Saturday, October 18, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> PA Bruins roll over Red Devils in first half

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville football team had no answer for the precision Pulaski Academy offense on Friday, but the gauntlet is run. In their third-consecutive game against one of the three preseason favorites in the 5A Central, the Red Devils fell hard 55-7 to the Bruins in West Little Rock.

Jacksonville was trying to bounce back after a second-consecutive heartbreaking loss after losing by less than a score to Beebe and Sylvan Hills in back-to-back weeks. But there wasn’t much bounce left.

The Bruins dominated every facet of the game, piling up 445 total yards to just 180 for Jacksonville. The Red Devils’ usual strong running game was held to 30 yards on the ground when negative plays were counted. Senior tailback Lamont Gause, who has gone over 110 yards the last two games, was held to 48 yards on 14 carries by Pulaski Academy’s defense

Jacksonville got 150 yards through the air. Junior quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham completed 9 of 19 pass attempts for 69 yards. Sophomore Rowdy Weathers took over late in the game and provided a lift. He completed 6 of 7 attempts for 81 yards on the game’s final drive that stalled when time expired.

The Bruins ran up 399 of their total yards and all 55 of their points in the first half. Failed extra points followed the first two touchdowns. PA covered the third onside kick and scored on the very next play. This time the extra point was good, making it 19-0 with six minutes left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville’s Keilen Richardson fielded the ensuing onside kick and returned it to the Bruins’ 26, setting up Jacksonville’s only score.

On third and 6, Hickingbotham hit Gause for 13 yards. Two plays later, Gause carried 6 yards for the score. John Herrmann’s extra point made it 19-7 with 11:54 left in the opening half.

The Bruins returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Jacksonville 16, and scored three plays later on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Will Hefley to Tre Bruce. The two-point conversion was also by Bruce, making it 27-7 with 11:10 left in the half.

PA got another onside kick and scored on the first play, making it 34-7 with 11 minutes left in the half.

The Bruins kicked deep from that point on, and all subsequent kickoffs went into the end zone. Jacksonville went backwards 16 yards after a high snap and a penalty, and punted from its own 3.

PA started its next drive at the 46, and scored on two carries by Bruce to make it 41-7.

Jacksonville again went backwards with a run for -2 yards and consecutive intentional grounding penalties. The Bruins started at their 43 after a huge punt by Herrmann, and scored in seven plays to make it 48-7 with three minutes remaining in the first half.

Jacksonville turned it over on downs in four plays, and PA set the final margin with a one-play, 28-yard drive.

The Bruins, 6-1, 4-0, host Mills next week while Jacksonville, 1-6, 1-2, hosts North Pulaski.

SPORTS STORY >> Defense lifts Badgers

Special to The Leader

Compared to last week, it was a gorgeous night for football as the Beebe Badgers traveled to Wilbur D. Mills Stadium Friday night to face the Mills University Studies Comets. Each team entered the contest 1-2 in 5A Central Conference play and hoped to even that record to stay in the play-off race.

It was the Badgers that ended the night with a hard fought 21-7 victory to go 2-2 in conference play and 2-5 overall. Mills fell to 1-3 and 2-5 overall.

“The defense played great,” said Beebe head coach John Shannon. “That’s three weeks in a row our defense has really stepped it up. I’m so proud of those guys. The offense has got to be able to punch it in when we have opportunities, and we didn’t do that tonight and let them hang around and hang around. But (the defense) kept stepping up. Offensively, we ran the football and we pounded and grounded and were able to squeak out enough points to get us a good victory tonight.”

The Beebe offense had a total of 289 yards, while the defense held the Comets to 165 yards, 84 of those on one pop when Mills scored their only touchdown. Tripp Smith led the Badgers with 138 yards rushing and one touchdown, while Clayton Meurer and Jovaughn Wyrick had 68 yards and one touchdown each. Calen Peters had 122 yards for Mills, including the 84-yard touchdown scamper.

Beebe received the opening kick off, and Meurer returned it to the Badger 36-yard line. With Aaron Nunez in the game at quarterback, Smith ran for 13 yards on first down, but the Comets then forced a punt. Mills gave the ball right back as the punt was fumbled and recovered by Beebe’s Reese Anders on the Mills 26-yard line. On third and one, Smith picked up nine yards to the 8-yard line, and Meurer carried the ball from there for the touchdown. Tyler Jones added the extra point for a 7-0 Badger lead with 6:38 to go in the first quarter.

The lead did not last long as Peters took the ball the other way 84 yards on the first play from scrimmage for the touchdown. Nathan Millsap’s extra point was good for the 7-7 tie with 6:12 to go in the quarter.

Meurer returned the kick off to the 37-yard line this time, and with Justin Burlison at quarterback this drive, the Badgers marched down the field on a 13-play drive. On first and goal from the 5, Smith ran the ball into the end zone for the score. Jones’ PAT made the score 14-7 with 0:13 to go in the first quarter.

Mills got the ball for only their second possession on their own 28-yard line. The Comets moved the ball to the Beebe 40-yard line before a fumble occurred, and Hunter King recovered for the Badgers.

With Nunez back leading the way, Beebe picked up three first downs and drove to the Comet 17-yard line, but was unable to convert on fourth down and turned the ball over to the home team.

After forcing a Comet short punt, the Badger offense was on the Mills 36-yard line. Again, the ball went over on downs as Beebe was unable to take advantage of the field position and the first half ended with the 14-7 Badger lead.

Beebe’s first possession of the second half again came as a result of a short Mills punt and began on the Mills 48-yard line. This time the offense moved all the way to the 1-yard line and turned the ball over on a fumble with first and goal.

The Badger defense held again and forced another short punt from the end zone that gave the offense the ball on the Comet 25-yard line. Again Beebe could not take advantage and turned the ball over on downs.

Peters had a 10-yard gain for the Comets, but then was tackled in the backfield for a 17- yard loss by Dusty Grier. On fourth and 23, Mills quarterback Kwan Armond was almost intercepted, but instead the Comets were forced to punt.

The Badger offense had moved from their own 47-yard line to the Mills 42, when Wyrick broke free and took the ball all the way from there for the touchdown. Jones again added the extra point and set the final score at 21-7 with 6:57 to go in the contest.

The Comets Armond had completed a 30-yard pass to Allen Murphy to move the ball to the Beebe 32-yard line, but when Armond attempted a pass to the end zone, it was intercepted by Meurer for the touchback to end the threat.

Mills had one more opportunity, but on fourth and 7, Jesse Crisco tackled Armond for a 3-yard loss, giving the ball over to the Badgers.

Beebe will host the LR J.A. Fair War Eagles next Friday night at Bro Erwin Stadium.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe breezes by Sylvan Hills

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badgers’ volleyball team continued its march towards its first conference championship on Thursday, beating Sylvan Hills 3-0 in a match that held significant playoff implications. Entering the match at Badger Arena, Beebe held a one-game lead on the Lady Bears in the 5A-Central standings.

The results keep Beebe in a first-place tie with Pulaski Academy, with whom it has the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed, and assures Sylvan Hills of third place and a three seed, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out.

“We’re third now,” said Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway. “It’s disappointing how this match went, but we just have to move forward trying to improve for the state tournament.”

All three games were very competitive to about the halfway point. In all three, Beebe went on long runs to pull away. Scores in the match were 25-14, 25-15 and 25-15.

It will be Beebe’s second trip to the state tournament, and first for everyone on this team.

“We’re excited to go,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp. “Hopefully we’ll keep it going and enter the tournament with a lot of confidence and keep playing well.”

Service points were hard to come by early on in each game. Beebe led 6-2 before Sylvan Hills scored five straight points, including three kills by senior Brooke Rainey. Neither team scored another point on serve until Beebe’s Destiny Nunez hit an ace for a 12-11 Lady Badger lead. That was the beginning of the end in game one. Nunez continued serving for another nine points and a 21-11 lead, though there were no more aces. Several long rallies ensued during the run, but all fell Beebe’s way.

“They were just a little more consistent than we were,” Treadway said. “The first time we played them they beat us 3-1, but I don’t think they beat us as much as we beat ourselves. This time they beat us. They were able to keep those rallies going. Someone is going to make a mistake eventually and they were more consistent than we were.”

In game two, neither team led by more than one point until a kill by Jerra Malone gave the Lady Badgers a 10-8 lead. Sylvan Hills answered with two points to tie it again and it went back and forth until 12-12. Trailing 10-12, Sylvan Hills’ Karley Walton got a kill to break serve, then aced the Lady Badgers to tie it up. After Beebe broke serve, the home team scored four points on serve, three of which were unforced errors by Sylvan Hills. Sylvan Hills rallied again to pull within two points at 17-15, but scored no more.

Malone got a kill to stop the rally, then served up back-to-back aces to start a seven-point rally to end the game 25-15.

Game three went much the same as the first two. Beebe led 19-15 when Abby Smith hit a service streak and closed the match with an ace.

Rainey led all players with 13 kills and added four digs. Jamia Willis had seven digs for Sylvan Hills to lead in that category. Malone led Beebe with 12 kills and four aces. Abby Hogue added seven kills for the Lady Badgers while Paige Smith led all players with eight digs. Nunez scored a game-high 14 points on serve with two aces.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears rout Falcons

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills Bears had little trouble with their homecoming opponent on Friday, beating North Pulaski 56-6 in front of a nearly entirely pink crowd at Blackwood Field in Sherwood.

The Bears scored on six of their seven drives in the first half to take a 42-0 lead into intermission. The Falcons had some success offensively but couldn’t sustain it. They had three drives of seven plays or more and picked up seven first downs in the first half, but plays for negative yardage or penalties always helped thwart promising drives.

The Falcons’ first drive wasn’t one of the good ones. The Bears held their visitors to three and out and took over after a short punt at their own 41-yard line. It was the home team’s longest drive of the half in terms of number of plays. After two plays, Sylvan Hills faced third and 2, but got 18 yards on a carry by running back Fred Williams. That set up first down at the Falcons’ 34.

Quarterback Tra Doss hit Marlon Clemmons for 12 yards on first down. Two plays later he hit receiver Nathan Thomas for 9 yards to set up first down at the 12. On the next play, Williams took the handoff up the middle for the game’s first score. Zac Brown hit the extra point to make it 7-0 with 8:16 left in the opening quarter.

The Falcons took over at their own 28 and put together a nine-play drive, but failed to convert a fourth and 4 on the Sylvan Hills 35 and turned it over on downs.

On the very next play, Doss hit Thomas, who was lined up in the slot, on the post pattern on the right seam for 65 yards and another score with 4:23 left in the first period.

North Pulaski then drove seven plays to the Bears’ 45-yard line, but went backwards 13 yards from there and punted.

Sylvan Hills took over on its own 28. After an incomplete pass, Doss hit Thomas again for 12 yards, handed off to Williams for 11, then pitched to Clemmons, who kept around the right side and raced 49 yards down the home sideline to make it 21-0 with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Falcons got one first down on the next drive but was forced to punt after two incomplete passes and a 5-yard scramble by quarterback Michael Barnes.

The Falcons’ defense held the Bears when they went for it on fourth and 7 from their own 26, but the NP offense responded with its worst drive of the game. Sylvan Hills’ defensive end Tyler Davis sacked Barnes for a 7-yard loss on first down.

Barnes then hit Michael Bush for a 7-yard gain to make it third and 10, but Elijah Sowards got a sack for -11 yards and the Falcons’ punted from the Bears’ 36. The punt went into the end zone and the Bears started the next drive from the 20.

This time it took five plays to score. Clemmons got 37 yards on two of the first three plays. Doss kept for 18 then hit Clemmons on a 26-yard screen pass for a touchdown. The extra point made it 28-0 with 5:02 left in the half.

North Pulaski got one first down on the next drive, but lost 5 yards from there and punted again. Thomas caught the punt at the 10-yard line, and returned it 52 yards to the Falcons’ 38. On the very next play, Doss hit Sowards down the left seam for the fifth touchdown and a 35-0 Sylvan Hills lead with 2:05 remaining in the first half.

The Falcons then fumbled the ball away on the first possession of the ensuing drive, and Sylvan Hills answered with its third one-play drive of the game. This time Doss kept for 13 yards and the score to send the game to halftime with the Bears leading 42-0.

Sylvan Hills got the ball to start the second half and Clemmons took a screen pass 58 yards for another score with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

North Pulaski drove six plays and punted on fourth and 2, and it was the Bears’ backups turn to get on the board. Sophomore Jordan Washington went under center for the Bears and picked up 9 yards on a busted play on first down. Andre Collins and Thomas moved to running back. Collins picked up 6 yards on two carries and Thomas gained 13 for a first down.

Collins then took a handoff up the middle 24 yards to the Falcon 14. A 4-yard Collins run and an illegal procedure penalty put it at the 15, and Washington took it in from the 15 on the next play to make it 56-0 with 10:12 left in the game.

North Pulaski took over after a nice return by Dontrell Allen at its own 40. From there, the Falcons drove 60 yards in 11 plays with the help of a pass interference penalty, and finally got on the board when Myles Hunter plunged 1 yard for the score as the buzzer sounded. The untimed extra point was blocked to set the final margin.

The Bears finished with 502 yards of offense. Doss completed 10 of 13 pass attempts for 221 yards and four touchdowns.

Clemmons carried five times for 104 yards and one touchdown, and caught three passes for 96 yards and two scores. Thomas caught four passes for 87 yards and a score, and carried once for 13. Williams carried six times for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Sylvan Hills, 7-0, 4-0, travels to McClellan next week while North Pulaski stays on the road at Jacksonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Injured Cabot limps to loss

Leader sportswriter

Injuries and miscues contributed heavily to Cabot’s 17-3 loss to Little Rock Central on Friday at Quigley-Cox Stadium in Little Rock. With the loss, the Panthers’ record falls to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in 7A/6A-East play.

Senior free safety/receiver Jake Ferguson didn’t suit up Friday night for the Panthers. He suffered a torn meniscus last week against West Memphis, and Cabot coach Mike Malham said he’s out for at least four weeks, maybe even the season.

The Panthers’ offensive line has been banged up as well, and dual-threat quarterback Jarrod Barnes hurt his thumb late in the first half Friday night against the Tigers, and didn’t take a snap in the second half.

Ferguson is also the team’s backup quarterback, so Malham had to turn to his third-string QB, Logan Melder, for the second half. Melder starts at corner in the Panther secondary.

“He hurt his thumb right before the half and he couldn’t take a snap,” said Malham of Barnes. “They said it wasn’t broke. They taped it up, but he couldn’t get a snap. So now we’re down to our third quarterback because Jake’s out.

“Melder had to come in and we had a few fumbled snaps there, but he did the best he could. We’re not real deep. We’ve got a couple of pretty good players, but we probably lost our best two players tonight with Jake out and now Jarrod.”

Unable to take a snap, Barnes lined up at corner for the Panthers in the second half, but also hurt his shoulder on a hit at the very end of the game, and the extent of that injury will be evaluated early next week.

Even with Barnes at quarterback in the first half, the Panthers’ offense couldn’t find the end zone, even though it got close a couple of times in the second quarter. Cabot moved the ball into Central territory on its first offensive drive, but a Barnes fumble on the sixth play of the drive allowed the Tigers to take over at their own 28.

Central (4-3, 3-1) responded with a 14-play drive that was capped with a 31-yard field goal by Wesley Wahls with 1:34 left in the opening quarter, making it a 3-0 game. Cabot’s last two possessions of the first half ended with turnovers on downs inside the Central 5-yard line.

Cabot’s most promising opportunity to find the end zone came on the last drive. After starting from their own 21-yard line with 1:54 remaining in the half, the Panthers found themselves facing third and goal inside the 1-yard line with just seconds remaining.

The Panthers tried a rollout pass on third down that was nearly fumbled by Barnes, but ruled incomplete. On fourth down, Barnes took the quarterback sneak and tried to plow his way over the white line, but the officials ruled him down just inches from the goal line, and Central got it back with 3.1 seconds remaining.

Tigers’ quarterback Cooper Westbrook then threw one up in the air, trying to purposely throw it away and let the clock run out, but Cabot’s Jalen Hemphill intercepted the pass at the Central 35.

He returned it for a touchdown, but clipping was called on the return, negating the score. As a result, Central led 3-0 at the half.

“They played a good game,” Malham said of Central. “I thought we had a couple of things go against us, but that’s part of the game. You’re not always going to get the calls the way you see them. So you can’t complain about that.

“You’ve got to be able to overcome stuff like that. We had our opportunities in the second half, and they just beat us.”

Central found the end zone for the first time with 1:55 left in the third quarter after Cabot’s offense struggled to find any sort of momentum. The Tigers scored on a 17-yard pass from Westbrook to Tom Coulter, and the PAT made it 10-0 Central.

Cabot’s Christian Under-wood made it a one-possession game with 7:18 to play on a 31-yard field goal, which was the result of a Tiger turnover inside the Central 30-yard line.

Central, though, set the final score on the ensuing possession. After starting from its own 10-yard line, running back Richard Hayes put the game away on the 10th play of the drive with a 41-yard TD burst up the middle of the field, and the PAT by Wahls gave Central the 17-3 lead with three minutes remaining.

Cabot still outgained Central in total yardage. The Panthers finished with 295 yards of offense compared to the Tigers’ total of 273. Cabot had 197 yards of offense in the first half. Central had 157.

Panther fullback Kolton Eads led the Cabot backfield with 120 yards rushing on 28 carries. Hayes led Central’s backfield with 83 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Westbrook finished the night 15 of 26 passing for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Panthers will look to get back in the conference win column next week when they travel to winless Mountain Home at 7 p.m. next Friday night.

Friday, October 17, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Voter ID law Overturned

Sometimes the law is so clear that appellate courts seem almost superfluous. Anyone who could read could see that the Arkansas legislature violated the state Constitution over and over last year with the act that stopped people from voting if they did not submit official government-issued photographic proof that they were the person they claimed to be when they went to the polls or mailed their absentee ballots.

Nevertheless, the case had to wind its way through the courts, at a sizable expense to the taxpayers, and Wednesday the conservative Arkansas Supreme Court, with just a touch of fatigue, said unanimously that the legislature just can’t pass such things. Although attorneys for the secretary of state and the sponsoring Republican legislators offered up a few lame theories to make the law constitutional, the Supreme Court said it could not find “any set of circumstances” that could make the voter-ID law valid.

Justice Donald Corbin, writing for the court, said the photo-ID act violated 150 years of legal precedents protecting people’s right to vote. It enumerated a number of ways the law clearly violated the Constitution by adding new requirements for voting beyond those set out in the Constitution.

The Constitution guarantees people the permanent right to vote once they have provided proof when they register to vote that they are a citizen, a legal Arkansas resident and at least 18 years old. The Constitution says the legislature cannot add new restrictions on voting, but that is what the legislature did when it said that every voter at every election must carry official photographic proof that he or she is the voter he or she claims to be. Justice Corbin noted that the act would have required every voter to requalify to vote every year and in every election.

Pulaski Circuit Judge Timothy Fox had issued a summary judgment declaring the act unconstitutional.

Unintentionally, we imagine, the three women on the Supreme Court, who lean Republican, emphasized in a concurring opinion the absurdity of the Republican majority claiming to pass the act. The women said the bill did not get enough votes in the legislature to become law in the first place, so there was no need for the court to reach the decision that the act added unconstitutional restraints on voters who may not have passports or driver licenses.

The Constitution says some parts of the 1964 permanent voter registration amendment may be amended by a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses, but Act 595 fell far short of that. So the three justices said it should never have been declared a law, the act should not have been applied in the spring primaries or school elections and the case was a waste of time.

All that was pointed out at the time, but the Republican presiding officers of both houses declared that a narrow majority was all that was needed. Gov. Beebe vetoed it, explaining that it was both unconstitutional on its face and that it had not received the necessary votes to become a law. The narrow Republican majority passed it again over his veto, and Secretary of State Mark Martin, at considerable expense and confusion, has tried to enforce it.

Even after the Supreme Court struck it down Wednesday, Martin said he was going to do his best to enforce the law anyway, but he backed down the next day after the attorney general, who had helped him defend the law, said flatly that the law was dead and that Martin’s interpretation of the older valid laws on voter identification were also wrong.

Let’s explain once again the rudiments of the issue. These photo-ID laws, which have been passed recently in 34 states with Republican legislative majorities, are intended only to reduce voting by certain groups. Many of the states have taken other steps, too, like shortening the hours for voting, reducing or eliminating early voting and reducing voting locations so that lines are longer and voting takes much longer.

All of it is designed to curtail voting mainly by minorities, the poor, the elderly and the disabled, who seem to vote more often for Democrats. It had exactly that effect in the May primaries, when large numbers of voters discovered that their votes were tossed out when they mailed their absentee ballots without all the buttressing official IDs, letters from nursing home operators and the like. But let’s be clear that if the situation were reversed and Republican-leaning voters were disfranchised, Democrats would be trying to rig the voting in the same way.

The common defense of photo ID laws is that they could prevent voter fraud and guarantee honest elections. But they don’t have that result. Officials running elections, not individual voters, commit election fraud. The photo ID law would only discourage someone from going to a polling place, trying to sign the voter affidavit of another person who may be absent that day and casting that person’s vote. There is virtually no record of that happening in Arkansas or anywhere in America beyond isolated instances.

A Tulane University law professor scoured election records across the country for the past 14 years and found exactly 31 reported instances of voter impersonations among more than one billion votes cast. Typical examples: Jack Crowder III in Baytown, Texas, used his recently deceased father’s voter registration to cast his daddy’s vote in the 2008 presidential election. Mark Lacasse in New Hampshire bragged to his buddies about casting his out-of-town father’s vote in the presidential primary in 2004 and someone tipped the prosecutor. Both young men were convicted and did some community service. Those are the horrors the voter ID law was to protect us from.

The act caused one embarrassing moment for Republicans in May. Their gubernatorial candidate, Asa Hutchinson, didn’t have a photo ID when he went to vote, but a campaign aide was dispatched to fetch it for him. Many others, one suspects, just left and didn’t return.

But the Arkansas Republican chairman, Doyle Webb, assured Republicans on Thursday that they could relax, even after losing the photo-ID law. He said the Republican brand was now so solid in Arkansas that Republicans were going to be easily elected even if blacks, the disabled and the rest who were intimidated by all the warnings about being turned away from the polls or arrested for not meeting all the voting requirements now actually go vote. So it’s a happy day for democracy all around.

—Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Peter Pan opens Friday at Cabot High

Leader staff writer

The Cabot High School theater department is presenting the high flying adventure of “Peter Pan the Musical!”

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26. Tickets are $7.

This will be the first time for the theater to use an aerial harness in stunt work to make the actors soar into the air.

Savannah Woods plays Peter Pan, and she is looking forward to looking as light as air. “It is magical. It is a big part of the show. We get to work closely with the technical students to make sure everyone is OK.”

Brandon Turner, who plays Captain Hook, said, “It is going to be good. It is fun. We are about to piece it together for the final product. (Thursday) was the first day everyone was in costume.”

Turner said the Captain Hook costume is great. “It is hot, but worth it.”

The lion, played by Eli Young, a Southside Elementary third grader, said, “Pirates stink and lions rule.”

The original 1954 Broadway show is based on J.M. Barrie’s fairytale. The audience will be whisked away to Neverland, where they will met the villainous Captain Hook and pirates, the adventurous Lost Boys, fierce Indians, beautiful mermaids and jungle creatures.

Performing the original 1954 Broadway Version, the show begins at the Darling household where Peter Pan and Wendy meet for the first time. Peter flies the Darling children away. Dancing Indians, led by Tiger Lily, are a highlight of the show.

Peter Pan, a family favorite, features the iconic songs “I’m Flying”, “I’ve Gotta Crow”, “I Won’t Grow Up” and “Never Never Land.”

The cast is also led by Ashley Julison as Wendy. Grown-up Wendy is Marcela Shipley, and the role of Tiger Lily is shared between Riley Hoffer and Kelsey Drees.

The roles of Mr. and Mrs. Darling will be performed by Spencer Worth and Autumn Romines. McKenzie Marks is John Darling and Logan Williams is Michael Darling.

The role of Liza is split between Ashton Williams and Zoe Eddington. Nana is Andrew Hupp and the crocodile is Josh Scott. Jane is played by Brooklyn Jennings.

The pirates of Neverland are JP Gairhan as Smee, Kolby Cole, Ian Gonzalez, Jay King, Keaton Grimmett, Spencer Worth, Madi Burrow, Natalie Burrow, Seth Stewart, Jordan Gately, Hannah Brletich, Greg Stone, Kallie Benedict, Blain Mahoney, DJ Boswell, Brennen Applegate, Annalisse Riley, Payton Carlton, Clarissa Struble, Autumn Toler, Hallie Eastham and Micah Long.

Indians are Jeni Fuller, Autumn Romines, Sarah Mitchell, Lindsay Salzman, Macy McClanahan, Lauren Travis, Laiken Kaylor, Ashley Martin, Saralyn Hellstern, Shelby Thompson, Allie DeStefano, Corbin Friddle, Morgan Walters, Charl Young, Jalen Hemphill, Jack Teague, Easton Seidl, Cody Nabors and Seth Carter.

The Lost Boys of Neverland are Madi Burrow, Natalie Brewer, Seth Stewart, Jordan Gately, Hannah Brletich, Greg Stone, Kallie Benedict, Cody Pugh, Shelly Griebel, Heidi Mackey, Rachel Ball, Emily Adair, Baylee New, Logan Melder, Wyatt McMahan, Savanna Young, Sam Owen, Justin Cheatham, Luke Falcinelli, Audrey Lightfoot, D’Vitrius Shirley, Courtney Lewis, Tristan Bulice, Emily Nichols, Justin Hagar, April Watts, Ana Covington, Brittany Billingsley, Vikki Ray, Patience Mitchell, Skylar Ward, Avery Elliott and Greer King.

Mermaids are Taylor Cagle, Sydney Calvert, Saidee McCaa, Hallie Lubinski, Natalie Way, Sarah Newlan, Kayla Looney and Emma Carpenter.

Jungle creatures are the Eli Young as the lion, Paisley Mobbs, Piper Mobbs, Eloise Owen, Annie Thomas and Ally Pray as baby flamingos. The flamingos are Haleigh Geheb, Autumne Kendricks and Kirsten LeCompte.

Stagecraft running crew is Ty Allenbaugh, Lucas Hein, Kayla Henard, Hayden Huckaby, Madison Little, Kayli Sims, Noah Ross, Brady Van Gorder, Justin Anglin, Tori Marshall, Quinton Shelton, Brent Simmons, Andrew Summers, Stage Manager is Trevin Willison, Lights are run by Echo Clark, Erica Savage, Haley Wilson. Fly System Operators are Taylor Barger, Andrew Dover, Bodey Jackson, James Johnson and Noah Tiner.

The show is directed by Ashley Tarvin and the technical director is John Middleton.

The music director is Ben Brockinton, and the student directors are Tanner Johnson and Jeni Fuller.

The choreographers are Bailey Moses and Ashley Tarvin.

The costume directors are Kim Marks and Bambi Romines. The costume and props director is McKenzie Marks. The graphic design artist is Sarah Wells, publicity is by Julie Williams, and the Backstage Manager is Logan Smith.

TOP STORY >> Old Sherwood home for sale

Chairman of the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee

The Matthews-Clauson House, located at 10226 Miller Road in Sherwood, was built by Justin Matthews Sr. in 1928. Matthews is best known as the visionary and builder of the Park Hill and Lakewood subdivisions, the Old Mill, the Sylvan Hills Country Club (now The Greens at North Hills) and the Roundtop Filling Station.

The historic 5,000-plus-square-foot home is for sale with an asking price of $575,000.

According to Miller Road resident Tom Eubanks, whose father, C.C. Eubanks, worked as a builder for Matthews, Matthews built two homes on Miller Road in the late 1920s.

One of the houses on the west end of Miller Road (pictured) was three stories and built by C.C. Eubanks for Matthews’ mother. A second “Dutch barn style” house was also built on Miller Road for Matthews’ mother-in-law.

From the story told by C.C. Eubanks to his son, Tom, the two women “got into a snit about whose house was the more grand.”

Since neither seemed to be satisfied with their respective homes, neither one moved in, and they both sat vacant for several years.

Eventually a family leased the home built for Matthews’ mother and started a moonshine operation on the third floor of the house.

Local law enforcement learned of the illegal liquor operation and went to stop it. Tom Eubanks said his father, who at the time lived at the corner of Hwy. 5 (now Hwy. 107) and Woodruff Avenue, followed the officers to the house on Miller Road and watched as the authorities busted the barrels of liquor and poured the alcohol out of the western most windows on the third floor.

Apparently, in the backyard, hogs were kept in pens to eat the mash corn after it was used in the liquor-making process. After arresting the moonshiners, the authorities cut the ropes on the gates of the pig pens, so that the hogs would be set free. They ran out into the woods, where the old Kellogg Mines were located.

The home continued to be leased to various residents until 1944, when Metropolitan Trust Company (formerly the Justin Matthews Company) sold the home to Donald B. Clauson and his wife, Evelyn. In 1950, Murray G. McCullough purchased the house. After McCullough’s death in 2006, his son, John McCullough, lived in the house until he died in June.

TOP STORY >> Doolittle Award goes to historic 19th AW

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“We truly stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, during his speech at the Air Force Memorial on Oct. 8 in Arlington, Va.

The Air Force Historical Foundation presented the James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle Award to the 19th AW for significant contributions to airpower history over 82 years.

Named after aviation pioneer James H. Doolittle, this award was established to recognize a unit that has displayed bravery, determination, discipline, “esprit de corps” and superior management of joint operations in multiple conflicts.

It was a beautiful Air Force day at the memorial with blue skies and a cool October breeze. Retired Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, AFHF president, served as emcee for the ceremony and welcomed distinguished visitors, from retired generals to community leaders to members of the Doolittle family.

Retired Col. John P. Doolittle and Jonna Doolittle-Hoppes, son and granddaughter of Gen. Doolittle, sat in the front of the ceremony, making the historic day special for those in attendance.

Doolittle-Hoppes gave brief remarks about her grandfather and the award’s significance.

She said the Doolittle Award is given to a unit rather than an individual. She said her grandfather always said he could never have achieved what he did without the people around him.

She took part in the Air Force’s long-standing coining tradition, extending a coin to Rhatigan on behalf of the Doolittle Foundation.

Meyerrose then welcomed Rhatigan to the center of the memorial to accept the award on behalf of the wing.

“To be recognized with an award named after one of the most innovative and courageous airmen in the history of flight is truly an honor,” said Rhatigan. “The story of the 19th is not about the aircraft or the missions they’ve accomplished. The story of the 19th is a story about airmen — airmen who are the foundation of our success, then and now. And I am proud to share some of these airmen’s stories with you today.”

As part of the 19th AW delegation, Rhatigan was joined by his command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Rhonda Buening and five exceptional performers from the wing – Master Sgt. Robbie Romines, Tech. Sgt. April Stanford, Staff Sgt. Joshua Harwood, Staff Sgt. Sarah Horton and Senior Airman Caryanne Russell.

The commander was also joined by Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, state Senators Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Brig. Gen. Greg Otey, former commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, and his wife, Lisa, also attended.

Rhatigan shared the accomplishments of each airman as well as several other individual stories from the 19th AW’s history.

“Whether we ride into combat in the Air Force’s newest C-130 or take on any other future mission, the airmen of the 19th will do whatever it takes to answer our nation’s call,” he said.

The 19th AW roots extend back before the Second World War, when it was one of the original 15 groups in Army Air Corps aviation. Formerly the 19th Bombardment Group, the unit launched the first offensive against Japanese forces in World War II despite having suffered heavy losses in the fighting following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In its 82 years of service, the 19th AW has fulfilled nearly every flying role in the Air Force, from seaplanes and biplane bombers to the advanced C-130J transport.

In World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terror, the 19th AW has flown, fought and won with the motto: “In Alis Vincimus”— “On wings we conquer.”

The celebrations continued into the evening with a banquet to honor several individuals and present their awards. The General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz Award was presented to retired Gen. Lloyd W. Newton. The Major General I. B. Holley Award was presented to retired Col. Walter J. Boyne.

It was a whirlwind of a day for the airmen, filled with encounters from every corner of airpower and aviation history.

“Overall, this experience gave me a good sense that what we do makes a difference in the mission,” said Russell. “I’ve already shared the experience with everyone at my office. They were very interested, and it helped them reconnect with the awesome history of the Air Force, especially at the 19th.”

Russell and her fellow airmen spoke with the Doolittle family and four original Tuskegee Airmen among the group of dignitaries at the ceremony and evening banquet. She said it was wonderful to meet the history of the Air Force face-to-face.

“As a senior airman, it was neat to be able to interact with so many higher ranking officers,” said Russell. “Plus, they were looking to us for inspiration. To see the top ranking looking down at us for inspiration was something special.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TOP STORY >> Wedding bells at Reed’s Bridge

Leader staff writer

Reed Bridge Battlefield Park in Jacksonville is best known for its Civil War history and re-enactments, but on Saturday it was the site of a wedding.

Naomi Hawn of Jacksonville, a UALR nursing student, and Senior Airman Ryan Verge of Sherwood, a mechanic with the 19th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base tied the knot during a ceremony at the 19th Century-themed village.

The threat of rain forced the outdoor wedding to take place inside the barn.

The bride waited in the small cabin and the groom waited in the kitchen for the wedding to start.

“I did not think it was going to be that elegant. It was beautiful. I was surprised it turned out the way it did,” Naomi Hawn said.

“I chose Reed’s Bridge because it’s a historical place. Not many know about it. People should know the background of Reed’s Bridge,” Naomi Hawn said.

“I thought it was pretty cool. It is a reminder of how the Civil War was heading this far west,” Ryan Verge said.

The bride’s mother, Sheri Hawn, said they looked at barns in the area for weddings, and they rented for only a few hours. At Reed’s Bridge they were able to rent it all weekend.

“When we started looking at venues that were outdoors and rustic, this was the most affordable. We knew about the place. Once (Naomi and Ryan) saw it, it was great,” Sheri Hawn said.

Some members of the Hawn family belong to the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society. Matthew Hawn, Naomi’s brother, is a blacksmith and a part of the cannon regiment for the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society. Sheri Hawn and her daughter, Abigail, began participating in battle re-enactments last year, dressing in period attire and greeting visitors. David Hawn helps maintains the grounds. His son, Joshua, also married at Reed’s Bridge in 2012.

Less than a dozen weddings have taken place at Reed’s Bridge though.

Wedding rental prices at Reed’s Bridge is $60 for a half-day and $100 for a full day. It includes the use of the cabins and barns. Alcohol is not allowed as with any city facility.

Reed’s Bridge facilities are basic and designed to recreate the 1800s. Some temporary decorations are allowed on the buildings. There is no electricity so a generator is needed for power.

The restroom is an outhouse and wedding parties are responsible for cleanup afterward.

Wedding parties may need to bring chairs and tables as seating is limited.

Reed’s Bridge can be reserved for weddings by calling Jacksonville Parks and Rec programs supervisor Dana Rozenski at 501-982-4171.

“Right now we are pretty flexible,” Rozenski said.

She said during a wedding people may drive past on Hwy. 161 and see a lot of traffic at Reed’s Bridge and stop by. The wedding party cannot deny people access to the public park.

“Most people who have weddings at parks are fine with that,” Rozenski said.

Rozenski said people often use Reed’s Bridge as a backdrop for wedding photos and family pictures, which is free.

Wedding photographer Angie Davis of Vilonia said she did not know about Reed’s Bridge before Hawn’s wedding but will now recommend it as a wedding location or for engagement and bridal photos.

“It is a great location for a venue. It is beautiful especially if you are wanting a rustic type setting. It has great light for a late afternoon or evening wedding,” Davis said.

Davis said Reed’s Bridge has a little bit of everything — hay bales, cabins, a barn, wood fences and trees. Tents can be set up and the barn has plenty of room for a small to medium wedding Davis said.

Sheri Hawn said Davis and wedding coordinators Jennifer Mouser and Ricky Williams with Martha Ann Events of Conway were amazing. Sheri Hawn said they knew what the Hawns were looking for and made it happen at Reed’s Bridge.

TOP STORY >> Killer at our front door

Leader editor-in-chief

Arron Lewis stood near the front door at The Leader one evening last month, and he knocked on the big glass window when he realized the door was locked.

He said he wanted a job application, but I wouldn’t open the door for him.

He looked like someone who might have escaped from prison or who was on parole, so why let him inside?

He was a tall dark fellow who could snap at any moment and rob you for drug money or a six-pack of beer. If he ran into someone vulnerable, maybe an old man or an attractive woman, he might reach for a gun or a knife.

Even before his name was in the news for allegedly kidnapping and killing a realtor in Scott and burying her in a shallow grave in north Pulaski County, I knew Lewis could be trouble.

The man outside the front door nodded and said he’d come back tomorrow. Lewis, who lived in Gravel Ridge, did come back and picked up an application, but I didn’t see him.

He told someone here he was a felon and never brought back the application. Lewis, only recently out on parole, was busy stalking victims.

Police say a few days later, he met up with Beverly Carter, the realtor who was supposed to show him a home in Scott.

I remembered him after he was arrested the following week — one of the many parolees I’ve written about over the years who went on to commit even more serious crimes than the ones they were paroled for.

Lewis, 33, had been convicted of crimes in northwest Arkansas, Kansas City and Utah as far back as 1998. He was only 17 when he was convicted of first-degree robbery.

He was also convicted of interstate commerce of a stolen vehicle 2003, aggravated assault on an officer 2007, deactivating an anti-theft device in 2008, along with three counts of theft. He never served more than a couple of years in prison.

The first parolee I wrote about in The Leader was a serial murderer named Ledell Lee, who went on a crime spree in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He was sentenced to die for strangling Debra Reese, 26, in the Sunnyside addition in Jacksonville in 1993. He remains on death row.

Lee, who is now 48, was also convicted of raping two Jacksonville women and was tried for the murder of Christine Lewis, the daughter of the late Alderman Robert Lewis.

Lee was also suspected of killing a Jacksonville prostitute and dumping her body in a shed near the railroad tracks.

In a prison interview, he told me he was innocent. He said was framed by the Jacksonville police.

Maurice Clemmons was another parolee I wrote about back in 2004, when I spoke out against Gov. Mike Huckabee paroling him because he was supposedly rehabilitated.

Clemmons received a 35-year sentence in the early 1990s for armed robbery and theft. His sentence was commuted in May 2000, and he was let out three months later.

In March 2001, Clemmons committed two armed robberies and other crimes and was sentenced to 10 years. He was paroled last March 2003 but was soon wanted for aggravated robbery.

Five years later, Clemmons killed four law-enforcement officers near Tacoma, Wash, and then shot himself before police could arrest him.

Last Thursday, a Lonoke County jury found a parolee named James Michael Davis, 39, of Conway guilty on two counts of first-degree murder in the double stabbing deaths of a couple at their home off Hwy. 38 on December 2011.

He received two consecutive life terms, so it’s unlikely he’ll go free again and commit more crimes.

The prosecution accused him of faking mental illness when psychologists examined him but played dominoes and basketball when he didn’t think anyone was watching him.

Davis was accused of stabbing Charles Smith and Tracey Mills at their triplex on Charles Drive off North Stagecoach Road on Hwy. 38 between Cabot and Ward. The couple had invited him to live in the third apartment next door.

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

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

But less than a year later, Davis was in trouble again: He was convicted in Lonoke County on hot check and sentenced to 12 months in state prison. In June 2008, he 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 July 2008, he was arrested again and convicted in Faulkner County for aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon and theft of property. He was sentenced to 60 months in state prison.

But in April 2010, Davis was back in Faulkner County court, where he was convicted of residential burglary, theft of property, forgery, possession of firearm by a felon and criminal mischief. He was sentenced to 96 months in state prison.

Davis went free the following year, and just 10 months later fatally stabbed Mills and Smith.

Another parolee with a long criminal record, Jeremy Deshaun Davis, 31, of Lonoke, is facing the death penalty in the shooting death of Hurbert Dewayne Jackson, 27, of Little Rock in January 2013.

Nicholas Ryan Holloway, 24, of Beebe is serving 35 years for his role in the shooting.

Jackson’s body was found on the side of Bevis Road off Hwy. 15 near Lonoke.

Last Saturday, our special contributor Aliya Feldman wrote about a 70-year-old Little Rock woman who last summer was raped by a parolee named Milton Thomas, 58.

A nearby church had hired him to mow the lawn outside her apartment complex, where several elderly women live alone.

The alleged rapist, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds, had knocked on her door and asked for a cup of water. She told him to wait on the porch while she 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.

Convicts are no longer allowed near her building.

“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.”

Thomas, who was previously convicted of breaking and entering, forgery and theft and other charges, has been returned to prison while he awaits trial on the rape charge.

(Next: Recidivism covered up.)

TOP STORY >> Candidates take jabs in debate

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville mayoral debate that began cordially Tuesday with praise for those who worked to form a standalone school district devolved briefly into a clash between District Judge Robert Batton, candidate Gary Sipes and some in the audience.

But moderator Pat O’Brien — a Jacksonville native, an attorney, a former Pulaski County clerk and a former school board member — quickly restored order with his impassioned chastising and plea for civility.

Other issues tossed around in the almost 90 minutes of back-and-forth at the community center included the city’s budget, economic development, parks, beautification, crime, disaster preparation and transparency, which Mayor Gary Fletcher said were key issues during his term as mayor.

Batton launched his barb when he called out that Sipes was a liar near the halfway point in the debate.

The judge interrupted Sipes, the former police chief, after Sipes said he wasn’t involved in planning the $3.2 million Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Range built on Graham Road.

“I don’t think anybody knew about it but three people,” Sipes said.

The candidate’s retort was that he didn’t know how Batton would know whether he was involved.

After O’Brien got the debate back on track, Fletcher said the former chief must have been asleep during staff meetings with department heads, where the range was discussed for two years.

Sipes said he was at the staff meetings but didn’t attend planning sessions.

Asked whether he had brought up concerns publicly or privately about noise and the lack of public hearings before the decision to build the range was made, the former police chief said he had not.

Fletcher said Sipes should have known to speak up because the mayor’s office and the former police chief had received noise complaints concerning the range at the police department in the past.

The two candidates disagreed on whether the mayor said recently that he didn’t have to have public hearings or town-hall meetings to spend money on projects like the shooting range.

Fletcher called the range an investment in Jacksonville’s future, the city’s No. 1 attraction and a project he had to jump on because “everybody wanted it.” He said the citizens should trust in their leader to make decisions like bringing the range to town.

The question about the range was accompanied with O’Brien’s observations that many have said it is the reason Sipes decided to run.

The former police chief is a resident of Foxwood Estates, and residents there have complained about noise from the range. The complaints surfaced around the same time Sipes announced he was filing to run as mayor.


But the candidate said at the debate he decided to run after benefits to city employees were cut and insurance premiums were raised to balance the budget.

Fletcher was first to speak when asked how good of a job he had done with the budget.

The mayor said employees received raises four out of the five years he was in office and that 40 people, including Sipes, were involved in that process.

Fletcher also accused his opponent of telling him to close parks because the police department, which makes up a third of the city’s budget, couldn’t handle more cuts.

Sipes responded that the mayor asked him to cut an additional $23,000 and promised no more cuts would be made to the department’s employees. But the cuts were made this year, the former police chief said, and they canceled out raises from the previous years.

Sipes criticized Fletcher for spending on five or six projects at a time and not implementing a hiring freeze, although both agreed that capital improvement funds couldn’t be spent on personnel.

Fletcher said he was most concerned with avoiding layoffs and those who were hired were replacements for people who had left departments that have minimum staff requirements, such as the fire department.

Sipes said he would have worked within the minimum staffing requirements in a way that wouldn’t have taken benefits away from current employees.

Fletcher also called Sipes’ platform to cut spending “Washington politics.”


Fletcher’s decision to hire Rickey Hayes of Retail Attractions in Owasso, Okla., was also questioned.

The mayor said the city got involved in economic development to help resolve budget issues because the ways to do that are raising taxes, making cuts or expanding the tax base.

Fletcher said he has always aimed to expand Jacksonville’s tax base.

But the city had obstacles, such as the fact that 90 percent of it is dry. He alluded to two restaurants that came to Jacksonville first but went to Sherwood instead because they didn’t want to jump through hoops to serve alcohol.

Sipes said, if elected, he would eliminate the out-of-state consultant position in favor of hiring someone who has ties to Jacksonville and working with the chamber.

He argued that a local economic developer has been successful in Sherwood, Cabot and Beebe.

Fletcher said Hayes had done all he can do as a national contact by bringing developers to town.

Sipes said police and firefighters lost monthly training because Director of Administration Jim Durham has taken trips to Las Vegas.

Fletcher responded that Durham and City Engineer Jay Whisker have attended conferences that were held there, conferences that people overseas attend to get a McDonald’s in their towns. He added that Sipes had said he would eliminate Durham’s position if elected.

The mayor called Durham his captain and noted that Sipes needed three captains to run the police department.

Fletcher also said, when he hired Hayes at $55,000 a year, he was hiring the seven-member staff of Retail Attractions.

He said Hayes introduced Jacksonville to a company that will build an $18 million ambulatory care campus near North Metro Medical Center.

He did not address Sipes’ claims that the deal may not go through because the owners of property proposed for the campus have told him they are not on board with the project.


Fletcher called the new school district a “game changer that would bring young families to Jacksonville and businesses like movie theaters here.”

Sipes complimented the mayor for his role, but said he was also involved in meetings about the detachment effort.

He said the district would likely take a few years, but, after that, the city should act as a “watchdog” to make sure the school board has the community’s best interests at heart.

Fletcher touted the possibility of building a new high school and elementary school as well as moving the middle school out of its 60-year-old facility.


Sipes said the parks look the same as they did 20 years ago and are in need of improvements. He said the city must work diligently to obtain grants that would fund those improvements.

Fletcher said he wants to sit down with the staff and come up with a five-year plan and suggested Sipes was criticizing parks employees who are doing a good job.

Sipes said he wasn’t blaming employees. But, he said, they may be neglecting some parks because they are focused on the shooting range.


Sipes, in response to a question about what he accomplished as police chief, said he implemented community-oriented policing and reduced crime, crediting the mayor for allowing him to promote a lieutenant to run a specialized unit.

He said adding streetlights would help decrease crime even more, based on his decades of law enforcement experience.

Fletcher argued that the problem goes beyond streetlights, noting that people will continue committing crimes because the county jail keeps closing to all but violent offenders in response to prison overcrowding.

The mayor said the city needs to press legislators and the county on remedying this problem as well as revising a proposed deal that would make Jacksonville pay more than Sherwood to house prisoners at the county jail.

Sipes said prison overcrowding is a battle that would be fought by the city attorney, judges and lawyers.


Both candidates agreed that that first step after disaster strikes is search and rescue.

Sipes said the next is to evaluate damage and apply for relief.

Fletcher said he was at Little Rock Air Force Base five minutes after a 2011 tornado wiped out housing there plus the North Pulaski High School Auditorium.

Sipes complimented the mayor on his response to that disaster.


In his closing and opening statements, Sipes said Jacksonville had lost 80 businesses in the last few years. He said the city needed to support those that are still here but feel neglected.

He said he faced similar pressures to those a mayor faces while he ran the police department. The former police chief said Jacksonville needs new leadership to return to the thriving and prosperous town it once was.

Sipes said the city must change its image by tearing down dilapidated buildings and emphasize communication, which is his management style.

He wants to involve the public more in the city by having quarterly town-hall meetings with aldermen in each ward and establishing a youth council.

Fletcher said the debate focused on the past rather than the future. He argued that the city is making progress. He wants to continue leading Jacksonville.

The mayor said residents need to come together and not be divided to see revitalization.

Fletcher said his opponent had not discussed revenue streams to accomplish goals, something he did when the Hwy. 67/167 corridor was annexed. He said savings combined with a grant and a loan were used to build the public-safety complex containing the police department, fire and training grounds plus a FEMA safe room.

The loan will be paid off in one year and the revenue stream paying that off is the $1.2 million in sales tax revenue the highway corridor generated, Fletcher said.

EDITORIAL >> Feisty debate in Jacksonville

Last night’s debate at the Jacksonville Community Center between Mayor Gary Fletcher and his opponent, former Police Chief Gary Sipes, revealed the tensions that have been brewing in this race since the day Sipes resigned to run against his old boss.

It was a hard-hitting debate with the the candidates’ supporters sitting on separate sides of the auditorium. The place was packed, as it was for last month’s meeting before the historic vote on a separate school district. No one can say Jacksonville residents are not involved in the important issues that will determine the future of their city. (See story, page 1A.)

Besides the controversial firing range, other issues discussed in the almost 90 minutes of back-and-forth included the city’s budget, economic development, parks, beautification, crime, disaster preparation and transparency and more.

Fletcher said he was not happy the debate focused on the past rather than the future. He insisted the city is on a high road right now and he wants to lead it while it goes even higher.

Sipes said, if elected, he would eliminate the out-of-state consultant in favor of hiring someone who has ties to Jacksonville and working with the chamber. He argued that a local economic developer has been successful in Sherwood, Cabot and Beebe.

The former police chief wants to involve the public more in the city by having quarterly town-hall meetings with aldermen in each ward and establish a youth council.

Sipes said the city must change its image by tearing down dilapidated buildings and emphasize communication, which is his management style. In his closing and opening statements, Sipes said Jacksonville had lost 80 businesses in the last few years. He said the city needed to support those that are still here but feel neglected.

The divisiveness of the Fletcher-Sipes showdown may not please everyone in Jacksonville, a usually quiet and uncontroversial community. But that was before the city opened its $3.2 million shooting-sports facility on Graham Road, a mere 500 yards from Sipes’ backyard in the Foxwood Estates neighborhood, where homes can cost up to $500,000.

Noise complaints followed after its opening, as did accusations about inept planning after city officials confirmed that they did not conduct a sound study and the city council held no official public hearings for the project.

Some in Sipes’ camp argue that the city is now going broke, claiming that the gun range is losing $50,000 a month or more, which is not the case.

Sipes should come out and say that the shooting range’s finances are doing well, or at least better than expected. He’ll have a harder time doing it after if he wins the election.

Some Foxwood Estates residents may still be considering a lawsuit, but it appears the city may be protected because of an obscure state law that prevents cities from being sued over noise complaints related to municipal gun ranges. Only in Arkansas? One wonders.

We sympathize with Foxwood Estates residents, who can hear thousands of rounds being fired when tournaments are being held. Many home buyers are likely going to be discouraged from moving to the neighborhood.

The conflict, like many of Jacksonville’s challenges, seems like it could have been avoided if the city council, the mayor and residents had asked more questions during the planning stages.

Speaking out before it’s too late helps. Residents in Cabot’s Glenwood Estates blocked plans to build a new-style subdivision that would have placed dozens of homes on just 6.2 acres.

Residents in Sherwood recently inspired the police department there to cancel its plan to build a firing range on Trammel Road.

Sipes, after all, did attend many of the city council meetings while plans for the gun range were discussed and had many opportunities to voice concerns to city officials.

It’s tempting to wonder what Jacksonville’s schools would look like had parents spoken out more forcefully and challenged the Pulaski County Special School District to do a better job.

Pat O’Brien, who moderated the debate on behalf of the Jacksonville of Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, tried his best to keep it focused on how the candidates plan to revitalize Jacksonville, but with animosity running high between Fletcher and Sipes, things were bound to get off track.

Residents can be forgiven if they walked away from the proceeding feeling like O’Brien was the better candidate, though. Unfortunately, he has left politics behind since being defeated by Mark Martin for secretary of state in 2010. We hope to see him on the city council someday or maybe the new school board.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Easy homecoming win

Special to The Leader

The Lonoke Jackrabbits celebrated homecoming with a 40-6 victory over the Southside Batesville Southerners Friday night at James B. Abraham Stadium.

The Jackrabbits were leading 20-0 at the half when the weather struck, and a 65-minute delay occurred.

When the game resumed, Lonoke (2-4, 1-2) doubled its score in the second half, and the Southerners (0-6, 0-3) got on the board late for the final 40-6 margin.

“A much needed win,” said Lonoke head coach Doug Bost. “I’m just proud of the kids, how they came out tonight and competed. They had good energy. We had a good week of practice and then carried it over to tonight.

“I’m real proud of the offensive line, making us be able to run the ball tonight. Our offense starts with us being able to run the ball. That will open up the passing game, and really we didn’t have to throw many passes tonight, because we had two running backs that were running hard for us tonight.”

Lonoke had 244 yards of offense in the first half, 217 of those on the ground. The Jackrabbits added 166 yards in the second half for a total of 410 yards, while holding Southside to 218 yards.

Josh Coleman led Lonoke with 127 yards rushing, Justin Meadows added 85 yards, Devin Mosley rushed for 72 yards, and Joe Carter for 56 yards.

Lonoke pinned the Southerners back on their own 4-yard line on the opening kickoff. The Jackrabbits forced a punt, and the short kick gave Lonoke excellent field position on the Southside 29-yard line. Jawaun Bryant took the ball on the first play and broke free, but fumbled the ball into the end zone for a touchback.

The two teams exchanged punts, then the Southerners moved the ball from their own 21-yard line to the Lonoke 19-yard line. After a penalty moved the ball back to the 24-yard line, quarterback Josh Milliken was intercepted by Trey Bevis for the Jackrabbits to the Lonoke 31-yard line.

Coleman picked up 30 yards on five carries at the beginning of the Lonoke drive and capped it off with a 27-yard touchdown run. Jacob Vandiver’s extra point was blocked, and the score was 6-0 with 11:13 to go in the second quarter.

The Southerners’ Dakota Cook got free on the ensuing kickoff and returned it to the Lonoke 20-yard line, with Caleb Bailey making a touchdown saving tackle for the Jackrabbits. Bailey then knocked away a pass on third and 9, and Deondray Joyner broke up another pass on fourth and 9, and the Jackrabbits took over on downs.

Lonoke took over on the 19-yard line and Meadows had runs of 15 and 12 yards before finishing the drive with a 40-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was good by Logan Dozier to give a 14-0 lead to the home team.

Jackrabbit quarterback SaVonte Rountree kept the ball and ran it into the end zone from 39 yards away for an additional score with 2:30 to go in the half to make the advantage 20-0.

When play continued after the weather delay during halftime, Lonoke had the first possession. On third down and 8, Roundtree completed a pass to Meadows for 16 yards and when a personal foul penalty was added, the ball was on the 5-yard line. Coleman ran it in from there for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good, and the lead was 26-0. Coleman scored again on a 19-yard touchdown run with 2:23 to go in the third quarter. Again the two-point conversion was no good, and the advantage was 32-0.

The final Lonoke score was on the first play of the visitors’ next possession and was a 73-yard pick six by Chandler Elmore with 1:50 to go in the quarter. This time the two-point conversion was successful by Bryant, and the Jackrabbits led 40-0.

Southside put together an 85-yard touchdown drive with Milliken hitting Lucas Branscum for a 40-yard touchdown completion to set the final score of 40-6.

Lonoke hosts Helena-West Helena Central on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears pressed hard by Devils

Leader sports editor

Certain pundits said it would be a mercy rule. If they’d have bet winner vs. loser, they would’ve been right. If they had bet the line, they would’ve lost the house. The third-ranked Sylvan Hills Bears got out of Jan Crow Stadium with their lives Saturday night, escaping the 1-4 Jacksonville Red Devils with a 28-22 victory to remain undefeated.

“I didn’t expect it to be easy,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “I don’t really care what other people said. It’s a rivalry game and it’s always tough to come in here and get a win. I’m happy we’re leaving here with a win.”

The game was stopped with 9:36 remaining in the second quarter on Friday due to severe weather with the score tied 7-7. It resumed at 7 p.m. Saturday and remained a back-and-forth contest.

When play resumed, Sylvan Hills faced third and 16 from its own 14-yard line. Quarterback Tra Doss, who didn’t start on Friday because of an ankle injury, hit Nathan Thomas for 18 yards, the first of a game-high eight catches for the Sylvan Hills senior.

He caught two more passes on that drive, that ended with Doss scrambling for 10 yards and a touchdown with 6:57 left in the first half. Zac Brown’s extra point put the Bears up 14-7.

Jacksonville answered right back. When play stopped on Friday, Red Devil tailback Lamont Gause had carried 16 times out Jacksonville’s 18 plays. When play resumed, the Red Devils still handed to Gause frequently, but went to the air a lot more, and with a lot more success than it had enjoyed in previous games.

On the third play of Jacksonville’s first drive on Saturday, quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham hit Laderrious Perry for 21 yards. A facemask penalty two plays later put the ball at the Sylvan Hills 34, but Hickingbotham fumbled the snap on the next play for a 7-yard loss. He got 12 back two plays later with a completion to Jonathan Hall, leaving the Devils with fourth and 5.

Hickingbotham then hit Courtland McDonald at the goal line, where the senior pulled down the pass and fell into the end zone. Jacksonville missed the extra point, leaving the Bears with a one-point lead.

A short kick and good return set the Bears up at the Jacksonville 48, and they needed just five plays to score again. Doss hit running back Fred Williams for 15 yards on the second play. He then scrambled for 31 yards to the 2-yard line on play three. Two plays later, Doss hit tight end Elijah Sowards on a rollout right with 1:59 remaining in the first half. The PAT made it 21-13.

Jacksonville went three and out on the ensuing possession and the Bears got it first in the second half. Desperately needing a stop, Jacksonville finally got it just before the Bears reached the end zone. After 10 plays, Sylvan Hills faced fourth and 1 at the Jacksonville 7-yard line. From there, McDonald, from the defensive end position, busted another rollout attempt and dropped Doss for a 6-yard loss, giving Jacksonville possession at its own 13.

Gause then took a pitch left for 40 yards down the visitors’ sideline on first down. Hickingbotham then hit Avery Wells for 14 yards and in two plays the Red Devils were on the Bears’ 33. Two more runs by Gause led to third and 5, and Hickingbotham hit McDonald again, this time for 26 yards to set up first and goal at the 2.

The Red Devils lined up in the Dead T gained nothing in two plays, then threw incomplete on third down, making it fourth and goal. Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham rolled the dice and went for it – a sweep right to Gause who scored, but the PAT missed again, leaving it 21-19.

The Bears then put together a 14-play, 90-yard drive that consisted almost entirely of passes to Thomas and runs by Williams. But the last play was a sweep right to Marlon Clemmons for 9 yards and the game’s final touchdown with 10:27 left in the game. Brown’s fourth extra point made it 28-19.

Brandon Hickingbotham completed his first three pass attempts of the ensuing drive for 46 yards, and Gause carried three times for 25 yards to set up first and goal at the 9, but an incomplete pass and a Hickingbotham fumble left the Red Devils with fourth and goal from the 14. From there Herrmann hit a 31-yard field goal to set the final margin with six minutes remaining.

The Bears then put together another 14-play drive. They reached the Jacksonville 13-yard line, but two penalties, one of which negated a 17-yard touchdown run by Clemmons, left the Bears with third and 28 from the 31-yard line.

Clemmons got 7 yards back, but two pass breakups by Stevie Eskridge gave the Red Devils the ball on their own 24 with 1:13 left.

That, however, changed when the Red Devils were flagged for a dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved it back to the 12. It turned out to be a huge penalty.

Jacksonville got to the Sylvan Hills 40 with 17 seconds left, but the game ended with three incomplete passes in the end zone.

“We played hard for four quarters,” said coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We just have to do some of the small things better. The sweep right killed us. We have to wrap up and tackle better. And that penalty at the end, all things being equal, we’re trying to complete a 25-yard pass at the end instead of a 40-yarder. It hurts man. These kids played their guts out the last two weeks. We just have to play smarter. I’m ready to see them rewarded for their effort.”

Sylvan Hills totaled 459 yards of offense to 310 for Jacksonville. Despite the injury, Doss carried nine times for 102 yards and one touchdown, and completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for 161 yards and a score. Clemmons added 110 yards from scrimmage. He carried 14 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 12 yards. Williams posted 122 yards from scrimmage with 19 carries for 91 yards and three receptions for 31. Thomas caught eight passes for 78 yards for the Bears.

Gause carried 29 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Hickingbotham completed 13 of 21 pass attempts to seven different receivers for 199 yards and one touchdown. McDonald caught two passes for 55 yards and Perry caught four for 55.

Jacksonville travels to No. 2 ranked Pulaski Academy next week while the Bears host North Pulaski. Pulaski Academy beat Beebe 65-36 on Friday, while the Falcons dropped J.A. Fair 27-8 in a rain-delayed game that concluded Monday.

SPORTS STORY >> Win at Central is vital for CHS

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers will look to extend their 7A/6A-East Conference winning streak to three games Friday when they travel to Quigley-Cox Stadium in Little Rock to take on the Central High Tigers in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Little Rock Central (3-3, 2-1) and Cabot (4-2, 2-1) are each coming off big week-six wins. The Panthers had their annual homecoming game last week, and despite a lengthy weather delay during the game and the distraction that can come with the homecoming festivities, the host team pummeled West Memphis, 42-7, to improve to 2-1 in conference play.

The Tigers dropped a 40-28 decision to Jonesboro in week five, but rebounded in a big way last week, wrecking Mountain Home’s homecoming en route to a dominant 49-7 win.

The win improved the Tigers’ conference record to 2-1, and if Cabot doesn’t show up ready to play Friday, head coach Mike Malham says his team could be in for a long night.

“They beat the heck out of Mountain Home last Friday night,” said Malham. “They’ve got some good talent. They’ve got some good athletes running around out there. They’re 3-3. They’ve played some good people.

“They got beat by (Fort Smith) Northside early, and that’s no slouch. Northside is 5-1 and tied for the lead in the West. In the four games we played that we won, we won pretty handily. We’ve got to play well.

“They’ve got talent. They’ve got some big kids in there, and they’ve got some speed. If we’re not ready to play, it could be a long night.”

The Tigers’ offensive formation is listed as the Power Spread, but Malham said Central will also get in the Power I formation, and that the standout for the Tigers on that side of the ball is senior quarterback Cooper Westbrook (6-2, 235).

In 11 games as the starter last season, Westbrook earned All-State honors after passing for 1,688 yards and 15 touchdowns, and in May, he advanced to the second round of the annual Elite 11 quarterback camp in Dallas.

“The quarterback is a dandy,” Malham said of Westbrook. “He’s been there for three years, and he’s a big kid that can throw the ball well. Offensively, they can put points on the board, no doubt about that.”

Defensively, Central is listed as a 4-3 base team, but Malham said the Tiger defense has lined up primarily in a five front this season, and that’s the formation he expects his offense to see Friday night.

“They’re a 50 like us,” Malham said. “They’ve got good skill people and their D-backs can run well, and they’ve got big kids on the line. They’re going to be as good a test as we’ve had since we played North Little Rock.

“They’ve been playing a lot of Spread teams. So, to me, it’s hard to gauge what they’re going to do against a team like us that likes to run it full time. I’ll find out a lot when we get into that first series.

“They’ll stack the box and they’ll come after you. We beat them twice last year. Of course, we had a great team last year, and the year before they beat us down there at Quigley. It was a tough ball game, and that’s what I expect this week.”

Cabot had some of its players sit out last week’s game against West Memphis, and some that suffered some minor injuries in that game, but Malham hopes a lot of those players will be ready to play Friday night.

“Holdyn Barnes will hopefully be back this week at corner,” Malham said. “He didn’t play last week with a sprained ankle. Jake (Ferguson) got a little tweak in the knee (against West Memphis). Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go Friday.”

Some of Cabot’s starters on the offensive line were also held out last week because of injuries, but Malham hopes they’ll be ready to play as well.

“Hopefully, we’ll be ready to go,” Malham said, “but it’s football. When you get to this point of the season you’re going to have some bumps and bruises. It helps when you have a little depth, which we really don’t have a lot of. So that could hurt us if some of these key players can’t play.”

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons dominate War Eagles

Leader sports editor

It took three days more than expected, but the North Pulaski Falcons put an end to their 24-game losing streak on Monday, beating J.A. Fair 27-8 with a dominant performance. The game was halted just 30 seconds into the second quarter because of lightning, and resumed at 7 p.m. Monday with the Falcons leading 7-0.

That first touchdown came midway through the first quarter on a 2-yard quarterback sneak by senior Michael Barnes. The play was set up by a 50-yard pass from Barnes to Myles Bush that made it first and goal.

On the first play from scrimmage on Monday, North Pulaski sophomore Giancarlo Nino intercepted a JaQuan Smith pass and returned it 8 yards to the War Eagles’ 32-yard line.

Running back Myles Hunter took the first handoff 14 yards. Fullback Brady Rhodes then carried up the middle for 16 more to set up another first and goal at the 2. This time Rhodes got the payoff carry and Kilian Oelrich made the extra point to make it 14-0 with9:33 left in the first half.

The two teams then traded three-and-out possessions before the War Eagles finally got a first down. Facing third and 13 at the 5-yard line, Smith hit William Anderson for a 15-yard gain on a screen play. All that was erased soon after.

An incomplete pass was followed by a sack by Rhodes that pushed the Eagles back 9 yards. On third and 19, Rhodes and Hunter McPherson stopped running back Rahsee Modica for a 7-yard loss and forced Fair to punt on fourth and 26 from its own 4-yard line.

The Falcons’ next possession started at the Eagles’ 29, and it took just four plays to get into the end zone again. Facing third and 1, Barnes kept on the quarterback sneak, and the pile surged forward for a 12-yard gain to the 8-yard line. From there, Cedric Handley took the inside handoff up the middle untouched for the score with 1:06 left in the half.

J.A. Fair got it first to start the second half and again went three and out. The Falcons took over on their own 43 and put together a nine-play scoring drive.

An illegal motion penalty set the Falcons back before the drive began and they faced fourth down and 3. Hunter took a handoff around the right side for a 15-yard gain to maintain possession and set up first down at the Fair 37. A holding penalty negated a 37-yard touchdown run by Hunter on the next play and set up first and 15 from the 42. Three plays later the Falcons faced fourth and 8. That’s when Barnes found receiver Dontrell Allen open down the right sideline. Allen made the catch at the 2-yard line and backpedaled into the end zone for the score. The extra point was no good, leaving it 27-0 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram substituted freely from that point, including resting Barnes, though he had to send his starting quarterback back into the game after two subsequent drives resulted in three fumbles, a loss of 22 yards and one turnover.

The War Eagles finally got on the board after the Falcons’ lost fumble set them up just 19 yards from the end zone. It still took eight plays to score from there, with Smith doing most of the work from under center. He picked up 7 yards on fourth and 2 to keep the drive alive. Facing fourth and goal, he kept left again for 4 yards and the score. He also got the two-point conversion to set the final margin with 9:41 left in the game.

North Pulaski out gained J.A. Fair 286 to 85 in total yards. Barnes completed 3 of 6 pass attempts for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Hunter carried 8 times for 85 yards for the Falcons – who played the game despite five players, including three starters, sitting out with injuries.

“It was a good effort by these guys,” Ingram said. “It’s hard to play a game like this on Monday. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. But these kids showed up here tonight more inspired than I’ve seen them in a while. I’m very proud of them.”

The Falcons, 1-5, 1-2, travel to Sylvan Hills for a 7 p.m. game at Blackwood Field. Fair hosts McClellan on Friday.