Saturday, October 13, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> North Little Rock cruises against Searcy

Leader sportswriter

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats showed why they’re the team to beat in the 7A/6A East after handing Searcy its first loss in conference play with a dominant 42-13 win Friday at Lion Stadium.

Searcy and North Little Rock entered the game as the only unbeaten teams left in the conference with a perfect 3-0 record, but the Charging Wildcats’ win puts them in the driver’s seat for a top seed once the playoff picture unfolds.

North Little Rock started the game with an onside kick attempt, but failed to cover it, and as a result the Lions started at the 50 yard line. Searcy’s offense had little trouble moving the ball early, but once the Lions got into the red zone, the North Little Rock defense held them to a 26-yard field goal.

Unfortunately for Searcy (4-3, 3-1), the lead didn’t last long. North Little Rock sophomore returner Fabian Lewis received the kickoff at the Wildcats’ 5-yard line, and ran in between the hash marks where he handed the ball to Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny. Tenpenny found some blockers and raced down the Wildcats’ sideline 90 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Sandy Burks’ extra point was good to give North Little Rock a 7-3 lead.

Searcy’s offense was able to follow with a promising 12-play drive, but once again had to settle for a field goal, this one from 39 yards. After that, the Lions’ offense struggled to move the ball offensively for the remainder of the game. North Little Rock’s offense on the other hand didn’t have any trouble.

On the Wildcats’ second possession, Tenpenny capped off a six-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 6:45 to go in the opening half. The extra point gave North Little Rock a 14-6 lead.

“Early they were able to move the ball on us,” said North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding about Searcy. “We knew they were going to come out with a lot of emotion, and be excited, but our kids just stayed with the game plan. We made some tweaks on defense, and we just stuck to what we always do.

“It’s not about the opponent we’re playing. It’s about how we execute what our game plan is, and that’s what we make a big deal out of.”

North Little Rock was able to score again with 29 seconds to go in the half on another touchdown run from Tenpenny, this one from five yards out to make the score 21-6. Searcy’s offense tried to make something happen before halftime, but Lions’ quarterback Antwan Arnold was mauled by a group of Wildcat defenders as the horn sounded.

Arnold was sacked by the Wildcat defense three times in the opening half, and it didn’t get any better for him in the final two quarters as he was taken down four more times. Meanwhile, the North Little Rock offense kept the momentum going.

The Wildcats’ balanced attack was very effective against the Searcy defense, and North Little Rock scored on its next three drives to put the sportsmanship rule into play.

Tenpenny punched in his third rushing score of the game on a two-yard run with 8:06 to go in the third quarter, but junior playmaker Juan Day was knocked out of the game on the previous play after a fierce collision at the two-yard line.

“He got a little ding in the head,” Bolding said about Day’s status. “He maybe has a slight concussion, but you know it’s one of those things that happens in football and he’ll be back. We’re going to be anxious to get him back because he’s another one I think is an SEC running back.”

Junior fullback Deion Tidwell scored the next touchdown for NLR on a 20-yard run with 4:39 to go in the third. Tenpenny scored his fourth rushing touchdown (fifth overall) on his most impressive carry of the game, which was a 54-yard score where he had to weave and plow through several defenders before finally breaking loose down the sideline.

Searcy’s offense eventually found the end zone with 3:42 to play on a one-yard quarterback keeper from Arnold. The extra point was good to set the score at 42-13.

To go with his four rushing touchdowns, Tenpenny led all ball carriers with 102 yards on 16 carries. Day managed to total 59 yards on the ground on six carries before leaving the game.

Payton Holmes was 8-11 passing for 73 yards, while co-starter Heath Land was 4-6 for 74 yards. Senior receiver Aaron Adams, younger brother of former Arkansas Razorback, Joe Adams, led all receivers with four catches for 65 yards.

North Little Rock (6-1, 4-0) will look to stay unbeaten in conference play next week against Marion for the Wildcats’ homecoming.

SPORTS STORY >> Hazen stymies Carlisle

Leader sportswriter

The old philosophy of football being a game of inches proved itself true once again on Friday as Hazen upset interstate rival Carlisle 16-14 at Fred C. Hardke Field to stay in a tie with England for the top spot in the 2A-6 Conference.

The Bison (6-1, 3-1) scored on their first possession of the second half, but junior running back Deron Ricks was stopped just short of the goal line on the two-point conversion try after catching a quick pass from senior quarterback Chris Hart.

That left the score at 14-8 Carlisle with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter, and when the Hornets scored early in the fourth quarter, they made it in on the two-point try as running back Trenton Mosby just made it over the line for the winning points.

“I tell you what, it was awesome,” Hazen head coach Joe Besancon said. “Great atmosphere; the fans were great on both sides. My kids just never stopped. We preached to them all week long about how it is all mental. They had to get past that mental aspect, and they did it tonight.”

Carlisle coach Scott Way-mire declined interview following the game.

The Hornets (5-2, 4-0) had to settle for short gains most of the night until running back Lucas Tennison broke free for a 78-yard run that took the ball all the way to the Bison 5-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Tennison also got the call three plays later and broke through from a yard out to tie the game at 14, and Mosby’s conversion run put the visitors ahead for the first and final time.

But Mosby’s biggest play of the night was on fourth down and five at the Carlisle 41-yard line with 1:40 remaining. Mosby, who also serves as punter for Hazen, bobbled the long snap and had no choice but to take off running. He found space on the right side and made his way down to the 32-yard line for the first down, but on his way down the ball popped out. Hart picked up the ball and ran the other way, but the play was blown dead to the complete dismay of Waymire and the entire Carlisle side.

“It wasn’t a fake punt,” Besancon said. “We fumbled the snap, and I tell you what, that little sucker right there, he makes some knot-headed plays for us sometimes, but he just took off and made a great play.”

Gadgetry misfired on the Hornets in the first half as a promising drive to start the game stalled badly at the Carlisle 31-yard line when quarterback Gage Johnson kept on a double fake, but was flushed out by Bison defenders for a 17-yard loss and a turnover on downs.

The Bison responded with a methodical 14-play drive that burned up eight minutes of the clock, ending with an eight-yard touchdown run by Ricks at the 11:55 mark of the second quarter. Hart connected with junior Justice Bryant to convert the two-point conversion attempt to give Carlisle an early 8-0 lead.

Hazen responded with a clock-grinding drive of its own as the Hornets went 71 yards 17 plays and capped off the drive of nearly nine minutes with a one-yard touchdown run by Tennison with 3:30 remaining in the first half. Johnson kept on an option play for the two-point conversion try and made it to tie the game 8-8 at the half.

Carlisle came out strong offensively to start the second half and scored on a nine-play, 73-yard drive. Sophomore running back Clinton Hampton broke the biggest gainer for the Bison during the drive with a 35-yard rush that set them up with a first down at the Hazen 16-yard line.

Three more totes by Ricks is all it took, with a six-yard run to seal the drive with 7:41 remaining in the first half to make it 14-8.

The atmosphere was second to none at Hardke Field with both stands filled despite the drizzly weather, with a number of fans for both sides forced to watch the game from the track surrounding the field. The celebration on the Hazen side and dejection on the Carlisle side clearly indicated how important the contest was to both schools.

“It’s big. It’s huge,” Besancon said. “They’ve got such an outstanding program. They do everything right, and I’m just excited and proud of these kids.”

Ricks led Carlisle with 13 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant had 11 carries for 46 yards. Hart went 5 for 10 passing for 45 yards as the Bison totaled 197 yards offense.

For Hazen, Tennison led the way with 25 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns while Mosby carried 14 times for 63 yards. The Hornets had 222 total yards.

The Bison will try to recover next week with a road game at Marvell while Hazen travels to Palestine-Wheatley.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers falter on final drive at Central

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panthers and Little Rock Central Tigers provided the fans in attendance an entertaining four quarters of football, but in the end some costly mistakes from the Panthers defense were what sealed their fate in a 21-14 loss at Quigley-Cox Stadium on Friday night.

Cabot’s defense committed a disastrous pass interference penalty late in the game to give the Tigers (2-5, 1-3) a new set of downs at the Panthers’ 12-yard line to set up the winning score by running back Logan Moragne. Chris Henry almost got it back for Cabot on the following kickoff when he ran the return back 98 yards to the end zone, but the play was called back on a clipping penalty. With less than a minute remaining, the offense was not able to go the rest of the way in time.

“They just out-coached us, they outplayed us,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We just didn’t get the job done. We had chances to put it in the end zone. They just basically did what it took to win and we didn’t. Tough fought game but they made the big plays and we didn’t.”

Cabot’s defense forced Moragne to fumble on Central’s first possession. Cabot recovered the fumble and turned the game’s first turnover into the game’s first score thanks to the Panthers run game, led by senior running back Kyle Edgar. Runs from Edgar, Russ Rankin, and quarterback Brandon Boatright helped string together a 65-yard drive ending in an 18-yard touchdown run from Rankin. Tigers quarterback Cooper Westbrook proved effective at moving the ball through the air, especially when running outside of the pocket. He was able to connect with receivers Reggie Harris, A.J. Tucker, and Terrien Griham to force the ball into Cabot’s red zone, but an 8-yard gain on 4th and 9 forced a turnover on downs.

Near the beginning of the second quarter, Cabot (4-3, 2-2) attempted a fake punt near midfield on 4th and 7. Edgar bobbled the snap and lost 17 yards while attempting to recover the loose football. Central started its next drive on Cabot’s 36-yard line.

Westbrook continued to have success passing, connecting with Harris three more times, finding him on an out route for a 13-yard touchdown to tie the game.

Although Cabot earned most of its yards on the ground throughout the night, Boatright earned the majority of yardage through the air on the ensuing drive.

He completed two passes to junior tight end Timothy Pledger, one for 38 yards and another for 13. Pledger broke several tackles on the 38-yarder, the Panthers’ longest play of the night. Senior running back Max Carroll finished off the drive with a 16-yard outside run for the touchdown.

But with one minute remaining in the first half, the Tigers put together a 64-yard drive in just four plays. Completions to Jeremiah Jaffe and Harris and a run from Moragne setup a 32-yard touchdown pass from Westbrook to Tucker with just nine seconds remaining in the half. Both teams headed to the locker rooms with the score deadlocked at 14.

Cabot opened the second half with a three-and-out, and Central pushed the ball down the field with more passes from Westbrook and runs from Moragne. But Cabot was able to make two key red zone stops on third and fourth down to force another turnover.

Cabot’s next drive was the longest of the night in both yardage and time consumed. The Panthers nickel-and-dimed it up the field with a collection of runs mostly from the legwork of Edgar, but Boatright and Carroll each got in a couple runs to keep the defense honest. The Panthers pushed the ball to the Tigers 11-yard line, but when faced with 4th-and-4 situation, a 2-yard run from Edgar proved ineffective at moving the chains.

With 4:27 left to go in the game, Central got the ball on its own 42. Westbrook hooked up with Harris for a 20-yard pass, and Moragne’s legwork got them another 10 yards. With 2nd and 9 on Cabot’s 26-yard line, Westbrook threw two incomplete passes to bring up fourth down with 2:00 remaining.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons dominant in rivalry match

Leader sports editor

Atmosphere was tense and emotions were high at North Pulaski’s Falcons’ Nest Thursday night, and the home team didn’t disappoint. The Lady Falcons’ volleyball team avenged an earlier loss to archrival Sylvan Hills, and did it in convincing fashion, beating the Lady Bears 3-0 to not only move into a tie for third place, but also took the number three seed in the class 5A state tournament from Sylvan Hills. The playoffs begin on Oct. 30 in Alma.

“That puts us in the driver’s seat if we don’t fumble the ball against McClellan,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “They beat us 3-2 and we swept them 3-0, so we have the tiebreaker right now if we just take care of business.”

The atmosphere inside the gym resembled basketball season, with fans from both teams sitting on one side of the court and vocally into the match.

“This was a great crowd and fun atmosphere to play in,” Belton said. “We really pushed this during school to get kids out here to watch this match, and we had a good crowd to show up. It wasn’t packed but the ones here were loud and that’s fun for the girls. When the crowd’s hyped, the players get hyped and we were glad to get this crowd tonight.”

Shelby Floyd had one of her best games of the season, finishing with 16 kills, nine points on serve including five aces. Floyd’s dominance didn’t just come from the front. She hammered several kills from the back row and many of her kills from the front row landed inside Sylvan Hills’ back line.

“The last week and a half she has really come on strong and played outstanding,” Bel-ton said. “She was 19 of 29 at the net against Mills. When she’s playing her best, there’s really nobody in the conference better than her. And a lot of that is because we played so well as a team. Our passes were better and Emily (Long) did a great job setting. This was a total team effort.”

The match was competitive early in game one. North Pulaski (10-6, 8-5) saw a 12-5 lead evaporate, but regained it when Kiarra Evans took serve and aced the Lady Bears. She scored three more times on serve to give her squad a 16-11 lead that never got any closer. North Pulaski won game one 25-19.

Game two was nearly identical. North Pulaski saw a 12-8 lead disappear when Sylvan Hills’ Ashton Williams scored five consecutive points on serve. Tyra Williams got three kills and Jordie Flippo put down two during the Lady Bears’ run, but North Pulaski answered right back.

The game was tied at 13 when junior Emily Long scored five straight points on serve. That’s also the point in the game when Floyd began to dominate at the left side of the net. The problem for Sylvan Hills (13-10, 8-5) is that it couldn’t double up on Floyd because Megan Chargualaf was having a great match on the right side. She finished with nine kills.

Kiarra and Shayla Evans were also effective from the middle. The duo combined for eight kills and four blocks.

“That’s what I mean by a total team effort,” Belton said. “When everybody is executing like that, it makes everything easier for everybody. They couldn’t load up on just one player because someone else was going to hurt them if they did. And the great thing is, I still think we can play better.”

Game three was close only for a few points. Floyd took serve with the scored tied at six and reeled off six-straight points, half of which were aces.

Sylvan Hills finally broke serve, but NP broke right back. Shayla Evans then took serve and scored five straight to finish off an 11-1 run and give the Lady Falcons a 17-7 lead.

“Shelby got two really hard kills in a row, then Kiarra blocked their best hitter and I think it was over after that,” Belton said. “When you’re just throwing them down hard like we started doing from both sides, it can demoralize teams.”

North Pulaski served extremely well too. The Lady Falcons scored 42 points on serve and 15 aces. Floyd and Long each had nine, Kiarra Evans and Sidney Silvas scored eight and Chargualaf and Shayla Evans had four apiece.

Sylvan Hills is qualified as for the state tournament, and can still get a three seed if it beats Jacksonville in the conference finale on Tuesday, and McClellan upsets North Pulaski. That scenario isn’t likely, but Lady Bear coach Harold Treadway hopes his team can regroup before the playoffs after an emotional loss.

“We just can’t seem to stay together as a team when things aren’t going just right,” Treadway said. “We’ve got to learn to pull together. We finish conference next week and we have a game between then and state, hopefully we can come together by then and be playing at a high level.”

The Lady Falcons play a nonconference game on Mon-day at Episcopal Collegiate High School before traveling to McClellan on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Quick blitz lifts Red Devils

Leader sports editor

A one-minute, 17-second stretch of the second quarter, and another one-minute, 17-second stretch of the third quarter made for five Jacksonville touchdowns as the Red Devils battled their way to a 46-14 win over North Pulaski Friday at Falcon Stadium.

The game, which was the first between the two teams since 2007, was closer than the score indicates. Jacksonville scored twice between 10:46 and 9:29 of the second quarter to turn a tie game into a 19-7 lead.

The Devils then scored three touchdowns between 8:21 and 7:04 of the third quarter to turn what had been a tough game into a huge 39-7 advantage.

“We just always seem to have one quarter where big mistakes just kill us,” North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram said. “They’re just killing us. This was a talented 3-0 team coming in here and we competed with them. I mean we competed. We just have those lapses man that just kill us.”

Jacksonville coach Rick Russell agreed that, despite the lop-sided final score, his team was in a tough game on Friday.

“You try to convince these guys that 1-5 or 0-3 doesn’t matter,” Russell said about his opponent’s record. “This is a rivalry. They’ve waited a long time to have us here again and they’re going to be ready to play. And they were. They were more ready to play at the first tic than we were. That was obvious because they stopped us on defense and went right down the field on us on offense. But we regrouped, made some big plays on defense and special teams that got us going and we were able to get a win.”

Three North Pulaski turnovers turned into 20 Jacksonville points early in the second half to blow the game open. Randy Armstrong picked off a deep pass attempt by North Pulaski’s Doug Gates to give the Red Devils the ball at their own 36. Kevin Richardson went 47 yards on first down to the 17. Lamont Gause went 14 on second down and quarterback Aaron Smith got it in from there to make it 25-7 with 8:21 left in the third quarter.

Freshman Dontrell Allen was stripped by Jacksonville’s Nykel Worthen on the ensuing kickoff. Worthen also covered the fumble, giving the Red Devils possession at the Falcon 19-yard line. Three pass plays later, Smith hit Richardson from 14 yards out. John Herrmann’s extra point made it 32-7 with 7:20 left.

On the first play of the next drive, Steven Farrior was picked off by Jacksonville linebacker Jacob Price, who returned it untouched for 35 yards and a touchdown. The extra point made it 39-7 with 7:04 remaining in the third.

“These kids are such good kids,” Ingram said. “I love how hard they work. I love how hard they play. But I have never had a group of kids who make the very same mistakes you go over and over in practice trying to make sure they don’t make. I just don’t understand it.”

Two big mistakes in the first half were the difference between a tied game at halftime and a 19-7 Jacksonville lead.

The Falcon defense held Jacksonville on its first two drives, and scored on its first drive to take a 7-0 lead.

North Pulaski’s opening possession went 57 yards in just four plays. Damon Thomas went 16 yards on first down. Farrior went 9 yards on the next play. Farrior then hit Fred Thomas for 17 yards to set up first and goal at the 1-yard line. Farrior sneaked it in from there to give North Pulaski a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

The Falcons (1-6, 0-4) got the ball back after stopping Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Smith for no gain on fourth and 2, but the next drive went disastrously.

Worthen stepped in front of a screen pass for an interception, and returned it 35 yards for the Red Devils’ first score of the game.

After the two teams traded a couple more drives, Jacksonville’s Richardson picked up a bouncing punt, dodged two tacklers and raced 50 yards for the score. With 10:46 left in the half, the Red Devils led 13-7 without having scored an offensive touchdown.

That finally changed on the Red Devils’ fifth possession. Starting from their own 35, an inside read handoff to Richardson went 39 yards to the North Pulaski 26. Smith kept on the next play for 21 yards. Two plays later, sophomore tailback Lamont Gause dived from 3 yards out. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving it 19-7 with 9:29 left in the second quarter and that’s how it remained until the break.

When the Falcons stopped turning it over in the third quarter, they moved the ball effectively.

On their fourth possession of the third quarter, and the first without a turnover, the Falcons went 55 yards in eight plays for their second touchdown of the game. After an initial carry by Farrior for no gain, Damon and Fred Thomas traded carries to get the ball down the field. Thomas got the final 21 on two carries, going 4 yards for the score. Randall Roach’s second extra point made it 39-14 with 3:22 left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville (5-2, 4-0) capped the scoring with 10:05 left in the game when Gause burst up the middle for 60 yards to set the final margin.

The Red Devils finished with 437 total yards while North Pulaski compiled 256. Damon Thomas led all rushers with 133 yards on 20 carries. Gause had 11 carries for 119 yards. Richardson finished with three carries for 94 yards, five receptions for 46 yards and three punt returns for 75 yards.

Jacksonville will host Little Rock Christian Academy next week. The Warriors lost 34-0 to Mills on Friday. North Pulaski travels to Helena-West Helena Central, 33-14 losers to Sylvan Hills.

Friday, October 12, 2012

EDITORIAL >> ‘We can, we must, we will’

The world lost a talented and committed educator this week, long before his time.

Charles Hopson, 54, former superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, died in Houston on Tuesday.

He brought many new ideas to PCSSD from his two decades with progressive Portland, Ore., public schools including some that survive him and his ignominious and ill-conceived firing at the direction of the Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell. With the district in fiscal distress, the state took over and Kimbrell dismissed the school board and ordered Hopson fired.

In firing Hopson, we think he threw out the baby with the bathwater. The board was the bathwater.

Hopson sued the district and the state, claiming his contract called for a buyout should he be fired, and elements of that suit survive him.

While in Portland, Hopson implemented changes that produced increases in achievement and decreases in suspensions and expulsions. His colleagues there praised his instincts in dealing with people and skills in encouraging open lines of communication.

Hopson led by example. He hired experts in their fields and trusted in their judgment.

At least two remain — Derek Scott, as chief of operations and Derrick Brown, chief of information technology.

Neither Scott nor Brown were educators. Scott, a retired Air Force colonel, spent his military career overseeing building construction and maintenance. He was hired to help rebuild, remodel or repair the district’s 34 school buildings, nearly all of which are about 50 years old.

Hopson’s iPad was always in arm’s reach at PCSSD, and he hired Brown to bring the district’s communications, copy technology, computers and Internet into the 21st Century and at the best price.

“He was my mentor and colleague,” Brown says. “I believe he had an impact on things we do today — the $7 million in school building improvements are part of his 2020 plan. His technology plan is coming to fruition.”

Some teachers, administrators and parents alike noted that while Hopson could be reserved, he was a people person, often going to visit schools and communities.

He hired consultants to help promote better understanding between races among teachers, administrators and board members.

Rickey Hicks, his attorney and long-time friend, said with Hopson’s death, the constitutional part of the lawsuit goes away, but his $500,000 property claim to his contract — particularly regarding the buyout he was denied — continues through his estate, with his wife the executor.

“We met while both students at the University of Central Arkansas,” Hicks says. “His was one of those heroic American stories. He grew up in Prescott and became one of the leading educational administrators in the country, on the leading edge. His passion always was young people and education, which he saw as the key to living the American Dream.”

Hopson’s creed was: “We Can. We Will. We Must.” His legacy lives on. — John Hofheimer

TOP STORY >> Council discusses new meter model

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke City Council learned at Monday’s meeting that the city’s water meters may be discontinued after the first of the year.

The aldermen discussed whether the meters that break before then should be replaced with the new model, which cost between $115 and $120 each compared to $60 for the current model.

The council did not vote on the issue.

The new meters are 97 percent accurate and guaranteed for 20 years, according to Mayor Wayne McGhee.

He said, “If it’s 19 years old and it goes out, you get a brand new one.”

The city last month replaced five of the old meters with the current model.

Alderman Pat Howell said, “I’ve heard anything from three to six years,” about how long the current meters last.

The old meters also lose accuracy after two or three years, public works director Brian Whitworth.

Howell said the city could save around $180,000 with the new meters because they can read the usage more quickly so that bills can be sent out sooner. That amount also factors in collecting on delinquent accounts.

Whitworth described the new meter model.

He said, “It does not have any working parts in it. It’s like a funnel. It comes in and it’s got two magnets on the side and that’s what does the reading.”

Whitworth added that the new meters wouldn’t be damaged if they were submerged.

Alderman Todd Wheat said, “I’ve said put them in the places that the have dogs, especially if you can’t get in the backyards. There are several of them. That eliminates any dog bites, trying to get in the fence, climbing the fence, falling off the fence.”

The new meters would also alert residents and the water department about leaks.

Howell said, “I think we should go ahead and replace them. Why would you buy ones that are going to be obsolete? We’re talking about $30 more for 20 years. It would be foolish not to do that.”

The mayor said, “We can do it all at once, it would be cheaper.” The software and handheld devices the department is using now are compatible with the new meters.

TOP STORY >> Candidate guaranteed election

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council will get three new faces next year due to retirements, and one of those has already been decided.

Before the filing deadline in May, both Barbara Mashburn, 62, and Derek Evans filed for the Ward 3, Pos. 2 seat that was going to open up with the retirement of Linda Rinker.

But Evans pulled out of the race last week because he and his family are looking for a new home, still in Jacksonville, but possibly in a different ward. Even though aldermen are elected at large, the candidate must live in the ward that they represent.

The move gives the seat automatically to Mashburn. “I’m glad I don’t have to go through the rest of the campaign battle, but I was ready,” she said.

It also gives a sigh of relief to Mayor Gary Fletcher as Evans is his son-in-law and if he had won it might have caused issues in the family if the mayor and the son-in-law ended up on different sides of a decision. It may have also caused problems if the mayor pushed for something and it was approved by one vote.

Mashburn has been a Jacksonville resident for 34 years and is a member of the Westside Baptist Church.

“As a resident I love Jacksonville and want to see our city expand and grow, there has been a huge amount of progress, but there is still a lot left to do. We must continue this sense of pride and commitment to Jacksonville,” she said, as a reason for wanting to be on the city council.

Mashburn said she’s looking forward to her time on the council and will be pushing for better education. “I’m a firm believer in getting our own district and making our school safer.” She said that after education, the focus needs to be on economic development—“keeping our businesses, attracting new ones and growing.”

She started a neighborhood watch program in April of 2011 and serves as the president of the Warren Street Neighborhood Watch and works on the “National Night out Campaign.” The event promotes safety in our neighborhoods, she said.

For 15 years, she served in a leadership role at a Jacksonville manufacturer facility.

The other open seat battles are for the Ward 4, Pos. 2 seat held by retiring Bob Stroud. Battling for that seat are Mary Twitty and Freddie Booker.

Also open is the Ward 1, Pos. 2 seat formerly held by Marshall Smith who retired from the council last month and moved to Vilonia. Because his departure was so close to the election, his seat will remain vacant until the winning candidate, either Jim Moore or Rev. James E. Bolden III is elected in November. The mayor said the winner will be sworn in and start their duties immediately following the election, while other new aldermen won’t take office until January.

Even though she has a guaranteed seat on the council, Mashburn will still participate the senior center candidate forum at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

TOP STORY >> Guilty plea in attack

Leader staff writer

A 69-year-old Little Rock man accused of attacking a bank employee with a cane Wednesday at First Arkansas Bank and Trust has pleaded guilty to felony second-degree battery at Jacksonville District Court.

But John Martin’s plea may not matter if he is handed over to the Pulaski County Circuit Court.

As of Friday afternoon, he was being held at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility on a $50,000 bond.

The district court’s prosecuting attorney will review Martin’s case on Jan. 2.

According to the police report, officers arrived at the 600 W. Main St. branch at 10 a.m.

Phillip Carlisle, 57, a financial adviser at the bank, told them that Martin struck the right side of his face with a wooden axe handle that the elderly man was using as a cane.

According to the report, Martin became upset while Carlisle was assisting him with his account, which had been closed.

Martin allegedly walked into the bank and said, “You stole my money,” when Carlisle asked how he could help Martin.

Carlisle responded, “I don’t even know who you are,” according to the report.

The financial consultant told Martin that the remaining balance had been mailed to him and turned his computer toward the customer to show Martin the account records, according to the report.

That is when Martin allegedly swung the axe at Carlisle.

Carlisle told police that he pushed grabbed Martin and pushed him against the window in the office after taking the blow.

They wrestled in the office until several bank employees and construction workers arrived and separated Martin from Carlisle, according to the report.

The West Main Street branch is being renovated.

While the police were at the bank, Martin also stepped on and broke Carlisle’s eyeglasses, according to the report.

Martin said he did approach Carlisle with the intention of causing physical harm, but he claimed he did not hit the financial consultant with the cane. A witness said she saw the customer strike Carlisle with what she thought at the time was a baseball bat, according to the report.

Both Martin and Carlisle were taken to North Metro Medical Center. A large portion of the right side of the financial consultant’s face was red and he complained of head pain, according to the report.

Martin had injuries to his right eyebrow, right arm, right hand, left arm and left hand.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Cities invest in park space

Plans for a year-round shooting range outside Jacksonville and new baseball fields and a water park in Cabot are encouraging signs that cities are making investments in their communities as the economy begins to make its slow recovery.

Jacksonville officials and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have reached an agreement to build a $2.1 million firing range on 160 acres off Graham Road just outside the city limits. It could open as soon as the end of next year.

The shooting range, near the Holland Bottoms Wildlife Management Area, will be run by the AGFC, which will host its Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program seven times a year, such as trapshooting for students in many schools around the state.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation is providing a $1.5 million grant for the project, while Jacksonville will fund $600,000 toward the target range. It will include 15 stations for archery, skeet, trap and pistol shooting. Jacksonville expects an annual economic benefit of $4.5 million, which will pay immediate dividends for the city’s investment.

Cabot last month unveiled plans for a $15 million baseball and water park off West Main, along with expanding the city’s community center. Cabot voters will decide in April if they want to extend the city’s existing one-cent sales tax to pay for these projects.

The parks commission is proposing a 47-acre hayfield off West Main Street for the parks project, which would include not only ball fields, but also a water park with a pool, waterslide, mock river and enclosed facility that could be rented for parties.

Cost estimates for the entire project are $1 million to buy the land, $1.4 million for an access road, $4.6 million for the water park and $5.2 million for baseball fields.

The parks commission also wants to spend $2.7 million to expand the Veterans Park Community Center with weight rooms and meeting rooms.

Mayor Bill Cypert, who wants to extend the sales tax to pay for $40 million in improvements, would rather build the new park on a 200-acre plot in the regional park that the city already owns. That is the site of the city’s BMX track.

That’s where the north interchange will be built if voters approve the sales tax extension.

Cypert believes voters will support another sales-tax extension if they understand what it will pay for and that it won’t cost them more than they are paying now.

Like the Jacksonville shooting range, the recreational improvements in Cabot should benefit both communities as they look toward a more prosperous decade.

TOP STORY >> Ex-PCSSD boss dies

Charles Hopson, 54, former superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, died Tuesday, according to an e-mail from Carole Smith, superintendent of the Portland (Oregon) School District.

Hopson was serving as school-improvement officer for high schools at the Houston Independent School District. Details are incomplete, but he apparently died after an illness, according to Deborah Roush, PCSSD communications director. Roush said she confirmed the death with Hopson’s family.

His brother, Timothy Hopson, is assistant principal at North Pulaski High School.

Hopson was deputy superintendent of Portland Public Schools, where he worked for two decades before his 2010 departure to become superintendent of the troubled PCSSD.

Smith said, “Charles was a strong and thoughtful leader with a deep commitment to equity and the betterment of all students. I am keeping in my mind today his warm and ready smile.”

Roush said, “He was very much respected as a quiet leader. He was a man of wisdom with a calming personality. He hired good people and trusted them to do their jobs.”

PCSSD was placed into fiscal distress in July 2011 and state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell dissolved the PCSSD school board and, acting in its stead, fired Hopson.

TOP STORY >> Beebe district will build storm safe room

Leader staff writer

The Beebe School Board on Monday approved the price of $928,781 to build a storm safe room at Beebe Middle School in McRae.

The shelter will be 4,200 square-feet. The district received $661,500 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build the safe room that will be open for residents during severe weather.

Delk Construction is the construction manager for the project. Board members approved plans for the shelter to have a sloped roof instead of a flat roof for $54,400. A slope roof will last longer.

The shelter will have one large room and three bathrooms. Work on the storm shelter will begin this year.

Assistant superintendent Scott Embrey gave an overview of the district’s annual report to the public. Beebe’s enrollment grew by one student from last year to 3,180 students.

Construction of the new middle school building in McRae is under way. The bus-wash bay at the transportation department is complete.

Construction of a cafeteria at the ninth-10th high school building is planned to start next year.

Last school year, athletic expenses were $1.1 million. The cost included salaries, benefits, transportation, utilities and supplies. The district spent $204,981 on the gifted and talented program. The district is required by the state to spend at least $147,402.

The district spent $2.5 million on maintenance and operations. The district was required by the state to spend at least $1.7 million.

Beebe Elementary School principal Cathy Payne gave the board an update on what is happening at the school. This year’s theme is “Setting the World on Fire.” Students are expanding their vocabulary and learning how to think innovatively.

Payne said the staff is working to keep parents informed about school events by updating the outside marquee, teacher newsletters, e-mails to parents and updated web pages.

She said many parents are volunteering helping out in the classrooms.

Beebe Elementary is continuing to participate in Rachel’s Challenge, a program recognizing acts and kindness by students. The school is also continuing the Watch DOG (Dads of Great Students) Dads program. Dads volunteer at the school, assisting teachers and administrators where help is needed.

During Response to Intervention time, teachers are working one-on-one with students or in small groups. The school has three language labs to help students catch up who are having problems with language skills.

The board had the annual rotation of leadership roles. For 2012-2013 Harold Davis is president. Lucy Mahoney is vice president. Robert Jenkins is secretary.

Board members approved $12,925 for renewal of the Renaissance Learning program.

TOP STORY >> Life’s beautiful when you’re 100

Leader staff writer

Spring Creek Health and Rehab resident Vivian Buchanan turned 100 years old last Thursday in grand style — with a surprise birthday party in the dining hall. Residents and staff sang “Happy Birthday” as Buchanan blew out the candles on two cakes. She donned a tiara and a colorful boa.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert proclaimed Vivian Buchanan Day in the city.

Buchanan was born on Oct. 4, 1912, in Polk County. Her family moved to Prairie County when she was a young girl. Her father was a school teacher and a farmer. Her mother was a homemaker. Buchanan had 11 brothers and sisters who all worked on the family farm. Four siblings are still surviving.

Buchanan completed the ninth grade. She worked as a sales clerk in Young’s Department Store in Des Arc until moving to Little Rock in 1951. She worked in retail until retiring in 1975 from Meyer Brothers Drug Store in Little Rock.

“I had many boyfriends, but did not marry,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan has no children, but many nieces and nephews who love her like a mother.

She was a member of First Baptist Church in Des Arc and in Little Rock. Buchanan loved to travel around the U.S. and made several trips with the Little Rock church’s senior church group.

Buchanan rented apartments until she purchased a home in 1970. She and her mother lived together in that home until her mom’s passing in 1995.

Buchanan lived there until 2009 before moving to Spring Creek Health and Rehab in Cabot.

“The good Lord helped me. I tried to live a Christian life,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan enjoys living at Spring Creek Health and Rehab. “The people here are wonderful to me,” she said.

Resident Carl Williams said, “Vivian is a quality lady in all respects. She is an example of what America is all about.”

Williams said Buchanan is an inspiration, as he has 16 more years before he reaches 100 years old.

She is best friends with her roommate, Frances Jones..

“Wherever one goes the other wants to follow. They are like sisters together,” social-services director Kathy Sliter said.

“Everyone here loves her. She gets along with everyone,” Sliter said.

Buchanan enjoys watching Westerns and playing the game of Bingo.

TOP STORY >> Cabot gets set for city’s 34th annual festival

Leader staff writer

With expected temperatures in the low 80s, a carnival, entertainment and 150 food and craft vendors, Cabotfest organizers are expecting the crowd at this weekend’s Cabotfest to surpass last year’s attendance of 25,000.

This is the 34th year for the annual festival that started after the tornado of 1976 that destroyed most of the city’s business district.

The festival is from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday in downtown Cabot. But the carnival will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Ride armbands for Friday only are available for $15.

Entertainers on the main stage will include KK Kennedy and the Kampground Express, Crosspoint, Single Tree, Luke Williams, Price Crew, Corey Lamb and Riverbilly.

A new attraction this year is the mobile-adoption center from Cabot Animal Control that is equipped with cages that open to the outside.

The festival has a strict no-animal policy, so last year, Animal Control brought a dog and a cat in cages from the shelter. They were adopted almost immediately and their new owners picked them up later.

This year, the city paid about $40,000 for a trailer built to temporarily house about 100 animals with the intention of taking it to festivals or anywhere people gather.

The no-animals rule still applies, but new owners will be given a certificate to pick their pets up later.

The festival is a fundraiser for the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, which uses the revenue to cover operating expenses.

This year, Karen Davis, the assistant to Cabot school superintendent Tony Thur-man, is the festival chairperson, succeeding Bill O’Brien, who was the chairman for a decade.

Melissa Underwood is in charge of vendors and Amy Ross is handling entertainment.

The Cabot Lions Club will again host its annual pancake breakfast from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Cabot First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall.

Tickets are available from any Cabot Lions Club member. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5 for adults and $2 for kids under 10.

Carry-out orders can be placed that morning or in advance by calling 920-2122.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke hosting powerful Cards

Leader sportswriter

There are a lot of dimensions to this year’s Lonoke Jackrabbits football team, and all of them will have to be put to good use this week as unbeaten Dollarway rolls into James B. Abraham Stadium this Friday for homecoming week.

Last week’s 51-21 victory over Southside Batesville kept the ’Rabbits alive in the fight for a top-four spot in the 4A-2 Conference standings to earn a playoff berth, and also proved to be one of Lonoke’s better offensive performances of the year. Senior D.J. Burton led a strong running attack with 150 yards and three touchdowns as part of a 400-yard performance for the Jackrabbits (3-3, 1-2).

“That was one we told them we really needed to win,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We played four quarters, and that was the biggest thing for us, was to play it through all the way and finish.”

The Cardinals are looking to repeat last year’s performance that took them all the way to the 4A state semifinals, and appear to be on pace to do just that through the first six games of the 2012 season. Newport did give them a good scare in the league opener, taking the Cardinals to overtime in a close 44-42 decision for Dollarway. But the last two weeks have been dominant for the Cortez Lee-coached Cardinals, who beat Marianna-Lee and Clinton by a combined 110-7 to up their overall record to 6-0 and their 4A-2 record to 3-0.

“They’re a solid football team,” Bost said. “They return a lot of starters. Looking at them on film, we think there are some things we can do against them.”

Burton stepped up last week when he was needed most with junior quarterbacks Nick Watson and Grant Dewey both injured. Burton, who is officially listed as a receiver, was Lonoke’s starting quarterback last year, and has successfully run the Wildcat offense for the Jackrabbits on many occasions this season.

“We’ve been working with D.J.’s package as much as we have the other two guys,” Bost said. “He went in last week and didn’t miss a beat. He picked up right where he left off last year.” Bost said the power-running game will be essential against Dollarway, as the iCardinals’ speed on defense will make it difficult to advance the ball using sweeps.

“They’re multiple on defense,” Bost said. “I think they’re going to do what Dollarway does, and that’s play man and put six or seven in the box trying to stop the run. You kind of know what you’re going to get with them.”

Another dimension that has given Lonoke a boost this year is a stronger kicking game thanks to junior Jose Garcia, who kicked the first Jackrabbits’ field goal in well over a decade last Friday just before halftime to give them a 21-14 lead.

The margin increase was minimal, but the momentum gained from Garcia’s kick helped fuel a fierce second-half performance for Lonoke.

“That was a big momentum booster for us,” Bost said. “We haven’t had a great kicking game over the years, and that young man has come in and taken the time to develop his game. He goes out to the practice field on his own time and practices a couple of hours every day, and it’s really made a difference for us.”

SPORTS STORY >> First place on line for Carlisle, Hazen

Leader sportswriter

Since entering 2A-6 Conference play three and a half weeks ago, the Carlisle Bison have dominated the competition. On Friday, Carlisle will face its toughest test to date, the Hazen Hornets, in a game that could decide the eventual conference champion down the road.

Last year in the regular season finale, Carlisle edged out a close 12-8 win at Hazen.

The rivalry between the two teams separated by just a dozen or so miles of Hwy. 70, goes way back, and with this game being played at Fred C. Hardke Field, the Hornets will be looking to steal a win on the road against their arch-rival.

“It was pretty much a defensive struggle,” said Hazen coach Joe Besancon about last year’s loss to the Bison. “I think they did a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. They made plays when they had to make some plays. We had a costly fumble in the first half when we were driving the ball, and we turned it over. We maybe could’ve turned that into points. I don’t know.”

Carlisle, Hazen and England are in a three-way-tie for first place in the 2A-6 conference with 3-0 records. Des Arc was upset by Palestine-Wheatley last week, putting the Eagles a game back of the top three with a 2-1 record.

Since 2008, the Bison have won three of the last four conference titles, including the last two. Hazen won it in 2009 with a 12-win season.

Barring something drastic happens later in the season, Carlisle (5-0, 3-0) and Hazen (4-2, 3-0) will make the playoffs. But the conference championship, bragging rights and playoff seeding will all be affected by the outcome of Friday night’s contest.

“They’re a very sound ball club and they’re very similar to us,” said Carlisle coach Scott Waymire about Hazen. “They’ll be by far the best team we’ve played in conference thus far. It’s a big rivalry game. It’ll be a great atmosphere. I’ve told several people ‘if they haven’t before, they need to go see a Carlisle-Hazen game.’

“The atmosphere that surrounds that game and the energy on both sides, I just think it’s a great place to be on Friday night. This is a game our guys are going to remember. That’s what we tell our kids, because they know how much it means to both towns. It’s going to be a fight for 48 minutes, and a heck of a ball game. I think for the people that come, they’re definitely going to get their money’s worth.”

Hazen’s all-time leader in career rushing yards (over 4,000) and tackles (484), Matt Tenison, graduated last May. However, the Hornets still have plenty of weapons they hope to utilize against Carlisle.

Junior running back Alundis Mosby has averaged more than a 100 rushing yards per game this year for Hazen. Last week in the Hornets’ 48-14 win at Clarendon, he ran 13 times for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Lucas Tenison, Matt’s little brother, and hardnosed sophomore Trenton Mosby, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in junior high last year, will also contribute in the Hornets’ backfield.

Junior quarterback Gage Johnson has really picked up his game in recent weeks according to Besancon, and has shown he’s the leader of the team.

Hazen is traditionally a run-heavy team like Carlisle, but also like the Bison, the Hornets can mix up formations when necessary. The Hornets’ offense will often start out in a box set, but will go to the spread if they feel as if they have an advantage there.

“We try and find something that will work for us, and we’ll go with that,” Besancon said.

The Hornets’ defense gives multiple looks as well, but will almost always have at least four linemen up front. According to Besancon, the defense could line up four one play, five the next, and six after that.

Carlisle has been stellar on both sides of the ball this season. The Bison have put up an average of 42 points-per-game on offense. Defensively, Carlisle has given up a total of 24 points with three shutouts.

“I tell you what, it’s hard to find a weakness in that bunch,” Besancon said of Carlisle, who’s owned the series as of late with 21 wins over the Hornets since 1988. “I don’t know what the weakness is. They have a lot of guys back from last year’s team that went and played for a state championship. So they have experience in big games.”

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats want to improve road play

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock survived it’s biggest scare of the conference season last Friday at Jonesboro, and has another road match against an improving Searcy team awaiting it this week.

Conditions in last week’s game weren’t conducive to an exciting offensive game, but the Charging Wildcats pulled out just enough to come back from a quick 13-point deficit and win 27-20.

“We just didn’t adapt to the weather very well,” North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. “Sideways rain, 20 mile-per-hour wind, really cold – I just think we let that get to us a little more than we should have.”

North Little Rock did a good job all night against Jonesboro’s all-state running back Martin Stafford, but failed on a couple of occasions to contain speedy quarterback D.J. Anderson. The converted receiver got loose for a 50-yard touchdown run on the first set of downs of the game, and North Little Rock responded by fumbling the ball away on its own first set of downs.

North little Rock’s red zone offense was not good in the first half either. One drive in the first quarter stalled inside the Jonesboro 1-yard line. Another stalled at the 2.

“I think in normal circumstances we probably kick a field goal in those situations, but conditions weren’t good for that at all,” Bolding said.

“After falling behind 13-0 in the first four minutes, the Wildcats went into halftime trailing 13-7, but were disappointed in the missed opportunities on offense, blown assignments on defense and long returns allowed on special teams.

“We just did not play well in the first half,” Bolding said. “No area of the game could you look at and say we did a good job. We really had a come to Jesus meeting at halftime, especially with our defense, and they responded very well in the second half.”

After giving up another quick50-yard touchdown to Anderson, North Little Rock allowed just three first downs the entire second half. Senior safety Gary Vines had two interceptions including one that set up the game-winning score and another that put a halt to Jonesboro’s final drive.

“I’m not one to make excuses and I’m not going to let the kids make them, but we were not comfortable in those conditions,” Bolding said. “It was our first and only game on grass. It hurt our speed, but they had to deal with it too. It’s not like it was only rainy, windy and cold on our side of the ball. Jonesboro’s a good team. For the kids to rally and come back like they did, to show that determination was good to see.”

The Wildcats, who always seem to play much better at home, has an enigmatic team ahead of them for this week. Searcy put the breaks on Marion’s high-powered offense in a 17-0 win on Friday.

The week before, the Lions barely escaped Mountain Home with a 44-41 victory – the same Mountain Home team that Marion beat 53-18.

“You just never can tell what you’re going to get from high school kids sometimes,” Bolding said. “I can’t explain scores like that, but I can tell you it looks like Searcy is getting a lot better, especially defensively. We’re going to have to execute well on offense because they can apparently shut teams down.”

North Little Rock threw the ball just three times last week, and it was junior running back Juan Day that got the bulk of the carries, instead of senior Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny.

Day turned in an outstanding performance as the feature back.

He carried 21 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns in the rain and win at Jonesboro. Tenpenny had 12 carries for 63 yards.

“We’re going to give it to the guy who’s hot,” Bolding said. Altee has had two games in a row that aren’t good. That’s been addressed and I fully expect him to respond. I think we’re going to see something from him this week.”

Bolding also hasn’t been totally pleased with the run blocking, and thinks that will, and must, improve this week.

“Our running game is better than what it’s been the last two weeks,” Bolding said. “With the guys we have back there, we should be doing more on the ground. And it’s not just them. We’re not executing on the line like we’re capable of and like we’re going to need to against good teams.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers looking to slow down fast Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers hit the road again this week after a convincing 42-17 victory over Mountain Home on homecoming last Friday. The Panthers travel to Little Rock to take on Central High at storied Quigley-Cox Stadium. The Tigers are a team that has managed just one win, but a team that still worries head coach Mike Malham.

Two of Central’s three conference games have been against two of the better teams. The Tigers are coming off a 20-7 loss to West Memphis. The week before they fell 35-24 to Jonesboro. They started league play with a 19-14 loss at Searcy.

“They have a lot of good athletes. They just haven’t been able to put it together yet,” Malham said of Central. “They have big-play potential and they’ve scored on a lot of big plays this year. Nobody has just beaten them bad. They’re going to get it together one of these games and they’ll be a dangerous team when that happens. They are a dangerous team. We just have to keep it from happening this week.”

Cabot is getting close to full strength again since injuries have depleted the offensive and defensive backfields.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries, especially with the running backs,” Malham said. “We played last week without three of our starting backs, really four. (Max) Carroll got a concussion the week before. (Chris) Henry and (Kyle) Edgar didn’t play in the second half. Henry got sick and Edgar got a hip pointer. Of course our fullback (Zach) Launius is out. Hopefully everybody else will be back and ready to play this Friday.”

Tight end Keith Pledger moved to fullback in last week’s game after Edgar was injured. He carried six times for 40 yards. The other tight end, Brandon Boatright, played quarterback the last two weeks with starter Kason Kimbrell out for one game and backup Grant Bell lost for the season. Boatright played well, especially running the option, but with backup tight end Josh Sorrell hurt against Mountain Home, and Kimbrell likely to be back to full speed, Boatright will go back to tight end.

“We’ve just had all these injuries,” Malham said. “We had some depth and were able to get through it so far, but we’re starting to get a little thin.”

Playing so many players out of position may have contributed to the Panthers’ turnover problems last week. Cabot gave the ball up five times to the Bombers, but Malham isn’t using injuries as an excuse.

“You just can’t do that no matter who’s in there,” Malham said. “I like the way we’re moving the ball. I think we scored every time we didn’t turn it over, but you can’t do that against very many teams and expect to win.”

Last year the Tigers (1-5, 0-3) beat Cabot 41-36 with a touchdown in the final minute right after Cabot scored to take the lead. Malham doesn’t want to see another game like that, and doesn’t expect to. “Last year was a scorefest,” Malham said. “I feel like our defense is improving. Mountain Home had scored 31 points a game. They basically had one good drive on us and got a field goal. We were up 35-3 pretty early in the third quarter and they were able to score a couple times at the end when we had a lot of backups on the field. Overall I think we’re getting a little better on defense. We’re going to need to be because if you make mistakes against a team with the athletes Central’s got, you’re going to be in trouble.”

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons, Devils once again

Leader sports editor

Not since 2007 has cross-town rivals Jacksonville and North Pulaski met on the gridiron. That five-year hiatus ends on Friday when the Red Devils travel to Falcon Stadium. Jacksonville has lost just once in the long history of the city rivalry, and will be heavily favored to win this rivalry renewal game.

The Red Devils started the season 0-2 with losses to Cabot and Benton, but have since won four straight and are tied with Pulaski Academy at the top of the 5A Central standings at 3-0. North Pulaski started the year with a win over JA Fair, but hasn’t managed to win a game since.

Jacksonville coach Rick Russell isn’t hanging his hat on being the big favorite. He expects North Pulaski’s best effort.

“North Pulaski has done some good things all year,” Russell said. “They’ve made mistakes here and there at crucial times, turnovers, giving up a big play, but we feel like we’re going to get their best effort. They’re going to be more focused because it’s Jacksonville coming over. These kids all know each other. Both these teams play hard and from what I remember coaching as an assistant here is that the first half, at least, in these games is always close. We expect them to come out and battle.”

The rivalry angle works both ways, and Russell believes his team will have a little extra motivation as well.

“It’s a rivalry for our kids too,” Russell said. “We haven’t played them in quite a while and our kids want to win it. I don’t think they’re going to have a problem going out there and performing at a high level.”

Russell’s squad performed at its highest level of the season last week in a 49-14 rout of another old rival – Sylvan Hills. Jacksonville led that game 42-0 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Heavy pressure by the defensive line was largely responsible for the Devils’ six forced turnovers.

Russell bragged on his team’s line play, but found some things in the play of his receiving corps while watching film that also drew his praise.

“I talked about our line play but our receivers played extremely well,” Russell said. “They not only ran good routes and caught the football, they blocked well. When we had those screens to the receivers, they were downfield blocking for each other and maintaining those blocks. We are so proud of how our receivers played football and we fully expect that sort of thing to continue. That’s the thing about this team. They’re learning what it takes to win, they’re filing that away and they’re taking it to the field. It’s a process but these kids approach football the right way and they’re getting better each week.”

Steady improvement is not something that North Pulaski has enjoyed this season. After winning their opener and losing competitively in their next two games, the Falcons have been mercy ruled in the first half in each of their three conference games. Second-year coach Teodis Ingram says there’s no sure-fire way to fix the turnover problems that has plagued his offense, but says giving up the big play on defense can be prevented.

“Look, there are some talented athletes in this conference and big plays are going to happen,” Ingram said. “But most of them we’ve given up should not have happened. We’ve just got to play smarter. I’m not getting my message across and I just can’t put my finger on what we need to do to fix that. I’m going to keep coaching. We’re going to stay positive and we’re going to keep working. One thing I can say is that these kids are still working hard. They’ve not given up. When you give up you stop coming to practice, or you stop going hard at practice. These kids haven’t done anything like that. They haven’t given up, I just don’t think they know how to continue moving forward when things go bad. But we’re going to keep coaching and trying to show them how to move forward and show them that working hard and persevering eventually brings good results.”