Saturday, October 17, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> N. Pulaski dominates last match at The Nest

Leader sports editor

Nothing was normal about the final home volleyball match ever at North Pulaski High School on Thursday, but it turned into a fun senior night as the Lady Falcons routed McClellan 25-8, 25-2 and 25-11.

All matches this year started an hour earlier than other matches around the state because NP did not have enough players for a junior varsity team. The match was moved back a half-hour for senior night ceremony, and then the ceremony was postponed until after the match. So both teams stood around for 45 minutes because the officials got the match started even later than 5:30.

The Lady Falcons kept the bizarreness going for a few minutes after the match started. McClellan (0-15, 0-11) took serve to open the match, and NP flubbed each of the first six serves, falling behind 6-0.

McClellan finally served one into the net; North Pulaski’s Lindsey Burris served eight-straight points, including four aces, to give the Lady Falcons the lead.

After McClellan’s break point, NP broke back, bringing Payton Mullen to the service line with North Pulaski leading 9-7. She served all the way to 21-8, and dished out seven aces.

Makiyah Brown served out the last three points, including an untouched ace for game point.

Mullen took serve to start game two. She served all the way to 18-0 before a hitting error by NP gave McClellan a point. Mullen served up eight more aces and senior Kiarra Evans got five kills during the run.

NP immediately broke back and Brown served to 24-1 before another kill attempt hit the top of the net and came back to NP’s side. Evans ended game two with a huge kill that landed inside the Lady Lion attack line.

North Pulaski coach Benji Belton substituted freely and allowed his seniors to play positions other than their normal ones in game three. It made for a slightly more competitive final game. Most of McClellan’s points came from unforced North Pulaski errors, but the players had fun finishing out a match well in hand.

“I just want them to have fun,” said Belton.

Mullen finished with 36 points on serve and 18 aces. Evans had 12 kills and Brown 10 assists.

North Pulaski (8-9, 7-4) plays at Beebe on Tuesday. The Lady Badgers are 13-0 in the 5A-Central and have already locked up an outright conference championship. NPHS is tied for third place with Sylvan Hills. The Lady Bears play second-place Pulaski Academy on Tuesday.

NP or SH could break the tie if one were to pull off an upset on Tuesday. If they remain tied after next week’s conference finale, they will go all the way to the fourth tiebreaker to determine third and fourth place.

SPORTS STORY >> Miscues hurt Devils

Leader sports editor

Pulaski Academy’s offense was as potent as ever Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium. The Bruins threw for 574 yards, but still got a tougher tussle from the Red Devils than most expected. Jacksonville lost 48-13, but it was a much more competitive game than the score would indicate.

Jacksonville was just a couple of miscues away from making it a very tight game, but those mistakes proved to make all the difference.

“We had a chance to tie it up there late in the second quarter and we fumble it,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “Then right there at the start of the second half, we have a chance to get it back to seven. We get it and drive down to the goal line and throw an interception. It’s no consolation, but the character these guys showed is what I’m proud of. They don’t play like a 1-5 football team. They played their guts out. They left it all on the field.”

PA tried seven onside kicks, including six different varieties. Jacksonville was well prepared, covering six of them.

“We had a miscommunication on the one we didn’t get,” Hickingbotham said.

Pulaski Academy’s ability to strike quickly offset its long droughts of not scoring. The Bruins scored on the game’s first possession on a 5-play, 68-yard drive. Jacksonville’s first drive started well also, but a 32-yard run by Shawn Ellis that would’ve put Jacksonville in the red zone was called back for holding. Jacksonville ended up punting, and PA scored again on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Layne Hatcher to Zackary Kelley that made it 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.

Jacksonville lost 5 yards on three plays on its next possession and punted again. Punter Tyler Hooper had a great night for the Red Devils. His second punt pinned PA on its own 13-yard line. Facing fourth and 4 from their own 19-yard line, the Bruins went for it and failed.

On the very next play, Jacksonville quarterback Rowdy Weathers hit Har’Derrious Martin up the middle for a touchdown. The extra point made it 14-7 with 4:34 left in the first quarter.

PA drove deep into Jacksonville territory on the next drive before Martin intercepted a Hatcher pass at the 2-yard line and returned it 20 yards. Jacksonville drove to the PA 40 before punting again. PA drove 20 yards before defensive back Stevie Eskridge picked off a Hatcher pass and ran it back 46 yards to the PA 24.

That’s when Brandon Hickingbotham bobbled the snap and then fumbled the handoff exchange with Ellis, and PA covered it at the 30.

The Red Devils again held PA to four and out, but lost 5 yards on the ensuing possession before punting again.

Starting from their own 12, the Bruins needed just six plays, getting the last 43 on one pass from Hatcher to Kelley to make it 21-7 with 4:53 left in the first half. Jacksonville covered the onside kick and started from its own 48, but went three and out.

PA then hit big on a 46-yard pass to Tre Bruce that moved the ball to the Jacksonville 11. A draw play to running back Jaren Watkins got the rest on the next play, but a drop-kick extra point attempt went wide left, leaving it 27-7 with 2:10 left in the half.

Jacksonville covered another onside kick and after an initial 2-yard loss, Weathers hit Eskridge for a 36-yard gain. He then found Dalan Patterson for 16 yards before keeping on a delayed quarterback draw for the final 14 yards and a touchdown.

The extra point missed, leaving the score 27-13 with 38 seconds left in the half, and it remained that way until the break.

Jacksonville covered another onside kick to start the second half, and Weathers hit Hall for 33 yards on first down to the PA 16.

On third and 7, Weathers was picked off by Cody Andersen at the 4. Andersen returned it all the way to Jacksonville 32 before Weathers chased him down and made the tackle. But it was at a cost. Weathers suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play and did not return. Jacksonville gained just 44 yards the rest of the game.

The Bruins scored on the ensuing possession to go up 34-13 with 9:16 left in the third quarter. They covered their onside kick, but the Red Devil defense pushed them backwards 17 yards and held on fourth down. That gave the home team good field position at the PA 35.

Martin moved to quarterback for Jacksonville, and PA decided to blitz the third-stringer, dropping him twice for -17 yards. Martin had to scramble again on third and 27 before throwing incomplete.

Another good punt by Hooper pinned PA on its own 7, but the Bruins went that distance in nine plays with the help of a defensive holding penalty on third and 8. The key play was a swing pass that turned into a 54-yard gain by Trajen Johnson. The touchdown was an 8-yard pass from Bruce to Kelley that made it 41-13 with 4:57 left in the game.

Jacksonville covered the onside kick, but Andersen got his second interception for the Bruins. Jacksonville returned the favor when Nate Robbins intercepted a deep Hatcher pass at the Jacksonville 3-yard line.

The Red Devils picked up one first down, but lost 8 yards on third and 3 before Hooper booted another good punt 46 yards to the PA 39.

Jacksonville backed PA up 10 yards in two plays, but gave up 11 yards on third down, and a 14-yard pass to Bruce on fourth and 9 to keep the drive alive. Watkins then went 41 yards up the middle on a draw play before a double-reverse flea flicker pass from Bruce to Kelley set the final margin.

Hatcher completed 27 of 50 pass attempts for 506 yards and three touchdowns. Bruce completed 4 of 6 attempts for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Three Bruins had more than 100 yards receiving.

Kelley caught 10 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Bruce caught 10 passes for 152 yards and one score. Johnson caught seven passes for 103 yards. Pulaski Academy piled up 622 yards of offense to 177 for the Red Devils.

Both teams’ next game is at Mills. The Bruins (7-0, 4-0) travel to Mills next Friday.

Jacksonville (1-6, 1-3) is off next week and will return Oct. 30 at Mills.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe routs Bears for outright crown

Leader sportswriter

Beebe kept its perfect 5A-Central Conference record intact Thursday night at Sylvan Hills with a convincing 3-0 sweep over the Lady Bears, winning by scores of 25-7, 25-8 and 25-14.

With only one conference game remaining and a two-game lead over second-place Pulaski Academy in the conference standings, the Lady Badgers have already locked up the No. 1 playoff seed and the outright conference championship.

Even more impressive is the fact Beebe hasn’t lost a single set in conference play this season, and with Thursday’s win over the Lady Bears, the Lady Badgers improved their 5A-Central record to 13-0.

“I was proud of them,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp of her team. “We’re big on, especially in conference, controlling what goes on on our side. We were able to put some sophomores in there and get them some reps and some varsity time and they stepped up, for the most part.”

Beebe wasted little time displaying its dominance. The Lady Badgers took their first double-digit lead of game one at 12-2, and that came on 10-consecutive service points by Abby Smith. Three of those serves by Smith were aces.

The Lady Badgers’ lead grew to 15 on an ace serve by Kayla Green, which made the score 22-7. Green added another ace on her next serve to make it 23-7 Beebe. Smith got a kill on the next volley to make it game point and the first game ended on a corner kill by Jerra Malone, with Sarah Clark picking up the assist.

Beebe jumped out to a 4-0 lead in game two. After that, the two teams added four points apiece to make it 8-4 Lady Badgers, but Beebe scored the next five points and soon pushed its lead to double digits with the score 15-5. That score was the result of a kill by sophomore Lani Wolfe at the middle of the net.

Sylvan Hills scored its final point of game two with the score 19-8. Beebe regained serving rights on the next volley with another kill by Smith, and Green served the next five points to put an end to game two and give the Lady Badgers a 2-0 match lead.

Beebe got off to another great start in game three, jumping out to an 8-1 lead before Sylvan Hills broke serve on a Tori Langley kill. The Lady Bears closed the gap to 13-7 on back-to-back kills by sophomore Grace Turner, but didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.

With Paige Smith serving, Beebe’s lead quickly went back to double digits with the score 17-7. Sylvan Hills got within eight of the Lady Badger lead with the score 20-12, but Abby Smith added a kill then an ace serve before a monster kill by Malone made it 23-12.

The Lady Bears scored the next point before another Malone kill set match point, with the score 24-13. Sophomore Cory Tessman scored Sylvan Hills’ final point of the night with a kill on the next volley, and Malone added the match-ending kill on the next serve, with Clark picking up yet another assist.

Thursday’s performance by the Lady Badgers was up to par with the rest of their conference wins this season, and even though they’ve been lights out all year long in league play, earning the outright conference championship with an unblemished conference record, their head coach is hoping they haven’t peaked just yet, since the playoffs are right around the corner.

“I think we’ve progressed,” Camp said, “but I’m telling them, ‘we haven’t peaked yet. We’re still climbing.’ So, trying to get their minds right is the main thing.”

Malone led all players Thursday with 13 kills. Abby Smith added 12 kills for Beebe and Gracie Rymel had eight kills. Abby Smith also had a match-high four ace serves. Clark and Green had three aces apiece. Clark easily had the match high in assists, totaling 36. No other player for either team reached double digits in that statistical category.

Taylor Yeoman led the Lady Bears with six kills and Turner added five kills for the hosts.

Beebe will look to end its conference schedule with a 14-0 record this Tuesday at home against North Pulaski. Sylvan Hills also plays its final 5A-Central match of the season this Tuesday at Pulaski Academy.

The Lady Bruins have already locked up the No. 2 playoff seed from the Central Conference, and the Lady Bears, who dropped to 9-4 in conference play, currently hold the tiebreaker for the No. 3 playoff seed over North Pulaski, according to SHHS coach Harold Treadway.

Both varsity matches this Tuesday will start at 6 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers run over LR Central

Leader sportswriter

Penalties limited Cabot’s play in the first half of its 7A-East Conference game against Little Rock Central on Friday, but the defense shut out the Tigers in the first half and the Panthers came out in the second half hitting on all cylinders and were able to leave Panther Stadium with a dominant 42-7 victory and improve to 7-0 on the season.

Despite committing six penalties for 70 yards in the first half, Cabot led 14-0 at halftime.

The Panthers (7-0, 4-0) committed four 15-yard penalties in the first half, but the defense held Central (2-5, 2-2) to just 28 yards of offense in the first two quarters of play, which allowed those penalties to not be as costly as they could’ve been.

Still, head coach Mike Malham made sure those unforced errors were corrected at halftime, and his team responded in the second half, scoring 28 points and only committing one penalty for 5 yards in the final two quarters of play.

“We played pretty good, but boy we played stupid at times,” said Malham. “We had four 15-yard penalties that helped them. We didn’t have the ball much in the first half. The defense wasn’t playing smart, but played hard and kept them out of the end zone.”

Three of those 15-yard penalties came on Central punts. Only one, a roughing the kicker penalty, allowed the Tigers’ offense to stay on the field, as the other two were personal foul penalties after Cabot had already gained possession. The other was a late hit on defense. None of those penalties, though, led to Central points.

Cabot found the end zone for the first time with 7:39 to play in the second quarter. The Panther offense started from its own 16-yard line and scored on the 13th play of that drive, on a 3-yard run by fullback Kolton Eads on third and goal. Caleb Shulte kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.

The hosts scored again with less than two minutes remaining in the half. A blocked punt by Trent Erickson gave Cabot possession at the Central 16, but the last of the four 15-yard personal foul penalties backed the offense up to the Tigers’ 31.

Quarterback Jarrod Barnes ran for 13 yards on the first play of the drive before completing a 16-yard pass to John Wiens on the next play. Alex Roberts punched it into the end zone on the third play, but a false start penalty pushed the offense back to the 7.

That penalty was nullified on the next play, when Barnes took an option keep the 7 yards needed for the score. Shulte’s extra point set the halftime margin with 1:51 left in the quarter.

Central tried an onside kick to start the second half, but it bounced out of bounds at the Cabot 45, where the Panther offense took over. A 44-yard run by Braxton Burton helped set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Roberts with 9:38 to go in the third, and the PAT made it 21-0 Panthers.

Cabot’s defense forced a turnover on downs on Central’s ensuing drive, and the Panther offense responded with a 10-play scoring drive that ended with a 14-yard run by Barnes. The extra point gave the hosts a 28-0 cushion.

The Tigers answered with their only scoring drive of the night. They started from their own 24-yard line, and a 44-yard run by tailback Richard Hayes on the fourth play of the drive helped set up Hayes’ 4-yard scoring run six-plays later. The extra point that followed cut the Panthers’ lead to 28-7.

Cabot’s last two scores came on its next two drives. The first of those touchdown runs was a 13-yarder by Austin Morse with 9:12 to play, and the last was a 1-yard run by Roberts on fourth and 1 with 34 seconds remaining.

Shulte made both extra-point attempts to set the final score and finish the game 6 for 6 on PATs.

Regardless of the first-half penalties, Malham was pleased with the win and is happy to be unbeaten, especially where it matters – in conference play.

“I was pleased,” Malham said. “I thought overall we did what it took to win. We got a good win and we’re just glad to be 4-0 in the conference, and more importantly, 3-0 against the 7A teams. So, that puts us with the best seed out of this conference. That gives us the bye and home field, at least in the second round anyway.”

The Panthers finished the night with 388 yards of offense, most of which came on the ground. Barnes was 4 for 6 passing for 38 yards, and the junior speedster had eight carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

Roberts was the workhorse in the Cabot backfield, especially in the second half, totaling 25 carries for 99 yards and two scores. Morse had nine carries for 61 yards and one touchdown, and three catches for 22 yards.

Hayes led the Tigers’ offense with 16 carries for 73 yards and scored the one Central touchdown.

Friday, October 16, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Plan to save North Metro

Rock Bordelon, chief executive officer of Allegiance Health Management, claims he and his company are the saviors of North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville. But it looks more like a bull turned loose in a fine china shop to deal with a mouse problem.

By all accounts, Bordelon is a nice guy to hang out with, have a drink with, even go hunting with, but not one to have running a hospital. Bordelon is said to be in Canada this weekend filming for his hunting show. Maybe he’s also studying that country’s single-payer health insurance program, which might make it easier for North Metro to survive and cover its employees, who have been without health insurance off-and-on for months.

The latest fiasco came earlier this week when dozens of North Metro employees received letters that said they were no longer insured because the hospital didn’t pay its premium.

The hospital’s top administrators are Bordelon and two other owners of their Shreveport, La.-based the management firm.

This group has a bad habit of taking money out of paychecks and not sending it where it needs to go, such as to insurance and taxes.

This is now the second time the Department of Labor has gotten involved over insurance payments, and then there’s the $250,000 owed the state in unpaid taxes and more than $1 million owed to the federal government — all money apparently pulled from people’s checks. And don’t forget the more than a dozen shut-off notices from the city water utility for nonpayment.

The city, which was quick to dump the hospital about nine years ago, needs to start looking for a real white knight and so does First Arkansas Bank and Trust, which holds a multi-million loan on the hospital.

The staff at the hospital works hard to provide high-quality care, but it’s difficult to go in every day not knowing if they will have insurance or what management may not pay next. You don’t want the lights turned off in the middle of surgery.

The hospital must stay open, but under new management.

Maybe the voters will approve a one-cent sales tax as several cities around the state have done to keep their hospitals open.

Paul Cunningham, senior vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, recently told Arkansas Medical News that 22 communities in the state have voted over the years to provide local tax support for their hospitals.

Cunningham said, “There are a couple of exceptions where property taxes are used to subsidize the hospital, but typically they are funded through sales taxes. Most of these hospitals have common characteristics of being small and rural, usually under 100 beds and possibly, in most cases, even under 50 beds.”

In addition to improving the health and well-being of the communities they serve, Cunningham said local hospitals contribute to their area’s economic health.

“Hospital payroll expenditures serve as an important economic stimulus, creating and supporting jobs throughout the local and state economies,” Cunningham said.

Earlier this year, voters in Crittenden County approved a one-cent sales tax after the hospital in West Memphis declared bankruptcy when it was revealed that it had pocketed workers’ insurance premiums instead of paying them to insurance companies — which is what North Metro has been accused of doing. Shutting down Crittenden Regional Hospital, even for a few months, hurt the east Arkansas community and could have been avoided if voters had approved a sales tax much earlier.

If North Metro closes, the cost of bringing the facility up to code would be astronomical. Right now, as a continuing entity, it can be behind the times in its electrical, plumbing, heating, air and insulation requirements. But, if it closes, it would reopen as a new facility and everything would have to be 2015, not 1970-ish.

This is not something city officials, legislators, businesses or bankers can just sit idly by and watch. The slow destruction of our hospital is unnecessary and dangerous to a community that is trying to get out in front with its own school district.

Don’t forget that the air base generates more than $900 million for the local economy and it does rely on our hospital. Name another city with that kind of income that has a dying hospital, or worse, no medical facility at all.

The mayor’s talk of an $18 million medical complex is wonderful, but, until contracts are signed and ground is broken, it’s just a dream. Maybe that developer’s money should be spent buying back the hospital — the city does have first rights to buy it back — and make it the cornerstone of a new medical complex.

The point is everyone must figure out how to save North Metro, even if it involves a tax hike.

TOP STORY >> Sewer boss gets ingenuity honor

Tom Kunetz   of the Water Environment Federation’s board of trustees (left) presents the first-place national Ingenuity Contest award to Walton J. Summer, collections system manager for Jacksonville Wastewater Utility at the organization’s Technical Exposition and Conference in Chicago in September.

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Wastewater Utility’s collections systems manager has won, for the second consecutive year, first place in the Water Environment Federation’s national Ingenuity Contest.

The 2015 award was presented to Walton J. Summers in September at the WEF Technical Exposition and Conference in Chicago.

Summers’ entry, in the “Dean of Public Education” category, was a display he constructed in a few weeks to educate the public on how smoke-test inspections work.

The “real-scale” model is about 16 square feet, and part of it is about 9 feet long, Summers said. The display features a replica manhole, line and cleanout cap.

Those who look at it can see an underground view of the line, which is cracked and wrapped in tree roots.

A fog machine is used to mimic smoke. The “smoke” is put through manhole in the model and then seeps up out of the grass, which is represented by green outdoor carpet.

In the field, real smoke tells workers where breaks in lines are, that repairs are needed and that they must run a camera through to see what the problems are so they can be corrected.

“We’re doing a lot of smoke testing right now, and people don’t know what we’re doing,” Summers said. “If you’ve got a problem with your house plumbing, the smoke will actually come out into your house.”

Thea Hughes, Jacksonville Wastewater Utility’s general manager, added that people are notified several times before a smoke test that affects their homes is conducted.

Summers said a camera is also hooked up to his display, so that the public can see what the utility’s staff sees when they smoke test lines.

Another model he built in 2014 also earned first place in the same contest.

It demonstrates that keeping cleanout caps in good condition prevents water that doesn’t need to be treated from going to the sewer plant. The caps are access points for private service lines and used when lines become clogged, Summers explained.

They are usually round and white, he noted.

Summers’ trailer-mounted model is about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It features a replica of a house’s side with water flowing from the mock roof onto four caps in various conditions — from watertight to broken and missing.

Summers explained how many residents run their caps over with lawn mowers and break them off, not knowing that they are inadvertently causing the plant to treat water that doesn’t need to be treated and raising their own sewer bills at the same time.

“(The caps are) right at the edge of the house where the rain comes off the roof. If it’s broke, all that rainwater goes into the sewer system. It comes here, and we’re treating clean water.

“That causes us trouble, and it costs the customer more money because we’re treating extra water that doesn’t need to be treated,” he said.

Of the model, he explained, “You can actually see how much water is coming from a trickle off a roof. We use it at the FestiVille, stuff like that.”

When crews are out and see a damaged or missing cap, Summers continued, they replace it free of charge. The caps cost around $1, he noted. “In the long run, it’s a win-win thing” to replace them.

Summers has been working at Jacksonville Wastewater Utility for about 27 years and is a member of the Jacksonville Lions Club. He started as an equipment operator and worked his way up as opportunities and training became available.

The collection systems department he manages now repairs all sewer lines in the city, Summers explained.

He feels public education is important because “it saves them money, and it saves us money...cuts down on backups, overflows. It all goes hand in hand. And it protects the environment, too.”

Hughes, the general manager, said the contest he won is unbiased because judges come from different cities, industries and even include government officials. She emphasized that Summers’ competition was nationwide.

“I think that (him winning) shows how interested are employees are in what they do and how proud they are of what they do because, a lot of times, sewer workers get overlooked.”

She was told, via email, “WEF started this contest four years ago because they felt very strongly that, if they were going to encourage innovation in the industry, it doesn’t come from just new companies and loads of research, but can also be found every day from the activities of those who are on the front lines.

“WEF started this contest to ferret those people and ideas out and let others know about their clever solutions to everyday issues.”

Summers agreed, saying all wastewater companies have the same problems but many don’t think about approaching them with public education in mind. He said the more Jacksonville Wastewater Utility educates the public, the more the company is helped.

He added, “I’ve had several people inquire because they want to build similar displays to use at their (events).” Hughes noted that the utility would bring Summers’ displays to other companies upon request.

Summers also said, “People are hands-on and seeing is how (they learn)...These displays put it where the common person can understand right away.”

He noted, “The light bulb comes on instantly” when people see the models in action.

About winning, Summers said, “We don’t get recognized much for what we do, and it makes you feel good.”

Right now, he’s working on ideas for a public-education float the utility will debut at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club-sponsored Christmas Parade.

The float may be next year’s Ingenuity Contest entry, Summers added.

TO STORY >> Answer to higher authority

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office this week put “In God We Trust” decals on the back of all 25 of its patrol vehicles.

The decals were paid for by a private individual and not through the sheriff’s office budget. Numerous other individuals were also willing to pay for the project.

Sheriff John Staley said, “This is not about religion. It is about the nation’s motto. It is to bring unity to the nation starting at the local level.

“I am not making a personal statement. I asked my employees and citizens what they think. I wanted to know their thoughts. I wanted to hear the dissenting argument. There was no descent from the sheriff’s office. There would not be any negative repercussion if a deputy did not want the decal on their vehicle. This is a constitutional republic. Most of the dissenting voices were from people out of state and other cities,” Staley said.

Placing “In God We Trust” on law enforcement vehicles is happening around the nation. The Perry County Sheriff’s Office recently put the motto on its vehicles, Staley said.

“If I or the sheriff’s office is sued over this, the Liberty Institute has pledged to defend us at no cost to Lonoke County taxpayers,” the sheriff insisted.

The Liberty Institute, based in Texas, is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to religious liberty issues across the country.

TOP STORY >> Food pantry marks 40 years

Cabot Church of Christ food pantry volunteers Chuck Coburn (left) and Steve Stephens load groceries into a car for a family in need. Some recipients have simply lost their jobs.

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Church of Christ food pantry has been helping the less fortunate for nearly 40 years. It began serving meals in the community after the devastating tornado of 1976. Last month, the pantry served 147 families.

Food is given to those in financial need, and their financial statements are reviewed during an interview process. Eligible families that receive groceries from the pantry once a month must meet federal poverty levels and be residents of Lonoke County.

The pantry at 500 N. Second St. is open from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month.

Kroger, Harp’s Foods stores and others supply the nonprofit with meats that don’t sell by the expiration dates.

In September, the demand for food grew and the pantry almost ran out of food to distribute, according to pantry director Bob Arnold said.

About those who use the pantry, he added, “Some have lost their jobs.”

The pantry is supported monetarily by private individuals. It gets food from Arkansas Rice Depot for free and orders $1,000 worth of groceries monthly from the Arkansas Food Bank.

People in need receive five bags of groceries — two bags of canned fruits and vegetables, a bag containing pasta and bread, a bag of frozen meats, such as ground beef, steak, bratwurst, and a bag of fresh fruit.

The pantry has 10 volunteers.

“There is a lot of work here that has to be done prior to distribution. We have to uncrate food, shelve it and bag it,” Arnold said.

“We are seeking people to get involved. You go home with great satisfaction of having done something. If they can come in after work to unbox and bag, we work that out with them,” he noted.

Volunteer Elizabeth Davis said, “Every time I give and help, I am so blessed. It makes me feel good that I am not the ones in line. I like being able to help.”

Sue Gage added, “I like to volunteer. It is a meaningful place to volunteer.”

Arnold said, “We have the most wonderful volunteers. They work hard and leave with a good feeling that they served somebody. All of the volunteers are compassionate. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Friend’s House is a soup kitchen next door to the food pantry. In September, 983 people were served. Hot meals for the community are offered from 11:30 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sack lunches are given out Tuesday and Thursday.

Friend’s House has helped with extra food left over from weddings and potlucks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Words change

Kidnapping is a serious offense, and it’s not just the taking of people. Kidnapping words and holding them until the original meaning has been squeezed out of them is becoming more and more commonplace.

The most well-known word kidnapping is that of “gay.” It has been grabbed by a certain segment of people and now refers to a particular sexual orientation.

But imagine what it has done to social studies teachers across the country trying to teach about the “Gay ’90s.” And then there’s that Christmas song where they don “gay apparel.” That line usually brings a round of Christmas ho, ho, ho’s to those listening to the tune.

Now, gay isn’t the only word kidnapped and forced into other “wordly” servitude. There is also “liberal.”

Remember when it was a nice fun word? I enjoyed spending time with my grandmother because she would serve up a liberal portion of ice cream every night. My family would always use a liberal amount of pepper on mashed potatoes, and my mom, well, she was pretty liberal with the wine while making authentic spaghetti sauce.

Then there’s “bad.”

When something is so good that we want to use gooder or goodest, but know English teachers would rap our knuckles, we say it’s bad. So, when someone tells me my cooking is bad, is that good or bad?

When something is so good that good is not enough to cover it, it’s bad. But, when something is so bad that bad doesn’t cover it, it doesn’t become good — and that’s good, or is that bad?

— Rick Kron

EDITORIAL >> Making kids look good

Appearances are everything, right? So, if your kids don’t pass the test, just lower the scale to show that they passed. Everyone is happy — the kids, their parents, the teachers, school administrators and state officials, who can proclaim, after all, that their schools are preparing children for college and good careers.

This is the latest step that Governor Hutchinson and his Education Department have taken to address the controversy over the Common Core, the national proficiency standards established a decade ago by governors and state education officials so that all the states could be measured by the same standards.

Arkansas adopted it several years ago when the idea was still popular. Mike Huckabee claimed to be one of its fathers. (Now he condemns it as a socialist plot.) People in Arkansas could know how well prepared their kids were compared with those in, say, Montana, Vermont, Texas or Alaska. The Common Core would measure students’ critical thinking skills, not just rote memorization. They put together a test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), that would serve as the comparison each year.

But, as always, the Common Core became political. Extreme right-wing groups said it was a United Nations effort to undermine America and make it soft for socialism. They had attacked the original national testing effort under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act on the same grounds, although it left every state to come up with their own tests, making national comparisons really impossible. Then when the PARCC test began to be administered—this was Arkansas’ second year—many communities realized their kids did not fare so well. Lots of teachers were unhappy with the results and the preparations.

So early this year, Gov. Hutchinson capitulated to the pressures from the right and appointed a committee headed by the lieutenant governor to see if something should replace the Common Core and the PARCC test. They, of course, said yes.

So the PARCC test will be replaced next year by another test used by only a couple of other states. Real comparisons will be impossible, but everyone in Arkansas can be reasonably happy that their schools and their kids are doing very well, thank you.

Meantime, what to do with the second PARCC test? Ohio, which was unhappy with the results of the PARCC tests, too, showed the way.

Under the PARCC standards, only 28 percent of Arkansas kids scored at level 4 of 5 levels in Algebra I, which meant that they were proficient in the skills needed for college or careers. So the state just changed the floor from 4 to 3. Presto!

That simple trick meant that 60 percent, rather than 28 percent, were proficient. In case any parent gets picky, the Education Department is preparing a follow-up explanation that the new passing grade, level 3, means that those 60 percent were only “approaching” proficiency.

Next year, with an entirely new test and no need to make many comparisons, the state can return to a system where we can always look as smart as we would like to be. We’re Number One! Now that’s good government.

TOP STORY >> Beebe Fall Fest on Saturday at city’s ballpark

Leader staff writer

The 19th annual Beebe Fall Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Beebe Ballpark. New this year are a chili cookoff and a duck- calling contest. Admission and parking is free.

“We are working with several duck-call manufacturers. It has created a lot of buzz,” Beebe Chamber of Commerce director Kristen Boswell said.

The duck-calling contest is at 3 p.m. People can register at noon Saturday. The cost is $25 to enter. Participants can win cash, prizes and trophies.

“The chili cookoff gives a hometown-festival feel,” Boswell continued. It is a fundraiser for the Beebe American Legion Post 91. The cost is $20 to enter. Friday is the deadline to enter. Chili will be judged in three categories; most popular, judges’ choice and best-decorated table.

Festival-goers can sample the chili for $1 a bowl and vote on their favorite.

The Miss Beebe Fall Fest Pageant begins at 9 a.m. on the main stage. The cost to enter starts at $60. The pageant has eight categories. The deadline to enter is Saturday morning.

“We look forward to Fall Fest. It is a great way to bring the community together for a day of family fun and for businesses to promote their products and services to a large crowd,” Boswell said.

Musical entertainment will be by the rockabilly band Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers at 1 p.m. Luke Williams will perform rock, blues and country at 5:30 p.m., and country band Confederate Railroad headlines the evening at 6:30 p.m.

Fall Fest will have more than 70 business vendors and eight food vendors. It will have Impact Martial Arts demonstrations, a rappelling demonstration by the fire department, a dog adoption event, an antique car show, a kids zone with inflatables and face painting and the Game and Fish aquarium.

TOP STORY >> Lawsuit possible on repairing faulty road project

Leader senior staff writer

The Lonoke City Council on Monday night authorized Mayor Wayne McGee to initiate any action against or with the state Highway Department and/or the contractor, the Rogers Group, to fix a quarter-mile of Palm Street, rendered impassible since shortly after it was resurfaced.

“Let’s give the mayor permission to follow our attorney’s advice,” said council member Pat Howell.

It’s been there 65 years and never been closed, according to Howell, “but it failed three months after Rogers repaired it.”

“That’s Rogers, R-O-G-E-R-S,” said council member Janie Derning, spelling it out during the meeting for the press.

Neither the state nor the Rogers Group seems inclined to help remediate the problem, and, if the city has to do it, the project will likely require a bond issue, according to the mayor.

“Rainy season’s about to start up, and we’ll be in real trouble,” said Alderman Wen-dell Walker.

The state is claiming sovereign immunity, said McGee, but he said the city can’t afford the $200,000 repair, and he asked City Attorney Ginger Stewart to talk with state Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) — the former city attorney — about the way forward.

The whole project, several city blocks, was done for $275,000, according to Howell, and now contractors want $200,000 to repair a fraction of that.

The mayor said the city going in and tearing out four blocks of asphalt to do it right would cost between $180,000 and $200,000. “That would be our paving budget for the next two to three years,” he said.

Something needs to be done, as portions of the city have been closed because it is so spongy that vehicles are bottoming out, he noted.

“It started falling apart two days after it was finished,” the mayor said.

He said the state, through a highway tax, had about $250,000 for milling and asphalting streets in Lonoke.

“The Highway Department came out, looked at our suggested street list, made the decision, hired the contractor and had inspectors out. Once they picked the streets, we had no say in the matter,” McGee explained.

Most of the overlay work the Rogers Group did in the city is fine, but, on Palm Street, the company had to mill down the road, build it back up and then asphalt it. “I’m not a paving guy, but I think it would be common sense to take a core sample before starting that kind of work to see how far into the base you have to go,” McGee said.

They cut the asphalt too low, to the gravel, the mayor said.

The Rogers Group operates in nine states throughout the Midwest and Southeast, offering crushed stone, sand and gravel, asphalt paving and road and bridge construction. It is headquartered in Nashville but has branches in Conway and Cabot.

In other business, the Lonoke Water Department, which lost as much as 40 percent of the water running through its pipes earlier this year, has made a lot of repairs and cut losses last month to about 19 percent, or 4 million gallons, according to Jim Kelley, water and waste water supervisor.

Typically, between 12 percent and 30 percent of water is lost through leaks and bad tracking caused by old or inefficient metering, Kelly said on Tuesday night after the meeting.

Lonoke lost 27.8 million gallons of water through the first quarter of 2015, according to former Public Works Director, the late Ron Gosnell.

“Some of those pipes are 100 years old,” Kelly said. And, during times of drought, the ground gets really hard and pipes can break.

His department repaired 34 leaks in September. “You can’t schedule leaks,” Kelly said.

He said a two-inch line near Dismukes broke earlier this year, and, before it was repaired, may have lost a million gallons. Kelley said his crew has run a continuous line there now, with no joints.

He said he was also working out a schedule for replacing water meters at residences and businesses. He said many are getting old and they have only about a 10- or 15-year life. Buying and replacing meters is expensive, he said, and will have to be done over a period of years.

He also reported that the Valero Pump Station repair was complete.

The council authorized him to contract with L and R to patch 24 cracks at the water department’s clarifier for $7,900, with a one-year warrantee. The whole clarifier could have been sealed for about $47,000, but that would have required advertising for bids. The city will consider that next year, the council said.

Ransom was authorized to spend $1,200 to overhaul the engine of the city’s leaf truck and to buy new tracks for the track hoe.

Also at the meeting, Randy Phillips reported that he expected to be finished tearing down the old Pet Quarters building on city property by the first of the year. He reminded those who said he was working too slow that he was doing the job for $100 and materials and that he was saving the city $180,000.

“I work seven days a week,” he said, “and I have to make a living.”

Jim Douglass, the city’s garbage pickup contractor, said he had intended to end his contract for solid waste disposal, but — on his way to the meeting — his wife talked him out of it, and he agreed to sign a new contract.

The city accepted an offer from the state’s Correction Department to bring 27 inmates in to clean ditches for the cost of a lunch each, for as long as needed, beginning after Nov. 1.

Acting Police Chief Randy Mauk asked for and received permission for the current K-9 officer to take his patrol car home — nine miles out of town — so he can take a dog directly where it’s needed during off-duty hours instead of driving in to the police department, moving the dog into a patrol car and then proceeding to the scene.

A prohibition still stands against officers out of town taking a squad car home.

Details still need to be worked out, but council members seemed interested in allowing residents to keep up to six chickens in their back yard, as long as they are far enough from neighboring houses, in a secure chicken coop with 3 square feet per chicken and the owner has a fenced yard.

Stewart, the city attorney, will prepare several ordinances for aldermen to choose from at the November meeting. There will also be some sort of provisions for city schools to raise chickens. No commercial ventures will be allowed, nor roosters, guinea chickens, ducks or geese.

Parks Supervisor Roy Lewis reported that the fourth City Park ballfield was pretty much complete, with drainage issues around the edges yet to be resolved.

In the city’s ongoing effort to get property owners to clean up, repair or demolish derelict houses, a house at 214 E. 11 was condemned and the city will demolish an already condemned house at 120 Sharon St., where repeated efforts to locate the owner have failed.

The council accepted the gift of an old Craftsman-style house from which Dr. B.E. Holmes ran his medical clinic at 305 W. Front St.

The city agreed to certain conditions and the house was sold as is.

TOP STORY >> Main St. mission backed by state

Leader staff write

Mark Miller of Main Street Arkansas encouraged the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association at its Monday meeting to join the state agency’s network, which offers free consultations and quarterly training sessions.

The only requirement is that the organization in charge must have a $5,000 annual budget and a liaison, possibly someone with the local chamber of commerce, to attend required workshops.

Free services Jacksonville businesses would receive through the network include advice from an exterior designer, an interior designer and Miller, who is Main Street Arkansas’ small business consultant.

Becoming an Arkansas Downtown Network community could be just the first step for Jacksonville, too, association members learned.

The next-level designation, which Miller said would probably take three or four years for the community to attain, is “Main Street City.” Main Street Cities receive $15,000 a year from the state agency to spend on revitalization efforts and must hire a director who implements Main Street Arkansas’ four-point approach.

The agency will likely accept new Downtown Network communities in 2016, and the association should fill out an application then, he continued.

When asked if there was a limit on how many communities would be accepted into the network, Miller said they varied. Passionate, trainable individuals with people skills are what Main Street Arkansas looks for because those qualities lead to success, he noted.

He continued, “To me, one of the most important things of being in the Main Street network is, during those quarterly trainings, you get to work with your peers throughout the state. So, you basically, never have to recreate the wheel.

“I almost guarantee you, whatever problem you’re having here in Jacksonville, someone else has encountered that somewhere else in the state and, if not in the state, you have access to the national Main Street Center list serve, too.”

That list includes contacts from 43 state programs.

He added that a former director told him, “Don’t strain your eyes, plagiarize.” Miller told the association that business owners should go outside their own shops, find an idea elsewhere in the state or country and make it their own.

Main Street Arkansas is part of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which falls under the state’s Department of Arkansas Heritage, Miller explained at the beginning of his presentation.

He touted that, since its formation in 1984, Main Street Arkansas has seen over $145 million in investments finance 3,272 facade renovations, rehabilitations and new construction projects.

Miller said Main Street Arkansas also receives guidance from the National Main Street Center, which provides the four-point approach. The approach includes having an organization working toward the same goal and focuses on promotion, economic restructuring and design.

The services offered through the network cater to that approach.

As the small business consultant, Miller explained, he goes into stores when requested and tells them what can be done differently.

He evaluates store operations, branding, conducts a market and sales analysis and teaches workshops on a variety of topics.

Miller explained how owners and employees of a store can lose sight of little things because they become complacent from being there every day.

But those little things, such as the layout that directs customers’ foot traffic, can develop into big things that affect a business, he warned.

Miller also said he “preaches” about having exceptional customer service because it’s the one thing owners have 100 percent control over.

He remarked, too, on the “billboard principal” with a PowerPoint slide stating that 53 percent of shoppers base their initial perception of a store and decision to shop there on the storefront.

That’s where Main Street Arkansas’ exterior designer can help.

This staffer offers exterior rehabilitation advice for facades, reviews streetscapes, signs and planning; gives written recommendations and resources; and draws facade renderings.

Miller explained, “He has that capability that he can see a storefront, and he can tell you what it should look like, especially if you give him a certain budget.”

But a business also has to look good when customers walk into it, hence the agency’s interior designer, who offers advice on rehabbing the inside of a store, holds window/merchandise display workshops, provides conceptual design plans and hands out design research from building projects.

Miller noted that window displays don’t cost a lot, and owners “really get a lot of bang for the buck” with them.

Retailers can work together on window displays by using items from another store to complement their merchandise while advertising for their downtown neighbor, he said.

Miller also suggested having big items rather than a lot of small things in a window because a storefront has just three seconds to catch a driver’s attention and 7.5 seconds to attract someone who is walking by it.

About first part of the four-point approach, he explained that Main Street Arkansas prefers to work with a nonprofit organization because it is easier to fill out IRS paperwork and administer grants to a nonprofit group.

About the promotion point, he said that includes looking at a community’s image, retail market and special events.

Miller suggested, “You always want to have at least one good (big event), but you want to be careful that you don’t have too many because it can consume your organization.”

Economic restructuring he described as “making the cash registers ring” by filling vacant commercial and retail spaces.

Mayor Gary Fletcher pointed out that many of the network cities have historical two- or three-story brick buildings. Jacksonville doesn’t have those because it grew in the shopping center era when disposable buildings were popular, he said.

Miller responded, “You just have to find out what your amenities are here and what you can do to build upon them...Or create.”

He elaborated on that later, saying, “The key is, because people are looking for experiences anywhere, when they shop, so what you need to find are those unique, niche-type businesses that you’re not going to find in a shopping mall or big box retailer to make people want to spend the day here shopping and learning what your community is about.”

One piece of advice he had was getting some niche stores to sell merchandise related to the shooting range, as that is unique to Jacksonville.

Miller also said Jacksonville should take advantage of the “captive audience” it has in Little Rock Air Force Base personnel, a demographic that is often well-paid, by hosting smaller events that appeal to military families.

Asked about how Main Street Arkansas helps communities with funding, he lamented that it used to have a larger program with a competitive revitalization grant and a matching slipcover grant. But those were ended by budget cuts many state entities have suffered from.

There are many similar grants out there though, Miller noted.

Association member Roberta McGrath mentioned to him that a nonprofit is working to restore the historical part of the city — old buildings by the railroad tracks — and turn that district into a draw for tourists who would have to drive through downtown to get there. He voiced support for that idea.

Miller’s advice also included having — once Jacksonville becomes a Main Street City — the director’s salary come from a variety of sources and having shops open non-traditional hours, such as 9:30 or 10 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m.

Association member Patrick Thomas asked him whether flea markets could be a draw. Miller responded those can be good or bad, but the most successful ones have been more selective in the merchandise they sell.

He said flea markets that choose to be “upscale” could attract visitors to a community.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers battle Tigers, injuries

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers continue to find ways to overcome the mistakes that don’t seem to be clearing up as the season progresses. The Panthers were on the verge of a blowout win last Friday at West Memphis. Fullback Alex Roberts broke a 76-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half to give the Panthers a 28-7 lead. But their next two drives were thwarted by penalties that negated first downs, and the Blue Devils scored each subsequent drive to make it 28-21.

The two teams traded touchdowns again before Cabot closed the game out with two touchdowns to set the final margin at 49-28.

Cabot lost a fumble on its first possession of the game, and was called for 11 penalties totaling 90 yards. Even with the turnover and several drive-stopping penalties, the Panthers still gained more than 500 yards rushing, and nearly 600 total yards. They completed four passes, which tripled the season total to six, and is just one win away from locking up a one seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs through the quarterfinals.

“There are definitely some things I wish we would do better,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “But it’s hard to complain about 500 yards and 49 points. It’s nice having those big plays because you have a lot more opportunity to screw things up in one of those 15-play drives. We’ve managed to make the big plays and have some success.”

West Memphis quarterback Kylin Whiting did most of the damage to Cabot’s defense. He only completed 11 of 29 pass attempts, but his mobility kept drives alive. He ran for several first downs when called pass plays broke down.

“He was pretty good,” Malham said. “We couldn’t get him down when he’d take off. He hit one over the top on us on their first drive and they jumped ahead. And then he kept them in it getting away from the rush.”

Cabot hosts Little Rock Central this Friday for homecoming. It’s the last game of the season that has any bearing on the playoffs. A Cabot win means getting that one seed as a result of beating all the other 7A teams in the 7A/6A-East Conference.

The Panthers will have to do it with several banged up players. There are no major injuries, but the defensive line could have as many as three starters out for Friday’s game, as well as linebacker Cody Nabors.

“Depth is a problem for us,” Malham said. “We lose too many and we’ll be hurting, and too many isn’t very many at all. Right now nobody has any serious injuries, we just don’t know yet who’s going to be ready on Friday.”

Defensive end/fullback Kolton Eads missed last week’s game. His speed on the edge could have made a difference in containing Whiting. He remains questionable for Friday, as does Lino Garcia and nose guard Dayonte Roberts.

Eads’ absence did provide Alex Roberts with an opportunity to shine, and he did. He rushed 16 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Malham has been high on Roberts’ speed and quickness since he arrived as a transfer from Alaska over the summer, but he struggled early in the season.

“It’s just taken him a while to figure things out,” Malham said. “We do things a little different around here than most people. But he’s got some speed and some shiftiness to him, and he can be tough to bring down. He picked a good time to break out because we needed him with Kolton out.”

Central’s defense has been suspect at times this season. The Tigers are 2-4 with conference wins over Searcy, 24-14, and Mountain Home, 41-7. But they’ve given up an average of 39 points per game in their four losses.

“With everybody banged up on defense, hopefully we can keep scoring and keep everybody healthy,” Malham said. “If nobody else gets hurt, we’ll have everybody back in a couple of weeks anyway.”

SPORTS STORY >> Playoff picture taking its form

Leader sports editor

Four games remain in the football regular season and the playoff picture is coming into focus, though nothing is settled. Beebe has a very important matchup with Mills on Friday that could end up determining the four seed from the 5A-Central. Jacksonville is also still in the race for a playoff spot, and will be after this Friday’s home game against Pulaski Academy despite the outcome of that game.

Pulaski Academy and Sylvan Hills remain unbeaten in league play while McClellan is 2-1. Beebe and Jacksonville are each 1-2, but the Badgers have the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of their 13-12 victory at Jan Crow Stadium.

Mills and J.A. Fair are winless, but the four seed will likely only need to win three games to make the playoffs this year because of the absence of North Pulaski.

The Badgers have the clearest road ahead of the one-win teams for securing a playoff spot. A Beebe win this week would almost assure the Badgers a spot in the playoffs. Beebe’s last two games are against J.A. Fair and Sylvan Hills. Fair has not won a game on the field since 2013, and a Beebe win over the War Eagles would give the Badgers that third league victory.

If Jacksonville loses to PA, it will need Mills to beat Beebe, and will need to beat Mills and McClellan in its final two games.

Among the conference leaders, the picture is even less clear because most of those teams have not faced each other. McClellan’s loss was 41-30 to Pulaski Academy. Sylvan Hills is off this week because of its scheduled game with North Pulaski. When they return to action, they will face the toughest three-game stretch of its schedule in McClellan, Beebe and PA.

McClellan hosts Fair this week and appears to have gotten past the offensive struggles it endured against Beebe (a 14-13 win) and in the first half against the Bruins. The Lions hammered Mills 66-16 last week, and will almost certainly win this Friday, making them 3-1 in league play with road games at Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville remaining.


In the 4A-2, Lonoke’s stellar 2-0 start to the season has taken a sharp downward turn as injuries pile up for the Jackrabbits. They have lost four-straight and this week must travel to one of the most notoriously difficult places to play in the state. Helena-West Helena Central shares one common opponent with Lonoke, and that comparison favors the Cougars. HWHC won 25-14 at Newport a week before the Greyhounds beat Lonoke 36-18 for their first and only win so far.

Five teams earn playoff bids from the 4A-2 instead of the four most leagues get. That keeps Lonoke’s playoff hopes somewhat alive even if it loses this week, but just barely. The Jackrabbits are in a near must-win situation as they prepare to take the field on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

What follows for Lonoke in its last three games are two conference unbeaten teams in CAC and Stuttgart, before closing the season against Riverview.


Carlisle also plays a game with major playoff implications on Friday. The Bison host Palestine-Wheatley in a battle of two-win 2A-6 teams.

The Bison and Patriots share two common opponents. Carlisle beat Marvell 62-14 while PW won 34-14. Carlisle also beat Augusta 28-22 while the Patriots lost to the Red Devils 39-38. Since the 2A-6 has nine teams, it also gets five playoff spots. A Carlisle win would almost guarantee the Bison, who are 2-2 in league play, one of those spots, though seeding won’t be determined. The Patriots have already played five league games and still has Des Arc and Hazen remaining as their last two after this week. That places the Patriots’ backs squarely against the wall on Friday, needing a win to help their playoff hopes.


Cabot (6-0, 3-0) has a No. 1 seed in its grasp if it beats Little Rock Central this week. The Tigers are just 2-4 overall and has yet to play a 7A team in conference. Since 7A and 6A play combined conferences, and only games against teams from like classifications count towards the playoffs, Cabot is in the driver’s seat. The Panthers have already beaten North Little Rock and West Memphis and a win this week would give them a perfect league mark as far as playoff considerations go, regardless of what happens the rest of the season.

It could be a taller order than one might expect. The Tigers have not suffered from a lack of scoring, but have struggled to stop other teams. Meanwhile, Cabot could have as many as four defensive starters out this week, including three linemen and a linebacker. That could play into the hands of Central’s power-running game.

But it could be an even taller order for the somewhat porous Tiger defense to stop a Cabot offense that is averaging slightly more than 40 points per game.

SPORTS STORY >> Racing as host works for CHS

Leader sports editor

Only three teams competed in the Cabot Panther Cross Country Invitational last Tuesday, but the Lady Panthers dominated the action, taking four of the top five spots at the Austin Activities Center cross country course.

After struggling through a series of races in which health issues surfaced, Cabot senior Samantha Nickell won her first race of the season, finishing with a time of 20:51.55 to beat out Hot Springs Lakeside’s Emily Milboun by 12 seconds.

Three Cabot sophomores rounded out the top five, including Casey Gore, who finished third with a time of 21:10.60. Bailey Lebow, who had been the team’s fastest runner at two previous meets, was fourth with a time of 21:39.28, and Brayden Giesler was fifth at 22:04.54.

Searcy’s Jessica Mitchell finished sixth. Cabot’s Chloe Thompson and Erin Bowie were seventh and eighth. Searcy’s Lauren Ramey finished ninth and Lakeside’s Carley Geraci rounded out the top-10.

The Cabot boys dominated the top-10 of their race as well, but it was Lakeside’s Nikolai Whelpley who won the race with a time of 17:24.12. Only one other non-Cabot runner finished in the top-10.

Cabot’s Jordan Woodson was second with a time of 17:33.86. Sophomore Greyson Kaufman finished third for the Panthers while sophomore Blake Scott was fourth. Gardner Howze, another sophomore, had a better outing as he works back from hip problems that have hampered his performances recently. He finished fifth with a time of 18:56.83.

Stuart Nickell took sixth. Cabot’s Guyor Wells was seventh while Lakeside’s Nathan Hugentobler was eighth. Cabot’s Alex Robinson and Tyler Thompson were ninth and 10th.

Three Lakeside runners swept the top-three in the junior boys’ 3,200-meter race. Gideon Drake won by a wide margin with a time of 11:26.14. Nathan Reynolds was second at 12:00.70. Jonathan Lockhart was the top Cabot finisher at fourth place. Collin Hines and Thomas Jasmin were fifth and sixth for Cabot.

In the junior girls’ 3,200, Lakeside’s Claire Evans won with a time of 12:12.96 and Searcy’s Mia Maples was second at 13:47.08. Cabot’s Katelynn Burnett took third place with a time of 14:06.20.

After two more HSL runners, the Cabot trio of Ashlynn Ball, Ashley Killingsworth and Stephanie Thomas finished sixth through eighth, respectively.


In other cross country races, the Beebe and Sylvan Hills teams took part in the Bryant Hornet Invitational on Saturday. That meet featured 15 teams from around the state. Beebe’s Taylor McGraw finished 13th out of 185 competitors in the varsity girls’ competition. Elizabeth Gillette won the race and was one of three Trinity Christian runners to finish in the top-10.

Natalie Childress finished 26th for Beebe while Gabriella Marquez was Sylvan Hills’ top finisher at 29th.

Gus McCoy finished 22nd for Beebe out of 232 runners. He was 1:27 behind winner Auggue Morgan of Sheridan, who finished in 16:50.96.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls second at Conway

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panthers played some of their best volleyball of the season Saturday at the Lady Cat Invitational at Conway High School. Cabot won its pool and advanced to the Gold bracket for the eight pool winners. In bracket play, the Lady Panthers advanced all the way to the tournament championship game where they fell 25-16 twice to defending Class 6A champion Russellville 2-0.

“We played really well,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “There was a lot of good passing, good digs, good ball control, aggressive hits, smart placement of the ball. It was a good day.”

The 24-team field was broken up into eight, three-team pools consisting of some of the top teams from 4A through 7A. Each match was best two out of three games. Cabot, playing in Pool E with Jonesboro Westside and Sheridan, beat Westside at 9 a.m. 25-19 twice, then beat Sheridan 25-14, 25-19 to advance to the Gold bracket.

Cabot’s first match of bracket play pitted it against conference foe Mountain Home. The Lady Bombers have beaten Cabot twice this year in league play by scores of 3-0 and 3-1. But Cabot opened bracket play on Saturday with an easy 25-15 win before dropping game two 25-16. Tiebreaker sets but it took Cabot a little longer. Needing to win by two, Cabot won game three 16-14 to advance.

The Lady Panthers faced Nettleton in the semifinals. The Lady Raiders blew out Morrilton and beat Shiloh Christian 25-20, 25-22 in Pool C. In the quarterfinals, they knocked off tournament host Conway 24-26, 25-14 and 15-11.

But Cabot put together another strong start to win game one 25-16 over the Lady Raiders.

Nettleton bounced back to win game two 25-17, but Cabot won the tiebreaker set 15-11 to move into the championship game against Russellville.

The Lady Cyclones smashed Beebe and Jonesboro in Pool H. They beat Bryant 26-24 twice in the first round of bracket play and played a possible precursor to this year’s 6A championship against Marion in the semifinals, winning that match 25-18, 15-25 and 15-12.

Cabot (13-12, 6-7) was mired in a four-game losing streak, its worst of the season, entering the tournament.

Chanthaphasouk hopes going 5-1 and beating a series of quality of opponents will be a big confidence boost as the team finishes league play and prepares for the Class 7A state tournament.

“As I’ve said all along, this team has the talent to be among the top teams,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We just weren’t playing like it. Now that we’ve beaten some of those teams, hopefully we’ll continue to play at that level.

“I’m really proud of them. I knew they had the talent, so I’m very proud that they finally showed it on the court.”

Cabot closes league play Thursday at West Memphis. It will close out the final week of the regular season with a pair of home nonconference games Tuesday and Thursday of next week against Batesville and Mount St. Mary.

The Beebe volleyball team struggled in its matches Saturday. The Lady Badgers played without three-year starting setter Sarah Clark, but coach Ashley Camp didn’t think that was a good enough reason for the 1-3 performance, saying only, “It was a very disappointing weekend to say the least.”

Beebe lost in straight sets to Russellville and Jonesboro, though game one against Jonesboro went to 28-26.

The Lady Badgers beat Lake Hamilton 25-13 and 25-20 in the quarterfinals of the bronze bracket, then lost 25-22 twice to Brookland.

The Lady Badgers (18-7, 10-0) play at Sylvan Hills on Thursday and hopes to complete an undefeated and outright conference championship at home against North Pulaski next Tuesday.