Friday, August 14, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> LHS volleyball will be young, but talented and dedicated

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke High School volleyball team has been practicing routinely since the early part of July in preparation for the upcoming season, which starts Aug. 24, and although the team still has plenty to continue to work on, head coach Laura Park is pleased with the work her team has put in thus far.

Lonoke has just two players returning that logged significant varsity minutes in 2014, but plenty of players returning that were on last year’s conference championship team, as well as a high number of talented sophomores that saw lots of success at the junior high level.

This year’s sophomores lost only one game last year as freshmen, and ended their 2014 season with a district tournament championship.

“I have 10 returning players from last year’s team,” said Park, “and then I have 10 10th graders, and they’ve been working really hard since the first week of July. We started practicing on July 6, and we’d been practicing twice a day until last week.

“We’ve been to three team camps and they competed real well. We’ve been trying to work on narrowing it down to a true varsity and true JV. My 10th grade group is really good, so I don’t know that there will be a true split this year.

“There may be some girls playing both ways. It just depends on how their day or their week is going. But they’ve been working really hard, and I’m very encouraged so far.”

The returning talent along with the gifted sophomore class has Park expecting a great year for her team, and the talent in each class has led to some competitive practices, according to the head coach.

“I think it’s going to be a great year,” Park said. “They get along really well, but there’s also a lot of competition between these 10th graders and the juniors and seniors because this 10th grade group, they’ve got a lot of talent.

“Granted, the 10th graders don’t have high school experience, but several of them have played club ball and they’ve played above their age division, so I think they’re going to be a good asset and everybody’s pushing each other, which is making us a better team.”

Seniors Jarrelyn McCall and Ashlyn Allen are the only two players that saw much playing time at the varsity level last fall. McCall started throughout the year. Allen started at times during the year, and both have been leaders on the court this summer and have done so in different ways.

“They’re both good leaders and both have pretty good work ethic,” Park said of those two. “Jarrelyn’s a very high energy person, so the kids tend to gravitate toward that. But Ashlyn, a lot of times she’s a little more compassionate. She wants to include the others and build them up, too.

“She’s been a great leader in that aspect, but on and off the court they’re both great kids. They’re both good athletes, and on and off the court they’re both good leaders.”

With the current talent in place, the Lady Rabbits expect to be contenders for the league crown again in 2015. They’ll start the process of trying to repeat as conference champs very soon. Their season starts Aug. 24 at Arkansas Baptist.

Lonoke will play Clinton in the Lady Rabbits’ home opener on Aug. 25 before the team takes part in the Spikefest Tournament on Aug. 29. The Lady Rabbits will then travel to Central Arkansas Christian on Aug. 27 before closing the month at Pulaski Robinson on the 31st.

“Our first match this year is a conference match,” Park said, “because we have nine teams in our conference, and we’re playing everybody twice, plus the district tournament. So we’re going to start right off the bat with conference play.

“Hopefully we’ll do as well as we did last year. We won conference last year, so I’m hoping we’ll do as well as we did last year in conference play.”

SPORTS STORY >> Head Bear pleased with team’s effort

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Bears broke out the pads this week, the second week of fall practice, and although the team still has plenty of work to do in order to get ready for the upcoming season, head coach Jim Withrow likes the progress his team has made this week.

“I’ll be honest with you, we’ve had some really good scrimmages,” said Withrow. “It’s been real physical at times. I’ve been pleased with the effort. Our deal is we’re young and we make mistakes. We’re still kind of growing.”

The Bears graduated 23 seniors in May. They’ve still got a good sized senior class this year, but a lot of underclassmen. Withrow said earlier in the week that his younger players, as a whole, have a lot of work to do, but the head Bear said those underclassmen have shown improvement through the week.

“I think they’ve improved a lot and made a lot of progress,” Withrow said. “Their attitudes have been great and that helps. When kids take to the coaching, it really helps as far as the maturation process.”

Due to Arkansas Activities Association rules, teams can’t have full-contact practices without first having five full fall practice sessions. The Bears got those required practices out of the way last week, and spent every practice this week in full pads, giving the coaching staff a better idea of where they’re at as a team, and how much work needs to be done in order to get to where they want to be by the start of the regular season.

“I think it helps,” Withrow said, “instead of putting the pads on one day and taking a week off like you do at team camps. To actually have them for a full week and have them here every day, just to kind of get an idea of where we’re going, it really, really helps.”

Withrow pointed out some individuals who stood out this week in practices.

“This week I thought Jonathan Hicks played well at linebacker,” Withrow said. “Hunter Phillips and Joe Craft also played well there. Ty Compton at tailback played really well. He’s been real physical.

“Brandon Bracely’s played well at the slot back, and then (Jordan) Washington has made some progress and he’s looked good. I think Jordan’s got a chance to be real good.”

Washington was a standout receiver for the Bears a season ago as a 10th grader, but transitioned to quarterback in the final two games of the 2014 season because of graduated All-State quarterback Tra Doss’ broken arm suffered in week eight. Washington will be the QB full time this season.

Withrow, though, also likes the other quarterbacks he has on his team, and said the two he’s worked the most at the position this week have looked good doing so.

“Along with Ryan Lumpkin, both of those two have played well at quarterback,” Withrow said, “very well.”

Lumpkin, a sophomore, will start at receiver this season. Withrow also gave Craft praise for his ability to play the QB position, but the All-Conference outside linebacker may move to slot back on offense. Either way, Withrow feels comfortable with either Lumpkin or Craft playing the QB position if needed.

“Lumpkin’s getting plenty of snaps,” Withrow said, “and being a sophomore we want to move them along as far as we can because once the season starts he won’t get as many opportunities to do that.

“To have a No. 2 (QB), I’m not really sure. It might be Lumpkin, but Joe’s a senior. So I don’t call either one of them a No. 2.”

Even though the team still has plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball, Withrow feels good about the work that’s been done in this second week of fall practices.

“We always have more work to do,” Withrow said. “We could be crisper and cleaner with what we do offensively, and we can play a whole lot better on defense as well. But I’m pleased with both sides of the ball.

“We look like we’re reading things better defensively, getting in spots better on defense. Offensively, we’re starting to look a little bit crisper. We’re beginning to get more physical up front. That’s the thing the offensive line has done to make progress this week.”

Withrow said the linemen have really benefitted from having a full week under the direction of line coach Denny Tipton.

“Coach Tipton’s had them for a full week, and that makes a big difference as opposed to three times a week,” Withrow said. “Being with coach Tipton all week, I believe he’s got them moving in the right direction and taking the right strides.

“These scrimmages the last few days have been really physical and I’m really, really impressed with how physical it’s been. That does not mean we’re where we need to be. We are not close to there. We’re getting there. But I am pleased with the progress.”

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers get pads cracking

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers wrapped up their second week of preseason practice and their first in full pads on Friday. Head coach John Shannon felt like Friday’s practice could’ve been a little better, but was pleased overall with how his team responded to two-a-days and hitting for the first time since team camps wrapped up in mid-July.

“We went to three afternoon practices early in the week and have gone back to mornings the last two days,” said Shannon. “I thought this (Friday) morning was a little sluggish but overall it’s been a pretty good week.”

The Badgers scrimmaged for the first time last Saturday, and then again on Wednesday. Beebe has a three-year returning starter at fullback, the offense’s feature position, in senior Trip Smith. Smith carried for 1,906 yards as a sophomore, and ran for 1,643 as a junior despite missing the first three games of the season.

A big difference for him and the rest of the Badgers’ running backs is that this year’s group is running behind an almost completely new offensive line. It’s obvious just from looking that the new line is not as big as the line that opened all the big holes last season, but the fullback still believes he can break the 2,000-yard barrier this season behind all the newcomers.

“At team camps we were driving the ball down the field pretty well, even against the bigger teams like Conway,” said Smith. “Against our defense, our defense has been pretty stout and kept us in check. But I think we have a really talented defense. I think the offensive line has done a good job. I still see 2,000 yards.”

Shannon isn’t as critical of his offense, even in the two team scrimmages that Smith thought the defense won.

“Offensively I thought we looked really good,” Shannon said. “I thought we did alright on Saturday and I thought the offense looked really good on Wednesday. He (Smith) hasn’t broken the big runs against our guys like he did in some of the camp scrimmages, but we’ve moved the ball pretty well, especially on Wednesday.

“I think the defense’s success against us is two things. Number one I think we’re going to be pretty good over there. I feel like the secondary is going to be a key strength for us this year and we’re extremely pleased with both our inside linebackers.

“We have some new guys playing defensive line, but they’re strong kids and they’ve been looking pretty good there, too. The other thing is they know what to expect. We like to run the dive and the off tackle and they’re pretty good at guessing which one’s coming. So that gives them a little advantage.”

Leadership on the field is another key factor to a successful season, and Shannon believes this year’s team has that, especially where it’s most important – in the senior class.

“One of the things that made last year’s team so successful was the work ethic, and this year’s senior class is right along with last year’s group,” Shannon said. “We tell them all the time, we can fix your mistakes. We can’t fix your attitude and we can’t fix your effort. The senior class has brought great attitudes and great work ethic every day in practice. It’s a great group of kids to be around.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ready for another run

Leader sports editor

Excitement and expectations are high in and around the Beebe volleyball program as it prepares to begin the 2015 season, and there’s good reason for it. The Lady Badgers return starters in all six positions from last year’s 5A-Central Conference championship team. The team lost two seniors who contributed to that success, but with 20 players on this year’s roster and so many other returning contributors, there’s good reason to expect another strong run towards making it back-to-back league titles.

“It’s my fifth year and this is the biggest team we’ve had as far as number of players,” said head coach Ashley Camp. “We’re going to have some depth. We have a lot of different rotations we can go to depending on what we need or what we’re trying to do. And we have a lot of experience coming back with eight seniors.”

Running the show as setter and general floor leader is senior Sarah Clark. Clark also has one of the strongest service games on the team.

“She runs the offense very well,” Camp said of Clark. “She’s a good communicator and a good leader.”

Senior Jerra Malone led the team in kills last year as a junior. She returns as a strong left side hitter, while Gracie Rymel returns as the other big outside hitter. Rymel emerged as a key clog midway through last season. Adding to those two returning starters is senior Tori Lovelady, who has shown vast improvement as a hitter, and also a defensive specialist.

Paige Smith is the team’s libero while Destiny Nunez is a defensive specialist and adds another strong service game.

That service game has been a major focus during the summer offseason.

“That’s something we’ve worked very hard on improving,” Camp said. “We call it the game within the game. We want to try to take the other team out of the point before the ball ever gets back to the net.”

Junior Abby Smith will start at middle blocker after also becoming a major contributor as a sophomore last season. She is another player Camp believes will make an impact with her serve.

“She’s worked very hard on her jump serve and I see her stepping up and utilizing that in a way that can really help us,” Camp said.

Junior Kayla Green is another defensive specialist that adds depth to the squad, and sophomore Lani Wolfe provides another big middle blocker to join Smith.

Perhaps like no other game, volleyball requires lots of communication in the middle of the action, making team chemistry a must for success.

It’s also been a big focus in the offseason, and something the coach feels comfortable about as the season approaches.

“We’ve done some things to help team bonding and things like that,” Camp said. “They’re all very excited. Of course, they’re girls, so there are going to be little things here and there. But for the most part, these girls have been great about not bringing those things to the court.”

Last year saw Beebe win its first-ever conference championship despite starting the season as a major underdog to Pulaski Academy. The Lady Badgers lost a bitterly close match at home to the Lady Bruins early in the season, and answered that setback by winning all the rest of their conference matches, including defeating PA with relative ease on the road.

That success led to the team’s third playoff appearance, but that ended in a first-round loss to former conference rival Batesville, the four seed from the 5A-East.

The East Conference is the land of giants in 5A volleyball, and this year’s goal for the Lady Badgers is to become good enough to not only win another league title, but also compete with and defeat the state’s elite teams.

“We haven’t talked about that as a team, but it’s coming,” Camp said. “Everything so far has been about skill, skill, skill. But they’ve made comments about it. They know what level they need to be, and they’ll say things like, ‘we’re ready.’ They can see their improvement and they’re excited about the season.”

EDITORIAL >> Schools set to reopen

It’s back-to-school time!

But it’s more than just new clothes, notebook paper and a pack of pencils.

It’s about parents doing what is necessary to ensure their child gets the most out of the school year. An old philosopher once said children will not remember you for the material things you provided them, but for the feeling that you cherished them.

So you can cherish your child by keeping up with their education from the start of the school year.

First and foremost, this year is not last year.

Whether your child had a great year of learning or a horrible year last year, head into this school year knowing that it will be different. Make sure your child knows it will be different. Don’t carry over any negative attitudes. Everyone needs to look at the year with fresh and excited eyes.

Get to know the teachers, principals and other staff members.

For teachers, nothing is more disconcerting than a parent walking into the school in the middle of the year and not knowing the name of their child’s teacher. Get to know the teachers, whether it’s one or two like in kindergarten or seven or eight like middle school. Take the time to get to know the teachers, as they are your best allies and your best resources when it comes to making sure your child blooms in school. Your child’s success is possibly more important to them than to you.

And, parents, it’s the little things that will go a long way.

Greet every teacher with a smile and a handshake and let them know that you will do everything you can to make it a great year.

Communication is key.

Yes, that’s your child, but 99 percent of the time that wild story you are being told about what happened in school isn’t so. Teachers, as a rule, don’t lie. It serves them no purpose. If something sounds fishy or there are gaps missing in what your child is telling you, contact the teacher.

Set a positive tone (again, remember, it’s a brand new year) with teachers and administrators that education is important and you don’t mind if they call you when a problem or concern comes up and that you will do your best to handle it. Feel free to ask school staff for advice or assistance. They have probably seen it all.

School supplies are important. There always seems to be plenty at the beginning of the school year, but make sure Santa and the Easter Bunny bring additional supplies. Plus, school supplies should be a part of every birthday-present pile.

Above all, be there every night, if at all possible, to read with your child, to share in the happenings of the school day, to have your child “teach” you what they have learned and, in that way, they are locking in that knowledge.

Nelson Mandela said it best, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, and that a child of farm workers can become the president of a nation.”

TOP STORY >> Two school bands become one

Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School Marching Band director Ben Light is ready for the challenge of blending two different high school marching styles into something unique this school year.
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School Marching Band director Ben Light is working hard with his assistants to make the city’s two different high school bands blend into one.

This school year, as part of the developing new school district, the Jacksonville High School and the North Pulaski High School marching bands were consolidated. Each had their own style.

The North Pulaski band was known for its corps style.

“It had a very strong tradition of being a competitive band. It had a lot of structure and discipline — militaristic,” Light said.

The Jacksonville band was the Juke Box Band.

“It was a historically black colleges and universities show band. It had a looser structure and was crowd pleasing with a high entertainment value,” Light said.

“We are pulling together the strongest qualities of both bands. North Pulaski’s polished musical excellence and Jacksonville’s high energy, high entertainment. It will be the best of both worlds. It will be a unique style; crisp, clean lines and a lot of fun to watch and listen to,” Light said.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band will have new colors, blue and silver. Light said he chose the opposite of red and gold, so no one’s school colors are left out.

The band directors are working to design a uniform. The first performance will be Friday, Sept. 4 during Jacksonville’s first football game.

Light will be teaching band at Jacksonville High School in the morning, at North Pulaski High School in the afternoon and at Jacksonville Middle School (on the old Northwood Middle School campus) later in the day.

Helping Light with the transition are high school band assistant Ashley Higginbotham and Robert Fellows at Jacksonville Middle School.

Light said the Pulaski County Special School District had been supportive in making the Jacksonville-North Pulaski band work.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski band has 50 students, a significant decline from last year. Light said many North Pulaski High School students were lost to Sylvan Hills High School when the school district boundary lines were re-drawn. He was the North Pulaski band director and said its band had 75 students during the 2014-15 school year.

Light was unsure of Jacksonville’s band numbers but said that the school has also seen a decline in students.

However, he is optimistic. Jacksonville Middle School has over 200 band students, and 160 are sixth graders.

“The future is very bright; so many are starting out in the lower grade levels,” Light said.

This year, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band’s show is “iBand.” Light said it is very technology-themed, like a live concert.

Band students will be learning and adding more music as the football season progresses.

The show has all original compositions. It has all new current pop music people will recognize from the radio.

Summer band camp was held two weeks ago. Light said it went very well. He was inspired that the Jacksonville and North Pulaski high school students came together so quickly. It gave the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band an identity.

North Pulaski High School 11th-grader Sarah Walker said, “At first, I thought it was going to be rough. But I made friends and hope the year goes smooth as planned and we don’t have any conflicts.”

Walker said the two different marching band styles will allow students to get themselves out there and perform at their best. She said they will learn new music that they know as teenagers.

“It’ll give us some ‘oomph’ as a new school district,” Walker said.

A Jacksonville Middle School band camp was held for the first time in many years. Light said there was a good turnout.

 A band parents meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17 in the Jacksonville Middle School band room (the Northwood campus)

The primary goals are to elect officers for the new school year, review and vote upon proposed changes to band booster by-laws and a new membership fee. The booster club is way for the community to support the band.

 During October, several marching contests will be held on Saturdays. This is something new for former Jacksonville High School band students. The contests are open for the public to watch.

 Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band has a new website at It also has a Facebook page.

TOP STORY >> Williams says job far from finished

Leader staff writer

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, the former Cabot mayor, will announce Saturday that he will seek a third term representing Dist. 29, which includes portions of Lonoke, Pulaski, Faulkner and White counties.

Williams, a Republican, said he would continue to put constituent issues first, helping district residents work their way through red tape in state government, often in areas of adoption, child neglect, senior care and “a whole array of issues.”

He said that, at any given time, he has eight or 10 files open.

“If I can help, I’m always standing at the ready,” he said.

“I promise common-sense solutions to issues that face the state of Arkansas,” Williams said.

Consolidation — restructuring state government — continues to be an important issue to him, he said this week.

“Currently there are well over 100 state agencies,” he said.

Williams said he would continue to try to cut waste in state government, which he estimated at “at least 10 percent.”

“We have $5 billion in general revenue that we control, with a potential savings of $500 million,” he said.

He said the state must challenge or circumvent an EPA rule aimed at curbing pollution, which he says could double people’s electric bills.

“We get about 47 percent of our energy from coal,” he said. He wants the General Assembly to write a plan to study the economic impact.

The former Cabot councilman and mayor said he has been consistent in his beliefs and work ethic from the time he was first elected to public office. After serving on the city council, he was elected mayor in 2007 and remained there until he was chosen to represent parts of Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties in the state Senate.

“I will continue to support family values, tax reduction and smaller government,” Williams said, adding that he is always looking for ways to cut taxes while balancing the needs of the state.

R.D. Hopper, a first-term Lonoke County justice of the peace and owner of Sonny’s Auto Salvage in Jacksonville, has announced he would challenge Williams in the March 1 Republican primary.

Williams says he’s not beholden to any special interest group, just the people of his district.

In the most recent session of the legislature, he chaired the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate Constitutional Issues Sub-committee and the Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments. He also co-chaired the Intermodal Transportation and Commerce Task Force and was vice chairman of Joint Energy.

Williams was appointed to the city’s planning commission and served on the Cabot City Council for three terms before being elected as mayor. He has also served on the board of the Child Advocate Centers of Arkansas.

In 2014, Williams received the American Legion Blue Cap Award and, a year earlier, he received the Distinguished Legislator Award from Balanced Energy Arkansas and the Faces of Arkansas Award from the Arkansas State CASA Association.

He and his wife, the former DeLona Rudy, have four daughters and 10 grandchildren. He said he wants to do his part to make Arkansas the kind of place that is safe for his grandchildren.

Born in Sheridan, he retired after an almost 40-year career with Union Pacific Railroad, where he worked his way up from laborer to regional director of transportation. In that capacity, he managed daily operations for the eastern division, covering Illinois to Louisiana.

TOP STOIRY >> District passes another hurdle

Leader senior staff writers

U.S. Dist. Judge D. Price Marshall must sign off on the formal detachment agreement dividing assets, liabilities and responsibilities between the Pulaski County Special School District and the emerging Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.

As anticipated, the state Board of Education unanimously approved that agreement Thursday. Negotiated by PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess, JNP Superintendent Tony Wood and their teams and state Education Com-missioner Johnny Key, all three men signed the agreement July 27, and it was approved by the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board Aug. 3.

“It’s a solid agreement,” Key told the state board. “Both districts can move forward during remainder of transition time. It brought some clarity in areas that needed clarity.”

“The spilt of the assets is appropriate,” Key said. “Both districts will be able to move forward, efficiently, if not without some difficulty.”

“This is like the separation of Siamese twins,” Key said. “I want to express my appreciation to Mr. Wood and, before him, Mr. Lester, and Dr. Guess and their teams.”

While Marshall has said he doesn’t want to manage the detachment of Jacksonville from PCSSD, he will check the agreement to be sure it complies with the efforts of the two school districts to achieve unitary status.

The detachment agreement has already been filed with the court, according to PCSSD attorney Allen Roberts, and the judge, who doesn’t like to let things linger, is likely to rule on it at the Aug. 20 desegregation status hearing.

Guess told the board that the commissioner’s assessment captured the hard work and time put into the agreement and “I think it gives a framework critical to detachment and to PCSSD afterward. I’m here to show my support for this.”

“I don’t have anything to add,” Wood told the board.

Detachment is not the only critical issue PCSSD is faced with. It is beginning its fifth year of the five-year takeover by the state for reasons of fiscal distress. As a result of that, the PCSSD school board was dissolved in 2011 and Guess was appointed “interim” superintendent with the state education commissioner acting as PCSSD’s one-man school board.

During that time, Tom Kimbrell, then Wood and now Key have held the position. Kimbrell was hired away to be superintendent of Bryant School District and Wood to be superintendent of Jacksonville-North Pulaski, a job he assumed July 1.

State School Board member Jay Barth noted that the end of the state’s five-year authority to run PCSSD was approaching and asked that the board be given a more comprehensive look at the district’s fiscal situation at the next review.

“I’d like to know where we are now and how we’re going to get there — out of fiscal distress — if we are going to get there,” he said.

Among the elements of the detachment agreement, the new district will pay PCSSD $10.8 million for school buildings and a bus terminal that will become the property of JNPSD.

Based on the projected enrollment in the JNP district, PCSSD has agreed to pay JNP 26 percent of the final two $20.8 million state desegregation payments, or $5,409,170 during the 2016-17 school year and another $5,409,170 — earmarked for facilities improvements — during the 2017-18 school year.

The community, district leaders, architects, engineers and fiscal agents as well as Education Department staff will work to determine the revenue needed to support facilities improvements. The amount of a new millage increase proposal will be based upon that.

Distribution of assets and liabilities will be determined on a “per student basis.” For instance, PCSSD bought 2,900 iPads during 2014-15 for about $1.5 million and will acquire additional iPads and Chromebooks for 2015-16. PCSSD will pay JNPSD $750,000 for its claim to any of that property.

On its first day of operation, JNP will receive an advance of $4.5 million on any and all monies due under this agreement. That will give the new district some operating money.

JNPSD is eligible for its share of any legal fund balance after the legislative audit has confirmed that amount.

PCSSD will non-renew employees assigned to JNPSD schools near the end of the 2015-16 school year. JNPSD’s staffing plan commits it to comply with the desegregation obligations in PCSSD’s Plan 2000.

Those non-renewed employees are eligible to apply for their jobs, often at a lower rate of pay and are not guaranteed a position.

The agreement also provides for the transfer and maintenance of student and employee records from PCSSD to JNPSD.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Former sergeant needs your help

Harold “Hutch” Hutchison — a local Mason and master sergeant retired from 24 years in the Air Force — was doing what he does, helping people, when tragedy struck.

A tree he and three other Masons were cutting down for someone in need fell on Hutch, paralyzing him from the waist down.

We couldn’t imagine the pain or the emotional agony he must be in, the great sense of loss felt by those whose injuries alter their lives forever.

But we can relate to the struggle of affording medical bills and fulfilling needs — like an awning to protect a wheelchair ramp at his house in Toneyville from the elements — that his family never thought Hutch would have.

We haven’t met MSgt. Hutchison, but his sister-in-law spoke of him fondly, describing Hutch as a family man and a Christian with a big heart who volunteered without seeking any kind of recognition for it.

His sister-in-law, Katrena Ziglar, set up a Centennial Bank account a few weeks ago, hoping people would use it to donate.

It is called the Harold Hutchison Donation Account, and the account number is 501505255. Please, anything you can spare would be much appreciated.

EDITORIAL >> Metrotrends notes growth

Jacksonville was once the fastest-growing community in the area, but that was before its schools were entangled in an important, if debilitating, desegregation agreement.

Since that time, families inclined to live in the area, like Little Rock Air Force Base airmen, have headed farther up the highway, settling in Cabot, Ward and Austin where their children could attend Cabot District schools.

Meanwhile, lost in the hinterlands of the sprawling Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville got beat like a rented mule.

Jacksonville has actually lost population in recent years, but city leaders here are confident that the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District will turn the tide.

Cabot was the area success story earlier in this new millenium, with people fleeing integration and substandard schools in favor of new suburbs and new schools.

Jacksonville could only look on.

Now, however, while Cabot still continues to grow at a respectable rate — 10 percent between 2010 and 2015 — Austin and Ward to its north have grown the fastest.

Austin has grown by nearly 26 percent since 2010 and Ward by 16 percent. Bryant has grown by nearly 20 percent.

That’s according to Metroplan’s annual publication, Metro Trends Demographic Review and Outlook.

Of course, even with the phenomenal growth rate, Austin still has only 2,560 residents. While the growth rate was less in Cabot, it still added more residents over that period than the total number of people who live in Austin.

Although growth in Jacksonville has been flat between 2010 and 2015, with a population of 28,796, it’s still larger than Cabot.

For decades, Jacksonvillians have said, “Give us our own school district, and we’ll educate our children and build our town.”

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District, while it is already a legal entity, will choose its first elected school board in September and start educating children in the 2016-17 school year.

It will be the voters’ responsibility to tax themselves a bit so the new district can afford to begin replacing decrepit old buildings and to support the district any way they can.

Like a ship at sea, it will take a while to turn the new school district and community around. But, perhaps by the 2020 census, Jacksonville will begin to see growth again.

It took the city 30 years to get its own school district, and it may take a while longer to see the new district emerge as an engine for growth. But it will happen if you let it.

TOP STORY >> Arrest made in heists

A Lonoke man was arrested Friday in connection with two gas-station robberies that occurred earlier in the day in Cabot.

Alan Gutekunst, 20, of Lonoke was charged with two counts of robbery and two counts of theft of property.

Police are working on locating the second suspect.

The first robbery occurred at 12:21 a.m. at Doublebee’s, 111 Bill Foster Memorial Highway.

A store clerk told officers a man walked into the store, placed a GameStop bag on the counter and demanded he put all the money in the bag. No weapon was involved.

The man left on foot and walked to the east side of the building. No vehicle was seen leaving the store.

A witness told police he saw two men in an early ’90s silver car parked in the back next to a wooden fence.

They wore ragged clothing.

The second robbery happened at 2:43 a.m. at the Shell gas station, 3185 S. Second St. The store clerk told police two white men entered the store with a white plastic bag.

The clerk recognized Gutekunst but did not know the other man. The other man was about 6 feet tall and wore a brown shirt and jeans.

When the two men went to the counter, they told the clerk to put the money in the bag.

The clerk told Gutekunst that he knew who he was, but Gutekunst did not respond.

The clerk said neither man threatened him or said they had a weapon.

The clerk said the robbers left in a silver Cadillac.

A witness stopped by the gas station for a soda just after the store had been robbed.

She told police she didn’t see the robbery, but saw the suspects’ car. It did not have a front passenger tire and was driving on the rim, she said.

The car was headed west over the Hwy. 5 overpass.

Gutekunst was arrested around 3:45 p.m. at Quality Petroleum, 11610 Maybelline Road in North Little Rock.

TOP STORY >> Crafty startup has first class

Andrew Russell and Josie Pringle paint their wooden cutouts at Beyond the Canvas’ first class held Saturday in Sherwood.

Leader staff writer

Laughter and smiles abounded at the first-ever $35 Beyond the Canvas public painting class held Saturday evening in Sherwood.

Participants enjoyed painting wooden cutouts of the state, an owl, the University of Arkansas Hog, a “Gone Fishin” bobber and a fisherman.

They had two options, a blank canvas or one with a template “like a coloring book,” according to co-owner Heather Meadows.

Meadows, a detective in the city police department’s crimes against children unit, and artist Kristi Alberson founded the business.

They met through a “Wives Beyond the Badge” Facebook group for law enforcement spouses. Alberson is married to a police officer from a neighboring town.

She was making pieces at home to sell, but had become overwhelmed by the demand. When the two women discovered they both enjoyed painting and crafts, Alberson suggested a side venture, and the idea for Beyond the Canvas evolved from there.

“She’s the business sense. She doesn’t like big crowds. She doesn’t want to be in front of people, and she doesn’t instruct. She’s not crazy about instructing,” Meadows said of their partnership. “So she will do the hard work all day long. She just wants me to stand up there and talk to everybody and go through and help people.”

The police detective took art classes in school and is a certified instructor.

The business took about six weeks to set up, Meadows continued.

The two women have partnered with her friend, Mark Osborne of Southern Coating and Nameplate, for their space at 6200 Getty Drive off Landers Road.

Meadows said she and Alberson are looking at a 90-day trial period to see if Beyond the Canvas takes off before planning a big open house. The next class is at 5 p.m. Sept. 5, but they will be held every two weeks after that unless booked for an event.

With 14 participants in the first class, held on a day when temperatures climbed and mostly stayed in the 100s, the business seems to be well on its way to success.

One customer, Amy Brown, said, “It was a really fun experience, and, in the end, I was surprised at how cute my project turned out since I am not crafty at all. The tools they had actually made it easy. I liked that there was a template I could follow, yet I could customize it with a different pattern or color.”

Meadows said Beyond the Canvas would be available for private parties, like bachelorette parties, and have different themes each night — couples’ night, kids’ night, police appreciation and more. The business will travel if those booking have an appropriate space.

While the duo is sticking with wood cutouts for now, other crafts will be offered in the future. “We just want to see if anybody will start requesting and what kind of crowds we can get,” Meadows said, adding that holiday crafts are in her plans.

Their goal was to be more affordable than other art classes the police detective enjoys participating in and also to give patrons something that has a function in the home rather than the themed paintings she winds up with that don’t fit in.

Alberson said she began painting because she was home all day with a young child and needed a pastime. “You can only watch so much TV,” she joked.

Alberson started selling them after running out of room to display her pieces at her house. She enjoys painting because it’s “relaxing, creative. You walk away with something saying ‘Hey, I did that and it’s not too bad looking.’”

Beyond the Canvas also gives Alberson the opportunity to get out and have fun with other people, she said.

Meadows said she paints to unwind from her high-pressure job. “I have a lot of hard nights, and I just need to be able to relax…Painting and drawing were always something that gave me an out. It’s like my fun time, my down time where my brain stops thinking about everything else, and it just thinks about being creative and fun.”

She added that people who are interested in the classes should know, if money is an obstacle, the business hosts several contests for free entries on their Facebook page. Groups of five or more receive a discount, while 10 or more get in free.

Meadows said., “This is worth (your time). This is time where all you do is laugh. All you do is get creative.”

TOP STORY >> Surviving abuse

State Rep. Charlotte V. Douglas (middle) poses with the faces of domestic violence, Laura Ponce (left) Laura Webb (right) and Laura Aceves (in frame).
Leader staff writer

A local woman who was nearly killed in 2012 when her husband ran her over is fighting back by continuing to push for legislation and informing people of new state laws that help victims of domestic violence.

Those laws help by allowing prosecutors to proceed in a case without the victim, requiring law enforcement to conduct lethality assessments that determine how at risk someone is of being killed by an abuser and having “Laura’s Card” — a list of victims’ rights — displayed in more places.

A side effect of all that is the state will now be keeping statistics to show how effective the legislation is.

Laura Webb of Cabot said her abuser never apologized, but uttered two words as he was led away in handcuffs. They were “You win.”

In her victim’s impact statement, a right included on the card, Webb told The Leader, “I said ‘this is my body. This is my life, and you go ‘you win,’ like this is a game. There is something, something lacking in you that you think this is a game.’

“It’s almost as if abusers look at their victims as a purse, or a shoe, a pet, and they can treat it any way they want to, like they own it. It’s not like we’re real people to them.”

Webb had been married to a federal law-enforcement agent — he investigated postal inspectors and workers — for 10 years when they left for a weekend getaway at Mount Magazine.

There had been two instances of physical abuse before then, when he head-butted and backhanded her.

“The immediate issue was over how we had been treated at a family function the week before, and I stood up for myself. I had my own voice, and he was angry that I voiced it,” Webb said about what led to the attempted murder.

“He said he wanted a divorce and I said, ‘Well, that’s fine with me if we get a divorce.’ And, when he realized I didn’t care if we got a divorce, he knew he lost all control, and I think that’s when he went out of orbit.”

Webb said her husband hit her with his truck, backed up over her, and drove forward over her again, before leaving her to die.

“By God’s grace, I was able to crawl to a cabin where there was a family, and they called 911,” Webb said.

She was flown to a hospital in Tulsa, Okla., to undergo experimental surgery. Webb’s right ribcage was rebuilt with five titanium plates and 32 screws.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that someone is trying to kill you, especially the person who said, ‘I’m going to promise to love, honor and protect you until the day we die.’

“I just didn’t know he was going to be the cause of, supposedly, the day I was going to die. It’s just unfathomable. There are no words to describe it.”

While Webb was in the intensive-care unit, her abuser violated a protection order by breaking into her Sherwood home.

Webb said the city’s police department protected her throughout the year she waited for him to stand trial, but they couldn’t see the protective order until it was faxed from Lonoke County.

That is why she and state Rep. Charlotte V. Douglas (R-Alma) are working toward a protective order database all agencies can access. Another step is a domestic violence registry that mimics the sex-offender registry.

And what became of Webb’s almost murderer? He spent 90 days in the county jail for a misdemeanor charge and then sued her for alimony because the conviction cost him his job.

One bill she and Douglas—“the champion, the driving force” — advocated for would have prevented abusers from seeking alimony.

Webb added, “Supposedly, he’s moved to another state, but he’s said that before and he was living four miles from me.”

The possibility of losing his job kept her husband from physically abusing her more often. “That time, he just didn’t contain himself,” Webb continued.

But, she explained, “There was huge financial abuse. He was in control of all the finances. There was enormous emotional and verbal abuse.”

Webb also said, “What I want other people to understand is our society wants to ask ‘why does the victim stay?’ And the question we need to be asking is ‘why are abusers abusing? And how do we implement stronger punishments on abusers?’”

That being said, she shed some light on why victims sometimes stay. “They need resources to be able to get out,” especially when they are uneducated, without job skills and/or the abuser has control of all finances.

Another complication is children, Webb explained. She said, “There are victims losing their kids in custody cases because abusers are very convincing and charming people. If abusers weren’t so convincing and charming, people wouldn’t be involved with them in the first place.”

And, from attending battered women groups, Webb has found that victims of domestic violence are educated, uneducated, rich, poor and of all races.

She also learned, “I needed to love myself first…Then I could help other people.

“I learned that I wasn’t alone. And I learned this is not only an epidemic, it’s a pandemic.”

The news of her near murder broke while Webb was at the hospital. She said, “I was mortified because there’s so much shame with it. I would like to say victims don’t need to be ashamed. The people that need to be ashamed are the abusers, not the victims…People are either going to fight, flight or freeze.”

Blaming victims for staying re-traumatizes them, she emphasized. “It is almost as if victims have to be detoxed from the abuser because the abusers are so charming and there’s such a pattern that they get into of the ‘I’ll do better.’”

While her husband never apologized, he would imply that he was sorry by buying her gifts, flowers or taking her on trips.

She also explained how a jury could be biased because they look for detailed stories from victims. “What people don’t understand is that, when people are victims of a crime, sometimes, because of the trauma, they’re not able to remember all factors of the event. And they expect us to be television witnesses and remember every aspect.”

Webb said, “Our state really needs to approach investigations with trauma-informed procedures, and we’re not at that stage yet.”

She hopes to inform Arkansas judges that they can stagger arrival times, which would mean victims and abusers not standing a few feet apart in the same line at the courthouse when their case is heard. That’s what happened to Webb.

Another of the victim rights — federal rights officials aren’t required to inform victims of but which victims can receive if they ask for them — is a separate waiting room during hearings.

Although the legislation Webb advocated for focuses on dealing with incidents after the fact, she is helping educate individuals about identifying a relationship as unhealthy.

She shared with The Leader several “red flags” people should watch for.

They include denial of access to finances, being told what to wear, being told what size to wear, being limited on time spent around friends and family, comments about their weight, having to ask permission to go out, destructive behavior, mistreatment of pets and physically intimate acts being forced upon them.

Also, victims need to press charges, especially if it would be a second conviction. Arkansas is one of a few states where the second misdemeanor offense abusers are convicted of becomes a felony, Webb noted.

About the lethality assessments now required when domestic violence is reported, she added, “I even think the person asking them has to see the seriousness of the situation, so it’s a learning tool for both parties.”

As for a victim’s family, Webb said they should look for withdrawal from friends and family, significant personality changes, depression, increased drug or alcohol use and overeating.

“No. 1, victims want to be believed,” she said. “The biggest thing families can do is always say ‘I love you, I believe you and I’m going to be here for you and I’m going to be ready when you go.’”

Webb also advises that victims privately record instances of any type of abuse. For those in her situation — where their abuser is a law enforcement official with the power of administrative subpoena that gives them access to cell phone records, financial records and more — documentation should be done through doctors and hospitals. Those records can’t be assessed because of HIPPA.

Webb also said the road to recovery is a long one and includes mourning the death of a relationship, even though that relationship was unhealthy.

It’s hard to restart, she said. “But, you know what, I’m alive and, by God’s grace, something that was meant for evil turned out for good. And I’m happy to be alive.”
About the legislation, state Rep. Douglas said she and others are continuing to help implement the changes.

She said advocates needed to “flush out a lot of the questions that have been coming in from law enforcement, legal questions: do we have to fill out the assessment if they don’t want to? Can we screen them in even if they don’t want to? Where do we file it? It was just bigger than we thought it was going to be.”

Other measures being worked on include adding shelters, hotlines and asking hotels to take victims in for the night as an alternative to a shelter, Douglas said. There are only 35 shelters for the 75 counties of Arkansas, Webb pointed out.

Alongside her and the state representative is Laura Ponce, whose daughter — Laura Aceves — was killed by her abuser.

The law requiring the lethality assessments, “Laura’s Law,” is named for Aceves.

Together, the three are the faces of domestic violence, Douglas said.

SPORTS STORY >> NP Falcons’ volleyball small, fiery

Leader sports editor

The 2015 North Pulaski volleyball team is lacking in depth, but competes hard, according to head coach Ben Belton. The Lady Falcons have only 10 players on the roster, not even enough for two full rotations of players. Six players, including four projected starters, have transferred to Sylvan Hills, while ninth graders who may have contributed to the varsity team are playing in the ninth-grade league at Jacksonville because NPHS did not have enough for a freshmen team.

“We can’t get anyone hurt, that’s for sure,” said Belton. “I like the ones I have, though. We’re not extremely athletic, but we’ve got some talent. They’re competitive and they work hard. I think we can make another playoff run.”

The Lady Falcons have enjoyed some success in camps over the summer. At the most recent one at Hendrix College in Conway, the Falcons beat Jacksonville, Arkansas Baptist and Conway St. Joseph, while losing to Morrilton and Fort Smith Southside.

“We have a long way to go, but there’s not much mystery about our lineup,” Belton said. “We’re going to go with who we’ve got and that’s all we’ve got. I think when you look at how we played against teams in our league, and when you compare how we did against other teams and how they did against those same teams, we’re not going to be out-manned. We’re going to be able to compete. Now how many we’re actually going to win, I can’t tell you. But I know we’ll be competitive. We’ll be in the hunt.”

The foundation of the small team will be a core of four seniors returning from last season. Kiarra Evans was an effective middle blocker and outside hitter last season. Payton Mullen provides experience at the key position of setter, and also has a strong service game. Makya Brown and Pauline Belola also bring two years of varsity experience to the lineup.

Sophomores Kelsey McQueen, Lindsey Burns and Russian foreign exchange student Lexi Sviardov also figure into the starting lineup. Taylor Reardon and Ashley Felton provide what little bench depth the team has. Amia Evans could also figure into things, but is current missing practice with an injury.

“That’s about it,” Belton said. “That’s the whole lineup. One thing we’re going to have to do is get in better shape because people aren’t going to be able to leave the floor. When we get in those five-set matches, we’re going to have to be in better shape than our opponent because we’re not going to be able to substitute as much.

“But like I said, I like the ones I have and we’re going to compete hard.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Red Devils embrace role as program builders

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville volleyball team will have several familiar faces on the court this year, but a new one running things from the sidelines. Whitney Abdullah takes over as the bona fide head coach, taking the place of Crystal Scott.

Coach Scott sat in as interim coach last year when the team lost its previous head coach just before the season began. Scott is now the head girls’ basketball coach, moving from her assistant basketball position after the departure of William Rountree to Maumelle.

Abdullah was Scott’s assistant a year ago, and has made some big changes since last spring.

“We started in early May doing strength and conditioning and just working on fine tuning our basic mechanics and volleyball skills,” said Abdullah. “Since then we’ve been going four days a week all summer long. We lost a few over the course of the summer to transfer or girls just deciding they didn’t want to play, but I’m really excited about the ones that are still here. The dedication they’ve shown has really paid off.”

Four seniors return to the starting lineup from last year’s team that finished fifth in the league, one spot short of making the playoffs in the 5A Central. The Lady Red Devils have good size in senior hitters Kym House and Terionna Stewart. Emily Lovercheck is short, but an athletic and crafty setter who sees the court well. Cassandra Smith is the fourth senior who returns as a defensive specialist.

Juniors Elizabeth Brown and Taylor Toombs also got varsity experience as sophomores and will likely be in the starting lineup this season. Brown was a hitter and defensive specialist last season, and will also set this year. Toombs is a versatile player, capable of playing throughout the entire rotation.

There will also be several sophomores that figure into things this year. Brittney Eskridge is one of the most improved players since the spring sessions.

“She has really impressed me over the summer,” Abdullah said. “She has come leaps and bounds as far as her understanding of things.”

Rebecca Brown is another sophomore Abdullah thinks could have a breakout year.

“She is going to surprise you,” Abdullah said. She has a lot of talent and she has the smarts we need out there for just being a 10th grader.

“Alana Harris is another sophomore that has really started tracking the ball great, and Savannah McKinney is a setter that has really worked hard this summer getting better at that position.”

Abdullah presided over a team meeting in April to lay down the rules for developing the foundation for a successful program. More than 20 players started with the team in spring, and the roster is down to 14, but the new head coach is excited about what remains.

“After April trials we sat down as a team,” Abdullah said. “We talked about the fact that we haven’t had a program here and we had to instill things that we haven’t had before. In order for us to build a program and become successful, this is what it’s going to take.

“The ones still here have been there and worked hard, even when they didn’t like it. I really have a lot of respect for these girls because they’ve shown that dedication. They understand it’s a process that probably won’t change things overnight, but they’re laying that foundation. They’ve really improved over the summer and they’re excited about the season and having the chance to show people their progress.”

SPORTS STORY >> Ex-Devil ‘K-Rich’ gets scholarship

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Even media quickly forget what happened on Arkansas’ Media Day but Kevin Richardson will always remember this one.

Shortly before addressing media Sunday, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema addressed his Razorbacks and told them Arkansas’ third-year sophomore walk-on defensive back from Jacksonville is a walk-on no more.

For paying the price of a nickel advanced from a former redshirted 157-pound cornerback to 2013 every game special-teams letterman to current backup nickel back, Richardson is on University of Arkansas athletic scholarship now, Bielema told the team and then told media.

“We announced K-Rich was on scholarship about a half hour ago and the place went up for grabs,” Bielema said.

Clay Jennings, Arkansas’ defensive backfield coach, likened it to more joyous hallelujahs than a Sunday revival.

“I have never seen so many guys jump up and down,” Jennings said. “You would’ve thought they were in church today when coach announced it. All those guys are excited for Kevin. I am excited for Kevin.”

Jennings explained why.

“This guy comes to work every day with his lunch bucket,” Jennings said. “He doesn’t shy away from any work. Anything anybody else does he wants to do 10 times more. He is what being an Arkansas Razorbackis all about. He has got Razorback blood in his family. All of his brothers and sisters have gone to school here, too, so we are happy he is going to be on scholarship.”

A kinesiology major, Richardson couldn’t wait to call his parents who paid the price “for my dream,” Richardson said later of the small college scholarship offers he turned down to walk-on with the Razorbacks.

“It was extremely humbling,” Richardson said. “Gets a lot of weight off my parents’ shoulders and made me excited. This is something I have been working for since the whole time I got here. And to have it right in front of my eyes, it’s something I have dreamed of.”

The dream doesn’t cease with the scholarship.

“That doesn’t stop the grind,” Richardson said. “I am going to work like I still don’t have it.”

Bielema and Jennings expect nothing less.

“We talk about at the University of Arkansas that we don’t believe in being given anything,” Jennings said. “We want to earn everything and Kevin earned that scholarship.”

Sure did, says Bielema, citing Richardson’s scout-team work two years ago and last year playing on about every special team plus filling in anywhere and everywhere in the secondary.

“Really an incredible kid on the two-deep in two or three different spots,” Bielema said.

Now Richardson is the plugged nickel behind Henre Toliver.

“I was real comfortable with it last year,” Richardson said of working behind 2014 senior nickel Tevin Mitchel. “That was something I liked playing.”

Richardson knows Mitchel will like learning that his old understudy now plays it on scholarship.

“He was a real big part of it pushing me every day that ‘Just keep working. You can get that scholarship, man,” Richardson said.

Sunday’s Media Day allowed the Razorbacks to take a break from three days practicing in mid to high 90s temperatures before resuming preseason drills Monday in shoulder pads and thigh pads before breaking out the full pads yesterday.

It also allowed Bielema time to discuss the backups behind the starting offensive line adorning the Razorbacks’ media guide cover.

The largest line in college or pro, behemoths Mitch Smothers, Sebastian Tretola, Frank Ragnow, Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper leave little space to discuss who is behind them.

However, Bielema from day one in the August, 2014 preseason touted redshirted freshman tackle Brian Wallace idled last Saturday by a foot injury but expected to practice this week, praised January, 2015 UA enrolled freshmen linemen Zach Rogers, Jalen Merrick and Josh Allen, and also lauded walk-on Johnny Gibson, redshirted as a freshman last fall out of Dumas, and just arrived freshman Colton Jackson from Conway.

Gibson and Jackson now operate behind Kirkland at left tackle.

“Johnny Gibson, a walk-on out of Dumas – he is in our two-deep and it’s not a joke,” Bielema said. “He is a legit player, a big body that moves people. Colton Jackson just coming in from Conway is kind of blowing us away. We knew he was going to be a good player, we knew he was athletic, but he has jumped in there and shown us some good things early on.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers don pads

Leader sports editor

A good first week of practice was followed by a good first day in pads for the Cabot football team. The Panthers went full contact for the first time Saturday morning, and closed practice with a lengthy and lively session of blood alley. That upbeat practice didn’t carry over on Monday after a day off.

“Oh it was hot and some of them were feeling sorry for themselves,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “I was kind of disappointed in their work ethic this summer, in some of the seniors. But we’re back on the road now. We’ve got three weeks to get them ready. I think we’re headed in the right direction, though. I think we got their attention today.”

The Panthers scrimmaged for the first time on Monday, ending practice with a 25-minute session of first offense against first defense. The defense dominated most of it, with the offense breaking a couple of plays, but the offense only ran its most basic plays.

Defensive coordinator Randall Black liked what he saw from his group, for the most part.

“I think we looked really good early, but then it looked like we got a little tired,” said Black. “They broke a few on us later on. That’s when you find out how good you are, when everybody’s tired. So that’s something we’re going to have to work on.”

The Panthers aren’t very deep on the lines and has already lost one returning starter. Defensive end Bryce Crockom suffered a knee injury during offensive practice when he ran into the field house wall while attempting to catch a wayward pass.

“It was just a freak accident,” Malham said. “We’ve never seen that happen before.”

Crockom is expected to miss four to six weeks, but should be back by the time conference play begins in week four of the season.

Crockom’s absence caused a shakeup in Cabot’s lineup. Returning starting fullback Kolton Eads moved to defense for Monday’s scrimmage, while newcomer Alex Roberts handled most of the work at fullback.

“We lost Crockam so Eads might have to play defense,” Malham said. “And he looks pretty good over there. He can run and he’ll hit you. And this new kid, (Roberts) he’s a lot like (2013 2,000-yard rusher Zach) Launius. He sees it. At first he wanted to dance around back there, but he’s got to where he’s hitting it up in there. We ran some blood alley on Saturday and he was hard to bring down. I think he could end up being really good. So we got Kolton and we got him. They’re two different kinds of backs so we feel pretty good about fullback.”

Most of the big plays the offense broke on Monday were carries by Roberts. David Morse had a few good carries on the halfback dive. The middle trap to the fullback and the dive were about the only plays the offense ran, so the defense had the advantage of having a good idea of what’s coming. Still, other than those few plays, it stuffed nearly every play.

“We didn’t run anything fancy, just base block and didn’t run anything outside,” Malham said. “We broke a few. They stuffed a few. We’re just trying to get that senior offensive line in gear. We really don’t have a lot of choices there. We don’t have much depth. Most of our backups are defensive linemen and we don’t want that happening. We’re just thin. We’re thin everywhere. But if we can avoid injuries, we’ve got some football players out here. And I think we’re going to have a chance to be pretty good.”