Friday, July 17, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot clobbers the Chevy Boys

Leader sports editor

The third meeting between the Gwatney Chevrolet and Centennial Bank senior American Legion teams failed to live up to the excitement of the first two Friday when they met at Brian Wade Conrade Field in the Zone 3 tournament.

After a regular-season split that saw each team win by one run at home on walk-off base hits, Cabot routed Jacksonville 13-1 in the first round of postseason play.

The Centennial Bank squad pounded out 14 base hits, including nine in the last two innings, while Jacksonville aided the home team’s cause with several fielding blunders that included four errors.

Jacksonville also missed several opportunities to score. The Chevy Boys got two runners on with one out in the fourth inning, two on with no outs in the third, and two in scoring position with no outs in the first, and failed to score each time.

In the top of the first inning, Courtland McDonald led off the game with a triple to the wall in left-center field before Cabot pitcher Logan Gilbertson hit Ryan Mallison with a pitch. Mallison stole second base, but Gilbertson struck out Brandon Hickingbotham, Laderrious Perry and Colton Goodman in order to get out of the jam.

In the bottom of the first, Lee Sullivan hit a one-out single up the middle and stole second base. Hickingbotham struck out Brett Brockinton and should have got out of the inning when Logan Kirkendoll popped up to shallow center field. But the Jacksonville defense failed to communicate and let the ball drop as Sullivan crossed the plate, making it a base hit and RBI for Kirkendoll.

Hickingbotham held Cabot hitless over the next two innings, but the Centennial bats came alive momentarily in the third. Kirkendoll hit a leadoff single, and scored on a triple to right-center field by Logan Edmondson. Edmondson then scored on a single by Gavin Tillery that made it 3-0.

Hickingbotham got Blake McCutchen to fly out to right before fanning Payton Pemberton and Michael Shepherd to end the inning, but the defense fell apart again in the fourth, spelling the end of Hickingbotham’s day on the mound.

Dylan Bowers drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the fourth. Sullivan then hit a grounder to second where Chris Penn booted it over to shortstop. Brockinton then doubled to right field to drive in both base runners. He then scored when Perry dropped a routine fly ball in right by Kirkendoll.

That’s when Caleb McMunn took the mound for Gwatney, and he immediately walked Edmondson. Tillery flew out to left field for the first out of the inning.

Edmondson singled to right to load the bases, and McMunn got out of the one-out jam when Pemberton hit a hard grounder to third base where Hickingbotham made a nice stop and threw home to start a 5-2-3 double play.

Jacksonville finally got on the board in the top of the fifth inning after Hickingbotham singled to left field to lead things off. Perry popped out in foul territory near first base, but Goodman doubled to the wall in left field to put runners on second and third. Penn then hit a sacrifice grounder to short to drive in Jacksonville’s only run and make the score 6-1.

Then came Cabot’s big inning.

The bottom of the sixth started with a leadoff triple by Caleb Harpole in his first at-bat of the game. Bowers then grounded out to shortstop, but the next five Cabot batters all singled. Kirkendoll’s bases-loaded hit drove in two runs and completed a 3-for-4, 3 RBI day at the plate for the Cabot outfielder.

The base hit monotony only stopped for a walk, before another base hit and an error made it eight-straight Cabot batters to reach base safely in the inning. The error, another one in right field, allowed the final two runs and set the final margin.

Jacksonville failed to score in the seventh to end the scheduled nine-inning game on the mercy rule.

Gilbertson got the win for his six innings of work. He gave up five hits, stuck out seven and walked just one batter. Adam Hicks pitched the seventh for Cabot, giving up one hit and striking out one.

McDonald and Hickingbotham got two hits each for Jacksonville.

Kirkendoll’s three hits led Cabot, but Sullivan, Brockinton and Tillery each went 2 for 4 while Edmondson went 2 for 2 with a walk in his three at-bats.

For the win, Cabot plays at 10 a.m. today against the loser of the Conway-Russellville game.

Friday’s game featured Rogers taking on Searcy, with the winner of that game facing top-seeded Fort Smith at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

Jacksonville faces the Conway-Russellville winner at 1 p.m. today.

SPORTS STORY >> CHS sprinter shows endurance at USATF

Cabot sprinter Britton Alley is on his way to the USATF Junior Nationals after winning the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, and finishing second in the 400m at the Tulsa Regional.
Leader sportswriter

In spite of having to run back-to-back-to-back races in the finals of the USA Track and Field’s Region 9 championships in Tulsa, Okla. on Sunday, Cabot High School sprinter Britton Alley won two sprint events and set a personal record in another.

Alley, who will be a junior this upcoming school year at CHS, won the 100- and 200-meter sprints at Sunday’s USATF Regional championships, and placed second overall in the 400-meter race, but set a personal record of 49.90 seconds in that race.

Making the feat more impressive is the fact that Alley ran all three of the final races right after the other because of the way the meet was scheduled. The first of Alley’s races Sunday was the 400, where he placed second and set a new PR.

He had to immediately go back to the start line and run the 100-meter finals, where he took first place with an 11.51-second finish. Then, Alley once again went directly back to the start line for his third and final race of the day, where he took first place in the 200 with a time of 22.76 seconds.

The grueling effort by Alley qualified him to compete at the USATF National championships in those three events later this month, which will be held in Jacksonville, Fla.

Alley excelled on the CHS track and field team as a sophomore this past school year, so the fact that he excelled on Sunday against competitors in his own age group, the 15-16-year-old division, isn’t a surprise.

Although, considering his three finals races took place right after one another, even Alley wasn’t sure he’d be able to place first after running a PR in the quarter mile.

“When finals hit, I was really sore,” said Alley. “I had just run the 400 in 49.90 and I got second place, so I didn’t really know how I’d do. And I knew some of the guys in the 100 didn’t have to do what I had to do with the 400. So I was going for first, but I would’ve been OK if I got second or third.”

Instead of getting second or third, though, Alley finished the day by winning the 100- and 200-meter races, and did so in dominant fashion. Alley has continued to improve and excel this summer after his solid campaign as a 10th grader, and even though he’s dedicated himself full time to the sport, he hasn’t been doing it very long.

“It wasn’t until January that I got into track,” Alley said. “My dad convinced me, you’ve got this ability and you need to go do something with it. So I was like, well, I’ve got track. It wasn’t really my thing, but it keeps me in shape so I guess I’ll do it.

“Starting off, I was pretty slow because I was off like half the year, and I don’t know what it was, but one day I guess I woke up and I was running 22s, 11s. Since then I’ve been dedicated 100 percent.”

Alley set the top times on the Panthers’ track team this past year in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. His best times during the school year were 11:29 seconds in the 100, 22.50 in the 200, and 53.83 in the 400.

The fact that he’ll just be a junior this upcoming school year and the fact that he continues to improve on his times has the CHS track and field coaches excited about Alley’s future.

“I know he broke 50 seconds in the 400 here recently,” said Cabot track and field coach Leon White of Alley. “Anytime you get a sophomore that goes under 50 in the quarter (mile), that’s pretty good. He’s just a young, good sprinter that’s coming up and doing a great job.

“He’s doing great and we’re excited about what he’s doing. He’s taken it to another level during the summer. He’s improving, he’s got great technique. But the big thing is he’s hungry to do well in track. He’s willing to work and he’s not afraid to compete.

“When you get somebody young that’s excited about running, hopefully they’re going to keep getting better and better.”

Not being afraid to compete is something CHS sprint coach Chris Beavert echoed about his junior sprinter.

“The thing that Britton does really well is he’s not afraid to run any race,” said Beavert. “He jumped right in there. He was a decathlete for us this year as a sophomore. There are 10 events, and there was probably three or four of them that he’d never done in his life two or three days before the decathlon.

“The thing about the sprinters, in my opinion, a lot of sprinters don’t like to run that 400. Britton, he didn’t care. He trained at the 400 and it made him a better 200 guy and 100 guy.”

Alley has also set high goals for himself next year. He said if his nagging hip injury will allow it, that he’d like to compete in the three jumping events – the long jump, high jump and triple jump, in addition to the three sprinting events he routinely competes in once the school track season gets underway in 2016.

As far as sprinting, though, Alley said his goals are to break the school records in those events.

“If I can beat those I’ll be set,” Alley said of the sprinting records, “but I’m really trying to get into jumping, because I used to be a jumper. But with my hip injury, I wasn’t able to jump. So I want to see how I could do in jumping.

“If I do well, I’ll keep jumping, but for sprints, I’m looking to get my times around 10.70 (in the 100) and low 21s in the 200 and in the 400, 48 or 47 (seconds), as a junior.”

Whether or not Alley can achieve the goals he’s set for his upcoming junior season remains to be seen, but with his work ethic and potential, White says he’s on pace to really excel by the time he’s a senior.

“He’s on target to run a pretty good time by the time he’s a senior,” White said. “Coach Beavert and I talked about it the other day – if he continues to keep getting better and better like he’s doing, then by the time he’s a senior he could run 48 in the quarter, which would be great.

“It’s always exciting when you get a quality athlete that you know has the potential to be really good and compete at a high level at state meets and the Meet of Champs and possibly qualify for some regional or national meets.

“We’re definitely excited about Britton accomplishing what he has this summer. I just wish we had more like him.”

“Britton understands what it’s going to take,” Beavert said. “He sees that, and that to me, combined with he’s a coachable kid and his respect for the sport and his respect for the work ethic that you have to put in, he’s got a chance to be really, really good.

“His sprinting form is really, really good for the limited time that he’s put in practicing on it. He’s got great grades academically. He’s got a high ceiling right now. Britton has the ability to be as good of a male high school track athlete that’s come through Cabot since I’ve been here for sure. So we’re excited about him.”

As far as the dedication, training and natural ability it takes to excel to the level Alley wishes to in the sport, it takes 100 percent effort day in and day out, according to Alley, and the willingness to do the work required to be the best of the best.

“It’s definitely not a sport for people who are on and off,” Alley said. “You have to work at it 100 percent every day. To go to a meet like Florida, you have to be the best of the best.”

The USATF National championships begin July 27 and end on Aug. 2.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil 7-on-7 meet features fun activities

Leader sports editor

The 10-team schedule is set and Aim High and Let It Fly 7-on-7 tournament, scheduled for Friday at Jacksonville High School will feature much more than team competition. Teams from a wide range of areas and classifications will compete in the event, including Benton, Sheridan and Little Rock Central from the higher classifications, Jacksonville’s conference mate Mills University Studies, Clarksville from the 5A-West, as well as 4A Mena, 3A Atkins and 2A England.

Jacksonville will put two teams in the tournament, a varsity and a junior varsity team to complete the 10-team bracket.

The team competition will consist of two five-team, round robin pools, and a three-game guarantee tournament that will be seeded after pool play.

“That’s seven games for everybody,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “That’s a good deal. You make a mistake in one game; you got a lot of games to make that up. Everybody’s going to get a lot of work in, and it’s going to be fun, too. We got a lot going on.”

In addition to the team competition, around the lunch hour, players will be divided into positions for individual contests that won’t necessarily be football related. Quarterbacks will face off against each other in target and distance competitions. Wide receivers will run an obstacle course and change of direction drills. And there will be an egg toss competition for each position.

“We want to fill lunchtime with some entertainment,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re going to put them through these three events, create a little more competition besides the team competition. We’ll tally up the score and have some sort of prize for the winners. Just something to change it up; add a little bit of fun to it. We’ll have music going and all that sort of thing.”

While all the focus next week will be on skill players, another bit of good news is that all but one of the lineman who have sat out of spring practice and summer offseason have returned since the end of the dead period.

A few had injuries. Some were not eligible, and a few were eligible, but not allowed to practice until grades reached coaches’ standards.

“We’ve got some that are just getting started that we didn’t let go through spring because they had to get their grades right,” Hickingbotham said. “Everybody’s eligible now. Still got one out with injury. Hopefully they’ll take the right approach from here on out, and do it differently from the way they’ve been doing things.”

Two new coaches were added to the high school staff just before the dead period as well, and their addition since offseason resumed has been a major benefit.

Bobby Gentry and Jim Stanley add decades of combined coaching experience to the staff.

“The addition of these two coaches, it’s been outstanding,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s getting extra eyes on individuals and just a ton of experience. It’s been a blessing for us. I don’t know yet if we’ll play better, that remains to be seen. But we’ll be coached better I promise you. Just from a standpoint of having all hands on board, knowing what we want. The kids are adjusting well to the new coaches. We’re ahead of last year at this time. We’re still improving. It’s a long road, but we’re taking pride in what we’re trying to do – kids and coaches alike.”

TOP STORY >> Schools visited in new district

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials toured buildings Friday that will be part of the new district beginning with the 2016-17 school year, assessing the condition and needs of each.

Superintendent Tony Wood and assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh, joined by school facilities expert Chuck Stein, made the trip to begin to formulate a final school facilities master plan, according to Phyllis Stewart, JNP chief of staff.

Those school buildings currently house Jack-sonville High School, North Pulaski High School, the old Jacksonville Middle School, and Arnold Drive, Tolleson, Warren Dupree, Bayou Meto, Pinewood and Murrell Taylor elementary schools and Homer Adkins pre-kindergarten. The Adkins building will belong to the new district, but, for the next two years at least, PCSSD will run it through a grant for students in both districts, Stewart said.

“We definitely need renovations and vast improvements,” Owoh said after the tour. “We want to make sure all the facilities are brought up to standards and updated, conductive to learning.”


“We feel it’s doable with the support of the community,” he said, which would include passage in the future of a millage increase.

In the short term, the high school will need improvements, and district officials continue to believe that a new Jacksonville high school and elementary school are needed.

The district submitted a preliminary plan in February, and the final master facilities plan is due to the state in October if the district is to be eligible for state facilities partnership matching money beginning with the 2017-18 school year, she said.

Until July 1, when he retired, Stein was director of the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation — the division responsible for administering the partnership program.


Stewart said the district would first be eligible for the matching money, estimated at about 50 percent of the cost of building or rehabilitating academic spaces, in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.

That means a new high school, and most agree the new district desperately needs one, with an estimated cost of $50 million for the academic portions, would qualify for about $25 million from the state, based on the district’s wealth index.

The same new school, if built while the district is part of PCSSD, would qualify for only about $500,000 from the state, maybe less.


According to the preliminary state facilities partnership master plan, the district would build the new high school on Little Rock Air Force Base land, across from the current North Pulaski High School, which will be refurbished for use as the district’s middle school beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

To pay for a new high school, “We would have to pass a new millage tax increase and use partnership match money,” Stewart said.

“We believe students want this and the community supports that,” Stewart said. “There is almost 300 acres pledged (by the air base),” she said.

The JNP interim, appointed school board will be replaced after September school elections by an elected school board, for which three of the current school board members are running unopposed.


That new board will approve the final master plan for submission in October.

Arnold Drive Elementary School, a decrepit on-base building where many airmen send their kids, is slated to be replaced by a new building, with the Defense Department contributing between $18 million and $20 million.

The current plan calls for also schooling kids there who would otherwise go to Tolleson, but the district and the state will likely pay for that portion of the building.

“We’re still about 32nd or 34th on the (DOD) list,” Stewart said. “We’re expecting a visit from the Department of Defense in September.”

“California is ahead of us on the list,” she said, “but may not be able to come up with their matching money.”

“We can’t wait until (state partnership money comes in) 2017 to begin construction (on the new elementary school),” she said.

At its July meeting — Wood’s first as superintendent — the board authorized him to post requests for qualifications for an architectural and design firm and also for a construction manager.


Stein, a contract employee, in addition to helping to assess the needs of the individual schools, will help determine what improvements are needed for each or whether it would best be replaced, according to Stewart.

He will also help review the qualifications of the companies interested in doing the architectural and design work and also in acting as the construction manager.

Buildings that may become surplus in the next two or three years are the old Jacksonville Middle School building, Arnold Drive and Tolleson Elementary schools.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said at least one commercial developer is interested in the old middle school property, but the new district won’t own it until it purchases the property from PCSSD, probably around June 30, 2016. At that time, it could be sold, with the buyer probably responsible for demolition and asbestos abatement. Stewart said proceeds from the sale could go into the building fund.

She said the district has the authority to sell the schools first, unless a charter school wants them.

TOP STORY >> Hospitals join with UAMS

North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville and 46 other hospitals have partnered with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to provide life-saving emergency care for stroke patients in the region.

Called AR SAVES (Arkansas Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support), the program uses a high-speed video communications system to help provide immediate, life-saving treatments to stroke patients 24 hours a day.

The real-time video communication enables a stroke neurologist to evaluate whether emergency-room physicians should use a powerful blood-clot dissolving agent within the critical three-hour period following the first signs of stroke.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to enhance the high level of quality care that residents in our region can find close to home here at North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville,” said Joe Farrer, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

The AR SAVES program is a partnership between the UAMS Center for Distance Health, the state Department of Human Services, North Metro Medical Center and 47 other Arkansas hospitals.

“We’re committed to helping reduce the number of deaths and disabilities in Arkansas caused by stroke each year, and we are excited to be a part of this important initiative,” said Deb Bostic, the hospital’s chief nursing officer.

“This is an important part of UAMS’ mission – reaching out to other areas of the state and helping local physicians identify patients with stroke and improve the patients’ outcomes,” said Michael Manley, outreach director for the UAMS Center for Distance Health and director of AR SAVES.

St. Vincent Medical Center North in Sherwood and Unity Health-White County Medical Center in Searcy are among 45 other Arkansas hospitals participating in the AR SAVES program.

Arkansas, which ranks first in the nation in stroke death rates, had 1,560 stroke-related deaths in 2011, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nationwide direct and indirect cost of medical and institutional care of permanently disabled stroke victims was $73.7 billion in 2010, according to the American Heart Association’s 2012 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.

“The AR SAVES program will save lives and money because, if stroke patients get the treatment they need within three hours, they have a much greater chance of living without a major, costly disability,” said Nicolas Bianchi, M.D., AR SAVES medical director.

Bianchi said it’s important the public be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, such as facial drooping or an uneven smile, arm numbness or weakness, and slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding speech. To remember them and the importance of getting to a hospital immediately, he said think FAST — face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911.

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Library in Ward needed

Leader staff writer

Mayor Art Brooke spoke about the possible Dec. 31 closing of the Ward Public Library on Hickory Street during the city council meeting held Monday.

He reported that the library system’s board held a meeting July 10 with staff members only.

Although he was not invited, Brooke said he thinks some relevant things were discussed there and he hoped to get a full rundown of the meeting later.

The mayor continued, “The library is a very important issue to our city, and I will continue to be very aggressive in trying to retain our library by any means that are available to me.”

Brooke also said he had talked with the city’s attorney about the possible closing. “There are some options out there. The city simply does not have the money to underwrite the library” and is not in the position to subsidize a salary as system director Deborah Moore has suggested, he emphasized.

Brooke also noted that the city already maintains the building, covers insurance premiums for it and pays the utility bills.

The mayor told aldermen he had talked with Moore and she told him she would speak to the board about their decision to close the Ward Public Library based on its low circulation and computer usage.

The system lost $35,000 this year when legislators balanced the state budget by cutting $1 million in aid to Arkansas libraries.

The regional system has also operated on the same $1 million budget for 20 years, even as costs have increased.

The director, according to Brooke, has also agreed to set up a meeting so that the mayor can speak directly to board members about the closing.

Other options for keeping the library open include having two part-time people working there and reducing its hours of operation.

“I know they had budget cuts,” Brooke said of the library system. “Our city is no different than anybody else when it comes to money. We’ve been pretty flat for the last three years because of the economy.

“It has affected our operation, but I have not announced to this city council that we’re going to close down or shut down the fire department. I have not said we’re going to shut down the police department. I have not said we’re going to close our code enforcement, our animal control or another entity within our organization,” the mayor said.

He joked that the system should close Cabot’s library, then a Ward Public Library staffer announced that applications for cards had recently picked up.

Brooke also explained that, even though voters passed a sales-tax increase last year, the city has no extra money because Ward began receiving funds from that in June.

The city is still operating and will continue under a budget set before the measure was approved, Brooke noted.

In other business:

• Tommy Sutton, who lives in Mayflower, and his brother, Greg, inherited their grandmother Norene Phillips’ mobile home park between Hwys. 319 and 367.

Tommy Sutton sent a letter to the council last month and addressed aldermen at Monday’s meeting about cleaning up the area that has attracted thieves and become a dumping ground.

He said he would have the trailers on one end gone within two or three months and agreed to keep the mayor informed about his progress.

“I’m not going to say everything will be done in two or three months, because that’d just be a lie. I’m not going to stand here and lie. I won’t do it.

“But I will say that, when I come back here in two or three months, everybody’s going to be saying ‘yeah, we’re seeing things; we know you’re doing the best you can.’ It’s going to be a lot better.”

At first, the council wanted Sutton to give a report at each of its meetings, but the city’s attorney advised that a private citizen shouldn’t be required to do that. He explained that the mayor or code enforcement should instead include it in reports because officials would be inundated with landowners’ requests in the future if they negotiate one-on-one with Sutton.

Sutton also apologized for the dumping and thefts occurring on his property, adding that he wished someone had called to inform him of the problems so that he could have been cooperative earlier.

Sutton said, after sending the letter, he contracted with a company to tear down one trailer, cut some vegetation and secured the homes. It takes about two weeks to get rid of trailer, he noted.

Alderman Charles Gastineau said he would like to see things done faster than two or three months, but Sutton responded, “That’s not going to happen, sir.”

Aldermen Lee Schoonover pointed out that the burden would be on Sutton to hire people to get rid of the trailers, and that may take time.

Sutton also said his brother would like to see a few trailers on the end that would be cleaned up next converted into personal storage buildings.

Another option that he hasn’t pursued yet, Sutton continued, is posting the trailers as free to haul off in local classified ads.

Only family members and one 85-year-old renter live in the mobile home park, and the council has agreed on allowing the elderly woman to stay.

The mayor told Sutton he could ask for an extension if something comes up, but said that something must be “real-world stuff” for the council to accept it.

Brooke added that the city has no interest in taking over the property.

Sutton concluded, “Cleaning it up, that’s a small thing to ask. Ya’ll aren’t asking anything out of the way.”

• The mayor announced that Old Austin and Moon roads have been resurfaced. Wilson Loop will be resurfaced, too, and is due for drainage improvements, Brooke added.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> England dazzles at 7-on-7

Leader sports editor

Cabot held its sixth 7-on-7 meet Monday at Panther Stadium, along with regulars Lonoke, Hazen and Des Arc, as well as second-time participant J.A. Fair and newcomer England. And it was the Lions that shined the brightest in the most recent meet.

With junior quarterback Brayden Brazeal, who is a second cousin to New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees, and Division I prospects Xavier Iverson and B.J. Thompson at receiver, the Lions excel at non-contact passing competitions.

“We’ve gone to three tournaments and done really well,” said England coach Terry Farmer. “We won the one at Southside-Batesville. We did really well at the big shootout they have in Little Rock that PA hosts every year, and we got second in another one. If we can find some linemen we could be pretty salty.”

England started the event with three one-play scoring drives against J.A. Fair.

The only team to beat England in five games was Lonoke. The Jackrabbits scored three times while holding the Lions to two touchdowns in four drives.

Lonoke was without receiver Justin Meadows on Monday, but the connection between quarterback Savonte Rountree and receiver Casey Martin was very productive. Rountree hooked up with Martin for all three of Lonoke’s scores against England, and Martin added an acrobatic interception on defense to thwart one of the Lions’ drives and give the Jackrabbits the upper hand.

Lonoke rolled over Hazen, scoring on all five possessions while holding the Hornets to just one score on its last drive. Martin caught three touchdown passes and hauled in one interception in that game as well. But the offense sputtered in its last two games as the 100-plus degree afternoon heat index began to wear on all the teams.

Cabot’s backups beat Des Arc 3-1, but the Panthers mixed starters with subs against England and lost 5-4 in a game that offenses dominated.

Cabot and England scored on each of their first three possessions against each other, before the Panthers’ fourth drive stalled after one first down.

England got the upper hand on the next possession when a busted coverage left Iverson standing alone at the goal line near the right pylon.

After Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes found tight end Bryce Crockom for a 3-yard touchdown connection on the Panthers’ next drive, England regained the advantage when the 6-foot-5 Thompson out-jumped two Cabot defenders to haul in a deep scoring pass from Brazeal.

“I’m taking Thompson to visit Georgia this weekend,” Farmer said. “Iverson’s already got lots of offers from DII schools, and he’s visiting A-State this weekend.”

For Cabot, Crockom had two touchdown catches and two interceptions on the afternoon, while Jarrod Barnes’ favorite target was older brother Holdyn Barnes. The two hooked up for four touchdown plays and several other receptions.

The same teams will be back at Panther Stadium for a 4 p.m. start today, along with Little Rock McClellan, who will be making its second visit to the meet this summer.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe earns first state bid

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Post 91 O’Reilly Auto Parts junior American Legion team held a three-run lead heading into the last inning of Monday night’s Zone 3 tournament final in Maumelle, but in the bottom of the seventh, Central Arkansas Christian reeled off four-straight runs to win the championship game by the final score of 8-7.

Beebe’s appearance in the championship game came as a result of winning the Jacksonville half of the two-site bracket held over the weekend. Beebe won three-straight games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, beating Searcy, Jacksonville Blue and Cabot to advance to Monday’s final.

Pitching got the O’Reilly Auto Parts team to Monday. Five pitchers gave up three total runs over the weekend. Blaine Burge pitched a 3-0 shutout of Jacksonville on Saturday, and Geno Germer gave up a run in the first inning before holding Cabot scoreless for the final six on Sunday to earn a 2-1 win.

On Monday, Beebe led 7-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh, and although Post 91 starting pitcher Jacob Davis threw a gem for the first six innings, the Mustangs’ bats got hot in the seventh, and Beebe struggled with errors and miscues.

CAC’s Cade Huckaby walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh and three-hole hitter Braden Quesinberry was hit by a pitch the following at-bat. Tanner Weber loaded the bases the next at-bat with a single, and a hard-hit, infield single to third base by Hunter Corbell drove in Huckaby to make it a 7-5 game.

Still with no outs in the inning, Landon Stevenson reached base on an error at shortstop, and that allowed CAC to tie the game at 7-7 as Quesinberry and Weber scored.

The next at-bat and still with no outs, CAC’s Austin Holley drove in the game-winning run with a walk-off single. Corbell scored on the play.

It was an unlikely comeback by the Mustangs, which meant a disappointing end to the tournament for Beebe.

“We ended up giving up a lot of outs that we should’ve had,” said Beebe coach Michael Lawrence. “That hasn’t been typical of us in the last four or five games. We’ve been on a roll, and in the last four or five games, I think we may have one error in the last four or five games that we’ve played.

“So, it’s just one of those games that we came out and I think we were a little tired. We played nine games last week before Friday, and then started the tournament on Friday. So we’re pretty wore out and pretty tired.

“But, we’ve got to execute on ground balls and pop flies and things like that. It’s just uncharacteristic what we did tonight.”  

Even though Beebe lost the game, the O’Reilly Auto Parts team still qualified for the state tournament, which will begin Friday in Sheridan. Beebe will enter the tournament as a No. 2 seed. CAC will be a top seed.

Getting the opportunity to play in the state tournament is quite an accomplishment for Beebe, who’s never advanced to an American Legion state tournament in the program’s history.

“We get an opportunity to go play for the state championship,” Lawrence said, “which is the first time Beebe’s been able to do that in Legion baseball. So we’re still pretty proud.”
Beebe, playing as the visiting team, scored two runs in the top of the first inning to take an early lead, but CAC scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning to lead 3-2 after one.

O’Reilly’s tied the game at 3-3 in the third inning on a RBI single by Blaine Burge, then scored three runs in the top of the fourth to take a 6-3 lead. Beebe’s first two runs of the fourth were scored on a pair of passed balls that allowed J.T. Nickleson and Ty Searcy to score.

Beebe’s sixth run came on a Burge sac fly to right field that drove in Tyler Fowler, and in the top of the fifth, Beebe scored its final run of the game on a Fowler single to the left-field gap that drove in Searcy.

Joey Bond earned the win on the mound. He took over pitching duties early in the fourth inning with the score tied 3-3, and pitched the rest of the game. He gave up just three hits, no runs and recorded three strikeouts.

CAC outhit Beebe 12-8 Monday. Corbell led all batters with three hits, and Stevenson, Holley and Bond had multiple hits with two each. For Beebe, Searcy and Fowler led the way with two hits each, while teammates Carson McNeil, Burge, Alec Matlock and Hunter Lawrence had one hit each.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot juniors upset in zone

Leader sportswriter

For the first time in 10 years, the Cabot junior American Legion team won’t appear in the state tournament.

The Centennial Bank  squad’s season came to an end Monday in the  qualifying round of the Zone 3 tournament at Maumelle with a blistering 17-1 loss to Morrilton.

In that game, which decided the third and final state tournament seed from Zone 3, Cabot was held to just two hits en route to the one-sided loss.

The Centennial Bank squad was the favorite to win the Zone 3 tournament, but found itself needing a win on Monday just to qualify for state. That’s because Beebe’s O’Reilly Auto Parts team upset Cabot earlier in the tournament, thanks largely to a stellar pitching performance by Geno Germer that earned Beebe a 2-1 victory.

Cabot started the Beebe game with its lone run in the first inning before being shut out the rest of the way, but things went south in a hurry for Cabot on Monday.

Morrilton scored six of its 17 runs in the top of the first inning before adding five more in the second to take a commanding 11-0 lead.

The top of the second started with Jaylan Hawkins reaching on an error at shortstop. Ethan Roberts walked the next at-bat, and both runners advanced on a balk.

Hawkins scored on a passed ball to make it a 7-0 ballgame, and two more walks were issued before Morrilton scored its eighth run on a no-out, RBI single to the left-field gap by Quentin Bowling.

Cade Chapman singled to center field the following at-bat to drive in Rustin Hayes, and Morrilton scored its 10th run shortly after. On that play, Bowling, who was at second base, stole third, then home on the same play as the high throw to third from behind the plate sailed into shallow left field.

Morrilton’s final run of the inning came on a two-out, RBI single by Ben Jackson. Chapman scored on the play.

The third inning went scoreless, but Morrilton got back to putting runs on the board in the fourth, where it scored the remainder of its runs – all with two outs.

The first two runs of the fourth inning were scored on a two-RBI double down the left-field line by Jackson. Bowling and Jaren Hill scored on the play to make the score 13-0.

Jackson scored two batters later on another double down the left-field line, this one by Roberts. The next at-bat was the highlight of the game – a three-run home run by Hayes, which gave Morrilton its largest lead at 17-0.

Cabot finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Morrilton starting pitcher Tanner Albilar had a no-hitter going into the inning, and kept it going until Nicholas Belden ended it with a two-out single to center field.

Belden also got an RBI on the play as Bobby Joe Duncan scored after reaching base on a fielder’s choice two batters earlier. Duncan’s run set the final score. Cabot’s only other hit of the day came in the fifth inning on a Dillon Thomas single. After the fifth inning, the game was called because of the sportsmanship rule, as Morrilton’s lead was larger than 10 runs after five innings of play.

Morrilton racked up nine hits for the game, but Jackson was the only Morrilton player with multiple hits. He went 2 for 3 with a single and double. Albilar threw all five innings, getting the win.

He had five strikeouts. Cabot looked like the dominant team in the league in its other two tournament games, outscoring three-seed Jacksonville Red and four-seed Searcy by a combined 22-0.

With Monday’s loss, Cabot ends its season with a 24-6 record.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

EDITORIAL >> The mayor vs. ex-police chief

(This Leader editorial from Sept. 10, 2014, placed first in the Arkansas Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest for large weeklies.)

The Jacksonville mayoral race is heating up, with former Police Chief Gary Sipes gaining momentum and laying out several goals for the city if he is elected.

Sipes, who resigned as police chief in June to run against Mayor Gary Fletcher, is a stronger candidate than we expected. Tapping into pent-up frustration that the city has fallen behind in several ways, Sipes’ message has won over many supporters, judging by his recent campaign kickoff at Southern Oaks Country Club that was attended by at least 100 residents.

The Pine Bluff native moved to Jacksonville in 2008 when he was hired as police chief. Before that, he was police chief in Bryant and had been head of code enforcement in North Little Rock, where he had also been a detective.

When Jacksonville opened its $3.2 million shooting-sports complex on Graham Road, in partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, nearby residents — including Sipes — began complaining that the gun noise was hurting their quality of life and threatening their home values.

Sipes made it clear during a visit to The Leader recently that the city should have held public hearings before building the firing range and conducted noise studies, but that the problems there will not be his only concern if he is elected.

He will still have to reassure residents that he does not want to hurt the firing range in any way, which could send the city’s finances into tailspin. The city’s monthly mortgage payment for the facility is about $63,000. He should also pledge to conduct city business openly, something Fletcher has succeeded in doing.

Sipes said he will focus on fixing the city’s budget problems, reversing urban blight, revitalizing downtown, repairing streets and reaching out to residents.

He will start by firing Ricky Hayes, the controversial out-of-state economic consultant who has been paid about $250,000 in four years and only helped bring Firehouse Subs to town.

Hayes does not report to the city council, and his defense for lack of progress has been to say that getting big-box stores and chain restaurants takes a lot of time and that Jacksonville lacks raw land to develop.

In a series back in February and March, The Leader talked to many of the cities that Hayes has worked for in the past. About half said he helped bring in a number of stores, while the others said he didn’t deliver on his promises.

Fletcher has said nearly every year since hiring Hayes that the deals he is working on will be announced soon. But Hayes represents too many other cities to adequately represent Jacksonville. It’s a case of too many irons in the fire.

Companies will also likely wait to build along Hwy. 67/167 until the widening project is finished. That will take at least five more years. Big-name restaurants are also waiting to open more businesses in Arkansas until after the November election for the outcome of the liquor initiative to do away with dry laws.

These debates will be further renewed on Sept. 23, when the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce holds a candidates forum.

Mayor Fletcher will have to play it cool during that event if he wants to win over any skeptics. But the bonds he has formed during his 40 years in city politics will help him keep his job.

Sipes said he will also fire the city’s director of administration, Jim Durham, and replace him with retired banker Donnie Farmer, who said he might work for half the pay. (Durham’s salary is $77,000. Fletcher’s is $89,000.)

No candidate, though, deserves to win or lose solely based on his position on Hayes. But, with the city’s finances hurting, this is a pertinent campaign issue.

We hope the winner can best explain how to make Jacksonville’s streets more welcoming by adding street lights and sufficient drainage. With the state Highway Department set to make major repairs on Hwy. 67/167 and Vandenberg Boulevard, the city should take this opportunity to modernize Redmond Road — perhaps the darkest thoroughfare in town — by adding lights, fixing the drainage problems at School Drive and South First Street near Whit Davis Lumber Plus, along with the flooding problems under the train bridge just down the road. The often congested intersection of South First and South Oak streets needs better traffic control and a facelift, too.

All voters in Jacksonville have wish lists like that, and municipal governments should have the ability to tackle most of them.

No mayor can rejuvenate the city alone. He will need the city council to rededicate itself to smart dialogue by contributing ideas and asking questions about the direction of Jacksonville. There’s no need to argue: Take Alderman Reedie Ray’s effort to annex the Valentine Road area. He has repeatedly made a strong case for Jacksonville to annex the area, but the mayor and council decided the city doesn’t have the money to expand and increase its population — even though by doing so the city could get about $200,000 in federal turnback money every year.

Sure, the budget is tight, but if Jacksonville can’t pursue annexation because of money problems, residents deserve an all-hands-on-deck approach.

No matter who wins in November, we hope he can focus on the basics. —J.F.

TOP STORY >> Kids eat on summer breaks

Leader staff writer

Area school districts are making sure children have balanced nutritious meals this summer, during the weekdays.

They are reimbursed by the federal government for meals eaten at serving locations.

Beebe and Cabot Public Schools will serve lunches to students in the school district through Aug. 7. Meals are provided at no charge to all children 18 years old and younger.

In Cabot, adults will be provided a free sack lunch or can purchase a hot meal for $3.


At the Primary Cafeteria, breakfast is served from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Hot lunches are served from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Students who cannot make it to the school can pick up a sack lunch from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday at Edward Lunnie Park behind Mount Arratt Baptist Church on East Oklahoma Street.

Meals are available from 11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Monday at Antioch Community Church, noon to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Floyd United Methodist Church, 11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday at McRae City Park and noon to 12:30 p.m. Thursday at El Paso Cowboy Church.

Sack lunches include a sandwich, a veggie, fruit, chips and milk.

Paulette Anderson of Beebe brought her grandchildren to Lunnie Park for them to pick up sack lunches.

“It is a good program. They get a kick out of coming down here,” she said.


Lunches are served 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to noon on Friday at Ward Central Elementary and Westside Elementary. Cabot Public Schools sponsors this lunch program.

Around 150 lunches are served at each site.

Cabot has offered summer lunches for five years, and food services director Erin Wilkes said the demand is decreasing.

A grandmother on a fixed income who is raising four grandchildren brought them to Ward Central on Friday.

“It is a good program. During the school year, they are on free and reduced lunches. This really helps with food costs,” she said.

The grandmother added that, if the program was not available, the grandchildren would be having a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich.

“I would like to see more fresh fruits and vegetables offered. I know a lot of kids won’t eat them, but one or two carrot sticks or broccoli spears, or little salads with ranch dressing, and less breaded and fried items,” she continued.


The Lonoke summer meal program has ended. It ran in conjunction with summer school.

Food services director Elen Smith said the average number of children who were served breakfast was 25 and 45 students had lunch.


The Pulaski County Special School District offered summer meals during summer school. The program ended Thursday.

“But,” said Deb Roush, spokesman for the district, “we have coupled with a number of churches and other organizations to help students during the summer.”

She said, if families need assistance, they should call the district’s Office of Student Equity at 501-234-2020 and the district would then put them in contact with a group that could help.

Roush also said the district is gearing up for its back-to-school events where the district, once again through various partnerships, will provide backpacks and school supplies to those in need.


The Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club serves about 200 meals — breakfast and lunch — daily to area children. “You don’t have to be a member for the meals,” said Laura Walker, the club’s director. She added that Victory Praise and Worship Church provides the meals.

Meals will be served until school starts in mid-August.

TOP STORY >> Newspaper named best in state

Leader staff writer

The Leader received 11 first-place honors and also won the award for general excellence when it was named best large weekly in the state by the Arkansas Press Association for the seventh time in eight years.

In all, the newspaper won 31 awards for its writing, photographs, page designs and community coverage at Saturday’s APA gathering in North Little Rock held to announce the winners in the annual editorial contest. The Leader also won the advertising sweepstakes award at the APA’s winter convention.

On Saturday, sports editor Ray Benton took two first-place awards as did photographer David Scolli and editor Jonathan Feldman. Publisher Garrick Feldman garnered one top award as did reporter Sarah Campbell and freelancer Clifton Dolezal. The paper’s staff teamed up for community coverage that earned two first-place ribbons.

Campbell took first in investigative reporting with her series on Jacksonville’s out-of-state economic consultant, Rickey Hayes. That series of reports also put her in the running for the I.F. Stone Award, which is given to the best investigative series of the year.

The judges called Campbell’s articles “good community watch-dog journalism.”

Benton grabbed top honors in sports feature writing with “Faith shines brighter than limelight.” He also scored with his sports column “NFL wrong on many levels.”

Judges said Benton’s feature article was a “very nice package on a local, turned ‘famous.’ It gave the readers a glimpse of what it’s like to live that kind of life. It was a nice personal story.”

Commenting on his column, judges said it was an “excellent piece with strong, early opinion. Good writing style and use of language with localization as well.”

Jonathan Feldman took top honors in the editorial division with his take on the candidates for Jacksonville mayor, the incumbent mayor and the ex-police chief. Judges said Feldman used an “effective mix of background, facts and interpretation to present candidate platforms.”

Jonathan Feldman scored another first in headline writing with “Silence from sound study deafening.”

Scolli earned top honors in the single feature photograph category with his “Winter Olympics in Sherwood” picture. Judges said the photograph showed “tons of action and movement with good composition.”

The photographer also took first in the single sports-action division with his “Razorbacks excite crowd” photograph. Judges said the shot showed “peak action with nice face expression and was good quality.”

Publisher Garrick Feldman took first and third place in political columns, writing about pardons issued by outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe and former Gov. Mike Huckabee and prison reform.

Feldman also took third place in the general-interest column competition with “Is a life worth a million dollars?”

The paper also took first in coverage of tourism with articles written by Garrick Feldman, Campbell, Jeffrey Smith and Rick Kron. “The writing, design and diversity of content made this entry the clear winner. The portfolio included some uncommon pieces,” according to the judges.

The articles were about Jacksonville’s parade for Vietnam veterans, that city’s new firing range being praised by then-Gov. Mike Beebe, efforts to establish an historic district in Jacksonville, area festivals, a wedding held at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield and Sherwood’s Roundtop filling station being restored.

The Leader also netted first place in health and medical coverage with articles written by Campbell, Kron and John Hofheimer. Judges said the portfolio showed a “comprehensive coverage of issues.”

The articles were about North Metro Medical Center, its psychiatry unit for seniors expanding, how the Affordable Care Act is affecting local hospitals, tips on how to apply for coverage, a new medical complex planned for Jacksonville and reactions to the Ebola virus outbreak.

Former Airman Dolezal’s winning freelance article was about families coping with deployment. “It captures the details (emotional and technical) of deployment. Good use of photos to illustrate,” said the judges.

Other honors for the newspaper included:

• Kron took third place in the news story category and Campbell received honorable mention. Kron also took third in the state in the humorous column category.

• Campbell took third in feature writing with her piece on a women’s prison.

• Hofheimer took second in beat reporting for his military coverage.

• Sports writer Graham Powell placed second in sports column writing with his piece “Miami Heat star will never please all fans.”

• Jonathan Feldman and Kron teamed up for a second place honor in headline writing with “Beaver problems gnaw officials.”

• Scolli took second place in the sports feature photograph division and third in best picture page or photo essay. He also grabbed a third-place honor in the single news photograph category.

• Christy Hendricks took second place in the best front page competition and third place in the best graphic design portfolio category.

• Benton took second place in the best sports page division. He and Powell also finished third in the state in the battle for best special section with their football compilation.

• Hofheimer, Campbell and Smith earned third place honors for their coverage of business and agriculture. Their articles were about the impact of a law, thefts and weather on farmers; Teletech bringing jobs to Sherwood, the 50-year anniversary of AGL in Jacksonville and area Christmas tree farms.

• The paper’s website garnered Jacob Paddock third-place honors for best website design.

• Ernie Dumas, longtime contributor to The Leader, placed second in freelance writing with his in-depth look into Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton in their race for the Senate.

Nearly 1,900 entries were submitted for this year’s contest, which was judged by members of the Colorado Press Association.

TOP STORY >> Cooling centers to open in cities

Leader staff writer

The recent wave of deadly heat, which has heat indexes hitting 110 degrees, may have already claimed one life in the area.

A 73-year-old Lonoke County woman was found dead Saturday morning at her mobile home on Joyner Loop off Mt. Tabor Road. Heat is suspected as the family says her air conditioning was out.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said the city has opened two cooling areas, and at least one church is opening during the heat of the day.

Sherwood is working on obtaining a supply of fans, and city officials have said, if anyone has fans to give to the city, they should call the mayor’s office.

Cabot is not doing anything extra at this time. “We have in the past,” explained Mayor Bill Cypert, “but historically we’ve had very little response.”

However, Cherry Godwin, site director at the city’s senior center, said the facility is open to anyone who needs to cool off.

“We are focusing on our seniors and making sure they drink fluids, stay out of the heat and, if it’s too hot in their homes, to get here. We can even stay open at night if we need to,” she said.

The temperatures have been in the mid- to high 90s all week with a chance of scattered showers. The first official triple-digit day (101 degrees) is expected Sunday or Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Tuesday, with the heat index, the temperature felt like 110 degrees, one of the warmest in the state.

Fletcher said the community center and senior center would be open as cooling sites from noon until 6 p.m. every day until the heat breaks.

“Anyone in the city is welcome, but should bring a book or something to entertain themselves as there isn’t much there other than cool air and chairs,” he said.

The mayor also said Bethel Baptist Church, 112 N. Jeff Davis Ave., will be open from noon to 6 p.m. to help those needing a break from the heat.

Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service.

When heat index values reach 115 degrees for one hour over a fairly large area, an Excessive Heat Warning may be posted by the weather service.

Of the Top 10 hottest days on record, six of them occurred in July with the highest one being July 31, 1986, with a recorded actual temperature of 110 degrees.

The hottest days on record for the area occurred twice in August at 111 degrees.