Saturday, September 20, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers cruise against War Eagles, as expected

By ANN THARPSpecial to The Leader

When Cabot traveled to Class 5A J.A. Fair’s War Eagle Stadium Friday night, it was expected that the Panthers would dominate for a lopsided victory.

The Panther’s offense had 319 yards from scrimmage and an 88-yard punt return for a 41-0 victory, while holding Fair to 44 yards form scrimmage.

“They’re struggling right now,” said Cabot head coach Mike Malham. “They’re playing a lot of young kids, and they’ve got a new coach that’s doing the right things. Next year when we play them it’s not going to be near this easy. They’re going to get better. They’ve got some good players, and they played hard.

“Our kids are playing good right now. We had a great win against Catholic last week, a good close one against Conway, had a chance to win it, didn’t. Next week is going to be a big one. North Little Rock comes to our place, and usually the winner of that game has a pretty good chance to win the conference. We’ve got to go to the practice field, keep improving, and hopefully next week we can play with that team from North Little Rock that has probably the best talent in the state.”

Fair had the first possession of the ball game on their own 10-yard line. That did not last, as they fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. Tristan Bulice recovered for the Panthers on the 5-yard line. Jalen Hemphill carried to the one-yard line, and Jess Reed scored the touchdown from there. The extra point try by Christian Underwood was no good, and Cabot led 6-0.

The War Eagles were helped on their next drive by a roughing the kicker penalty, but the Panther defense stiffened, and a big hit by Bulice forced another punt.

Kolton Eads had a 29-yard run, and Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes picked up 13 yards on a fourth and five on the next Panther possession. Barnes hit Jake Ferguson for a 27-yard touchdown pass to complete the drive. Again, the PAT was no good, and the lead was 12-0 with 1:15 to go in the first quarter.

Logan Melder set up the next Cabot score with a pass interception on the Fair 14-yard line. Eads carried to the 2-yard line, into the end zone for the touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion. The Panther lead was now 20-0.

After the defense forced another Fair punt, Barnes carried on a keeper on the first play from scrimmage for a 42-yard touchdown scamper. Eads again added the two-point conversion and the lead grew to 28-0.

Ferguson dropped the next War Eagle punt, but picked it up and returned it 88 yards for another Panther touchdown. Michael Villanueva kicked the extra point for a 35-0 Cabot advantage.

The sportsmanship rule was in effect the second half, so with the clock running, the Panthers only had two possessions and the War Eagles one. On Cabot’s first, quarterback Braxton Burton led the team, and runs by several new backs, including a 17-yarder by Brock Bottorff, and a 16-yarder by William Niles, took the ball to the Fair 1-yard line before a fumble turned the ball over to the War Eagles.

The next Panther drive started on the Fair 45-yard line. The offense picked up three first downs, and on second and goal from the 5, Spencer Nickell carried the ball in for the score. The extra point was blocked, setting the margin at 41-0 as the clock expired.

Eades had 79 yards, one touchdown, and two two-point conversions. Barnes had 61 yards, one rushing touchdown and passed for a touchdown. Ferguson had the receiving touchdown and the punt return for touchdown.

Next week’s game against the Charging Wildcats will be at Panther Stadium at 7:00.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Falcons escape JHS in five

Leader sports editor

The crosstown rivalry match between Jacksonville and North Pulaski turned out to be a classic Thursday night at the Devils’ Den at JHS. The heavily favored Lady Falcons were stretched to five games and the home team had all the momentum early in the decisive game five, but a timeout helped the team regroup and a monster service game by Payton Mullen lifted the Lady Falcons to a 3-2 victory by scores of 25-20, 20-25, 25-21, 16-25 and 15-9.

“We didn’t play well,” said North Pulaski coach Ben Belton. “We’re not playing well. We didn’t play like we’re capable of playing until that fifth set.”

Jacksonville entered the fifth set with all the momentum. In game four, Lady Red Devil senior Bailea Mitchell took serve with her team trailing 11-9, and served until Jacksonville held a commanding 18-11 lead. She served two aces during that run while Terionna Stewart and Emily Lovercheck each had kills.

North Pulaski closed the gap to 22-16, but the Lady Red Devils ended it with three-straight points to carry momentum into game five.

North Pulaski scored the first point on a service break, but Jacksonville broke right back and Mitchell took serve again. She served up two-straight aces for a 3-1 lead and Belton quickly called timeout, something he waited six points to do during Jacksonville’s game-four run.

“I told them it stops here,” Belton said of his timeout message. “I said it’s time you girls start playing like you’re capable of playing; start playing like you’re better than them because you are better than them and you need to start playing like it.”

The encouragement worked; because NP broke on the first serve after the timeout, and Mullen took serve for NP.

She immediately hit an ace down the right sideline, and teammate Kiarra Evans blocked a Stewart kill attempt for the second point. Evans and Stewart met at the net again on the next point. This time Stewart’s hit bounced hard off Evans’ block and went straight towards the ground on NP’s side, but Mullen was in perfect cover position for the get to keep the ball alive. NP won the point and the streak continued. Evans got her 14th kill to make it 7-3 and Mullen served up another ace for an 8-3 lead. Evans then scored on another block of a Lovercheck tip that didn’t go high enough to make it 9-3. After two unforced errors by Jacksonville, the streak finally ended at 12-3 with another Mullen ace.

Mullen finished the match with a 29 of 30 serving percentage and 10 aces. North Pulaski scored 24 points off Mullen serves.

Evans led all players with 15 kills and four blocks that scored for the Lady Falcons. Jacksonville actually finished with more team kills, but spread the wealth more, and finished with far more unforced errors. Stewart led Jacksonville with 10 kills and four blocks. Kymberly House had seven kills, a block and two aces. Mitchell finished with six kills and also led Jacksonville in serving. Jacksonville scored 23 points off Mitchell serves in the match.

Lovercheck had five kills for Jacksonville and Raigen Thomas had five for North Pulaski.

The match had potentially big playoff implications. Coming into Thursday’s match, both teams had been beat by the top three teams in the league, and beaten everyone else. Thursday’s match gives the Lady Falcons the upper hand in the race for the fourth spot from the 5A Central, but Belton still has higher goals than that.

“I think we’re going to beat them all at least one,” Belton said of Pulaski Academy, Sylvan Hills and Beebe, who his team has not played in a conference match. “If we can get over these lulls like we had in game four tonight, we can beat all those teams. We just have lapses where we lose focus and stop playing well. But for the most part, we play better when we play the better teams. When we played the others, we play down, and I don’t know how to stop that.”

Beebe beat North Pulaski last Saturday in the Vilonia tournament, and will meet for the first time in a league match on Thursday.

Jacksonville will face Mills at home on Tuesday and travel to McClellan on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther girls get historic victory

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers pulled off their biggest win of the year, and maybe in at least a decade Tuesday when it beat Mountain Home in straight sets Tuesday at Panther Arena – marking the first time Cabot has beaten the Lady Bombers in a long time.

“My assistant coach is telling me she thinks this is the first time Cabot has ever beaten Mountain Home,” said first-year Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “We worked very hard this week preparing for that match and they went out and executed what we worked on.”

After what Chanthaphasouk called a bad all-around performance at North Little Rock a week earlier, Cabot almost pulled off an even bigger upset last Thursday, losing in five sets to powerhouse Marion. But the head Panther hesitates to call that match, or the quick win over Mountain Home a corner-turning match.

“In volleyball no match is a corner-turning match,” Chanthaphasouk said. “You never know how you’re going to play from one match to the next, especially with a team as young as this one. We just need to keep working on improving in all the areas we need to improve, and keep trying to carry that preparation onto the court like we did tonight.”

While Cabot won in straight sets, all three sets were extremely close. Scores were 25-23 twice and 25-21. A big focus in preparation for the match was getting hands and arms in the way of the Lady Bombers’ big hitter, senior Katie Dunn.

“We just wanted to get a hand on the ball so she would know we were there,” Chanthaphasouk said of Dunn. “It doesn’t matter if you block everything, just get a hand on it and make her start thinking about it. I thought Kristen Walker did a great job of that. Haley (Callison) did very well – all our front row players.”

Walker also had three big kills early in game two that helped the Lady Panthers climb back into the game after a fast start by the Lady Bombers.

“She had one of her best matches tonight,” Chanthaphasouk said about Walker. “It’s all about confidence for her. She’s just a junior and didn’t have much varsity experience. She was a little unsure of herself early on, but she’s really improving.”

Callison, a senior, is also getting back into top form after injuries kept her sidelined and slowed for most of the first few games. She finished off game two with a big kill after the Lady Bombers had rallied to within 24-23.

It wasn’t all victories for Cabot this week, however. The Lady Panthers went on the road Thursday to face juggernaut Jonesboro, and lost in four games.

The week’s matches leaves Cabot 3-4 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Mountain Home beat Little Rock Central in four on Thursday, and is now 9-3 and 3-2.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills plows over Greyhounds

Leader sports editor

What was supposed to be a battle of high-scoring offenses turned into a one-sided rout Friday at Blackwood Field in Sherwood. The Sylvan Hills Bears crushed the Newport Greyhounds 48-9 in their home opener that featured the largest non-playoff crowd in school history.

The community of Sherwood turned out in droves to see the first game on the new field turf surface that was completed last week. It was a much-needed upgrade that was paid for almost entirely through private donations from community members.

The overflow crowd was in for a treat.

“This was a big night for Sylvan Hills,” said Bears’ coach Jim Withrow. “It was a big night for our community and a big night for Pulaski County Special School District. Anyone who thought we can’t turn this thing around here, I think we proved them wrong tonight.”

Sylvan Hills scored on every drive in the first half except for the last one, when it took over on downs on its own 34 and threw an interception on the Newport 34.

But it was the defense that showed drastic improvement from the first two games, holding the potent Greyhound offense to just one touchdown, and constantly showing up in the Newport backfield when the Hounds were forced to resort to the passing game.

“I think our defense is just getting better and better,” Withrow said. “That defensive line was outstanding tonight. Tyler Davis gets hurt in the summer, so Fred (Williams) comes in, winds up playing tailback and is playing well. Tyler comes back. We wanted to play him and we needed a defensive end. He had played there some before and winds up sewing that position up. Sometimes bad things become a blessing in disguise.

“He’s helped, Tyler Reeves has come in and played really well. The guys in the secondary, Brandon Bracely, James freaking Waller, (DeAngelo) Bell, they just haven’t been beaten deep. We made every play we needed to make. We bent but didn’t break. It was an excellent performance by those guys.”

The Bears got a stop and forced a Newport punt on the first drive of the game. The offense took over at its own 36 and needed just seven plays to score. Senior tailback Marlon Clemons went 12 yards on second and 10 and quarterback Trajan Doss kept for 16 more on the next play. Three plays later from the Newport 18-yard line, tailback Fred Williams went up the middle for the score with 7:52 left in the first quarter.

Newport answered right back, scoring on an eight-play, 77-yard drive, but the Bears scored the next 40 points of the game to make it a blowout.

Starting on its own 26, Sylvan Hills went that distance in just six plays, and was aided by a pass interference penalty that the Newport faithful did not agree with.

That put the ball at the 34-yard line, and the Bears needed just two more plays to score. Doss kept on the option for 11 yards, and then kept on the quarterback draw for the final 15. The extra point made it 14-7 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.

The Sylvan Hills defense got the ball back when it held Greyhound tailback Ben Collier to a 2-yard gain on fourth and 4.

The offense took over on the Newport 47 and Clemons went 20 yards on second and 4 to the Greyhound 21. Three plays later, Doss went under center for the only time in the half on fourth and 1, and the Sylvan Hills offensive line pushed forward for a 5-yard gain and first and goal at the 7-yard line.

Two plays later, Doss kept on the draw play again for another touchdown with 10:07 left in the half.

Newport then went on a 13-play drive to the Sylvan Hills 13-yard line, but on fourth and 1, Davis sacked quarterback Gunnar Bullard for a 2-yard loss to give the ball back to the Sylvan Hills offense.

Doss kept on the option and went 35 yards to the Newport 49 on the first play of the drive. Two more plays gained 8 yards, setting up third and 2.

Newport jumped off sides to give the Bears a first down, then jumped again to make it first and 5. Doss went to the end zone on the next play, where receiver Cameron Dews was mauled as he tried to haul in the pass. The flag gave the Bears first down at the 16, and Williams got 12 of it on the next play. He got the final four on the next snap and Christian Bachen’s extra point made it 28-7 with 2:34 left in the first half.

The Bears’ defense forced another stop after Newport had driven into Bear territory. On third and 10, Hagen Jones sacked Bullard for a 13-yard loss to set up fourth and 23 and forcing a punt that only traveled 23 yards.

But Doss made his only mistake of the half after driving to the Newport 47. Dews was running wide open between the hash marks and a lofted pass would have been a sure touchdown, but Doss threw a bullet right to linebacker De’Andre Elston to thwart the drive.

The Bears scored on the fourth play of the second half. After two Clemons carries gained 49 yards, Williams went the last 9 to make it 35-7.

Newport gained just seven yards before punting on the ensuing drive, and the Bears scored quickly again.

Doss hit Clemons for a 30-yard gain, then found Dews for another 23 before punching it in from 1 yard out. Zac Brown’s extra point attempt was no good, meaning the mercy rule would have to wait, but it didn’t have to wait long.

The Greyhounds fumbled it away on their second play of the next drive, and Sylvan Hills scored again in seven plays to make it 48-7 with 4:11 left in the third quarter.

Newport got a safety with seconds remaining in the game to set the final margin.

Sylvan Hills piled up 405 total yards to just 208 for Newport, who only had 94 total yards in the final three quarters combined.

Clemons led Sylvan Hills in rushing with 106 yards on eight carries. Williams had 16 carries for 93 yards and three touchdowns.

Doss ran 10 times for 98 yards, and completed 4 of 7 pass attempts for 91 yards and one interception.

Sylvan Hills will open conference play in the 5A-Central next week at home against Mills University Studies. The Comets are 1-2 and lost 56-25 to Star City on Friday.

Friday, September 19, 2014

TOP STORY >> Pit bull kills neighbor’s horse

Leader staff writer

The owner of a pit bull dog that killed a horse pleaded not guilty in Ward District Court on Tuesday to violating Lonoke County’s vicious dog ordinance, a misdemeanor.

The dog remains in quarantine by order of the Lonoke County sheriff.

Jeremy Taylor, 32, of 218 Ruby Lane, is set to go on trial Tuesday, Oct. 7. If he is found guilty, he faces a fine of up to $500.

The sheriff’s office plans to ask the judge for restitution, the cost of burying the horse and an order for the dog to be put down.

“This is the first time we’ve had a dog attack take down a horse. It could have taken down a child or a person,” Lonoke County Deputy Michael Kindall said.

He said the dog may have broken free from a logging chain.

According to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office report, deputies were called at 7 a.m. Sept. 4 to 172 Ruby Lane, a mile outside of Ward.

The property owner, 65-year-old Mildred Paul, alleges that a brown pit bull got into her fenced pasture and started chasing her American paint horse. Paul said the pit bull started biting the horse on its back leg and chased the horse into a barbed-wire fence.

The horse fell to the ground, and the dog continued biting its front shoulders and neck. That horse died while Paul’s other horse and dachshund puppy were bitten several times.

She said Taylor was notified and came to retrieve his dog. He took the dog back to his home and chained it in the area it is usually kept.

Paul told The Leader after court that she had owned her horse, Sundance, for 23 years -— since 1991. “Sundance was just a big baby. He was part of the family. He was the love of my life. If you were around him, he would demand attention. If you weren’t looking at him, he would bump you or tug on your shirt. He had the personality of a person,” Paul said.

She said her oldest granddaughter, 19, has a form of cerebral palsy. She has been riding Sundance since she was six months old. When her granddaughter came over, Sundance would stand at the fence and nicker until they took her over and they could see each other. He would put his head down so they could show love to each other, Paul said.

Her second horse, Beauty, was bitten under her eye and leg. “It was like Sundance was throwing the dog away from her. Beauty mourns him and stopped by his grave,” Paul said.

The horses were together for eight years.

Paul’s dachshund was bitten on his hip and neck. He had to be taken to the vet and treated for puncture wounds.

“Little Man was sore for a couple of days,” Paul said. “I just want the (pit bull) euthanized.”

Paul is trying to get a petition to have pit bulls banned from Lonoke County.

“I know some are good, but there are more that are bad. I don’t think there is any place in Lonoke County for them. We’ve got too many kids,” she said.

Paul suggested that pit bulls be kept behind a 10-foot fence, tagged and fixed. She said the owners should be required to have a $100,000 insurance policy.

The Lonoke County ordinance defines a dangerous dog as one that, without being provoked and while off of the owner’s property, kills or causes bodily harm to an animal belonging to another person.

TOP STORY >> Mayor: District in 2016

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s new school district will be totally on its own in at least two years, according to Mayor Gary Fletcher.

The mayor, still excited about Tuesday’s 95 percent yes vote for the new 4,000-plus student school district, explained to the city council Thursday night what was next.

“Optimistically, we’d like to be on our own by next school year, but, realistically, it will probably be the 2016-17 school year,” he said.

His announcement of the vote totals brought a loud round of applause — one of two given the mayor by the council and guests at the meeting.

The mayor said the next step was to pick the interim school board. Anyone from he new school district can apply through the state Education Department. “The state is taking applications through the end of the month,” he said.

That board will be tasked to complete some serious groundwork, including hiring the district’s first superintendent, according to the mayor.

Once the deadline has passed for applications, a state-appointed committee — includes state Sens. Eddie Joe Williams, Jane English and Linda Chesterfield; state Reps. Mark Perry and Doug House, along with Representative-elect Bob Johnson and the mayor — would pick the initial set of leaders for the district. That list will then have to be approved by the state.

“I figure that will be sometime in November,” Fletcher said.

He added that the election results still have to be officially certified and that takes 30 days. Then the whole process goes back to the federal court for approval. “But we don’t expect any problems or delays there,” Fletcher said.

Once the interim board hires the superintendent, that person would work with Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess to complete the separation. The mayor likened it to divorce proceedings.

In talking about the election itself, Fletcher said the community came together in a way that was “just mind-boggling.

“I don’t think anyone has ever gotten 95 percent of the vote before. I don’t even have a 95 percent approval rating at home,” he quipped.

The mayor said the new school district brings with it a “blank canvass – a new beginning. We will have the ability to handpick the finest policies and programs and put them together here for our students.”

In other council business:

 Because of a vote at the last meeting to take locals bids for a new yard waste grinder rather than buy one off a national bid list, the public works department has had to truck waste to North Little Rock at a cost of about $5,000 a week. The city does have a small, 18-year-old grinder that is down for repairs. The department is trying to fix that to avoid the hauling costs while the city waits on bids.

 The mayor received another round of applause when Jim Durham, the director of administration, explained how the mayor and the city worked with the county and state to keep the tax collector’s office in Jacksonville in what will be a newly renovated space.

“We might have been able to get along without the tax collector, but then the assessor would have been gone and then residents would have to travel to Sherwood to take care of their licensing needs.”

The mayor added, “We just didn’t think our people needed to drive to another city for services.”

 In his monthly report to the council, Police Chief Kenny Boyd said his department responded to 3,770 complaint calls during August and made 392 arrests.

For August, there were no homicides reported, one sexual assault, no robberies, nine felony assaults, 17 burglaries, 89 thefts and 11 vehicle thefts.

Code enforcement officers responded to 171 assigned calls and 439 self-initiated calls in August. Officers issued 155 citations or warning letters, removed 139 signs and had 66 properties mowed because their grass was higher than is allowed by the city and owners did not take care of the situation. Owners will be billed for the work and liens could be placed on their properties.

 Public Works Director Jimmy Oakley, in his monthly animal shelter report, said the shelter received 86 dogs and 64 cats in August. Officials were able to return 42 dogs to their owners and adopt out 53 dogs and 20 cats. The shelter had 14 dogs and 33 cats euthanized.

One bite case was reported in August. A Shepherd mix bit a girl on the cheek as she was pulling the dog’s whiskers while it ate. The dog has been quarantined for 10 days.

 The council approved rezoning 109 Dennis Lane from C-2 (commercial) to R-0 (single-family home).

TOP STORY >> Killer worked at Cabot school gym

Leader editor-in-chief

A murderer who is serving a life sentence without parole was installing a wall mat this week at the Cabot Junior High North gym as part of a prison work-release program.

Glen Martin Green, who works inside the prison system for Arkansas Correctional Industries, has been in the factory and repair program at the Tucker Unit since 1990.

Green was part of the prison work crew at the junior high on Monday with an unarmed supervisor. School Superintendent Tony Thurman didn’t know Green was at the school until we contacted him on Thursday.

Thurman said, from now on, the district will insist that prisoners not be allowed on campus when students are in class.

Green, 60, is a former Air Force sergeant who, in 1974, kidnapped 18-year-old Helen Lynette Spencer at Little Rock Air Force Base, then raped, tortured and killed her in Lonoke County. He was convicted in Lonoke County Circuit Court in 1975.

He tortured and raped the young woman and dumped her body in a creek off Graham Road just inside Lonoke County.

I wrote about Green when he unsuccessfully sought clemency from Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2004.

Huckabee had considered granting Green clemency but backed off after we described how Green had killed the young woman.

Green beat Spencer with Chinese martial-arts sticks and raped her as she barely clung to life. He then ran over her with his car before throwing the teenager into Twin Prairie Bayou, her hand reaching up, as if begging for mercy.

Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham was upset when he found out Green was working on campus. He said he was sickened when he’d seen the photo in The Leader of the young woman reaching out from the water.

“They don’t need to have these convicted killers installing these things,” he said. “This guy travels around the state with minimal escorts and no shackles. It’s absurd.

“He killed a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her, and she lost it,” Graham continued. “Once I read what this guy had done, I was shocked they let him near our kids. We’re not supposed to have convicted murderers around our kids.”

Thurman confirmed Thursday that Green was working at the school gym.

“We purchase our safety mats for gyms from ACI (Arkansas Correctional Industries),” Thurman wrote in an email at week’s end. “Evidently, most schools use ACI and we’ve used them in the past.

“They were installing a wall mat in a gym on Monday. (Athletic Director Steve) Roberts worked with them and they have a supervisor with them at all times,” Thurman continued. “I do not agree with ACI allowing an individual with that type of criminal history to work in schools.

“We will certainly be having discussions on whether to continue with ACI based on the information you’ve provided,” he told us. “If we do continue to purchase any of the items they manufacture, it would need to be installed when school is not in session.”

When contacted, Stephen Williams, the warden at Tucker Unit, said Green, who is a trustee at the prison, was at Cabot Junior High North this week with an unarmed supervisor who accompanies prisoners to schools around Arkansas.

Williams said trustees also install furniture at state agencies and at Camp Robinson and Fort Chaffee.

The warden said Green has had no disciplinary problems.

“This inmate has done well for us,” Williams said. “We don’t let him out unsupervised.”

He said prisoners also make school-recreation equipment and metal beds for military installations, repair tanker trucks for volunteer fire departments and even make soap and detergent for state prisons.

Green, who could have applied for clemency again in 2007, hasn’t applied since, the warden said.

As a result of legislation passed during the worst excesses of the Huckabee years, governors must now tell us why they’re pardoning criminals. No violent criminals have been pardoned since Huckabee left office.

The publicity over the pardons and clemencies ended Huckabee’s streak of more than 1,000 commutations and pardons, the most by any governor since Orval Faubus.

Huckabee usually ignored us when we advised him not to free murderers and rapists, such as Wayne Dumond, who later killed two women in Missouri.

Against the advice of local prosecutors, Huckabee also pardoned a career criminal named Maurice Clemmons in 2004. Five years later, he killed four law-enforcement officers near Tacoma, Wash.

The governor was warned numerous times about letting Clemmons go free, but he wouldn’t listen.

At least Green is still behind bars, except when he works outside prison.

State prison officials told us Friday afternoon they will comply with Cabot’s request barring violent criminals from schools when children are in class.

“They will not be allowed to return to the Cabot School District unless we have that guarantee,” Thurman said Friday.

“According to my research, they have a good product,” the superintendent said. “We will continue to purchase items only if we are assured that they will only be installed when school is not in session.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

FEATURED STORY >> Mystery of women's prison

Leader staff writer

Daffodils planted uniformly, foundations buried 4 feet in the ground and the tale of one inmate who was likely the victim of a corrupt system are all that remain of the Arkansas State Farm for Women prison near Jacksonville.

That prisoner, Helen Ruth Spence Eaton, is the subject of Denise Parkinson’s book “Daughter of the White River.”

The author is continuing to uncover details about the Pea Farm, as the prison was known. She is asking people in the local community what they can recall about the prison.

But why is Parkinson on what she calls “a fact-finding mission?”

She said, “I want to know about the young women who were wronged. Helen was mistreated and forgotten. Other girls were, too. (The story of the prison) needs, for the sake of justice, to be told. It’s the least we can do.”

Parkinson explained, “It’s apparent that authorities went to great length to erase the history of the prison. There is reason to believe there was systematic enslavement for profit.

Women were treated as collateral for debts. (There was) a lot of injustice against women, (like) trafficking.”

David Y. Thomas’ “Arkansas and Its People: A History, 1541-1930,” states,

“Accommodations at the farm were inadequate. Fifteen women occupied a sleeping porch while another nine live in a tent house with screened sides and porch.”

The 185-acre Pea Farm was established by the Act of March 28, 1919, the article continues. Nine unpaid directors managed it, and five were required to be women. The Pea Farm began accepting prisoners on June 20, 1920.

Parkinson is working on another book, this one about the women sentenced to the Pea Farm.

She will be signing “Daughter of the White River” copies after 1 p.m. at the 12th annual North Pulaski Community Fest on Saturday, Sept. 27. The event ends with a fireworks show at 9 p.m.

Parkinson invites everyone with information about the prison to speak to her at the event. She is also willing to write research or museum grants for individuals who are interested in the topic.

Festival organizer Tommy Majors, who plans to build a historical exhibit at his general store, asked Parkinson to participate in the event after she attended a neighborhood watch meeting in the area.

At that meeting, a county resident presented Parkinson with 1930 census information for the State Farm for Women in the then-Gray Township of north Pulaski County.

The Pea Farm housed 24 female prisons that year, according to the list.

Their names were Myrtle McCuen, Lucile Freeman, Fredda Helman, E. Woolweaver, Emma Ray, Winona Green, Edna Edmondson, Mary Barnett, Callie Price, Juanita McGowne, Fannie Brannon, Bertie Owens, Vinia Beck, Margaret Lowe, Hazle Dean, Helen Higgins, Rudy Brannon, Helen Smith, Mildred Frost, Rena Palmer, Atona Box, Hazle Underwood, Mary Dodd and Anis Crocker.

Parkinson noted, “Every road (near the prison site) is named after a lost woman.” Some of those roads may bear the names of the women who were listed.

The youngest were Lowe and Dean at age 19. The eldest was Edmondson, who was 45.
Twelve prisoners were married. Six were divorced, and the rest were single.

Freeman and Helman are listed as the Pea Farm’s cooks. Woolweaver was a server. Ray was a maid while Green was charged with sewing. McGowne worked in the laundry.
A few of the women were from out of state. Woolweaver was from Minnesota.

Barnett, Palmer, Box and Underwood were from Oklahoma. Smith and Frost were from Texas.  Brannon was from Louisiana while Higgins was from Illinois.

According to Thomas’ article, the Pea Farm housed 242 women between September 1920 and January 1925.  An average of 33 inmates lived there during superintendent Mary Graham’s administration in 1925.

The article states that Pea Farm prisoners were convicted of felonies, prostitution, habitual intoxication, using drugs, contributing to delinquency and running a disorderly house.
In fact, the man who owns the old prison property now discovered that his motorcycle-riding aunt was sent there for being a rebellious teenager.

But the most well-known Pea Farm resident was Helen Ruth Spence Eaton. A native of the riverboat community near DeWitt on the White River in Arkansas County, she was convicted of two murders in the 1930s.

Helen was born Ruth Spence, but later changed her first name.

She married Buster Eaton when they were teenagers, but the marriage didn’t last long. Helen returned to using her maiden name, Spence, after they divorced.

Parkinson interviewed L.C. Brown and reviewed the few historical documents that were available to write her book, which explores the culture of the people who lived in boathouses on the White River and questions Spence’s tragic end delivered by a trustee guard during her fourth or fifth attempt to escape the Pea Farm.

Trustee guards, prisoners who had received life sentences, replaced paid guards for a time.
Parkinson met Brown while researching the history of the White River people. Her family has ties to that area.

Brown met Spence when he was 4 years old, and she was killed when Brown was 8.
After the book was published, one reader took up the charge to help Parkinson continue her research.

The author said her “foot soldier,” mailman Johnny Carver, struck proverbial gold recently on a visit to the North Little Rock funeral home where Spence’s body was sent. The home’s ledger listed her date of birth as Feb. 23, 1912.

Spence was 22 when she died. Newspapers from that time and several official documents provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction (which Parkinson is still submitting FOIA requests to) incorrectly listed her age as 21 or 18 on dates when she was 22 or 20.
Parkinson suggests the mistake is evidence that the system didn’t care enough about the Pea Farm’s women to document their correct ages.

Spence, a 5-foot-1-inch brunette who weighed 135 pounds and wore a five-and-a-half shoe size, was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of Jack Worls.

She first made headlines as the teenager who shot her father’s killer with a pistol inside a crowded DeWitt courtroom. Worls was accused of killing her father, Cicero Spence.

According to newspaper clippings, Spence shot him two or four times in the back in January 1931.

She believed the jury was going to acquit Worls. Where Spence was from, people believed in “river justice”— an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

The girl showed no remorse after the shooting, simply stating that Worls had killed her father.

According to Parkinson’s book, Worls also assaulted Spence’s stepmother when Cicero was killed. The stepmother died from her injuries before the trial, and her witness statement concerning the murder was suppressed because of a technicality, according to news clippings.

Spence was convicted of manslaughter and began her two-year sentence at the Pea Farm on Oct. 11, 1932.

While awaiting her trial for the Worls slaying, she worked at a DeWitt diner owned by Jim Bohots.

Bohots was shot with his own gun in February 1932. He was found inside his car at a “trysting spot,” but Spence was ruled out as a suspect.

The girl’s shocking confession to the Bohots murder came less than a week after she was released on parole from the Pea Farm.

Spence told the director of detectives in Little Rock that Bohots had attempted to sexually assault her and his murder had been heavy on her conscience.

She was convicted of second-degree murder in that slaying and returned to the prison here to serve another 10-year sentence.

Spence reportedly tried to escape from the Pea Farm four or five times.

Parkinson said one attempt involved Spence sewing checkered tablecloths to the inside of her prison dress.

The author told The Leader that prison officials had brought Pea Farm inmates to West Memphis to work as prostitutes when Spence went into a bathroom, turned the dress inside out and walked away without being recognized.

After the first three escapes, a special wooden cage was built to house Spence, according to several news clippings and Parkinson.

The author’s findings, backed by several of the same clippings, said the afternoon sun shone on the cell which would reach unbearable temperatures.

The clippings claim that Spence was hospitalized after having two heart attacks while inside the special cell. She was often treated with enemas when she was ill at the prison, Parkinson noted.

The author also found documents confirming that Spence was stripped naked and splayed over a barrel at least once to receive lashings for her bad behavior.

According to a newspaper clipping, Spence was sent to the Hospital for Nervous Diseases in 1933 so that her sanity could be evaluated.

During that brief stay, she wrote many poems that magazines declined to publish.

Spence’s last attempt to escape the Pea Farm was fatal, and she may have known that. The media reported that Spence left a note in her cell that read, “To whom it may concern: I’ll never be taken alive.”

Prison trustee and convicted murderer Frank Martin shot her behind the ear on July 11, 1934 —about 24 hours after the last escape. He used a shotgun loaded with buckshot, according to an Arkansas Democrat article.

Martin claimed she had reached for the revolver she stole from his room at the prison instead of putting her hands up when the posse he was a part of caught her eight or nine miles from the Pea Farm.

A grand jury investigated and cleared Martin of the murder because of how the law establishing the use of trustee guards was worded.

That trustee-guard system came under fire after Spence’s death. Thirty-four convicts were killed in the 18 months that system was implemented under superintendent A.G. Stedman’s administration, according to a news clipping.

Stedman resigned or was forced to resign. His replacement, S. L. Todhunter, disbanded the trustee-guard system.

He fired the Pea Farm’s assistant superintendent V.O. Brockman and his wife, who was the superintendent because a woman had to fill that post.

Mr. Brockman was with Martin when Spence was killed, but he was acquitted of an accessory to murder charge.

Thousands visited Spence’s body as it lay at rest at Owens & Co., a North Little Rock funeral home.

And rumors accompanied the tragedy. The Daring Detective magazine ran a story titled, “Arkansas’ Gun Moll and the Prison Love Nest.” It claimed Spence and another prisoner were romantically involved with the Pea Farm’s assistant superintendent.

An interview with the other prisoner is included, but an endnote states that the magazine gave her a fictitious name to keep her anonymous.

As a result of the rumors, two doctors performed Spence’s autopsy while three doctors witnessed it. They told the news media that she had not been pregnant.

Dr. Lawson Aday neglected to remove the bullets from behind Spence’s ear, telling the media that doing so would not reveal any new information on the circumstances of her tragic end.

Spence’s uncle, Pless Spence, claimed her body. Her disabled sister lived in Tulsa, Okla., with their grandmother.

A lawyer questioned the Pea Farm’s new superintendent, Mrs. Ben F. Maddox, about items that were missing from her belongings that were returned to the family.

Maddox wrote that they would need to speak with the undertaker about a locket Spence was wearing when she was killed.

Maddox wrote that the prisoner had given her Bible, dress and watch they asked for to her “closest” friend, a federal prisoner named Catherine.

The life history Spence reportedly wrote was not recovered. Maddox wrote that Spence often spoke as if she was going to write it but that officials were not aware that she ever did.

Spence was buried under a cedar tree at the Saint Charles Cemetery in Arkansas County next to her father. Her grave was unmarked until a reader of Parkinson’s book donated a plaque to hang around the tree.

The plaque that was placed there in May reads, “Beloved Daughter of the White River Helen Spence, Gone But Not Forgotten.”

Parkinson is also bringing a petition to pardon Spence to the North Pulaski Community Fest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Ex-police chief: I can do better

To the editor:

I first considered running for mayor in January 2014 when our faithful employee benefits were drastically reduced. Some of these cuts range from a 2 to 4 percent reduction in their salaries.

While I appreciate the fact that we didn’t lose any employees to layoffs, I still feel the real reason behind the cuts were due to decreasing revenues, increases in expenses and incurring debt.

We must bring Jacksonville back to fiscal stability by running it like a business and get back to the pay as you go, rather than finance big projects and make monthly payments. If it makes good business sense we will do it, if it doesn’t we should pass on it.

Many of the local business owners that I have spoken to feel that the city has forgotten about them and are looking to hit a home run with a big box store type business.

This will further reduce the chances for the success of our own mom and pop stores in our city. It is the mom and pop stores that can turn our local economy around.

Rather than the money going to a corporate office in another state all of the money spent at a local store stays local. This does not mean I am not an advocate for more restaurants and industry, but it is necessary to take care of our current local business persons.

I will eliminate the director of administration’s position in the mayor’s office and the out-of-state consultant. I will be looking at bringing in an economic-development specialist to work along side our chamber of commerce.

With this vision, I see employers coming into our city creating jobs for our citizens and boosting our economy.

I will put emphasis into the beautification of our city by tearing down old dilapidated buildings that are eyesores, clean and refurbish our existing city parks, and place more street lights throughout our city. Doing this would be not only for aesthetics but also for safety and welfare of our citizens and their property.

In addressing some of the rumors that are going around about our Parks and Recreation Department, my vision has been and always will be to place emphasis on our parks and not allow them to ever get in the condition that they are now. Additionally, I would never consider closing the AG and FF shooting range and this is not my sole purpose for running for mayor.

I feel strongly that together as a community we can bring Jacksonville back to its vibrancy, create a unified direction and fulfill our true potential as a community.

Gary Sipes


EDITORIAL >> New district is approved

It’s finally happening — Jacksonville is getting its own school district.

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District, which has not built a new school in the city in about 30 years and barely maintained the basic upkeep of the old ones either.

A drawn-out desegregation lawsuit, poor test results, dire financial problems, a self-destructive school board and an administration that was inept and uninterested in Jacksonville’s schools: Residents showed they’ve had enough.

Their vote will improve the education of thousands of students. It will also help protect the future of Jacksonville by protecting property values, attracting young people to a community that’s seen many take flight to Cabot and Sherwood and elsewhere.

The state Education Department took control of the troubled Pulaski County district and let Jacksonville slip away. Now PCSSD can try to solve its problems with fewer students while Jacksonville builds its own district in a year or two.

Jacksonville’s new school district is the first in the state in decades. An advisory school board will pave the way for an elected board that will have at least five members. They will concentrate on building new facilities and educating local students in Jacksonville, Little Rock Air Force Base and the rural area around Bayou Meto Elementary School.

The PCSSD school board in south Little Rock had just one Jacksonville representative and a history of poor leadership since Bobby Lester retired. The distant bureaucrats did not care about Jacksonville’s problems. No wonder they let the schools deteriorate.

PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess can rebuild his shrunken district while Jacksonville makes history with a district of its own that will compare favorably to Cabot, Beebe and Lonoke.

It will take time, but at least now, with an independent Jacksonville/north Pulaski County school district, the area will have the opportunity to build modern school buildings that attract middle-class families.

This is Jacksonville’s best chance at revitalization. Little Rock Air Force Base has offered land to the district for a new high school and elementary school on the base. Let the building begin.

TOP STORY >> County fair opens today

The Lonoke County Fair starts today and continues through Saturday at the fairgrounds near Hwy. 89 in Lonoke.

Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children and free for kids 6 and under.

The carnival is open from noon to 11 p.m. Armbands for unlimited rides are available for 6 to 11 p.m. today, 1 to 5 p.m. Friday and from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday.

Armbands cost $15 today and Thursday and $20 on Friday and Saturday.

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

On Thursday, there will be contests for sheep, swine, goats, horses and mules. The fair parade will start at 5 p.m. The rodeo queen horsemanship event 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 at 8 p.m. in the arena. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Redneck games include stick-horse racing, scoop races, goat untying, flag races, switch races, speed races, barrel pickup and barrel racing. Winners receive cash prizes. The entry fees are $5 per person or team for each event.

There will be horse and mule pulls, a children’s pet show, a cross cut saw contest and a talent show on Saturday.

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 furnishings, creative writing, photography, horticulture, food preparation and preservation.

TOP STORY >> Charge in baby’s death

John Bargar, 35, was charged on Sept. 4 with negligent homicide in the death of a baby girl.

According to the court affidavit, first responders were called at 1:52 a.m. Jan. 4 to 1406 S. First St. in Cabot because 2-month-old Annabell Strohm was not breathing.

Emergency personnel began first aid until MEMS arrived and transported the child to North Metro Medical Center.

According to the police report, Annabell had been placed on the couch by Debbie Bayles, the girl’s babysitter. Bayles said, when she went to bed, Bargar and the baby were in the living room. Bargar lay down with Annabell on a mattress on the living room floor.

Bayles said she got out of bed to get something to drink and checked on the baby.

She found the girl lying underneath Bargar. The baby was still warm and had stomach sounds, but she was pronounced dead at 2:28 a.m. at the hospital.

Bargar was still asleep when police arrived. Officers had to yell and shake him several times to wake him.

Bargar told police he had four glasses of wine before going to bed. Police performed a field-sobriety test on Bargar, which he failed.

When detectives interviewed Bayles on Jan. 6, she told police that, when she entered the living room, Bargar was halfway on the mattress lying on his stomach. He had his left arm lying across the baby, who was on her back. The baby was cold on one side and did not move.

Detectives spoke with Bargar on Jan. 7. Bargar told police he used methamphetamines on Jan. 1 and 2.

He said he slept through the commotion because he was a heavy sleeper. He said he had not “crashed” from using meth. Bargar said he did not feel intoxicated and the amount of alcohol he drank did not impair him.

According to the affidavit, the state medical examiner determined the cause of the child’s death to be accidental positional asphyxia.

The state Crime Lab determined that Bargar’s blood alcohol content was .09 and no other substances were detected.

Bargar will appear in Cabot District Court at 9 a.m. Dec. 16 and 17.

TOP STORY >> Historic vote establishes new district

Leader editor-in-chief

Jacksonville voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved forming a new school district, and organizers began making plans to ask the state Education Department to let local residents run their own district in a few weeks and elect a new board next September.

The final vote was 3,767-218, or 95 percent, in favor of the new district.

“Jacksonville is soaring higher,” said Daniel Gray after the votes were announced at the community center. His Education Corps spearheaded the drive for independence.

“I feel like I’m the mayor of a new city,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said after the results were announced.

Patrick Wilson, Education Corps’ legal adviser, said he will now seek an order from the state Board of Education to approve formation of a Jacksonville-area school district in October or November.

He said the new district’s advisory school board, which will be appointed by the state board in October, must divide school property with the Pulaski County Special School District. “Next September we’ll have a popularly elected school board,” Wilson said.

Jacksonville could then have its own school district once the state Education Department lifts its supervision of PCSSD in this part of the county. (See editorial, p. 8A.)

Wilson said his group would also negotiate with the state board on building new facilities. The deadline for making requests for facilities has passed, but Wilson said, because Jacksonville has not had its own district, there should still be time to make requests for facilities.

Jerry Guess, PCSSD superintendent, said he was happy for Jacksonville, which he expected would soon hire a superintendent and finance director.

“I supported this idea for a long time,” Guess told The Leader. “It will be a great benefit to Jacksonville in the long run. A lot of detail needs to be worked out.”

Bobby Lester, former PCSSD superintendent, said he would not seek a job in the new district but would help organize it and help calculate its budget.

“This is a great night, a historic night,” Lester said. “I’m going to be a big supporter. The hard work is still ahead of us.”

Back in the 1980s, Lester saw PCSSD lose 51 square miles and 11 schools when he was superintendent.

He said he was confident the new district would work out separating its buildings from PCSSD and budget for the future.

Former state Rep. Pat Bond was very pleased with the results, accepting many hugs and thanks from those who attended the watch party. She helped draft the law in 2001 that allowed the detachment and attended a meeting 37 years ago to kick off the effort to form a standalone district. The group raised $120 at that meeting.

On Tuesday, Bond said, “It’s been such a long haul...I can’t tell you how hard it’s been, mentally disturbing. All the people who were opposed out of town who I struggled with trying to make the way to where we stand...Who would have thought that there was no law to say that you could do this?”

The new district will include 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.

The following are initial results from each polling site:

 216 for and 36 against at Bayou Meto Baptist Church;

 121 for and two against at Berea Baptist Church;

 362 for and 14 against at First Baptist Church;

 92 for and 11 against at First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge;

 155 for and four against at First Presbyterian Church;

 16 for and none against at Harris Elementary School;

 42 for and 10 against at Kellogg Valley Baptist Church;

 399 for and 19 against at McArthur Assembly of God Church;

 249 for and none against at the Jacksonville Community Center;

 321 for and 10 against at the Jacksonville Senior Wellness and Activity Center;

 209 for and 12 against at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church;

 372 for and 19 against at The Venue at Chapel Hill; and

 1,188 for and 65 against at early voting locations.


Lonoke school board member Karen James was re-elected Tuesday. She defeated Philip Cole 87 to 36.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> JHS tries to leave last week behind

Leader sports editor

First order of business this week for the Jacksonville football team was to put last week behind it. The Red Devils went to Benton and took a 66-0 thumping from the Class 6A Panthers, and now stay on the road for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Little Rock Christian Academy on Friday.

Jacksonville coaches knew their team faced an uphill battle against the bigger, faster and deeper Panthers, and couldn’t afford mistakes. But mistakes it made. Jacksonville committed five turnovers. One resulted in a touchdown, another resulted in a 1-yard scoring drive, and all five eventually turned into points for the home team.

The Red Devils spotted their host seven points by giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff, and things continued spiral downwards from that point.

So pushing forward was the mantra of the day on Monday as the team began preparation for the Warriors.

“That’s behind us,” said first-year Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “It’s a learning process. We’re going to try to learn from it and move on. That game was what it was – just a bad, bad night to be a Red Devil.”

What did the team learn from it?

“One thing we learned is that when you have turnovers, things snowball on you,” Hickingbotham said. “We had five turnovers that turned into touchdowns. Special teams gave up a touchdown, that’s 42 points right there.”

Jacksonville also had a very difficult time moving the football. Benton brought a lot of pressure and Jacksonville wasn’t able to pick it up most of the time. Hickingbotham played 10 different linemen like he has in every game so far, but hopes to be able to reduce that to one unit by the time conference starts.

“It all starts up front and we found out we’re susceptible right now to that kind of pressure,” Hickingbotham said. “We didn’t pick things up very well and we weren’t able to move the ball. That’s what we’re striving and starving for right now is some consistency on offense. We’re still rotating 10 guys in there and hopefully we’ll find five of them that we know we can go with here pretty soon.”

The Warriors bring a suddenly swift team to the field compared to last year. With the addition of Division I prospect Damarea Crockett, a transfer from Camden-Fairview, at running back, to take some of the pressure off a stable of good receivers, the Warriors have made big strides of improvement since last year.

“Looking at last year’s film and this year’s, it’s like night and day,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re a much better team. They’ve got the Fairview kid at running back. They have a very fast receiver, a good possession receiver and a really good offensive line. It’s going to be another challenge for us for sure. It’s going to be a test.”

Joe Hampton is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound college prospect at receiver and Hunter McFarlane moves outside from tailback with the addition of Crocket (6-1, 200).

Pass protection has been a big key to the Warriors’ success this year. Quarterback Brooks Boshears has dropped back 70 times in two games, and been sacked only once.

LRCA opened with a 40-30 loss at Fountain Lake, but bounced back with a 44-33 win over White Hall at home last week.

“They had some hiccups against Fountain Lake that cost them, but they got some of those things taken care of and beat a solid football team in White Hall,” Hickingbotham said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We want to sew up some things and just get better. We want to be 1-2 in conference, and then another season begins.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears ready to open their new field against Newport

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills couldn’t have asked for a bigger game to play in its home opener Friday at 7 p.m. The 2-0 Bears will play host to 2-0 Newport of Class 4A in the final nonconference game of the regular season on the brand new turf surface at Bill Blackwood Field.

Friday’s matchup between the Bears and Greyhounds is arguably the state’s game of the week, and has all the capabilities of being the most exciting. It will feature two highly-potent offenses that are capable of breaking big play after big play after big play.

The Bears’ offense has been hitting on all cylinders since its week one win over Vilonia. Sylvan Hills won that game, 41-18, and the Bears also eclipsed the 40-point mark in their win over Hot Springs Lakeside last week.

The Bears beat Lakeside, 48-35, and racked up 453 yards of offense. Newport has already beaten two 5A teams to start the season. The Hounds beat Nettleton, 46-31, in week one, and handed Greene County Tech a 38-7 defeat last week.

Newport beat Sylvan Hills, 30-13, last year, and Bears’ coach Jim Withrow knows what the Greyhounds will bring Friday.

“They’re a very, very explosive group,” said Withrow. “It looks like they’ve got five, six or seven guys that can play in college. They look good. Their tailback, he’s a high level Division I tailback, and they’ve got everything to go with it.

“Their quarterback is very solid, and defensively, they’ve got a safety back there that looks like Troy Polamalu the way he plays. He goes 100 miles per hour and he is laying the wood.”

Like the Bears, Newport is a Spread team and has plenty of experience operating it. The Hounds finished 2013 with a 9-3 record and are favored to win their conference this year with seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, and a three-year starter at quarterback.

Gunnar Bullard (6-0, 175) threw for 2,205 yards and 19 TDs as a junior and junior tailback Carl Turner is in his third season with the high school team. He ran for a whopping 1,709 yards and 13 TDs as a freshman, and ran for 1,038 yards last season on an injured foot.

Turner is healthy this season, and has already impressed. Last week against GCT, Turner ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and he returned an interception 57 yards for a score late in the first half.

“He looks a lot faster than he did last year,” Withrow said of Turner. “He looks a lot more mobile than he was last year. You do this long enough you know a Division I tailback when you see one, and he’s a Division I tailback, no doubt.”

Bullard also had a good game against GCT. He ran for an 8-yard score and threw a 47-yard touchdown pass.

Withrow said the outcome of last year’s game between the two schools started at the line of scrimmage, where the Greyhounds were a lot more physical than his team was that night.

Defensively, Withrow said he expects Newport to give his offense, which returns eight starters from a season ago, multiple looks up front, and is expecting that Greyhound defense to blitz a lot.

“I think they’re going to give us multiple fronts,” Withrow said. “They’ll blitz a lot – put a lot of pressure on us. We’ve got to be ready for the blitz, and there are a lot of different ways to handle it.

“We’ve just got to execute,” Withrow said. “If we can execute, I think we can put ourselves in a good spot. If we don’t execute, we’re going to be playing behind all night.”

With all the hype around Friday’s game, Withrow believes the game will be a playoff-style showdown.

“Personally, I think this will be just like a playoff game,” Withrow said. “This will have the intensity of a playoff game. This will have the athletes as far as being a playoff game. That’s the thing about it, you want to play in the playoffs and you want to succeed in the playoffs, you need to win this game.”

SPORTS STORY >> McClellan plays host to Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

After getting a big win over rival Beebe of Class 5A last week, the Lonoke Jackrabbits will look to take down another 5A team Friday when they travel to Little Rock McClellan for the final nonconference game of the regular season. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Lonoke (1-1) has had little trouble against McClellan (0-2) since the two teams started playing one another. The Lions haven’t won a nonconference game since beating hapless Little Rock Fair in week two, 2009. McClellan has won just eight games the past seven seasons.

Despite the team’s struggles on the football field, the Lions always have athletes that can hurt opposing teams if they’re not accounted for.

Coach Maurice Moody is in his second year with the program, and offensively, his team will line up in multiple formations, but will base out of the old Single Wing, which isn’t seen hardly anywhere these days, within the state at least.

“Single Wing, the T, they get under center, they’ll be in the shotgun, they get in trips, quads,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of McClellan. “I mean, they’re running stuff that’s all over the board. You really don’t know what to prepare for, so it’s kind of up in the air to tell you the truth.

“To try to teach our scout team guys how to do this in a couple of days is going to be a challenge, that’s for sure. Teams that are real good at that (Single Wing) it is hard to follow. You’ve got to be disciplined.”

Speed and skill players are almost always McClellan’s strengths on the football field, and that’s no different this year. The Lions have two sophomore quarterbacks that can also line up at receiver when not taking snaps.

Dalvron Childs (5-11, 165) and Pierre Strong (6-1, 175) split snaps for the 7-1 freshmen team a year ago, and both may contribute to the passing game Friday. Childs is the better passer of the two, but Strong, who possesses 4.4 speed, is capable of making plays in space.

Bost spoke highly of Lions’ tailback Ezekiel Baldwin (5-6, 180), who Bost said possesses good speed as well.

“We actually played them at a team camp this summer, and their tailback can go,” Bost said. “He’s pretty good.”

The biggest thing hurting McClellan is its lack of size and depth on the offensive and defensive lines, and on defense, Bost said McClellan will line up in either a 3-4 or 4-4, but will blitz throughout.

“They’re going to send about eight every time,” Bost said. “They come after you.”

Bost didn’t want to reveal too much info on how he and his offense plan to counter those constant blitzes the Lions will most definitely bring Friday night, but said he and his staff have some ideas of plays they’ll work on with the players throughout the week leading up to Friday’s game.

“We’ve got a couple of things we’re going to try to look at this week,” Bost said. “It’s going to be tough with them running right at us. They are coming. This is their first home game, so we imagine we’re going to get their best shot.

“They’re going to be pumped playing their first home game. So I think they’ll be ready for us.”

Lonoke’s top two tailbacks, Josh Coleman and Deven Mosely, sat out last week’s game against Beebe with ankle injuries, and Bost said one if not both could be back on the field Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers go on field trip

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers play a dangerous game on Friday. They travel to Class 5A J.A. Fair for a 7 p.m. game against a team that has won one football game in the last four years. It’s not dangerous because Cabot may lose. Cabot can’t lose this game. It’s dangerous because it would be a travesty for someone to get hurt in a game like this.

The War Eagles have already lost 41-6 to Subiaco Academy, a below-average 4A team, and 50-0 to Little Rock Parkview, a below-average 6A team, this season.

The game was only scheduled because Jacksonville ended its series with Cabot, Conway wanted to move its game with Cabot to week one, and the Panthers couldn’t find an opponent nearby for week three.

“It’s hard to find anybody unless you want to travel,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Didn’t want to have to go three and a half hours to the northwest schools and we couldn’t find any 6A or 7A schools around here that wanted to play us.”

While J.A. Fair may be the biggest underdog in the history of Arkansas high school football, Malham hopes his players’ approach to the game won’t change.

“It’s just one of those games you need to go over there, take it serious, not take anything for granted and get the game in hand as quickly as possible. When we have the game in hand we’ll play some others. Hopefully we’ll get to play a lot of kids, but you never know.”

Cabot opens conference play the following week against powerhouse North Little Rock. Malham sees the drawbacks to a game like this right before such a big game, but also thinks it could have its advantages.

“We had two good tests the first two weeks,” Malham said. “Conway and Catholic are good programs and tough teams and we got a little dinged up. You’d hate to have a big knockdown dragout right before North Little Rock. So maybe this is a chance to get some guys some rest and be ready for a big one.

“I don’t know. Who knows?” Malham said.