Friday, August 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Arkansas has a real tailback controversy

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – If Bret Bielema had the controversy at the Razorbacks’ 21 other positions that he does at running back, Arkansas would be picked to win the SEC West instead of finish last.

Off a 3-9 season that closed with nine consecutive losses including 0-8 in the SEC, second-year coach Bielema’s Razorbacks were picked last in the seven-team SEC West by voting media earlier this month at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

For running backs, though, Bielema, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and running backs coach Joel Thomas can pick between a 1,000-yard rusher, sophomore Alex Collins, last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, netting 1,026 yards on 190 carries; junior Jonathan Williams, whom Bielema admits he underutilized down last year’s November stretch with 40 less carries than Collins, 150, but a higher average per carry, 6.0 for his 900 yards, and sophomore Korliss Marshall of Osceola. A kick returner/defensive back not utilized at running back until late season but with the most speed attested by his 17 carries for 147 and dazzling runs during the spring Red-White game after moving from the secondary to full-time running back.

“We have a running back controversy,” Bielema said. “We have three good ones: 1A, 1B and 1C.”

The preseason practices commencing Aug. 4 in part will determine who is A, or B or C but all three are good enough for their pecking order to change for any given circumstances or off momentum from any given play.

“We are going to ride the hot hand and see who is playing the best ball,” Thomas said. “That’s the great thing about having three legit guys as we enter camp. The competition is going to separate them. I am excited to see what this animal we can develop into as the season goes along.”

For the first time, the NCAA allowed coaches limited access to their players over the summer. So Thomas could make some observations that he couldn’t make this time last year heading into preseason drills.

“I think they did very well this summer from the times I saw them. They looked very good,” Thomas said. “Coach Herb (strength coach Ben Herbert) did an outstanding job with them. It’s cool to see you go from Year One to now and you see the progression. Alex has been on our campus for one full year and you see his progression and Jonathan obviously two full years. You can see the maturity.”

Marshall, an All-State running back from Osceola recruited to be a safety, obviously profits from completely moving to running back rather than practicing some on both sides of the ball as he did last year. Marshall actually made his first major impact as a kickoff returner and will continue headlining in that role while running the A,B,C rotation with Collins and Williams.

“You saw the implications of that in the springtime,” Thomas said of Marshall’s full-time move to running back. “He started getting comfortable and confident in his game playing running back and then he had this opportunity again in the summer to be with the full group.”

While reveling in three tailbacks that could dot any I or fit any T, ‘bone or 1-back set, the Hogs lament that 2013 senior Kiero Small no longer runs interference for them as the squatty body, low-center of gravity powerful blocking fullback.

Thomas starts August drills with a fullback shuffle that includes a big scholarship tailback, fourth-year junior Kody Walker, 6-2, 246, two walk-ons. Patrick Arinze, placed on scholarship to begin the 2013 season, and De Queen’s Chris Jones. Arinze and Jones’ practices last fall drew some raves but not so much in the spring.

Tyler Colquitt, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Pulaski Academy, drew abreast of them with his practices last spring and has been placed on scholarship.

“We have got Kody, who will still be there situationally, and Tyler Colquitt and find out what he can do,” Thomas said. “Obviously there is Pat Arinze and Chris Jones. We have got a group of guys and somebody has got to arise out of that unit. We also can get a tight end in there if need be. So it’s going to be a question mark as we go through camp and hopefully by this end of it we will have an answer.”

SPORTS STORY >> NFL wrong on many levels with Ray Rice

Leader sports editor

With its decision to suspend Ray Rice for just two games for knocking his fiancĂ© unconscious in a Las Vegas hotel elevator, the National Football League has indicated that women do not matter to them and has exacerbated the problem of today’s young prospects torpedoing their own opportunities.

Rice, the starting running back for the Baltimore Ravens and one of the premier players in the league, is seen on hotel surveillance cameras dragging an unconscious woman out of the elevator and leaving her prostrate on the floor. He looks up for help, then sets her up, slumped over in the doorway of the elevator, before walking away.

Reports say a camera inside the elevator shows Rice punching the woman, who is now, bewilderingly, his wife.

The NFL issues four-game suspensions for first-time marijuana use offenders. Apparently, violent behavior isn’t as serious to the NFL – or at least violent behavior against women. Players are suspended constantly for tackling other players too harshly, and suspended for more games than Rice has been for punching a woman in the face with his fist.

If you take a gander behind the sidelines at an NFL game, you’ll see it does have a use for women – as leading cheers.

Women are objects in the NFL, and in most NFL cities, they are objects that don’t even deserve minimum wage.

Why those women continue to choose to be objectified is just as confusing as why Miss Janay Palmer decided, after being knocked out, to become Mrs. Janay Rice. But that’s a column for someone with more understanding of the subject.

Concerning the NFL’s attitude towards women, consider that since 2000, USA Today reports there have been 84 NFL players arrested for domestic abuse. That’s an average of six per year. We’re constantly reading about players suspended for drunk driving or drug or weapons possession. Can anyone name three, not including Rice, cases of NFL domestic violence?

It’s just not an issue for the league.

Yet Rice’s punishment from the NFL was more severe than his legal punishment. He pleaded not guilty, and still somehow avoided a trial, and will be allowed to enter an intervention program.

This leads us to the second problem. Athletically talented young men today think they can get away with acting a fool because they see it happen with other famous athletes.

They watch video of a freakishly strong, 210-pound man beat a 110-pound woman unconscious in public, and see that nothing happens to him. In their own still small world, they are the standout athletes, and the conclusion is that they can do whatever they want, too. This isn’t the entirety of process, but it is part of it, and decisions like the one the NFL just made perpetuates its part.

The Leader coverage area has seen a rash of opportunities wasted by local athletes just in the last few months.

Jacksonville’s Robert Harris sits in jail awaiting trial for capital murder exactly one year after dazzling scouts in his comeback from a gruesome, season-ending injury in 2012.

Lonoke’s Clarence Harris died last weekend at the age of 25 in a high-speed automobile accident. There’s nothing to indicate that accident was caused by or during any other illegal behavior, but Clarence Harris did, at 18 years old, sabotage Division I scholarship opportunities by continually getting into trouble. Harris had offers from several major colleges, but the bad decision-making ruined at most, a chance at a professional sports career, and at least a free college degree.

In May, North Pulaski’s Joe Aikens blew a six-figure scholarship to play basketball for the Air Force Academy after being arrested for second-degree battery.

What motivates any child to go down such roads is a question experts have tried to answer and prevent. Most of the answers have to do with those kids thinking there are no options. That’s just not the case with kids like the three mentioned, and countless others who have done similar things.

All is not yet lost for Aikens, who is still only 18. All wasn’t lost for Clarence Harris when he first started getting into trouble. He was given a second chance by a brief but largely successful program at Pulaski Tech designed specifically to offer second chances. He blew that one, too. It’s been shared that Clarence Harris had truly turned his life around when the accident happened last weekend – which makes it all the more tragic, but one can’t help but wonder how differently things may have turned out if he’d made the right choices when those huge opportunities were in front of him instead of behind him.

For Robert Harris, who is still only 17, the verdict is literally still out. But if he’s found guilty, the only opportunity he’ll have is a lot of time to think. He could still get straight, but he’ll probably never be free.

Aikens already has his second chance. His charges were dropped, and while the Air Force Academy will no longer have him, he has signed to play basketball at a junior college in Oklahoma. He could interpret all that two different ways. He could see his behavior as costing him a life-changing opportunity at a prestigious military school, or he could see it as him being such a good player he got away with it and can still play ball.

If it’s the former, at worst he’ll get a college degree out of it. If it’s the latter, at worst he could end up like either Harris.

SPORTS STORY >> First glimpse of upcoming football year

Leader sports editor

It’s almost here. The high school football preseason officially begins Monday morning. It’s a bit of a misnomer nowadays to call the four weeks preceding the first game “preseason”. Practice never stops nowadays, so players aren’t really coming back in August from a sport they’ve neglected all summer long. But still, with the official start of preseason, teams can practice longer and do practice more intensely, though they can’t practice as much as they used to.

Teams aren’t allowed any two-a-days the first week, and most schools begin teachers’ meetings the second week, which prohibits two-a-day practices.

Despite all that, practice begins Monday and fans are excited. Cabot is embarking upon defending their undefeated conference championship season and state runner-up finish. They’ll begin with trying to replace almost everyone on a nearly unstoppable offense, while returning what could be the best defense it’s had in many years.

If the offense can even approach the success of last year’s squad, the Panthers could be primed for another deep run.

Jacksonville sort of got their preseason started this week, leaving Wednesday for a three-day team-bonding outing at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge. That trip is the first sign that first-year coach Barry Hickingbotham is serious about effecting drastic changes to the JHS football program.

While that’s a big, long-term challenge, his more immediate challenge in winning with a team that lost a lot of talent, even though that talent didn’t manifest in a very good season. Five 2013 Red Devils will be on college football rosters this fall.

Sylvan Hills is poised for a great year, at least offensively. The Bears have dazzled in summer camps and 7-on-7 tournaments, but so did Jacksonville last year. Still, the Bears scored a lot of points and racked up a lot of yards last season, and all indications are they will be better on offense this year. Their biggest question mark is the nine starters to replace on defense.

Beebe, too, which joins Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski in the 5A-Central, is looking forward to what it believes could be a great season. The Badgers are loaded with skill players, have nine starters back on offense and six on defense. They are also bigger all over the field than they usually are. The only major concern for Beebe is depth on the lines. Injuries to linemen could be fatal to Badger success.

Lonoke is, well, what Lonoke always is – the ineradicable “who knows.” It seems like the years everyone expects greatness are disappointing, only for the Jackrabbits to be very good in years without much hype. One thing is certain, the week-two rivalry game with Beebe is always fun because it’s always just as unpredictable.

Carlisle is also starting over with a new coach. After seven-straight years with one coach, this year’s Bison seniors will have the third head coach of their careers. They also lose almost 100 percent of its yardage production from last year, with both running backs Bo Weddle and DeRon Ricks signing to play college football.

Carlisle will still be disciplined and execute well and will almost assuredly make the playoffs, but another conference championships or co-championships could be in danger.

Reports from North Pulaski are varied. Coach Teodis Ingram believes he has some talent and is optimistic about his first senior class to have come up entirely in his system. The Falcons, though, went 0-10 last year with a relatively talented, but largely unmotivated group.

Ingram believes this year’s senior class is a better group of workers, but it hasn’t played out well so far in summer competitions. But summer competitions can be just as bad of an indicator of bad teams as it is of good ones because there’s no contact. As old Michigan coach Bo Schembechler used to be fond of saying, “Ain’t nothing out here means nothing except blocking and tackling.”

EDITORIAL >> Help walkers and bicyclists

As Cabot gears up for construction of the new North Interchange on Hwy. 67/167, adding two roundabouts on Lincoln Street near the high school and the beautification of West Main Street into downtown, city leaders and planners have overlooked an improvement that could help many people — adding a protected pedestrian and bicycle bridge onto the Hwy. 89/West Main Street overpass.

Over the years, the lines of the overpass were moved to allow four lanes instead of two. Every day, there is someone walking or riding precariously close to traffic. It happens at night and in the rain. Bicyclists have to wait on the signal lights for a break in traffic to pedal quickly up and over in one of the traffic lanes to get to the other side.

They are using the overpass to cross over to shop at nearby stores.

Some are headed to work at Zaxby’s, Colton’s and other restaurants. Drivers have to slow or move into the next lane. Unlike the James Street and Main Street overpasses in Jacksonville, there is no sidewalk, just the narrow space of a white fog line. In icy weather, pedestrians have to walk on the frozen slush pushed to the sides by snow plows.

What would happen if someone was texting while driving, or a pedestrian listening to their headphones walk wide? If they were clipped by a vehicle, would they tumble onto the freeway several feet below?

According to Cabot Police Department spokesman Keith Graham, there are no reports of a pedestrian or cyclist being hit on the overpass in the past five years, but that could change when traffic increases as the city’s economic and population growth continues.

An alternative to using the overpass is to walk or ride across Hwy. 67/167. It may seem safer to some people. It has risks as vehicles are traveling 65 mph or more compared to the slower speeds of the overpass. However, according to state law it is illegal to walk or ride across a controlled-access highway, except at designated points.

A pedestrian and bicycle bridge bolted alongside the overpass would benefit many. Walkers and riders would be protected from traffic, as the concrete and steel guard rail already in place would separate them from vehicles. It doesn’t have an ornate structure, and it could blend in by being at road level.

A pedestrian and bicycle bridge could help Cabot become a more bicycle friendly community. Some residents do not have cars, cannot afford gas and must walk or ride. Others may choose to be “green” and leave the car at home and get some exercise. Members of the Cabot Country Cruisers, a local bicycle group, would most likely support a pedestrian bridge.

It would also help with traffic flow, as a bridge would provide people living in the Northport Apartments, Sun Terrace and other housing areas with a way to get to the new library under construction at the old Knight’s store.

According to the July issue of Arkansas Highways magazine, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department is working on a new statewide bicycling and pedestrian transportation plan. Perhaps they will consider the West Main Street overpass since it is a state highway.

The city is already working with the state Highway and Transportation Department on many other traffic improvement projects. Why not add a bicycle and pedestrian bridge to the immediate plans? It shouldn’t cost as much as redesigning interchange cloverleaves as planned for Exit 19, and it might just save a life.

Jacksonville, too, needs a pedestrian bridge over the now-closed railroad crossing at Graham Road and North First Street. We see people of all ages walking over the tracks to cross the tracks there instead of going over the Main Street bridge, which does have sidewalks and are frequently used. Many people are on their way to shop downtown or visit the Martin Street Recreation Center.

It would be a welcome gesture that Jacksonville is committed to the area, where shuttered storefronts still remain after about eight years since the city closed that crossing to traffic. A concrete blockade with road-closed signs still inform drivers — as if they don’t know nearly a decade later — that the crossing is gone. A simple landscaping project would alleviate some of the government-caused blight and a pedestrian bridge would show that this side of town is still open for business.

For inspiration, look at Sherwood’s pedestrian bridges over Kiehl and Maryland avenues. They might not be used as much as they should be, but they give walkers there a safe alternative when crossing those busy thoroughfares.

In the end, communities benefit when they take care of their walkers and cyclists.

TOP STORY >> Area soldier died in World War I

Cabot Museum of American History

The Criswell/Robinson American Legion Post 71 in Cabot is named in part in honor of Ross Hardie Robinson, who was killed in action in World War I.

Robinson was born in Lonoke County on July 3, 1891.

By the time he entered the service on Sept. 26, 1917, he was living in Little Rock and was a salesman for the Farmer Grain Company.

His draft registration papers described him as tall and slender with black hair and blue eyes.

Robinson saw service on Europe’s Western Front as a corporal in Company B, 608th Engineers American Expeditionary Force.

He died on Dec. 15, 1918, at Chaumont, France. Robinson was one of the thousands of American soldiers whose remains were not immediately returned to the United States.

Almost three years after his death, he was finally laid to rest on June 14, 1921, at Pleasant Hill Cemetery just off Hwy. 89 south of Cabot.

If you have photos, letters, diaries or other items you would like to share, call Mike Polston at 501-286-9665 or Sherryl Miller at 501-676-6750.

TOP STORY >> All fifth graders at Arnold Drive score advanced

Leader staff writer

All the Arnold Drive Elementary fifth graders who took the literacy portion of the Benchmark exam scored advanced — one of the few groups of fifth graders in the state to do so.

Warren Dupree fifth graders jumped 30 points on the math portion, going from 39 percent proficient or advanced in 2013 to 69 percent this year, moving them above their district’s and the state average.

More than 35,000 students in the fifth and sixth grade took the state-mandated exam in April. In addition to math and literacy, fifth graders were also tested in science. But only math and literacy scores are used to determine if a student is advanced, proficient, basic or below basic. Math and literacy scores are also used to determine if a school is succeeding or failing.

Statewide, fifth graders averaged a 69 percent proficiency rate in math and 82 percent in literacy. Sixth graders, across the state, averaged 71 percent proficient or better in math and 69 percent in literacy.

The sixth graders at Jacksonville Lighthouse’s Flightline Upper Academy did much better than those averages in both math and literacy, scoring 94 percent in math and 91 percent in literacy. Based on Benchmark scores, the academy has been rated in the top 15 percent of middle schools in the state, according to

Cabot students also continue to do well with the fifth graders at Cabot Middle School South scoring 94 percent or better in literacy. Sixth graders at Cabot Middle School North had a 90 percent proficiency rate in math.

Janice Walker, principal at Warren Dupree, credited her teachers for the strong showing this year. “They are looking at and working with kids as individuals, getting the students excited about learning and putting in plenty of extra hours.”

At the Flightline Upper Academy, Principal Evan McGrew also credits the teachers. “Our teachers are very experienced and won’t allow a child to fail.” He added that the school uses a looping model so fifth grade teachers move to sixth grade with their students. “It gives continuity, and we don’t have any downtime because the teachers are already familiar with the students.” He said the school is constantly assessing students, using different strategies, like small group and one-on-one teaching. “If 70 percent of the class has not mastered a standard, we reteach it in a different way,” McGrew said.

Here are how area fifth and sixth graders did on the annual Benchmark exam:


Beebe Middle School fifth graders scored 69 percent proficient or advanced on the math section and 85 percent proficient or better in literacy.

At Searcy’s Southwest Middle School, 73 percent were proficient or better in math, and 88 percent did the same in literacy.

Lonoke students were 63 percent proficient or better in math, and 83 percent did likewise in literacy. England fifth graders were at 68 percent in math and at 70 percent in literacy. At Carlisle, 74 percent of the students made the grade in math, and 88 percent were proficient or advanced in literacy.

Cabot Middle School South students were at 88 percent proficient or advanced in math and at 94 percent in literacy. At Cabot Middle School North, 83 percent made the cut in math, and 87 percent did the same in literacy.

In PCSSD, Bayou Meto students were 77 percent proficient or advanced in math and 84 percent proficient or better in literacy. Clinton students were 55 percent proficient or better in math, and 79 percent did likewise in literacy. At Warren Dupree, 69 percent of the students made the grade in math, and 84 percent did so in literacy.

Harris Elementary was just 29 percent proficient or better in math and 55 percent in literacy. Tolleson had 81 percent of its students make the cut in math, and 88 percent did the same in literacy. Sherwood had 64 percent score proficient or better in math, and 82 percent did likewise in literacy. At Sylvan Hills Elementary, 62 percent made the cut in math, and 82 percent did so in literacy.

Cato students were 72 percent proficient or better in math, and 86 percent did the same in literacy. Pinewood was at 32 percent in math and at 90 percent in literacy.

Arnold Drive students were 75 percent proficient or better in math and 100 percent proficient or advanced in literacy.

Oakbrooke finished with 61 percent proficiency in math and at 85 percent in literacy. Murrell Taylor was at 48 percent proficient or better in math and at 80 percent in literacy.

Lisa Academy North had a 73 percent proficiency rate in math and 77 percent in literacy.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Charter Middle School had 52 percent of its students make the grade in math, and 63 percent did the same in literacy. At its Flightline Academy, 59 percent scored proficient or better in math, and 88 percent did likewise in literacy.


Beebe students were 73 percent proficient or advanced in math and did the same in literacy.

Southwest Middle School in Searcy finished at 83 percent proficient or better in math, and 79 percent made the cut in literacy.

In Lonoke, 70 percent of the sixth graders made the grade in math, and 66 percent did the same in literacy. England students were 66 percent proficient or better in math but fell to 53 percent in literacy. Carlisle had 67 percent of its students make the cut in math, and 78 percent did the same in literacy.

Cabot Middle School South was 86 percent proficient or better in math and had 81 percent make the cut in literacy. At Cabot Middle School North, the proficiency rate was 90 percent in math and 84 percent in literacy.

PCSSD’s Northwood Middle School was 61 percent proficient or advanced in math and 64 percent proficient or better in literacy. Sylvan Hills Middle School finished at 63 percent proficient or better in math and had 66 percent do the same in literacy.

Jacksonville Middle School had 49 percent make the cut in math, and 45 percent did the same in literacy.

Sixth graders at Lisa Academy North were 72 percent proficient or better in math and 75 percent in literacy.

Lighthouse Middle School in Jacksonville was 66 percent proficient or better in math, and 65 percent made the grade in literacy. At The Flightline Upper Academy, 94 percent did well on the math portion, and 91 percent did so in literacy.

TOP STORY >> New commander at 314th

Leader staff writer

The 314th Airlift Wing of the Little Rock Air Force Base got a new leader, Col. James Dryjanski, during a change-of-command ceremony held on Thursday.

Dryjanski took over for Col. Edward (Scott) Brewer, who is leaving to be chief of the Concepts, Strategy and War Gaming Division at the Pentagon in Washington.

“It is great to be back here in central Arkansas and producing C-130 combat airlift,” Dryjanski said.

He was assigned to LRAFB from November 2001 to June 2003 as a C-130H model instructor aircraft commander and squadron director of staff.

Before commanding the 314th AW, Dryjanski served as the 387th Air Expeditionary Group commander in Southwest Asia. He led 700 airmen supporting coalition forces and civilian contractors at the Air Force’s second busiest aerial port while delivering joint expeditionary-tasked airmen in support of U.S. Central Command operations.

Dryjanski began his Air Force career in 1992 when he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

As commander of the 314th, Dryjasnki said he intends to work every day to be worthy of the trust and confidence airmen place in their leaders. “Col. Brewer, you and the airmen of this wing have built an incredible legacy,” he said.

“We could not do what we do without the support of this community. When we think of Little Rock Air Force Base, we know the airfield, air space and training routes that we have, landing and drop zones make this base a national asset.

But the community support that we enjoy here makes it a national treasure,” Dryjanski said.

He and his wife, Celeste, have six children — Kate, Alexis, Zoey, Thomas, Joshua and Adam. Dryjanski thanked his parents, who traveled from upper Michigan to be at the ceremony.

“They encouraged me as a young man to be a leader of integrity. They taught me the value of courage and the value of compassion,” Dryjanski said.

He also told airmen of the 314th that one his favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, said the best prize life has to offer is working hard at work that’s worth doing.

“That is exactly the challenge and opportunity that we have here. So let’s get to it,” Dryjanski said.

Outgoing commander Col. Brewer reflected on his time leading the 314th past two years and Team Little Rock.

“It has been amazing to watch you and being part of this community,” Brewer said.

Brewer spoke about the deadly Vilonia tornado and seeing the reaction of central Arkansas. It highlighted every part of the community. People immediately rallied and raced to the needs of the citizens of Vilonia, he said.

He was impressed that all the surrounding cities sent people to Vilonia to help and stayed there for weeks helping to clean up.

“It was powerful to see that,” Brewer said.

“This is community is a family. While the job of the 314th Airlift Wing and our mission partners is to train the world’s best combat airlifters,” the colonel said.

“It is really the community that we are privileged to be a part of that is the extra difference that makes each one of the student’s lives even better. Especially the 47 countries that insist on sending their folks here to central Arkansas because of that Team Little Rock difference,” Brewer said.

The 314th Airlift Wing is part of Air Education and Training Command. The wing has more than 1,200 military and civilian professionals.

The 314th partners with the 19th AW, 189th AW Air National Guard and the 913th Airlift Group Air Force Reserve Command.

It flies about 12,600 hours annually and uses 81 flight simulators and training devices to train more than 1,800 students and 250 international students each year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Our air base safe, secure

Little Rock Air Force Base officials went into high alert last week when they received a report of a suspicious person on base. Fortunately, it was a false alarm. But, even if there had been just a 1 percent chance of a maniac loose, the authorities had no choice but to close the base for several hours.

The incident occurred during an emergency-readiness exercise that started early last Wednesday morning. There was some confusion at first on whether a report of a person trying to forcibly gain access to a base building was part of the exercise or if someone suspected that a real troublemaker was making his way around the base. Investigators later found that “no threat existed,” according to a news release.

The base was locked down from 11:45 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. Airmen and civilians hid behind closed doors until the all-clear was sounded that afternoon. It was a tense day for thousands of people on base and for their loved ones waiting for word on the outside.

As one contractor said of her experience, “There was a moment when the atmosphere in the room turned from normal to intense, when things went from exercise to real world. We didn’t know details, just that we were on lockdown. The sirens were sounding every 10 minutes or so, and all we could do was sit in a locked room and wait.”

She added, “The airmen did their jobs, and everything turned out to be OK. Base leadership made the right call to investigate. They made sure we were safe.”

Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, said afterward, “We take all reports seriously and investigate them thoroughly. Due to this report, I implemented a lockdown, and our highly trained Security Forces airmen responded to secure our airmen, their families and Air Force resources.”

Random violence on U.S. bases is too common these days. Rhatigan and other commanders on base acted prudently. Every day, our military faces dangers at home and abroad. Here’s a partial list of violence on military bases in this country in recent years:

• Fort Hood, Texas, April 2014, three people killed, 16 wounded.

• Fort Hood, Texas, November 2009, 13 killed, 32 wounded.

• Washington Navy Yard, September 2013, 12 killed.

• Virginia’s Quantico Marine base, March 2013, two marines killed.

• Fort Bragg, N.C., October 1995, one killed, 18 wounded.

• Fairchild Air Force Base, June 1994, Spokane, Wash., four killed, 23 wounded.

Our airmen know all about violence, as they’ve served in Asia and the Middle East for more than a decade. That’s why they’re on guard around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Thank you, Col. Rhatigan, for making sure everyone is safe at Little Rock Air Force Base.

TOP STORY >> Ruth Couch, Beebe educator, dies at 77

Leader staff writer

The prim and proper Ruth Couch, 77, of Beebe passed away at her home on Saturday.

Couch spoke eloquently and had a great sense humor. She was a college professor, a chamber director, a writer and a giver.

Couch was born Sept. 23, 1936, in Magnolia. She was the daughter of Ben and Zettie Couch, who preceded her in death.

Couch is survived by her dog, Missy, and two cousins, Darlene Maddy and Jacinta Denton.

Couch earned a bachelor’s degree at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

She became a teacher, and then she earned a master’s degree at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. She earned a doctorate at Oklahoma State University.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said, “Dr. Ruth Couch dedicated her life to this community. Civic organizations, the city, Arkansas State University and churches will all miss her passion for assisting others. Never have I known a person with a heart of gold as Ruth Couch.”

Angie Gibbons, administrative assistant to the mayor, said Couch cared about what everyone had to say and tried to help them.

Gibbons said, when she was with Couch, she learned the value of listening, how to be kind and gentle and how to strive to be a little better every day.

In 1971, Couch began working for Arkansas State University in Beebe as an English teacher.

She was the first full-time professor at ASU-Beebe and the first woman to be vice chancellor for academic affairs there, a position she held for nine years.

Couch endowed a scholarship at the university and furnished a faculty workroom in the library that is named in her honor.

She also purchased the bell chimes that ring out across campus on the hour.

After 32 years at ASU-Beebe, Couch retired in 2003. She left a large part of her estate to the university.

ASU-Beebe chancellor Eugene McKay said he and Couch were longtime friends. They were both English teachers at ASU-Beebe in 1971.

“She was a fine person and an excellent teacher. She loved the university. She was tremendously witty and had an extensive vocabulary. (Couch) was a smart, successful, likeable woman. She loved dogs and always had one,” McKay said.

“We will miss her greatly. She was a good employee and a great friend,” McKay said.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook had Couch as a teacher during her freshman English classes at ASU-Beebe.

“She made an impression on me, because she was the first person I met with a doctorate. It was really cool,” Shook said. The superintendent now holds her own doctorate degree.

After retiring from education, Couch took a part-time job as the Beebe Chamber of Commerce director, a position she held for 10 years.

Chamber director Kristen Boswell said, “She was truly an inspirational woman. She made a positive and lasting impression on everyone she met. She was always willing to help. She was a wealth of knowledge. She will be greatly missed.” The chamber’s lifetime service award is named in Couch’s honor.

Couch was also a writer. She wrote a novel, “No Bells Will Ring,” and two books of poetry. She was working on a second book.

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at 10 a.m. today at Beebe First Baptist Church. Memorials may be made to the Arkansas State University-Beebe Development Council, P.O. Box 1000, Beebe, Ark., 72012 or to your local church.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood backs jail plan

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to approve a new five-year, interlocal agreement that will support the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility. The city will pay $133,000 for the jail next year.

The agreement offered to Sherwood, Jacksonville, North Little Rock, Little Rock and Maumelle proposes a 5 percent increase in the amount assessed to each city in the first year and annual increases tied to the consumer price index.

Mayor Virginia Hillman told aldermen before the vote, “This is the lowest our price is going to be. We only stand to have an increase in it if we continue to wait.” She said City Attorney Steve Cobb believed signing the agreement would lock in that price for the city.

Last week, the Pulaski County Quorum Court approved unanimously a new per diem fee schedule that will kick in for any of the five cities that don’t ratify a new agreement like Sherwood did. The per diem is a more expensive option, with the cities charged $248 for the first day a prisoner is booked into the county jail and $45 a day after that.

Alderman Ken Keplinger asked, before the council voted, what it would take to reopen Sherwood’s jail.

Police Chief Jim Bedwell said that would require the city to expand its facilities at a price tag of at least $1 million.

He said Sherwood has a 24-hour holding facility now that can house up to 10 inmates. The department could open up a few more cells if needed, the chief noted.

At one time, the city had a 14-day holding facility that “worked great,” Bedwell continued.

So, he asked the state for a list of what would be needed to reinstate that.

The chief explained, “There is no way, with our facility, we can go back to the 14-day without hiring more people and doing a major add-on. We’d have to have visitation. We’d have to have a dietician, an exercise room with daylight. The list just goes on and on and on. There is no way that we can afford to do that.”

The mayor pointed out that Sherwood’s annual $133,000 contribution to help the county jail wouldn’t even pay the salaries of three people to staff a city jail.

Alderman Marina Brooks chimed in with, “Sounds like it’s a bargain.”

But Keplinger, earlier in the discussion, said, “My frustration with the whole deal is, if we take and we send an inmate down there, they’re turning these inmates around, turning them away, releasing them. So, we’re not really getting the value. And I understand that they have to be supported, but it just irritates me, things like that.”

The city attorney said he asked, during the negotiations, whether that issue — caused by overcrowding — could be addressed by speaking with the Department of Corrections about making room in state prisons.

One police chief who was in that meeting told Cobb that the state was already working to release more nonviolent offenders.

Cobb told the council that the police chief said he had received more than 300 parole notifications recently compared to the 15 he typically sees.

The attorney added, “It’s a statewide problem…Yes, it’s frustrating, for the court, too, because they don’t have the teeth.”

The mayor voiced another concern before the vote.

Hillman said, “If we publicize that we’re not going to have an agreement with the county, and (criminals) know we’re not going to have anywhere to take them, I promise you the criminal activity will certainly (go up).”

Bedwell agreed. He said he is already seeing an increase in crime since overcrowding has prompted the county jail to release nonviolent offenders sooner and more frequently.

But, he added, the county jail does keep violent offenders. The chief said he can also work with the judge and sheriff to make sure a repeat offender who needs locked up stays that way.

Minor criminals, like shoplifters, are quickly released though. Sherwood can’t do anything about that, Bedwell said.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye asked the council and mayor to clarify which cities were for and which cities were against the agreement.

Those on the council confirmed that Jacksonville and Little Rock are opposed to the agreement, while Maumelle and North Little Rock seem to be on board.

But, the mayor added, Sherwood signing the agreement is an independent action. It would not affect any other cities and other cities signing would not affect Sherwood’s deal.

Pulaski County is required by law to house prisoners from municipalities within its borders, and the five cities agreed in 2004 to support the $26-million-a-year jail to the collective tune of about $3 million a year.

The state and federal government pay about $2 million a year for the inmates they send to the county’s facility.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher objects to Jacksonville’s share in the proposed agreement, which would be $68,000 more a year than Sherwood pays.

He has pointed out that Sherwood has a bigger population and had 50 percent more inmates in the county jail last year than Jacksonville did.

But the pier-diem plan approved by the quorum court could increase that city’s financial liability from $201,000 a year, under the proposed interlocal agreement, to nearly $500,000.

Fletcher told The Leader previously that he wouldn’t bring the interlocal agreement to the Jacksonville City Council until he has a proposal he can support.

He has said the biggest problem is the high number of state prisoners in the county jail and that the state pays only $24 a day per inmate, while the cost of housing an inmate is $44.

Fletcher said previously that he hopes the General Assembly will agree to pay its fair share when it convenes in January, but Villines has said jail and prison overcrowding is perceived elsewhere as a central Arkansas problem.

Legislators from other areas of the state are unlikely to be eager to pay more, the judge told The Leader previously.
Pulaski County is required by law to house prisoners from municipalities within its borders, and the five cities agreed in 2004 to support the $26-million-a-year jail to the collective tune of about $3 million a year. The state and federal government pay about $2 million a year for the inmates they have in the county lockup.

During a three-day special session recently, the General Assembly appropriated about $6.2 million to open another 600 prison beds around the state. Pulaski County’s work-release center, also known as the Wrightsville Satellite Center, just reopened and will hold 250 inmates.

Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Lt. Carl Minden told The Leader previously that the county would benefit by half that number.

The Pulaski County Detention Center, which twice this year stopped taking any but the most violent inmates, is open now and was down to a count of 1,157 Friday morning, he said last week. The center’s capacity, which it sometimes exceeds, is 1,210.

In other business:

• The council voted unanimously to appropriate $33,000 of the $39,000 in matching funds required to receive a $78,000 grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program that will complete the $164,000 Roundtop filling station restoration project.

The remaining $6,000 of the match will be covered by private donations that were collected for the project, according to the mayor.

The $78,0000 grant is funding phase two of construction — renovating the interior of the 360-square-foot building off Hwy. 161.

Phase one — stabilizing the old gas station at Trammel and Roundtop roads, replacing the roof and some work on the slab as well as the plumbing — was paid for with the first $50,000 matching grant the city received from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Sherwood’s match of $25,000 for the first grant came from private donations, a $12,500 chamber of commerce contribution and city funds.

Heye was concerned about how much more money would be needed to use the historic landmark as a police substation, one requirement of the grants.

The mayor said this second grant would finish the building and the city has been encouraged to apply for more funding through the state program next year.

Harmon said that approving this second grant would fulfill the substation requirement.

The city attorney pointed out, in response to another question, that compliance with the grants occurs before checks are written.

City Engineer Ellen Norvell said the program understand that turning the building into a substation would be a lengthy process.

And the police chief said doing so would be simple, as the building is small, an “no major” furnishings are needed other than one computer or laptop officers would use to file reports.

Darrell Brown, chairman of the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee, added that several local companies and Sinclair Oil have agreed to donate the heating and air conditioning system, the roof, signage and memorabilia.

He told Heye the city would not need to spend any more money on the project.

And the police chief was asked about preventing vandalism. Bedwell said there hadn’t been any problems so far, and patrols are deterring that.

He added, “The officers do have a good interest in that because it’s something unusual. It’s something that no one else has got. I think it’s going to be great for the community out there.”

Keplinger said the Round-top would be a draw for people coming to Sherwood and that the council needed to support it.

TOP STORY >> Many pupils here excel on test

Leader staff writer

All the third graders at Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot scored proficient or advanced on the math portion of the state-mandated Benchmark exams given to third through eighth graders in April.

Those same third graders also blew past the state average in literacy with 93 percent of them scoring proficient or advanced.

Mountain Springs, Magness Creek and Northside, all in Cabot, also did well, along with third graders from England.

The state average in math, after testing 35,000 students, is 85 percent proficient or advanced in math and 76 percent in literacy.

The annual test is used to see how well students know their grade-level math, reading, writing and grammar skills. Scores fall into four categories: Advanced, proficient, basic or below basic. If a school, as a whole, does not do well, it can be placed on the state’s “Needs improvement” list.

At the fourth-grade level, Arnold Drive Elementary was at the top in the Pulaski County Special School District and in the area with a proficiency rate of 91 percent in math and 95 in literacy. Cabot’s Mountain Springs, Stagecoach, Northside and Southside also did well.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman praised his teachers and administrators for the solid test scores.

“It starts in the classroom,” Thurman said. “Our teachers don’t teach a class of 25; they teach 25 individuals.” He added that teachers use different styles, strategies and methods to impart knowledge.

“Our teachers go above and beyond, teaching life skills and offering a host of different activities that we pray shows up in good Benchmark scores.”

Here is how all area third and fourth graders fared on the math and literacy portions of the annual Bench-mark exam:


Beebe Elementary third-grade students were 82 percent proficient or advanced in math and at 75 percent in literacy. Badger Elementary was 83 percent proficient or better in math and at 78 percent in literacy.

In Searcy, Sidney Deener students were 66 percent proficient or better in math and fell to 64 percent in literacy. McRae was 89 percent proficient or better in math and, in literacy, 76 percent made the cut. Westside had 88 percent make the grade in math, and 85 percent were proficient or better in literacy.

Lonoke Elementary students were 74 percent proficient or better in math and at 77 percent in literacy. England students were at a strong 95 percent proficient or advanced in math and at 84 percent in literacy. Carlisle was at 90 percent in math and at 80 percent in literacy.

In Cabot, Eastside students were 89 percent proficient or advanced in math and at 88 percent in literacy. Central had 90 percent of its students make the cut in math and were at 87 percent in literacy. Westside had 83 percent of its third graders score proficient or better in math, and 77 percent did likewise in literacy. Southside was at 93 percent in math and at 89 percent in literacy.

Cabot’s Northside students were 81 percent proficient or better in math but fell to 68 percent in literacy. Ward Central was at 88 percent in math and at 84 percent in literacy. Magness Creek hit the 92 percent mark in math, and 84 percent scored proficient or better in literacy.

All the third graders at Stagecoach Elementary scored proficient or better in math, and 93 percent did the same in literacy. Mountain Springs was at 95 percent in math, and 86 percent made the cut in literacy.

In the Pulaski County Special School District, Bayou Meto third graders were 92 percent proficient or advanced in math, and 73 percent did likewise in literacy. Clinton Elementary had 72 proficient or better in math and 79 percent in literacy. Warren Dupree had 76 percent of its third graders make the grade in math, and 65 percent did the same in literacy.

Harris Elementary had 66 percent at proficient or better in math and 62 percent likewise in literacy. Tolleson was at 80 percent in math and at 77 percent in literacy.

Sherwood Elementary saw 83 percent of its students do well in math and 71 percent in do well literacy. Sylvan Hills was 80 percent proficient or better in math and 78 percent likewise in literacy. Cato Elementary had 84 percent make the grade in math, and 78 percent did the same in literacy. Pinewood was at 67 percent in math and at 61 percent in literacy.

Arnold Drive had 91 percent of its students score proficient or better in math, and 85 percent did the same in literacy.

PCSSD’s Oakbrooke was 71 percent proficient or advanced in math and 70 percent in literacy. Murrell Taylor had 67 percent make the cut in math and 66 percent score proficient or better in literacy.

Lisa Academy North was 92 percent proficient or better in math and 75 percent likewise in literacy.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Academy scored 88 percent proficient or advanced in math but fell to 60 percent in literacy.


Beebe Elementary was 76 percent proficient or better in math and 88 percent in literacy. Badger third graders were 70 percent proficient or better in math and 81 percent likewise in literacy.

Searcy students at South-west Middle School scored 73 percent proficient or better in math and 84 percent in literacy.

Lonoke was at 59 percent in math and at 71 percent in literacy. England scored 64 percent proficient or advanced in math, and 71 percent made the cut in literacy. Carlisle was at 70 percent for math and at 87 percent in literacy.

Cabot’s Eastside Elemen-tary scored 85 percent proficient or better in math and 94 percent in literacy. Central was at 78 percent in math and at 91 percent in literacy. Westside was at 78 percent proficient or better in math and at 82 percent in literacy.

At Southside, 88 percent of the students made the cut in math, and 91 percent did so in literacy. Northside saw 83 percent of its students score proficient or advanced in math and 90 percent likewise in literacy.

Ward Central had 76 percent of its fourth graders score proficient or advanced in math, and 82 percent did the same in literacy. Magness Creek was at 87 percent in math and at 88 percent in literacy. Stagecoach was 88 percent proficient or better in math and 89 percent in literacy. Mountain Springs was 85 percent proficient or better in math and 91 percent did likewise in literacy.

In PCSSD, Bayou Meto fourth graders scored 84 percent proficient or better in math, and 86 percent did the same in literacy.

Clinton Elementary was at 72 percent proficient in math and at 84 percent proficient in literacy. Warren Dupree had 53 percent make the cut in math, and 75 percent did so in literacy. Harris Elementary was at 40 percent proficient or advanced in math and at 59 percent in literacy. Tolleson had 63 percent score proficient or advanced in math, and 76 percent did likewise in literacy.

Sherwood Elementary was 66 percent proficient or better in math and 85 percent in literacy. Sylvan Hills was at 73 percent in math and at 79 percent in literacy.

Cato Elementary was at 60 percent making the cut in math and at 81 percent in literacy. Pinewood was at 58 percent proficient or advanced in math and at 81 percent in literacy.

Arnold Drive had 91 percent proficient or advanced in math, and 95 percent did the same in literacy. Oakbrooke came in with 64 percent making the cut on the math exam, and 81 percent did the same in literacy. Murrell Taylor had a 52 percent proficiency rate in math and jumped to 71 percent in literacy.

Lisa Academy North had 88 percent of its students score proficient or advanced in math and 90 percent do so in literacy.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Charter school had 69 percent who were proficient or better in math, and 71 percent did likewise in literacy.

SPORTS STORY >> Bielema believes Hogs on schedule


FAYETTEVILLE – Assessments off the Arkansas Razorbacks’ prospects for 2014 coming off their 3-9 overall/0-8 in the SEC 2013 season often intersect at these conclusions.

No. 1: The Razorbacks may prove significantly improved in coach Bret Bielema’s second year than they were for his first.

No. 2: Even markedly significant improvement still may not reflect much, if at all, in the won-lost record because Arkansas’ schedule is so tough.

Addressing a gathering sponsored Wednesday by the Little Rock daily newspaper, Bielema, even before being asked about it, already had made light of the heavy schedule, including opening Aug. 30 at reigning SEC champion Auburn.

“We have been voted the toughest schedule in college football,” Bielema said. “Last year I think we were at four or five.”

Bielema went deadpan.

“We wanted to improve and this year we jumped to No. 1,” Bielema said dryly. “It was awesome. I came here for a challenge, right?”

Bielema came from Wisconsin to Arkansas taking on the challenge to coach the Razorbacks to their first-ever SEC football championship, but he certainly understands and has heard before the theory that the Hogs could play significantly better than a 3-9 team in 2014 yet finish not much better than 3-9.

“I think that’s because people see our record from a year ago and they see the same quarterback (fourth-year junior Brandon Allen),” Bielema said. “Even though I think he (Allen) is going to be much improved, I know some people right away think unless we change the person, the same person is going to arrive with the same results.”

Bielema said it’s up to him and the offensive staff to assure Allen that he’ll make a significant difference just by executing better than a year ago.

“Well, that’s why you coach,” Bielema said. “To make people better. But I think the general perception that we may not see the improvement in our wins and losses is out of respect as to who our opponents are. You open up with Auburn and you have two nonconference opponents in Texas Tech (Sept. 13 in Lubbock, Texas) and Northern Illinois (Sept. 20 in Fayetteville) that we probably won’t be a favorite in, I would imagine. Northern Illinois has been to two BCS games and Texas Tech is coming off a very, very good year with a lot of players coming back. So I don’t see it as a slap in the face. I see it as a compliment to our opponents.”

Meanwhile, Bielema says there is cause to compliment his Razorbacks for their considerable academic and off the field successes compared to the 2011 season that went 11-2 on the field for Bobby Petrino and 4-8 in 2012 under John L. Smith.

“Other than wins not being where I want them to be, everything about the program is 1,000 percent better than when I came here,” Bielema said. “From GPA to drug testing to community service, APR, everything is straight up. And it’s just a matter of time before that makes the wins come up as well. Unfortunately it takes a little bit of time.”

Bielema said time is on Arkansas’ side to improve on the field if the off the field aspects continue their rapid improvement.

“Unless something dramatic happens, every kid in our program is eligible to compete in our first ballgame, which is really unprecedented. We finished the spring semester with the highest GPA since Jeff (Long, the athletic director) has been here. Certainly since I have been here for sure. Our GPA has gotten higher every semester since I have been here and we have had the highest graduation rate as well.”

All that eventually will add up on the field, Bielema believes.

“You have a guy that can think right and do everything they are supposed to away from the game,” Bielema said, “there is a really good chance they are going to do what you want them to during the game.”

SPORTS STORY >> Charges will likely be dropped against Phoenix’s Goodwin

Leader sports editor

Charges are likely to be dropped against Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin, who was arrested on May 4 for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest outside a skating rink in Little Rock. Goodwin, 19, who was a prize basketball recruit from Sylvan Hills and starting guard for the Kentucky Wildcats, was booked in Sherwood and released.

He was allowed to plead not guilty in absentia in June and a trial was set for July 2. But the prosecution asked that charges be dismissed in six months if not new evidence surfaces.

Goodwin’s name has been in the trade rumor mill among NBA analysts this summer. After leading Kentucky in scoring his freshman year, he was a first-round pick by the Suns, but had a disappointing rookie season.

He averaged 3.7 points per game and 1.7 rebounds in 10.3 minutes per game and scored a season-high 29 points in the team’s regular-season finale. He was twice sent down the developmental league for brief periods where he dominated competition, but continued to struggle to produce in NBA games until the last game.

Since the Suns drafted Tyler Ennis out of Syracuse, and signed Isaiah Thomas Jr. away from Sacramento, they have an abundance of comparable guards. Analysts say the Suns could unload a guard in order to make more cap room to re-sign Eric Bledsoe, an All-Star forward who is a free agent and far apart from the team in contract negotiations so far.

Though his off-the-court problems have been minor so far, some project Goodwin could be the player cut to help make room for a larger contract for Bledsoe. Though the team and Bledsoe aren’t close at the moment, an offer to the All-Star from another team could change that. The Suns have made it clear they plan to match any offer by another team.

Goodwin was twice named Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas during his junior and senior seasons at Sylvan Hills and was named to the McDonald’s and Parade All-American teams after leading the Bears to the class 5A state basketball championship his senior year in 2012.

He spent a year at the University of Kentucky, where he led the Wildcats in scoring, before entering the NBA Draft the following year. He was the 29th pick in last year’s NBA draft and appeared in 52 games for the Suns during his rookie season.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney out in two at state

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team was the first team eliminated from the state tournament in Bryant, losing its first two games 9-3 to Mountain Home and 6-2 to Cabot.

In game one on Saturday morning, starting pitcher Derek St. Clair struggled out of the gate. Mountain Home-Locker Room’s first five batters reached base on two walks, a hit batter, a single and a double. St. Clair then struck out Brody Ninemire, and got Austin Jacobelli to line into a 6-4 double play, but not until three runs had scored, two off of Hayden Hall’s two-RBI double.

Jacksonville, 9-13, was poised to keep up with Mountain Home, getting two of those runs back in the bottom of the first inning.

Courtland McDonald hit a leadoff single off starting pitcher Mason Smith, but was thrown out on a 6-4 fielder’s choice by Ryan Mallison. After a fly ball out to center field by Blake Perry, Greg Jones walked and St. Clair hit a single to center field to load the bases. James Tucker then roped a line drive down the third baseline to make it 3-2.

St. Clair found his groove after the inning-ending double play in the first. After the two-RBI double in the first, St. Clair allowed just two base runners in the next 15 at-bats, yielding one double to leadoff hitter Skylar Culyer and hitting cleanup hitter Kyle Stevens for the second time.

But the Locker Room squad’s bats suddenly came to life with two outs in the fifth. With nobody on base, three-hole hitter Austin Gardner doubled to right-center field. Stevens then got revenge for the two plunks, lacing a line drive off St. Clair’s foot that careened high into the air and landed in shallow center field. The ball took so long to come down, Gardner was able to score without a throw.

St. Clair needed a few moments to try and walk off the pain, but didn’t appear to be the same. The next two batters roped two more doubles to left field to give Mountain Home a 6-2 lead. Tucker took the mound in relief of St. Clair and threw one pitch to get a 6-3 groundout and end the inning.

Jacksonville got one back in the bottom of the same frame. Mallison was hit by the first pitch of the inning and moved to third on a double to right field by Perry.

Jones then hit a high fly ball to deep left field, scoring Mallison and making it 6-3.

Tucker pitched a scoreless sixth, but gave up two runs in the seventh. Gardner hit a leadoff single to left field. Stevens then, trying to completely even up the score for the two plunks, caromed a line drive off Tucker’s shin for an infield single that left runners on the corners.

Hall then hit a sacrifice grounder to shortstop that scored Gardner. After a groundout by Ninemire, Jacobelli singled to left to score Stevens and give Mountain Home an 8-3 lead.

Mountain Home’s final run came in the top of the ninth off two walks and two base hits.

In Sunday’s game against Cabot, Jacksonville held a 2-0 lead after three innings and was still tied at two apiece going into the seventh, but didn’t have the pitching depth to keep Cabot at bay for nine full innings.

Meanwhile, Tillery took the mound in the fourth inning in relief of Zach Patterson and held Jacksonville scoreless over the last six innings.

Jacksonville scored its two runs in the third inning off the hard-throwing Patterson, who has signed with Arkansas State.

The rally started with a leadoff single by Mallison. He moved to second on a sacrifice by Perry and Jones struck out for out number two. St. Clair then reached on an infield hit and both runners stole to move into scoring position. Tucker then hit a two-RBI double to the wall in right field to make it 2-0.

Cabot scored one in the fourth and one in the fifth to tie the game, and it stayed that way through the sixth. Centennial Bank added one more in the seventh then broke it open with three more in the eighth to set the final margin.

Brandon Hickingbotham threw seven and a third innings and was outstanding through seven, but ran out of gas in the eighth.

Through seven innings, Hickingbotham gave up three earned runs on just four base hits striking out four and walking three. But he gave up three hits, hit one and walked another in the eighth before yielding to Perry.

McDonald and D.J. Scott each went 2 for 4 to lead Jacksonville offensively. Gwat-ney Chevrolet finishes.

SPORTS STORY >> Comeback doesn’t hold

Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank senior American Legion team’s season came to an end in the third round of the state tournament in Bryant on Monday, but not until it had taken Jonesboro to 12 innings in the most exciting and eventful game of the tournament.

The Ricemen won it 9-8 on a two-out, RBI double in the bottom of the 12th, made possible by a controversial call earlier, when right fielder Gavin Tillery nearly gunned down Austin Martin as he stretched his single down the line into a double. He was called safe, but it was awfully close.

Three batters later after a pop-up to first and a walk, leadoff hitter Tucker Hydrick hit one just inches over the outstretched glove of left fielder Hayden Vinson to drive in the game-winning run.

Cabot, 20-13, trailed 7-0 after six innings before making a furious rally in the seventh and eighth innings, scoring four runs in each frame. But a pitching mistake helped Jonesboro tie it with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Tillery, who was Cabot’s fourth pitcher of the game and was throwing his third inning of the day after pitching six innings on Sunday, was trying to intentionally walk Jonesboro’s Mason Gibson. The Ricemen had one out and Hydrick on second base. Tillery’s ball-four pitch was high, but floated in within reach of Gibson, who slapped it over second base and into shallow right-center field to score Hydrick and tie the game.

“That was a big mistake and he knows it, but this isn’t really on him,” said Cabot coach Chris Gross. “I was giving him a hard time about it but he helped get us here. He wanted to go in the 12th inning but he was out of innings. You get nine innings every three days. I didn’t realize he went six against Jacksonville, but that’s what they told me. We were just out of pitching.”

Despite the disappointing nature of the loss, Gross was not disappointed in his team, especially after rallying from such a large deficit late in the game.

“I’m as proud of them as I can be,” Gross said. “They didn’t quit. You go into the seventh inning down 7-0, it’s easy to just want to hurry up and finish. And they were a little down, but when they saw they had something going, they were like ‘OK let’s do it’. And they did. So it’s good. I’m leaving here proud of them instead of (mad) at them.”

Cabot was so out of pitching, when Tillery was forced off the mound by rule, Gross had no one to turn to but starting pitcher Ryan Logan.

Zach Patterson, who had been the staff ace during the high school season and will report to Arkansas State in August, threw only three innings in the tournament, and gave up Jacksonville’s only two runs in Sunday’s 6-2 victory.

“He said his arm was bothering him a little so we couldn’t go to him,” Gross said.

Cabot flirted with danger each of the first three innings, allowing the leadoff hitter to reach each time. They got out of the jams in the first two innings with double plays, but Jonesboro posted four runs in the third on four base hits and a hit batter.

The Ricemen got two more on a single, an error and a two-RBI double in the fourth. After a scoreless fifth by relief pitcher Adam Hicks, another run crossed the plate in the sixth. Hicks gave up a leadoff single to cleanup hitter Nick Brown, who then stole second. Hicks got the next three batters in order, but not until throwing two wild pitches that allowed Brown to score.

Cabot’s rally started in the top of the sixth with a single to right field by Tristan Bulice. Two wild pitches moved him to third. Hicks walked but was caught stealing second for the first out. Grant Bell then struck out with Bulice still on third. Lee Sullivan then singled to left to score Bulice. Leadoff hitter Conner Vocque followed with another single to left field, where Jonesboro’s Seth Eakin was caught napping by Sullivan, who noticed Eakin slowly walking the ball in and not paying attention. Sullivan didn’t miss a stride in rounding second. Eakin tried to then hurry a throw to third, but it was off the mark and rolled to the Jonesboro dugout, allowing Sullivan to score on the play and leaving Vocque in scoring position.

Dylan Bowers then walked, and a pickoff attempt by Gibson was too high, scoring Vocque all the way from second and leaving Bowers safe at third. Logan then singled to center field to score Bowers and made it 7-4.

Cabot then took the lead in the eighth after Vinson threw a hitless bottom half of the seventh. That rally also started with Bulice, who went to the same spot, but this time off the wall for a double. Vinson hit a hard line drive to left that reached Eakin too quickly for Bulice to score. Bell grounded out to third that moved Vinson to second but left Bulice still on third. Vocque then hit a two-RBI single to center field, and moved to second when the throw went home to try to get Vinson. Bowers walked again and Logan singled to load the bases. Vocque then scored on a wild pitch to give Cabot the lead.

The stat lines were almost identical. Cabot scored its eight runs off 16 hits and left 11 on base. Jonesboro was only slightly more proficient, scoring nine runs off 16 hits and also leaving 11 stranded.

Logan gave up nine of those hits for Cabot, seven in the first four innings and two more in the 12th. Five of those nine hits went for extra bases. He also had two walks and two strikeouts. Hicks gave up two hits in his two innings on the mound. He struck out two and walked no one. Vinson faced just seven batters in his two innings, walking one, striking out one and giving up a hit to the last batter he officially faced. On the first pitch to the eighth batter, Bulice gunned the runner down trying to steal second base.

Tillery gave up four hits in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, with the only run coming off the errant pitch-out. He threw only eight pitches in retiring the side in order in his last inning.

Cabot could simply get no offense going in its first-round game against Texarkana, a 3-1 loss. Sullivan went the whole nine innings on the mound for Cabot and pitched a gem. He scattered seven hits while striking out nine and walking just two. Only two of Texarkana’s runs were earned, but that was still enough for the win. Sullivan hit a bit of trouble in the second inning when he gave up both earned runs. Doubles by Landon Russo and Nathan Stubber sandwiched a single by Nick Myers to give Texarkana all the runs it needed.

Texarkana’s Zac Harrington also went the distance, giving up nine base hits, but the Centennial Bank squad could not push but one run across, despite loading the bases in the first and third innings. The lone run came in the fourth off a walk and a stolen base by Vocque. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Hicks and scored on a two-out single by Coleman McAtee. Cabot loaded the bases again in the eighth and got the leadoff runner on base in the ninth, but each time failed to score.

Monday, July 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Contractor says he is not guilty

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville contractor accused of swindling an 90-year-old McAlmont woman out of nearly $60,000 pleaded not guilty to a felony theft of property charge on Monday.

A pre-trial hearing for Marcus Dupree, 36, of North-star Consultants will be held at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 20. The trial will start at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 19.

Both will be held in Room 220 of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. Judge Barry Sims is presiding.

Gretchen Madison filed a lawsuit on July 8, 2013. She is seeking $520,000 because inspectors say Dupree, after he tore down her old house, built a new one that is uninhabitable.

The contractor is accused of stealing the $60,000 he was paid to rebuild the elderly woman’s home at 420 Freda Road plus six boxes of ceramic tile taken from the construction site.

Madison’s daughter, Sam Parsley, said Dupree claimed he was taking the tile because her mother still owed him $2,400 he had used to purchase building materials.

Dupree was arrested on Oct. 2. Madison’s family fired him on Feb. 25 for failing to meet several deadlines and leaving, according to inspectors, an incomplete house rife with code violations. That was the day Parsley saw him stealing the tile and called 911, but Dupree allegedly fled the scene.

Dupree has filed for bankruptcy and asked that the civil lawsuit be dismissed.

Madison’s son-in-law, Todd Parsley, told The Leader late last month, “We are fighting to break through the bankruptcy based upon the discrepancies that were discovered in his original filing.”

Those discrepancies included new vehicles for Dupree and his wife plus a recent Gulf Shores vacation they took, Parsley said previously.

Madison, who is staying with her daughter in Cabot, had lived on the Freda Road property for 49 years. Then her house was damaged beyond repair by a water leak.

She obtained three bids to tear it down and rebuild it with money she received after filing an insurance claim. Dupree’s bid was the only one that fit her budget.

Also listed in her lawsuit are Jacksonville Water Commissioner Joy Kinman and her adopted son, Chili’s manager Robert (Drew) Walker. Walker is an officer of Northstar.

The Arkansas Contractor’s Board gave Kinman a letter of reprimand on Oct. 23, 2013, because of her role in the case.

Walker’s license was revoked in July 2013. He told the board then that Dupree reactivated the license without his permission and used it to do business.

Kinman, a licensed homebuilder, gave a reference for Walker, which she shouldn’t have done because he was a relative.

Madison’s family said Kinman and Walker are just as much at fault for what happened because, if Walker had not obtained a license with the reference, Dupree would not have been hired to construct the house. Dupree never had a contractor’s license.

Kinman’s defense is that, years ago, she accidentally misread the form that asked if she was related to the applicant for a contractor’s license.