Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TOP STORY >> Waiting for Big Brother

Leader editor

Rep. Tim Griffin, the Second District Republican, issued a statement a few days after we criticized our congressional delegation’s silence over widespread domestic surveillance of our phones and e-mails by the National Security Administration and its subcontractors.

He says “tracking the phone calls of millions of innocent citizens is ‘excessive and un-American.’ I’m also extremely troubled by reports of the NSA’s Prism and the federal government surveilling Americans’ Internet activity on a massive scale.”

He says both parties have gone beyond what’s acceptable: “I don’t care who’s in the White House — Barack Obama, George Bush or George Washington — abusing the Patriot Act is a serious overreach, and Americans’ constitutional rights must be protected. The fact that Prism training materials dismiss this systematic invasion of privacy as ‘nothing to worry about’ is absurd, and the 51 percent threshold for targeting is unsettling and borderline indefensible. If reports about Prism are accurate, Americans are now viewed as potential terrorists until data and the facts suggest otherwise.”

Prism is the gigantic data-mining program run with the help of private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, which is now selling this advanced technology to the United Arab Emirates. Thanks to U.S. taxpayers who helped develop Prism, Booz Allen will make billions running the surveillance programs here and abroad.

Booz Allen provided top-secret clearance for Edward Snowden, the fugitive analyst who may be defecting to China if the CIA doesn’t catch him first. There’s no telling how many secrets this high school dropout has taken with him, but before more damage is done, Booz Allen should explain why it should keep a lucrative federal contract when it can’t keep security risks off its payroll. No telling how many NSA contractors are selling secrets to our enemies.

Booz Allen, by the way, is posting help-wanted ads to replace Snowden in its Hawaii office where he worked.

NSA officials insist the program has prevented numerous terrorist attacks and will disrupt others. There’s no reason to doubt them, but when they say law-abiding Americans have nothing to fear, most of us aren’t so sure. Prism does violate the spirit, and probably the letter, of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted searches.

Polls now show that most Americans are worried about government intrusion, although when the revelations first came out a couple of weeks ago, they seemed less concerned. Then they thought about it some more, and the image of George Orwell’s Big Brother popped into their heads. It’s not just Orwell: The famous parody by Apple, when it introduced the Macintosh computer during the Super Bowl in 1984, is scary because Steve Jobs tried to convince us his computer would triumph over Big Brother, but instead his ubiquitous product helped make Prism possible. The ad was withdrawn after one showing, but you can see it on YouTube, like everything else.

It’s not much of a stretch for Silicon Valley, which makes a fortune snooping on Internet users, to sell its expertise to Booz Allen and NSA on data mining.

The enemy is real and fanatical. Last December, an Al Qaeda terrorist who wanted to deliver an important message to Afghanistan’s security chief was undressed to make sure he wasn’t carrying a bomb. When nothing was found, he put his clothes back on and was led to the spy chief. The terrorist blew up his torso with a small bomb hidden inside his rectum.

A similar incident occurred in Saudi Arabia three years earlier, when a terrorist shook hands with the security chief and blew himself up with a small bomb, also in his rectum.NSA says it caught his brother before he could blow up a UPS cargo plane in Yemen.

Fighting fanatics who put explosives in their buttocks is no picnic. It has taken the best minds to keep the terrorists from pulling off another 9/11, although smaller operators like the Boston marathon bombers will create mayhem from time to time and there will be calls for more surveillance.

NSA, Silicon Valley and Booz Allen must protect the rights of Americans, but who will supervise the snoopers? Rogue agents will pry into our lives and corrupt supervisors in Washington will scan our phone calls and e-mails and read them without court approval.

There’s no evidence this has happened yet, but Americans have every right to worry.

TOP STORY >> Cabot theater this weekend

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Community Theatre on Friday will present “Here Comes the Bride…And There Goes the Groom,” a one-act play that aims to give the audience a case of the giggles.

Reservations for the 7:30 p.m. show are required and can be made by calling 501-941-2266. Tickets are $15.

In a separate event on Saturday, Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis, Fire Chief Phil Robinson, Dr. Scott Hill of Hill and Moudy Family Dentistry and Cabot High School band director Joe Trusty and their wives will be contestants in the “The Not-so-Newlywed Game."

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Saturday game are also $15, but those making reservations for both nights will receive a $5 discount — a total of $25 — to see the one-act play on Friday and the game on Saturday. The theater is at 204 N. First St.

All About Stage students will begin both events with a concert.

The one-act play is set at Millie Compton’s wedding when her fiancĂ© leaves her standing in the aisle after seeing her approach the aisle. The wedding party is left to figure out what happened.

Catherine Roberts, who is starring as the bride’s grandma Alma, said while laughing loudly, “I told my family I hope I don’t embarrass ya’ll.”

About why she is performing in the play, Roberts added, “It’s just fun to be silly.”

Alma is a character with no filter. She says what she wants when she wants to say it and what she says is often taboo, Roberts explained. She said she is channeling Sophia from the “Golden Girls” for the role.

The rest of the all-female cast is Scarlett McLain as Millie, the bride; Tonya Rafferty as Julianne, the bride’s sister and matron of honor; Shann Nobles as Carolyn, mother of the bride; Macy Long as Babs, Millie’s best friend; Addison Bennett as Georgia, the groom’s sister and a bridesmaid, and Kathy Whitt as Emily, the groom’s mother.

One highlight of the play is when the mothers of the bride and groom use their purses to teach each other a lesson. Who wins the brawl between the two moms? Attend the play to find out.

McLain, who is starring as the bride, said, “I love my character. She’s very interesting. I love how she has a classy side and a sassy, sarcastic side. The play is so fun. Everything you could worry about at a wedding comes together.”

All About Stage founder Autumn Watson said about the play, “It’s normal people.”

Her daughter, Addison Bennett, who is acting as the groom’s sister, explained that the characters are less theatrical. They are everyday people, she said.

This is the second one-act the theater has held and the first one done through a licensing company, Nobles said.

The theater usually stages five plays every season, but there isn’t much happening between those shows, she noted.

Nobles said the nonprofit wants to bring more people in for small events, like one-act plays and “The Not-so-Newlywed Game.”

She is also looking for sponsors to help the theater present Peter Pan in August. Coming in July is another rendition of “The Nerd,” a two-act comedy, Nobles added.

TOP STORY >> City gets ready for FestiVille

Leader staff writer

Family fun, food and a frolicking good time are on the schedule for Jacksonville’s first FestiVille Friday and Saturday at Dupree Park.

The carnival rides started pulling into the park Monday and will be set up and running this evening and the rides will continue through Saturday night.

The festival, which offers free admission and parking, will open in earnest at noon Friday with about 30 craft and commercial vendors, food trailers and volunteers asking festivalgoers to sign a petition for Jacksonville to get its own school district.

The festival will operate two stages of entertainment Friday and Saturday. Friday night’s headline entertainment is Beebe’s Luke Williams and his band performing about 8 p.m.

Then on Saturday night, starting at 7, will be the Wild Buffalo Wing karaoke finals.
Other events and their times are:

• Mr. and Miss FestiVille pageant rehearsal will be at 5 p.m. Friday on the Festival stage. The pageant, itself will be from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

• Registration for the Dupree Lake fishing derby starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

• The 5K run and 1K walk starts at 8 a.m. Saturday.

• Registration for the volleyball tournament starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

• The Canine Cutie Contest will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

• Students from Sharon’s School of Dance will perform from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

• A local martial-arts group will perform twice on Saturday, — from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., then from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.

• The rock group Eddie and the Defianz will perform at 5 p.m. Saturday.

• Numerous musical groups from Dogtown Media will perform throughout Friday afternoon and Saturday.

• Radio Disney will be performing from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday.

• Cool 104.7 will be doing live broadcasts all day Friday and Saturday.

• The carnival will be open tonight, Thursday and Friday evening and all of Saturday. The festival vendors and most food booths will be open from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

TOP STORY >> Meetings on wet or dry

Leader staff writer

Petitions requesting a vote on whether most of Jacksonville and Sherwood goes wet or stays dry will be available at a 5:30 p.m. town-hall meeting Monday.

The Jacksonville and Sher-wood chambers of commerce are hosting town hall meetings on Monday and Tuesday about the new state law that could have an economic impact of $10.6 million a year. 

The first meeting is at the Sherwood City Council chamber, 2201 E. Kiehl Ave. The second meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive.

The meeting in Sherwood will be a time for questions and determine where new voter boundaries are located for the election, according to a news release.

The new law allows residents of defunct townships to circulate a petition requesting a vote on whether full-service restaurants, convenience and grocery stores can sell alcohol without having to obtain expensive private-club licenses.

There are no more liquor store licenses available in Pulaski County. Sherwood Economic Development Director Kelly Coughlin said previously that language in the new law also prohibits them.

Some liquor store owners opposed the new law because they were concerned about additional competition from convenience stores selling beer at rock-bottom prices just to get customers to come into their establishments.

But Jim Durham, Jacksonville’s director of administration, said they should know that if the area is voted wet those businesses would have to apply for the C-5 zoning the liquor stores already have or ask the city for a conditional use permit in order to sell alcohol.

One of the defunct townships the law applies to is Gray Township, which makes up most of Jacksonville and everything in Sherwood that is north of Maryland Avenue, including Gravel Ridge. The area has been dry for more than 60 years.

The law also covers three other dry, but defunct townships in Pulaski County. One is in North Little Rock near the Park Hill neighborhood, another is northwest of Little Rock Air Force Base and the other in southwest Little Rock.

The law states petitioners must collect signatures from 38 percent of registered voters within the boundaries of a defunct township.

The Pulaski County Quorum Court would sanction the election and the county would cover the cost of any election over the alcohol issue.

Advocates have previously said that the area going wet would make it more attractive to chain restaurants.

Restaurants in the dry portions of Sherwood and Jacksonville have to apply for a private-club license in order to sell alcohol.

The application fee for the license is $1,500. Once a license is approved, the annual renewal fee is $1,500. Restaurants with the license are not able to purchase alcohol at wholesale prices.

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins can't hold lead against NLR

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills led early in its junior American Legion matchup with North Little Rock, but the Colts took the lead for good in the third inning and held on late to narrowly beat the Bruins 8-7 on Monday at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

North Little Rock had a three-run lead going into the sixth and final inning, and in their final at bat, the Bruins did everything they could to make a valiant comeback. Sylvan Hills’ leadoff hitter Camron Flippo picked up his second single of the game to start the sixth inning.

Two-hole hitter Web Bryant walked the next at bat, but Carson Sanders hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to send Bryant back to the dugout. Bruins’ starting pitcher Reed Atkinson walked the next at bat to load the bases with one out.

North Little Rock was able to record the second out of the inning on a strikeout, but not before Flippo would score on a passed ball at home plate. Lamar Hardimane came in to pinch hit for the Bruins, but quickly fell behind in the count.

However, with two strikes, Hardimane hit a hard chopper to the gap in right field, which allowed Sanders to score with ease. Atkinson turned hard at third base on the hit, hoping to get the ‘go’ sign, but Bruins coach Matt Presson stopped him as the ball was recovered in shallow right field.

Blake Dickerson followed Hardimane’s at bat and did what he could to battle, but struck out with the bases loaded to end the game. Afterwards, Presson expressed his own disappointment with his decision to hold Atkinson at third on what could have been the game-tying run.

“Obviously I was thinking I should have sent the guy,” Presson said. “I just should have sent him. I don’t know what I was thinking. I wanted to use a pinch-hitter, but I ran out of pinch-hitters. We just kind of had to go with what we had, but I thought we played good.

“A bunch of 14-year olds, eighth-graders, playing a bunch of 15-, 16-year-old kids – I mean, they did pretty good. They competed. Reed Atkinson threw a heck of a game, but we gave them some runs. It was just errors. Leaving guys in scoring position and making errors, we’re not going to win many games doing that.”

Sylvan Hills left a total of seven runners stranded in the game compared to North Little Rock’s three. The Bruins looked to be in control after a three-run first inning, but North Little Rock matched the run total its next at bat.

Sylvan Hills retook the lead in the bottom part of the second inning on a sacrifice grounder by Atkinson. Flippo scored on the play to put the Bruins on top 4-3. Sylvan Hills scored another run in the third, but not before North Little Rock added three more to its total to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The Colts increased their lead in the fifth and sixth innings with a run scored in each. Blaine Miller scored the final run for North Little Rock after picking up his second single at the start of the sixth inning. Miller was one of three Colts with multiple hits. Flippo was the only Bruin with multiple hits.

The North Little Rock junior Colts play again today as they host the Cabot junior team. That game is at 6 p.m. Sylvan Hills’ juniors resume play tomorrow at the same time against Conway at the Sherwood Sports Complex.

SPORTS STORY >> Colts unbeaten, win at Sheridan

Leader sports editor

The North Little Rock senior American Legion team won the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic and kept its undefeated record intact over the weekend in Sheridan. The Colts defeated Jacksonville 5-2 in the semifinals and Cabot 4-0 in the championship game on Sunday to complete the sweep of the annual prestigious event.

“This is a really good tournament, and a fun tournament and something the kids look forward to and enjoy taking part in,” said North Little Rock coach Bob Hopkins. “This bunch has been so solid all year, and it’s always fun when you take home the trophy.”

The Colts didn’t hit the ball as well as they have most of the year, but that’s to be expected in a wood-bat tournament. Despite the sub-par hitting, Hopkins was pleased with the overall performance.

“We got really great pitching from everyone this weekend, and we played really good defense,” Hopkins said. “That’s what won this tournament for us. I was a little under whelmed with the hitting, even for a wood-bat tournament, but defensively we were very solid and I was very proud of all our pitchers.”

In the final three games over the weekend, Nick Cleveland went the distance on Saturday to beat Pine Bluff Relyance.

J.D. Miller took the mound in Sunday’s semifinal win over Jacksonville, and Connor Eller went the distance for a five-hit shutout in the championship victory over Cabot.

Cabot’s best chance to score came in the second inning when Coleman McAtee singled and Adam Hicks doubled to put runners in scoring position with one out. But Eller fanned the next batter then got a fly ball to centerfield to get out of the jam.

Cabot got no more than one base runner in any of the remaining five innings, though two were leadoff doubles.

Casey Vaughan started the fourth inning with a shot over the head of Miller in left field, but he tried to stretch into a triple and was thrown out at third base.

McAtee led off the seventh inning with a double to left-centerfield, but the next three batters went down in order, with Eller striking out Grayson Cole to seal his win.

Cabot was deep into its pitching staff when the game began, but Kyle Kaufman kept the Colts off balance for most of his three innings on the mound.

He gave up three consecutive singles to the seven-eight-nine hitters with two outs in the second inning to give up one run.

He stayed solid until a rocky start in the fifth inning forced substitute coach Chris Gross to end his day on the mound. Will Hopkins started the rally with a leadoff single before Kaufman walked Justin Weigle and Dylan Huckaby to load the bases.

Chris Odom took the mound for Cabot and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Dylan Boone and L.J. Wallace for runs that were charged to Kaufman.

Landon Hearnes then popped one foul that was caught by catcher Hayden Vinson, but no one covered home, allowing Huckaby to sneak in from third for the final run of the game.

The Colts end the tournament with its record still perfect at 14-0. They travel to Hot Springs Lakeside on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Chevy Boys fall in semis of Wood Bat

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville put together a nice run in the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan, advancing to the semifinal round on Sunday before losing to North Little Rock’s senior team, which eventually won the tournament. The battle was one between undefeated teams, as the Chevy Boys entered with a 6-0 record while the Colts came in 13-0.

In Sunday’s matchup, The Gwatney Chevrolet team fell 5-2 as North Little Rock pitcher J.D. Miller threw a three-hitter over seven innings to seal the win for the Colts.

“We just ran out of gas,” Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham said. “That young man they had on the mound is outstanding and we just gave out. That’s a veteran team. We’re playing mostly young kids, junior players. I’m proud of them for the way they competed.”

With 13 players on Jacksonville’s 18-man roster that are also junior-league certified, North Little Rock coach Bob Hopkins was also impressed with Jacksonville.

“They played really well this whole tournament,” said Hopkins. “I was very impressed. They’re pretty solid and they’re going to be really good.”

The Colts took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning off three consecutive singles. L.J. Wallace started the two-out rally with a single to left field. Dylan Boone then singled down the first baseline, but right fielder Deaundray Harris missed the ball on the hop, allowing Wallace to score and leaving Boone safe at third. North little Rock’s designated hitter Landon Hearnes then singled to centerfield to score Boone.

The Colts made it 3-0 in the bottom of the second inning, but Jacksonville pitcher Eric Moore worked his way out of  a huge jam to hold North Little Rock to just one run.

Moore hit nine-hole hitter Will Hopkins to start the inning, gave up an infield single to leadoff hitter Justin Weigle, then hit Dylan Huckaby to load the bases with no outs.

Moore then struck out Wallace. Boone hit a fly ball to right field, where Harris made the catch, but made a strong, but wild throw home that hit high on the home-plate backstop. Hopkins scored on the play, but Moore struck out Hearnes to get out of the predicament with minimal damage done.

Gwatney made a game of it with two runs in the top of the third. Centerfielder Jared Wilson started things off with Jacksonville’s first hit off Miller, a single to centerfield. Designated hitter Courtland McDonald then doubled to the gap in left field to put runners at second and third.

The Perry’s batted the runs in. Blake Perry grounded out to shortstop, but scored Wilson as McDonald advanced to third base. Laderrious Perry then grounded to second base to bring McDonald home.

Jacksonville got just one more hit off Miller the rest of the way, but struck out just once more as well.

“They’re solid at the plate,” Hopkins said of Jacksonville. “Miller has done a great job on the mound for us this year, but they didn’t swing at many bad pitches. They put the ball in play. We played really good defense though and that was the difference.”

Another Jacksonville error led to North Little Rock’s final two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Blake Perry, who started at third base, took the mound after a leadoff walk. He struck out Wallace before hitting Boone and giving up a single to centerfield to Hearnes to load the bases.

Nick Cleveland then grounded to third base, where Alex Broadwell fielded the ball cleanly, but made a bad throw home trying to get the force at the plate. That allowed Huckaby and Boone to score and set the final margin.

Jacksonville’s scheduled game with Conway was canceled on Monday. The Chevy Boys played at Burns Park on Tuesday against North Little Rock, and will travel to Cabot on Thursday for the first meeting of the season between the two rivals.

Cabot White will host Jacksonville’s junior team at 6 p.m. with the two senior teams set for approximately 8 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Post 91 seniors end up second

Leader sports editor

The Cabot senior American Legion team put up a lot of runs in the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan, but eventually ran into obstacles it couldn’t overcome in the championship game on Sunday.

Cabot ran into injuries and an undefeated North Little Rock team, and ran out of pitching in suffering a 4-0 loss to the Colts on Sunday evening.

Kyle Kaufman performed well on the mound in his three inning of work as the starter, but the Panthers couldn’t find the answer to Colt pitcher Connor Eller, who threw a five-hitter over seven innings to earn the shutout win.

The finals loss didn’t take away from a superb overall tournament for the Centennial Bank squad, which entered the event with just one win on the season, but went 4-1 over the weekend despite being shorthanded with injuries to leading hitter Riley Knudsen and starting catcher Tristan Bulice.

Cabot won its two pool games, and earned the No. 1 seed for bracket play that began on Saturday. The Panthers beat the Texarkana Tigers 6-1 to advance to the semifinals, where they came from behind in the last inning to knock off Pine Bluff-Simmons 6-5.

Each team scored a run in the first inning of the semifinal. Simmons took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second and made it 4-1 with two more in the third.

That score held until the bottom of the fifth inning when Cabot scored two runs. Conner Vocque drew a leadoff walk and Bryson Morris hit an infield single by beating out a throw on a slow grounder to third base. The throw was wide, as well as late, and rolled far enough for Vocque to score and leave Morris standing on third base. Casey Vaughan flew out to left field, but his shot was deep enough to score Morris and make it 4-3.

Pine Bluff added a run in the top of the seventh off relief pitcher Vaughan without a hit to take a 5-3 lead, but its own change of pitchers proved costly for the Simmons Bank team.

Morris and Vaughan started the inning with back-to-back singles. A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position. Ryan Logan got his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to right field. Kaufman and Adam Hicks hit infield singles to shortstop to load the bases with one out. Starting pitcher Grayson Cole then nailed a two-RBI double to the wall in centerfield to complete Cabot’s comeback victory.

Vaughan got the win on the mound, throwing just one inning, giving up no hits, walking three and striking out two.

Cole threw six innings, giving up seven hits while walking three and fanning five.
Logan got the win the previous day against Texarkana, giving up six hits in seven innings of work. He walked two of the three batters he faced in the first inning, but the southpaw picked off both players at first base.

He walked just two more the rest of the way while striking out four.

The tournament results left the Centennial Bank squad with a 6-7 record. They are scheduled for a rematch with North Little Rock at 8 p.m. today at Burns Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils impressive at Shootout

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville 7-on-7 football team finished second in its pool and advanced to the final eight of the Shootout of the South tournament last weekend in Little Rock. The Red Devils won four games and lost five, but advanced to the winners’ bracket on the second day of competition by dominating tournament host Pulaski Academy 33-14 on Saturday morning.

“Overall I thought it was a huge positive for our whole team,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “I was proud of the way our kids competed. To get to the final eight of the winners’ bracket with a chance to win it, that’s something. We were really close to getting to the final four, and the final four get an invitation to a national tournament. We were right there. We had a chance to go up two touchdowns in that last game. If we convert right there, it’s a different game.”

In the quarterfinal game, which was a rematch with Heritage Hall, a three-time class 3A state champion private school from Oklahoma City, Jacksonville led 14-7 and had first and goal at the 1-yard line, but that’s where things took a turn for the worse.

Reminiscent of its previous game against Allen, Texas, Jacksonville threw an interception in the end zone to make it 14-9, the first of four-consecutive possessions that ended in picks, and the first two of 31-straight points by the Chargers.

Unlike the second Allen game, Jacksonville regrouped against Heritage Hall and scored back-to-back touchdowns to close on a good note.

“It was frustrating because we should’ve done better,” Russell said. “They beat us on a late interception the first day and we felt like we should’ve won that game. They get the ball first in the rematch and we get a stop and then score. We get another stop and get to the one, and make a mistake. This was our first time on anything like that kind of a stage, with games going on five fields at once and thousands of people running around, and I thought we competed extremely well for the most part.”

Jacksonville faced Cashion, Okla., in its first game on Friday, and won handily 32-9. That moved them into its first game against Allen, Texas, the preseason overall number-one ranked team in Texas, and No. 4 ranked team in the nation by one national poll.

The Red Devils matched the Eagles score-for-score for half the game, but Allen broke a 21-21 tie with 23-straight points. Jacksonville finally stopped the onslaught with an interception by Kerry Knight with just a few seconds remaining, then completed a 40-yard touchdown pass from Reggie Barnes to Robert Harris as time expired to make it 44-30.

The Red Devils then reeled off back-to-back wins, beating Harrison 32-13 and overcoming a bad start and an 11-0 deficit to beat Little Rock Christian Academy 30-18.

Next was Little Rock Central, who roughed up the Red Devils in winning 28-21 in a game much more physical than 7-on-7 is supposed to be.

Several times Tiger defenders tackled Jacksonville receivers to the ground, and ran shoulder blocks into would-be receivers as passes approached.

Jacksonville coaches protested the physical play, but Central received no penalties or warnings.

Still, the Red Devils showed some moxie by overcoming the adversity and coming back from a 21-0 deficit to make it an exciting finish. Jacksonville scored with 1:29 remaining and forced a third-down (only three downs in 7-on-7) but Central converted and was able to run out the clock.

The Red Devils then closed the first day with a heartbreaking, 30-28 loss to Heritage Hall. The Chargers got a late pick to win the game.

The Red Devils came back Saturday morning to face Pulaski Academy, and dominated. The Bruins had beaten the Red Devils 14-7 on a last-second touchdown the week before in the Parkview tournament, but couldn’t stop Jacksonville on Saturday.

Jacksonville continued to make things difficult for PA’s offense, but had much less trouble with its own offense on Saturday.

“I thought that was our best overall game,” Russell said. “We were in control of that game from the first minute and never let go of it. We were in control of that second game with Heritage from the first minute, and we did let go. So the thing I’m excited about is that while I thought we did extremely well, we can still improve.”

The Red Devils suffered an emotional letdown after beating Pulaski Academy. The win advanced Jacksonville to a seeding rematch with Allen, Texas. Both teams were already qualified for the winners’ bracket tournament, with this game deciding who would be the one seed and who would be the two.

Allen scored on all seven of its offensive possessions and picked off three Jacksonville passes. Jacksonville managed no touchdowns and one pick to lose 55-2.

‘We relaxed after we beat PA,” Russell said. “That team has a lot of speed at every position and that gave us a lot of trouble, but we were not focused for that game at all. That’s one of the things we can work on. There are things we could have done a lot better. So we’re pleased, but we’re not satisfied. We’re going to add to the things we did right, and we’re going to correct the things we did wrong, and I think we have a chance to have a special year.”

Jacksonville is off for the two-week dead period before resuming play in the Cabot/Beebe competitions on July 8. The Red Devils will take the whole team to Jonesboro on July 18 for the linemen’s camp/7-on-7 tournament at Arkansas State University.

Monday, June 17, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Let's welcome Col. Rhatigan

Col. Patrick Rhatigan will succeed Col. Brian Robinson as commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base in a change-of-command ceremony on July 9.

Robinson, who has been the 19th AW commander for 18 months, was recently selected for promotion to brigadier general and will become the vice commander of Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air and Space Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Rhatigan, a 1987 graduate of Bethpage High School on Long Island, N.Y, brings an impressive resume to his new job. Rhatigan, who pinned on his colonel eagles last September, has been deployed to Southwest Asia, where he was the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.

Before that assignment, he served as the military assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs in the Pentagon. And before moving to the Pentagon, Rhatigan was commander of the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

Robinson has served here with distinction, and so will Rhatigan because the Air Force sends us its best. We welcome the colonel to the Rock.

TOP STORY >> City prepares for big party in Dupree Park

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TOP STORY >> Getting to know your legislators

Leader staff writer

Rep. Douglas House (R- North Little Rock) was the first of the state’s 100 representatives to become a video star.

“It just worked out that we got hold of him first,” said a legislative spokeswoman.

As part of an ongoing effort to increase communication between members and constituents, the Arkansas House of Representatives is releasing video biographies of its members. The video series is titled “Meet the Rep.”

In the videos, members will describe what makes their districts unique. They will also share stories about their professional and family life back home. Some members tell us about their hobbies and interest away from the Capitol.

The House Communications Office is releasing the videos at the rate of one a week.  Once released, the videos will be made available on the member’s biographical section on the House’s website. The videos will also be on the legislature’s Twitter and Facebook sites.

House said the video took about 15 minutes to film. “They just sat me down, starting asking questions and I answered them,” he explained. The House Communications Office staff then edited the video down to the required length of time.

“I think it went well,” House said. “The response has been positive. Everyone I’ve talked enjoyed it except one media outfit that doesn’t like me anyway,” he quipped.

The video clips are the brainchild of the communications office. “We are enjoying it and learning more about the representatives that we work with everyday during the session. We think their constituents will also get to know their representatives better through the videos,” said Cecile Pond-Mayo, a spokesman for the communications office.

She added that her office would try to film House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) within the next few weeks. “We will get to everyone before the next session starts,” Pond-Mayo said.
Meanwhile, House is not resting on his 15 minutes of fame.

“I’ve been working with a lot of constituents,” he said, “particularly a group that wants to make sure the cemetery on Hwy. 89 is properly maintained. I’m putting on my legislative and lawyer hat in helping the group.”

House also said he is keeping abreast on the tar spill in Mayflower. “It wasn’t oil, but tar sands that spilled,” he said. “I’m mostly helping people with concerns get into contact with those that might have answers for them.”

The private option is another issue House is eyeing closely. “We want to make sure it has the success that we want it to. There’s something going on all the time. This is not a part- time job anymore.”

Other area representatives, although not video stars yet, are also staying busy even though the session ended last month.

Rep. Jose Farrer (R-Austin) is on the lottery oversight committee, which met last week to look at revenues. “It’s my first time on the committee, so I’ll be listening and learning,” he said. But Farrer is worried about what he calls a shortfall in lottery revenue.

Rep. Mark Perry (D- Jacksonville), who is also on the lottery committee, doesn’t consider it a shortfall. “Our revenues are less than last year, but we are still funding $90 million in scholarships. I think that’s pretty good,” he said.

Carter said various official meetings would be picking up in about a week. “The legislative council has already met once, looking ahead to the next session.”

Like House, Carter said the private-option issue would be the highest priority during the “off-season.” “We’ve got to make sure all the steps are being taken to properly implement it,” he said.

House’s video and those of the other representatives, when released can be found on Twitter at @ArkansasHouse, on Facebook at, the website and YouTube.

TOP STORY >> Search for new JHS principal

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville High School Principal Henry Anderson is leaving the troubled Pulaski County Special School District to serve as principal at McClellan High School in Little Rock.

When he was hired in 2011, Anderson was the fourth principal at JHS in about two years.
His base salary at the Little Rock high school will be $101,820.

Anderson said, “(McClellan is) yet another challenge... (JHS students) are the greatest group of students I have ever come into contact with and have so much potential. I would encourage them to go for everything they can have.”

PCSSD spokeswoman Deborah Roush said Anderson has not turned in an official resignation. The search for his replacement has not kicked off yet.

She noted, “With the (school improvement grant) there, we’ll be looking for a highly qualified principal.”

Before Anderson was hired, the high school received a $5.7 million improvement grant from the state Education Department for ranking in the bottom 5 percent in the state.

The news of Anderson’s departure comes on the heels of Jacksonville Middle School Principal Don Booth and Assistant Principal Sharon Hawk being suspended with pay last week for personnel issues unrelated to criminal activity and students.

Booth has resigned for personal reasons unrelated to the suspension, Roush said. The Hawk investigation is ongoing.

Anderson said, “In two years, we made dramatic changes to the culture. I think the shifting culture has been largely due to support of people like Mayor Fletcher, who has been phenomenal, local churches, local businesses and just our city as a whole.”

After just one year of his leadership, test scores and graduation rates rose.

Math and literacy scores increased by 9 percent and only 14 of 166 seniors failed to earn diplomas in 2012, compared to previous graduation rates of a little more than 50 percent.

With the school improvement grant money, students were given computers in labs and classrooms and several iPads. There is now campus-wide wireless Internet, Promethian interactive whiteboards, a parent/community liaison, credit recovery, concurrent enrollment with Arkansas State University-Beebe and more.

Nine JHS students celebrated in January the end of their first college semester through the concurrent enrollment program with ASU-Beebe.

Anderson held several community meetings to talk about what needed to be done at the school. He also formed a principal’s cabinet to give some of the school’s brightest students a voice in what improvements they wanted to see at JHS.

Anderson encouraged teachers to seek out professional development opportunities and told them to teach or leave the school.

He said, “I have the opportunity to make (the same) changes (at McClellan).” McClellan High School’s enrollment of 864 is larger than that of JHS, which was 775 as of May 31.

While Anderson was principal, the district remodeled the media center and the entrance of the high school, which was built in 1968. The school also held several “For the Love of the Arts” events to showcase talented student artists, singers and musicians.

Anderson left his position as Crossett High School principal to take the Jacksonville post.
He started his career with PCSSD, teaching English and Spanish at Fuller Middle School. Anderson then went to work with the technology department and was responsible for most of the Jacksonville schools.

He also worked as an assistant principal at Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School and served as a department chair at the Arkansas School for Math, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs.

Anderson was hired as Crossett High’s principal in the late spring of 2009.

He grew up in the Little Rock area and relocated to Georgia after joining the Army Reserves and serving in Central America and Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Anderson has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He also has an education-specialist degree in educational leadership.

SPORTS STORY >> AA Colts win one, lose one at Sheridan

Leader sports editor

If any team showed more disparity between game one and two of the Wood Bat Classic than North Little Rock’s AA team, it was North Little Rock’s opponent on Thursday, the second night of the event.

The Colts beat the Little Rock Diamondbacks 9-6 with a great performance at the plate by the entire lineup on Wednesday. They lost 6-0 to Pine Bluff-Relyance Bank on Thursday, managing just three base hits the entire game.

Relyance’s two games were even more different. The White Hall-based team gave up 21 runs on 22 base hits in a first-round loss to Cabot on Wednesday, before coming up with the complete-game shutout on Thursday.

“They threw two really good pitchers at us,” North Little Rock coach Brock Moore said. “We made them look really good at times too, but there’s no doubt those are two good pitchers. The kid that started for them has signed with Arkansas State, and he showed why tonight.”

Tyler Zuber started on the mound for Pine Bluff, and threw just two innings. He faced six batters and struck out three of them. Daniel Gray took the mound in the third inning and finished the game. He gave up three hits while striking out eight and walking one in five innings.

“We really didn’t have our heads in the game from about the second inning,” Moore said. “We let some things get to us and just weren’t very focused there for a while. But that’s why we play these games. That team is quite a bit older than us up and down the lineup and we learn from these types of games.”

The AA Colts (5-3) were tied with the Diamondbacks on Wednesday after two innings. Little Rock scored two in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead, but North Little Rock added a run in the second to knot the score. The Colts then exploded for seven runs in the top of the fourth to take control of the game.

A single by J.J. Askins and a triple by Lawson Dulin got North Little Rock on the scoreboard in the first inning. Danny Mitchell walked, stole a base, advanced on an error and scored on a wild pitch in the second.

Jordan Reed started the rally in the fourth by reaching on an E1. Mitchell walked and four-consecutive singles followed by Askins, Jovani Gonzalez, Dulin and River Warnock. Each of the first six batters scored in the inning. Jake Sandefur reached on a fielder’s choice with one out and scored on a double by Mitchell that made it 9-2.

The senior Colts also got a win on Wednesday in one of their toughest games to date. The 19-under North Little Rock squad needed two runs in the sixth inning to beat Pine Bluff Simmons 2-1 and keep its perfect record intact at 10-0. Both runs came with two outs. Jack Partlow got on base with a fielder’s choice for the second out. Justin Weigle then singled to put runners on the corners, and Dylan Huckaby doubled to centerfield to drive in both base runners.

Gunner Allen went the distance for the Colts to get the win. He gave up just three hits and no earned runs while striking out four and walking none.

The senior and AA teams will be back in action today in the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic.

SPORTS STORY >> Centennial Bank slips past Benton

Leader sports writer

Benton’s Everett Buick-GMC junior American Legion team gave the Cabot White Centennial Bank junior team all it could handle in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader matchup at the Cabot Baseball Complex, but the Centennial Bank squad won both games – narrowly.

Cabot (12-3) held a late charge by Benton in the first part of the twinbill to win 6-4. In the second game, Benton was one out away from leaving with a win, but Cabot’s three-hole hitter Adam Hicks hit a two-run, walk-off inside the park home run to give the home team an exhilarating 8-7 victory.

The second game was plagued with errors on both sides and the lead changed hands five times. Cabot trailed 7-6 heading into the sixth and final inning. Right-fielder Jess Reed led off the inning, and with two strikes, he hit a routine grounder to shortstop, but the ball bounced through Benton shortstop Alec Schilling’s legs, leaving Reed safe at first.

However, Benton was able to get outs on the next two at bats before Hicks stepped in the batter’s box. Hicks worked Benton pitcher Zach Caplinger to a full count, and on the next pitch, Hicks sent a shot to deep right-centerfield.

As the ball rolled to the fence, the fleet-footed Hicks had already rounded second base. By the time Benton got the ball into the infield, Hicks was at home plate celebrating the win with his teammates and coaches. 

“I was just going for my second triple of the night,” Hicks said, not thinking he initially had a chance to make it home. “Then coach just kept waving me so I kept going. I was getting ready to do whatever I had to do, but luckily the ball was nowhere near and I could just walk in.”

It was an exciting finish to a back-and-forth game. Benton committed five errors in the first inning of game two, which allowed Cabot to build an early 4-0 lead. Benton added four runs in the second inning to knot it up at four apiece before taking the lead in the third after scoring a run.

Cabot added two in the fourth to take a 6-5 lead before Benton added two more to its run total in the fifth, which made the score 7-6 heading into the sixth and final inning. After Hicks’ walk-off homer, the game was called because of the two-hour time limit.

The first game was much cleaner as far as errors, but the Centennial Bank boys still committed five in the field compared to one for Benton. Despite the errors, Cabot led 5-0 after three innings.

Benton scored two in the fourth, but that was all it would manage against Hicks, who gave up just two hits and one earned run in six innings of work. He didn’t walk a single Benton batter and recorded seven strikeouts in the winning effort.

After Benton scored its two runs in the fourth, Cabot added another in the fifth on a two-out single to the gap in left field by Tyler Tucker. Dylan Bowers scored on the play after being hit by a pitch earlier in the inning.

Brandon Jones came in to relieve Hicks in the seventh and final inning of game one. Benton’s Schilling grounded out to start the inning, but Jones walked the next two batters he faced.

Brinson Cornwell then came to the plate and hit a fly ball to left field. What should have been an out turned into a dropped ball as there was miscommunication between the left-fielder, shortstop and third baseman as to who called it.

With the bases loaded, Jordan Allred scored on a passed ball at the plate to cut the margin to 6-3.

Jones walked the next batter to load the bases for Benton cleanup hitter Dillon Pierce, but Pierce hit into a 1-2 fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning.

Shawn Beesley then came to the plate and worked Jones to a full count, but Jones walked Beesley to give Benton its fourth run of the game. However, Jones redeemed himself the next at bat by striking out Trent Smith on a hard-breaking curveball to seal the win for the Centennial Bank squad.

“The first game we came out and played well,” said Cabot White assistant coach Justin Moore. “We executed on the base paths and made plays in the field. It was a good solid fundamental game. In the second game we got a few different guys in the lineup and I thought they played well.

“We made a few mistakes that gave up some runs, but overall we just played hard, kept swinging and got it done. When Adam got to the plate we had the right guy in the right spot.”

Hicks finished the doubleheader 4 for 7 at the plate with a single, a bunt for a single, a triple and the home run. Johnathon Latture and Austin Null totaled two hits apiece in the twinbill. Bowers, Tucker, Chris Odom and Dalton Hurst each had a hit.

The Centennial Bank boys play again at 3 p.m. today against Jonesboro at the Cabot Baseball Complex.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville jumps out, beats vipers

Leader sports editor

The Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team improved to 4-0 Thursday with a 6-2 win over the Little Rock Vipers in the first round of the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan.

The Chevy Boys got a gem on the mound from pitcher Jared Wilson, who gave up just three hits in seven innings of work.

“He did a fine job,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “He’s throwing it better this year than he did last year.”

Wilson gave up one hit in the first inning, and then retired 17 batters in a row. He allowed no base runners in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Leadoff hitter Shane Culpepper reached second on an error at third base, but was tagged out by third baseman Blake Perry in a rundown after being picked off. Wilson got the next batter to fly out to centerfield to make it five-straight 1-2-3 innings.

The Vipers got some offense going in the top of the seventh, but it was too little too late. Two hits, combined with a walk and a hit batter, gave Little Rock its only two runs of the game, still far short of Gwatney’s six runs.

Jacksonville opened the bottom of the third inning with six-straight base hits, including a double by first baseman Greg Jones. The first four batters scored, making it 4-0, a score that lasted until the bottom of the sixth inning.

Catcher Troy Allen was hit by a pitch with one out to start a two-run rally for Gwatney. Leadoff hitter Derek St. Clair doubled over the head of the Vipers’ left-fielder to drive in Allen’s courtesy runner Courtland McDonald. Ryan Mallison walked and Kaleb Reeves was hit by a pitch to load the bases. St. Clair scored on a wild pitch, leaving two runners in scoring position with one out, but Jacksonville couldn’t get another run across the plate.

Jacksonville also had runners at second and third with no outs in the fifth inning and failed to produce any runs.

St. Clair went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and a run batted in to lead Jacksonville offensively. Jones went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Reeves also went 2 for 3 for the Chevy Boys. Mallison, Perry and Wilson got one base hit apiece to round out Jacksonville’s 10 hits in the game.

“We hadn’t played any real tough teams yet, but considering how many young kids I have, they’ve done pretty well,” Hickingbotham said. “I only have four players that are senior age, the rest are on the junior team too and I’ve had to move them up. So just about all the teams we’re going to play on the senior schedule are going to be much older teams.”

Jacksonville was back in action on Friday in a game that finished after deadlines. Bracket play starts today at noon and finishes with the tournament championship game at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

SPORTS STORY >> Teams loosen up late at BHS

Leader sportswriter

It was a hot afternoon, but Cabot, Jacksonville, Beebe, Hazen and Des Arc all put in serious work during Wednesday’s 7-on-7 scrimmages at Bro Erwin Stadium on the Beebe High School campus.

All five teams that participated in Wednesday’s event have participated in at least one 7-on-7 tournament this summer. Each team got off to a slow start in the first games played, but it didn’t take long for the teams to settle in and start making plays on both sides of the ball.

“This is our second and in July we’re going to have four more,” said Cabot defensive coordinator Randy Black of the 7-on-7 tournaments and scrimmages. “I want them to at least go six or seven times in the summer so they’ll still remember what to do and work out some of the bugs.”

As far as what the 7-on-7 tournaments and scrimmages do to benefit the Panthers, who are a traditional run-heavy team with its Dead-T offense, Black said that the competition level and real-game speed is what makes these events so beneficial to the program in the summer.

“The thing is you see speed,” Black said. “You can work on it every day in practice, but until you actually go see speed, it’s completely different, and that’s one of the reasons we do this. In practice, it’s hard to get our offensive guys to go full speed every play. So we have four other teams here that are going to run full speed, which will definitely help us.”

Wednesday’s event was the second one of the summer that Beebe has hosted, and for the Badgers, who also run the Dead-T on offense, coach John Shannon sees these events as opportunities for his players to put in extra work on both sides of the ball.

“I feel like defensively we’ve gotten a lot better in our coverages and stuff,” Shannon said. “Offensively, as far as our forte it’s not what we like to do, but it’s good to be able to work on it. I felt like we looked a little bit better offensively, but we just have to get consistent at throwing it and catching it.

“We either had some people open and dropped the ball or we missed the pass, you know, it just wasn’t a good pass. Like I said, it’s not our forte, but it’s just a chance to get out here and work and do some stuff in the summer time when it’s not pressure-packed. We can relax a little and try and get better at things.”

For Jacksonville, it was also its second 7-on-7 event for the summer, but unlike Cabot and Beebe, the Red Devils run the Spread formation on offense, and the more reps they can get in a competitive setting like this one, the more comfortable their younger players will get with the offense.

“This is a busy week for us,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “We played in a 7-on-7 tournament last week and I don’t think we were as crisp and sharp today as we were last week. We’ve worked them pretty hard this week. We’ve been practicing in the mornings at 7:30, so they’ve had a tough week.

“Their legs are tired, but the thing we get out of them is when they’re having to run routes, having to adjust to routes, making quarterback reads, and catching the football – you can play throw and catch, but when you’re going against someone other than yourself, it benefits you.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot seniors swinging away

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s senior American Legion team may consider using wood bats all summer. In the Centennial Bank team’s opening game of the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan, the Panthers got 22 base hits in a 21-13 win over Pine Bluff-Relyance Bank.

In the second game on Thursday, Cabot beat the host team 7-5 and will enter today’s bracket play as one of the top seeds.

“We are starting to swing the bats a lot better and we expected that,” said Cabot coach Cody Whitworth. “These kids have swung the bats well their whole careers, so we knew it was just a matter of time before that came around. We’re basically full strength now, we have guys in their right positions, and we’re playing a lot better.”

Against Sheridan, Cabot jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a six-run second inning. It started with Grayson Cole getting hit square in the back with the first pitch of the inning. Adam Hicks put down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second and Chris Odom singled to put runners on the corners. Hayden Vinson hit a sacrifice grounder to second base to score Cole and start the two-out rally. Leadoff hitter Conner Vocque took a hanging curveball to the back as well to put two runners on base. Starting pitcher Bryson Morris then hit a ball between shortstop and third that was fielded cleanly, but the throw was not in time and high.

Both base runners scored with Morris getting credit for one RBI. Casey Vaughan then hit a hard line drive into the power alley in left-centerfield, good for a stand-up triple and an RBI, but the relay throw to third sailed into the Sheridan dugout, giving Vaughan an easy trot home to make it 6-0. With the bases clear, Coleman McAtee singled to right field and Ryan Logan doubled to the same area to drive in the final Cabot run of the game.

From that point, the Panthers held off a late rally by the Yellowjackets. Morris threw four innings and got the win on the mound, giving up two hits and four walks while striking out five. Kyle Kaufman replaced him and ran into some trouble.

Sheridan scored three runs in the fifth inning and two in the sixth. The five runs coming courtesy of five hits, four walks and an error.

With Sheridan submarine pitcher Wyatt Daggett settled in and keeping Cabot’s bats at bay the rest of the way, Whitworth went to ace  Logan to close things out in the seventh inning. Logan had to battle with runners on the corners and one out, but he struck out Ramsey Keaton and Bibb Brady to seal the deal for the Panthers.

“We were up 7-0 and I would’ve like for us to gone ahead and finished it in the fifth inning,” Whitworth said. “It’s just an eight-after-five rule in this tournament. We had a great opportunity by getting our leadoff man on, we just didn’t close it out. That was the only thing. You always want to save as much pitching as you can, especially in a tournament, but overall I’m very pleased. We are playing fairly well right now and I think it’s going to get better.”

When you add Wednesday’s statistics to Thursday’s, Morris not only has a win on the mound, but he’s 5 for 9 at the plate with eight runs batted in and four runs scored. Hicks matched Morris’ 4 for 5 performance on Wednesday and drove in three runs. Vinson went 3 for 5 and also had three RBIs while Odom went 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored. Vocque, McAtee and Cole got two hits apiece against Relyance, while Vaughan and Kaufman added one hit each in the 210-minute game.

Cole was the fourth of five Cabot pitchers and got the win on the mound on Wednesday. Cabot held leads of 8-2 and 12-8, but Pine Bluff tied the game at 12 in the bottom of the fifth. Cabot scored four in the top of the sixth and Cole pitched the bottom of the frame, giving up one run to get the win. He also faced one batter in the seventh before yielding to Vocque, who closed the game for the save.