Saturday, July 12, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe boys see large opponents

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badger varsity basketball team put in plenty of work at Cabot’s team basketball camp Tuesday and Thursday at Panther Arena, and even though the Badgers came up short in their exhibition games on those days, they were able to gain some valuable experience that can be utilized in the fall.

All of Beebe’s exhibition games played Tuesday and Thursday were against teams of higher classifications. On Thursday, the Badgers played two 7A teams. They lost a 37-19 decision to the host Panthers in their first game of the night, and lost what ended up being a close one against Little Rock Catholic in the nightcap, losing by a slim 35-32 margin.

The Badgers didn’t play as well as Beebe coach Ryan Marshall would’ve liked on Tuesday, losing to class 6A Russellville and Catholic, and even though Thursday’s games ultimately saw the same outcome, Marshall saw some signs of improvement from Tuesday to Thursday.

“We’re really struggling to score right now,” said Marshall. “I thought against Cabot we were much better today. We defended pretty well, but we’re outmatched. We’ve really struggled to score, but it was better today.

“Right now we’ve played bigger schools, which is good for us. Obviously, they’re bigger physically and height-wise, and that’s good for us to see. We have 15 (players) here, and eight of them are sophomores.”

That youth showed at times throughout Thursday’s games. Against Cabot, Beebe fell into a 4-0 hole early, but scored the next four points to tie the game. However, Cabot went on an 11-0 run before Badger junior Austin Moore hit his first 3-pointer of the game to cut the Panther lead to 15-7. By halftime, Cabot led 18-8.

The format for the exhibition games were two 18-minute halves with a continuous clock, and the clock only stopped for timeouts and when it was appropriate within the final two minutes of the game.

In the second half against Cabot, the Panthers had an answer for just about every Beebe bucket, which didn’t allow the Badgers to make a serious run at a comeback.

Beebe guard Bryson Bell, a junior, hit consecutive threes to cut the Cabot lead back to single digits at 24-16, but Cabot’s Hunter Southerland answered with a fast-break bucket shortly after to push the Panther lead back to double digits with 8:39 to play. From there, Cabot steadily built on its lead till the final buzzer sounded.

In Thursday’s nightcap against Catholic, Beebe fell into a monster hole early. The Rockets scored the first 12 points of the game, but thanks to Moore’s 10 first-half points, Beebe was able to cut that deficit to 20-14 by halftime.

The Rockets opened the second half with a 5-0 run to lead 25-14, but Moore sank a midrange jumper to put the Badgers within single digits of the Rocket lead yet again.

Beebe managed to trim the Rocket lead to four in the waning seconds on a pair of free throws by Moore that made the score 33-29.

Beebe was forced to foul, and Catholic got two more free throws to put the game away with 6.4 ticks remaining, which made the score 35-29, and on the game’s final possession, Moore pushed the ball up court and drew a double team, which led to Moore dishing the ball to teammate Grant Brown, who hit a corner three with 1 second remaining to set the final score of that exhibition game.

Moore led all scorers with 20 points against Catholic on Thursday. Brown, a sophomore, was second for Beebe in scoring with six points, and two-guard Tyler Childress finished with a team-high five rebounds in that game.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers improving in summer

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers continued to develop their depth at their latest team basketball camp at Panther Arena on Tuesday and Thursday. Cabot played five exhibition games, and won two, but for head coach Jerry Bridges, the point of the whole camp is to further develop each and every one of his players.

“I feel like we’re getting better,” said Bridges. “We’re making progress. We’re getting better and I’m learning about some people. The main thing, we’re just trying to develop some of our depth right now. Everybody at one time or another has shown flashes.”

Cabot beat Russellville on Tuesday for its first win of this week’s camp, and on Thursday, the Panthers handed Beebe a 37-19 loss before losing a close one to a very talented Morrilton team in the nightcap.

Against Beebe, the Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Beebe came back to tie it up at 4-4. Cabot responded with an 11-0 run to push its lead to double digits at 15-4, and by halftime, the Panthers maintained that double-digit lead at 18-8.

The format for the exhibition games were two 18-minute halves with a continuous clock, and the clock only stopped for timeouts and when it was appropriate within the final two minutes of the game.

In the second half, Beebe managed to get the score within single digits on consecutive threes by junior guard Bryson Bell, which made it a 24-16 ball game, but Cabot’s Hunter Southerland got a fast-break bucket on the following possession to push the Panther lead back to double digits, and the host team never looked back.

Cabot steadily built on its lead from there. Panther senior two-guard Jake Ferguson sank a pair of free throws with less than two minutes to play, which pushed the host team’s lead to 35-19, and with 1:25 remaining, junior Garrett Rowe got a contested basket underneath the goal to set the final score.

Rowe led all scorers in that game with 11 points.

What looked to be a competitive game on paper looked like a potential blowout in the beginning of the Panthers’ final game of the evening against Morrilton. The Devil Dogs scored 16 of the game’s first 18 points to lead 16-2.

Cabot was finally able to find its offense and get some stops on defense as well to cut the Devil Dogs’ lead to 20-13. However, Morrilton’s Chave Zackary hit a 3-pointer with just over a minute to go in the first half to push the visitors’ lead back to double digits by halftime, leading 23-13.

In the second half, the Panthers steadily chipped away at the Devil Dogs’ lead. Cabot got to within seven near the 7:30 mark of the second half on an and-1 by Rowe that made it 32-25 Morrilton.

With 3:01 remaining, Southerland got a left-handed turnaround bucket inside to make it 33-31 Morrilton, and with 1:50 to play, Rowe got a putback off a Ferguson miss from the corner that tied the game at 33-33.

However, with 23 seconds to play, Morrilton leading scorer Marcel Swinton hit a clutch three to put his team back up three, leading 36-33, and with 6.1 ticks to play, Swinton sank a pair of free throws to put the game out of the Panthers’ reach, as the host team trailed 38-33.

With an open look in the waning seconds, Rowe drained a 3-pointer of his own to set the final score with 1.3 seconds remaining. Bridges called timeout to set up a defensive play on Morrilton’s inbound pass, but the Devil Dogs successfully inbounded the ball and time ran out to end the game in their favor.

Cabot shot 44 percent from the floor against Morrilton, making 15 of 34 attempts. Morrilton made 40 percent of its shots from the floor on 12 of 30 attempts. Rowe led all scorers in that game as well. He finished with 15 points. Swinton led Morrilton with 14 points.

Cabot will host another team basketball camp on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. Watson Chapel, Searcy and Little Rock Catholic will be the other teams there, and the first games on each day will begin at 4 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Red bounces back

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Red Junior American Legion team won the Zone 3 postseason tournament with a pair of mercy-rule wins over tournament host Heber Springs in Wednesday’s championship round.

Cabot Red beat Heber Springs in game one, which actually began Tuesday night, by the final score of 15-0 in six innings, and the visiting Centennial Bank squad hammered the host team again in game two by the final score of 13-0 in five innings.

Centennial Bank went into the tournament as the No. 1 seed, and advanced to the championship round by going 2-1 from Saturday to Monday in the double-elimination tournament.

Heber Springs (6-6) was the surprise team of the tournament, as it advanced to the championship round as a No. 6 seed. Along the way, Heber Springs handed Cabot its lone loss of the tourney – a shocking 13-3 mercy-rule beat down in the winners’ bracket semifinal that took place Monday; a loss that dropped Cabot to the finals of the losers’ bracket.

Cabot Red (22-7) made up for the loss with a 21-2 pummeling of three-seeded Searcy in the losers’ bracket final Monday night, which set up a rematch with Heber Springs in the championship round. Since Heber got to the championship round without a loss in tournament play, Cabot had to beat the host team twice in that round to earn the tournament championship.

The first game of the tournament final started Tuesday night, and Cabot scored four runs in the third inning to lead 4-0 after three. As soon as the inning ended, though, the game was delayed and eventually postponed to Wednesday because of thunder storms.

Wednesday’s game picked up where it left off in the top of the fourth inning, and Cabot added four more runs to its side of the board to push its lead to 8-0. Centennial Bank added another run in the fifth to lead 9-0, and had its best inning yet in the sixth.

Jonathan Harpole led off that inning with a bunt single, and Jacob Slunder reached on a dropped fly ball in right field the next at-bat. Starting pitcher Chris Odom walked the following at-bat to load the bases with no outs.

Jacob Davis then came to the plate, and he was plunked by Heber Springs’ pitcher Chandler Marquardt, which sent Harpole across the plate and gave Davis an RBI. Tanner Wilkie drove in Cabot’s 11th run by hitting into a fielder’s choice at second base after Davis’ at-bat, and Mike Havard made it 12-0 Cabot with a single to left field that drove in Michael Shepherd, Odom’s courtesy runner.

Shortstop Blake McCutchen made it 13-0 Centennial Bank the next at-bat with a single up the middle of the diamond, which allowed Wilkie to score. The final score was set two batters later on a two-out, two-RBI stand-up triple to deep right field by catcher Denver Mullins that sent teammates Havard and McCutchen across the plate.

Offensively, Cabot picked up where it left off in game two, scoring six runs in the first inning alone then adding four more in the second and three more in the third to set the final score.

“From top-to-bottom, it didn’t matter who was in the lineup, every one of them hit the ball well and threw the ball well and fielded the ball well,” said Cabot Red coach Justin Moore. “We just played good baseball. It’s as simple as this – when you hit the ball like that, my job’s easy.

“We had to win three in a row. We got good pitching out of Odom, Shepherd and Germer, and got it done. I still had two or three guys who can pitch that haven’t thrown any in this tournament that could’ve pitched just the same as any of the other ones.”

Odom started on the mound in both games of the championship round. He threw all six innings of the first game.

He struck out six batters and gave up four hits and no walks to earn the shutout win in that game, and threw the first three innings of game two before being relieved by Gino Germer. Odom struck out one batter while giving up just three hits and no walks in that game.

“I knew he had that kind of stuff,” Moore said of Odom. “He came out yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) and got it done. I was excited about it. I wanted to leave him in and let him get his 10 innings in, because he was feeling it, but I needed to get Gino some work because he hasn’t pitched in about a week and a half.”

Havard, Odom and Slunder finished with two hits each in game one to lead Centennial Bank offensively. Slunder, Shepherd and Mullins led the offensive onslaught in game two as those three each went 2 for 3.

With the Zone 3 tournament championship, Cabot Red qualifies for the Arkansas Junior American Legion state tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock. It will play Paragould at 5 p.m. today.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers showing promise at camp

Leader sports editor

The Beebe football team jumped back into action with both feet this week after the two-week mandated dead period in which athletes are not allowed on school campuses or to be directed by coaches.

The Badgers went through three full practices and played at the Conway High School team camp on Wednesday. Against live competition, there were signs of potential for the upcoming season, but what pleased head coach John Shannon most this week and since spring practice, has been this group’s work ethic.

“We’ve had four really good practices this week,” said Shannon. “This group looks like it’s going to be a group that wants to work hard. In fact, I haven’t had a group work this hard and be this committed since my second year. So I’m pretty excited right now.”

Shannon worked almost exclusively with the offense at the team camp, where the point of the camp was not to win games but to get better by practicing against live competition in game situations. While Shannon didn’t see much of the defensive play, he says the reports he got from the defensive coaches were good ones, especially the five interceptions by the secondary.

“This group here has a chance to be one of the best secondaries we’ve ever had,” Shannon said. “We have three returning starters that are all pretty athletic, then throw in Tyson Woodall. Skill-player wise, we’re better, at least more talented, than we’ve been in a long time.”

The offense had a few stumbles early, but things smoothed out later in the camp and the team got tired, but Shannon still liked what he saw.

“I thought it went really well for the first time back doing anything since, really, the middle of June,” Shannon said. “We made some mistakes but we got better as the day went on. Our conditioning was off a little bit, but that’s to be expected the first week back. We worked hard four days this week and I feel like we got better. That’s what the month of July is for, to get them in shape and get them ready for August.”

Quarterback Aaron Nunez, a senior who missed almost all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, showed promise that the old injury is no longer bothering him.

“Nunez did a wonderful job of running the option,” Shannon said. “Coming back off the ACL, he did a good job of running the ball and making the right reads.”

The Beebe running backs are also a promising unit. Junior Tripp Smith returns at fullback as one of only two 2,000-yard rushers in the state from last season. Joe Wyrick, a transfer from Augusta, has also shown a knack at halfback, but Shannon says he is still learning the system. Xavier Jones ran for almost 2,000 yards for the Beebe ninth-grade team last year. He will get some carries this year as well, but will likely see a lot of his playing time on the defensive line.

“Really and truthfully, at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, running a 4.7, he could help us out at defensive tackle a lot,” Shannon said. “We need to find two of them and his size and athleticism fits that bill. Now we did put him at halfback at times and had him lead block for Smith. And when we did that, with 240 running a 4.7 leading 205, 4.5, there wasn’t many times anybody was able to handle that. So there are a lot of options for Jones. He’s a special athlete.”

There are still plenty of things to work on, and the team has to try to replace almost its entire starting offensive line from last year. There are a few other question marks as the preseason approaches, but Shannon is optimistic right now.

“Are we a good football team right now? I don’t think I could say that,” Shannon said. “Are we in shape like we need to be? No we’re not. But we’ve had four good hard practices. And if this team will keep working like they’ve been working, I’m not worried about that at all.”

SPORTS STORY >> JHS XC wanting athletes

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville High School has added cross country to the sports available through its athletic department. It has a coach and now only needs students to fill up the roster.

Head softball coach Hank Hawk will lead the program whose season that begins the first week of September and ends in the middle of November. Because of the dates and a strong background in distance running, Hawk stepped down from his football assistant position to head up the fledgling cross country program.

“My dad (Henry Hawk) is a huge marathon runner on the senior circuit,” said Hawk. “He’s in about every hall of fame for running there is. I have my own track background and it’s in my blood. I wanted to head this up and see if we can’t get this thing off and running.”

Four other schools in the Pulaski County Special School District have started cross country programs, two of which, North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills, are in the 5A Central Conference with Jacksonville. With Beebe coming into the conference at the start of the 2014-15 school year, there will be four 5A-Central cross country teams.

The final decision to begin the program wasn’t made until after school was out, so making students aware of the program and getting them out has been difficult so far. Hawk plans asocial media blitz to spread the word and let students know about the many benefits of running cross country.

“The thing about cross country is that everybody on the team is going to participate,” Hawk said. “It’s not like you’re going to bust your butt in practice and then not get to play. Everyone on every team lines up and runs. They only count the top five on the team as scores, but everyone participates.”

Hawk wants JHS students to know that distance running doesn’t require dazzling athletic ability, and that it’s enjoyable even if one is not the winner.

“In running, especially distance running, you’re not just competing against the other runners,” Hawk said. “You’re competing with yourself and your times. There are a lot of victories in cross-country besides being the first to cross the finish line. Just seeing your own personal best times get better and better is really a feeling of accomplishment.

“And you don’t have to the most obviously great athlete. I guarantee you there are kids walking the halls at JHS that don’t even know they can just run forever. You never know what you can do until you give it a try. That’s all we’re wanting is for some young people to come out and give it a try.”

A typical cross country meet includes a 5K for varsity, which is 3.1 miles, and a two-mile race for junior varsity. Hawk plans no tryouts. If you want to be a part of the team, all are welcome. There will be a team meeting when enough people have committed, and after that, practice begins.

“If you think you can run and you hang in there, you’re going to build up,” Hawk said. “You’re going to get better and you’re going to have some fun.”

Anyone interested in joining the program can contact coach Hank Hawk at

EDITORIAL >> Summer fun for children

Video games, Facebook, chatting, sleeping and eating is how most kids seemingly spend their summer vacations nowadays. It’s alarmingly obvious that they aren’t outside.

Now, I wasn’t born during the kick-the-can and stickball era, but my generation still spent all summer outside, rain or shine, playing — something the current generation doesn’t seem to be doing.

One of the big activities from my youth was slip and slide. Find a piece of smooth ground, preferably with a downward slope, some heavy duty plastic, some rocks or something to hold the corners of the plastic down and a garden hose. Wet the plastic and slip and slide away.

But our family was too poor to have any spare Visqueen around, so we just hosed down the sidewalk, took a running start, dived and slid on down the sidewalk. It was a lot of fun as long as you remembered to keep your chin up. Everyone in the neighborhood had at least one incident where the chin dropped, the teeth rattled, the tongue got bit and blood spilled. (Remember, we were young and foolish, so don’t try it at home.)

Even today, I can recognize men and women of the sidewalk slide era as we all have unique chin clefts.

Besides sidewalk sliding, we also played touch football, with a rugby flair, in the street. If blood wasn’t drawn, it just wasn’t a good round of football.

For a quieter, safer activity, we built a mockup of the Mercury space capsule — and later the Gemini. It was a combination of cardboard, plywood, spare parts from my dad’s appliance repair business (at least we thought they were spare parts) and two old chairs tipped over. When we sat in them, we were looking up at all the gauges, controls and pictures of Alan Shephard and John Glenn that we wrote to NASA to get.

So, when mom told us to go “fly to the moon,” we really did. We’d go into that box for hours in 100-degree heat. Even when mom called us in for supper, it sometimes took 30 minutes or so to safely land our craft back on Mother Earth. I mean, when you are on the dark side of the moon, you can’t just jump out of the capsule for dinner.

Then there was swimming in the local irrigation ditches after a good rain. We’d dog paddle through the ditches with our friends, the crawdads. Occasionally, one of them would forget we came in peace and claw down on a finger or toe. A blood-curdling scream would echo through the ditch, the crawdad would be flung to the nether regions, and we’d continue on. Sure, we’d have a sore finger or toe, red and puffy, but no one suffered permanent injury.

We played Red Rover and British Bulldog and got dirty and dusty but were never hurt much.

Summers were all about having fun, staying active and freely using our imaginations. Maybe kids today ought to get out more and try having fun, staying active and using their imaginations — it would brighten the summer to see kids out playing something.

– Rick Kron

TOP STORY >> Two sides split over library tax

Leader staff writer

Skeptics of building a new $6 million library in Sherwood with a temporary 1.3-mill increase to be voted on in November say residents need to know what they’re buying.

One critic also argues that the city has other needs and that residents don’t want more taxes.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), said voters would likely be buying a $4.5 million facility, plus acreage.

He explained that the new Jacksonville library, which opened in 2009, cost $4.58 million. That amount included furniture, the 350,000-square-foot building and architectural and engineering fees.

The new library in Sherwood would be the same size, which is appropriate for a population of nearly 30,000, Roberts said. “Costs never go down,” he added.

Land acquisition was not included in the $4.58 million cost. Jacksonville bought the land its library sits on, the director said. Land for a Sherwood library could cost $1.5 million or more, he said.

Roberts also said experts think the proposed 1.3 mills will only generate $5 million in bonds, so the $6 million is a hopeful cap set by those who petitioned for the vote.

For the owners of $150,000 houses, a positive vote for constructing and equipping a new branch to replace the Amy Sanders Library on Shelby Road would mean a $39 increase to the 50.8-mill property tax homeowners are paying now.

The millage rate is the second lowest in Pulaski County.

That rate is not based on appraised or fair market values, but on assessed values. The accessed value of a house is 20 percent of what it is worth.

Mayoral candidate Doris Anderson pointed out that, according to the ordinance the city council passed to set the vote, all personal property — not just houses — would also be taxed. Personal property includes things like vehicles and boats.

An increase of 1.3 mills would equate to $13 for every $10,000 in the assessed value of a home. Personal property would also be taxed based on its assessed value.

Roberts said the proposed millage increase is temporary. It will expire when the bonds are paid off, he said.

Roberts said the city could decide to issue 20-year, 10-year or 5-year bonds. He expects that, considering the growth of Sherwood’s tax base, a 20-year bond could be paid off in less than 12 years.

Roberts backed his support for the project with figures about how much libraries are utilized.

The director said, of about 320,000 people served by CALS, approximately 168,000 — more than half — have library cards that are used on a regular basis.

The system sees about 2.5 million people coming in and out of its buildings each year, he noted.

Roberts said Sherwood’s Amy Sanders Library issued 14,500 cards last year. That is almost half of the city’s 2010 population. That population was 29,523, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2013, the Amy Sanders Library had an annual circulation of 167,000, Roberts said. That is how many items were checked out.

Its annual attendance — a headcount but not unique visitors — was 116,000, the director continued. He added that about 13,000 people used computers at the library in Sherwood last year.

Jacksonville’s Nixon Library, which opened in a new building a few years ago, had a circulation of 221,000 and an attendance of 162,000 in 2013, Roberts said. Its computer usage was 38,000.

In 2009, the year the new Jacksonville library opened, the branch saw a 25 percent increase in attendance, an 18 percent increase in the circulation of print materials and a 27 percent increase in the circulation of non-print materials.

Both types of circulation at the Amy Sanders Library experienced growth of just 7 percent that year, Roberts said.

Since 2009, attendance at the Sherwood branch has declined by 25,000 and the overall circulation has increased by 12,382, according to the director.

Roberts said the Amy Sanders Library, like most CALS branches, is still growing. But its growth pales in comparison to the new library in Jacksonville and other branches, he explained.

The director argued that a new library is needed because the library in Sherwood, which was a flagship facility for the system when he was hired, is outdated.

Roberts said, even though the branch’s programs are well attended, its building is too small to meet the demands of a growing community.

He speculated that the programs, most of them focused on kids, would become even larger if library personnel had more space to host them in.

Mayoral candidate Don Berry said Roberts recently contacted the city council to get their input on how to market a millage increase for the library.

Berry pointed out that marketing it should have been done before now. “It’s putting the cart before the horse…It’s a process issue,” he said.

The trouble supporters are going to have now is that what voters know best is how much the library will cost — $6 million, Berry continued.

He explained that they don’t know what is being purchased.

Berry said in an earlier interview with The Leader that the city’s golf course didn’t cost $6 million and that Cabot just broke ground on a $5.3 million sports complex.

“With those two acquisitions in mind, it may be hard for some Sherwood citizens to fathom how a library could cost more,” the candidate said previously.

He is not against the project if it is determined that voters want a new library. Berry signed the petition for the vote so that they could have their say.

There is value to a new library “if it makes Sherwood a destination,” he said Thursday.

Berry also noted that this is very similar to a sales tax that Mayor Virginia Hillman proposed in 2011 to raise money for a library, animal shelter and street improvements.

Her proposal then also didn’t outline what voters would have bought if it had passed, Berry said. He added that Alderman Tim McMinn led the charge to both table the sales tax and, recently, to place the millage vote on the general election ballot rather than set a special election. Petitioners requested that a special election on the issue be held in August.

The CALS director told the council before it changed the date that a special election was more likely to be successful. Mayor Virginia Hillman said the general election would delay collections and construction until January 2016.

She said more space and parking is needed at the library, especially because it has great children’s programming.

“It’s so important to capture those children at that age. It’s a quality of life issue for our community,” Hillman said.

The mayor said seniors and young families in Sherwood have voiced their support for the project. “In all seasons of life, a library has benefits,” Hillman noted.

She argued that the library needs to expand for technology so that everyone can have access to that. The mayor also pointed out that the library saves residents money as they can rent out entertainment in the form of books or DVDs as well as enjoy the free programming.

Hillman’s vision is a family-themed facility with an outdoor space that would attract people to live in Sherwood.

Mayoral candidate Doris Anderson believes that building a new library isn’t the best way for Sherwood to provide more space for the branch’s programs.

She suggested the library programs be held in other city facilities, like the city council chambers, Bill Harmon Recreation Center, Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, the Greens at North Hills and Sherwood Forest, when they are available.

And there may be a more efficient way to use the current building, like putting computer monitors on the walls, Anderson said.

She also said, “I am not for any new property taxes. I don’t think they are the way to do this. The city has enough money. They need to budget accordingly, spend wisely and look at departments and areas where they are losing money.”

But, “If citizens choose to tax themselves, that’s their choice,” Anderson continued.

She suggested officials look at alternative funding sources – volunteers, donations, etc. — to build the library or first consider needs like constructing a new city hall, safe room or fire station on Brockington Road.

“I think we need to look at the big picture, not just a corner of the big picture,” Anderson said.

The candidate didn’t agree with the law requiring signatures from just 100 residents — not the 15 percent of registered voters other petitions need — for a petition to hold the millage vote for a new library.

Anderson also questioned the petitioners’ request to hold a special election. The candidate asked, “What was the urgency…Have they already made commitments? There is no emergency on the library.”

Anderson also questioned why only 20 people showed up to the only meeting petitioners held on the issue. She said, “The lack of attendance sometimes says as much as the attendance.”

But city mother Amy Sanders agrees with the mayor. She told The Leader that her namesake is well used and a replacement is needed to accommodate those who visit it.

“We desperately need a new library. We have outgrown this one, especially with the children,” Sanders said. “There is so much activity at the library. People use it so much...It’s just outdated in every way, and it cannot be added onto.”

There also isn’t enough parking at the current library, she said.

Sanders said paying the tax would cost about what a family spends going to the movies.

But, “The library you could use over and over again,” Sanders argued.

She said, “It would certainly be an asset for Sherwood” as people looking at moving there would take the library into consideration.

TOPS TORY >> Business celebrates 75 years

Leader staff writer

Central Flying Service in Little Rock is celebrating its 75th year in business.

The company began as a pilot training program and aircraft sales, then expanded to charter flights, aircraft maintenance, repairs and customization. Central Flying Service has grown from one building to 21 hangars with 550,000 square feet on 77 acres at Adams Field near Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

The company was started in 1939 by Claud Holbert and Ed Garbazz, who were members of the Arkansas Air National Guard. Holbert borrowed $1,241 from a bank, bought a Taylorcraft airplane and became a distributor.

Central Flying Service continues to be owned and operated by the Holbert family.


As the U.S. entry into the Second World War loomed, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Central Flying Service partnered with the Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) to offer the program locally.

When the U.S. entered the war, the program turned into the war pilot training program.

Central Flying Service had 65 planes and 30 instructors. At its peak, each instructor flew an average of eight hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There were no days off, except for bad weather. Several thousand pilots graduated from the program during the war.

During the war years in 1940s, Central Flying Service purchased a Ford Tri-Motor, making it one of the state’s first private commercial air service companies. The plane was used for training, flights for the postal service and charters. It also gave passengers short rides during the weekend for $1 a ride.

When the war ended, Central Flying Service operated an auxiliary airport in North Little Rock, the city’s first airport.

It had two grass strips, a hanger, a refueling center and a restaurant. They also saw competition increase as 15 to 20 flying businesses started and failed in Little Rock between 1945 and 1950.

In 1961, the Arkansas Air National Guard that was based at Central Flying Service moved to its current home at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

The Flight Deck Restaurant opened at Central Flying Service in 1983 as a deli and, in the past 31 years, has grown into a restaurant and catering business.

The Huey helicopter on display at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, donated by the National Guard at Camp Robinson, was stored at Central Flying Service.

The helicopter was planned for display at the Little Rock Aerospace Education Center.


Central Flying Service offers charter flights on different aircraft for businesses and individuals.

“We take care of everything. You just show up. We can cater the flight through our restaurant,” said marketing and design director Valerie Wayne.

Wayne said there are many advantages to charter flight compared to commercial flights.

“You travel on your schedule. It is stress-free and you arrive relaxed and on time. It is a more personalized service. We will call you to let you know if the weather is going to delay the flights,” Wayne said.

She said there are no long waits in line for flights, no baggage screening, no lost luggage, as you can watch it being loaded onto the aircraft. There are no extra fees for pillows and blankets and no plane changes. There is free parking and a concierge service.

Wayne said passengers will get fed. They can request special flight meals, such as vegetarian.

Meals are prepared by the Central Flying Service’s own restaurant chefs.

A round-trip flight for six passengers on a jet from Little Rock to Washington is around $12,000, according to company president Dick Holbert.


“We teach people to fly, not just military. It can be students out of high school to senior adults who want to learn to fly. Some people purchase their first plane and want to fly it,” Wayne said.

“We take the aviator through all the steps. We teach you how to fly. You can rent a plane through the charter department. Buy a plane through the sales department. (In the) hangar, fuel the plane and maintain it. It’s a one-stop shop for everything aviation,” Wayne said.

The maintenance department can work on both prop and jet planes, Wayne said.

Chief Flight Instructor Cal Freeney said there are currently around 80 students in the flight training program; 70 are airmen using the post-Sept. 11 G.I. Bill that pays for their schooling.

Freeney said many of the airmen want to get their civilian pilot licenses for a life after the military.

He said they train students to get their required flight ratings. Afterward, Central Flying Service hires the pilots, so they can build up their flight hours by training new students and move on to become a private corporate company’s pilots.

Central Flying Service in partnership with Pulaski Technical College offers a two-year associate’s degree and a four-year bachelor’s degree in aeronautic science.

Central Flying Service offers a range of employment opportunities. The company has 165 employees. The company is currently seeking flight instructors, avionics technicians and service line technicians.

TOP STORY >> Tests show schools here still lagging

Leader staff writer

Arkansas students are about average, according to recently released Iowa Test of Basic Skills scores.

But some Cabot students scored much better than average, while a number of Pulaski County students were below.

Statewide, about 35,000 third graders were tested and had a percentile score of 54 percent in math, 50 percent in reading and 44 percent in language. Of the 35,400 fourth graders tested, students had a 61 in math, a 52 in reading and a percentile ranking of 55 in language. In the fifth grade, out of 35,000 students, they were in the 54th percentile in math, 47th in reading and 50th in language.

The test, imbedded in the annual Benchmark exams, was given to students in third through eighth grade. This is the first of a two-part series looking at third and fourth grade scores.

It is a norm-referenced exam, meaning the tests do not have cut scores and students do not “pass” or “fail.”

The test scores are given in percentile rankings — in other words, how well the student did against other students in that grade across the country. So that percentile ranking of 55, for example, means that students scored better than 55 percent of students taking the test across the country. But 45 percent of the country’s students scored higher.

The Iowa Test is given as part of the annual Benchmark exam but is pulled out and scored separately. It is not used to determine whether a school is failing or not, but as a tool for teachers to see how well students are doing on basic skills.

Among local third graders, Southside elementary in Cabot scored in the 70th percentile in math, meaning they outscored 70 percent of the students across the country and wereonly beaten by 30 percent.

On the other hand, third-grade students at Sidney Deener in Searcy scored in the 35th percentile in math, meaning 65 percent of the students across the country did better.


Beebe and Badger Elementary third graders scored in the 55th percentile in math. Beebe was 51 in reading, while Badger students were at 53 and, in language, both schools were in the 40th percentile.

In Searcy, Sidney Deener was in the 35th percentile in math, 35th in reading and 30th in language. McRae third graders were 56th in math, 53rd in reading and 40th in language. Westside students were 65th in math, 69th in reading and 51st in language.

In Cabot, Eastside third graders scored in the 62nd percentile in math, 62nd in reading and 47th in language. Central students were 60th in math, 64th in reading and 38th in language. Westside students were 64th in math, 54th in reading and in the 46th percentile in language.

Also in Cabot, Southside third graders were 70th in math, 65th in reading and 58th in language. Northside scored in the 56th percentile in math, 54th in reading and 40th in language. Ward Central was 57th in math, 47th in reading and 35th in language. Magness Creek students finished 68th in math, 58th in reading and 46th in language.

Cabot’s Stagecoach was in the 69th percentile in math, 65th in reading and 60th in language. Mountain Springs third graders were 67th in math, 63rd in reading and in the 54th percentile in language.

Lonoke third graders were in the 50th percentile in math, 53rd in reading and 43rd in language.

Third graders in England scored in the 53rd percentile in math, 43rd in reading and 47th in language.

Carlisle third graders were in the 67th percentile in math, 59th in reading and 54th in language.

In the Pulaski County Special School District, Bayou Meto third graders were in the 61st percentile in math, 44th in reading and 36th in language, Clinton Elementary was 43rd in math, 46th in reading and 39th in language

PCSSD’s Warren Dupree third graders were 40th in math, 36th in reading and in the 34th percentile in language. Harris third graders were 38th in math, 26th in reading and 30th in language. Tolleson was in the 45th percentile in math, 44th in reading and 41st in language. Sherwood Elementary was 53rd in math, 43rd in reading and 40th in language

Also in Pulaski County, Sylvan Hills was in the 46th percentile in math, 41st in reading and 44th in language. Cato Elementary was 52nd in math, 44th in reading, and 38th in language. Pinewood landed in the 36th percentile in math, 35th in reading and 30th in language. Arnold Drive was 61st in math, 51st in reading and 50th in language.

Oakbrooke Elementary scored in the 44th percentile in math, 46th in reading and 39th in language. Murrell Taylor was 36th in math, 29th in reading and 27th in language.

Lisa Academy North was 54th in math, 61st in reading and 45th in language.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Charter School finished in the 51st percentile in math, 52nd in reading and 41st in language.


Beebe Elementary fourth graders scored in the 59th percentile in math, 56th in reading and 48th in language. Students at Badger Elementary were in the 61st percentile in math, 51st in reading and 46th in language.

At Searcy, the fourth graders at Southwest Middle School scored in the 61st percentile in math, 57th in reading and 56th in language.

Lonoke fourth graders were in the 53rd percentile in math, 46th in reading and 42nd in language.

England students were 54th in math, 42nd in reading and 48th in language.

Carlisle students scored in the 51st percentile in math, 48th in reading and then jumped into the 63rd percentile in language.

In Cabot, Eastside fourth graders were in the 74th percentile in math, 62nd in reading and 62nd in language. Central Elementary was 65th in math, 59th in reading and 54th in language. Westside students were 64th in math, 57th in reading and 55th in language. Southside was in the 69th percentile in math, 60th in reading and 56th in language. Northside was 63rd in math, 56th in reading and 52nd in language.

Ward Central fourth graders in Cabot scored in the 59th percentile in math, 56th in reading and 47th in language. Magness Creek Elementary students were 70th in math, 67th in reading and 59th in language. Stagecoach students were 71st in math, 62nd in reading and 66th in language. Mountain Springs was 68th in math, 66th in reading and 59th in language.

In PCSSD, Bayou Meto fourth graders were in the 46th percentile in math, 44th in reading and 44th in language. Clinton Elementary was 56th in math, 47th in reading and 57th in language. Warren Dupree was 41st in math, 31st in reading and 33rd in language. Harris Elementary was 31st in math, 27th in reading and 23rd in language.

Also in PCSSD, Sherwood Elementary was in the 57th percentile in math, 47th percentile in reading and the 49th percentile in language. Sylvan Hills Elementary was 57th in math, 41st in reading and 48th in language. Cato Elementary was 54th in math, 45th in reading and 42nd in language. Pinewood was 41st in math, 39th in reading and 42nd in language. Tolleson was 51st in math, 43rd in reading and 45th in language.

Arnold Drive fourth graders were in the 67th percentile in math, 63rd in reading and 66th in language. Oakbrooke was 57th in math, 53rd in reading and 54th in language. Murrell Taylor students ended up in the 41st percentile in math, 34th in reading and also 34th in language.

Lisa Academy North was in the 70th percentile in math, 63rd in reading and also 63rd in language. The Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School was in the 52nd percentile in math, 40th percentile in reading and 48th in language.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

TOP STORY >> Council to vote on parks board member

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert and the parks commission butted heads once again at the city council’s agenda-setting meeting on Monday over an appointment to the board, but the mayor will likely get his way.

The commission was upset that the mayor did not consider people who submitted resumes to the commission for the position.

The council voted 5-1, plus one abstaining, to vote on the appointment of car dealer Dennis Ward at its July 21 meeting.

Also to be considered at that meeting is a proposed ordinance that would allow the city’s code- enforcement office to inspect rental properties at least every few years.

The ordinance — if passed — would also mean the properties could be inspected more often if there are complaints, changes in ownership or a visually obvious ebbing in their upkeep, according to code enforcement officer Scott Kelley.

Officials had discussed the issue in public previously because Cabot recently evacuated a second dilapidated apartment complex for the tenants’ safety.

After Kelley presented the ordinance to the council, Cypert asked aldermen to consider placing the appointment of Ward and the re-appointment of Eric Park to the Parks and Recreation Commission on their July 21 agenda.

Commission chairwoman Maggie Cope told the aldermen she was concerned because the mayor first told her and the commissioners to collect resumes from people who were interested in filling the seat that will be vacant after Sept. 13.

Cypert then ignored the six resumes they received and wouldn’t tell the commission who his choice was, Cope explained.

When the mayor first took office four years ago, he threatened to disband the commission if it didn’t start taking more responsibility for running Cabot’s parks.

On Monday, Cypert said the commission was “totally dysfunctional” two years ago, but had been doing a good job since John Crow was hired to head the department.

The mayor told the council he solicited input from several sources before selecting Ward as his appointee per the ordinance that gives him that authority.

Cypert pointed out that he is “totally responsible” for the bond issue that is funding a $13.5 million sports and aquatics complex. Last year, Cabot voters approved an extension of the one-cent sales tax that is supporting a $42 million bond issue for parks projects, sewer improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library and drainage work in the Highlands subdivision.

Ken Kincade, co-chairman of the parks commission, said Cypert ignoring the resumes that were collected left Cope and other commissioners with “egg on their face” because they had to call those who submitted resumes to let them know they wouldn’t be considered for the appointment.

Kincade then apologized to Ward, saying the comments were not about the commission being against his appointment.

Cypert said he thought the commission understood that the council created it and could disband it with a vote.

“I think the point you’re missing is, ultimately, everything that happens in this city stops right here. I sit behind the desk,” the mayor continued, pointing to himself. “(The aldermen) govern the budget. Some ordinances stipulate that the commission recommends to the mayor the appointees, nominations…The mayor still has the job of finding a good match for what he thinks the commission needs to have. Most of the names are already on the list. I keep a list of potential commissioners for every commission.”

Cypert said Cope gave him two names that are now on his list. But he could add the other four who sent in their resumes, the mayor told the council.

“I hear what you’re saying. The parks and rec commission is doing a great job. We’re not going to have a ruckus over this. But I am ultimately responsible…The buck stops here. You all have been very cooperative,” Cypert told Cope.

Cope asked the mayor, “How do you know this is the best pick if you didn’t look at the other resumes?”

Cypert responded, “Maggie, I’m not going to get in a debate with you on this agenda meeting floor. It’s ultimately my decision to appoint someone to the commission, and I appointed someone. It stands.”

He added that the council would have the final say because their job is to vote on appointments.

Nancy Cohea, a former candidate for the city council, asked Ward if he would be another member of the commission who doesn’t show up for meetings.

Ward said, “I hope not. I will give it a good effort.”

She also asked what his connection was to the parks department.

Ward said his family has spent a lot of time at the city’s parks over the last 30 years and that three of his six grandchildren play on Cabot sports teams.

Ward was asked if he had anything else to say. He said, “No, not really. I was hoping it wouldn’t be controversial. That’s all.”

In response to an Alderman Rick Prentice’s questions, Ward said he was asked if he wanted to be on the commission and that his immediate response was yes.
Ward did not request the post.

Prentice abstained from the vote to place the appointment on the agenda because he has done business with Ward’s dealership in the past and plans to continue that relationship.
Aldermen Ryan Flynn and Ann Gilliam said they understood where the commission was coming from but that their job is to consider the mayor’s appointments.

Gilliam added that a longer resume for Ward would have been helpful.

The resume, exactly as it appears in the council’s packet, reads, “Born in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas July 1955, graduated high school in 1973 and married my wife Marsha in 1974; and, we have three grown children and six grandchildren. Marsha and I live in Sun Terrace subdivision.

“Been self-employed all my adult life and currently have our family owned business, Red River Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Heber Springs and Malvern Arkansas, also an independent dealership in Jacksonville Arkansas on the freeway called City Motors Preowned.

“I have been a member of McAthur Church for 26 years. I feel like I have always been slow to speak and act, but listen to gather information to make informative decisions and will make an effort to pull my load, if seen fit.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ staff finally complete

Leader sports editor

New Jacksonville football coach Barry Hickingbotham finally has a complete staff of assistants and a defensive coordinator with the addition of Brian McDermott, who was hired last Wednesday.

McDermott has been the defensive coordinator at Hazen for the last several years and has deep roots in Jacksonville, which were two key requirements for Hickingbotham.

“The person in charge of the defense being from Jacksonville and having that passion for this town and this program, I think is key to getting this thing to where we envision getting to,” said Hickingbotham. “Coach McDermott is from here, graduated from here in the mid-90s. His dad works at Ashland Chemical, his mom worked for the school district at the middle school for years. We have four of our six coaches who graduated from Jacksonville High School.”

The hire also completed a lengthy process of getting a staff back in place after the loss of head coach Rick Russell, and the subsequent departure of assistant coach Hank Hawk from the football staff. It will also, hopefully, slow the rapid current of turnover among the JHS football staff that plagued Russell’s three years at the helm.

Hickingbotham will be the offensive coordinator and call the plays. With him on the offensive side of the ball will be Adam Thrash, who joined Jacksonville’s staff in December of 2012. He was a record-setting quarterback at Pulaski Academy and was a backup quarterback for four years at the University of Alabama.

Athletic director Jerry Wilson, who has been at JHS for more than 30 years, and has been part of the football program the entire time, will coach running backs. He was an All-State back at Benton High School and a three-year starter at OBU.

McDermott will coach the offensive line in addition to his coordinator duties. Also coaching the defensive backfield will be Larry Burrows, who has held that same position for the last several seasons. The ninth-grade coach will again be Terrod Hatcher, a former 1,000-yard running back at JHS who is in his second year coaching the Red Devil freshmen.

Hatcher has no assistant, but Hickingbotham said all the high-school coaches will be helping with the ninth-graders.

“Right now we don’t really have the size of staff that’s ideal, so it will be a coaching by committee type thing,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re all going to have to help out in other areas any way we need to.”

The first-year head coach isn’t taking very long to implement a plan he’s had for years. The Red Devils will travel to Walnut Ridge later this month for a three-day retreat at Williams Baptist University.

Hickingbotham said there would be some offense and defense installation, but the primary goal is team and character building.

“It’s something I’ve never been exposed to as a coach, but it’s something I’ve always kept in the back of my mind to do if ever I became a head coach,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s mainly a team building, team bonding thing. As a coach you don’t get much of a chance to talk to these kids about values and doing the right thing.

“You’re always so pressed for time to get this offense installed, or that defense installed. Up there we’ll have them from dawn till dusk for three days. So we’re going to spend a lot of time on that sort of thing, and we’re going to start working on implementing some of the game plan as well.”

SPORTS STORY >> O’Reilly’s battles to the end

Leader sports editor

Beebe’s O’Reilly’s Auto Parts Junior American Legion team bowed out of the Zone 5 tournament with a 7-4 loss to Searcy on Monday, but closed the season playing its best baseball.

In the first round, Beebe led Jacksonville for four innings before losing 9-4. In the losers’ bracket, it hammered Cabot White 11-1 before giving away a 7-4 loss to Searcy.

The O’Reilly’s squad out-hit its opponent in all three games. Runners left on base played a big role in the loss to Jacksonville, as well as a monster game at the plate by Gwatney’s Colton Goodman, and errors were the clear culprit in the loss to Searcy.

“We missed a few opportunities but I think we were playing our best of the summer right here at the end,” said Beebe coach Michael Lawrence. “We’re definitely hitting the ball better than we have all summer. They came here and competed. I’m pretty proud of them.”

Beebe, 4-11, got 10 hits to Jacksonville’s nine in the first-round loss on Saturday. Beebe jumped out to a 3-0 lead until Jacksonville scored two in the bottom of the third. Gwatney then scored four in the bottom of the fourth and never trailed again.

Alec Matlock got things rolling in the second inning with a leadoff single, followed by back-to-back walks by Blaine Burge and Corey Rogers to load the bases. Andrew Malzhon then singled to score Matlock. But with no outs and the bases still loaded, Beebe failed to get another run.

John Finley led off the third inning with a single. He stole second base and reached third on a balk by pitcher Brandon Hawkins. Two batters later, Carson McNeil singled to score Finley. Burge and Rogers walked consecutively again to load the bases, and again Malzhon hit an RBI single to make it 3-0.

Jacksonville, 12-14, got on the board when Jordan Wickersham drew a leadoff walk. Wesley Williams sacrificed him to second base and A.J. Jackson reached on an error. Brandon Hickingbotham walked to load the bases and Goodman hit a two-RBI double to center field to make it 3-2.

The Gwatney Chevrolet team took the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Wickersham singled with one out, followed by another error off Williams’ bat and a base hit by Jackson. Hickingbotham drew an RBI walk and Goodman hit another double that cleared the bases.

Beebe got one back in the top of the fifth when Matlock doubled and scored on a two-out single by Malzhon.

Jacksonville set the final margin in the sixth when Jackson drew a leadoff walk and scored two batters later on a two-run home run by Goodman. With two outs, Caleb McMunn singled and scored on an error off the bat of Javon Wakefield.

Malzhon finished the game going 3 for 4 with three RBIs for Beebe. Goodman went 3 for 3 with a walk, two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.

Hickingbotham relieved Hawkins in the third inning and got the win on the mound.

Against Cabot White, O’Reilly’s got seven hits to five for Centennial Bank. Finley got the win on the mound, going all five innings while striking out five batters and walking just two.

McNeil got Beebe’s only hit in the first inning, but three walks and a Cabot error helped make it 3-0. After a scoreless second frame, Beebe added four in the third. Dawson Burge singled and scored on a double by Jake Majors. Matlock reached on an E4 and both runners scored on a base hit by Malzhon.

Each team added a run in the fourth, and Beebe put it away early with three in the fifth on just one hit. Three walks and a hit batter set things up for Dawson Burge, who hit a two-RBI single to right field to set the final margin.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills finishes well at Showdown

Leader sportswriter

The Gwatney Buick-GMC Bears of Sylvan Hills ended their summer baseball season on a high note Saturday by overcoming a four-run deficit to beat the Little Rock Express Kilgore team 5-4 at the eighth annual Rockets Summer Showdown tournament at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock.

Sylvan Hills lost its first game in pool play, but won its next three games to finish the showcase tournament with a 3-1 record. The Gwatney Buick-GMC Bears lost 2-0 to the Little Rock Catholic High Rockets’ summer team in Thursday’s tournament opener at UALR’s Gary Hogan Field.

Later that night, Sylvan Hills overcame another four-run deficit to beat Conway Fieldhouse 8-6 at Lamar Porter Field, and on Friday, the Gwatney Buick-GMC Bears returned to Gary Hogan Field to beat Benton by the final score of 5-1.

Saturday’s game was just like Thursday night’s game against Conway, as the Bears fell into a 4-0 hole going into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Express Kilgore team scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning, and added its next three runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Sylvan Hills scored four of its five runs Saturday in the bottom of the sixth – all of which came with two outs. Mackenzie Seats got on base via walk to start the two-out, sixth-inning rally, and with teammate Carson Sanders at the plate, Seats stole both second and third base before Sanders eventually walked to put runners at the corners.

That brought first baseman Hunter Heslep to the plate, and he picked up his third hit of the day with a two-RBI double to deep right center, which cut the Express lead to 4-2.

River Hunt reached on an error at third base the next at-bat, and designated hitter Joe Craft followed with a triple to right field that drove in both Heslep and Hunt and tied the game at 4-4.

The Express team failed to score in the top of the seventh, and the Bears picked up where they left off their next at-bat. Center fielder and leadoff hitter Lukas Burrow hit an infield single to second base to get things going for Sylvan Hills in the bottom of the seventh.

Burrow would have beaten the throw to first regardless, but the late throw to first from the Express second baseman sailed, and Burrow ended up at second base as a result of the errant throw.

Seats singled to the left-field gap the following at-bat, and with runners at the corners, Little Rock Express pitcher Ben Smith intentionally walked Bears three-hole hitter Blake Maddox to load the bases with one out.

Smith struck out Sanders the next at-bat for the second out of the inning, which brought Heslep back to the plate. At that point in the game, Heslep was 3 for 3 with two singles and a double, and the Express team tried a little trickery to get out of the jam.

Smith faked a pickoff throw to second base and instead went to third in an attempt to catch the potential game-winning run off guard. Burrow, who was at third, bit on the fake to second and would have easily been thrown out on the play had the throw from Smith been accurate.

However, Smith’s throw to third was low and got by the Express third baseman, which in turn, allowed Burrow to score the game-ending run, setting the final score at 5-4.

Even though Sylvan Hills went 3-1 in pool play, so did Catholic, and since Catholic beat the Bears head-to-head Thursday, the Rockets were the ones that got to move on and play in the playoff round on Sunday.

In Saturday’s summer finale for the Bears, Heslep led the way offensively with his 3 for 3 showing at the plate. Burrow and Seats had two hits each in that game, and Craft went 1 for 2 to round out the Bears’ eight hits.

Seats got the win on the hill. He took over for Craft in the top of the sixth, and gave up one run on two hits and one walk in the two innings of work. He also recorded one strikeout.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot Red in zone final

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Red Junior American Legion team carried the No. 1 seed into the Zone 5 tournament at Heber Springs, and advanced to the championship round by going 2-1 from Saturday to Monday.

Fifth-seeded Heber Springs surprised the field by winning the winners’ bracket, including a shocking, five-inning, 13-3 run-rule win over Cabot Red Monday afternoon.

That loss sent the Centennial Bank squad down to the losers’ bracket final against Searcy, where it made quick work of the Silverbacks.

Cabot Red, 18-7, scored 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to a 21-2 shellacking of Searcy to advance to the overall championship rematch against Heber Springs.

“We got off to a bad start against Heber Springs and it just went downhill from there,” said Cabot coach David Smith. “We bounced back and hit the ball really well against Searcy and didn’t make all the fundamental mistakes like in the first one. We caught our fly balls and made our throws. That was the real difference.”

Searcy had been the beneficiary of opponents’ errors in its previous two games, a 16-3 shellacking of Jacksonville on Sunday and a close 7-4 win over Beebe just before playing Cabot Red. That changed against Centennial Bank, as Searcy became the team that couldn’t field a ball cleanly.

It started when leadoff hitter Blake McCutchen drew a walk. Braden Jarnagin then put down a bunt single back to the pitcher. The throw was both not in time, and over the first baseman’s head, allowing McCutchen score all the way from first base and leaving Jarnagin safe at third.

Denver Mullins then bunted down the third baseline. That throw was in time, but it was also wild, scoring another run and leaving Mullins at second base.

Easton Seidl then hit a bloop single just beyond the shortstop to score Mullins, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Slunder. Seidl then took third base and scored on back-to-back wild pitches.

The bases didn’t stay clear for long. Chris Odom walked and Tanner Wilkie was hit and that was it for starting pitcher Griffin Matheny. Relief pitcher Aaron Decker then walked Bobby Duncan to load the bases, and walked Mike Havard to drive in another run.

Back at the top of the order, McCutchen hit into a 4-6 fielder’s choice that got Havard thrown out but scored Wilkie. Jarnagin then walked to load the bases again to set up the inning’s biggest hit. Mullins roped a double to the wall in center field to score all three base runners and give Cabot a 9-0 lead.

He then scored on a ground-rule double when Seidl one-hopped a line drive over the wall in left field to cap the 10-run inning.

It wasn’t the last time Seidl sent one over the left field wall. Later in the game he hit a three-run home run to highlight the 19-run rout.

As the No. 1 seed, Cabot Red got a bye in the first round and played the winner between Jacksonville and Beebe. Jacksonville won that game 9-4, but Cabot Red hammered them 14-2 to set up the match with Heber Springs.

In other tournament games, Cabot White beat Sylvan Hills 11-2 in the first round before falling 4-3 to Heber Springs. In the losers’ bracket, Cabot White fell 11-1 to Beebe on Sunday.

The Zone title game against the host team was scheduled for Tuesday night after deadlines. Cabot needed two wins over Heber Springs to lock up a state tournament bid, but a loss means a matchup with Morrilton tonight for the eighth and final seed in the state tournament that begins Thursday at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

EDITORIAL >> $235 million invested here

As the economy improves after six years of slow growth or no growth at all, much of the credit should go to local communities that pushed construction projects while the economy was in deep recession.

Call it infrastructure investment in the area’s future. The road improvements, along with other building projects, are the result of local, state and federal initiatives that will improve the lives of local residents and bring more businesses to the area.

More than $180 million in road construction will soon begin between Jacksonville and Cabot, including the repaving and eventual widening of Hwy. 67/167. This is the first real modernization of Hwy. 67/167 since it was built 50 years ago. The improvements will ease traffic to and from those communities and should start a retail boom along Hwy. 67/167.

National chains are showing interest in the growing corridor, which will soon benefit from a $42 million contract awarded to James Construction Group of Baton Rouge, La., to replace both the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses in Jacksonville. Wider, safer overpasses will accommodate three lanes of traffic north and south, along with a substantial shoulder at Main Street, new approaches and ramps to the overpasses, and a new stretch of highway between them.

Repairs are also set to begin on seven miles of Hwy. 67/167 between Jacksonville and Hwy. 5 at Cabot. It’s a temporary fix until the highway is widened and resurfaced beginning in 2019. That contract was awarded to Chester Bross Construction Company of Hannibal, Mo., for $2,696,218.

Hwy. 67/167 is already a six-lane highway from I-40 to Redmond Road, and widening the highway from Main Street to Vandenberg is slated to begin in two years, about the time work will be completed on the Redmond Road-Main Street section.

Resurfacing projects in several towns here will pump additional millions into the local economy. Meanwhile, the design and environmental work has begun and traffic signals are being installed at the intersection of Hwy. 367 and Hwy. 38 at Cabot for what’s known as the north terminal intersection, which will speed traffic in and around Cabot, Austin and surrounding communities. The cost of about $8 million will be split between Cabot and state Highway Department.

Cabot voters last year approved a plan to extend the city’s one-cent sales tax to fund a $42 million bond issue for sewer improvements, a new freeway interchange, a new library, sports and aquatic complex, improvements at the community center and drainage work in the Highlands subdivision.

The city last month broke ground for the $13.5 million sports and aquatic complex on Hwy. 321 next to Holland Bottom Farms.

The $8.2 million water park will have a four-lane swimming pool, a slide pool, a walk-in pool, a lazy winding river, a bath house, a concession stand and outdoor private party area. It will open next summer.

The $5.3 million sports complex will have nine baseball fields, two football fields, playgrounds, batting cages, pavilions and a walking track, lighting and a concession stand. It will open in the fall of 2015.

The 160-acre shooting and archery range in Jacksonville, built for $3.5 million, will continue to pump millions of dollars into the local economy, although nearby residents, unhappy with the noise, want to scale back the hours of operation. A noise specialist will make recommendations on how to soothe nerves in homes that surround the shooting range.

Little Rock Air Force Base is spending more than $5 million on street repairs and resurfacing parking lots, as well as remodeling the three main base gates at Vandenberg Boulevard, Harris Road and Arnold Drive. The projects are scheduled to be completed in October 2015.

According to an announcement from the air base, the new, modernized gates will help improve base access, safety and security procedures, while improving traffic flow. There will be some delays and traffic congestion during these improvements.

Adding up all these projects, we come up with $235 million in infrastructure investments in our communities. That money will be well spent. Twenty years ago, another $100 million would have completed the west leg of the North Belt Freeway, but a lack of leadership doomed the project. That project today would cost at least six times that amount.

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago,” says an old proverb. “The second-best time is now.”

TOP STORY >> Dry county helps place liquor effort on fall ballot

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County was “great” in helping proponents of expanding alcohol sales statewide turn in 84,969 — more than the required 78,133 — signatures on Monday morning.

That is according to Little Rock attorney David Couch. He is spearheading the effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would make every county in Arkansas wet, allowing alcohol sales. Monday was the deadline to turn in the required signatures.

Couch explained that the proposed amendment also needed the signatures of at least 5 percent of the registered voters in 15 different counties to get on the ballot.

Proponents accomplished that goal, and Lonoke County was one of the 15.

There were 38,620 registered voters there as of July 1, according to the Lonoke County Election Commission, and 5 percent of that would be 1,931.

“People were very receptive (in Lonoke County),” Couch said. There was no bullying or voters being “ugly” about not wanting to sign the petition — problems that have occurred elsewhere, he noted.

Couch added that signatures were also collected in White County.

He said Secretary of State Mark Martin would count all of the signatures and determine how many are valid.

If the number of valid signatures falls below the number required, proponents will be granted another 30 days to fill the gap, Couch explained.

They are continuing to collect signatures in case more are needed, he added.

Couch said Cabot residents could sign the petition at the Kum and Go gas station, which has contributed financially to the statewide campaign.

And Sherwood residents can sign the petition at Mapco gas station, another financial contributor.

Signature collectors are coming in and out of Jacksonville and White County, Couch said.

Proponents have been doing their own validity checks, the attorney continued. He said between 70 and 75 percent of the signatures collected have been valid.

A “yes” vote on the amendment, if it lands on the ballot, could mean 19 liquor stores in White County and 17 in Lonoke County.

According to the 2010 Census population figures for both counties, that is one liquor store per 4,000 residents — the number allowed by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Pulaski County is maxed out on permits, so the amendment would not mean more liquor stores there.

But the liquor stores on the outskirts of cities could move closer to more heavily trafficked locales. The amendment doesn’t do away with zoning regulations or city ordinances, Couch said previously.

The statewide effort has focused on three counties — Craighead, home to Jonesboro’s Arkansas State University; Saline County and Faulkner County, home to Conway, “The City of Colleges.”

According to a news release by Our Community, Our Dollars — a committee formed in support of local-option votes in those three counties and financially supported by Walmart and Kum and Go — said a recent University of Arkansas at Little Rock study estimated the economic impact going wet would have on the three counties.

The release states that the study, which is based on 2013 potential sales figures, estimates a wet Craighead County could have seen $24.8 million in retail alcohol sales, a wet Saline County could have seen $34.2 million, and a wet Faulkner County could have seen $28.2 million. Those sales mean millions in sales tax revenue.

According to the release, the study concludes that the overall annual potential economic benefit to the three counties would be about $10.5 million in Craighead County, $12.5 million in Saline and $11.3 million in Faulkner.

The author of the UALR study did not return a call from The Leader requesting estimates for Lonoke and White counties.

But, according the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2010 populations of all five counties in order from largest to smallest are as follows: Faulkner with 113,237; Saline with 107,118; Craighead with 96,443; White with 77,076; and Lonoke with 68,356.

If population is any indication, White County could see about 80 percent of the $10.5 million economic impact expected for Craighead County while Lonoke County could see about 70 percent.

But the UALR study uses several other factors to draw its conclusions, and that estimate could be far from accurate.

ABC Director Michael Langley said previously that, if it passes, the amendment would be effective July 1, 2015. It would bring another 220 liquor store permits and 800 or more permits for off-premise beer sales statewide, he said.

Several officials in The Leader’s coverage area say they oppose the measure, favoring local elections over a statewide election.

The Sherwood and Jacksonville chambers are leading an effort to put to a vote whether defunct townships that contain half of Sherwood and 90 percent of Jacksonville should go wet or stay dry.

The groups, the Jacksonville Wet/Dry Campaign and Keep Dollars in Sherwood, have been working to collect more than 4,000 signatures each — 38 percent of registered voters in each defunct township — to get local-option elections.

Jacksonville has about 60 percent of the 4,400 it needs, according to Robert Coon of Impact Management Group in Little Rock, the firm Sherwood and Jacksonville hired to help collect local-option signatures.

Sherwood has more than 1,000 of the 4,200 it needs, he said. Both have been collecting signatures since last summer.

Going wet could add $10 million to Sherwood’s economy and $600,000 to Jacksonville’s economy, according to another UALR study.

To get on the ballot, the constitutional amendment needs signatures from just 10 percent of registered voters statewide who voted for governor in 2010, Couch pointed out previously.

Of the statewide initiative, Jacksonville chamber executive director Amy Mattison said, “I think it’s great. It’s a great thing.”

Barry Sellers, the Sherwood chamber’s economic-development director, agreed. He said, “It would give us two chances to get it.”

Sellers said he would meet with Impact Management Group about whether the Sherwood petitioners should help with the statewide initiative.

Coon said the local-option signature drive was “going pretty well.”

Of the statewide initiative, he said, “It’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on.”
Coon said the firm is taking a wait-and-see approach to that and may consider taking a break from the local-option drive if the amendment gets on the ballot.

But whether to take a break would be up to the two campaigns, he noted.

Coon added that it might not make sense to spend money between the amendment getting on the ballot and the vote on it in November because its passage would make a local-option vote in both cities unnecessary.

Of the statewide initiative, Sellers said, “They did a good job.”

Sellers said the Sherwood campaign slowed down because they didn’t want to confuse voters with the two petitions, and the statewide initiative had the hard deadline to meet.

Sellers said he dropped by Mapco while petitioners for the amendment were collecting signatures. One man pointed at him, telling them he had already signed the petition.

Sellers said he had to explain to that man that it was a different petition.

TOP STORY >> Reserves unit to be activated


The Air Force Reserve Command will activate the 913th Airlift Group at Little Rock Air Force Base during a ceremony at 9 a.m. Sunday.Maj. Gen. Mark A. Kyle, commander of the 22nd Air Force, will present the unit’s new guidon to Col. Edsel A. (Archie) Frye, the unit’s commander.

The 913th takes the place of the 22nd Air Force, Detachment 1, which was
activated in March 2011 with Frye commanding a handful of personnel on base.

The new unit has eight C-130s and has more than 500 personnel. It is authorized to grow to approximately 850 airmen and civilians next year.

The group’s annual budget is about $20 million a year, Frye said Tuesday.

“The Air Force Reserve here at Little Rock Air Force Base has been preparing
for this transition for a while, and we’re proud to have a more visible place in Team Little Rock,” Frye said.

Approximately 28 percent of the members work fulltime as Air Reserve technicians and civil servants, while the rest are traditional Reservists. Their slogan is “Stationed locally — serving globally.”

Some will make $70,000 a year, Frye said.

Frye said the Reserves can stretch a dollar further because they have many part-timers. Frye previously commanded the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan. Frye was born in West Virginia and grew up in Duncan, S.C.

The unit’s new designation is a reactivation of the 913th, a Reserve unit of the 22nd Air Force that was deactivated in September 2007 at its home station of Willow Grove, Penn.

The new airlift group will have at least 10 C-130s, which will add to the airlift capacity and significance of Little Rock Air Force Base as the worldwide C-130 center of excellence.

The planes assigned to the new group would raise the number of C-130s at Little Rock to 95, with 41 of them C-130Js and about 50 more the older C-130H models.

The 913th could also receive additional planes from Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, which were slated to go to Pope Air Force in North Carolina.

The 913th has its own headquarters on base and has worked alongside of the 314th Airlift Wing and 189th Airlift Wing for nearly three years as part of the formal training unit mission at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The unit began transitioning to a combat mission last October and is integrated with the 19th Airlift Wing’s 50th Airlift Squadron and their aircraft maintenance unit.

The 913th includes a headquarters unit, the 327th Airlift Squadron, the 913th Operations Support Squadron, the 913th Maintenance Squadron, the 96th Aerial Port Squadron, the 913th Force Support Squadron and the 913th Aerospace Medical Squadron.

The new group at the base is part of a shift toward more Air Force Reserves as a cost-saving measure as detailed in the Air Force portion of the fiscal 2015 defense budget.

Under President Obama’s proposed budget, the Air Force will receive funding to support 59 active, Reserve and Guard combat-coded air squadrons, with an emphasis on meeting emerging threats, according to a Defense Department press release.

Leader senior staff writer John Hofheimer contributed to this report.