Saturday, September 13, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears win two Central matches

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills got a straight-set victory Thursday at Jacksonville, winning the first two games easily before having to come from behind in game three to make it a straight-set sweep. Scores in the match were 25-8, 25-11 and 25-21.

Jacksonville took a 16-10 lead in game three before Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway called a timeout to try and regroup his team.

The Lady Bears broke serve after the timeout and senior Alison Staton served four points and three aces before Jacksonville finally broke back. That made the score 17-15 Jacksonville, and the two teams traded service breaks once more to make it 18-16. Sylvan Hills dominated the rest of the way.

Junior Maddison Shelton served up six-straight points, including three more aces to give the Lady Bears a 23-19 lead. Jacksonville’s Kymberly House then scored an ace and two points on serve before the Lady Bears broke for a 24-21 lead. Aleah Williams then served out the set and match with a game-ending ace.

Treadway was happy with the way his team played most of the match.

“It was good to get a win in three games,” Treadway said. “I wasn’t pleased with how we played in the middle part of that last game, but if you’re going to have a lull, it’s good to do it then as long as you come out of it. We were able to regroup and come out of it, and I thought we ended the match playing really well.”

The match started with the two teams going back and forth with service breaks, many of which were merely missed serves. The Lady Bears got their service game corrected, while Jacksonville continued to struggle to get serves over the net and inbounds.

With game one tied 3-3, Sylvan Hills went on its first run, scoring seven-straight points by Taylor Yeoman’s serve. Jacksonville finally broke to make it 10-4, but Sylvan Hills was still in control.

The Lady Red Devils also suffered a lot of bad luck in game one. On four occasions, points that were originally given to Jacksonville were reversed, the reasons for which were not always clear to the observers.

Game two was a continuation of game one; with Sylvan Hills serving up several aces while Jacksonville struggled to return serve.

Sylvan Hills opened game three the same way as the previous two games, but Jacksonville then went on a surprising and dominant run. The Lady Red Devils continued to slag to a 7-1 deficit in game three before a huge 15-3 surge lifted them to the 16-10 lead which led to Treadway’s second timeout.

“I think we got a little complacent after winning those first two games so easily,” Treadway said. “This team hasn’t been as consistent as it needs to be. I think this was good for us. We’re not so good that we’re at the point that we can let up and lose focus and still be able to beat people.”

The players are also recognizing that point, and after some lackluster moments earlier in the week, they came to Treadway requesting some changes.

“They told me there needed to be consequences,” Treadway said. “My original question was, ‘well, isn’t losing enough? Doesn’t that bother you enough?’ They said, ‘no.’ They wanted there to be real consequences for poor play. So we implemented some things in practice this week to address it when we don’t play up to our potential. I really think this group has the potential to be really good. But I don’t think we’ve reached it yet.”

Sylvan Hills hosts rival North Pulaski on Tuesday, then travels to McClellan next Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears’ speed too much for host Lakeside

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears built a big lead and then held off Hot Springs Lakeside 48-35 for their second-consecutive road win of the season on Friday. For the second time in as many games, Sylvan Hills got a big momentum-shifting play right before halftime to change the tone of the game.

Leading 21-14 and Lakeside driving near the red zone, the Bears’ defense stopped the Rams on downs at the 23-yard line. After one play gained just 1 yard, quarterback Trajan Doss kept on a veer and went 76 yards for the score, giving Sylvan Hills a two-touchdown lead with 33 seconds left in the first half.

The Bears then got the ball to start the second half, and scored quickly on another Doss keeper. This time the senior quarterback went up the middle for 62 yards and a 35-14 Sylvan Hills lead.

Bears’ coach Jim Withrow hoped his team could capitalize on Lakeside’s propensity to frequently blitz, and the run up the middle is how the coaching staff planned to counter the Rams’ attack.

It worked well. Once in space, the Sylvan Hills skill players were too fast for the Lakeside defense. Doss and running backs Fred Williams and Marlon Clemons gashed Lakeside for 378 yards rushing, mostly right up the middle, but it wasn’t all on the ground.

The Bears’ first touchdown of the game was a 1-yard plunge by Doss after he hooked up with senior receiver Nathan Thomas for a 33-yard gain.

Lakeside answered Sylvan Hills’ first two scores to tie the game twice, but the home team never led.

The Bears took the lead for good on a six-play, 62-yard drive that Williams capped off with a 22-yard burst of the middle that made it 21-14 late in the second quarter. The Bears were stopped on downs once and lost one fumble, but scored touchdowns on every other drive of the game.

Doss finished with 12 carries for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Williams also had three touchdowns and 142 yards on 14 carries. Clemons finished with seven carries for 47 yards and a score.

Doss completed four of 12 pass attempts for 75 yards to four different receivers; with Thomas’ catch being the longest gain through the air. The Bears finished with 453 yards of offense.

Sylvan Hills will play its first home game of the season next week against Newport. It will also be the first game on the Bears’ new field-turf surface that was completed earlier this week.

Newport has also featured a high-powered offense so far this season in two wins over 5A-East teams.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers plow under Rockets

Leader sportswriter

Cabot ran all over Little Rock Catholic in the Panthers’ home opener Friday night at Panther Stadium en route to a dominant 62-14 nonconference victory.

Catholic couldn’t stop the Panther offense from start to finish, but especially in the first half. In the first half alone, the Panthers totaled 291 yards of offense, bettering the Rockets’ first-half total of 173, and 285 of Cabot’s first-half yardage came on the ground.

“We got something we’ve never had before,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We’ve got some difference-makers. Jarrod (Barnes), I don’t know how many yards he had, but he ran the option great. He did good last week, too.”

Barnes led the Panther rushing attack in the first half. He didn’t carry the ball at all in the second half, but the talented sophomore starting quarterback still finished with 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just eight carries.

After forcing a three-and-out on the game’s first possession, Cabot (1-1) scored on its first play from scrimmage.

Junior fullback Kolton Eads took the handoff from Barnes 58 yards for the game’s first score. Christian Underwood’s extra-point kick sailed through the uprights to give the Panthers an early 7-0 lead.

The Panther defense scored the next touchdown. Catholic (0-2) managed to pick up a couple of first downs on its second offensive possession, but on the eighth play of the Rockets’ drive, senior standout free safety Jake Ferguson showed why he’s the state’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

On that play, Catholic tailback Lance Harville-Thomas fumbled the ball. Ferguson scooped it up in stride and raced 73 yards down the visitors’ sideline for a touchdown. Underwood’s extra point made it 14-0 Cabot with 6:43 left in the first quarter.

The Rockets were, however, able to find the end zone on the ensuing drive. With 5:49 remaining in the opening quarter, Catholic quarterback Andre Sale found wideout Trey Purifoy deep down the right hash mark that resulted in a 61-yard touchdown strike. The successful PAT made it 14-7.

It didn’t take Cabot’s offense long to respond. After picking up a first down on three-straight runs by Eads, Barnes broke for a 21-yard run on an option keeper.

Barnes’ only incomplete pass of the night followed, but he then pitched to running back Jalen Hemphill on an option left play, and Hemphill went 46 yards for another Panther touchdown. Underwood’s successful PAT made it 21-7 Cabot with 3:35 left in the opening quarter.

The Panther defense forced another three-and-out on the following Rocket possession, and Cabot found the end zone again, this one on a Barnes option keeper. Barnes took the option keep 27 yards for the touchdown on the fifth play of the drive, and the extra point made it 28-7 Panthers with 23 seconds left in the first.

Catholic was the first team to score in the second quarter. With 6:38 remaining in the opening half, the Rockets capped a seven-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Sale, and the successful PAT cut the Catholic deficit to 28-14.

Cabot, though, found the end zone on its next two possessions to go into halftime with a comfortable 42-14 lead. The first score came with 4:12 left in the half.

It was Barnes who took another option keeper and ran off his right tackle for a 59-yard touchdown burst, and the second came on the first play of the Panthers’ next drive, but was set up by a great defensive play.

On the second play of Catholic’s drive, senior nose guard Tristan Bulice intercepted a halfback screen pass intended for Harville-Thomas at the Catholic 12-yard line. On the Panthers’ next offensive snap, Hemphill broke for a 12-yard touchdown run with 3:50 to go in the half. Underwood’s successful PAT set the halftime margin.

Catholic tried to put together another successful drive before the half ended, but on the fifth play of that drive, Ferguson got his first interception of the year at the Panther 10-yard line, and returned it all the way to the Cabot 39. It was Ferguson’s 13th career interception.

“Jake had another great game,” Malham said. “He scooped and scored on one, and had a pick right before the half.”

Cabot went three-and-out on the first offensive series of the second half, but the Panther defense forced Catholic’s fourth turnover of the game on the fourth play of the Rockets’ first drive of the second half.

Harville-Thomas fumbled again, and Jack Teague covered it for Cabot, setting the Panther offense up at the Rocket 47-yard line. Cabot took advantage of the good field positioning, scoring on the seventh play of the drive, which was a 7-yard run off the right tackle by Hemphill. It was Hemphill’s third touchdown run of the game.

Underwood’s successful PAT made it 49-14 Cabot with 5:38 left in the third quarter, which invoked the sportsmanship rule. After the Panther defense forced another Catholic three-and-out, Malham put his second unit in, and the Rockets still couldn’t stop the Panthers’ Dead-T attack.

With 10:39 left in the game, the Cabot offense capped an eight-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jess Reed, and the extra point made it 56-14 Panthers.

Catholic turned the ball over on downs on the following possession, and the Panthers set the final score their next offensive series. Five-straight run plays ended with 5-foot-6, 143-pound sophomore running back, David Morse, busting one up the middle for a 32-yard TD run with 6:02 remaining.

Underwood was going for his ninth-straight successful PAT after Morse’s touchdown run, but the ball was fumbled on the hold, and Underwood was unable to get a kick off. Malham was pleased with his team’s performance, regardless.

“Maybe we got something here, I don’t know,” Malham said. “One game doesn’t make a season. Catholic played North Little Rock good last week, so we were very concerned, but if we keep getting better I think we may have a chance.

“We’re not there yet, but if we keep getting better every week, and that’s what we normally do, maybe we’ve got a chance.”

Cabot finished with 444 yards of offense, 416 of which came via the run game. Three different Panther backs had over 100 yards rushing. Barnes led the way with his 102 yards and two scores on eight carries.

Eads and Hemphill each ran for exactly 100 yards. Eads did it on 11 carries and finished with one touchdown. Hemphill had nine carries and his three scores. Barnes was 2 for 3 passing for 28 yards, one of which was a 22-yarder to Ferguson.

Catholic was held to 216 yards of offense, and had a total of six turnovers.

The Panthers will travel to Little Rock Fair next week for the final nonconference game of the year. That game will kick off at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe knocks off JHS girls in three

Leader sports editor

The Beebe volleyball team moved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the 5A Central this week. A match regularly scheduled for Thursday against Pulaski Academy was played on Monday, and the Lady Bruins escaped BHS with a victory in five games.

On Tuesday, Jacksonville visited Badger Arena and was routed in three by scores of 25-13, 25-6 and 25-7.

After taking a 2-0 lead only to drop the next three in Monday’s match, Beebe coach Ashley Camp was pleased to see her team bounce back in dominant fashion on Tuesday.

“We’ve been building this program and getting better,” said Camp after Tuesday’s win. “I told them before this match that the mark of a great team is the ability to put a loss behind you and bounce back. So it was really good to see them do that.”

Scores in Monday’s loss were 25-19, 25-18, 25-27, 23-25 and 11-15. On Tuesday, the sweltering heat inside Badger Arena did a number on the Lady Red Devils, and the Lady Badgers’ service game finished them off.

At one point, three different Jacksonville players were seated in front of an open-doored breezeway at the back of the gym while action continued on the floor. And it was on the floor where many Beebe serves landed.

Junior Sarah Clark served up 11- straight points to start game two, including four aces. Jacksonville finally broke serve with a kill by Emily Lovercheck, but Beebe broke right back. That’s when Destiny Nunez took serve for a long time, scoring six points including four more on aces to give the home team an 18-1 lead.

Jacksonville’s first and only point on serve in game two was by Lovercheck and made the score 21-4.

Jacksonville was more competitive for about half of game three. Beebe held a 14-7 lead when Clark took serve for the second time in the game. And she again served up 11-straight points to finish off the match. Clark also showed a knack for finding the holes in Jacksonville’s defense, pushing several would-be sets into empty spaces on the Lady Devils’ side of the floor.

“She did that very well tonight,” Camp said. “I thought our service game has really improved and I think our return of serve is better. I still think we need some work on our passing and communicating on the floor. But this was a good win.”

Beebe’s next opponent is fellow 5A-Central member North Pulaski, but it’s not a conference match. The two teams will meet up at 10 a.m. today in the Vilonia Invitational Tournament.

SPORTS STORY >> Late drive lifts Jackrabbits

Leader sports editor

Big pass plays and lost fumbles once again spelled doom for the Beebe Badgers, as Lonoke entered Bro Erwin Stadium and beat rival Beebe 30-26 in the Battle of Hwy. 31 on Friday.

The Jackrabbits, 1-1, had trouble sustaining drives most of the game, but hit two long touchdown passes in the first half and came up with a big drive when it counted the most.

Beebe, 0-2, led 26-22 and was driving inside the Lonoke 20-yard line with time expiring in the fourth quarter, but the Badgers coughed up the ball for the fifth time in the game and Lonoke covered it for the fourth time at its own 9-yard line with 2:42 remaining in the game.

The Jackrabbits then marched the distance of the field to score with 22 seconds remaining to earn the victory.

“Beebe is so much bigger than us up front and we were having such a tough time stopping that running game of theirs,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “But the defense came through, forcing that fumble at the end to give us a chance. Then we were able to get that drive going and just found a way to win. I’m so proud of them. They just found a way to win.”

The final drive started with a holding penalty on Lonoke that the Badgers declined. On the next play, quarterback SaVonte Rountree hit Caleb Bailey for a 28-yard gain to the 37. On first down, Rountree found sophomore Logan Dozier for a 12-yard gain and Rountree scrambled for 5 yards on the next play. An illegal procedure penalty pushed it back to midfield to set up second down and 10.

Rountree then hit junior receiver Justin Meadows for the fifth time in the game, this time for 18 yards and another first down. Beebe’s Jesse Crisco pressured Rountree and forced him to throw it away. Dusty Grier got pressure on Rountree again, but the junior broke a tackle and hit Chandler Elmore along the Lonoke sideline for a 20-yard pickup to the Beebe 12-yard line with 1:28 remaining.

Beebe again forced Rountree out of the pocket and stopped him for a 3-yard gain on the next play. The Badgers finally got to Rountree when linebacker Hunter King sacked him for a 3-yard loss, but the secondary was called for defensive holding. Instead of third and 10, Lonoke now had second and 3 with 42 seconds left. The quarterback called his own number on the next play and got just enough for a first down at the 2.

Lonoke then went to its wildcat formation with Dozier at quarterback, but the sturdy sophomore was stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down. Bost called a timeout to talk about the next play, and came back out in the wildcat again. This time Dozier faked the run, stopping short of the line of scrimmage and dumping off to Elmore for the touchdown.

Meadows converted the two points when he hauled in a tipped pass in the back corner of the end zone with 22 seconds left to set the final margin.

“We decided to switch things up and go to the wildcat when we got down there close,” Bost said. “They were pressuring us a lot and we wanted to do something about all those big guys they’ve got up front.”

Beebe didn’t give up. Badger quarterback Aaron Nunez hit Jo’Vaughn Wyrick for a 38-yard completion on the first play of the ensuing drive, but Wyrick took a big hit and fumbled it away to seal the victory for Lonoke.

Beebe got the ball first and drove to the Lonoke 24-yard line before Crisco fumbled and Lonoke’s Trey Bevis covered it. Meadows went 2 yards on the first carry, and got the other 74 on a pass over the top of the defense with 5:25 left in the first quarter. The extra point was blocked, leaving it 6-0.

The Badgers drove 19 yards to the Lonoke 41 before fumbling it away again, but Lonoke gave it right back with its lone turnover of the game on the first snap. This time Beebe held onto the ball and drove 42 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-6 lead with 10:05 left in the half.

The Badger defense forced a three-and-out series by Lonoke, but fumbled it away again after driving 32 yards to the Lonoke 49.

The Badger defense held when Grier sacked Rountree on fourth and 6 at the Beebe 23, but the Badgers went backwards 3 yards and punted with 1:11 left in the half. Lonoke scored just 19 seconds later.

A 20-yard reception by Elmore was followed by a 38-yard touchdown connection between Rountree and Meadows with 52 seconds left in the half that gave Lonoke a 14-7 lead.

Beebe wasn’t done, however. Starting at the 36, Wyrick picked up 17 yards on first down. Expecting Beebe to pass, Lonoke dropped its defense back, but the Badgers ran a wrap-around handoff to Wyrick, who broke up the middle for 15 yards before encountering a defender.

He broke one tackle and raced to the Lonoke 6 before being dragged down from behind. Nunez got 5 on the next play, and then plunged in from 1-yard out with three seconds left on the clock. A bad snap on the extra point left it 14-13 at the break, even though Lonoke only had the ball for 5:44 the entire first half.

The lead changed hands with each of the four touchdowns in the second half. After forcing a three-and-out, Beebe scored on a four-play, 75-yard drive, but the extra point failed again, leaving it 19-14. Cleyton Meurer picked up 41 on the first play and fullback Xavier Jones burst up the middle for the final 27 to cap the drive.

Lonoke answered with a 67-yard drive, with Rountree scoring on third and goal from the 6 after being forced to scramble out of the pocket. Dozier’s two-point conversion made it 22-19.

Beebe answered 10-play, 65-yard drive with Jones doing most of the work. He capped the drive by bulling his way in from 1-yard out and the extra point made it 26-22.

Beebe then stopped Lonoke and had put together a 12-play drive when the fourth and costliest fumble occurred inside the Lonoke 10.

Rountree finished the game completing eight of 15 pass attempts for 254 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 16 times for 71 yards and a score. Meadows was his favorite target. He caught five passes for 168 yards and two scores.

Beebe had two running backs surpass 100 yards. Wyrick led the way with 116 yards on 12 carries. Jones rushed 19 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns.

Lonoke finished with 365 total yards and Beebe had 362.

Both teams are on the road next week. Beebe is at Vilonia and Lonoke travels to McClellan.

Friday, September 12, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Vote Tuesday in Jacksonville

A standalone Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district is finally within our grasp.

A vote Tuesday on the school election ballot for a new district will give us control of our schools and is the best possible shot at revitalizing the Jacksonville area, which has languished even as neighboring Cabot, Ward, Austin, Lonoke and Beebe, where schools are better, have flourished.

It’s easy to confuse movement with progress, but make no mistake, this is the way forward.

A three-strand braid runs through the heart of Jacksonville — support for Little Rock Air Force Base, desire for more and better education for its residents and an unquenchable thirst for a public school district of our own.

Jacksonville has partnered — we taxed ourselves $5 million — with the Air Force to build the new Joint Education Center, the college collaboration that now stands outside the base’s fence near Vandenberg Boulevard. Our community has worked for three decades to get its own school district to better educate its children and to grow the community. The Air Force will contribute land for a new elementary school and the Defense Department may help pay for it. The Air Force may make available about 300 acres for the new high school we will surely build when a standalone Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district is formed.

There is no organized opposition to the new district. The Pulaski County Special School District, the state Board of Education, a federal district judge and Jacksonville advocates all consider this a win-win situation, one which will help the beleaguered PCSSD to satisfy the desegregation agreement. The Joshua Intervenors have accepted it, too.

Years ago, the PCSSD board approved an independent Jacksonville district if the federal court overseeing desegregation would allow it and voters approved it.

Earlier this year, as part of the School Desegregation Agreement Settlement, U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. agreed that Jacksonville and north Pulaski County could seek its own district.

Interim PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess said his district can more easily become unitary in school facilities if Jacksonville detaches because the district will have fewer buildings to construct and finance. And the state Board of Education also approved a vote on the matter.

While PCSSD has to pay almost the full cost of new school construction, Jacksonville will only have to pay maybe 45 percent, with the state picking up the lion’s share. That’s because Jacksonville is considered a low-income area in the wealth index. On Tuesday, people who live within the boundaries of the proposed new district can seize control of our destiny and make history. While consolidation and annexation of school districts is not uncommon in Arkansas, no one can recall the creation of a new district from part of an old one — ever.

A “for” vote on the school election ballot for detaching Jacksonville gives us control of our schools and the education of our children for the first time in 38 years.

Not only will a Jacksonville/north Pulaski district result in new and improved buildings in an area that hasn’t seen a new school in about 30 years, we believe a new school board will be responsive to the city’s needs and education will improve.

This will also help stem the tide of migration away from Jacksonville to Cabot, Austin and Ward. We can put Jacksonville back on an upward trajectory.

There is no significant downside to detaching from PCSSD. Instead of having two votes on a seven-member PCSSD school board, we would have seven votes on a seven-member Jacksonville-area school board.

There will almost certainly be only one first-rate high school in the district, but the tough competition with out-of-town schools for money to build new ones in Jacksonville will finally be over.

Area voters will have only two issues on the ballot:

1.) Create an independent school district, For or Against

2.) and confirming the current school millage rate of 40.7 mills.

Please note — that is not a millage increase. Whether Jacksonville splits or stays with PCSSD, it will have a 40.7-mil property tax for schools.

Following a 299-word legal description of the proposed district’s boundaries, the Proposition on the Creation of a Jacksonville/north Pulaski school district reads:

“On the proposition of the creation of a new school district by this proposed detachment of property and territory from the Pulaski County Special School District, I vote:

( ) For

( ) Against”

If we fail to support the new district, Jacksonville-area schools will remain part of PCSSD. We will remain for now in fiscal distress, run by the state. After that, we stand the risk of being governed by a PCSSD school board as dysfunctional and divisive as the old one. Never again.

TOP STORY >> Remembering Sept. 11

Leader staff writer

It has been 13 years and communities continue to remember and reflect on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In Cabot, city officials, the American Legion Post 71 and Home Depot partnered together to hold a Sept. 11 ceremony.

“We are small-town America. If you look for us on a map, we are only a dot. We know very little about international terrorism and its plots against our country, but we do our part,” American Legion Post 71 Chaplain Sam Hill said.

“Our teachers teach our kids the history of this great land. We send our sons and daughters into the military that stands guard at our very gates. We hold sacred the right to enter a voting booth,” the chaplain continued.

“Our church doors are open and inviting. You can enter without fear. We have our hometown heroes who guard us every night. When you put us together, you have one nation under God,” Hill said.

Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin said, “On 9/11, no matter what religion, what your origin, we became a family of Americans, which joined together.

“Today we give thanks to all the men and women that serve our country, that keep it safe. We did not allow this attack to ruin our country. As Americans know, from the ashes grow the roses,” Erwin said.

Mayor Bill Cypert said Sept. 11 pulled Americans together. It strengthened the country’s resolve to keep the freedoms we enjoy, he said.

“The United States of America is still the most powerful and greatest country on the planet Earth,” Cypert said.

In Lonoke, a ceremony was held inside the chamber of commerce’s train depot.

Chamber member and JP Bill Ryker said, “We come here to honor, reflect and remember those who gave their lives for liberty on 9/11, 2001, for living without liberty is not living at all.”

Lt. Col. Dawson Brumbelow, with the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, said, “We are gathering with Americans all over the world to honor the memory of 3,000 people who died and honor the American spirit that prevailed.”

Brumbelow said Sept. 11 is about remembering the past and engaging in a tribute to the lives that were lost.

It is also a celebration of what Americans learned about themselves that day and the days after and how Americans acted with extraordinary heroism, he said.

“My sorrow and anger of the loss of so many was tempered by the awesome response to the tragedy and the resilience of Americans everywhere. It woke us up to the bravery and courage of our nation’s first responders,” Brumbelow said.

“It’s important to continue to pause and reflect on what occurred that day because, as the years pass, the visceral reality of those events will begin to fade,” Brumbelow said.

“Our enemies thought attacking our homeland would divide us with fear. They believed, with an act of cowardly brutal violence, they could end our way of life and the freedom guaranteed in the document residing in the aptly named Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C.,” he continued.

“In the hours and days later, I remember the pride I felt in seeing and hearing the countless acts of heroism and self sacrifice demonstrated by our fellow Americans. It taught me the one way to triumph over terrorism is through the kindness and goodness of the human spirit, by extending a helping hand to those in need and embracing our own individuality and diversity,” Brumbelow said.

TOP STORY >> State highway funds depleted

Leader senior staff writer

Unless sales tax on road-user items — such as new and used vehicles, tires and batteries — is redirected from general revenues to the state Highway Department’s construction and maintenance funds, construction of new highways will continue to slow and existing roads and bridges won’t get all the maintenance they need.

That’s according to a presentation state Highway Department Director Scott Bennett gave to the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council on Wednesday.

Most of the Highway Trust Fund money that comes to Arkansas from the federal government is generated from federal fuel tax per gallon, and that amount has been declining steadily.

Currently, gasoline fuel tax accounts for two thirds of the revenues in the federal highway trust fund, with diesel fuel taxes accounting for another 25 percent.

Between more expensive fuel and more efficient vehicles – attributable in part to federal mileage standards – Arkansans are burning and buying less fuel.

Add in the increase in vehicles running on natural gas or electricity, which currently have no effective revenue-generating tax, and compound that by the ever-rising cost of building and maintaining roads, highways and bridges, and state highway revenues are increasingly inadequate.

For those alternative-fuel vehicles to pay their fair share for roads, a new method must be found, perhaps an annual assessment at tag-renewal time, Bennett said.

The state has already implemented two of the top three recommendations of the General Assembly’s Blue Ribbon Highway Revenue Committee, co-chaired by former state Sen. John Paul Capps of Searcy, Bennett said.

Among the recommendations were reissuance of Garvey bonds, approved in 2011, and a temporary half-cent sales tax set to expire in 2022 in anticipation of completion of the phased transfer of road-user tax money to highway funds.

But that third and most important piece, switching road-user sales tax from general revenue to the Highway Department has yet to get traction. Currently, that puts about $400 million a year into the general fund.

“In 2013, a bill had a lot of cosponsors,” Bennett said. But it didn’t get out of the House committee.

Gov. Mike Beebe, under whose leadership the General Assembly cut hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxes a year by removing the tax on groceries, rigorously opposed diverting the road-user sales tax from the state’s general fund. Both gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson, haven’t written it off, said Bennett, who talked with them.

In addition to combined state and federal fuel taxes — roughly 40 cents a gallon — Arkansas would have to increase it by 15 cents a gallon to offset the income they hope to derive from a switch in the user-tax.

Locally, the state has undertaken the $41 million widening of Hwy. 67/167 from Redmond Road to Main Street, including new overpasses at each road, with completion set for early 2016.

Then, assuming it can pay for it, the $60 million widening of Hwy. 67/167 from Vandenberg Boulevard is slated to start in 2016.

That project should be complete in 2019, in time to begin widening Hwy. 67 from Vandenberg to Hwy. 5 at Cabot for an estimated $70 million.

Dates have not been scheduled yet for an interchange at Hwy. 67/167 and Hwy. 5 for an estimated $14 million, a new Hwy. 67/167-Hwy. 89 interchange, also estimated at $14 million, and another Cabot-area interchange at Hwy. 67/167-Hwy. 38 for an estimated $15 million.

“We are asked to do more with less, but we can only do less with less,” according to a department Powerpoint slide.

It is already one of the most under-funded highway departments in the nation and seems to have squeezed all the fat out of its budget.

With 16,416 miles of highway, only 11 states have a larger highway system. But Arkansas is 43rd in highway revenue per mile.

Among roughly similar sized road systems in Illinois, California, New York, Tennessee and Florida, Arkansas has only a quarter to one-tenth the amount of revenue per mile for construction and maintenance.

While the administrative cost per mile in Arkansas is $1,821, the cost in Illinois is $8,830 and $108, 417 per miles.

Meanwhile, the department had 3,801 employees in 1973, 4,052 in 1993 and only 3,607 in 2013.

Between 1977 and 2012, Arkansas’ general revenues increased from about $800 million to about $6 billion, while state highway revenues remained flat, topping out in 2012 at about $450 million.

If the road-user taxes were transferred for Highway Department use, that would increase by about $340 million a year, with another $120 million a year to be shared by the city road funds and an equal amount shared by county road funds.

Gas and diesel consumption fell about 86 million gallons between 2007 and 2013, resulting in a net loss of $54 million in revenues during that time — even as miles traveled increased by 1.1 billion miles.

In the 20 years between 1993 and 2012, the purchasing power of the fuel tax in Arkansas declined by 37 percent. And, by 2023, it is estimated that the purchasing power will be only about half of what it was in 1993.

Put another way, in 1997, $100 million would have paid for widening 143 miles of highway. Today, that would widen only 15 miles.

It would overlay 400 miles of highway then, but now overlays only 54 miles.

While the quality of infrastructure in the U.S. was rated ninth in the world in 2008-2009, it fell to 25th by 2012-2013, behind the likes of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain.

 The Hwy. 367 bridge over Cypress Bayou, just north of Ward, will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday while it undergoes a routine inspection, reducing northbound and southbound traffic to only one lane.

 I-40 between Kerr Road and Hwy. 13, north of Carlisle, will have east and westbound traffic reduced to one lane for resurfacing work between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

TOP STORY >> District decision Tuesday

Leader staff writer

As of 5 p.m. Friday, 1,498 people had voted this week on detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District to form a standalone Jacksonville/North Pulaski school district ahead of the election on Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Daniel Gray, spokesman for Education Corps, the group campaigning for the detachment, was pleased with the turnout.

Supporters say the new district will keep tax revenues in the community, be under local control, expand curriculum and improve facilities.

“I think people are excited to finally be able to vote for this issue. It’s been a long time coming…I hope that momentum continues through Tuesday night. Let’s knock this one out of the park,” Gray said.

He added that a watch party would be held Tuesday at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive, from 7 p.m. until the results are announced.

Early voting was held this week at the community center, the William F. Laman Library and the Pulaski County Regional Building at 501 W. Markham St.

Monday is the last day of early voting, and polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pulaski County Regional Building. The polls at the other locations will not be open.

None of the polls will be open for early voting today and tomorrow.

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 residents inside the proposed district’s boundaries can vote on the detachment.

The polls open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Election Day 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;

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

The millage question that will be alongside the detachment on the Tuesday ballot is a formality required to renew the current rate of 40.7 mills.

If voters approve of the detachment as expected, taxpayers in the new school district will still be paying 40.7 mills, unless they vote to increase that rate in a future election.

If the detachment is approved, the law allows for up to a two-year transition period. Until the actual separation, interim PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess will lead both districts.

Gray has said previously that the 2014-15 school year would be transitional.

On a related note, applications for an interim seven-member advisory board will be accepted through Sept. 30 by a committee of elected officials that will make recommendations to the state Board of Education.

Applications are available at

Serving on the committee are 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.

The advisory board will be appointed at the state board’s Oct. 9 meeting.

Its members will have the opportunity to appoint an interim superintendent and be charged with guiding the new district in negotiations with PCSSD over the division of assets, like school buses and computers, as well as personnel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

EDITORIAL >> The campaign here so far

If you have followed the Arkansas election ads you know that each party faces a single challenge. Republicans must overcome a philosophy problem, Democrats an Obama problem.

Last week, the strategies to counter the problems were on stark display, ending with the amazing Republican capitulation on raising the minimum wage in Arkansas—anathema for Republicans since the first federal wage law was passed in 1933.

Republicans have the easier task sublimating their problem. Just use the strategy employed for the past two elections across the South and the Great Plains: run pictures of the black president and say your opponent is his footman or will be if he gets in office.

For good measure, if your opponent is running for Congress or has been there, make him also a vassal of Nancy Pelosi, the 74-year-old House minority leader and grandmother, and Photoshop her into the ad, too. Everyone knows she represents the city of libertines. San Francisco.

If you are Senator Mark Pryor or gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross, it doesn’t matter that you went along with the president less often than almost any other Democrat in Congress and that many of the votes with him would be viewed favorably by most Arkansans if they were severed from Obama.

It suffices that Pryor voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Obamacare, and it doesn’t matter that the infamous law has made medical treatment accessible to 250,000 Arkansans, delivered $17.7 million in premium rebates to Arkansas insurance policyholders and $125 million in drug savings for Arkansas seniors or that it protects Arkansans forever from having their insurance company curtail their benefits.

For Ross, it doesn’t matter that he voted against Obamacare as a congressman and then joined Republican efforts to repeal it.

For Democrats in 2014 there may be no antidote to their Obama problem but history and time.

The Republican identity problem is proving to be more manageable for the party’s big candidates and problematical for Democrats. The philosophical problem is the common Republican view that the government of the United States is rotten because it regulates business too much and spends too much effort and money helping the down and outs at the expense of the successful people.

The Republican and libertarian antigovernment rhetoric goes over well with most voters, especially in the South, where it was government that forced civil rights and its progeny of social-justice reforms on a people who were perfectly happy with social relations as they were.

Beyond that, most people don’t want major functions of government tampered with: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, clean-air and -water standards, farm support, disaster aid, food support, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, worker safety, college aid, domestic violence protections, or a tax code that once made people with wealth pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rest.

But most people also don’t make the connection between those functions and Republican attacks on government. The Democratic strategy is to make voters see that connection.

While Republican ads dwell on Obama, Pelosi and Obamacare, Democratic ads make the link that Republicans, especially the true-believing libertarians like Senate candidate Tom Cotton, mean exactly those programs when they claim to be fighting big government. And unlike many, Cotton has pretty consistently voted his philosophy, which has cost him some of the ardor for Cotton the 2012 antigovernment candidate.

His votes against farm and nutrition aid, disaster relief, children’s medical research, student loans and protections against domestic violence and for bills that would gradually phase out Medicare as we know it gave Democrats an opening.

His poll numbers went down and Pryor’s up. His explanations helped some—his votes didn’t actually stop the funding for those things because his side lost, thanks to a stash of moderate Republican votes for the winners.

You shouldn’t worry, see, because even when Republicans have gained the presidency and both houses of Congress—briefly under Eisenhower, Reagan and George W. Bush—they didn’t deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce to big government. Eisenhower told his furious brother that Republicans would commit suicide if they scrapped the New Deal.

But the minimum-wage farce last week showed the beauty of the Republican strategy: surrender en masse and claim victory.

Not one Republican running for major office in Arkansas favored the initiative that raises the Arkansas minimum wage until last week, when the secretary of state finally had to certify that the petitions had far more signatures than were needed to get the act on the ballot.

French Hill, the Little Rock banker running for Congress, had said he opposed the government ever putting a wage floor at any amount. Businesses should be able to pay people however little they will work for.

Asa Hutchinson, the GOP candidate for governor, repeatedly said he opposed a wage floor set by voters. As a congressman, he had voted against the federal minimum wage. Cotton just wouldn’t say.

Polls show the initiative is hugely popular. So last week Cotton, Hutchinson, Hill and Congressmen Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford all announced they would vote for the initiated act, which will raise the Arkansas minimum wage well above the federal level, which they had formerly said would be devastating.

They’ll claim credit for bleeding for the working poor and probably get it. Democrats could only be amazed.

Ernie Dumas is a veteran Arkansas journalist.

EDITORIAL >> The mayor vs. ex-police chief

The Jacksonville mayoral race is heating up, with former Police Chief Gary Sipes gaining momentum and laying out several goals for the city if he is elected.

Sipes, who resigned as police chief in June to run against Mayor Gary Fletcher, is a stronger candidate than we expected. Tapping into pent-up frustration that the city has fallen behind in several ways, Sipes’ message has won over many supporters, judging by his recent campaign kickoff at Southern Oaks Country Club that was attended by at least 100 residents.

The Pine Bluff native moved to Jacksonville in 2008 when he was hired as police chief. Before that, he was police chief in Bryant and had been head of code enforcement in North Little Rock, where he had also been a detective.

When Jacksonville opened its $3.2 million shooting-sports complex on Graham Road, in partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, nearby residents — including Sipes — began complaining that the gun noise was hurting their quality of life and threatening their home values.

Sipes made it clear during a visit to The Leader recently that the city should have held public hearings before building the firing range and conducted noise studies, but that the problems there will not be his only concern if he is elected.

He will still have to reassure residents that he does not want to hurt the firing range in any way, which could send the city’s finances into tailspin. The city’s monthly mortgage payment for the facility is about $63,000. He should also pledge to conduct city business openly, something Fletcher has succeeded in doing.

Sipes said he will focus on fixing the city’s budget problems, reversing urban blight, revitalizing downtown, repairing streets and reaching out to residents.

He will start by firing Ricky Hayes, the controversial out-of-state economic consultant who has been paid about $250,000 in four years and only helped bring Firehouse Subs to town.

Hayes does not report to the city council, and his defense for lack of progress has been to say that getting big-box stores and chain restaurants takes a lot of time and that Jacksonville lacks raw land to develop.

In a series back in February and March, The Leader talked to many of the cities that Hayes has worked for in the past. About half said he helped bring in a number of stores, while the others said he didn’t deliver on his promises.

Fletcher has said nearly every year since hiring Hayes that the deals he is working on will be announced soon. But Hayes represents too many other cities to adequately represent Jacksonville. It’s a case of too many irons in the fire.

Companies will also likely wait to build along Hwy. 67/167 until the widening project is finished. That will take at least five more years. Big-name restaurants are also waiting to open more businesses in Arkansas until after the November election for the outcome of the liquor initiative to do away with dry laws.

These debates will be further renewed on Sept. 23, when the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce holds a candidates forum.

Mayor Fletcher will have to play it cool during that event if he wants to win over any skeptics. But the bonds he has formed during his 40 years in city politics will help him keep his job.

Sipes said he will also fire the city’s director of administration, Jim Durham, and replace him with retired banker Donnie Farmer, who said he might work for half the pay. (Durham’s salary is $77,000. Fletcher’s is $89,000.)

No candidate, though, deserves to win or lose solely based on his position on Hayes. But, with the city’s finances hurting, this is a pertinent campaign issue.

We hope the winner can best explain how to make Jacksonville’s streets more welcoming by adding street lights and sufficient drainage. With the state Highway Department set to make major repairs on Hwy. 67/167 and Vandenberg Boulevard, the city should take this opportunity to modernize Redmond Road — perhaps the darkest thoroughfare in town — by adding lights, fixing the drainage problems at School Drive and South First Street near Whit Davis Lumber Plus, along with the flooding problems under the train bridge just down the road. The often congested intersection of South First and South Oak streets needs better traffic control and a facelift, too.

All voters in Jacksonville have wish lists like that, and municipal governments should have the ability to tackle most of them.

No mayor can rejuvenate the city alone. He will need the city council to rededicate itself to smart dialogue by contributing ideas and asking questions about the direction of Jacksonville. There’s no need to argue: Take Alderman Reedie Ray’s effort to annex the Valentine Road area. He has repeatedly made a strong case for Jacksonville to annex the area, but the mayor and council decided the city doesn’t have the money to expand and increase its population — even though by doing so the city could get about $200,000 in federal turnback money every year.

Sure, the budget is tight, but if Jacksonville can’t pursue annexation because of money problems, residents deserve an all-hands-on-deck approach.

No matter who wins in November, we hope he can focus on the basics.

TOP STORY >> County fair Sept. 13-20

Leader staff writer

It’s that time of year again when the Lonoke County fairgrounds are filled with spinning rides, corn dogs and cotton candy.

The Lonoke County Fair begins Wednesday, Sept. 13 and continues to Saturday Sept. 20 off Hwy. 89 in Lonoke.

Admission to the fair is $2 for adults, $1 for children and free for children 6 years old and younger.

The carnival is open from noon to 11 p.m. Armbands for unlimited rides are available for 6 to 11 p.m. next Wednesday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 11 p.m. on Saturday. The cost of an armband is $15 on Wednesday and Thursday and $20 on Friday and Saturday.

Next Wednesday is opening day. The fair will have goat judging and the educational building will open that day.

Thursday is Senior Citizens Day. Seniors who are 62 years old and older can enter the fair for free.

That day there will be sheep judging, swine judging, horse and mule judging and showmanship. The Lonoke County Fair parade is at 5 p.m. Rodeo queen horsemanship will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Friday opens with beef and dairy cattle showings, followed by poultry and rabbit judging. Signup for Mutton Bustin’ for 4- to 8-year-olds starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Youngsters will be riding sheep.

Redneck Games will be held 8 p.m. at the arena. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Redneck games feature stick horse racing, scoop races, goat untying, flag races, switch races, speed races, barrel pickup and barrel racing.

Cash prizes are offered to participants. Entry fee is $5 per person or team for each event entered.

Saturday features horse and mule pulls, a children’s pet show, a cross cut saw contest and a talent show. Lawnmower races are at noon. Mini-bull riding will be at 8 p.m. in the arena. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.

The four-day event will showcase local talent of all ages. The exhibit halls will have clothing, household art, quilting, crafts, fine arts, home furnishing, creative writing, photography, horticulture, food preparation and preservation.­­

TOP STORY >> Continuing family legacy to lead

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Heather Cooley, the 19th Maintenance Squadron commander, was born with the birthright of leadership.

She dates her family’s strong lineage of service back to the Civil War and believes this tradition will continue for generations to come.

“It was always the plan for me to serve,” Cooley said. “Not just because of my mother and aunt — who were chief nurses in their units — but because our family has a heritage of service. My mom and aunt traced their military heritage back to the Civil War, when brothers David and Christen Yaney served. Each generation since then has served in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.”

Cooley has a double portion of military service instilled in her. Her father’s family shares in the patriotism as well. Both parents made sure their children contributed to serving their country in some way.

“Our history on my father’s side goes back almost as far,” Cooley said. “My mom and aunt both retired as nurses from the Air Force Reserves. My father was an acquisition officer and retired from the Air Force Reserves as well. From the time we were children, we were expected to serve at least a few years in the military and then pursue other goals. And we have.”

Cooley has served 16 years in the Air Force so far, and her twin sister worked in the civil service for six years. Her younger sister was trained as an F-16 electro-environmental mechanic in the Air National Guard, and her brother has served more than 16 years as a communications technician in the Air National Guard.

“My aunt’s son served as a B-2 crew chief and just recently returned to serve in the Reserves as a medical technician,” Cooley said. “I thought for a while that I would just serve my four years and then go back to graduate school. But there was something about this job that keeps you coming back — it’s the drive and commitment of our airmen, and the chance to be a part of something larger.”

Cooley said growing up with service members and watching her parents throughout the years has taught her that “we are tougher than we think, and we have to leave some time for ourselves so we can take care of others.”

Taking care of others is one of the reasons why Cooley is particularly excited about being the commander of the 19th MXS.

“This is my second time as a commander, but I am more excited about this one than the first,” Cooley said.

“My first command was at a deployed location, so the challenges were a little different. I didn’t get to work with the personnel programs or many of the issues we deal with at home station. We had a lot of turnover in the squadron and the ops tempo was high. This opportunity to command the 19th MXS gives me a chance to be more involved in the personnel side and work together on longer term efforts,” she said.

Cooley’s goal as commander of the newly created 19th MXS, she said, is to leave it better than she found it.

“Our squadron recently merged from two squadrons, the 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron and the 19th Component Maintenance Squadron, and there have been many challenges this year which impact our airmen,” Cooley said. “My intent is for our squadron to accomplish maintenance safely, by the book, and to train our replacements to the best of our ability. Sequestration, workforce management measures, deployments...these can all cause chaos and ambiguity for individuals. It is our responsibility as leaders to provide guidance and direction to move the unit forward.”

Cooley said the examples of leadership seen throughout the years displayed by her family members have been instrumental to the grooming and shaping of her drive and passion to serve.

“I have taken the idea of service from my family - our job as leaders is to serve our units and our airmen to the best of our ability. Service before self is one of our core values, and I take this concept to heart. If I expect all of our airmen to give their best, then I must set the example. There may be long days, weekend work, midnight phone calls and piles of paperwork, but there is also the opportunity to see our airmen accomplish the mission on a daily basis.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

TOP STORY >> Stump pitches garner voters

Leader staff writer

About 100 voters showed up to hear 26 candidates speak at the Stand on the Stump Old-Fashioned Political Rally held Sunday at Delmont Park in Sherwood.

The lineup for the event, hosted by the Sherwood Young Professionals of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce and the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee, included:

 Former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, Dist. 2.

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

 Debbie Standiford, the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Congress, Dist. 2.

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

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

 John Burkhalter, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

 Second District Rep. Tim Griffin, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

 Christopher Olson, the Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor.

 Jacob Holloway, the Libertarian candidate for secretary of state.

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

 Pulaski County JP Dist. 12 candidate Luke McCoy, a Republican.

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

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

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

 Pulaski County JP Dist. 15 candidate Staci Medlock, a Democrat.

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

 Sherwood mayoral candidate Don Berry.

 Alderman Mary Jo Heye, who is seeking re-election to her Ward 2 seat.

 Former Alderman Butch Davis, who is running for the Ward 2 seat.

 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.

 Phil Wyrick, the Republican candidate for Pulaski County judge.

 Glen Schwarz, the Libertarian candidate for Pulaski County judge.

 Land Commissioner candidate Mark Robertson, a Democrat.

 Land commissioner candidate Elvis Presley, a Libertarian.

Four spokesmen stood in for gubernatorial hopefuls Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross and state auditor candidates Regina Stewart Hampton and Andrea Lea.

State Rep. Douglas House (R-North Little Rock), who is unopposed in his bid for re-election in Dist. 40, spoke for Attorney General candidate Leslie Rutledge.

Bernard Olds, 93, who was elected as one of the city’s first aldermen and participated in the first rally at the park, led the crowd 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 paid homage to that. Organizer Darrell Brown said, “I think it’s going to become a tradition (held during election years). I couldn’t be more proud of it.”

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


Patrick Henry Hays, the former North Little Rock mayor who is running as a Democrat for Congress in Dist. 2, emphasized that he works with others to get things done.

“I think that all of us know, in city hall, there’s no such thing as Democratic grime or Republican garbage,” he told the crowd.

Hays said the first thing he would do if elected would be find a Republican congressman and make a friend.

He added, “I stand on my record of what we had a chance to do in North Little Rock and, not only in North Little Rock, but throughout the central Arkansas community in trying to make lives better every day.”

French Hill, Hays’ Republican opponent, said “I’m running for Congress after 35 years in business because I think our country needs more careers and more opportunities for all the people in our district and in our country. We are in an economy that is not producing the jobs and not producing the right kind of jobs.”

He said more Arkansans are unemployed now than were unemployed seven years ago. Hill argued that a true recovery from the recession should have generated 10 to 13 million more jobs than the state has to offer now.

“I know the families, the hard-working families here want, if they play be the rules, save their money, work hard, to come out ahead and that third generations can come out ahead and that’s what we’ll do if we get this economy growing again.”

Hill added that he would be accountable, work to get spending under control and support vocational education programs.

The Libertarian candidate for the Dist. 2 Congressional seat, Debbie Standiford, said she didn’t have millions backing her campaign. “If you’re hoping to hire someone for this position that knows how to run your life better than you do, then you might better not vote for me,” Standiford said.

She argued that choosing between the two parties every election cycle isn’t working and that voters should do something different this year. Standiford said Libertarians believe in the rule kids learn when they attend kindergarten — don’t hurt others and don’t take their stuff.

“If you elect me as congresswoman, I will do my best to keep the federal government out of your pocket, out of your house and out of the state of Arkansas,” the candidate concluded.


Pulaski County JP Karilyn Brown, the Republican candidate for Dist. 41 State Representative, said she tried to make the quorum court more transparent. The meeting packets are now posted on the court’s website.

She proposed broadcasting its meetings over the Internet but other JPs decided that wasn’t a feasible expenditure, Brown said.

“You can’t engage the local community if they can’t see what you’re doing,” she noted.

Brown continued, “Arkansas has many wonderful people. We’re just as smart, just as capable, just as creative as people of any place else in this world, or any place else in this country and there’s absolutely no reason for us to rank at the bottom of just about every survey that’s done.”

She said Arkansas needed job creation, new businesses and improvement in education.

Brown said she supports the Arkansas Veterans Coalition’s efforts and Sherwood’s plan to detach from the Pulaski County Special School District to form its own locally controlled district.

Brown’s opponent, Danny Knight, retired after serving for 38 years as a superintendent. He also supports an independent Sherwood school district.

As a superintendent, he said, he had to pull together a community that was racially divided while running one of the first school districts in Arkansas to become integrated.

Knight continued, “You don’t go into some place thinking you’re going to get everything accomplished if you’re not willing to sit down at the table and work with folks. I know how to work and get things done for our school district.”

He said he had worked with the last four governors, supports extending vocational education opportunities and will be accessible to constituents if elected.

John Burkhalter, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, stressed his Sylvan Hills/Sherwood roots. He lived on Kellogg Acres Road and graduated from local schools.

“By the time I left Sylvan Hills, I was made. When I was a little boy, I could push a lawnmower. I was mowing some of your yards. I was cutting wood and bringing in ricks of wood. I grew up working.”

Burkhalter said his parents were involved in the community and his local church led him to enroll at Hendrix College.

The engineer told the crowd he was denied a bank loan to start his first small piping business. Burkhalter also said Gov. Mike Beebe mentored and encouraged him to run for lieutenant governor.

Second District Rep. Tim Griffin, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, spoke before the program began and prior to The Leader reporter’s arrival. But he sent a press release summarizing his stump speech.

Griffin said in the release, “Every county and city in Arkansas counts, and I have common sense ideas to grow good-paying jobs for hardworking Arkansans, including the folks in Sherwood.”

The release states that the candidate wants the state to be a leader in job creation, lower taxes on families and businesses, review all regulations from the top down and focus on vocational education programs.

The Libertarian candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Christopher Olson, said promising job creation would be an insult to voters because the duties of the position are to serve as the governor when the governor is absent and to preside over the state Senate.

If elected, Olson said he would ask that the office’s four-person staff making annual salaries of $50,000 each be dissolved.

Olson said he would request just one part-time secretary, ask for a reduction in the lieutenant governor’s $42,000 salary or decline half of that salary if the Legislature disagrees with cutting it.

The candidate also said he would propose that the position be eliminated altogether and the duties be absorbed by another elected official, such as the Secretary of State.

Speaking of, Libertarian Jacob Holloway, who is running for Secretary of State, was the only candidate for that post to attend the rally.

The incumbent is Mark Martin and the Democratic challenger is Susan Inman.

Holloway said, “One of the problems running as a third-party candidate or as an independent is that your party is consistently kicked off the ballot every single election cycle. You’re never given a chance to actually build a political coalition.”

He bashed the two-party system that doesn’t have to follow the same rules as third-party and Green-party candidates.

“They think that people like myself getting on the ballot running as a political candidate is a problem for them in their re-election. But I’ll propose something else, that the real problem for the Democratic and Republican parties is that people like myself no longer participate in the political system because we no longer see it as effective because we are always, always disenfranchised from political power and having access to our venue of government.”

Holloway hopes that, as secretary of state, he can reform the ballot access law to allow more independent and third-party candidates.

He concluded, “I think it’s an absolute disgrace in the United States of America that we force candidates into a totally different legal system of getting on the ballot just because they’re not Republican or Democrat.”


Pulaski County JP Dist. 12 candidate Jeff Rollins, a Democrat, described what the quorum court does. Rollins is a former justice of the peace.

He said, “We take these taxes and turn them into services for the people. We take care of everything that you can’t take care of while at city levels.”

The court deals in grants for things like utility projects, runs the county jail, issues watershed ordinances, takes care of the court system and looks after roads and bridges, Rollins explained. The county jail accounts for about 60 percent of the court’s $60 million budget, he said.

After describing himself as the third generation of a Sherwood family, the candidate said, “I’m not here to criticize. I’m not here to put blame on anybody. Politics, for 30 days, it’s people telling people what they’ve done wrong. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to work with whoever we need to work with…You have to work with others for the good of the whole.”

Rollins’ opponent, Republican Luke McCoy, said the county jail must stay open for nonviolent offenders, deputies must be paid competitive salaries and that the court should be conservative with property rights and how they spend tax monies.

McCoy said he works for the Family Council and owns JLM Tree Service.

He continued, “As a kid I used to ride up and down these streets. Like I said, I went to Sherwood Elementary, even played at the youth center, and here at Delmont Park. These resources, these amenities that we have, these nice things we have, they didn’t get here by accident. It took people in their extracurricular time to be elected, volunteering to help put these things together. I want to help make Pulaski County safer, more attractive to families, visitors and new residents.”

McCoy said the quorum court needed to do something about the flooding in Higgins, where the JPs decided to build a new community center for much more than the $50,000 that would have made it look nice, according to the candidate.

The flooding prevents impoverished kids from getting to school, he emphasized.

McCoy also criticized the court’s decision to buy metal trusses for the new Broadway Bridge.

Pulaski County Dist. 13 JP Phil Stowers, a Republican who is up for re-election, said he was elected the year the court discovered a $7 million shortfall in its budget.

“We got the county out of the red, into the black again. We restored the reserves that had been depleted by wasteful spending in the past. We recently, in the last two years built — everybody always says you have to have a tax increase to add more buildings. Well, we proved them wrong. We saved the money and built a new 240-bed addition to the county jail without raising taxes and without borrowing money by paying interest with your tax dollars.”

Stowers said he stood behind his record on the court of being fiscally conservative and that he would be accessible to voters.

The Democratic candidate for Dist. 13, John Beard, did not attend the rally.

But Stowers’ Libertarian opponent, William Brackeen, said, the quorum court needed to be more transparent by operating a Facebook page and a YouTube channel that could be used to broadcast its meetings.

He said he would run both at no charge to the county if elected.

Brackeen said jailers and deputies are not paid enough because they leave the county for other agencies as soon as they are experienced.

“This leaves us falling behind in the law enforcement market and that makes for an unsafe county, which makes our property values go down, our homeowners insurance go up, and that’s a bad cycle for everyone,” he noted.

Brackeen said he had also heard that county employees had not had raises in 10 years.

The candidate added that the sheriff’s office doesn’t need things like the mine resistant armored vehicle it has now.

Pulaski County JP Dist. 15 candidate Jesse Macom-Teague, a Republican, criticized the $23 million Broadway Bridge project that will shut down traffic for three years.

I-30 will be shut down for two years after that, the candidate said.

He claimed the project could have been done for free and in three months.

The Marine veteran of two wars continued, “The Broadway Bridge is not a veterans memorial. To call it that, to call it that and to spend your tax dollars, is an insult to veterans and to your back pocket. We have to stop spending on special interests in Pulaski County.”

He also bashed the watershed ordinances because Pulaski County is buying 140 million gallons a day of Lake DeGray water from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when all the water that was already available isn’t used at peak times in the hottest month of the year.

“Why did we need to take away people’s personal property rights?” the candidate asked. “They have set a disturbing precedent in the watershed that can now creep into your backyard and into your neighborhoods, and somebody can start telling you what to do with your private personal property. And that’s wrong, my friends.”

Macom-Teague also said deputies must be paid what they’re worth and concluded, “I want to get your taxes lower. I want to make your streets safer, and I want to build a better community for tomorrow.”

His Democratic opponent, Staci Medlock, said she wants to balance the budget, keep streets safe and keep the community private.

She told the crowd, “I am not a politician. I am a trustworthy Christian, wife, mother and real estate agent that does care about our community. I am a caretaker. I took care of my siblings through a rough childhood. I raised children that are now grown, and I’m helping my husband raise his children that I now call my own. I want to take care of you as your justice of the peace in our community.”

Phil Wyrick, the Republican candidate for Pulaski County judge, is a former state senator and a former state representative.

He introduced himself as the former director of the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and as a cattle rancher who served on the county’s election commission for five years.

Wyrick said he was the oldest candidate in the race, having turned 65 on Friday. He joked that he wouldn’t exploit the youth of his opponents as President Ronald Reagan did once.

Wyrick said he has a lot of experience.

“It is important that we recognize the No. 1 concern of people is public safety, and this is a race of priorities. Public safety is my priority,” the candidate continued.

The jail has closed to nonviolent offenders three times, he said. Little Rock was ranked the No. 1 most violent city of its size and as the fifth most violent in the country, Wyrick noted.

He pointed out that the rankings are also an economic development issue.

Wyrick’s Democratic opponent, Barry Hyde, did not attend the rally.

Glen Schwarz, the Libertarian candidate for Pulaski County judge, said he had been self-employed for 20 years, earned a degree from Florida University, graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a teaching certificate and taught for five years.

Schwarz, who publishes The Emerald City of the South, said all the candidates for Pulaski County judge are qualified.

“The difference, perhaps, is how we’re going to do the jail situation. The other candidates will have a different formula for keeping the jail open or for funding the jail. I have a completely different Libertarian vision of that. And that is that I will end the war on drugs in Pulaski County,” he said to the crowd.

If he were elected, county residents would not go to prison for marijuana crimes, Schwarz said.

He also said he was interested in expanding recycling and building more Civil War attractions.

Mark Robertson, the Democratic candidate for land commissioner, stressed that he has experience as a landscape architect, planner and Forest Service surveyor.

“I think the office has failed to reach its full potential…I intend to transform that office into one that serves the entire state of Arkansas to make sure that we’re investing in our education” by getting properties turned around quickly while maintaining property rights and selling for fair market value.

“We need to me more than just an auction house,” he added.

Elvis Presley, the Libertarian candidate for land commissioner, said incumbent John Thurston should have overruled the governor’s decision to install a pipeline in Arkansas.

He also encouraged the crowd to vote for Libertarian candidates.

Thurston, who is seeking re-election, did not attend the rally.


Mayor Virginia Hillman said, in the seven years she’s been in office, Sherwood has seen a lot of positive changes. Those include 500 direct jobs and 1,500 indirect jobs through several successful economic development projects.

She also touted the annexation of Gravel Ridge.

Hillman said the Sherwood Fraternal Order of Police had endorsed her and it has not been the group’s practice to endorse candidates.

The mayor asked the crowd for their votes so that she could continue to support the city’s growth.

One of her opponents, retired Air Force officer Don Berry, said he would like to institute quarterly town-hall meetings in each of the city’s four wards and consider adding a fifth ward.

He said he had been working with the Arkansas Veterans Coalition since January on a legislative initiative package for 2015 to address issues like in-state tuition.

Berry said he had also been working with a professor at UALR on a proposal that addresses shortcomings in veteran benefits.

The candidate said his idea for leadership was based on a bible verse that says one must listen, be slow to speak and be slow to wrath.

Mayoral candidate Doris Anderson did not attend the rally.

Ward 2 Alderman Mary Jo Heye, who is running for re-election, said Sherwood needed strategic planning for its future, more fiscal responsibility and more participation through increased transparency via webcasting and televising city council meetings.

The alderman emphasized that the city also needs to work on getting young families to move there.

Former Alderman Butch Davis is running for his old seat against Heye because “I really, really loved it.”

Davis said he had cleaned Delmont Park four times and that he had also cleaned other parks.

He encouraged those in the crowd to throw their hats in the ring because serving the public is a rewarding experience.

Ward 3 Alderman Toni Butler, who is seeking re-election, said, “My purpose for being an alderman was and still is being an advocate for the citizens and giving them a voice.”

Butler added that while Sherwood has good police, fire, public works and parks departments, she is looking forward to the city detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District to form its own standalone district.

Beverly Williams, a retired teacher and Butler’s opponent, co-chairs the Sherwood Public Education Foundation — the group charged with working toward the formation of an independent school district.

She also mentioned her work on a grassroots campaign that encouraged a vote to keep North Little Rock Electric as the provider for a third of the city’s residents.

City Clerk/Treasurer Angela Nicholson is running for re-election against challenger Stephen Partridge, who did not attend the rally.

Nicholson said she has been a city employee for 24 years, spent 19 of those in the city clerk’s office and has been in her position for seven years.

The candidate described her office as a “central hub” that handles all of Sherwood’s finances, including payroll for all city employees, and maintains records.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther wins at Minuteman

Leader sports editor

Cabot senior Micah Huckabee won the Minuteman 5K/2M Saturday in Little Rock by a wide margin. One other Lady Panther, Ashley Gore, finished in the top 14 while Beebe’s Tori Colbert turned in a good finish at 27th.

The Sylvan Hills girls, competing in the school’s first-ever cross country meet, had four runners finish in the top half of the 114-runner field.

“Not bad for a first meet,” said Sylvan Hills coach Grover Garrison. The Lady Bears’ lone senior, Justis Jakes, was Groverson’s highest finisher, coming in at 24:25.98 to finish 42nd.

But it was Huckabee that dominated the field. She completed the course in 19:20.94, more than 30 seconds ahead of second place Lauren Campbell of Conway. The next seven competitors after Huckabee finished within 20 seconds of each other. Gore turned in a 22:10.26 time and Colbert turned in a 23:27.16.

Cabot’s Emily Dey and Brayden Giesler were 32 and 33 and Ashley Odom of Cabot took 36th place.

Sylvan Hills freshman Erykah Sanders took 47th, Cabot’s Rachel Murtishaw and Hailey Gorecke were 49th and 50th. Sylvan Hills freshman Chanel Miller was 52nd and junior Gabriella Marquez took 54th.

Vilonia’s Zach Rail won the boys’ race with a time of 15:55.78. Beebe’s Chris Owen was the highest local finisher at 20th. He finished with a time of 18:11.81. Cabot’s Caleb Schulte was only two places and five seconds behind Owen with a time of 18:16.37. Cabot’s Nick Davis turned in a top-30 performance as well, finishing in 18:32.87, good for 29th in the 143-man field.

Cabot will be back in action on Sept. 16 in Searcy while Cabot and Sylvan Hills will take part in the Conway Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 20.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS has big challenge

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville suffered a last-second heartbreaker in its opener last week, giving up a field goal with four seconds to play and losing 9-7 to Maumelle. The task at hand is much greater this week, as the Red Devils prepare for their first road game at class 6A Benton.

Jacksonville won the first of four meetings between the two schools, but Benton has won the last three, including a 31-21 victory last year. At the time it seemed like a bad loss, but 31 was the lowest point total of Benton’s six wins last year, and the fourth lowest point total of the entire season.

The Panthers have begun, the last few seasons, to make a name for themselves as an offensive juggernaut, but last week’s 14-14 tie with class 7A rival Bryant indicates they may be coming along defensively as well.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham definitely thinks so, and knows his team will have to improve at blocking if it wants to better the modicum of success it had last week.

“They just attack, attack attack,” said Hickingbotham about the Benton defense. “We thought Maumelle played an attacking defense, but Benton looks like a different level. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge, but we’re going to gear up and go play hard. We’re working hard this week to get those mistakes corrected and then we’ll get after them on Friday.”

Benton lost a quarterback that came just three yards short of 3,000 yards passing last season, but added one that ran and threw for almost 2,600 in Lincoln transfer Drew Harris. He, however, is playing running back while last year’s backup, Cason Maertens, calls the signals.

The Benton offense may not be as explosive as recent years with dynamic quarterback Tarek Beaugard graduating, but Harris is a playmaker and the defense looked exceptionally good last week.

Hickingbotham was particularly impressed with safety Stone Paul (5-foot-10, 180).

“That safety was everywhere and he’s looking to hit somebody,” Hickingbotham said. “When you got a guy like that back there, it makes you able to gamble more at the line. He’s a good one.”

Paul is a three-year starter who recorded 80 tackles last season and is also the team’s punter.

Jacksonville will try to shore up the breaches in the offensive line, particularly in the passing game. The Red Devils averaged a little more than 2 yards per called pass play last week. Some of that was because Hickingbotham is playing several players at each position looking for the players he can count on once conference begins. So it probably won’t change much this week.

“I’ve said we’re going to play a lot of guys these first three games,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re dividing this season up into three seasons, and this first part is to find where everyone fits best and can help us the most. We’re going to take some lumps and hopefully by that conference opener we’ll be ready to roll.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe welcomes rival

Leader sportswriter

Either Lonoke or Beebe will get their first win of the 2014 regular season on Friday when the two teams square off in the annual Battle of Hwy. 31 nonconference game that’ll kick off at 7:30 p.m. at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium in Beebe.

Both the Badgers and Jackrabbits suffered losses in their week-one matchups. The Badgers will enter Friday’s game with extra rest, as they played last Tuesday against Greenbrier at War Memorial Stadium.

Turnovers on offense and giving up the big play on defense plagued Beebe in its 48-29 loss to the Panthers. Those same mishaps contributed to Lonoke’s loss as well, as the Jackrabbits dropped a 31-18 decision to fellow class 4A member, Star City.

Beebe returns the most experience of the two rivals. The Badgers return eight offensive starters and six defensive starters from last year’s team that finished the 2013 season with a 5-6 record.

Lonoke won last year’s Battle of Hwy. 31 game by the final score of 41-14, but several pieces are missing from that Jackrabbit team that finished 2013 with a 9-3 record.

The Jackrabbits return five offensive starters and seven starters on defense, but despite the new and old faces on both teams, each coach knows what to expect entering Friday’s much-anticipated matchup.

“It’s always a big game,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “There’s always going to be a good crowd whether it’s here or there, and it’s always competitive, too. So it’s a big game this week.”

“Typically it’s a very close ball game, a well-played game and a hard-hitting game,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “Both teams come to play. They’ve been playing each other since way back when I was in high school 30 years ago and probably before then, too.

“So they’ve been playing for a long, long time around here. Our kids know their kids and vice versa. It’s usually a dogfight.”

Despite having valuable experience returning for both teams, each will enter Friday’s showdown a little beat up, especially in the backfield.

Lonoke’s top two tailbacks, Josh Coleman (5-10, 190) and Deven Mosely (5-9, 220), and fullback Chandler Elmore (5-10, 195) are questionable for Friday’s game with ankle injuries, and Beebe’s 2,000-yard rusher from a season ago, Tripp Smith (5-11, 195), has been ruled out for week two after injuring a finger in a weight-lifting accident just before the start of the regular season.

Lonoke will also be without a starting wide receiver because he was ejected in last week’s game against Star City. He’ll be eligible to return in week three.

With Coleman and Mosely slowed by injuries, Lonoke junior Joe Carter (5-10, 170) took the bulk of the second-half carries last Friday against Star City, and for Beebe, sophomore back Xavier Jones (6-2, 240), who rushed for more than 2,000 yards in junior high last year, had the most carries against Greenbrier.

Both offenses prefer to run the ball first from their varied offensive formations. The Jackrabbits like to run it out of their Power Spread formation, while Beebe likes to wear opponents down in the trenches with Shannon’s Dead-T attack.

Shannon still remembers Coleman’s performance against his defense last year, and he said he was impressed with junior quarterback SaVonte Rountree (6-1, 175), who led Lonoke in rushing last week.

“Their running back (Coleman) had a good game against us last year,” Shannon said. “They got a new quarterback that looked really good Friday night against Star City, especially running the ball. I heard he was a real good passer but not much of a runner, but he ran the ball exceptionally well Friday night.”

Like Shannon is with Lonoke, Bost is well aware of what Beebe’s going to bring offensively, and who the Badgers will bring it with.

“They just line up in two tight ends in that Dead-T formation and they’re going to come running at you,” Bost said. “The kid who was in junior high last year (Jones), he is just a man-child in there. It’s same ole Beebe. They’re just going to line up and come at you behind that big offensive line.”

Defensively, Beebe lines up in a 5-2 front compared to Lonoke’s base 4-3, and both teams’ defensive strengths is shutting down the run game. However, both teams’ defenses struggled stopping their week one opponent’s passing attacks.

Rountree and Beebe senior quarterback Aaron Nunez (5-8, 135) can both make critical throws when called upon to do so, but with both teams preferring to run first, Shannon and Bost both expect another physical game between the two rivals come Friday night.

“Their entire defense stuffed our rear ends last year, and they’ve got most of them back,” Shannon said of Lonoke’s defense. “So we’re expecting a dogfight from their defense Friday night.”

“We need to be physical this week,” Bost said. “That’s what Beebe’s going to be. They’re going to line up and hit you in the mouth and if they can get 3 yards a pop they’re happy with that.

“They’ve got three big ole down linemen (on defense), and that’s the smallest part of our team is our offensive linemen. So we’ve got to be able to control those guys there.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lakeside takes on Hillside

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears hope to carry the momentum of their big second half last week into its week-two road game Friday at Hot Springs Lakeside. The Bears scored 21 unanswered points to win 41-18 at Vilonia last week, but head coach Jim Withrow thinks his team will need to be better this time.

“That’s it,” said Withrow. “We’ve just got to be better because we’re playing a better team. I think Lakeside has more speed than we saw at Vilonia, and they attack hard on defense. There’s going to be six coming at you on every play.”

The Rams’ defense proved very strong in its first game, a 36-0 shutout of class 4A Lincoln, who went 11-2 and advanced to the state semifinals last year.

While the Rams took care of the Wolves easily, Withrow believes his team will have more speed for Lakeside to deal with than Lincoln did.

The goal is to utilize that speed and make the blitz-happy Rams pay for playing such a high-risk defense.

“We hope we can,” Withrow said. “With a defense like that it’s hit or miss. If you hit, you hit it big, but if you don’t pick it up, it can cost you big, too. I thought the offensive line played really well against Vilonia, but it’s going to be a different challenge this week.”

Lakeside presents a much different challenge for Sylvan Hills’ defense, too. Vilonia played a two-tight, Double Wing power brand of football. Lakeside’s tackles will be 15 yards apart and the ball will be flying around the air most of the time.

Last year’s game was a wild one, with the Bears coming out on top 45-41. Withrow can see a similar game taking place this week, but believes his defense can improve upon last year’s performance.

Sylvan Hills’ coaches are still trying to find depth on the defense. The Eagles came close to scoring a couple of times in the second half. When a few offensive starters were inserted into the defense, the Vilonia drives were thwarted.

“We’re trying to play as many people one way as we can,” Withrow said. “When they got close in the second half we’d put some offensive guys in there, some of our seniors, and they’d lock it down. Overall I think the defense played well, but for the most part they’re younger guys. I think they’re coming along. We didn’t expect them to start out shutting everybody down. There’s not a whole lot of experience over there. But down the road, we’re going to have to get some mileage out of those younger guys on defense if we’re going to go very far.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot hosts Catholic in home game

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers are looking to get their first win of the season in Friday night’s home opener at Panther Stadium, which will be a nonconference matchup against the Little Rock Catholic High Rockets.

Both teams will be looking for their first win as the Panthers and Rockets are each coming off competitive week one games. Cabot lost 24-22 at Conway last Friday and Catholic lost a 17-7 contest to North Little Rock last Thursday.

“They gave North Little Rock all they wanted,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “In fact, they were down 10-7 and North Little Rock scored one late to put it away. They gave them all they wanted. Catholic is always a solid team.

“They’re well-coached. (Catholic coach John) Fogleman does a good job. They’re going to be well-drilled. It’s going to be a tough game.”

Like Cabot, the Rockets return just three starters on offense, but their starting quarterback, Andre Sale (6-2, 205), who was a backup last year, saw some playing time against Cabot in last year’s meeting and had some success against the Panthers’ defense, including a 27-yard touchdown pass.

“Their quarterback threw the ball well,” Malham said. “That first drive against North Little Rock, just precision.”

Catholic will line up in the Spread formation on offense, and a 3-4 on defense. The Rockets, like the Panthers, return six starters on that side of the ball, and they do a good job of swarming to the football.

“They get after it on defense,” Malham said. “They swarm to the ball. They’re well-coached and they just have a lot of kids that look like they like to play football.”

Although disappointed in last week’s loss, Malham said he was pleased with how his youthful team competed against Conway, whom is ranked No. 7 in class 7A.

The Panthers had as many as six sophomores at once in on defense in last Friday’s season opener, and on offense, with nine new starters, Cabot amassed more than 400 yards.

“We’re just going to have to execute and get off the ball,” Malham said. “Get a body on a body and execute. I was pleased with the way we moved the ball. With nine new starters, we had over 400 yards of offense. That’s a great night.

“Getting over 300 is nice and when you get over 350 I feel like you’ve got to win the ball game.”

Not all of Cabot’s yards came on the ground, either. Sophomore quarterback, Jarrod Barnes, completed 13 of 18 passes, and 12 of those passes were caught by senior wideout Jake Ferguson. Malham said they’ll keep throwing it if the opportunity presents itself on Friday.

“Jarrod threw it real well,” Malham said. “Ferguson caught 12 of them. We threw it a little more because we can. I think we had maybe one three-and-out the whole night. The rest of the time we moved it pretty good.”

Even with the success the Panthers had against Conway, the head coach says his team made plenty of mistakes that will need to be corrected in order to give itself a chance to beat Catholic on Friday.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” Malham said. “We made some foolish mistakes, but that’s going to happen.

“They kept hustling. They didn’t quit. So I feel like before it’s all said and done, when these kids get a little experience, it’s going to be a good group.”