Saturday, October 05, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils back on winning track

Special to The Leader

Jacksonville took advantage of good field position the entire game to defeat Little Rock McClellan 31-6 Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium.

In a must-win situation after going down on the road last week at Helena-West Helena Central, the Red Devils (2-3, 1-1) shut out the Crimson Lions in the first half to build a 21-0 halftime lead, and continued their domination throughout the final two quarters.

“The defense played well and got the football to the offense in decent field position,” said Jacksonville head coach Rick Russell. “Then the offense took the field and took control of the running game. I’m proud of our running backs and our line did a good job blocking. Our perimeter wide receivers did a good job of blocking also. One of our goals tonight was to make a statement that we can run the football, and we did that.”

Malcolm Crudup recovered Jesper Wellshaupt’s onside kick on the McClellan 39-yardline to start the game. Lamont Gause took over from there on three-straight rushes, carrying the ball for 6 yards, then all the way to the 1-yard line before finishing the drive on a 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 Red Devil lead in the opening minute.

The Lions were forced to punt on their first possession, and Jacksonville again had good field position on the McClellan 43-yard line. Reggie Barnes passed to Robert Harris for 8 yards. A Gause run plus a face-mask penalty moved the ball to the 18-yard line, where it was Gause again to the 4-yard line. On third down, Barnes hit Devin James to the 1-yard line. On fourth down, the Red Devils were unable to punch it into the end zone and McClellan took over on downs.

The Lions moved the ball to their own 30-yard line before a fumble recovery by Jacksonville’s Justin Abbott gave the Red Devils the ball on the McClellan 29.

Jacksonville couldn’t take advantage and turned the ball over on downs.

The Red Devils’ next possession started at the McClellan 33-yard line. On third down, Robert Knowlin ran for a first down to the 23. He then carried again to the 2-yard line where Gause took the ball in for his second touchdown of the night. The point-after attempt was no good and the lead was 13-0.

The Lions were forced to punt, and again the Red Devils had good field position at midfield. On third down, Gause got free to the 21-yard line. Damon Thomas finished the drive with a touchdown run from the 17-yard line. Knowlin carried the two-point conversion attempt into the end zone for a 21-0 Jacksonville advantage.

Starting the second half with good field position yet again on the Lion 45-yard line, Jacksonville wasted no time in scoring. Knowlin carried to the 29, with Gause taking it in from there for his third touchdown. Herrmann’s extra point gave the Red Devils a 28-0 lead.

The Lions’ scoring drive started at their own 16-yard line. A run by Sidney Tillman for a first down and a penalty against Jacksonville moved the ball to the 42. Derion Galvin moved the chains to the Red Devil 40-yard line, but a bad snap moved the Lions back to their own 46.

On fourth and 24, Hayden Peters connected on a long pass with Deon Johnson to the Jacksonville 17-yard line. Then on fourth and 14, Peters hit Johnson again to the 1-yard line, and Ezekiel Baldwin finished the drive with the touchdown run from there.

The 2-point conversion attempt was no good, leaving the score 28-6 in favor of the home team with 1:33 to go in the third quarter.

McClellan drove to the Red Devil 35-yard line on its next possession when a big sack by Austin McCullough took the Lions back to the 48-yard line. A fourth and 19 resulted in the ball going over on downs to the Red Devils.

Crudup and Harris had good runs for Jacksonville before a fumble gave the ball back to the Lions.

A sack by Titus O’Neil helped the Red Devils get the ball back and Herrmann was good on a 34-yard field goal attempt for the final margin of 31-6.

Jacksonville had 196 yards of offense in the first half, while holding the Crimson Lions to 87.

The Red Devils make the short trip to Sylvan Hills next Friday night.

SPORTS STORY >> Comets cannot maintain fast start

Leader sportswriter

A slow start didn’t stop Sylvan Hills from sweeping Mills University Studies in Thursday’s 5A Central volleyball match as the Lady Bears beat the Lady Comets by scores of 25-19, 25-11 and 25-13 at The Galaxy in Little Rock.

“We didn’t start off as strong as I’d hoped we would,” said Lady Bears coach Harold Treadway, “but about halfway through the first game through the second game, they played like they’re capable of playing.”

Junior All-State outside hitter Brooke Rainey returned to the court for her first full match after missing time due to a shoulder injury, and her presence on the court wasn’t hard to notice. In the first game alone, she recorded seven kills to help the Lady Bears come from behind to win game one by a six-point margin.

Only one other player, Jessica Scott, recorded that many kills in the entire match.

“She was released (last) Thursday,” Treadway said of Rainey. “She played the third game against McClellan (Tuesday) just to let her know she could hit, but this was her first full game back. It’s a tremendous advantage, because she plays hard and she’s a floor leader. She leads by example. She’s out there the whole time playing.

“When she was out we had some players step up and we survived, but any time you lose a floor leader like that it’s tough. I’m glad she’s back and the kids are glad she’s back.”

Sylvan Hills trailed by as much as six points in the first game of Thursday’s match, but after coming from behind to win by that margin, it carried that momentum into game two. The Lady Bears jumped out to an 11-3 lead in that game, forcing Mills to call timeout and regroup.

The Lady Comets (5-4 in 5A Central) managed to cut the deficit down to 13-9, but once the Lady Bears regained serving rights, senior Jordie Flippo served five-straight points to push Sylvan Hills’ lead to 19-9. Mills was able to stop the run on a kill by outside hitter Deja Hale, but Karley Walton got a kill on the next serve to bring the serving rights back to Sylvan Hills.

Junior libero Abi Cantrell followed Walton’s kill by serving the next four points to give the Lady Bears a commanding 24-10 lead, but Cantrell’s next serve went into the net to give Mills possession. Rainey, however, ended the game on the next serve with her signature kill from the corner of the net.

Like the previous game, Sylvan Hills started the third and final game strong and grabbed its first double-digit lead at 14-4 on a kill by senior outside hitter Ashton Williams.

The Lady Comets were able to cut the deficit down to six points on two occasions down the stretch, the last with the score at 19-13, but the Lady Bears scored the next six points to end the game.

Rainey got another kill at the corner to bring the serving rights back to the visitors, and from there, senior setter Shelby Simpkins served the last five points to end the game and the match. Rainey got the final kill to the end the match, also from the corner.

“I thought our front row played tremendous tonight,” Treadway said, “Aleah Williams, Karley Walton, Brooke, Jordie Flippo and Ashton Williams. The whole team did well, but our front row really did a good job tonight.”

Rainey’s 19 kills easily led all players. Scott added six blocks to go with her seven kills. Williams had four kills, while Flippo, Walton and Williams recorded three each. Junior setter Alisa Staton led all players with 13 assists. Simpkins had 12 assists. Cantrell led all players with six digs from the backcourt, while junior Jamia Willis had five digs.

Sylvan Hills is now tied for second place in the 5A Central Conference with a 7-2 record, and will continue conference play Tuesday at home against Helena-West Helena Central.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers dominate line and Mustangs

Leader sports editor

The final score may not indicate it, but the Beebe Badgers dominated Forrest City in their 37-20 win Friday at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium. The game was tied at 14 at halftime, but the table was set for the Badgers to roll in the second half. And roll they did. Beebe outgained the Mustangs 393 to 90 in total yards, and outscored them 23-6 after the break.

The Beebe defense, which had been shoddy in its first two games and steadily improving ever since, came through with an utterly dominant performance.

“They’re finally starting to play like I thought they were capable of playing,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “The only thing I can contribute to it is that they were so afraid of making a mistake, they weren’t getting after it. They were letting everything come to them, standing around waiting for it. Here lately, they’ve been flying around like they did in practice. All year there have been times in practice they’ve made it nearly impossible for us to get a first down on offense. They’re finally bringing that to the game. We talked to them about it and told them, ‘if you make a mistake, make it full speed and just go’. They’ve started playing that way and it’s made all the difference in the world.”

Beebe is now 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the 5A East after losing its first two games. The fact that the wins have come with backup quarterback Micah Dubois playing in place of two-year starter Aaron Nunez may make the turnaround even more surprising to some, but not to Shannon.

“We felt all along like we had two good quarterbacks,” Shannon said. “We just thought Nunez could make a few plays Dubois couldn’t make, particularly in the passing game. But we even talked about having a two-quarterback system so we could get Nunez on defense a little bit. So we’ve always been comfortable with Micah. And really, Nunez was struggling trying to make every single play instead of relaxing and letting the game come to him. Dubois has done a great job of seeing what the defense is giving us and just running this offense.”

The Mustangs scored first after the Badgers turned the ball over for the first time in three games. With 7:38 left in the first quarter, Forrest City tailback Joseph Tripp ran 5 yards for a 6-0 Forrest City lead. It stayed that way until late in the second quarter, when three touchdowns were scored in about a three-minute span.

Beebe sophomore fullback Trip Smith ran 27 yards for the score and Tyler Jones added the extra point to make it 7-6 with 4:42 left in the half.

Beebe’s Marcus Burns intercepted a Forrest City pass to give possession back to the Badgers, and Smith capitalized with a 3-yard run with 1:17 left in the half.

But just 11 seconds later, Tripp took the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for the score and converted the two points to tie the game going into intermission.

Beebe put together a long drive to start the second half, but it stalled at the 6-yard line. Jones hit a 23-yard field goal with 6:09 left in the third quarter for a 17-14 Beebe lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, halfback Dakota Mahoney got the first of two late touchdowns, scampering 14 yards after a Connor Patrom interception to make it 24-14 with 11:34 left in the game.

After three incomplete passes, Forrest City attempted to punt. But Jesse Crisco blocked it, scooped it up and scored. The extra point was no good, leaving the score 30-14.

Forrest City got almost all of its second-half yardage on its next drive, which ended with quarterback Ethan Adams scrambling out of pressure and running 20 yards for a touchdown with 9:21 left in the game.

Four minutes later, Mahoney rumbled 29 yards on the dive play and Jones’ extra point set the final margin.

Shannon gave his offensive line most of the credit for the huge rushing totals.

“I’m really proud of my linemen tonight,” Shannon said. “They’ve been pretty good all along, but they keep getting better each and every week. Tonight we played the type of football that Mr. Malham Sr. would’ve been proud of. We just pounded and grounded, and really wore them out. They were dragging at the end. They went out and physically whipped us last year. But my kids came back and took that challenge and dominated that line of scrimmage.”

Smith finished with 157 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Mahoney had 14 carries for 83 yards and two scores. Dubois finished with 11 carries for 66 yards.

The tests keep getting bigger for Beebe. Next week they hit the road to take on perennial power Wynne. The Yellowjackets are on a four-game winning streak after dropping its opener by one point to class 6A Marion. They beat Greene County Tech 46-26 on the road on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears win nail-biter over Mills

Leader sportswriter

It was a rivalry game that lived up to its hype as Sylvan Hills came from behind twice to defeat Mills University Studies 37-36 at Mills Stadium on Friday in a vital 5A Central Conference matchup.

Bears junior quarterback Tra Doss found senior Kylan Wade for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 2:23 remaining that tied the game at 36-36, and junior kicker Philip Wood booted the winning point through on the extra-point try to complete a two-score comeback for Sylvan Hills.

Mills (4-1, 1-1) put itself in great shape early in the fourth quarter when Calen Peters broke through for a 94-yard touchdown run at the 11:02 mark to give the Comets a 36-23 lead.

The Bears (4-1, 2-0) refused to concede as they quickly drove down the field on a 10-play drive that encompassed 71 yards in less than four minutes. Doss ran in from 5 yards out to score with 7:17 remaining.

On the ensuing drive, the Bears stopped Mills with a blitz on fourth down that set up the winning drive at the Sylvan Hills’ 41-yard line.

“I’m proud of our kids,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “They gave it everything they had. They just would not quit. I knew if we just kept grinding, because we play fast, eventually, we’d score some points. I didn’t know if we’d ever stop them, but our defense made enough plays where we ran in there and stopped them.”

Despite the shootout score, the biggest difference for the Bears in their second comeback came on defense. Mills was facing a fourth and 7 at the Sylvan Hills’ 37 and elected to go for it. Comets quarterback Omar Avance barely eluded the blitz of Wade and tossed to Jacob Cranford in the backfield, who was immediately met by senior defensive back Garrett Barham for a 4-yard loss with 5:25 left to play.

“We just had to move around a little bit,” Withrow said. “We’re kind of thin in some spots. Coach (Chad) Collins keeps coming up with ways to do stuff, and he just dialed one up there at the right time.”

Mills had one last shot at taking the lead in the final two minutes, but threw three-straight incompletions following a sack of Avance for a loss of four yards.

“We told them ahead of time that you can’t stop until the thing is over with them,” Comets coach Patrick Russell said. “They did a good job. They didn’t quit. They got a stand. We should have punted. We had converted that earlier, but I was hoping to put them away. We should have learned from what happened last year.”

The Bears came up big on the opening kickoff when they recovered a Mills fumble at the Comet 48 yard line. Doss led a rushing attack that got Sylvan Hills down to the Mills’ 4-yard line, but they ran out of downs and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Wood.

Sylvan Hills would take better advantage of the next gift from Mills when Braylon Goodwin fumbled on the opening snap off an option toss from Avance. Senior Daniel Molden scooped it up for Sylvan Hills near midfield and returned to the Mills’ 43.

Doss opened this possession in the air with a short 5-yard pass to junior receiver Nathan Thomas before coming up big on third down with a 26-yard pass play to junior Chace Pieper that set Sylvan Hills up with a first and goal at the Mills’ 10.

Marlon Clemmons moved it forward four yards and Doss picked up three more before finding Wade in the end zone at the 6:28 mark. Doss faked a draw up the middle to pull coverage in, which gave him a clear shot at Wade to give the Bears a 10-0 lead following Woods’ point-after kick.

The Comets recovered quickly, scoring on their next drive which went 69 yards in 10 plays, capped off by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Avance to Peters with 17 seconds remaining in the opening period to cut the Bears’ lead to 10-7.

Mills then forced a three and out by Sylvan Hills and took over again at its own 25. This time, the Comets went 75 yards in nine plays, and scored when Peters ran it in from three yards out to give Mills a 14-10 lead with 7:12 left to play in the first half.

Goodwin came away with the biggest defensive play of the first half for the Comets when he intercepted a Doss pass at the Mills’ 32 and returned it all the way to increase the lead to 22-10 at the 6:17 mark of the second quarter. The Comets opted to go for a two-point conversion, and were successful with a running play by Peters.

The Bears answered back with a 43-yard touchdown run by Clemmons down the right sideline on third down with 5:16 remaining in the first half to cut it to 22-17.

The defense stood its ground and forced a quick punt by Mills, and the Bears took over at their own 33-yard line with 3:19 left on the clock.

It took almost all of that time, as Sylvan Hills went 77 yards in 14 plays, finally scoring on a 9-yard pass play from Doss to Thomas with 12 seconds remaining to take a 23-22 lead at the half.

Sylvan Hills finished with 346 yards of total offense. Doss was 11 of 18 passing for 105 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also carried 17 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. Clemmons rushed 16 times for 106 yards and a touchdown while sophomore running back Tyler Davis carried 24 times for 90 yards.

Mills had 136 yards at the half, but finished with only 204 total yards. Ke’Undre Allen led the way with 13 carries for 87 yards.

Sylvan Hills will host Jacksonville next week. The Red Devils defeated Little Rock McClellan 31-6 on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers roll over Patriots

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers got little resistance from the Marion Patriots Friday on homecoming night at Panther Stadium. Cabot rolled up 311 yards, including 299 on the ground, just in the first half. After taking a 42-7 lead into intermission, the Panthers went on to win 49-10 via the sportsmanship rule that allows for a continuous clock in the second half of a game with a point margin of 35 or more.

“You worry a little bit about letdown after a big win like last week, but we came out and played pretty well,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Now we just have to keep that focus and intensity. You can’t get complacent because you don’t want to regress. Hopefully we can keep getting better, keep that focus up, and maybe we’ll still be standing there when the dust settles. We’re a long way from that right now, but we played pretty good tonight.”

Marion got one first down on each of its first two drives, and only three more the rest of the first half against Cabot’s starters.

The Patriots punted when faced with fourth down the first two times, but never again in the first half. They went for it every time the rest of the half, converting two of six fourth-down attempts.

Cabot took Marion’s first punt at the 39-yard line, and needed just two plays to get on the scoreboard. Senior fullback Zach Launius carried to midfield on the first play, and then broke loose for the remaining 50 on the next snap with nine minutes left in the first quarter. Senior kicker Trevor Reed, who joined the team this week, made the first of seven extra points to make it 7-0.

Marion got one first down and punted again, pinning Cabot on its own 16-yard line.

The Panthers picked up 7 yards in two plays before quarterback Kason Kimbrell fumbled it away. Though Kimbrell was hit at the line of scrimmage, Marion didn’t get on the ball until it had rolled forward 16 yards, giving the Patriots possession on the Cabot 39.

They went nowhere, turning it over on downs when tailback Andreas Jackson picked up just 1 yard on fourth and 5, giving Cabot possession on the Marion 39-yard line. Marion faced third and 1 on the drive, but cornerback Colby Ferguson and defensive end Brian Marshall sacked Marion quarterback Taylor Dunn for a 4-yard loss.

Halfback Preston Jones went 38 yards on the option pitch on the next play, setting Cabot up with first down at the Marion 29. Launius carried 17 yards from there, and Kimbrell hit receiver Jake Ferguson on a crossing route for a 12-yard touchdown connection with 1:02 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers scored four times in the second quarter. After stopping Marion on downs and taking over on their 39-yard line, two Chris Henry carries got the necessary yardage for another score. Reed’s extra point made it 21-0 with 11:16 left in the half.

After another stop on downs, Cabot got the ball on the Marion 45. Jones broke another run for 20 yards with the help of some open-field blocking by Henry. The senior Henry did the rest, carrying 19 yards for another score to make it 28-0 with 7:11 left in the second quarter.

Marion scored on its next drive. Wingback Ismael Clay broke a double handoff 55 yards to the Cabot 14. Three plays later, he made a 12-yard touchdown catch while falling down in the back of the end zone. That made it 28-7 with 3:01 remaining in the half.

It didn’t take long for Cabot to make the score back up. On the first play, Launius broke loose up the middle, cut to the right and out-raced the Marion defense for an 80-yard scoring run with 2:48 on the clock.

Marion came out passing in an attempt to get back in the game, but the plan didn’t work. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Cabot cornerback Jordan Burke picked off a deep pass at the 43-yard line, and returned it 41 yards to the 2. Jones picked that up on the next play and the extra point made it 42-7 with 1:12 left in the half.

Marion stopped Cabot’s backups on downs after a nine-play drive that stalled inside the 10-yard line thanks to two false start penalties.

Marion took over at its own 7-yard line and went 16 plays to the Cabot 16 before kicking a 33-yard field goal to make it 42-10 with 8:50 left in the game.

Cabot answered with an 11-play touchdown drive. On fourth and 2, Eads was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but kept his feet moving and worked his way loose before scampering 17 yards for the score. Reed’s extra point set the final margin with 2:03 remaining in the game.

Launius finished the first half and the game with six carries for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Henry had five carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns and Jones had three carries for 60 yards and a score.

Sophomore fullback Colton Eads had 11 carries for 58 yards to lead the Panthers in the second half.

Cabot travels to Mountain Home next Friday. The Bombers are still searching for their first win of the season. They almost got it last night, losing 29-28 to Searcy.

EDITORIAL >> Shutdown cancels plans

Sometimes life becomes so frenzied that you have to get away. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve felt that way for months. Unfortunately, those same circumstances kept me from leaving.

But this was going to be my weekend. The 18-foot, 32-year-old gooseneck camper my husband and son had been restoring for almost two months was finally near completion and most of the restoration debris had been picked up. So we were getting away, just the two of us, to Willow Beach, a U.S. Corps of Engineers park near Scott. The last time we were there, so was a large flock of gray pelicans. They bobbed for hours on the foot-deep backwater off the Arkansas River that is the lake the park is built around.

I hoped to see them again.

Who knew Congress would fail to pass a budget and that much of the federal government would shut down?

The Reserve America website, where you can book campsites, isn’t taking reservations and news reports say campers have to leave the federal parks. I tried the phone number for Willow Beach – twice – and no one answered. I suppose the elderly couple who run the place are among the one million federal workers temporarily out of work.

I followed the developments online and knew the shutdown was inevitable.

I felt a little guilty about being concerned with my camping trip when I knew my oldest son, a federal employee, would be sending employees home but working without pay himself until the impasse in Congress is over. But on Monday evening, I called the campground at Jacksonport, where the Black River converges with the White. It’s a state park, and it’s open so I’m going north.

The park at Jacksonport is immaculate and the staff is friendly. The camp sites are large and shaded, but the gem of the park is the old Jackson County courthouse. It’s built on the grounds where 6,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered to Lt. Col. C. W. Davis.

The grounds are recognized as a historic site because of that surrender, but so is the courthouse that was built after the war. It ran down after the port moved to Newport and eventually set empty until a local woman decided it was too important to decay and started a historical society to bring it back to life. Now it’s a museum with displays that tell of the rise and fall of Jacksonport, a vital city that ran to ruin because of arrogance and bad decisions.

But of course, I’m paraphrasing. The state website for the park says it this way: “In the 1800s steamboats made Jacksonport a thriving river port. During the Civil War, the town was occupied by both Confederate and Union forces because of its crucial locale.

“Jacksonport became county seat in 1854, and construction of a stately, two-story brick courthouse began in 1869. The town began to decline in the 1880s when bypassed by the railroad. The county seat was moved in 1891 to nearby Newport, and Jacksonport’s stores, wharves and saloons soon vanished.”

Newspaper reports included among the museum displays tell why it happened. Cairo and Fulton Railroad began laying a track through Jackson County after the war as part of a line linking St. Louis to Texas but offered to route the rail through Jacksonport if Jacksonport would give the right of way and pay $25,000 toward the additional cost. But the town leaders and steamboat operators said no. They reasoned that Jacksonport was so important to the economy that the railroad should pay for a spur to the river port. It didn’t, but Newport did.

With the railroad on the way in while steamboats were on the way out, Jacksonport all but died. In 1892, Newport became the county seat because it had grown so much larger that it had the votes to do it.

We drove through Jacksonport last fall when we were camped in the park and it occurred to me that it is a town that code enforcement has forgotten. There are a few middle-class houses, but many are rundown and surrounded by derelict cars and the occasional dilapidated houseboat. And when I say “drove through,” what I mean is that we went down a lot of dead-end streets, turned around and came back out.

I’m from the Delta, where small towns died when farming became more mechanized and the price of cotton dropped. The little town where I went to school is all but gone. What used to be a vigorous downtown is now a pavilion on a square with no stores where locals and former locals get together once a year for a homecoming.

But Jacksonport’s decline started when it decided it was too important to be bypassed. It didn’t die a natural death; it committed suicide.

We’ll drive through a corner of the once-thriving town on our way to the park this weekend and once again it will pain me to see it. I’d rather go to Willow Beach and maybe watch the pelicans again. But the government shutdown has rerouted me to a place that is still paying for a bad decision. Maybe there’s a lesson there somewhere. — Joan McCoy

TOP STORY >> No decision after raucous planning meeting

Leader staff writer

For sheer entertainment value, the almost three-hour-long planning commission meeting in Cabot Tuesday night was one to watch.

The meeting was orderly with homeowners from Glenwood Estates subdivision explaining why they don’t want 42 garden homes built behind them on 6.2 acres until a woman started talking from the audience about the pristine appearance of their neighborhood and Planning Commission Chairman Ron Craig said he’d been in their neighborhood, and he had seen residents working on cars in driveways. The woman denied it; Craig said the residents were lying to him and pandemonium followed.

“You’re out of order, Ron,” a man yelled from the back of the room. “You’re an (expletive), Ron.”

“Recuse yourself right now,” another man yelled as he came out of his seat.

“Who do you work for and how much is he paying you?” another man demanded.

“If you do not bring fact to us, we can’t make a decision,” Craig responded. “The fact is you don’t want it there, and I understand. But I have a zoning book to go by.”

Commission member James Reid said during a short recess after the proposed rezoning for the subdivision was tabled for one month that he likes audience participation but perhaps not that kind.

Reid provided the lone vote against tabling the rezoning request.

“We had enough information to vote,” he said. “That could go R-1, and it would be much worse.”

Development of Glenwood started about 25 years ago. There are 43 homes on about 25 lots. The homes are all different and range in value from about $175,000 to almost $300,000.

They back up to the freeway with only a strip of trees separating them. And that strip of trees is where engineer Tim Lemons said his client intends to build a gated community of small but high-dollar homes. They’d like to save the trees, but that won’t be possible, he said.

Lemons is asking for a rezoning from residential to planned unit development or PUD.

The PUD would allow the developer to build more houses on less land because the yards would be much smaller. One lot would hold one house chosen from three designs ranging in size from 1,400 square feet to 1,650 square feet. Front yards would be 20 feet, side yards five feet and backyards 10 feet.

Lemons said the houses would be all brick with steep roofs, hard-surface counters and have crown molding on the ceilings. They would be marketed to people over 55 who want a nice but small home and don’t want to do a lot of yard work.

Billy McCarroll, an 18-year resident of Glenwood Estates who got 42 of 43 residents to sign a petition opposing the rezoning, spoke first for the residents.

The PUD will “dramatically and forever change the character of our neighborhood,” McCarroll said.

Clear cutting the 40-foot trees along the freeway would make the noise worse, he said.

“A gated community gives the impression that Glenwood isn’t a safe place to live. It will lower property values and many residents will leave,” McCarroll continued.

Traffic would double on streets that are badly in need of repair. Construction traffic could go on for more than five years since more houses will be built only after the first few are sold. And, since there are no sidewalks in Glenwood, children will have no place to walk to avoid construction trucks, he said.

Addressing residents’ concerns about traffic backing up as the garden-home residents wait to get through their gate, Lemons said the developers could inset the gate 30 feet or more to stack cars going in.

They would also build a wash station to clean construction trucks at the site and keep the mud inside the gate and out of Glenwood.

The planned, six-foot high fence along the freeway could be raised to eight feet to help with the noise, he added.

But Glenwood resident Simon Wass pointed out that the freeway is more than eight feet higher, in places, than the land where the new subdivision will be built and the noise would go over the fence.

Wass’ wife Shannon said as she was leaving the meeting that without the trees there would be no noise buffer from the freeway and she would want to move. But, with no noise buffer from the freeway, no one would want to buy her home.

Lemons said, in response to residents’ concerns that if the planning commission and later the city council approve the rezoning something else could go in, his client will not be able to build anything except the 42 garden homes without getting approval from the commission and council.

But if the land is left R-1 instead of being rezoned to PUD, developers could build 900-square-foot houses with vinyl siding behind their homes and there would be no way to stop them, Lemons added.

TOP STORY >> Colonel calls on public’s support

Leader editor

Col. Patrick Rhatigan, the commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, welcomed a visitor to his office Wednesday afternoon. The civilian receptionists were gone, along with the other civilian workers since the government shutdown Tuesday.

The base has laid off about 350 civilian employees — just over half the civilians there. Rhatigan said that at a staff meeting that morning, about half the people who usually attend were absent because they’re civilians.

“It feels like a ghost town,” said Rhatigan, who is a fighter pilot and cargo hauler. “We need those civilians to do our mission. We don’t have any extra people or money. I can guarantee you that.”

“These civilians have been through the wringer. They were furloughed for six days this summer because of sequestration,” the colonel said.

There are 690,000 people in the Air Force, Air National Guard and Reserves, including 170,000 civilians who are affected by the shutdown. “They are as integral to our jobs as anyone else,” he said.

(The Pentagon said late Friday it might soon recall 400,000 civilian workers in all branches of the military.)

“Like anywhere else, we close ranks,” said Rhatigan, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who grew up on nearby Long Island. “We try to get the mission done despite being shorthanded. We can only do that for a certain amount of time until you’re feeling the real impacts.”

Before taking charge of 19th AW last July, Rhatigan was commander of the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group in Southwest Asia from May 2012 to May 2013.

Rhatigan, who piloted bombing missions over Afghanistan, pointed to a framed photo on the wall showing several planes on a flightline in southwest Asia representing the Air Force’s three missions: RC-135 and E-8 intelligence planes (global vigilance or “see it and hear it”); C-21 and C-130 cargo planes and a KC-135 refueling plane (global reach) and a sleek B-1 bomber (global power).

He has flown them all, including the B-1 bomber, on missions in Afghanistan, where he dropped bombs on enemy convoys. He has also flown C-12, C-141 and C-17 cargo planes.

Rhatigan found out Monday his wing had passed a unit effectiveness inspection conducted mostly by the wing itself with outside supervision — a first for the Air Force.

This kind of new inspection doesn’t require dozens of outsiders and bigwigs to examine the base. After going through every unit’s strengths and weaknesses with the help of airmen, inspectors awarded the wing an overall effective rating and highly effective rating when it comes to executing the wing’s mission.

Then the government shut down, which has hurt morale.

“Uncertainty affects every area of operations,” Rhatigan told us. “Where are we going next? What are we going to look like in the next few years?

He said, “It’s on me to get them what they need.”

“In 2013, we had sequestration and had some draconian measures when we had to furlough our civilian employees. We don’t even have an FY 2014 budget, and now we’re trying to posture for FY15.”

As civilian workers go without a paycheck and there is uncertainty about pay for military members, Rhatigan says it’s more important than ever for the local community to show its support for the air base.

“Businesses have called to ask ‘how can we help?’ Banks have called to say they can ‘work with people who bank with us for overdraft protection.’ Any help for our airmen and civilians is more than appreciated. When people say they support our airmen, this is when we need their support because there are a lot of airmen as well as civilians living from paycheck to paycheck.

“They’re asking the same questions: How long will this take? How am I going to pay my bills? It’s breaking trust with the people who signed up voluntarily to serve their country.

“Right now, I have a crisis to deal with,” the commander continued. “We have civilians furloughed. Anything people can do to help is appreciated.

To save money, the commissary was closed Tuesday. When people heard about it, they bought all the perishables in a few hours.

“It was like a natural disaster there,” the commander said. “You drove by the commissary and the cars were stacked up. There was a run on the commissary. They’re closed. Once that was announced, the place filled up. Someone took a picture of the meat rack around 4 o’clock. Empty.

“What is the new normal?” Rhatigan asked. “We have to keep getting airplanes everywhere. Operationally, we are still getting planes in the air.

“We’ve reduced services across the base. We have the childcare center open, but, beyond that, this is all about taking care of the people. Broad picture, when you join the military, you get paid, there’s housing, there’s a health care plan, so you don’t have to worry about that. You can go out into harm’s way. It’s sort of a contract.

“For our civilians feeling that break in trust, all I can say is we need them back as soon as possible.

“We just sent 400 folks in the last two to three weeks out the door to Afghanistan,” the colonel continued. “Those folks are doing the combat mission in one of our military bases there.

“We’ve got folks in the combat mission, and we’ve got folks in the training mission. That’s not going away anytime soon. The enemy is indifferent to sequestration or government shutdowns. So we have to focus on that mission. We need our civilians to get our mission done. I need those civilians back.”

TOP STORY >> Mission continues despite cuts

Leader senior staff writer

Despite deep cuts in personnel and services, Little Rock Air Force Base’s C-130s continue to fly, train crews and maintainers and deploy, Col. Patrick J. Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, said Thursday.

That’s true of the base’s 189th Air National Guard training wing as well, according Maj. Matt Snead, the Arkansas National Guard’s public affair spokesman, but not for other guard aircraft, such as Blackhawk and Lakota helicopters.

“They are locked up,” Snead said. Maintenance workers for those helicopters and vehicles are furloughed

Snead said the longer the furloughs continue, the longer it will take to ready helicopters and vehicles for use.

“Darn right it affects readiness,” Snead said.

Rhatigan said Little Rock Air Force Base airmen were working harder to fill gaps left in service by the departure of the civilians, but that it takes longer to see a doctor or get a prescription filled, and C-130s are slower getting back on the flightline after maintenance and inspections.

The lights are off in at least some buildings at Camp Robinson. Snead was working in the dark.

The furloughs affected about 1,100 full-time employees, most of them dual-status, he said.

A dual-status federal employee is required to be a member of the Arkansas Army or Air National Guard to hold their full-time federal position. Many dual-status federal employees are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the only uniformed personnel facing furlough in the Department of Defense.

Monthly drill for another 10,000 Arkansas National Guardsmen has been postponed, at least until late October, Snead said.

At Little Rock Air Force Base, 350 of 625 were civilians furloughed. Adding 738 duel status National Guard civilians and another 294 employees of the Arkansas Military Department, a total of 1,382 full-time military employees have stayed home four days so far because Republicans have tied passage of a continuing budget resolution to dismembering the Affordable Care Act.

The full impact of the government shutdown on the Arkansas National Guard is not yet known, Snead said, and it depends on the length of the shutdown.

But the financial impact to Guard employees, most of them in Central Arkansas, is about $839,560 a week from full-time employees and another $3 million a month in weekend drill pay for Guardsmen around the state.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 13,000 guardsmen have been deployed, many of them to Iraq to Afghanistan, and the governor has called the Guard out for 300 missions, usually weather events.

Out of about 1,100 dual purpose technicians in the Guard, 215 are exempt from the furloughs, most of them because the 189th Air Education Wing’s critical mission of training pilots, crews and maintainers. Only 57 Army Guardsmen are exempt, Snead said.

He said it was important for Guardsmen to stay in contact with their units and to check social media — the Guard’s Facebook site in particular.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

EDITORAIL >> Shutdown’s ripple effect

The ripple effect from the government shutdown was immediately felt Tuesday morning at Little Rock Air Force Base, where 335 civilian workers have been furloughed. The numbers are similar at Camp Robinson, where civilian employees stopped production of the Minuteman, the Guard’s monthly newspaper.

In an interview in today’s Leader, Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, calls them “our civilian teammates.”

The civilian furloughs are “causing distress and disruption to a workforce we depend on every day,” the colonel said.

The good news is that military personnel cannot be furloughed, but airmen must now do the work of civilians, who are regarded as key players in our nation’s defense, even if Congress doesn’t think so.

Congress can talk in the abstract about the shutdown, but Col. Rhatigan points to the price his civilian staffers are paying because of gridlock in Washington. “These circumstances are creating financial hardships for so many. Our team is currently supporting operations essential to our national security, such as our ongoing commitment in Afghanistan, where we still have 400 members deployed downrange. Our focus will remain on the mission, as well as being good wingmen by helping each other through these uncertain times. We appreciate all the local support for the men and women of Team Little Rock,” Rhatigan said.

State Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and retired Army National Guard Col. Mike Ross of North Little Rock, will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today near the front gate of Little Rock Air Force Base on the effects of the government shutdown on civilian defense workers, veterans’ benefits and the local economy.

The fight is far from over, but our neighbors who work on military installations here have taken the biggest hit of all. Tell your congressmen to stop using Little Rock Air Force Base and Camp Robinson as bargaining tools in their games of brinksmanship. They’re harming our military and our national defense.

TOP STORY >> Crisis hits many U.S. workers

Leader senior staff writer

An estimated 800,000 U.S. residents are out of work until further notice as a result of the government shutdown.

Second Dist. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) said he had furloughed 10 of his 16 staff members, keeping his legislative aide and chief of staff among four in Washington, closing his Conway office and keeping two staffers at his Little Rock Office.

“As I have said for weeks, shutting down the federal government is terrible policy, but Democrats in the Senate wanted a government shutdown for political purposes and refused to work with the House to find a solution,” Griffin said. “On behalf of the thousands of Arkansans who will be directly impacted by the shutdown, I urge the Senate to join us.”

In almost the reverse of a presidential line-item veto, House Republicans Tuesday evening were considering funding parts of the shut-down federal government that they like, turning the tables on Democrats.

Republicans reportedly wanted to fund the National Park Service, part of the Department of Veteran Affairs and the District of Columbia.

That’s only possible with help from Democrats, who voted against it. Republicans are blaming Democrats for shutting down the government.

The largest number of Central Arkansas furloughs from the government shutdown would be civilian employees at local military bases — 335 at Little Rock Air Force Base alone.

On Monday, Gov. Mike Beebe warned that the shutdown of the government would put many Arkansans out of work and “leave Arkansas children in peril.”

He said it would hinder the ability of the state Department of Human Services to investigate child abuse and neglect and that 85,000 meals for children would not be provided. He said 2,000 newborns would not get infant formula through the Health Department’s WIC program.

Beebe estimated that as many as 2,000 state workers would be furloughed — thousands more if the shutdown continues. “It also hurts our local and state economies,” he said.

The state Department of Humans Services announced Monday that it would furlough 248 employees. A breakdown by division shows that 90 employees from the Division of Developmental Disabilities, 79 from the Division of Medical Services, 65 from Children and Family Services, eight from the Division of Aging and Adult Services, four from Behavioral Health Services, and two from Youth Services were furloughed.

TRICARE, the military health care system, said “While we can’t predict the exact consequences of a shutdown on every part of our MHS, we will likely see some impact on the delivery of health care services within our military hospitals and clinics. Inpatient, acute and emergency outpatient care in our medical and dental facilities will continue, as will private sector care under TRICARE.”

Local school districts say that, in the short term, the effect would be minimal — that they can afford to keep federal after school, Head Start, free-and-reduced price lunches and other programs by temporarily pulling funds from other budget items. That’s assuming restitution and a shutdown that doesn’t last too long.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman said, “We have a large number of parents and guardians that are being impacted by the shutdown. This obviously causes stress at home that can carry over to children.

“We work closely with the Department of Human Services and other state agencies in various ways. There is a ripple effect when an agency is closed that we typically work with on a regular basis. We will continue to take care of our students but we will miss the resources provided by agencies such as DHS while they are closed,” he continued.

Jerry Guess, superintendent of Pulaski County Special School District, said, “We’ll issue the payroll and ask for reimbursement. We have federal employees. We’re not going to curtail any services.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher says the city’s operations are continuing. The only problem he’s encountered is that some meetings with federal agencies had to be cancelled. “Not doom and gloom for me,” he said.

On its website, the Clinton Presidential Library said it was closed, as were all national archives facilities.

Also closed were National Parks, such as the Buffalo National River, Hot Springs National Park and National Historic Sites such as the Central High School site, which was confirmed by its superintendent, Robin White. “We are in the process of closing down as we speak,” she said.

The Little Rock District Army Corps of Engineers said all its campgrounds would be closed by 8 p.m. Wednesday, but critical navigation and flood control duties would continue.

Jay Townsend, public affairs specialist, said the celebration at Greer’s Ferry Dam, dedicated 50 years ago, would continue as scheduled.

Gen. (Ret.) Wesley Clark said, “Starting today, the Department of Veterans Affairs may be forced to furlough up to 20,000 claims processors -- wiping out all of the recent progress made reducing the backlog...We could also begin to see immediate lapses in care. During the 1995 shutdown, some military hospitals canceled appointments and even some surgeries.

“The VA believes that, after two or three weeks, benefit checks it issues, including disability claims and pension payments will be disrupted,” Clark said.

State Highway Department spokesman Randy Ort said, “It’s not having an effect on the Highway Department, nor funds appropriated from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.” He added that the shutdown would not affect current construction and plans.

TOP STORY >> Hiring vets focus of meeting

Leader staff writer

“I was a sniper in the Marines. Not too many companies are hiring snipers,” Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the youngest living Congressional Medal of Honor winner, told a small but enthusiastic crowd Monday night at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Meyer, along with Arkansas native Gen. Wesley Clark, were part of a four-member panel sponsored by Hiring Our Heroes and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They spoke to veterans and others about the transition into civilian life and finding jobs.

The discussion centered on the need for veterans, employers and the community to all do their part in bringing the veteran into the civilian workforce.

Meyer told the audience that his sniper training in the military translated to leadership skills, accountability and loyalty, but many of today’s employers won’t even talk to someone without a bachelor’s degree.

“I’m just high school educated. I’d put anyone in the military against anyone with a bachelor’s degree. Think of all the training and practical application. There is nothing in the civilian workforce that is more challenging than what I saw and did in the military.”

The panel — which also included veteran Nicole Hart, founder and CEO of ARVets, and Donald Esmond, co-chairman of the Washington-based Veterans Employment Advisory Council — gave advice for veterans trying to get into the workforce, suggested educating employers better about veterans and pushed a computer program that puts military jargon into English, so potential employers have a better idea of the training veterans have.

“Depending on the amount of training a veteran has had, the program,, will state ‘equivalent of a bachelor’s degree,’” Esmond explained. He added, “Every vet is trainable and that’s what a college degree says.”

Esmond said, next to his parents’ teachings, he learned more in the Marine Corps than anywhere else. “I learned about loyalty, respect, leading by example, competing with the best and teamwork,” he said.

The unemployment rate for veterans is higher than the general public rate of about 8 percent. Clark said, “It is trickling down, in part to efforts like this.”

It was an all-star panel — Gen. Clark, wounded in Vietnam, went on to become NATO Supreme Allied commander and a presidential candidate. Meyer won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Esmond, a Purple Heart recipient, flew 900 combat helicopter missions in Vietnam, was shot down twice and was able to walk away both times. Hart, a combat veteran of the Iraq War, held the hands of a number of combat friends as they drew their last breath.

The Jacksonville event was held in conjunction with the Hiring Our Heroes military hiring fair Tuesday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

Clark led off Monday night’s discussion with three points for the veterans.

“First,” he said, “you have to be prepared for a different environment. The civilian workforce is not the same as mother Army.”

Clark received advice when he was getting ready to go back into the civilian world. “There’s no one in charge, I was told. You are your own profit or loss center,” the general said.

“Secondly,” Clark said, “you need to be open. The key is to get into the workforce and then move up or around. Chances are your first civilian job is not the one you will be in for 40 years.”

His third point was that there are a lot of hard-working people out there. “Sometimes the military thinks it has the monopoly on hard work, but it doesn’t. You need to treat everyone with respect,” he said.

Clark didn’t sugarcoat the transition. “It’s not a cakewalk. It is a hard transition to make. I don’t want to soft sell it.”

Meyer said part of the problem is that the public doesn’t always understand what a veteran has done or gone through. “They don’t have the understanding because we have done such a good job,” he explained.

Hart echoed those thoughts “The public needs to be educated. If the veteran was having problems before he went in, he’ll have them after he gets out. If he had no job before he went in he won’t have one after. Whatever problems he had before, he’ll have after.”

Esmond said employers need to be more aware of the skills a veteran has. “Veterans hire veterans because they know what they are getting, but other employers have a ‘Sorry, we don’t have any security guard jobs’ mentality. But once they begin to hire vets, they get it and it becomes a win-win deal.”

Meyer put part of the blame on the military. “They do a good job taking you from civilian life to the military. They have that down to a ‘T,’ but they aren’t doing such a good job transitioning veterans back out.”

“‘Leave No Man Behind’ is not just a wartime action,” Meyer said, “but don’t just give us a job. We are not a charity. Remember we are selfless not selfish.”

He said at one time it was not cool to look like a Marine, and many veterans would grow long hair and a beard to hide their Marine background.

“Those things that made us successful in the military are needed in civilian life too. Why hide the fact that we’ve accomplished what just 1 percent of people get to do,” he said.

Hart said, “A shop with five or 10 employees, hiring a veteran can have a tremendous ripple effect.”

Clark added, “If veterans are allowed to get on the first step of a ladder, get into one game, one play, they will make the catch.”

He said the best source of jobs for the veterans is their family.

“Veterans have got to write home and have them start looking and helping months in advance. You can’t say, ‘I just got out give me a job.’ But the first place to start is at home.”

TOP STORY >> Base feels effects of shutdown

Leader senior staff writer

Approximately 335 Little Rock Air Force Base civilians have been furloughed, but critical civilians and all active-duty personnel at Little Rock Air Force Base — and at Camp Robinson — will remain on duty and paid, thanks to an 11th-hour law passed by Congress Monday night, just before the shutdown of the federal government.

In a shutdown furlough, an affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by annual appropriations that are not exempted by law.

“Military personnel are not subject to furlough. Military personnel on active duty, to include reserve personnel on active duty, will continue to report for duty and carry out assigned duties,” said Lt. Mallory Glass, 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs chief.

Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, said Tuesday afternoon, “Our civilian teammates have been subjected to another furlough, a move causing distress and disruption to a workforce we depend on every day.”

He continued, “These circumstances are creating financial hardships for so many. Our team is currently supporting operations essential to our national security, such as our ongoing commitment in Afghanistan, where we still have 400 members deployed downrange. Our focus will remain on the mission, as well as being good wingmen by helping each other through these uncertain times. We appreciate all the local support for the men and women of Team Little Rock.”

Glass said, “The current funding status is extremely disruptive to the Air Force...While we are attempting to minimize negative impacts, the Air Force is working with OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) to address near-term must-pay bills, such as urgent operational needs in Afghanistan, existing shortfalls in military pay, operations and maintenance costs and military health care, which have all been affected by the additional impacts of the ongoing sequester.”

As for readiness, the shutdown “certainly doesn’t help,” said Second District Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark).

Congress Monday night passed a law authorizing pay for all active-duty personnel and civilians who support them, he said, including active-duty Guard.

State Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and retired Army National Guard Col. Mike Ross of North Little Rock, will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday in front of Little Rock Air Force Base on the effects of the shutdown on civilian defense workers, veterans’ benefits and the local economy.

The University Center at the base will hold classes as usual.

It is unclear whether the shutdown will affect training flight hours.

At Little Rock Air Force Base, the 19th Medical Wing will remain open, with potential delays at pharmacy or longer appointment wait times.

The base exchange will remain open.

Here is a partial list of the services being shut down or reduced:


 Discontinued custodial services for all base facilities other than child development and youth centers.

 Discontinued grounds maintenance services for the entire base.


 Arts and Crafts Center.

 Community Center.


 Youth Center — open recreation closed, school age 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

 School Liaison Office.

 Commissary — contact at 987-6990.

Throughout the Air Force, “contractors performing under a contract that was fully obligated upon entering the contract (or renewal or modification) prior to the expiration of appropriations will continue to provide contract services, whether in support of activities that are essential to national security and safety, or not,” according to Capt. Natasha Waggoner, Air Force press desk, secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.

“Military members and civilians exempted from furlough would be required to provide appropriate contract oversight,” Waggoner said.

New contracts (including renewals) may not be executed unless the contract is in support of an activity that is essential to national security and safety.

“Every member of the Air Force team is important to accomplishing our mission. All civilian personnel paid by appropriated funds will be furloughed, except for the minimum number necessary to accomplish exempted activities that are essential to national security and safety, Waggoner said.

“Congressional actions will determine if retroactive pay will be provided for furloughed personnel — there is no guarantee of back pay,” she continued.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville Lighthouse starting up in athletics

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School embarked upon high-school athletics this year. The 2013-14 school year is the first for the school with high-school aged kids, and currently only goes up to 10th grade. This year’s Lighthouse sophomores have or will compete in all high-school sports except for football, though they aren’t eligible for postseason play since they aren’t officially in an Arkansas High School Activities Association appointed conference.

The golf and tennis teams just finished their season, and the volleyball team hosts its first home match Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center.

“We got started in the middle of the two-year cycle that the Arkansas Activities Association has to realign classifications and conferences,” said Jackson-ille Lighthouse athletic director Brad Burl. “Next year they will do another realignment and we’ll be placed in a conference then.”

Burl didn’t know exactly what Lighthouse High School’s enrollment will be, but said he expects to be placed in a 1A or 2A conference.

The AHSAA counts enrollment from grades nine through 11 in determining classifications.

This year’s sophomores will be the first junior class next year, and the first senior and graduating class in school history in two years.

This year’s athletic season has been, and will be, a tough one on the record books, with only sophomores competing, but Burl says the future can be bright athletically.

“We’re at a disadvantage right now, but we hope to build a strong program,” Burl said. “We just want people to know all the things we have to offer.”

The school’s gymnasium is only in the planning stages, but Burl hopes one can be complete by the time the teams begin officially participating as an AHSAA sanctioned member.

This year, Lighthouse offers golf, tennis, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, football, softball and boys and girls soccer. They also have a cheer and dance program.

The school is currently cooperating with the city of Jacksonville for playing venues.

“Right now we’re playing mostly as the visiting team,” Burl said. “But we’ve coordinated with the Jacksonville Community Center for some home games in volleyball and basketball. And the Parks and Rec department has helped us with some of the spring sports. We’ve been very blessed with the support we’ve had from the city. They’ve been outstanding to us and we’re very grateful.”

The teams are coached by certified coaches, though there are openings available.

“If there are any certified coaches out there interested in helping build a program, we’d love to talk to them,” Burl said.

A football team is not in the immediate plans, but Burl said that is something they hope to attain down the line.

“Football requires such a huge up front investment, and we’re still a growing school,” Burl said. “We’ve grown every year and hope to continue to grow, but it’s a step at a time. We’ve got a plan, where as we grow, those kinds of things will start happening.”

The Lighthouse varsity volleyball team will begin play at approximately 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville needs to rebound

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils find themselves in a must-win situation when it hosts the Little Rock McClellan Crimson Lions on Friday at Jan Crow Stadium.

Jacksonville had high expectations since a very successful summer, and can still attain those lofty goals, but results so far have been disappointing.

The latest letdown came last week in the conference opener, a 38-18 road loss to Helena-West Helena Central, a team Jacksonville beat 35-0 last year.

Jacksonville (1-3, 0-1) has made a habit of starting well on offense only to begin sputtering. Sacks, turnovers and dropped passes have all played a role in the disappointing first half of the season.

In the loss to the Cougars, just like in an earlier home loss to Benton, the Red Devils marched down the field easily on their first drive and scored. Things went poorly most of the time afterwards.

Jacksonville was in the red on rushing yards, thanks mostly to five sacks, and receivers dropped seven passes. Jacksonville began experimenting with a read-option offense two weeks ago, but running lanes haven’t been open in varsity competition.

The Red Devils were considered the 5A Central’s best hope to knock Pulaski Academy off the champions’ perch in the preseason, but with the emergence of Sylvan Hills, Mills and Helena-West Helena Central, Jacksonville finds itself on the outside trying to play its way back in to playoff contention in just the second week of conference play.

The Lions should provide Jacksonville with a decent chance to get back into the win column. They are 0-4 so far this season, but played their best game to date last week in a 28-14 loss to undefeated Mills.

The 28 points scored was the second fewest for Mills this season after scoring 32 against Parkview and 36 against Hall. They also beat Blytheville 19-6 before last week’s win over the Lions.

McClellan had been blown out in its first three games, losing 38-13 to Searcy, 28-6 to Central Arkansas Christian and a 35-8 mercy-rule loss at Lonoke.

The Lions have fast skill position players, but are small on the lines. The interior play is the main area of improvement in last week’s game.

Under first-year coach Maurice Moody, McClellan employs a two-quarterback system. Senior Hayden Peters is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound drop-back passer while senior Sydney Tillman is a 5-11, 195-pound converted wide receiver that runs the read option package for Moody.

The Lions try to get the ball into junior Ezekiel Baldwin’s hands in many ways and from various positions. Baldwin’s slight stature, 5-5, 160, is made up for by his 4.4 speed and elusive quickness.

McClellan has several other capable skill players who are a threat to score if they get into open field. Senior Darion Galvin and junior Malik Scott are capable running backs, while Aaron Smith, Deon Johnson and Martez Moore line up at wide receiver.

The game kicks off at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Comets, Bears set for major one early

Leader sportswriter

The second week of the 5A Central Conference schedule pits two familiar foes as Sylvan Hills travels into the heart of the Little Rock Metro area to face the Mills University Studies Comets on Friday.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Mills has possibly the most question marks around it of any Central team, with a 4-0 record that is impressive on the surface, but those wins came against opponents who have a combined record of 2-14 through the first month of the season. Quality of opponents up to this date may be a liability for the Comets, who have so far beaten Little Rock Parkview, Little Rock Hall, Blytheville and Little Rock McClellan.

“It’s just hard to judge, who people have played and haven’t played,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “I really think after this week, we can get a better gauge on who is and who isn’t. They look a lot like Newport. They’re physical up front, they obviously run the option very well. Same thing they’ve always got, they’ve got a really good quarterback, and a dang good fullback, big dude, and they play a lot better than what they have in the past.”

Withrow said the Comets also resemble Newport on the defensive side with a 40-front set that allows them to use team speed to their advantage.

Offensively, quarterback Omar Avance leads the Comets, who have traditionally run the option game as well as anyone in the state. Big fullback Jordan Beasley not only has size, but also big-play capabilities, while receiver Braylin Goodwin is Avance’s preferred target in the passing game.

The Bears (3-1, 1-0) have won the last two meetings between the two teams in the long-standing county rivalry.

“It’s within the district, so it’s a county deal,” Withrow said. “So everybody will be jacked up and ready to go. The kids all know each other, they played pee-wee football against each other. They’ve played middle school football against each other, so they know each other. So yeah, there’s a natural built-in rivalry there.”

Sylvan Hills got momentum back on its side last week with a convincing 35-7 victory over Little Rock Christian Academy. Junior quarterback Trajan Doss led the way offensively with 211 rushing yards, while tailback Tyler Davis also rushed for over 100 yards.

Davis also subbed for injured defensive end Matt Thompson, who suffered a torn meniscus. Eric Taylor also saw time at defensive end in place of Thompson, who was still awaiting test results as of Monday afternoon.

“It was a pretty good night,” Withrow said. “We thought whoever made the most mistakes would be the ones in trouble, and they turned the ball over a couple of times. Kylan Wade did a good job of getting on some balls, and the secondary got an interception from Brandon Bracely.”

Withrow also noted strong special teams play, including junior kicker Philip Wood’s perfect 5-for-5 night with extra-point tries.

“It kind of reminded me of the Vilonia deal, except we finished off a couple of drives,” Withrow said. “I think it is probably the most complete game we’ve had. Execution wise, there’s still some room for improvement. Defensively, there are always things you can do to get better.”

A victory against Mills could go a long way for the Bears, who have struggling Jacksonville, Helena-West Helena and McClellan the next three weeks. They face heavy Central Conference favorites Pulaski Academy in week nine before ending the regular season against North Pulaski.

Some are projecting the winner in the Mills game this Friday as the potential No. 2 seed when the playoffs roll around. But Withrow isn’t buying that outlook.

“There’s still so much football left to be played,” Withrow said. “I think Jacksonville has got as many athletes as anybody. Helena still has some athletes. I think we’ve got way too much football to be played. I think everybody’s front-line players are good. If anybody loses someone, then you’ve got some serious issues. To call that I think is way too early. I think once we get to week five or six of this thing, you can start thinking about seeds. Right now, we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We need to win. If we win four, then we’ll think about a seed.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke hosting speedy Hounds

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke opened 4A-2 Conference play with a big win on the road last week, and on Friday, the Jackrabbits will play their first home conference game of the year against a speedy Newport Greyhounds team at James B. Abraham Stadium.

The Greyhounds (3-1, 0-1) have beaten the Jackrabbits (3-1, 1-0) in four of the past five meetings between the two teams, including last year’s 42-28 win at Newport in week five.

Jackrabbits coach Doug Bost said this year’s Greyhounds team lost four key players on the offensive and defensive lines, but said all of the skill guys are back, including playmakers Carl Turner and Kristen Crite.

Turner could very well be the best sophomore running back in the state. Last year as a freshman, he earned All-State honors after pacing the Newport backfield with 1,709 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught two touchdown passes.

Crite is a senior who will line up at the inside slot receiver position and will also line up in the backfield to spell Turner. Like Turner, Crite earned All-State honors a year ago with 832 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. He also led Newport’s receiving corps with 390 yards receiving and six touchdowns.

“They are loaded with skill guys,” said Bost of Newport. “They’ve got every single skill guy back from last year. That’s definitely their strength, led by running back Carl Turner, who’s probably the best freshman running back I’ve seen. He’s better than Michael Dyer when Michael Dyer was a ninth-grader.

“You’ve got him and you’ve got the Crite kid, which that kid probably runs a 4.4 (40-yard dash) – very fast on film. He scored a lot of touchdowns on the films we’ve seen. They lost four starters off of last year’s line, so hopefully we can exploit their linemen.”

Lonoke and Newport both run the Spread offense, and like the Jackrabbits, the Greyhounds will run the ball from that formation 60 to 70 percent of the time, according to Bost. Bost added that the stretch play is the Greyhounds’ favorite, and even though offensively they’ll be looking to run the ball the majority of the time, they can and will throw it when they feel the need.

Gunnar Bullard, a junior, returns at quarterback after throwing for more than 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago. He also ran for 412 yards and two scores last season. With literally every single skill player back from a year ago, Newport is expected to make a lot of noise in the 4A-2 Conference this season.

However, after starting the season 3-0, the Greyhounds laid an egg last week in the conference opener against No. 3 Dollarway, losing 42-0 – a margin of loss that came as a surprise to those familiar with the two teams, including Bost.

“That just shows what kind of team they have,” Bost said of Dollarway, “but Newport I thought would’ve had a little bettering showing against them. It was a surprise.”

Defensively, the Grey-hounds will line up in a 4-2 front, and like Little Rock McClellan, who Lonoke played in the final nonconference game of the season two weeks ago; they like to blitz a lot and rely on the speed of their secondary to make plays.

“It basically turns into a 4-4,” Bost said of Newport’s defense. “They’re going to play you man and they’re going to run with you all over the field. They’re going to get in your face as soon as you get off the line of scrimmage, and we played McClellan two weeks ago and they blitzed us.

“It’s very similar to that. They’re going to send seven or eight every play, and like I said, they’re going to lock up man-to-man with your receivers, and try not to let them off the line of scrimmage.”

With Newport’s secondary playing man coverage, Lonoke’s standout senior receiver Blake Mack, an Arkansas State commit, could see single coverage consistently for the first time this year. Crite in all likelihood will be the guy covering Mack on Friday, and that matchup should be fun to watch.

As far as how Bost feels about the way his team is playing right now, he says he’s very pleased in particular with the way his offense executed in last week’s 63-34 win at Heber Springs.

“I think the execution of the game plan was excellent,” Bost said. “We had three rushers over 100 yards (Josh Coleman, Kody Smith and Mack), so we were able to spread it out and get it to different people. We used a lot of motion to try and confuse them, and that all starts up front with the offensive line, and those five guys did a great job all night long.

“They executed the game plan great and we’ll go over this week’s game plan, and hopefully we’ll keep trucking right along.”

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

SPORTS STORY >> Coach bemoans mismatch

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers are fresh off its biggest win of the young season, and have to guard against a letdown in this week’s homecoming matchup against Marion. The Patriots provide all the right factors for what would be a huge upset.

Marion is not young, but very inexperienced, and hasn’t played up to what coach Mark Uhiren believes are its capabilities. The Patriots have good size and speed that could be trouble for any opponent when it gets everything going.

“I’m just not very pleased right now with our progress,” said Uhiren. “We’re way behind where we usually are at this point because we have so many new players. When you’ve got some seniors that haven’t played since ninth grade, they’re like sophomores developmentally. We’ve got some good athletes, but we just haven’t been able to play a complete football game yet.”

Uhiren doesn’t go into the game with a defeatist attitude, but he is realistic given the disparity in school size between Marion and Cabot. Marion has 977 students in grades nine through 11 and a football roster of about 60 to 65 players, while Cabot has 2,258 students and a roster or nearly 100. The fact that this is a conference game bothers the head Patriot a little bit.

“It’s not fair, frankly,” Uhiren said of his 6A team being in a conference with four 7A teams, including the third, fifth and sixth largest schools in the state. “This conference alignment is not fair, and I just wish the AAA (Arkansas Activities Association) had to get kids ready to play these teams.”

On top of the mismatch in school and team size, the Panthers are playing better so far this year than they have since at least 2009. It’s a fact not lost on Uhiren, but a fact he admires, especially as a run-first coach.

“I knew that was going to happen,” Uhiren said of Cabot’s success this year. “The way he coaches, the demands he puts on his players. I love the way he coaches. He has a system and he sticks with it. He probably catches it (criticism) like I do for keeping it on the ground. The fact that he’s having that success this year just proves that when you get a group of kids that buy into what you’re doing, you can be successful. It proves it too to those kids. If they’ll buy in and give it everything they’ve got, they’ll be successful.”

There’s a slight wrinkle to Cabot’s dead-T offense this year. The Panthers have lined up with just one tight end and one split end. It’s a slightly different look, but one that Uhiren says is easy to adjust to.

“I’m not worried about the logistics of how to adjust,” Uhiren said. “Lanny (West Memphis coach Lanny Dauksch) does it like that too. It’s not much to adjust to. I’m more concerned with the speedster with the good hands he puts out there. That kid has made some good catches and he can outrun you if he gets behind you. That’s the part we’re concerned about. We’re definitely going to have to treat him like a threat.”

The Panthers and Patriots kickoff at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.