Saturday, December 14, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Devils earn their first win at Mt. St. Mary

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devils put one in the win column Tuesday night, taking a short trip and beating Mount St. Mary Academy 63-39 in Little Rock.

Jacksonville, 1-3, came out trapping on defense and it troubled the Belles. The Lady Red Devils quickly jumped out to a 15-5 lead and continued to stretch the lead throughout the first three quarters.

“I give our kids a lot of credit,” Jacksonville coach William Rountree said. “They’ve played an extremely tough schedule. They lost a game to the weather and have had a big gap in between games. For them to come out like they did and then to keep it rolling, that’s a credit to them and their focus. They did a really good job.”

Rountree alternated between fullcourt and half-court traps out of man-to-man defense, but foul trouble forced the Lady Devils into a zone at times.

That created many of Jacksonville’s first-quarter points, but it wasn’t the only way Jacksonville created offensive success.

“I thought we had good balance,” Rountree said. “We got the ball inside a little better. Scoring was very balanced. Tiffany (Smith) and Keke (Alcorn) shot the ball well. And we got good play from Ashli Evans, Sacha Richardson and Jerika Hardaway as well. I’m really very encouraged.”

Getting the ball inside hasn’t been much of an option for Jacksonville until recently. Junior post player Markela Bryles, who started last year but didn’t join the team until last week, added an inside presence that the guard-heavy Lady Devils were lacking.

“She’s not big for a post player, but she’s the biggest one we’ve got and she can play down there,” Rountree said. “She’s got good touch from close range and she can score. She gives us another piece to the puzzle, which makes everybody better.”

The Lady Red Devils led 29-14 at halftime and 47-22 at the end of three quarters. Rountree used the fourth quarter to get several players more game experience.

Three Lady Devils shared leading scorer honors. Smith, Alcorn and Antrice McCoy each scored 13 points while Bryles added 12.

Jacksonville will play at 1 p.m. today in the Cabot Pre-Holiday tournament. The Lady Devils weren’t originally scheduled to appear in the tournament.

With northeast Arkansas still covered in ice on Tuesday, when Greene County Tech was supposed to play Cabot, the Lady Eagles had to drop out of the event. Cabot took a bye in the first round, and Jacksonville will replace Tech in the losers’ bracket on Saturday against Watson Chapel, a first-round loser to Bryant on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison fall in semifinals to Junction City

Leader sports editor

The Junction City Dragons intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to seal a 38-28 class 2A semifinal victory over Carlisle on Friday in El Dorado.

The pick six came with 39 seconds remaining, and put an end to a comeback by the Bison after falling behind 30-14.

Carlisle mounted a comeback and put up offensive numbers like no team has against the Dragons.

With 4:04 left in the third quarter, Junction City took advantage of Carlisle’s third turnover and scored to go up by 16.

The Bison got one back before the quarter ended.

Fullback DeRon Ricks completed a long drive with a 2-yard run with 1:08 remaining in the third. The two-point conversion failed after an illegal procedure penalty moved the ball back to the 8-yard line. It was the second time in the game that Carlisle got a penalty before a two-point conversion, and they failed to convert both times.

The Bison defense then stopped Junction City, and didn’t take long to score again. This time it was halfback Bo Weddle who carried for the final 6 yards with 9:06 remaining in the game. He also got the two-point conversion to make it a two-point game.

Carlisle’s defense got another stop, but the offense grew ineffective when Ricks went down with 2:42 remaining with a hyper extended knee.

Facing third and long, Carlisle had to try to pass, and it resulted in the game-ending interception.

Carlisle threw three passes and completed none. The Bison ran for 242 yards, with Ricks getting 198 of those on 38 carries and scoring three touchdowns.

The Dragons had 241 total yards with 175 rushing. They will face Des Arc, who beat Bearden 8-0 in the other semifinal, in next Saturday’s championship game.

SPORTS STORY >> North Pulaski upends Trojans

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski boys won their third-straight game on Wednesday, beating the Hot Springs Trojans 63-50 at the Conway Invitational and improving to 4-1 this season. The game went back-and-forth throughout the first half, which ended with the Falcons leading 31-27.

North Pulaski then scored six points in the first minute of the third to take a 10-point lead, and never relinquished control from that point.

“I think we did pretty well,” said North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson. “The first half I thought we came out a little sluggish. But once we got going I thought we picked it up. They never did take off from school and kept practicing and playing games. They were able to prepare for us and we weren’t able to do that. I was real pleased with my kids. On the defensive end I was pleased with the effort the whole game. Offensively, I thought we were off with our timing from the layoff, so it took a minute to adjust.”

Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter. North Pulaski made just two shots from the floor, but hit six of eight free throws and took a 10-7 lead into the second frame. Things picked up from there as the Falcons began focusing on its interior game. Fred Thomas scored eight points in the paint in the second quarter and Steven Farrior added four more. That opened up the outside, where the Falcons hit their only two three pointers of the night. They were 2 of 15 from beyond the three-point line in the game, and the two that went in required a little luck.

“I think we banked in both the ones we made,” Jackson said. “I think some of that has to do with playing in an open arena for the first time this year. That backdrop is nothing like playing in a regular gym. I think we’ll probably do better than 2 for 15 the rest of the tournament.”

Rebounding was the only area in which Hot Springs won the battle, outrebounding the Falcons 40-28, but Jackson felt better about the second half effort on the boards.

“I thought we did a lot better job of it in the second half,” Jackson said. “They’re just as athletic as we are and a little bigger, so we’re not going to just jump higher than them. We came out in the second half with a better focus on boxing out.”

The numbers bear out Jackson’s observation. Hot Springs held a 23-13 advantage on the boards at halftime, but only a 17-15 advantage in the second half.

North Pulaski’s defensive pressure forced 23 Trojan turnovers, 12 of which were steals by seven different Falcons. DeMarik Brown came off the bench to lead the team with three takeaways. North Pulaski only turned it over 11 times.

Sophomore RaShawn Langston led the Falcons with 16 points while Thomas added 14 and a team-high six rebounds. Jackson was impressed by Thomas’ presence inside, being that he is only 5-foot-9.

“He’s really an athletic kid and he’s just got a motor,” Jackson said. “Rebounding is a mindset. It’s an attitude. He’s buying into what we’re trying to do. He’s hungry, and hopefully he’ll keeping coming with it the rest of the season.”

Joe Aikens scored 10 points and had five assists and four rebounds.

Trey Lenox led Hot Springs with 11 points.

North Pulaski lost 58-50 to tournament host Conway on Friday night and will face Harrison at 5:30 p.m. today in the third-place game. The Goblins lost to Fayetteville in the other semifinal.

SPORTS STORY >> Tigers air it out, deflate Panthers

Leader sports editor

The clouds never broke and the rain never stopped pouring at War Memorial Stadium on Friday, a fitting setting for a class 7A championship game that turned into a battle to see which team would break first. It took an entire half for one team to flinch, and that team was Cabot.

The Bentonville Tigers took advantage of two Cabot fumbles and a secondary that continuously gave up deep passes en route to a 39-28 victory, earning BHS its fourth state championship and depriving Cabot of its fourth.

The two teams slugged it out for a half, with the Panthers taking a 14-13 lead into intermission, but the way the first half ended turned out to be a preview of the final two quarters.

Cabot, 12-1, scored with 54 seconds left in the second quarter to take a 14-10 lead, but Bentonville, 11-2, went deep for the first time in the game on the ensuing possession, and connected for 52 yards from quarterback Kasey Ford to receiver Jimmie Jackson to the Cabot 10-yard line with 22 seconds remaining.

Cabot defensive end Brian Marshall sacked Ford on the next play, forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal, but the play gave the Tigers the confidence to come out passing in the second half despite the dreadful conditions.

“We wanted to throw the ball from the start, but we thought with the conditions we might ought to keep it conservative,” said Bentonville coach Barry Lunney. “But that just wasn’t getting us where we needed to be. So we decided we were just going to throw the ball regardless of the conditions. Kasey is going to be a great quarterback. One thing that helps him is he has huge hands, so he can still get a good grip on that ball. He made some great throws tonight.”

The Tigers got the ball to start the second half and wasted little time going over the top again. On the second play of the third quarter, Ford found Cody Scroggins 41 yards downfield to the Panther 20-yard line.

It took six plays to score from there, but the Tigers just got it in on fourth and 1 when junior Hekili Keliiliki plowed forward after running into the back of his linemen for the touchdown.

Still, the Panthers only trailed 20-14, and the game had gone back and forth since the Tigers kicked a field goal for the first score of the game with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.

But Cabot would never lead again, thanks to fumbles on back-to-back possessions.

The Panthers gave the ball up on downs after a 44-yard drive to start the game, and went three and out on their second possession. From that point, they scored on every drive on which they didn’t fumble.

After the Tigers’ touchdown in the third quarter, Cabot drove 33 yards into Bentonville territory on seven carries by fullback Zach Launius. The ball came loose during a scrum after a 3-yard gain, and Bentonville’s Tyler Nichols came out of the pile with the ball.

Bentonville went 48 yards in seven plays, converting a third down and 12 from the 19-yard line into a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ford to Scroggins with 3:31 left in the third quarter. The Tigers faked the extra point and attempted to convert for two, but were stopped, leaving the score 26-14.

Cabot returned the kickoff to the 29-yard line, then drove 51 yards before Launius fumbled again at the 19-yard line. Nichols again came out of the pile with the ball while Launius argued that he was down before being stripped of the ball.

The officials took a long time to signal Bentonville’s ball, and the replay on the stadium jumbotron seemed to verify Launius’ claim, but Bentonville took over on its own 22, and the Cabot defense continued to have no answer for the Tiger passing attack.

After a 3-yard run, Scroggins made a 19-yard catch to the 44. Three more running plays gained 12 yards before another big scoring strike from Ford to Jackson.

Jackson was running a post route the whole way, but a simple shoulder pump by Ford was enough to make Cabot cornerback Jordan Burke bite hard and allow Jackson to run past him. Jackson made the catch with no defender within 15 yards for an easy six with 8:43 left in the game.

Cabot blocked the extra point, leaving the score 32-14.

The Panthers scored easily on their next drive, starting with a 52-yard run by halfback Chris Henry that set the Panthers up at the Bentonville 28-yard line. Dylan Thompson then went 12 yards and Launius scored his second touchdown five plays later with 6:17 remaining.

Trevor Reed’s extra point made it 32-21. But Cabot couldn’t stop the Tigers.

The Panther defense forced three third downs of 4 yards or more, but the Tigers converted each time. They failed to convert on their fourth third down, but went for it on fourth and 2 from the Cabot 18, and Keliiliki got all 18 on a run off right tackle for a 39-21 lead with 1:47 remaining in the game.

Cabot’s final drive went 72 yards in eight plays, and Launius broke 2,000 yards rushing for the season on the last carry of his career, a 5-yard run for his third touchdown that gave him 179 for the game and 2,001 yards this season. Launius fell just short of the school record, but became just the second player in school history to top the 2,000-yard mark.

“We had a good season running the ball,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We moved the ball all year long. We moved it this game except for those two drives where we fumbled it. That turned out to be the difference. If we go in and score on those two drives it’s a different looking game.”

Launius also threw a touchdown pass in the first half, a half in which every touchdown drive involved some form of trick play. Cabot’s opening touchdown came on a fullback pass from Launius to Henry for 14 yards on third and 10.

That gave Cabot a 7-3 lead with 7:05 left in the first half. Bentonville then scored on a rollout right, throwback left to tight end Jack Kraus. The 6-foot-6, 234-pound Razorback signee caught the ball at the 3-yard line, and had only 5-8, 150-pound sophomore Holdyn Barnes to beat. Barnes went low and hit Kraus thigh-high at the 1, but couldn’t keep him out of the end zone.

Cabot’s last touchdown of the first half was set up by a common play, but still caught Bentonville off guard because the Tigers were not expecting a fade pass to the end zone by the run-oriented Panthers.

Quarterback Kason Kim-brell threw a perfect pass to receiver Jake Ferguson, who made a phenomenal catch a yard deep in the end zone, but the official ruled he went out of bounds at the 1. The call was wrong, but academic. Launius went in untouched on the very next play to put the Panthers ahead 14-10 with 54 seconds on the clock.

Bentonville finished with 431 total yards. Ford completed 11 of 18 pass attempts for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson and Scroggins each caught four passes. Jackson totaled 114 yards and Scroggins 110. Tailback Dylan Smith carried 22 times for 107 yards.

Cabot gained 418 yards, with 332 coming on the ground. Launius carried 39 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns, and threw one pass for 14 yards and a score. Kimbrell completed 6 of 7 pass attempts for 72 yards. Henry had 127 total yards, carrying eight times for 76 yards and catching three passes for 51 yards and a score.

EDITORIAL >> Grandkids a special joy

My oldest grandson was born 15 years ago on Dec. 7. No one asked me then if I wanted to be a grandmother. If they had, I might have told them, “Not quite yet.”

I was actually taken aback when the kids asked what version of grandmother I wanted for my new name. I didn’t like any in common use but begrudgingly settled for Gran. That worked well until the second grandchild couldn’t quite pronounce it and started calling me Joanie. And it mutated to Noanie with the third.

When the babies were very small, their mothers took care of them. When they went back to school or to work, I did. During many long summers, I waited for phone calls from public officials while frying huge batches of chicken strips and potato logs for the grandkids, who were old enough to stay by themselves since our houses are virtually in the same yard but not old enough to make their own lunch.

Once, I rushed through a phone call with a congressman because one of the twins seemed to need to talk to me more than I needed to talk to him. I like to think he didn’t notice.

We already had seven of the 10 by the time my husband and I added onto the house out of sheer necessity. I envisioned a cozy sitting room for the adults in the old living room. But, before I could even start on it, the grandkids claimed it as their own. It was the kids’ room, they told me, and so it was.

I bought them bean bags, which I tossed behind the catty-cornered couch. Sometimes they sat on them, but just as often they were the base of a playhouse behind the couch that usually also included every pillow in the room.

When I repainted that room, I also had to replace the knobs on the TV cabinet that had been inadvertently removed by a grandson who fiddled with them with his bare toes while lying on the floor.

They all knew that the Band-aids and antibiotic cream were on the bottom shelf of the cabinet in the bathroom across the hall and that they didn’t have to ask for popsicles. But they did have to put the wrappers in the basket I bought for the kids’ room.

It was a crazy time, but I realized during the ice storm last week that it had come to an end.

I actually looked forward to snow and ice days when my house was the place to get warm, dry gloves and drink hot chocolate. But this weekend, for the first time, the kids stayed at their own houses. My house was clean with no clutter or puddles from icy boots. But it was so very quiet.

The interesting thing about ice storms is that they give you time that you might not have ordinarily — time to talk, make chili, reconnect. Just ask any delivery-room nurse about the brisk business they do nine months after a big winter event.

For me, it was time to try to remember who I was before the grandkids came along and decide if I want to go back to that or try something different for the next 20 years. Frankly, I’m more than a little upset that it’s come to that. But, just like no one asked me if I was ready to be a grandmother, no one asked me if it was OK with me if they grew up. If they had, I might have told them, “Not quite yet.”

— Joan McCoy

TOP STORY >> Ward approves $1.39M budget

Leader staff writer

The Ward City Council this week passed a $1.39 million general fund budget for 2014 and a $2.7 million budget for water and wastewater.

General fund revenue is up slightly from 2013, when the council passed a $1.35 million budget. But the budget for water and wastewater is the same.

The general fund budget includes 3 percent pay raises for hourly workers and 4 percent raises for department heads.

Mayor Art Brooke’s salary was increased from $30,000 to $32,500. The mayor said, when his salary was raised from $25,312 to $30,000 in 2012, he didn’t intend to run for a fifth term and that the increase was necessary to attract a good replacement. But supporters have asked him to run again, Brooke said, so that is what he will do.

The council also approved a $1,000 pay raise for part-time Clerk-Treasurer John Barclay, bringing his salary to $13,000.

In a breakdown by department, the budget includes $546,500 for the police department, $208,200 for the fire department, $77,700 for parks and $451,700 for the street department.

The council also unanimously approved changes in the city’s 1995 zoning ordinance to include three distinct development districts – the downtown area, an area near Ward Central Elementary and an area in the southern part of the city – that would include mixed-use commercial and residential with no barriers to separate the two.

The plan for the districts was created by Metroplan. The council adopted the plan after three separate readings during three successive council meetings to ensure that the public was aware of the changes.

Now that the changes are part of the city’s zoning ordinance, all development in the districts — which are one-quarter mile in radius — must comply with the plan.

All the houses built inside the three districts must have front porches. All parking for businesses and houses must be in the rear.

There will be no parking on the streets in the three districts, and there will be no driveways leading to garages attached to the sides of houses. Both front and side setbacks will be narrower. So buildings will be closer together and closer to streets.

When they are built on, the three new districts will be similar to neighborhoods during the 1800s or early 1900s, when people walked between houses and visited with neighbors sitting on their front porches.

The design would create a sense of place for the people who live there, Metroplan deputy director Richard Magee and Metroplan GIS planner Jeff Runder told the city council when they introduced the changes during the October council meeting.

Crime could potentially go down as residents get to know their neighbors, they claimed. And speeders would likely slow down because the close proximity of buildings and streets is conducive to lower speeds, the Metroplan representatives said.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke mulls water, sewer hike

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke City Council discussed raising water and sewer rates during its meeting this week, after members received the preliminary 2014 budget.

Alderman Koy Butler said the city’s rates are lower than those of several nearby cities.

Lonoke has a minimum charge of $11 for 1,000 gallons of water. A residential rate comparison showed that the charges for a minimum of 1,000 gallons are $10 in Hazen, $10.86 in Carlisle, $12.09 in England, $14.71 in Ward and $15.64 in Beebe. Lonoke is the third lowest of those. Cabot, Jacksonville and Grand Prairie Bayou Two have a minimum charge for 2,000 gallons. The rates are $8.70 in Jacksonville, $16.70 in Cabot and $21 in Grand Prairie Bayou Two.

The minimum charge to Lonoke residents for sewer is $6.61 per 1,000 gallons. The other minimum rates for 1,000 gallons are $5.10 in Cabot, $7.40 in Carlisle, $8 in Hazen, $8.53 in England, $9.07 in Beebe and $14.63 in Jacksonville. Lonoke is the second lowest.

The city with the lowest minimum combined rate is Hazen with $18. Lonoke comes in second with a combined minimum rate of $17.61 among the cities who have the same 1,000-gallon minimum for both water and sewer.

The council’s discussion was sparked by a Budget and Finance Committee recommendation that the city consider giving 20 percent of the county tax revenue back to the police department. That portion was given to the water and sewer fund in 2012.

If the committee’s recommendation is approved, how the one-cent county tax money is distributed will change but the projected total revenue figure will not. The 2014 budget lists that total as $432,000. By comparison, the city’s 2013 budget projected there would be $424,000 in revenue from the county, and Lonoke had collected $328,157 as of September.

The breakdown of that money is that police receive 22 percent, which includes 3 percent for the library and 5 percent for the depot. The fire department gets 5 percent, animal control’s piece of the pie is 3 percent, the street department receives 25 percent and the water and sewer budget sees 45 percent. The water and sewer fund had $397,894 on Nov. 30, according to the recommendation.

Butler — a committee member — said, if the recommendation weren’t approved, the police department would be out of money by the end of next year. They would also have to use all of their reserves, he said.

“They’re scrimping by,” Butler added.

Alderman Pat Howell disagreed. He explained that the council has provided for police since the county tax distributions were adjusted. “We have never, ever turned them down on anything they’ve asked for…I don’t know where they’ve had to cut back,” Howell said.

He asked the council to give an example of something police have had to do without, but no one gave him one.

Howell also explained that money in the water and sewer fund could be used elsewhere, while funds in the police department’s budget cannot be used for anything but the police department. He also said, “They will be provided for whether we raise water rates or not.”

Alderman Janie Derning agreed with Howell. “We’re not going to let them do without something that they need,” she said.

Alderman Wendell Walker explained that, in 2011, water rates were raised by $2.40.

He said, “in the same sentence” that was approved with, employees received raises.

Walker said, “We cannot make the citizen pay for everything that we need done.”

Butler pointed out that the water and sewer rates are the only income source the city has, with the exception of a bond issue. The council has also talked about pushing for a bond issue at recent meetings.

The city is not coming up with enough revenue to cover a $70,000 water and sewer bond payment, Butler continued.

He said, while water and sewer rate revenues cover some of the payments, Lonoke’s one-cent county tax funds pay whatever is leftover.

The alderman suggested upping the charge for the minimum 1,000 gallons, but Mayor Wayne McGee said the increase should be on the rate for additional usage.

Lonoke’s charge for additional usage is $3.35 for water and $1.57 for sewer. But Butler said there are fewer residents who need additional water and sewer.

Alderman Michael Florence said the city should get a rural water company to conduct a water and sewer rate study. McGee said the study could be done for free.

No consensus was reached, although many on the council agreed that rates should be looked at.

The mayor said more information on what it costs to provide water to Lonoke residents would also be available at the council’s next meeting.

In other business:

 The council was told that the Budget and Finance Committee has suggested raising pay for firefighters from $15 per fire run to $20 per fire run.

Firefighters already receive $20 for drills, according to the recommendation. There is enough revenue in the budget to cover the $5 increase, but the current rate is in the fire department’s handbook that was adopted by ordinance, it states.

That means the ordinance must be amended to make the change. The rest of the budget was not discussed, and it was not voted on.

 The council voted 6-1 to name Antujuan Terry as assistant director of the Lonoke Community Center. Terry already worked for the center, and the promotion does not come with a pay raise.

Alderman Janie Derning voted against the measure because none of the other departments have assistant directors and, she said, the center doesn’t need one.

Community center director Mike Brown said he wanted someone to be able to make decisions while he was away.

City Attorney Camille Bennett supports the idea because the community center is open when city hall is not. The mayor explained that he or the city clerk have to make decisions when Brown in unavailable.

TOP STORY >> Tough cuts balance city budget

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday received a proposed balanced budget for 2014 that is about the same as 2013 and includes $40,000 in revenue from an increase in the sales tax on alcoholic beverages and more than $157,000 in cuts to employee benefits.

Finance director Cheryl Erkel said she would bring the $22 million budget to the council for approval at its next meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall.

The council passed the sales tax increase on alcohol, with an emergency clause that makes it effective immediately, at Tuesday’s meeting. The tax was increased to 10 percent of a business’ gross profits, the same rate several surrounding cities have, according to Mayor Gary Fletcher.

Erkel reported that, if the proposed budget were approved, there would be no cost-of-living or annual raises for city employees.

On the chopping block are a $20,246 clothing allowance, $20,000 in tuition reimbursement, $88,000 in longevity pay and $28,800 in degree-incentive pay.

If the budget is approved, the employee portion of free health insurance will also increase to $72 for individuals and from $115 to $150 for families.

But there will be no furloughs or layoffs, Erkel said.

Jacksonville won’t fill six positions that will be open after the beginning of the year. Alderman James Bolden warned, “That doesn’t mean the workload changes.”

The mayor said the positions are across the city. He continued, “Our intention is always to take care of our employees, but again, it’s that $1 million deficit. That census count killed us. It’s followed us…We’ve done an awful lot with as little as we have. The truth of the matter is it’s a very tight budget.”

Fletcher was referring to the city’s loss of $1 million in federal turnback revenue, which happened when the 2010 census — certified in 2011 — showed Jacksonville had lost about 1,500 of its population. The population drop can be attributed to airmen who wereoverseas or elsewhere while homes were being renovated on Little Rock Air Force Base, the mayor has said previously.

Alderman Terry Sansing thanked Fletcher and the department heads for working hard on the budget. “I know this was a very, very difficult year to deal with,” he said.

Erkel presented an unbalanced budget to the council early last month that included all funding requests from every department.

It showed that Jacksonville had to make up for a $2.95 million shortfall by making cuts or generating more revenue. On Tuesday, the council did both.

Of the department heads, Erkel said, “They cut as much as they possibly could.”

The increase in sales tax on alcoholic beverages was passed after local banker Phillip Carlisle and Amy Mattison, the chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the council about the wet/dry petition.

Carlisle and Mattison are members of the Jacksonville Wet/Dry Campaign Com-mittee, which has collected about 13,000 signatures to put to a vote whether nearly 90 percent of the city should go wet or stay dry. The group must collect approximately 4,400 signatures, or 38 percent of registered voters in the dry area.

Carlisle said the most effective way to gather signatures is canvassing 41 neighborhoods.

“The numbers are not astronomical to get the percentage. They’re not. What is astronomical is getting the volunteers to do it,” the banker said.

He urged the aldermen to volunteer and to encourage Jacksonville employees to the same. But the banker acknowledged that he understood they couldn’t canvas on city time.

Carlisle pointed out that city officials and employees are going to see the most benefit if the city goes wet and gets thousands more in sales tax revenue.

Gesturing toward the council and department heads who attended the meeting, he continued, “We can’t get enough volunteers. So I look up and think ‘Who benefits? Who is the No. 1 benefactor who can help me get the most signatures? Here you go, right here…Everybody wins.”

Alderman Reedie Ray said people outside the city limits could sign the petition because they live in the dry area — the defunct Gray Township.

Bolden said, “(It’s) very controversial because of the fact I am a pastor. I want to really hit the issue. The issue is tax dollars…I don’t care how saved you are, how much you speak in tongues or shout, you go to a restaurant. And, when you go to a restaurant, there’s alcohol in the restaurant. Now I don’t drink. I preach against drinking. If you were to see me on TV (Bolden has a show on CW Arkansas on Sunday mornings), I’m very bold about it.

“But these tax dollars are needed, and I understand there are people who are drinking, sitting in the church, working in the church. Let’s get their tax dollars. We’ve got to realize that everybody has a vice. Why can’t Jacksonville make money off the vice? Why is North Little Rock getting all the new stuff? Why is Cabot getting all the new stuff? Why? If we don’t get this petition signed, we’re going to have problems.”

Applause followed his statement, but none of the aldermen announced at the meeting their intention of volunteering to collect signatures.

Carlisle also said the committee has $20,000 in donations to spend on the effort. The group is paying canvassers $2 for each valid signature they collect.

If wet supporters succeed and voters agree to go wet, restaurants, convenience and grocery stores will be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages without an expensive private-club license.

In addition to money from the 10 percent sales tax on alcoholic beverages, at least one other increase in revenue was included in the budget Erkel presented on Tuesday.

The city has received $850,000 in donations from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for the shooting range.

Jacksonville also refinanced the city’s loan for 911 equipment from Motorola to increase cash flow.

Other changes to and details of the proposed budget were:

 The fire department applied for a $687,201 FEMA grant to purchase a new fire engine. It is expected to cost $692,351 with the $98,941 difference coming from the capital equipment fund. Erkel said the expenditure would not occur if the department doesn’t receive the grant.

 County sales tax revenues are estimated to increase by 0.5 percent.

 City sales tax revenues are estimated to increase by 1.8 percent.

 The city will transfer $290,000 to emergency medical services to increase cash flow and transfer $200,000 to capital improvement to replenish the transfer of funds to balance the 2013 budget.

 The debt service department includes loan payments of $417,863 to Motorola for 911 equipment, $732,693 for capital improvements and $720,178 for the shooting range.

 The city will use $740,197 in fund balance. A fund balance is revenue leftover after expenditures are subtracted from the total revenues.

 The street fund is $2.17 million that includes revenue from a Safe Routes to School grant and an increase in expenditures for sidewalk and drainage projects.

 The estimated revenues for the sanitation fund are $1.81 million. The estimated expenditures are $1.78 million. The increase in revenues will come from sanitation fees, Erkel said.

 The estimated revenues for the emergency medical services fund are $1.2 million. The estimated expenditures are $1.18 million. The increase in expenses is the planned purchase of new software and training, Erkel said.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons, Red Devils tipping off in Conway

Leader sportswriter

The winter storm that spread across the state last week led to a brief halt in the high school sports schedule, but the Jacksonville and North Pulaski boys’ basketball teams will take the floor for the first time since the unscheduled break in today’s opening rounds of the annual John Stanton Wampus Cat Invitational at Conway High School.

The tournament was originally scheduled to begin on Monday, but was moved to today in order to better accommodate the traveling teams and their fans.

Jacksonville (4-1) will play an improved Harrison team in its first-round game tonight at 5:30, while North Pulaski (3-1) is scheduled to take on tournament newcomer Hot Springs in the nightcap at 8:30.

Red Devils’ coach Vic Joyner got to see Harrison in action earlier this season, and says the Golden Goblins look better than they did a year ago, especially at the guard positions.

“I saw them play Searcy,” said Joyner, “and they’ve got five or six guys that can shoot it. They were kind of a one-man show last year. They had one guard that some nights might score 30 (points), and would kind of exclude other people from shooting. But this year they have more of a well-rounded team, and that makes them a lot more dangerous.”

Jacksonville started the season red hot with four-straight wins, but suffered its first loss in its most recent game to date against West Memphis on Dec. 3. The Red Devils narrowly beat that same Blue Devils team in the season opener, but lost 70-57 in the rematch.

Joyner said his team can be its own worst enemy at times, and would like to see his players play with more cohesiveness when they take the floor this evening.

“I just want them to come out and be unified – everybody pulling for each other. I just want them to come out and execute,” Joyner said. “Right now we’re not finishing off defensive series. After the West Memphis game, we realized we’ve got stuff to fix. We’ve got a whole new cast of characters, and this team is far from being a team right now.”

North Pulaski won its last game played, which was Nov. 30 against Maumelle at Philander Smith College in Little Rock. The Falcons were scheduled to play at Lonoke last Friday, but that game was canceled because of the icy weather.

“I think we’re all kind of in the same boat,” said Falcons’ coach Roy Jackson about the unexpected break. “I don’t know about Hot Springs. I’m sure they’ve probably been in school and have probably been practicing, but we’re going to see how it goes.

“As always, any time you’ve got time off like this, you’re always eager to get back in the gym. The kids want to get back in and get some shooting in, get their rhythm down – get back out (on the court) and get their rhythm down. As a coach, you never want your kids off too long, because they lose a lot of things they’ve been working on.”

The Falcons have had their struggles at times on the defensive end of the court since their season began in November, but they’ve more than made up for it on offense more times than not, as they’ve lit up the scoreboard in their four games played with their fast-pace, uptempo style.

This is Jackson’s third year as the head Falcon, and he’s entered his North Pulaski teams into this tournament all three years. Jackson said participating in this tournament is always a great opportunity to test his players against some stellar competition in a great playoff-style atmosphere.

“Overall, I think it’s a good tournament and a good test,” Jackson said. “I love going up there because you’ve got good teams. It’s a good atmosphere, because it gives you that playoff-type of atmosphere. When you go up there, it gives you a good gauge on how your team will be later on in the year.”

The other four teams participating in the tournament are Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, Bryant and the host team. Fayetteville will open the tournament against Pine Bluff. The winner of that game will play the Jacksonville/Harrison winner on Friday.

In the top part of the bracket, Conway will compete against Bryant, and the North Pulaski/Hot Springs winner will battle the winner of that game, also on Friday. Each team will play three games in the invitational, and barring any setbacks, the tournament is scheduled to wrap up on Saturday with the championship game scheduled to be played at 8:30 that evening.

SPORTS STORY >> Ex Badger going for third title as a Tiger

Leader sports editor

When Cabot takes the field at War Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday in the class 7A state championship game, there will be more local flavor than just the players in the red home uniforms. Across the way, on the Bentonville sideline, will be one of best running backs to come out of Beebe High School.

David Pollard was a star for the Badgers in the late 80s while playing for Barry Lunney Sr. He had scholarship offers from smaller in-state schools and invitations to walk-on and Division I universities.

He played college ball for a year at Ouachita Baptist and three years at UCA. He is now in his 17th year of working for Lunney, starting in 1996 as an assistant coach at RamseyJunior High in Fort Smith. He is the associate head coach and running backs’ coach for the Bentonville Tigers, and has been on Lunney’s high-school staff for three of his six state championships.

Pollard, now 42 years old, has been with Lunney, officially, for his entire coaching career, and has designs on someday becoming a head coach, but if not for a minor delay concerning an opening at Jacksonville in 1996, his career path could have been very different.

As a senior at UCA, Pollard did his practice teaching at Jacksonville for then basketball coach Jerry Wilson. After graduation, he took a job at JHS as a health teacher and volunteered in athletics wherever he could, but he wanted to be a coach.

“There was actually an opportunity there at Jacksonville that I wanted to apply for, but it was one of those situations where I had to wait and see,” said Pollard. “There was also an opportunity at Fort Smith. I contacted coach Lunney and ended up being offered the job as an assistant on the junior high staff. The Jacksonville job would’ve been a high-school position if I could have waited on it, but I had an offer, so I took it.”

After one year as an assistant at Ramsey, he became the head coach. After five years of leading Ramsey, he became one of Lunney’s assistants at Fort Smith Southside, and coached defense for 15 years before being moved to the offensive side of the ball this season.

In that time, he coached every aspect of defense, even though he considered himself an offensive player in high school and college.

“I played running back and linebacker, but I always considered myself an offensive guy,” Pollard said. “Coach Lunney put me on defense when I first moved to the high-school position, and I did that for 15 years. After a while, it’s just what you do. I’ve learned a lot about defense over the years.”

Ironically, the sudden change this season, which Pollard admits caught him off guard, has not only made him a more knowledgeable offensive coach, but also a better defensive coach.

“At first I wasn’t too sure about it, but then I started thinking I’d like to do offense,” Pollard said. “And it’s made me a more well-rounded coach. The more I learned about offense made me better at defense.”

Pollard has learned to trust the coach he’s been loyal to for 16 years. He trusted Lunney when he put him in charge of one of the junior-high programs.

He trusted him when he brought him to the high-school staff. He trusted him when the move was made to Bentonville, and most recently, he trusted Lunney when the mentor told the apprentice he was ready to be a head coach. Pollard applied for the opening at Rogers recently, and was one of the five finalists who interviewed for the job. That opportunity didn’t pan out, but being a head coach is in his plans.

One thing Pollard has learned, though, is to not force it.

“It’s going to have to be the right place at the right time,” Pollard said. “I’ve seen guys that wanted to be a head coach jump in and take a job, and it wasn’t the right job. There’s going to be a lot more that goes into the decision other than just being a head coach. Coach Lunney told me I was ready, and I appreciate that and I trust him. But I want it to be the right situation.”

Jerry Wilson remembers Pollard well, and the two occasionally touch base. The Jacksonville athletic director believed 18 years ago that Pollard would be successful.

“David was a guy that came early and stayed late,”Wilson said. “He was a good person. He worked well with kids, had good relationships with the staff. I rarely turned my classes over to practice teachers right away, but I trusted David. Some people have a gift for this job and he’s got it.”

Pollard looked into the Jacksonville head job when it came open the last time, but several factors kept him from applying. A return to central Arkansas, however, is not out of the question, but it will have to accommodate the new family.

Pollard got family life started later in life than most. He and wife Martine welcomed their first child Denise on Jan. 2, 2010. Son Nelson was born just 14 weeks ago, on Aug. 29.

A lengthy long-distance relationship finally became a marriage once Martine found a job in northwest Arkansas. The Pulaski Robinson graduate relocated, and now has a job she enjoys very much.

“One of the things that will have to happen for me to take a job that requires a move, is that there will have to be an opportunity for Martine as well,” Pollard said.

“She has a good job at Mercy Hospital that she loves and she’s good at. So everything will have to be just right. I’m going to be patient. Coach Lunney used to always say that good things come to good people, and I believe that. The right opportunity will come along when it’s time for it to happen.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers stifle Sheridan

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers picked up their second win of the young basketball season on Thursday, beating Sheridan 54-37 in front of a sparse crowd at Panther Arena. Impending winter storms kept many fans away, and they missed a solid performance as the Panthers won their second-straight game after dropping the season opener.

The Cabot defense stifled the athletic and tall Yellowjackets for most of the game, but the Panthers still had to overcome a late scoring lull to hold on for the victory.

“Sheridan is a lot better than they looked tonight, and I think our defense had something to do with that,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “You saw flashes of how athletic they are, but my kids came out and played hard. They defended hard, they hit the boards hard, and that’s what won this game for us.”

The Panthers’ defense was especially smothering in the first and third quarters, while the offense came out firing early in the third to take command of the game.

Patience was also a big key for Cabot. The Panthers set the tone for the game on their opening possession. After a Sheridan miss to start the game, Cabot passed the ball 12 times on its opening possession before a skip pass from Hunter Southerland to Hunter York resulted in a three pointer.

Sheridan didn’t get a field goal through the first four minutes of the game, but did make scoring difficult for Cabot. The Panthers held a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Yellowjackets never led, but they did briefly tie the game at 14 midway through the second period. But the last half of the second and first half of the third quarters were the difference in the game.

Cabot closed the first half with a 12-2 run, and opened the second half with a 10-0 run, taking a commanding 36-16 lead with 4:19 on the clock.

Sophomore Garrett Rowe, who had two steals in the first quarter, added two more in the third. He also scored four points in the third-quarter run. Southerland, another sophomore, added a steal and four assists in the win.

“I like my sophomores,” Bridges said. “They’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but they’re great kids to coach and they work hard. They’re high-character kids and they’re going to be good players.”

Sheridan’s first points of the third quarter came off two free throws with 4:07 left that made it 36-18. Cabot scored five more after that to take a 41-18 lead, but from that point, the Panthers began having their own trouble finding the bottom of the net.

The Yellowjackets’ first basket of the period came with 57 seconds on the clock and made it 41-20. Sheridan went on to score 10 in a row and cut Cabot’s lead to 41-28 with 6:10 remaining in the game.

Cabot went almost six minutes without scoring, but the defense managed to keep Sheridan at bay. Finally, the Panthers dropped in four quick points to take a 45-28 lead with 5:03 left in the game. Sheridan got it back down to a 14-point margin, but four more quick points gave the Panthers a 50-32 lead with three minutes left and Sheridan’s coach conceded by calling timeout and putting five reserves on the floor.

“Going that long without a basket is not fun,” Bridges said. “The same thing happened to us against Conway. I think this team will be able to score better than that down the road, and we did have some good moments. But again, our defense I thought was really good, and that kept us out front when we weren’t able to score the basketball.”

Sophomores did many of the little things, seniors did the scoring. York and post player Michael Smith combined for 34 points, with Smith leading the way with 18. York also led the team in rebounds with seven, as the Panthers outrebounded the larger Yellowjackets 23-16. The Panthers were 20 of 43 from the floor while Sheridan made just 12 of 43. Both teams made 10 free throws, Cabot in 15 attempts and Sheridan in 13.

The Cabot Pre-Holiday Tournament starts today, and the Panthers will host Hot Springs Lakeside at 7 p.m. at Panther Arena.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s tourney is evenly matched

Leader sportswriter

Even though inclement weather pushed it back a day, the third annual Cabot Pre-Holiday tournament tipped off last night, and both the hosts Panthers and Lady Panthers are looking for strong showings.

The Lady Panthers were scheduled to play at 7 p.m. last night against Greene County Tech, but the Lady Eagles were forced to drop out of the tournament because classes in their school district were canceled Tuesday.

The Panthers are scheduled to play Hot Springs Lakeside in their first-round game tonight at 7 p.m. Most of the teams participating in the tournament, in both brackets, have been here before.

Other than Cabot and Lakeside, the other six teams in the boys’ bracket are Paragould, Catholic, Benton, Vilonia, Searcy and Watson Chapel. In the girls’ bracket, the other six teams are Watson Chapel, Bryant, Harding Academy, Searcy, Benton and Vilonia.

Benton won the tournament last year in the boys’ division, and is considered, on paper at least, to be the team to beat this year. The fact the Saline County Panthers are once again considered the favorites comes as no surprise to Cabot coach Jerry Bridges, who saw all he wanted of Benton over the summer.

“I know this from this summer; Benton’s good,” said Bridges. “Benton’s good. I’m not just putting a bullseye on them, but to me they’re the best team in it. I hope playing at home will give us a chance, but we’ve got to get past Lakeside first on our side of the bracket.

“I don’t know a whole lot about them (Lakeside), but sometimes we play better that way if you want to know the truth.”

Paragould, who has everybody back from last year’s team, according to Bridges, is another team that could make noise in the tournament. In the boys’ division, every first-round game has the potential to be competitive.

Benton may have separated itself as far as talent and team chemistry, but every other team in that bracket could be considered close to the same in skill and progress level.

“I think Benton’s real good, and I feel like the rest of us are trying to find our identity,” Bridges said. “That’s really what I think it is. So hopefully after this tournament I’ll know a little more about my kids, because I feel like either way we go after the first night it’s going to be a good game the second night.”

The Lady Panthers were considered favorites to win the tournament for the second-consecutive time last year, but Vilonia surprised and left the last day of the tournament in 2012 with the title. Cabot is a lot younger than in years past, starting three sophomores and no seniors, but is talented enough to again be back in the championship mix this year.

According to Lady Panthers’ assistant coach Charles Ruple, there is no clear-cut favorite to win it all like there is in the boys’ bracket.

“I think coach (Carla) Crowder would agree,” said Ruple, “I think anybody can win our tournament on the girls’ side. What we try to do every year is get the competition to where it’s all very close and equal in the first game.”

Vilonia lost some key players from last year’s tournament championship team to graduation, but have enough pieces this year to win it all again. The Lady Panthers have played one team in their bracket this season.

Cabot played Watson Chapel in the first game of the year and dominated that game from start to finish. With Greene County Tech dropping out of the tournament because of its school policy, the Lady Panthers will likely receive a first-round bye if no eighth team answers the call to fill in for the Lady Eagles. As of Tuesday morning, no replacement for GCT had been found.

The Lady Panthers could see Watson Chapel again if it can get past Bryant in their first-round matchup. Harding Academy will play Searcy in the bottom part of the bracket, and Vilonia will play Benton to cap the first round.

“Greene County Tech has a school policy that says they can’t play on any weekdays they’re not in school,” Ruple explained. “That means we’ll either have a bye or we’ll try and get someone to come play us. It looks like we’ve already canceled our consolation games. But as far as the teams, we have played Watson Chapel and we have a victory over them.

“Vilonia we’ve seen in a JV game. They’re the defending champs of our pre-holiday tournament. They have a good group coming back. Harding Academy and Searcy both has really good teams. Searcy’s in our conference, and they probably have the most kids returning. But all the teams are fairly equal.”

Barring any setbacks in weather, the Cabot Pre-Holiday tournament is scheduled to wrap up on Monday with the girls’ championship game set to tip-off at 7 p.m., while boys’ championship game will follow at 8:30.

SPORTS STORY >> Different styles, similar results

Leader sports editor

Cabot coach Mike Malham and Bentonville coach Barry Lunney Sr. are two of the most renowned coaches in the history of high school football in Arkansas.

They also prove there is no single formula for winning at an impressive clip.

The two meet each other for the fifth time in their long and successful careers when their teams play at 7 p.m. Friday at War Memorial Stadium for the class 7A state championship.

Lunney is the standard bearer for success in high school coaching, but Malham is one of the few whose record does not pale in comparison, and their styles could not be more different.

Lunney has made five coaching stops over the years while Malham has made two. Lunney is a year older than Malham, but hasn’t been a head coach for as long.

Mike Malham, a 1971 graduate of Little Rock McClellan, was an assistant coach under Bill Reed at Jacksonville and helped that school win a state championship. In 1980, he took the head coaching job up the road at Cabot, and has been there since, winning two more state titles as the head Panther.

Lunney, a 1970 graduate of Fort Smith Northside, was an assistant at Greenwood and Fordyce before getting his first crack as a head coach at Beebe in 1988. He spent two years there before getting a job in his hometown, but at the old rival, Fort Smith Southside. In 16 years as the head Rebel, Lunney won four state championships before taking over at Bentonville in 2004. He has already added two more state titles as a Tiger, and will be vying for number seven on Friday.

Despite coaching in the same classification for the last 20 years, the two legends have only met four times, all four in the playoffs and twice in the state championship game.

Lunney and the Rebels beat Cabot in the 1997 state championship game the first time the coaches stood on opposite sidelines. The very next year, when Southside thought it had its best team of Lunney’s career up to that point, Cabot upset the Rebels in the semifinals, only to run up against Cedric Cobbs and the loaded JA Fair War Eagles and lose the title game.

Two years later, they met again for the 2000 state title and Cabot completed a perfect season by beating the Rebels 28-21. Another two years later, Southside came to Panther Stadium and beat Cabot in the 2002 semifinals. Lunney, after having lost his last two games against the hard-nosed Panthers, was moved to tears during the post game interview after beating them in 2002.

They haven’t met since.

Friday’s meeting is the rubber match. Former assistants who are now head coaches gave some insight into what it was like working for the legends, and what they took with them when they embarked on their own head-coaching careers.

Beebe coach John Shannon spent many years working as Malham’s offensive line coach. The one thing he says he gleaned from the head Panther was to be organized and in tune with the program.

Mountain Home coach Benji Mahan had a very different kind of boss at Fort Smith Southside and Bentonville, working for a coach who was primarily hands off.

Said Shannon, “He’s probably the most organized man I’ve ever met,” Shannon said. “He has his work in order, practice plans, playbooks, paper work. He starts keeping stats on players in ninth grade, and he has the pulse on every aspect of that program all the way down to seventh grade. He visits practices and knows everything from what needs to take place in practice, to how many sets of shoulder pads need replaced. He delegates and he lets his coaches coach, but every aspect he’s involved in.”

Mahan said working for Lunney wasn’t quite the same. There weren’t the meticulous notes and charts, and there was little involvement with others’ tasks once a plan was put in place.

“I hope the right word is trust,” said Mahan. “I think coach Lunney trusted his coaches. That’s not to say he didn’t have his say. There were some closed-door meetings where he’d lay out what he expects, but once the door was opened, he let us go about getting it done.”

Lunney has changed systems over the year as well. He started out as a Wing-T coach at Beebe, and ran that system at Southside until the late 90s, when he switched to the spread formation.

“One of the things I liked about coach Lunney was his willingness to change,” Mahan said. “It’s kind of ironic, because one of the things I really admire about coach Malham, having coached against him for two years now, is his commitment to his system.

“Coach Lunney switched to the spread and things didn’t go very well that first year. But then that second year they set all kinds of passing records and won a state championship.”

Malham’s Dead T offense doesn’t lend itself to an array of play-calling choices. The Panthers depend on precision, and just being better at what they do than their opponents are.

Lunney has been known to fly by the seat of his pants come game time, and his assistants were aware of it.

“We assistants knew to work on things in individual practice that weren’t necessarily in that week’s game plan,” Mahan said. “Because we knew you never could tell what play might be called if he spotted something he thought he could exploit,” Mahan said of Lunney. “You just had to have your players ready for anything.”

That kind of unpredictability has never been Malham’s modus operandi. In fact, it’s never any secret at all what the Panthers are going to do on offense.

But both coaches have enjoyed long and successful careers, despite doing things so differently.

“The one thing I think you have to admire about both of them is the longevity,” Mahan said. “This is a tough occupation. There are a lot of critics and both of them have hung in there all these years. It’s great to see both of them still operating at such a high level.”

EDITORIAL >> 33 years of success

Cabot’s football team is playing Bentonville in the Class 7A football state championship game on Friday at War Memorial Stadium. The Panthers will be led onto the field by Coach Mike Malham, a man who — despite helping bring two state championships to the town in his 33-year stint — has been much maligned in recent years.

Malham has been in charge of the Cabot football program while it has seen an unprecedented level of success. As Cabot and its school district grew rapidly, the Panthers were an annual state championship contender in the state’s highest classification. The population growth coincided with an excellent run of talent. It’s a cycle high schools are known to go through. There are good years, and there are bad years, and mostly there are average years.

Malham has won more games than those averages should indicate. Talent is the primary factor in winning and losing in all sports. There are secondary factors, and the first one is coaching. Great coaching can help less talented players win. That’s how Malham has contributed to Cabot’s success. The years they won it all, like most teams that win it all, were largely due to the fact that he had outstanding talent.

But Malham has won 269 games as head coach since 1980. That’s 8.2 wins per 10-game regular season, plus a few playoff games most years, for 33 years. That is a winning percentage beyond what anyone should expect a high-school program to achieve for such a long period. Cabot has won two state championships under Malham.

That in itself doesn’t seem like a great percentage. But considering the percentage of schools that have won precisely zero state or conference titles in those years, and have fallen far short of averaging more than eight wins a season, it’s a mystery why some people are unhappy with his accomplishments.

Yet there is still a small faction who follow Cabot football (we resist calling them fans) that would just as soon see Panther Stadium air raided as see Malham succeed. To this small faction, none of Cabot’s success is due to him, and all its failures are because of him.

To this faction, Cabot has just as much, if not more, talent as any other school. They say it’s Malham’s fault that Cabot players are not getting big-time college scholarship offers at the same rate as other schools. They say he refuses to promote his players, or his system is so arcane that college coaches are helpless to teach his most talented athletes how to play modern football.

That’s balderdash.

Many people are gifted at many different things, and it’s a rare occasion that someone’s vocation matches their gift. Mike Malham has a gift for coaching high school athletes, and Cabot has been fortunate to have him leading its program for 33 years. The Panthers have won more games because he’s been there, far more than they would have with someone with average coaching talent.

People who argue his system is too out-of-date to win have not only been proven wrong this year, they were proven wrong in 1983 and 2000. The Dead T was, for all practical purposes, a dead system then. The wing-T replaced the Dead-T in the 1950s. Frank Broyles’ power I-formation replaced that. The wishbone, made popular by Darrel Royal’s Texas Longhorns, then became all the rage, and a dozen different systems have come since then.

Lining up the tackles 15 yards apart and throwing the ball 30 times per game wouldn’t have made Cabot any more successful than it’s been. Cabot won championships because those teams were better than everyone else.

But let’s also credit the program’s consistent success to a coach who is dedicated to hard work and excellence, and who has a knack for teaching young people to give their best. Go Panthers.

TOP STORY >> ‘A Christmas Carol’ family style

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Community Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” promises to be a family-friendly event. Several of the cast members are related, so why wouldn’t it be?

Performances are set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7:30. The Sunday performance is a matinee that starts at 2 p.m. and does not include a meal. But concessions will be available.

Reservations are required and can be made online at or by calling 501-941-2266. The theater is at 204 N. First St.

Dana Carney is making his debut on Cabot’s stage as Scrooge. Joining him are his daughter, Heather Bickerstaff, and granddaughter, Madison Jones.

Bickerstaff is playing Scrooge’s niece-in-law and Carney’s granddaughter is the kid who Scrooge sends to buy a turkey for the Cratchit family.

The size of the Cabot theater’s turkey prop can’t be exaggerated because it’s nearly as large as Jones.

Carney says the scene with her is his favorite part of the production. In fact, it seemed like he hardly needed to act at all during a rehearsal last week.

Scrooge’s praises of the child he sends to the butcher shop seem to roll off his tongue.

As for the Cratchit family, actors Brian and Julie Shumway (Mr. and Mrs. Bob Cratchit) are married and two of the actors playing the Cratchit children, Alex (Tiny Tim) and Rebekah Shumway, are the couple’s real-life son and daughter.

The Shumways even joked that they’ve adopted the three other kids performing as members of the Cratchit clan.

And their youngest daughter, Emma, is performing as Want. Want is the little girl who appears under the ghost of Christmas present’s robe to symbolize the children of London’s poor families in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Brian Shumway continued, “It’s very odd acting with my own family.” His character, Bob Cratchit, is a different dad and husband than he is, the actor explained.

Brian Shumway said the most difficult scene for him to play is the scene in which Scrooge is shown a future without Tiny Tim.

Bob Cratchit, within just a few minutes, breaks down emotionally from grief and then gives a speech saying that he is the rock of the family, Brian Shumway noted.

“I’m finding it very entertaining on a personal level to try to portray something I’ve seen in a movie, two movies actually,” he continued.

Shumway explained that it is a challenge to keep his character unique but true to the original production.

As for Alex, who plays Tiny Tim, Brian Shumway said, “He’s got one of the most iconic roles in theater or movie history.”

Alex Shumway said he likes his character because, “He’s well known. You can’t do the show without him.”

He added that he enjoys pretending to have a limp. Alex Shumway even learned how to do an English accent and seemed to enjoy showing that off after a rehearsal last week.

This will be his first time acting, although the youngster has sung a solo at church before, his father said.

Doug Morris — the director, ghost of Christmas present and ghost of Christmas yet to come — said, “Most people know the story, but there have been so many stage versions.

Even working from the same script, no two productions are the same. Seeing our version will be unique.”

Carney (Scrooge) said he likes the production because “I think it’s the story of redemption. I think it’s something people can identify with. It’ s a feel-good story.”

About the ghost of Christmas present, Morris said, “He starts out looking like a jolly soul, but he doesn’t cut Scrooge any slack at all. He’s quick to throw Scrooge’s words back at him.”

About the ghost of Christ-mas yet to come, he noted, “You could say he’s like the last runner on a relay team. He’s going to win Scrooge over by any means necessary.”

Sherry Davis-Meece, the ghost of Christmas past, said, “(People) should come to see the play because it’s very enlightening.

“It’s great family entertainment. Everybody in the cast makes an effort to be a real family,” she said.

The actors help each other, Davis-Meece added.

TOP STORY >> Winter blast delays Christmas parades

Cabot, Jacksonville and Beebe postponed their Christmas parades last weekend because of the winter storm. Those parades will now be held this Saturday.

Sherwood officials also canceled their parade last Saturday and had hoped to have it last Sunday, but the city is no longer able to reschedule the event.

The Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club’s 56th annual Christmas parade will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday on West Main Street, weather permitting.

To participate, call Laura Walker at 501-982-4316.

The Beebe Christmas parade will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday on West Center Street.

Cabot’s parade, organized by Cabot City Beautiful, will now be at 3 p.m. Sunday on Hwy. 89. Charles Flynt, a Pearl Harbor survivor, will be the grand marshal.

A news release from the group announcing the cancellation said,
“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause any of our participants, our Cabot friends and spectators, but we hope that you will understand these circumstances and that we are acting on the side of caution.”

Rain led Cabot to cancel last year’s Christmas parade.

Cabot’s annual Christmas celebration with a tree lighting ceremony, free food, Santa and activities was also rescheduled to 6 until 9 p.m. Friday in the courtyard behind city hall.

The Cabot Animal Shelter’s fundraiser photo shoot for pets to have pictures taken with Santa, which was planned for last Saturday, will now be held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. this Saturday in the Cabot City Hall courtyard. The 5-by-7 photos are $10. Participants may also use their own cameras for $5.

Shann Nobles with Cabot Community Theatre canceled last weekend’s performances of “AChristmas Carol.” The play will be staged Friday through Sunday.

Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7:30. The Sunday matinee starts at 2 p.m. and does not include a meal. But concessions will be available.

Reservations are required and can be made online at or by calling 501-941-2266. The theater is at 204 N. First St.

The Jacksonville High School Choir also rescheduled its 30th annual Yuletide Madrigal Dinner for 6:45 p.m. Monday at First Presbyterian Church on West Main Street.

Doors open at 5:45 p.m. Monday, and the pre-show concert will begin at 6:15.

Admission is $17, and seating is limited.

See Director Chris Cross or any choir student to make a reservation. For tickets, call 501-539-0330, e-mail jhschoir@ or visit

TOP STORY >> Cabot group ready to feed 4,500 in need

Leader staff writers

Cabot Christmas Alliance needs volunteers to help fill 1,000 boxes with food for Christmas — enough to feed 4,500 men, women and children living in the Cabot area. Participants are asked to arrive at 8 a.m. Saturday to the Cabot National Guard armory, 103 Commerce Park Drive.

Last year, the Cabot Christmas Alliance helped 856 families have food for Christmas. So far, 662 families have signed up for assistance this year. But the organization is preparing 1,000 boxes.

“We have been growing by between 100 to 150 families each year,” Cheryl Moore, secretary and treasurer of the Cabot Christmas Alliance said.

Moore said the Cabot Christmas Alliance needs monetary donations instead of food donations right now. The money will help pay for the food and the boxes. Donations are accepted year-round.

Cash donations can be sent to Cabot Christmas Alliance, P.O. Box 821, Cabot, Ark., 72023.

Every school in the Cabot district has been collecting donations of several kinds: toys, food, coats and even shoes.

A food box contains a ham, corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, instant potatoes, pineapple, cranberry sauce, marshmallow, cake mix, brownie mix, frosting, sugar, a jug of fruit punch and a bag of cereal. Cash donations will help buy the ham and fresh apples and oranges for each box.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring their teenaged children to the Saturday packing event because it’s never too soon to learn the value of giving, Moore said.

Though the cutoff date has passed for families requesting assistance, people who missed the deadline may arrive at the armory after 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. They need to bring an ID and current utility bill.

Those who did apply to receive food boxes will receive letters in the mail this week with pickup instructions on Dec. 21.

All children in the Cabot School District who are in need were eligible for help from the Cabot Christmas Alliance. “They don’t have to have children, but have to live in the boundaries of the Cabot School District,” Moore said.

Moore is concerned that all the weekend cancellations caused by the bad weather will make volunteers scarce this weekend since many events — Cabot’s Christmas parade included — were rescheduled for Saturday.

She also worries about the loss of revenue caused by scheduling conflicts that kept the school principals from working for tips this year at Larry’s Pizza. For the last two years, they worked as waiters, earning about $5,000 both times. All of that was donated to the Cabot Christmas Alliance.

To make up for the loss, the group sent letters to its supporters asking for more help. Now, in addition to collection points at Fred’s, Dollar General stores and the Pine Street Animal Clinic, donations are accepted Monday through Friday until next Wednesday at Arnett Realty & Investments, 903 B W. Main St.

Christmas for Kids, which provides toys to about 2,000 area children, now works alongside the Cabot Christmas Alliance.

While one arranges food for the holiday, the other distributes toys with the help of churches, civic organizations, families and the school district.

Toys are organized in the evenings Monday through Thursday and distributed Dec. 21 at the same time as the food boxes.

Cash donations to purchase toys may be mailed to Christmas for Kids, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark., 72007 or dropped off at the Cabot Schools Warehouse at 310 G.P. Murrell Drive in Cabot.

Bill Holden, who supervises the custodial staff for the school district, is the chairman of the board that runs Christmas for Kids and has collected Christmas toys for about 30 years.

Rita Stewart, who works for Holden and also serves on the board, said the volunteer work is very rewarding.

“You get blessed when you do it. And the children, that’s what it’s all about,” Stewart said.

The Cabot Christmas Alliance has helped families with food for Christmas for more than 40 years.

During the late 1960s, food was brought to First Baptist Church, where it was sorted and packed.

Other participating churches would pick up the food boxes and deliver them to the families in need. Participation has grown since then.

TOP STORY >> Recovery goes well, melting begins

Leader staff writer

Homes in The Leader’s coverage were largely spared from being without power during last weekend’s winter storm.

Slippery roads made for poor driving conditions, but most of the weekend’s accidents were minor, according to local police.

And kids had a couple of days off from school. But will they pay for it in May or June?

Tori Moss, First Electric Cooperative’s communications coordinator, said Monday, “Fortunately, the cooperative’s Jacksonville district, which includes portions of Pulaski, Lonoke and White counties, did not sustain weather-related damage.”

North Little Rock Electric spokeswoman Jill Ponder said the utility didn’t have any weather-related outages.


Entergy spokeswoman Sally Graham said statewide outages peaked at 13,136 customers. That was how many were in the dark at 11:15 a.m. Friday.

At 11 a.m. Friday, 248 Pulaski County customers were without power, Graham said.

She added that Lonoke and White counties didn’t lose power at the peak of the outages.

Graham continued in an e-mail to The Leader, “The total number of outages our crews and the crews helping us responded to were 40,000 outages over thecourse of the storm. The area that you cover was not in the area where weather conditions created ice-storm outages.”

All three spokeswomen said the utilities they represent were prepared for the inclement weather.

Ponder said, “We did not need additional crews, but they were on standby if needed.”

Moss said, “First Electric Cooperative staged crews and contractors throughout our service area that were prepared to respond in the event of widespread outages due to the winter storm.”

Graham said, “We’ve wrapped up storm outages. We mobilized beginning Wednes-day for a significant ice storm and, thankfully, the weather was on our side, as we did not receive the amount of freezing rain that the national weather forecasting services predicted. We caught a break. But it could have just as easily gone the other way, and we could have received much more.”

According to a news release, Entergy brought in 6,700 additional workers and had about 8,000 total — including their employees and contractors — on hand to help with outages.

Graham continued, “Our motto is prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Our storm readiness is a team effort that takes days to coordinate the logistics of moving and managing an army of restoration workers and must begin well in advance of a storm. We cannot wait to see what happens.”

Moss said First Electric has offered support to Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative, which is headquartered in Mena, and Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative, which is headquartered in Ozark.

On Monday, she said 10 First Electric linemen were helping Rich Mountain, while four were helping Arkansas Valley.

Graham explained how outages happen during ice storms.

She said the weight of the ice on power lines and trees cause outages, but wind and drivers are also factors.

“In some areas we had some wind, where you see galloping lines with the power lines whipping up and down. Ice on power lines, weighing them down, is very problematic. Ice on trees from outside our rights of way also causes outages. In addition to that, members of the public often hit our utility poles because they are driving in very dangerous, wintry conditions.”

Lt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said there were about 17 accidents over the weekend.

Most of those were people sliding off the road, and a few were drivers bumping into other drivers, he said.

Pulaski County deputies helped State Police respond to accidents on I-530, Hwys. 10 and 67/167, Minden added.

Lt. James Kulesa of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office said deputies with his office also helped State Police with accidents.

“All state agencies work together on this type of thing,” he noted.

Kulesa said Lonoke County deputies responded to a few accidents, but none of them were “major” and there were no fatalities.

Gary Meadows of Allied Ambulance, which services Ward, Austin and four other fire districts, said calls were up slightly because of the winter storm, but handling the increased volume was not difficult. Firefighters helped with calls in Ward and Austin using the Humvees the city bought through a military surplus supplier, he said.

Pulaski County Special School District campuses were closed on Friday and Monday, re-opening Tuesday at the district’s normal start time.

PCSSD spokeswoman Deborah Roush said 300 buses ran through the 730-square-mile district Tuesday with no incidents.

“You can imagine some of those areas stretch into very rural, outlying areas,” she added. If a bus couldn’t make it down a street, the families that lived on that street were called and asked if an alternative arrangement would work, Roush said. For example, some students were asked to meet the bus at the end of the street, she explained.

“Most of our roads were passable,” Roush said, noting that a team including Superintendent Jerry Guess was driving Jacksonville, Bayou Meto, Sherwood and other areas at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

PCSSD has five built-in days, including Good Friday. The other four are at the end of the school year, Roush said.

Using Good Friday is usually a “last resort,” she continued.

Roush said, although a decision has not been made yet and approval from the superintendent is needed, school might let out on June 2 instead of May 30 because of the days it was closed for the inclement weather over the weekend.

As for deciding whether to close, Roush continued, “It is a decision that takes place throughout the entire course of the day, typically days in advance.”

PCSSD considers how likely it is that schools will lose power, transportation difficulties and what other districts are doing, she said.

Planning meetings with all departments are held to make the decision to close or not, Roush said.

PCSSD is partnered with the National Weather Service and local meteorologists, she added.

“We’re briefed very must like Little Rock Airport is,” Roush said.

“We’re always doing the best we can and student safety is always first and foremost,” she added.

Roush said that Operations Director Derek Scott and Maintenance Director Brad Montgomery drove to every school too examine roads and parking lots, determining if parking lots needed sanding.

Roush added that students who were tardy on Tuesday were not penalized.

Cabot schools were closed Friday and Monday.

There was one day, Feb. 17, built into the calendar, Superintendent Tony Thurman said.

“The other day will be added to the end of the calendar,” he continued.

Thurman added, “The decision (to close) was based on a bad weather forecast for last Friday. We were closed on Monday due to road conditions.”

Cabot schools opened late on Tuesday with classes starting on hour later at 9 a.m.

Thurman continued, “Thankfully, there weren’t any reported accidents this morning by the Cabot Police Department or the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.”

PCSSD and the Cabot School District used Facebook and Twitter to keep parents informed about how the inclement weather was affecting schools.

Beebe schools were closed Friday, Monday and Tuesday.

Superintendent Belinda Shook explained, “We have a 235-mile school district with many gravel roads in shady areas.”

She said the district has one day in January and two days in February built into the calendar.

Shook also noted that a Personnel Policy Committee meeting is set for Thursday afternoon. “I am sure this will be discussed. If we do not miss any more days, we will not add any on to the end of the year,” she continued.

As for how the district decides whether to close school in inclement weather, Shook said, “Several of us drive around and look at the places we know may be the trouble spots. If the roads do not look safe for school buses, we usually make the decision to close.

“Sometimes, we are able to run what we call snow routes that stay primarily on the main roads. Unfortunately, some of our snow routes were also still iced over on Monday afternoon when we checked,” she said.

Lonoke schools were out on Friday and Monday.

Cyndi Perryman, the superintendent’s secretary, said that Friday was built into the calendar, but being closed on Monday may cause the district’s schools to let out for summer one day later. That decision will not be finalized until the winter storm season is over, she added. The last day of school is set for May 29, but the year could end as late as June 4 if doing so is necessary to make sure the district has the number of contract days it must have, Perryman explained.