Saturday, October 24, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Brinkley runs through Carlisle defense

Leader sportswriter

Carlisle’s homecoming was spoiled by Brinkley last night at Fred C. Hardke Field, as the Tigers dominated the 2A-6 Conference matchup, beating the Bison by the final score of 34-8.

The Bison fell into a 22-0 hole at halftime. Carlisle (3-5, 3-3) scored its only touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, but Brinkley (4-3, 3-3) also found the end zone on its first drive of the third quarter, and scored again early in the fourth to put the game out of Carlisle’s reach.

“We dug ourselves in a hole early,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith. “We just didn’t play disciplined enough. They’ve got some big, physical, athletic backs, and we just didn’t do a good enough job tackling.”

Brinkley’s first score came on the third play of the game. After runs of 4 and 3 yards by 6-foot-2, 218-pound running back Daquan Greene, running back Johnny Aldridge took the third handoff and ran off the right tackle 89 yards for the game’s first touchdown. The PAT was no good, making it 6-0 Brinkley.

Carlisle turned it over on downs on its first offensive series, and Brinkley answered with another score. The Tigers converted a third and 25 play to keep the drive alive, and found the end zone again on the drive’s 10th play.

Aldridge scored again, this time from 8 yards out. Quarterback Accoreia Couch ran in the two-point conversion to give Brinkley a 14-0 lead with 2:11 left in the first quarter.

Brinkley then covered one of two squib kicks that bounced off a Bison player, but the Tigers’ ensuing drive ended with an interception by Carlisle’s Ty Golleher in the end zone. Golleher returned the pick to the Bison 25, where the Bison offense took over.

On the first play of that drive, Golleher took a misdirection run that fooled both the Tiger defense and the officials 75 yards for a touchdown. The play was negated, though, because one of the line officials blew the play dead because he thought fullback Tyler Sanders was the one with the ball.

Sanders was tackled in the backfield by the Brinkley defense, and as that happened, Golleher broke loose down the field and scored with ease. However, because the line official prematurely blew the play dead, the ball was brought back to the 25, where the Bison had to replay the down.

Carlisle’s offense couldn’t overcome the officiating mistake, as it went three-and-out after that play.

“The line judge on the other side called it dead because he thought the fullback had it,” Keith said. “So they blew it dead. An inadvertent whistle we should have the option to take the ball wherever the ball is or replay the down. They called him down, so we had to replay it from back there.

“It’s a bad call. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve still got to be able to overcome it and make plays after it.”

Brinkley added its final score of the first half with 41 seconds remaining till halftime. That score came on a 34-yard run by Couch and Aldridge scored the two-point conversion to make it 22-0 at the break.

The Bison opened the second half with their scoring drive. On the third play of the half, Golleher broke off the left tackle 44 yards for Carlisle’s only touchdown of the night. Sanders ran in the two-point try to make it 22-8 with 11:02 left in the third quarter.

Brinkley’s offense responded with an 8-play drive that ended with a 44-yard touchdown run by Greene, and the Tigers scored their final touchdown of the night on defense.

Shun Ward returned a Carlisle fumble 30-plus yards for a touchdown with 9:56 to play. Ward’s touchdown set the final score.

Brinkley finished the conference game with 411 yards of offense. The Tigers had two 100-yard rushers. Aldridge led the way with 23 carries for 158 yards and two scores. Greene had 17 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown.

Carlisle finished with 128 yards of offense. Golleher had seven carries for 43 yards and one touchdown. Sanders had 15 carries for 47 yards.

Despite the loss, Carlisle’s playoff hopes are still alive. If things go as predicted next week and the Bison beat Clarendon (1-7, 1-5) and Brinkley beats Augusta (3-5, 3-4) that will likely give the Bison the fifth and final playoff seed from the 2A-6.

Clarendon got its first win of the season over winless Marvell 30-14 last night. Next week’s kickoff at Clarendon will start at 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke girls beat BPA at 4A-2 District

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke High School volleyball team finished fourth at this week’s 4A-Central District Tournament at Baptist Prep Academy. The Lady Jackrabbits lost 3-0 to Clinton in the third-place match on Wednesday, but qualified for the Class 4A state tournament with their 3-2 match win over the tournament hosts in the quarterfinals.

Lonoke received a bye to the quarterfinals of the district tournament. So the Lady Jackrabbits waited till Tuesday to play their match against Baptist Prep, who beat Riverview in the previous round.

The state tournament qualifier was back and forth the whole way, but Lonoke won by scores of 25-19, 15-25, 25-20, 22-25 and 15-9. Also on Tuesday, Lonoke lost a 3-0 match to top-seeded Southside Batesville in the semifinals. The scores in that one were 25-11, 25-19 and 25-17.

In the consolation match on Wednesday, which determined the three and four state tournament seeds, Lonoke also lost a 3-0 match, but it was much more competitive than the one against Southside.

Clinton won by scores of 25-23, 25-23 and 25-22, giving the Lady Yellowjackets the No. 3 seed for next week’s state tournament in Mena. Lonoke, therefore, will enter the Class 4A state tournament as the four seed.

The Lady Yellowjackets led by as much as 19-11 in the first game Wednesday, but Lonoke fought back and got within three of Clinton’s lead, with the score 21-18. The Lady Jackets then called timeout, and scored the next three points to set game point with the score 24-18.

Lonoke broke serve on the next volley with a kill by Kennedy White, then Jarrelyn McCall went to the serving line and served up the next four points to make it a one-point game, with the score 24-23.

Clinton, though, broke the Lady Rabbit scoring streak with the next point, ending game one in the Lady Jackets’ favor. Game two was much closer in the early goings, and Lonoke led 17-16 on another White kill.

Keiunna Walker then served the next two points to push the Lady Rabbit lead to 19-16. Lonoke also led by three with the score 21-18, but Clinton came back from there. The Lady Jackets broke serve on the next volley with a Caycee Lonnon kill, and scored the next five points to set game point at 24-21.

Lonoke broke serve on an Ashlyn Allen kill from the corner of the net, and Lindsey McFadden served the next point to make it a one-point game, 24-23. Clinton, though, got the next point to take game two by the same score as game one.

Clinton led by as much as 17-10 in game three, but Lonoke again battled back and took the lead at 21-20 and 22-21. The Lady Jackets tied the game and regained serving rights on the next volley, and scored the next three points to take the game and the match.

Kayla Shelton led Lonoke Wednesday with seven kills. Walker had six kills. McCall had five kills, and Allen and White had four each. Walker had a match-high seven digs. Gracie Mason led the Lady Rabbits with 10 assists, and Madison McFadden led Lonoke with two ace serves.

Clinton’s Lonnon led all players with 14 kills and seven ace serves.

Central Arkansas Christian won the tournament with a 3-2 win over Southside in the championship match Wednesday night. Scores in that match were 15-25, 21-25, 25-21, 27-25 and 15-9.

The Lady Mustangs will enter this Tuesday’s state tournament in Mena as the top seed from the Central. Southside is the No. 2 seed, Clinton’s the third seed and Lonoke will play the tournament hosts as the four seed. Mena is the top seed from the West, and will play Lonoke in the first round this Tuesday at noon at Mena High School.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe completes 5A-Central sweep

Leader sports editor

The Beebe volleyball team is the outright, undefeated conference champion for the first time in school history. The Lady Badgers completed that task Tuesday on senior night at Badgers Arena with a victory over North Pulaski. The Lady Falcons, however, didn’t make things as easy for the league champs as they had been most of the season.

North Pulaski beat Beebe in game two, handing the Lady Badgers their first set loss in 5A-Central play all season.

The home team regrouped and dominated the rest of the action. Scores in the match were 25-19, 20-25, 25-13 and 25-13. The historical accomplishment is one this year’s seniors are proud of. Beebe has only had a volleyball program for 12 years, and it was not a respected program when this year’s seniors began playing.

“It feels great,” said senior libero Paige Smith. “When you start in seventh grade, you hear all these people talking like Beebe volleyball sucks. So you’re like, I’m going to fix it. I’m going to do it. So the fact that we have, it’s great.”

Losing the first and only set in 12 conference matches was disappointing, but didn’t put much of a damper on the bigger achievement or the festivities of senior night.

“Oh, it made me so mad,” Smith said of losing game two. “But you just have to work through it. This team has been really good about overcoming things. Our team chemistry this year has been like none other. I love all these girls.”

One of Beebe’s key strengths is depth, and it played a role in Tuesday’s win. Senior Gracie Rymel was the go-to hitter in game one. She put down five kills as Beebe began opening a small lead early in the game.

North Pulaski senior Kiarra Evans dominated game two. Beebe fell behind largely because of a series of poor serves and unforced errors, but Evans helped make a comeback impossible. NP’s lead grew to five points at 11-6 and stayed between three and six points all the way to 20-15.

On one point, Evans blocked three Beebe hits and finished the point with a kill just barely outside of Beebe’s attack line. Badger coach Ashley Camp called timeout at 20-15 after an Evans kill went long. Beebe’s next serve went long and NP’s Payton Mullen made it 22-15 with an ace.

Beebe broke serve and Smith served up two aces to pull within 23-18, but the two teams traded side outs after that, with another Evans kill ending the game.

Beebe opened up a lead in game three on junior Kayla Green’s serve. It was senior Jerra Malone that took over for Beebe in the third game. She picked up four of her eight total kills, including a service break that made it 23-13. She then took serve and scored on a kill by junior Abby Smith. For game point, Malone served up an ace in the middle of NP’s defense.

Sophomore Lanie Wolfe became a factor in game four as Beebe blew it open around the midway point. Senior setter Sarah Clark took serve at 12-7, and served all the way to 22-8. She dropped three aces on the Lady Falcons while Wolfe got two of her four kills in the match during the run.

Rymel led Beebe with nine kills while Malone had eight. Abby Smith finished with six. Clark had 25 assists and 16 points on serve. Evans had a match-high 15 kills and six blocks, while Mullen had seven kills for NP.

Beebe (24-6, 14-0) added a nonconference sweep of Harding Academy on Thursday to close regular-season play. Scores in that match were 25-19, 25-15 and 25-12. They will face Greenbrier (17-9, 8-6), the fourth-place team from the 5A-West, in the first round of the state tournament at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Jonesboro.

Beebe took the No. 1 seed into the state tournament last year after tying for the league title with Pulaski Academy and owning the tiebreaker. They lost to East four seed Batesville, however, in straight sets. But it’s failures, according to Malone, that drive this team.

“It makes me work even harder,” said Malone. “We want to do better than last year, I know that. We have to talk. We have to cover. We’re going to give it the best we can, lay out for every ball, just give it all.”

North Pulaski (11-12, 7-5) tied for third place with Sylvan Hills but lost the tiebreaker, so it will take the four seed into the state tournament and face West champion Harrison in the first round.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers pummel Bombers

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panthers hosted the Mountain Home Bombers on a rainy Friday night at Panther Stadium. The Panthers (8-0, 5-0) rolled up 414 yards of offense and eight touchdowns in the first half, then as the sportsmanship rule was in effect for the entire second half, coasted to a 62-21 victory. Mountain Home remains winless in conference play and 1-7 overall.

“It was a good win,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “It was a conference win, and the varsity did a good job in the first half, got things in hand, and we got to play a lot of young kids the second half. Mountain Home, they’re playing a lot of sophomores. They’re struggling a little bit. Our kids did what we needed to do, took care of business, and had the game in hand at halftime, so we could just about clear the bench and let a lot of kids play the second half. That’s always good.”

Mountain Home received the opening kickoff, but fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. The Panthers recovered and scored on their first play on a 19-yard run by Alex Roberts. Caleb Shulte added the extra point, and Cabot led 7-0 only two plays and 13 seconds into the contest.

After a punt by the Bombers, Cabot moved 71 yards in six plays to score again, this time on a 16-yard touchdown run by Austin Morse. Shulte’s extra point made the lead 14-0 with 7:35 remaining in the first quarter. Morse scored again on the next Panther possession, this time from 31 yards away, and the score was 20-0. The extra point was no good.

Mountain Home quarterback Zane Walker broke free on the first play of the ensuing possession for an 80-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and the lead was cut to 20-7.

Cabot answered right back, with Morse scoring his third touchdown of the evening, this one from 51 yards out. The extra point was good by Shulte, and the lead was 27-7 with 4:04 remaining in the opening quarter.

Walker was intercepted by Holdyn Barnes on the next Bomber possession, and Morse scored for the fourth time on a 24-yard scamper. After the extra point, the advantage grew to 34-7 with 2:30 still remaining in the first quarter.

The next Cabot score came in the second quarter with 10:57 remaining. This time it was Adam Flores with the 37-yard touchdown run. The Panthers went for the two-point conversion, and Braxton Burton successfully took the ball in for the two, upping the lead to 42-7.

This time, Mountain Home moved down the field on a 78-yard scoring drive, capped by a 36-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Payton Parker. The point after was not good, and the score was 42-13.

Roberts scored for the second time of the night on the next Cabot drive, going in from 23 yards away on the seventh play to make the lead 49-13 when Shulte added the point after.

The Panthers added a defensive touchdown next, as Kale Eddington picked off Walker’s pass on first and 10 and took it into the end zone for the score. The lead grew to 56-13 with 4:50 remaining until intermission.

Cabot had the first possession of the second half and with the clock running, consumed almost 10 minutes of the third quarter before Jess Reed, now in at quarterback, took the ball in from the 1-yard line for the Panthers. The extra point was no good by Luis Castro, and the score remained 62-13.

The Bombers scored once more to set the final score at 62-21 with 8:40 remaining in the game.

Cabot finished with 524 yards of total offense, while holding Mountain Home to 289 yards.

Morse led the Panthers with 145 yards on five carries and four touchdowns. Roberts had 69 yards on four carries and two touchdowns.

Cabot will travel to Jonesboro next Friday night.

SPORTS STORY >> McClellan too ‘Strong’ for Bears

Leader sports editor

An out-of-sync Sylvan Hills offense and a nearly unstoppable McClellan running game combined to hand the Bears their first loss of the season on Friday. McClellan tailback Pierre Strong carried 16 times for 309 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Crimson Lions to a 44-32 victory at Bill Blackwood Field.

“They have a lot of speed,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow.

“We had too many penalties and too much miscommunication. You just can’t do those things. Playing a good team you can’t do that. Very disappointed. We can still share a championship so we’ll rally them back up and get going.”

If The Bears win their last two games against Beebe and Pulaski Academy, it could still tie for the 5A-Central championship. If McClellan also wins out, it will create a three-way tie at the top of the standings.

Sylvan Hills battled back from a 30-12 deficit with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter, and pulled within 38-32 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Ty Compton with 5:09 remaining in the game.

The Bears got a golden opportunity for a game-winning drive when McClellan lost a high snap and Compton covered at the Sylvan Hills 36 with 4:08 left. But the Bears, who had scored touchdowns on their previous four possessions, couldn’t get a first down. Facing fourth and 5, Sylvan Hills was called for illegal procedure for the fifth time in the game. Quarterback Jordan Washington was then sacked for a 2-yard loss, giving McClellan the ball on the Bears’ 34.

Two plays later, Strong scored his fifth touchdown, and his fourth of at least 30 yards to seal the victory for the Lions with 1:09 left to play.

McClellan coach Maurice Moody was proud of the defensive stand his team made late in the fourth quarter.

“We set a goal to keep them to 20,” said Moody. “We couldn’t. A lot of that was them executing their offense. It wasn’t what we weren’t doing, it was what they were doing. But you have to remember; we have six sophomores starting on defense. And they stood up and made the stop when we had to have it.”

McClellan struck first on its second drive of the first half. The Bears had had it twice and punted each time. The Lions put together an 11-play drive the first time they had the ball, but turned it over on downs after coming up about an inch short on fourth and 3 at the Sylvan Hills 14.

On their second possession, the Lions struck big on an inside-out handoff to Strong who turned up field just outside the right hash mark and raced 62 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Ashley Long took the handoff for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 McClellan lead with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

The Bears went three and out and punted a third time, but the defense held and got the ball back on the 46-yard line.

Sylvan Hills’ fourth drive lasted just one play. Compton picked up 7 yards but fumbled fighting for a few more and the Lions picked it up.

The defense held again, but the Bears continued to struggle on offense, picking up one first down before punting from their own 26.

Again McClellan scored on a two-play drive after a bad punt set it up at the Sylvan Hills 47. After a 1-yard gain, Trent Lewis burst straight up the middle, untouched for 46 yards and the score.

The two-point conversion attempt was made more difficult with an illegal procedure penalty and failed from 8 yards out, leaving it 14-0 with 4:33 left in the half.

Sylvan Hills finally got on the board by taking advantage of the Lion defense blitzing the middle. After an initial loss of 3 yards, Washington pulled the handoff from Compton and kept around the left side for a 48-yard pickup.

After a chop block penalty put Sylvan Hills behind the chains, the Lions tried blitzing again, and again got burned.

Washington hit receiver Ryan Lumpkin streaking alone down the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 3:28 left in the half. The extra point snap was dropped, leaving the score 14-6 going into halftime.

Strong also scored in the second half on runs of 46, 28 and 52 yards.

Sylvan Hills scored with 8:30 left in the third quarter on a 30-yard pass from Washington to Cameron Sharp that made it 22-12. Down 30-12, Brandon Bracely capped a 65-yard drive with an 8-yard run to make it 30-18 with 4:50 left in the third.

Bracely later caught a 5-yard pass to make it 30-25 with 11:56 left in the game.

Bracely led Sylvan Hills with 20 carries for 160 yards and one rushing touchdown. Washington had 21 carries for 138 yards, and completed 4 of 9 pass attempts for 85 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Lewis added 17 carries for 133 yards for McClellan, who out-gained Sylvan Hills 384 to 364.

The Bears (7-1, 4-1) travel to Beebe next week. The Badgers beat J.A. Fair 42-6.

Friday, October 23, 2015

EDITORIAL >> New group encouraging

The Downtown Jacksonville Business Association held its first meeting in August. Since then, it has quickly made its mark on the community by providing a venue for local business owners and residents to discuss ways to improve the city’s economic prospects and the community overall.

The civic group is a gold mine of ideas about the ways in which Jacksonville can improve. It hopes to collect signatures to reform the city’s liquor laws and attracting new restaurants, which will bring jobs and keep diners in town who often hit the road to North Little Rock to have a cocktail with their meals.

Where else can people in Jacksonville brainstorm about the city’s future? City council meetings are devoted entirely to routine municipal business and seldom include broad discussions about the needs of the community.

The club asks that participants have a positive attitude. It’s mostly designed for business owners, but open to everyone who lives or works in Jacksonville, if they want to help. It’s obvious the city faces challenges, and they don’t need to be itemized again and again. The group is interested in solutions in order to keep young families in Jacksonville and return a sense of vibrancy to downtown and other areas of the city.

Mayor Gary Fletcher, Alderman Barbara Mashburn, as well as Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce president Roger Sundermeier, have attended the meetings, which are held twice a month on Mondays at The Game Store in the old Hastings building on Main Street. It’s a fitting location, too.

We miss the old video rental, music store and bookstore that shut down a while back, but the Game Store is a locally owned independent fantasy board and tabletop game, video game and comic book store that is now the launching pad of the most serious community-revitalization effort in Jacksonville’s recent history.

At the last meeting of the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association, a speaker from Main Street Arkansas explained how his organization can provide advice to businesses on how to boost curb appeal, store layout, general management tips, beautification projects and much more.

Mark Miller of Main Street Arkansas told the Jacksonville business association that he will evaluate store operations, branding, conduct a market and sales analysis and teach workshops on a variety of topics.

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

Main Street Arkansas is a great opportunity that first came to The Leader’s attention when a Beebe resident asked that city’s council pay for the modest annual $5,000 fee to join and help improve downtown Beebe. Alderman declined, and their downtown continues to be neglected.

Jacksonville seems poised to join the Main Street program. If business owners take advantage of the services that it offers, it will pay off in the long run. Just think of how the program could have helped the old Chamber’s Fountain and Grill to remain open. Luckily, it’s not too late for others to benefit.

Businesses can only do so much, though, to bring life back to some parts of the city. The city needs to work double time to improve streets by adding lights, drains and revamping intersections where needed.

Since the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association has the attention of the mayor and other city officials, it should explore those kinds of options with him.

Jacksonville has already done some beautification projects, like spending $1 million adding landscaping and brick crosswalks at the James and Main street intersection. One of Mayor Fletcher’s often overlooked accomplishments was major improvements to the drainage at Redmond Road along Dupree Park. We can’t recall the last time the road was closed because of flooding.

An expensive, but attractive project, would be to relocate the power lines along Main Street. It would give it a more modern look.

Cabot is moving power lines underground on several blocks downtown as part of its Main Street StreetScape beautification program that began when Sen. Eddie Joe Williams was mayor and had heard that a $200,000 grant was available to spruce up the city.

The project, from Fourth to Ninth Streets, was budgeted for $724,771, but costs will rise before the work is extended to 10th Street. Plans call for sidewalks on both sides of Main, covering the ditches, decorative banner poles with lights and landscaping. Residents may find this work cumbersome and too expensive, but it will improve quality of life and attract businesses.

We look forward to hearing more good ideas from the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association and encourage people to attend its meetings. We also encourage other cities in the area to join Main Street Arkansas and help keep downtowns alive and make them great again.

TOP STORY >> ‘Tales from Beyond’ in Lonoke

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Museum will present “Tales from Beyond,” a living history of the county’s influential residents of the past, at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 at the museum, 215 W. Front St in Lonoke. Refreshments will be served. Admission is $8 per person or $15 for two. The event is a fundraiser for the museum.

“The spirits just come through here,” museum director Sherryl Miller said.

“People can learn what life was really like from those who lived here from ‘their’ own mouth,” she told The Leader.

“‘Tales from Beyond’ are always fun and educational with a little humor,” Miller added.

Coming back from the past are:

James Yates Davidson, who will be portrayed by Garry Moore of England. Davidson was born in 1922 in Little Rock. He started school at England and was orphaned at age 8. His is a rags-to-riches story. He went from changing flats at a service station to being a successful inventor of cable television, connecting his first paying subscriber in Tuckerman in 1948. Davidson died in October 2012 at the age of 90.

Lois Dupree Henry will be portrayed by Leanna Rich of Lonoke. Henry was raised on a farm in the Central High area. She later taught school in England. She will talk about her experiences as a girl growing up in rural Lonoke County.

Elsijane Trimble Roy will be portrayed by state Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke). Roy was born in April 1916 in Lonoke. She passed away in 2007 at age 91 and was an Arkansas woman of many firsts.

She was the state’s first woman circuit judge, Supreme Court justice and federal judge in the Eighth Circuit Court. Roy retired in 1999 after 21 years on the federal bench.

In fourth grade, she decided to become a lawyer. Roy was valedictorian for the Lonoke High School Class of 1934. She attended the University of Arkansas Law School and was the only woman to graduate in the Class of 1939.

Roy practiced law in the private and public sectors in Lonoke.

Frank T. Bunton, portrayed by his son, Frank Jr. Bunton, moved to Lonoke in 1945 to be principal of the Lonoke Colored School.

He made changes to help the school and the community. One of those was renaming the school to George Washington Carver School. Bunton retired in 1968. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 75.

Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Walls will be portrayed by his grandson, former state Rep. Walls McCrary. Walls was a county sheriff, a county judge and a state legislator. He lived in southern Lonoke County. He was born in 1862 and died in 1950.

Hetty Jane Dunaway will be played by Tina Boyles, a Forrest City high school teacher. Dunaway was born in Austin in 1879. She was a popular stage actress on the East Coast. She established the Dunaway Gardens 30 minutes south of Atlanta. It was her husband’s plantation where she started a theatrical training center for producers, directors and performers from the 1920s to 1940s. It was a vacation spot for celebrities, including Minnie Pearl, who got their start at the gardens.

Louanna James will be brought to life by Lonoke School Superintendent Suzanne Bailey. James was a hotel proprietress, a landowner and a school teacher. She was born in 1845. James owned a hotel in Lonoke in 1884.

John Hallum will be portrayed by Tom Holman. Hallum was born in 1833 on Tennessee.

He was a lawyer, author and judge. He had seven children. As a lawyer, he was often paid with land and even a gold mine in Colorado.

William H. Eagle will be portrayed by Lonoke County JP Bill Ryker, who married into the Eagle family. Eagle was born in 1835 in Lonoke County. He was a landowner and owned a mercantile store.

The Eagle family had many branches. There is a tale of them being involved in the shooting of hog thieves in 1873 and a shooting on a Lonoke main street in 1898.

TOP STORY >> Construction projects are over budget

Leader staff writer

Construction of the new $13.5 million Cabot Sports and Aquatic Complex under contract is $110,000 over budget.

Advertising and Promotions Commissioner Tommy Hignight asked about the project during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Cabot Parks and Recreation director John Crow said, “When the budget was set, it was almost three years before we started. Prices change over time, but the funding did not.”

He explained that the parks department still has to pay for a playground at the sports complex that will cost $80,000, plus batting cages and the football amenities. The parks department will also have to purchase all the entry and marquee signs and scoreboards.

“Part of the funding for that is through some surplus that we have left over. We have a sponsorship program that is helping out with the purchase of the scoreboards. Five of the nine scoreboards advertising sponsorships were sold. Sonic wants to be the title sponsor of the water park,” Crow said.

He said, too, that the $5.2 million expansion of the community center is only $60,000 over budget.

Hignight talked about planning the A&P budget for 2016. He believes 75 percent of the food and lodging tax revenue should be for the Parks and Recreation Department. Around $65,000 a month would go to parks.

In other business, a ballot vote was held to re-elect Billy Johnson to the open position on the commission. The decision will be sent to the city council for approval.

The position has a four-year term. It is for a Cabot restaurant or motel owner or manager who collects the 1.5 percent food and lodging sales taxes. The commission received two other nominations for the spot, Greg McClellan and Johnny White.

The commission ap-proved the Cabot Gymnastics Academy request of $600 for the Glitter Extravaganza meet Nov. 15-16. The funds will be used to purchase T-shirts.

The commission granted Cabot City Beautiful’s request for $4,500 for the Cabot Christmas parade on Dec. 13. The additional money will be used for the incentive program that compensates bands for travel to Cabot. Three additional high school marching bands from Brinkley, Harding Academy and Pine Bluff are coming.

The parade will have six high school bands. The A&P Commission has already funded $6,000 for the parade.

Parade organizer Matt Webber said the Shriners would also be coming with clowns to march in the parade.

The commission approved the Cabot Youth Foot-ball Association’s request for $4,754 for caps, backpacks and awards for players ages 8 to 14 in the first Arkansas Elite Youth Football Championship tournament in Cabot on Nov. 21-22. Football program president Greg Sled said they anticipate 22 local and out-of-state teams to play.

TOP STORY >> Nurses singing doctor’s praises

Leader staff writer

Carol Hopwood, a nurse with 16 years of service at North Metro Medical Center, had been planning for a while to retire with her husband.

Her husband retires this month, but she is not now. “I could, but with Dr. Tracy Phillips running things here, it’s a joy to be at work. It wasn’t always that way.”

Hopwood is one of three nurses, with a total of 50 years experience at North Metro, who sing the praises of the maligned Dr. Phillips.

Phillips was asked to resign by then-CEO Joe Farrer, a state representative from Austin, about two months ago because the doctor was in possession of alcohol at the hospital.

Phillips, who is in a voluntary sobriety program and proudly states he has not had a drink in more than two years, explained that the alcohol belonged to his son and he got stuck transporting it home. Rock Bordelon, one of the hospital owners and CEO of Allegiance Health, which manages the hospital, sided with Phillips and stated that the hospital handbook allows alcohol in numerous places at the hospital.

But the hospital’s human resources department refuses to let the newspaper have a copy of the handbook.

Phillips stayed and Farrer left, but Bordelon said the CEO’s departure had nothing to do with Phillips staying.

Sheila Baxter, another nurse with 18 years at North Metro, said Phillips “was the first positive doctor the hospital has had in a long time.”

Hopwood said you have to love the hospital and the people to stay there; it’s not for the money. “We haven’t had a raise in seven years, but I’m happy to stay,” she said.

About Dr. Phillips, Hopwood said, “He practically lives here. He’s nonstop about the patients.”

Michelle Ward, a 16-year veteran of nursing at North Metro, said patients adore him and many drive up from Pine Bluff because he’s here. “We’re a team now, and we haven’t always felt that way,” she said.

All three nurses said Dr. Phillips praises them and gives them positive feedback. Before him, it was “such a dictatorship. We weren’t allowed an opinion,” Baxter said.

She added that the hospital serves 50,000 people. “That’s a huge number,” she said. “People don’t realize how critical we are.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Expansion helps state

Here’s some news that should cheer Gov. Hutchinson and the Republican lawmakers who designed the private-option plan for implementing the Medicaid portion of Obamacare, but it will not please their friends in any of our surrounding states. The Kaiser Family Foundation, the national health-care research group, reported that state spending on all Medicaid programs increased twice as fast in the 21 states that did not expand Medicaid to poor adults as it did in the other 29 states, including Arkansas, that did.

Let’s rephrase that. State budgets were better off in the 29 Obamacare states than in the 21 non-Obamacare states. State spending on Medicaid (not counting federal aid) rose an average of 6.9 percent in the just-concluded fiscal year in the states that chose not to expand insurance to poor adults while rising only 3.4 percent in the expansion states.

That is precisely the opposite of what opponents of the private option in Arkansas and opponents of the expansion in the 21 states argued. They said the Obamacare expansion of insurance to the poor would bust state budgets when the states have to start picking up a part of the costs—5 percent in 2017 and rising to 10 percent in 2021. Then taxpayers everywhere, they said, would rue the day they insured poor childless adults against sickness and accidents.

Exactly why state spending on Medicaid grew so much faster in the non-expansion states may be explained partly by the fact that the Obamacare law picked up 100 percent of a state’s existing share of Medicaid in some areas. In Arkansas that proved to be a bonanza, relieving the state of tens of millions of dollars annually of Medicaid costs.

Legislators who led the fight to stop the expansion in other states and the unsuccessful fight to stop it in Arkansas said states could not afford the expansion when they had to start pitching in their 5 to 10 percent share.

But we already knew better in Arkansas. State health officials who ran the numbers predicted that Obamacare and the private option would continue to save the state money for many years. Hogwash, the opponents said. So the legislators hired a business-consulting firm in Massachusetts, The Stephen Group, to do an analysis and recommend ways to change the program to lower the state costs.

This month the firm handed the state its voluminous report. It concluded that during the 2017-2021 period when Arkansas is phasing in its share of the costs the state will save $438 million in addition to the hundreds of millions it will have already saved since the program began in 2014. That means that if the legislature this winter halts the private option at the end of the fiscal year the state budget would be $438 million further in the hole by the end of 2021.

That is why Gov. Hutchinson is jumping through every political hoop to get three-fourths of each house of the legislature to go along with continuing the program. He’s trying to make enough cosmetic changes to the program that he can say it really is not the private option and it really is not Obamacare, which have become toxic words in many quarters.

We mentioned that the governor and the Republican legislators who thought up the private option—poor people enroll in one of Obamacare’s private insurance plans rather than sign up for the government-insured Medicaid medical care—should be pleased with the news. The private plans are much more expensive for the government because they pay higher compensation to doctors and hospitals, but they also produce $20 million a year in additional tax receipts for the state through premium taxes. As a purely fiscal matter, the state cannot afford to end the program, not after it has cut taxes because of the Medicaid relief.

Originally, Obamacare required all states to expand Medicaid to cover poor childless adults as well as offer private insurance plans to everyone else, with federal tax credits subsidizing families whose annual incomes fall below 400 percent of the poverty line. That is the level at which people are assumed to be able to buy insurance without help. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the law had to give states the option to expand Medicaid or not. Twenty-nine states—Arkansas and Kentucky are the only ones in the South—chose to do it. Two more are starting it in 2016. Legislatures in the other 21 have balked.

The other people who should be pleased with the Kaiser Foundation report are the approximately 250,000 Arkansans who have qualified for health insurance, nearly all of them for the first time. Now they only have to hope that research and facts prevail over political fancy with enough Arkansas legislators to keep the program going. As Gov. Hutchinson can attest, it’s a very close call but, whether you are a bleeding-heart liberal or a fiscal conservative, it is very important.

TOP STORY >> Free flu shots at area health clinics

The Arkansas Department of Health will provide flu shots to adults and children in Beebe on Oct. 30, in Jacksonville on Nov. 3 and in Lonoke on Nov. 6.

The shots are free if recipients are uninsured or their insurance plans do not cover the cost of flu shots, so participants should bring their insurance cards to the events.

Flu vaccines will be available 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 at the Beebe Health Unit, 306 Gum St.; from noon until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3 at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive; and from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 at the Lonoke Fitness Center, 1355 W. Front St.

Milton Garris, administrator of the Cabot and Lonoke Health Unit, said, “We want Lonoke County residents to stay healthy this flu season, and getting a yearly flu vaccine is the best line of protection. We encourage everyone to come to the clinic to get their flu vaccine.”

Garris points out that the flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. Some people may have mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and a low fever or slight headache.

For people who do not like shots, the flu mist is recommended for anyone between the ages of 2 through 49 who does not have asthma or other problems that might weaken their immune systems.

More people died from the flu last year in Arkansas than in the last 30 years, Garris’ announcement notes.

TOP STORY >> New director for WAGE

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s adult-education center has a new leader in WAGE (Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy) instructor Simone Brock, who wants to see growth and increased awareness.

The center is located at 104 N. First St. She’s been on the job for two weeks.

Formerly a middle school teacher, Brock moved from Dallas for a slower-paced lifestyle. She also has family here.

About adult education, the instructor said it’s new to her, but interesting. “I think it’s probably underutilized and not as well known as it should be...It’s kind of a secret, I guess. So, it’s a free service. I mean, all it does is help you improve. So it’s kind of a win-win for anyone who wants to partake in it.”

Brock said the center has three teachers. Through state funds, it offers GED classes, computer literacy classes, six certificates through the WAGE program and national career readiness certificates.

The WAGE certificates are earned in employability, customer service one and two, bank teller, industrial and office technology.

The year-round center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and also from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, with no set schedule for classes, as many enrolled have job schedules that come first.

All of the center’s offerings help people gain entry into the workforce, Brock continued.

“Many of these people who are coming here are looking to either get off of services and get into the job force or to improve their job skills, and, you know, grow in their job,” she explained. “So, it’s about growth for the people, educational growth, helping with the economy.”

The instructor added that she’d tell those who are considering enrolling, “It’s education. You’re learning something. If you already know that skill, there are other skills that we could challenge you with...There’s no investment except in yourself, so why not?”

Brock also said the center has partnerships with several local businesses.

In her short time there, she has learned the students are of all ages, with younger adults making up much of the enrollment in GED classes, but middle-aged adults and seniors taking advantage of WAGE.

Many are of a low socio-economic status, although all are welcome. Brock noted that her husband is now attending classes to sharpen his computer skills.

She has already met with the mayor about spreading the word on what the center offers. An open house is being planned, too.

Brock also noted that she’d heard students say some of the technology they’re using in the center’s classes is outdated, compared to what employers have.

She would like to see newer technology that would make the skills students gain at the center more transferrable.

TOP STORY >> Cabot gets award for managing its floods

Leader staff writer

Aldermen at Monday’s council meeting learned that Cabot is the Arkansas Floodplain Management Association’s City of the Year.

Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis was also recognized for being named Chief of the Year by the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police. At the meeting, he received state Senate and House citations plus the mayor’s proclamation declaring this week to be Jackie Ray Davis Week in the city.

The council also voted unanimously to set an election coinciding with the March 1 primary to fill an open seat. Early voting starts Feb. 15.

Alderman Dallan Buchanan resigned Oct. 1 from representing Zone 2 in Position 1 to pursue a job in another city.

Chuck Eick, who attended the council’s agenda-setting meeting on Oct. 5, told the aldermen then that the cost of putting the race on the upcoming primary election ballot would be “minimal.”

Saying he didn’t have the exact figures, Eick gave The Leader a ballpark estimate of under $500 because labor makes up most of the expense and would already be provided. There will be additional costs if a runoff is needed.

Eick said earlier this month that a separate special election would have cost about $6,500, according to the state’s election council.

A few on the council said at the earlier meeting that Damon Bivins, Nicky Spillane and former Alderman Ryan Flynn are interested in Buchanan’s seat.

The filing dates for candidates are Nov. 2-9, according to the resolution the council passed. It also states that the drawing for ballot position will be held by Dec. 3 and the county’s election commission shall certify results on March 11.

There was little discussion of the election resolution at Monday’s meeting.

But state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams asked whether the alderman race would appear on ballots for both the Democrat and Republican primaries. Alderman Ann Gilliam said she asked the secretary of state the same question and was told the issue would be on both.

Mayor Bill Cypert told Williams he should confirm that with the Lonoke County Election Commission.

In other business:

• The mayor, Alderman Ed Long, Public Works Director Brian Boroughs, floodplain manager Karen Knebal and city employee Paul Ross accepted the City of the Year award in September at an event held in Eureka Springs.

Cabot was awarded the honor for its commitment to floodplain management at the local level.

That commitment, the mayor noted, was demonstrated through the city’s completion of 118 drainage improvements between 2011 and 2014, many in the Diamond Creek and Kerr Station basins.

Cabot had two almost 500-year rain events with no significant floodwater issues recorded.

The city obtained FEMA grant funding last year to conduct a flood elevation study on the Diamond Creek basin that is 90 percent complete and to build a detention pond behind Central Elementary School.

The mayor said Cabot also implemented a drainage ditch and detention pond foliage control program this year that aims to make the ditches look cleaner and better, reduce mowing costs and improve flow in larger rain events.

• Police Chief Davis has been with the department for 30 years, according to the proclamation. He joined the Cabot force in 1985, at the age of 21.

Davis became police chief in 1997. He has served at that post under four mayors and has worked for a total of seven mayors.

Davis has also been secretary and treasurer for the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police, was appointed to the State Crime Lab Board and is on the Central Arkansas Crime Stoppers Board.

Williams, who presented the Senate citation, said Davis was nervous when he was first asked to be chief. Williams said Davis pointed out to him then that the chief could be fired quickly if the mayor didn’t like him.

The senator noted that he must have done a good job because he’d served four since then, including Williams himself.

State Rep. Tim Lemons presented the House citation. He spoke about how Davis let him out a jam one time when the air conditioning blowing balloons around on a secretary’s desk set off the alarm at Lemons’ business three times.

Lemons explained that a police officer had told him he’d have to pay a fine for three or more false calls, but Davis waived the fine after hearing what happened.

Cypert added at the end of the presentation, “When it comes to police work, he knows when to hold ‘em, and he knows when to fold ‘em. By that I mean he knows precisely for every situation what should or shouldn’t be done.”

• The council authorized the mayor and city clerk-treasurer to purchase a 2007 dump truck for $45,000 from Holt and Sons, Inc.

• The council accepted the lowest bid of $41,956 from Action Sign and Neon, Inc., for municipal signs.

• The council rezoned 85 S. Pine St. from R-1 (single-family residential) to C-2 (general commercial) without an emergency clause, which means the new zoning designation is effective 30 days from Monday. The first readings for two ordinances rezoning 501 and 607 S. Pine St. were held.

Ordinances must be read three times or have readings waived before they can be approved.

 The council passed an ordinance setting the millage rate, which remained the same. An ordinance setting the millage must be approved every year.

SPORTS STORY >> Week 8 crucial and not so much

Leader sports staff


Week eight of the high school football season should be meaningful for every team in playoff contention, but it’s not. The Cabot Panthers play a meaningless mismatch against Mountain Home at Panther Stadium on Friday.

The Panthers (7-0, 4-0) host a Bomber team that did manage to snap a 31-game losing streak that stretched back to week two of the 2012 season. Mountain Home beat Valley View 20-14 in week two this year after losing its last nine games in 2012 and going winless the last two seasons. But they haven’t won since, and haven’t been competitive since conference play began. Making matters worse for Friday’s visitors is that Cabot is the best team on the Bombers’ schedule.

It’s not likely, though, that the Panthers will run up 83 or 62 points on the Bombers like Jonesboro and North Little Rock did. Jonesboro at least had the excuse of also giving up 41 points, but Cabot coach Mike Malham has been much more inclined in recent years to take his foot off the gas when obvious mismatch games are in hand.


A much more vital game takes place down Hwy. 89 in Lonoke County.

Lonoke snapped its own four-game losing streak with a 26-16 win at Helena-West Helena Central last Friday, and needs to continue to win if it hopes to get back to the playoffs. Things won’t get any easier this Friday when the Mustangs make the trip to James B. Abraham Stadium.

The Mustangs enter Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff with a 6-1 overall record and a perfect 4-0 record in 4A-2 Conference play. They’re coming off a 30-point win over Southside Batesville, a team that beat Lonoke two weeks ago.

CAC has scored 42 first-half points in the last two weeks, and have plenty of experience back from last year, especially at the skill positions. Last week against Southside, senior running back Braylon Harris ran for three touchdowns and quarterback Noah Evans threw a 68-yard touchdown pass.

“They’ve got their running back back from last year,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost said of Harris. “He’s 6-foot, 215, really reminds me of Brandon Smith, who I had back in ’09 – just a big ole thick kid that runs the ball extremely well.

“They’ve got a receiver (Josh Johnson), that’s probably 6-1 and they throw it to him. As far as their quarterback, he can throw it on the money. It’s kind of those three guys that the offense goes through.

“They run the zone to perfection, so we’ve got to stop that. And then, like I said, they’ll throw the ball to No. 4 (Johnson). So, three guys we’ve really got to concentrate on this week, as far as our defensive game plan.”

Although the Mustangs have beaten two teams that beat Lonoke this year, the Jackrabbits weren’t 100 percent in those games, as they had a number of key players nursing injuries. Also, CAC only beat Helena by two points in week five.

Lonoke upset CAC last year, and that was the start of a midseason turnaround for the Jackrabbits, who won four of their last five regular-season games to earn a playoff berth. Bost is hoping his team can build off of last week’s win and use it as a catapult for another midseason turnaround.

“That’s what we told our kids,” Bost said. “You’ve got to be hungry for some more. We’ve got to have a good week of practice and get ready. But yeah, we sure want to build on it.

“We had several hurt against Heber and we very easily think we could’ve won, and then the four turnovers against Southside hurt us. So, we’ve just got to put a full game together like we did the other night and see what we can do.”


The Beebe Badgers’ home game against J.A. Fair won’t be competitive either, but it will be meaningful. With Pulaski Academy and Sylvan Hills undefeated, and McClellan with just one loss, the Badgers are fighting for the one remaining playoff spot.

A lot of scenarios could still play out in the 5A-Central Conference, but at quick glance, the odds are in Beebe’s favor.

The Badgers (3-4, 2-2) have just two conference games left. A win this Friday will give them that crucial third conference win. It’s still not settled, though. Beebe could assure itself of a playoff spot with an upset of Sylvan Hills next week. But there’s also a scenario in which Beebe could finish 3-3 and not make the playoffs.

If Jacksonville and McClellan also finish 3-3, creating a three-way tie for third and fourth place, Beebe is probably the team left out.


Carlisle scored a late touchdown to save its playoff aspirations last week at Palestine-Wheatley. That 27-26 win makes the Bison 3-2 in league play (3-4 overall).

They now have another game this week that appears to be an even matchup with the Brinkley Tigers (3-3, 2-3) coming to town. The teams share three common opponents. Both beat PWHS, and both lost to Des Arc and Hazen, but the scores indicate little.

Brinkley handled the Patriots 25-0 in week two, much more easily than Carlisle. Brinkley was also much more competitive with Hazen, losing 28-14 while Carlisle lost 51-20. But Des Arc blew Brinkley away 43-16, while barely getting by Carlisle 28-24.

Neither team will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, but a win for either team will almost assure a postseason spot.

SPORTS STORY >> McDonald brings JHS gift from NFL

Leader sports editor

Tampa Bay nose guard Clinton McDonald came back to his high school alma mater Friday night as an official representative of the National Football League. As part of the NFL’s Golden Football Campaign, which honors high schools that are home to at least one Super Bowl winner, McDonald presented Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham with one such ball before the Red Devils faced Pulaski Academy last Friday.

McDonald was the starting nose guard for the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 when they beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. He is the second former Red Devil to win a Super Bowl. Dan Hampton, an NFL Hall of Famer, played defensive tackle for the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears.

McDonald was unaware of the program until Thursday, when a team administrator asked him if he’d return to Arkansas on Friday to present the ball to JHS.

“I was really kind of surprised with this being our bye week, this is the week we usually just try to relax a little bit and take it easy,” said McDonald. “But when they told me about the program I said I’d do it.”

The Golden Football Program is in recognition of the upcoming Super Bowl 50, the gold anniversary of what’s become the most watched single-day sporting event worldwide. In an attempt to bridge the gap between high school and professional football, the NFL has embarked on this program.

Along with receiving the commemorative football from its most successful alumni, recognized schools will also receive a character education curriculum, and will be eligible to apply for high school football grants of up to $5,000. The NFL Foundation has also donated $1 million in support of the initiative.

McDonald was quick to deflect credit for the opportunity the JHS football program now has.

“To be able to come back and give back to the place where it all started for me, it’s a great honor and a blessing,” McDonald said. “When I look at all the blessings in my life, it’s very humbling for me to see how God can use my success to create opportunities for the place that helped me get where I’m at today.”

The character curriculum should coincide nicely with the “Character Kids” who are featured before every Red Devil home game. Conceived by head coach Barry Hickingbotham, the Character Kids are grade school students recommended by their teachers who get to lead the high school football team onto the field at each home game.

The grant money, if approved, couldn’t come at a better time for a fledgling school district. JHS athletic director Jerry Wilson couldn’t say what it might be spent on, but speculates that with a new mascot might come the need for new uniforms.

“There’s going to be a lot of needs,” said Wilson. “The main thing right now is just to express our appreciation to the NFL, and to Clinton McDonald.

SPORTS STORY >> ’Rabbits earn win at Helena

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke took care of the football Friday night at Helena-West Helena Central, and broke its four-game losing streak as a result with a hard-fought 26-16 victory over the Cougars.

It was the Jackrabbits’ first win since week two, and their first 4A-2 Conference victory of the season. The win was crucial to keeping Lonoke’s playoff hopes alive.

“Our kids came and they competed hard,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “We didn’t have any turnovers on offense, so that was huge. The week before, we had four turnovers and it led to 28 points for Southside.

“We kind of preached that we needed to protect the football and we did. So that was big.”

Helena (3-4, 2-2) scored the game’s first points on the very first possession. Kay Harvey scored on a 1-yard plunge before the Cougars converted the two-point try to take an early 8-0 lead.

Lonoke (3-4, 1-3) made it a two-point game in the second quarter with an 86-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Savonte Rountree to Justin Meadows. The two-point try was unsuccessful, making it an 8-6 game.

The Jackrabbits, though, took the lead before halftime. Running back Xavier Hodge scored on a 3-yard run toward the end of the half and Meadows scored the two-point conversion to make the score 14-8 at the break.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the Jackrabbits found the end zone again 89 seconds into the fourth. That score was another 3-yard run by Hodge, which made it 20-8 Lonoke.

Lonoke’s last score came on defense, when Steven Barrett returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown to push the Jackrabbit lead to 26-8. The Cougars scored a touchdown and added a two-point conversion late in the game to set the final score.

“On defense, we were able to turn them over,” Bost said. “We got a big interception by Kameron Cole and we got a 65-yard scoop and score by Steven Barrett that really turned the game for us. So that was big.”

Hodge led Lonoke with 18 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Rountree completed 3 of 7 passes for 100 yards and one score with no interceptions.

Meadows’ 86-yard reception led the Rabbit receiving corps. He also had three carries for 14 yards, giving him 100 yards from scrimmage.

Josh Coleman and Casey Martin caught Rountree’s other two passes. Joe Carter and Michael Hodges led Lonoke with 11 tackles each. Dylan Smith had eight tackles and Jawaun Bryant and Ethan Holland had seven apiece.

SPORTS STORY >> Rested Bears take on Lions

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills comes off the bye week created by the elimination of the North Pulaski football program late last spring, and the time off came at a great time for the Bears. This Friday, Sylvan Hills embarks on a three-week stretch to close the regular season that includes all three of the other playoff frontrunners from the 5A-Central. It starts with the week eight matchup with Little Rock McClellan at Blackwood Field.

“It came at a great time for us,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow of the bye week. “We have some players a little dinged up. We had some things we really needed to work on that we were able to address, and this is what it all comes down to for us. I don’t care what anybody says. This is the hardest part of our schedule. And I’m going to tell you something else. McClellan is a good football team. They’re better than they were last year and they’re getting better each week this year.”

In one of the more bizarre games of the season last year, the Bears won a 28-20 decision in a nearly empty stadium with about a dozen players out with the flu.

Like last year, the Bears are 7-0 coming into the game while the Lions have flipped their record from a year ago from 2-5 to 5-2. The two teams share two common opponents. The Bears beat J.A. Fair 54-0 and beat Mills 45-21. McClellan beat Fair 70-0 and Mills 66-16.

The Lions’ two losses were 27-8 to Class 7A Bryant in week two, and 41-30 to Pulaski Academy in week five.

“They’re big, they’re fast and they’re extremely physical,” Withrow said of the Lions. “As bad as our last game was (a six-turnover, 17-penalty, 29-14 win over Jacksonville) I thought our defensive line was very physical and played well. And that’s something they’re going to have to be this week. You have to be physical with McClellan or they’ll push you around.”

The Bears’ offense has been outstanding this season, especially in the first three weeks when it averaged 57 points per game. In its three conference games, it has still averaged 42 points per game, but Withrow believes the execution has not been as sharp as earlier games. Even after the 54-0 win over Fair, Withrow said he wanted to see crisper play. That didn’t happen against Jacksonville, and that’s a big reason why he was glad for the bye week before the most important stretch of the season.

“I thought we got a little sloppy against Fair,” Withrow said. “Against Jacksonville, at times I thought it looked downright unorganized. And that’s on me. We had some communication problems that we’ve had a chance to work on. I think we got that fixed, working on some signals. We play fast, but we want to play even faster. And I think spending time working on those signals is going to help us to do that.”

McClellan’s last two games were the Fair and Mills matchups, and the Lions have averaged 68 points in those games. It has been the easiest two-week stretch of the season for McClellan, but the offense has looked good against quality opponents as well.

The Lions’ offense struggled in a 14-13 win over Beebe, but like Sylvan Hills’ game with Jacksonville, McClellan committed several turnovers against the Badgers.

The Lions’ offensive struggles continued in the first half the next week when it fell behind Pulaski Academy 34-0. That’s when things started clicking again. Since halftime of the PA game, the Lions have outscored their opponents by a combined 166-23.