Saturday, October 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills delivers second win over NP

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills volleyball team looked as if it was on its way to a 5A-Central sweep at North Pulaski on Thursday, and even though the Lady Falcons rallied at the end of games three and four, the Lady Bears still won the conference match 3-1.

Sylvan Hills won Thursday’s 5A-Central match by scores of 25-19, 25-10, 24-26 and 25-21. The Lady Bears got off to a tremendous start in the first two games. They didn’t start as strong in game three, but built a five-point cushion late till North Pulaski went on an unlikely rally to win the third set.

The Lady Bears got off to another solid start in the fourth game, and even though the Lady Falcons rallied again toward the end of the fourth set, the visitors were able to hold off the hosts to claim their eighth match win in conference play this season.

Some disputed calls led to some lengthy delays in the third game, and Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway thinks that contributed to his team’s late collapse. The Lady Bears led that game 23-18, and ended up losing 26-24.

“There were some delays,” said Treadway. “I don’t know what happened. It took us out of our rhythm and we lost focus. We shouldn’t, but we did. They’re (North Pulaski) a good team.

“In the first game, we started as well probably as we have in the last two or three weeks. We really started well. The second game was good, and then we finished up strong.”

The Lady Bears scored the first six points of the match to lead game one 6-0. They pushed that lead to nine on an ace serve by senior hitter Karley Walton, which gave Sylvan Hills a 12-3 lead.

Sylvan Hills led by as much as 22-15 late in that game, but North Pulaski scored the next four points, the last of which was an ace by Breezy Russell, to cut its deficit to 22-19.

Senior middle blocker Jessica Scott stopped the NP run with a kill on the next volley, which gave the Lady Bears serving rights, and junior setter Taylor Yeoman served the final two points of the first game to give the Lady Bears the win.

In the second game, Sylvan Hills jumped out to a 7-1 lead before North Pulaski scored its second point of the game, which came on a tip by Neiagha Thomas.

However, the Lady Bears answered with the next point scored, giving them serving rights, and Yeoman served seven-straight points to give Sylvan Hills a commanding 15-2 lead.

Sylvan Hills led by as much as 23-6 in the second game till NP went on a 4-1 run to get to double digits on the scoreboard. It was too little too late, though, and Sylvan Hills ended the second game in its favor on a corner kill by Walton, which was set up by teammate and fellow senior Alisa Staton.

The Lady Bears didn’t get off to as great a start in the third game, but still led 4-1. However, the Lady Falcons battled back and took their first lead at 10-9 on an ace serve by Megan Lewis.

North Pulaski led again at 11-10 before Sylvan Hills regained the lead and pushed it to 23-18 – the last two points being ace serves by senior standout hitter Brooke Rainey.

The Lady Falcons regained serving rights on the next volley, and Lewis served NP’s 20th point, cutting the Lady Bear lead to 23-20. From there, Lady Falcon middle blocker Makiyah Brown got three-straight kills to knot up the score at 23-23.

The two sides exchanged points before the Lady Falcons regained serving rights at 25-24, and Brown served the final point to force a fourth game. In that game, Sylvan Hills jumped out to another 7-1 cushion before NP put its second point on the board.

Sylvan Hills led by as much as 12-4, but North Pulaski ground its way back into the mix, and eventually got to within 17-15 of the Lady Bear lead. The Lady Falcons tied it up at 18-18 on a kill by Kiarra Evans, but Rainey answered with a kill of her own on the next volley to put the Lady Bears back up 19-18.

The Lady Bears stayed ahead on the scoreboard the rest of the way, but the win didn’t come easy. The Lady Falcons’ final point of the night made it 22-21 Sylvan Hills, but Walton got another kill on the next volley, and Staton served the final two points of the night to give the Lady Bears the match win and regular-season sweep of North Pulaski.

Rainey had yet another stellar match. She led all players with 20 kills. She also had five aces and three blocks. Walton had nine kills and six aces. Aleah Williams and Yeoman had seven kills each. Scott had six kills. Staton had a match-high 15 assists, while Yeoman added nine assists.

Raigen Thomas led NP with nine kills. Evans had eight kills. Brown finished the night with six kills, and teammate Payton Mullen had four kills. Brown had the most complete stat sheet for the Lady Falcons, adding six blocks and eight assists – both of which were team highs.

Sylvan Hills is now 8-2 in 5A-Central play, and is currently sitting in third place in the conference behind Pulaski Academy and Beebe, who each have one loss in league play. North Pulaski is currently fourth in the conference standings.

The Lady Bears will look to win their ninth conference game Tuesday against McClellan at home, while North Pulaski will play host to Jacksonville on Tuesday in a matchup that will likely decide the fourth and final spot in the state tournament. North Pulaski beat Jacksonville in an exciting five-game match last month at JHS. Both matches are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot blows away West Memphis

Leader sports staff

Despite a lengthy rain delay, the Cabot Panthers didn’t play late into the night against West Memphis on Friday. The Panthers took a 42-0 lead into halftime and the continuous sportsmanship-rule clock made up for lost time as Cabot came away with a 42-7 victory.

The Panthers led 21-0 when a weather delay halted action for more than an hour with 7:30 left in the second quarter. When play resumed at 9:15 p.m., the Panthers went on a scoring blitz to close out the half.

On the first play after the break, Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes kept on the option and went 35 yards for the Panthers’ fourth touch down and a 28-0 lead.

Cabot’s defense then forced a three-and-out by West Memphis, and scored in five plays after a short punt.

Junior fullback Kolton Eads got the last 3 yards of the drive and the extra point made it 35-0 with 2:12 left in the half.

Even good things turned bad for the Blue Devils on the ensuing drive. After a completed pass to Kam Pittman, the West Memphis running back fumbled the ball. Cabot’s Dylan Smith picked it up and went 35 yards for another Panther touchdown with 1:10 remaining in the second quarter.

Cabot played no starters in the second half, and West Memphis finally got on the board with a 20-yard touchdown run by Martavous Thomas with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

The Cabot defense forced six turnovers, including three interceptions against West Memphis’ new spread attack. Seniors got all three picks, one each by Jake Ferguson, Logan Melder and Jalen Hemphill.

Cabot finished with 320 yards of offense, 295 of which were on the ground. Barnes led the way with eight carries for 136 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed both of his pass attempts to Ferguson for 25 yards. Eads added 14 carries for 73 yards and a score for the Panthers, 4-2, 2-1.

West Memphis managed just 174 total yards, including 127 on the ground.

Cabot got on the board first with 8:53 left in the first quarter when Barnes ran 7 yards to cap a seven-play drive.

After a West Memphis punt went for a touchback, Barnes went 80 yards down the Cabot sideline on the first play of the second drive to make it 14-0 with 2:08 left in the first.

West Memphis then fumbled it away at its own 27, and Jack Whisker capped a five-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run for Cabot’s last score before the delay.

Cabot will travel to Little Rock Central next Friday. The Tigers beat Mountain Home 49-7.

SPORTS STORY >> Lacewell delights at HOF banquet

Leader sportswriter

Former Dallas Cowboys’ scouting director Larry Lacewell praised Cabot and its school district Tuesday night as guest speaker at the Cabot Panther Foundation’s Hall of Fame Banquet.

Held at the new Freshmen Academy, Lacewell, who is also legendary as the most successful football coach at Arkansas State University, compared Cabot to his hometown of Fordyce when he was growing up.

“I really think it’s a wonderful thing you people here are doing this evening,” said Lacewell. “To honor the people and citizens here in this community – I grew up in a wonderful town, Fordyce, Arkansas. It was a wonderful town in my day, and I recognize this in Cabot.

“To see this beautiful building and the school system, and all of the people that are involved in the school system, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Lacewell has been successful throughout his coaching career, regardless of where he was coaching and what position he held. Lacewell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. Bryant, also a Fordyce native, was a teammate of Lacewell’s father during their high school playing days at Fordyce.

After spending a year at Alabama, Lacewell spent the 1960 and 1961 seasons coaching the freshmen football team at ASU before spending the next several years as an assistant at schools such as Kilgore Junior College, which won a NJCAA national championship during his tenure, Wichita State, Iowa State and Oklahoma.

Lacewell spent eight seasons at Oklahoma, from 1969 to 1977. He was hired as the defensive coordinator in 1969, and in 1973, he became assistant head coach on Barry Switzer’s staff.

During Lacewell’s tenure at OU, the Sooners won two national championships, six Big Eight championships and had a 37-game winning streak.

In 1979, Lacewell took the head coaching position at Arkansas State, where he remained till 1989. In that stretch, he became the winningest coach in ASU history, winning 69 games, and he led the team to two Southland Conference championships and four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, with the 1986 team making it all the way to the championship game.

Cabot coach Mike Malham’s father, Mike Malham Sr., was an assistant and defensive specialist on the Arkansas State staff from 1971 to 1984, working with Lacewell for his first six years at the school.

By the time Malham Jr. graduated high school from Little Rock McClellan, his father was the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State. Malham Jr. played linebacker on his father’s defense at Arkansas State, with his final season coming in 1975, when the team finished undefeated and nationally ranked.

“It’s a privilege for me to be here tonight and be a part of this here Hall of Fame,” Lacewell said to those in attendance Tuesday. “Needless to say, I have kept up with Cabot High School. They’re lucky to have him (Malham Jr.).”

After his final year at ASU, Lacewell left to become defensive coordinator for the University of Tennessee. In 1992, he joined the Dallas Cowboys organization, eventually serving 13 seasons on staff as director of both college and professional scouting.

“I spent a lot of time with Jerry Jones when I was with the Dallas Cowboys. I am the reason we won three Super Bowls, by the way,” Lacewell joked.

Lacewell retired from the Cowboys after the 2004 season, and Tuesday, of all the things he said he missed, he said college coaching was one of them.

“I loved college coaching,” Lacewell said. “I miss college coaching. I was lucky enough to be with some great coaches like coach Bryant. I made Barry Switzer a great coach,” he joked.

Lacewell has had various honors himself. He is a member of ASU’s Hall of Honor and Ring of Honor, the University of Arkansas-Monticello Hall of Fame, and in 1996, he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

After his retirement from the Cowboys, he was honored by the Arkansas General Assembly in 2005.

“I know what a great feeling it was for myself to be part of all those things,” Lacewell said, “but I’m here tonight because this is about your honorees (Will Feland and Dr. James Hertzog).

“It’s not about Larry Lacewell, Arkansas State, the Arkansas Razorbacks – this is about the two people that you decided deserve this wonderful honor.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls topple PA, set for title

Leader sports editor

Nearly every facet of adversity had to be overcome, and was overcome by the Beebe volleyball team on Tuesday, as it beat Pulaski Academy on the road and put itself in position for the school’s first-ever volleyball conference championship.

The Lady Badgers won in four, avenging a five-set home loss to the Lady Bruins in early September in which Beebe was up 2-0 and had match point in game three before crumbling and losing 3-2.

Scores in Tuesday’s match were 23-25, 26-24, 25-20 and 25-21, and things looked bleak when the Lady Bruins stormed out to a 9-2 lead that eventually grew to its largest at 23-14. Beebe rallied from that deficit to tie the score on a service break and eight-straight service points by Paige Smith, who served up an ace for the tying point.

But PA broke serve and then aced to win the opening game, its fourth-straight over Beebe going back to the first meeting.

It didn’t discourage the Lady Badgers.

“They’ve worked so hard and they got here tonight and fought just as hard,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp, who was almost speechless after the win. “They did, they fought back and just persevered. They just found a way to win no matter the circumstance. It’s very exciting.”

Beebe indeed won its three games in very different fashion. Game two was a mirror image of game one, in which the Lady Badgers jumped out to a huge lead only to falter late and allow the home team to close the gap entirely.

Beebe’s Jerra Malone took serve with the Lady Badgers leading 12-7, and served up three aces in six serves to make it 18-7 and force a timeout. But from that point the home team charged back, eventually tying the game at 24 despite two Camp timeouts to try and stop the rally.

PA’s Taylor Powell got a forceful kill that landed just outside the front line of the court for the tie, but Beebe answered in kind.

To break serve, setter Sarah Clark set Malone on the back row, but the distance from the net made little difference. Malone hammered a kill into a hole in the PA defense to give Beebe a 25-24 lead and a chance to serve out the game and tie the match.

The Lady Bruins handled the serve and set up another hit by Powell, PA’s 6-foot-2 middle blocker, but Gracie Rymel and Abby Smith were there for the block. Clark then set Smith, who got the game-winning kill.

Game three went back and forth until a five-point rally put the Lady Badgers up 12-7. They maintained a lead between three and five points up to 18-13 before the Lady Bruins scored four-straight to make it a one-point game.

Beebe then went on another five-point run in which Malone got four kills for a 23-17 lead.

PA rallied to 23-20 before Beebe broke serve and Smith again got the game-winning kill.

After taking a 2-1 lead, Beebe appeared to lose focus early in game four. The Lady Bruins went on a 5-0 run for a 12-7 lead, but didn’t have to do much work for it. Four of those points were off unforced errors by the Lady Badgers.

Camp called timeout and her team regrouped, scoring the next three points out of the break. But PA answered right back with three straight for a 15-10 lead and forced another Beebe timeout.

Out of that timeout, Beebe junior Shalen Devore made what was perhaps the play of the game when she craftily tipped a second hit into an empty space in the Bruin defense to stop the home team’s run.

The two teams traded points for a short while. PA led 19-15 before Beebe closed the game and match with a 9-2 run. Back-to-back kills by Smith drew Beebe to within 19-18.

The Lady Bruins appeared to score the next point when Powell got another kill, but was called for touching the net, giving Beebe the point and the tie at 19.

Senior Tara Plante then aced her next serve and Smith got another kill for a 21-19 Beebe lead. PA scored next, but Beebe broke right back with a back-row kill from an unlikely source.

Destiny Nunez, who is a service and back-row specialist, got a good look and what in many cases would have been a free ball for PA. But instead of bumping the third shot back over, she went for the kill and got it, bouncing the ball off the outstretched hands of a retreating PA defender near the back line and off the backboard of the basketball goal.

An unforced error gave PA its final point of the night and made the score 22-21. From there, it was all Abby Smith, a sophomore hitter who had her coming out party in the match.

She got a kill to break serve, then served back-to-back aces to clinch the match.

Smith finished with 18 kills to lead all players. Malone, the team’s leading hitter, finished with 12. Powell led PA with 10 kills while Isabelle Gadberry finished with eight.

On Thursday Beebe hammered Mills 25-7, 25-13 and 25-4 to improve to 9-1 in conference play.

Friday, October 10, 2014

TOP STORY >> Conway convict guilty of murders

Leader staff writer

Convicted felon James Michael Davis, 39, of Conway was sentenced Thursday to two consecutive life terms without parole for the Dec. 23, 2011 stabbings of a couple who died at their home off Hwy. 38.

A Lonoke County Circuit Court jury deliberated for 30 minutes before finding Davis guilty on two counts of first-degree murder. He was on parole when he murdered Charles Smith and Tracey Mills, who were giving him shelter when they were stabbed.

The victims’ family held hands and cried when Judge Barbara Elmore read the jury’s decision. Davis’ adopted parents slumped and wept in the courtroom.

Mills’ sister, Nichole Weatherly, said, “Though he has been sentenced, it matters not for how long he is behind bars.

“Forgiveness is something that is not earned. But I have freely forgiven him.”

Weatherly said Mills taught her family values and how to love.

“She showed love to everyone and asked nothing in return. Her smile would light up the place like a shining star,” Weatherly said.

Mills’ daughter, Christy, said the victim didn’t get to see her grandchild, her daughter graduate college or get married. Davis took that away from her.

Davis, who was found competent to stand trial, wore a red Arkansas pullover jacket. He constantly mumbled gibberish aloud during the proceedings and nodded his head with a wide-eyed sneer.

Public defenders Jonathan Lane and Robby Golden tried to persuade the seven women and five men on the jury that Davis had an undiagnosed mental defect.

Deputy prosecutors John Huggins and Christine Hendrickson presented evidence that Davis was putting on a show.

Experts at the state hospital testified that Davis was faking. He was there for six months receiving treatment and tests. Psychologists said he acted up when physicians were around. When filmed under surveillance, Davis was normal alone and with his peers. He played dominoes, basketball and asked for food.

Davis attempted to escape from the state hospital. He was able to jimmy a door open with a milk carton during a shift change there. Davis climbed a fence but was stopped in the parking lot.

On the night of the murders, according to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s incident report, deputies were called at 7:48 p.m. to the stabbings at 83 Charles Drive, at a triplex off North Stagecoach Road on Hwy. 38 between Cabot and Ward.

Smith, 56, and Mills, 45, were in a relationship and living together at 87 Charles Drive. Davis was receiving assistance and shelter from the couple.

The caller told the 911 operator that a white woman on her front porch was screaming for help. The woman had been stabbed and was bleeding.

While deputies were responding to the scene, the caller said a white man was now stabbing the woman and another white man on her front porch.

She said the victims were left lying motionless on her porch, and she believed they were dead. The man who had stabbed them ran on foot from the area, the caller told police.

When deputies arrived, they found Mills lying on her side with her back against the raised porch of 83 Charles Drive.

She was stabbed twice in the chest and once in the neck. A large pool of blood was on the ground under Mills, and her shirt was covered in blood.

Smith was lying on his back with his head toward the door, and his legs were off the porch.

Smith had a large amount of blood on him. He was stabbed 15 times in the neck, abdomen, chest and legs. There were also injuries to his hands.

Allied Ambulance arrived at the same time as deputies. Mills was asking for help. While the ambulance crew was attending to Mills, a deputy asked her who stabbed her. She said it was “James Davis.”

As the deputy tried to get more information, Mills said she could not breathe and could not answer any more questions.

The deputy saw Smith looking as if he was gasping for air. His body rose slightly off the ground and went limp.

Mills was taken by ambulance to Ward, where she was air lifted to North Metro Medical Center. She was later pronounced dead.

Emergency medical technicians told deputies Smith had also passed away from his injuries.

A dog tracking team from the Department of Corrections Tucker Unit was called to assist deputies, State Police and police officers from Ward and Austin in a search of the nearby wooded area. Davis was found there and arrested less than two hours after Mills and Smith were stabbed. His clothes were bloodstained, police said.

Davis had a list of prior convictions. In 2007, he was convicted in Faulkner County for manufacturing, delivering and possessing a controlled substance and sentenced to 36 months in state prison. He was convicted in Lonoke County for fleeing.

In 2007, Davis was convicted in Pulaski County for possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to 36 months in state prison.

In May 2008, he was convicted in Lonoke County for writing a hot check and sentenced to 12 months in state prison. In June 2008, Davis was convicted in Pulaski County for theft by receiving, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, fleeing and theft of property. He was sentenced to five years probation.

Then, in 2008, he was convicted in Faulkner County of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon and theft of property. He was sentenced to 60 months in state prison.

In 2010, Davis was convicted in Faulkner County of residential burglary, theft of property, forgery, possession of a firearm by a felon and criminal mischief.

He was sentenced to 96 months in state prison.

TOP STORY >> Pit bull owner innocent

Leader staff writer

The owner of a pit bull that killed a horse near Ward was found not guilty of violating the Lonoke County vicious dog ordinance during a bench trial on Tuesday at Ward District Court.

Judge Joe O’Bryan determined that Jeremy Taylor’s dog was not deemed vicious by law at the time when the dog broke free from a logging chain and attacked two horses and a dog. Taylor was not fined, and his pit bull was returned from quarantine.

According to the court docket report, the dog was deemed dangerous on Tuesday night as defined by the Lonoke County ordinance.

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

As a dangerous dog, the pit bull must be kept indoors or in an enclosed locked pen to prevent escape. The enclosure must be marked with a warning sign.

The dog is required to have a muzzle and be on a leash when out. The dog must be registered at the Lonoke County Judge’s Office, and Taylor has to get a surety bond of at least $50,000.

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 Ward.

The property owner, Mildred Paul, 65, alleged 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 it into a barbed wire fence.

The horse fell to the ground, and the dog continued biting it on the front shoulders and neck. The dog killed that horse, while Paul’s other horse was bitten under her eye and leg.

Her dachshund puppy was bitten on his hip and neck. He had to be taken to a vet, who treated the puncture wounds.

She said Jeremy Taylor of 218 Ruby Lane was notified and came to retrieve the dog. He took the dog back to his home and chained the dog in its area.

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

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

TOP STORY >> Contest gets mean, nasty

Leader senior staff writer

What started off as a warm, fuzzy, positive campaign full of folksy charm, the Second District congressional race between former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, a Democrat, and banker French Hill, a Republican, has descended into one of the nastier races in the state, with ads by both candidates implying misbehavior by the other where there appears to be none.

Hill did not bribe disgraced state Treasurer Martha Schoffner for $7 million in state deposits in his bank. Hays did not raise his own salary 20 times, and his administration was by most accounts a success.

The National Rifle Association has endorsed Hill, he told a small gathering at Fort Thompson Sporting Goods in Sherwood on Thursday.

“This is a key point of contrast,” according to Hill. “The NRA afforded me an A rating. My opponent has been awarded an F rating.”

By way of that contrast, Hays, an NRA member, says — while he would oppose any law that would take guns away from law-abiding citizens — he favors background checks on commercial gun sales to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Hill, the founder and CEO of Delta Trust & Bank, says that for the past 20 years, he’s been “a businessman and job creator,” a champion of second amendment rights and that he served as a senior policy advisor for President George H.W. Bush as a deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury.

Hill, his wife, Martha, and their two children, Liza and Payne, live in Little Rock.

Hays, six-term North Little Rock mayor, says he championed construction of Verizon Arena, Dickey-Stephens Ball-park and attracted a Caterpillar factory to North Little Rock, creating hundreds of local jobs.

The U.S. Army Reserve captain is a former North Little Rock assistant city attorney, chief counsel for the state Secretary of State and a former state representative.

He graduated from North Little Rock High School and graduated from the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville.

“The rancor and discord and dysfunctionality (in Washington) is in contrast to what we do in North Little Rock,” Hays says.

While raising the Arkansas minimum wage is not an issue for Congress, Hays says it’s a popular notion, he supports it. The state Secretary of State — a Republican — has certified the petitions to put that issue on the ballot.


Hays says he got into the race after retiring as mayor because the Republicans shut down the government a year ago.

“That tipped the scale and put me in the race,” he said.

Hays and his wife, Linda, a retired elementary school teacher, have three children and three grandchildren. He attends Park Hill Baptist Church.


Libertarian Deborah Standiford, 44, who has remained pretty much invisible in this expensive, high-octane race, has a platform that includes demilitarization of police forces, repealing the Affordable Care Act in favor of health savings accounts and free competition among insurance companies across state lines and legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. She says that would help eliminate or relieve prison overcrowding and save the state a lot of money.

She would eliminate the Patriot Act, the National Security Administration and refocus foreign policy on national defense.

Standiford, 44, is a part time graphic artist. She is the married mother of two.

“I would remove the defense of marriage act. The federal government shouldn’t be in charge of licensing marriage,” she said, “but, if it is, they need to treat all people equally.

She would work to eliminate the national deficit and reduce the debt by eliminating the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior and HUD.

“I believe the Arkansas voters deserve another choice in this race,” Standiford said.


Hill said, “I’ll put a laser focus on getting the economy growing...Jobs and economic growth are the No. 1 issue facing the second district. We have fewer people working here than we did in July 2007.”

He said his most important goals included “simplifying and reducing the burden of our tax system and our regulatory system and any regulation that is making it harder to employ people.

“Across the board, the government is trying to do too much with one-size-fits-all solutions,” Hill said. “I’d like to see more solutions pushed back to state and local governments.

“I think the first substantive issue that needs to be addressed is jobs,” said Hays. “Arkansas needs more jobs, and we need better-paying jobs.

“In North Little Rock, we got rid of unnecessary regulations and cut wasteful spending, and created an environment where business could grow. Washington needs to take the same approach. I think that there is a great deal of work on that front that can be done on a bipartisan basis.


“The first thing I will do when I get to Congress is to find a Republican congressman and make a friend,” Hays said. “I got into this race when the government shut down one year ago. I was disappointed and fed up with the gridlock and the discord in Washington. At city hall, there’s no such thing as Republican crime or Democratic garbage. As mayor, I got things done by working with other people, and I’ll work with anyone who wants to solve problems.

“I balanced 24 budgets, cut the city’s debt in half and worked to create and attract good-paying jobs. We built Verizon Arena and Dickey-Stephens Ballpark, expanded our parks and trails systems. I worked hard in partnership with the city council, our state government and local officials. That’s the kind of thing I want to do Washington — working to solve problems and putting the next generation ahead of the next election.”


Hill calls Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) a $2.2 trillion mistake and says he would roll it back. As to how or whether to provide health care insurance to the more than 200,000 working class Arkansans now enrolled through the state’s Private Option or federal health care market, he said “We need to repeal and replace it with reforms that lower healthcare costs for all Arkansans. We need more market-based and more individual solutions.”

About the Private Option, Hill said “All states can expand Medicaid any way they want, but I question the expense. We need more market-based competition and fewer mandates.

“We must also embrace reforms that reward quality healthcare, encourage healthy living and minimize waste through patient choice, information, transparent pricing and healthcare ownership,” Hill said. “We need a private insurance market that allows for flexibility, portability and choice. We must reform Medicaid so that governors have flexibility to control state budgets and manage high-impact patients who drive up costs for local providers and federal/state officials. We also need medical malpractice reform.”

Hays said, “I would not have voted for the Affordable Care Act, but I think the best approach now is to fix the problems with the law. In terms of fixes, I would support, there are a number, but I’ll focus on three.


Hays said, first, Medicare should be allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices.

Second, he said, we should remove the “ridiculous” paperwork requirements for doctors.

Third, he said, we should repeal the medical device tax. “Here in Arkansas, the Private Option was an example of bipartisanship, with a Democratic Governor working with the Republican-led General Assembly to find a solution to a problem. I’d like to take the same bipartisan approach to Washington,” Hays said.

He promises to work on getting more education and job training programs for veterans.

Hays also says he’ll fight to protect farmers, ranchers, cattlemen and loggers.

“We need to invest in renewable energy like wind, solar and bio-fuels, while also taking full advantage of our abundant domestic resources, like oil and natural gas,” he said. Hays strongly supports completion of the Keystone pipeline.

A “skyrocketing national debt” is unacceptable, Hays noted.

“Washington needs to learn how to balance its budget the same way we do,” he said.

Hill said, “We need a cultural change in which the federal government is a smaller, less significant and much less expensive and intrusive part of everyone’s lives.”

He would enact a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and a line-item presidential veto power that could pass constitutional muster.

These types of reforms are a necessary antidote to Congress’s failures to exercise self-control, Hill said.

“I support policies that help hard-working Americans save for retirement and health care independent of government aid. We must enhance 401(Ks), IRAs and health savings accounts so seniors can have security and peace of mind. However, these meaningful improvements will only matter if we control Washington’s spending addiction.” Hill also wants to strengthen social security and Medicare.

EDITORIAL >> Parolee in rape case

Elderly abuse isn’t talked about enough. But, when it is, we often hear about family members or caregivers who abuse older people physically and financially.

While the elderly can be more prone to be targets of abuse by their caregivers, they also need to be on the lookout for strangers who target them.

A parolee is accused of recently raping a Little Rock woman, 70, who lives alone. Luckily, she survived, didn’t require hospitalization and said the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office treated her case with care.

She recently shared her experience with The Leader and Arkansas Aging. She spoke highly of the sheriff’s office, saying that she was “impressed.”

“The investigator, Drew Evans, was real professional the way he questioned me and made me feel comfortable,” she said. They picked up the alleged perpetrator within 24 hours.

“They are better trained and more respectful than years ago,” she said of the investigator.

The attacker was mowing the lawn before he raped her inside the rental property where she lives, she said. The property contains several homes occupied by older women who live alone.

The alleged rapist was a parolee and part of a work program run by a neighborhood church.

The victim said the man, who was 6’4” and 240 pounds, knocked on her door and asked for a cup of water. She had him wait on the porch and went to get the water.

“He jerked the door open and pushed me against a wall and said if (I) said anything he would hurt me,” she said.

After she reported the attack, she was relieved that Evans treated her with respect and sensitivity.

“They’re making people feel comfortable in (a) situation,” she said.

The victim is a former nurse and veteran of the Vietnam War.

She said “the law is too soft” when it comes to letting parolees back into communities. She’s angry that rapists and people with long criminal histories are let out and expected to behave while they await trial.

The alleged rapist has stayed in jail for seven months since the violent attack. The victim is relieved about that.

She’s found the prosecuting attorney’s office helpful but can’t stand the idea that the rapist might be offered a plea deal. “I pressed charges because I didn’t want him to do it again,” she said.

Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Pulaski County, said there will be no plea bargain before notifying the victim. “We’ll make sure we answer all her questions and explain to her how the system works,” he said.

“I don’t want a plea bargain for rape,” she said. “I want (him) in for life.”

She continued, “I just don’t want him to get out there and do this to anybody else.”

Convicts are no longer allowed on the property where she lives. But, before, she said, they were often there helping the landlord.

During the Vietnam War, she was stationed on a ship where she worked in the surgical units that took casualties.

“I’m not the kind of woman who boohoos,” she said.

“The Navy taught me how to stand on my own two feet. I learned my discipline in the Navy,” she said. “I’m not going to take any crap from anybody.”

– Aliya Feldman

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Booster shot in the arm

Just as flu season begins, Jacksonville got a big healthy dose to fix what ails it — an $18 million health-care facility. Construction will start next year.

This is momentous news for the city that has tried in recent years to focus on economic development, but has had little luck.

The outpatient-care campus could produce hundreds of jobs and offer services from a variety of specialists, dentists, nutritionists, social workers, a pharmacy and surgeries for patients who will be released on the same day of their procedures.

The complex will provide medical services to thousands of patients in the area. It will be located on 9.25 acres on Braden Street between Marshall Road and Hwy. 67/167, across the street from North Metro Medical Center.

Michael Arvin of Alliance Strategic Health Advisors in Dallas, the company planning the center, announced the news in an exclusive report in The Leader on Saturday.

It’s also good news for Mayor Gary Fletcher, whose embattled economic developer, Rickey Hayes of Owasso, Okla., helped bring Arvin to town. Timely, too, since Fletcher will debate his opponent, former Police Chief Gary Sipes, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in an event sponsored by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

The mayor has stood by Hayes despite tough criticism for not bringing in the businesses he promised even after five years with a contract that’s paid him about $250,000. That kind of steadfastness is admirable in a way, and, if Hayes can have a hand in a deal of this scale every five years, he will certainly be worth it.

Fletcher is sure to be riding high into next week’s debate. “This is just, I think, the first phase of what we’re looking at, so it’s not the end. It’s a growing thing, as we believe that communities that take care of education and health care are communities that have great futures,” the mayor said.

Arvin explained, “With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, many communities such as Jacksonville face challenges when it comes to addressing the health care needs of their community.”

He continued, “This results in exploring alternative methods to patient care and creates new opportunities for providers of care, local governments and private sector developers to come together and coordinate their efforts to meet those challenges.”

In other words, this new facility will be hoping to fill a void and cash in on the Affordable Care Act — often referred to snidely as Obamacare — and its focus on preventative and outpatient care.

So, without health-care reform, this project would likely not be happening.

TOP STORY >> Spring Creek wins two awards

Its focus on quality patient care has earned Spring Creek Health and Rehab in Cabot two prestigious awards.

Spring Creek Health and Rehab, 804 N. Second St., has been recognized as a 2014 recipient of the Bronze Commitment to Quality Award for its dedication to improving the lives of residents through quality care.

The award was presented this week to Spring Creek during the 65th annual convention of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) in Washington.

“These awards are not simply plaques that we will hang on the wall and forget,” said Tracey Burlison, the center’s administrator. “We received these awards because we are committed to the constant journey of improving quality care. They are a testament to the dedication of our staff members.”

Spring Creek Health and Rehab was one of 390 centers to receive the bronze level award. Bronze is the first of three distinction levels in the National Quality Award Program.

The program honors centers that have demonstrated their commitment to improving quality care for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Spring Creek was also among 28 organizations throughout the state that were presented Arkansas Governor’s Quality Awards by Gov. Mike Beebe during the recent 20th annual celebration of that awards program.

Spring Creek, for the second consecutive year, received the Commitment Level Award. The levels for awards in descending order are the Governor’s Award, the Achievement Award, the Commitment Award and the Challenge Award.

The goal of the Governor’s Quality Award Program is to encourage Arkansas organizations to engage in continuous quality improvement, which leads to performance excellence, and to provide significant recognition to those organizations.

Created as a not-for-profit organization, the program that has partnered with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to assisting in building a strong infrastructure for Arkansas businesses. That dedication is reflected in the program’s vision to be a catalyst for excellence in organizational performance.

TOP STORY >> Cabot academy touts freshmen

Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District cut the ribbon to its $22 million Freshman Academy for ninth graders during a dedication ceremony Monday.

The 205,000-square-foot school opened in August to 800 students. The school was built with 60 percent partnership funding from the state.

The campus has four buildings with 70 classrooms, seven science labs, three computer labs, a meeting room, a media center with adjoining computer lab, a career, agriculture and construction center and a P.E. gym with seven locker rooms.

Choir, art, band and forensics classes are held at the cafeteria building with a stage jutting into the dining area. The school has a secure central courtyard.

Superintendent Tony Thur-man said, “We knew, with this year’s ninth-grade class, we had an issue. With the enrollment coming up, starting with this year’s ninth graders, did we want to add on to Junior High North and Junior High South and make those schools even bigger? How big of a school do you want for seventh, eighth and ninth graders?”

Thurman said he wanted to do something unique and discussed a ninth-grade school with school board members. He said the school is a beautiful building, but it’s the job of the faculty and staff to make it a home for ninth graders.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert proclaimed this week as Freshman Academy Week. He said the school board and Thurman are partners with the city in supporting education. Cypert recognized the district in appreciation of its commitment and service to the community.

School board president Mark Russell quoted Ben Franklin, “Investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“About five years ago, we put this building on the books. The state decided to partner with us and, today, this building is a reality,” Russell said.

Russell then quoted Gen. George S. Patton, who said, “If you tell people where to go and not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.”

Russell said, a year ago, Freshman Academy Principal Tanya Spillane started working on the project with the goal to graduate more students.

“There are countless studies that say ninth grade is where we lose kids. They can’t drop out of school until they are juniors and seniors. But it is because they didn’t get the foundation they needed in ninth grade,” Russell said.

“In some districts, they are thrown to the wolves with high schoolers. We looked at that as an option and building more rooms at the high school. But 9, 10, 11, 12 graders all on one campus is too many kids so this was built,” he continued.

“If you look around this building, you start to see what the staff at Freshman Academy and Mrs. Spillane came up with,” Russell said.

He went on to quote Ben Franklin again: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.”

Russell said the school is an interactive learning community, where teachers and staff are trying to make the school a community where everybody wants to learn, everyone helps one another and everyone moves forward.

Russell ended by quoting former UCLA basketball coach John Wooten. “I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any single profession.”

The board president concluded, “Without the teachers in this building and all over this district, it’s just brick and stone.”

Parent Stacy Gaddy said she is pleased with the academy because it’s a safer and more positive environment.

“I’m very proud to have a student here,” Gaddy said.

Her son, Landon Gaddy, said, “The school lunches are a big improvement. There are more choices. The hallways aren’t so crowded.”

Parent Hal Roper said, “I like the safe layout of the school. I like the new updated equipment. I’m very impressed.” His son, Holden, said the large-screen TVs are better than the projectors because he can see them better

TOP STORY >> CabotFest looks to a big weekend

Leader staff writer

CabotFest gets underway this weekend. Admission is free to the annual downtown celebration.

The festival began in 1978 as a small get-together to celebrate the rebuilding of Cabot after a killer tornado ravaged the city in 1976.

“We expect a great crowd, great weather and for it to be successful,” Cabot Chamber of Commerce Director Amy Williams said.

Festivities begin Friday night with the carnival from 6 to 11 p.m.

Ride armbands for Friday only will be on sale for $15 at the Cabot chamber office until noon Friday.

The street dance with DJ Paul Grass is returning after many years. Dancing will take place at the new city hall parking lot from 9 to 11 p.m. Friday, following the high school football game.

On Saturday, the Cabot Lions Club will hold a pancake breakfast from 6 to 10 a.m. at Cabot First Baptist Church, 204 N. Third St.

The breakfast raises money to buy eyeglasses for local children and adults. It helps provide local residents with surgeries for glaucoma and cataracts and provides vision screenings at area daycares, preschools, churches, health fairs and the Lonoke County Christian Clinic. The breakfast also supports the Cabot Lions Scholarship Fund.

Tickets for the breakfast are $5 for adults and $2 for children 10 years old and under. They can be purchased in advance from Cabot Lions Club members or at the door. Carry-out service will be available. Diners are asked to bring in their used eyeglasses so they can be recycled.

CabotFest starts at 9 a.m. with opening ceremonies and continues to 6 p.m. The Mount Carmel Baptist Church choir will perform the “National Anthem” and the Cabot High School ROTC will present the colors. The Cabot High School snare drum section is also scheduled to perform.

Activities are happening all day. Festivalgoers can visit more than 150 vendor and food booths. Cooks will be serving chili dogs, kettle corn, Filipino and Mexican cuisines, blooming onions, crawdads, barbecue, fried pies and other fair food favorites.

Re:New Church is presenting the Cricket Spittin’ contest to see who can spit a cricket the farthest.

Youth and worship pastor Jon Atchison said, “There is nothing like this anywhere. Let’s get the word out. Some people have embraced it. For others, it is gross to them. It’s a unique competition to just Cabot.”

The contest runs all day for $1 each try. There are three different age groups for kids, teens and adults. World champion cricket spittin‘ trophies will be presented at 6:30 p.m.

The crickets are not found in the field, but are food-grade variety.

Money raised from the contest will go back into funding future cricket spittin’ contests.

“CabotFest is all about family fun. They can share the experience. People have been talking about it since last year,” Atchison said.

Atchison said records will be kept, so they can be challenged in the future.

The festival will have a kids zone with inflatables and a book mobile. The Cabot Animal Shelter adoption unit will have cats and dogs needing new homes.

Dance and gymnastics groups will be performing on stage from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Faith Baptist Church will hold a 5K run. The Cabot AARP chapter is holding BINGO.

There will be a car show for vehicles of all years and models, a photo booth at $1 a picture, Build-A-Pal, a station where children can make a stuffed animal starting at $15; and a paintball course starting at $3.

Live music entertainment scheduled on the main stage starts at 4 p.m. First up is The Blend, a doo-wop acappella quartet from Illinois singing hits songs from the 1950s and ‘60s. Following the group at 5:30 p.m. is Country musician Matt Dame from Nashville. Dame is a Batesville native and a former police officer turned musician.

Anthem Lights will perform at 7 p.m. It’s a Christian-Rock group from Nashville that has a following. Band member Alan Powell stars in a new movie, “The Song,” which was inspired by the life of Solomon.

The carnival will be open until 11 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison host biggest rival

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison will face their toughest test of the season this Friday against their archrival Hazen, the No. 3 team in Class 2A, in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Hazen.

Carlisle (2-3, 2-1) is coming off one of its better games this season, beating Marvell 54-12 last week at Fred C. Hardke Field. The Bison rushed for 455 yards last week, and winning the battle up front is going to be key if the Bison hope to hang with the undefeated Hornets (5-0, 3-0), who also have a strong run game.

“They don’t have the speed that England had,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith, “but they’re still pretty fast, and they’re bigger and stronger than England was. So, yeah, I’d say it’s the best team we’ll see so far.”

Carlisle ended up blowing out Hazen late last year and won by the final score of 40-12. It was one of the most physical games played all year, regardless of classification, and Keith is expecting another dogfight, especially in the trenches.

“One thing we were real proud about last year was I think we were more physical,” Keith said, “and that’s something that we’re going to have to do this year. We’re going to have to beat them up front, and it’s going to be a physical, hard-fought game again.”

Hazen is a run-first team on offense like Carlisle, and the Hornets will do it with several backs. Tailback Trenton Mosby (5-8, 185) is the lead back in the Hornets’ two-back Pistol offense.

The senior, who has 4.6 speed, earned All-State honors last year after rushing for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 TDs. Logan Penn (5-6, 165), a junior with 4.4 speed, ran for more than 900 yards last season as a sophomore, and has contributed even more to the Hornets’ backfield this season.

Another back that will get a portion of the carries is Lucas Tenison (5-8, 170). He ran for more than 500 yards last year at fullback. Hazen doesn’t have a ton of depth up front, but the players they do have may be, as a unit, the biggest and strongest in the conference.

In addition, Keith said the Hornet linemen are quick for their size, which means they get off the ball in a hurry.

Defensively, the Hornets line up primarily in a 4-3, but they put nine in the box in last year’s game against the Bison, and Keith said he expects his offense will see the same look on Friday.

“They had nine in the box all game last year,” Keith said, “and I expect the same. They’ll stack the box and they’ve got those big linemen that’ll hold you up and let those quick linebackers fly around.

“So we’ve got to do a good job of getting a push up front, pushing those linemen into those linebackers’ laps, and we’ll go from there.”

One publication has Hazen favored to win Friday by as much as 35 points, and even though Hazen is the heavy favorite on paper, head Hornet Joe Besancon expects a more competitive game than what’s been predicted by other publications.

“Everybody thinks Carlisle’s not Carlisle, but I guarantee when they come over here Friday night that they’ll be ready for us,” said Besancon. “I tell you what, both towns really get into it. It’s about bragging rights.

“It’s not so much the players themselves, but the older generation – those folks really get back and forth and pick at each other about it.”

The scary thing about Hazen is it hasn’t even played up to its potential yet. Besancon said a lot of his players, like Mosby and Tenison, were hampered by injuries early in the season, but he said those two along with everyone else are just now getting back to full strength.

As far as the rivalry itself, both coaches know what to expect, and know what it means to beat the other team, but Besancon said his team is going to approach it like any other week and that he doesn’t want his players to put too much focus on the rivalry.

“Our approach isn’t going to change,” Besancon said. “It’s another football game, another football team, and we have to go about it like we do every week and not get caught up in all the hoopla that’s going on with television stations and radio stations and different things that want to broadcast the game.

“Our job Friday night is to play a football game and not get caught up in anything else.”

This will be Keith’s first game against Hazen as the head Bison, but he knows what this game means between the two schools and communities.

“Especially when you’re dealing with rivalry games, previous records go out the window,” Keith said. “You play with a lot of emotion and it’s a one-game season for us right now, and it’s going to be a tough one.

“It’s a one-game season now, and it doesn’t matter what you do all year as long as you beat Hazen. When I took the job here, the first thing I heard was you have to beat Hazen. That’s the first thing you hear about when you get here. It’s important. It’s the biggest game of the year, and it’s a must win.”

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers hosting potent offense

Leader sportswriter

Beebe got its first win of the season last week against Jacksonville, but the Badgers’ opponent this week will be their toughest test of the season as they’ll host two-time defending 5A-Central Conference champion and Class 5A’s No. 2-ranked Pulaski Academy Bruins this Friday at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Bruins (4-1, 2-0) have had little trouble scoring points since conference play began in week four, but the defense has stepped us as well, allowing just three scores in the last two weeks.

However, offense is typically what Pulaski Academy hangs its hat on, and as usual, its highly-potent offense has been hitting on all cylinders since the regular season began – averaging 49 points per game.

“They’re good at what they do,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “They like to spread you out. They’ve got a good running back and they’re good at throwing the football. They’ve got all kinds of different formations and they try to get you to line up wrong, and take advantage of you when you’re lined up wrong.

“So it is a big challenge. We’re going to have to be sure to line up quickly on defense, and then, of course, on offense, we’re going to have to be sure not to turn the ball over. I think the best chance we got is to hang onto the football and keep their offense on the sideline.”

Senior Bruin, Will Hefley (6-5, 205), returns at quarterback after passing for 4,152 yards, 54 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 10 games in 2013. He also had a 66 percent completion percentage.

Junior Bruin, Tre Bruce (6-0, 190), is the most versatile PA offensive player. He lines up at quarterback, running back and receiver. Last year, he threw eight TD passes, ran for 579 yards and six scores, and caught 46 passes for 534 yards and seven TDs.

The Bruins’ top receivers are senior Will Hastings (5-10, 165) and junior Zach Kelley (5-7, 145), who’s the coach’s son. Hastings is the fastest Bruin with 4.4 speed, and is also the team’s kicker.

Hastings caught 67 passes for 1,400 yards and 21 TDs a year ago, and is stellar at onside kicks, which is what the Bruins do on every kickoff. Kelley caught 84 passes for 1,582 yards and 21 TDs as a sophomore, and he possesses 4.49 speed.

The good thing about Beebe’s run-oriented Dead-T attack is that it can counter the Bruins’ pass-happy offense by controlling the clock, which will keep that highly-potent offense on the sideline longer than it’d like.

“It’s going to be a big part of our game plan,” Shannon said. “That’s what we like to do anyway is control the game by controlling the ball. Last time we played them in ’08, we had a lot of yards but we turned it over six times. They’re definitely a team that you can’t give extra possessions to.

“Our goal this week is to get the onside kicks and to not turn the ball over. If we do those two things we feel like we’ll have a chance in the fourth quarter.”

In addition to going for the onside kick every kickoff, Pulaski Academy also goes for it on fourth down regardless of its field positioning, something that has gained the program national exposure over the years – in large part because the Bruins have been very successful at converting each aspect.

Defensively, PA is multiple, but Shannon expects to see some type of eight-man front against his offense on Friday night.

“I think we’re going to see some kind of eight-man front,” Shannon said. “It could be a 4-4, 5-3, 6-2 – something in that range there. Which one, we don’t really know, but that’s how it is every week. We never know how teams are going to line up against us because we never see teams that do what we do.

“We’ll just have to go with what we’ve been taught, apply our rules and get off the football. I expect them to try and bring everybody and try to stop us before we get started.”

The Badgers (1-4, 1-1) will enter Friday’s conference game without another one of their players. They’ve been bitten hard by the injury bug this season, and even though junior fullback Trip Smith is back and appears to be 100 percent, several others have been lost because of various injuries.

After losing starting quarterback Aaron Nunez for the season because of an ACL injury, fellow senior Drake Henderson, who is the team’s punter as well as a contributor on the defensive line, won’t play Friday because he broke three of his fingers on a hit during the Jacksonville game.

One of the broken fingers will require surgery, which could end his season.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears flying high into Jacksonville

Leader sports editor

It’s always been a healthy, evenly matched rivalry, but the Jacksonville vs. Sylvan Hills meetings have seen in increase in intensity over the last few years. That’s not expected to change much this week when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. at Jan Crow Stadium.

This year’s matchup, on paper, doesn’t appear to be all that even. The undefeated Bears have scarcely been challenged so far, with a 13-point win over Hot Springs Lakeside being its smallest margin of victory, and no one has slowed down the Sylvan Hills offense.

Sylvan Hills is averaging 49.4 points per game and its average margin of victory is 32.8. Jacksonville is 1-4 and has struggled offensively all season. The Red Devils did appear to take a huge step in the right direction last week, nearly beating Beebe if not for a string of bad luck and bad calls that went against them.

Despite looking like the heavy favorite on paper, Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow doesn’t think it’s wise to take the Red Devils lightly.

“The records haven’t mattered a whole lot in games like this,” said Withrow. “I think as the season has come along, they’ve gotten better. That was a late transition for them with the new coach, and it looks like it’s going in the right direction.”

First year Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham liked what he saw from his team last week, but admits the nature of the loss was still affecting the team on Monday.

“It wasn’t the liveliest practice Monday because we’re still reeling I think,” said Hickingbotham. “That was a tough loss, a tough one to take. That game cut deep. These guys were hurting after that game. They put a lot into it. We talked about it after practice because we realized people were dragging. So we’re going to put it behind us and try to build up each day to Friday. Hopefully we’ll be back up and ready to go.”

Even if spirits are high by Friday, it’s a big challenge that lies in front of the Red Devils. Sylvan Hills’ defensive line isn’t as big as Beebe’s, which gave Jacksonville tremendous trouble in the passing game. Even so, Hickingbotham knows a big key to producing better numbers on offense is better blocking.

“We just have to block better,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s all about execution and cleaning up plays – finding the right man to pick up and cleaning up the mistakes. I feel like as a team we have improved each week and that’s all you can ask from a young team like this.”

Each team has an offensive weapon that opposing defenses will have to be wary of on every play.

The difference is, Sylvan Hills’ best weapon, quarterback Tra Doss, touches the ball on every play, while Jacksonville’s Lamont Gause only got it nine times last week against Beebe after the Badgers made a defensive adjustment that halted the running game.

Despite the few touches, Withrow is very concerned about No. 5.

“He’s a difference maker,” Withrow said. “He is a big-time difference maker. You have to play perfect technique because he’s the kind that’ll exploit any little mistake and go score. And I’ll tell you something else, that No. 3 (Treasean Lambert), he can play. They haven’t had much success yet, but it’s not like we’re going out there against a team that doesn’t have any weapons. They’ve got some playmakers and they’ll beat somebody if you take them lightly.”

Doss is averaging 11.6 yards per carry so far this season and has rushed 46 times for a total of 532 yards and 13 touchdowns. But he’s not just a running threat. He’s also completed 23 of 39 pass attempts for 545 yards and five touchdowns.

He suffered a high ankle sprain last week against J.A. Fair, but is expected to play this Friday, though he’ll sit out most of practice this week.

“He don’t have to practice when you’re that good,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re not expecting him to be slowed down at all.”

Even if he is, Withrow is more than comfortable with his backup, sophomore Jordan Washington.

“I feel very good about putting Washington back there, and I feel good about the guy behind him,” Withrow said. “Joe Craft does a great job in practice and he’s the kind of guy that can lead a team if he has to. I’ll tell you something else; I like both of my ninth-grade quarterbacks too. In all my years coaching, this is the best group of five quarterbacks I’ve ever had. They can all play.”

Doss is far from Sylvan Hills’ only weapon. Running back Fred Williams is on pace for a 1,000-yard season with 436 yards and 11 touchdowns on 63 carries. Marlon Clemmons could even become a third 1,000-yard rusher if the Bears go deep into the playoffs. He has 37 carries for 348 yards and four touchdowns, plus five receptions for 205 yards and two scores, which leads the team.

That’s not to mention Nathan Thomas, who led the team in receiving last year, Washington, who is already garnering attention from colleges as a receiver, Cameron Dews, whose 6-foot-4 height makes him a difficult matchup, and Elijah Sowards, who emerged with two touchdown catches at tight end last week.

“It’s just weapons all over the field,” Hickingbotham said. “And you have to know where they all are. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers need win over WM

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers didn’t go the usual route and pick a pushover for homecoming this season. The Panthers will have to deal with the full-week of distractions that come along with homecoming before dealing with the West Memphis Blue Devils at 7 p.m. Friday.

While West Memphis has a strong tradition, making it to four state championship games in the last decade, it is struggling under a new coach and system so far this season.

The Blue Devils are 2-3 with wins over Forrest City and Marion, but were upset 13-12 last week against Searcy.

“They got beat by a point last week but I don’t know, they’ve got some good-looking athletes out on that field,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “I know we’d better not take them lightly because this means a lot. That’s a 7A team and we’re 0-1 against 7A teams in our conference. With the way these conferences are set up now, you got to think North Little Rock is going to win out, so that leaves two slots between us and two other teams. Beating the 6A teams don’t mean anything anymore. So if we don’t take care of business, we could be in trouble.”

It’ll be the second-straight week the Panthers have faced a team from Crittenden County that wears red, white and blue, has a first-year coach that is switching the offense from a T formation to the spread offense. But West Memphis is doing it better than Marion. The Blue Devilsbeat the Patriots 41-0 in the conference opener. Cabot just beat Marion last week 42-6, but was up 42-0 at halftime.

“Well they helped us right off the bat,” Malham said of Marion. “We covered a fumble on the 6-yard line and scored. Then we held them and they only got the punt to the 35. So we didn’t have far to go for our first two scores.”

The Panthers have been more balanced on offense than a year ago, spreading the ball around to several different players, whereas last season fullback Zach Launius averaged 30 carries per game and went over the 2,000-yard mark.

Four different players have carried for more than 100 yards so far this season. Last week fullback Kolton Eads had 18 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He was the only player over 100 in that game, primarily because he and the rest of the starters did not play at all in the second half.

For the past two seasons, Cabot has played with one tight end and one split end, but went back to the two-tight set most of the time last week. That was because starting split end Jake Ferguson had missed most of the week of practice with an illness. Sophomore Jack Teague played the second tight end most of the game. Center Justin Hagar also sat out last week and Kameron Eide stepped into his spot. But Malham expects everyone to be healthy and ready to go this week. In fact, Ferguson played on defense, and even caught Cabot’s only pass of the game for a 45-yard touchdown.

“I think Jake is fine and everybody else should be ready to go,” Malham said.

Malham says the keys to victory are pretty simple, and not much different than any other week.

“We just need to do what we do,” Malham said. “Play solid defense and hang onto that football. We usually do pretty good when we hang onto the football.”

SPORTS STORY >> JHS to honor Dan Hampton

Dan Hampton at his NFL Hall of Fame induction in 2002. The most decorated athlete in JHS history will finally have his JHS number retired after 39 years.

Leader sports editor

NFL Hall of Famer Dan Hampton will be back in his hometown of Jacksonville on Friday for a special ceremony to retire his No. 99 jersey at Jan Crow Stadium. The ceremony will take place before the 7 p.m. kickoff.

According to most people involved in JHS athletics today, the ceremony is overdue.

Current Jacksonville football coach Barry Hickingbotham attended a Hampton-hosted football camp when he was grade-schooler at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.

“I wanted to do it because I remember growing up he was the biggest thing in town,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s a shame he couldn’t be the first one, but we’re at least making it right. It’s long overdue.”

The original plan was to retire Hampton’s 99 and Clinton McDonald’s 40 on the same night. But McDonald is still an active player and could not get away on a Friday during the NFL season, so his jersey was retired in February during a home basketball game.

Despite the long wait, Hampton, who was a college All-American at Arkansas and played for the 1984 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears, is nothing but appreciative of the gesture.

“It (the wait) doesn’t bother me at all,” said Hampton. “I really appreciate the gesture. I’m a really fortunate individual. Football has been a great thing to me, but it’s not who I am. In a strange, abstract way, I’m very lucky I was talked into playing my junior year there at Jacksonville. So it’s a really nice token, a nice gesture, but it’s not necessary I guess is what I’m trying to say. I’m just real fortunate.”

Hampton lives in Chicago, where his 11-year-old son, Daniel, attends school. His daughter, Dakota, is a volleyball player at South Florida. Hampton has stayed involved with the Bears, though not officially affiliated with the team. He has a sports talk show on Comcast Cable in Chicago and does Chicago Bears’ post game on WGN radio. He also has a local NBC Sunday night NFL wrapup show.

His mother, Joan, still lives in Jacksonville. He hopes she can attend the ceremony.

“She’s 81 and she’s lived in Jacksonville for 52 years,” Hampton said. “Maybe we’ll be able to park somewhere where she can watch. I know she’d like to go and I’d like her to be there.”

Hampton liked football as a young child, but a tree-climbing accident at age 12 left him with little hopes of pursuing an athletic career. That all changed when a new JHS coach, Bill Reed, approached the 6-foot-6, 230-pound saxophone player in the marching band about joining the football team.

“Doctors had told me I’d probably never be able to run again, but I had been doing things like riding motorcycles, hauling hay and jumping out of trucks, running alongside them, so I knew I was almost completely well,” Hampton said. “I had played in fifth and sixth grade and I knew the guys that were on the team. So when I came back, it was great to be back with them.”

While Reed wanted Hampton on his team, he didn’t let him cut corners. He joined late, after other players had finished their required 100 hours of summer work. Hampton had less time, but he had to do all 100 hours.

“There was a price to be paid,” Hampton said of playing for Reed. “But I liked the commitment part of it. I wasn’t a bad kid or anything, but I wasn’t a straight-A student. My dad had died when I was in the eighth grade and my mom went to work six days a week. You could just say I didn’t have a lot of direction at that time. But once you’ve put in the work and earned your way back onto the team, you were part of the team, and I liked that. Those guys were great and I’d like to name them. You’ve got Rodney Jansen, Mike Mosley, Mike Jetta, Buddy Owen. These guys made me part of the group – Jerry Keister, Randy Fielder.”

The Red Devils didn’t make the state playoffs either of Hampton’s two seasons, but it was the group that laid the foundation for a program that soon after won two state titles.

“We believed in coach Reed,” Hampton said. “He’s a fine man. He’s one of those people a lot of people would hold up and say he changed my life. And I’m one of those people.

“The thing about football is talent is one thing, but toughness is another. Nothing is given and everything has to be earned. Now Bill Reed was not a touchy-feely guy. He was the last man you wanted to complain to. But every person – man, woman and child, wants discipline. Nobody wants chaos. And that was Bill Reed.”

Reed’s influence on Hampton and his urgings to join the football team has obviously had a tremendous impact on Hampton’s life.

In just one year playing for an average high school football team, Hampton gained nationwide attention from major college football coaches. Reed knew it before the player did.

“Coach Reed said I’ve got a chance to go to college with this,” Hampton said. “I knew I wasn’t going to go any other way. So I sold out for it and coach Reed will tell you, I worked hard at it.”

But the 17 year old still didn’t realize the level of schools that wanted him. Even legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant called the JHS coaching office about Hampton, but was told not to waste his time.

“My father was a big Razorback fan, as was everybody,” Hampton said. “So the idea of me playing for the Razorbacks? I was like, ‘yea right.’ I couldn’t believe it. I guess Bear Bryant and a bunch of other people called, but coach Reed told them, if Arkansas recruited him, you’re wasting your time because that’s where he’s going.”

After an All-American career at Arkansas, he was the fourth player taken in the 1979 NFL draft, which is still the highest any Razorback has ever been selected. Darren McFadden tied the feat in 2008.

In his 12-year career with the Bears, Hampton was voted All-Rookie in 1979 and by 1980 was an All-Pro and playing in his first Pro Bowl. He was named All-Pro six more times in his career and inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2002.

The list of accolades is even much longer, but Hampton’s drive goes back to those first days at JHS.

“The reason I played football, in the big picture, wasn’t for the glory,” Hampton said. “Yea, it was fun to hit people and get on TV and get your name in the paper, but that was all secondary. I wanted to be a part of something special. The best part is when you see all that work pay off and you go out and you play really well, and you see that look of appreciation. To see that camaraderie and that appreciation from people, teammates, coaches, whoever, just for what you do and working hard to do it well.

“And I got to be a part of something really special in 1984,” he continued. “There was a really special bond on that team. With Walter Payton, (Mike) Singletary, Steve McMichael – I’m not too big on everybody putting that finger in the air like you’re No. 1, but for one year, we could do it. We were the best on the planet. John Madden used to always say, and I ran into him 25 years later, and he still says that it was the greatest football team he’s ever seen. That tells you something.”