Saturday, September 28, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> McDonald proves he is right for Seahawks

Leader sports editor

Exactly three weeks after being released by the Seattle Seahawks, and eight days after being resigned, former Jacksonville Red Devil Clinton McDonald turned in the best performance of his career last Sunday in the Seahawks’ 45-17 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. McDonald recorded five tackles and two sacks of Jaguar quarterback Chad Henne.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll surprised many NFL analysts when they cut four veterans, including McDonald on the final day of preseason cuts on Aug. 31.

McDonald played in every game last year, starting once and playing as the backup two-technique on the defensive line in the others. He had also started the final preseason game at nose guard and played well.

But the Seahawks drafted two defensive linemen and signed two others to free agent contracts during the summer, giving them an abundance of players on the line.

They had just signed McDonald to a restricted free agent contract over the summer reportedly worth about $1.3 million. Terms of the latest contract were not released, but it’s suggested by writer Clare Farnsworth that the new contract is worth less than the one terminated by the cut in August.

Even with all the defensive linemen, it took one game, a 12-7 win over Carolina in the season opener, for the GM and coach to decide they wanted McDonald back. They cut offensive linemen Michael Person to make room for McDonald on the 53-man roster.

At home in Jacksonville on Sept. 12, McDonald got a call from the Seahawks asking him if he wanted to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. McDonald flew to Seattle on Friday, signed on Saturday, and was chasing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick out the pocket on their first drive on Sunday Night Football on NBC.

SNF analyst Cris Collins-worth, after McDonald hit Kaepernick as he released a throw-away pass out of bounds, commented that McDonald is freakishly strong for an undersized defensive linemen (6-foot-2, 297), and has the kind of work ethic all NFLers need. Collinsworth, a former Cincinnati Bengal, is familiar with McDonald partly because the Bengals drafted him in the seventh round out of Memphis, and put him on their practice squad his rookie year. He made the team his second year and played two seasons before being traded to Seattle, where he spent the next two seasons, playing in 29 games and recording 60 tackles.

True to the character that’s earned him a reputation as one of the best locker room guys in the NFL, McDonald came home after he was cut and went to work.

“Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” McDonald told Farnsworth after the 49ers game.

He didn’t record a tackle in the 29-3 win over Seattle, but he exploded the following week on the rain-soaked CenturyLink Field.

McDonald will be back in action with the Seahawks at noon Sunday against the Houston Texans in Houston.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears sweep rivals

Leader sportswriter

After dropping the opening game of both of its matches against rival schools North Pulaski and Jacksonville, the Sylvan Hills volleyball team rallied to beat the Lady Falcons and Red Devils 3-1 in 5A Central Conference action this week.

Sylvan Hills, 6-2 record in conference play, had to play Thursday’s 5A Central match without junior All-State hitter Brooke Rainey, who suffered a shoulder injury in a recent match against Greenbrier, and Jacksonville took advantage of her absence in game one with a come from behind 25-19 victory.

The Lady Bears rebounded to win the next game 25-20, and games three and four by scores of 25-10 and 25-9. Rainey is expected to be out of action for three to four weeks.

“They overcame a lot tonight,” said Lady Bears coach Harold Treadway. “Number one, they overcame Jacksonville. They’re a county school and we seem to bring out the best in them. I personally think they overcame some officiating, and they overcame me.

“I’m not sure at some point that I had everything under control, but they worked hard, they played hard, and did what they were supposed to do.”

Sylvan Hills got off to a good start in game one by taking a 3-0 lead, thanks to two aces by senior hitter Jordie Flippo. Jacksonville came back to tie the game at 8-8 on a kill by junior Taylor Hayden, and picked up its first lead at 11-10 on a kill by Bailea Mitchell.

The two teams traded leads until Mitchell gave Jacksonville a lead it wouldn’t relinquish from the serving line. After serving the go-ahead point to put the Lady Red Devils up 14-13, Mitchell served three more points to give the visitors a four-point advantage.

The closest Sylvan Hills got to catching Jacksonville in game one was at 19-17 on a kill by junior hitter Jessica Scott. From there, the Lady Devils outscored the Lady Bears 6-2, and took the game on an ace by Hayden.

In the second game, and also in games three and four, Scott came up big for Sylvan Hills. In game two, she totaled seven kills and two aces to lead the Lady Bears to victory. Scott had the best overall game of any participant as she was the only player for either team to pick up double-digit kills with 13. She also finished with a match-high eight aces.

“She’s a junior and she’s steady,” Treadway said of Scott. “I think she’s still learning the game and when she learns it she’s going to be really dangerous.”

The Lady Bears did a lot of damage to Jacksonville from the serving line in game three. Flippo gave the home team a strong start yet again with two aces early, and Sylvan Hills capitalized on its lead from there. Two aces by Scott later in the game gave the Lady Bears a commanding 17-6 lead, and they outscored the Lady Devils 8-4 the rest of the way to take a 2-1 match lead.

Jacksonville had a better start in the fourth and final game, but it didn’t take long for Sylvan Hills to rally. Back-to-back kills late by Flippo put the Lady Bears up 18-6. The next Sylvan Hills’ serve went into the net, but Jacksonville returned the favor on the next serve.

Scott then went to the serving line and served a whopping four-straight aces to put her team up 23-7. Jacksonville scored its final two points on a kill by Mitchell and an ace by Hayden on the following serve.

A kill by Sylvan Hills senior Ashton Williams put the Lady Bears up 24-9, and the match ended on an ace by junior Alisa Staton.

Scott was the dominant player for Sylvan Hills at the net, but Flippo, Karley Walton, DaBria Thompson and Williams each had four kills in the match. Shelby Simpkins led the Lady Bears with a match-high 12 assists, and junior libero Abi Cantrell had five digs.

For Jacksonville, sophomore Emily Lovercheck had a team-high five kills, while Mitchell finished with four. Fellow sophomore and middle blocker Terionna Stewart had a team-high five blocks, and Hayden and junior libero Savanah Hughes had six digs. Hayden also served a team-high three aces.

On Tuesday, Sylvan Hills lost the first game 25-27 to hosting North Pulaski. They came back to win the next three games by scores of 25-20, 25-9 and 25-18.

“We have not started well lately, especially the last two games,” Treadway said. “I think we have a target on our back to some extent. We’re a county school and we’ve had some success. We’ve got the two private schools with the year-round junior olympic programs in our conference. After that it’s been us and North Pulaski. So these schools that are county rivals approach Sylvan Hills thinking if they can get a win, they’ve accomplished something.”

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills earns big win over Warriors

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills was stellar on both sides of the ball in Friday night’s 5A Central Conference opener against Little Rock Christian as the Bears routed the Warriors 35-7 at Bill Blackwood Field.

The Bears’ offense dominated the first half with 303 total yards through the first two quarters of play, and the defense played great in its own right as it held the Warriors to just 81 yards in that time, including minus 24 yards rushing.

“We just want to do what we do,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow after the game. “We want to mix it up a little bit and try and give our playmakers a chance to make plays, and they did. Our tailback Tyler Davis is getting better, and Marlon (Clemmons) and Tra (Doss) have been constants the whole way.

“Our offensive line has been outstanding and our defense stepped it up tonight. They did an outstanding job. Coach (Chad) Collins did a great job with the guys. The story of the game I don’t think was our offense, it was our defense.”

Sylvan Hills’ defense forced a turnover and sacked Little Rock Christian quarterback Houston Angel four times in the first half alone. The Bears elected to receive the opening kickoff and found the end zone on the fourth play of the game’s opening drive.

After runs of 15 and 10 by junior quarterback Tra Doss, Doss broke 45 yards for a touchdown on an option keeper 1:25 into the game. Philip Wood’s extra point was good to give the Bears an early 7-0 lead.

Both teams were held scoreless for the remainder of the first quarter, but Sylvan Hills scored less than a minute into the second after Doss scored again on another option keeper, this one from 82 yards on just the second play of the drive. Wood’s PAT was good to put the Bears up 14-0 with 11:05 to play in the first half.

After another long drive late in the second quarter, the Bears’ offense was forced to punt, but the defense held the Warriors’ offense to a three-and-out possession, and after the ensuing punt, Sylvan Hills got the ball on the LRCA 38-yard line with 1:20 to go in the half.

It took the Bears’ offense just 55 seconds to score. On the third play of the drive, Doss connected with senior running back Kylan Wade on a slant route up the middle and Wade was brought down at the 1-yard line after a 9-yard gain.

Doss punched it in the following play, and Wood’s PAT put Sylvan Hills up 21-0 at the break. Little Rock Christian came out after the half and scored on its first possession, a 26-yard touchdown pass from Angel to senior wide receiver Paxton Thomas. The extra point was good to cut the margin to 21-7.

Just when the Warriors were able to get a little momentum, the Sylvan Hills offense took it right back as Doss scored his fourth touchdown on the ground with a 37-yard option keeper on the third play of the drive. Wood’s extra point was good to give the Bears a comfortable 28-7 lead with 8:57 to play in the third quarter.

Doss’ fourth rushing touchdown came on just his 11th carry, and put him over 200 yards rushing for the game. He finished with a game-high 212 yards on 14 carries and four touchdowns.

“I think he had 224 (rushing yards) at Vilonia,” Withrow said of Doss. “He does a great job. He reads it well, and it’s one those deals that either he’s going to carry it or Marlon Clemmons is going to carry it. So it’s good either way. They’re really buying in to what we’re doing.”

The Bears set the final score with 8:37 to play in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard touchdown run by Davis and a successful PAT by Wood. Sylvan Hills (3-1, 1-0) finished the game with 543 yards of offense with 429 of those yards coming on the ground.

Little Rock Christian (2-2, 0-1) was able to boost its total offensive yardage in the second half, finishing the game with 325 yards.

In addition to Doss’ rushing yards, he was 9 for 12 passing for 114 yards and one interception on a tipped pass. Davis also had triple-digit yards rushing as he finished the game with 11 carries for 119 yards and one touchdown. Clemmons added 10 carries 86 yards rushing.

The Warriors used two quarterbacks in the second half. Angel finished the game 16 for 24 passing for 145 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Junior Brooks Boshears completed 7 of 15 passes in the second half for 73 yards, and Thomas hauled in 10 catches for 101 yards and one touchdown.

The Bears will look to go 2-0 in conference play next week as they travel to Little Rock for a showdown with unbeaten Mills (4-0, 1-0). Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girl takes first at Bison Stampede

Leader sportswriter

Micah Huckabee was looking for a personal-best time on a 5-kilometer course as much as she was a second cross-country victory of the year, but the Cabot junior was able to accomplish both during the Bison Stampede meet at Wyldewood Retreat in Searcy on Tuesday.

Huckabee blistered the winding 5K course with a top time of 19:44.74, nearly a minute ahead of second-place finisher Angel Crawford of Lake Hamilton. Huckabee ended up as one of three Lady Panther runners to finish in the top 10 out of 112 competitors.

Huckabee paced closely behind Crawford for the first two kilometers of the race before making her move down the long straightaway from the registration area to the back part of the course. Crawford kept stride for 50 yards or so until she had to give way approaching a left-hand corner, and Huckabee stretched her advantage quickly from there.

“I really like the course,” Huckabee said. “It was shady for the most part. There was one hill, but I think it was great work to be able to run up that. I felt strong the whole time, and I took advantage of that and went my hardest. I’m proud of how I did.”

Huckabee had Bible verses from Philippians 4:13 and Hebrews 12:1-2 written on the sides of her running shoes, and gave credit to her savior following the victory.

“Finishing that first big loop, I just felt that I could surge and go,” Huckabee said. “At first, she surged with me, and we kind of hung together for a while. I surged again, and I was able to get away, but I was afraid she was right behind me the whole time. I felt strong, and it was all through the glory of God.”

The course was laid out with an initial square loop that was ran twice before transitioning to the back part of the course, which made an oblong loop that held the registration area and finish line on the front side. It was there that Huckabee overtook Crawford, and by the time the two came back through the initial loop a final time, she had built a commanding lead of over 30 seconds.

“I didn’t know that,” Huckabee said. “I was tempted to look behind me, but I knew I couldn’t, because if I didn’t see her, I would just slow down. I was really going for time today. I’ve been trying to break 20, so my main motivation was to beat my time instead of beating her, but it’s great to have competition to pace yourself.”

Crawford’s second-place time of 20:39.78 gave her a comfortable edge over third-place finisher Kaylin Turley of Harding Academy, who finished with a time of 21:16.99. Monticello’s Sara Claycomb was fourth with a 21:51.48 time, while Lake Hamilton’s Cassidy Turner took fifth with a time of 22:02.53.

Lady Panther Samantha Nickel finished sixth with a time of 22:21.06, while teammate Rachel Murtishaw was 10th with a 23.03.28 time.

The victory was Huckabee’s second cross-country win of the season.

“I’m excited for her, because she’s been working hard,” Cabot coach Leon White said. “And today, she didn’t let the front runner get away from her. She got up on her shoulder and stayed with her, and then she took control of the race, and that’s what we were wanting her to do. I’m excited about it, plus, she ran under 20 minutes on a hard course, so that’s pretty awesome right there.”

On the boys’ side, Lake Hamilton’s Hunter Usdrowski paced the field to win with a time of 16:58.53 in front of Zach Rail of Vilonia and Wolves teammate Cain Farnam. Cabot senior Parker Dey was the highest finishing Panther with a fourth-place time of 17:28.90. Other notable finishes for Cabot included Nick Davis in 14th place, Kris White in 23rd and Logan Boyer in 25th place.

Huckabee, who is also a standout in long-distance track and field events, said the challenge presented by cross-country running makes it just as rewarding.

“It’s different, just because it’s hard to compare times between other races,” Huckabee said. “Because the courses can slow you down or make you faster. I like it, because it’s always throwing something new at you. It never gets boring.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot powers past Wildcats

Leader sports editor

As competition rises, so does the Cabot football team’s level of play. The latest improvement came Friday when the Panthers controlled the line of scrimmage in a 48-32 victory over No. 1 ranked North Little Rock at Charging Wildcat Stadium.

Cabot coach Mike Malham, who has heaped praise on his team after recent wins, was more guarded after Friday’s triumph over a nationally ranked team.

“I was just pleased we got the win,” said Malham. “We’re 1-0 in conference and that’s the main thing. We talked about starting a new season and we can’t get complacent. Now’s when we decide if we want to stay in shape, work hard and get better, or do we want to slack off and regress. We’ve got some confidence now. We’ve beat two pretty good teams the last two weeks. We know we can play with just about anybody if we keep working hard and learn our lessons.”

Cabot fullback Zach Launius carried the ball 38 times for 221 yards and four touchdowns in his first game back after suffering a concussion and missing last week’s game. The senior was 0-4 in his career against North Little Rock, but also tempered his emotions as he looked ahead.

“It feels amazing to get the win after going 0-4 the last two years,” said Launius. “I think we’ve put ourselves on the radar, but we’ve still got a lot of improvement to do. We’ve got some tough teams left in conference and we could very easily be playing North Little Rock again in the playoffs. And I know they’ll be better. There are some really good teams in the northwest I know we’ll have to beat to attain our goals, so we’re just going to go back and try to keep getting better.”

Cabot (4-0, 1-0) took a 21-18 lead into halftime, but trailed 248-224 in total yardage at the break. In each of last year’s two games between Cabot and North Little Rock, scores were close at halftime until the Wildcats wore Cabot down late. The opposite took place on Friday.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and easily drove 61 yards in nine plays. Launius scored his third touchdown of the game on third and 1 when he broke loose for a 26-yard gain. The extra point made it 28-18.

The game’s first big break came on North Little Rock’s first play of the second half. Quarterback Heath Land dropped the shotgun snap and before he could reach down to pick it up, Cabot nose guard Tristan Bulice burst into the backfield and covered it at the Wildcat 23.

It took Cabot seven plays from there. Halfback Chris Henry gained 5 yards on third and 1 to set up first and goal at the 2. It took Launius three carries to get it in from there, but he did so with 4:54 left in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 34-18 lead.

North Little Rock (2-2, 0-1) lost 12 yards on its next possession, but also forced a three-and-out by Cabot. The Panthers again forced the Wildcats backwards 4 yards to force another punt.

This time they scored again. After three plays gained 11 yards, quarterback Kason Kimbrell kept for 17 to the 48-yard line. The Panthers then ran the counter to Henry, who took it 52 yards for the score and a 41-18 Cabot lead.

Cabot decided to blitz for the first time on the ensuing possession, and it resulted in a 52-yard touchdown reception on a crossing pattern by Devohn Lindsey.

The Wildcats went for two, but didn’t make it despite two Cabot penalties that put the ball inside the 1-yard line. Deion Tidwell was stuffed at the line scrimmage, leaving it 41-24 with 10:44 remaining in the game.

Kimbrell threw and interception on Cabot’s next drive, but Panther safety Jake Ferguson returned the favor and returned his pick 44 yards to the North Little Rock 16. After a 9-yard run by Launius and a 6-yarder by Henry, backup fullback Jack Whisker got the last yard and a touchdown to make it 48-24 with 6:45 remaining.

K.J. Hill caught his second touchdown pass of the game on the next possession to set the final margin.

Malham didn’t breathe easy until the final buzzer.

“I’m tired,” Malham said. “They’ve got so many athletes they’re never out of it. They can get you with one play and we saw that a couple of times tonight. This is one of the better secondaries we’ve had and they burned us a few times. That last touchdown they had, our guy was right in the perfect spot and the kid just goes up over him and gets it. You can’t rest against a team with athletes like that.”

An eventful first half saw seven combined scores, with North Little Rock scoring four times to Cabot’s three.

The Charging Wildcats got the ball first and got on the board first with a 50-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal.

Cabot answered with a 54-yard drive that was kept alive by a fourth and 3 conversion on a counter run by Henry. With first down at the Wildcat 30, Kimbrell ran the option for the first time in the game and broke loose for 20 yards to set up first and goal at the 10.

The same play in the other direction was good for 10 yards and a touchdown by Kimbrell with 3:15 left in the first quarter.

North Little Rock put together another long drive on its next possession. The Wildcats drove 69 yards in 14 plays, but couldn’t get into the end zone as Cabot’s defense held after facing first and goal from the 3.

The Wildcats settled for another field goal, leaving the score 7-6 with 11:07 left in the first half.

Cabot answered right back, going 58 yards in four plays. The big one was a 39-yard jaunt down the left sideline by halfback Preston Jones on second and 4. That set up first down at the 13 and Launius did the rest. He bulled his way for 8 yards on first down, then got the last five on the next play. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 13-6 with 9:40 left in the half.

The Wildcats finally got in the end zone after a first and goal. Land hit Tavian Anderson for a 6-yard pass with 7:52 left to make it 13-12.

North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding called for a two-point attempt, even after the Wildcats were called for an illegal shift. From the 7-yard line, Hill lined up at quarterback and threw incomplete over the middle.

The Wildcats stopped Cabot after one first down and took over after a punt on their own 12. On the first play, Land found Hill streaking down the home sideline and behind every Cabot defender. The play was good for 88 yards and gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game.

Cabot answered on the next drive. Launius broke loose for a 47-yard touchdown run with 3:20 left in the half.

The Panthers gained 458 total yards with all but 9 coming on the ground. Henry carried seven times for 89 yards while Kimbrell carried eight times for 81. North Little Rock gained 426 yards. Hill, who had five receptions for 120 yards in the first half, finished with eight catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns.

Friday, September 27, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Education in state needs improving

Dist. 43

Arkansas has ambitious goals when it comes to higher education. We are no longer just thinking about changes for the next session or even five years from now. Legislators and several leaders in education are thinking about our vision for higher education in the year 2025.

In the most recent session, we passed Act 1082, which created the Vision 2025 Legislative Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The commission held its first meeting on September 18.

The commission’s purpose is to study and research ways in which higher education can transform and positively impact the state by 2025 and beyond. It will make a progress report by April 2014 and a final report in October 2014.

We are one of 38 states that currently has a specific goal in mind when it comes to the number of college graduates it would like to see in its future. Gov. Beebe has stated we must double the number of college graduates in Arkansas by 2025. If that goal is achieved, over half of Arkansans will have at least an associate’s degree.

According to the latest census figures, 24% of Cabot residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Statewide 19% of our residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

By 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require post-secondary education or training, according to a study by researchers at Georgetown University. The study finds that America will be short 3 million college graduates if college graduation rates remain at current levels. America also will need 4.7 million new workers with certificates by 2018. These findings reinforce national goals to ensure 60 percent of Americans hold a high-quality degree by 2025. State legislators are in a prime position to help increase college completion. We have the power to enact effective policies that can increase the number of students who earn a certificate or degree.

And while state funding and scholarships will be an issue for this newly formed commission, one of the goals will be to find ways to enable families to start saving for their children’s education.

Statistics show a college graduate will make a million dollars more than a non-college graduate over the course of a life-time.

But our 2025 goal will not just benefit the individual. If the goal is achieved it could create another $450,000,000 in state income. That includes savings to our corrections department, Medicaid, and an increase in personal income tax.

The Vision 2025 Legislative Commission will continue to meet periodically over the next year. I will keep you updated on the progress.

TOP STORY >> Festival touted as economic boost

Leader staff writer

During this week’s city council meeting, Beebe Chamber of Commerce director Kristen Boswell spoke about the 17th annual Fall Fest scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. next Saturday in downtown Beebe.

Boswell said the musical entertainment will be held outside. Central Arkansas Entertainment donated the use of a stage. Blane Howard, Stays in Vegas, Stella Luss and River City Overdrive will be performing.

Boswell said the animal shelter will have an adoption fair, and the library will have a book sale. She added that there would be many vendors, a food court and a kids’s zone.

“It is an economic boost to the area. It brings people in from other areas. They are going to come to the festival and shop our city,” Boswell said.

In other business:

 The council approved McAfee Construction to make an estimated $18,000 in repairs to the city hall building. The company will fix the leaking roof, the holes in the building, remove water stains and apply water sealant and paint. Work is set to be completed before the end of the year.

 Mayor Mike Robertson said the city’s street repair program is underway this week with the paving of Windwood Drive, South Apple Street, East College Street and Ballpark Road.

Robertson said he would like to continue repaving a few roads each year with the additional sales tax revenue generated from Walmart.

 The council approved the rezoning of 1010 and 1000 W. Center St. and property at the corner of West Mississippi Street and Dewitt Henry Drive from residential to commercial property.

 Aldermen approved the hiring of Laurissa Smith as a police dispatcher.

 The fall cleanup will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through Oct. 19.

Residents living within Beebe city limits can use the city dumpsters at 207 W. Idaho St., behind the city shop, for free.

TOP STORY >> School board passes record $74M budget

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board on Tuesday approved the 2013-14 budget of approximately $74 million, which is up by about $1.26 million from last year.

The budget includes $36.21 million for teacher salaries, $33.44 million for operating expenses — instructional/pupil support, general administration/principals, maintenance and operations, transportation — and $4.6 million for the district’s debt services.

Last school year, Cabot spent $37.32 million on salaries and $31.94 million on operating expenses.

Comptroller Tina Wiley, who is responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting for the district, said the budget is higher because prices have increased and that is typical.

Superintendent Tony Thurman said, “Our district continues to be financially stable. This can be attributed to the strategic planning of our school board when dealing with finances.”

He added, “This budget places increased emphasis on technology integration more than ever before.”

Wiley said a big concern for the district is changes to health-insurance rates for teachers. According to state Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock), the self-funded health-insurance plan for public school teachers needs $54 million just to stay solvent this year and $110 million to sustain itself; and this is after lawmakers gave it $8 million. If the state doesn’t step in and do something, teachers will see their rates jump as much as $500 a month, starting in January.

In the 2013 regular session, the Legislature voted to raise the minimum contribution that districts must make for each school employee from $131 a month to $150 a month.
Cabot pays the $131 right now, but the district also offer life insurance, vision and long-term disability coverage as part of its benefits package.

About half the districts in Arkansas contribute the minimum $131 and the others contribute more. The $150 minimum contribution starts Jan. 1, 2014.

The state government subsidizes teacher health insurance with about $50 million a year in funding. That amount has stayed the same for several years, even though the number of teachers and dependents has risen. Therefore, it doesn’t go as far as it used to in alleviating health-insurance costs for individuals.

When the Legislature meets for the fiscal session in February of 2014, there will be a push to increase state funding to defray more of the costs of health insurance paid by school employees, if it is not dealt with before that.

Wiley explained that it would be difficult to budget for the district’s increased contribution per employee until more decisions are made.

Major projects that have impacted the budget, she continued, are the $26 million, 212,000-plus-square-foot Freshman Academy for ninth graders that is set to open for the start of the 2014-15 school year and the $500,000 Ward Central Elementary School cafeteria expansion.

Thurman added, “There will be challenges to be considered in the future as legislators determine the formula to be used for programs targeted for at risk students and continued decreases in federal funding allotments for programs offered in public schools.”

He is referring to the $1.9 million Cabot receives for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. Thurman said recently that the district was threatened with a $1.1 million cut to that.

But, he wrote in an e-mail sent to The Leader earlier this month, “I can tell you that there is not a change so far. There are several associations working together to develop a proposal but it is still a work in progress.”

Thurman explained, “(Gov. Mike Beebe) and the Legislature seeks to ensure that the funds are being used in an efficient manner. There is a cliff method used to determine the funding. Basically, there are cliffs in the percentage of free and reduced students in a district and the higher the percentage, the higher the amount of funds. Rather than cliffs, a new funding model would be implemented so that there is a smoothing effect from lowest to highest rather than cliffs at certain percentages.”

The funds are used to provide additional resources for at-risk learners, he added.

Of the district’s projected revenues in this year’s budget, 66 percent is state foundation funding, 33 percent is local funding and 1 percent is other state aid — the same as last year. Of the projected expenditures, 79 percent — 2 percent less than last year — is salaries and benefits.

Debt payment makes up 6 percent, which is up 1 percent from last year. Utilities and services are 5 percent, an increase of 1 percent. Equipment is 1 percent, which is down from 2 percent last year.

Wiley said the most notable shift was in salaries and benefits because the district is using Kelly Educational Staffing to hire substitute teachers. Cabot pays for that service and the company handles salaries. So money that would have been set aside in the salaries fund for substitutes was transferred to the services fund.

Also, supplies went up 1 percent because the district has set a standardized supply fee of $20, Wiley continued. The schools asked parents for a supply fee before, but the amount varied from campus to campus. Now the $20 parents pay provides students with their school supplies. Cabot covered the increase in that cost, Wiley explained.

TOP STORY >> Turning tragedy around

Leader staff writer

A Sherwood woman is shining a light on the option of organ and tissue donation during a dark moment in people’s lives to help give hope to others.

Carly Hightower’s son, Matthew, was a 9-year-old who just finished the third grade at Westside Elementary in Cabot.

He died in June 2011 from a dirt-bike accident in Alexander, where he succumbed to a fatal neck injury. His heart valves were donated to save three or four lives.

His mother said, “I always wanted to be an organ donor when I was a kid, always believed in organ donation.”

When Hightower saw her son at the hospital, she started a conversation with doctors about wanting to donate his organs.

Becky Gertsch of Jacksonville, a hospital development coordinator for the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency said, “Anytime there is a death at a hospital in our service area, we are contacted.”

The ARORA is a nonprofit that obtains organs from donors for transplant.

A person can provide a heart, liver, two kidneys, two lungs, a pancreas, tissue, corneas, heart valves, skin, tendons and bone.

She said a person who is brain-dead and on a ventilator can have their organs recovered for transplant.

Hightower’s son went too long without oxygen and his organs could not be saved, but his tissues were recovered. Gertsch said, “Pediatric heart valves are always needed.”

Hightower said, “It was easy. A representative came and told me what they could take and the process they could use. I had to sign some papers, and they gave me a packet to take home with all the information.

“Organ donation saves lives and gives hope. More people need to be more aware and educated about it,” she continued.

“I know Matthew would have wanted that. He was very giving, compassionate and caring. He was very mature for his age,” Hightower said.

A live and silent auction fundraiser is being held on Friday, Oct. 4 at the Next Level Events, 1400 W. Markham St. in Little Rock, to help with the cost of sending several Arkansas donor families to represent the state during the Rose Bowl Parade on Jan. 1.

Hightower will be attending. She will not be riding on the Donate Life float but helping to decorate it. She will sit in the stands with other donor families during the parade.

She said she is excited to be a part of it and to meet other donor families.

Gertsch went to the Rose Bowl Parade last year and helped to decorate the Donate Life float. She said it was an emotional experience as donor families from all over the county met and connected.

She said everyone was excited to see each other and were supportive as it helped them on their grief journey.

“It is an amazing process, a fine science on how it is organized, logistically putting the right color flower in the right spot,” Gertsch said.

She noted that they decorated the float in the big cold warehouse, working in eight-hour shifts.

Putting flowers on the float began on Dec. 26 and continued until Dec. 31, when the floats are judged.

Gertsch said the judging was solemn and emotional for the Donate Life float. She said neat traditions were carried out.

The float honors lost loved ones. The donor is memorialized with their name on a rose in a vial placed in the dedication garden at the front of the float.

The Rose Bowl parade’s Donate Life float is used to spread the message. For more information or to sign up to be an organ donor, visit or

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits after revenge at Heber

Leader sportswriter

After opening its regular season with a close loss on the road, Lonoke has won its last two nonconference games over class 5A teams, and on Friday the Jackrabbits will be looking to make it three wins in a row as they travel to Heber Springs to kickoff their 4A-2 Conference schedule.

The Panthers have had the Jackrabbits’ number over the last couple of seasons, and have won four of the past seven games in the series since both teams entered the 4A-2 Conference in 2006. Heber Springs though, is winless this fall and Lonoke seems to be getting better.

In last week’s 35-8 win over class 5A’s Little Rock McClellan, the Jackrabbits’ offense was slowed by considerably wet conditions, but the defense came up big, scoring two touchdowns to help boost Lonoke’s record to 2-1.

“We’re real happy,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of his team’s 2-1 start. “You use these three nonconference games to make sure you’ve got people in the right spots personnel-wise, and we feel good about that coming out of three games. We’ve had some success and we like where we are, but at the same time,weknow that the real season starts this week with conference play.

“You want to make the state playoffs and compete for a conference championship – that starts this week. So, it’s great coming out of there 2-1, but we know this is when the real season starts.”

Bost said the Panthers have abandoned their traditional run game and have gone to more of a high volume passing attack. According to Bost, Heber Springs will line up primarily in the spread formation, and will consistently line up in a four and five wide receiver set.

“We’re going to have to be solid with our pass defense this week,” Bost said. “Most of the time I’d say they’re four and five wide and throwing it around, which is kind of unusual. The last few years they’ve been a heavy run team. So it’s a little bit of a different philosophy they’ve got this year.”

As far as what Panther playmakers Lonoke’s defense will have to try and contain, Bost was quick to mention two guys that helped beat his team last year in a 21-6 week four loss at James B. Abraham Stadium.

Senior quarterback Michael Kramer returns to the helm after generating more than 2,000 yards of offense a year ago. In last year’s conference opener at Lonoke, he broke a scoreless tie with a 2-yard touchdown run, and fellow senior and returning starter Chandler Marquardt scored the game-clinching touchdown from 1-yard out from his halfback position.

“He runs hard,” Bost said of Marquardt. “He’s a downhill runner, between the tackles guy, and he runs real hard. So, offensive-wise, he’s probably a guy we’re going to key in on, and when it’s five wide, their quarterback’s going to throw it. He’s not a runner, so we’re going to have to get ready for the pass.”

Bost said the key to slowing down Heber Springs’ high volume passing attack will be to give the Panthers’ offense several different looks defensively, and consistently dropping as many as eight guys back into coverage.

As far as what the Jackrabbits’ offense can expect from Heber Springs’ defense, Bost said the Panthers will line up primarily in a 3-4 and 3-5 defense, but added “They do give you multiple looks on defense.”

Even though both teams return a total of nine starters, Lonoke will be the slight favorite in this game for the first time in three years. Bost and his team hope to live up to that expectation, but more importantly, the Jackrabbits simply want to focus on starting their 4A-2 Conference schedule on a high note.

“They know how important it is to start off 1-0 in conference,” Bost said of his team. “This is one of the toughest conferences in class 4A. So we need to be ready to come out and compete this week against a good Heber Springs team. They’ve had our number. They’ve beaten us the last two years. It’s always been a close game, but we need to get ready for them this year.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears, Warriors meet in opener

Leader sportswriter

The first week of 5A Central Conference play will feature a matchup between two of the most-improved teams in the league when Little Rock Christian Academy visits Bill Blackwood Field to face the Sylvan Hills Bears for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday.

The Warriors (2-1) got back on track last week with a 43-29 victory over Central Arkansas Christian after losing 28-31 to White Hall two weeks ago. The Bears (2-1) suffered their first loss at the hands of Newport 30-13 last week.

The two teams have both defeated Hot Springs Lakeside this year. Christian downed the Rams 39-35 in the season opener, while Sylvan Hills handed them a second loss the following week 45-41. The Bears got off to a successful start this season with a revenge victory over Vilonia, a team which had defeated them three straight times in season openers prior to the 2013 season.

Little Rock Christian is now under the direction of Jeff Weaver, who had a successful four-year stint at Mena prior to taking the reins of the Warrior program.

“They look like they’re getting better every single week,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We know it’s going to be a tough road ahead. They’re really well coached. They’ve got a quarterback who can run it, and can throw pretty well. Everybody’s running to the football – that’s one thing you can see with their defense, all 11 shirts are running to the football. They’re physical, and can get after it.”

The injury situation looks better for Sylvan Hills coming out of the weekend. Junior Marlon Clemmons has recovered from a minor rib injury he sustained at Newport on Friday, while test results for sophomore receiver Elijah Sowards were still pending as of Monday afternoon. The initial concern for Sowards was a torn ACL, but a doctor’s examination raised questions as to the exact condition.

Friday’s loss at Newport, although a setback, is not a bitter pill for Withrow, as long as his team is able to grow from it.

“You hope the guys get a taste of it and not like it very much,” Withrow said. “Hopefully, we can get better from it and move on. All of it comes down to having the right frame of mind. Things didn’t go right Friday, so are we going to bounce back? Are we going to do things right? Or are we going to do whatever. And that’s one thing I like about our team. I like our character.”

The Bears had their most challenging offensive performance to date against Newport, which resulted in just 240 yards of total offense. Junior running back Tyler Davis came close to breaking the 100-yard barrier with 93 rushing yards, while classmates Marlon Clemmons and Tra Doss scored Sylvan Hills’ only touchdowns.

“Just on the whole, it wasn’t great,” Withrow said. “I thought Haden Hawkins played real well up front. That’s one of the things that we’ve harped on is people getting better up front, and I think our guys are. We blew a couple of assignments on both sides of the ball. For the most part, we’ve just got to play better.”

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils take effort to Cougars

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville made it through two tough weeks to start the 2013 football season, and got its first win last Friday, beating Maumelle 27-20 in a very physically and emotionally taxing game. This week, the Red Devils hope to carry that momentum on their first long road trip when they face the Helena-West Helena Central Cougars on Friday on the banks of the Mississippi River.

“I’m just as proud as I can be of this team’s mental toughness,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “These kids had every opportunity to get their heads down and fold it up. They didn’t do that. They kept working hard at getting better every week. Results on the field weren’t what we wanted those first two weeks, but you can see the improvement. We still haven’t played a complete football game as far as doing everything right that we work on. But as far as everyone playing hard for 48 minutes, we got that done on Friday.”

Jacksonville suffered losses to Cabot and Benton in its first two games, two teams from higher classifications that appear to be emerging as two of the better teams in their respective classes. Cabot has dominated Catholic and Conway since beating Jacksonville. Benton suffered a turnover-plagued loss in week one before coming from behind to beat Jacksonville in week two. Last week, Benton threw for almost 700 yards in a 63-31 win at Greenbrier.

Central also enters with a 1-2 record. The Cougars lost their opener 34-19 to Dollarway before beating hapless Marianna 47-6. Last week, they blew a second-half lead and lost 20-13 to the Wynne Yellowjackets.

Central is very similar to Maumelle in style and substance. The two teams have similar personnel and run the same defensive schemes. Both teams also run the spread offense, but Central will also line up in the wing T and the wishbone.

“Maumelle was a good team for us to play to get ready for this one,” Russell said. “They’re very similar. There are athletes all over the field. They both run the spread, but Helena is going to give you more looks than Maumelle. They’re liable to line up in anything from the spread to the wishbone, so it gives us more to work on.”

Jacksonville and Central met for the first time ever last year at Jan Crow Stadium in Jacksonville. The Red Devils won that game 35-0, but this year’s scores so far indicate the Cougars are much better than last year.

They should be. They started several sophomores last season, and return 10 starters on both sides of the ball.

They played the same three nonconference games last year, and results this year have been much better. Last season, the Cougars lost by 30 to Dollarway and by 43 to Wynne.

“There’s no question we’re facing a better football team than we faced last year,” Russell said. “Anytime you return basically your whole team you’re going to be better. They started a lot of sophomores last year. Those guys are all bigger and stronger and they all have a year’s worth of varsity starting experience. We’re going to have to play a good football game to get the win, and I think we can do that.”

Jacksonville lost starting tailback Lamont Gause to injury early in the second quarter last week, but he should be back for this Friday’s game. Several players suffered scrapes and bruises, but the injury report is clean for Jacksonville.

The player that perhaps took the most punishment last week was quarterback Reggie Barnes, who Russell singled out for the toughness he showed against Maumelle.

“Reggie took some hits,” Russell said. “He got hit, he got up. He got hit late, he got up. He got hit running the option, got hit on rollouts. Maumelle is a physical team, especially that defensive end. He’s an SEC player if I’ve ever seen one. But Reggie would take a shot from that guy, get up and keep throwing the ball. He gave us a winning effort and I’m just so, so proud of him. They took our running game away and he stepped up and made some great throws under pressure.

“On defense, Titus O’Neal turned in a historic performance in Jacksonville history.

Since I’ve been here, so at least since ’95, I don’t know that I’ve had a handful of kids that scored over 40 points on our defensive tackle chart for one game. He did that Friday and he had nothing left after the game. He gave everything he had.

“And really that was team wide. Everyone on the field gave great effort that whole game. We can still be so much better once we get our technique issues worked out. But the effort was there. If we can keep that up and continue to improve, we can still be an outstanding football team.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot tests getting bigger

Leader sports editor

When the buzzer sounded to end Cabot’s 23-9 win over Conway last Friday, the team had shaken hands and huddled on a knee waiting for its coach to finish his radio interview. As he approached his squad that had just put together a signature performance and passed its first major test, Mike Malham told his excited players that, “The best is yet to come.”

That will need to be true for the Panthers to pull off another win this Friday when they travel to North Little Rock to take on the nationally ranked Charging Wildcats at 7 p.m.

“Our competition has gotten a little tougher each week,” said Malham. “We went from Jacksonville to Catholic to Conway, and now it’s a little tougher again. Hopefully we can keep rising to the challenge. We passed a pretty good test Friday night. Conway has a big offensive line and good speed, and people said they looked pretty good when they scrimmaged North Little Rock. I don’t know. North Little Rock looks pretty good on film.”

The Wildcats, 2-1, have had one uncompetitive rout of Lake Hamilton, a one-point loss to nationally ranked South Panola, Miss., and a two-touchdown win last week at Pine Bluff.

Last week’s game might be the most costly. Running back Juan Day, who made a verbal commitment in the spring to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks, went down with a knee injury. Results from tests on Monday were expected by today, but early indications are that he won’t be available for Friday’s game.

That leaves the Wildcats with only two big-time Division I prospects to get the ball to. Junior K.J. Hill, who played for Bryant last year and was offered by the Razorbacks two weeks ago, had twolong runs in last week’s win over Pine Bluff. He also made several big plays to keep Bryant close in last year’s first-round playoff game against the Panthers. It was a game Cabot, 3-0, won before losing 28-0 to North Little Rock in the second round last year. The Wildcats also beat Cabot 35-14 in last year’s conference opener at Panther Stadium.

North Little Rock also has Kavin Alexander, who dazzled onlookers at the Nike Football Sparq Combine by posting the top overall score and second-best score all time. At that event, held in Dallas in April, Alexander, who is Oakland Raiders’ running back Darren McFadden’s first cousin, ran a 4.36 second 40-yard dash, a 3.9 second shuttle run, posted a 40.5 inch vertical leap and tossed the power ball 42.5 feet. All four marks were in the 99th percentile in combine history.

“They lost a lot from last year but they retooled pretty well,” Malham said. “They’re not as big as they were last year, but they’re just as fast, if not faster, than last year. There’s no shortage of playmakers over there. Anybody that touches the ball for them is capable of taking it to the house. We’re going to have to be on our toes and be disciplined on defense. We’re going to have to wrap up and tackle and not let those guys get loose. If they get loose, we’re in trouble. But the way the defense is playing, I think if we can keep playing like we have been, hopefully we can hang in there and have a chance to win that thing in the fourth quarter.”

The Panthers’ starting defense hasn’t given up more than one touchdown in any of its three games. Meanwhile, last week’s 23 points is the lowest output for the offense, and that came despite turnovers on four consecutive possessions.

Cabot’s defense also hasn’t suffered the injuries the offense has suffered. The Panthers started the Conway game without two starters, and finished it without three. Depth was a major concern for Malham when the season started, especially on the offensive line. But two games with two replacement linemen resulting in two wins, leaves the head Panther feeling a little better about his line depth.

“(Wyatt) Talik stepped up when (Devin) Crawford went down in the first game,” Malham said. “(Jordan) Stull stepped in and played well for us in the second half against Conway when we lost (Jonathan) Crowder. Hopefully we can keep that up. I was worried about that to start the season, but those guys have done real well.”

Crowder will probably be back this week while Crawford is out at least until week five with a broken bone in his foot.

Cabot was also without starting fullback Zach Launius last week, who suffered a concussion in practice. Junior Jack Whisker took his place and ran for 98 yards on Friday.

“He did a good job,” Malham said of Whisker. “He’s not the home run hitter Launius is. He doesn’t have that kind of speed. But he runs hard and gets good yardage. Sometimes nickel and diming them to death works out better because it helps your defense. They’re sitting over there on the sidelines getting some rest. And that explosive offense is sitting over there on the other sideline too, without the ball.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Breaking up with PCSSD

Sherwood is moving forward with its plans to break away from the Pulaski County Special School District with help from a former district official who probably knows better than anyone that PCSSD’s problems can only be solved at the local level.

Like Jacksonville, Sherwood is fed up with poor results from the Little Rock-based district that consistently struggles with test scores and upgrading its school buildings and curriculum.

Linda Remele, who retired as a deputy superintendent in June, was quickly recruited by Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman to evaluate how the city can form its own school district, as reported in The Leader today by Rick Kron.

“I feel we can have our own school district. Our first step is a feasibility study,” Remele told the city council Monday night.

Sherwood will have to prove that it will have at least 4,000 students. Current enrollment in Sherwood’s schools is approximately 4,400. The city will also have to demonstrate that it is sufficiently desegregated. That could be more challenging considering that racial-balance has been tied up in court for decades.

Remele has also formed a committee, which includes business owners, community leaders, parents and developers, to plan the city’s split from PCSSD. The committee will inform the public about its work during meetings from 7 until 8 p.m. Tuesday, O

ct. 15 at Sylvan Hills Church of Christ at Maryland Avenue and Hwy. 107 and from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21 at New Dora Baptist Church, 317 Jamison Ave., behind Harris Elementary.

It is clear that both communities want out of PCSSD to offer the same quality education that our neighbors to the north do so well. 

EDITORIAL >> Firing range seeks leader

Jacksonville is still looking for a manager to run its $3 million Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex on Graham Road that is set to open in a little more than a month.

The 160-acre sport-shooting and archery range is being built near the intersection of Loop and Graham roads.

A parks and recreation department employee had been given the job, but officials this week said he resigned for personal reasons and no longer works for the city.

Applications are available at Jacksonville’s human resources department at city hall and on the city’s website. The position will pay up to $16.47 per hour.

The city has taken a low-profile approach to the hiring effort for a position that will be at the center of what is perhaps the city’s most important recreational project ever.

Whomever the city hires, the manager must be experienced in trap and skeet shooting. For advice, the city should turn to someone like Bronson Castleberry, the longtime manager of Remington Gun Club in Lonoke, who is as collegial as he is an expert shooter. He’s had a hand in teaching hundreds of shooters over the years to enjoy the sport and to do it well.

Castleberry has also been deeply involved with the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, which holds its tournaments at Remington Gun Club, but those events will be coming to Jacksonville next spring.

Another good way to recruit a manager would be to contact the Arkansas State Trapshooting Federation’s board members, who in addition to Castleberry, include James H. Kiddy of Cabot, Renae Chambless of Lonoke, Jerry M. Hill and Robert Pennock Jr., both of Ward.

In June 2012, Leader sports editor Ray Benton wrote about Chambless’ youth trap shooting team. “We’ve been able to build a large membership of (Academics Integrity Marksmanship) shooters because of the AYSSP program. The AYSSP is a fantastic program. This year it had 5,600 kids and 800 volunteer coaches. It’s a phenomenal program for kids in Arkansas,” she told us.

Jerry M. Hill and his wife, Kim, whose trap shooting teams at Cabot High School have also been featured in The Leader’s sports section, could also help Jacksonville select a manager for Jacksonville’s shooting complex.

Kim Hill told us after a youth shooting tournament last year, “We had 50 kids compete and 25 of them are going to state. We’re very proud of that. The kids work hard at it and the parents are very dedicated.”

Jerry Hill said, “They’re a very dedicated bunch. We practice three days a week and the ones who qualified have been at every one of them. Some of them even come out on Sunday too and practice on their own.”

The city should hire a manager who can continue the area’s top-notch tradition of sport shooting and help to ensure an Olympic gold medal for Jacksonville.

TOP STORY >> Woman believed murdered

Leader staff writer

The search for a Lonoke County woman missing since July 28 intensified over the weekend when an informant came forward with information that led to the arrest of the woman’s boyfriend on Monday for first-degree domestic battery and kidnapping.

Sheriff John Staley said he can’t discuss the evidence that led to those charges because the victim is still missing.

Dennis Harrington, 41, from Clayhill Road near Lonoke, is being held without bond at the Lonoke County Jail. At the time of his arrest, he was on parole for aggravated assault and terroristic threatening.

Rebecca Lauer, 36, was reported missing in August by relatives in Texas. At the time of her disappearance, she lived with Harrington.

Staley sent out a press release Monday after Harrington was arrested saying his department is following several leads but still needs help from the public to locate Lauer. He said Tuesday morning in a phone interview that an FBI evidence team had to wait until daylight to begin searching for Lauer or evidence that would lead to her.

Asked if the evidence made them believe Lauer had been killed, Staley replied, “You never want to give up on someone who is missing.”

TOP STORY >> Insurance firms to offer private coverage

Leader senior staff writer

With just a week left until an estimated 500,000 Arkansans can enroll for the state’s private-option Medicaid expansion, the state Insurance Department released the names of the four health-care providers and pricing (see related story).

The Qualified Health Plan issuers offering plans are Celtic Insurance Company, d/b/a Arkansas Health and Wellness Solutions; Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield; Blue Cross and Blue Shield Multi-State, and QCA Health Plans, Inc. d/b/a QualChoice Health Insurance of Arkansas.


Open enrollment begins Oct. 1 and extends through March 31. But, to be eligible for coverage at the Jan. 1 start, you must enroll by Dec. 15, according to Heather Haywood, public information manager for Arkansas Health Connector. That’s the entity managing the private option for the Arkansas Insurance Division.

All Arkansans are required to have health insurance beginning March 31 and there will be fines assessed through the IRS for those who don’t.


Because of the enormity of enrolling so many people into health insurance plans with so many options, the state Insurance Department has hired 537 in-person assisters across the state to help residents navigate the detailed programs, according to Haywood. And other groups or agencies have hired additional people to help, she said.

The list of types of coverage, broken down by age, spans 223 pages.

The in-person assistance program is designed to provide outreach, education and assistance to Arkansas communities and uninsured Arkansans.

The state got a $17 million grant to help inform and assist private-option clients.

The state Health Department is sponsoring assisters in health units in every county.

In addition, 13 organizations are sponsoring assisters in Pulaski County, three organizations in Lonoke County and two in White County.

Here, by county, are the names and phone numbers of the groups providing assisters to guide residents through the process, beginning Oct. 1:


• Local Health Department Units, including the one in Jacksonville, 501-982-7477

• Arkansas Health Care Access Foundation, 501-221-3033, 501-951-5330.

• Arkansas Minority Health Commission, 501-686-2720.

• Arkansas Voices for the Children Left Behind, 501-366-3647

• Better Community Development, Inc. 501-663-9181, 501-580-4269

• Central Arkansas Library, 501-918-3031

• Central Arkansas Volunteers in Medicine, doing business as Harmony Health Clinic, 501-375-4400

• Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc., 501-374-8225

• Future Builders, Inc., 501-897-5566

• Hope, Restoration and Wellness Learning Center, 501-240-2795

• IN Affordable Housing, Inc., 501-221-2203, 501-954-0017 (mobile)

• Mental Health Council of Arkansas, 501-372-7062

• The Living and Affected, 877-902-7448

• Women’s Council on African American Affairs, Inc., 501-372-3800


• Cabot Health Unit, 501-843-7561

• Lonoke Health Unit, 501-676-2268

• Central Arkansas Library, 501-918-3031

• Future Builders, Inc., 501-897-5566

• IN Affordable Housing, Inc., 501-221-2203, 501-954-0017 (mobile)


• Beebe Health Unit, 501- 882-5128

• IN Affordable Housing, Inc., 501-221-2203, 501-954-0017 (mobile)

• Mental Health Council of Arkansas, 501-372-7062

Connector website,

For help enrolling or to find assisters in your area, call 855-283-3483.


There are 3 ways to get health insurance:

• Purchase insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, also called the Exchange, where you may qualify to have part or all of your premiums paid.

• Purchase health insurance from a private insurance company on your own.

• Get health insurance through your job or through your spouse/partner’s job.

If you already have insurance through work, you won’t have to do anything else.

Enrolling through the Marketplace is the only way you can receive financial assistance on your monthly health-insurance premiums. Officials are warning that fraudulent offers already are appearing online and elsewhere.


“The Arkansas Health Connector is your secure connection to the Marketplace,” according to Haywood.

You can apply online, in person, by mail or over the phone.

“You’ll need your Social Security number (or document number if you’re a legal immigrant) and employer and income information (pay stubs, W-2 forms, wage and tax statements),” according to information on the official Arkansas Health Connector website.

Financial assistance is available through a new type of tax credit called the Advanced Premium Tax Credit.

The amount of assistance you can get is determined by your household income and size. Some Arkansans will even be eligible to have all of their premiums paid through this financial assistance.

Some aspects of the new healthcare law already are in effect. Adult children can be carried on their parents insurance until age 26, regardless of marital status, Haywood said. Children under 19 can’t be excluded for pre-existing conditions and prenatal and some other screenings are free to those insured.

The private-option insurance is not expected to have any immediate impact on ARKids First, which covers low-income Arkansans 18 and younger.


Eligibility is determined by these simple criteria:

• You must live in the U.S.

• You must be lawfully present in the U.S.

• You must not be incarcerated due to a conviction.

Five companies have filed letters of intent to provide private-option coverage in Arkansas, but so far the federal government has not notified the Arkansas Insurance Division which ones are approved to provide it.

More than 430,000 uninsured Arkansans — most of them low income — will be eligible, and, in fact, required to get the insurance. The Affordable Care Act requires that everyone have health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014.


If you don’t have health insurance in 2014, you will pay a penalty — the greater of $95 per adult or 1 percent of your taxable income.

By 2015, the penalty will equal $325 per adult or 2 percent of taxable income and, in 2016, that increases to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of taxable income. After that, the penalty increases based on the cost-of-living adjustment.

Penalties are noted and collected on IRS income tax forms.

The federal government, through the state, will pay the basic premium for individuals and families earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, Garris said. For a single person, that would be $14,856 for instance, or $30,656 for a family of four. Help with premiums is on a sliding scale, with help available all the way up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.


Individuals and families aren’t the only beneficiaries of the private option.

About 28,000 Arkansas hospital patients were uninsured in 2010, costing the hospitals $280 million. Under the private-option Medicare Expansion, about 85 percent to 90 percent of those costs could have been recovered.

But for passage of the private-option law by the General Assembly signed by Gov. Beebe, unpaid cost for uninsured patients would surpass $430 million in 2014 and more each following year, mostly because the percentage of uninsured Arkansans has climbed from 20 percent in 2010 to about 25 percent in 2014.

Private option is expected to benefit Arkansas hospitals in the range of $185 million to $200 million in 2014 alone.


There are four levels of coverage, each with a different cost, affecting the percentage of cost that the covered person pays. For instance, bronze level pays about 60 percent, leaving the patient to pay about 40 percent, while at the other extreme — platinum coverage — the premiums are more expensive but the plan picks up about 90 percent of costs.

All participating insurance carriers are required to provide certain coverage — including free preventative tests.

Free coverage includes colorectal cancer screenings, including polyp removal for those older than 50; immunizations and vaccines for adults and children; counseling to help stop smoking; well-woman checkups, as well as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings; well-baby and well-child exams for children and cholesterol screening.


• Outpatient services, including primacy-care physician office visits, specialist office visits, outpatient surgical services, outpatient diagnostics, including advanced diagnostic services such as MRIs and CT scans; and outpatient physical and occupational therapy.

• Emergency services, including after-hours clinic or urgent care center visits; observation services; transfer to in-network hospital and ambulance services.

• Hospitalization including hospital services; physician hospital visits; inpatient services including surgical services, physical and occupational therapy, organ transplant services.

• Maternity and newborn care.

• Mental health and substance abuse services, including professional services; diagnostics and inpatient and outpatient care at hospital or other covered facility.

• Prescription drugs.

• Rehabilitative and habilitative services, including physical, occupational and speech therapy and developmental services.

• Laboratory services — testing and evaluation.

• Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, including case-management communications made by primary-care physicians.

• Preventive health services, including routine immunizations and pediatric services, including dental and vision care.

The connector website is

For help enrolling or to find assisters in your area, call 855-283-3483.

TOP STORY >> Teacher insurance mess angers lawmaker

Leader staff writer

The self-funded health-insurance plan for public school teachers needs $54 million just to stay solvent this year and $110 million to sustain itself. This is after lawmakers gave it $8 million, according to state Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock).

If the state doesn’t step in and do something, teachers will see their health-insurance rates jump as much as $500 a month, starting in January.

The information came to light during joint meetings last week of the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee.

House and other lawmakers were “angered and disgusted to learn last week that the Teachers and State Employee Benefits Board, the very body that is supposed to manage health-insurance benefits and rates for teachers, knew of these problems earlier this year: that the Gold Plan was paying out way more in benefits than it was taking in premiums, and did not alert us, the Legislature.”

House said, “This level of irresponsibility really angers me.” Simply put, House explained, “The Gold Plan has crashed.”

“We also heard testimony last week that the State Employees Gold Plan is about two years away from similar trouble; too much going out and not enough coming in. The only solution offered to us by the Teachers and State Employee Benefits Board at the recent committee meetings was ‘give us more money,’” House said.

There is a lot of discussion about calling a special session to deal with the critical shortfall, but there’s no guarantee that state lawmakers can come up with a consensus or agreement in order to call the session. “We are going to do something,” House said. “I just don’t know what at this point.”

Paul Brewer, the human resource director for the Pulaski County Special School District, said the teachers’ health options are managed by JT Financial. “We have three meetings scheduled to let employees know what their options and costs will be and answer any questions they may have,” he said.

The meetings are set for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Sylvan Hills High School auditorium and 6:30 p.m. Monday at Mills High School’s auditorium.

Gov. Mike Beebe has delayed the open enrollment period for the teacher’s health insurance to give more time to calm fears and work out a possible solution, said his spokesman, Matt DeCample. Teachers normally have to select their insurance choice for the year between Oct. 1 and Oct. 30. This year teachers will make their decisions between Nov.1 and Nov. 20.

DeCample said the governor is willing to call a special session to deal with an insurance shortfall. “However he wants consensus on a solution before calling the session,” DeCample explained. “He wants to avoid legislators spending a month or a month and a half debating on the taxpayers’ dime.”

Beebe has spent the past week talking to superintendents, teacher groups and legislators and feels something could be in the works by mid-October, according to DeCample.

He added that it would take the state benefits division a couple of weeks to prepare for any changes in the insurance program.

The state teachers’ health plan has three tiers: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Because of earlier hikes in premiums about 20,000 teachers opted out of the Gold, selecting one of the cheaper plans. “That leaves the older, sicker teachers in the Gold Plan, and it is paying out more than it is taking in,” House said.

All tiers will see significant increases in January. For example, the Gold Plan for families will cost the employee $1,538 a month, up from $1,029.
The cost of the cheaper Bronze Plan will go up significantly, from $245 to $374 a month per school employee. Coverage for an individual in the Gold Plan will go up from $227 to $341 a month, and, for the Bronze Plan, from $10 to $50 a month. That represents only the cost to the teacher or school employee. The school districts that employ them will also see increased costs.

For House, this problem hit home as his wife Anita is a retired school teacher and pays for insurance through the faltering health-insurance fund.

He said that the first indication of a major problem didn’t come up until meetings last week. “The board that oversees these funds and the DFA knew late last year the funds were in trouble, and didn’t raise any flags. They could have come to us during the last legislative session,” House said.

“If the Legislature had been told by the executive branch during the session, we could have prevented this. We can’t solve a problem we do not know about. Now, we do know about it, and we will solve it,” he continued.

House said that lawmakers learned that the board had spent its reserves. “They did not reduce benefits or raise premiums enough to help keep the plan solvent. They gambled with keeping and spending their reserves, hoping they would avoid big claims, instead of buying reinsurance. In the private sector you could go to prison for letting an insurance company lose its reserves,” he said.

In the 2013 regular session, the legislature voted to raise the minimum contribution that districts must make for each school employee, from $131 a month to $150 a month.
About half the districts in Arkansas contribute the minimum $131 and the others contribute more. The $150 minimum contribution starts Jan. 1.

Brewer said PCSSD pays out almost $300 a month per employee to help cover health insurance as well as dental, vision and short-term disability.

“The individual cost of our lowest plan is $242 for the Bronze Plan, and we cover that cost entirely,” he noted, adding, “Our employees are very fortunate that we are able to contribute so much.”

Since the state is the district’s school board, it is doubtful that the district will increase its contributions anytime soon unless money comes from the state itself.

He said the district will have an open enrollment period starting Oct. 1, after the informational meetings, and he expects a number of employees in the Gold Plan will move down to Silver or Bronze.

The state subsidizes teacher health insurance with about $50 million a year in funding. That amount has stayed the same for several years, even though the number of teachers and dependents has risen. Therefore, it doesn’t go as far as it used to in alleviating health- insurance costs for individuals.

When the legislature meets in fiscal session in February 2014, there will be a push to increase state funding to defray more of the costs of health insurance paid by school employees, if it’s not dealt with before that.

House said the teacher health insurance fund went through the last of its $10 million to $12 million in reserves last year. Four claims, alone, cost the fund $10 million. He said the fund has about $30 million left to cover claims it knows are coming in.

House said part of the problem was that the fund managers did not reinsure the fund to protect it against catastrophic losses.

At last week’s meeting, the state and fund representatives asked for just $8 million to help cover the Gold Plan expenses. “But it was much more critical than we were lead to believe,” House said.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), the Senate committee chairman, who is in the insurance business, has asked for actuaries to take a close look at the fund and its needs.

House said, “Most of us are not insurance experts, and we need to see exactly what is needed. Once we hear from the experts, we will have a better idea what can and should be done.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

EDITORIAL >> For a Pledge of Allegiance

 We began to wonder if North Metro Medical Center was having financial problems when the large glass sign at the entrance to Jacksonville Medical Center went unrepaired for months after perhaps being vandalized with a rock or baseball. It is still in need of repair.

It’s what the public sees. Appearances are all-important for a hospital that needs to make patients and visitors feel they are in an environment that will deliver good, safe care.

Reassurance for both patient and family is essential when someone is ill. And it’s also essential for personnel who may worry about layoffs or worse.

It should go without saying that hospital equipment should be clean and in good repair and available when needed. Supplies should be adequate for patients and personnel. Broken equipment, a non-working ATM, empty hand sanitizers and faulty air conditioning are more than distractions and point to bigger problems that erode confidence of employees, patients and the community. This is what your public sees even if it’s not the whole story.

It’s been long rumored that the hospital is in trouble, long before Allegiance’s time. But some services, such as the emergency room, have always delivered exemplary care.

Interim administrator Cindy Stafford said she met with North Metro’s employees after The Leader’s story about the hospital’s unpaid utility bills. She wanted to reassure them that their jobs aren’t in jeopardy. (“Hospital almost comatose,” The Leader, Aug. 31.)

Stafford took the bull by the horns, and held staff meetings to reassure her 400 employees that payment plans were already in place and the hospital’s payroll is secure. The hospital, a 78-bed acute-care facility on Braden just off John Harden Drive, had a payroll of about $17 million in 2012 and about $1.1 million per month this year.

Allegiance Health Management purchased North Metro from the city in 2010 for more than $10 million, but Allegiance first took over management of the hospital soon after the economy had taken a nosedive in 2008.

A positive balance of $652,000 in 2003-04 plummeted to a loss of $3 million by 2006-07 just before the markets crashed. So Allegiance had a pretty good idea of what it was getting into then, even more so when it finalized the purchase from the city in April last year.

Allegiance has continued to stress its commitment to Jacksonville and to rightly emphasize the economic impact North Metro Medical Center has on Jacksonville and the surrounding area.

We praise Allegiance for its commitment and we laud its drive to improve the facility, but time is of the essence.

Mayor Gary Fletcher has repeatedly emphasized that emergency services are essential to the presence of Little Rock Air Force Base, and the city is using North Metro as a selling point in a serious bid to acquire the state’s new $25 million veterans’ home.

A top-notch emergency room continues to be a must for the base and the area that lies between Searcy and Jacksonville. Trauma victims from gun-shot wounds or vehicle accidents are stabilized and treated and transferred elsewhere if a trauma center is required. But North Metro is the first line in trauma stabilization from transports from south of Searcy to Jacksonville. There’s a large area to the north, which is not served by a hospital. Allegiance should capitalize on that and tout its services.

Allegiance Health Management of Shreveport is known for specialty medical fields including inpatient geriatric psychiatric units, intensive outpatient psychiatric services, and long-term acute care such as takes place in rehabilitation settings.

North Metro has expanded all of these services and more, including a medical imaging department staffed 24 hours a day and a diagnostic collaboration with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. This should further instill public confidence in North Metro.

Also sophisticated specialized wound care is delivered by Healogics, a Jacksonville, Fla., company.

According to its website, “Allegiance Health Management believes in teamwork and a collaborative approach to solving the issues we as healthcare providers face in our daily operations. We stand behind our corporate motto, ‘Pledging Allegiance to Excellence in Customer Service.’”

Continue to show us that you mean it, Allegiance.

TOP STORY >> Pre-trial hearing is set for driver

Leader staff writer

The pre-trial hearing for the Jacksonville man charged with the first-degree murder of Fire Capt. Donald “Donnie” Jones will continue at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in Courtroom 220 at the Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock.

The trial for Bryce Allen Jr., 47, is still set to start at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 28 in Courtroom 220. It could be held through Jan. 30. 

The defendant appeared in court Thursday in front of Judge Barry Sims, who will preside over the pre-trial hearing and the trial.

In March 2012, Allen allegedly drove around emergency vehicles at 8411 S. Hwy. 161 and struck Jones, firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo with his van.

The three men were responding to the scene of a single-vehicle accident involving Allen’s mother, Thelma. She struck a gas main and was not hurt.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, was the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Bowmaster and DiMatteo were seriously injured. The police officer has returned to duty.
Bowmaster, who had a limp when he attended the hearing Thursday with his wife, was the more severely wounded of the two.

Sims, the judge who ruled in July that Allen is mentally fit to stand trial, continued the hearing at the request of the defendant’s attorney.

The prosecuting attorney said after leaving the courtroom that the pre-trial hearing is just “housekeeping” needed before the January trial.

On Thursday, Allen seemed calm and attentive.

His behavior stood out in stark contrast to an August 2012 appearance when he talked over court officials as they worked to reschedule one of his hearings, accusing “everybody” of “hating” him.

Allen said then that the prison guards were abusing him and changing his medications in an attempt to kill him.

As he was escorted out of the courtroom at the earlier hearing, Allen said, “Guess I gotta get back in there and get killed. I’ll get back to preachin’ one of these days.”

On Thursday and at the 2012 hearing, his hands and feet were cuffed with a cable connecting the restraints.

This week, Allen’s back was also straight rather than stooped like before. His gait was regular rather than plodding.

Allen has a history of mental illness. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions that included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

According to the police department’s investigation, he made no attempt to brake and even accelerated before hitting the three first responders. Allen also appeared to be aiming toward them, according to the report.

He was arrested in 2009 for the second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, Allen was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

He was an Army corporal from 1983-1986.

Allen told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

He has also been accused of hitting an Ohio police officer with his car in October 2011.

The guard, who sustained a minor injury, was an off-duty policeman.

TOP STORY >> Lawsuit by CAW coming

Leader staff writer

Central Arkansas Water notified ExxonMobil and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration this week it will file suit to stop the reopening of the Pegasus Pipeline that ruptured at Mayflower on March 29 if the PHMSA doesn’t begin proceedings to address violations of the Pipeline Safety Act that CAW has uncovered.

“CAW’s immediate goal is to prevent the restart of the pipeline until CAW has had the opportunity to review all relevant data and identify additional safety and integrity measures needed in the Maumelle Watershed,” CAW CEO Graham Rich said in a letter Thursday to elected leaders, including Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman and Congressman Tim Griffin.

“Therefore, CAW has determined that we must submit a 60 day notice … that provides CAW the option to file suit under the federal Pipeline Safety Act and associated regulations.

“The continued lack of critical data requested by CAW has raised legitimate concerns regarding the potential of the Pegasus Pipeline restarting before CAW has sufficient time to review the necessary information and make informed decisions regarding the protection of the Maumelle Watershed,” Rich said.

CAW supplies drinking water to about 400,000 residents of central Arkansas, including Sherwood, Jackson-ville and Cabot. The primary source of that water is the 9,000-acre Lake Maumelle with a watershed area of 137 square miles. The Pegasus runs from the northeast corner of the watershed to the southeast corner. It runs near the north shore of the lake for about five miles and crosses the Maumelle River, which feeds the lake in three places.

If the water from Lake Maumelle was contaminated, Lake Winona — the only other water source — would be able to provide only about 38 percent of the required amount.

CAW attorneys Hiburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski and Calhoun say in the notice of intent to file suit that Exxon Mobil is in violation of the Pipeline Safety Act in several areas.

The company allegedly failed to implement and maintain an adequate integrity-management program in the watershed. It is accused of failing to select a pipeline assessment method capable of assessing the integrity of the seams on the Pegasus and not changing its integrity management program after the line ruptured twice inside the watershed during testing in 2006 — before the heavy crude from Canada began flowing through it.

ExxonMobil did not notify CAW about those ruptures.

The suit will also allege that ExxonMobil failed to take adequate measures to mitigate the consequences of a pipeline failure in the watershed.

There is only one valve station on the Pegasus in the watershed, and it could take up to two hours to reach it — enough time for 800,000 to 1.2 million gallons of the crude oil to dump into the watershed, the intent to sue says.

The crude is the consistency of peanut butter and must be mixed with other chemicals to make it flow.

At least one chemical is a known cancer-causing agent, the intent to sue says. And all of them evaporate, which would allow any crude dumped into water to sink, making cleanup more difficult.

TOP STORY >> Council votes $22,000 to fix unsafe bridge

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council voted Thursday to waive competitive bidding on and pay $22,000 for repairs to a 57-by-27-foot bridge on North J.P. Wright Loop Road.

Mehaffey Construction of North Little Rock was hired as the contractor for the project.

A few weeks ago, the city closed the bridge to trucks with loads heavier than three tons.

The bridge is between the railroad tracks and the four-way stop sign at the intersection of Graham and Loop roads.

Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley said then that a state Highway Department inspector found that the bridge was moving more than it should when vehicles were driving over it.

Crews working on Graham Road and the shooting complex have been using that bridge to get to the construction sites, the public works director explained.   

Oakley said previously, “It’s been really hammered this past year. All them heavy loads are taking a toll on it…We’ve got to think about the safety.”

According to engineer Tommy Bond, the contractor and the public works staff started strengthening the weak columns underneath the bridge on Sept. 10.

It was reopened to all traffic Monday, less than a week later. 

He also said the state Highway Department would be inspecting it every six months, instead of every 24 months like they did before.

Bond said a new four-lane bridge with a sidewalk on the west side is being designed to replace the old one.

The design could be finished this winter, he continued. A bid opening for that project could be held in the spring with construction starting in the summer, Bond said.

The long-range plan is to widen Loop Road from Linda Lane to Military Road.

Oakley said earlier this month that it makes more sense to build a wider bridge now, when a new bridge is needed there anyway, than to replace the bridge now and four-lane it in 10 years.

In other business:

• The council, for a second time, agreed to apply for a $40,000 50-50 matching grant to help build the archery trail at the shooting range. Mayor Gary Fletcher explained that some wording needed to be changed in the resolution that the council passed in August.

Parks Director Kevin House said then that the city’s portion would be about $20,000, if the estimated cost of $40,000 for the trail is correct.

• Leroy Hubbert, a trainee instructor at Pathfinder in Jacksonville and a head coach for the Special Olympics, thanked Jacksonville officials for their support.

Two of the Pathfinder basketball team players, Narkevis Arnold and Dedrick Brown, were selected to compete at the national June 2014 Special Olympics in New Jersey.

Hubbert said Arnold and Brown have made Pathfinder history by being the first clients there to attend the national games. The coach added that the Pathfinder team finished second in the state last year and fourth this year. They were also in a higher division this year, Hubbert noted.

• The council voted to accept a $95,040 bid from Building and Utility Con-tractors of Redfield for phase two of the Galloway drainage project.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panters rout LR Central in three

Leader sports editor

The Cabot volleyball team had a busy six days between last Saturday and Thursday, playing seven matches and closing it with an important conference rout of Little Rock Central at home on Thursday.

After going 2-2-1 at the Russellville Invitational over the weekend, the Lady Panthers lost 3-1 at Mountain Home on Tuesday, then dismantled the Lady Tigers 3-0 Thursday.

“It’s like jet lag,” Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell said after Thursday’s win. “The girls are so tired. I was really proud to see them come out pull it together like they did tonight. We started a little slow, but they came on strong and played a lot better.”

Scores in Thursday’s match were 25-18, 25-19 and 25-8 for Cabot, who got some help from inconsistent play by the Lady Tigers.

The Lady Panthers were also without starter Haylee Callison, who was out with a concussion. She was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Kristen Walker, who finished with a game-high 20 points on serve, including 14 in a row in game three and four aces.

“Kristen did a wonderful job with her serve,” Campbell said. “Central kind of lost it there in game three and made a lot of mistakes, but she was putting it in spots that was forcing them to make plays and they weren’t able to make them.”

Walker took serve in game three with Cabot leading 7-2, and didn’t stop until she finally served one into the net to make it 21-3.

A brief rally by Central made it more respectable, but Katelyn Joyner sealed the win for Cabot with a service ace, the team’s eighth of the game.

Seniors Lakin Best and Taylor Bitely each had nine kills to lead the Lady Panthers (7-6-1, 3-3).

Best added four assists and three blocks to her totals. Senior Bailee Uhiren finished with eight service points and assists. Senior Kaitlyn Pitman finished with 11 points on serve and six kills.

Central’s 6-foot-2 hitter Kiara Williams led all players with 14 kills and five blocks, but suffered several miss-hits and landed four of her five serves long or in the net.

“If they were a little more consistent they would be very dangerous,” Campbell said of Central. “They are so athletic, if they were to put it all together they could knock off some really good teams.”

Lady Tiger Cassidy Rouse revealed a serve that Cabot could not handle in game one. She took serve with Central trailing 14-11, and served six-straight points, half of which were aces, the other half kills by Williams. That put the Lady Tigers in front 17-14. She finally bailed the Lady Panthers out by serving long on her seventh attempt after a Cabot timeout.

“I had to call timeout there because she was killing us,” Campbell said. “That was impressive. She has a big-time college-level serve and we just weren’t expecting anything like that.”

Pitman then served three-straight points to put Cabot back in front before Central broke to tie the game at 18. That was the last point Central would score in the game. Cabot broke and Walker served six-straight points, with Bitely contributing two kills to give Cabot the win.

Game two went point for point to 13. That’s when the Lady Tigers began the unraveling that culminated in the game-three meltdown. Pitman took serve for the Lady Panthers and scored three-straight points because Central couldn’t stay out of the net. She added three more on two aces and a Bitely kill to make it 19-13.

Rouse took serve again for Central with Cabot leading 22-14 and hit a scorcher to the left-sideline in the middle of the Cabot defense. Best got in position, and not only dug it out, but made a perfect pass to Joyner, who set Bitely for a kill that broke Rouse’s serve.
“That was huge,” Campbell said. “I think that was the turning point.”

The Lady Panthers take part in the Arkansas State University Playday Tournament at Jonesboro today, then its back to conference play with road games at Searcy and Marion on Tuesday and Thursday.

SPORTS STORT >> Jacksonville comes back on Hornets

Special to The Leader

Jacksonville rallied in the fourth quarter and made a defensive stand in the red zone to earn its first win of the season Friday, beating previously undefeated Maumelle 27-20 at Jan Crow Stadium.

Unlike weeks one and two of the football season, the conditions were wet and rainy. Jacksonville came into the game looking for its first win, while Maumelle entered the game 2-0.

“We felt that we hadn’t played a complete game yet and we did tonight,” said Jacksonville head coach Rick Russell. “Maumelle is a good football team with good athletes and a lot of speed. We really did something tonight and we are proud of our kids. Our defense kept them out of the end zone several times tonight when they were right there inside the ten.”

The defense forced the Hornets to kick two field goals when touchdowns were denied. They also got a turnover on a bad snap, a sack for a turnover on downs, and forced Maumelle to turn the ball over on downs with 1:30 to go in the game.

“Titus O’Neil had a great second half,” Russell said. “We had to have him play at that level, because their quarterback was very fast. We are proud of him.”

From his own 25, Barnes completed a pass to Robert Harris to the Maumelle 45-yard line, but Jacksonville was forced to punt. But  Daniel Curley got it back for the Red Devils with an interception.

Taking advantage of the turnover, Barnes hit Lamont Gause with a pass for the touchdown. John Herrmann’s extra point was good for a 7-0 Jacksonville lead with 2:39 to go in the first quarter.

After the teams exchanged punts, the Hornets drove from their own 40-yard line to the Red Devil 7-yard line.

After a sack by Justin Abbott on third down, Maumelle kicked a 27-yard field goal, to make the score 7-3.

Following a short kickoff, Jacksonville started with good field position at its own 46-yard line. Gause carried for a yard, but was injured on the play and did not return.

“It’s his forearm,” said Russell of Gause’s injury. “It’s tender and with conference coming up, we wanted to take care of him.”

Maumelle penalties aided the Red Devils’ drive to the Hornet 25-yard line where on fourth and 8, Barnes connected with KaJahn Daniels for a touchdown.
Herrmann added the extra point for a 14-3 lead.

Runs from the Hornets’ Robinson and Jesse Hopkins moved the ball down the field to the Red Devil 5-yard line before a bad snap was recovered by O’Neil, forcing a turnover.
The Red Devils, however, could not take advantage and were forced to punt.

The punt was blocked and Maumelle had the ball on the Jacksonville 29-yard line, which eventually led to a Maumelle touchdown by Robinson. The extra point was no good and Jacksonville still led 14-9 at the half.

Maumelle started the second half with a kickoff return to the Jacksonville 44-yard line, followed by a carry by Hopkins to the 12. Then on fourth and 3 from the 6, Robinson was sacked by O’Neil and Brandon Toombs, which gave the ball to the Red Devils.

A Barnes pass was intercepted on the Jacksonville 24-yard line. Robinson completed a pass to Braylon Waits for the Maumelle touchdown. A two-point conversion was successful by Robinson, and the Hornets grabbed a 17-14 lead.

After hitting Robert Knowlin at the Maumelle 43, Barnes was again intercepted. The Red Devil defense forced another punt, and Jacksonville got the ball back.

The offense could not convert and after punting the ball back to Maumelle, the Hornets moved to the Red Devil 10-yard line and were held to another 27-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 20-14.

Jacksonville came right back with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Barnes to Harris. Herrmann’s PAT was no good and the score was tied 20-20 with 1:30 to go in the third quarter.

Maumelle fumbled the ball right back to the Red Devils on the Maumelle 21-yard line. A penalty and two Barnes’ keepers resulted in another Jacksonville touchdown. This time Herrmann’s extra point was good for a 27-20 Red Devil advantage.

Sacks by O’Neil, Abbott, and Austin McCollough, then an interception by Keilen Richardson got the ball back for the Red Devils.

The Hornets then picked off a tipped pass and took possession on the 50-yard line with 5:04 to go in the game.

Maumelle moved the ball all the way down to the Jacksonville 7-yard line before the Red Devil defense forced a fourth and goal on the 13. Robinson’s pass fell incomplete and Jacksonville took possession with 1:30 to go.

After picking up a first down, the Red Devils were able to run out the clock for the win.
Jacksonville will travel to West Helena next Friday to start conference play. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.