Saturday, October 20, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills slips past Jacksonville

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears broke out of a late-season funk just in time to defeat an upset-minded Jacksonville team 3-1 at Sylvan Hills High School on Tuesday.

The Lady Red Devils carried themselves like a team with plenty left to play for despite being mathematically eliminated from the possibility of postseason play. The Lady Bears, who lost their grip of third place in the 5A Central conference standings with a four-match skid over the past two weeks, had to dig deep in order to find a way to down their scrappy county rival.

Jacksonville led 17-13 in the first game before eventually losing 25-22, and led 17-14 in game two, but the Lady Bears fought back again and forced extra points, eventually winning 29-27.

The Lady Devils did not come up empty handed on the night, however, winning the third game 25-21 before Sylvan Hills closed the match with a very close 26-24 victory in game four.

“It almost seems like we peaked about five games ago,” Lady Bears coach Harold Treadway said. “I don’t know if this is a carry over. A lot has happened to us this year. It’s been a tough year. Luckily, this bunch has stuck with it. They just have to realize how much talent they have and put it together.”

The event also served as senior night at Sylvan Hills, with several team managers and behind-the-scenes personnel honored. The Lady Bears started the season with only one senior on the roster in Val Jarrett, but Jarrett was released from the team last week following the North Pulaski match. Jarrett disputed a decision made by assistant coach Lara Allred, and broke team policy with the confrontation.

“I’m sorry it ended the way it ended,” Treadway said. “I wanted to give her a chance because she was a senior. I wanted her to finish the year. We’re all going to have to live with that.”

Jacksonville got an early boost at the net from sophomores Bailea Mitchell and Taylor Hayden, as well as senior Shyrel McKinney. Mitchell’s two early kills helped the Lady Red Devils out to a 6-1 lead in game one, and a third kill later in the frame gave Jacksonville its biggest lead at 17-13. Sylvan Hills sophomore Brooke Rainey fought back for the Lady Bears with four kills midway through, as the hosts battled back to a 19-19 tie before outscoring Jacksonville 6-3 in the late stages.

Sylvan Hills found aggressive hitting to be a problem, as Jacksonville senior libero Katie Lawrence thwarted most of the Lady Bears’ kill attempts with solid digging in the back. Serving also gave the Lady Devils a boost in the third game as senior Lori Shore put down two aces as part of a 6-0 Jacksonville run to start the frame, while sophomore Chanell Roy added to the lead with two more aces that stretched the margin to 11-5. Serving also helped Sylvan Hills later on in the game, with five consecutive aces by junior Michelle Sorensen that took the Lady Bears from trailing 14-9 to a narrow one-point margin.

Rainey led the Lady Bears with nine kills while Sorensen added six kills and six aces. For Jacksonville, Mitchell led with 12 kills while Petties finished with six kills and three aces.

SPORTS STORY >> Blue Devils run down Panthers

Special to The Leader

WEST MEMPHIS – For three quarters, the Cabot Panthers had West Memphis on the ropes.

Despite getting shut out of the end zone, the Panther offense was grinding it out well enough to make place kicker Jesus Marquez the hero of the game. But then came the fourth quarter.

A fumbled punt and two consecutive killer illegal procedure penalties opened the door for the Blue Devils, who erased a 20-9 deficit after three quarters to earn a 23-20 victory over Cabot.

“We made the mistakes, yes,” said Cabot head coach Mike Malham. “But you’ve also got to tip your hat to West Memphis.”

The Panthers (3-4 overall, 2-3 in the 7A/6A-East Conference) completely shut down the West Memphis ground game, which is led by two of the better backs in the conference in senior tailback Kendell Allen and junior fullback Jarvis Cooper, both of whom were coming off two 100-yard games the previous week.

Cooper got his yards, as he rushed for 100 on 18 carries. But they were very tough yards, and through three quarters he had only 74 yards. Cabot’s defense held West Memphis to 132 yards on the ground, or 91 below its season average.

West Memphis head coach Lanny Dauksch knew he might be in trouble if the Panthers goaded the Blue Devils into a grind-it-out affair. He tried unsuccessfully to get his aerial game going through three quarters, and one instance cost the home team dearly. Cabot’s Jacob Ferguson snared a Kody Frasure pass that was batted down near the line of scrimmage and raced 65 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Frasure got it going in the fourth quarter after a fumbled punt gave West Memphis (6-2, 3-2) its window of opportunity. He completed his first three passes of the quarter, the third of which went for 31 yards and a touchdown to DeAnfernee Davis that cut Cabot’s lead to 20-15.

“The biggest play of the night was the fumbled punt,” said Malham. “That swung the momentum big time over to (West Memphis’) side.”

With a little more than eight minutes to play, the Panthers had to continue to move the ball, yet keep the clock moving. They failed at both.

With only one penalty through three-and-a-half quarters, Cabot’s first two snaps following West Memphis’ touchdown resulted in two illegal procedure penalties that forced the Panthers into big-play situations.

A three-and-out gave West Memphis the ball at its 37 and this time Frasure’s passes finally loosened up the Panther run defense. Frasure completed only one pass on the drive, but a crucial pass interference call on Cabot sucked the life out of the Panther defense.

Cooper ended up with an 11-yard touchdown with 3:44 to play in the game and his two-point conversion gave the hosts a 23-20 lead.

“Everybody’s been able to throw on us this year,” said Malham. “We’ve got a good run defense, but we just give up too many big plays in the air. We knew West Memphis was more of a running team, but they’ve shown flashes of being able to throw it this year, too.”

Still with plenty of time to move into Marquez’s field-goal range (he boomed a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the first half), Cabot was hoping to catch the Blue Devil defense napping on first down. Malham called for a fumblerooski for lineman Tommy Pledger, but the Blue Devils snuffed it out quickly and so effectively that it goaded Pledger into a personal foul following the play, further complicating matters for Cabot.

A fourth down and 23 attempt ended with a 3-yard loss on a pass from Brandon Boatright to Timothy Pledger, which effectively ended the night for Cabot.

Marquez was 2-for-3 on field goals. He hit on a 21-yarder in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 20-9 lead. Cabot’s first touchdown came on a 2-yard run by Kyle Edgar that gave the visitors a 7-3 margin. Cabot was held to 135 yards on the ground and it was only able to connect on two passes for 26 yards.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills stifles McClellan

Special to The Leader

It took the Sylvan Hills Bears most of the first half to get their offense going, but once they got the momentum up there was no stopping them Friday night as they beat the McClellan Crimson Lions 21-6 on the road.

“It’s tough to win on the road when you’re young,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow following the game. “They came out, and they did a good job. There was no panic, there was no griping or fussing, and they stuck together.”

Senior running back Ashton Brown led the Bears’ powerful run game with 166 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore quarterback Tra Doss added his share with two touchdowns on the night, one through the air and one on the ground.

The Lions opened the game with a drive that nearly reached Sylvan Hills' red zone. The Bears defense then made two key stops on third and fourth downs to force the game's first turnover, but their offense was forced to punt after getting one first down from the legwork of Brown.

The Lions got some yards on the following drive, but after several penalties they found themselves with fourth down and long and were also forced to punt.

The Bears were able to get a good run game started with more yards from Brown and sophomore runningback Marlen Clemmons, but a fumble by Doss would give McClellan possession near midfield.

The Bears’ defense immediately forced another turnover with an interception following Doss' fumble, and Doss would come back to redeem himself with a 10-yard touchdown run set up by a 55-yard run from Brown.

The Bears forced the Lions to punt yet again, and Sylvan Hills went to the locker room at halftime with a lead of 7-0.

The Bears started the second half with a bang. Brown, Clemmons and Doss continued to move the ball with their feet, and Brown ended the 76-yard drive by pounding the ball into the end zone with with back-to-back 4-yard runs.

McClellan did not go quietly. The Lions answered quickly with a 52-yard pass from quarterback Demarcus Quince to Tyrin Hollis.

Quince then caught a touchdown pass from utility player Akee Johnson for the Lions’ only points of the night, bringing the score to 14-6.

Sylvan Hills' consistent run game opened up the passing game on its next drive, which started with some more successful rushing attempts by Brown and Clemmons.

Doss then found Elijah Sowards with a pass for 22-yards.

Some more ground work by the Bears set Doss up for a 32-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Kylan Wade.

McClellan got one final attempt on the offensive side, and the Bears’ defense forced the Lions to punt yet again.

With just a few minutes remaining in the game, Sylvan Hills run game ate up the rest of the clock to seal a 21-6 victory on the road.

The Bears (4-3-1, 3-2) travel to Pulaski Academy next week to continue conference play against the league-leading Bruins.

“We better play some defense, they've got offense, defense, special teams, the whole bit,” Withrow said. “We just have to play solid football.”

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats’ D buries Patriots

Leader sportswriter

North Little Rock continued its winning ways in dominant fashion Friday with a 52-0 blowout win over Marion at Charging Wildcat Stadium.

The Charging Wildcats’ defense held the Patriots to just 68 yards of offense for the game, and North Little Rock’s offense was just as impressive with 476 total yards.

“I think that has a lot to do with how hard our kids work during the week,” said North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding about his team’s play on both sides of the ball. “It’s what we demand from them, and the fact that what we do from January all the way up to when the season starts is what we can attribute a lot of that to.

“We feel like we work on a whole different level than most people. I think you can see it when we get out on the field, and our main thing is to get to our peak right before playoffs.”

Marion’s first play from scrimmage was promising with a 5-yard run by running back Ralph Smith. But on the next play, Patriots’ quarterback Jataire Weeden fumbled on an option play. North Little Rock covered it at the Marion 15-yard line.

Four plays later, senior standout Altee Tenpenny punched in the touchdown on a 4-yard run with 10:20 to play in the first. Marion went three and out on its next possession.

After a fake punt that resulted in a 20-yard run by T.J. Francis, the Wildcats scored again, this time on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Heath Land to tight end Cameron Williams. Sandy Burks’ extra point was good to give NLR a 14-0 lead.

The Wildcats scored again on their next drive when co-starting quarterback Payton Holmes connected with senior receiver Aaron Adams for a 31-yard touchdown pass.

With less than seven minutes to play in the second quarter, North Little Rock’s defense forced a turnover on downs. On the Wildcats’ next snap, the first of the drive, Adams took the ball on a wide receiver sweep, and raced 62 yards for another NLR touchdown.

After the extra point, the Wildcats led 28-0 with 6:44 to play in the opening half. Marion (2-6, 1-4) was forced to another three and out on its next possession, and North Little Rock (7-1, 5-0) scored its final points of the half on a 37-yard field goal from Burks.

The Wildcats’ offense took the field first in the second half, and on the fourth play of the drive, senior Rodney Bryson scored on a 51-yard touchdown run with 10:30 to go in the third.

Bryson’s touchdown gave NLR a 38-0 lead, which put the second half mercy rule into effect. Even with the clock running continuously, it took just over five minutes for the Wildcats’ offense to find the end zone yet again.

After another three and out from Marion’s offense, Tenpenny scored on a 52-yard touchdown run with 5:24 to go in the third. It was Tenpenny’s final carry of the evening.

The final score of the evening came on a 4-yard touchdown run from junior fullback Deion Tidwell with 10:58 to go in the fourth. The extra point set the final margin.

The Wildcats could’ve scored again as the game’s end neared, but rather than run up the score, sophomore quarterback Deon Fox took three straight kneel-downs to give the ball back to Marion with just seconds left on the clock. Marion gained 45 of their 63 total yards of offense in the final seconds.

Tenpenny finished with 13 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wildcats’ rushing attack. Holmes was 7 for 11 passing for 90 yards and one touchdown. Land was 4-7 for 36 yards and one touchdown. Adams had 94 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville scores late, beats LRCA

Leader sports editor

On a night when the offense wasn’t clicking and everything close went the opponent’s way, Jacksonville (6-2, 5-0) gutted out a 13-7 win over Little Rock Christian Academy at Jan Crow Stadium on Friday to move to 5-0 in conference play and stay tied with Pulaski Academy for first place in the 5A Central.

The Red Devil defense held the Warriors out of the end zone for 46 minutes, preserving a 7-0 lead that Jacksonville held since the 10:37 mark of the first quarter.

With the help of several disputable spots, two fourth-down conversions and an offside penalty, the Warriors finally punched the ball in the end zone. The extra point made it 7-7 with 2:18 left in the game.

When Jacksonville’s offense took the field at its own 38-yard line, it had gained just 178 total yards, and just 61 the entire second half. It needed just four plays to go 62 yards for the game-winning score.

Senior Kevin Richardson, who had only two offensive touches the entire game, went 16 yards on second down and 10. Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Smith kept for 8 yards on first down to set up second and 2 from the Warrior 38. Another option read went to Richardson, who started right, cut left and burst up the middle. After shaking one tackler, he outran the LRCA defense to the end zone to give the Red Devils a 13-7 lead with 1:34 left in the game.

Jacksonville coach Rick Russell was emotional talking about Richardson’s play on the final drive.

“The kid is just a coach’s dream,” Russell said. “The heart he played with tonight, it’s just incredible. We have got to get the ball in his hands more than two times in a game. Little Rock Christian had a great game plan to keep him from having a game like he’s been having. On that last drive, the plays were the same. They weren’t doing anything different. It was the same seams. He just made up his mind he wasn’t going to be stopped.”

Smith, who, along with the rest of the offense, had not enjoyed much success throughout the game, also said the last drive was about determination.

“I just knew we had to do something,” Smith said. “It’s homecoming. We got all our alumni here and it’s a big game. We just had to go out and execute and make things happen like we’ve been doing. They were keying on me the whole night and I knew I had to make the right reads that last drive because we had to have this.”

After Jacksonville’s touchdown, Christian took over on its own 32 and quickly picked up 12 yards to the 44. But defensive end Titus O’Neal got his ninth tackle and second sack of the game for an 8-yard loss. Out of timeouts, LRCA had to waste second down by spiking the ball to set up third and 18. Angel hit Thomas for an 11-yard gain. With the clock still moving on fourth and 7, Braylin Terry knocked down an Angel pass at the line of scrimmage with six seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“The defense did a great job tonight keeping them off balance and keeping them out of the end zone,” Russell said. “We did what we needed to do to win. Some weeks like McClellan when we give up 34 and score 57, it’s the offense. Then there’s nights like tonight when our defense steps up when the offense is working so well.”

Little Rock Christian tied the game with a 13-play, 54-yard drive that saw several disputed plays.

The first came on the second play of the drive when Alex Caroom caught a pass in the flat, fell down for what should have been a 6-yard loss, then got up and gained 22 yards before he was ruled down.

A key play in the drive was not disputable. The Warriors converted a fourth down and 15 when quarterback Houston Angel hit tight end Will Duncan for a 17-yard gain to the Jacksonville 19.

Later in the drive, Angel was forced to scramble on third and goal from the 6, was stopped at the 3, but given forward progress to the 1. On fourth and goal from the 1, Angel kept and was stopped right at the goal line. After brief delay, he was ruled in the end zone with 2:18 left to play.

There was very little offense in the first half. The Red Devils hit a 61-yard screen pass for a touchdown on its opening drive, and neither team did much after that.

On the third play of the game, Smith swung the ball to the right side to sophomore Lamont Gause, who broke a pair of tackles to turn third down and 8 into a touchdown.

The Warriors dominated time of possession, but Jacksonville came up with a big sack or a turnover to stop most of their drives.

On offense, Jacksonville hurt itself with penalties and turnovers, even blowing great field position after an interception. Kevin Richardson picked off a Warrior pass at the goal line and returned it 73 yards to the LRCA 27-yard line with six minutes left in the first half. But after a 6-yard scramble by quarterback Aaron Smith, he was picked off by Warrior cornerback Connor Vaughn.

LRCA took over on its own 14, got two first downs via Jacksonville penalties and drove all the way to the Jacksonville 28. The Devil defense then tightened up. Linebackers Justin Abbott and Jacob Price teamed up for a sack. Safety Nykel Worthan then got Jacksonville’s second pick of the game with one minute remaining in the half.

Jacksonville fumbled the ball away twice in the first half and once more in the second. It also had one drive that saw good gains negated by offensive penalties. The Red Devils were called for four penalties that totaled minus 41 yards its third drive of the game.

The Red Devils finished with just 240 total yards.

Gause had four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Richardson had four carries for 71 yards and a score and two receptions for 13 yards. He also had the 73-yard interception return and one kickoff return for 28 yards.

The Warriors finished with 265 total yards. Jay Hedges had 21 carries for 90 yards to lead the visitors. Angel completed 11 of 33 pass attempts for 127 yards, but was sacked six times by the Red Devils’ defense. Jacksonville travels to Mills next week. The Comets lost 50-20 to Pulaski Academy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Keep promise on road tax

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert on Monday asked the city council to endorse a half-cent, state-wide sales tax for roads that will be on the ballot Nov. 6. The council unanimously approved the 10-year bond proposal, which Cypert said will pay for improvements that would benefit area commuters.

If passed, Constitutional Amendment 1 would pay for widening the freeway between Jacksonville and Cabot with the estimated $1.3 billion the tax will raise in the 10 years it will be collected.

“Passage of this initiative will allow the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to construct six lanes from Jacksonville to Cabot and will facilitate improvements to exits 16 and 19 in Cabot as well as free up other state funds for local and county projects,” Cypert told the council.

Cabot will receive at least $423,500 in turnback funds annually. Lonoke County will annually receive $634,627 to improve the county road infrastructure. White County would receive $782.757 annually if the tax passes, with $130,295 going to Beebe and $12,148 going to McRae.

Pulaski County would receive $2 million annually, with Jacksonville receiving $505,222 and Sherwood receiving $525,866.

In addition to paying for completion of widening Hwy. 67/167 to six lanes from Jacksonville to Cabot, the tax would fund:

• Completion of widening Hwy. 64 to four lanes between Conway and Beebe.

• Completion of widening I-40 to six lanes between Little Rock and Conway.

• Widening of Hwy. 70 to four lanes between I-30 and Hot Springs.

• Improvements to I-30 connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock, including widening the
  I-30 Arkansas River Bridge (120,000 cars a day).

Continuation of widening Hwy. 270 to four lanes from Hot Springs westward.

Sound like a plan. We have to hope that the state Highway Department will keep its promise to build these projects in the next decade. Promises have been broken in the past: Remember that a five-cent gasoline hike more than 20 years ago was supposed to pay for completion of the North Belt Freeway. That’s unlike to happen anytime soon, or maybe never since costs have shot up from $100 million to $600 million.

There probably won’t be enough money to finish the latest proposed projects, but even if half of them are completed, we’ll all benefit.

TOP STORY >> Q&A: Sherwood candidates in their own words

Leader staff writer

Only one council seat in Sherwood is being contested this election and that’s the Ward 4, Position 2 seat held by Alderman Steve Fender.

Fender, a longtime alderman, decided not to run this time partly because new ward lines put most of his ward in Gravel Ridge, and he felt he just didn’t have enough knowledge of the area to properly represent those residents.

So vying for the seat are Mike Sanders and Bob Ferguson.

Sanders, 44, was born in southwest Little Rock and moved to the Runyan Acres area when he was 8. He’s lived in the Gravel Ridge area for more than two decades. He is a graduate of North Pulaski High School, married and has three sons and a grandson. For the last 14 years, he’s been an IT specialist with Regions Bank.

Bob Ferguson, 59, is a CPA and he and his wife have lived in Sherwood for 30 years. They have two adult children. Born in Ottawa, Kan., Ferguson moved to North Little Rock with his family when he was 13 and graduated from North Little Rock High School. In 1982 he started his own CPA firm, Ferguson, Cobb and Associates.

Here are the questions that The Leader asked the two candidates and their answers.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Ferguson: I have lived in Sherwood for 30 years and I want to make a difference for the residents of our city. When Dr. Fender announced he would not seek re-election, I knew that my 35-year professional background and business experience would be a big plus in helping with city budgeting and strategic planning for our future as a city. The most pressing problem for the city is budgeting and finding the money to meet the needs of our city. My approach to decision making for our community will reflect my business and professional experience.

Sanders: Because I believe I can make a difference. I can listen, and I can lead. I have always had a heart for people and the community of Sherwood, and if elected I promise to make the best decisions for the people of Sherwood.

What experiences qualifies you to be an alderman?

Ferguson: For 35 years I have worked as a certified public accountant in public accounting. I have the financial, accounting and investment background that can benefit the Sherwood City Council.

For 23 years, I have served on the board of directors for Pathfinder, Inc. Pathfinder is the largest nonprofit provider of services to the developmentally disabled in the state of Arkansas. This is a complex organization where I serve on the Audit, Finance and Executive Committee and have served as vice chairman for the board of directors for 15 years. We use strong budgeting techniques and program activity-based accounting to measure and monitor services and financial progress in each
activity. We have a strong emphasis on good stewardship over all dollars received, accountability and full disclosure.

I served on the board of directors for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA). ADFA is a multi-billion dollar state agency for which I served as chairman for two consecutive terms. I learned a lot about municipal issues and municipal finance while serving the state of Arkansas at ADFA.

Sanders: I have served twice as president of the Sylvan Hills Sherwood Optimist Club, Sherwood’s largest youth program, and as six-time director of the 3Cheerleaders Memorial Scholarship Tournament. I have worked on all aspects of running a nonprofit organization of that size. Being involved with the Optimist club program for 20 years, I have enjoyed working with the youth and their families and feel it’s a natural transition for me to help the citizens of the city.

What are the most pressing issues facing Sherwood and how will you work to solve such problems?

Ferguson: The most pressing issue facing the city of Sherwood is budget related. City finances have been strained by the economic downturn and slow recovery. We have flooding and drainage issues in our city that need to be addressed. I would like to find solutions to the flooding problems in Gravel Ridge, and address other concerns of the residents there.

In 2008, Gravel Ridge voted to join Sherwood. Let’s demonstrate to the residents and businesses in Gravel Ridge that we are one community. Finding solutions and resources to meet needs is a challenge. I have 35 years of experience helping businesses meet the same pressing issues.

We must continue to upgrade our community to improve the quality of our lives, help Sherwood and our local businesses prosper and increase our property values. We must develop and build beneficial relationships with our legislators, state agencies and other policy makers to have access to grants and other available funds. I will always work hard on the city budget and stay focused on defining city priorities.

Sanders: As I’m knocking on doors and talking with people, it seems some of the most pressing issues are streets and drainage. I would work with my peers on the city council and with other city officials and employees to help identify and update the areas of most pressing need, especially in light of recent and upcoming annexation efforts. Hopefully then we could prioritize the city’s efforts over time as money becomes available and address these problems citywide.

What are Sherwood’s strengths?

Ferguson: The people of Sherwood are its greatest strength. Sherwood has great police and fire protection, parks, senior citizen center and recreation centers.

Sanders: I believe that Sherwood’s strengths are our fire protection and our police.

When families are looking for a place to buy a home, they look to see if it will be a safe place to live. Sherwood is a safe place to live and I would work to keep it that way. Another of Sherwood’s big strengths is its parks and recreation department. Families also look to see if they and their children will have places to play and activities to participate in. With our many city parks, the Sherwood Sports Complex, the Bill Harmon Recreation Center, the Duran Youth Center, the Greens at North Hills and our neighborhood pools, Sherwood is one of the best cities in Arkansas when it comes to parks and recreation.

What would you like to see done to make Sherwood more appealing to potential residents and businesses?

Ferguson: Establish a permanent funding solution for a road overlay program for the city to keep our streets the best in central Arkansas. Promote our city to state agencies that are involved in economic development for the state. Continue to support and promote the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce and their economic development efforts. Actively support Little Rock Air Force Base. Resolve our flooding and drainage issues. Continue to upgrade our community.

Future development should address quality- of-life issues within our community such as green spaces, parks, bike and walking trails and to meet the expectations of younger families.

Sanders: I would like to see more emphasis on infrastructure improvements in the north part of the city. I would like to see parks developed in the Stone Hill and Gravel Ridge area. I would like to see road and drainage improvements in these areas as well. I think everyone agrees the natural growth area for Sherwood is north, so anything we can do to develop and improve our infrastructure in these areas of the city, I believe will make it more appealing for the future.

What one thing do you want voters to know about you and think about when they are casting their ballots?

Ferguson: I am a trustworthy professional with a long history of integrity and honor. I will reach out to the people in Ward 4, listen to their concerns and needs and help solve the problems they are having within our community. If I am elected alderman, I will work hard every day to earn their vote.

Sanders: I would want them to know that I will work very hard to improve the quality of life for all the citizens of Sherwood and to help correct problems that affect peoples’ lives and that together we can continue the progress that has led Sherwood to be considered nationally as one of the best hometowns in America.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD: ‘Substantial progress’

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District — “made substantial progress implementing its fiscal distress improvement plan” over the 2011-2012 school year, acting Superintendent Jerry Guess told about a dozen school patrons at the district’s annual report Thursday night.

But to continue building new schools, updating old ones and implementing appropriate information technology, eventually PCSSD will have to ask district voters to increase property taxes, Guess said.

The district is in fiscal distress for a declining carryover balance and was taken over by the state Board of Education.

“One of the district’s primary financial challenges is to provide adequate funding to properly maintain and improve its 3.6 million square feet of buildings. The district recently committed $7.5 million of its building-fund balance to districtwide improvements of academic facilities,” Guess said.

“This was approximately half of the building fund, which is nonrecurring revenue. Once these funds are depleted, the district’s operating fund will be the only source available for building maintenance and improvements.

“Without new revenue, increasing the amount spent on facilities can only come at the expense of other programs. At some point, it will likely be necessary to ask district taxpayers to approve a higher tax rate if PCSSD is to compete favorably with surrounding districts, which have substantially higher tax rates.”

The district has strengthened business procedures, intensified budget controls and implemented cost-cutting strategies, Guess told those attending the meeting.

He said through cost-cutting measures, which include cutting teachers’ overall compensation and benefits, the district will build its legal fund balance (end-of-year carryover balance) to an appropriate level and will position itself to survive the eventual loss of about $20 million a year in desegregation funding.

Under the current budget plan, Guess said the district will save $13 million a year over the next three years and the legal fund balance should grow from its $4 million level on June 30, 2011, to $22 million on June 30, 2015.

Two days before Guess’ annual report, the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers announced a unanimous vote of no confidence in Guess, Gov. Mike Beebe and state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell. Kimbrell dissolved the district school board, nullified employee contracts, fired the late Supt. Charles Hopson and hired Guess.

Unions for the teachers and the support staff say much of the cost cutting was achieved by illegally voiding their contracts, and they have sued the state, the district, Guess and Kimbrell in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Teachers say they have lost years worth of hard-negotiated benefits in addition to current and future pay, authorized Brenda Robinson, PACT’s acting president, to call a job action up to and including a strike.

“I don’t know what they mean by a job action,” Guess said Thursday. “But I would simply say we’re having a remarkably good year. Enrollment yesterday was 418 more than a year ago, we have a balanced budget, and we’re growing our legal fund balance by half a million dollars, if we can stick to it.”

Guess said the district is doing things it hasn’t done in years, like buying new buses, remodeling and rehabilitating many of the worst schools, implementing common core curricula and providing professional development and teacher evaluation.

TOP STORY >> Condemnation will bankrupt him, owner says

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council condemned a dilapidated apartment complex Monday night over the objections of its owner, who said if they did it, the sale he was working on would fall through; he would be forced to declare bankruptcy; and the city wouldn’t be able to take any further action against him.

Despite obvious concerns from some council members that condemnation would prevent the owner from selling the building, the vote to condemn the property was unanimous.

Alderman Angie Hoschouer said the council had waited to take action on harmful structures in the past because of potential sales that never materialized, and she wasn’t willing to allow children to continue living in apartments with exposed electrical wiring.

Alderman Ed Long agreed.

“I’m not asking for a Taj Mahal over there. But I am asking for safe and sanitary,” Long said.

Alderman Rick Prentice said he wasn’t concerned about tenants having to move because the apartments weren’t livable.

“If they move, maybe they’re going to move to some place safer,” Prentice said.

Robert Kennedy, owner of the apartment complex on South Linden Street, told the council that he couldn’t afford to maintain or repair the apartments and had tried to sell them for several years.

Kennedy lives in Maumelle and said he drives to Cabot frequently to remove debris left at the apartments by tenants and others. He said he called the police about activity at the apartments many times.

He said his potential buyer owns a construction company and could remodel the apartments. The potential buyer also owns other properties that he rents to tenants like those in his apartments and knows how to deal with them.

It takes a skill set that he doesn’t possess, Kennedy said.

The tenants in the apartments were the catalyst to the inspection that led to the council condemning the property.

Neighbors from the 500 block of East Elm told a committee of council members two weeks ago that the apartment residents walked up and down their street, high and drunk. They said they knocked on their doors at midnight, asking to use the phone and they could be responsible for car and home break-ins.

The inspection of the outside of the apartment complex that same week showed, cracked foundations, bricks pulling away from the walls, buckled shingles, rotted trim boards, mildew, exposed electrical wires and uncovered dryer vents that would give rodents access to the inside.

One week after the neighbors’ complaint, the council’s harmful structures committee voted to bypass standard notification procedures and, with approval of the full council, start the condemnation process.

Wendell Gibson, who manages several properties in Cabot, asked the council to give Kennedy more time.

Gibson, who said he is not acquainted with Kennedy, looked at the apartments for another potential buyer and he is convinced they can be made livable. The brick veneer is only for appearance, he said. It can be removed and replaced with siding after the foundation is reinforced.

“If y’all pull the trigger here tonight, it’s going to cost the city a lot of money,” he said.

From the council’s discussion, it was clear that the tenants were part of their concern. Asked to comment about the issue, Police Chief Jackie Davis said bad areas could be turned around.

“If you clean it up and have good management, you can change lifestyles,” the chief said.

The owner has one month to appeal the condemnation to circuit court.

In other business, the council passed a resolution of support for the half-cent, statewide, 10-year sales tax for roads that will be on the November ballot and rezoned property at 500 E. Mountain Springs Road for R-1 to O-1.

TOP STORY >> Early voting starts Monday

Early voting starts Monday statewide. Here are local early-polling places in Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties, days and times.


Main site — Pulaski County Region Building: Weekdays through Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Jacksonville Community Center and Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood: Weekdays through Nov. 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Not open on Monday, Nov. 5.


Main site — Lonoke County Election Commission building: Weekdays through Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-6 p.m; Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Cabot Annex: Weekdays through Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

England district court and Carlisle Civic Center: 8 a.m.--6 p.m., Monday to Wednesday.


Main site — White County Courthouse in Searcy: Weekdays 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 5, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bald Knob Temple Baptist Church: 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday to Wednesday.

Beebe City Hall: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.

TOP STORY >> Staley vs. White for sheriff

Leader staff writer

John Staley and Dean White are running to succeed Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson, who is not seeking re-election.

Staley, a Republican, is the police chief in Austin. White, a Democrat, is Roberson’s chief deputy who has received the sheriff’s endorsement, even though Roberson is a Republican.

Staley and Roberson answered a series of questions from The Leader.

Do you believe Jim Roberson’s endorsement will have an impact on the outcome of the race?

Staley: Clearly, you never wish for a public endorsement of your opponent, but in the end, there is a clear distinction between the two candidates. If I am elected as the Republican sheriff of Lonoke County, I will cut the budget 5 percent my first year, place the budget online for all taxpayers to see where their tax dollars are being spent, and bring total accountability to each and every individual working in the department — no exceptions.

Sheriff Roberson, in my judgment, had no option but to endorse his chief deputy, who is my opponent. The chief deputy has been on Sheriff Roberson’s watch since day one — anything contrary to endorsing him would constitute a breach of confidence in the department. But in the end, the voters of Lonoke County will decide if they want more of the same, or do they desire new leadership and a new direction.

White: I appreciate Sheriff Roberson’s endorsement very much. He’s a good sheriff. He cares about the people. I do believe that his support will help. He is respected by many of the people in the county and his recommendation will count to them. Also, I hope that his endorsement will validate that the position of sheriff is about qualifications, experience and ability instead of one’s political party affiliation.

What concerns do you hear from residents while you are campaigning and how do you respond to those concerns?

Staley: The citizens of Lonoke County are concerned that the sheriff’s department is not proactive, rather reactive to the crime in the county. The citizens know if you are tough on crime and place the bad guys in jail, this will send a strong message to those who engage in unlawful practices. Safety is concern No. 1. I have personally visited with thousands of individuals since I started my quest for the sheriff’s position, and I hear concerns such as drug abuse and distribution, theft, child abuse and a host of other concerns. If I am elected, I want all of those thinking of committing unlawful acts to hear this, “Don’t do it in Lonoke County or you will be caught, you will go to jail!”

White: Drug abuse and theft top the list. Neither of these are new issues. They are issues that are ever-changing and advancing, and we have to change and advance our tactics to better enforce the law. A large percentage of thefts are perpetrated to fund a drug habit. We have already implemented some new programs using video surveillance, leads online and sharing information between agencies.

Abuse of prescription medication is on the rise and finding its way to our children. Education is very important to preserve the future of our young people. DARE programs that include home-schooled children as well as those in the public school system would be beneficial. I believe it is important for our children to be taught that law enforcement is not an entity to fear but the first place you can seek help.

This can be reinforced in our schools and in our homes. And parents need to understand that we want to reach your children not arrest them. So if parents have a concern that their children are into something they shouldn’t be into, we want to help.

Does the county need more deputies and if so, how will you provide them?

Staley: The answer is always going to be yes. My plan, will essentially double our number of deputies at minimal cost.

If we reorganize our current manpower and set guidelines and standards we can put more deputies on the street now, not later. There are many business owners, retired military, active duty military and others, who would love to give back to the community as reserve deputies. As a law enforcement instructor and with the many other instructors in our county, I know we can provide all the training needed for these volunteers to be effective deputies. These volunteers must meet the same background and stringent requirements that any law enforcement officer must meet prior to appointment.

White: Of course, the county always needs more deputies and in a perfect world without budget restrictions and the rising cost of fuel and other variables we would have them. But the simple truth is that we do not live in a perfect world, and we do have all these things preventing us from hiring more deputies. The way to combat this problem is to strengthen the part-time program. We already have some excellent part-time officers who give generously of their time to help protect the citizens of this county. The sheriff’s office currently has a part-time class scheduled for later this year. I would also like to enhance our community crime watches and start a citizen’s patrol group that would be used as an observer/reporting program.

Explain how your experience makes you the best candidate for sheriff.

Staley: I have been in law enforcement for 12 years. My career has taken me from being an auxiliary/reserve officer, rookie officer, senior officer, first line supervisor/sergeant, working in public schools as a resource officer, a skilled negotiator, trained in dealing with crisis, law enforcement instructor, law enforcement firearms instructor and chief of police in one of the fastest growing towns in Arkansas.

I have over 1,500 hours of law enforcement education, training and currently working on a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State. I know firsthand what has to occur to bring efficiencies to your budget and watch every dollar knowing you have limited financial resources. I run a police department now and my experience speaks for itself.

When my opponent tries to use my age against me, I simply reflect back to those who came before me, people much younger than I have revolutionized the world – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elvis Presley, and a young man named Sam Walton. Age is a critical asset, not a liability — my years of quality service in law enforcement coupled with boundless energy makes me the candidate for the citizens of Lonoke County. There is a vast difference in the years of experience and quality of experience and vision for the future. I would be remiss if I did not ask for your vote.

White: My whole career has been spent preparing for this. I know the job. I am dedicated to the citizens of this county and in doing the best job I can for them. I have over 22 years of law enforcement in Lonoke County backing me. I have served in every division of the sheriff’s office and have a full understanding of the operations, administration and budget.

The sheriff’s office is much different than a police department. It is more than patrol and criminal investigations. The sheriff’s office is responsible for a 911 dispatch center, a large-scale detention center, prisoner transport, bond and fines, administrations office as well as records and reports. I have worked very hard in making the new jail work, gotten grants for new equipment, new computers and a sheriff’s office website that will be active by January. We’ve just finished upgrading our reporting system to keep up with current times. And we were recently able to get 11 new patrol vehicles at no cost to taxpayers.

I strive to continue improving the sheriff’s office for the people of Lonoke County. I hope that my dedication, experience and abilities will speak for themselves.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Firing range hits its target

Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new shooting range on Graham Road near Holland Bottoms Wildlife Management Area in Jacksonville turned out even better than expected. Gov. Mike Beebe led the ceremonies and another $50,000 was donated to the project that’s estimated to cost $2.1 million. Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation chairman Bobby Martin announced the anonymous donation minutes before the governor spoke.

The Game and Fish Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, will fund $1.5 million of the project. Jacksonville will pay for the rest, starting with $130,000 from the city’s advertising and promotion commission.

Once completed, the new facility, which will consist of 14 shooting ranges, will be the new home of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program’s state tournament. The AYSSP is the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 7,000 people involved each year.

The firing range will be easily accessible from Cabot, Beebe, Lonoke, Carlisle and surrounding communities. Last year, more than 6,000 students and 1,000 volunteer coaches took part in AYSSP competitions. There are four regional tournaments each year and a state tournament. Anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 competitors take part in each regional event, bringing a much-needed boost to Jacksonville’s economy.

“These kids come with their parents, grandparents, friends and relatives,” Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) said at the groundbreaking. “That’s four solid weekends of 6,000 to 7,000 people coming into your city. Based on the formula used by the trap association, it’s a $4 million impact on the city annually.

“The Game and Fish wanted to know if we could have it ready by March,” Perry said. “That’s when the high school shooting tournaments start. Tommy Bond (project engineer) said we’d need to have shovels in the dirt in October. So we’re being aggressive about getting this under way.”

Kudos to Perry and fellow shooting enthusiast Philip Carlisle, who headed the drive for this impressive project. Thanks also to Mike Wilson and Jim Peacock for selling the 160 acres at a discounted price of $3,000 an acre.

Bidding for facility construction will be 2 p.m. Thursday at the mayor’s office with winning bids likely announced at the Jacksonville City Council meeting that night. Construction could be completed in March, which will herald a new era for Jacksonville and surrounding communities.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot grad gets taste of calling NFL games

Leader sportswriter

The jokes and rants were constant over the first three weeks of the National Football League season.

A tough situation faced the replacement officials who were working NFL games because the regular officials were on strike.

The replacement officials’ relative inexperience brought extreme scrutiny to every botched call, every missed holding penalty or challenged play. It was a field day for Web bloggers and late-night comedians alike as the “replacement refs” became a nationwide punchline.

Fortunately for replacement ref and Cabot native Chris Atterberry, the four calls challenged while he was officiating games at the top level were upheld, and the potential to become a referee for the league full time is at an all-time high for the 13-year veteran umpire.

But the opportunity did not come without its share of risk as Atterberry, who is a leading official in NCAA Division II college football, is just a step away from officiating at the DI level. Pro refs usually serve as supervisors at the collegiate level, many who were disgruntled when they found out that some of their underlings would take their place on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights until the issue was resolved.

“They advised me not to do it, really,” Atterberry said. “They said, ‘if you do it, you won’t get another chance’.”

Atterberry was approached after calling a high-school game in 2006 and went through all of the red-tape requirements to become an NFL ref which included filling out a 100-page form, but heard nothing else until May of this year just before the lockout with league officials began.

Upon accepting, Atterberry went through training and was sent to a total of seven games, including regular-season games Cincinnati at Baltimore (week 1), Detroit at San Francisco (week 2) and Cincinnati at Washington in week 3. There were four of Atterberry’s calls challenged in that time, none of which were overturned in the replay booth for the fill in back judge.

He has called countless games at the high-school and collegiate ranks over the years, but none of those experiences were close to Atterberry’s brief time at the top level among the world’s elite athletes.

“You really have to be on your toes,” Atterberry said. “You never want to mess up a call, but there, you have the aspect of replay. So if a call you make is challenged and it turns out wrong, then guess what? It gets overturned and everyone knows you made a bad judgment call.”

The biggest beef against replacement officials with most fans was the fact that many poor calls late in close games were affecting the outcome, and while regular officials are not exactly highly regarded in any venue, it is generally accepted that if no call is made to have an impact on the outcome, then that particular crew did its job the way it was supposed to do it.

Things came to a head at the conclusion of the week three Monday night game between Green Bay and Seattle, when a Hail-Mary pass appeared to be intercepted by Packers safety M.D. Jennings to end the game with Green Bay leading 12-7. Seahawks receiver Golden Tate also went up and got a hand in on the ball before Jennings reached the ground.

That led to an image that will live in infamy as back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn stepped in and signaled to stop the clock while side judge Lance Easley simultaneously signaled touchdown to give Seattle the win. Whether or not it was an interception or dual reception has been debated across the board, but the fact that Easley missed Tate’s blatant shove of Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields just before going up for the catch led to stronger negotiations between the league and the regular guys.

Atterberry, who is still careful about what he says on record due to his position, agreed with the League’s finding that the correct call was made on the catch but that the interference call was missed.

“From a spectator’s standpoint, a lot of people probably thought it was an interception,” Atterberry said. “But knowing the rules, and to go by what the rulebook says, I don’t know, you can be right there beside the play and still not see everything.”

With all the tension in the world of football officiating these days, Atterberry is simply focused on his job and the prospect of future opportunities.

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made, even if they never call me back,” Atterberry said. “I enjoy officiating thoroughly; it keeps me around the game. I’ve been fortunate where I’ve had good people train me, so I’ve learned to do it the right way.”

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ biggest game now

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils’ homecoming opponent this Friday will be Little Rock Christian Academy. The Warriors are 2-2 in conference play and are a hard team to figure based on scores against common opponents.

The Warriors lost 34-0 last week against Mills. They beat Sylvan Hills 28-0, and the Bears beat Mills 28-19.

All Jacksonville coach Rick Russell is concerned about is how his team stacks up against its opponent this week. Russell called the game the biggest of the year. The Red Devil coaching staff have not shied away from presenting that to the players, but explains that’s because of how his team has played.

“We write our goals and objectives on the board each week,” Russell said. “We tell them each week what we’re about and what’s at stake. We tell them if they keep winning, that they put themselves into a position where each game is more and more important.”

LRCA doesn’t have the speed of McClellan, but Russell believes this could be the toughest conference game his squad has played so far.

“As far as matching up with us –what we do well and what they do well – it’s the best matchup we’ve had all year,” Russell said. “A lot of times it’s relative. This team matches up with that team better. This team we’re about to play has a competitive game plan that’s going to be difficult for us if we don’t play great technique and stay focused better than we did last week.”

Jacksonville beat crosstown rival North Pulaski 46-14 last Friday, but Russell wasn’t entirely pleased with how his team performed.

“Our tackling technique was not good, we have to improve our defensive line pressure and offensively we made mistakes in our pass routes,” Russell said. “We can’t be doing that this late in the year. We have to ask ourselves why did that happen in week seven, because we hadn’t been doing those things. Our line pressure was outstanding against Sylvan Hills, but it wasn’t consistent to the next game. So we have to answer that question and go to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats battling Patriots at home

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock played its best road game of the season last week when it dominated then conference unbeaten Searcy 42-13. Still, the Charging Wildcats are glad to be home for the first time in three weeks and only the third time all season when they take on Marion this Friday.

The Wildcats have scarcely been tested in its two home games, though they’ve been against two of the better teams on their schedule. In its home opener, the Wildcats destroyed Pine Bluff 47-10. That loss is still the only one of the season for the Zebras. On Sept. 28, North Little Rock shut out West Memphis 42-0 to hand the Blue Devils their only mercy rule loss since the rule began eight years ago.

“We’re excited to be back,” North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. “We’ve been traveling northeast the last couple of weeks and I think we did a lot better in the second one. But we like playing at home. I feel like we play pretty good here and it’s homecoming. That gives you even more to play for. We always have a lot of our players come back on homecoming and you want to put on a good performance for them. It’s pretty neat for our guys.”

Running back Juan Day left last week’s game in the second quarter after suffering a mild concussion. He ran for 197 yards the week before at Jonesboro, and was averaging nearly 10 yards per carry when he left the Searcy game.

“He’s going to be fine,” Bolding said. “He’s day by day. We’ll evaluate him and see where he’s at. Considering the depth we have, we’re not ever going to rush anyone back too soon. But as far as headaches or anything like that, he’s not showing any more symptoms.”

North Little Rock’s other starting running back is quite capable of handling the duties in Day’s absence. Senior Altee Tenpenny, who has verbally committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide, racked up more than 250 all-purpose yards last week. He had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, ran 16 times for 102 yards and had 40 yards receiving.

After giving up some big plays against Jonesboro, the Wildcats’ defense dominated Searcy like it has every other team on its schedule.

Lost in the West Memphis game was 6-foot-3, 315-pound defensive tackle Kenny Howard to a torn ACL. His replacement, George Brown, has played well and will need to continue to do so.

“We have two or three people rotating there now but George is the main one,” Bolding said. “Obviously he’s not as big or experienced. He’s a junior and he’s done a good job of getting in there and getting after it. We’re pleased with him.”

North Little Rock is giving up about 13 points per game, but Bolding says that number is not indicative of how well his defense has played.

“That number is a little deceiving because we’ve had some special teams breakdowns and given up points there,” Bolding said. “Another 14 was against our second and third guys. I think our starting defense has played extremely well for the most part.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s offense has to improve

Leader sports editor

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Cabot Panthers this week as they travel to Crittenden County to take on the West Memphis Blue Devils. The Panthers are coming off a disappointing 21-14 loss at Little Rock Central, and now must face a Blue Devils’ team that has won its last two games, including a 20-7 win over those same Central Tigers that beat Cabot last week.

West Memphis has struggled at times this season against speedy teams. The Blue Devils lost 42-0 to North Little Rock and 30-21 to Jonesboro, but in their five wins, have given up an average of just 11 points per game.

Linebacker Jarvis Cooper (6-3, 235) anchors the West Memphis defense.

“He gets after it,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said of Cooper. “He makes a lot of big plays. We may have to double team him. It ought to be interesting.”

Cooper is far from the only playmaker for the Blue Devils. On offense, tailback Kendall Allen and quarterback Kody Frasure move the team forward. The Blue Devils also have a big defensive line that could make running the ball up the middle difficult.

“They’ve got good athletes,” Malham said. “They always have. We’re not going to be able to play like we did last Friday night and win. We’re going to have to play a lot better. Hopefully we can go over there and not help them out. Hopefully we’ll block.”

Malham was not pleased with his team’s run blocking against the Tigers, though it’s been one of the team’s strengths all season.

“I don’t know, I thought it was our worst night offensively all year,” Malham said. “We moved the ball pretty well early on. But in the second half we missed blocks. I was just disappointed with the line play. Most of those kids played last year, started as sophomores. You’d think we’d be getting better, but it seemed like last week we went backwards a little bit.

“But they work hard. We’ll probably get that corrected and hopefully play a lot better.”

The Panthers gained just 220 yards of offense last week. It was the first time this season they have not exceeded 300 total yards.

Defensively the Panthers played well, except for one blown assignment on a deep pass and three critical pass interference calls. Two of them came on Central’s game-winning drive, one of those on fourth down and 9.

“One of them was obvious but the other two I thought were kind of picky,” Malham said. “We got beat over the top late in the second half, but other than that I thought the defense did pretty well. The secondary did a pretty good job of covering their receivers.”

Right after Central’s go-ahead touchdown, Cabot’s Chris Henry returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block. Malham had no qualms with the call.

“It was a good call,” Malham said. “It was a stupid block because he was off and running. He was going to score. We blew our chances and they played well, that’s what it comes down to. They basically out-played us.”

SPORTS STORY >> Shooting sports find new home

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville will be the host of next year’s Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Programs regional and state tournaments. Gov. Mike Beebe led a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday to begin work on the $2.1 million facility that will include 13 gun ranges, an archery range and pistol range.

The AYSSP is the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 7,000 people, including 6,000 student competitors and 1,000 volunteer coaches, taking part in the regional and state events each year.

Tournaments have been held at Remington Gun Club in Lonoke. State Rep. Mark Perry noticed the need for a larger facility while working as a volunteer coach along with Phillip Carlisle for the Jacksonville High School and Lighthouse Charter Middle School teams.

Perry approached AYSSP director Chuck Woodson with the observation that the sport was outgrowing its current site.

“I went up to Chuck and said it looks like you need a bigger place,” Perry said. “He said why don’t you find us a bigger place. I said I’ll work on that. For the last two years that’s what Phillip and I have been doing. I brought him in and said I need your help. We started putting the grease to the wheels and putting the wheels in motion.”

Woodson said at the rate the sport was growing, a larger facility was definitely needed. With more and more students becoming involved in the sport, and the current facility at capacity already, more weekends were going to be needed to accommodate the participants, which could slow growth.

“Mark Perry saw first-hand the recruitment and retention that was going on in this sport,” Woodson said. “We had reached our capacity. We were going to have to start adding more and more weekends to the competitions. We thought with the Game and Fish Foundation’s support, it’s a great opportunity to have bigger and better fields. We always need more fields. No matter if a city is putting in a three-range outfit or a 40-range outfit, we need more field all across the state.”

Jacksonville’s facility will also feature an archery range, which will eventually include a 3-D range. Curtis Gray, coordinator of the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program, says archery has grown almost as rapidly as trap and skeet shooting sports.

“When we started in 2008 we had about 25 schools and now we have about 450,” Gray said. “Our thing is, we just want everybody to try it. The way the program is engineered, we do it 10 days a year and it’s in-class curriculum. We don’t care where. At Cabot the agri department does and they do it in P.E. classes in Little Rock. It’s just whatever works out best. If it works out then they can put a competitive team together.”

Jacksonville’s range will be outdoors, so the state tournament isn’t likely to leave Hot Springs, where it’s currently held at an indoor facility. But Gray sees other opportunities for Jacksonville’s new range when it is completed in March.

“What we’re trying to do here is bridge this gap,” Gray said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who are live with shooting archery in their gym. From an agency standpoint, we want to get them to be in love with shooting archery outdoors and going hunting. We’ve started this year opening a 3-D range in Crooked Creek and Yellville up north. There’s one down in Grandview close to hope and we’re about to open one in Fort Smith and one in Jonesboro. And this is going to sort of be the crown jewel right here in the middle of them all.

“It’ll have the 3-D range with the hunting scenarios where you’re shooting through the woods, and on lanes And maybe one day we’ll be able to hold some major archery shoots here, so pro-am and stuff like that. You get 3,000 people to come in and shoot archery for a weekend, they also fill up the restaurants and hotels.”

TOP STORY >> Thief leaves hat behind

 A car thief left his ball cap behind

Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies are looking for the owner of a ball cap that belongs to a car thief.

The sheriff’s office received a report Sunday that a 2000 Jeep Cherokee had been stolen from a home on Woodland Drive.

The silver four-door Jeep was stolen between 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday. Someone had also attempted to remove a stereo from a truck parked next to the Jeep.

Later on Sunday, the deputies received a report of a theft from a vehicle on Jeffrey Lane in Cabot. Hunting equipment and a .243 rifle were stolen. The thief also tried to steal a four-wheeler from the home, but it ran out of gas in a nearby field.

That’s where deputies recovered the cap that has a Mickey Mouse print on it. Other items found are being processed for fingerprints.

The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information about the case to call 501-676-3000.

TOP STORY >> Reward offered for missing man

James "DJ" Heath

Leader staff writer

A $500 reward has been offered to anyone with information that leads to the safe return of a missing Cabot man.

James “DJ” Heath, 46, has not been seen by friends or family since Sept. 16.

An anonymous Cabot resident has offered to pay the reward for information about Heath’s whereabouts or the circumstances about his disappearance.

Sgt. Dwayne Roper, who is investigating the case for the Cabot Police Department, said they are still talking to Cary Carter. He was arrested in Jacksonville while driving Heath’s white 1999 Chevy van 10 days after Heath disappeared. But help from the public is needed.

Before he disappeared, Heath lived with his friend Matt Brannon. Brannon said Heath was treated at the emergency room of Springhill Baptist Medical Center in North Little Rock the day after his disappearance.

But because of federal laws about patient confidentiality, he couldn’t find out the reason Heath was there.

On Sept. 26, Jacksonville police detained Carter.

Capt. Kenny Boyd, spokesman for the Jacksonville Police Department, said Carter jumped out of the van and ran after he was stopped by a police officer in a construction area near the liquor stores near Cabot.

Carter was charged with fleeing on foot for running from the officer and theft of property for items in his possession that allegedly did not belong to him.

Both are misdemeanors, Boyd said.

Brannon said he didn’t believe his friend would let anyone borrow his van because it was his most prized possession.

Heath is disabled from an injury he sustained as a teenager.

Anyone with information or questions about Heath should contact Roper at 501-743-2449 or 501-843-6166, or call the Cabot Police Department at 501-843-6526.

TOP STORY >> Haunted Hollow is gory but fun

Leader staff writer

Haunted Hollow began in Cabot seven years ago, when it was conceived as a fundraiser for Page and Co.’s dance students.

Proceeds helped dancers pay their way to the national championship competition. The haunted house continues helping the students today.

Any student who volunteers to work at Haunted Hollow, 2237 Hwy. 321, earns credits toward their lessons at Page and Co.

Jason Page and Todd Kerley run the haunted house.

Haunted Hollow is most well known for its insane asylum section, but those who want to know why will have to pay $10 for admission and see for themselves.

The house is open from 7 a.m. to midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from Oct. 25-31.

Two treasures make this haunt special.

The first is a coffin, circa Second World War, which guests will pass by at the end of their journey through the house.

The second is Haunted Hollow’s very own spook, a specter named Cassy.

Page said one of the attractions in the house is a tribute to her.

On a busy night, which is usually a Friday or Saturday, the house sees between 275 and 300 customers, Page said.

And all of those customers get one-on-one attention. Page said, “Our job as greeters is to bring out your worst fears and capitalize on that.”

Page said he and Kerley take an innovative approach and go all out for customers.

One time they hid in the backseat of a woman’s car at the request of her kids.

Page said the woman drove all the way to a store parking lot before discovering them.

Page and Kerley are willing to jump into cars, throw chairs and fire a fake shotgun in the name of the show.

Page said they act obnoxiously on purpose.

“We’ve gotten better at our entertainment, our crowd engagement (since the first year). Rudeness has a way of bringing out the greatest fear in people,” he said.

Page said work on the house began in August. “The lights take the longest,” he said, adding that the house is wired with sound and has fog machines.

“The house comes alive with noise,” Page added. He added that the animatronics — life-like motorized puppets — are built instead of bought.

Phillip Martin has been crafting intricately-designed cobwebs for Haunted Hollow since it opened.

He said the best part about doing that is when his work “bothers” the customers.

The webs get tangled in their hair or stick to their clothes.

Martin added that seeing how people are changed by fright is what he likes about helping with Haunted Hollow.

“Everybody is tough out here, but not in there,” he said, pointing to the haunted house.

TOP STORY >> Two running for seat on Cabot City Council

Leader staff writer

Angie Armstrong Hoschouer is running for re-election for the Cabot City Council in Ward 3, Position 1. She is being challenged by Irene C. Ernst.

Hoschouer is the daughter of Tom and Melanie Armstrong. She grew up in Arkansas in a military family and graduated from Cabot High School in 1992.

“Cabot has been my home since I was a little girl,” she said. “It’s where I’ve chosen to live, work, attend church and to raise my son, Fox Hoschouer. I got married over the summer to Eric Jones and he relocated to Cabot because he understands how important serving the Cabot community is to me. He’s worked for Bryce Corporation in Searcy for more than 20 years and together we have three children: Jerril, Hannah and Fox.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to substitute teach in Cabot and devote more time to my family over the last year,” she said.

Ernst, 58, was born in Gary, Ind. She moved here in 2003, having selected Cabot based on research of the area, proximity to Little Rock Air Force Base and the veterans medical facilities.

“Even though we have no children,” she says, “we were pleased with the school district knowing that great schools produce great citizens.”

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Hoschouer: I’ve served as your alderman for Ward 3, Position 1 the last two years. It was an honor that you choose me to represent you in the position my father, (the late) Tom Armstrong, held for eight years before me. I want to continue to serve you because I love our community, and I want to see our needs be met for us, our children and our grandchildren. I think that each citizen in Cabot is important, and I am always considerate of needs that are brought to me.

Ernst: I have served my country for over 20 years in the Navy and continue to serve this community through various volunteer and charitable activities. Since Cabot is my home, I want to expand my service to include all the residents of this fine city by serving on the city council. I have been attending council meetings for many years and feel that my education, experience and genuine concern for the good of the city and its residents have more than prepared me for this position.

What educational and professional experiences qualify you to be an alderman?

Hoschouer: After graduating from Cabot High School in 1992, I attended UCA. I’ve worked in the business community for over 15 years and the educational community over the last year. I’m also a licensed insurance agent. I’ve gone through a large amount of continuing education over the years and have been involved with several philanthropic organizations. However, I feel like my best qualification is that I represent you. Like you, I go to work, I come home and do homework with my child, I attend church here, I spend time with my family and I care about what goes on in my community. I feel I represent you well, because I am invested in our community and my decisions affect my family and yours so I am careful when I make them.

Ernst: I have lived in cities of various sizes and have traveled a great deal throughout my life and have always immersed myself into each community, always wanting to be a responsible citizen. I have an associate’s degree in general studies, but it’s my variety of life’s experiences and leadership positions that qualify me to serve on the Cabot City Council.

What are the most pressing issues facing Cabot and how will you work to solve such problems?

Hoschouer: Cabot has experienced phenomenal growth over the last two decades and that has caused us some growing pains especially traffic-wise. I want to continue to work to overcome those problems and be proactive for our future needs. I also want to work to meet the recreational needs for our children and community.

Ernst: Cabot continues to grow at a rapid pace, but with that growth comes the duty to grow responsibly. We offer a small-town environment with close proximity to metropolitan areas, but we must ensure our infrastructure meets the needs of both our current residents and those that come here to work, shop and play. We all need to feel safe and secure and I will support responsible decision making to ensure we have the people and tools in place to manage our current needs and plan for the future of our residents through fiscal responsibility and management.

What do you want voters to know about you and think about when they are casting their ballots?

Hoschouer: I appreciate the opportunity to serve you and hope you will give me your vote to continue to represent you. I am conservative and will always take into consideration how my decisions affect you. My priorities are God, my family, and my community. Thank you for taking this opportunity to get to know me better.

Ernst: I want the voters to know that I genuinely care about the people of Cabot, and if elected I will represent all of them to the best of my ability. I support the police and fire departments and want to ensure that they are adequately staffed and trained to ensure the safety of our most precious city commodity — our people.

TOP STORY >> Forum held at senior center

Leader staff writer

All nine Jacksonville aldermen candidates fielded a few questions and introduced themselves to a packed room of elderly residents at Tuesday morning’s forum hosted by the city’s senior wellness and activity center.

The candidates were asked how they would create jobs in the city, improve public safety, what the biggest problem in their wards are and how they would address those.

Jacksonville NAACP president Ivory Tillman asked what the candidates would do about noncompete clauses like the one that some worry drove Feastros, a struggling restaurant, out of town, and how they could prevent discrimination against such businesses.

The candidates are James Bolden III and Jim Moore for Ward 1, Position 2; Rizelle Aaron and Alderman Terry Sansing for Ward 2, Position 2; Barbara Mashburn for Ward 3, Position 2; Freddie Booker and Mary Twittyfor Ward 4, Position 2, and Alderman Bill Howard and Roger Sundermeier Jr. for Ward 5, Position 2.

All of them endorsed neighborhood watches as a good way to improve pubic safety and said recruiting companies to locate in Jacksonville will create jobs. Flooding, parking and youth activities were highlighted as some of the biggest concerns.

Bolden said he would “get my fellow board members to look at the budget to see what we can do to recruit more jobs, even if they’re low-paying jobs, because at least we’d be keeping people employed.”

He also said the city needs more qualified police officers.

Bolden said he spoke with the landlord about the non-compete clause concerning Feastros and he spoke with the restaurant’s owner. He said the owner signed a contract with that clause and that ties the city’s hands.

He added that, “It was not racially motivated. It was business motivated.”

Bolden also said that he has always been an advocate for Jacksonville public schools.

Moore said, “One of the things we need to do is work closely with the chamber of commerce along with any other outside organization that would help bring jobs into the city. If we want to see it grow then we need to work very feverishly to increase the job market here in Jacksonville so that more people will move in and become citizens of our great community.”

Moore said, “Safety and security are two of the utmost things a city should provide to its residents.”

Both candidates said flooding is the biggest problem in their section of the city, which includes the Stonewall subdivision.

Moore said he would continue to work with the street department to resolve that issue and Bolden said he would get involved to make sure drainage projects get done.

Sansing said the city has to be attractive to businesses in order to create jobs.

“One of the ways you do that is that you have and enforce community standards so that when visitors come the city looks neat, tidy and receptive,” he said.

Sansing added that Jacksonville has recently acquired land off Hwy. 67/167 for companies. He said the chamber of commerce is being used for industrial development and a professional is helping with retail development.

He mentioned that the police and fire training facility will be completed in December. He said increasing the city’s sales tax would also pay additional police officers and firefighters.

Sansing said flooding is an issue in his ward. He said, “It is something that the city will have to continue working on. Drainage is some of the most extensive and expensive projects you can put in.”

Sansing also said, “I have served faithfully on city council for over 20 years. This experience is valuable on the city council. Some have said the city is not working for the people. What do you think of the new safe room that’s under construction here?

“I think that’s a very good sign of the city working for you. Jacksonville is a clean, safe, friendly and financially sound city that is uniquely positioned for positive change. This didn’t happen by accident. The future looks very bright. The city council’s ability to work constructively together has been very instrumental.”

According to Sansing and Howard, it is illegal for the city to get involved in a private landlord’s noncompete clause and that same landlord allegedly kept Chick-Fil-A from coming to Jacksonville.

Aaron said, about economic and industrial development, “It’s not a matter of just making the city look pretty. We have to give businesses incentives to come here. One thing we’re falling short on is education.

“We have to provide for the workforce that businesses can use to come here. There are too many businesses in town that are just fast food. And that’s fine. The problem with that is it doesn’t provide good pay or benefits.”

He also said Police Chief Gary Sipes is doing a great job training officers and bringing diversity to that department.

“We have to give the youth someone to look up to,” Aaron said.

Regarding the noncompete clause question, he said, “We need to be careful of saying what we can’t do. There’s nothing wrong with us having a conversation with landlords.”

In his ward, Aaron said, “Teenagers need something to do.”

He added that city transportation would help the youth get to the programs designed for them.

Aaron also mentioned that seniors need a safer way to get to Dollar General from the new apartments at Loop and Military Roads because they are crossing the street in wheelchairs and that is a blind spot for many drivers.

He also said Jacksonville needs more than one accomplishment every four years and the council has to be transparent.

Mashburn, who is unopposed, said, “We as citizens have to take responsibility.”

She said the city has to be clean and safe.

She said, “I think every resident in Jacksonville needs to take responsibility and start a neighborhood watch. That’s how we can take care of each other.”

Booker said, “Working with the chamber and bringing new people in with new ideas would be a great way to bring in jobs.”

She said, “We need to be better neighbors” to improve public safety.

Booker also said, “I’m fully for the education here for all our children. I am fully for the safety of the elderly people here because I am now a senior citizen and I would like more things in this city for our senior citizens.”

Twitty said, “We need to continue doing what we’re doing right now, keeping Jacksonville beautiful.”

She said residents could help improve public safety. “If you see something that doesn’t belong, call the local police. That’s what they’re here for,” Twitty said.

She said parking has been a concern in her ward, but after talking to code enforcement officers, she has learned that parking on the street is a safety issue as it can prevent emergency vehicles from getting where they need to be.

Howard said, “Education is a very important thing. You need a workforce.”

He also mentioned the police and fire training facility and that the city’s administration has cut $1 million out of the budget for that building.

Howard said traffic has been a problem and the new turning signal going in a Vandenberg Boulevard will help alleviate that.

He also said, “Jacksonville has always been home to me. I’ve been retired 15 years and I think that has given me an advantage. I’ve been able to spend a lot of that time on city business. A lot of people have to do this as a part-time job.”

Sundermeier said about creating more jobs, “It’s not as easy as it seems. We need to make sure we’re getting the right fit, not just the first fit.”

He explained that Jackson-ville is landlocked and the city has to make sure it is providing businesses what they need to locate here.

Sundermeier pointed to his grandmother in the back of the room as an example of how to improve public safety.

He said, “It’s that sense of community. She has a close group of friends that looks out for one another. We have a phenomenal police department.”

Sundermeier said the city could help business owners find better locations in Jacksonville if landlords or noncompete clauses force them to move.

He also said, “I’ve got huge ideas, but I can’t do anything about them without your support. New ideas, new approaches and people questioning things are a good thing. That’s when the best solutions come to pass.”

TOP STORY >> Opening shots for firing range

Leader staff writers

The sight of orange clay pigeons flying into the air before being shattered into clouds of dust will be a familiar scene on Graham Road in Jacksonville next spring.

On Monday, Gov. Mike Beebe, along with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission members, Game and Fish Commission Foundation board members and local leaders broke ground on a $2.2 million shooting sports complex near the intersection of Graham and Loop roads.

The Game and Fish Commission Foundation is providing $1.5 million to fund the 160-acre sport-shooting and archery facility on the edge of Holland Bottoms Wildlife Management Area. Jacksonville will spend $125,000 a year for the next five years on the shooting range.

Before the groundbreaking ceremony, it was announced an anonymous donor provided $50,000 for the complex.

“It is a tribute to the rich and steep tradition in regards to the outdoors and an asset of the people,” Beebe said about the shooting range during the ceremony.

He said the shooting complex is a way for Jacksonville, the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the Game and Fish Commission to give back to the community.

Beebe said the range will continue the state’s outdoors tradition for future generations.

He told The Leader why Jacksonville was the perfect place for such a facility.

“First of all, Jacksonville is centrally located,” Beebe said. “Secondly, it’s the Jacksonville city fathers and the leadership of your state representative and others here in Jacksonville who fought for it. And then obviously Jacksonville’s contribution in terms of the real estate that makes it a pretty good natural fit.

“Jacksonville stepped forward and Jacksonville’s the beneficiary. The entire state will benefit from it, but Jacksonville will benefit the most,” Beebe added.

“We have been working on this the past two years,” said state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville).

Perry said the shooting complex will be one of the largest in the nation. Perry presented Beebe with a shooting vest.

Perry and Phillip Carlisle have spearheaded the project since becoming volunteer coaches for Jacksonville’s two AYSSP teams. They saw the need for a larger facility than the Remington Gun Club, which has hosted the tournaments in the past, and approached AYSSP director Chuck Woodson.

“These kids come with their parents, grandparents, friends and relatives,” Perry said. “That’s four solid weekends of 6,000 to 7,000 people coming into your city.”

Mike Wilson and Jim Pea-cock sold the land for $3,000 an acre.

“Jim and I have been talking for years about some way to utilize the property that would be compatible with the Game and Fish management area,” Wilson said. “For close to two years we’ve been working with Mark Perry and Phillip Carlisle. Those two men are the ones who really got this thing going. And we’re glad to sell it at what we thought was a reasonable price. We’re landowners, but we’re also big supporters of this project. It’s going to be a great thing forevermore.”

Bond Engineering is developing the range and Wittenberg, Deloney and Davidson is the architectural firm.

The shooting sports complex will have a 5,100-square-foot clubhouse, pavilions, grandstands, food and vending services. It will be handicapped accessible. The complex will also have RV parking and camping. The public shooting range will be overseen by the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department.

According to assistant parks director Kevin House, the shooting complex will be open at least five days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with the possibility of extended hours. Admission fees have not yet been set.

The complex will have 13 shooting stations with room for expansion. Some of the fields will have lighting.

The first regional tournament is scheduled for April. The shooting range will have two full-time and two part-time employees. The complex will also host hunter education and hunter safety programs.

The shooting complex will host the Youth Shooting Sports Program State Championships. The complex will also have 3D archery with life-size targets.

The Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission on Monday voted unanimously to provide up to $130,000 the first year for the shooting range.

“I think having it here will help those interested in northern White County be more involved, so they don’t have to drive so far to practice and competitions,” said Ginger McAlee, shooting coach of the Beebe Blue Rock Blasters.

McAlee said most shooters practice at Blue Rock in North Little Rock and in Lonoke.

“Anything the Game and Fish and Chuck Woodson (Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program coordinator) do seems to explode. Sup-porting the Game and Fish is important,” McAlee said.

Dalton Townsley is a college student who helps with the Jacksonville High School and Lighthouse Charter School shooting teams. He said the first year they had 13 participants. The following year, it increased to 25 and it keeps growing each year.

“I wanted to try something different. I enjoy it,” said Jasmine DeBose, an eighth-grader at Lighthouse Charter School.

DeBose said she doesn’t hunt, but shooting a gun is fun.

Patricia White and Eule Foster live across the road.

White said she is used to looking over at the field and seeing deer. She is concerned with shooting and possible ricochets.

Foster is worried about gunfire waking area residents who sleep during the day and work nights and “the little ones.”

She hopes the complex will have cameras and security officers to protect the area. She said if the shooting range makes the state better, she is fine with that.

“We can watch them. We haven’t had this much action in years,” Foster said.

“I think it is very good for the city of Jacksonville. Appreciate all the effort of the Game and Fish Commission, Game and Fish Foundation and the city officials of Jacksonville for pulling it together,” Alderman Mike Traylor said.