Saturday, October 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bears regroup, roll in second

Leader sportswriter

A great offensive performance covered a defensive showing that was spotty at times as Sylvan Hills downed Little Rock McClellan for a 49-22 homecoming victory at Bill Blackwood Field on Friday.

Bears junior quarterback Tra Doss ran roughshod over the Lions’ defense with four rushing touchdowns, and two more through the air for good measure as the offense put the home team in position for a mercy rule late in the third quarter, but McClellan fought back with its third big play of the game to keep Sylvan Hills honest until the final horn.

Doss’ performance was aided by stellar rushing nights by junior tailback Marlon Clemmons and senior Kylan Wade, who was subbing on offense for injured running back Tyler Davis.

“We’ve got some guys dinged up,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We’ve got to make more plays on defense. Coach (Chad) Collins, each week, he’s giving us a chance to win, and that’s what you want. As long as you’ve got a chance to win, that’s all we’re worried about. We’ve got to be better on third and long and fourth and long, especially next week. In order to get our offense on the field, we’ve got to convert.”

With the win, the Bears move on to a week-nine showdown against unbeaten Pulaski Academy for a chance at winning a share of the 5A Central Conference championship.

Doss gave Sylvan Hills (6-2, 4-1) a 42-14 lead when he found Chace Pieper on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter, but McClellan (0-8, 0-5) put itself in position to score on the ensuing kickoff with a big return to the Bears’ 22-yard line. Ezekiel Baldwin punched it in from three yards out to make it 42-22 before Doss found success for the Bears in the passing game again, this time to junior receiver Nathan Thomas for a 31-yard touchdown pass for the game’s final score.

Doss put up big numbers all the way around for the Bears with 14 rushes for 130 yards and four touchdowns, and also went 8 for 13 passing for 140 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Clemmons carried 20 times for 119 yards, while Wade, who normally focuses on defense, carried 18 times for 162 yards and a touchdown.

“That’s the thing about him is he’s so athletic,” Withrow said of Wade. “He’s got great hands, he runs the ball well, plays well on defense, he’s a dang good player. He does a lot of good things. What we were planning on doing was doing it by committee, but it seemed like he was fine as he went along, and if he’s fine, we don’t have to rotate as much.”

Sylvan Hills took a two-score lead to start the second half with a seven-play, 62-yard drive that proceeded mostly off the rushing of Wade. Wade had two rushes of 19 yards each, and then bulled his way for a 5-yard gain to give the Bears a third and 2 at the McClellan 8-yard line. Doss took it from there with an 8-yard touchdown run at the 9:20 mark of the third quarter. Philip Wood’s extra-point kick was successful to give the Bears a 21-6 lead.

That margin was short lived, as McClellan fired back with a 63-yard touchdown run by Baldwin with 8:53 remaining in the third. Chris Nelson converted the two-point conversion try on a quarterback keep to close the gap back to 21-14, but the Bears put up two more scores in less than two minutes to take control.

Doss turned a hat trick on the following drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Garrett Barham set the Bears up with great field position when he recovered a fumble on the kickoff to give Sylvan Hills first down at the McClellan 36-yard line.

It only took Doss one play to score, this time on a quarterback draw for 36 yards to put the Bears up 35-14 with 7:10 left to play in the third.

“He’s a sight,” Withrow said of Doss. “He’s just solid in everything he does. He doesn’t get too worked up about anything. We threw a lot this week, and we’ll have to throw a lot next week. They’ll put them all up there in the box. If he can throw a few balls, and we can catch a few along the way, we’ll be fine.”

The Lions turned a shaky opening possession into a score after a run for a loss by Deon Johnson and a holding call backed them up to a second-and-26 situation at their own 13-yard line, but the following play went all the way when Nelson found Johnson open in the middle on a screen pass. Nelson turned upfield and avoided the SH linebacker corps and secondary for an 87-yard touchdown run at the 10:11 mark of the first quarter. McClellan’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score 6-0.

The Bears responded with a six-play, 58-yard drive that took less than two minutes off the clock. Clemmons got things started with runs of 12 yards, 5 yards and 7 yards to take the ball all the way to the McClellan 33-yard line. Doss moved the chains again when he called his own number for a 17-yard run, and Wade finished off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run with 8:36 remaining in the opening period. Wood’s extra-point kick was wide right to leave the score tied, 6-6.

The remainder of the quarter amounted to stalled drives for both teams, until the Bears mounted their next scoring drive to start the second quarter. Doss found Thomas for a 39-yard pass play that took the ball down to the Lion 21, and Wade advanced it into the red zone with a 16-yard run that set Sylvan Hills up with a first and goal at the 5-yard line. Doss finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with 10:58 left to play in the half. Doss also ran in the two-point conversion run to give the Bears a 14-6 halftime lead.

The Bears had 563 yards of total offense while McClellan had 248 yards, led by Baldwin’s nine carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. Thomas led all receivers for Sylvan Hills with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Friday, October 25, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Meth behind crime sprees

Two recent arrests by the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Police Department remind us that Arkansas, like much of the nation, continues to struggle with the methamphetamine epidemic.

On Oct. 17, a 22-year-old man armed with a knife hijacked a school bus in Jacksonville and drove to Cabot pursued by police during a 20-minute, nine-mile journey that ended on Hwy. 5 in Cabot. Fortunately, none of the children were hurt. Nicholas John Miller, the alleged hijacker, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of felony kidnapping, two felony counts of aggravated assault, felony fleeing, driving while under the influence and reckless driving.

Miller seemed paranoid when officers finally stopped the bus. He told them that people were following him. He was right about that, but the caravan of flashing lights he saw behind him belonged to the police as they tried to stop him from harming the kids. Miller’s bizarre behavior may have had something to do with his addiction to methamphetamines, at least according to his wife. (Sarah Campbell reports in The Leader today that the bus driver heard Miller tell his mother on the phone that he was high on meth.)

On Oct. 8, he was arrested for terroristic threatening and third-degree domestic battery after his wife confronted him about using meth. She told him to clean up if he wanted to see their son again. He grabbed her by the neck and choked her, according to the police report.

A few miles away, when Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies arrived at Jason Woodring’s rural Jacksonville home on John Shelton Road on Oct. 11, they found an active meth lab. He hasn’t been charged yet with manufacturing the highly addictive drug because he’s facing far more serious accusations of deliberately sabotaging the electric grid in Lonoke County in four separate attacks in six weeks.

If the allegations are true, Woodring could have been motivated by paranoia brought on by meth addiction. When he appeared in court Oct. 15, he asked his lawyer if the drinking water at the defendant’s table was poisoned.

Both men can expect lengthy prison sentences if convicted, but banning a key substance used in methamphetamine could reduce crime here and across the country.

Meth addicts often purchase pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter decongestant in cold and allergy medicine, to make their own drugs. Mississippi and Oregon are the only states in the country that now require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, saving both states hundreds of millions of dollars every decade and dramatically lowering expenses related to cleaning up toxic meth labs, treating meth addicts and their children for chemical burns and reducing ordinary crime like burglaries and car thefts that addicts often commit.

A recent article in Mother Jones Magazine, “Merchants of Meth: How Big Pharma Keeps the Cooks in Business” by Jonah Engle, chronicles the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to keep pseudoephedrine an over-the-counter product to the peril of our communities.

Arkansas is among 25 states that have considered requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, but have resisted doing so because of the well-financed influence of the drug industry. Meth addiction can’t be brought under control until lawmakers do all they can to make it inconvenient for addicts to get their key ingredients.

State legislators should follow the lead of Mississippi and Oregon and help prevent addiction, reduce crime and save the state and local law-enforcement agencies millions when meth use subsides. Jobs go begging because too many people abuse drugs when they should be working.

This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored any longer. The victims of meth-related crimes have had enough: Start eradicating the problem by banning key ingredients from store shelves.

TOP STORY >> McDaniel joins education board

Leader staff writer

Retired Col. Ronald McDaniel was appointed recently as the 12th and last member of the new Pulaski County Special School District’s Community Advisory Board.

The state Board of Education last month approved the board for PCSSD, which has been taken over by the state and is in year three of fiscal distress.

Act 600 of 2013 gave the state authority to run districts in fiscal distress for as long as five years, and said — since the school boards were dissolved by the state — the state should appoint advisory panels to give the public feedback.

The PCSSD board will help Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell make decisions by giving him recommendations. The board’s first regular meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in the boardroom at the district’s central office, 925 E. Dixon Road.

McDaniel, when he heard about the appointment, said, “Well, I thought that is going to be quite a bit of hard work. I’m not unaccustomed to that.”

As a resident of Jacksonville’s Northlake subdivision, he was asked to apply for the vacant Zone 3 position on the board, McDaniel continued.

“I just want to do everything we can to get the kids a good education, a basic education where they can read, write, count and be good citizens,” he said.

All three of McDaniel’s adult children graduated from PCSSD. Two are Jacksonville High School graduates and another graduated from Mills High School in Little Rock.

McDaniel’s 40-year military career began with the Air Force and ended with the Arkansas Air National Guard.

The former 189th Maintenance Group commander, McDaniel was the first African-American full-time employee promoted to colonel in the Air National Guard.

As an active-duty airman in the Air Force, McDaniel was assigned to the 314th Medical Squadron in 1972 — the same year he moved to Jacksonville.

The Crossett native joined the Air National Guard in 1979. He was assigned to the 189th Medical Squadron.

In 1984, McDaniel was commissioned as a consolidated aircraft maintenance officer.

He was considered a part-time, or “traditional Guardsman,” in 1986 when C-130Es came to the base.

In 1994, McDaniel transferred from his job with the postal service to work full time in the Guard. He retired last year.

He is also a member of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps, the driving force behind the city’s efforts to detach from PCSSD and form an independent school district.

McDaniel is president of the Sertoma Club. He has been a Sertoma Club member since 1984.

The club, along with the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter, used to host the Sam Hoover 3-on-3-basketball tournament annually.

For several years, McDaniel helped coordinate both the youth football and the 3-on-3 tournaments. He now helps out with the club’s father and daughter dance.

McDaniel is also chairman of the Jacksonville Civil Service Commission and of the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center’s board.

He and his wife, Shirley, celebrated their 41st anniversary in May.

They have four grandchildren.

The advisory board has met once for a special meeting, which was held last Monday to make recommendations for two waiver requests.

Board member Daniel Gray, who is also a member of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps, said district employees can request waivers if something comes up in their background checks.

Gray, a third-generation realtor, represents Zone 1 and lives in the Foxwood subdivision.

The board recommended granting one of the waivers and denying the other, he said.

Gray said the Arkansas State School Board Association provided three or four hours of training to the board members a few weeks ago, with the exception of McDaniel because he hadn’t been appointed yet. McDaniel said he would receive the same training though.

Gray said the board members talked about the role they would play and how it is not that of a school board. The advisory board, for example, will not have the authority to fire or hire a superintendent as a school board does.

The advisory board’s main function will be to advise Kimbrell, especially concerning three types of hearings – those that are available because of the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, those that concern teacher grievances and those that concern a student discipline issue that may result in an expulsion, Gray said.

He added, “My goal is to serve in that capacity and to provide some guidance from a parent’s perspective.” His two sons, a sixth grader and a third grader, are PCSSD students.

Gray said the board would also offer reports on PCSSD’s fiscal distress status.

The district’s chief financial officer, Bill Goff, will give the members an update on that topic during the November meeting, Gray said.

The other local board members — Sherwood residents Tjuana Byrd and Margie Anne Snyder — did not return several calls from The Leader.

Byrd is an attorney who runs his own Little Rock law firm. Snyder is a retired teacher.

TOP STORY >> Williams foregoes 2nd Dist.contest

Leader staff writer

State Sen. Eddie Jo Williams (R-Cabot) could run for the soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s seat, even though Williams doesn’t live in the 2nd District. “I’d have to move across Hwy. 5,” he quipped, “to be in the district.”

But he said Arkansas has a quirky law that allows you to run for a U.S. representatives seat even if you aren’t in the district. Alex Reed, with the secretary of state’s office, verified that Thursday. “You only have to be a resident of the state,” Reed explained.

Griffin announced last week he would not seek a third term, meaning his tenure in Washington would end at the end of 2014.

When Griffin made his announcement, Mayor Gary Fletcher and dozens of other supporters immediately called Williams and suggested that he run.

“I’m honored by the calls,” Williams said, but he said the odds would be against him. Most of Williams’ support is based in Cabot and Lonoke County, which are in the 1st District.

“Without that support, it would be tough,” he said. Williams did hint that if 1st Dist. Rep. Rick Crawford ever decides to step down, he would consider a run for that seat.

Besides, Williams said he’s enjoying spending time with his nearly dozen grandchildren. “I’ve been out hunting with one of my grandsons numerous times recently, and each time it’s like a brand new adventure,” Williams said. “How many Washington monuments could I show him and he’d have that same enthusiasm?”

Williams said Griffin’s district, which includes Pulaski, Saline, Faulkner, White, Perry, Conway and Van Buren counties, traditionally leans to the right. “If we get a strong candidate, we should win,” he said.

On the recent special session, Williams said he was glad lawmakers were able to get in and get out. He said the insurance issue for teachers was a very complex one, but something had to be done. “We are self-insured. That makes the state responsible. We had to find solutions,” he said.

He said there are still a number of long-term issues that need to be resolved in the next session, which starts early next year.

“There are many examples of insurance programs out there doing well and we need to look at them,” the senator said.

Back to Griffin’s seat, he said there would be a number of good candidates, but he didn’t mention any by name. “It’s up to them to decide and announce,” Williams said, “but I will back and work hard for whoever gets the nod.”

Some names mentioned by political analysts include state Rep. Ann Clemmer (R-Benton), who is term-limited in her current position, state Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and Little Rock banker French Hill.

On the Democratic side, former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays has announced he will run for the position.

TOP STORY >> Heroic bus driver honored

Leader staff writer

The driver of the Pinewood Elementary School bus hijacked by a Jacksonville man on Oct. 17 returned to work Thursday, one day after the Pulaski County Special School District recognized her for keeping calm during the crisis.

Eleven children were on the bus. No one was injured.

And 51-year-old Sheila Hart of Jacksonville, who has been driving a bus for 20 years, saw her “babies” the day after the hijacking.

She visited the school and spoke with all of the kids who ride her bus.

“They were all worried about me. I just wanted to reassure them. They gave me lots of hugs,” Hart told The Leader on Wednesday evening. About the hijacking, she said, “I had to stay strong for them…That’s what we’re supposed to do, protect them.”

Hart added that some of the children were worried that she wasn’t coming back. But, she said at the Wednesday ceremony, “I’m ready to get back and make my babies safe.”

About being back on the job, she also said, “I’ll be scanning around, making sure nobody’s on there. That’s for sure. I’ll be OK.”

Superintendent Jerry Guess called her “a heroic person” during a ceremony held Wednesday at the bus depot on Redmond Road. “Perhaps the events that occurred saved lives, the lives of those students,” he said.

State Education Com-mission director Tom Kimbrell said, “She did everything right.”

The bus driver received a key to the city from Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, a $1,000 check from an anonymous donor and a Chili’s gift basket that included a $100 gift card. Daniel Gray, a member of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps and the chamber of commerce’s education committee, presented the check to Hart.

About the $1,000, the bus driver said she was surprised and that it will help her pay bills. “It always comes when you need it,” she said.

Hart, a Jonesboro native, moved to Jacksonville 33 years ago because her husband was in the military, she said. But the bus driver has been in the area longer than that because her mother moved to North Little Rock when Hart was 8 years old.


The alleged hijacker, 22-year-old Nicholas John Miller, has pleaded not guilty to 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 is being held in the Pulaski County Jail on $338,165 bond.

Karlena Lipari was at the North First Street bus stop in Jacksonville with her daughter the morning of the hijacking. She, along with police who helped resolve the crisis, was also thanked at Wednesday’s ceremony.

Lipari said Miller, armed with a knife, asked her for her car, but she didn’t have one. She lives just three blocks away and walks to the bus stop.

On Wednesday, the parent said, “It’s hard in the mornings to go to the bus stop.” Lipari’s husband started walking her there after the hijacking, she said.

But her daughter is still a bus rider.

Lipari explained, “I don’t want her to think, don’t want to hold her back for if anything happens; you’ve got to keep going.”

The parents said, after Miller tried to get a car from her, he walked away to cross the street to where Hart had parked the bus.

Lipari stopped her daughter and three other children from getting on the bus, then she mouthed to Hart that the man had a knife, the parent said.

But Hart said Wednesday that a lot of parents come to her door to ask questions and she assumed Miller was one of those.

“He jumped on the bus and said, ‘Drive” and I said, ‘What?’ He flipped the knife out and said, ‘Drive, shut the door and drive,’ and that’s what I did. I said ‘OK, where do you want to go and what’s wrong?’” Hart recalled.

She did see Lipari’s second gesture, which told her that the parent was going to call 911. Hart said she drove for about three blocks before Miller asked that they switch seats while the bus was moving.

Hart told him, “No, we can’t do that.” So they pulled over and she showed him how to work the controls.

Even when police finally stopped the bus, the bus driver was worried about getting off safely. Hart said, while cops were pointing their guns at Miller, she was thinking, “set the brake.”

As soon as Miller hit the green button for the doors to open, Hart continued, “I grabbed the babies and said let’s go.”

Hart said, during the hijacking, “I kept telling him to be careful. I asked him couldn’t me and the babies get off. Let’s just take them to school. I told him you could have this bus, just let us off.”

Hart explained that Miller said yes, but then missed a turn and started becoming more irritable. He also told them that he would drive the bus until it ran out of gas, Hart said.

She had recently completed training on how to handle a hijacking, but said Wednesday, “No kind of training could prepare you for that. It helped.”

Hart also said, “I guess my mother instinct kicked in.”

She has three adult children and five grandchildren. During that drive, the bus driver said one girl on the bus started to cry and she had to tell the girl to do so quietly.

A little boy asked Hart if he could get off and she told him that she would talk to the hijacker about it.


Hart said things eventually got better, especially when the knife was closed and he tossed it onto the dash. He would have had to stand up to retrieve it from the dash of the bus, but he didn’t.

She continued, “He was kind of polite. He said ma’am can I use your cell phone…I think he was starting to trust me then.”

Miller called his dad, who didn’t answer. Then he called his mom, Hart said.

He told her what he had done, that he was going to jail for a long time and that he had taken a shot of methamphetamine, Hart recalled.

She said she could tell he was on a drug, but hearing it confirmed it. “That scared me,” she said.

Reflecting on her actions during hijacking, which included talking to Miller and keeping the kids calm, Hart added, “I think the right thing to do was talk to the person, keep a cool head.” She doesn’t think she would have done anything differently.

At speeds around 40 mph, police followed the bus from the 3700 block of North First Street near the air base to Hwy. 367, John Harden Drive and Hwy. 5 in Cabot — where the 20-minute, nine-mile chase ended.

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

He told police there were people after him, according to the police report. Miller said hijacking the bus was only way for him to get away and save his life, it continued.

He also told police that he had not planned to hurt anyone on the bus.

This was not his first run-in with them. Miller had been arrested three times this year. The charges were breaking and entering of a vehicle, theft of property, possession of drug paraphernalia, terroristic threatening and third-degree domestic assault.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Griffin: He’s not done yet

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Rock) announced Monday he would not seek a third term in 2014 as our 2nd District congressman and will spend more time with his family. He’ll stick around for another year until the end of his second term, but he told us yesterday he has no plans to run for statewide office anytime soon.

Griffin did tell us he would look seriously at some race down the road, and in the meantime, “I will stay engaged in politics,” he said.

Starting in January, Congress will pick up the fight over Obamacare and the debt limit. Griffin is certain to be in the middle of that fight again, although he told us Tuesday the shutdown was a mistake and it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of that fiasco anytime soon. The debt limit fight will be less dramatic next time since big-business Republicans have signaled that a default on the nation’s debt would be catastrophic.

No shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt, Griffin told us: “If you want to make big, bold changes, you need to win elections,” he said.

Apart from his desire to spend more time with his young family, Griffin’s decision makes sense to us because we’d assumed he would run against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) next year. Either because of his friendship with Pryor or inability to line up support for such a candidacy — big money is backing Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle) against Pryor — it makes sense that Griffin would leave trench warfare in the House for a tranquil life in the private sector.

Then, too, the announcement by former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays that he’s running as a Democrat may have been a factor in Griffin’s decision to bow out.

In 2010, Griffin polled 59 percent when he ran against Sen. Joyce Elliott, a liberal black legislator from Little Rock, but he received only 55 percent when he was challenged by attorney Herb Rule, whose DWI arrests made headlines during the race. A possible race against Hays would have been closer, and, in fact, one Democratic poll supposedly showed Griffin trailing.

Griffin understands that the 16-day shutdown did not work out well for the Republicans, who gained nothing in their fight over Obamacare and blinked when it came to averting a default on the nation’s debt.

Republicans were in trouble from the start, when the military objected while half of its 800,000 civilian workers were furloughed, including hundreds at Little Rock Air Force Base, which insisted the workers were critical to national security. The base commissary was closed for several days and men and women on base worried they might not get a paycheck in October.

Public support for Republicans plummeted: According to a CNN poll this week, 75 percent of the voters disapprove of the way the GOP runs the House of Representatives. Voters may not understand the minutiae of Obamacare or why Congress must raise the debt limit, but the public realizes that giving federal workers two weeks off with pay during the shutdown was a terrible waste.

Griffin believes that spending cuts must accompany increases in the debt limit. That didn’t happen this time because the shutdown took center stage, he said. He’ll stick around another 15 months and do what he can to achieve his goals for a leaner government.

He’s always been responsive to our requests for interviews and has been terrific servicing his constituents. We will miss him if he doesn’t run for statewide office someday.

TOP STORY >> Marshalls opens next week in Cabot

Marshalls, one of the nation’s largest off-price retailers with more than 900 stores in 43 states and Puerto Rico, will open a new store at Rockwood Plaza in Cabot next Wednesday.

“Marshalls shoppers in Cabot will find top-quality, on-trend fashions and the most sought-after designer brand names at low prices in ladies’ fashion, shoes, accessories, men’s apparel, home, juniors, kids apparel and accessories, luggage, beauty and more,” according to a news release.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, who has always said the city is poised for growth, said the new store is good news.

“Obviously any new retail outlet is most welcome,” the mayor said. “I’ve heard a lot of excitement about it.”

The new store is expected to add approximately 60 full- and part-time jobs to the area.

Richard Sherr, president of Marshalls, said, “The new Cabot store will be stocked with a new, fresh assortment of the designer and brand-name merchandise that shoppers love every single week. Our buyers are fashion experts with a keen sense of style and are passionate about finding the most coveted merchandise for our shoppers for so much less.”

The store will open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. for the grand opening with giveaways, gift-card prizes and more.

In celebration of the new Cabot store, Marshalls will contribute to the local community by presenting a $5,000 donation to Lonoke County Safe Haven at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:30 a.m.

Marshalls also has national and local partnerships with charitable organizations around the country, including Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The new store will have 25,785 square feet with the Cube, an in-store boutique of contemporary fashions, and a shoe shop featuring designer and brand-name shoes for the whole family.

Regular store hours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sundays.

“With more than 10,000 new items arriving to the Cabot store every week, it’s like entering a whole new store with every visit,” the release continued.

“Unlike department store buyers who shop seasonally, Marshalls’ buyers are in the market weekly looking for merchandise opportunities. They work with more than 16,000 brands and designers annually in more than 60 countries to offer a mix of top-quality, fashionable pieces from the most sought-after designer brands as well as unexpected treasures from around the world,” the release concluded.

TOP STORY >> Coat drive gets underway

Leader staff writer

As the weather turns colder, Tracy O’Bryan of Austin is leading the fourth annual Cabot coat drive for the homeless, which starts Friday, Nov. 1.

Coats will be distributed the week before Thanksgiving at Christmas to Hands, Hearts and Hope 4 Humanity (H4H) in Cabot and The One in Little Rock. Both are ministries that help the homeless.

“The more we can help, the better. Our homeless numbers are growing. Our local need is growing,” O’Bryan said.

The coat drive is accepting new and used coats, anything clean and useable. The coats will be collected by the O’Bryan family and sorted in her garage by gender and sizes. Last year, around 1,000 coats were donated.

“We do receive winter wear in our boxes. We’ll gratefully take them and distribute them as well,” she said.

O’Bryan said the economy is still hurting, causing a loss of jobs and hours. She said people are tightening purse strings. The need is greater as time goes on, she said. Meanwhile, children have growth spurts and their coats become too small.

“In the homeless environment, (the homeless) protect their coat and shelter with life and limb. If they don’t have one, they are going to take one,” O’Bryan said.

She said coats may not last long while living in the elements. They are stolen. Some use coats as bedding or bundle their children with two or three coats.

O’Bryan said she was once clueless that there were people who have nothing.

Now she knows some are veterans who are lost in the system and many of the homeless are families with young children.

Some people live paycheck to paycheck. One or two missed checks and they are on the street, O’Bryan noted.

“Handing them a coat and seeing their eyes, you don’t have to hear ‘thank you,’” she said.

O’Bryan continues to organize the coat drive because she was helped once during hard times.

She said several years ago she was a single mom having to work full time. O’Bryan said it was a hard time. People stepped up and helped her provide a Christmas to her family. She said it was a blessing.

“It changes you and who you are. I wanted to pay it forward and help others,” O’Bryan said.

Her family helps gather and sort winter jackets. “I wanted them to have a giving heart. I think they still remember that Christmas,” she said.

People who want to donate or are in need of a coat may call 501-286-7176 and leave a message.

Donation boxes will be located in Cabot at:

• Joyland Skating, 2020 S. Second St.

• Knight’s Super Foods, 906 S. Pine St.

• Kroger, 1295 W. Main St.

• Pine Street Animal Clinic, 803 S. Pine St.

• Price Cutter, 805 W. Main St.

All locations are in Cabot.

TOP STORY >> Candidates lining up in 2nd District

Leader senior staff writer

As of noon Tuesday, former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays is the only announced candidate for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District seat, which is currently held by Tim Griffin.

Griffin, who said he wanted to spend more time with his family, turned Arkansas politics on its ear Monday by announcing that he would not seek reelection in November 2014.

Several Republicans and Democrats have expressed interest in running for Griffin’s seat.

A recent CNN poll indicated that the public anger at the government shutdown and layoffs was primarily aimed at Republicans in Congress, which could have contributed to Griffin’s decision not to run for a third term.

Hays held his first campaign rally Tuesday at the North Little Rock senior center named in his honor. Introduced by former Democratic state Sen. Mary Anne Salmon of North Little Rock and surrounded by more than 200 supporters, Hays railed against the federal government shutdown, which he said triggered his decision to run.

“Sixteen days in October was a travesty,” Hays said. “You look around and you try to find what was good about that, and there wasn’t anything. I wasn’t thinking about running for Congress in the latter part of September because I didn’t think they’d do what they did. We don’t do that at city hall; we never have. We look to solutions.

“There’s no such thing as Republican crime and Democratic garbage. Crime is crime, and garbage is garbage, and parks are parks, and problems should be solved, not kicked down the road to next month or next year like what happened. Real people are affected when you have the kinds of actions that 16 days gave us. You’ve got people that are worried about getting their Social Security checks. You’ve got federal employees furloughed — thousands of them nationally, hundreds here in Arkansas. Over 300 of our National Guard were furloughed. In fact, (Gen. William Wofford, Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard) told us those kinds of activities can’t be recovered.

“My gosh,” Hays continued. “How can they decide that things they do are not going to affect real lives? The full faith and credit of this country has never been called into question, but it has now. And now the question is if it’s going to be after the first of the year.

“We need folks like city leaders and county leaders and local officials all over the county. And, if I had a choice, I’d say get 535 mayors and council members and send them all to Washington and put a few in the Senate and the rest in the House, and we’d have things cleaned up in 10 days.” 


Rick Crawford, the 1st District representative, said on Monday, “Congressman Griffin has been an excellent public servant representing the voice of Arkansas’ 2nd District, and a great partner in achieving tangible results for our state.”

Crawford’s press secretary, Jack Pandol, said, “I can confirm that Congressman Crawford plans to run for re-election in 2014.”

A number of capable Arkansas Democrats are stepping up after the shutdown, according to Democratic Party of Arkansas spokeswoman Candace Martin.

She said the shutdown has motivated people to get off the sidelines.


James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton Administration, is expected to announce his candidacy next week to fill the 4th District Congressional seat currently held by Tom Cotton, a Tea Party Republican.

Cotton, a freshman congressman, has begun his campaign to unseat Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, currently the only Democrat among the state’s six-member congressional delegation.

For weeks there has been speculation that Hays would seek the Democratic nomination for Griffin’s seat, and his Tuesday announcement was scheduled before anyone knew Griffin would retire.


Other Democrats who have expressed interest in running for Griffin’s seat are former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, former state Rep. Linda Tyler of Conway and Conway Mayor Tab Townsell.

Republicans said to be interested, in light of Griffin’s abdication, include state Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, state Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Beebe, Benton County Judge Lanny Fite and Little Rock Banker French Hill.

Rapert introduced several bills to restrict abortion in the last regular session of the state General Assembly. Dismang was among the Republicans who worked with House Speaker Davy Carter of Cabot, the Democrats and Gov. Mike Beebe to pass a private-option medicaid expansion for low-income Arkansans.

Hill worked for President George Herbert Walker Bush in Washington.

In announcing his retirement from Congress, Griffin said: “In September 2009, I launched my campaign for Congress as a common sense conservative and have kept my word by supporting bold but pragmatic solutions to address our most pressing problems, including a balanced budget, Medicare reform, repeal of Obamacare, tax reform and regulatory reform. I am proud that the House’s efforts resulted in the Budget Control Act (BCA), the largest spending reduction in American history. I am equally proud that the House has stopped numerous harmful proposals. I choose to be a citizen-legislator rather than a career politician, and I will continue to do my best representing my fellow Arkansans through the remainder of my term.”

Griffin hasn’t said anything about seeking another office in Arkansas, such as running for governor or attorney general.

“I’m going to stay very involved in politics and am watching for where we go next,” he said.


Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Vincent Insalaco said Monday, “You can’t shut down the government for 16 days and hurt the pocketbooks of Arkansas families without taking responsibility for your actions, and that is exactly what a small group of reckless House members have done, including Tim Griffin, Rick Crawford, and Tom Cotton.

“It is no surprise that Tim Griffin saw the writing on the wall and figured out that Arkansans were going to hold him accountable for the dysfunction in Washington. Arkansans in his district were the ones getting the short end of the stick — from those suffering from the Mayflower oil spill to military personnel who were laid off in Jacksonville. People are tired and fed up with politics as usual, and politicians like Tim Griffin have been obstructing solutions and are part of the problem with Washington,” Insalaco said.


State GOP chairman Doyle Webb sees it differently.

He said, “(Griffin) has been a trailblazer in fighting to protect the citizens of the 2nd District from the negative impacts of Obamacare, as well as a strong advocate for small businesses in the state from the unfair burden of overreaching federal regulation. We wish Congressman Griffin and his family all the best; we look forward to the service he will provide throughout the remainder of his term. Many conservative Republicans are evaluating their possible candidacy; we are confident that the people of the 2nd District will elect another strong representative to fill the big shoes of Congressman Griffin.”

Taking the first swipe at Hays, Webb said, “Patrick Hays thought it was a good idea to support President Obama’s $800 billion failed stimulus package even as our nation was facing $17 trillion in debt. Arkansas can’t afford Patrick Hays and his tax-and-spend liberal policies.

“Hays in Washington will be another vote backing President Obama and Nancy Pelosi every step of the way,” Webb said.

SPORTS STORY >> GCT still after playoffs against Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badgers head back to the road this week for the first of two 5A East Conference away games with a Friday showdown against Greene County Tech.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Badgers (4-3, 3-1) got back on the winning track last week with a 35-12 victory over Blytheville on homecoming, a game in which they were heavily favored. The Chickasaws are one of only two teams in the East who are not significant players in the playoff fight.

Through the first month of conference play, only Batesville remains unbeaten at 4-0. The Pioneers went a long way towards securing at least a piece of the East Conference crown with a defeat of Wynne last week. As for the Yellowjackets, they fell to 3-1 in conference play with the loss, along with Beebe and Nettleton.

That might complete the playoff scenario in a normal season, but with Forrest City at 2-2 in league play and GCT at 1-3, it looks as if two decent teams may get left out of postseason play this year.

“There seems to be a lot more parody this year,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “Last year, you had Wynne, Batesville and Forrest City, which were the top three teams for sure, and then everybody else was trying for that fourth spot. Right now, you’ve still got about five or six teams that are still vying for a playoff spot.

“Usually, it takes four wins to get in the playoffs, but this year, it may take five the way the way everybody’s playing. Other than maybe Paragould and Blytheville, everybody is still alive for the four playoff spots, so it’s definitely going to be a wild three-week run here.”

The Eagles (1-6, 1-3) lost to Nettleton last week after picking up their first victory of the season the week before at Blytheville. They are not mathematically out of the playoff fight, but would have to win out at this point, starting this week against the Badgers.

“Offensively, they are a spread team, but they like to run the ball out of the spread about 50 percent of the time,” Shannon said. “They can put you in binds with their formations. Just from a strategy standpoint, they can get you out of position in a hurry and hit you with a big play. Defensively, they’ve got some big kids up front, but they’ve given up a lot of points. You can’t really say how good they are because everyone we’ve seen them against has been a spread team. I don’t know how they’re going to handle the power run we’re going to throw at them.”

The defense looked much better against Blytheville than a week earlier at Wynne, where the Yellowjackets’ inside run game put the Badgers in a bad spot. Added help inside led to big pass plays for Wynne, which resulted in the lopsided score at the end. Against the Chicks, Shannon said the inside line, led by seniors Dusty Skinner and Daniel Gann, shut down the run and allowed the rest of the defense to stay home. Shannon also noted the effort by outside linebackers Jesse Glover and Jesse Crisco.

The school week is short at Beebe High School with classes letting out early on Tuesday and Thursday, and out altogether on Friday.

That does not make the near three-hour road trip up to Paragould on Friday afternoon to take on the Eagles any less stressful for Shannon and the coaching staff.

“We’ve got parent-teacher conferences, out of school on Friday, so we’ve got lots of distractions,” Shannon said. “We talked about that, and how to prepare, making sure they know what’s at stake. Greene County Tech is one of the toughest places in the conference to go play. I always feel like when we get off the bus, we’re 14 points down already. Hopefully, the plan we have will work, and we’ll be ready to play.”

SPORTS STORY >> Injured Bears limp into homecoming

Leader sportswriter

There is no bye week in high-school football, at least not during the regular season.

The Sylvan Hills Bears could use one right about now with several of their premier players coming off injuries, but there is no such luxury this week as visiting Little Rock McClellan awaits for a 5A Central Conference meeting at Bill Blackwood Field on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Sylvan Hills (5-2, 3-1) suffered its first league setback last week on the road against Helena-West Helena Central. The loss was especially tough considering seven starters did not finish the game after sustaining injuries. Most of those starters will return this week to face the Crimson Lions for homecoming, but head coach Jim Withrow is cautiously optimistic.

“I’m not one way or the other on it,” Withrow said of homecoming. “Each group is different on how they handle it. I would hope that we handle it in a mature fashion. We need to win this one right here for our fourth win, that will assure us a playoff spot. We definitely need to handle it with some maturity.”

Of all the injuries the Bears suffered on Friday, junior running back Tyler Davis’ broken collarbone was the only season-ending injury. Junior receiver Walker Meriwether is also questionable for this Friday, but everyone else is expected back.

The Lions (0-7, 0-4) have struggled throughout the 2013 season. They have been outscored 156-38 in the first month of their Central schedule, including last week’s 49-12 clubbing at the hands of league-leading Pulaski Academy.

Despite McClellan’s difficulties so far, Withrow is not taking this week’s opponent lightly.

“They’ve got a couple of offensive and defensive linemen who really get after it,” Withrow said. “Their backs can all run. When they get out in the open, they run really well. It’s one of those things where you need to get on them early, and definitely try to stay away from the big play. It looks like the big play is what will get you in trouble.

“That’s the thing about playing a 0-7 team, you never know what they’re going to give you. They don’t have anything to lose at this point, so they may give you all sorts of stuff.”

The shock of losing, along with the unusually high amount of injuries last week, shadowed the fact that there were still some strong individual performances for the Bears at HWHC, including receiver Nathan Thomas, who did a good job of both receiving and blocking. Sophomore Elijah Sowards and junior Marlon Clemmons also had good nights receiving, and on the defensive side, senior defensive end Daniel Molden had a sack and a caused fumble while senior defensive back Chris Daily had an interception.

“There were some bright spots in there too,” Withrow said. “We played a good football team. That was probably the best team we’ve played all year.”

The biggest scare for Sylvan Hills on the injury front last week was junior quarterback Tra Doss, who revisited a nagging ankle sprain when he rolled up on it during a play late in the game.

Doss appears to be OK, and at this point ready to go against McClellan.

“I guess he’s OK,” Withrow said. “We had a little meeting this morning, and he told me he was good to go. The thing about Doss is, he’s a warrior. I mean, he is a warrior from head to toe. We kind of pulled the reigns back on him running the other night, but I think if we would have asked him to do it, he would have done it anyway. He is a competitor all the way.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville meets LRCA in a playoff atmosphere

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils hit the road this week for another playoff-type game as they travel to west Little Rock to take on Little Rock Christian Academy.

Jacksonville has taken the playoff-style approach since losing to Sylvan Hills two weeks ago, meaning they almost certainly need to win out to guarantee an actual spot in the class 5A postseason tournament, and have a minimum of four conference wins to have any shot at all at the playoffs.

Right now, the Red Devils are 2-2 in the 5A Central with three conference games remaining. Little Rock Christian Academy has the same overall record as Jacksonville at 3-4, and is 1-3 in league play.

“It’s a big game for both teams,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “I’m sure they think they have to get to four wins to have a shot, and that’s the same boat we’re in. So I’m expecting an exciting, playoff-type atmosphere.”

Jacksonville had its best game defensively last week, shutting out North Pulaski 36-0. The formation that defense will see this week will be a familiar one, but what happens out of it will be new for the Red Devils.

Jacksonville has faced spread teams several times this season, and faces one every day in practice. But of all the teams its faced so far, only the Warriors throw out of it up to 50-plus times per game.

“They’re going to throw the football,” Russell said. “They’ve thrown it 48, 52 and 58 times the past three weeks.

“They’ve got a quarterback who can get it to them. They’ve got a couple of pretty good receivers and they do have a little bit of a running game, so you can’t just pin your ears back because you’ll run right by him as they’re handing him the ball.”

Russell does believe his team needs to get good pressure on the quarterback, but indicates much of the pressure will be on the pass coverage unit. The Warriors will throw downfield, but the bulk of their offense is built around short passing plays off quick throws.

“It’s a lot different,” Russell said. “They run a lot more wide stuff, a lot of bubble screens. They’ll line trips up to one side and throw it out to the wide receiver with blockers in front of him. They put a lot of pressure on you with the quick passing game. It’s hard to defend a 5-yard pass. That doesn’t sound like much for a pass play, but 5 yards a play will get you down the field.”

Recognizing the formation will go a long way in helping the Red Devil defenders be successful.

“That’s it, we’ve got to recognize,” Russell said. “They’re going to let us know pretty much what we’re about to face. We just have to recognize the formation and get lined up right. That’ll go a long ways. After that we have to play sound technique and tackle the football.

“We took some steps in the right direction last week and we need to now start building on that.”

Though they’ve lost four times, only Sylvan Hills seems to have solved the riddle on how to stop the Warrior offense, holding it to one touchdown in a 35-7 win. Outside of that game, LRCA has averaged 32 points per game. The Warrior defense hasn’t been as impressive. Throw out its best effort, holding winless and injury-riddled North Pulaski to six points, it has given up an average of 38 points per game – 32 including the North Pulaski game.

Jacksonville started three sophomores on the offensive line last week. It’s an idea that coaches toyed with at the start of the season. Feeling a need to keep players on one side of the ball as much as possible, they went with it last week and it seemed to go well.

“In preseason, the prospects of having three sophomores on the line worries you a little,” Russell said. “But it’s go time now. You have to do what you think is best. We’re playing a series of one-game seasons right now.”

Jacksonville has run two different offenses the last several weeks, with each one looking good on different occasions. It was the passing game, led by senior quarterback Reggie Barnes, that North Pulaski was unable to deal with last week while the running game sputtered at times.

Last week also saw the return of receiver Terrell Moore, who was expected to be an impact player until suffering an injury in summer 7-on-7 that had him sidelined until last week.

Moore did not have a major impact on last week’s game, but the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder still has the tools to become a major part of the offense.

“We’ve sort of been waiting on him,” Russell said. “He came to us and said he was ready to play last week. We’re going to work him every day in practice this week and see how he progresses. We’d like to get him involved if he thinks he can go.”

Even without Moore, the Red Devils have no shortage of capable receivers. And Barnes had one of his best games at getting them the ball last week. But inaccuracy hasn’t been the only problem in the Jacksonville offense. Pass coverage and dropped passes have also plagued the passing game this season. All those things looked better last week.

“Reggie did some good things,” Russell said. “The line gave him some time and did some things I was really proud of. We’ve been working on our screens, and I thought we got out and blocked pretty well on those.”

The Red Devils and Warriors kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.A

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot on guard for upset

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers host a West Memphis team that’s had a disappointing season overall, but is showing signs of improvement. After starting the season 0-3, the Blue Devils are 2-2 in conference play and coming off a 42-13 rout of its neighboring rival Marion.

They will be an underdog when they visit Panther Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday, but the Blue Devils know a little bit about pulling off an upset over Cabot.

Just last season, West Memphis had a slightly better record than Cabot when they met in week eight, but games against common opponents indicated the Panthers may have the advantage. Instead, the Blue Devils took advantage of several Cabot mistakes, and running back Jarvis Cooper broke a long run in the final moments of the game to give West Memphis a 23-20 win.

Cooper is back this season for his senior year, and the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder carries the team offensively and defensively. Cabot coach Mike Malham knows stopping him probably means stopping West Memphis.

“He’s a Division I player,” Malham said of Cooper. “He broke two long ones against Central and kept them in that game. We didn’t break anything against Central. We don’t have anyone like that, with that combination of size and speed.”

Cooper ran for nearly 200 yards in the 41-24 loss at Central on Oct. 11. He also twice sacked Central’s quarterback on handoffs, forcing one fumble that was covered 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Cooper has offers from Memphis, Arkansas State and Central Arkansas, and has made official visits to Arkansas and Auburn. The University of Tennessee has also invited Cooper for an official visit later this year.

Auburn is looking at Cooper as a fullback, but his versatility makes it unclear where he will fit into a college’s system.

He played linebacker on defense last year and plays defensive tackle this season. He’s being scouted as a linebacker, end and tackle on defense.

While the Cabot coaching staff wants to always be aware of Cooper’s location at all times, he’s not the only weapon in the Lanny Dauksch-led Blue Devils’ arsenal.

“They’re just like they always are,” Malham said. “They’re not lacking in speed. They’ve got speed and athletes all over the field. They’re comparable to Central as far as athleticism. And we’d been breaking some long runs and we didn’t break any last week. I guess we got one on the fake punt, but out of our offense, we just had to work the ball down the field.”

The Panthers (7-0, 4-0) might have put the Tigers away sooner in last week’s 35-20 victory had it not been for two lost fumbles inside the Central 10-yard line on successive possessions in the third quarter.

If ball control is one of the keys to victory this week, turnovers can’t be part of the equation.

“They’re kind of a ball-control team too,” Malham said of Dauksch’s wing-T. “When you got two teams out there that both want to keep the ball away from the opponent, the one who does it better usually wins. So you can’t have long drives and then give it away just when you’re about to score like we did last week.”

While West Memphis (2-5, 2-2) has been a standard wing-T offense in most of Dauksch’s 12 years there, they have tweaked the formation this year. The Blue Devils don’t go with a full-house backfield very often this season, instead choosing to split one back wide and even slot a second receiver at times.

“They’re not in that too much,” Malham said of the three-back formation. “But it’s based out of the wing. So most of what you do on defense is pretty much the same. They’re not as big as they’ve been in the past, so I think they’re trying to get their athletes in space a little more, because they are still fast. We just have to be solid and not give up the big play.”

Cabot fullback Zach Launius is approaching a milestone that used to be a staple for Panther football, but hasn’t happened in several years – a 1,000-yard rushing season. Though he’s only played in six of Cabot’s seven games, he has 730 yards rushing on just 116 carries. That’s an average of 19 carries per game with a 122-yard average. He’s averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

Though Launius missed one game this season and a couple of offensive linemen have missed some games, the Panthers will be at full strength at kickoff on Friday.

“Knock on wood, we got them all and they all should be ready,” Malham said. “We’re in great shape.”