Friday, July 31, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Herbert chiseling Hogs in shape

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Inevitably for some Arkansas Razorbacks, the long, hot summer is extremely worth the weights.

Either shedding much weight or gaining much weight weighs into several of strength coach Ben Herbert’s summer programs for certain Hogs.

Some achieved spectacular results, Herbert reported last week leading into Thursday’s start of preseason practice.

On the upside, Herbert cited among others the weight/strength gains of sophomore Frank Ragnow, promoted last winter from backup center to starting right offensive guard, third-year sophomore defensive end Tevin Beanum of Forrest City and fourth-year junior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle of White Hall.

Ragnow arrived from Chanhassen, Minn. last year as a rangy 6-5, more resembling a tight end or basketball forward than an interior offensive linemen.

He proved looks are deceiving. Ragnow not only lettered, but split time with and a game or two even had the majority of time over starter Mitch Smothers, returned this year as a Rimington Trophy watch list senior center while Ragnow moved to right guard.

Herbert says Ragnow not only looks the part, but fills the part now.

“Frank Ragnow has done a tremendous job to be where he is physically and come out and be a stud for us at right guard,” Herbert said. “He is in that 310 to 314 range. Last year he was 280. He played at a high level last year as a freshman and he is ready to take it to a whole other level. He has the additional tools to do so, which is fun to see.”

Beanum, Sprinkle and 5-8 walk-on Lane Saling, competing with incumbent Adam McFain and touted redshirt freshman Cole Hedlund for the place-kicking job, also posted a summer worth the weight to Herbert.

“Tevin Beanum, a guy that has a chance to start for us at defensive end, has put 35 pounds of mass on his frame over time,” Herbert said. “Lane Saling came in the door at 141 pounds. Right now he is in that 175 range. Jeremy Sprinkle (as a redshirting true freshman in 2012) once was 212 pounds. Now he is 255 pounds and will be a key player for us this year.”

Continuing to perform up from the downside is senior starting left offensive guard Sebastian Tretola. A 6-5 second-year junior college transfer now an Outland Trophy candidate, Tretola last year became a national novelty as the 340-pound guard throwing a touchdown pass off a trick play last year against Alabama-Birmingham.

He’s lighter than 340 now and more than 40 pounds lighter than upon his Arkansas arrival last summer from Iowa Western Community College after redshirting a year then lettering one year at the University of Nevada.

“Sebastian Tretola a year ago showed up 370 pounds,” Herbert said. “Now he is anywhere between 323 and 329 depending when we weigh him in and how much fluid he has in his system.”
Tretola certainly moves more fluidly now, Herbert said.

“In Sebastian’s case, he was carrying an extra 40 pounds of fat mass,” Herbert said. “That’s going to hinder anybody’s ability to move and sustain. You take that excess fat off a guy, he has been flying around this summer. He can go all day.”

Herbert was asked who stood out in some of the agility tests the Razorbacks took recently.

Ridiculous answers ensued. Ridiculous meaning wonderful rather than ridiculous.

“Right off the top, Jonathan Williams is ridiculous,” Herbert said of absurdly proficient quickness and agility. “Keon Hatcher, (the senior leading wide receiver) we did what’s called an R.P. agility drill with five different accelerations and decelerations and lateral movement, too, and those guys were spitting out great times. Both quarterbacks, Brandon Allen and Austin Allen, were outstanding. (Starting linebackers) Khalia Hackett, Brooks Ellis … those guys had some ridiculous times.”

Breaking a since 2013 0-13 SEC skein with ridiculous ease, routing LSU, 17-0, and Ole Miss, 30-0, last November in Fayetteville, Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks concluded 2014 winning three of their last four, routing Texas, 31-7, in the Advocare Texas Bowl.

That closing surge powered them through the winter and summer weight room and spring ball in between, Herbert said.

“Tremendous momentum,” Herbert said. “It’s like ‘Wow! This is what we are capable of when we execute at a high level!’ They came back chomping at the bit in the offseason ready to do that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot golf team young, talented

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School golf team held tryouts this week in preparation for the upcoming high school golf season, which begins for the Cabot boys on Wednesday at the Conway Country Club golf course.

With tryouts wrapping up for the boys and the girls beginning their tryouts on Monday, there wasn’t a lot CHS head coach Ronnie Tollett could say about this year’s group – other than it will be a youthful one.

“There’s not much I can tell you right now, other than the fact that we’re going to be young,” said Tollett. “We’ll be really competitive. We’ve got some young players that are good players for their age.

“It depends on how much they progress. Our top five looks like we’re going to be one 11th grader, a 10th grader and three ninth graders.”

The Cabot boys had four of their top five golfers graduate in the spring, and the one of those top five varsity golfers returning to the team this year is Jordan Lott. The Panthers only have two other golfers returning to the boys’ team this year in Matt Walters and Hayes Barker, who spent the majority of their time last year playing on the Panthers’ JV squad.

Despite the vast majority of his male golfers being young and unproven at the high school level, though, Tollett likes what he’s seen thus far from the youthful group.

“One of our better players is returning in Jordan Lott,” Tollett said. “We’ve got some ninth graders that aren’t proven yet, but they’ve been playing the junior circuit and competing well on the junior circuit. We’re young and eager right now – young and eager.”

Tollett said around 20 boys tried out for the team this past week, which is a typical numbers range for the Cabot boys. Tollett says he doesn’t expect that many to show up for the girls’ tryouts next week, and although he doesn’t know for sure just how competitive his teams will be, he believes both the boys’ and girls’ teams should compete very well throughout the season.

“Of course, you never know what all of your competition is going to be like,” Tollett said, “but I think we’ll be very competitive. How competitive is to be determined, but I’m very optimistic. I think they have the potential to do very well.”

Though it’s obviously too early to tell who the 7A teams to beat will be, for both boys and girls, Tollett has a good idea of who will be among the most competitive teams they’ll face this year.

“Conway’s program is always strong,” Tollett said. “North Little Rock’s program has vastly improved over the last couple of years. Central, I don’t know a lot about them. I don’t know much about the other schools as far as who graduated and what they have coming back, but I’ll have a better picture after next week.

“We’re going to go and compete at Conway in a tournament and then at North Little Rock in a tournament, and we’ll have a better idea of how we stack up.”

The Cabot girls do have three girls returning to the Lady Panthers golf team in senior Danielle O’Shields, Haley Morris and Sierra Harrell. Despite being inexperienced at the high school level, Tollett says the foundation for future success has been laid and that the future indeed looks bright for the CHS golf program.

“I think we’re going to be solid,” Tollett said. “Our foundation is pretty solid for several years to come. For three or four years, our foundation is solid. We have some younger kids coming up that can play.”

After the Cabot boys’ first match of the year on Wednesday, they’ll play another in North Little Rock on Thursday.

The CHS girls’ first match is scheduled toward the end of the month in Heber Springs.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther swims to Delta

Leader sportswriter

Spending time in a pool is something the majority of people in this part of the world enjoy doing this time of year, but 2015 Cabot High School graduate Noah Joyner has been in the pool for three-straight years now, and he’ll spend his fourth year doing it at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., this fall.

Joyner, who first moved to Cabot, from White Hall, with his family three years ago, was looking for a sport to participate in that suited him.

During that summer in 2012, the summer Olympics was capturing the attention of those around the world, and USA legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, was adding to his Olympic record medal count.

It was something Joyner said caught his attention as well, but it wasn’t until he received some encouragement from a friend that also participated in the sport that Joyner eventually decided that swimming was going to be the sport for him.

“That was probably the main thing,” Joyner said about the 2012 Olympic Games first piquing his swimming interests, “and also, one of my friends (Katie Frederick), she was on the Cabot Piranhas, which is only summer league.

“I had contacted her, because on Facebook, she kept posting pictures of her and her friends in swimsuits, swimming these races, and I was like, that’s the same thing that they’re doing in the Olympics. Katie Frederick, she was the reason why I started swimming.”

Joyner said that Frederick, who’s also a standout on both the CHS swim team and the Cabot Piranhas Central Arkansas Swim League team, gave him everything he needed to know about what it was going to take to get involved in the sport – from where he needed to buy his suits and other equipment, to the necessary tryout forms he’d need to fill out in order to participate.

“That’s pretty much where it started was Katie Frederick and the 2012 Olympics,” Joyner said.

Fatigue is something that got to the new swimmer in his first practices with the Piranhas swim team, which is typical of a newcomer to the sport, and although Joyner came home from practices quite fatigued, he said it never deterred him from wanting to continue, primarily because of how much fun he was having doing it.

“Actually, the first few days I came home, I was tired,” Joyner said. “But I wanted to go back the next day. I don’t know. I loved it, but it was kind of weird. I hated that I was tired, but I loved it because I was having a lot of fun doing it. It was the first sport that I ever enjoyed, and I always loved being in the water.”

In the beginning, Joyner said he didn’t realize how much training would be involved, or how necessary it would be to excel to the level he’s excelled at today.

“I thought to be a racing swimmer in the Olympics you had to be born into it,” Joyner said, “be a star from the moment you were born. I didn’t know anything about the training until I talked to Katie Frederick.

“This was hardcore. Keeping your face in the water, having to hold your breath and move your arms and kick all at the same time. It was something so new.”

The Piranhas’ swimming numbers, along with other local CASL swim teams in the tri-county area, have seen an increase in numbers in recent years, and those numbers continue to rise.

Joyner described what it was like to be involved in the Cabot swim program, as well as how many standouts there are in the CASL – many of whom have been swimming competitively for a lot longer than three years.

“They’re all real nice and there are better swimmers,” Joyner said. “In no way am I the greatest swimmer, but I think in three years I have accomplished a lot. There are others that are better swimmers, and they all help and they’re real nice. Everybody has a good attitude going in. It’s a very social atmosphere.

“There’s some that are more competitive than others, but it’s a great atmosphere to learn how to swim and get better and be what you want. That’s the main thing, is wanting to be there and wanting to be better.”

Joyner has made some big strides since he first got into the pool, competitively, three years ago. His standout performances in the pool and the fact that he continues to improve his times have earned him a spot on the Delta State swim team as a walk-on.

At Joyner’s most recent swim meet, which was the CASL Meet of Champions on July 18, Joyner placed first overall in two events. His winning races were in the 50-yard breaststroke and 100-yard individual medley.

On that day, Joyner became the only swimmer in the CASL MOC history to break 30 seconds in the 50-yard breaststroke race, finishing with a record time of 29.71. He was also the only swimmer that day to eclipse the one-minute mark in the 100-yard IM, finishing that race with a winning time of 59.86.

Joyner also had three second-place finishes at the MOC. Those races were the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard butterfly. He finished the freestyle race in 24.35 seconds, the backstroke in 28.03 seconds and the butterfly in 26.79 seconds.

All five of those times ranked at the Platinum level, which is in the highest possible ranking among swim times. He also earned the prestigious High Point award, which is given to the swimmer that scores the most overall points in a particular age group.

As far as what he can expect to take part in while swimming at Delta State, a Division II school, Joyner said the breaststroke and butterfly races are what he’s best at and what he’ll likely be used for, especially in the early goings of his collegiate career.

“The breaststroke is my best,” Joyner said. “It’s the best stroke that I have, and probably butterfly. I would say I’m also pretty strong at butterfly. It’s not my best, but it’s another stroke that I’m really strong at.”

As far as personal goals, Joyner said he hasn’t set anything too high for the near future, other than he simply wants to keep improving his personal bests times.

“I just try to beat my time, no matter what it is,” Joyner said. “Even if it’s by a small little bit, then I’m fine with that. I just want to keep beating my own time and getting a better time than what I had last time.

“Getting a second faster, yeah, that would be awesome, and I strive for that. I strive every swim to get better, but I’m not going to strive for something I can’t reach.”

Having that mindset and approach is part of what helped Joyner set a new MOC breaststroke record two weeks ago. In fact, he made that his goal going into the race.

“By doing that, I didn’t know that I was going to get a 29,” Joyner said of the new record he set on July 18. “I didn’t know I was going to cut almost a whole second off my fastest time. I didn’t know that was going to happen.

“That’s why I have set the goal to always beat my past time. Keep getting personal bests – that’s my goal.”

Joyner isn’t going to Delta State just to be a swimmer for the Statesmen, though. He earned a partial academic scholarship to the west Mississippi school with his grades from high school, and plans to major in pre-med physical therapy.

Taking part in such a major and being a student-athlete at the same time will no doubt come as a challenge, but it’s not the highest goal Joyner has set for himself in the long run. As far as swimming, he said his ultimate dream is to take part in what originally inspired him to get into the pool, competitively.

“Definitely, I have the same dream as every other swimmer and that’s to make it to the Olympics,” Joyner said. “That would be the main goal. It would be a long-term goal and it would be something that I’m going to have to work for, definitely.

“Also, though, I’m setting short-term goals to reach to get to that point. That’s probably the main goal is the Olympics. It’s my dream, it’s everybody’s dream. But, you’ve got to want it and I really want this. I really do.”

Joyner will report to Delta State on Aug. 16. School officially starts the following day and the Statesmen’s first swim meet of the year will be Sept. 11 at Delta State against the University of Alabama.

SPORTS STORY >> Central golf teams begin play Tuesday

Leader sportswriter

The high school golf season officially tees off next week, but several of the teams in the 5A-Central Conference are struggling to find participants.

Of the number of teams in the conference that’s low on participants, the two Jacksonville schools, being Jacksonville and North Pulaski, are among those that would like to increase their numbers.

Neither Jacksonville nor North Pulaski currently has enough students to officially form a team, for both boys and girls. Jacksonville coach Max Hatfield said he currently has just one boy and two girls participating in the JHS golf program, while NP coach Robbie Walker says he currently has one boy and one girl in the NPHS golf program.

“It’s a little slow going,” said Hatfield, “because I guess there are not a lot of kids playing golf at Jacksonville right now. But we’re trying to get the word out and get it going.

“Both golf courses, Southern Oaks and Hickory Creek are working with us. Letting us use their facilities sometimes to practice and have matches is such a good thing.”

The two Lady Red Devil participants are seniors, and both have qualified for the Class 5A state tournament the last two years. Nikole Hardison and Hailey Elmore are the two Lady Red Devil seniors, and Hatfield says he’s looking forward to seeing how they’ll perform this season.

“I’m looking forward to see what they can do,” Hatfield said. “Hailey has really been working this summer. She’s been playing in a lot of ASGA tournaments and junior tournaments. She’s been taking lessons for the last year or two, and I’m really expecting a lot from Hailey.

“Nikole, she had a rough time last year. Last year was her first golf season and she had an ATV accident. So she missed part of the season, but still came back and qualified for state, and I think she’s been playing a little bit of golf this summer, too. So that’s the key.”

For the boys, Hatfield said on Wednesday that it’s still up in the air as far as how many participants he’ll have. Tyler Cox, a junior, is the only participant that is for sure going to be involved in the boys’ program.

Hatfield did say, though, that he thinks two more will perhaps join in Hunter Fletcher, who played last year, and Cody Anderson.

“It’s been tough getting them out this year,” Hatfield said. “Usually I’ve always filled the boys’ team. The last few years we haven’t had a full boys’ team. It just may be slim this year.”

To form a high school varsity golf team, three girls are needed for a girls’ team and four are needed to form a boys’ team. In a match, as many as four players can participate on a varsity girls’ team, and the top three, or lowest, scores are used for the official team scores at the end. For the boys in a match, as many as five players can participate on a varsity team, and the top four scores are taken to make up the official team score for each team.

One 5A-Central school that isn’t having the same participation troubles as most is Beebe, whose boys’ and girls’ teams each won the 5A-Central Conference championship a year ago.

Beebe’s numbers aren’t exactly high, but they’re just right, according to head coach Art Bell.

“We had six boys and four girls last year, and we’re going to have seven boys and four girls this year,” said Bell. “The numbers are about the same, which is a pretty good number to have. If you have too many, it’s difficult to spend the time that you need with each one of them, and if you don’t have enough, you’re a little thin.

“I think six or seven boys and four or five girls are about a perfect number for a 5A school, especially for our conference. Numbers are usually a problem for a lot of schools in our conference.

“I think last year there were only four schools that had enough to form a boys’ team and there were only two girls’ teams in our conference. I don’t know if that will change or not. From a numbers perspective, we’ve got just as many or more than anybody else in our conference.”

In addition to having more numbers, Bell said both of his teams have already begun weekly practices for the upcoming season.

“We’ve already started practicing,” Bell said. “We started last week. So we’re into about the second week of practice.”

Bell said that three of his top five boys are back from last year’s conference championship team. Landon Davis is one of those three, and Bell said he’s the standout amongst the Badgers.

“He’ll be our number one all year, without a doubt,” Bell said of Davis. “He actually finished second place in the individual competition at our conference tournament last year behind our number one last year, Cole McNeil.

“He’s improved. I would expect him to compete for the individual title this year if he continues to progress like he has.”

Sophomores Cole Clevenger and John Wintz are the other two returning for the varsity Badgers. Bell added that freshmen Caleb Barrentine and Bryson Halford also have a chance this year to compete for one of the five spots on the varsity team.

“They were both freshmen last year,” Bell said of his sophomores. “The learning curve was kind of steep, but the older guys helped them. I think that both of them have gotten better.

“We’ve also got a couple of newcomers that are freshmen (Barrentine and Halford) that I think will definitely compete for one of the top five spots. There’s a lot of upside.”

The Lady Badgers also have three of their top four golfers from last year returning. The lone Beebe senior, Baylee Halford, leads the Lady Badgers this year. Halford plays softball in the spring, and another softball player, junior Caelyn Longing, is another returning starter for the Lady Badgers.

Longing was the team’s number three golfer in 2014. The third returning starter for the Beebe girls is sophomore Keithlea Griffin.

With valuable experience back for the 2015 season, Bell’s expectations for his girls’ team isn’t any different from that of his boys’ team.

“For the girls, I told them the first day the same thing I told the boys – I expect us to definitely advance,” Bell said. “We ended up winning the conference last year, and the expectations are one thing, but the goal is to get to the next level.

“As far as team versus individual expectations, both with the boys and the girls, I made this clear to them at the beginning of last season as well as this year, and that is the goal is to win the conference as a team first, and if we have any individuals that are top scorers, that’s obviously secondary.

“The goal is to get to the state tournament. We expect to be there and hopefully repeat as conference champions in both divisions.”

Over in Sherwood, Sylvan Hills coach Greg Frantal says he doesn’t have any girls participating in the golf program at SHHS, but he does have six on the boys’ team, and he’s optimistic about what 2015 has in store for his group.

“As of right now, I have no girls,” said Frantal. “I had one last year and she graduated. But this year I have six boys and no girls. I’m real optimistic about the boys and what this coming season has for us.”

The Bears’ golf team is made up of two seniors, two juniors and two freshmen. Dalton Shuster and David Talcott are the two SHHS seniors. Frantal said he expects Talcott to have a breakout year in 2015.

“I expect my senior, David Talcott, to have a breakout year this year,” Frantal said. “He had a great year last year, but this year his head’s in the game. So I expect him to have a breakout year.”

Ethan Williamson and Travis Keele are the Bears’ two juniors, and the two freshmen are Nathan Martin and Nicholas Morgan. Frantal said he looks for Williamson to have a breakout year as well, and that Martin should be a solid addition to the team, despite being a freshman.

Williamson took part in the PGA junior state tournament in Maumelle this week, and three weeks ago, Martin won a PGA junior tournament in his age group, 14-under, at the Chenal Country Club in Little Rock.

“Ethan should have a breakout year, and then Nathan, he’s going to be a welcomed addition to our team,” Frantal said. “He’s been shooting in the mid and high 80s, so he’s going to be a good addition to our team as a freshman and he’s just going to get better.”

Sylvan Hills’ first match of the season will be Tuesday at The Greens at North Hills in Sherwood against Jacksonville. That will be Jacksonville’s first match of the season as well. On Friday, JHS will host a match at the Hickory Creek course in Jacksonville, and that match will start at 9 a.m.

Beebe’s first match of the season will be Aug. 18 against Bald Knob at the Mountain Springs golf course at Greystone in Cabot, which is where Beebe will host the 5A-Central golf tournament in late September.

TOP STORY >> New financing urged for links

Leader staff writer

Sherwood could save around $4,000 a month — $48,000 a year and more than $1 million in total interest costs — if the city refinances the $6.1 million loan it took out to purchase The Greens at North Hills Golf Course.

Mayor Virginia Young told The Leader that after Jack Truemper of Stephens Inc. presented two options to the Sherwood Public Facilities Board at last week’s meeting.

The board didn’t vote on either one, but agreed to continue looking into the refinancing.

Truemper said the current loan should be closed in January and that bonds for the refinancing could be sold after Thanksgiving — 40 to 50 days before the closing.

The first option would reduce the city’s varying interest rate from between 3 percent and 5 percent to between 2 percent and 3.75 percent.

He said that would save Sherwood about $50,000 a year and $1.29 million over the loan term. The city would pay more than 10 percent less in that scenario, Truemper noted.

The second option would mean an interest rate between 2 percent and 4 percent.

Truemper said it would save the city $45,000 to $49,000 a year and a total of $1.17 million, or 8.65 percent.

The projects are based on interest rates continuing to trend slightly downward, or remain flat, he noted.

Truemper also told the board that the refinancing would not affect the $6 million library bond issue the mayor said would be funded this year through the 1.3-mill increase voters passed in November.

“There’s clearly an opportunity to save money based on the present market,” Truemper said, adding that one advantage is the low supply of bank-qualified bonds and high demand for them.

Both options are bank-qualified bond issues, “which means the city would not issue over $10 million dollars worth of bonds in a calendar year,” he continued.

The first option would involve a credit rating. Truemper estimated that Sherwood would be working with an A-plus credit rating because that was the rating for Benton and Conway in similar financing situations.

The second option would not make use of the credit rating.

Truemper also told the board members that all prices for the refinancing would be given in advance. The first bond could not be sold without their approval and signatures, he emphasized.

The mayor remarked at the end of his presentation that the figures Truemper quoted were almost three years’ worth of savings.

She also asked if Stephens Inc. would cut the city a deal for remaining a customer should they use the firm to facilitate the refinancing.

Truemper responded that a fair fee would be negotiated if the loan were refinanced, but warned that there are other costs for entities that would have to be involved, such as a bond attorney.

TOP STORY >> Roadshow stops in Little Rock

Asian art appraiser Richard Cervantes of Philadelphia looks at a 16th century bowl brought in by Betty of Arkansas during taping of the “Antiques Roadshow” Saturday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. Around 5,000 people bought items to the show.


Leader staff writer

No one protested as our media guide led us to the front of long lines and through a sea of intriguing items around 5,000 people brought to “Antiques Roadshow” appraisers last Saturday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

Everyone seemed happy to stand around in the cool room filled with tables, cameras, bright lights and television sets. After all, they were chosen from the 13,950 who sought tickets, all of which were free.

The Little Rock event gave the show’s producers three hours of television for the 20th season, set to air in January on AETN.

The appraisers expected to see 10,000 items last Saturday. They were filmed in about 90 multi-camera and over-the-shoulder segments.

The popular show had never been to Little Rock, but visited Hot Springs in 2002.

Nearly 100 volunteers also attended and were allowed to have two items appraised. They agreed to contribute 12 hours of unpaid labor for the perk.

The Leader’s Jeffrey Smith and I were told we could bring two items, as well, but I brought just one.

We were led to an area jokingly referred to as “triage.”

Once there, we were assigned to two of the 24 categories being appraised by more than 70 specialists. Two appraisers are Arkansas natives, our guide said, although they live elsewhere now.

A worker handed us paper bills resembling bookmarks that had the titles, “Silver” and “Sports” printed on them.

Our first stop was to the sports table, where Jeffrey presented a 1920s baseball glove and a signed 1932 baseball to appraiser Grant Zahajko.

The ball is worth between $2,500 and $3,500, he said.

It was signed by some of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. The most recognizable John Hancocks are by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Jeffrey said his great-grandfather, who worked as a scoreboard operator in New Jersey back in the 1930s, had owned the family heirloom.

Zahajko explained that the item would have been more valuable were it in mint condition. Also, he noted, collectors are seeking baseballs with a single signature.

Jeffrey’s glove had belonged to his great uncle.

A collector would pay $45 to $70 for it, the appraiser said.

He told Jeffrey the 1920s-era split-fingered Rahling glove for a left-handed player would have been worth more had it been signed by a player. Zahajko also noted that it was made after teams switched from gloves with webbing to gloves with stitching.

On our way to the sports table, I had tucked a silver-coated egg poacher topped with a tiny eagle into my purse.

My boyfriend’s mother and grandmother have owned the piece for years.

Appraiser Sara Wishart said it was worth a whopping $25.

The egg poacher is English and was made in 1880, she explained, after electroplating was invented around 1840. The process covers base metals with a silver coating.

Wishart called the method fascinating. She said, “They take the base metal, I don’t know how they figured this out, and stick it in a vat with chemicals in it and shoot electricity through it.” Then the coating, the silver particles, binds to the base metals.

This new way of manufacturing silver items allowed everyone, not just the echelon of society, to buy them and also led the way to larger and more unique goods – elaborate artwork and more.

The egg poacher was not particularly unusual, Wishart said, because, “If you could dream it (then), they’d make it in silver plating.”

She noted how, every time it was cleaned, the silver rubbed off, lending the item a brass look.

She called it “charming,” but said that — even in excellent condition — the egg poacher would have been worth only $75.

I was delightfully amused that my boyfriend’s mother’s memories of polishing the piece gave it the most sentimental value but decreased its appraised value.

After our appraisals wrapped up, Jeffrey and I kept our eyes open for oddities and possible high-ticket knick-knacks others had brought.

We spotted a temperance jug with a snake wrapped around it, representing in an allegorical way that alcohol is evil.

A large African wooden chest with detailed carvings, a metal tribal sculpture and what appeared to be a clothes-drying rack tucked inside a wardrobe-like piece of furniture were other items that captured our attention.

We did not see the item that had, as of 5 p.m., the highest appraised value. Our guide said appraisal would probably continue until at least 7.

Executive producer Marsha Bemko revealed that it was a book of William Faulkner poems he handwrote in 1921 — 28 years before winning fame as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The book is worth about $70,000 to $100,000, she said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys finish summer schedule on a positive note

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School held its final team basketball camp of the summer last Thursday at Panther Arena, and head coach Jerry Bridges is pleased with the way his versatile group closed summer play.

Bryant and Watson Chapel were the other schools on hand Thursday, and the Panther varsity unit beat both teams in a pair of exhibition games. Cabot beat the Hornets 36-26 and won comfortably against Watson Chapel, and did so without some key players.

A couple of the Panther starters have been out of action for all or a good portion of the summer because of injuries, and two other starters weren’t present Thursday because they were playing AAU ball out of state.

“I was pleased,” said Bridges of his team. “We were without quite a few people, so it gave me a chance to see what all of our other ones could do, and I was very pleased with our efforts.

“Chandler Casteele’s had a good summer. He’s really improved his game. Sebastian Zulch has really improved, so it’s good to see them step up. All five of my seniors that night – Hunter Southerland, Phillip Wynne, Sawyer Stalnaker, Chandler Casteele and Sebastian Zulch, I was really proud of them.

“I started them as a unit and they did a lot of good things. It’s good when you’ve got some seniors that you feel like are going to give you some playing time, whether they’re coming off the bench or starting, and you have confidence in them, and I saw some good things from all five of those seniors.”

Bridges also gave credit for the way his underclassmen played Thursday. Bridges has been platooning a number of underclassmen into these exhibition games throughout the summer in order to develop his depth. He was also pleased with how his group performed defensively in the two wins.

“I’m just pleased with how everybody played,” Bridges said, “and really, defensively, I thought we really played well both games. I’m pleased with the depth I think we’re going to have this year. I feel like it’s been a really good summer.”

Bridges was already excited about the experienced team he had coming back this year, but the addition of 6-foot-8 junior forward Matt Stanley, a Vilonia transfer who joined the team earlier this summer, has given the coach more reason to be excited about this year’s group.

The only thing the Panthers really need to do now, though, is get healthy, which is why some of the Panthers’ starters, like seniors Garrett Rowe and Jared Dixon, have been out of action.

Dixon hasn’t played any this summer because he’s been recovering from ACL surgery, while Rowe was out Thursday because of a recent knee injury that Bridges hopes is minor.

“Getting someone like Matt Stanley that comes in, you know, I’m not going to lie, that’s a good pick-up to add to what we have coming back, because I really liked the group I had,” Bridges said.

“Our main thing now, we’ve got to make sure Garrett Rowe is going to be OK and get him well. Jared Dixon’s doing well in his rehab, recovering from ACL surgery. So hopefully by October he’ll be ready to join in, too.

“It’s about getting bodies better right now and doing some skill work in the gym and lifting three days a week and getting the ball in our hands four days a week.”

SPORTS STORY >> Head Hog likes new assistant

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – For two years as his most nationally high-profile assistant football coach and recruiter, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema derived much from Randy Shannon.

Of course Bielema has derived nothing from Shannon since January and likely won’t again. The former Arkansas linebackers’ coach/assistant head coach now is the co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach come home for the Florida Gators.
The University of Florida itself isn’t Shannon’s old home, but the State of Florida certainly is for the Miami native.

Shannon starred for the University of Miami as a linebacker for Jimmy Johnson’s Hurricanes from 1985-88 and after a two-year NFL career under Johnson as a linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys, returned to his alma mater in 1991. He coached on Miami’s defensive staff through 2006, the last six years as defensive coordinator and was elevated to head coach from 2007-2010.

Shannon’s South Florida recruiting ties obviously in 2012 helped the Razorbacks land current junior running Alex Collins, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher currently on the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Trophy preseason national watch lists, and current junior offensive tackle Denver Kirkland of Miami currently adorning the Outland Trophy watch list.

As a coach, inheriting a dreadfully thin linebacking corps in 2013, Shannon helped develop 2014 senior second-year junior college transfer Martrell Spaight into the SEC’s leading tackler. Spaight was named 2014 first-team All-SEC and was drafted by the Washington Redskins.

Strong as Shannon has been for Arkansas, Bielema sees no weakness proceeding without him.

Bielema himself has a strong recruiting presence in Florida.

He avidly recruited in the Sunshine State from 2006-2012 as Wisconsin’s head coach and now has Arkansas two years established with a strong recruiting presence in Florida.

As for coaching linebackers, Bielema seems more than well satisfied with Shannon’s Arkansas successor, Vernon Hargreaves.

Hargreaves, his son Vernon Hargreaves III, ironically the Preseason All-SEC cornerback for the Florida Gators now employing Shannon, has State of Florida recruiting ties of his own.

Hired away from the University of Houston, Hargreaves previously was a Miami assistant from 1998-2005 and also coached defense for Florida International and South Florida.

Brooks Ellis, the junior two-year starting middle linebacker from Fayetteville, now Spaight’s heir apparent moving to Spaight’s old weakside linebacker spot, has directly benefitted from Hargreaves’ coaching, Bielema said.

Khalia Hackett, lettering mainly on special teams as a Razorbacks true freshman in 2013, emerged last spring under Hargreaves in Ellis’ old middle linebacker slot.

Josh Williams, a sophomore JC transfer last year backing up Ellis in the middle, after a spring, now starts at outside strongside linebacker under Hargreaves.

“To bring in a guy like Vernon Hargreaves, I think you could ask Brooks Ellis the techniques he has learned,” Bielema said. “How to use his hands, the eye discipline, the ability to defeat blocks has been very, very significantly increased. I think our linebackers will become a lot more of a productive position for us. All three of them, not just two, or one last year with Martrell. I am very excited about that.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears finish 7-on-7 on top

Leader sports editor

The last team in was the last team standing Friday at the Jacksonville High School’s first Aim High/Let it Fly 7-on-7 Tournament. Sylvan Hills, who replaced a late dropout just a few days earlier, beat host Jacksonville Red in an exciting final between the two 5A-Central rivals.

Jacksonville Red, which was one of two JHS teams in the tournament, had the ball inside the 10-yard line with four seconds remaining and a chance to score and win the tournament. But Sylvan Hills came through with the defensive stop to preserve the victory.

It was the second 7-on-7 championship game the Bears had played in eight days. They made it to the final of the Garrett Uekman Tournament the week before at Catholic High, but lost that game to Joe T. Robinson.

“I thought we played better than we did the Friday before,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “This time we made a few more plays that helped us win it. I thought the kids competed hard.”

Sylvan Hills won the event despite being without its projected starting quarterback, junior Jordan Washington, who was at an AAU basketball tournament. Sophomore Ryan Lumpkin stepped in and led the team to the Aim High championship. Withrow has been high on Lumpkin since last season, so wasn’t too surprised to see his backup perform so well.

“He quarterbacked the whole time for us over at Benton, too,” Withrow said. “So that doesn’t bother me. It just helps Ryan. They’ve both been able to get a lot of work in this summer, and I’m pleased. They both still have a ways to go. There are still some reads and stuff they could do a whole lot better than they do. But sometimes I think they’re just testing me – trying to see if they can put me back on the Lipitor.”

While Withrow’s quarterbacks still need work on making reads, situational football has seen a marked improvement.

“One thing you can see is they’re starting to understand situations a whole lot better,” Withrow said. “If it’s third and short we don’t have to go downfield. They’re understanding moving the sticks. Overall, from where we were in March to where we are now, there’s definite improvement.”

Wide receiver Cameron Sharp continued to make plays, as he’s done in most events this summer. Withrow has been high on Sharp since spring football, and his expectations continue to grow.

“Cameron Sharp has been the guy,” Withrow said. “Nobody has been able to stop him all summer. If he’s willing to be mature and do all the things we ask of him in order to make him better, I think he has a chance to have a really great year. I think he’s a big time receiver. He has made play after play all summer long.”

Withrow also likes how well his running backs caught the ball on Friday.

“Brandon Bracely played well,” Withrow said. “Bracely was a starting defensive back last year, and could see more time on offense this season. The other running back who impressed the head coach was sophomore Deon Youngblood.

“He’s a guy that acts like he’s older than he is, and plays like he’s holder than he is,” Withrow said. “He does a lot of good things with or without the ball.”

Skill players aren’t the only Bears to have got some competitive work in this summer. On Tuesday, Sylvan Hills played in the third and final team camp at Catholic High. Offensive line is one area where the Bears have a lot to replace from last year, but returning starter Sam Perez has led the way on an improving front line.

“Coach (Denny) Tipton has worked all summer with them (the offensive line), and they have gotten better and better,” Withrow said. “Sam Perez has done well. He’s been the guy we’re counting on and he’s doing a good job. Tucker Price has done well at center. Nolan Smith has gotten a lot better. It’s like at quarterback. There’s a ways to go, but you can see improvement.”

And on beating Jacksonville in the championship game of its own tournament, Withrow said there might have been a little more motivation in that one.

“I think you can say that rivalry is sort of brewing again, and that’s good. But I also have to say they ran a first-class tournament and were really gracious to us. It was an outstanding tournament with the things they had going.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be on the right side of that game, but I was more worried about us playing well than I was about who we were playing.”

SPORTS STORY >> Devils shine at 7-on-7

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville came up just short of winning its own Aim High/Let it Fly 7-on-7 Tournament Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The Jacksonville Red team had a last-second, 4-yard play to beat Sylvan Hills in the championship, but the Bears came up with the defensive stop. Another Jacksonville squad, the Gray team, finished third, beating Little Rock Central in overtime of the third-place game.

“We’re proud of them,” Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham said of his players. “The Red was pretty much our senior bunch and the Gray was a couple of seniors, and all the others were juniors and sophomores. And we’re proud of all of them.”

The quarterback for the Red team, Brandon Hickingbotham, won the quarterback challenge that was held during a lunch break. The challenge included several different types of throws to test accuracy, like sideline throws, 10-yard crossing patterns, 30-yard rollouts and end zone fades. There was also a distance contest where quarterbacks stood at the goal line and threw as far as they could.

“Brandon performed pretty well,” Barry Hickingbotham said. “I think he only had one interception all day, and he was pretty accurate with his throws during the challenge. And I thought Rowdy (Weathers) did a good job running the Gray team, too. I kind of let my quarterbacks call the plays because I couldn’t be everywhere at once. They both took charge in the huddle and did a good job of leading their groups. They communicated with their players.”

Harderrious Martin also quarterbacked the Gray team in its win over Mills in the morning session. He and Destry Sturgess will both begin to take more reps under center as two-a-days begin next week.

“HD (Martin) hasn’t played a lot of quarterback because he’s going to help us in so many other places,” Hickingbotham said. “He’s such an asset at receiver and defensive back. The kid’s got great skills. He’s going to be a multiple-position player for us. But we’re going to get him and Destry Sturgess a lot more work at quarterback because we need to keep developing the younger guys.”

Hickingbotham also bragged on seniors Avery Wells and Stevie Eskridge for their play on offense.

“Those two had a great tournament,” Hickingbotham said. “They’re important guys for us in that they’re good athletes, and they work hard to do it right. That’s one of the main things we’re looking for from the kids in this program.”

Hickingbotham couldn’t spend the entire time coaching each game. Many times both JHS teams were playing simultaneously, and as the organizer of the event, other responsibilities occasionally called him away from the playing field. But he kept one eye on the action at all times.

“Here’s the main thing I’m happy about,” Hickingbotham said, “I may get called away and won’t be able to coach every play, but I’m still going to watch and see how you’re handling yourself. It was hot. We had some issues with depth because we split teams and had some that had to leave early for work. I wanted to see if you were going to be selfish, or if you were going to say, hey, I need a break, and let someone else in the game.

“I’m going to watch to see if you go all out on your routes. And I think I saw us get better from a maturity standpoint. I saw guys acting like teammates and not like individuals. So that was one of the highlights for me. The unselfishness we’re trying to develop looks like it’s taking hold and that’s good to see.”

The clear standout on defense was Kris Johnson. He finished the day with four interceptions, including one against Central that led to the third-place finish.

“Without a doubt, KJ was a big performer and a pleasant surprise for us,” Hickingbotham said. “I thought Damon Smith played well at the corner. He’s a senior who’s hopefully going to be a first-year starter for us. But Kris just went above and beyond. He became a ball hog back there. That last one, he caught it at its highest point. He just went up and got it and it basically won us the game. It sent it to overtime where we won it from there.”

The tournament also featured a wide receiver challenge that included three events. There was a 5-10-5-yard change of direction drill that was timed. An obstacle course and an egg toss to test the softest hands. Devin Dollar of Atkins won the WR challenge.

Jacksonville leaves for its second annual team retreat at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge on Wednesday, and will begin official preseason practices on Monday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville gets its turn

For the first time in a long time, Jacksonville is growing faster than its neighboring communities of Sherwood and Cabot.

Based on building permits issued through the first six months of the year, Jacksonville construction is up 60 percent, Cabot is down 30 percent and Sherwood’s numbers have fallen by 13 percent.

This is good news for Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, whose motto for the past few years has been, “It’s coming.”

“It” may now well be on its way.

The mayor credits the increase in single-family home building permits on the word getting out about the new school district and positive talk about the city.

“This is truly a wonderful city to live in,” he told us.

Commercially, the largest permit of the year belongs to Crain Ford – a $3 million remodel and facelift showing its longtime commitment to Jacksonville and giving it a better and brighter fa├žade along busy Hwy. 67/167, which in turn reflects well on the city.

Fletcher credits the growth to more people noticing the $900 million financial impact of Little Rock Air Force Base. “The shooting range is doing well, our tax collections are up, and the hotels are seeing good occupancy numbers,” he said.

The mayor believes this six-month trend is only the beginning. “We are getting second looks now by a number of national entities.”

He said the move to the positive side of the growth spectrum has been a collaborative effort, and it does seem to be paying off. He added, “We have a number of projects in the works and, hopefully, we’ll see a domino effect.”

Let’s hope those dominoes will include doing something with the Jacksonville Middle School site on Main Street behind the new and improved Crain Ford, the closed gas station on Main Street that greets visitors to the city and that ugly patch of land and concrete between the remodeled Cancun restaurant and the old police station.

On the home side of this recent growth, Fletcher said he’s worried about the city running out of subdivisions.

What a nice problem to have, for a change. He knows it’s not always easy keeping up with Jacksonville’s rapidly growing neighbors, but Fletcher says his city’s time has come. He’s right.

TOP STORY >> Funeral home ready to serve

Leader staff writer

A Natural State Funeral Service plans on “serving Arkansas with dignity and respect” after opening for business last week at 2620 W. Main St. in Jacksonville.

The new Jacksonville-based RPS Ventures Inc. owns the full-service home with an on-site crematory and Serenity Garden Cemetery at 6512 T.P. White Drive.

Matt Robinson is the company’s president. Former state Rep. Mark Perry of Jacksonville, the vice president, treasurer Stephen Savage and board member Logan Perry also own RPS Ventures.

About why they set up shop here, Robinson said, “Jacksonville is our hometown, and what’s a better place to start serving people who need our service at a price they can afford?”

Complete church funeral plans start at $2,870 and include a high-quality 20-gauge stainless steel casket, he continued. Direct cremations start at $645.

“Our goal with this whole business is to remember it’s a ministry, too. We really want to help the average person that cannot afford a funeral somewhere else. It’s going to be a quality service.”

The home plans to join the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and host a grand opening in September.

A Natural State Funeral Service will not only benefit the Jacksonville community, but help people statewide, according to its managers, who are Arkansas natives.

RPS Ventures has hired James (Stan) Youngblood as the managing funeral director and embalmer. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the field.

Youngblood is an Arkansas Tech and Louisiana Tech alum. He graduated from the Dallas Institution of Funeral Service mortuary school in Texas.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to be able to serve the people of Arkansas,” Youngblood said. “We feel like we’ve put together a good staff of people who care about Arkansans and will bring quality service to them.”

He also told The Leader that he chose this profession after growing up around a florist and funeral home. Youngblood recalled that experience beginning at age 10.

“Helping people (appealed to me). I’ve always considered myself a compassionate person. At the same time, I’ve always accepted challenges in business,” he said.

John Curtis Alexander Smith, the assistant managing funeral director/embalmer, has more than six years of experience.

He graduated from Henderson State University with a bachelor’s degree in business and earned an associate’s degree in mortuary science from the University of Arkansas Community College in Hope. He also received a certificate in funeral directing from there.

Smith said, “It’s exciting. It gives us an opportunity to really try to serve with a small-town feel and a good group of guys that really, truly value what the slogan is, and that’s dignity and respect. That’s what we hope to bring to the funeral industry here.”

He chose to pursue this career after he lost family members during his last year at Henderson and someone asked if he had considered attending mortuary school.

“I had the curiosity. It just intrigued me, and I looked into it. I haven’t looked back since,” Smith added.

The city business license for A Natural State Funeral Service was approved on June 11.

The company is in good standing, according to the secretary of state’s website.

It has purchased assets of the defunct Arkansas Funeral Care, which was shut down in late January for violating state laws. Its owners and an employee have pleaded not guilty to related criminal charges.

Robinson emphasized that RPS was not associated with Arkansas Funeral Care previously and is not associated with it now. A Natural State Funeral Service is opening with an all-new staff, including its owners and managers.

He also said A Natural State Funeral Service would be happy to honor pre-planned funeral arrangements purchased from Arkansas Funeral Care and match those prices “dollar for dollar.”

TOP STORY >> Hoping for best, farmers worried

Leader senior staff writer

After unseasonal rains kept farmers out of fields and, in some cases, forced a change in planting crops, many are now irrigating their way through another hot Arkansas summer and worry about making a profit.

“We’re finished planting all the soybeans,” Lonoke County Chief Extension Agent Jeff Welch said Monday afternoon.

“Rice looks pretty good. Corn is approaching or has gone by black layer and just has to dry out,” he said. “Our soybeans look good at this point, but the late beans will have a reduced yield. He said the crop can still be a good one if the nights will cool down.

“We’re almost through irrigating corn, but still watering milo,” he said. Welch noted that the sugarcane aphids are getting busy in the milo and that “it’s going to be a battle in a couple of weeks to maintain control.”

The insects are getting worse, especially on late beans.

In some pastures and hayfields, armyworms are moving in. If they aren’t caught in time and controlled with pesticides, they can take a pasture down to the ground in days.

The worms can attack by the millions, he said. “It usually takes 35 or 36 days from eggs back to maturity and adulthood” — probably by mid-August. “They can take 8- to 10-inch Bermuda grass down to ground, with no pasture left.” Welch said they consume the entire leaf surface.

“Armyworms are starting to be a problem almost every year,” Welch said, and they started early this year.

Armyworms can be treated with pesticides environmentally friendly to cattle, birds and people.

Welch said a good farmer will look at his pasture once or twice a day.

“It cost a whole lot less to treat if you get on top of it,” he explained.

Commodity prices are falling, with most of the production costs already locked in.

“It’s going to be a tight year,” Welch said. “We have to do everything we can to control costs. If we make it through the winter, we have to rely on marketing skills to glean some profit.”

He said that, so far, farmers are barely breaking even if they are not under water. “Our only hope is that we receive increased prices through the winter,” Welch said.