Saturday, November 15, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils score first, but lose to Batesville

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville scored the first 14 points of Friday’s Class 5A playoff opener at top-seeded Batesville, but the host Pioneers scored the rest to win the first-round matchup over the visiting Red Devils by the final score of 33-14.

Senior tailback Lamont Gause scored both of the Red Devils’ touchdowns in the first quarter, and the Jacksonville defense got some key stops in the red zone throughout the first half, which helped the visitors go into halftime with a 14-12 lead.

However, the Pioneers (10-1) showed why they’re the No. 1 seed from the East Conference in the second half, and after they were able to build some momentum, Jacksonville (4-7) couldn’t keep up with the more talented team the rest of the way.

“These kids overachieved,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham of his scrappy team. “They played hard. You can’t underestimate those kids. I don’t want to say that Batesville was overlooking us or whatever.

“We came out and the kids played hard. We just had a few mental mistakes in the second half. They went down and scored on us and we just couldn’t get anything. We never could get field position. It kind of limits us when we’re having to start on the 20 every time.

“They’re (Batesville) a good football team. You don’t go to the state finals three years in a row if you’re not very good. So you got to give credit where it’s due, but I’m proud to be a Red Devil.”

Jacksonville’s first score came after Avery Wells intercepted Pioneer quarterback Kenton Crawford’s pass at the Red Devil 47-yard line. On the next snap, Gause took the handoff from quarterback Rowdy Weathers 53 yards off the left tackle for the game’s first score.

Jon Herrmann’s PAT was good, giving Jacksonville a 7-0 lead with 8:44 left in the opening quarter.

Jacksonville’s next score came with 2:03 left in that quarter. On second and four from the 20, Gause broke for an 80-yard TD burst, and Herrmann’s PAT put the Red Devils up 14-0.

It was all Batesville after that. A pair of field goals by kicker Osvaldo Espericueta cut the Jacksonville lead to 14-6, and with 52 second left in the half, the Pioneers converted a fake punt that led to their first TD of the night.

On fourth down at midfield, Crawford took the direct snap and threw out to teammate Sam Scaggs, who was wide open near the host team’s sideline. Scaggs took the pass 50 yards for the score. The two-point try was unsuccessful, giving Jacksonville the 14-12 lead at halftime.

Batesville got the ball at the start of the second half, and took its first lead of the night after running back Michael Robinson capped a six-play drive with a 3-yard TD run with 9:25 left in the third quarter. The PAT gave the host team a 19-14 lead.

Robinson added the next score on a 2-yard plunge with 5:04 remaining in the third, and after the extra point by Espericueta, the Pioneers led 26-14. The final score of the night came with 5:56 left in the game.

That lengthy 14-play drive ended with Crawford hitting receiver Riley Caraway on a 3-yard out in the end zone, and the PAT set the final score.

Despite the loss, the Red Devils got into the playoffs due to an unlikely turnaround. After losing six of their first seven games to start the season, Jacksonville won its final three regular-season games to get the fourth and final playoff spot from the 5A-Central.

The Red Devils’ season may have come to an end with Friday’s loss, but Hickingbotham couldn’t have been more proud of his players and the season they had, which was also his first as the JHS head football coach.

“It’s been awesome,” Hickingbotham said. “I’m glad to be back home. We had a great senior group. We expected a lot out of them and they led us. To start off the way we did tested our character, and the kids never quit. The kids never quit and they laid it all out there, man.

“That’s what we’ve preached from day one – to be able to walk off the field and look in the mirror and say that you gave it your best, and I think these guys can say that.”

Batesville finished the game with 443 yards of offense. Crawford was 12 of 22 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Robinson led the Pioneer ground game with 27 carries for 163 yards and two scores.

Jacksonville finished with 170 yards of offense, and Gause accounted for almost all of it. He finished his last game in a Jacksonville uniform with 17 carries for 167 yards and two scores. He also had an 11-yard reception. With the win, Batesville plays host to Greenbrier, who beat Watson Chapel last night 36-28, next Friday at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Comeback falls short

Leader sports editor

PINE BLUFF – The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils raised a ruckus in the tunnel before the game, but Little Rock Christian Academy raised a huge first half lead. The Lady Warriors then held on for dear life to earn a 57-54 victory Thursday in the semifinal round of the Mid South Classic at Pine Bluff High School.

It was the Lady Red Devils’ third game of the week after they beat Hamburg 69-32 in the first round of the tournament on Monday, then went to Little Rock and hammered Mount St. Mary 57-35 on Tuesday. They will play their fourth game of the week in the third-place game against Pine Bluff Dollarway at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jacksonville jumped out to a quick 7-5 lead in the first two minutes of the game before hitting a scoring drought that lasted more than a quarter. The Lady Devils did not make another field goal until point guard Antrice McCoy hit a 3-pointer with 4:20 remaining in the first half. Jacksonville post player Tatiana Lacy made 1 of 2 free-throw attempts in that time while LRCA built a 23-8 lead. McCoy’s three made it 23-11, but the Lady Warriors went on another 12-2 run and led 35-13 with 20 seconds left.

Jacksonville forward Jerrica Hardaway closed the gap to 18 with two steals and two buckets just before halftime. They were her only four points of the game, but they set the tone for the third quarter.

Jacksonville’s pressure began to take a toll on the Lady Warriors, who only had seven players dressed out for the game. LRCA scored first in the second half to go back up by 20, but Jacksonville answered with a 10-0 run to make the score 37-27.

Guards McCoy and Asiah Williams scored all 10 points, but several players played a hand in creating 12 LRCA turnovers in the third.

After another Christian bucket, Jacksonville scored seven straight to make it 39-34. LRCA’s Ashley Ingram hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to eight, but Jacksonville’s Alexis James answered right back just 10 seconds later.

The Lady Devils closed the gap to 42-39 by the end of the quarter, but never were able to take the lead.

The Lady Warriors scored the first five points of the fourth quarter and kept Jacksonville just at arms length the whole fourth quarter. McCoy hit a running floater with 55 seconds left to get the margin back to a single possession at 53-50, but LRCA’s Grayce Spangler got a three-point play on the ensuing possession with 38 seconds left.

Jacksonville still had two chances to win or send the game to overtime. McCoy hit another running floater with 26 seconds remaining, and the Warriors threw the ball away on the inbound pass.

McCoy scored yet again to make it 56-54 and Jacksonville coach William Rountree called timeout with 12.2 tics left on the clock. LRCA’s Alexis Thomas stepped over the sideline before throwing the ball inbounds under the Jacksonville basket.

Williams missed a short jumper on the inbound play; Spangler got the rebound and was immediately fouled. Still not in the bonus, LRCA had to throw it in under the Jacksonville basket again, and again Thomas panicked, lost control of the ball and grabbed it while still standing out of bounds. Jacksonville set up another nice inbound play that left Lacy open for a layup, but the pass was slightly late and Lacy lost control after contact as LRCA tried to recover defensively.

The ball rolled out of bounds and was awarded to LRCA. Jacksonville fouled Spangler and she made the first of two free throws with 2.2 seconds left. McCoy tried a 3/4 court shot that fell short as time expired.

“It was a great comeback in the second half,” Rountree said of his squad. “I thought the effort was fantastic. We had a good play there at the end to tie and probably should’ve held onto that pass, but for a young team like this to turn things around like that and get back into the game, I’m proud of that.”

Rountree downplayed pre-game activities when Little Rock Christian took the floor shortly after the previous game ended while Jacksonville spent almost two minutes of its warm-up time in the tunnel doing cheers and laughing, saying he didn’t think that had much to do with his team’s huge early deficit.

“I think people put too much into that kind of thing sometimes,” Rountree said. “This is a pretty loose bunch. I just think when the game started they came out and played a lot better than we did. I want to focus on the positives, and that’s the fact that this very inexperienced team fought hard to get back in it and showed some toughness. We can get better from this.”

McCoy, a senior point guard, led all scorers with 28 points, including 20 in the second half. Spangler led the Lady Warriors with 15 while Thomas added 12 and Annalee Rhodes 10.

Jacksonville hit 33 percent of its shot attempts on 19 of 57 shooting, and was 9 of 14 from the free-throw line. The Warriors were 19 of 50 and 14 of 21 from the foul line. Jacksonville got 12 steals while forcing 24 LRCA turnovers and committed only 11 turnovers. Hardaway led all players with four takeaways.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers win in crazy one

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers won a roller coaster ride against the Nettleton Raiders on Friday, beating the 5A-East three seed 49-48 at Bro Erwin Stadium and advancing to the quarterfinal round of the Class 5A football playoffs.

Things were coming easy for Beebe early. Nettleton committed two quick turnovers and Beebe, 7-4, found itself with a 21-0 lead just a little more than halfway through the first quarter. But Beebe returned the favor in the third quarter, losing two of three fumbles and trailing 34-28 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. That set up a wild ending that saw the two teams trading heavyweight blows until the Badgers finally sealed it when junior cornerback Connor Patrom intercepted a pass with 2:56 remaining.

“We both committed some big turnovers,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “I told my guys that they were due for another one and to just hang in there. Connor got beat a couple of times when they made some adjustments and we had to leave him one on one with that big receiver they have. But he made the play that needed to be made when it really counted. He’s our best cover guy and I was happy to see him make the play there at the end.”

Safety Jo’Vaughn Wyrick started the madness with a 35-yard interception return for a pick-6 on the third play of the game, giving Beebe a 7-0 lead with 10:57 left in the quarter. Beebe’s Hunter King then sacked Nettleton quarterback Jaylin Small to start the next drive, and the Raiders punted on fourth and 11.

Beebe wasted little time scoring again. Clayton Meurer went 17 yards on second and 5, and Wyrick went 31 two plays later. Fullback Trip Smith got the last 3 and Tyler Jones added the extra point to make it 14-0 with 7:27 left in the opening quarter.

Meurer then stepped in front of a Small pass on the fifth play of the ensuing possession, giving the Badgers the ball on their own 47. Smith went 40 yards on the first play and Wyrick got the last 10 for a 21-0 Badger lead.

Nettleton took over from there, and were threatening to run away with the game as Beebe’s offense began to stall.

The Raiders answered the third touchdown with a seven-play drive, scoring on fourth and goal from the 4 on an inside slant to 6-foot-4 receiver Stanley Wilson. The Badgers went three and out and punted. Nettleton then went 56 yards in six plays, scoring on a Joe Frazier plunge from a yard out and making it 21-14 with 10:42 left until halftime.

Beebe answered back by going 90 yards in 14 plays and chewing up eight minutes of clock. Wyrick got his third touchdown with a 14-yard run to put Beebe up by two touchdowns.

Nettleton scored again on a 6-yard scramble by Small. The extra point was no good, leaving it 28-20 at halftime.

Wyrick returned the second half opening kickoff 40 yards to the Nettleton 47, but Beebe fumbled an option play on the first snap, giving the Raiders the ball on their own 49. Frazier carried four times for 46 yards and scored from 7 out. Small kept for the two-point conversion that tied the game with 9:36 left in the third.

Beebe had a nice drive going, moving from its own 30 to Nettleton’s 22 in just five plays. Meurer had a 33-yard run for most of the yardage. An offsides penalty set up first and 5 at the 22, but Nunez fumbled the snap for a 3-yard loss. On second down, Wyrick fumbled after about an 8-yard gain. Nettleton recovered and returned it to the 33, where it took over with 6:12 left in the third.

The Raiders needed 11 plays to go that distance, with Wilson catching a 3-yard pass over Patrom with two minutes left in the third. The extra point missed, leaving it 34-28.

Beebe took over on its own 20 after the kickoff went into the end zone. On the third play, Wyrick broke loose for 74 yards, breaking two tackles in the open field and scoring with 34 seconds remaining in the quarter. Jones’ extra point put the Badgers in front. The two teams traded touchdowns the whole fourth quarter, and Jones’ consistency proved to be the difference.

Nettleton scored two minutes into the fourth on a 33-yard reception by Montel Moore, but missed another extra point to make it 40-35 Raiders. Wyrick returned the next kick 40 yards to the Nettleton 48. Smith got 16 yards on first down and Meurer got the rest on the next play, making it 42-40 with 9:06 remaining.

Beebe almost had Nettleton stopped on the next drive, but busted a coverage on third and 13. Moore was left running all alone between the hash marks and Small hit him in stride for a 47-yard touchdown with 8:01 remaining in the game. This time, Nettleton converted a two-point try to Wilson to take a 48-42 lead.

Beebe’s game-winning drive started at the 35. The Badgers picked up 4 to 6 yards a play, chewing up the clock before Smith burst through for a 31-yard touchdown run with 4:02 remaining. Jones calmly added the extra point to give the Badgers the lead.

Nettleton took over at the 26, but after 18 yards in two plays, Patrom stepped in front of a pass meant for Wilson for the game-sealing interception.

Nettleton out gained Beebe 485 to 471. All the Badgers’ yards came on the ground with no pass attempts.

Smith led all rushers with 26 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Wyrick had 10 carries for 158 yards and three scores, and Meurer made it a 100-yard trio with eight carries for exactly 100 yards and a score. Wyrick added 116 return yards and another touchdown to finish with 274 total yards and four scores.

The Badgers will travel to 5A-South champion Hot Springs next Friday. The Trojans beat Little Rock Christian Academy 47-35 in the first round.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers fall to Bulldogs

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers’ season came to an end in northwest Arkansas with a 35-14 loss to Fayetteville on Friday in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. The third-seeded Bulldogs scored 21-straight points in the middle two quarters to turn a tie game into a large margin of victory.

Neither team was able to establish much offensively for most of the first quarter, but that changed with two minutes to go when quarterback Kaden Martindale hit Barrett Banister for 78 yards and a touchdown, giving the home team a 7-0 lead.

Cabot answered quickly, putting together a nice drive by picking up yardage in large chunks.

Halfback Jalen Hemphill capped the drive with a 16-yard run on the dive and the extra point tied it with 10:31 left in the first half. Fayetteville answered right back, putting together a 60-yard drive that saw Barrett score from 1-yard out with 6:11 remaining in the second quarter. Cabot couldn’t get going on its next drive, but also stopped Fayetteville and the two teams went into intermission with the home team still up by seven.

Cabot got the ball to start the second half and put together a lengthy, time-consuming drive, but it stalled on downs near the Bulldog 30-yard line.

Fayetteville then gave itself a little breathing room with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Martindale to Garland Allison with 4:54 left in the third quarter.

Cabot couldn’t pick up a first down on its next drive and punted back to the Bulldogs. The home team then scored again, capping a long drive with a 16-yard run by Luke Rapert with 11:19 remaining in the game.

Cabot drove deep into Fayetteville’s territory on the ensuing possession, but was taking a long time in doing so. The Panthers resorted to the pass on the drive to try to conserve time and extend the game. Quarterback Jess Reed finally found Jarrod Barnes for a 15-yard touchdown connection. Christian Underwood’s extra point made it 28-14 with 6:02 left in the game.

Cabot needed a stop but couldn’t get it. Fayetteville sealed the game and set the final margin when Martindale threw his third touchdown pass of the game, this time to C.J. O’Grady from 16 yards out with 2:56 remaining.

Cabot quickly got to the Fayetteville 35, but fumbled it away.

Total yards weren’t that disparate. Fayetteville finished with 339 while Cabot totaled 3-6. The Panthers rushed for 233 and threw for 73. Reed completed 4 of 5 attempts for 37 yards, while Barnes, who was the starting quarterback until suffering a broken thumb in week six, completed a left-handed halfback pass for 36 yards.

Fullback Kolton Eads led Cabot in rushing with 19 carries for 68 yards, while Barnes carried 19 times for 67. Hemphill added five carries for 33 yards and a touchdown.

Fayetteville moves on to play at 7A-Central one seed Conway in the quarterfinal round next week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

TOP STORY >> Robinson winner in a close JP race

Aaron Robinson is expected to win the Pulaski County Dist. 11 justice of the peace race by nine or 11 votes, according to his Democratic opponent, Sandra Prater.

Robinson, a Jacksonville alderman and a Republican, will fill the seat vacated by Bob Johnson on the quorum court. Johnson ran unopposed as a Democrat for the seat currently held by term-limited state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville).

The Pulaski County Election Commission was expected to certify the election results Friday evening in a close race that was decided by 10 or 11 votes out of 6,514 cast.

Prater had hoped 14 absentee overseas military ballots that the county clerk’s office had mailed out would give her enough votes to win. But Brian Poe, director of Pulaski County Elections, said Friday that only one of those ballots was returned by the deadline.

In the age of computerized voting and optical scanners, only three recounts have been requested since Poe began working for the election commission in 2007, he said, and not a single vote has changed as the result.

Prater was previously a state representative and a Pulaski County justice of the peace.

TOP STORY >> Pardons by Beebe not as bad as Huck’s

Leader editor-in-chief

Gov. Mike Beebe has had a good record on pardons until this week, much better than Gov. Mike Huckabee, his predecessor.

Beebe, a smart governor and lawyer, avoided pardoning the worst criminals during his two terms. He pardoned petty criminals for writing hot checks and for not paying fines, but never the serious crimes that Huckabee became famous for until the legislature told him to stop.

Beebe thought he could leave office without causing too much stir, considering what his predecessor was getting away with for years.

But now Beebe’s under fire for pardoning his son, Kyle, for drug possession and a convicted sex offender named Michael E. Jackson, both from Searcy, Beebe’s hometown.

Jackson was charged with stalking a 14-year-old on the Internet after a police sting. The child was actually a police officer. Jackson served his sentence, but the pardon is on hold because of new accusations against him in a child-custody case.

Sex offenders like Jackson don’t deserve a break, even if he was just stalking a cop. He served a four-month sentence in 2008. Kyle Beebe received three years of probation in 2003.

You can understand why Beebe would pardon his own son — after all, marijuana is now legal in four states and Washington, D.C. — although the governor has been deservedly criticized for not pardoning other petty drug offenders.

Neither pardon is as bad as Huckabee paroling rapist Wayne DuMond and granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who, between them, killed six people after Huckabee turned them loose.

Unlike Huckabee, Beebe didn’t pardon violent criminals. Huckabee pardoned killers, rapists, armed robbers and other thugs just about every year he was in office.

He set a record over 12 years: More than 1,100 pardons and clemencies — more than all of Huck’s predecessors combined, going back to the Faubus years.

A mostly friendly media in Little Rock ignored Huckabee’s pardons and clemencies. Huck-abee’s much-criticized record on pardons could affect his decision on whether he runs for president in 2016, although he hasn’t always shied away from running before.

Let’s recap: Dumond was released from prison in 1999 at Huckabee’s urging. Dumond, who moved to Missouri a few weeks later, raped and killed two women. He died in a Missouri prison in 2005.

Clemmons received lengthy sentences for a series of holdups and thefts in the 1990s. His sentence was commuted in May 2000, and he was released three months later.

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

In 2008, Clemmons killed four law-enforcement officers near Tacoma, Wash., and then shot himself before police could arrest him.

In 2004, we reported that Huckabee planned to pardon a murderer named Glen Martin Green, who had beaten a teenager to death 20 years before.

Green, an Air Force sergeant, had kidnapped Helen Lynette Spencer, 18, of Gravel Ridge while she was visiting a friend at Little Rock Air Force Base. Green beat her to death with martial-arts sticks, ran over her body and dumped her into Twin Prairie Bayou in Lonoke County.

Huckabee usually ignored us when we advised him not to free murderers and rapists, such as Clemmons and Dumond. But Huckabee withdrew his pardon for Green after the outcry that followed our revelations.

Green was in the news again in September, when we reported that he was installing gym equipment at Cabot Junior High North as part of a prison work-release program.

Soon after our report, the Department of Correction announced it would no longer send convicted killers to schools. The Cabot School District has stopped buying equipment from Arkansas Correctional Industries.

Frank Gilbert, the Libertarian candidate for governor this year, said Beebe’s pardoning his son was “a cynical misuse of gubernatorial power.

“If the governor had pardoned all nonviolent drug offenders, it could have been a principled act,” Gilbert said. “But to use it for his son while ignoring others in similar situations is a sad way for the governor to end his term.”

Gilbert campaigned on a platform that called for pardoning all nonviolent drug offenders. He said Arkansas “could save hundreds of millions of dollars, reunite thousands of families and return productive workers to the economy.

“Compounding this cynical misuse of gubernatorial power is his effort to obscure the facts by having his press aide point out that he had pardoned over 700 persons in his term,” Gilbert continued. “That is a tiny fraction of the Arkansans who should have received the same treatment as the governor’s son.”

The state would open up thousands of prison beds if it adopted Gilbert’s plan. But we reminded Gilbert that Beebe’s pardoning his son isn’t nearly as bad as Huckabee pardoning Clemmons and DuMond.

“You are right,” Gilbert responded. “The lad is unlikely to kill anyone!”

TOP STORY >> New district up and running

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville, we have liftoff.

It took the state Board of Education less than 15 minutes Thursday to unanimously create the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District and appoint the seven-member interim school board recommended by a panel of local elected officials.

State Board of Education Chairman Sam Ledbetter signed the “Order of Creation of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District” at 10:26 a.m.

“Folks, now we officially have our own school district,” said Patrick Wilson, attorney for the Jacksonville/North Pulaski Education Corps. But festive supporters already were spilling out into the lobby, prompting Wilson to say they had “stepped on my applause line.”

The seven new board members will meet at 5 p.m. Monday at Jacksonville City Hall with Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess to organize and begin governance, according to Daniel Gray, a member of that board and spokesman for the Education Corps. His group carried the baton over the finish line in the 40-year relay slog toward Jacksonville school independence.

“It’s a great day, man. It’s a big day,” Gray said.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher compared the seven appointed board members to the original seven U.S. astronauts, saying, “This is our space program.”

He said he hoped they would look beyond the borders of the state, seeking out the most successful policies and programs to emulate in Jacksonville.

“We have suffered and been left out,” he said. “Now we have a fresh start.”

In addition to approving creation of the district and its interim board, the state board unanimously approved consideration for Education Department rules governing the creation of school districts by detachment — necessary because it had never happened before in Arkansas and because both Sherwood and Maumelle have signaled interest in detachment from PCSSD. That will have to wait until after the district is declared unitary and dismissed by the courts from the desegregation agreement.

The enabling order found that leaders in the effort to form the new district went through all the required steps for detachment, including petitioning the state board, procuring an opinion from the attorney general that the detachment wouldn’t negatively impact desegregation efforts, approval by U.S. District Judge Price Marshall, seeking and getting an order for election on detachment and then getting approval in that election on Sept. 16 to detach, when 95 percent of the voters supported it.

The board’s order also ratified the selection of Norris Cain, Daniel Gray, Ron McDaniel, Carol Miles, Richard Moss, Robert Price and LaConda Watson as the appointed, interim board.

The order stipulates that the new district will continue under the administration of PCSSD during a transition period of up to two years, with all revenues continuing to accrue to PCSSD, which would also bear all costs.

The two districts have 120 days after receiving orders from the federal court to jointly submit to the state board an agreed plan to:

Select and employ a superintendent of the new district.

Zone the district and prepare for election of school board members in September 2015.

Determine the millage necessary to operate the new district.

Address the distribution of real and personal property, assets, liabilities (including debt), duties and responsibilities of both districts.

Address procedures by which the new district will employ licensed and nonlicensed staff.

There is also a plan that includes mediation for any areas in which the two districts can’t reach agreement.

Assuming agreement by the two districts, the state board would enter an order addressing the transfer of assets, territory, property, liabilities, duties or responsibilities.

The panel that recommended the interim board, chaired by state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) chose five blacks and two whites, or — parsed another way — five men and two women, based on qualifications, he said, and not on racial, gender, geographical or other considerations.

They were selected from a pool of 50 applicants.

Board members’ collective experience includes at least two completed Ph.D.s, retired military officers, people experienced in business, marketing and education and one man who has worked extensively as a consultant to school boards, schools and teachers groups throughout the western United States.

Among that board’s many responsibilities will be carving the district up into zones from which to elect future board members, to hire a superintendent, a chief financial officer, an attorney and others to begin division of assets with the Pulaski County Special School District, from which it has now officially — but not completely — separated.

PCSSD will remain responsible for educating both groups of students until the new district is ready to stand alone.

Jacksonville attorney and former state representative Mike Wilson helped start the Lighthouse Charter Schools in Jacksonville and has also been among those pushing for the standalone Jacksonville district.

“I expect them to work together in cooperation and friendly competition,” Wilson said Thursday morning.

An example?

“Lighthouse might have a Chinese teacher, and the new district may not, and they can trade them around,” he said.

“I want to see that both Lighthouse and the new district teach those children reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said. “The hard work starts now.”

Former PCSSD board member Bishop James Bolden and Ivory Tillman, head of the Jacksonville NAACP, were the only people to address the board before the vote.

Tillman wanted to be sure the interim board would have open meetings and transparency, and he was assured that state law required that.

“We’re getting ready to shake it up in the educational realm in this state,” Bolden told the board.

Patrick Wilson, attorney for the detachment group, said his firm hadn’t been hired by the new district because it was only minutes old and hadn’t met, “but we would certainly be interested in visiting with them and hope they’ll seek to hire us,” Wilson said.

“The next step is detachment — statute requires us to approach federal court and make sure it’s aware of what we are doing, and we are ready to go forward and get some sort of blessing from the federal court,” he said.

Among others at the meeting were Guess, PCSSD attorney Alan Roberts, chief financial officer Bill Goff, Perry and PCSSD attorney Sam Jones, as well as interim JNPSC board members Ron McDaniel and Dr. Robert Price.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

FEATURE STORY >> Rebirth of Jacksonville's heart

Leader staff writer

Those spearheading the movement to establish a Jacksonville historical district along First Street may have found the city’s original train depot, and they are hoping the owner will donate it.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said he would meet the owner and view the building, which Alderman Barbara Mashburn has heard is being used as a hay barn. She also believes the depot will be in good shape.

Mashburn is the driving force behind the project.

She called local artist Roberta McGrath her right hand. McGrath has sketched designs for the proposed district.

The district also has a 15-member board of directors involved in the planning process.

About the possibility of receiving the train depot, Mashburn said, “I feel great” because that would qualify the city to receive grants, including a Union Pacific grant, for the district that would “be enough to get renovations started.”

In other good news for the project, the alderman said she had learned that where the city would like to place the depot is not in Union Pacific’s right-of-way.

The city owns Short Street, and the depot would be placed there, near its original location. The site is ideal because the ground does not need to be prepared for a building to be placed there, Mashburn said.

Also, Brandon Morris with Union Pacific recently spoke with Mashburn and McGrath to voice the company’s support for the project.

“He was really upbeat. He was interested in what we are doing. He has no problem working with Jacksonville” to turn the depot into a museum and possibly a venue that can be rented for events, Mashburn said.

McGrath added that Union Pacific recently built and paid for a fence to increase safety by keeping people from crossing the tracks on foot and being struck by a train.

The fence’s design, she explained, compliments her drawings of what the historical district will look like. “I thought that was a wonderful gesture on their part,” McGrath said.

Plans to establish the district were first announced in June during the Jacksonville Historical Society’s first meeting at city hall.

Mashburn said, since then, two representatives with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program have walked through the proposed district with her and the mayor.

They said all but two out of 10 buildings on First Street qualify for the National Register of Historic Places and could be staples of the historical district.

The buildings have been nominated for the Register, and the city will know in January whether they were added to it.

The nominees are:

• Wage Center at 114 S. First St., which was Western Auto Store.

• City Storage at 109 W. Main St., which was the First Jacksonville Bank and the water company.

• Legion for Bingo at 102, 106 and 108 N. First St., which was City Café in the 1940s and ‘50s.

• Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu at 112 N. First St., which was a Harpole Bros. and Wilson Bros. store.

• Excel Realty Co. at 116 N. First St., which was the post office in the ‘40s and the electric company in the ‘70s.

• The empty 118 N. First St., which was Blodgett’s Drugstore and Nixon Barber Shop in the ‘40s and an upholstery shop in the ‘80s or ‘90s. The barbershop was owned by postal worker W.W. Nixon.

• Jim’s Pawn at 120 N. First St., which was the Henry Bros., Garvins, Pace and Carlisle stores.

• The tire shop at 200 N. First St., which was Lions service station.

Also to be included with them in the first set of historical district buildings will be McGrath’s art studio at 122 S. First St., originally a pool hall, and her salon at 118 S. First St., which was Mule Taylor’s Restaurant.

Mashburn added that the first city jail on Graham Road is already on the Register because someone nominated it in 2010 and she completed the paperwork this year, as the nominator had not finished it.

The buildings being listed on the Register could mean grants for owners to use on maintaining those landmarks, Mashburn said.

Being on the Register could also mean a 20 percent investment tax credit for rehabbing certain structures and receiving the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s technical advice about restoration, adaptive reuse and renovation, The Leader reported previously.

“Everybody would be able to enjoy them,” Mashburn noted. “This is part of Jacksonville’s history.”

Buildings that are in a two-block radius but not on First Street would be better added to the district one at a time, she continued.

The buildings proposed are:

• Angel’s Place at 100 S. First St., which was a doctor’s office and the Care Channel.

• The tax preparer at 210 N. First St., which was Southern Café, a taxi business and a furniture store.

• Suzy Q’s Flea Market at 116 W. Hickory St., which was the post office, a newspaper office and the Salvation Army.

• The empty 113 N. Second St., which was the home of Callie Harpole.

• The barbershop at 109 N. Second St., which was the telephone company and a radio station.

• Storage Peacock Rentals at 113 W. Main St., which was Harpoles Confectionary and Bus Station.

• The community development office at 109 S. Second St., which was the first police and courts building.

• The rental at 114 Mulberry St., which was the city’s first switchboard.

The alderman explained that the historical district would increase property values and serve as a tourist attraction.

Also, Mashburn added, she is asking residents to provide old photos that could be displayed at the train depot if it is donated to the city.

About the district, McGrath said, “It’s starting to come together pretty well…There is a lot of enthusiasm for it. People are jumping on board.”

She noted that Jacksonville exploded outward from the train tracks as a town along the railroad route when it was founded and noted that establishing the district could also lead to growth.

“It’s almost a repeat of history, which I think is a great thing,” McGrath said. The district could also include a welcome arch near the bridge over the railroad tracks, one of three total in the society’s plans, The Leader reported previously.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Bears face potent offense at Wynne

Leader sports editor

Disappointment might be the best word to describe the last two weeks of the regular season for the Sylvan Hills Bears. After a fantastic 8-0 start, the Bears lost a heartbreaker to the suddenly streaking Beebe Badgers, then fell in week 10 to top-ranked Pulaski Academy in a game they had to play without starting quarterback Trajan Doss.

In two weeks, the Bears went from hopes of an outright conference championship to settling for a three seed in the state tournament, and it is perhaps the toughest draw for a three seed in the state this year.

Sylvan Hills has to travel to Wynne to take on a Yellowjackets squad that spent most of the season at the top of most polls, but suffered numerous turnovers on an inopportune week and lost to Batesville in week seven.

“It’s a tough draw but we put ourselves in this position,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “The thing about it is, we were going to have to play them eventually anyway, so what does it matter whether it’s now or in a couple of weeks. Everybody’s after the same goal.”

The Bears’ coaching staff is confident their players can move the ball. They have moved it on everyone they’ve played.

The problem in recent weeks has been finishing drives. Sylvan Hills committed three turnovers inside PA’s 15-yard line in that 50-20 loss.

“We were talking about it this weekend, I bet we left five touchdowns out there in these last two weeks,” Withrow said. “This week, when we get down there, we have to score. We think we can move the ball. We’ve moved it all year. Our whole deal is, when we get inside the 15, we have to finish the drive.”

The Bears will have to play the first-round game without Doss at QB again this week, and won’t have him back until the semifinal round. Doss had surgery on a broken wrist on Tuesday and will have to sit for two weeks.

“We just hope we can play well enough to hang around that long,” Withrow said.

Wynne has a small but athletic defense that runs a 5-2 and takes few risks.

The offense is engineered by quarterback Ross Trail who has committed to Cincinnati. The Yellowjackets operate out of the spread formation, with Trail able to run or throw effectively.

“He’s very good,” Withrow said. “He does a great job of making all the reads in the running game and throwing the ball. They move it up and down the field with a lot of success. They’re really well-coached and they’re good at what they do.”

Doss will probably be the only Sylvan Hills player to miss the game, but several are nursing injuries this week. Withrow is calling four other starters questionable with various injuries. They’re taking it easy this week, and the head Bear is confident at least three of them will be able to play.

“We’re pretty dinged up right now,” Withrow said. “I think we’re going to have everyone but Doss and maybe one other, but I don’t know how many of them will be 100 percent.”

The game kicks off at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils travel to Batesville

Leader sports editor

After a one-year hiatus, the Jacksonville Red Devils are back in the playoffs with a first-round game at 5A-East champion Batesville at 7 p.m. Friday. The Pioneers have not lost since a week-one defeat to Class 6A Jonesboro, including an upset of then No. 1 Wynne in week seven.

Jacksonville also enters the game on a win streak, though only three games instead of nine. But the Red Devils have gone toe to toe with three other playoff teams this season, including a two-point loss on a last-second field goal to undefeated 5A-West champion Maumelle.

Batesville has played in the last three state championship games but hasn’t yet been able to bring home the hardware. But Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham knows his squad is facing a well-established and successful program.

“They’re trying to make it four state championship games in a row,” said Hickingbotham. “They’re used to success. The junior high program has won 23 games in a row. It’s a program that’s got things moving in the right direction. I look at this as an opportunity to go up there and show people how far we’ve come from where we started, and show that we’re heading in the right direction too.”

Batesville’s three-year starter Kenton Crawford at quarterback, is the key clog in making the Pioneer offense go. The home team will also boast a lot of depth at running back and receiver, rotating running backs and tight ends on every play.

“Pretty big offensive line, big receivers – they’re good at what they do,” Hickingbotham said. “They execute well on the line and they make room for those backs.

“I don’t think they have the kind of backs we’ve seen in this conference, but they execute that offense very well and they’ll break one for 70 if you’re not disciplined.”

Jacksonville may be at further disadvantage with key injuries on both sides of the ball. Defensive end Courtland McDonald is out with a groin injury.

Starting quarterback Bran-don Hickingbotham suffered an ankle injury away from practice and is listed as questionable for Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke facing hard-nosed Tigers

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits won four of their last five regular-season games to earn the No. 4 playoff seed from their conference, which means they’ll travel to northwest Arkansas for the first round of the Class 4A playoffs to take on Prairie Grove, the No. 3 seed from the 4A-1 Conference.

Prairie Grove has had its share of success in recent years. Since 2011, the Tigers have won a total of 36 games, and they return a total of 10 starters from last year’s conference championship team.

Offensively, the Tigers are a run-first team, and base out of the Wing-T formation, something they’ve done since longtime coach Danny Abshier has been at the school.

“Their coach has been there I want to say 20-something years and they are a Wing-T team,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “They’ve got two good running backs, (No.) 20 and 23. They’re real good. They want to run the ball and they want to run it right at you.”

The two Tiger running backs Bost mentioned are seniors Bobby Catt (5-9, 210) and Eli Lopez (5-7, 160). Catt and Lopez each ran for touchdowns in last week’s regular-season finale, a 26-point win over nearby rival Lincoln.

Catt leads the Tigers’ stable of backs after pacing the backfield last season with nearly 1,000 yards rushing, and although Lopez didn’t carry the ball as much a season ago, he’s earned himself plenty of carries in 2014.

Another offensive weapon the Tigers have is tight end prospect Dylan Soehner (6-6, 265). The athletic junior quarterbacked the 8-1 junior high team two years ago, and in the spring, he received college interests.

“The tight end is definitely their biggest guy,” Bost said of Soehner. “We heard he’s been getting some D-1 offers. He’s a big ole tight end. They’ll split him out some at receiver and throw the jump ball to him. They want to get the ball to him.”

Lonoke’s conference consists primarily of Spread teams these days, but the Jackrabbits have seen the Wing-T in the past. Clinton, who left the 4A-2 Conference before the start of this season, runs that offense as well, which gives the Jackrabbits an idea of what they’ll be going up against Friday night.

“The best team to compare them to is Clinton,” Bost said. “They were in our conference all those years and that’s who we compare them to. They can jump in the Spread, too, if they want to, just like Clinton did. But they’re mostly just a Wing-T team.

“Our kids have played Clinton from seventh grade all the way through high school. So it’s good that we have seen that.”

Defensively, the Tigers (6-3) like to give multiple looks and get after the quarterback with their different blitz schemes, which is something that gave Lonoke’s offense trouble early in the season.

“They’re going to give you different looks and blitz a lot,” Bost said. “That’s something we haven’t really seen since Newport and Helena. Riverview blitzed us a little bit the other night.

“They’ll base in a 3-4 or 3-5. They send two or three linebackers every play, so we’re going to have to do a good job this week of picking them up, because they’re going to bring them.”

Lonoke’s playoff chances looked relatively slim at the midway point of the season, but the Jackrabbits (5-5) have turned things around in a big way, and Bost feels good about his team’s chances entering Friday’s first round.

“We feel real good,” Bost said. “We won four of the last five, and we were able to win the games we needed to win to get the four seed. We like our draw. We’ve just got to go on the road and take care of business.”

Kickoff Friday is at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe going right at Raiders

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers enter the 5A state playoffs with about as much momentum as any 6-4 team could have. The Badgers stay at home as a two seed to host former conference rival Nettleton at 7 p.m. Friday. The Raiders are the three seed from Beebe’s old 5A-East. They went into week 10 with a 5-1 conference mark and tied with Wynne for second place, but got blown out in the second half and fell 50-29 to the Yellowjackets.

Nettleton led that game 22-21 at halftime and scored first in the second half, taking a 29-21 lead almost halfway through the third quarter. The Beebe coaching staff, having played on Thursday of last week, went to Wynne to watch the game. Beebe head coach John Shannon noted what he thought was the difference between the first two and a half quarters and the last quarter and a half.

“Wynne finally decided to just line up and run it right at them, and that’s when Nettleton got into some trouble,” said Shannon. “Wynne was trying to throw the ball around and get people in space, but Nettleton’s defense runs to the ball really well. It was when Wynne started going right at them that they struggled.”

That could turn out to be a positive sign for Beebe and its Dead-T offense, which is designed to go right into the belly of defenses often stacking nine or 10 in the box.

“We don’t make you chase us around so hopefully from what we saw last Friday we can match up pretty well with them,” Shannon said. “We’ve felt pretty confident in our offense all season when we avoid the mistakes. We still have to find a way to slow down that quarterback. He’s the key to their success. He does a good job on the read, the counter, the sweep. He’s got a couple of big receivers. They just went up and outjumped Wynne’s defenders on a couple of plays – kind of like a post player in basketball. They remind me a lot of Sylvan Hills with what they do on offense.”

The Badgers had to outscore Sylvan Hills in week nine, winning 41-37, but giving up more than 300 yards rushing. The Badgers’ offense has excelled of late too.

After a dismal 0-3 start to the season, in which more than their share of injuries and turnovers, combined with crucially timed penalties, doomed the nonconference schedule.

Since then, no one in conference play, with the exception of Jacksonville, has even slowed the Badgers down. Even in the loss to Pulaski Academy, Beebe averaged 9.4 yards per carry, rushing for 485 yards in that game.

Fullback Trip Smith didn’t play until game four, and has already surpassed 1,100 yards this season. Halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick is less than 40 yards from 1,000 this season despite only 78 carries.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers get Fayetteville for first time

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers travel to No. 4 Fayetteville for the first round of the Class 7A playoffs Friday night in a game that will be the first-ever between the two tradition-rich schools. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Even though Cabot (6-4) is the No. 3 seed from the East and Fayetteville (8-2) is the four seed from the West, the Panthers still have to travel to Washington County because the Panthers are essentially a five seed.

The East and Central conferences have an even mix of 7A and 6A teams, so the conferences combined seeding ranks, and since Cabot finished behind Conway, North Little Rock, Little Rock Central and Bryant in conference play, the Panthers are really playing as a five seed.

Fayetteville’s conference consists only of 7A teams, and since the Bulldogs finished fourth in the West among the eight teams in the conference, they get home-field advantage this week.

The only common opponent the two teams faced this year is North Little Rock. The Charging Wildcats, the No. 1 East seed, lost 43-33 to Fayetteville in week two, and NLR beat Cabot in the conference opener two weeks later by the final score of 41-14.

“Really we’re a five (seed) going to a four,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “They (Fayetteville) beat North Little Rock by 10 points. North Little Rock beat us by 27. They throw the ball a lot. They got a good quarterback.

“They probably like to throw it a little more than they run it. They’re probably 60/40 throwing it and running it.”

Fayetteville dropped from the No. 1 West seed all the way to No. 4 with last week’s 45-2 blowout loss to Bentonville, the defending 7A state champion. The Bulldogs, however, could still be in position to make a lengthy playoff run, given the talent they have on both sides of the ball.

Leading the Bulldogs’ Spread offense is sophomore quarterback Taylor Powell (6-0, 190). Powell has shown a lot of potential, even at the junior high level, where he shattered passing records previously held by Razorback quarterbacks Brandon and Austin Allen.

The Bulldogs have another talented sophomore in the backfield in Terrance Rock (5-10, 170), who ran for more than 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in junior high. Rock possesses 4.4 speed, and is just one of Fayetteville’s many offensive weapons.

Fayetteville’s receiving corps is plentiful, but the most noticeable target is senior Razorback commit C.J. O’Grady (6-5, 230; 4.7 speed). O’Grady hauled in 45 passes for 884 yards and 14 TDs at his tight end position a year ago, and committed to the Hogs over scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Texas and Stanford.

“They score a bunch of points,” Malham said. “They had mercy rules the last two games before Bentonville, against Rogers and Rogers Heritage. They just had a bad game Friday night (against Bentonville) – didn’t look like they had all year long for some reason. Bentonville probably had something to do with that.”

Defensively, Malham said Fayetteville bases out of a 4-3, but he doesn’t see them lining up in that against his run-heavy Dead-T attack.

“They’re a 4-3, but I don’t see them running that against us,” Malham said. “It’ll be just like every other week when we play somebody we haven’t played before. We’ll find out what they’re going to do when we get that ball for the first time.”

Fayetteville has plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball as well, including senior free safety Dre Greenlaw (6-0, 220; 4.5 speed), who is also committed to the Razorbacks.

Despite the talent the Bulldogs have on defense, Malham is confident his team can move the ball against them, considering the Panther offense hasn’t had much trouble moving the chains against any other team it’s faced this season.

Cabot finished every game this year with more offensive yards than its opponent, including 476 yards in last week’s win over Searcy.

“We haven’t had trouble moving the ball all year,” Malham said. “We had a little trouble getting the ball in the end zone the two games prior to that (win against Searcy). We’ve moved it on everybody, and if you went by stats we’d be 10-0, but stats don’t win ball games. You got to put the ball in the end zone.

“If we hang onto it, and not turn it over, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

Sophomore Jarrod Barnes, who moved from quarterback to running back after breaking his thumb late in the regular season, is still expected to get plenty of snaps in the backfield Friday, but senior two-way standout Jake Ferguson will miss his fifth-consecutive game this week because of a torn meniscus.

Malham said Ferguson could perhaps come back next week if the Panthers can advance to the second round with a win Friday night.

EDITORIAL >> Impressive new board

The state Board of Education will meet Thursday, when it is expected to approve a proposed seven-member Jacksonville School Board. The names for the interim board were submitted by a committee headed by state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), which also included Sen. Linda Chesterfield, Sen. Jane English, Rep. Doug House, all of North Little Rock, along with Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Rep.-elect Bob Johnson, also of Jacksonville.

The five men and two women being proposed to the state Board of Education represent a cross-section of the community. There are five black members and two white men on the list, all of them well qualified.

The proposed board includes Dr. Robert Price, who retired after 35 years as a professor of family medicine and regional programs and director of quality improvement and research for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Price also worked for the U.S. Office of Education, where he was involved in teacher education programs in 15 western states and several hundred school districts and boards.

Others proposed for the board:

• LaConda Watson, a district sales manager for Hewlett Packard’s mid-Atlantic region, will take time out from her Ph.D. program to help get the district off to a good start within two years.

• Daniel Gray, the local realtor who served as chairman of the Jacksonville Education Corps during the critical last two years of the three-decade long effort.

• Ronald McDaniel, a retired commander of the Arkansas National Guard’s 189th Maintenance Wing and an active community volunteer, is on the Pulaski County Special School District advisory board, which has taken the place of the disbanded PCSSD School Board

• Carol Miles, a Jacksonville High School graduate herself, is the Park University campus center director at the Little Rock Air Force Base Joint Education Center.

• Richard Moss is a student success coach and adjunct instructor in American government at Pulaski Technical College.

• Norris Crain, a retired Air Force educator, was an education and training manager at Little Rock Air Force Base and various other locations around the country.

Once the interim board is approved, the group will begin working out details for the new district, including hiring staff and calling for school elections as soon as next fall. Presumably, many of the interim board members will be candidates for the elected board.

The school district could then get off the ground in 2016. It’s an auspicious start.

TOP STORY >> Crawford salutes veterans

Leader staff writer

The Cabot American Legion Post 71 held its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Tuesday at the Veterans Park Community Center.

First District Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) spoke during the event.

Crawford said people voted last week. “If the veterans had not raised their hands to serve the country, would America have had the right to vote?” he asked.

“We need to make sure we honor that debt and keep the faith of our veterans. They deserve the utmost respect and everything they’ve earned,” said Crawford, who was re-elected last week.

“It’s my commitment, 100 percent, to make sure the VA and everybody serving veterans is in the fight with passion and is 100 percent committed. If you are working in any capacity to serve veterans, and you’re not passionate about serving veterans, you owe it to yourself to seek a new line of work,” Crawford said.

Mayor Bill Cypert thanked the veterans for their service.

“Four out of 10 people you see on the streets in Cabot have something to do with the Little Rock Air Force Base. That is a strength we have in the city. I appreciate the base and everyone who serves in that capacity,” Cypert said.

Leia Smith of Cabot, a UCA student, spoke about veterans. After she spoke, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) invited Smith to present her speech at the state legislative session in January.

Smith’s speech won the Cabot Legion Post 71 oratory contest for 2013-14. She went on to finish second in the state Legion contest. This is her speech:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

“These words are put into routine by age 5. These words are memorized by age 8. In grades K through 12, we begin each day by standing in unison and placing one hand over our heart, repeating the syllables with precise distinction and practice.

“Over the course of these years in our history classes, we learn the statistics of the great men and women dying for their country — for our country. We give a morning routine to the reciting of words.

“Yet we don’t think about the implications of these and the true alliance that has been shown by the men and women who fought to protect our right to say these words every morning. The civil liberties and rights we base our life upon in the United States, they are not a simple number or statistic. These men and women are a mother, father, son, daughter, grandfather, grandmother, sister, brother, neighbor, friend to someone.

“Not only that, but they put their alliance to a stature none of us could fathom. Our veterans put the well-being of freedom, the greater good of our country first. In the words of C.K. Chesterton, he does this not because he hates what is in front of him but because he loves what is behind him.

“This cause was great enough to them to not see their families for months on end, to miss the special moments like their children’s first words, or perhaps even the birth of their child. These men and women made camp in below-freezing temperatures when necessary, in sweltering heat melting the days away; wherever the plane sent them, wherever the call was headed to them. They lost vital time, limbs and much too often, these men and women, our protectors, lost their life.

“Beginning at the founding of our nation, stretching to our current day, over 600,000 service members have laid down their life, many dying beside a friend who would’ve given life for that of the man or woman next to them.

“These warriors did so not out of a luke warm disposition, but out of courage; courage not being the simplest term to understand by any means. It is the will to fight, to live, partnered with a willingness to die; to die for the greater good of their family, their loved ones, for America and the world.

“On behalf of the individuals my age, I need to apologize for the pieces of my generation that do not explicitly recognize these individuals. We acknowledge our love of the veterans today. We are mindful of their sacrifice. However, we need to internalize that they protected and protect us 365 days a year.

“From the times of Paul Revere to the current era of the War on Terror, sometimes we get comfortable in our security, forgetting the wholeness of its origins.

“Growing up grades K thought 12, they emphasized the proper way to construct a sentence, but spent little to no time constructing respect for our veterans. It’s not a verb-noun agreement. It’s an active verb in which we must participate and remember. I apologize for the luke warm disposition encompassing the youth today. However, I would like to mention this is not the entirety of the youth. We are a contradiction in terms. We are members of the ROTC.

“Much like my own story, there are many members of the youth that see a veteran that inspires us to do a greater good. We realize the sacrifice; realize the purity of it; yet many do not take the time to give thanks.”

TOP STORY >> Museum brings Civil War alive

Leader staff writer

History came alive on Saturday as “Tales from Beyond” were told during the Lonoke County Museum’s fundraiser dinner theater.

Members of the museum and the Grand Prairie Civil War Roundtable were dressed in period outfits and told stories that make up Lonoke and Prairie counties’ past.

Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin, introduced each historical character.

• Lonoke County Treasurer Patti Weathers played Caroline Goodrum, wife of William Goodrum. Weathers’ sisters, Rita Schmitz, who works in the county judge’s office, played Sarah Goodrum, the first wife of John Goodrum, and former coroner Sherry Stracener played Ida, the second wife of John Goodrum.

The Goodrums worked in the first county courthouse in Brownsville. William and John Goodrum were brothers and farmers who fought in the Battle of Prairie Grove during the Civil War. They had a store in Lonoke.

• William Goodrum served as Lonoke and Prairie counties’ commissioner and county clerk.

• John Goodrum was a mayor and one of five Lonoke County aldermen. He was head of education and Democratic Party chairman.

• Union soldier Joel McClintock was played by Nate Parsons. McClintock was a captain in charge of black troops stationed in DeValls Bluff. After the war, he stayed in the area. McClintock later became Prairie County sheriff.

When Lonoke County was formed in 1873, he was the sheriff there. In 1880, he was elected as Prairie County judge. Later in his life, McClintock was the postmaster at DeValls Bluff. He owned 2,500 acres of land in Prairie County.

• Local hero Elizabeth High was played by Carrie Parsons. High forced Yankee soldiers out of her house at gunpoint. She later married Isaac Hicks, the founder of Lonoke.

• Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society member Tommy Dupree spoke about his great-great-grandpa Mancel Stone. He came to Arkansas from South Carolina in 1853. Stone oversaw a farm and opened a grist mill. Stone sold feed and corn meal to travelers along the military road. During the war, Stone sold horses and mules to soldiers.

Stone moved to Jacksonville in the 1880s. He and his son operated a mercantile store until his death.

• Dwain Nichols played Lidge, the personal servant of Captain James Eagle. Lidge followed Eagle in the Civil War. Lidge spoke about taking three gold buttons from a dead soldier. He was tempted to take a pair of boots from a dead man, but Eagle told him to put them back so he wouldn’t be haunted from hell.

• Susie Morrison, played by Suzy Schmidt, spoke about her brother, Joseph Morrison. He came to Arkansas from Michigan after the Civil War and settled in Carlisle with his family.

• Dr. R.N. Ross was portrayed by Jim Schmidt. Ross came to Lonoke from Tennessee after the Civil War. He served as a pharmacist and a physician. He later became a preacher.

• Lou Boone Wheat, third wife of Capt. Patrick H. Wheat, was played by Leanna Rich. Capt. Wheat had an Arkansas regiment of 196 men. They fought battles in Lonoke, Prairie Grove and DeValls Bluff. Wheat had three horses shot from underneath him in the Civil War. He was captured by Union forces in DeValls Bluff and later escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp.

Wheat went on to become a steam boat captain. He also owned furniture and undertaker businesses in Lonoke.

• R.D. Keever played Sam Rister, a soldier at Camp Nelson in Cabot. Rister was a nurse at Austin in November 1862.

He spent three weeks there tending to his sick brother, who also fought in the Civil War. Rister and 20 other men then made to it Camp Bayou Meto in the first week of December. They went on to Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

• Annette Nellan portrayed former slave Emaline Waddle. She, her owners and their family walked from Georgia to Arkansas. They settled nine miles outside of Lonoke. Waddle was deaf and lived to be 106 years old. Waddle did not have any children of her own.

• Sallie Jones was portrayed by Shirley McGraw. Jones, originally from Tennessee, came to Brownsville to visit her uncle and aunt. She told the story of a Confederate horse thief who stole horses for his fellow soldiers on Christmas from a Union encampment near Des Arc.

• Jane Benton played Martha Ann Benton, who married Charles Vaughn, a widower with four children from Richmond, Va. They moved to southeast Pulaski County across from Cotham’s Country Store & Restaurant in Scott. Vaughn had a 300-acre planation, and his brother had the neighboring plantation.

Six months after they married, Charles Vaughn passed away. His will gave Martha Ann the plantation and directed her to educate his four children. In 1853, she married Phillip Benton, who oversaw her brother-in-law’s plantation. Martha Ann spoke about the Civil War. She said how frightening it was, with Union troops coming up from the bayou on their way to Little Rock.

Later, the Bentons moved to Lonoke.

• Pam Ryker played her great-great-great aunt, Charity Swaim Eagle. She married her husband, James, and they moved from Tennessee to Lonoke in 1839. They had three sons who served in the Civil War. During the war, the Eagle family fled to Austin, Texas. James died in Texas. After the war, the family returned to the area and rebuilt their homestead.

• Lonoke County Justice of the Peace Bill Ryker portrayed Ferdinand Gates, a Ger-man immigrant who settled in Hickory Plains in Prairie County. Gates had a business in Des Arc. When the war broke out, he enlisted in the Confederate Army.

TOP STORY >> Wing going to Africa to fight Ebola

About 20 Little Rock Air Force Base airmen and one or two of its C-130s are slated to deploy to Dakar, Senegal, in coming weeks to join the war on Ebola, according to Air Force and other reports.

They will join more than 35 airmen and two C-130J Super Hercules from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, deployed to Dakar this week to establish the 787th Air Expeditionary Squadron and to fly humanitarian cargo into Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance, the mission to fight Ebola in West Africa, according to the Air Force News Service.

“Our airlift mission here is extremely important, particularly as the number of deployed U.S. forces continues to increase,” Lt. Col. Michael Brock said. Brock is a C-130 pilot and the squadron’s commander. “We will be flying daily sorties into the affected areas to deliver supplies and equipment that are mission essential, both to the sustainment of troops and to ongoing efforts to contain and eliminate the Ebola outbreak.”

The Dyess airmen, all from the 317th Airlift Group and 7th Bomb Wing, joined forces with more than 70 airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group, who have been operating a cargo hub at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar since Oct. 5.

Two more C-130s and about 90 additional airmen are expected to arrive from Dyess AFB and LRAFB in the coming weeks, bringing the 787th to full operational capacity for its 120-day mission by the end of the month.

The 787th AES flew its first sortie into Liberia on Nov. 4, airlifting more than eight tons of medical equipment, stretchers, blood, bleach and other supplies, according to Brock.

The Air Force operations in Senegal are part of a massive “whole-of-government” approach to Operation United Assistance, directed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and incorporating a broad array of federal agencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Department of Defense.

The U.S. military has committed approximately 3,900troops to support the mission.

They will staff medical laboratories, provide training to local health-care workers and build up to 17 100-bed Ebola Treatment Units and a 25-bed hospital.

More than 1,600 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Defense Department civilian employees and contractors are currently deployed to Senegal and Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance.

“The 787th (AES) is executing a noble mission,” Brock said. “I’m very proud of the team and their professionalism as we’ve stood up our squadron here. We’re excited to work with the 123rd CRG and build on the foundation they’ve established in Dakar.”

The 787th’s airmen are working with their Kentucky Air Guard colleagues, whose primary task is to offload cargo arriving in Senegal by 747 aircraft, stage it for forward movement and upload it to Dyess C-130s for delivery to Liberia.

“I couldn’t be more pleased by what our airmen have accomplished in such a short period of time,” said Col. David Mounkes, the commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group and Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal.

“It is especially gratifying to know that we’re part of a much larger, global effort to render assistance to people who need our help fighting a horrible disease that has claimed more than 4,000 lives,” Mounkes added.

Although military service members are going to Africa, most service members will not be performing missions that place them at risk to catch the virus.

The National Center for Medical Intelligence says the risk to nonmedical military personnel is low. Force Health Protection teams are making sure that all personnel will comply with personal protection measures and use appropriate personal protective equipment.

The CDC is monitoring the situation and will determine if changes in personal protective measures are required.

Monday, November 10, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Our lobbyists under attack

 Democrats were not the only ones who wore long faces Wednesday morning when the full panoply of results from the general election were known. The saddest—and most shocked—people in Arkansas may have been the army of lobbyists who toil in the legislative and executive branches of government on behalf of their corporate employers.

The biggest surprise of the election was the voters’ ratification of all three constitutional amendments that were referred to them by the legislature last year, but particularly the third one—the lobbying, ethics and term-limits law, which became a part of the Arkansas Constitution at a minute past midnight Wednesday.

“Everyone is just in shock,” one lobbyist grieved the morning after. “This shuts us all down. We’re out of business.”

That was an exaggeration. The corporate interests are not going to give up on shaping the laws passed by the legislature or the rulemaking and administrative decisions of the executive branch, but the new ethics and lobbying law clearly puts a crimp in their style. It forbids any lobbyist or any agent or employer of a lobbyist from ever again offering a legislator or state official a gift — even so much as a hamburger, a whiskey sour or a cup of coffee — and the public official commits a crime if he accepts such a gift. It also makes it illegal for a corporation to send a check or cash to a politician’s campaign; no one will be able to do that but an individual, a political action committee or a legislative caucus, and they must abide by the dollar limits in the law—$2,000 for an individual, $5,000 for a PAC.

Such a code has long been needed, but one legislature after another has refused to enact a law imposing such ethical restraints upon legislators, their colleagues in the executive branch and their benefactors in the fifth estate, as lobbyists have sometimes been called.

It was sort of remarkable that the legislature in 2013 voted to put the amendment on the ballot for the voters, but far more astonishing that the voters approved it. The amendment was supposed to be thrashed. The sponsors and advocates of term limits strenuously opposed it, as did lobbyists, their employers and many of the very legislators who voted to put it on the ballot.

Let’s take a moment to explain the politics. State Rep. Warwick Sabin, a freshman Democrat from Little Rock, largely wrote the ethics portion of the ballot proposal and advocated it passionately. The amendment is long, tedious and painstaking in an effort to close every possible loophole that legislators and lobbyists might devise. Sabin said the legislature needed to pass such a law itself or refer it to the people to purify the reputation of legislators, who were viewed as selling out to corporate benefactors on important roll calls. Ending the free meals, athletic tickets, alcohol, entertainment, excursions and often fairly expensive gifts would do that, he said.

Arkansas had a new Republican legislature, and legislators already were chafing under the term-limits law, which restricts a person to only six years in the House of Representatives and eight years in the Senate. Many faced their last terms in January. If Sabin and the other ethics champions would consent to broadening the ethics law to allow term limits to be liberalized to 16 years in either house, they would go along and put it on the ballot. They would gain something (a much longer life in the legislature) and give up something (all the perks handed out so generously by the lobbyists). Being no big fan of term limits himself, Sabin said OK, and the legislature voted overwhelmingly to offer the broadened amendment as one of its three referrals.

But then this year, perhaps hearing from lobbyists and the angry term-limits advocates, they (but not Sabin) changed their minds. The Republican state convention adopted a platform vigorously calling for defeat of the amendment. All but seven Republican legislators had voted to put it on the ballot, but the whole party called for the amendment’s defeat.

But the platform and the amendment reversal got no publicity and voters who went to the polls to endorse Republican candidates up and down the ballot and to ratify what they perceived to be Republican amendments never got the message. They ratified all three by good margins. So certain was the defeat that even the disheartened ethics supporters thought it hopeless and made no effort to get it adopted.

One other provision of the law that escaped notice was Sabin’s provision for an independent salary commission that will take legislators’ power to set their own salaries, per diem and expenses and those of all elected state officials and all judges. The independent commission, as soon as Gov. Beebe and the presiding officers of both houses and the chief justice can make their appointments, will determine salaries and expenses of all these officials starting Jan. 1 and the legislature will not even have the power to appropriate the money for the salaries. They will be paid straight out of the treasury and the legislature will have no say.

The ethics amendment was the one legislatively referred measure that The Leader supported, but you may recall that we also despaired that it could not be ratified. We are glad today that our despair was not rewarded, but we have no illusion that all will now be well. Just as water will find its way to the sea, influence money will find a way to its desired beneficiary, no matter how tough the law to prevent it.

Also, the amendment provides that the legislature can repeal or change most of the provisions of the amendment by a vote of two-thirds of each legislative house. Vigilance will still be required.

A final note on those three amendments. The other two proposed by the Republican-led legislature were atrocious, but they passed handily. One gives legislative committees veto power over all rules and regulations of government, which effectively means the power to block laws that the legislature has passed and the governor signed into law.

The other makes it far harder for people to circulate petitions to get citizen-written laws on the ballot. Starting next year, only those with lots of money to contract for signature gathering—the casinos, racetracks and the like—will own the citizen initiative and referendum process.

They are terrible laws, but that is democracy, too.

TOP STORY >> Private option needs lifeline in legislature

Leader senior staff writer

New and current legislators in Lonoke County or north of the River in Pulaski County say they don’t want to dismantle the state’s innovative private option, which with the federal healthcare marketplace insures about 250,000 low-income working Arkansans.

That doesn’t mean that many don’t want to make it more economical and efficient.
Private option, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly last year by the narrowest of margins, must be reauthorized each year by a three-quarters majority in each.

Private 0ption is Speaker Davy Carter’s legacy. Carter, R-Cabot, state Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe and state Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, were among the prime movers. Carter is termed out and Tim Lemons has been elected representative from that district.

Dismang and Saunders are back.

Many new Republican legislators say they will look to Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson for guidance.

Hutchinson said private option benefits working poor, including those who may never had health insurance before and has helped hospitals reduce uncompensated care, thus boosting revenues.

“We need to look at long-term costs,” he said.

Carter says he’s confident that the new lawmakers won’t jettison the program.

“I’d hate to see it repealed. It’s innovative, we’ve seen the number of uninsured in Arkansas decline by half,” he said. “It’s working better than the traditional Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

He said speaker-elect Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, supports private option.

“We’re looking at a big shift in Congress, and that’s going to have a big effect on Obamacare,” according to Jane English, R-North Little Rock, which could well affect Private Option in Arkansas.

She said several facets of the Affordable Care Act need revisiting, including those pertaining to taxes on medical devices.

“We don’t know yet what the governor is feeling,” she said.

English cast the deciding vote on funding Private Option this spring, a vote she traded for promises to consolidate and streamline workforce education, and a seat at the table.

“I want people to have health care,” said state Rep. Joe Farrer, R-Austin on Thursday. “That’s different than health insurance,” he said, adding that Private Option has made a lot of money for the health insurance industry.

He said he doesn’t know how sustainable the Affordable Care Act, including private option, will be in Arkansas, as the federal share of the cost diminishes over the life of the program.

TOP STORY >> WWII veteran, 93, reflects

Leader staff writer

Second World War veteran Bill Schoonover, 93, of Cabot recalled his time in China, Burma and India during the war.

Schoonover joined the Cabot American Legion Post 71 in August. He is its oldest member. He has been a Legionnaire for 67 years. 

Schoonover was in the Army from Dec. 1942 to May 1946. He enlisted because he was single and 21 years old. He had a cousin and two brother-in-laws working on farms and they had families.

“When you go into the service, go in with the idea of having a good time, or you’re going to be miserable,” Schoonover said.

Schoonover was born in Guthrie Center, Iowa. His dad was a veteran of the First World War, who operated a lumberyard.

Schoonover had two roles in the Army. He was a truck driver and in the signal corps. He handled communications coding and de-coded messages, some that were top secret.

“We knew everything that was going on,” Schoonover said.

“It got to be funny seeing the original message by the war correspondent and how it changed after it appeared in Stars and Stripes (newspaper),” he said.

Schoonover recalled leaving boot camp in April 1943. The soldiers spent 31 days onboard a ship that took them to Australia and westward to Calcutta, India.

“Our camp was in the middle of the jungle. At night you could see jackals and lions from your tent,” Schoonover said.

He remembered spending a few weeks in India before moving on to Kunming, China, for three months and then to Shanghai, China.

He recalled a plane ride over the Himalayan Mountains. The plane ran into turbulence and fell 1,000 feet in a few seconds. Schoonover said the mountains came up fast.

“I drove a six-by-six truck on the Burma Road from India to China trying to get gas and supplies into China. Once was enough. The drop-off was 5,000-feet on some of those corners,” Schoonover said.

In Shanghai, the signal corps lived in a German school and worked three miles away. Schoonover said they did not leave base to go into town.

Schoonover said the signal corps’ job was to set up an incription machine to code message. War correspondences were sent as soon as they were written, 99-percent were coded.

“Some nights we were covered up with messages and others were no messages,” Schoonover said.

He was amazed at how fast technology has made sending messages.

“It was a lot different than it is now,” Schoonover said.

After the war Schoonover returned to Iowa in May, 18 1946. He got married on June 30 to his wife, Norma. They were married for 67 years until her passing. They had a son, Clark, and a daughter, Beth. He also has five grandchildren.

Schoonover said he wanted to be a farmer, but since he was born and raised in the city, no one would rent a farm to him. He worked at his family’s lumberyard, then was a truck driver and later owned an upholstery business for 20 years.

Schoonover moved to Arkansas in 1978 and moved to Cabot in 2000 to be closer to family.

TOP STORY >> Letter from the front

Cabot Museum of American History

William Jayson Waggoner was born near the Lonoke County community of Needmore on Nov. 12, 1889. He grew up in the county and after graduating with a law degree from the University of Arkansas, he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives for the 1915 session.

Waggoner also served in the Arkansas National Guard for about three years before the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917. He resigned from the Arkansas General Assembly to accept a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army.

Soon he was sent to the European front, where he was seriously wounded while participating in the last major offensive of the war, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.

He remained in Germany for a time after the war. Upon returning to Arkansas, he was elected prosecuting attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit. In 1927, he was sworn in as the circuit judge for the same district. He held that office until his death in 1968.

There is a monument on the Lonoke County Court-house grounds honoring his long career.
What follows is one of a handful of letters that Waggoner wrote to the folks back home that were published in The Lonoke Democrat.

Publishing letters from soldiers was common practice during the war. These letters, and others written by Lonoke County soldiers, have been transcribed from the newspaper and have been added to the collection being gathered by the Cabot School District’s Museum of American History and the Lonoke County Museum for their Great War Project, which commemorates the centennial of World War I.

The identity of the person to whom the letter is addressed is unknown.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday and by appointment.

From the Nov. 7, 1918, edition of The Lonoke Democrat:

Somewhere in France,
October 1918.
Hon. R. E. Bradford:

Dear Friend:

This is a very pleasant evening, and as I am at leisure, perhaps I could interest you and other friends by writing you some news from this part of the world.

I took part in the greatest battle that the western front has experienced since the war began, and from its effects I am resting very comfortably in an all-American hospital, nursing a couple of wounds, which I am glad to state are not serious.

Just a few months ago, if you remember, Kaiser Bill, better known as the “Beast of Berlin” drunk with egotism, in reply to our government concerning peace, said that he would talk to France about Alsace Lorraine that he would talk to the baby nation—Belgium—about her future, and to England about hers and that he wouldn’t stand and foolishness from the United States.

At that time his mighty army had conquered Russia, laid waste Belgium, Serbia and Poland, and were well on their way to Paris and the coast of England. Finally his invading hoards were halted at Chateau Terry and in Flanders and the tide of battle changed.

That was in March, since that time thousands of Americans have crossed the peerless seas, dodging his many submarines, which he assured his people would bring peace to the world dictated by himself and cohorts.

These Americans have filled up the vacant spots in the allied armies, which were caused by the German onslaught in the spring and besides formed several army corps. These boys remembered that Kaiser Bill said “peace by force,” and they remembered too that President Wilson said, “I accept the challenge.”

The allied nations decided the only way you could open a German’s head so he could see the light was by a steel jacket bullet, and the quicker the better for civilization. They had prepared for the occasion, all sizes from the 30-caliber rifle to the big naval guns.

So on Sept. 26, at dawn, the first American army fresh from their success at Saint-Mihiel, assisted by the British and the French on their right and left, started the big show, one that may bring peace to the world in the near future, or one to let the Germans know that the Americans had come to town.

At 2:30 in the morning on the date previously mentioned, French, British and American guns began to speak from every hilltop and crevice, the earth trembled beneath our feet, the heavens were as light as day, the major shells were shaking dugouts, and playing havoc with barbed wire entanglements, prepared by the Germans in the spring of 1914.

In all, the battle line where these guns were telling Kaiser Bill that the finish fight was on, in the sector from Verdun to the Argonne Forest, every dough boy knew that he was fighting on ground far beyond my power to add or detract, that he was starting our form Hill 304 of tragic memories, that he was advancing from blighted fields immortalized by those dead heroes in horizon blue (the French) who stood fast throughout the bitter months of 1916, and said of the Prussian guards, “you shall not pass, ahead of the dough boys, and beckoning to them, loomed Mount Faucon, that village on the hill top which is the highest point between the Aisne and the Mense, and from a church steeple pointing upward, the Crown Prince watched in 1916 the slaughter of his countrymen.

That church steeple now is a mass of ruins. Part of it forms a roadbed on which hot coffee is carried to American soldiers.

I never knew what war was like until I took part in this great battle. (Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman) shouldn’t have used such mild terms in describing it when he said “war is hell.” For in his day they never used gas, machine guns, trench mortars, high explosives, hand grenades, rifle grenades, tanks, airplanes filled with bombs and every imaginable thing to destroy human life, if they had he would have used different language in describing war.

To take part in this battle our regiment had to march for three days. We started from our little camping place in the woods at the time the big guns began to talk to Kaiser Bill, marched at night and kept concealed in daytime.

Within seven miles behind the lines I saw my first air battle. I saw the American birds send one German balloon down in flames and drive the planes back to their lines.

Here is where the Germans shot over a few high explosive shells at us but they did no damage. We marched a little further and in the woods again, the Germans shot a few more over, but still no damage.

Good news came to us next morning that our boys had driven the enemy back seven miles and were still going.

That put us further from the front than we were the day before. The boys let out a yell, “let us go, we never will catch up.” So that night we started out for the final dash as we had to relieve the boys who were exhausted from chasing the boche (a slur for a German).

We marched all night through the rain and by eight o’clock the next morning we were within two miles of the frontline. We were halted in a patch of woods by the roadside, although west and cold, we were soon asleep. At this point is when I saw my first dead American soldier. The boys marched by in silence, and as they passed you could hear a murmur on their on their lips “we will avenge your untimely death.” 

At 1 p. m., we got orders to go to the front. The boys got rid of their heavy packs and were ready to go. To get to the front we had to go across an open field, and the Germans had the range, as they had occupied the territory since the beginning of the war. Across this field we started, and I never saw such coolness and bravery exhibited by young men as I saw in these boys. Just as soon as we showed our heads, it seemed that the Germans turned all the big guns they had on us, but still we went on.

Of course we had a few casualties, but not as many as would be expected.

You could hear the big shells coming, some of the boys would holler out, “Boys, here she comes, I’ll take this one.” Another would say, “No, let me have it.” Another would say, “I have it, watch me get him at home,” just as if these instruments of death were a baseball.

Mothers of America should feel doubly proud that they sent boys of this type to France to fight for humanity.

I visited German dug outs that were 20 and 30 feet under the ground, some of them made of concrete, and fitted up with all modern conveniences, including electric lights electric bells, rocking chairs and beds.

One of them had a barrel of cabbage, bread and a basket of fresh peeled Irish potatoes. They had prepared for the winter, but the Americans broke up their little playhouse, and now they are on a general retreat for their fatherland and begging for peace.

I saw a very clever trick played by our flying boys. It was cloudy and not an allied airplane could be seen.

A German thought it was a good time to locate our artillery behind the lines, so he started and when he got about two miles over our lines and started back with good news he thought, two shots were fired by our guns as a signal, and in a minute four of our planes came from behind the clouds and within two minutes the boche plane started downward in flames, and the Sauerkraut kingdom furnished more fuel to kindle the flames below.

We are anxious to come home, but not until the Kaiser says his boys are licked, and one they will always remember.

I am getting along nicely, and hope to be out within the next 30 or 40 days.

Wishing you and my friends a merry Christmas, I am, your friend,

Bill Waggoner.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils complete turnaround, qualify for playoffs

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils punched their ticket to the playoffs on Thursday, beating Little Rock McClellan 16-7 at Lion Stadium and completing an improbable turnaround.

Red Devil head coach Barry Hickingbotham had trouble containing his emotions after the game, as he contemplated how his players bounced back from a 1-6 start to the season to go 4-3 in conference play and make the playoffs.

“These kids never gave up,” said Hickingbotham, choking back tears. “And would’ve been so easy to. I’m so proud of them. They never stopped working hard.”

Neither team was able to get anything going offensively in the first half, but both got into the end zone once.

McClellan was able to put together a few nice plays, but made a series of crucial mistakes that helped keep Jacksonville close early.

Jacksonville had just 4 total yards after its first three drives, but McClellan piled up the penal ties and fumbled the ball four times in the first half. The Lions didn’t lose any of the fumbles, but three of them went for negative yards. They also dropped a certain touchdown pass in the end zone and another deep pass went through the arms of an open receiver. It all added up to too many mistakes. Jacksonville made adjustments and dominated most of the second half.

McClellan scored first on its second possession, one that started on the Jacksonville 26 after a shanked punt. It still took seven plays to score from there, and needed some luck. On third and 2 from the 6-yard line, tailback Ezekiel Baldwin fumbled as he was hit at the line of scrimmage, but a teammate covered at the 3 for a first down. Two plays later, big fullback Roashaun Young scored to give the Lions the lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter.

After the teams traded punts, Jacksonville started its fourth drive at midfield, and receiver Avery Wells became the go-to player. After a 5-yard gain by tailback Lamont Gause, Wells carried for 11 yards, and then caught a 34-yard strike down the left seam for a touchdown with 9:05 remaining in the first half.

McClellan’s next two drives ended in sacks, one by tackle Anthony Fields and one by linebacker Justin Abbott, but Jacksonville still didn’t gain a first down in either of its last two possessions.

McClellan got great field position again with a 43-yard punt return right up the middle of the hash marks that set the Lions up at the Jacksonville 27 with 1:23 left in the half. They got to the 10-yard line before an illegal procedure penalty turned a 27-yard field-goal attempt into a 32-yarder. Lion kicker Jesus Martinez missed it badly as time expired.

Both teams played much differently in the second half, and for good reason. McClellan had just 56 total yards of offense and 50 yards in penalties. Jacksonville 64 total yards and no penalties but made that difference up quickly in the second half.

Despite several big penalties in the last two quarters, Jacksonville’s offense was clicking and overcame them.

McClellan faced fourth and 11 on the opening possession of the third quarter and tried a fake punt. Young got about 10.5 yards on the direct snap, but came up just short of the first down. Jacksonville then went 57 yards in nine plays, despite two offensive penalties.

A horse collar tackle on Wells added 15 yards to the end of a 26-yard completion on third and 24 that kept the drive alive. After that, Gause carried for 9 yards, Treasean Lambert went for 6, and Gause got the last 12 up the middle. John Herrmann suffered a rare miss on a missile of an extra point that nearly took the left line judge’s cap off.

Jacksonville linebacker Nate Robbins intercepted a Dalvion Childs pass early in the next possession to give Jacksonville the ball at the McClellan 47. Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham hit Laderrious Perry for a 38-yard gain on third and 10, but it was called back for holding and Jacksonville had to punt.

McClellan then went with an extreme overload, power formation and pushed the Red Devils backwards. The Lions stacked four linemen to the right of center, and put two blocking backs right behind them, feeding the ball to the 240-pound Young and shoving the Red Devils down the field.

The Lions went from their own 26 to the Jacksonville 14 before Jacksonville called timeout on second and 4. The Red Devils adjusted their alignment and Abbott got a tackle for a 3-yard loss on the next play. Young then gained just 1 yard to make it fourth and  6, and McClellan went back to the spread. The read handoff went to Baldwin, who gained 4 yards, giving the Red Devils possession on their own 12.  This time it was Jacksonville’s turn to grind it out. Gause carried nine times and Lambert twice on the 11-play drive that started with 10:21 left and ended with a 30-yard field goal by Herrmann with 2:03 remaining.

McClellan got nothing offensively on the last drive, but personal foul and defensive holding penalties kept the drive going longer than necessary.

The Red Devils finished with 187 total yards while McClellan had 156. Gause carried 20 times for 94 yards, including 12 carries for 81 yards in the second half. Wells caught two passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, and carried twice for 15 yards.

Jacksonville will travel to Batesville next week to face the 5A-East champions in the first round of the playoffs.