Saturday, October 04, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> NLR girls win close one over Panthers

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot volleyball team came oh so close to pulling off a huge upset over North Little Rock in Thursday’s 7A/6A-East Conference match at Panther Arena. The Lady Panthers gave the first place Lady Charging Wildcats all they could handle, but the host team fell short in the end, losing the match 3-2.

Cabot lost the conference match by scores of 27-25, 15-25, 25-22, 18-25 and 15-17. In the first meeting of the season between the two teams last month at NLR, the Lady Panthers were swept three games to none, but Thursday’s performance shows Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk that his young team is improving.

“We went to five (games),” said Chanthaphasouk. “The first time we went there (NLRHS) they beat us in three, easily. Their technique is better. They’ve worked really hard on teamwork and they’re playing together better.

“We’re still young, and North Little Rock has some very, very good athletes. So for us to be able to compete at that level, I’m really proud of them.”

Cabot and North Little Rock went back and forth in the first game. The Lady Cats led 18-15 late, but Cabot answered with three-straight points to tie it up. However, North Little Rock regained the lead and led 24-22 when Faith Garvin got a kill from the corner of the net to bring the Lady Panthers within one.

Junior libero Abbie Lippincott served the next point, which was earned on a block by sophomore teammate Maddie Brown that tied it up at 24-24. The next serve landed out of bounds to give North Little Rock a one-point lead, but Brown got her ninth block of the game on the next volley to tie it back up at 25-25.

Tori Barnhill followed Brown’s crucial block with an ace, and sophomore setter Regan Campbell ended the first game in Cabot’s favor with a kill at the middle of the net. The second game didn’t go as well for the Lady Panthers.

The two teams, like game one, went back and forth early in game two, but with libero Deanna Huckaby at the serving line, North Little Rock quickly began to separate itself on the scoreboard and eventually built a commanding 20-10 lead.

Cabot answered with five of the next nine points scored, but the match ended on a Lady Panther serve that fell out of bounds, setting the final score of game two. Cabot rebounded with an excellent start to game three.

With Lippincott serving, the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead with the last serve being an ace. North Little Rock didn’t stay down long, though, and battled back to tie the score at 8-8.

The two teams tied again at 13-13, but Cabot was able to regain the lead and pushed it to 19-15.

The Lady Cats fought their way back in it and got to within 23-22 of the Cabot lead, but the Lady Panthers took over serving rights after earning their 24th point, and Taylor Bell served the game-ending point to put Cabot ahead in the match two games to one.

In the fourth game, Cabot got off to another slow start, and as a result, trailed 4-1. The Lady Panthers battled back to take the lead, though. With Bell serving four-straight points, Cabot led 11-7 at one point, forcing a North Little Rock timeout.

North Little Rock later tied the score at 14-14, and with Naporsha Gilliam serving, the Lady Cats scored nine-straight points to lead by a comfortable 23-14 margin. Cabot finally broke serve on a corner kill by Barnhill, but the deficit was too much to overcome as North Little Rock soon ended the fourth game on a kill by Jada Curtis.

The Lady Cats got off to another good start in the decisive fifth game, leading 4-1, but Cabot battled back and took its first lead of the fifth game at 8-7. Like the whole match itself, it was back and forth the rest of the way.

Cabot got game point on a corner kill by Bell that put the Lady Panthers up 15-14, but North Little Rock’s Seven Powers tied it up on the next volley with a tip over the Lady Panther defenders at the middle of the net, which resulted in the game-tying point.

Powers then took to the serving line and served the next two points, the last of which was an ace, to give the visiting Lady Cats the hard-fought match win.

North Little Rock and Marion currently sit atop the 7A/6A-East standings with just one loss each in league play. The Lady Cats’ lone conference loss was against Marion a month ago, but they avenged that loss by beating the Class 6A Lady Patriots on Tuesday.

Cabot now has a 6-5 overall record this season, but is currently the No. 2 seed out of the conference for Class 7A.

Powers led all players with a match-high 14 kills. Brown led Cabot with 13 kills and had a match-high 18 blocks. Kristen Walker had 11 kills for Cabot. Garvin had six kills and teammates Bell and Barnhill had five kills each.

Campbell had a match-high 16 assists, while junior teammate Haden Majors had 14 assists. Lippincott led all players with nine digs.

Cabot will resume conference play Tuesday at Marion, and that match is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers clobber Patriots

Leader sports editor

The bad news about Cabot’s trip to Marion on Friday is that reserves played the entire second half and were outscored 6-0. The good news is that the starters built a 42-0 lead by halftime and the backups played the whole second half with a continuous clock running.

Marion had no answer for Cabot’s powerful offense while the Panther defense stuffed the Patriots most of the night.

Cabot led 21-0 by the end of the first quarter. Junior fullback Kolton Eads got two of his three touchdowns in the first quarter, including the opening score on a 25-yard jaunt into the teeth of the Marion defense.

Later in the quarter, Eads took it 18 yards for another score and a 14-0 lead.

The Cabot defense then forced a turnover, and senior halfback Jason Schrunk took it 15 yards for another score with a minute left in the opening frame.

Three more touchdowns followed in the second quarter, with Eads getting the first one with 10 minutes left until halftime.

Another three-and-out forced by the Panther defense led to another touchdown on the halfback dive. This time it was senior Jalen Hemphill who capped the drive with a 12-yard run to make it 35-0.

The Panthers went to the air one time in the game, and it resulted in the final touchdown of the night. Sophomore quarterback Jarrod Barnes hit senior receiver Jake Ferguson for 33 yards to set the final margin.

Eads led all rushers with 18 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Junior tailback Andreas Jackson led Marion with 84 yards on 10 carries.

The Panthers are now 3-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play. They will face West Memphis next week for Cabot High School’s 2014 Homecoming game. The Blue Devils were upset 13-12 at Searcy on Friday, and are 2-3 and 1-1 so far this season. They beat Marion 41-0 last week in their 7A/6A-East Conference opener.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ladies rout Devils

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Lady Badgers got another dominant conference win Thursday, traveling to Jacksonville and leaving with a 25-12, 25-7, 25-8 victory over the Lady Red Devils. The Lady Badgers have lost only one set in nearly a month, and maintaining focus against lesser competition has been a key for the Ashley Camp coached team.

Beebe entered Thursday’s match with spirits very high.

“They were really up for tonight’s game,” said Camp. “Staying focused and not letting our performance falter is something we’ve discussed and we’ve practiced really hard for these matches. They came in here tonight really excited, really sharp and played well.”

Beebe slowly built a 13-7 lead in game one before Paige Smith took serve and the Lady Badgers turned it into a blowout.

15 had points on serve that included a pair of kills by sophomore Abby Smith that gave the visiting team a 21-7 lead. Jacksonville managed a short rally, but the hole was too deep and Beebe won the game by 13.

That late run set the tone for the rest of the match.

The two teams traded the first four points of game two before junior Destiny Nunez reeled off five-straight service points, including two aces.

Setter Sarah Clark is Beebe’s No. 1 server, but she had an off night, missing four serves and scoring just five points on serve in the match.

But Paige Smith and Nunez picked up the slack, drawing praise from Jacksonville assistant coach Whitney Abdullah.

“No. 3 (Nunez) was really on with her service and we just couldn’t return her tonight,” Abdullah said. “We’re just trying to improve each game and give ourselves a chance to get in the playoffs. I thought we did some things tonight that we can build on and get better. Beebe just played really, really well tonight.”

Further along in game two, the Lady Badgers began to get hard-hitting Jerra Malone involved, and Jacksonville also had no answer for the powerful junior. She also served up three aces in game two that put the Lady Badgers up 19-5.

Clark took serve at 22-7 and served the game out, finishing it with an ace to the middle of the back line.

In game three, Paige Smith took serve at 5-3 and stretched it to a seven-point lead with five points and an ace. The most exciting point of the night came in game three with Beebe leading 13-4.

Beebe senior Tara Plante had just served an ace and almost another when Jacksonville libero Jessica Brown made a diving save to keep the point alive. Jacksonville could only bump the ball over, making it easy for Beebe to set up a huge hit by Malone.

This process repeated itself three times with Jacksonville digging the hits each time. Sophomore Emily Lovercheck saved the first and least forceful of the three. Senior Savannah Hughes then dug back-to-back hugely powerful Malone hits. But the Lady Devils’ inability to set up a big hit of their own eventually led to a Malone kill that Jacksonville could not get to. That made it 14-4 and Beebe finished the match on an 11-4 run. Nunez scored the last two, and closed the match with her fifth ace.

Beebe is now 8-5 overall and 8-1 in conference. Next up is their long-awaited rematch with Pulaski Academy. On Sept. 7, Beebe had a 2-0 lead and match point in game three but ended up losing 3-2. They get the chance to avenge that loss to the league-leading Lady Bruins on Tuesday in Little Rock.

Jacksonville is now 6-5 overall and 4-5 in the 5A Central. They travel to Sylvan Hills on Tuesday.

The Lady Bears also got a pair of easy wins this week to get back on track after two bad outings last week. Sylvan Hills beat Mills on the road on Tuesday and then dropped J.A. Fair with ease at home on Thursday.

The Lady Bears won both matches in three sets and did not allow more than 12 points in any of the six sets played.

They are now 8-5 overall and 7-2 in conference play. They trail Pulaski Academy by two games and Beebe by one.

North Pulaski went 1-1 this week, losing to Pulaski Academy on Tuesday and beating McClellan on Thursday. That makes the Lady Falcons 5-4 in conference play and currently tied with Jacksonville for fourth place.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers come back on JHS

Leader sports editor

Beebe football coach John Shannon kept hope that if his team didn’t turn the ball over, which it has done an average of four times per game in its first four games, it would finally get a win. That’s exactly what happened, but it was a bit more difficult than even he might have expected.

The Badgers had no turnovers but still had to come from behind to beat Jacksonville 28-21 on homecoming night at Bro Erwin Stadium Friday. The game was tight despite two Jacksonville turnovers and 126 yards worth of penalties against the Red Devils.

“Their defense was tough,” Shannon said of Jacksonville. “It was tougher than maybe we even expected it to be. They made it hard for us all night long, but we were able to wear them down. We controlled the ball about the whole game and by the end; those 3- and 4-yard pops were turning into 6-, 7- and 8-yard pops. That’s what we do and we were able to hang onto the ball and get that done tonight.”

The game was not without controversy. Jacksonville scored quickly, and appeared to have covered a Beebe fumble on the Badgers’ second play from scrim mage, but a long delay ensued as the referees conferred in a huddle away from everyone else. When they emerged from conference, they declared an inadvertent whistle and Beebe elected to replay the down.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham was still upset with the call after the game.

“You know when you have a young team and you’re looking for some breaks, and something like that happens, it changes things,” said Hickingbotham. “We’re looking at a 20-yard drive to go up 14 and it takes them out of what they want to do. It’s tough. I never heard a whistle. That’s just an easy out for them to call that.”

Shannon also said he didn’t hear a whistle, but was happy to get the call.

“I didn’t hear it either but we haven’t had a break all year, so it was nice to finally get one,” Shannon said.

It didn’t take long for Jacksonville to get the scoring started. After a pooch kick left the Red Devils with first down at the 28-yard line, tailback Lamont Gause took a pitch left and went 72 yards down the visitors’ sideline for the score just 13 seconds into the game. John Herrmann added the extra point for a 7-0 Red Devil lead.

Beebe answered right back with a patented Badger drive, going 80 yards in nine plays, with the vast majority of that coming on the ninth play, and a whole lot of confusion on that first set of downs.

Two plays after the inadvertent whistle, Beebe faced fourth and 2 on the drive’s fifth play. Trip Smith picked up 9 yards for a first down. Four plays later, halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick took a misdirection handoff that confused the whole Jacksonville defense, and went 53 yards for the score.

The PAT was no good, leaving it 7-6 with 7:16 remaining in the first quarter.

Neither team was able to get much going after that. Jacksonville got away from running the ball and went 1 for 3 for 5 yards passing on its next drive before punting. Jacksonville’s defense stopped Beebe’s next drive when Anthony Fields sacked Justin Burlison to set up fourth and 17.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Gause took another pitch right 45 yards to the end zone, but it went down as a 19-yard gain with a 10-yard holding penalty. From there, three more pass plays resulted in no completions and two sacks by Dusty Grier for -16 yards.

Another Fields sack thwarted another Beebe drive, and after a 27-yard run by Gause, a 7-yard run by Laderrious Perry was followed by two more incomplete passes before another punt.

After another defensive stop, Jacksonville got its passing game going.

After a holding penalty cost Jacksonville 17 yards on first down, quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham hit Avery Wells for 35 yards to set up first down at the Beebe 47. Two plays later, Gause picked up 11 yards on a pass completion, and two plays after that Hickingbotham hit Jonathan Hall for 25 yards. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty added 9 yards to the end of the play, setting up first and goal from the 9. On the next play, Hickingbotham dropped back and found no receivers open, but did find the whole left side of the field open for an easy jaunt into the end zone for a 14-6 lead with 3:46 left in the first half.

Beebe drove to the Red Devil 18 on the next drive, but was stopped on fourth and 13 when Anthony Fields stopped quarterback Burlison’s scramble after just a 1-yard gain.

Gause had 118 yards on just his first three carries, with 34 more wiped away on the holding penalty that called back a touchdown. But Jacksonville abandoned the running game late in the second quarter and never tried to re-establish it.

“They took away the running game,” Hickingbotham said. “They were getting outside and we just weren’t picking people up. They just did a good job of taking us out of what we were trying to do.”

The passing game wasn’t working in the second half either. After piling up 187 yards of offense in the first half, Jacksonville gained only 56 yards in the second half.

Badger defensive end Dusty Grier was a constant presence in the Red Devil backfield, and finished the game with four sacks for 34 yards in losses.

Jacksonville completed just two passes in the second half, one a halfback pass from Courtland McDonald to Stevie Eskridge good for 38 yards, but Jacksonville lost 12 yards from there, 11 on a Grier sack, before punting. The only other completion of the half came on the Red Devils’ last play when Gause took a screen pass 31 yards for the game’s final score with 1:14 remaining.

Beebe tied the game late in the third quarter when fullback Trip Smith rumbled 45 yards and added the two-point conversion with 2:31 remaining.

Jacksonville’s next drive lost 5 yards before another punt, but the drive took less than two minutes off the clock. The Red Devil defense held once more, but was on the field too much to maintain the intensity later in the fourth.

After forcing the punt, Jacksonville threw one incomplete pass before Beebe’s Austin Huhn intercepted a screen pass at the Jacksonville 44.

Wyrick picked up 17 yards on first down. Two 11 yards runs, one by Wyrick and one by Smith capped the drive and gave the Badgers their first lead with 7:08 left in the game.

Jacksonville’s next drive also ended in an interception, this time by Clayton Meurer on a deep pass over the middle on just the second play. The Badgers took over at their own 32 and marched 68 yards in 11 plays to go up 28-14 with 1:31 remaining in the game.

Gause finished the game with seven carries for 116 yards to lead Jacksonville. Beebe had 359 total yards with two running backs breaking the 100-yard mark. Smith led the way with 30 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Wyrick carried it 17 times for 148 yards and a score. Meurer carried 12 times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Both teams are in tough next week, facing the two teams atop the 5A Central. Beebe hosts 5-0 Pulaski Academy while Jacksonville is back home against undefeated Sylvan Hills.

Friday, October 03, 2014

EDITORIAL >> How state will build schools

The new Jacksonville school district will need tens of millions of dollars from the state’s Academic Facilities partnership program to build new schools, and, despite a $20 million infusion by the governor, the fund for that program is $65 million short for the next two years.

In January, the next General Assembly will have to find significant funds for that program.

Jacksonville, as well as much of north Pulaski County that will be included in the new district, hasn’t had a new school in decades. But there is not yet a formal district and thus no master facilities plan approved by the state.

It could be March 2016 before the district can submit a facilities master plan and July 2017 before it can get some of that matching money — and that’s assuming there’s any money in that fund.

The Arkansas Supreme Court’s 2007 Lake View decision required the state to ensure that all districts had adequate schools and resulted in the creation of the Division of Academic Facilities and Transportation’s facilities partnership program. Lawmakers funded that program with about $456 million at the time.

In that program, the state established a wealth index. It pays a percentage of new construction costs for approved academic facilities — more for poor districts, less for rich districts.

Feasibility studies indicate that a Jacksonville school district would have a wealth index somewhere in the 50 percent range — like Pine Bluff, while the Pulaski County Special School District has a wealth index of about 99 percent.

That means that the state’s share of the cost of a plan to build a new $80 million high school in the new district would be about $40 million, while its share of the same school, if we were still part of PCSSD, would be less than $1 million.

The Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation spends about 3,000 words explaining how the wealth index is calculated and what qualifies for the public school facilities partnership.

The determination, in simple terms, is made by multiplying the amount of revenue 1 mill of school property tax in a district raises, divided by the number of students enrolled in the district, according the Charles Stein, director of the division.

The division has rules to establish a process that “shall provide state financial participation based upon a school district’s academic facilities wealth index in the form of cash payments to a school district for eligible new construction projects.”

That’s one reason that PCSSD administrators and U.S. District Judge Price Marshall supported the Jacksonville detachment. Adequacy of facilities is one of the areas PCSSD is not unitary in as it attempts to satisfy and end the court supervised desegregation agreement. PCSSD can become unitary in facilities faster and cheaper with Jacksonville area schools in a separate district.

As figured by PCSSD Chief Operating Officer Derek Scott, Jacksonville will need an estimated $93 million in new construction and remodeling and fixing. It’s incumbent upon the new General Assembly, which will be in session in January, to find money to continue the academic facilities partnership program created to help poorer districts build new and adequate facilities across the state.

Almost all Jacksonville-area schools are about 50 years old, while PCSSD taxpayer money went for new schools in Maumelle and Sherwood. Then-school board members Tim Clark of Maumelle and Charlie Wood of Sherwood hoodwinked the rest of the PCSSD board a few years ago into refinancing existing debt and building expensive new schools in their zones, while leaving the rest of the district with nothing but empty promises. No new schools have been built since then.

So, now that it’s Jacksonville’s turn, the partnership money is all earmarked or gone, and the state will have to find more.

While coming up with more money to build more schools throughout the state may be unpopular, the Supreme Court seemed pretty clear in ruling that the state’s first priority will be to fund adequate schools. If lawmakers shirk their duty in that regard, they can be pretty sure that the state will be taken back to court — either to reopen Lake View, or in a whole new proceeding, which will be long and expensive.

The state Supreme Court ruled that school funding must come first when considering a budget.

“My understanding on the Lake View ruling — adequate funding is about the only constitutional requirement,” PCSSD Chief Financial Officer Bill Goff said this week. “I assume the legislature will do what it is constitutionally required to do.”

Among the four essential components for compliance is the requirement that the state fund education first and show that constitutional compliance is an ongoing task requiring constant study, review and adjustment.

TOP STORY >> Students ask mayor ‘why’

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher dropped by Thursday to speak to a group of fifth graders about the fundamentals and importance of reading and understanding what school was all about, but it quickly turned into a question-and-answer session about the mayor’s re-election battle against former Police Chief Gary Sipes.

Here are some of the students’ questions and the mayor’s answers.

Xzavear: What qualifies you to be mayor?

Mayor: My heart. I have a passion and vision for this city, and I know the road map to get us there. I’ve been involved in the community for 42 years. I joined the Jacksonville Jaycees when I was 18 — the first 18-year-old to join. I got involved with the community right away. As a senior in high school and a member of the Jaycees, I was helping to build the “boys club,” as it was called back then. A week later I was walking door-to-door with a coffee can collecting money for Pathfinders, which was just getting started and didn’t have enough money to help the way it wanted to.

I know this town. Many residents have seen me grow up, and I’m like their son, grandson or brother.

Jessica: You must get yelled at a lot as mayor, why would you want more of that?

Mayor: First off, there is no perfect job. There are pitfalls and rewards. As mayor, I’m either first or last in line for a person who is upset and mad. One of my greatest satisfactions is to take that person who is so frustrated and being able to help them. Sometimes it’s a problem I can’t solve, but they’ll know I cared enough to try. I’m very empathetic and at one time thought that was a curse, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a true blessing.

I get criticized about caring too much. As a contractor, if a board needed three nails in, I put in 10 to make sure.

Ma’Shala: Sherwood’s gotten a lot of new businesses lately, where are ours?

Mayor: I don’t want to take anything away from Sherwood and its economic developer. They are doing a fine job. The basic principle is that retail follows rooftops and Cabot and Sherwood have exploded in recent years.

And those jobs are our jobs, too. Gone are the days when neighboring cities pitted against each other. We all work together to bring in businesses because people are willing to drive five, 10, 15 miles to work because a business in Sherwood doesn’t mean Sherwood gets all the jobs.

Jacksonville was one of the fastest growing cities in Arkansas in the 1960s and ‘70s and then it was like someone put a glass bowl called deseg over us. We have the No. 1 economic driver in the state in Little Rock Air Force Base. It pumped in nearly $900 million into the economy last year. But, when I took office, we were in a recession that rivaled that of 1929. In 2010, we lost base housing as the government was revamping homes and the contractor went bankrupt. Plus, the base did not replace all of its housing. It left about 70 acres of former housing empty for a future school. All that hurt.

One of the reasons I hired an economic consultant was that Jacksonville had a message, a story to tell, and we’ve told it over the past five years and developed strong relationships with retail developers.

In fact, I’m on the verge of announcing a major medical development (see page 1A) that has come about because of the networking and relationships we have developed.

Keijuan: Why are people mad about the shooting range?

Mayor: Not everyone is mad. The majority are happy. There is an area of housing hearing the noise, and they are upset. But it is the largest tourist attraction in the city. Two weekends ago, it had people visiting from six different states. It brings in people.

Sixty-three percent of my budget is from sales tax. These visitors help us maintain our level of service.

There is a lot of misinformation out there. My opponent claims there were no public hearings, but the public always has the opportunity to speak at council meetings and planning commission meetings.

I understand the frustration some residents have, but it’s one of the best things to happen in Jacksonville in a long while. It’s a good thing.

Let me tell you, every decision I make or the city makes is unpopular with somebody, and many of them are acting like “Monday morning quarterbacks.” We could all be 100 percent right if we could look back first.

Robbie: Why does Jacksonville need its own school district?

Mayor: We need local control. We can do a lot better job than the Pulaski County School District. It’s just too large to manage, and we were always like the black sheep of the family. I don’t think Jacksonville has voted for a millage for the county district because we knew the money would not be spent here.

Let me tell you something about Warren Dupree, my brothers and sisters went here more than 40 years ago. Some of our schools are 60 years old. We haven’t had a new school in the city in 40 years. As part of the county school district, we are considered a wealthy district, meaning the state only chips in about 5 percent to build a new school. Meanwhile in Cabot, considered not as wealthy, the state pays about 40 percent of the cost. As our own district, we would have a wealth index of about 50 to 55 percent, meaning the state would cover about half the construction cost of a new school. That will help us get new facilities quickly.

David: Is it hard being the mayor?

Mayor: Some days it is, some not. I’m a people pleaser and that adds to the ups and downs. I hate it when I have to tell a person I can’t help them. It hurts. Part of my job is to stay focused on the big picture and not get bogged down on distractions. It’s a balancing act between the big picture and day-to-day issues.

Caleb: How bad is the traffic going to get while the highway (Hwy. 67/167) is being worked on?

Mayor: That’s the easiest question you’ve all asked this morning. Bad, bad, bad. But you got to look beyond the pain to the finished project. It’s like having a baby, not that I’ve had one, but the labor pains will get you mad and tense, but once that baby comes, all is forgotten. It will be the same with the highway.

And I’m pushing for an interchange at Coffelt Crossing. The North Belt Loop will never get built. But the interchange, tied into current state and county highways, is very doable.

David: What comes first, your family or your being mayor?

My family, but the city is a close second. It’s been that way for 59 years, and I’m too old to change now. It’s a tragedy when a career comes first. Because my family is so important though I want them to live in a great city, and it’s my job to see that that happens.

Darion: Can you fix our potholes?

Mayor: No, they are actually on school property, and I would go to jail if I did something like that on private or non-city property. Potholes are a problem, and they do hurt the city. We don’t take any money out of our general revenue for our roads. That money comes from the gasoline tax. The only problem is that, even though we are driving more, we are buying less gas and collecting less tax for our roads.

Payton: What would you do if you aren’t the mayor anymore?

Mayor: I haven’t really thought about it. My life doesn’t center around being a mayor, but nothing has been more satisfying even though some efforts and ideas have not always been successful. I’m very spiritual and truly believe, if one door shuts, another will open.

Bianca: Is there anything else you want us to know about this election?

Mayor: That there is a big difference between the two candidates. I’ve got the heart, dreams, passion and goals for the city. I’ve got the experience — 30 years on the city council and five years as mayor.

The former police chief is complaining that there have been no employee raises, and that simply isn’t true. Our employees have had raises four out of the last five years and still provided a high quality of service with no layoffs. Now the department heads haven’t always gotten a raise, but they are still receiving a very good salary. The county has given no raises in the past five years.

My opponent is driving with the rear view mirror and I’m using the front windshield.

TOP STORY >> North Metro adds new technology

Leader staff writer

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville recently added lithotripsy, a noninvasive procedure that treats kidney stones, to its repertoire.

Dr. Samuel Houston, the hospital’s urologist, said the lithotripsy machine works by sending shock waves through the patients’ sides to break up the stones, which are located in real time using fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that utilizes X-rays.

The doctor explained that kidney stones are calcium that has built up for a number of reasons, including metabolic, renal or thyroid problems. It is a “nondiscriminatory” condition that strikes all ages groups, from people in their 20s to seniors.

Patients receive general anesthesia during a lithotripsy. Chief Nursing Officer Deb Bostic said the outpatient procedure could take up to two hours if a patient has multiple stones on both sides.

Houston said it could be completed in just 30 minutes with some patients. Bostic clarified that the procedure is quicker when there is only one stone on one side.

Houston has performed about 20 procedures in the couple of months North Metro has leased the lithotripsy machine from Arkansas Kidney Stone Management on a case-by-case basis.

“They’ve all done very well,” Houston said.

Bostic explained the cost. She said, “The lithotripsy machine comes with a tech. The company provides that service. So it’s not any equipment that we had to purchase.”

She continued, “They provide the table that the patient rests on while they’re having the procedure. As far as the facility goes, we only provide the anesthesia and nurse that stays in the room with the patient. Then they do all the rest.”

A patient’s insurance, Medicaid or Medicare plan covers the price of leasing the equipment.

Bostic added that the procedure had been performed on a bi-weekly basis, an average of four or five times per month. She expects use to increase, too, as word gets out.

Bostic said one goal she has is to have enough procedures scheduled that the machine is at North Metro for the whole day.

Houston said, “(The pa-tients) appreciate it. They like it. It’s a lot easier than open surgery or passing stones, less invasive. It’s relatively pain free because they have general anesthesia.”

The doctor and Bostic touted the procedure as having less risk of infection, faster recovery times and causing fewer side effects.

Bostic said the patients usually experience soreness after they receive a lithotripsy.

CEO Cindy Stafford said North Metro added the service when research backed Houston’s assertions that it was needed.

She continued, “The patients are very satisfied, pleased that they can stay in the community to have their procedure done, and Dr. Houston is happy to be able to provide that service here as well and not have to go outside of Jacksonville.”

Bostic said people should come to North Metro for the procedure because its staff has 100 years of combined experience.

Stafford agreed that the hospital offers the “best care close to home.” She added, “This is the first of many new and upcoming (positive announcements).”

TOP STORY >> Veteran lawman for Austin police

Leader staff writer

Austin’s new police chief is serious about building community, growing in his field and about how his job impacts lives.

Lt. James Kulesa of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office will take his place as the city’s top law-enforcement officer on Monday, Oct. 13.

His last day working for Sheriff John Staley, a former Austin police chief, is next Thursday. Staley said Kulesa has his blessing, albeit he’ll be missed, and comes highly recommended because of his professionalism, abilities and experience.

Kulesa is replacing Tony Bryant, who resigned for health reasons.

The new chief was born overseas, in England. The son of a Scottish mother and American airman, he moved back and forth from there and New Jersey before his 18th birthday in 1976.

That is when Kulesa followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the Air Force. He became a flight chief and later joined security police investigations.

Kulesa was enlisted as a military police officer for 15 years and three months. About why he chose the profession, he said, “I enjoyed working with people, and basically that’s what it was. I like to do things where you’re learning and advancing, dealing closely with the community.”

He spent almost a year working at the Pulaski County Juvenile Detention Facility after leaving the Air Force in 1992.

Then Kulesa was hired by the Lonoke Police Department. He was there for two and half years.

He left the position to work for the sheriff’s office, where he has been for last 18 and half years.

Kulesa said he chose his career to make a difference. Being a law-enforcement officer isn’t just about arresting people, he noted.

“What means more is when you have a person who has changed things in their life, and they’re doing good and they thank you for that,” Kulesa explained.

It’s also about the families of people who are arrested, he said. The arrest impacts them too, Kulesa said.

Speaking of his lengthily career, Kulesa said, “You’re always learning. That’s one of the main things I’ve learned.”

Remaining humble, he continued, “A rule of thumb is not to act like you know everything because you don’t.”

Kulesa said law-enforcement officers have to work as a team. They can’t be biased or jump to conclusions, he noted.

Kulesa pointed out, “It’s not about trying to convict somebody. It’s about getting to the truth.”

And the new chief doesn’t tolerate hypocrites. “I believe you can’t go out there and enforce laws if you don’t follow them,” he said.

Kulesa doesn’t have big ideas for Austin yet. He wants to get to know the officers better and the operations of the department first.

Kulesa said he had worked with Austin officers before, while at the sheriff’s office. He said, “They’re a great bunch of guys. The community is very close.”

As for his leadership style, Kulesa said, “Respect is not given. It’s earned.”

He added that he believes in constructive criticism, sharing knowledge, the power of continued training in law enforcement trends, teamwork and inter-agency cooperation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Questions for debate

Pat O’Brien will moderate the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s debate between Mayor Gary Fletcher and former Police Chief Gary Sipes at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

O’Brien is a Jacksonville native, an attorney, a former Pulaski County Clerk and school board member. There’s no better choice for the job — he is respected in the community and is not seen as too close to the chamber or the candidates.

In 2012, when several aldermen were running for re-election in contested races, the chamber held a candidates forum that focused almost exclusively on the city’s out-of-state economic developer.

Many of the candidates then seemed caught off guard, and even uninterested by the subject. One memorably struggled to get a word in about street lights, a bread-and-butter issue of municipal government.

At the time, the chamber, which lost some of its funding when the city hired Rickey Hayes’ Retail Attractions of Owasso, Okla., to recruit businesses, felt it was brushed aside.

But, after five years with Hayes, whose accomplishments have been limited and who has been paid about $250,000, the chamber is probably feeling less threatened by him. (We’ve suggested many times Hayes should be fired and the community should unite on more ambitious pursuits.)

The chamber hasn’t recently recruited many major businesses to the area either. But its most prominent members did successfully work to have Jacksonville break away from the Pulaski County Special School District.

It’s a major accomplishment. A local school district will boost Jacksonville’s community in a way that dozens of big-box stores wouldn’t.

O’Brien won’t make the mistake of focusing too much on Hayes v. Chamber. He also understands most residents aren’t too concerned about that divide and there are other issues that should be explored.

So, while he is focused on writing his questions, here are a few of our own to help him brainstorm.

For Mayor Fletcher:

You’ve asked the community to give Rickey Hayes more time to allow him to close a variety of deals he’s working on. What is a reasonable timeline for him to produce tangible results before the city should cancel his contract?

For Sipes:

You’ve complained about the noise problems coming from the city’s $3.2 million shooting range. Are your neighbors planning to file a lawsuit against the city related to that problem? If so, would you also be a plaintiff? How would a suit like that affect the city’s finances?

For both candidates:

Describe the state of the city’s budget problems and how you will improve them.

With the city’s budget stretched to the limits, how can you accomplish goals like fixing roads, demolishing dilapidated buildings and improving parks?

Hwy. 67/167 seems to be the sole target of business development plans. How can the city help improve downtown and other areas?

As mayor, how will you help inject some community pride, enthusiasm and a sense of fun into civic life?

We will leave it at that for now.

TOP STORY >> Killer in Cabot’s schools 3 times

Leader editor-in-chief

Glen Martin Green, the killer serving a life sentence without parole, worked in Cabot schools three different times this year.

We first reported on Sept. 20 that Green had worked in the Cabot Junior High North gym on Sept. 16. He was installing wall mats in the gym during school hours.

We asked the Department of Correction this week for Green’s work assignments outside prison in the last 12 months. It turns out he also worked at Cabot High School gym on Jan. 15 and Jan. 21 with Stanley Stokes, who is in prison for aggravated robbery.

Green installed gym mats in more than 50 schools and two churches around the state since September 2013. He was scheduled to work in the Searcy School District on Sept. 22, but, because of our report, his pass was rescinded that day after the Arkansas Department of Correction Board changed its policy on letting killers work in schools.

The prison board met twice last week and agreed that murderers do not belong on school campuses.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman said last week he would not allow prison labor in his district after learning from this reporter that Green had been working in the school district and was told Green was a murderer serving life without parole.

Green, a longtime trusty in the prison’s work-release program, had killed a teenager in 1974.

Thurman said he found out Friday that Green went to the high school gym on Jan. 15 with pads that were the wrong size.

Green “came back Jan. 21 with correct pads and completed installation. No students were present,” Thurman said.

The district had been buying gym mats from Arkansas Correctional Industries for $1,700 apiece. Thurman said the mats have to be replaced often because they get worn out fast. He said he will find a different vendor for the sports equipment.

“They start to wear out after people run into them,” Thurman said. “We’re done with ACI.”

ACI will keep sending violent felons to school districts that do not ban prison labor, the head of the prison board told us this week. But Green has been permanently barred from the program.

Benny Magness, the chairman of the Arkansas Department of Correction Board, told us Monday that violent criminals will keep working in schools except where superintendents ban all prison labor. He said armed robbers could work in schools.

“We always try to keep them away from kids,” Magness assured us.

He pointed out that no children have been harmed, although occasionally trusties do escape while in the work-release program, including a convicted killer who was captured after a summer on the run.

Asked if school districts could pick up items they buy from Arkansas Correctional Industries, Magness insisted, “ACI can’t exist without prison labor.”

He said trusties could work more when children are not in school, especially during the summer, in the evenings and on weekends.

Magness agreed that superintendents should know when inmates are going to their schools, but he didn’t think it was necessary to inform parents and prosecutors when prisoners are working in schools.

He said trusties in work-release programs have a better record than parolees, who often go on to commit violent crimes.

Arron M. Lewis, who is charged with murdering realtor Beverly Carter, has a long history of violence in several states.

He was not part of a work-release program, although he did apply for a job at The Leader a couple of weeks ago but never turned in his application after admitting he was a felon.

Maurice Clemmons, who was paroled in 2004 when Mike Huckabee was governor, five years later killed four police officers in Tacoma, Wash.

Green has worked for more than 20 years at Arkansas Correctional Indus-tries, which installs furniture and equipment around the state. His specialty for the last 17 years has been installing gym mats.

Arkansas Correctional Industries makes athletic equipment, furniture, clothes, toilet paper, janitorial supplies, vinyl products and signs in schools, military installations, state offices and churches.

ACI also provides upholstery services, vehicle restoration for volunteer fire departments and more. It grosses about $8 million a year.

It’s cheap labor: Prisoners are not paid for their work, but they do get training that will qualify them for jobs after they leave prison.

A long-established policy bars sexual offenders from schools, but Green was never classified as a sexual predator because he pleaded guilty only to first-degree murder to avoid the death penalty.

Green was charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Helen Lynette Spencer, 18, of Gravel Ridge in 1974.

Green had kidnapped her from Little Rock Air Force Base, where Green was a sergeant and she was visiting her boyfriend. Green beat her to death with martial-arts sticks and ran over her body and dumped her into Twin Prairie Bayou in Lonoke County.

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Staley and Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham also expressed outrage when they heard about Green’s presence at the school. Graham said Monday he did not know Green worked in the district in January until we told him.

Green will probably die behind bars, although he almost went free when Huckabee announced he would pardon Green over the parole board’s objections.

The pardon fell through after The Leader reminded Huckabee how brutally Spencer was murdered.

The work-release program will probably continue in many schools and churches. But law-enforcement officials say parents and prosecutors should be notified before prisoners are sent to schools in their area.

Victims and their families should also know if inmates are leaving prison as part of the work-release program.

TOP STORY >> Suspect: Long life of crime

Leader staff writer

The parolee accused of kidnapping and killing Crye-Leike realtor Beverly Carter of Scott is a self-proclaimed seven-time felon with several theft convictions, according to his Facebook profile.

Investigators believe Arron Lewis, 33, of 165 Randall Road in Gravel Ridge acted alone and did not know his victim, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Capt. Simon Haynes said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Lewis, who was paroled last year, confessed to kidnapping Carter, but pleaded not guilty in district court Tuesday to that as well as capital murder, being a felon in possession of firearms and robbery.

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley said it was too early to say whether he would seek the death penalty in the case.

As of 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, he was being held without bond at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility.

Other law enforcement agencies have contacted the sheriff’s office about similar cases involving realtors, Haynes said.

Although investigators were not aware of any pending cases in which Lewis is a suspect, Haynes said he had “put himself on the radar.”

An “FBI special agent in charge” was thanked during the conference, but he didn’t speak.

Carter’s husband reported the mother of two grown children missing on Thursday evening after she went to show a home at 14202 Old River Drive in Scott. Haynes confirmed that Lewis had scheduled the showing with the top-selling realtor.

He was arrested on Monday and charged with kidnapping, although Haynes wasn’t clear about the evidence that led investigators to Lewis. Officials say that after 12 hours of interviewing, he confessed to the kidnapping but would not reveal Carter’s whereabouts.

Haynes said investigators did “some tracking out there; there was some information on the victim’s phone and some other data that we went through.”

He said the sheriff’s office could likely provide more details in a few weeks. One of many clues was that Lewis allegedly stole a dump truck that was parked near where he was arrested.

Carter, 49, was found Tuesday morning in a shallow grave at Argos cement company, 12117 Hwy. 5 — a Cabot mailing address located in Pulaski County. According to his Facebook page, Lewis worked for the company in July.

Haynes said the motive for Carter’s murder is still being investigated, and he called the realtor a “target of opportunity for (Lewis).”

Lewis has told the media he kidnapped Carter because she was a woman who worked alone and was a “rich” broker.

Haynes didn’t comment on whether Lewis stole anything from the realtor, although the victim’s purse was left inside her car. It was left parked at the home she had planned to show.

Haynes also declined to say how Carter was killed and whether Lewis would be charged with sexual assault later.

Lewis told media Tuesday morning as he was leaving district court that he hadn’t killed the realtor and said he had text messages indicating a Little Rock Air Force Base airman named “Trevor” was involved. He also told media that he had wanted to plead guilty but a lawyer advised him to do otherwise.

Lewis will have to submit a new plea in circuit court as the capital murder charge he faces is a felony.

Haynes said “Trevor” was interviewed and investigators don’t believe he was involved. Investigators were not seeking any other suspects as of Tuesday afternoon.

Lewis was a manager at Diamond Supply Company in Los Angeles in 2007 but moved to Sherwood this year. (Gravel Ridge is a township that Sherwood annexed several years ago.)

He posted the following on Facebook on Oct. 31: “My charges are; first degree robbery ’98, interstate commerce of a stolen vehicle ’03, aggravated assault on officer ’07, deactivating an anti theft device ’08, 3 counts of theft (related to a scam I ran on a corporation) ’11. So if anyone would like to judge me for my past, remember that i don’t do anything any more.”

According to Lt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, Lewis was convicted of crimes in northwest Arkansas, Kansas City, Kan., and Utah.

The post continues, “I have a wonderful woman who loves me and I love her, I have a house (paid for), my jeep and motorcycle (paid for), i’m on parole and do what I’m suppose to, i don’t do drugs and i’m happy…”

Lewis is also a father. He has a son who might be 2 years old, according to a couple of Facebook posts.

He’s had at least one run-in with a realtor who reached out to another media outlet, but seemed to be a satisfied customer. Lewis claimed in an Aug. 21, 2013, post referencing a house in Little Rock he planned to buy that he was “getting it for a steal.”

Lewis’ life, at least as it appears via his Facebook wall, suggests a roller coaster of emotions.

On Sept. 27, 2013, he wrote, “Sick of everything and everyone. People are very ugly and spiteful. I wish I could rewind time and go back to a different place but it really wouldn’t do any good cause now I know everyone’s true colors.

“Why do you fall in love with a woman that will eventually keep your child from you? Why make friends when they talk behind your back? Why live only to die and go through grief, pain, and sorrow? Every time I try it’s just a let-down.

“Money doesn’t mean s*** but to those around me. Women want you for money or drugs. They have some high expectations of an ideal guy and a timeline that everything should go at.

“Real relationships are a thing of the past cause there are no commitments or morals. Everything can be left or disposed of. I don’t want any comments cause I really don’t care what anyone thinks. Everything is a facade that covers the ugliness of humanity.”

On Oct. 17, 2014, Lewis wrote that he was the victim of a home invasion orchestrated by the estranged husband of his girlfriend and another man. A police report was filed.

On March 2, he wrote, “The things I do for love…I will do anything to make this woman happy. She is the love of my life and I can’t imagine life without her…”

Then, less than a week later, posted, “Officially single again. Time to get back into dating. Sucks but s*** happens and that’s life.”

On July 19, he posted that he was happy to be spending the day at Magic Springs with his wife — the same woman tagged in his March 2 post.

That woman’s Facebook wall is private. Her relationship status is “single” although Lewis posted that he was with her, his wife, on July 20.

Lewis was a person of interest in Carter’s disappearance when police responded to a one-vehicle accident Sunday on Jacksonville-Cato Road near Ison Lane in Gravel Ridge. A witness said Lewis was speeding and his car fishtailed into the ditch as it was approaching a curve. Lewis said another vehicle ran him off the road.

He was taken to Baptist Hospital for shoulder and neck injuries but left while “not under guard of law enforcement,” Minden said in a news release.

An arrest warrant for the kidnapping was obtained later that day.

According to Forbidden Hillcrest, a Facebook page that describes itself as “Little Rock Underworld News,” a realtor and witnesses recognized Lewis in front of Razor Vapes on Rainwood Road in west Little Rock.

The page states that a witness chased Lewis to Pleasant Pointe Apartments on Green Mountain Drive, where he was taken into custody by authorities.

Lewis allegedly threatened that witness with a knife before officers arrived, according to Forbidden Hillcrest.

During the press conference on Tuesday, Sheriff Doc Holiday extended the office’s condolences to Carter’s family and co-workers. Many attended the press conference wearing red shirts to honor her memory.

David Goldstein of Crye-Leike Real Estate, who had worked with the victim for about 11 years, said Carter was a sweet lady. “If you had a sweet scale, it was Beverly (imitating a scale with his hand parallel to his head), and then there was sugar (gesturing with another hand placed further down) and then there was other sweeteners (lowering that hand farther). That’s how sweet she was.”

Goldstein continued, with a smile temporarily defeating the tears welling up in his eyes, “She was pretty feisty, too. In her professional life, if you were being protected by her as a realtor, if you were her client, that sweet had some teeth.”

Holiday thanked the agencies that helped with the investigation, those who “tirelessly” searched for the victim and the witnesses who helped officers locate Lewis.

Officials said the realtor’s family was “hopeful” during the search and has a “religious strength” that many don’t have to help them through the grieving process.

Haynes said investigators acted quickly and made every minute count because they believed Carter’s life was in “eminent danger.”

The captain noted that deputies worked at least 600 hours searching for Carter and had probably logged more than 1,200 on the case so far.

Holiday said, “This case did not end as we had hoped, but now we must move forward.”

Jegley said, “This never gets easier…I want to remind everyone that this is the beginning of a long process, and it’s going to be frustrating at times because the wheels of justice do not move quickly.”

He added, “Events like this stain the soul of our community. They leave scars, and we know that. And we also know that many of ya’ll are wanting answers that simply can’t be given at this time.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bison after conference win

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison will try to improve to 2-1 in 2A-6 Conference play this Friday night when they host Marvell, but unlike previous years, the Mustangs won’t be a guaranteed win.

Marvell was winless in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and it looked as if the Mustangs were on their way to another winless season in 2013.

After losing the first nine games of last season, including a week-eight forfeit to Carlisle, Marvell beat Palestine-Wheatley 22-12 in the regular-season finale, and it appears as though the Mustangs have done their best to carry some of that momentum into the 2014 season.

The Mustangs are still winless this season at 0-4, but they pushed Augusta in their first 2A-6 game of the season, losing to the Red Devils 25-22. Carlisle (1-3, 1-1) narrowly beat the same Augusta team a week later by the final score of 44-38.

Marvell was hammered in its other conference game against McCrory in week three, losing 42-8, and even though they also lost their two nonconference games in convincing fashion, it was against tradition rich teams Barton and Rison.

“They’re athletic and they’ve got some size up front,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith of Marvell. “They seem to be getting their act together. They’re not a team you can snuff your nose at. We’re going to have to play to the best of our ability and get it done.”

Marvell also has the benefit this year of having the same head coach as it did the previous season in second-year coach Jessie McGruder. McGruder is the fourth Mustang head coach in the past five years. The Mustangs base out of the Spread on offense, and like to run the ball out of it with their skill players.

“They go a little bit of pro (style) with split backs,” Keith said. “They mix it up a little bit with that, but they mainly run it a lot out of the Spread. They’ve got athletes and if they get in space it can be tough.

“We’ve got to play good fundamental defense and rally to the football and gang-tackle, and if we can do that we’ll be alright.”

Defensively, Keith said he isn’t sure exactly what the Mustangs will show against his offense on Friday, but said he figures they’ll stack the box like other teams have done against his team this season.

“I think they’re probably going to stack the box against us,” Keith said. “Of course, we didn’t get to play them in high school last year because they forfeited against us. In junior high, they just stacked the box. They had all 11 inside the box ready to go.”

As far as his team’s approach this week leading up to Friday night, Keith wants his team to focus on improving in every aspect, and to not look past this week’s opponent.

“We’ve got to make sure we do all things right,” Keith said. “We’ve got to finish blocks. We’ve got to hit the holes harder with the backs. We’ve got to regroup and get last week’s game out of our minds. We’ve got to keep working hard, and we can’t take this week off.

“It’s easy to take a week off when you’ve got a team you’re not as worried about, but we can’t afford to do that, not only for this week, but for the rest of the year as well.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game at Fred C. Hardke Field is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears maintaining focus against Fair

Leader sportswriter

Staying focused on this week’s opponent is what Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow wants his team to do this week in preparation for Friday’s 5A-Central Conference game at Little Rock Fair.

The Bears have steamrolled their competition through the first four weeks of regular-season play, and are off to a 4-0 start. Sylvan Hills opened conference play with a bang last week, dominating Mills University Studies from start to finish en route to a 63-21 win.

The War Eagles of Little Rock Fair haven’t experienced the same type of season. In fact, their season has gone the opposite direction. Fair is 0-4 on the year, and lost its conference opener 42-0 at Jacksonville last week.

Even though it’s human nature to look past such an opponent, Withrow says he’s going to do everything he canto ensure that his team doesn’t look past Friday’s game.

“The thing about our team is hammering down the fact that they have to play every game,” said Withrow. “If it looks good on paper and everything else that’s great, but handling ourselves like a mature team and getting ready to play, we need to do all of that.

“We only get 10 of these things. This isn’t baseball or basketball where you get 30 of them. You want to be prepared regardless of who you’re playing.”

Fair’s last win came in week one of last season – a 20-0 victory over North Pulaski.

The War Eagles are in their second year under head coach Roosevelt Turner, and this year’s group mostly consists of sophomores. Even though some coaches of teams that have played Fair this season say those players give a lot of effort, that much youth and losing tradition takes a lot of time and effort to overcome.

“The problem is when things go bad and you play those young guys, it goes bad fast,” Withrow said. “I don’t know what happened at Jacksonville the other night. I know coach (Mike) Malham thought they played hard, but they’re really young.

“That’s the thing about it – when you’re playing a lot of sophomores that changes a lot of things.”

Withrow said, on offense, Fair gets in the I formation quite a bit, and will mix some shotgun into its play-calling as well. Withrow said the War Eagles’ skill players have noticeable speed, and will try to run the ball with those skill players.

Withrow expects his offense to see a three-man front the majority of the snaps Friday night, but added that Fair may line up with four down linemen at times throughout the game.

“They were kind of multiple in what they did,” Withrow said, “but mostly a three-man front, and they like to blitz and get after you a little bit. It’s a lot of the same stuff we’ve seen the last three weeks. Hopefully it’s something that we’ve adjusted to and know what’s coming, so hopefully we’ll be ready for it.”

As far as where his team is at in its progression this season, Withrow said he’s pleased with what he’s seen from his Bears thus far, especially the steady improvement they’ve shown each week.

But he added that he wants that steady improvement to continue, and he wants his players to stay focused on Fair and no other team this week.

“I’m pleased with where we’re at,” Withrow said. “The objective was to win the games, but the thing about it is we’ve improved in everything we’ve done. Even with all the points we’ve scored we know there are still things we need to improve upon.

“Defensively, we’ve talked the whole time about we’re going to get better each week, and we need to keep improving each week. The thing that we don’t want to get into is a letdown. We’ve got to keep coaching. We’ve got to keep pushing, and the kids have got to keep doing what we’re preaching.

“We understand that there could be bigger games in the future, but we don’t look at it that way. We need to get ready now for Fair. That’s probably not what everybody wants me to say, but that’s where we’re at. We’ve got to get ready for today.”

Kickoff Friday is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Struggling Patriots to host Cabot

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers got a lot of bumps and bruises in a very physical game last week, but should have a good opponent in front them for nursing injuries. Last week’s very physical matchup with Class 7A powerhouse North Little Rock left several Panthers with minor bumps and bruises, and the winless Marion Patriots could provide an opportunity to get some of those starters off the field quickly in this week’s 7 p.m. matchup in Crittenden County.

That provided the Cabot starters get the game in hand safely enough to turn it over to the backups.

“You can’t take anybody for granted,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to play quite a few people, but we have to go out there and take care of business or we might not have that chance.”

The Patriots are under the direction of first-year coach Jed Davis, a former Beebe assistant under Cam Prock who helped turn the Mayflower program around. But the spread attack hasn’t taken well so far in Marion, which had run the Diamond T for several years under Don Campbell protégé and longtime head coach Mark Uhiren.

Marion has only scored 31 points all season, and 24 came in a week-two loss to Class 5A Nettleton. The Patriots haven’t scored since then, losing 41-0 to Class 7A rival West Memphis and 51-0 to Class 5A Blytheville.

Defensively, they have allowed 53 points per game, with more than two-thirds of that total given up in the first half.

“They haven’t really done a lot but it looks like on film they have some good looking athletes running around out there,” Malham said. “We just need to take care of business and get a conference win.”

Two of the players that have not practiced yet this week are starting quarterback Jarrod Barnes, and his backup Jake Ferguson – who is also the starting safety and split end.

Barnes got banged up in the 41-14 loss to North Little Rock while Ferguson has been sick all week.

Both players are questionable and could be back by Friday, but Malham is getting two other quarterbacks ready this week just in case.

“After Jacob we go to (Logan) Melder and then a sophomore named Braxton Burton,” Malham said.

Melder, 6-0, 160, is also a starting cornerback. Burton, 5-3, 128, played briefly during the Panthers’ week-three rout of J.A. Fair.

“I’m thinking Jake will be alright,” Malham said. “Logan will come in after him and probably get some playing time. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to get a lot of guys some playing time. Defensively we should have everybody there.”

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers meet Red Devils

Leader sports editor

Even though it’s only the second week of conference play this season, Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup at A.S. ‘Bro’ Erwin Stadium between the Beebe Badgers and the Jacksonville Red Devils carries huge playoff implications.

It’s the first-ever gridiron meeting between the two schools, and a lot is riding on it. Things have not gone well for either team for the most part. Jacksonville finally got in the win column last week with a 42-0 blowout of J.A. Fair, while the 0-4 Badgers remain the unluckiest team in the state after suffering a 30-22 overtime defeat at McClellan.

There is a lot of football left to be played, but with Pulaski Academy and Sylvan Hills soaring to victories each week and looking like locks for playoff spots, that leaves the rest of the league battling for two remaining playoff berths.

In the preseason, Beebe was expected to be right in the mix with PA and SHHS, but have suffered terrible luck with turnovers and injuries. The Badgers have not played a single game with its entire projected starting lineup, as a total of seven players have had to sit out at least one game. They are also averaging four turnovers per game, including 13 lost fumbles.

While injuries and turnovers are hard to control, injuries more so than turnovers, one thing Beebe can definitely change is the costly penalties. The Badgers have cost themselves a few touchdowns with dumb penalties this season as well.

Beebe will be without starting quarterback Aaron Nunez the rest of the season, and will miss starting linebacker Quentin Shears this week. On the positive side, it did get starting fullback Trip Smith back last week, and he ran for 190 yards despite not being in top condition.

“Some years it just seems like everything goes against you,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “We met with the team (Sunday) and talked about things. Right now they still feel pretty good. They realize we just have to stop beating ourselves with turnovers and penalties.”

Even though Beebe entered the game 0-3, the loss last Friday was a major upset and puts the Badgers’ backs squarely against the wall. That concerns Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham, who sees Beebe as a dangerous team.

“On film they look like a formidable football team,” said Hickingbotham. “That offensive line is huge. They’re definitely going to dwarf us. That fullback they got is the real deal. They’re just a few mistakes away from being 3-1. We’re going in there against a team that has their backs to the wall and we expect them to come out fighting. We have to respond to that.”

Shannon echoed that sentiment.

“Our backs are totally up against the wall now,” Shannon said. “If we want any chance to make the playoffs we have to win this one.”

Jacksonville should have everyone healthy and eligible to play on Friday. The Red Devils have a bit more pep in practice this week after getting their first win, and realize how much a win this week would do for their own playoff aspirations.

“This one is big for both of us,” Hickingbotham said. “They’ve got a conference loss so I’m sure they’re feeling the pressure. We just have to keep building, adding to what we accomplished last week – match their intensity because I’m sure they’re going to come out hard.”