Saturday, September 06, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bears run away in fourth

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears got a big momentum shift just before halftime, and parlayed that momentum to a 21-0 second half to beat Vilonia 41-18 Friday in Faulkner County.

The Bears led 20-18, but the hosting Eagles were threatening to take the lead just before intermission. With only seconds remaining, Sylvan Hills defensive end Elijah Sowards forced a fumble that the Bears recovered on their own 2-yard line, and Vilonia never threatened the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, Sylvan Hills broke one big play after another in the second half to run away with the victory.

Vilonia coach Jim Stanley’s double-wing, misdirection offense worried Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow in the week leading up to the game, and his worries were realized quickly.

Vilonia’s Jeremiah Santiago scored from 70 yards out on the second play of the game to give the Eagles a 6-0 lead, but extra points were elusive for the home team after all three scores.

Sylvan Hills answered right back, putting together a nice drive that was capped by a 32-yard touchdown run by Fred Williams. The extra point gave the Bears the one-point lead.

After a Vilonia turnover, Bears’ running back Marlon Clemons broke loose for a 60-yard score to put the visiting team up eight late in the first quarter.

The Eagles then put together a long drive and scored to make it a two-point game, but the Bears answered again, this time through the air. Quarterback Trajan Doss found sophomore receiver Jordan Washington from 25 yards out for the score. The extra point was no good, leaving it 20-12.

Vilonia scored again quickly, then got a turnover and were driving to take the lead when the momentum-changing fumble took place.

The second half was all Sylvan Hills. The Bears made some defensive adjustments and Vilonia stopped moving the ball.

Neither team did much offensively for most of the third quarter, but the Bears put together a 60-yard drive that ended with a Tyler Davis plunge of 1 yard for a touchdown on the last play of the period.

After another defensive stop, Doss took it 78 yards on the keeper on just the third play of the ensuing drive to give Sylvan Hills a 34-18 lead.

Doss later had an 85-yard touchdown run called back for holding, but the drive still ended in a Bears score when Deandre Collins took it 27 yards up the middle for the final touchdown.

Doss had more than 100 yards rushing and was near 300 all-purpose yards.

The Bears stay on the road next week, traveling to Hot Springs Lakeside. The Rams beat Lincoln 36-0 in their opener on Monday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cats escape the Panthers

Special to The Leader

CONWAY — Two major gaffes in the kicking game came back to haunt the Cabot Panthers Friday night at John McConnell Stadium in Conway.

The Wampus Cats blocked an extra-point attempt and the Panthers fumbled a snap on a two-point attempt after a late touchdown pulled them to within two points.

The Wampus Cats then recovered an onside kick after the last-minute Panther touchdown to seal a 24-22 victory in the season opener for both teams.

In building a cushion, Conway gave the Panthers a dose of their traditional power game. They unleashed a fresh 210-pound Kevin Chamorro on a 68-yard scoring drive to build a 24-15 lead late in the fourth quarter. Chamorro, who got most of the yardage on that drive on power runs, scored from the 1 with 3:43 left after he set things up by catching a double-reverse pass from quarterback Breylin Smith.

The Panthers came back to score when Jake Ferguson pulled in a tipped pass from Dylan Smith for a 35-yard touchdown with 1:15 left.

Cabot was forced to go for two because of the blocked extra point earlier in the game and failed on the conversion try.

The Cats took a 10-0 lead early on a 35-yard pass from Smith to D.J. Johnson and a 32-yard field goal by Matt Cummins.

The Panthers rallied to take a 12-10 lead on a 33-yard run by Jalen Hemphill and a 1-yard run by Kolton Eads on fourth and 1. They missed both extra-point attempts.

The Wampus Cats took a 17-12 lead at halftime on a 38-yard pass from Smith to Johnson with 1:44 left in the half.

Cabot drew within 17-15 with 6:24 left in the third period on a 35-yard field goal by Christian Underwood.

The Panthers host Catholic High next week. The Rockets lost 17-7 to North Little Rock in their opener on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Late field goal sinks Devils

Leader sports editor

After dominating almost the entire game, Jacksonville’s defense made one big mistake that doomed its chances at getting a win in first-year coach Barry Hickingbotham’s inaugural game at the helm of the Red Devil program.

A late hit on a 5-yard gain on second down and 15 gave Maumelle first down at the Jacksonville 13-yard line with nine seconds left in the game. After a timeout, the Hornets lined up for a 30-yard field goal and nailed it to steal away a 9-7 victory at Jan Crow Stadium.

“The kids played their guts out and I’m proud of them for that,” said Hickingbotham. “The defense was outstanding, but when you’re a young team you can’t make mistakes like that. Getting a 15-yard penalty in that situation is the kind of thing we can’t have happen.”

The Jacksonville offense struggled mightily the entire game, but couldn’t move it hardly at all in the second half. After out-gaining Maumelle 126-97 in the first half, the Red Devils managed just 38 total yards in the second half and only two first downs. Senior tailback Lamont Gause carried six times for 73 yards in the first half, and finished the game with 12 carries for 77 yards.

Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham completed 7 of 13 pass attempts for 48 yards in his seven series behind center. Senior Caleb Price completed 5 of 8 attempts for 30 yards in three series at quarterback. Both were usually under heavy pressure when they dropped back. The quarterback duo combined to lose 23 yards on four sacks. In all, Jacksonville dropped back to pass 28 times, gaining 78 yards in completions, but losing 40 on sack yardage and penalties to net just 38 yards in the passing game.

“We’re just going to go back to work on offense,” Hickingbotham said. “Just got to go back to work. We played a bunch of guys but we’re not in as good a shape as I thought we were. We still had a lot of guys cramping up. We took it kind of light Tuesday and Wednesday. We may have to address that and do something different. But they played hard. That’s one thing we were wanting to see, and I think we saw that.”

Jacksonville got the ball first and lost 4 yards before punting. Maumelle took over on the Jacksonville 42-yard line and scored in five plays. Tailback Kobe Pounders carried four times for 34 yards, including the last 15 on the fifth play. The extra point was no good, leaving Maumelle with a 6-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first quarter.

They wouldn’t score again until nine seconds remained as Jacksonville’s defense dominated all the action in between.

The Red Devils went scoreless on their first five drives but took the lead with 27 seconds left in the first half. Jacksonville went 80 yards in 13 plays. Brandon Hickingbotham completed two consecutive passes to Malcolm Crudup and Avery Wells to move the ball from the Jacksonville 41 to the Maumelle 34. After a 5-yard penalty on the Hornets, Gause scrambled 18 yards to the 11.

Two plays later, Crudup went 8 yards to set up third and 2. Gause got the 2 yards to set up first and goal at the 1-yard line. Crudup punched it in from there and John Herrmann added the extra point to send Jacksonville into the locker room with a one-point lead.

The whole second half was a defensive struggle until Maumelle’s 81-yard drive that ended the game. The Hornets played Cameron Porras at quarterback for most of the game, running Blake Conner onto the field when a direct snap running play was called. But on the last drive, the dual threat Conner stayed in the game for pass plays and put together Maumelle’s most effective drive of the night.

He only completed 5 of 11 attempts on the 16-play drive, but they were crucial completions. Maumelle converted on fourth and 1 on the first set of downs. A holding penalty on the next play set up first and 22, but back-to-back completions were good for 28 yards for first down at midfield. Another 12-yard pass put the ball at the Jacksonville 38.

Three straight incomplete passes made it fourth and 10, but Conner hooked with receiver Nick Ingram for a 14-yard gain with 24 seconds remaining.

After another incompletion and an illegal procedure penalty moved the ball back to the 29, Conner was forced to scramble for a 4-yard gain, and was hit out of bounds by defensive end Courtland McDonald at the 25-yard line. The penalty was half the distance to the goal and set up the 30-yard kick that won the game.

Jacksonville, 0-1, travels to Benton next Friday. The class 6A Panthers tied its class 7A rival Bryant 14-14 last night.

Friday, September 05, 2014

TOP STORY >> Minimum wage on November ballot

Leader staff writer

An initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017 has landed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Stephen Copley of Little Rock, who spearheaded the effort to put the matter to a vote, said more than 70,000 signatures Give Arkansas A Raise Now turned in were verified by Secretary of State Mark Martin. The group only needed 62,507 verified signatures.

Copley said, “It is on the ballot, and we’re certainly very excited about that.”

He continued, “We think that the proposal we have is a good stab in the right direction to make sure hardworking Arkansans have enough to live.”

Within the next week, the campaign will know whether it will host any events in the local area to encourage voters to approve the measure, Copley said.

Advocates of expanding alcohol sales statewide through a constitutional amendment that would make every county wet were also successful in getting their proposal on the ballot.

But a lawsuit is feared. Opponents, mostly liquor store owners, dispute the July 7 deadline to turn in signatures.

According to attorney David Couch, who is spearheading that campaign, they are claiming that Friday, July 4, should have been the first deadline because state law requires that signatures for ballot measures be turned in four months before Election Day.

Couch has told The Leader the opponents are “grasping at straws” because it has been the Secretary of State Office’s policy since 1925 to extend deadlines to the next business day when they fall on holidays.

A ruling for the opponents could also invalidate the minimum wage signatures as they were turned in on the same July 7 deadline.

But, Copley said, “We don’t think (the Arkansas Supreme Court) would rule in favor of the opponents.”

Polls have shown 78 or 79 percent of voters support raising the minimum wage, he told The Leader previously.

He was unsure how the proposal, if approved by voters, would affect waiters and waitresses who make $2.30 an hour plus tips.

But Copley said he thought that the law required employers to make up the difference if servers don’t earn enough in tips to cover the difference between $2.30 and the minimum wage. He said servers could see an increase in their earnings if voters approve the minimum wage initiative.

TOP STORY >> Lake is sending water to Beebe

Leader staff writer

Members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority cut the ribbon to the meter station at 118 Rainey Road in Beebe on Thursday.

Water from Greers Ferry Lake began flowing to the station three weeks ago. Construction on the $56 million Lonoke White project began in July 2012 after two decades of planning.

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission loaned money for the project. The loan will be paid with a 38-year bond issue.

The other 12 meter stations in the Lonoke White Public Water Authority will be put into service in six to eight weeks. Lonoke White also supplies water to Vilonia, Ward, Austin, Jacksonville, North Pulaski, Grand Prairie Bayou Two and Furlow water associations. They are all members of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority.

Lonoke White general manager Woody Bryant said the communities increased water rates early in the project to help pay the interest during construction, saving almost $7 million.

Beebe gets 160,000 gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry. The water is mixed with water from the city wells. The LWPWA plant at Greers Ferry can produce 10 million gallons a day. Right now the price for water is $1.25 per thousand gallons.

“Beebe opted to stick with their wells for now. As expenses go up, they’ll make a decision on whether to keep operating their wells or not. Beebe is obligated to take 144,000 gallons a day. It was not intended to be the sole source of water, but some communities choose to do that and use their other source as a backup,” Bryant said.

Beebe Water commission chairman John Hayes said the Lonoke-White water will keep Beebe from having to add a seventh well.

“Water taste should improve,” Hayes said.

The city is the midst of $3 million water line improvement project, to replace the old cast iron pipes. Hayes said that too will help the taste of the water.

“There are no plans for rates to go up because of this, it was already in place,” Hayes.

The base rate for Beebe Water customers is $15.64 for the first 20,000 gallons. A three-year rate increase plan was passed four years ago to pay for the Lonoke White project.

Beebe water pays Lonoke-White about $16,000 a month for water, plus $5 per water meter per month.

TOP STORY >> New runway for modern fleet

Leader senior staff writer

Replacement of the existing Little Rock Air Force Base runway is slated to be completed by April 4, 2017, according to the terms of the Army Corp of Engineers’ $107.9 million contract with Sundt Construction, Inc. of Tempe, Ariz.

The bid was awarded Wednesday, according to Corps spokesman Laurie Driver. Sundt will have 30 days to hold safety briefings and submit information to the Corps. Then work could begin, she said.

The 12,000-foot runway, which has been repeatedly patched over the years, will now be replaced, half at a time, Driver said.

It is the busiest single flightline in the Air Force, according to Arlo Taylor, a spokesman at the base.

The base, which is the premier C-130 training and operations base in the world, will still have 6,000 feet to take off and land — twice the length required by small, versatile airlifters, including a new fleet of modern C-130Js.

“The airfield construction project will posture Little Rock Air Force Base for our current mission and future missions,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “The upgrades and modifications being made to our 12,000-foot runway will improve mission capability and safety for the base as the fourth largest employer in of Arkansas and the home of C-130 Combat Airlift.”

Corps of Engineers project manager Leon Iveson worked with the Air Force to make sure the runway could be replaced half at a time without disrupting training and operations.

The replacement “will resize the runway from 200-foot wide to 150-foot wide. However, the length will remain at 12,000 foot. The project includes the replacement of associated runway lighting and navigational aids,” Iveson said.

Iveson explained the need for replacement. “The runway is over 50 years old and is developing substantial amounts of Foreign Object Damage (FOD) potential, primarily from joint spalls and cracked slabs. The combination of the poor soils, high water table and keyway slab joints enable new spalls to develop soon after repairs are made. The busy runway traffic coupled with the underlying drainage issues is the primary cause of the damage.

“Studies have shown that saturated conditions exist in the runway embankment. The water source is from artesian sources in the surrounding terrain and infiltration of existing pavement joints and cracks.”

Former Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) pushed for the runway replacement a decade ago, and former base commander Col. Mike Minnihan complained about the condition of the runway during his command.

Little Rock Air Force Base is home to the active-duty 19th Airlift Wing and 314th training wing, as well as the National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing and the new 913th Airlift Group, an Air Force Reserve Command unit.

All fly C-130s, either the legacy C-130H, which is a Vietnam-era plane, or the state-of-the-art C-130J.

In May, LRAFB had 31 C-130Js and approximately 50 C-130H models, a spokesman said.

Iveson said the runway was first built 200-feet-wide-by- 10,000-feet-long in 1954-55, and later extended by 2,000 feet to the east in 1956-57.

The original mission aircraft were B-47E bombers, RB-47 reconnaissance and KC-97 tankers for the Strategic Air Command. In 1964, the B-47Es were replaced with B-58s until the C-130s arrived in 1970.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

FEATURED STORY >> Old-style political rally Saturday in Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Twenty-one candidates for local, county, state and national offices had agreed as of Monday to tip their hats to reviving a tradition by speaking atop a stump at a political rally on Saturday in a Sherwood park.

The Stand on the Stump Old Fashioned Political Rally will be held from 10 a.m. until noon at Delmont Park on the corner of Delmont and Sherwood avenues.

The following candidates have confirmed that they will speak for a few minutes each while standing on a donated tree stump:

• French Hill, the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, Dist. 2;

• Debbie Standiford, a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Congress, Dist. 2;

• Pulaski County JP Karilyn Brown, the Republican candidate for state representative of Dist. 41;

• Danny Knight, the Democratic candidate for state representative, Dist. 41;

• Rep. Tim Griffin, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor;

• Christopher Olson, candidate for lieutenant governor and a Libertarian;

• Jacob Holloway, a Libertarian candidate for secretary of state;

• Pulaski County JP Phil Stowers, a Republican who is up for re-election to the Dist. 13 seat.

• Pulaski County JP Dist. 13 candidate William Brackeen, a Libertarian;

• Pulaski County JP Dist. 12 candidate Jeff Rollins, a Democrat;

• Pulaski County JP Dist. 15 candidate Luke McCoy, a Republican;

• Pulaski County JP Dist. 15 candidate Jesse Macom-Teague, a Republican;

• Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, who is up for re-election;

• Sherwood mayoral candidate Don Berry,

• Alderman Toni Butler, who is up for re-election to her Ward 3 seat;

• Beverly Williams, candidate for Sherwood alderman in Ward 3;

• City Clerk Angela Nicholson, who is up for re-election;

• Barry Hyde, candidate for Pulaski County judge and a Democrat;

• Phil Wyrick, candidate for Pulaski County judge and a Republican.

• Land Commissioner candidate Elvis Presley, a Libertarian;

• Land Commissioner candidate Mark Robertson, a Democrat;

Organizer Darrell Brown said, “I think this is an important event because this is what democracy is all about. It’s about meeting the candidates hearing what they stand for and making an informed decision come November.”

The candidates are Democrats, Republican and Libertarian, he noted.

“It covers the political spectrum, so to speak,” Brown said, adding that any candidate who has not given an RSVP but attends the rally will still be allowed to speak.

The Pulaski County Democratic Committee, Pulaski County Republican Committee and Libertarian Party of Arkansas will have booths at the rally, he said.

Candidates will be allowed to pass out literature, stickers or other promotional items.

The Sherwood Young Professionals, which is co-hosting the rally with the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee and Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, will run a voter registration table.

Bernard Olds, 93, who was elected as one of the city’s first aldermen and participated in the first rally at the park, will lead those who attend in the Pledge of Allegiance.

That first rally was held at Triangle Park — now known as Delmont Park — on July 19, 1948, the same year Sherwood was incorporated as a city.

The park was also the site of Sherwood’s first town hall.

Subsequent political rallies were held in the city for several years after incorporation, and Saturday’s event will pay homage to that tradition.

Steve Perry, a former Sherwood chamber president, will sing the National Anthem.

The Wall Agency–Allstate Insurance, 7600 Hwy. 107, is providing cookies and lemonade, while Centennial Bank is giving away free handheld patriotic fans.

Parking will be available at the Duran Youth Center and by the tennis courts on Sherwood Avenue.

An overflow lot is located on Wildwood Avenue at Victory Baptist Church.

FEATURED STORY >> CASA fundraising dinner

The Lonoke County CASA Home and Outdoors Fund-raising Dinner and Auction will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 at the Cabot National Guard Armory, 300 Commerce Park Drive. Tickets are $30 per person. 

Volunteers for CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, assist children involved in court cases by  reaching out to teachers, social workers, parents, lawyers, caregivers and others.

CASA is a national nonprofit organization which trains and supports volunteers—people like you and me—to speak and act as advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children. The CASA volunteer advocates are trained to work within the child welfare and family court systems and are appointed by judges to individual cases. With the help of a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system, and that much more likely to find a safe and permanent home.

“Right here in our community,” according to a news release, “there are abused and neglected children who live in the shadows of our lives. She may be the little girl in your son’s kindergarten class, who had to move homes and change schools three or four times in the last year. He may be the lonely child at the park who doesn’t join the game. 

“The little girl who has already suffered in an abusive home, enters the foster care system and is placed in three or four different homes in just a few months. Or the two siblings who lost their mother to incarceration are split up and living on different sides of the same county. 

“This isn’t just a problem, it is nothing short of a violation of their human rights. A child cannot defend his or her own rights, but a CASA volunteer can,” according to the news release.

“Every child has a right to thrive. To be treated with dignity, and to live in a safe, loving home.  Every child deserves a fighting chance.  Once grown, former foster children could be our future doctors, teachers and leaders.  Coming through a period of vulnerability and fear, the child can then understand his potential and his rights.  She will believe in herself.  That is our opportunity and our challenge,” the press release said.

For more information or to buy tickets, call 501-676-6533 or email

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Early voting (continued)

The Lonoke County Election Commission reversed itself on Friday and agreed to hold early voting at Cabot, Lonoke, Carlisle and England for the general election on Nov. 4.

The commission wants to hold early voting in Cabot and Lonoke for 15 days before the election. But, in Carlisle and England, early voting will be held only on Friday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1.

We don’t think that’s enough time for early voting in those two communities. The commission needs to do what its predecessors did two years ago and allow early voting in Carlisle and England for a week.

This was the second meeting for the commission in a week. The Friday before, the commission couldn’t agree on extending early voting to Carlisle and England.

The election commission, made up of two rookie Democrats and one Republican, should meet again, learn more about early voting and resolve this controversy once and for all.

The problem is that state law requires a unanimous vote to add or remove a polling site.

Chuck Eick, the lone Republican on the commission, argued that the county does not have enough machines to extend early voting in Carlisle and England. Eick, an Air Force veteran, pointed out that 92 machines have been allocated for use in the general election. The county has 106 machines, but four are broken and the remaining 102 have not been inspected.

He said the commission did not have the means to fix the broken machines. The commission should get to work right away and make sure all the machines are working.

The two Democrats on the commission suspect Eick does not like early voting in predominately Democratic areas. Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) spoke at last Friday’s meeting and told Eick that voting machines could be spread out so that all communities would have plenty of time for early voting and no would be shortchanged for lack of equipment. Farrer is to be commended for standing up for all the people in the county, regardless of their political affiliation.

A growing, prosperous area like Lonoke County should be able to afford enough voting machines and not curtail early voting because of a shortage of funds or, frankly, because of politics. Let the quorum court look into any shortages and fix the problem if there is one.

Jerry Shepard, a former election commissioner, pointed out there is a larger minority population in the southern part of the county and not having early voting there would also “disenfranchise” the poor.

Fifteen days of early voting in Cabot and Lonoke will give voters plenty of time to go to the polls. But two days in England and Carlisle just doesn’t seem fair to us. Lonoke County is too big, and the election commission should not show favoritism toward one section of the county at the expense of another.

Besides Eick, the commission also includes chairman Richard Kyzer and M.J. Maneth, both representatives from the Lonoke County Democratic Committee.

Kyzer, the commission’s chairman, said, “I’m for the people of this county…I feel like it’s our duty as a commission to provide the people in the county a place to vote.”

Kyzer also said he wanted to look at opening more early voting sites next year.

He apologized that the early voting sites in the smaller cities weren’t opened during the primaries, explaining that happened because the new commission was unaware early voting in Carlisle and England had been done in the past.

Kyzer added that early voting is important because this is a big election year, including the governor’s and Senate races. There are several competitive races for mayor and the state legislature as well. A big voter turnout is expected.

It looks like the campaign is well underway. Let the early vote begin in plenty of time before the general election.

TOP STORY >> Bomb threat at CJHS

Leader staff writer

Cabot Junior High South was put on lockdown on Tuesday after the school received a bomb threat.

According to the Cabot School District’s website, the office staff at the school received a call before noon from an individual who said a bomb was placed in or near the school.

Junior High South was placed on lockdown for less than an hour. The school has 805 seventh- and eighth-grade students.

The Cabot Police Department responded to the threat. Officers searched the building, found nothing and cleared the building.

Detectives are investigating the threat.

Students resumed to their day with a regular lunch period and school went back to its regular class schedule.

Superintendent Tony Thurman said this was first threat at a school in the district this year. No threats were made last year.

“It has been quite some time since we’ve had this type of threat communicated via a phone call,” Thurman said.

“We can learn from every situation,” the superintendent said. “Our first priority was making sure our students and staff were safe.”

“Anyone with information regarding the threat should report it to the Cabot Police Department or school district administration,” Thurman said.

“We will not tolerate anyone making threats against our students or staff. Any student involved in making or being involved with making threats will not only be prosecuted but will be immediately recommended for expulsion from the district,” Thurman said.

TOP STORY >> District election meeting planned

Leader staff writer

Education Corps, the group advocating for detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District to form an independent Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district, is hosting its second community meeting at Bayou Meto Elementary School on Thursday.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. The format will be question and answer, according to Education Corps spokesman Daniel Gray.

The focus will be the Tuesday, Sept. 16 election in which residents will have a chance to vote for or against the detachment.

The proposed district includes Homer Adkins Pre-K, Bayou Meto, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood, Tolleson, Arnold Drive and Warren Dupree elementary schools; Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School.

Only people who live within those boundaries will be able to vote.

The polls open from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

The Sept. 16 polling sites — the same ones used for general elections — are:

 Bayou Meto Baptist Church at 26200 Hwy. 107 for precinct 26,

 McArthur Assembly of God Church at 3501 John Harden Drive for precinct 27,

 Kellogg Valley Baptist Church at 9516 Bamboo Lane for precinct 28,

 Jacksonville Community Center at 5 Municipal Drive for precincts 29, 30 and 33;

 First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge at 14322 Hwy. 107 for precinct 32,

 St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church at 2403 McArthur Drive for precinct 34,

 The Venue at Chapel Hill at 1408 Madden Road for precinct 35,

 First Presbyterian Church at 1208 W. Main St. for precinct 36,

 First Baptist Church at 401 N. First St. for precinct 37,

 Jacksonville Senior Activity and Wellness Center at 100 Victory Circle for precincts 38 and 45;

 Indianhead Lake Baptist Church at 8601 Indianhead Drive for precinct 44,

 Berea Baptist Church at 104 E. Valentine Road for precincts 46 and 47;

 and Harris Elementary School at 4424 E. Valentine Road for precinct 48.

Early voting is Tuesday, Sept. 9 through Friday, Sept. 12 at the Pulaski County Regional Building, 501 W. Markham St. in Little Rock, the Jacksonville Community Center and the William F. Laman Library at 2801 Orange St. in North Little Rock.

Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pulaski County Regional Building and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the other locations.

As for the meeting at Bayou Meto on Thursday, Gray wants people in the county to know “they’ll be included in the process. It’s just as important to them as it is to everyone else.”

He also said campaigners would continue to emphasize the benefits of a standalone district. Those are keeping tax revenues in the community, expanding the curriculum, improving facilities with more matching state funds based on the wealth index and having local control.

State Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), state Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock), state Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock), state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Pulaski County JP Bob Johnson and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher were recently appointed to a committee that will recommend to the state Board of Education who should serve on the new district’s seven-member interim school board.

Sept. 30 is the deadline for applications from those interested in serving on the interim school board. The recommendations will be submitted at the state board’s Oct. 9 meeting.

If voters approve of the detachment as expected, the law allows for up to a two-year transition period. Until the actual separation, PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess will lead both districts. Gray has said previously that the 2014-15 school year would be transitional.

But the interim board will have the opportunity to appoint an interim superintendent.

That board will also guide the new district in negotiations with PCSSD over the division of assets, like school buses and computers, as well as personnel.

Advocates have said teacher salaries will at least stay the same to be competitive.

Several residents who attended past meetings suggested PCSSD employees at soon-to-be Jacksonville/North Pulaski district schools would have to reapply for their jobs with seniority making a difference as to whether they go where they want to go.

And the Education Corps still needs people to assist in the campaign for the Sept. 16 election.

Those who are interested in making phone calls, distributing signs, holding signs at the polling sites or helping in other ways should call volunteer coordinator Jada Ellis at 501-246-0621.

TOP STORY >> Fishnet Missions Celebrating 20 years of “offering a hand up”

 The logo on the Fishnet Missions sign.

Leader staff writer 

Fishnet Missions food pantry in Jacksonville marked its 20th year on Thursday helping to feed the hungry in the area since 1994.

Dewey and Barbara Sims opened the food pantry in a small local church. They, with an army of volunteers, helped 70 people when it first opened. Over the years Fishnet Missions has expanded to keep up with demand with its warehouse on 1700 Swift Drive.

The food pantry is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Every Saturday morning Fishnet Missions serves 200 meals to the homeless at the Broadway Bridge in North Little Rock.

According to Dewey Sims, this week Fishnet Missions served 1,400 people. This month Fishnet has helped 10,000 people. The pantry feeds the homeless and works with churches to provide food to those in need. Fishnet also delivers food to seniors.

“It is harder to keep food. There are 375,000 pounds of food in the building. Food is tight. We need all the help we can get,” Dewey Sims said.

Fishnet Missions has no paid employees. The nonprofit receives donated, surplus and salvage food from the Arkansas Foodbank, Potluck, local restaurants and farmers. They store perishable meats, fruits and vegetables and dairy products in refrigerators and freezers.

Barbara Sims thanks the volunteers and her husband for not giving up on the food pantry.

The pantry averages 45 volunteers a day.

“People are not working here in the 100-degree weather for nothing,” Dewey Sims said.

Fishnet Missions delivers food weekly to 820 seniors in Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot, Austin and Ward.

Volunteer Joyce Henley of Sherwood has been with Fishnet Missions since the first day it opened.

“It takes all of us volunteering to make it work. I’m proud to be with Fishnet through all these years. There is such a need,” Henley said.

Henley recalled one year Santa made a stop at Fishnet Missions.

“A girl had a choice of toys or food. She chose a head a cabbage. That just about killed me,” Henley said.

The girl was still given a bag of toys, Henley said.

Colleen Clendenin of Jacksonville has been volunteering at Fishnet Missions for 14 years. Clendenin retired as a nurse from the veteran’s hospital. Volunteering was something for her to do.

“It’s self-satisfying, and I like helping people,” Clendenin said.

Clendenin has noticed over the years that more people are coming for assistance, many are elderly.

“The older ones are so proud that they don’t want help,” Clendenin said.

Clendenin said she reassures seniors that there is no shame with asking for help.

Many of the young volunteers at Fishnet Missions are home-schooled students.

“We hear about it, and we wanted to show people that others do care for them. We fell in love with it and kept coming,” Jordan Lindner, 13, of Cabot said.

Fishnet Missions also has a thrift store next door. Its proceeds support the food bank.

Marlis Wheeler of Jacksonville has worked with Fishnet Missions for 18 years.

“The thrift store was able to grow with donations because people know where the money is going. They could donate anywhere, and they choose here. It says a lot about Fishnet Missions,” Wheeler said.

SPORTS STORY >> Bulldogs bring solid group to Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits face a tough test right out of the gate in Friday’s regular-season opener at James B. Abraham Stadium as they’ll take on the veteran-led Star City Bulldogs in nonconference action.

Star City is one of the more experienced teams in all of class 4A, returning a total of 19 starters. Six of the Bulldog starters from a season ago were sophomores, and that team made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs and finished last year with a 9-4 overall record.

On top of that, the four losses the Bulldogs accumulated in 2013 were against teams that combined for an impressive 47-8 record last season.

“They’re very solid,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of Star City. “They return 19 starters from last year. I was looking at the first and second All-Arkansas teams last Sunday, players to watch, and they had four guys on there.

“They had two linemen, their quarterback and tailback. So they’re a very good team that’s for sure.”

Star City averaged 30 points per game last year and leading their base Spread attack is junior quarterback Tye Brown (6-2, 160), who shattered school records last fall as a sophomore, passing for 2,305 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Brown’s parents are both coaches, and his current head coach, Jett Furneaux, says his junior quarterback has that mindset already.

“He studies the game as hard as any kid I’ve been around,” said Furneaux of Brown. “His parents are coaches, and his brain works like a coach. He understands the offense inside and out.”

“He’s got a lot of experience,” Bost said of Brown. “He’s the old head coach’s son and he’s been around football his whole life, and he’s a smart kid that’s for sure.”

Brown can throw it and run it if need be, and another major contributor to the Bulldog offense is stout senior tailback Dajunn Harris (5-9, 205). Harris, like Brown, was a big part of Star City’s success last season as he rushed for 1,170 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 7 yards per carry in 2013.

“He’s real good, too,” Bost said of Harris.

Although Star City’s primary offense is the Spread, Bost said the Bulldogs will line up in as many as 25 different formations on offense to try and confuse opposing defenses, but he added that his defense is prepared for that come Friday.

In addition to Star City’s skill players, the Bulldogs are also very formidable up front. Leading the way for Star City’s linemen are highly-touted junior guards Austin Capps (6-4, 307) and Sam Jackson (6-2, 285).

Furneaux calls Capps “the most special athlete I’ve ever been around.” Capps led the Star City baseball team with a .482 batting average in the spring and he squats more than 600 pounds and dead lifts 500 pounds.

Arkansas offered Capps a scholarship last season and every SEC school, as well as teams like Florida State and Notre Dame have evaluated him. Arkansas evaluated Jackson in the spring.

Capps, who has a 360-pound bench press and 320-pound power clean, also anchors the Bulldogs’ defense at tackle. The junior had more than 100 tackles last year as a sophomore, including 17 against state champion Booneville.

“When we’re on offense we’re probably going to have to double-team that rascal,” Bost said of Capps. “He’s an animal down there. Of course Arkansas has offered him and others, so he definitely needs to be controlled on the line of scrimmage.”

Bost said that in addition to Capps, the Bulldog defense is loaded with talent at just about every position. Star City has been a 4-3 defensive team in years past. Bost said he’d heard the Bulldog D had switched to a 3-4 this summer, but said it lined up primarily in a 4-3 in the team’s most recent scrimmage game.

“We don’t know what they’re going to throw at us so we’ve got to prepare for both defenses,” Bost said. “That kind of slows you down when you’ve got to work on two different things, but we’re not sure what they’re going to throw at us.”

With the real possibility that Star City could be the best team on Lonoke’s schedule, Bost knows his team will have to show up ready to play mistake-free football, but he said his team has had some good practices as of late, and that he expects that to continue this week leading up to Friday.

“It’s tough to start one off against what could possibly be the best team we face in our 10 games this year,” Bost said. “It’s going to be tough, but we had a real good practice (last) Thursday. We’ll practice (Monday) and we hope to have a good week of practice to get ready for Friday.”

Kickoff for Friday’s season opener is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils ready for a new era

Leader sports editor

It will be far from Barry Hickingbotham’s first step onto the turf at Jan Crow Stadium, but that step on Friday will be his first at the helm of the program he came through as a student in Jacksonville schools. That’s when the Red Devils host Maumelle to open the 2014 football season, and it will officially kick off the Hickingbotham era at JHS.

Hickingbotham has been focused almost as much on character and team chemistry issues since taking his team to a retreat camp at Williams Baptist College in July, as he has on strategy. And he’s just as concerned with how the team does in those areas, as he is with execution.

“That’s what we’re anxious to see,” said Hickingbotham. “We want to see where we are in the process of building a football team. Maumelle is extremely fast and big up front. They attack from a lot of different angles on defense. So we’re going to take some right crosses. We’re going to get hit. We’re going to get knocked down. We want to see how we handle those things.”

The Hornet defense, which returns six starters, is anchored by 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end Malik Singleton. Despite his size, Singleton is very agile and extremely strong.

The Hornets probably won’t have its quarterback from last season but senior J.B. Minix moves over from receiver and brings his own 4.5 speed to the position. Cameron Porras is a bigger player who will also bring a strong arm to the spot when needed.

Maumelle will line up in the same spread formation that it used to defeat Jacksonville 27-20 last year, but it didn’t operate as smoothly in the scrimmage last week. Lonoke held the Hornets without an offensive touchdown, but the Maumelle defense was stifling.

“That defense they got is going to be a tremendous challenge for us,” Hickingbotham said. “They line up in four front and then they also get down into kind of a 3-5, and they attack from all over. It’s going to be a challenge for our offensive line to try and pick them up. It’ll also be a tremendous challenge for our quarterbacks to recognize where the pressure is coming from.”

Jacksonville will play two quarterbacks on Friday. Senior Caleb Price and junior Brandon Hickingbotham will split time. The head Devil says both are playing well most of the time, but he wants to see more consistency.

“Neither one has pulled away as the clear-cut guy yet,” Hickingbotham said. “Maybe through competition they’ll both play extremely well and push each other to get better and better. We just haven’t found the one that’s consistent enough to lead the team.”

The Jacksonville coaching staff is using the three nonconference games for learning, teaching and scouting for several positions, not just quarterback. The goal being that by the time conference play arrives in week four, the starters will be set.

“The only way to get experience for an inexperienced team is to play the game,” Hickingbotham said. “That’s been our approach to this whole deal.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears set for tough challenge at Vilonia

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills faces a familiar opponent that won’t be so familiar when it travels to Vilonia on Friday to open the football season. The Bears and Eagles are used to playing each other, but the Eagles have changed to a new scheme this season, or rather, to an old one.

After a two-year experiment with the spread offense, Eagle coach Jim Stanley has gone back to his old double-wing offense that got his squad to the state championship game a few years ago.

The move away from the spread was not a big surprise to Sylvan Hills coaches, but there was some surprise when they saw the Eagles face Newport, another Sylvan Hills opponent, in a scrimmage game last week.

“We kind of expected the switch back to the double wing,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “What we didn’t expect was they changed defenses, too. They’ve gone to a three-man front so we’ve sort of had to adjust on the fly to that. But we’ve had plenty of time to work on it, and I think it might actually help us in the long run.”

Still, that two-tight, double-wing formation that features so much misdirection is a big concern for Withrow. While it used to be common, it’s not anymore, and can be difficult for players not used to seeing it. It’s also an extremely physical style of football, more physical than the spread formations used by most schools these days.

“They’re hard-nosed kids and they just come right at you,” Withrow said. “It’s hard, in this day and age, to get your kids acclimated to it. It’s hard to mimic in practice. It makes it tough. I think it’s really smart for them to go back to it. They’re good at it. Coach Stanley is a really good football coach who is good at coaching it. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Vilonia suffered more than a dozen season-ending injuries to starters last year, a team that started the season with very high expectations. That team finished 3-7, including a season-opening 31-16 loss to Sylvan Hills. But those injuries mean this team returns several players who were starters by the end of that season.

Newport drove the ball easily on its first drive and scored quickly, while the Vilonia offense sputtered early on. But the half of scrimmage play ended in a 7-7 tie.

“It took them a while to get going, but once they did they looked pretty good,” Withrow said.

“Newport is supposed to be really good this year, and after that first drive, Vilonia pretty much shut them down. Same thing on offense. They started slow but by the end they were moving the ball.

“They just wear you down. You’ve got to match how physical they are because if you don’t, they’re going to wear you out. It’s going to be a tough challenge,” he said.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers start with archrival Conway

Leader sports editor

Friday night will tell a lot about how the Cabot Panther football team will stack up against some of the state’s best teams this year. That’s when the young and largely inexperienced Panthers travel to rival Conway to open the 2014 football season.

The Wampus Cats are the favorite to win the 7A/6A-Central Conference this season, and with good reason. They have nine returning starters on an offense that went 9-3 a season ago, with two of those losses coming against the two teams that played in the 7A state championship game. The other was to Greenwood, a 6A team that was in the middle of a four-plus year winning streak.

One of the key returning starters for Conway is offensive tackle Colton Jackson, who symbolizes a key difference between the two teams. Jackson is 6-foot-6, 291 pounds and has already verbally committed to the University of Arkansas. Conversely, Cabot has just one player in its entire starting lineup over 6-feet tall.

Conway’s athletic advantage is clear, but that’s not what Cabot coach Mike Malham sees as the major key to the game.

“They have more size than we do obviously,” said Malham. “But we have a couple of good athletes out there. We may not have as many as they do and they have more depth than us. But the main thing is our inexperience. That’s a veteran team they’ve got on offense. They lost most everybody on defense, so hopefully we can have some success there, but we’re all new on both sides. So we’re going to find out some things about ourselves in this one.”

Conway has two running backs returning who ran for more than 600 yards last season. Bruising back Kevin Chamorro, who is 5-11, 210, rushed 172 times for 987 yards, and is complimented well by quick and speedy Karlil Johnson. He rushed for 677 yards on 152 carries.

Quarterback Breylin Smith started as a sophomore last season when Cabot beat the Wampus Cats 23-9, but Malham says he’s a different player than the one he saw last year.

“We got them in week three and he was a sophomore,” Malham said. “Looking at him in their scrimmage against North Little Rock, he’s gotten a lot better. He’s making good reads, making good throws. Like I said, that whole offense is a veteran group now and they’re going to be tough to deal with.”

Conway and NLR played one half with varsity players and finished with the Charging Wildcats up 14-9 before junior varsity took the field for the second half.

“We got a good look at probably the two best teams we’re going to play this year,” Malham said. “Jonesboro’s going to be awfully good this year too it looks like. But there were a lot of athletes running around on that field in that one. North Little Rock broke one long one on that defense, but other than that, they held up pretty well for such a young group. It’s going to be a challenge and we’ll learn a lot about ourselves playing them this early.”

One thing the head Panther likes about his young team is its toughness. He doesn’t believe they’ll go into the game intimidated.

“We’re going there to win. Our kids are going to play hard. They’re pretty hard-nosed kids and we want to win the ball game. If we can hang with them, we’re going to be all right. We’ve got a lot of time to get better after this.”