Saturday, October 12, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bison blow Brinkley off the field

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle had little trouble with winless Brinkley during Friday’s homecoming game at Fred C. Hardke Field, as the No. 2 Bison manhandled the Tigers 44-0 to stay unbeaten and improve to 3-0 in 2A-6 Conference play.

The Bison (6-0, 3-0) offense scored at will in the first two quarters against the struggling Tigers (0-6, 0-3), racking up 276 yards in the half, all rushing, to jump out to a comfortable 32-0 lead by halftime.

Defensively, Carlisle forced Brinkley to turn the ball over on two of its three first-half possessions, and held the Tigers to just 93 yards of offense during that time. But even though the Bison dominated on both sides of the ball, Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree thought his team could’ve played even better.

“You get all these distractions and it’s hard to stay focused and get up for the game,” said Barbaree of homecoming. “And I try to preach to them one game at a time – one game, one game, one game – and it’s hard for them to get that in their head.

“We let some things get away from us that we probably shouldn’t have, so I wasn’t real happy with the first half. Yea, the score may have been all right, but it’s not how many you score, it’s how you play, and I don’t think we played as clean as we should have.”

Carlisle scored on the game’s opening drive, which ended with a 7-yard touchdown run by senior running back DeRon Ricks. Fellow senior Justice Bryant ran in the two-point conversion to give the Bison an early 8-0 lead.

After going three and out on its first possession, Brinkley attempted a fake punt, but picked up no gain, turning the ball over to the Bison at their own 33-yard line. Carlisle made the Tiger defense pay with a punishing eight-play drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Bo Weddle with 4:29 to play in the first quarter.

Ricks plowed in the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 Bison. Brinkley again turned the ball over on downs the following possession, and Carlisle found the end zone again on a 20-yard run by Ricks with 9:09 to play in the second quarter. Bryant again ran in the two-point conversion to push the Bison lead to 24-0.

Carlisle’s third scoring drive didn’t end with all smiles though, as senior quarterback/free safety Austin Reed went down with a knee injury after picking up a first down on a 19-yard run.

After the play, Reed walked off the field on his own power, but had a noticeable limp and was held out for the remainder of the game. Afterwards, he was still favoring his knee, but was in good spirits, and said he was all right.

With next week’s game against archrival Hazen on the road, a game that will in all likelihood decide the conference champion and No. 1 seed from the 2A-6, Reed’s health could very well be the deciding factor in determining the outcome of that game.

“I think he’s going to be all right,” Barbaree said of Reed. “I think he just came down hard on his knee cap. We had him checked out, and he’ll be ready to go. I was the one that pulled him out. He wasn’t going to play any more (tonight).”

Junior Chase Brazeal took over play-calling duties for the remainder of the game, and led the Bison to one more score before the first half ended. It took 13 plays, but Weddle punched in his second touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run as time expired.

Weddle also ran in the two-point conversion to put Brinkley in a 32-0 hole at the break.

Penalties plagued the Tigers’ offense in the second half and on third down and 20 at their own 20-yard line, quarterback Case Harrell threw a screen pass that was intercepted by linebacker Jacob Gordon, and Gordon returned it the distance for another Bison touchdown.

Gordon’s score made it 38-0, which invoked the sportsmanship rule with just over 8:00 to go in the third quarter. Carlisle set the final score early in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run up the gut by offensive lineman Cody Bowlan from the fullback position.

The Bison finished the game with 299 yards of offense, bettering Brinkley’s 119. Ricks led all players with 10 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Weddle had 12 carries for 68 yards and two scores. Neither got a carry in the second half. Bryant was the only other Carlisle player with double-digit carries. He had 11 for 75 yards.

Next week’s barn-burner at Hazen will kickoff at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons hold off Devils

Leader sportswriter

The 3-0 final was misleading as North Pulaski got all it wanted from a scrappy Jacksonville team in the second installment of the 5A Central Conference cross-town rivalry at the Devils’ Den Tuesday.

The Lady Falcons had difficulty closing out the first game after leading the entire way, finally ending with a 25-21 victory, and had to battle back from a massive 13-4 deficit in game two, eventually winning 25-23. Jacksonville did not allow the letdown to hamper it in the final game, but the NP combination of Emily Long to Kiarra Evans was too much for the Lady Devils to handle as the visitors closed out the match with a 25-22 victory.

“It was ugly on our part, I thought,” North Pulaski coach Ben Belton said. “(Jacksonville) did a great job. There were some long rallies, some great play on both sides. But we’re not playing very clean, and that enabled them to stick around. I don’t think we improved any during that whole recess, but they did. They improved every step. It’s a win. It’s an ugly win, but I’m just not happy with the performance.”

The win improved North Pulaski to 5-5 in Central Conference play while Jacksonville fell to 2-8.

The Lady Red Devils fed off of good crowd support to take early momentum in the second game. Junior Bailea Mitchell gave Jacksonville a 5-1 lead with an ace, and kills by Ashli Evans and sophomore Alexia Tolbert pushed the advantage to 13-4 before North Pulaski started to regroup.

Payton Mullen got the Lady Falcons going with a pair of kills, and a Makiyah Brown kill cut the deficit to 13-8. Mullen then took two assists from Long for kills that made it 14-10, but more errors kept Jacksonville out front until the final points.

Kiarra Evans recorded a kill that pulled the Lady Falcons to within 23-22, and a net ball by Jacksonville finally tied the score at 23. From there, an ace by Mullen and another kill by Evans secured it for North Pulaski for a 2-0 match lead.

“It’s our fault,” Belton said. “We didn’t do the things we should have done when we had an opportunity to have momentum. You go in, and you’ve got a chance to make some serves and hit the ball into the net, hit the ball out. One time, we served it under the net. You can’t do that. If you’re going to pound the ball, you’re going to hit some balls out. But serving, that’s just not acceptable.”

Serving went much better for the Lady Falcons in the first game. Four early aces helped North Pulaski jump out to an 8-5 lead, and play at the net also came together with kills by Raigen Thomas. Ashli Evans came back for Jacksonville with back-to-back kills that cut the Lady Falcons’ lead to 17-15 before a kill by Brown and another by Kiarra Evans made it 19-15.

Megan Lewis got the final ace of the game for the Lady Falcons to extend the advantage to 24-17, and another brief Jacksonville rally cut it to 24-21 before Thomas finally ended it for North Pulaski with a kill.

“I’m happy with Payton Mullen,” Belton said. “I thought she played outstanding, and Kiarra Evans, I thought she played outstanding.” But outside of that, I’m not happy with the performance. I thought Megan Lewis did a good job serving, and Emily played consistent. I expected more out of her service game, but they seemed to be able to return hers fairly easy. It just wasn’t very clean on our part.”

Kiarra Evans led Jacksonville with 11 kills while Long had 17 assists. Mullen added eight kills and four aces while Thomas added five kills and Brown had four kills.

For Jacksonville, Mitchell and Ashli Evans led with four kills each, while Terionna Stewart had four blocks.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers clobbered at Wynne

Leader sportswriter

WYNNE – There was no getting saved by the bell for Beebe as Wynne junior quarterback Zach Morris torched the Badgers’ defense on the ground and through the air in a 59-28 mercy-ruled homecoming victory at Yellowjacket Stadium Friday.

Morris set the tone for what ended up as a long second half for the Badgers with a 46-yard touchdown pass to receiver Sam Wilson on the first play of the third quarter to give the Yellowjackets a commanding 39-14 lead, and took their next play 67 yards for a score on the ground for a 45-21 lead at the 10:42 mark following a 46-yard touchdown run by Beebe sophomore fullback Trip Smith. All told, Morris threw for four touchdowns and rushed for three more for a combined 459 of Wynne’s 592 total yards.

Smith was a one-man show on offense for the Badgers with 31 carries for 276 yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t nearly enough for Beebe as Wynne controlled the game from the middle of the first quarter on.

“For whatever reason, we just didn’t show up and play tonight,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “Defensively, and then we turn it over on offense, it just snowballed. It was just an old-fashioned butt kicking is what that was. I won’t try to dress it up – they just lined up and whipped us tonight.”

The Badgers struck first on their opening drive with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that benefitted from a 28-yard run by senior halfback Dakota Mahoney and a 40-yard bull by Smith that set Beebe up with a first and goal at the Yellowjacket 1-yard line. A motion penalty and sack of junior quarterback Micah Dubois for a loss of six yards put the ball back at the 12, but Smith got it back close to the goal line with a 10-yard gain, and finally a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down at the 8:13 mark of the first quarter. Junior kicker Tyler Jones bounced the extra-point attempt off the left goal post and through to make it 7-0 Beebe.

Wynne (5-1, 3-0) answered fast with a five-play drive that progressed mostly through the air and ended on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Morris to receiver Jalen Young with 6:33 remaining in the opening quarter. The extra point was no good and Beebe held on to the lead, 7-6.

The Badgers (3-3, 2-1) let an opportunity to score again slip through their hands on the next possession, driving down to the Wynne 10-yard line on a 40-yard run by junior halfback Jesse Crisco. The drive stalled from there, which led to a 22-yard field-goal attempt by Jones, who missed wide left with two minutes left to play in the first.

Morris took advantage of regaining possession for the ’Jackets with a 80-yard touchdown run on first down, going right through the heart of Beebe’s defense at the 1:44 mark to put Wynne up 12-7 following a failed two-point conversion try.

“He’s a lot better than he looked on film,” Shannon said of Morris. “On film, they threw a lot of short stuff, nothing big, and tonight, he threw deep all night long. He burned us several times. He did a great job, and hats off to them, their staff and their entire team. They played a fantastic ball game tonight.”

Wynne scored two more times unanswered on its next two possessions, including a 4-yard touchdown run by Morris with 4:05 left to play in the first half that gave the Yellowjackets a 25-7 lead, but Smith fired back for Beebe on the next play from scrimmage with a 63-yard touchdown run that cut the margin to 25-14 with 3:46 remaining.

The Yellowjackets were not content to carry a two-score lead into the locker room, however, and put up six more points with a fourth-down pass from Morris to Austin Wilson from 37 yards to give Wynne a 32-14 halftime advantage.

Morris was 12 for 17 passing for 285 yards and four touchdowns, and carried 10 times for 174 yards and three more touchdowns. Beebe finished with 455 yards of total offense.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot calls off dogs in second

Special to The Leader

MOUNTAIN HOME – The Cabot Panthers wasted little time in putting points on the scoreboard as they scored on their first two offensive touches, defeating the Bombers in Mountain Home Friday night 35-0 to remain undefeated.

The Panthers started their first offensive series on their own 38, and on the first play from scrimmage, senior running back Zachary Launius broke several tackles and rumbled 68 yards for the touchdown. The extra point was good and Cabot had a 7-0 lead just 27 seconds into the game.

After holding the Bombers to three and out, the Panthers returned the punt to the Bomber 44-yard line. On only their second offensive play, senior running back Preston Jones ran through the Bomber defense for a 44-yard touchdown. The extra point gave Cabot a 14-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

The Bombers started their second offensive series with a 12-yard completion from senior quarterback Drake Walker to Josh Newton. After three consecutive incompletion pass attempts, Mountain Home was once again forced to punt. On third and 11 from midfield, Kimbrell ran a perfect play action pass and found a wide-open Jacob Ferguson down the right sideline for a 50-yard touchdown pass. After the extra point, the Bombers found themselves quickly down 21-0 with 7:34 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bombers tried again to get something going against the stingy Panther defense on the next series, but Jacob Ferguson showed his catching ability once again – this time on defense – as he intercepted Walker and returned the ball to the Cabot 30-yard line.

A holding penalty by the Panthers on the return backed the offense to begin its fourth offensive series on the Panther 40-yard line.

This time the Panthers took over five minutes off the clock to once again score through the air, this time Kimbrell finding Launius for a 4-yard score. The extra point gave the Panthers a 28-0 lead with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bombers tried to sustain a drive going into the second quarter, but a 10-yard sack by linebacker Brandon Allinder forced the Bombers into a third and 24 from their own 17-yard line.

After an incompletion, Mountain Home was forced again to punt from deep in their own territory, and Cabot started their next series with good field position on the Bomber 43-yard line.

Four plays later, Kimbrell passed for his third touchdown of the game, once again to Ferguson for his second receiving touchdown of the half. The Panthers would then take a 35-0 lead into halftime.

With the clock running nonstop in the second half, neither team could get their offense in sync.

Mountain Home drove into Panther territory to start the second half. But on fourth and 7 from the Panther 48-yard line, the Bombers were forced to once again punt.

Cabot would begin their first drive of the second half on their own 23-yard line. On third down from their 40-yard line, the Bombers would force their only turnover of the contest with the recovery of a fumble.

Starting with their best field position of the game on the Panther 40-yard line, the Bombers drove down to the Panther 13.

With the Bombers threatening to score, Patrick Neyhart had a timely sack of Walker for an 8-yard loss on third and 4 yards to go. And on fourth down, Walker’s pass was incomplete, giving Cabot the ball on their own 21-yard line.

Cabot would drive to the Mountain Home 46-yard line before being forced to punt.

The Bombers would take over on their own 10-yard line, but could only get to the 41-yard line before time expired.

Cabot would hold Mountain Home to just 107 total net yards in preserving the shutout. Walker completed only 10 of 25 passes for 59 yards, and the Bombers’ ground game managed just 62 yards. Walker was sacked three times for a loss of 28 yards.

The Panthers had 329 total yards for the game, with Kimbrell completing all four of his pass attempts for 72 yards and three touchdown passes. Jacob Ferguson caught three passes for 67 yards and two scores.

Launius led the Panther rushing attack with seven carries for 119-yards and a score. Kolton Eads had 49 rushing yards, and Cabot used seven different runners to accumulate 257 yards rushing for the game.

The Panthers (6-0, 3-0) host Little Rock Central next week.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears get over on Devils

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears like to play fast, but they became a ball-control team on Friday night, hogging the football and getting away with a 25-16 victory over Jacksonville in a critical 5A-Central Conference matchup in Sherwood.

Sylvan Hills took the ball with 10:18 left in the game trailing 16-15, and put together its second seven-minute-plus drive of the second half, scoring with 2:58 remaining when place kicker Philip Wood booted a 27-yard field goal to put the Bears up 18-16.

“I thought they played well,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow of Jacksonville. “They’ve got some athletes and No. 5 is hard to tackle. We want to play fast, but they did a good job of keeping us in check. We weren’t able to break big runs and that’s mainly because they’re so fast on defense it’s hard to break big ones on them. So we just kept getting first downs and were able to get down the field. It wasn’t easy. Jacksonville is a good football team.”

Sylvan Hills (5-1, 3-0) was able to break one big play, seizing upon momentum gathered by a blocked punt by Marcus Long that set the Bears up with good field position. Starting from the Red Devils’ 43-yard line, fullback Tyler Davis rumbled 7 yards on first down. On second down, a jet sweep to tailback Marlon Clemmons beat everyone to the corner. Clemmons made one cut and raced down the right hash marks for a 36-yard touchdown run. Davis then ran in for two points, giving Sylvan Hills a 15-9 lead with 11:53 left in the game.

Jacksonville (2-4, 1-2) answered right back with the help of two huge pass plays from quarterback Reggie Barnes to wide receiver Robert Harris. Sophomore Robert Knowlin started at quarterback and ran the spread option until getting hurt on the first series of the second half. When Barnes stepped in, the offense reverted back to the passing attack it displayed at the beginning of the season, and Sylvan Hills was unable to adjust.

A handoff to Gause lost 4 yards on first down, but Barnes hit Harris for 44 yards on a seam route to set up first down at the Bears’ 41. The next pass was dropped and Barnes missed a wide-open Harris on what would have been a certain touchdown on second down.

Sylvan Hills pressure forced another incomplete pass, but on fourth and 10, Barnes threw into heavy traffic, but Harris came down with the ball for a 29-yard gain to the 12. Gause picked up 7 yards on the next play. Tack on two more for an automatic first down for a personal foul facemask, and all that was left was a quarterback keeper for a touchdown by Barnes.

The extra point made it 16-15, setting up Sylvan Hills’ 17-play drive that ended with the go-ahead field goal.

When Jacksonville got it back after falling behind with 2:58 remaining, it went backwards. The drive started with Jacksonville’s fourth false-start penalty. After an incomplete pass, Barnes was sacked by Haden Hawkins for a 4-yard loss. After another false start, Jacksonville needed 24 yards for a first down, but threw two incomplete passes to give the ball back to the Bears at the 19.

Davis lost 2 yards on the first play, but quarterback Tra Doss got loose for a 19-yard touchdown run that sealed the game with 1:21 remaining.

“We were trying to strip the ball,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “At that point we had to try to get the ball back so we were going for the ball instead of the tackle. Instead, he made a good play. He’s a strong runner and it didn’t work out for us.”

Jacksonville scored first on its second drive. The first drive went nine plays to the Sylvan Hills 26, but the next two lost 24 yards and Jacksonville had to punt.

On Sylvan Hills’ second play, Jacksonville cornerback Josh Alcorn made a big hit and knocked the ball loose from Clemmons’ grasp. Defensive end Titus O’Neal covered at the Bears’ 9-yard line and Jacksonville scored two plays later. The extra point was no good, leaving it 6-0 with 3:21 left in the first quarter.

Sylvan Hills then went on its first of three long drives, going 73 yards in 13 plays. The Bears converted one fourth down and three third downs on the drive, including Doss’ 8-yard keeper on third and 6 for the touchdown. Wood’s extra point made it 7-6 with 9:46 left in the first half.

Jacksonville took over at its own 30 and drove nine plays to the Sylvan Hills 28 before facing fourth and 12. Place kicker Jesper Wellshaupt nailed a 45-yard field goal with 5:03 left in the half to give the Red Devils a 9-7 lead.

Jacksonville’s defense then stopped Sylvan Hills. With 1:51 left in the half, Justin Abbott, Austin McCullough and O’Neal sacked Doss for a 9-yard loss, setting up fourth and 26. Jacksonville had two timeouts remaining, but elected not to use them. Taking over on their own 17 with 55 seconds to play, the Red Devils ran Gause for 6 yards, then took a delay penalty and let the clock run out. The Bears got the ball to start the second half.

“Starting backed up like that, we did not want to take a chance of something happening,” Russell said. “We wanted to get to halftime with the lead and trust our defense could stop them, and they did stop them.”

Sylvan Hills finished with 326 yards of offense to 196 for Jacksonville. Harris was the Red Devils’ yardage leader with three catches for 82 yards. Davis led Sylvan Hills with 20 carries for 98 yards. Clemmons had 12 carries for 96 while Doss had 15 carries for 73.

Sylvan Hills makes the long trip to Helena-West Helena next week while Jacksonville hosts North Pulaski.

Friday, October 11, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Local orchestra

The Jacksonville Community Orchestra is off to a great start. The all-volunteer community orchestra is conducted by Christina Dodson Null and is an initiative of the Jacksonville Arts Council, which is led by Roberta McGrath.

Twenty musicians attended the group’s first rehearsal of Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube,” among other classical masterpieces. The orchestra is planning a debut concert in late January.

Dr. Alan Storeygard, a Jacksonville physician who sponsors an annual classical music concert series in Jacksonville, is chairman of the arts council’s music division. He describes Null as a dynamo. As a descendant of the city’s founding father, Nicholas Jackson, she’s the perfect choice to lead the orchestra.

Null told us recently, “(A community orchestra) has been a dream of mine since they took strings out of the Pulaski County Special School District. I wanted to bring it back. It would open up a beautiful world of classical music to a kid.”

The Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission, which controls how the city’s revenue from the hamburger tax is spent, should make sure that the community orchestra is included in its budget for next year. Imagine, a Fourth of July concert with homegrown classical musicians or chamber music at the farmers market. It would be a wise investment compared to some of the A&P’s other choices.

The community orchestra’s next rehearsal will be held Sunday. (See event notebook on page 2A.)

For more information call, Null at 419-591-6130 or contact McGrath at 501-985-2165 or e-mail

EDITORIAL >> Cabot mayor makes it right

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert made the right decision when he recently removed Ron Craig from the city’s planning commission after he insulted residents of the upscale Glenwood Estates subdivision who are against a plan to build 42 garden homes on a mere 6.2 acres next to their neighborhood.

By comparison, Glenwood Estates has 44 homes on about 25 acres. Its residents said the proposed development could cause traffic problems and will be an eyesore to the area.

Tim Lemons, the engineer for the development and a Lonoke County justice of the peace who is running for the House of Representatives, said the homes would be about 1,450- to 1,600-square feet with high-pitch roofs, hard-surface counters and crown molding. They’d be relatively small but expensive homes that might be worth more per square foot than some homes in Glenwood, he said.

To build the new neighborhood, the builder must first get approval to rezone the area before the new style of subdivision known as a planned unit development.

The Leader’s Joan McCoy reported last week that the meeting was orderly until a woman from the audience described the pristine appearance of her neighborhood.

Craig shot back that it wasn’t as nice as she described because he’d seen people repairing cars in their driveways.

Soon accusations of dishonesty were hurled between Craig — a member of the planning commission for more than 20 years — and the proud residents of Glenwood Estates. Civil discourse ended right there.

All cities want to build homes, which help boost tax revenue and population growth. And Glenwood residents should be pleased that developers find their city such a desirable place to build. But development should be done in a way that is respectful to nearby residents.

We know the consequences of poor urban planning decisions. Against our advice, Jacksonville aldermen voted to close the Graham Road railroad crossing about eight years ago, which forced a handful of businesses to close because traffic was rerouted through a maze of side streets.

Today, the signs of what is easily Jacksonville’s worst case of self-inflicted urban blight are still apparent: Boarded-up buildings, gang graffiti, overgrown grass and a permanent barricade in front of the old crossing. Urban blight can spread quickly, too. On the other side of the tracks now, Main Street has a number of vacant businesses and criminal activity.

City officials should always listen carefully and respectfully to the advice of residents.

The Cabot Planning Commission postponed its decision until next month. Mayor Cypert, who has never lost his temper in a public meeting, has always been a fair decision maker. Though the city council will have to approve the planning commission’s decision, we trust the mayor will serve as a cool-headed leader during a time of divisiveness.

In the meantime, everyone should enjoy CabotFest today if the rain doesn’t keep the crowds away.

TOP STORY >> First Pick Kids opening Monday

Leader staff writer

First Pick Kids, a new nonprofit based in Ward, will have a signup and welcome event at 8 a.m. Monday in its new location at 318 Second St.

Tina Pace of Cabot and Laura Brewer of Ward, the mothers of two 10-year-old boys with special needs, formed First Pick in June to improve the quality of life for kids labeled by society as different.

Brewer said, “We want to help every kid we possibly can.”

The organization hopes to accomplish that goal by offering a parent-resource center with free food, toiletries and other necessities; activities for First Pick kids (a reading club, field trips to museums, craft nights, etc.), a crisis line and more.

First Pick will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Services after hours and on Sundays will be available by appointment.

The Ward Chamber of Commerce will help the founders host a grand opening in two to four weeks, Pace and Brewer said.

They added that the parents of more than 100 kids have expressed interest, via Facebook, in taking advantage of First Pick’s programs.

Those will include a food and coat drive, Christmas angel tree, a big brother and big sister mentoring program to be launched in November and help with paperwork that must be completed for children who are developmentally or physically disabled.

The crisis line, a number that parents can call 24/7, could be up and running next month, Brewer said. The person who answers that call would be someone who could meet the parent right away to listen, lend a shoulder to cry on or help in any other way.

First Pick will also provide a safe place kids can be dropped off at so their parents and caregivers have time to run errands — like holiday shopping excursions — or just take a break.

There will be twice-a-week meetings for parents and caregivers of special needs children who need to talk about the difficulties they face everyday.

In July, Pace and Brewer started cleaning up a building at 231 Second St. in Ward that had been used as a restaurant. Another restaurant recently moved in there.

First Pick chose the new location because the other building couldn’t pass the inspections required for how the nonprofit was going to use it.

The owner of the new location offered to make it Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible and the rent was lower, Pace said.

While the new space is smaller than the restaurant building, less work was needed for it to suit First Pick’s needs, the founders explained.

About the painted handprints and drawings decorating the front windows of the new office, Pace said, “First Pick is by kids, for kids.”

The nonprofit will be using other venues, such as Arkansas State University in Beebe’s student center and the chamber of commerce’s building, for its larger events.

Other developments include First Pick being recognized as a nonprofit by the state. The founders are waiting for the federal government to do the same.

Although First Pick can host fundraisers now, it can’t issue a tax-deductible receipt for donations.

One of the most unique things about the nonprofit is that it will never be government-funded because that places too many restrictions on who can be helped, the founders explained previously.

First Pick is now incorporated, meaning it can open locations nationwide, Pace said.

She added that talks have already started with people in other states who want to adopt the self-sustaining model First Pick will use. Pace said she has also spoken with people in north and south Arkansas who want locations there.

The nonprofit is planning fundraisers. Donations are always being collected, and two country music stars have agreed to play in a benefit concert, Pace said.

For more information, visit First Pick’s Facebook page, or send an e-mail to

TOP STORY >> Hall of fame inductees

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Panther Foundation inducted three former school board members, an interior decorator and a former mayor into its hall of fame during the foundation’s annual banquet on Tuesday at the Junior High North cafeteria.

Honored were Nina Butler, Fred Campbell, John C. Thompson and the late Willie Ray and Oris Spence.


The late Willie Ray was honored for his work as mayor and his leadership when downtown Cabot took a devastating hit from a killer tornado in 1976.

Ray and his wife, Imogene, moved to Cabot after the Second World War. He opened a small cafĂ© and gas station. His wife opened a beauty salon. They purchased some land and developed a mobile home park. He was one of the leading businessmen in Cabot. He was a member of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club. During the club’s annual pancake breakfast, Willie Ray would be in front the stove helping the fundraiser become a success.

Ray was elected to the city council in 1958 and then was elected mayor in 1960. He was mayor for 19 years until his death in 1979.

During that time, Cabot’s population grew from 1,300 to nearly 4,000 people. Ray oversaw the construction of a new city hall, fire station and jail. Under his administration, a second fire station was built along with a library and the parks and recreation program was developed and a new swimming pool was constructed. Many new streets were paved. Railroad safety crossings were installed. The water system was improved with two water tanks and distribution lines. Housing for seniors and low-income families was established. The police department grew from one officer to six.

Following the aftermath of the 1976 tornado, Ray called the governor and National Guard for help. Ray coordinated state and federal efforts to help rebuild the community.

Will Feland said Ray was walking the streets, always encouraging.

“I don’t think he slept during those days. He was there night after night,” Feland said.

Fred Campbell said Willie Ray had a passion for Cabot. Campbell said after the tornado hit he’d never seen anyone go to work so fast to get the community back running together as Ray did.

In 1978, the city held a “We’re Back” celebration, now known as CabotFest.

Billye Everett, Ray’s niece, accepted the award on her uncle’s behalf.

Everett said Ray was more of a father to her, since Everett’s dad died during the war when she was 5 years old.

Ray returned from the war and Everett looked to him as a father figure.

“My Uncle Willie loved this community almost as much as he loved us,” Everett said.

“He loved Cabot. He would be amazed to see how our city has turned out to be. He enjoyed every minute of what he did,” Everett said.


The late Oris Spence was a school board member for the Sylvania and Cabot school districts.

Spence attended all 12 grades in the one-room Oak Grove School near Sylvania. He and his wife, Arlene, bought his family’s farm from his mother in 1937 and grew cotton. Spence was in the dairy business for 39 years.

In the 1940s, they ran the Sylvania Country Store for 14 years. They operated a meat-processing plant in Cabot and the candy store next to Cabot High School.

Spence’s political career began in the 1940s. He was elected to the Sylvania School Board, then was elected Lonoke County judge for four years and later was a justice of the peace for 16 years.

The Sylvania School District merged with the Cabot School District in 1947. Spence was elected to the Cabot School Board from 1959 to 1964. During that time a new gym, cafeteria, band building and 20 classrooms were built.

Spence was twice appointed by the governor to serve as Lonoke County judge. He was appointed in 1967 to fill the vacancy of the county judge position for W.F. Walker, who died. Spence was appointed county judge again in 1975 to succeed Charles Benefield, who also passed away.

“Most people in Lonoke County knew him as Uncle Oris,” Dearl Dixon said.

Spence passed away on Sept. 2, 1997.

Dixon said Spence always told people to further their educations.

Spence was a supporter of the 4H Club Key Club. He also helped organize the Kiwanis Club.

Spence drove a flat-bed school bus to Beebe. He worked at a creamery during school time. If anyone in town needed supplies, he would pick it up during his lunchtime and drop it off on the way home.

Spence’s daughter, Gale Sikes, accepted the award.

“He would have been so happy surrounded with all these people being honored tonight.

“My dad was a tremendous influence on my sister, myself and our families. He encouraged us to put God first in our lives, to further our education and to be an active part of our communities, both Sylvania and Cabot.

“If he was here tonight he would humbly accept this award with a big ol’ smile, and then he would give each of you a pat on the back and say thanks, friends,” Sikes said.


Interior decorator Nina Butler is a 1980 graduate of Cabot High School. While in high school, she was a member of the student council.

Butler continues to serve the high school as a board member of the Cabot Scholarship Foundation and on the Cabot Panther Foundation advisory board.

“Nina is the kind of person that hears a need in the community, and she just takes care of it. Nina has a heart for service,” school board member Donna Nash said.

Butler was appointed to the Arkansas Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention board by Gov. Mike Huckabee. She was reappointed for a second term by Gov. Mike Beebe.

“Her continuous sharing and her caring for her alma mater, her church, our youth and our community sets her apart and makes her a perfect candidate for the Cabot Panther Hall of Fame,” Nash said.

Butler said, “I’m very humbled and honored to be elected to the Cabot Panther Hall of Fame. I’ve always been very passionate about Cabot and the public school system we have available to our students.”


Retired banker Fred Campbell is a 1966 graduate of Cabot High School. He was born 66 years ago where the Middle School North office building is today.

Campbell served on the Cabot School Board for 12 and a half years.

Former school board member David Hipp said Campbell is always upbeat and has a positive attitude that uplifts the spirits of others.

“He always had a smile on his face before every school board meeting and usually left the meeting with that same smile. He helped set the tone for the meetings. He always looked for the positive in everything but was not bashful when he disagreed and always had sound justification behind his reasoning,” Hipp said.

Campbell served the Cabot community as a member of the Jaycees, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, the Home Builders Association, Open Arms Shelter and the Scholarship Foundation.

Campbell is a Vietnam Veteran who was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He is a supporter of the armed forces and was part of a committee to get a National Guard Armory in Cabot.

“I thank the good Lord for giving me the opportunity to grow up and be raised in Cabot,” Campbell said.

Long-time friend John C. Thompson said, “If you talk to (Campbell) very much, very seldom when you finish a conversion with him, especially if you know him well, he will always tell you he loves you. It’s very unusual coming from a man to tell you that he loves you.”

Campbell was once asked why he does that and said, “I had one of my best friends pass away and never had the opportunity to tell him I loved him,” according to Thompson.

Thompson said, when he and Campbell talk to each other, they seldom end their conversion without saying they love each other.

“Sometimes that’s what we need to remember is to tell people that you care about how much you love them,” Thompson said.


John C. Thompson graduated from Cabot High School in 1969. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business in 1973 from the University of Arkansas and has had a long career in banking.

Thompson was on the Cabot School Board for 10 years. He continues to be part of the educational system by serving as a Panther Foundation board member and on the Cabot Scholarship Foundation.

Panther Foundation board member Brent Larsen said, “(Thompson) tries to give me credit for suggesting the creation of Panther Foundation Hall of Fame, but only after he mentioned it to me.”

Thompson said, “It is unbelievable what I’m fixing to become a part of. It means a lot to me.”

“Cabot gave me an education. It provided me with a job and a place to live. All my children have graduated from Cabot. Most of them live in Cabot and hopefully their children will be graduating from Cabot and be part of Cabot,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he tries to give back to the community because it has given him so much. He has been a member of the Cabot Jaycees, Lions Club and a Chamber of Commerce board member.

“We need people to continue to support Cabot, the community, support the school system,” Thompson said.

He said Cabot is and will continue to be one of the top school districts in the state due to the community’s support.

TOP STORY >> WW II vet is flown to monument

Virgle Cook (front right) and members of his unit
in the Pacific during the Second World War.

Leader staff writer

Virgle Cook was understandably angry when he heard the World War II monument had been barricaded just days before he was supposed to be flown to the nation’s capital to see it for the first — and likely — only time last Saturday.

Friends reported that his intent was to “tear down a fence.”

As it turned out, the barricade that went up when the government shut down was moved aside to allow another group of World War II veterans through three days before Cook arrived in Washington, courtesy of Honor Flight, which transports veterans to see the monuments erected in their honor.

All Cook had to say this week about the closing was that it made no sense to him.

“It’s to honor the W.W. II veterans and they go and fence us out so we can’t see it,” he said.

But he had a lot to share about life, war and the human condition – things he’s learned about in his 94 years. Cook was 22 and working construction on the ordnance plant in Jacksonville when he heard on a co-worker’s radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

“It was a cold morning here,” he recalled. “We had built a fire and were standing around it when we heard.”

Cook had been dating Marlene Chamblee, “a pretty little red-headed girl” and his thoughts turned immediately to her when he heard the news because he knew he would soon be called to serve.

“I didn’t want to leave any loose ends. We were going to make it permanent or call it off,” he said.

He said they were married on Friday, March 13, 1942, and by October he was a soldier.

“I had plenty of reason to fight for my county,” Cook said.

Not only did he have his new wife — he said, “On Jan. 3, 1943, she had a pretty little baby girl.”

There was a popular song at the time with lyrics about being back home in a year. No one believed that, Cook said. But Marlene sent him pictures of herself with his daughter and that helped his morale tremendously, he said.

And when the war was over and he came back home, Marlene was there waiting for him. “I knew three different guys who came back home and their wives were someplace else,” Cook said, directing his statement to the 30-something male photographer who was sitting in his living room trying to get a good shot of him.

The problem, he said, was the age and hormones of the soldiers and their wives. They were separated at a time when they needed to be together.

“You know how that is,” he said.

Cook was assigned to the 96th Infantry and fought in the Philippines and Okinawa, but, as he put it, he was “lucky enough to be in the field artillery part” because his odds of surviving were better.

The infantry went in first and cleared a path for artillery, but then the artillery also took care of the infantry.

On Okinawa, an infantry regiment got cut off and Cook said his artillery unit stayed up all night protecting them. When he thinks about that, he is reminded of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” song.

“We stayed up all night keeping a ring of fire around them,” he said.

The weapon he used the most was a 50-caliber machine gun capable of taking out tanks and aircraft.

It was also on Okinawa that he watched suicide pilots in action.

He and a friend from Detroit were standing on the upper deck of a landing craft. Their weapons were below.

“Here came those Kamikaze suicide bombers,” Cook said. “Thank God for the Navy. They got one of the planes and one of them veered off and got a bigger ship.”

Cook seems to recall the war in great detail and is willing to talk about most of it: The grids that were used to keep track of the troops, the little Feist dog his friend from Detroit sneaked onto the landing craft, his friend from Mississippi who survived the battles in the Philippines but somehow knew he would die at Okinawa.

Cook’s son, Dwight, served in Vietnam but won’t talk about that war at all, he said.

“That Vietnam was vicious,” Cook said. “They didn’t know who their enemy was. And those guys over there in the East, they’ll be walking down the street and not know if the guy coming toward them is the enemy.”

Back at home after the war ended, Cook said life wasn’t quite the way it was when he left. He and his wife had both matured, which was natural, he said. He sometimes had nightmares. And he could be violent if someone slipped in quietly while he was sleeping.

Veteran’s benefits paid for four years of agricultural school, but farming didn’t pay off for him, Cook said.

So he worked at several other jobs, including building trailers in North Little Rock, ginning cotton in Arizona, building Chevrolets in St. Louis and finally working for almost 30 years as a nursing assistant taking care of mostly World War II veterans at Fort Roots mental hospital in North Little Rock.

He didn’t like the job at Fort Roots at first, but he said he became accustomed to it and stayed because at least he was back in Arkansas and living in the little house he built immediately following the war.

Cook’s reminisces about the war and his various jobs are interwoven with reflections about his life with Marlene.

“I was extremely lucky when I met my wife,” he said.

Marlene was his sister’s friend. But she visited his family’s home more frequently than seemed appropriate for a friendship, he said. Eventually, Cook realized she might be there to see him.

Then one night, his sister went to her bedroom, “probably a made-up deal,” his parents were in the kitchen and Marlene was alone in the living room. He wondered, Cook said, what she would do if he tried to kiss her.

“I came up behind her and she whirled around and grabbed me and hung on for 60 years,” he said.

Marlene became ill with Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2002. Cook was her caregiver during her illness.

In addition to Sue Ellerbe, the daughter born during the war, and Dwight, the son who served in Vietnam, Cook and Marlene had one more son, Larry, and two more daughters, Sharon Carmical and Gail Cook.

Larry is a former Lonoke County prosecutor and Gail, a retired school teacher, has moved into his home in Ward to look after him. “I’ve had a good life,” Cook said. “I don’t gripe about the hard parts. I have never done anything outstanding, and I don’t worry too much about the things I could have done differently.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils, Bears facing major tests

Leader sports editor

When the Sylvan Hills Bears host the Jacksonville Red Devils on Friday at Blackwood Field in Sherwood, the game will be between two teams in opposite roles from what most preseason predictions indicated. Sylvan Hills started several sophomores last year and for that reason, was expected to be better this season. Jacksonville, however, was thought to be a legitimate contender to knock Pulaski Academy off its perch and win the 5A Central Conference championship. That goal is still attainable, but not without significant improvement from how it has played so far this season.

Instead, it is Sylvan Hills (4-1, 2-0) that is emerging as a threat to the Bruins, while Jacksonville has struggled to a 2-3, 1-1 record so far.

Bears’ coach Jim Withrow doesn’t believe Jacksonville’s record is indicative of how dan gerous it can be. Factor in last season’s blowout win for the Red Devils, and the head Bear can’t imagine why his team would consider taking Jacksonville lightly.

“Jacksonville beat us pretty good last year,” said Withrow. “They also have a lot of those guys back, and whatever issues they were having early on, it looked like last week they resolved them.”

Jacksonville beat Little Rock McClellan 31-6 last week, debuting on its home field an altered version of the spread offense it ran the first few weeks. Instead of all the multiple four-and-five wide receiver sets and throwing the ball most downs, the Red Devils put sophomore running back Robert Knowlin at quarterback and ran the zone read option much of the time.

“The kid they put in to run the option was pretty good, and I tell you what, that No. 5 is scary,” Withrow said.

Number five for Jacksonville is junior tailback Lamont Gause, who had his best game of the season in last week’s win.

“He’s probably the best one of the bunch, but I’ll tell you something else. They’ve got a lot of guys that you’ve got to tackle,” Withrow said. “They killed us with big plays last year because we didn’t bring them down. You’ve got to tackle those guys or they’re going to go score. We have to tackle better than we did last year.”

Sylvan Hills held on for a 37-36 win over previously undefeated Mills last week. Withrow doesn’t think the game should have been that close, and believes mistakes in that game will have to be cleaned up against the Red Devils.

“Mills is pretty good, but they did score on an interception return and we set them up with a short field a couple of times and made it easier on them than it should have been,” Withrow said. “And Jacksonville, they’ve just got skill people all over the field that can hurt you. We’re getting better, but we’re still pretty young. A lot of them played last year as sophomores, but even this year they still make mistakes. But you can tell as they come along they understand things more and more.”

One of the players that has grown into his position is quarterback Tra Doss. He finished with 176 all-purpose yards last week and has averaged almost 200 yards rushing per game running the spread option. He’s also found a nice target emerging in wide receiver Nathan Thomas.

“Nathan, on his route, reading coverage, knowing when to break things off and when to go deep, he’s just doing some smart things,” Withrow said. “Him and Doss have been on the same page for the most part too.

Doss has been the starting quarterback since midway through last season. Withrow expected him to be better this year, but maybe not as good as he’s been.

“I knew when he was a ninth-grader he was good,” Withrow said. “He’s very intelligent on a lot of things, got a lot of smarts about him. So to that extent he hasn’t surprised me much. To another extent, the numbers he’s putting up are probably a little more than I expected. But hey, he’s absorbing everything we’re giving him. When you’ve got guys that go out there and do what you ask of them, they’ll be successful.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits must avoid a letdown

Leader sportswriter

With two conference wins already under its belt, Lonoke will look to go 3-0 in 4A-2 play Friday as the Jackrabbits hit the road for a week six showdown against the Southside Batesville Southerners.

Southside started the season 1-0 with a win over rival Cave City, but hasn’t won a game since. The Southerners (1-4, 0-2) run the Spread offense, the most popular offense of choice within the 4A-2 Conference, and even though the Jackrabbits (4-1, 2-0) run that offense and have seen plenty of plays from that formation from opposing teams, they haven’t seen a team that throws the ball as much as Southside.

“They’re going to be two and three wide all night,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of the Southerners’ offense. “I’d say they throw the ball about 90 percent of the time. They’ll throw deep. They’ll throw a lot of quick screens, and from what we saw on film they basically have about two running plays. So they’re really going to be airing it out a lot.”

Southside senior quarterback Drew Moss (6-4, 215) is a three-year starter at the position, and was the first player Bost mentioned when asked what players in particular his defense will need to account for at all times Friday.

“He’s got a great arm,” Bost said of Moss. “We’ve got to get pressure on him. From what we saw on film, teams that were able to get pressure on him were able to make him make some quick decisions. But if you give him time he can complete passes. He can put it on the money of you give him time.”

Bost said that on the defensive side of the ball, the Southerners will often line up in either a 3-5-3 or a 4-4, and like a couple of other teams Lonoke has seen this year, they like to blitz and move around a lot.

“They like to blitz a little bit and move around,” Bost said, “but the last couple of weeks we’ve played teams that blitz a lot. So we should be fine with their blitzes, but they’re going to be giving us some different looks.”

Other than Moss, the big strength for Southside is its 21 seniors, but even with that much veteran leadership on the team, the Southerners still lack experience on offense. Lonoke’s offense in last week’s big come-from-behind win at home against Newport made some costly turnovers.

With at least one publication picking Lonoke to win by as much as three touchdowns this week, Bost would like to see his team work on correcting those mistakes before next week’s road game against the conference favorite, No. 3 Dollarway.

“We knew Newport was going to bring a lot of blitzes and they did,” Bost said. “After watching film Friday night with the coaching staff, we made a lot of mistakes on the offensive line. When we watched film as a team (Sunday), we were able to slow it down and show the kids some mistakes they made.

“This is a good week to go back and make sure we get those corrected. The offensive line’s going to get on the sled and drive. We didn’t feel like we were really driving the defensive linemen very well. We were just kind of hitting and sliding off. So we’ve got some things we need to go back and work on.”

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

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers hit the road needlessly

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football team hits the road for its longest trip of the season, but that shouldn’t cause much concern for the class 7A, 5-0 Panthers. They travel to Mountain Home to take on the 0-5, class 6A Mountain Home Bombers in another conference mismatch that is the result of bad policy by the Arkansas High School Activities Association and its voting members.

Mountain Home submitted a proposal over the summer that both decreased disparity and travel time across the board for the upcoming two seasons, but it was rejected in favor of a new system that keeps the same basic conferences, but doesn’t count some of them as conference games.

So this Friday there is a mismatch even more sizable than the one Cabot played last week when it beat Marion 49-10, invoking the mercy rule at halftime and sidelining three Patriots, one of which was carted off on a stretcher and left the game in an ambulance.

Football, by its nature, is a dangerous sport, but the AHSAA staff, board of directors and voting members must ask themselves if a few of the injuries like that may not have been avoided if they weren’t pitting out-manned teams against larger schools on a weekly basis.

Mountain Home faces that possibility this week, and Cabot risks getting players injured in a game almost four hours away against a team that has little chance of winning.

Nonetheless, the game will be played, and Cabot coach Mike Malham doesn’t take any team lightly.

“You just have to stay focused and guard against a letdown,” Malham said. “We did that pretty well last week. Marion broke one big play on us so we know you can’t relax. Mountain Home has a really good quarterback so you have to be ready for him. They haven’t had any trouble moving the ball. They’ve had trouble stopping people, but they’ve moved it and scored pretty well all year. You let your focus fall off, turn that thing over a couple of times and you got yourself in a fight.”

Mountain Home coach Benjamin Mahan knows his team faces a huge uphill battle and will perhaps need Cabot to not be at its best, but his team doesn’t plan to come into the game defeated.

“Everybody of course is going to say, you know, it’s Cabot, you’re going to get beat and just get ready for next game,” said Mahan. “But what a great opportunity for our kids to show the kind of character they have. We’re coming in there to play hard and who knows, a missed block or two, they put the ball on the ground, we can be hanging right in there.”

The Bomber quarterback is Drake Walker and he has been responsible for most of Mountain Home’s offensive production this season. Mahan runs the spread with Walker making the zone read and keeping most of the time.

“The defense is going to get a challenge,” Malham said. “That quarterback is a threat and they really have nothing to lose. They can gamble all they want, do all kinds of crazy stuff and we have to be ready for anything. They haven’t slowed people down much on defense, but all it takes is a turnover here or there to change a ball game.”

Mountain Home hasn’t moved the ball on everyone its played. The offense has been much more efficient since conference began. The Bombers opened the season with a 47-0 loss to Rogers, then fell 44-7 to class 5A rival Harrison. Week three saw a 20-6 loss to Little Rock Parkview before opening league play with a 46-35 home loss to Marion. Last week the Bombers fell in the waning moments at Searcy 29-28.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe travels for big match

Leader sportswriter

Another game carrying strong playoff implications in the 5A East Conference will take place this week when Beebe travels to Wynne for a showdown with the 4-1 Yellowjackets on Friday.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Beebe (3-2, 2-0) made a huge statement last week by dominating Forrest City in a 37-20 victory. The Mustangs were ranked in the Top-10 and considered an early favorite to challenge for the East title, but a gritty defensive performance by the Badgers held the high-octane Mustangs to under 100 yards of offense.

The Yellowjackets, under third-year coach Chris Hill, swept the East last year with an unbeaten run in the regular season, eventually making their way to the 5A state semifinals with a roster of over 30 seniors.

With many of their playmakers from 2012 graduated in the spring, and Division I quarterback recruit Ross Trail transferring to Olive Branch, Miss., many thought this year would be a trying year of rebuilding for Wynne.

They thought wrong.

Wynne opened the season with a close 28-27 loss to 6A Marion, but since then has dominated its opponents 190-42 in the last four games, including a 35-0 shutout over Blytheville to open the East Conference schedule, and a 46-26 victory over Greene County Tech last week.

“They’re a very well coached football team,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “They’ve got tons of speed, good size. They’ve got two big offensive tackles. One of them is about 275, and the other is about 280. They move really well for big kids.

“Defensively, the ones who stand out for them are their linebackers, especially the middle linebacker. He’s really aggressive, and he’ll light you up if he gets an opportunity.

“It’s going to be another battle. It’s going to be a very physical football game. Hopefully we can play with them.”

There is plenty of young talent on the Wynne roster, including junior quarterback Zach Morris and sophomore running back Antonio Davis (5-7, 155). The Yellowjackets are speedy and undersized at the skill positions overall, but there is no shortage of size at the line. Sophomore Neal Logan weighs in at 245 pounds, junior Darrius Williams (6-3, 271) anchors one of the offensive tackle slots, while another tenth-grader, Rashawn Smith (6-0, 278) fills in the other tackle position, and also sees time on the defensive line.

“Coach Hill has done a great job,” Shannon said. “They graduated something like 26 seniors last year, and then they had two kids who rotated at quarterback for him last fall, and they both transferred out to different schools. They’ve never missed a beat. They’ve lost one game all year long. They’ve been beating everyone pretty soundly. Those kids understand how to win.”

When it came to noting standout performances on defense, Shannon gave a nod to the entire defensive unit, and also said the offensive line was the difference on the other side of the ball.

For a defense that struggled during the first two weeks of the season, the turnaround shown in the last three weeks has taken the Badgers from a team surrounded by question marks to legitimate league contenders.

“We felt like they had been playing a lot better,” Shannon said. “They were a lot more aggressive, more physical. Things had started clicking for them in the new stuff we had put in for them over the summer. We could see the confidence growing with our defense. To go out there and completely shut Forrest City down the way they did was a surprise to us too, but we felt all along we had a good defense. They’ve shown it, but they picked a really good time to come alive.”

The Forrest City victory was the biggest for the program in quite a while. Shannon has improved confidence in his team, but is also aware of the tasks that still lie ahead.

“It was huge,” Shannon said. “We haven’t had a signature win like that around here in a couple of years. So now our kids believe that we can go out and compete with anybody. It was big from that standpoint, and hopefully it carries over. From a coach’s standpoint, you worry about your kids getting the big head and things like that, but we talked long and hard yesterday about how this is just one win. We’ve got several games left.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot sends six to state tournament

Leader sports editor

The Panther tennis team qualified every girls player and the top boys’ doubles team for the second day of the 7A-Central Conference tournament on Monday at Burns Park, and followed that performance with all but two of those players qualifying for state on Tuesday.

Cabot didn’t produce any conference championships, but the six players that qualified for state is the most from Cabot in coach Mary Nash’s seven years as an assistant and head coach.

“This team has been really consistent and for this many to qualify for state is really great for us,” said Nash.

Charl Young and Sarah Antille qualified for the girls singles state tournament. Young finished fourth and Antille fifth. The top six finishers in each division move on to the state tournament in Rogers next week.

Young started the tournament as the four seed and defeated North Little Rock’s Morgan Seaton 6-0, 6-0. She moved on to face Fort Smith Northside’s Carolina Coleman, who had beaten Little Rock Central’s Mysti Kirkpatrick in the first round. Young won the opening set 6-4, then lost 5-7. In the deciding third set, Young took control, breaking Coleman’s serve twice en route to a 6-1 win in the set and a 2-1 victory in the match.

Young met top seeded Lindsey Pearce of Fort Smith Southside in the semifinals on Tuesday morning. Pearce had not dropped a single game up to that point, and continued that streak against Young, winning 6-0, 6-0.

“Her dad is a pro in Fort Smith and she spends a lot of time on the court,” Nash said of Pearce. “She’s the most powerful girl out here.”

Young’s loss dropped her to the third-place game on Tuesday afternoon. There she met second-seeded Becky Sherman of Little Rock Central. Sherman was upset in the semifinals by third-seeded Sarah Buckman of Mount St. Mary’s. Sherman, a sophomore, beat Young for the second time this year 6-0, 6-3.

Sherman also knocked Antille into the loser’s bracket in the second round. Antille beat Southside’s Lauren Willis 6-0, 6-1 to start the tournament before running into the super sophomore. Needing a win to qualify for state, Antille beat Alex Hug of Northside 6-2, 6-2 to move into the fifth-place game. There she defeated Conway’s Faith Guidry in three sets, gaining momentum as the match played out. She won by scores of 3-6, 6-4 and 6-1.

Kristen Sumler and Molly Wood won their first two matches on Monday to advance to the semifinals. The senior duo beat Meagan Langley and Brooke Humbert of Conway 6-0, 6-1 in the first round. They lost the first set of the second round to Little Rock Central’s Anikita and Nikita Das, but came back to win the next two in exciting fashion. Scores in the match were 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Things didn’t go as well on Tuesday. Sumler and Wood opened play with a 7-6, 6-1 loss to Southside’s Kayley Edwards and Gracie Harris. In the third-place game, the Cabot seniors dropped one service game in each of the first two sets to lose 6-3, 6-4 to earn a four seed in the state tournament.

The boys duo of Jacob Dills and Turner Bankston opened play with a 7-5, 6-2 win over the Catholic team of Joseph Wren and Kyle Parham. They lost a close second-round match 6-3, 7-6 to Northside’s Will Hartle and Morris Rajsumbath. Dills and Bankston were on the brink of elimination and their seasons end when they dropped the first set 2-6 to Central’s Le’Derrion Ledbetter and Garrett Bethel. But the Panthers battled back to eek out wins of 6-4 and 7-5 in the next two games to qualify for state.

They found themselves in a tough match in the fifth-place game as well against Northside’s Robbie Kiss and Stuart Mose. The Bears won by scores of 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

The Cabot girls doubles team of juniors Tori and Lexi Weeks won their first match 7-6, 6-2 over Claire Stovall and Cara Shipley of Southside, but lost their next two and failed to make it to state.

“They’re juniors so they’ve got another year to get in,” Nash said of the Weeks sisters. “It’s really good that our senior team got in though. I’m very proud of how they’ve improved since joining the team.”

EDITORIAL >> LRAFB gets civilians back

Little Rock Air Force Base is beginning to return to normal after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel bypassed congressional dysfunction and recalled 350,000 civilian employees who had been furloughed because of the federal government’s shutdown.

Our local military officials were clear about the effect the furloughs were having on the base. About 350 civilian employees — just over half the civilians who work on base — were sent home without pay last week. There’s no sign Congress is ready to end its theatrical shutdown.

Col. Patrick Rhatigan, the commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, told The Leader last week, “It feels like a ghost town. 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.

Maj. Matt Snead, who is the Arkansas National Guard’s public affairs spokesman, told us the military will be less prepared for war and other missions because of the furloughs. “Darn right it affects readiness,” Snead said. The Guard even had to ground Blackhawk and Lakota helicopters. “They are locked up,” Snead said, because maintenance workers for those helicopters have been furloughed.

Rhatigan’s exasperation was also clear. “Right now, I have a crisis to deal with,” the commander said. “We have civilians furloughed. Anything people can do to help is appreciated.”

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. He pleaded with the community to lend a hand to his airmen and their civilian teammates.

“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. It’s breaking trust with the people who signed up voluntarily to serve their country,” Rhatigan said.

“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,” he continued.

Congress should stop playing games with Little Rock Air Force Base and with our government’s operations. If they dislike the Affordable Care Act, they should work to improve it rather than demanding that it be postponed or abolished. The government shutdown is perhaps the most ideological, partisan and economically hazardous of any tactic to oppose a single policy initiative in our nation’s history.

Americans want to see a functional Congress more than they want to obstruct Obamacare.

TOP STORY >> Chuckwagon dishing out vittles

Leader staff writer

Some men anticipate more time for fishing after they retire, but Johnny Kee from the Beebe area has found a different way to fill his time.

He cooks almost every day in his kitchen, but can frequently be found cooking at festivals, birthday parties and weddings from a wagon he restored and equipped with a box and all the period utensils needed to turn it into a chuckwagon — like those that made the long cattle drives from Texas ranches to railheads in Kansas between 1866 and 1886.

On the last weekend in September, Kee and his team won a cook-off in Mountain View, where he heated up his cast iron pots and made beans, peach cobbler, sourdough bread and chicken-fried steaks from a surprise box of ingredients supplied by the local chamber of commerce, which sponsored the event.

The box contained butter, flour and cornmeal in addition to the meat and fruit, Kee said. But the 20-year-old sourdough starter he feeds and keeps in a crockery jar to make his bread is just standard equipment on his wagon.

The team’s first place win at Mountain View included high scores for the quality of the food, the cooks’ authentic dress and the period-accuracy of Kee’s restored chuckwagon. First place came with a $1,600 purse, which he split with team members Chris Warlow of Carlisle, Roger Start of Hardy and Chris Pfeifer of Jonesboro.

He was also given $200 travel money just for bringing his wagon to the event. But you only have to talk to Kee to know it’s not the money he’s after.

His chuckwagon has been completed for five years, but Kee’s love of the old West and attention to historic accuracy started years earlier.

Now 66, Kee grew his signature, handlebar mustache while he was still in his 40s and showing horses for recreation. “It was just part of the look,” he said.

At some point, Kee replaced the horses with oxen that he trained to pull the antique farm equipment he collects.

“I had the oxen and I wanted a wagon for them to pull,” he said. “So I built the wagon. That took about three years. Then I decided it would be neat to have a chuck box so I built that and went to a friend’s house to make lunch with it. From there, (the competitive cooking) just evolved.”

The wagon was little more than a pattern when he bought it, Kee said. But there was enough wood and metal left to tell what the new parts should look like and how they should fit together.

Like the cooking that he learned from his mother at his childhood home in Hazen, Kee said, he has always known how to work with wood. But he learned blacksmithing from a 91-year-old man in Cleburne County who was willing to pass along what he knew.

All three skills contributed to his win in Mountain View.

“I like creating something whether it’s out of flour or wood,” he said. “And, of course, all this is a lost art. But it’s part of our heritage, and we need to keep it out there or our kids won’t know where they came from.”

The invention of the chuckwagon is attributed to Texas rancher Charles Goodnight, who added a chuck, or food, box to the back of an army wagon so the cook on his cattle drives would have the essentials for feeding his crew.

Although the box of supplies Kee and his crew worked with in Mountain View included tenderized steaks, which he rolled in flour with a little cornmeal added to improve the crunch, Kee said he learned through research that beef was not usually consumed on cattle drives.

“The actual cowboys on the trail ate a lot of wild turkey and antelope,” he said. “And, if they crossed a river, they might kill a wild pig. They didn’t eat a lot of beef because beef was what they were taking to market.”

The Mountain View cook-off was sanctioned by the American Chuckwagon Associ-ation. Kee is among the 350 or so members of the association who participate in cook-offs across the country and educate the public about the history of the chuckwagon.

It’s talking to the public at the cook-offs that he likes most, Kee said. Some people stand around and watch the entire process, from building the fires to filling the plates.

And, without fail, someone will ask about the cowhide that hangs underneath the wagon. “What’s that hide under there for?” Kee said they ask. And he gets to tell them it’s called a possum pouch, that it’s there because wood is scarce on the prairie and the cattle drive cooks had to gather wood when they crossed creeks.

They also picked up buffalo chips along the trail that could also be used to build cooking fires, he added.

TOP STORY >> Titan disaster anniversary book’s centerpiece

 Retired Air Force Maj. Vince Maes, formerly with the 308th Strategic Missile Wing, in front of a Titan II Missile warhead, which had a yield of nine megatons and is displayed at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.

The 308th Strategic Missile Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base was assigned 18 Titan II missiles in north-central Arkansas. The missile shown at the top left blew up Sept. 18, 1980, in a silo near Damascus, Van Buren County.

Leader editor

Eric Schlosser’s “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident and the Illusion of Safety” (Penguin Press, $36) is a well-researched and an incredibly detailed account of the dozens of nuclear accidents in the U.S. over the past 50 years — especially involving the Titan II missiles, whose dirt-covered silos remind us of a more dangerous time.

The book is published to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of the Damascus disaster on Sept. 18-19, 1980. Around 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18, an airman from Little Rock Air Force Base dropped a nine-pound socket down the silo, hitting the Titan’s fuel tank, which caused an enormous explosion early the next morning that could have blown Arkansas off the map.

Schlosser’s cinematic ac-count of the disaster reads like the script for an action movie (Schlosser is Robert Redford’s son-in-law) and holds you in suspense even if you know the outcome. The warhead, amazingly, didn’t go off.

The book is a tribute to the heroic airmen and their commanders who tried to prevent the explosion, evacuated their comrades as thousands of pounds of concrete flew around them and warned nearby residents to flee the area.

Although the accident near Damascus — missile site 374-7 a couple of miles west of Hwy. 65 — is the main focus of Schlosser’s book, a deadlier explosion in August 1965 north of Searcy killed 53 workers, most of them civilians, who were converting the silo from a Titan I to a Titan II complex. Fortunately, there was no warhead in that silo, but there were plenty of nuclear weapons in other explosions.

Nearly a third of the nation’s Titans were installed in Arkansas starting in the mid-1960s and deactivated in the 1980s. The 18 Titan II nuclear silos across north-central Arkansas held the largest intercontinental ballistic-missiles ever built in the U.S.

Young Ray Benton, now The Leader’s sports editor, watched the trucks hauling the missiles on Hwy. 31 North in White County. He waved at the long caravan of trucks and military vehicles, hoping they would honk their horns, which they usually did.

The missiles were 10 feet in diameter and 103 feet tall, or about 10 stories high, and weighed 150 tons.

With their nine-megaton warheads, they packed three times the explosive force of all the bombs dropped during the Second World War, including the two atomic bombs dropped over Japan.

The public had very little idea just how many nuclear weapons were kept in Arkansas or how powerful they were. The silos dotted the countryside in Cleburne, Conway, Craighead, Faulkner, Van Buren and White counties, all within 60 miles of Little Rock Air Force Base, whose 308th Strategic Missile Wing maintained the missiles for 20 years.

The missiles, which could reach Moscow in 30 minutes, were kept underground near Antioch, Bald Knob, Damascus, Heber Springs, Judsonia, Mountain View, Plumerville, Republican, Rose Bud, Springhill, Velvet Ridge and Wonder View. (The book could use a few maps. A map at the Jacksonville Museum of Military Museum shows an arc of missiles spread out from west of Morrilton up to Greers Ferry Lake and down to the Beebe area, with the air base at bottom center. See above.)

The Titans were brought here at the behest of Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.), the once powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who made certain his district received most of the 18 missiles.

Many of them were near urban areas like Little Rock, Jacksonville, Conway and Searcy (near Mills’ hometown of Kensett). Other intercontinental missiles, like the Minuteman, were kept in even more rural states than Arkansas, like South Dakota and Wyoming, reducing risks to local residents. Mills is a good example of why politicians shouldn’t meddle in defense policies.

The Titan II exploded after Senior Airman David Powell, doing routine maintenance, dropped a socket between a gap in a platform where he was working with another airman.

The socket fell 70 feet and pierced the fuel tank, which leaked for several hours after the crew was evacuated.

The crew was evacuated, but others went back in, using a crowbar to open the heavy steel door to the silo.

Senior Airman David Livingston and Sgt. Jeff Kennedy were back in the silo just before 3 a.m. They could barely see inside. The fuel-vapors were way too high, and one of the airmen turned on a fan to contain the fumes. They were told to evacuate.

Despite the efforts of the young airmen to stop the leak, an enormous explosion sent the missile and its warhead hundreds of feet into the air. But, thanks to safety features, the warhead didn’t explode. A nuclear detonation would have wiped out much of Arkansas.

Schlosser has interviewed dozens of airmen and officers from Little Rock Air Force Base who did not flee the explosion but tried to control the leak before the silo blew up.

All their names are here: Capt. Michael Mazzaro, the missile crew commander. Lt. Allen D. Childers, the deputy commander.

Col. James L. Morris, the head of maintenance at the 308th Strategic Missile Wing, who carried the wounded on his back.

Col. Jimmie Gray, the only person left at the site, who found the warhead in a ditch 200 yards from the silo after it was blown 1,000 feet into the air through the fireball.

Kennedy was the best missile mechanic at Little Rock Air Force Base. Staff Sgt. Rodney Holder, a ballistic missile systems analyst technician.

Livingston, 22, who was the last person to leave the silo, was badly injured in the blast, but he died from gas poisoning at Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock.

There were many more heroes that night, when the sky over Damascus lit up around 3 a.m. Sept. 19 like an early-morning sunrise.

Witnesses who saw the missile silo explosion off Hwy. 65 recalled seeing “a bright flash, the flames shooting upward like a Roman candle,” according to Schlosser.

Witnesses saw “a little sparkly thing fly out of the fire, soar above it briefly and fall to the ground.” It was the warhead, which was blasted into the air and landed near the access road off the highway.

The bombs were programmed to keep from blowing up if they were not properly fired. It’s as if they knew they were not supposed to go off in an accident.

But Schlosser’s theme is that one day our luck will run out and a bomb or missile will explode when we don’t mean to set it off.

Although there were doubts about the Titans’ safety and reliability, the Damascus disaster helped convince defense officials to scrap the missiles, whose dangerous liquid propellants were prone to explode.

The missiles, which often leaked fumes, were considered outdated, dangerous and inaccurate even back in the 1970s, and President Reagan moved to get rid of them as part of our disarmament program with the Soviets.

Henry Kissinger, who appears to be a key source in Schlosser’s book, wanted to dump them when he was Richard Nixon’s national-security adviser.

“Command and Control” should be required reading at the Air Force Academy and wherever service members are taught military history. Every sentence in this well-written book has something new and important to say. Schlosser’s book reminds you of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage — exhibiting grace under pressure — and should inspire other service members in similar circumstances.

Schlosser was recently at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, discussing the numerous disasters, close calls and screwups involving nuclear weapons he had discovered during his research. Besides the accident at Damascus, bombs fell out of airplanes, almost caught fire, disappeared from an air base for 36 hours and wound up in the wrong hands.

Skip Rutherford, the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock and former aide to Sen. David Pryor, introduced Schlosser. Rutherford and Pryor knew a lot about the Titan II because airmen had complained to them about leaks in the silos.

Rutherford said the Titan disaster was “the scariest night of my life.”

The night of the explosion, Pryor and Rutherford were attending the state Democratic convention in Hot Springs, along with Vice President Walter Mondale, Gov. Bill Clinton and Rep. Bill Alexander. The Pentagon would not confirm whether a nuclear bomb was involved in the accident. Even Mondale didn’t know the truth until he called Defense Secretary Harold Brown, who reluctantly gave him the bad news.

Much of Arkansas, including its young governor and his family, would have been destroyed if the warhead had exploded with the missile. There would have been no Clinton presidency or presidential library and school of public service.

“The state would have been consumed by a huge fireball,” Schlosser said. “A large part of the state would have been uninhabitable for many years.”

“It’s truly miraculous more people weren’t hurt,” he said.

What’s also miraculous is how he tells the story of scores of heroes at the missile complex that night. Schlosser honors the valor of those who gave their lives at Damascus, Rock, Kan., and elsewhere who tried to protect the nation from accidental nuclear explosions. The many disasters he writes about could have turned into nuclear catastrophes if the warheads had detonated. That they did not is a tribute to American ingenuity that prevented accidental explosions through a complex series of safety mechanisms.

Schlosser wants to remind us “how close we’ve come to nuclear disaster,” when the world’s superpowers aimed 15,000 missiles at each other. The U.S. and the Russians now possess about one-fourth as many missiles thanks to disarmament negotiations that have reduced tensions between the two countries. Missile complexes were expensive and helped bankrupt the Soviet Union.

“We grew up in fear of nuclear war,” Schlosser said, “yet we could have created our own nuclear nightmare with atomic bombs that could have exploded in all too many accidents.

“I can’t imagine our good fortune will last,” he warned.

School children who grew up during the early years of the Cold War were taught to hide under their desks in case of a Soviet nuclear attack. But Schlosser’s book is not about Soviet bombs falling on our nation’s cities: What he’s writing about is the nuclear accidents at home that could turn into infernos.

The bombs never detonated, thanks to American ingenuity, but what worries Schlosser is that one day one will go off because of carelessness. If not here, then in Pakistan or some other developing country.

In 2007, a crew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota mistakenly flew to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana with six cruise missiles and their nuclear warheads. The crew should have removed the warheads before the missiles were taken from their storage bunker. For 36 hours, nobody knew the missing missiles were mounted to the aircraft with no security precautions to prevent an accidental explosion.

The Damascus accident reminds us of the power of nuclear weapons and how they threaten not only our enemies but also those who live and work around them.

Seven years later, in August 1987, the nation’s last Titan silo was removed from Pangburn and the 308th Strategic Missile Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base was deactivated without incident. If you lived in Arkansas back then, read Schlosser’s majestic book in gratitude that we escaped the apocalypse.

TOP STORY >> Military gets civilians back

Leader senior staff writer

Sgt. Crystal Ashley, 29, one of 738 National Guardsman sent home a week ago when large parts of the federal government shut down, said Tuesday she’s happy to be back to work, but still concerned about pay, back pay and the future.

Among the state’s military, all 350 Little Rock Air Force Base civilian employees are back at the direction of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as are 733 of the 738 dual-status guardsmen at Camp Robinson. But still at home are the 294 employees furloughed from the Arkansas Military Department, according to Arkansas National Guard Spokesman Maj. Matt Snead. (See editorial, page 8A.)

When the government shut down, about half of the Defense Department’s civilian work force of 800,000 was ordered to stay home. Military personnel are automatically exempted from the shutdown.

Civilian employees were notified through their chain of command Sunday to return to work Monday, according to Arlo Taylor, a Little Rock Air Force Base spokesman who was among the 350 furloughed and was just returning to base. “They will be receiving back pay for the unpaid furlough days,” he said.

Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, said Tuesday, “We are very fortunate to have our civilian workers return to work. Having our civilians back has allowed us to reopen essential services that directly support our airmen and their families,” he said.

Rhatigan said the wing continues to perform operational and training missions, thanks to the dedicated airmen and returned civilian employees.

“As our Air Force Chief of Staff says, there’s only one Air Force in America, and we’re it. Our mission cannot fail, and we need every airman — active, Guard, Reserve, civilian and contractor — to make it happen,” he said.

Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, Arkansas Adjutant General, said, “While I am relieved we are putting most of our technicians back to work, I am deeply concerned about the continued financial and emotional impact on employees of the Arkansas Military Department. All our employees are critical to the mission of the Guard. We will not be back at 100 percent until the government shutdown ends and we are back to business as usual.”

Ashley, the mother of three children, ages 10 months, 8 and 10 years old, said the uncertainty is stressful.

“It was devastating,” she said of the layoff. “You wonder when you’re going to get paid next. Your pay check is pulled out from under you and you wonder how you’re going to feed your children.” Even though she was home and didn’t need daycare, Ashley had to pay anyway so she wouldn’t lose her spot.

A Beebe resident, she has been in the Guard and loves it. Ashley is a supply technician and manages the barracks.

“There’s still 10,000 soldiers in limbo about (monthly) drill. That affects our readiness.” She said she is also was concerned about the state Military Department employees who have not been called back to work.

“We depend on them a lot,” Ashley said.

Lost wages to federal Guard employees in Arkansas are $558,000 to date and another $220,000 to state Military Department employees.

Snead said, the situation is “changing by the hour,” but everyone’s intention is that the 738 dual-status guardsmen will be paid Oct. 11 for the Sept. 22-Oct. 5 pay period. They may not get pay for the time they were furloughed — at least not now.

“Here’s what people have to understand,” Snead said. “It’s not back to business as usual. We still have 294 not on the job.”

He said a lot of them were maintainers who work on the Guard’s vehicles and aircraft. There is no money for fuel, parts, rations or ammunition for training.

Money for utilities could be a problem, and a drill has been called off, at least for October.

“We’re going to hit a point when we can no longer keep the lights on in the facilities,” Snead said. “The fuel in the tanks of our vehicles and aircraft we not be replenished.”

He said fuel and parts are thought to be sufficient for 30 days.

It’s a problem for pilots, who must maintain flight hours or lose their night-flying rating.

“That degrades our readiness,” Snead said.

Morale is hurting, he added.

With the 294 still furloughed, there is so much uncertainty. “They want to be able to plan, to know what to do to take care of their families,” Snead said.