year at East Poinsett County. Ray earned all-conference honors in 2011 after rushing for more than 800 yards as a junior.

“We’re better than we were last year,” Sartin said. “Most of the junior high kids moved up and they’re young and inexperienced, but we’re learning and we’re getting a little better every week.”

The Patriots’ numbers are up this year as well. Although Palestine-Wheatley doesn’t have as much depth as Carlisle – even with the number of injuries the Bison have had thus far – 22 players are on this year’s squad. In recent years, the Patriots average around 17.

Carlisle is too skilled all-around to have much trouble with Palestine-Wheatley. But with this week being homecoming, Waymire wants his team to stay focused on the task-at-hand, and not look ahead or get caught up in the festivities.

“One thing we’ll never do is take any opponent lightly or underestimate them,” Waymire said, “because I think that coach Sartin and his staff have gotten better. And they’re turning the corner. Last year they beat us in junior high. So their 10th-graders have a little confidence since beating us.

“We just have to come out and play. If we don’t come out and do our thing it doesn’t matter if we play Palestine or Osceola, we can get beat on any given night. So we’re going to focus on the things we need to do, and go from there.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits’ and Panthers’ seasons alike

Leader sportswriter

There have been a lot of similarities between Lonoke and Heber Springs early in the 2012 season.

Both teams lost their respective season openers to beatable teams, both had their week-two games washed away at halftime, and both the Jackrabbits and Panthers picked up their first wins of the season last week in 38-6 blowouts.

Those similarities will end this Friday when the Panthers visit James B. Abraham Stadium in Lonoke to begin the 4A-2 Conference schedule.

Offensive philosophy is another similarity between the two teams. Lonoke and Heber Springs are both based in a spread offense with the ability to go Wildcat at any time. For the Jackrabbits, that means using senior receiver D.J. Burton behind center, and for the Panthers, it’s senior receiver Clint Ligon.

“I think we’re very similar,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “Both teams can run it or throw it.”

Heber Springs has the ability to go multiple offensively with a number of different passing and running formations. It could be the toughest test yet fora Lonoke defense that has shown drastic improvement after giving up 44 points to Star City in the season opener.

“We made a couple of personnel adjustments,” Bost said of the defense. “And after that first week, we came back and did a lot of hitting. We also changed a couple of things scheme wise to help with the new people who were in there, and so far, it’s worked out. Going up against about 15 different formations this week, it’s going to be important for them to recognize each one and be able to react to it.”

Lonoke enjoyed a balanced night offensively in last Friday’s big victory over Little Rock McClellan. Junior quarterback Grant Dewey completed 11 of 15 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, while senior tailback Eric Williams carried 20 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns. On the receiving end, junior Blake Mack had five receptions for 112 yards and three touchdowns.

Leading the way defensively on Friday was defensive tackle Bubba Lewis, who recorded a sack along with being a leading tackler, and cornerback Kenny Simpson, who was in position to defend the pass all night, and even had a chance at a couple of interceptions.

“I was really proud of the way the kids came out in the first half,” Bost said. “The defense really came to play and held their offense to zero points in the first half.”

The 4A-2 Conference has been considered deep for a long time, and with the addition of Dollarway High School this season, it has made a tough league even tougher. The Panthers and Jackrabbits have usually been in the mix when it comes to determining playoff spots, making this game an important one for both schools.

“The way this conference is from top to bottom, every game is important,” Bost said. “We hope to have a good week of practice to get ready. Our seniors know how important conference games are, and we told them Saturday that it all starts on Monday to get ready for conference.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville excited to be at home

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils have officially played one home game this season, but they’ll technically be playing their home opener when they host Helena-West Helena Central this Friday to also open conference play. Jacksonville’s season opener at War Memorial Stadium counted as a home game for the Red Devils, but this week’s matchup against the Cougars will be the first game the team plays on its actual home field at Jan Crow Stadium.

The Red Devils saw drastic improvement in their ability to move the ball up and down the field in last week’s win over the Maumelle Hornets. As they open conference play this week at home against Helena-West Helena Central, they’ll need to work on completing those drives and getting the ball into the end zone.

Despite 404 total yards, Jacksonville scored just12 points in last week’s win. Quarterback Aaron Smith had his best game so far this season, running the spread option read to near perfection. He finished with 30 carries for 185 yards. He also passed for 162 yards. His best target was senior Kevin Richardson, who also had his best game, finishing with four catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.

“Those two guys, since the beginning of spring ball, have been our two go-to guys,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “We’ve seen some other guys step up, but we’ve been waiting for those two to break out. They’re seniors. They’re leaders on this football team and we need them to play like that for us to be at our best. That was great to see. Aaron was phenomenal. He made great reads, great decisions, great cuts. His performance Friday night was one of the best in the state. Our offense is getting better and better and when he makes good decisions, it can be hard to stop.”

There was still the problem with punching into the end zone. Russell believes he’s seen a work in progress so far, and expects that to continue this week.

“We’re going to have to play a complete game against a good team like Helena,” Russell said. “I think we played about 26 minutes of good football against Cabot, about 32 minutes against Benton and maybe 40 at Maumelle. So we’re getting closer to be where we want to be, and we’re going to be looking for a full 48 minutes this week. It’s conference time and that’s when you need to be at your best. That’s what those first three games are for, to get ready for this right here.”

Like Jacksonville, Helena-West Helena Central enters the game 1-2 against nonconference opponents. The Cougars have had very mixed results so far. The last two weeks have seen Central pitch a 41-0 shutout against Marianna, then lose 43-0 to 5A powerhouse Wynne. Russell doesn’t bother with what they’ve done so far.

“Helena is going to be big up front,” Russell said. “They’re going to have speed. Their wide receivers are definitely threats. The quarterback is mobile and executes the screens very well. We’re going to have to play great technique every play on defense. If there’s 80 plays in a game, we can do everything perfect for 75 of them, and Helena is the kind of team that can score four or five touchdowns on those other plays from anywhere on the field.”

Russell is more comfortable with the prospects of his team doing that after last week. The Red Devils held an athletic Maumelle team to just 185 total yards and one touchdown after giving up several big plays in a loss at Benton the week before.

“Anytime your opponent has athletes that can run, you can’t let them get started,” Russell said. “You have to stop them before they get to full speed. So we’re going to have to tackle well and get 11 hats on the football. I think we did a pretty good job of that for the most part at Maumelle. We’re going to have to be even better against Helena.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hosting Wildcats

Leader sports editor

One of the key tenants of football is to have a short memory. Things go wrong and you have to learn not to dwell on it and move on. When things go right, you have to learn not to bask in it and move on. When Cabot hosts North Little Rock on Friday to open 7A/6A East conference play, each team will be in one of those modes.

The home team will have to forget about the penalties, mistakes and turnovers that cost it a chance to beat rival Conway last Friday, while North Little Rock must guard against getting too comfortable after putting on its best performance to date in a 47-10 shellacking of a talented Pine Bluff team.

The Panthers are averaging about 360 yards per game, almost all on the ground, but in its first defeat last week, thwarted its own drives with procedure penalties, fumbled snaps and dropped passes.

“We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” Malham said of his team’s 31-21 loss. “We got down there close to the end zone a few times, got a couple of procedure penalties in a row, a fumbled snap. We had second and five and ended up with third and fifteen. Then of course we had the dropped pass in the end zone. You just can’t make mistakes like that and expect to beat good teams. We’ve got to move forward now and get some things corrected.”

North Little Rock gave up two long drives to start the game, but held the Zebras out of the end zone and gave up just three points. After making an adjustment, the Charging Wildcats dominated the rest of the game, scoring 47 unanswered points before giving up a mop-up touchdown late in the game.

The Wildcats were coming off a bad performance in its only loss of the season at Longview, Texas, so head coach Brad Bolding knows his team can’t afford to become overconfident.

“We keep it pretty low key,” Bolding said. “We don’t get too rambunctious. We’ve had a couple of letdowns where I don’t think we’ve kept the intensity up and we’ve worked on that I think we have that corrected.”

Cabot will also try to forget about last season’s game against North Little Rock. The Wildcats won that game 48-0 after leading just 7-0 with three minutes left in the first half.

Cabot fumbled the ball in the red zone then gave up a big play on the ensuing snap. The Panthers then fumbled the kickoff and gave up another score right before halftime.

Malham calls the last two quarters of that game the “worst half of Cabot football I’ve seen in a quite a while.”

That game, though, was the beginning of a turnaround for the Panthers. The offense began to perform well from that point and they entered last week’s game on a four-game winning streak.

“We started looking a lot better after that game last year,” Malham said. “This year I thought we’d made some significant improvement each game up until this last one. This one I almost want to say we took a step backwards. Hopefully we can get rid of some mistakes and give North Little Rock a run for their money.”

Conway beat Cabot on the ground. Running back Jeff Anderson carried 35 times for 210 yards as the Wampus Cats moved it up and down the field.

“They had a good running game and did to us what we like to do to people,” Malham said. “They held onto the ball and forced us to make plays when we had the chance. Both teams were up and down the field, they just got it in more times than we did.”

Conway’s success running the ball is a concern for Malham.

“It is a concern and it’s something we’re going to have to get better at because North Little Rock has just as many, probably more weapons than Conway,” Malham said. “(Altee) Tenpenny is not the only weapon they have. He didn’t even play against us last year and they’ve got them all back from last year too. It’s going to be a challenge to stop them but we’re going to do whatever we need to do to score points.”

Stopping Cabot’s offense has become a difficult task for opponents, even more difficult now that almost no one runs the same offense as the Panthers. North Little Rock did a superb job of stopping it last year, and Bolding believes it’s partly due to his team’s ability to simulate it in practice.

“We simulate it fairly well I think,” Bolding said. “From the standpoint that we have some big physical guys that give us a good look. We’ll work it about as well as we can but you’re never going to get it perfect. Other than we don’t really change up a lot of things as far as what we do in practice. The things we’re focusing on are the mental errors and mistakes we’re still making. Watching film of ourselves, there is still a lot of correcting that we need to do. So our main focus is really on ourselves. There are a few adjustments you have to make when you play a team like that, but we feel like if we can eliminate our own mistakes we can be pretty good. Our starting defense has only had 13 points scored on them all year, and really just six if you don’t count that bogus touchdown they gave Longview. These kids have a really nasty mentality. They like to get in there and mix it up. We like our defense.”