Saturday, October 19, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Second-half rally lifts Bison to win

Leader sportswriter

A big second half lifted Carlisle to a 40-12 blowout victory at archrival Hazen on Friday – a win that puts the Bison in good position to win the 2A-6 Conference title outright for the first time since 2011.

The Bison (7-0, 4-0) turned the ball over on their first offensive play of the game and the Hornets (5-2, 3-1) covered it at the Carlisle 23-yard line. Hazen, however, was stuffed on four-straight plays to give the ball back to Carlisle, and the Bison made the home team pay.

Carlisle answered with a punishing 19-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Bo Weddle on fourth down with 10:24 to play in the second quarter. Fellow senior back Justice Bryant ran in the two-point conversion to give the visiting Bison an 8-0 lead.

Hazen’s offense turned the ball over on downs for the second-straight possession, and Carlisle scored again on a 1-yard run on third and goal by Bryant that put the Bison up 14-0.

The PAT try was no good, and senior quarterback/safety Austin Reed went down during the play with a knee injury, and was helped to the locker room with 3:32 to play in the half.

Hazen threatened to score on the next possession, but the Bison defense forced another Hornet turnover, this time on a fumble by leading rusher Trenton Mosby.

Carlisle covered the fumble at its own 8-yard line, but was forced to punt with a little more than a minute to play in the half. Reed, who is also the Bison deep snapper on punts, was missed on the play as the snap lacked the velocity necessary to allow a timely punt.

Hazen blocked the punt as a result, and ended up with the ball at the Bison 6-yard line. Three-plays later, Lucas Tenison punched in a 2-yard touchdown run as time expired to make the score 14-6 Carlisle at the break.

The momentum appeared to be favoring Hazen entering the second half, but Weddle returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for another Carlisle touchdown, and Reed played quarterback throughout the second half despite the nagging knee injury.

“We come out there and we think we lost our quarterback,” said Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree, “and in the locker room, the first thing (Reed) says when he looks at me is ‘coach, I’m playing the second half.’

“So, emotionally, giving up that big punt block and the score, which takes all the momentum away from us – he just gave it all back to us, because we knew we could count on him. It was huge for us just have him to be able to come out and snap the ball for us, and do the little things.”

Hazen cut the scoring margin down to 20-12 with 4:33 to play in the third quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gage Johnson to Brenon Williams, but it would be final time the Hornets found the end zone.

DeRon Ricks, the other senior standout Bison running back, had a monster second half and scored the first of his two second-half touchdowns on a 10-yard run with 7:38 to play in the fourth quarter that gave Carlisle a 26-12 lead.

Carlisle scored on its next two possessions to set the final score.

Ricks scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run with 5:57 to play that put Hazen in a 34-12 hole, and with 3:33 to play, Bryant scored on a 67-yard run to make it 40-12.

“They played their tails off,” Barbaree said. “It was unbelievable how our defense played. DeRon Ricks and our offensive line controlled the third and fourth quarter, getting off the ball, and they just kept pushing and kept fighting.”

Carlisle’s offense outgained Hazen’s 351 to 238. Ricks led the Bison rushing attack with 17 carries for 157 yards and two scores. Weddle had just two carries in the second half, but finished with 16 carries for 40 yards and one touchdown, while Bryant totaled 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns on seven carries.

The Bison will have a much easier matchup in week eight as they host winless Marvell (0-7, 0-4). Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils shut out North Pulaski

Special to The Leader

Crosstown rivals squared off Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium as host Jacksonville tried to keep its playoff hopes alive and injury-hampered North Pulaski tried to pick up its first win of the season. The Red Devils were the team to prevail, dominating the scoring in the first half to end up with a 36-0 victory in front of a homecoming crowd.

Jacksonville (3-4, 2-2) had a total of 359 yards of offense, 221 yards of that in the first half. North Pulaski (0-7, 0-4) had 141 yards of total offense.

“I thought it was a good game. We’ve got to clean up some penalties on the offensive side,” said Jacksonville head coach Rick Russell. “I’d feel a little better about it if we didn’t have as many penalties on offense, but the kids came out and played hard. They were focused and they executed.”

The Falcons moved the ball better than in recent weeks, but ran into various problems that prohibited them from establishing any kind of consistent momentum.

“We were trying to move the football and trying to keep them off the field,” said North Pulaski head coach Teodis Ingram. “We are so beat up and have lost so many starters to injury when I thought we were starting to turn the corner. We’ll keep going.”

North Pulaski had the first possession of the game and started from its own 35-yard line. Kalise Vines picked up a first down to the 49. Vines and Falcon quarterback Michael Barnes carried the ball to the Jacksonville 43-yard line, but when faced with a fourth and 2, the Falcons could not convert.

When the Red Devils took over on downs, Robert Knowlin ran for a first down to the North Pulaski 46-yard line. Lamont Gause followed with a first down to the 25. The drive ended when the Falcons’ David Jackson recovered a Red Devil fumble and returned it to the North Pulaski 37-yard line.

The Falcons returned the favor and fumbled, giving Jacksonville the ball on the North Pulaski 40-yard line. Gause moved the chains to the 26, but then the Red Devils’ offense went backwards until fourth and 12, when quarterback Reggie Barnes kept the ball and carried it to the 14-yard line for the first down.

Reggie Barnes then hit Robert Harris for the touchdown catch and the first score of the game. Jesper Wellshaupt added the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Jacksonville’s defense held the Falcons to a three and out, then blocked the punt that ensued. Justin Abbott picked the ball up and took it in for the touchdown. Wellshaupt’s extra point was good for a 14-0 Red Devil lead with 2:49 to go in the first quarter.

North Pulaski started the next possession on its 20-yard line. Vines, Michael Barnes and a 15-yard penalty moved the ball to midfield. However, on the first play of the second quarter, the Falcons fumbled again and Jacob Price recovered for Jacksonville on the North Pulaski 48-yard line.

The Red Devils could not take advantage of the turnover, and the teams exchanged punts.

It was all Gause when Jacksonville got the ball on its 33-yard line. His first down run to the 44-yard line was followed by a pick up of 9 yards. Then on third down, Gause broke free from the North Pulaski 45-yard line and ran the ball into the end zone for the score. John Herrmann added the point after for a 21-0 Red Devil advantage.

After Jacksonville forced another Falcon punt, it was Damon Thomas carrying the ball for the Red Devils’ first down at the North Pulaski 42-yard line. Reggie Barnes connected with Harris for another first down to the 25. Jacksonville moved the chains again, and Reggie Barnes carried on a keeper to the 6.

A holding call moved the ball back to the 15-yard line where it was second and 10 with five seconds remaining in the half. Reggie Barnes’ pass fell incomplete, but a pass-interference call gave the Red Devils another shot at the end zone. Taking advantage, Reggie Barnes completed a pass to Harris with no time on the clock for the touchdown. Herrmann’s extra-point try was no good, leaving the halftime score at 27-0.

Jacksonville scored on the first possession of the second half when Reggie Barnes completed a touchdown pass to KaJahn Daniels with 9:53 left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion was no good, and the lead was now 33-0.

The final score of the game came on the Red Devils’ ensuing drive. Thomas ran for a first down, and Reggie Barnes completed to Devin James for a first down to the Falcon 39.

On third and 13, Reggie Barnes completed a pass to Harris for an apparent touchdown, but the third penalty of the drive brought the ball back to the 17-yard line. On fourth and 6, Wellshaupt was successful on a 29-yard field goal attempt for the final margin of 36-0.

Jacksonville will travel to face LR Christian next week, while North Pulaski will be at home against West Helena.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers win big, display Royalty

Leader sportswriter

Homecoming 2013 was filled with all kinds of tradition for Beebe as the Badgers controlled the clock and the line of scrimmage in a decisive 35-12 victory over Blytheville at Bro Erwin Stadium on Friday to keep themselves alive in the fight for a playoff seed out of the 5A East Conference.

The Badgers (4-3, 3-1) also turned in a dominant performance on defense, led by bruising senior lineman Daniel Gann, who gave Chickasaw quarterback Terry Northern plenty of icepack-worthy moments in the second half. Blytheville took advantage of a short field near the end of the first half, and put up a last-minute score in the fourth quarter that cleaned up the scoreboard somewhat, but the rest was all Beebe.

Offensively, Beebe moved the ball methodically throughout most of the contest, though sophomore running backs Trip Smith and Ethan Franks broke through for long scoring runs that accounted for two of the Badgers’ scores.

“We knew they were down a little bit coming into the game,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “But they played us tough defensively. They didn’t give us anything big. We had to earn everything we got. I thought the kids bounced back real well from last week over at Wynne, and we knew this was going to be a big game for us.”

Blytheville’s offensive numbers told the story of Beebe’s defensive dominance. The Chickasaws (1-6, 0-4) finished with 106 yards of total offense, including 32 yards at the end of the first half. Of their 37 plays from scrimmage, 12 resulted in negative yardage.

There were several factors that prevented Blytheville from maintaining any kind of consistency on offense, namely penalties, turnovers and Gann. Gann sacked Northern for an 11-yard loss late in the third quarter to give the Chicks a third and 26 at the 50-yard line to essentially kill a promising drive, and brought him down for another loss early in the third to cause a fumble at the Blytheville 10. That brought up a fourth-and-23 situation for the Chickasaws.

“He’s been a three-year starter,” Shannon said. “He’s been solid for us. He’s not the biggest kid in the world on the defensive line, but he can do a lot of things other kids can’t do with his body.”

The Badgers made their way to the Blytheville 11-yard line on their first possession before turning the ball over on downs. The Chickasaws gave it right back when Northern’s completed pass to Caleb Brown ended up a fumble, which junior Colton Gibbs recovered for Beebe.

They did not miss the next opportunity, going 37 yards in six plays, ending with a 16-yard touchdown run by Smith at the 1:08 mark of the first quarter. Tyler Jones added the extra point to give Beebe a 7-0 lead.

Smith put the Badgers up 14-0 with a 5-yard scoring run with 3:52 remaining in the first half, and scored again from a yard out with 1:18 left to play in the first half. In all, Smith carried 30 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Beebe had 330 yards of total offense.

“I told him back in the summer to get ready to carry the ball 30 times a game,” Shannon said. “I think he thought I was kidding, but I think he’s about to realize we’re going to give it to him 30 times a game if we can. He turned in another great performance tonight.”

The Badgers also established the pace to start the second half, taking the opening possession 48 yards in 11 plays, ending with a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Jessie Glover to give Beebe a 28-6 lead. Franks added Beebe’s last score with 5:24 remaining when he broke free up the middle and went 45 yards untouched to put the Badgers up 35-6.

“You worry about homecoming, and all the distractions that go on all week long,” Shannon said. “But we talked starting on Sunday about the ballgame being the most important thing, and I thought the kids handled it really well. I thought we had a great week of practice, I thought we came back and focused after what happened last week over at Wynne, and I think it carried over into tonight.”

Beebe will travel to Greene County Tech next week.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot fights for victory over Central

Leader sports editor

Yards weren’t as easy to come by as they’ve been in recent games, but the Cabot Panthers found a way to get another victory, beating Little Rock Central 35-20 in a hard-fought matchup Friday at Panther Stadium.

Cabot scored on a safety and a fake punt, committed two turnovers, but also forced two in an entertaining high school football game.

Both teams made costly mistakes on offense. Cabot lost two fumbles in the third quarter inside the Central 2-yard line. Central threw two interceptions that each led to Cabot scores.

Cabot won the yardage margin by just 30 yards and struggled to contain Central quarterback Cooper Westbrook.

The Panthers picked up 363 total yards with 344 coming on the ground. The Tigers gained 333 yards and got 259 of that through the air.

“They’ve got talent,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “They’ve got talent all over the field. Their skill people are dangerous. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times, fumbling the ball away going in, but the defense stepped up again and played pretty well.”

Cabot (7-0, 4-0) took an 18-7 lead into halftime and neither team scored in the third quarter, but the fourth quarter featured four touchdowns, two by each team.

Cabot got the ball to start the second half and drove to the Central 11-yard line where it faced third and 2. Fullback Zach Launius got the call and picked up 5 yards before taking a hard hit that popped the ball into the air. Central’s Jermaine Johnson caught and ran it back out to the 13-yard line. Central then faced fourth and 1 at the 22, went for it and was stuffed by the Panther defense. But after getting to the 8-yard line, a bad option pitch careened off halfback Chris Henry’s knee and was covered by the Tigers.

Central (4-3, 2-1) drove to midfield, but on third and 2, Cabot defensive tackle Aaron Henry forced Westbrook out of the pocket and hurried his throw. Defensive end Brian Marshall made the interception and returned it 20 yards to the Tiger 31.

This time there was no fumble, and the Panthers scored in six plays. Launius got the last 5 on first down and Trevor Reed’s extra point made it 25-7 with 9:54 left in the game.

“Even with an 18, 19-point lead, you can’t relax against this team,” Malham said. “They’ve got too many weapons.”

Central displayed those weapons on its next drive. Four different receivers caught passes and tailback Logan Moragne carried twice for 13 yards. The drive almost stalled at the 12 when Marshall forced a bad throw that cornerback Colby Ferguson knocked down in the end zone. That set up fourth down, but Westbrook hit Tom Coulter on an inside wide-receiver screen and Coulter went untouched into the end zone. A failed two-point conversion left it 25-13 with 7:06 left in the game.

Cabot then made the play of the game. Facing fourth and 3 at the Central 42, Cabot lined up to punt, but snapped it to Launius, who was in the up back position. Launius easily got the first down, but cut to the right sideline, outran a few defenders to the corner, then broke two tackles for a 42-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the game.

Central added another score on a 68-yard drive that took just 93 seconds to make it 32-20.

Cabot took over at the Central 49 after covering an onside kick. Launius got 13 yards in two plays, and the officials tacked on 15 more for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Tiger linebacker Caleb Gourley slammed Launius to the ground well after the whistle. That moved the ball to the 20-yard line with three seconds to play, and Malham called for the special teams unit to try a field goal. Reed’s attempt sailed just inside the left upright to set the final margin.

“That was just because of that 13-point rule,” Malham said. “I never would have done that but when you don’t have conferences, and you’re being matched up on points with teams from other conferences, you could get into a tie pretty easily. You only get credit for up to a 13-point win, so we had to get the points. And if it hadn’t been for that penalty at the end we wouldn’t have tried it.”

Cabot’s other interception came on the first play of the game. Jake Vaughn was in good position and made the catch on a pass slightly behind the intended receiver to set Cabot up at the Central 46. The Panthers gained 41 yards and kicked a 22-yard field goal to open the scoring.

Central started at its 20 and moved to midfield before back-to-back sacks by Brandon Allinder, with an assist by Tristan Bulice on the second one, forced the Tigers into fourth and 34.

Cabot took over on its 35 and drove 65 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 24-yard run by Henry on the counter for a 10-0 lead with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.

Central scored on its next drive, going 65 yards in 10 plays with Westbrook hitting tight end Alex Kincaid from 12 yards out to make it 10-7 with 9:59 left in the first half.

Cabot got two first downs on its next drive but was forced to punt from midfield. Keith Pledger’s punt landed at the 15 and rolled inside the one-foot line.

Cabot thought it had scored a defensive touchdown on the play when Westbrook’s attempted throwaway bounced off the back of Moragne’s lower leg, popped into the air where it was snagged by Vaughn. But the officials ruled that Westbrook had stepped out of the back of the end zone before the throw, giving Cabot a safety and a 12-7 lead.

The Panthers tacked on the final score of the second half on the ensuing possession, marching 52 yards in eight plays. A failed two-point conversion left it 18-7.

Westbrook completed 19 of 29 attempts for 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. McCarty led Central receivers with seven catches for 82 yards. Moragne finished with 118 offensive yards, picking up 27 on two catches and 91 on 22 carries.

Launius carried 34 times for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Preston Jones had 11 carries for 59 yards while Henry had six carries for 40 yards and a score.

The Panthers will host West Memphis next week. The Blue Devils beat Marion 42-13 on Friday. Central will face Mountain Home, 42-21 losers to Jonesboro.

EDITORIAL >> The crisis next time

Say this much for our congressional delegation: Although a couple of them supported the government shutdown and hinted at letting the federal government default on its debt, when Wednesday’s deadline approached, the entire delegation voted yes on ending the crisis — at least until early next year, when the parties will go at it again.

Until they switched sides Wednesday night, Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of the Second District and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton of the Fourth District, who are most closely identified with the Tea Party, seemed willing to continue the showdown indefinitely. But major donors warned them about the dangers of a default. That’s when Griffin and Cotton went along with the Democrats and 80 other Republicans, handing a victory to the Obama administration.

The state’s two other moderate Republican representatives, Rep. Rick Crawford of the First District and Rep. Steve Womack of the Third District, also voted to end the crisis, as did moderate Republican Sen. John Boozman.

Sen. Mark Pryor, the state’s lone Democrat in Washington who is facing a tough re-election battle with Cotton, may have improved his chances as he helped negotiate an end to the shutdown.

Republicans, conceding defeat in their fight to defund Obamacare, have suffered in the polls for shutting down the federal government for 16 days, which cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, shook confidence worldwide in America’s credit worthiness and even interrupted operations at Little Rock Air Force Base.

House Republicans, spurred on by the Tea Party’s all-or-nothing devotion to obstructing the Affordable Care Act, have been largely blamed by the public for playing politics with the nation’s economy.

Griffin ignored the advice of Karl Rove, his former boss, not to use a government shutdown to defund Obamacare. Instead, Griffin followed the lead of Sen. Rafael (Ted) Cruz of Texas, who seems to think our national debt is caused by the Affordable Care Act.

Yet when it was time for the Senate to vote on the national debt and ending the shutdown, Cruz decided not to filibuster again as he did last month. His friends in the Senate (there are a few of them), including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, deserted him. No wonder Tea Partiers are blaming Senate Republicans for their humiliating defeat this week.

The GOP civil war continues between the radical factions and cooler heads like Rove, known as Bush’s Brain for planning the policy platforms that helped to elect President George W. Bush by appealing to swing voters. Rove’s moderate long-term strategy has been to fight Obamacare another day and absolutely never default on the national debt.

With the Tea Party driving their agenda, Republicans should expect to have a hard time winning back the White House and the Senate. But the GOP’s more pragmatic wing is now reasserting its authority. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said there would be no more shutdowns as long as he is in the Senate. That is, if he wins his primary fight against a Tea Party candidate, who is fuming over a $1.2 billion dam project for Kentucky which McConnell slipped in during negotiations to end the shutdown and debt limit crisis.

The Tea Party isn’t going anywhere just yet.

TOP STORY >> Decision needed for cities to leave

Leader staff writer

Supporters of a new Jacksonville school district hope the attorney general will release an opinion in the next three or four weeks on the impact of the proposed detachment on the 1989 federal desegregation lawsuit.

Sherwood also wants to separate from the county district.

But Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has been tied up in settlement talks, explained Daniel Gray, a member of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps.

The attorney general recently made an offer after he rejected one from the Little Rock School District that included a seven-year phase-out plan and the state pay about $300 million over that time frame or in a lump sum.

McDaniel’s offer says the state could pay $69 million it’s supposed to pay the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School District for the 2013-14 school year plus another $49 million to be split among the three.

It also states the money won’t be considered local revenue and that the state’s obligation to support magnet schools as well as interdistrict transfers would end.

PCSSD would get $3.9 million on Jan. 1, April 1, July 1 and Sept. 1 for a total of $15.6 million in addition to what it is already supposed to receive for the 2013-14 school year.

Gray said the next step after the opinion is released is for the judge in the desegregation cases, Price Marshall, to authorize a local election on whether Jacksonville should break away from PCSSD. The state Education Department has already validated the city’s petition for the vote.

Gray hopes Marshall will speak about the effort during the desegregation hearing set for Dec. 9. Nov. 15 is the deadline to present any settlement to the Legislative Council for consideration before the December hearing.

Meanwhile, Sherwood also wants its own district. Supporters there are playing catch up.

State law requires that the Pulaski County Special School District have at least 15,000 students the year prior to a detachment and that any new district have at least 4,000.

PCSSD has a little more than 17,000. If one city breaks away first, the other won’t be able to. Sherwood and Jacksonville must detach at the same time for both to get what they want — local control over public education.

The recently formed 12-member Sherwood Public Education Foundation committee met last week, and a second meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at New Dora Baptist Church at 317 Jaminson St., which is behind Harris Elementary.

They need between $12,000 and $15,000 in donations to conduct a feasibility study showing the area has the tax base to support a school district, meet state student number requirements and that the racial makeup of the district would comply with federal desegregation rulings, committee co-chairwoman Beverly Williams said.

The study is an early step in the detachment process.

“We’ve got to get this going,” Williams added.

People can donate to the group via its website at Between $25,000 and $40,000 total is needed get everything, including the study, prepared, Williams said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Gray said he hadn’t spoken with the advocates for a Sherwood district.

He explained, “We have been focused on Jacksonville’s efforts.”

Jacksonville residents could vote on the detachment during the September 2014 school board election or the November 2014 general election.

Gray said, “Our goal is as soon as possible.”

While he didn’t call a combined Jacksonville and Sherwood District impossible, Gray seemed to think it unlikely. “That would be a whole different can of worms. That’s never been discussed. That’s not what we’re focusing on,” he said.

Jacksonville has purchased four feasibility studies during its 35-year effort. If Sherwood and Jacksonville joined forces, another would be needed, Gray noted.

Based on census numbers, Sherwood is the 14th largest city in Arkansas and the largest without a school district, supporters there say.

The boundaries of the proposed Sherwood School District are drawn at I-40 and I-440. The district would include basically everything north of the river that isn’t in the North Little Rock School District or the proposed Jacksonville district.

That includes McAlmont and the Runyan Acres area. They are not inside Sherwood city limits or the proposed boundaries for the Jacksonville district.

Information gleaned from the Jacksonville feasibility study shows that Sherwood can make it on its own, but the city can’t use the Jacksonville study.

Sherwood needs to have a professional — possibly Norman Hill, a retired superintendent — look at its specific educational and financial landscape.

But, Williams explained at the meeting Tuesday, that Jacksonville has a study helps because it shows supporters what information should be in a Sherwood study.

Sherwood’s schools — Cato Elementary, Oakbrooke Elementary, Sherwood Elementary, Sylvan Hills Elementary, Northwood Middle, Sylvan Hills Middle and Sylvan Hills High, and possibly Harris Elementary — have an enrollment close to 4,400.

A Sherwood district would be about 43 percent black, which is within the acceptable federal range for desegregation.

TOP STORY >> Pryor, military glad crisis ended

Leader senior staff writer

“I’m hoping it was a turning point,” said Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor on Thursday of the failed efforts in Congress to shut down the government, force the country to default on its debts or else to strip out funding for what is known as Obamacare.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party did succeed in shutting down portions of the federal government—including national parks, food inspection and parts of the military—for 16 days until Pryor helped broker a bipartisan compromise that funds the government through Jan. 15 and increases the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.

While 335 civilian employees at Little Rock Air Force Base were sent home for a week before Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called them back, the base is now back at full strength. (See editorial, p. 8A.)

With the compromise agreement signed by President Obama on Thursday morning, “This is what we’ve been anxiously awaiting,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “During the past 16 days, leaders at all levels strove to lessen the impact and uncertainty of this fiscal challenges on our Airmen and civilian personnel here.”

“Little Rock Air Force Base will remain responsible stewards of the resources entrusted to us by the American taxpayers,” said Rhatigan.

The National Guard has begun calling back 376 furloughed workers, most of whom were in the state Military Department.

“The past few weeks were hard on the Guard. We have a lot of healing to do,” said Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, the adjutant general for Arkansas, “However, I am inspired by our Guardsmen, civilian employees and communities who came together during this challenging time to get the job done.”

October drill was cancelled for about 10,000 Arkansas Guardsmen, lights were turned off in offices and fuel conserved. The Guard’s helicopters were locked up and maintenance deferred.

With the Tea Party forced to concede on the shutdown, Pryor stopped short of saying the shutdown may have been the peak of Tea Party power and influence.

He said the American public was frustrated by the gridlock on the budget and debt ceiling and that he was proud of the role he played in the bipartisan gang of 14 that helped craft the compromise that saved the day.

“We were able to do a lot of work, so (Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell)knew they had bipartisan support,” Pryor said.

“Out whole goal was to help the two leaders get to ‘yes,’” he said.

Before the shutdown, Pryor already was slated to speak on infrastructure to the Arkansas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers at the North Little Rock Wyndham Riverfront Hotel. He told them investments in infrastructure create jobs, calling the funding of infrastructure “an investment in the future.”

By way of contrast, he said that in July, his re-election opponent, Fourth Dist. Rep. Tom Cotton said, “The role of the federal government in infrastructure should be limited.”

Pryor praised John Burk-halter, who grew up in Sylvan Hills and is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, as a great public servant. He is former head of the state Economic Development Commission.

Burkhalter, a civil engineer himself, who just resigned from the state Highway Commission, was invited to speak when it seemed Pryor might be stuck in Washington. He told the assembly of engineers that he was inspired by Arkansas Democrats such as Pryor’s father David, the former governor and senator, Sen. Dale Bumpers and President Bill Clinton, and he said economic development was his top priority.

Pryor said for every dollar Arkansans pay in fuel tax to support highway projects, the state gets $1.40 back from the federal government, and that for every billion dollars spent on infrastructure, 34,000 jobs were created.

“Infrastructure is not possible if you don’t have functioning government,” he said.

“You saw what happened in Washington when a small group of Republicans in the House have been driving the train, and bragged for weeks that they were going to shut down the government—and they did so, for 16 days.

“They brought us to within a day of defaulting on our obligations. They hurt the U.S economy, cost the taxpayers billions of dollars and just completely wasted money. They came across as childish and petty.

“If they want to embarrass themselves, that’s fine, but they embarrassed America. They are sapping our confidence in our country and diminishing America’s prestige abroad.

“In the Senate, we were disgusted. There’s a real sense that that wasn’t going to happen again,” Pryor said.

Asked about the charge that Democrats weren’t willing to work with Republicans on crafting the Affordable Care Act, Pryor said, “That’s a hollow criticism. They were given every opportunity.” He said early on Republican Sen. Charles Grassley helped frame the law, but then dropped out.

He said the House was so dysfunctional that it couldn’t even get a bill to the floor on ending the shutdown stalemate.

TOP STORY >> Bus driver did right in hijacking

Leader staff writer

The driver of the Pinewood Elementary School bus hijacked by a Jacksonville man Thursday morning had recently completed training that included instruction on what to do in that situation.

The hijacker, Nicholas John Miller, 22, is in the Pulaski County Jail on a $338,165 bond. He pleaded not guilty in Jacksonville District Court on Friday.

There was a security camera on the bus, thanks to Pulaski County Special School District recently spending $500,000 to install cameras and GPS on all of its buses.

The district a few months ago also hired a director of safety and security — Mark Warner, a certified law-enforcement officer with 16 years of experience — and a second security coordinator.

“We’re extremely proud of our bus driver. She remained calm, engaged the hijacker and kept the kids calm…She kept him calm,” said Deb Roush, spokeswoman for the Pulaski County Special School District.

A recognition ceremony for the driver, 51-year-old Shelia Hart, is set for 1p.m. Wednesday at the bus depot on Redmond Road in Jacksonville. Roush said Hart was unavailable for an interview because she took some personal leave and probably wouldn’t return before Wednesday.

The mayor, city council and the woman who called 911 have been invited to the ceremony.

No one was hurt in the incident. Roush said that parents of the children on the bus were notified immediately. “It was handled very effectively with a positive end, which we are very thankful for,” she added.

Miller has been charged with felony vehicle piracy, 12 felony counts of kidnapping, two felony counts of aggravated assault, felony fleeing, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated-drugs and misdemeanor reckless driving.

Miller, armed with a knife, first tried to steal a car from a woman he saw at 1010 N. First St. in Jacksonville.

The woman, Karlena Lipari, told him she didn’t have a car. He said it would be in her “best interest” to give him her car, according to a police report. She repeated that she didn’t have one.

Lipari then saw four children about to get on the school bus at a regularly scheduled stop nearby. She kept them from boarding it, but Miller got on the bus.

He showed the knife to Hart, who has been taking kids to and from school for 20 years.

Miller told her to drive from the scene and Hart complied, according to the report. Later, he started driving the bus.

Lipari, the woman Miller had approached near the bus stop, called 911.

Jacksonville police caught up with the bus at the 3700 block of North First Street near Little Rock Air Force Base. At speeds around 40 mph, Miller was followed from there to Hwy. 367, John Harden Drive and Hwy. 5 in Cabot — where the 20-minute, nine-mile chase ended.

During the chase, the bus struck a guard rail support on Hwy. 367, ran a stop sign and ran a red light by turning left.

Cabot police put out a spike strip on Hwy. 5/Mountain Springs Road. Miller slowed down and veered off the road, coming to a stop, when he saw it.

He told police there were people after him, according to the report. He said hijacking the bus was only way for him to get away and save his life, it continued. He said he had not planned to hurt any of the 11 elementary-age children or the bus driver.

Roush, the spokeswoman for PCSSD, said the parents of the children on the bus met with a crisis team at the Jacksonville Police Department. The deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, a counselor and the principal were members of that team.

Not only were those affected by the hijacking contacted; all of the district’s parents received a notification about the incident.

The parents of the kids on the bus were called a second time after Miller was arrested to see if they or the children needed anything, including counseling, Roush said.

Pinewood Principal Melanie Churchill rode the bus Friday, Roush said. “She held their hands and got them on the bus.”

Parents have told the principal that they were glad to be informed of the hijacking, Roush added.

She said that it was too early to tell if the district would change anything about its safety and security procedures.

Roush said Jacksonville police told the district that the handling of the incident was excellent.

And this was not Miller’s first run-in with them.

He was arrested for the May 28 breaking and entering of a vehicle and theft of property. A Sherwood Police Department-issued $400 shotgun and $400 in cash were stolen. Fingerprints were found at the scene.

Miller wasn’t prosecuted for the theft charge but pleaded guilty, as part of a plea bargain, to the breaking and entering charge. He was sentenced to two years of probation that would have ended on Sept. 25, 2015.

Miller was arrested on Aug. 6 after a syringe with residue was found in his car during a traffic stop.

His most recent arrest was Oct. 8 for terroristic threatening and third-degree domestic assault. Miller’s wife said she went to pick up some money from him to help pay for diapers and food their son needed, according to the police report.

He took their son out of the car seat when she arrived, went inside his residence at 1000 Richard St. and began to change the baby’s diaper, she said.

His wife told police that his behavior was odd and she believed “he was high on methamphetamine, which is his normal choice of drugs,” according to the report.

Miller’s wife said she would not let him see their son if he was going to stay on drugs. That is when they began to argue and his wife decided to leave with the baby.

She told police Miller threw a dirty diaper at her face and then pushed her into the living room. He then grabbed her by the neck and threatened to choke and kill her, his wife said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

EDITORIAL >> U.S. heads for default

As the doomsday clock clicks toward midnight, anarchy and national default, the mind on a Tuesday evening in October 2013 is quizzical. How will history score this frantic week—as the moment when the national legislature plunged the nation and the world into cataclysm or merely the zany week when the country saved itself at the last second from the consequences of one of the craziest political disputes in U.S. history?

Surely the latter. Let us hope and pray so. But it all depends on a relatively small clique, in all about a fifth of the elected members of Congress—for lack of a more apt description, the so-called Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. They forbade their party leader, Speaker John Boehner, to allow a vote in the House of Representatives on supposed “clean” legislation to fund the government or to extend the nation’s debt limit after having raised the ceiling regularly for a century in good times and bad and under Republican and Democratic presidents.

It came down to this: Nothing was to be done to fund government until they could score a significant victory against the president they had hated since his election and against his and Congress’ greatest achievement of recent times, extending health insurance to the last Americans who are denied it or can’t afford it.

All year, their condition for keeping the government operating and protecting the nation’s credit and the world monetary system was that Congress and the president agree to scrap or at least postpone the final stage of “Obamacare,” which was the private marketplace where people can shop for an insurance policy they can afford. The parts of the law that went into effect in 2010 and afterward had become so popular (no one admitted they were part of Obamacare) that congressmen dropped the old demand that Obamacare be repealed in its entirety even while spreading more fantastic lies about what the law would do.

Tuesday night, the part of the House caucus shrank the demands so that the tea partiers could claim some kind of victory over the president, even a Pyrrhic one: Just scrap the insurance law’s little tax on the sales profits of big medical equipment manufacturers, which is supposed to pay for new Medicare benefits and lengthen the solvency of Medicare; change one of the few parts of Obamacare that Republicans wrote, the one switching members of Congress and congressional and White House staffs from the current employer-subsidized health plans to the new Obamacare markets so that they would not get the employer subsidy; and postpone or repeal the little tax on self-insuring businesses and unions that enter the Obamacare exchanges.

In other words, just anything to show we hurt Obamacare. But they insisted that the crisis still not be ended—just that the guillotine’s blade be lifted for a few weeks. The government would be funded and the debt limit raised just briefly. The country cannot be allowed a period of stability and sanity. But Tuesday night, the poor speaker, unable to get Republicans lined up behind even that weak offering, called off a vote and the clock ticked.

Trivial and silly—that’s all you can say about the conditions when the country’s very vitality and its global standing teeter on the precipice. But then the whole crisis has been nothing short of goofy. World financial and political leaders pleaded this week with the United States to come to its senses before wrecking the global financial system and sending much of the world into a depression. China warned that the hostage-taking American Congress proved that it was time that the world abandoned the dollar-based currency system. The United States was not a reliable manager of the global financial order, the communist government said.

Polls showed that despite House Republican chants that the shutdown and monetary crisis were Obama’s fault and the Democrats’, a vast majority of Americans’—nearly everywhere but in the South—laid the blame on congressional Republicans. In the South, we all know that Barack Obama is to blame for every foul wind. Sen. John McCain, Obama’s bitter antagonist, called on his colleagues to come to their senses and forget about Obamacare. Like Social Security, Medicare, the GI bill, veterans’ relief and all the rest, it’s the law. Don’t wreck the country to get back at him, McCain said.

Lots of Republicans, perhaps most of them in the Senate and House, agree with him but quietly. Voting on anything plausible that would open the government and avert the nation’s first default will get them tea-party opponents in the spring. Even Tuesday night, tea-party congressmen were warning their colleagues that if they caved they would face opponents in the Republican primaries who would have big-time funding.

Here in remote Arkansas, where the government shutdown daily closes more and more human services, wherever they are funded partly by federal dollars, our representatives in Washington lead the tea-party revolt or else hide. Sen. John Boozman is the exception. Stop it, he said. It was stunning, coming from the silent man. Rep. Tom Cotton of the Fourth District says the government shutdown and default are pretty good things, or at least not so bad. He caucuses with the hotspurs.

Our own Tim Griffin has it both ways. He says he’s against the government shutdown and default, but in the hushed caucuses makes sure that he’s not presented with the option of voting for a clean funding bill that would end the crisis.

Let us pray that in our graying years we can remember this insanity with equanimity and a touch of humor. —Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Signup for coverage going well

Leader senior staff writer

Two weeks into the private option, Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, 56,288 adults — including thousands in this area — have told the state’s Department of Human Services that they wish to enroll in the health-insurance program, according to DHS communications director Amy Webb.

Through Saturday, 1,509 applications were received through the state-run web portal, along with 1,119 telephone and paper applications.

Webb said that was in addition to the 53,660 current DHS clients who have been determined eligible and returned letters saying they wanted coverage. About one-tenth of those completed the enrollment process.

About 28 percent were notified that the traditional Medicaid program would better meet their “exceptional health-care needs,” Webb said.

The number of applications through the federally-facilitated marketplace hasn’t been provided to the state yet, she said. She said the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to have numbers sometime in November.

She said the government continues to work on its website, which was unprepared to handle the massive response to the health insurance opportunity.

“We knew those with the greatest medical needs would be most eager to enroll. Many have probably been without coverage for a while so I’m not surprised by the number,” DHS director John Selig said.

“This shows a need for us to continue our outreach efforts to younger and healthier people who are eligible for the program.”

Some agencies sponsoring in-person assisters or navigators are already at work helping enroll clients, while advisers at other agencies, like the Lonoke County Health Department, are not yet finished training and aren’t yet licensed, according to Milt Garris, director of the Lonoke County units.

“We’re still encouraging people to go to the website to do their own research,” Garris said. We’ve probably received about 100 calls each at the Cabot and Lonoke offices he said, and we’ve given out pone numbers so they can reach assisters.

The Lonoke Unit will have two assisters, the Cabot unit three. The Health Department is one several sponsoring agencies providing some sort of in-person assistors.

At Future Builders, which serves several counties including Lonoke and Pulaski, “We get calls every day,” said executive director Linder Conley. “People are curious and enthusiastic.

“We have people who are licensed and enrolling,” she said. “We’re up and rolling.”

“Currently, we have 114 licensed guides,” said Heather Haywood, a spokesman for Arkansas Health Connector, part of the state insurance department. So that’s 814 people who can help residents enroll.

In order to qualify for help paying the premiums, the clients must get the insurance through, she said.

TOP STORY >> Accused in court for utility attacks

Leader staff writer

A self-employed pool maintenance man from Jacksonville accused in the four attacks on the Lonoke County electric grid over the past six weeks made his first court appearance on Tuesday at U.S. District Court in Little Rock. He is charged with destruction of an energy facility.

Jason Woodring, 37, was arrested Saturday following an explosion under power lines near John Shelton Road on Friday.

While being interviewed by FBI investigators, Woodring admitted to damaging a high-voltage tower in Cabot, setting a substation in Keo on fire, cutting two power poles and damaging another. So far, law-enforcement officials have not released Woodring’s motive for the power grid attacks.

In federal court, Woodring — wearing his pink Lonoke County Detention Center jail uniform and leg shackles — appeared with public defender Christopher Tarver and waived his right for a preliminary mental examination.

Woodring reserved his right for a bond hearing at a later date. Magistrate Judge Jerome Kearney ordered Woodring be appointed a public defender. The court also ordered Woodring to remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service at the Lonoke County jail.

According to an FBI affidavit and a federal criminal complaint the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office received several calls about an explosion around noon Friday near John Shelton Road outside of Jacksonville.

Sheriff deputies and Entergy employees determined the explosion occurred under the power lines near Woodring’s home.

FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents were called to the scene. They found a blue hose similar to one found at the scene of a damaged high voltage tower in Cabot. Additional blue hose was found in a ditch across the road from Woodring’s home.

While being interviewed by federal agents Woodring admitted to damaging a high voltage tower in Cabot, setting a substation on fire in Keo and cutting two power poles near Robin Road behind the McBride Subdivision in the South Bend community.


During the early morning of Aug. 21, someone climbed the 100-foot tall electrical transmission tower in the Holland Bottoms area of Cabot near Hwy. 321. They cut a shackle that hold one set of power lines to the tower arm causing the wires to drop to the ground. The electric line carries 500-kilovolts.

An electrical line from one of the towers fell at 4:30 a.m. across Hwy. 321 near the railroad overpass.

Safety measures are in place that immediately de-energizes the electrical line when a cable falls. No residential power outages were reported from the incident.

The power line fell on the railroad track and was later hit and cut by a train.

The investigation indicated someone also attached a one-inch diameter cable to the frame of the electrical tower and placed the cable across the railroad tracks in an attempt to use a moving train to bring down the tower.

A train snagged the cable and caused the upper portion of the electrical tower to kink. No injuries resulted from the action.

Approximately 120 bolts that secure the tower to the concrete base were removed. Only five bolts were left to hold the tower in place.

According to the FBI, Woodring said he took the bolts of the tower’s base, a few bolts at a time, over a one month span.

Investigators at the high voltage tower found a hacksaw and shackle that was cut off from the tower. Woodring said he dropped a hacksaw at the scene and could not find it.

Woodring told investigators he cut the inside shackle first so the power line would not hit the tower when it dropped and kill him. He said each connector took about 30 minutes to cut.

Before Woodring dropped the power line, the report said he tried three times to pull the tower down with a train and was unsuccessful.

Woodring said the first time he tried to down the power line, a train signal went off when the cable crossed the track, so he learned he had to insulate the cable using blue pool hose.

Investigators found a severed winch cable was attached 25-feet up on the damaged tower. The other end was tied to a tree on the other side of the railroad tracks. A set of small wooden steps were nailed to the tree to allow someone to climb up the tree and tie the cable.

The cable was partially insulated by being inserted into blue plastic hose, similar to hose used with swimming pool maintenance work. Pieces of the hose were found scattered around the railroad track after the cable was hit by the train.

Agents believe the intention was for the train to snag the cable and pulled down the unsecure high voltage tower and other nearby towers. Railroad officials said if the cable was not insulated with the blue hose laid across both metal railroad tracks, the railroad tracks would have shorted out and triggered alarms, leading to the discovery of an attempted sabotage attack.

A railroad safety inspector told FBI investigators that two weeks before Aug. 21. He saw a severed cable attached to the support tower. He moved the cable away from the railroad tracks. Investigators believe when the attack failed, the saboteur returned later on Aug. 21. Agents believe the person responsible for the attack had visited the scene several times planning.

Entergy representatives said damage to the high voltage tower exceeded $100,000. The tower had to be replaced.


In the early morning hours of Sept. 26 a fire was set at an Entergy extremely high voltage switch station on Hwy. 165 between Scott and England. No injuries or power outages were reported. Investigators determined the fire, which burned a control house at the substation was intentionally set.

Someone responsible for the incident wrote in black marker, “YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED U.S.” on a metal control panel outside the substation.

An estimated $2 million damages occurred at the stationhe scouted the substation for a several days. On Sept. 26 he entered the substation by using fence cutters and bolt cutters to cut two locks. He burned the control building by pouring a gallon jug of ethanol gas and motor oil on a table and into hole behind a control panel where wires go into the floor.

Woodring said before setting the fire he wrote a message on the control panel using his left hand to disguise his handwriting.


At around 7:25 a.m. Oct.6 a power outage occurred to 9,000 First Electric Cooperative customers.

Someone intentionally cut two wooden poles and pulled down one pole carrying a 115-kilovolt transmission line in a wooded area near1400 block of Robin Road behind the McBride Subdivision in the South Bend community.

The downed lines affected three First Electric substations. Power was restored two hours later to residents in Jacksonville, Austin, Cabot, Carlisle and Des Arc.

Investigators reported two power poles were cut and one was pulled down.

The person responsible took a tractor with a circular saw at the end with a boom arm used to cut limbs. The stolen tractor had been parked inside a fenced area at the intersection of Poston Road and John Shelton Road close to Furlow community near Hwy. 294. They drove the tractor through a locked cattle gate to where the power poles were located.

Woodring told investigators he borrowed a chainsaw from a friend to cut down some power poles. When he cut the first pole and its guide wires, the pole did not fall.

Woodring returned another night to cut down a second pole using an ax, a splitting wedge and a chain saw. The second pole did not fall. Woodring said he then stole a tractor from across the street from his home. He drove the tractor to the poles and used a winch to pull down a pole. The pole only fell only part way.

A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict Woodring on the alleged charges. If convicted on the charge, Woodring could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison and or $250,000 fine followed by a three-year supervision.

Woodring told investigators.

TOP STORY >> How a break in grid case led to arrest

Leader editor

The man who is accused of trying to blow up electric grids and power lines around Lonoke County asked his lawyer during his appearance in federal court Tuesday if the pitcher of water in front of them was poisoned.

Jason Woodring, 37, was arrested Saturday after Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies and members of the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department answered a call Friday from one of his neighbors about an explosion at a power line behind his home on John Sheldon Road. The explosion blew holes in the ground.

The break in the case came after a firefighter, who saw wire hanging from the power line, walked behind Woodring’s trailer and found pieces of an orange cable with hooks attached on the ground.

At first the firefighter thought Woodring was trying to steal electricity. He talked to Woodring, who said he’d also heard a loud pop.

“It was like a bolt of lightning,” the firefighter recalled Woodring telling him.

Woodring, who didn’t have a shirt on, said he couldn’t talk because he was “fixing to take a shower.”

“We better call the feds,” the firefighter told his colleagues after Woodring went inside.

He is charged with causing $2 million worth of damage in four separate incidents and faces up to 20 years in prison.

“I live a mile away from the explosion,” the firefighter told us. “It was loud. I can only imagine how loud it was near the suspect’s house.”

Woodring, a combat veteran, lived in the trailer with his mother, surrounded by a privacy fence and electric grids and utility poles. Investigators found a meth lab in his home.

All around his home, you can hear the quiet hum of the power lines, which sound like eggs frying on a stove. You can get used to the noise or move away, or you can go berserk and start cutting them or setting them on fire, at least according to the federal indictment.

He is also accused of cutting two power poles near his trailer around 7:30 a.m. Oct. 6, which disrupted service at three First Electric Cooperative substations, knocking out power to 10,000 customers in Jacksonville, Cabot, Austin, Lonoke, Carlisle and Des Arc.

Woodring allegedly stole a neighbor’s tractor and used a circular saw to cut down the two poles.

Woodring is also charged with carrying out two more acts of sabotage a short drive from his home. The first incident on Aug. 21 on Hwy. 321 near a railroad overpass in the Holland Bottoms area, about 10 miles from his house, was perhaps the most dramatic: Around 4:30 a.m., Woodring, carrying a hacksaw, climbed one of Entergy’s 100-foot towers. He allegedly cut a steel shackle that holds a set of power lines to the tower arm, causing the wires to drop. He told investigators he’d attached a cable to the tower and ran it to the tracks, hoping a passing train would run over the cable and bring down the tower. That didn’t happen and there were no outages. Apparently the cable was similar to the one the firefighter found in Woodring’s back yard.

Early Sept. 29, Entergy officials reported a fire at the Keo substation on Hwy. 165 between Scott and England. No injuries or power outages were reported. But the fire was intentionally set and destroyed a control house.

The saboteur left a message that said, “You should have expected U.S.”

Neighbors say Woodring hasn’t been the same since he returned from combat in Afghanistan. He’d lived in the same trailer most of his life and is described as a well-behaved young man who had lost his way since his return from overseas.

No one knows what may have set him off: He may have become a kind of survivalist who wanted to hasten the end of civilization.

The volunteer firefighter who discovered the cable in Woodring’s yard may be eligible for a $25,000 reward. He’s too modest to take much credit for cracking the case that baffled investigators for six weeks. He doesn’t want his name used just yet, but here’s hoping he could split the reward with his fellow volunteer firefighters.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke heading to powerhouse

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits will face their toughest test to date on Friday when they travel to Pine Bluff to take on the undefeated, No. 3-ranked Dollarway Cardinals in what will be a clash between the last two unbeaten teams in 4A-2 Conference play.

Dollarway (6-0, 3-0) has run roughshod on its competition so far this season, beating opponents by an average of 40-5 weekly. After narrowly dropping its season-opener at Star City in week one, Lonoke (5-1, 3-0) has reeled off five-straight wins, the most dramatic of which came in week five, a come-from-behind 39-32 win over Newport at James B. Abraham Stadium.

In week four, the Cardinals opened their 4A-2 Conference schedule at Newport, and beat the Greyhounds by a sound 42-0 margin.

Keeping up with the school tradition, the Cardinals’ biggest strength on both sides of the ball is their speed, but they’re also very big up front. On the offensive line, Dollarway averages 300 pounds across, something Lonoke coach Doug Bost was quick to point out when discussing Friday’s much-anticipated matchup.

“They’ve got the biggest offensive and defensive line we’ve seen all year,” said Bost. “The offensive line averages 300 pounds, and the skill guys have the most speed that we’ve seen all year. So, top-to-bottom, it is the best team that we face this year.”

Offensively, the Cardinals primarily run out of the Wishbone formation, according to Bost, but Bost said the Cardinals will also line up in the Spread if they feel like they need to create more space for their skill players to get into the open field.

Starting at quarterback for Dollarway is speedy senior Joshua Liddell (6-2, 190), an Arkansas State commit, who’s already accounted for more than 1,600 total yards of offense, including 13 passing touchdowns and six rushing scores.

“He’s our best athlete,” Dollarway coach Cortez Lee said of his quarterback.

Assisting Liddell in the backfield on offense is junior running back Keyshawn Williams, who ran for 132 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries in last week’s 48-7 win over Clinton. Senior Darius Robinson and sophomore Markel Scott also contribute in the Cardinal backfield.

Liddell can throw it as well when needed. Last week against Clinton, he completed 8 of 12 passes for 122 yards and two scores, both of which went to Henry Murphy, another Dollarway playmaker Lonoke will have to account for at all times.

Defensively, the Cardinals have given up just two touchdowns all season, the second of which came in the fourth quarter against Clinton last week after leading 48-0.

Before that, they had shut out their last three opponents and given up only a field goal since a 34-19 win over Helena-West Helena Central in the season opener.

Bost said Dollarway will rely on their linemen to win the battle in the trenches, and will go man-to-man in the secondary, because the Cardinals have the speed to match up with any team in the state.

“It’s a man-to-man defense and they’ve got the speed to run with everybody,” Bost said of Dollarway. “It’s hard to get separation because the four or five guys they go man-to-man with run 4.4/4.5’s. It’s just very hard to get separation and they got a couple of 300-pounders on the D-line. So that’s what makes them so good on the defensive side is their size and their speed.”

Senior cornerback Kabion Ento, who Lee says “is hands down the best secondary guy in the state,” leads the Cardinals’ secondary with four interceptions in the six games played this season. Liddell also plays free safety when needed in the team’s 4-3 man defense.

It’s no secret that Lonoke will have to play its best game of the season this week if it expects to keep up with the Cardinals on the scoreboard Friday.

In order for the Jackrabbits to have success offensively, Bost pointed out that his linemen will need to stay on their blocks and drive defenders back on a consistent basis, and his ball carriers will need to run downfield rather than try and outrun Dollarway’s defenders from sideline-to-sideline.

“Offensive-wise, we’re going to have to run right at them,” Bost said. “Not sideline-to-sideline, but right at them. You can’t run sideline-to-sideline on them because of their pure speed. People that have had success against them have run right at them, and that’s been our success this year.

“On defense, the key is to wrap up. You’ve got to wrap up these guys or they’re going to turn small runs into long gains. With their speed, we’re going to have to wrap up on the defensive side of the ball, and make sure we’re in the right gaps or it can be a long game.”

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils host plagued Falcons

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils will make their crosstown rival North Pulaski their homecoming guest when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. Neither team is having the year they expected as the week-seven matchup looms. North Pulaski thought it had an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot for the first time in almost 30 years while Jacksonville felt it had a chance to set up a battle of unbeatens in a week-10 showdown with Pulaski Academy for the conference championship.

While things haven’t gone as hoped for either team, they both still have goals in mind to help salvage what’s so far been disappointing seasons. And while North Pulaski has never beaten Jacksonville, many games in this series have been more competitive than records and games against common opponents would indicate.

“North Pulaski is always going to put their best foot forward against Jacksonville,” said Red Devil coach Rick Russell. “We feel like we’re going to get their best game each and every year we play.”

North Pulaski (0-6, 0-3) started the season with more numbers, size and speed than in recent years, but that lineup hasn’t just been bitten by the injury bug, it’s suffered a downright plague. Seven starters won’t suit up on Friday, five with injuries, one with illness and one will be out of town for a funeral.

Four of the five injuries are season-ending, as well as the illness. One other injury, a knee injury suffered last week by tailback Fred Thomas, could be season-ending as well. The team is awaiting test results to see the extent of the injury. But Thomas won’t suit up Friday regardless of the results.

“It’s been a very tough year with injuries,” North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram said. “It’s frustrating too because we did expect good things this year. We made some personnel adjustments to get people in the right places. We felt like we were on the brink of putting things together and then the injuries started piling up. So we’re back to trying to piece it together. One thing I can say about the kids is that they’re still playing hard.”

Junior Michael Barnes started the season at quarterback, but Ingram felt his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame was better suited at tight end, where he can help out an undersized line.

He was replaced by Hayden Dean, a 6-5 junior transfer from North Little Rock who started at quarterback in ninth grade. He’s one of the players now out for the year. Barnes will go back to quarterback this week. He ran the wishbone in week one before Dean took over and the Falcons’ switched to the spread.

Which offense they will run on Friday was still not certain on Tuesday.

“Michael can run both offenses,” Ingram said. “He might be a little limited in the passing game because he’s also got a sore shoulder. We’ll see how things go this week.”

Steven Farrior was the starting quarterback last year, but he will be out of town on Friday. Starting cornerback Cedric Handley, starting center Charlie Long and 6-3, 250-pound starting defensive end Keaton Nichols are also out for the year.

After three weeks of conference play, the two teams have no common opponents within the 5A Central. They did each play Maumelle in nonconference games. North Pulaski fell 42-0 to the Hornets in week two. The very next week, Jacksonville got its first win of the season, beating the Hornets 37-20 and handing them their only loss of the season so far.

Jacksonville has switched to a two-quarterback system in the last two weeks. Results have been mixed. Jacksonville beat McClellan two weeks ago then lost 25-16 to Sylvan Hills last Friday. Sophomore Robert Knowlin and senior Reggie Barnes led touchdown drives in last week’s loss, but neither style was able to generate much offense other than in those two drives. Both quarterbacks work out of the spread formation. Knowlin primarily runs the option while Barnes is the passing quarterback.

Knowlin left last week’s game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, but will be ready to play this Friday.

“We thought he had pulled his hamstring but he was just cramping up,” Russell said of Knowlin. “He’s fine and he’ll be out there.”

Russell also says the homecoming crowd is likely to see both quarterbacks in action.

“We’re going into the game with a running game plan and a throwing game plan,” Russell said. “We’ll still have both offenses we’ve run the last two weeks and we’ll see which one is hot and how the game goes. But it’s time now we have to win.”

The Red Devils (2-4, 1-2) need to win at least three of its last four games to have a chance at the playoffs. There are currently four teams ahead of Jacksonville. Pulaski Academy and Sylvan Hills are undefeated. Mills and Helena-West Helena Central are 2-1 and Little Rock Christian Academy is tied with Jacksonville at 1-2. North Pulaski and McClellan are searching for their first win.

“It’s got to be at least four (wins),” Russell said. “You can’t even be sure of that because you never know, someone might sneak up and get an upset, and then you’ve got a tiebreaker situation. So we’re focusing on one game at a time. Right now our focus is entirely on North Pulaski. We’re going to see how we compete with them, and we’re going to move on to the next team. But it’s a must-win game.”

SPORTS STORY >> Athletic Cougars a threat to Bears

Leader sportswriter

Don’t tell Sylvan Hills head coach Jim Withrow the stars are lining up for a week-9 showdown with Pulaski Academy to decide the 5A Central Conference championship, he is too worried about the long road trip ahead this week to face Helena-West Helena.

The Cougars (3-3, 2-1) were projected to finish towards the bottom of the Central Conference according to many preseason polls, but they have proved to be competitive through the first six weeks of the season. They defeated Jacksonville 38-18 to open league play in week four, and handled Little Rock McClellan easily in a 49-6 blowout last week. Their only Central setback to date was a 50-28 loss at the hands of top-ranked Pulaski Academy in week five.

HWHC’s emergence shouldn’t be too surprising. The team returns 20 starters from last year’s team, most of which are juniors. The Bears (5-1, 3-0) struggled to put local rival Jacksonville away last week before a second-half surge lifted them to a 25-16 win. They also have a junior-laden starting lineup with some talented seniors playing key roles.

HWHC is primarily a spread team, but can go with multiple looks, including the wing-T and wishbone. The Cougars also returned 10 starters on both sides of the ball this year, a stat that trumps their visitors this week. Defensively, the Cougars prefer going with a 3-4 front.

“I think they’re every bit as good as Mills was,” Withrow said. “This is not going to be easy at all. They’re fast and they’re physical. The last couple of weeks, we’ve seen bigger defensive linemen. They’re not as big, but they move real well, and they’re strong. Offensively, they’ve got a three-year starter at quarterback, and up front, they look real physical. They’ve got some receivers that can go catch it.”

Jacksonville controlled the clock during the first half of last week’s game, leaving the Bears with just three possessions during the first 24 minutes of play. One of those possessions ended quickly with a fumble on the first play, which gave the ball right back to Jacksonville.

Sylvan Hills finally got things going in the second half and eventually overtook its nearby PCSSD rival, but Withrow is hoping for a smoother experience against the Cougars this week.

“I don’t think we played as well as we have,” Withrow said. “We just played well enough to win. We got some stops there on defense that helped us, and made some plays on offense that got us through at the end. We’ve got to play better, but I think a lot of ours was that we had three pretty tough weeks before this one.”

The remainder of the Bears’ schedule includes what could be looked at as two good chances to win and one extremely tough opponent in Pulaski Academy in week nine.

The Bears will host winless Little Rock McClellan next week, and will conclude the regular season at North Pulaski.

That essentially means that a win over the Cougars would almost certainly guarantee no worse than a No. 2 playoff seed for Sylvan Hills, and the chance to play for an outright Central championship against the brutal Bruins.

Withrow is not ready to look that far ahead, however.

“Do we play in week nine?” Withrow said. “Do we have a game in week nine? I didn’t think we played anybody in week nine. I can tell you this, it’s all I’ve been asked. When the referee comes up to you on Friday night and asks, ‘do you play PA next week?’ We need to beat Helena first.”

SPORTS STORY >> Central no easy win for Cabot

Leader sports editor

After two weeks of little challenge facing struggling class 6A programs, the Cabot Panthers face another good test when they host class 7A Little Rock Central at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Tigers, 4-2, 2-1, have been a difficult team to reckon, with impressive wins over teams like Catholic and El Dorado, but losses to lesser teams like Bryant and Jonesboro. Central handled Catholic easily 38-14, and lost 28-14 to Bryant, even though Catholic clobbered Bryant 37-19. In their third game, Central handed El Dorado an eight-point loss before whipping Searcy 56-10. A 42-24 week-two conference loss to Jonesboro followed. Last week the Tigers beat West Memphis 41-24.

Cabot coach Mike Malham doesn’t concern himself with how the team has played in recent games as much as he’s concerned with how they’d play at their best.

“They’ve got the potential to be very good,” said Malham. “They’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of good athletes running around out on that field. They are capable.”

Central is having its best season in at least six years. The Tigers have not had a winning season since a 6-5 record in 2007. From 2008 to last season, Central has gone 11-42 with nine of those wins coming in the last two years under fourth-year coach Ellis Register.

“They’ve got their best season going they’ve had in a while,” Malham said. “They’ve already won about as many this year as they’ve won in the last several. They’re gaining confidence, and you get better when you play with confidence.”

Central is led by quarterback Cooper Westbrook and running back Logan Moragne. Westbrook has been hurt but will likely play this week. Even if he’s out, junior Kevin Lewis moves the offense running more of an option attack than the passing attack when Westbrook is in.

“I don’t know which one is worse to deal with,” Malham said. “The passing one and the running one have moved the ball for them. We just have to be ready for anything. Their passing game is pretty good. It’ll be a challenge for our secondary if he (Westbrook) is in there.”

Moragne ran for 886 yards last year in just eight games, and has picked up where he left off. He has averaged almost six yards per carry this season and is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.

With all of Central’s opponents except for West Memphis being spread teams, the Cabot coaches focused their film watching primarily on last week’s game against the Blue Devils.

“They run that T stuff that’s not exactly like ours but pretty similar,” Malham said of the Blue Devils. “West Memphis went up and down the field on them, but they went up and down the field too. Both teams had a lot of talent going up and down that field. We haven’t really been challenged the last couple of weeks, hopefully we’re ready for a challenge because this is our toughest game since North Little Rock three games ago.”

Playing against teams that weren’t capable of competing on an even level with Cabot, Malham has repeated the need to stay focused and keep working hard. Evidence on the field indicates that his team did that, but the real test of it will come on Friday.

“Hopefully the kids realize you can’t get complacent because then you regress,” Malham said. “We’ve had it kind of easy so I don’t know if that takes the edge off or not. We’ll find out Friday.

“One thing about it is we haven’t had our starters in there much so they should be rested. Knock on wood, we’ve got everybody healthy so we should be at full strength.”

Even in two lopsided, mercy-rule wins, Malham sees things his team could do better, even if just in spots.

“There’s always mistakes even in a game like Mountain Home,” Malham said. “Getting those corrected is about repetition, repetition, getting better at what we do.”