Saturday, October 27, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Four Panthers are injured in auto accident

Leader sportswriter

Four members of the Cabot Lady Panthers volleyball team were involved in a serious car accident Thursday night on Highway 89. Arkansas State Police confirmed the vehicle was driven by Kaitlyn Pitman, a junior on the squad. The other vehicle involved in the accident was driven by a person with the last name Hernandez.

Also in the vehicle were junior Lakin Best and sophomores Samantha Buehler and Makenna Porter. Pitman received only minor injuries, but preliminary reports indicated that two of the passengers may have sustained serious injuries. State police could not confirm the extent of injuries, and the CHS athletic department was not at liberty to discuss the accident due to privacy laws.

The Lady Panthers earned the No. 5 seed out of the 7A/6A East conference, and are scheduled to face West No. 4 seed Springdale Har-Ber in the first round of the Class 7A state tournament at noon on Tuesday at Heritage High School. Lady Panthers coach Deanna Campbell was not available by phone on Friday afternoon

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits stun top-ranked Stuttgart

Leader sportswriter

It was a season-changing victory for Lonoke on Friday as the Jackrabbits pulled off a huge upset over Stuttgart 28-7 at Ned Moseley Stadium, sending the 4A-2 conference playoff picture into a complete tailspin.

The Jackrabbits (5-4, 3-3) allowed the Ricebirds (8-1, 5-1) to score on their first possession, but controlled the clock and the momentum from that point on, scoring on their following possession with a three-yard touchdown run by senior D.J. Burton.

Lonoke took a 12-7 halftime lead and scored again on the opening drive of the third quarter. They set the final margin early in the final period before going on a 10-minute drive to end the game.

Stuttgart came into the game riding high after a 24-14 defeat of Dollarway last week in a game projected at the time to be for the top spot in the 4A-2 conference. Lonoke was fighting to remain in the playoff hunt, and Friday’s victory now guarantees the Jackrabbits at least a No. 5 seed.

“The kids knew, and the coaches knew, we let some (games) slip away,” Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost said. “We let Newport slip away, we had a chance against Star City and also Heber Springs. We’ve been right there all year. The kids kept on fighting, and we had a good week of practice. We deserve to win a big one after how close we’ve been all year.”

Junior Blake Mack gave Lonoke the lead midway through the second quarter when he scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to make it 12-7 at the half. The Jackrabbits came out of the half and added to their lead with a 60-yard drive that was setup with a solid kickoff return by senior Eric Williams to the Lonoke 40-yard line.

Burton completed the scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, and also converted the two-point try with a pass to receiver/quarterback Nick Watson to increase the Jackrabbits’ lead to 20-7.

Lonoke struck again through the air on its final scoring drive as Burton found Mack for a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mack at the start of the fourth quarter. The Jackrabbits went for another two-point conversion, and confused the Ricebirds defense with a gadget play that started with a handoff to Williams, who then got the ball to Mack, who threw to Burton for the score.

Lonoke’s defense forced the Ricebirds to stall their next drive quickly, and took over at its own 20-yard line with 10:16 remaining. The Jackrabbits drove all the way down to the Stuttgart 5-yard line before giving up the ball on an interception with less than a minute to go.

“I would have loved to seen the time of possession, because I’m guessing we had the ball close to 35 minutes,” Bost said. “We told them we can’t play 35 of 48 minutes with our defense on the field. We just told them to slow it down.”

Stuttgart senior quarterback Dontrell Brown has had his way against opposing defenses all season, but the Jackrabbits defense kept him in check on Friday. Brown and the Ricebirds’ offense tried to go through the air more once they fell behind, and Lonoke’s line and secondary responded with one of their best performances of the year.

“They got out of their element and started trying to air it out,” Bost said. “I’m just so proud of all our guys. They’ve got some big linemen – some real animals out there, but our guys got the best of them tonight. The kids just played so hard.”

The Jackrabbits will try to improve their seeding for the upcoming 4A state playoffs when they host Clinton to end the regular season this Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils get victory in annual Chili Bowl

Leader sportswriter

The pleasant weather at the start of the annual Chili Bowl Classic on Thursday was a mere subterfuge as strong winds and heavy rain moved into Jan Crow Stadium just before halftime with the Jacksonville freshmen Red Devils leading North Pulaski 20-0. The downpour persisted through each schools’ cheer performances at the half, swaying both sides to agree on cancelling the balance of the contest.

The victory for the ninth-grade Devils completed a triple-crown victory for Jacksonville as the seventh-grade Red Devils shut out Northwood 34-0 in the opener, while fleet tailback Roman Little led the eighth-grade junior Red Devils to a mercy-ruled 38-6 victory over the Knights leading up to the anti-climatic finale.

Freshmen Red Devils receiver/kick returner Kajahn Daniels scored all three Jacksonville touchdowns with receptions from quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham, but did most of his damage on special teams with runbacks deep into Falcon territory. Daniels took the opening kickoff from the Jacksonville 30-yard line all the way to the NP 5 before being dragged down.

The Falcons pushed back on the first play from scrimmage, tackling tailback Mal-com Crudup for a four-yard loss, but Hickingbotham connected with Daniels up the middle on second down to put the Red Devils up 6-0 at the 6:37 mark of the first quarter.

Turnovers were a constant for both teams during the brief game, as Jacksonville fumbled on the Falcon 1-yard line on its next possession, but lineman Darian Phillips got the ball back for the Red Devils when he intercepted NP quarterback Ean Collie.

That set Jacksonville up with a first-down at the Falcons’ 28-yard line, and this time, the Devils capitalized with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Hickingbotham to Daniels with 42 seconds remaining in the opening period to give the hosts a 12-0 lead.

Daniels’ only slip up came at the end of another stalled North Pulaski drive when he fumbled the ensuing punt at midfield to give the ball back to the Falcons. That resulted in another three and out by North Pulaski, and the Red Devils took over at their own 28-yard line.

That gave Daniels and Hickingbotham the opportunity to strike again. Daniels took a screen pass from the right side on second down and cut across the middle of the field, breaking four tackles along the way to find an open lane on the left, coasting 67-yards for the final touchdown with 4:58 left to play in the half. Crudup set what was to become the final margin with a successful two-point conversion run to give the Red Devils a 20-0 lead.

The Red Devils lined up for the swinging gate to start their next possession at the Jacksonville 39-yard line. With Avery Wells wide open in the flat, Hickingbotham launched deep to Crudup, who was covered by five North Pulaski defenders. Cedric Handley intercepted the pass for the Falcons to give them the ball at the 46-yard line.

Jacksonville defensive back Robert Knowlin returned the favor one play later as he intercepted Falcon quarterback Doug Gates and returned the ball to the NP 40.

The game ended with the Red Devils still on the attack as Crudup caught a Hickingbotham pass and plowed his way to the 9-yard line before being brought down just as the half expired.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot sends seniors off with forceful win

Leader sports editor

Senior night was a night to remember for the four 12th-graders on the Cabot volleyball team. The Lady Panthers not only won their second consecutive match on Tuesday, but also won the fifth out of their last six, and did it against one of the best teams on their schedule, Lake Hamilton. The Lady Wolves came into the match 11-6 overall after finishing tied for second in the 7A/6A South conference. They left 11-7 after seeing Cabot erase a 1-0 deficit to win the last three games consecutively. Scores in the match were 15-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-22.

“There’s no doubt Lake Hamilton is one of the best teams we’ve beaten,” Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell said. “They have everything. They’re tall, good middle and outside play, good defense, good passing. We played one of our best games all year.”

Leading the way for Cabot was senior libero Hannah Montgomery, who turned in one of the best performances of her career. She finished with 16 digs and eight points on serve. She also had one ace, a perfectly placed serve that landed right on the back line to end an exciting third game at 25-22 and give the Lady Panthers a 2-1 lead in the match.

“Hannah was just on fire,” Campbell said. “She’s one of only four seniors and it was so great to see her perform like that in her last home game and give an effort like that. She’s one of those players that gives everything she’s got in every game, but she was making some really great reads and getting to a lot of strong hits that I don’t think Lake Hamilton was used to seeing kept in play.”

As the scores indicate, the Lady Wolves dominated game one. Cabot struggled early, scoring just six points on serve the entire game. As poor as Cabot played in game one, Lake Hamilton was worse in game two, which saw the two teams break each other consecutively for more than half the game. Cabot did manage 10 points on serve in the game while the Lady Wolves got just three points while serving.

The sloppy play came to an end in game three, at least for Cabot. The Lady Panthers got 14 kills in game three after combing for just 18 in games one and two. Senior setter Brilee Staten found her groove and began setting up hitters all over the court.

“I thought Brylee did a great job not just of setting up one side or the other, but setting both sides and the middle,” Campbell said. “She was moving the ball around very well.”

The statistics prove Campbell’s assertion. Three Lady Panthers finished with at least 10 kills. Left outside hitter Lakin Best led the team with 16 kills while Bailee Uhiren and Taylor Bitely each had 10. Sophomore Haylee Callison and senior Sam Mantione each finished with five kills.

Senior defensive specialist Evye Pifer also got to several big hits by Lake Hamilton’s tall and athletic hitters.

“She’s just that solid, dependable player back there that’s not going to make mistakes,” Campbell said. “She also had a great match.”

After both teams traded sloppy play through games one and two, the match turned halfway through game three. Lake Hamilton ran out to a 13-8 lead before Cabot scored five straight points on Montgomery’s serve. She also had three digs during that service rotation while Best, Uhiren and Bitely had one kill each. The Lady Wolves broke serve once the game was tied, but Cabot broke right back with a big kill by Bitely, who then took serve. Six of Bitely’s 10 kills led directly to her service rotation. Once she took serve with the game tied at 14, she reeled off three service points, including two serves that were not returned at all and one ace.

Lake Hamilton rallied back to pull within 22-21 on an ace by Alyssa Stanfill, prompting Campbell to use a timeout. Cabot took three of the last four points, sealing with Montgomery’s ace.

Cabot’s first lead in game four came at 8-7, but that disappeared quickly as Lake Hamilton scored the next four points.

The Wolves’ lead stayed at three points to 10-13 before Cabot scored six in a row to take a 16-13 lead. Lake Hamilton then scored four consecutive to reclaim the lead, but Cabot scored four-straight after that to make it 20-17.

Sticking with the script, Lake Hamilton scored three straight to tie the game, and the two teams traded breaks from that point until 21-21.

Cabot controlled the action from there. Callison and Mantione blocked Lake Hamilton’s 6-foot-3 middle hitter Kori Bullard for the first time to make it 22-21. The Lady Panthers got a little luck for the next point.

Bullard got another big hit, which Mantione partially blocked. The ricochet bounced off Callison’s forearm, skimmed down the top of the net and fell into the Lady Wolves’ side of the court just inside the out-of-bounds line.

Lake Hamilton broke serve on a kill by Stanfill, but her subsequent serve was short and into the net, making it 24-22. Match point was a long one, ending with Bitely getting the game-winning kill.

The Lady Panthers (13-16) will play Springdale-Har-Ber in the first round of the state tournament at 12 p.m. Tuesday at Heritage High School in Rogers.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville goes for it, pays for it against Mills

Leader sportswriter

Leading 7-6 with just under a minute and a half to play, Jacksonville was in position to get another big 5A Central conference win at Mills on Friday.

However, a costly Jacksonville turnover on downs in Red Devil territory set up the go-ahead touchdown with seconds to play, and Mills pulled off the 14-7 upset win over the Red Devils.

“They have athletes and they finally hit some creases,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell after the game. “I think we played good defense for the entire football game. Sometimes big plays happen.”

After struggling to get anything going in the first half offensively, Mills was able to get some production from its running game. Jacksonville scored the first and only touchdown of the first half on a 12-yard Aaron Smith touchdown pass to senior receiver Brandon Brockman.

The extra point gave the Red Devils a 7-0 lead at the break. That was the score until the Comets put together a punishing drive early in the fourth quarter. With 9:54 to play, Mills junior quarterback Omar Avance capped off a nine-play drive with a 30-yard touchdown run on an option keeper.

Avance, who is also the Comets’ kicker, failed to tie the game on the extra point attempt, and Jacksonville led 7-6. The Red Devil offense went three and out on the ensuing drive, giving Mills another shot.

The Comets’ offense put together what looked to be like another promising drive, but a dropped pass on third down, and another incomplete pass on the next snap gave the ball back to the Red Devils with under two minutes to play.

Smith ran the ball up the middle on a quarterback keeper for a two-yard gain to keep the clock rolling, but as Jacksonville tried to run out the clock, the Red Devils ran too much time off the play clock and had to call timeout.

Smith got the call again on second down, but the Comets held him to a 1-yard gain. Mills called timeout and on third down, senior playmaker Kevin Richardson ran the ball four yards to set up fourth and four at the Red Devil 46.

The Comets called another timeout, and afterward, the Red Devils lined up as if they were going to go for it on fourth down with 1:24 to play. Jacksonville tried to get the Comets’ defense to jump offsides, but they didn’t bite, and the Red Devils called timeout.

After the timeout, Jacksonville’s offense took the field and went for it on fourth down in hopes of picking up the first down and running out the clock from there. But sophomore running back Lamont Gause could only manage two yards on the running play and Mills took over on downs at the Jacksonville 48-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Avance hit junior wideout Jaylen Clark on a 43-yard pass down the sideline that set up first and goal at the Red Devil 5-yard line. Three plays later, senior fullback Dwayne Davis plowed his way in for the go-ahead touchdown with 12 seconds left to play.

“They got their athletes out in space and they made some plays,” Russell said about Mills. “We’ll look at this, and we’ll go back and review where we need correct some mistakes. We need to figure out how they made those plays and we’ll work on those.

“We need to execute. Our coaches put a lot of time in for our game plan, and it just comes down to executing that game plan. Staying with your blocks until the whistle blows, and doing their job. Maybe if we would’ve executed a little better we would’ve scored some more points.”

Mills (6-3, 4-2) finished the night with 256 yards of offense. Jacksonville finished with 197. Smith completed 7 of 14 passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. He also led all ball carriers with 89 yards on 22 totes. Richardson had 74 yards from scrimmage on just eight touches.

Jacksonville (6-3, 5-1) still has a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the 5A state playoffs, but have to beat powerhouse Pulaski Academy next week in the regular season finale at Jan Crow Stadium.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot blows off Hurricane

Leader sports editor

Jonesboro took the opening possession of the game at Panther Stadium on Friday and marched right down the field to start the game.

The Jonesboro holder dropped the snap on the extra point and it was all down hill from there for the visiting Hurricanes, as Cabot scored 38 consecutive points en route to a 38-12 victory.

Jonesboro quarterback D.J. Anderson hit receiver Kevontae Pope for a 23-yard scoring strike on third and 5 fewer than four minutes into the game. The missed extra point left it 6-0 with 8:42 remaining in the first quarter, and Cabot dominated the rest of the way.

“Just right off the cuff I’d say I was totally shocked,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We played like we wanted to come out and play some football. I think they realized it’s now or never and we’ve got to get to work.”

The Panthers’ defense physically whipped Jonesboro’s offense after the game’s opening drive. Cabot dropped Jonesboro for lost yardage seven times, forced one interception, one fumble and held two-time all-state running back Martin Stafford to 98 yards on 21 carries. Stafford got 48 of those on two carries, and had just 10 yards on five carries in the second half until Cabot pulled its starters and Stafford reeled off an 18-yard run.

The biggest hit of the night was delivered by sophomore defensive back Jacob Ferguson. His hit separated Jonesboro’s all-state receiver Kevontae Pope from the ball at the Cabot 36-yard line, where junior Colby Ferguson recovered it to secure the Panthers’ fourth takeaway of the game.

“The defense was stingy,” Malham said. “That first drive they picked their way down the field, but after that, the defense played really good. There were some good licks out there by that defense tonight. If we can keep playing that way we’re going to have a chance. We’ve still got to win next week too, but it sure feels better than the last two weeks, I’m telling you.”

Special teams was a major downfall for the Golden Hurricanes, especially in the second half. Jonesboro fumbled four kicks and two were recovered by the Panthers. Cabot’s first touchdown of the second half came after a fumbled punt was covered by Matt Griffin at the 11-yard line. Fullback Kyle Edgar punched it in two plays later from 3 yards out to make it 28-6 with 9:46 left in the third quarter. The two teams traded possessions before Jonesboro took over again at its 14 after fumbling, but covering, another Cabot punt.

The drive got out to the 42-yard line before a sack by Griffin and Ben Powell forced another Jonesboro punt. The punt snap was high and once again Griffin was there to scoop it up at the 2-yard line and step into the end zone.

Cabot capped its final scoring drive with a 26-yard field goal by Jesus Marquez with 5:03 left in the game.

“I don’t know if Jonesboro played that bad or we played that great, but it was probably a little of both,” Malham said. “They did help us out but the kids got after it. Offensively they started moving the ball like old times.”

Cabot’s offense didn’t get things rolling right away. The Panthers didn’t score until their third possession, and it came rapidly.

Halfback Chris Henry took a handoff left 74 yards for Cabot’s first touchdown of the game on first down. Marquez’s extra point gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead with 11:50 left in the first half.

After Cabot’s defense stuffed Jonesboro for a three-and-out series, Henry struck again. Again on first down and again from the 26-yard line, Henry got just 56 yards this time, getting dragged down from behind at the Hurricane’s 18.

It took Cabot six plays from there to score, with fullback Kyle Edgar getting the last 4 yards to make it 14-6 with 6:06 left in the half.

Jonesboro dropped the sky kick on the ensuing kickoff and Scott Burnett covered it for Cabot at the Jonesboro 34.

From there, the Panthers needed eight plays to get into the end zone with Edgar again plowing in from 2 yards out. The extra point made it 21-6 with three minutes remaining until halftime.

Cabot tried an on-side kick on the next kickoff and almost got it, snaring the ball in the air as the Jonesboro up-man called fair catch. The play was ruled interference and Jonesboro took over at the Cabot 41-yard line.

The Hurricanes threatened the score, driving down to the Cabot 9-yard line. Facing third and a yard to go, Colby Ferguson blew up a run to the left.

Ferguson didn’t get to make the tackle after being dragged down by his jersey from behind, but his presence in the backfield halted Stafford in his tracks. He tried to reverse field, but Seth Hoggard caught him for a 16-yard loss to set up fourth and 15 from the 25.

Cornerback Jordan Burke then intercepted an Anderson pass in the end zone to end the threat with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.

Cabot totaled 293 yards of offense, with 224 coming in the first half. Henry, who did not carry the ball in the second half, finished with eight carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Edgar had 21 carries for 74 yards and three touchdowns.

The Panthers will host Searcy on Thursday to close out the regular season.

Friday, October 26, 2012

TOP STORY >> Tempers fly in front of voters

Leader editor

Jacksonville Alderman Terry Sansing’s mother stood all week in front of the Jacksonville Community Center, where early voting had started Monday.

Dorothy Conley, who will be 79 next month, is a soft-spoken Mississippi native who moved here when her husband was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. She was holding up a sign in the parking lot with her son’s name on it and talking to voters as they passed by.

She wasn’t too happy that her son’s opponent, Rizelle Aaron, who was standing nearby with his sign, kept yelling at everyone to vote for him and calling her son a racist.

“Vote for me,” Aaron kept saying. For several days, she tried to ignore Aaron, but then she became more upset when she heard Aaron say several times, “Don’t vote for Terry Sansing. He’s a Confederate soldier.”

Aaron had seen a picture of Sansing in The Leader in a 19th Century outfit that was taken at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Park during Living History Day. Aaron put the picture on Facebook without our permission, and has been telling voters Sansing was dressed up as a slaveholder.

Sansing says he was trying to look like Col. Sanders. “I was going for the Kentucky colonel look,” the alderman told us. “I was proud of that look. I was not wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform. I was wearing a red shirt. I would have been a dead target.”

“I may be from Mississippi,” he continued, “but my sympathies are farther north of the Mason-Dixon line.” He said he wants to join the 25th Missouri Detachment, a group of Civil War re-enactors on the Union side.

“I got sick and tired of him belittling my son,” Mrs. Conley said. “I’ve got to defend my children. Terry had nothing to do with slavery.”

Aaron, who says he’s retired from the Army and the Marines, says Mrs. Conley came up to him and scraped his arm with her sign. He filed a police report over the incident.

Terry Sansing says, “What kind of an ex-Marine are you if a 79-year-old woman can take you out with a sign?”

Mrs. Conley says she hardly touched him. “I didn’t injure him,” she says.

Aaron says she insulted him by saying that even though he was a descendant of slaves, he should be grateful he was living in America.

Aaron said she was suggesting he go back to Africa.

“I’m not a racist,” she said. “I’m a calm person till somebody does something to my boys. Then I’ve got to speak up.”

Aaron, who says he’s disabled, complains that his opponents are ganging up on him. They’re bringing up his run-ins with the law, which includes two convictions in Jacksonville — third-degree domestic battery and third-degree assault on a family member. He was also found guilty of parking in a handicapped zone.

For a disabled veteran, he has remarkable stamina, standing in the parking lot, drumming up support all week.

Aaron was telling people outside the community center that he’d won a lawsuit against a newspaper for printing lies about him. If he filed that suit, it wasn’t against The Leader. No one has ever won a libel suit against us, because you can’t libel someone for printing the truth.

He’s also claimed he has a college degree, but there’s no record he’s every finished college.

The Jacksonville police chief went by the community center Friday morning after he’d heard about the candidates and their supporters hurling insults at each other, but the sides stayed away from each other and everyone was well-behaved.

The rain and the cold kept many voters away. Retired Col. Bill Kehler, a former commander at Little Rock Air Force Base, stood outside the community center with a sign for Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), a state Senate candidate who’s running against Rep. Barry Hyde (R-North Little Rock).

Kehler was standing next to Freddie Booker, another black candidate for Jacksonville City Council, who is running against Mary Twitty. Booker had worked for Kehler on the base more than 30 years ago.

Despite the weather, Mrs. Conley was going back to the community center.

“I’m going down there to support my son,” she said. “There’s got to be human kindness in this world. You’ve got to speak up.”

TOP STORY >> Ex-Air Force officer vs. community volunteer

Freddie Booker and Mary Twitty are vying for Ward 4, Position 2 on the Jacksonville City Council.

Booker, who is also known as Capt. Wallace, was born in Parkdale (Ashley County). She is 60 years old and has lived in Jacksonville for 31 years.

Booker has a bachelor’s degree from University of Arkansas at Monticello and a master’s degree from the United States International University in San Diego, Calif. She served as a captain in the Air Force as a maintenance, missile and administration commander.

She is married to Broadway Joe Booker, a DJ at Power 92. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Twitty, who is 53, is known for her many years of volunteer work in the community.

She and her husband, Jeff, have been married for 31 years. They work together at Farmers Insurance. They have two sons, Brian and Travis. She was born in North Little Rock, and has lived in Jacksonville for the last 26 years. She and her family are members of Second Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Booker: I have always had a passion for helping people. I hope to make an impact in people’s lives. I want to serve as many people as possible in the community of Jacksonville.

Twitty: I have always been involved in the community and want to step up my commitment to serve the people of Jacksonville.

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

Booker: Bachelor’s degree from U of A Monticello, master’s degree from the United States International University in San Diego, Calif. Served as a captain in the Air Force as maintenance, missile and administration commander.

I have been involved in many community organizations such as director of the Wing Ding festival, Sertoma member since 2005 (currently vice president), past president and life member of Jacksonville Junior Auxillary, member of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, commissioner of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation since 2006, worked as a volunteer for two years at North Metro Medical Center, volunteered at the Little Rock Air Force Base clinic, director of Jacksonville’s Father/Daughter Banquet, Jacksonville Cityfest Pageant director for past 25 years, Jacksonville Service Award recipient for 2005-2007.

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

Booker: Economic and industrial improvement. I will work to help seek and identify investment opportunities and jobs that will stimulate and grow our city.

Twitty: Economic growth in Jacksonville (retail/restaurants) to maintain and increase revenue, which increases jobs and/or housing and allows the city to continue the quality of services it provides. Also a separate school district for Jacksonville.

How? Make Jacksonville attractive for retail and residents. Continue to revitalize downtown. We are centrally located in the state beside Little Rock Air Force Base, and within a few miles of the capital.

We also have good police and fire services. We can promote the Jacksonville Little Rock Air Force Base University Center, which houses six colleges and universities, which is attractive for industries trying to locate because of the educational opportunities.

Work with the Educational Foundation, the city council, and our community to assure Pulaski County Special School District that having our own school district is best for Jacksonville.

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

Booker: I will work very hard to keep the citizens’ financial interest safe, and I will listen to the issues that my community expresses, and I will be the voice that will speak on their behalf, and thanks for your support.

Twitty: I love Jacksonville, my heart is in our community.

I am very committed to the city of Jacksonville and its citizens. I want to be a voice for the people and help Jacksonville to be the best place to live.

Together we can enhance our City for all to enjoy. I would very much appreciate your vote on Nov. 6.

TOP STORY >> Four arrests in killing of Cabot man

Leader staff writer

Four murder suspects are in custody after the discovery of the buried body of James Heath, a Cabot man missing since Sept. 16.

Taylor Arnold of Sherwood was charged with murder Thursday after leading investigators to Heath’s body behind a house at 10306 Centennial Road in northern Pulaski County. Heath, 46, was beaten to death with a baseball bat.

On Friday afternoon, Joyce Renee Rollf, 40, who lives at the address where Heath’s body was buried, and William R. Hull, 24, of 462 Sherman Hill Road, Jacksonville, were detained in Pope County in western Arkansas following a traffic stop.

John Posey, 35, was arrested Friday evening. Rolff was in a hospital after she tried to slash her wrists.

A $500 reward was made two weeks ago, but that reward apparently played no part in the discovery of Heath’s body.

The report of Arnold’s arrest says he was acquainted with Heath. His relationship to Rollf and Hull has not been released.

Heath was staying with Matt Brannon in Cabot when he disappeared.

Brannon said Heath was known as DJ because of his work at a radio station.

Ten days after he disappeared, Jacksonville police detained Cary Carter, who was driving Heath’s van. Brannon said then that his friend would not have let anyone borrow it because it was his most valuable possession.

Heath was disabled from a wreck when he was younger. Another friend said he grew up in Cabot and was known by many. She described him as a “completely good-hearted guy.”

That he was dead was not really a surprise, she said.

“After so many days and weeks, you know something has happened,” especially considering that he left his dog behind.

“He never went anywhere without that dog,” she said.

EDITORIAL >> Hurting Jacksonville

In 25 years, The Leader has never endorsed a local candidate and it won’t start now, but we will ask Jacksonville residents what kind of person they want on the council.

Does the city want someone who has at least two criminal convictions that shows, at a minimum, he makes poor choices and has a bad temper?

Do residents want an alderman on the council who has sued the city before and called the mayor, chief of police and other city officials a variety of unprintable names?

Do residents want an aldermen who has made it clear that every time he got arrested the city police were lying?

Does the city need an aldermen who claims to have a college degree, but no one at the college ever heard of him or can verify that he has a degree?

Does Jacksonville need an alderman who verbally abuses a 79-year-old widow who is out in the weather supporting her son’s efforts to stay on the council?

Or a council member who screams at voters that his opponent wears Confederate clothing?

Do residents want an alderman who uses newspaper photos out of context for his own gain?

Does Jacksonville need an alderman who implies that when anything doesn’t go his way, it’s someone else’s fault?

Or one who likes to play the victim card at almost every event?

Does the city want an aldermen being sponsored by disgruntled people who are still mad over annexation? The north corridor annexation will not be reversed by this candidate.

If this is what Jacksonville residents want on the city council, then go ahead and vote for this candidate.

But it is our strong belief that city residents are much too savvy to mark the ballot for him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Huge election is under way

The debates are over and early voting has started in Arkansas. Long lines are reported at some area polling places, but not everywhere. You might call ahead for best times to vote.

We often call our sources where we vote early to see how long the lines are. “It’s not too bad right now,” we’re often told, so we heed the advice and head down to the polling station.

Your neighbors may have already voted, and we’ll probably vote today. Depending on where you live, there are plenty of local contests of interest, including races for the state legislature, city council and several offices in Lonoke County, from clerk to sheriff to treasurer.

The presidential race is a foregone conclusion as Arkansas once again aligns itself with the rest of Dixie, which will overwhelmingly support Mitt Romney. But it’s neck and neck in much of the country, especially in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and Nevada, which could decide the outcome.

Romney was not at his best Monday night during the debate on foreign policy. He looked like he wanted to change the subject: Foreign policy is not his strong suit. The attack on Benghazi was the first question the estimable Bob Schieffer asked him, but Romney punted.

He could have scored a few extra points there, but he didn’t have it in him to slam President Obama: The two saluted the four Americans who had died defending our nation’s values, and then the candidates moved on.

Apart from criticizing the president for supposedly apologizing for America on his trips abroad, Romney said he agreed with Obama on foreign policy most of the time, especially on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, which was a new position for him. But he did hammer away on the need to boost defense spending and building more ships for the Navy. Not much to gain the upper hand.

Most viewers thought Obama won the debate handily, and it appears he may have gained a couple of points in the polls from the last two debates after his first disastrous debate with Romney.

The debate took place during a National League playoff game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants and an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. So a TV screen and a computer made it possible to watch at least two of the big events and switch to the football game between innings. (San Francisco and the Bears won if you’re keeping score.)

Don’t forget to vote. It will be good for you.

TOP STORY >> No TB outbreak in Lonoke jail

Despite about a dozen positive tuberculosis skin tests last week at the Lonoke County Jail, subsequent testing has found no active cases, Arkansas Health Department Public Information Officer Ed Barham said Tuesday.

It was discovered “during a routine screen in which some people had positive skin tests,” Barham said. “It’s gotten a little out of proportion.”

“There are no suspected or active cases in the jail,” he said.

“We looked at those with positive skin tests and all had negative chest x-rays and negative sputum tests,” he said.

“We will continue to complete the routine screening.

There is no cause for public concern or for concern for inmates and family members,” he said.

TB is a very treatable illness now, he said. “This kind of thing can happen where you have a group of people in a small area,” said Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson Tuesday.

“We get people in here with AIDS, hepatitis and everything else,” he said.

Barham said testing and follow up would continue until officials are certain there is no problem.

TOP STORY >> Cabot to build fire station

Leader staff writer

Construction is expected to start next summer on a fire station on Hwy. 5 in Cabot that is needed to protect the residents in that area and to hold the cost of their home insurance down.

Mayor Bill Cypert told a committee of council members earlier this month that the city has about $350,000 saved specifically to begin the $1.2 million facility in June 2013. The balance will come from city savings over the one-year construction period.

If the city council approves the mayor’s proposed 2013 budget in November, $448,315 from city savings will be used in 2013 to fund construction of the $1.2 million facility and the balance, about $400,000, will be spent in 2014.

City officials learned in 2006 that Cabot had outgrown its fire protection. Some parts of Greystone and Magness Creek were simply too far from the closest fire station and the threat of double or triple insurance premiums for those areas loomed.

The solution that met the requirements of the Insurance Services Office, known as ISO, was to park an unstaffed fire truck at a rented truck bay in the vicinity. The ISO rates fire departments for insurance purposes.

During Eddie Joe Williams’ term as mayor, the city paid about $260,000 for three acres at Hwy. 5 and Mountain Springs Road that also had a shop building where the fire truck could be parked.

The unstaffed truck has kept premiums down for six years but has not added to the security of the area.

The new station will be built on the three acres. The station has been described as a no-frills facility that will be adequate for the fire department’s needs. The architect for the project is Clements and Associates from North Little Rock.

Also in the proposed budget is $64,000 for two vehicles for the fire department, $20,000 for extrication equipment, $69,352 for the planned streetscape on Main Street, $15,000 for a thermal imager, $90,000 for a dump truck and $50,000 for a mini-excavator.

The council is expected to pass the 2013 budget on Nov. 19.

TOP STORY >> Driver dies on highway

Leader senior staff writer

A 31-year-old Little Rock man became the latest accident fatality on state highways Sunday night and at least the second man to die as the result of an accident on the deadly state Hwy. 67/167 Main Street overpass at Jacksonville since January 2006.

The preliminary state Police accident report says Nicholas Carter was driving a 2001 Toyota Corolla on Hwy. 67/167 South when he lost control in a curve. The car hit the inside concrete retaining wall and became disabled in the middle of the lane.

David Bailey, 61, of Greenville, Ill., was driving a 2007 International truck. Bailey hit Carter’s car on the front driver’s side.

Carter was wearing a seat belt. Bailey was not injured.

The preliminary report did not say that the accident occurred on the overpass or approach, but Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes confirmed the location Tuesday.

State Police worked the accident and Jacksonville police aided with traffic control, he said.

The bridge, about 50 years old, is not engineered to modern standards. Along with a similar structure on the same highway at Redmond Road, it is due to be replaced starting next summer, according to Randy Ort, state Highway Department Communications director.

Both those projects have been in the pipelines for years, although only recently were the Redmond Road and Main Street bridges combined into a single project, by way of addressing the Main Street project sooner than originally planned. Local residents and commuters have become used to accidents, orange barrels and bridge guardrail repairs on the outside southbound lane of the overpass.

From January 2003 through December 2006, the State Police worked 118 accidents resulting in 71 injuries on the Main Street overpass or within a quarter mile, according to data supplied by the state.

At times, only the barrels, good fortune and careful driving have kept other vehicles from plunging unimpeded to Main Street below until repairs were completed.

In February 2006, Jerry Justice, 34, of Ward was crushed and pronounced dead at the scene after the gravel truck driven by Donald Ray Watkins, 35, slammed two pickup trucks through the overpass guardrail and plunged after them onto Main Street, about 20 feet below, dumping the gravel on the other vehicles, according to the State Police account.

Bids on replacement of those two overpasses with larger, safer structures are slated to be let during the 2013 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, and construction could begin by mid summer.

The new structures will have three lanes each direction and generous shoulders, according to Ort and the 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan estimates the replacement cost at $17.3 million.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, who has advocated quick and effective replacement of those bridges since taking office, admits traffic will be a nightmare for commuters during the construction, which could take 12 to 18 months.

The new Main Street bridge will have a gentler curve than the current bridge, and will have barriers that meet modern standards and will be banked, according to Jacksonville City Engineer Jay Whisker.

The old barriers were concrete posts supporting guard rails, and the outside barrier on the southbound structure seemed at times to be perpetually broken and under repair.

“The city wants the curve taken out for obvious reasons,” said Whisker, “but the Highway Department said we can’t take it completely out.”

The new overpasses are the next step toward widening Hwy. 67/167 from I-40 to Cabot.

TOP STORY >> Council approves dogs in parks

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council last week approved an ordinance allowing dogs on most park trails in the city. But “animals are specifically prohibited from the community center, skate park and farmers’ market pavilion, including the walking trails present at those park facilities.”

The exception will be service animals. City ordinances, already in the books, require animals to be on a leash and that the owner properly dispose of the animals’ waste.

In other business:

• Police Chief Gary Sipes told the council that his department responded to almost 1,000 fewer complaint calls this September compared to September 2011. The department received 3,493 complaint calls, made 389 arrests and served 214 warrants.

Tracking the most violent crimes, Sipes’ report shows the city had no homicides in September, but did have one reported sexual assault, six robberies, 16 felony assaults, 26 burglaries, 86 thefts and six vehicle thefts.

In his code enforcement report, Sipes said officers had 78 assigned calls and 436 initiated calls in September.

Officers wrote 69 violation letters or notices, removed 105 illegal placed signs, and tagged six properties and seven vehicles for noncompliance during the month.

Also, two structures were condemned and three houses were demolished by the city. Seven were demolished by the owners.

• In his monthly report, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof told the council his department responded to 275 rescue calls, 59 still alarms, 29 general alarms and had 275 ambulance runs in September. He said fire loss for September was estimated at $144,000, while fire savings was placed at $169,000.

• The council approved two bids for the new public safety building. Aldermen said yes to spending $26,776 with SouthWest Solutions for new evidence lockers and related equipment and another $63,025 with Pettus Office to furnish the new facility.

• Aldermen approved rezoning five acres at 1701 General Samuels Road from M-2 (manufacturing ) to C-2 (light commercial). Landmark Baptist, which owns the property, has sold it to the Arkansas Federal Credit Union. The church plans to build a bigger facility on adjacent acreage. The credit union will use the five acres for a financial institution or offices.

TOP STORY >> A&P helps firing range

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Com-mission last week voted to provide up to $130,000 to help pay for the shooting range that will open next spring on Graham Road.

Chairman Mike Houchen said, “We’re giving it a crutch to get it over the hump. I’ve been told that any profits will be used to service the debt before they are used for other things. And I know we’re going to have a return from it. This is a real opportunity to do what we’ve been charged to do.”

Commissioner Jim Hurley said, “This is one of the biggest draws we can have in Jacksonville.”

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation is providing $1.5 million for the project, while Jacksonville will spend $625,000 over the next five years. Three anonymous donors have given $150,000.

A few of the commissioners asked Mayor Gary Fletcher about annexing the part of the range that is outside city limits. They were concerned about the legality of providing funding if the whole site isn’t in Jacksonville.

Fletcher said he is working with Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin on that issue. City Attorney Robert Bamburg said the whole site would be annexed before it opens.

The Parks and Recreation Department will run the day-to-day operations of the range, according to maintenance manager Kevin House.

He will be the range manager until two full-time employees are hired.

House said the department would also add a few part-time and seasonal positions.

He said the range would be open five days a week.

The Game and Fish Com-mission staff will manage the range during tournaments.

The mayor thanked the commission for its contribution. He said, “This is happening pretty quick.”

He added that this would be something for parents and children to do together.

In other business:

• The commission was informed that revenue has been flat this year. They have a $93,000 surplus because September expenditures were less than the revenue that came in.

Houchen said other cities, North Little Rock specifically, have experienced significant losses.

“We’re holding our own and doing a lot better than communities around us,” he said.

Houchen also reminded the commissioners that the revenue remained the same even though Kentucky Fried Chicken on North First Street and McDonald’s on Main Street closed. McDonald’s has reopened at its new building on Main Street.

• The commissioners were told that 2,000 out of the 6 million people who saw their ad while searching on Facebook clicked on the ad to go to Jacksonville’s website.

Commissioner Jim Hurley said, “That sounds like a small number.”

Sells Agency account executive Kristen Burgeis, who works for the public relations firm that was hired by the city, said, “Of all the Facebook campaigns I’ve done, this is excelling the most.”

She explained that many people won’t click on it because they are looking for a different Jacksonville in another state or it could pop up with other search terms such as “military.”

TOP STORY >> Halloween and fall festivals are planned

The Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department will hold a Pumpkin Patch Plunge at the Jacksonville Community Center from 6 until 8:30 p.m Monday, Oct. 29 as a fundraiser for the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

Children ages 5 to 12 are invited to the community center pool to take the plunge for a chance to win toys, Splash Zone passes and more. Admission is $5.

For more information, call 501-982-4171 or 501-982-0818.

Zion Hill Baptist Church will sponsor a “Trunk or Treat” event from 6 until 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31. Church members, whose car trunks will be decorated, will offer children candy. There will be fun and games for the whole family. Pastor Terry Fortner invites the public to attend.

The church is at 11923 Zion Hill Road near Cabot.

Austin is holding haunted hay rides and a Halloween carnival at Austin Fire Station 3, which is at 12 Moats Lane near the Cross Creek subdivision.

Weather permitting, the hayrides are from 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, then again Monday-Wednesday until 9 p.m. Admission is $5.

The carnival will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. next Saturday. Ten tickets are $5. For more information, call Austin City Hall at 501-941-2648.

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, 401 N. First St., will host its annual fall festival from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31.

Activities will include trunk or treat, face painting and bounce houses for ages 13 and under.

Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church, off Hwy. 89 South in Cabot, will hold its fall festival from 5 until 10 p.m. next Saturday. There will be a bouncy house, trunk or treating, games, lots of free food and a haunted path for exciting family fun. Costumes are encouraged.

Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cabot will hold its annual harvest festival from 4 until 6 p.m. next Saturday.

There will be free games, activities, crafts, chili, hot dogs and trunk or treating. Participants are encouraged to come in costume.

The church is located at 301 S. Pine St.

Bethel Baptist Church in Jacksonville will host a “Trunk or Treat” from 6 until 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at 112 N. Jeff Davis St.

TOP STORY >> How to get ready for Halloween

Leader staff writer

Fear Factory 501 Haunted House is offering equipment, advice and labor to competing for-profits and nonprofits that are using Halloween to scare up profits or donations.

John Veasman and Corey Carter run the business, which was established three years ago in Conway. It moved to 25120 Hwy. 107 after the first year.

Fear Factory is open from 7 p.m. to midnight through Oct. 31.

“We’ll go to your haunt and help set it up,” Carter said.

Fear Factory allows anyone organizing a haunted house to walk through it for free.

“Criticism, you have to have it,” Carter explained.

And they loan animatronics — life-like motorized puppets — to other houses, he said.

Carter said when customers finally make their way out of the labyrinth-like Fear Factory they always ask where they should go next. He said the greeters promote the other houses nearby when that opportunity arises.

Fear Factory employs about 20 actors.

“We’re a big family, not blood-related, but we love each other,” Carter said.

The house takes between six and eight months to set up.

Carter said, “Everything was so expensive, we started building our own things.”

Fear Factory’s animatronics are crafted rather than bought, which sparked the two men to start a side business selling animatronics and Halloween props, which can be viewed at

The house just added 2,000 square feet of three-dimensional displays. The new area is called “Skully’s 3D Playhouse.”

Skully is Fear Factory’s skeleton mascot.

“It’s unique. It’s original. It’s instant gratification. The scenes are always evolving. This is going to be the happening place,” Carter said about Fear Factory.

He said the house changes every night. The fastest any customer has ever taken to get out of the maze was 17 minutes. The longest time has been one hour.

“It’s all about disorienting people. That’s the one thing we don’t skimp on,” Carter said.

But there are eight emergency exits and cameras inside Fear Factory to alert the staff of any problems.

The craziest thing Fear Factory has ever done was kidnapping a group of customers.

The group was herded into a trailer and driven down the road, Carter said. They were trapped inside with several actors, including “The Butcher.”

He said the customers were told it was part of the Fear Factory experience and all of them loved the gag.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers somehow still alive

Leader sportswriter

With the top three playoff seeds out of the 5A East Conference all but decided, Friday’s matchup between Beebe and Nettleton at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium carries the heaviest implications of any league game coming up in week eight.

The Badgers (2-6, 2-3) have turned their season around with back-to-back East victories after losing their first six games of the season. The Raiders (4-4, 2-3) pulled off what could be considered a mild upset last week with a 41-40 victory over Forrest City, which currently holds the third spot in the league standings.

The East schedule has been full of unpredictable results for Nettleton through the first five weeks of league play. The Raiders lost to Batesville 38-12 to starts its conference campaign, followed by a 12-7 loss to Blytheville. The Raiders turned things around with a big 38-7 victory over a much-improved Paragould team, but turned around the following week and lost 35-27 to struggling Greene County Tech.

“I think they’re a lot like us,” Beebe coach John Shannon said of Nettleton. “They are young like we are. They had a real good junior-high team last year, and they’re having to grow up like our kids have been.”

The Badgers have eased many of their early-season growing pains with clutch performances in close games the past two weeks. It took a late defensive stand to hold off Greene County Tech last week in a thrilling 37-34 win for Beebe after breaking through on the winning side a week earlier against Blytheville in a 27-26 nail biter.

The Chickasaws are still in the mix as well at 2-3 in conference play with Paragould and Forrest City still remaining on their schedule. The loser this week between Beebe and Nettleton can essentially forget about any chance of making the postseason.

Even though it’s just for the fourth seed, this is a huge game for both teams,” Shannon said. “Both teams have a lot of momentum and are headed in the right direction. It’s just a huge, huge football game with a lot at stake. We’re trying to keep our winning streak alive, and our playoff streak alive, and they’re trying to make it to the playoffs for the first time in a while, so there’s a lot for both of us to play for.”

The Raiders, led by third-year coach Jay Murphree, have gone to a pistol formation, abandoning the spread offense of the previous two seasons. Junior quarterback Dustin Dunbar leads the run-heavy attack, setting the stage for a potential battle of ball control on Friday.

Beebe has seen improvement on the offensive side as well. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Nunez has shown signs of being a strong option-based rusher, while junior fullback Eric Thorn returned from injury last week to rush for over 120 yards against Greene County Tech.

“Our kids are playing with a little more confidence,” Shannon said. “There are still a few things we would like to see cleaned up, but compared to where we were at, we’re pleased. Nunez has played really well the last two weeks, and he’s making better decisions out there on the field, and Eric had three of his best games since the Forrest City game.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers in crucial situation on Friday

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s home game against Jonesboro (6-1, 4-1) this Friday is as big as it gets. The Panthers (4-3, 2-3) have two games left to try and secure one of the 12 spots in the class 7A state playoffs. After dropping its last two, the Panthers are 2-3 in league play. There are four teams in the East/South playoff race with better records than Cabot. There are three teams, including Cabot, at 2-3 vying for the two remaining playoff spots. One of those teams is Little Rock Central, which beat the Panthers head-to-head.

The Panther’s opponent rolls into Lonoke County with its only loss a 27-20 defeat at the hands of powerhouse North Little Rock. No other team in the state has played within 20 points of the Wildcats, and that team was Cabot, which lost 33-14.

Despite the impressive record, Hurricane coach Randy Coleman believes his squad has an uphill battle ahead of it this week.

“I hope people don’t take this the wrong way, or as a bunch of coach speak, but I think we’re the underdogs,” Coleman said. “We have a better record, but I think they lost a couple they should have won. We’re on the road against a team with one of the best coaches in the state. They have the advantage in experience and numbers and we feel like we’ve got to go in there and play our best game of the year in order to get a win.”

Running back Martin Stafford leads Jonesboro’s offensive attack. He has 1,284 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He has had some space to run in thanks to a good passing attack.

Quarterback D.J. Anderson has thrown for more than 700 yards and rushed for about the same amount. His favorite target when he drops back is Devonte Pope, who Coleman says is right at 500 yards receiving this season with six touchdowns.

“Everybody always talks about the running back and the quarterback, and they are big for us,” Coleman says. “But Devonte is a really dynamic player too. He’s returned two punts for touchdowns and had another called back due to an inadvertent whistle, which was very frustrating. But those three are our go-to guys, no doubt about it.”

One of the only things that has slowed down the Hurricane’s offense this season has been turnovers. North Little Rock bottled up Stafford pretty well, but Anderson carried 19 times for 127 yards in that game.

“We feel like we have different ways to move the ball if something else isn’t working,” Coleman said. “We’re pleased to say this is our most complete team since I’ve been here. We’re happy about the way we’re playing. The kids play with great effort and play really hard. We’ve limited mistakes for the most part, and that’s definitely crucial against a team like Cabot.”

Coleman believes turnovers against a quality, ball-control offense is dangerous.

“The way Cabot controls the clock, if you start wasting drives and giving away possessions, you’re going to be trying to come from behind, and that’s where Cabot wants you to be,” Coleman said.

Jonesboro has seen two offenses similar to Cabot’s in West Memphis and Mountain Home, but Coleman believes the Panthers have the most difficult style to prepare for.

“It’s hard to get your kids to truly replicate the way Cabot plays,” Coleman said. “As far as lining up in sets and having people run the holes they run, it’s not an issue. But the way coach Malham has those guys do it, come off the ball hard and staying so low. We’re not used to getting down in a three-point stance. We do a lot of pass protect and aren’t usually plowing forward on the snap. It’s hard to get your defensive line real experience against that until they see it.”

The Panthers and Hurricanes will kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday at Panther Stadium.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats put sights on Bombers

Leader sports editor

The only undefeated team in 7A/6A East play travels to take on the only winless team in league play when North Little Rock faces Mountain Home on Friday. The Wildcats are fresh off their second shutout since conference play began. They manhandled Marion 52-0 at home last Friday, giving up just 77 yards of total offense.

Mountain Home may not be as easy to keep out of the end zone. Despite sitting at 0-5 in conference play, the Bombers have scored at least 17 points in all five games and at least 20 in three of them.

Mountain Home’s best offensive game came in a 44-41 loss to Searcy three games ago. Since then the Bombers have lost 42-17 to Cabot, 49-25 to Jonesboro and 42-20 to Little Rock Central.

North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding is sticking with script of focusing primarily on his own team in preparation for the next game, though there are some things about going to Mountain Home that are worrisome.

“It’s a long ride up there so we really want to be focused on having our mind right and not having any slip ups because we don’t have our heads in the game early,” Bolding said. “Our kids respect everybody we play, and we’ve got to respect Mountain Home. They have a good offense and any time you go on the road it’s a hostile environment.

“We have to sharpen our edge a little bit and focus on the mistakes we made and get down to the little bitty, nitpicky things.”

While the Bombers have been good on offense, they will face the toughest defense on their schedule this week. The Charging Wildcats have yielded an average of 9.3 points per game in conference play, and only Cabot and Jonesboro have scored against their starters in five games.

“I think our defense has played extremely well,” Bolding said. “We gave it to Jonesboro inside our own 20 twice. Cabot moved it down the field on us a couple of times, but we came up with a big stop and were able to shut them down the rest of the game. Other than that, our defense has been really good.”

Bolding would still like to see more consistency on offense, but his main gripe after last week’s win was kickoff coverage.

“Marion had several good kickoff returns, and the reason for it was breakdowns on our end,” Bolding said. “Had they done it when we did our job right, we might not be addressing it as much as we are. We had people running out of lanes and creating space for their return men. They have some guys that can run and they did a good job of exploiting our mistakes.”

Getting those mistakes corrected is priority number one this week.

“We hang our hat on not making the same mistakes again,” Bolding said. “Offensively and on special teams, I expect we’ll get those things corrected and keep moving forward.”

SPORT STORY >> Devils flying high into Comets

Leader sports editor

Each game gets bigger for Jacksonville’s football team. In week nine of the season, the Red Devils are 5-0 in league play and has its toughest conference team to date in line next. The Mills Comets (5-2, 3-2) host the Red Devils on Friday.

Jacksonville (6-2, 5-0) is tied with Pulaski Academy for first place, and the two are scheduled to meet in week 10 for each team hopes is a duel for the league crown. But Mills, a 50-20 loser to the Bruins last week, still has a lot to play for. If the Comets win out and PA beats Jacksonville, then they will slip into a tie for second place and get the No. 2 seed in the state playoffs due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“We still have a chance for it,” Mills coach Pat Russell said of the two seed. “But we can’t worry about the next two. We have to worry about the next one. We need to bounce back. We got beat pretty badly. I thought we’d play a little better than we did, but this is a good bunch. They listen and do what’s asked of them, so I expect them to be able to bounce back.”

Mills’ flexbone offense centers around fullback Dewayne Davis, a Jacksonville resident who played for Jacksonville coach Rick Russell when he was a freshman at North Pulaski. Davis is approaching 1,000 yards this season. Specific season totals weren’t available, but Pat Russell said Davis averages nearly five yards per carry and right at 100 yards per game.

“He’s our workhorse, and he’s earned it,” Pat Russell said. “He runs hard and breaks tackles. When you run the option, you have to establish the fullback first, and he’s been a good one.”

The Jacksonville coach Rick Russell remembers Davis from North Pulaski.

“He was a wide receiver in ninth grade,” Rick Russell said. “You can tell by looking at him that he’s hit the weight room hard and become a big-time fullback. I’d say he’s right at 200 pounds and he’s strong.”

Mills’ most dangerous halfback is Floyd Pugh, the anchor to last year’s overall state 4x100-meter relay championship team. Pugh and other halfbacks will also line up in the slot on occasion.

“It’s just a good team,” Rick Russell said of Mills. “They have a good offensive line push and run downhill very well. They have other backs that are really fast and their quarterback runs the option well. They’re just a good combination of power and speed. Any time you play a team like that, you have to try to hit them before they get started.”

In Jacksonville’s last game, a 13-7 win over Little Rock Christian Academy, the defense played well, while the offense sputtered. Jacksonville scored on its first drive and its last, but struggled in every drive in between.

“We have to protect a lot better,” Rick Russell said. “If you can’t protect, you can’t run it. Everybody has to do their one of 11, block until the whistle blows. And we have to take care of the football. We didn’t do those things very well last time out. We have to get back to doing what we did the first three or four weeks of conference.”

Jacksonville is also at full strength, with everyone who played the first game still healthy in week nine.

“We are healthy,” Rick Russell said. “In week eight of a football season, you either get used to the little bangs and bruises, or they’re not there. Either way, we’re not hearing about it. I think winning creates a good atmosphere and good attitudes. And that needs to continue this week. We have to win this game this week in practice.”