Saturday, May 07, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> LR Central upsets Cabot girls’ soccer

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot girls’ soccer team suffered its first loss in 7A/6A-East Conference play in an overtime shootout Tuesday at Quigley-Cox Stadium, losing 2-1 to Little Rock Central, who made all five of its penalty kicks in the shootout to come away with the upset victory.

Even though the Lady Panthers maintained possession for the bulk of the first half, Central (11-4, 8-3) scored the game’s first goal with 2:36 left in the half and took a 1-0 lead into halftime. Cabot (17-4, 8-1) scored the game-tying goal less than four minutes into the second half.

With 36:04 to play, Tristyn Edgar connected with teammate Hadley Dickinson, and Dickinson put the ball into the right corner of the goal from nine yards out, tying the game at 1-1.

Both teams threatened to score as the game progressed, but couldn’t get the go-ahead goal before regulation ended. Cabot nearly scored what would’ve been the game-winning goal with just seconds to play.

On that play, Edgar had a promising shot at the goal and took her shot, but a Central defender stepped into the path of the kick and the ball deflected off that player and went out of bounds and into the side of the net, outside the goal.

With the final seconds ticking away, Cabot had to rush the corner kick that followed, and time expired with the score tied 1-1. In the PK shootout, both teams scored on their first three attempts. Dickinson, Gracen Turner and Edgar made the Lady Panthers’ first three kicks.

Amy Schexnayder scored the fourth goal for the Lady Tigers. Maddie Rice was next up for Cabot, but her shot was blocked by Central goalie Riley Chafin, giving the Lady Tigers a 4-3 lead in the shootout. The Lady Tigers added their fifth goal on the next attempt, giving them the upset victory.

Cabot beat Central 3-1 in their first meeting last month at Panther Stadium. CHS head coach Kerry Castillo said the biggest difference in those two games were that his team took breaks on the field and played lackadaisically at critical times in Tuesday’s game.

“We took breaks in this game,” said Castillo. “We took breaks. We got lackadaisical, we stopped pressuring hard. The work rate wasn’t good enough.”

The Lady Panthers entered Tuesday’s game with a 7-0 record in conference play and the majority of those wins were lopsided.

“I think we came into the game confident, and that’s all fine,” Castillo said. “For the majority of the first half we played in their half (of the field) and we were attacking the goal, and with three minutes left, we got lackadaisical. They score a goal because we’re not working very hard, and it totally changes the game. Now all of a sudden they’re in the game and we’re coming from behind.”

Despite the loss, the Lady Panthers are still in line to win the conference championship and enter the upcoming Class 7A state tournament as the No. 1 seed from the 7A-East, but they needed to win last night’s regular-season finale at home against North Little Rock – a team they beat 5-0 last month in NLR.

“I like the lesson of the game for the kids,” Castillo said of the loss to Central, “and I like that our goalkeeper (Maggie Martin) had to see some penalties (penalty kicks). I don’t like that we let off of the gas. Not to say that Central’s not a good team. They’re a good team, but when you’re in complete control of the game you can’t let off.

“If it’s a dead-even game – if we’re playing a Bentonville or a Bryant and it’s a 0-0 game, there’s no time for a break. A break is to be had on the sideline, not in a game. For us it’s a letdown because we could’ve won the conference here tonight, so that is a disappointment. But it’s still within reach and I think they’ll learn a lot from this tonight. We’ll take our lumps, learn from it and move forward.”

The boys’ game also ended with Little Rock Central getting the win. The Tigers won that game by the final score of 4-1. The Panthers scored the game’s first goal less than eight minutes in. That goal was scored from 18 yards out by Somma Quiroa Rodas, and was set up by an Abi Brown corner kick that the Tigers failed to clear. Unfortunately for Cabot, it was all Central after that.

The Tigers scored the game-tying goal just over a minute later, and added two more before halftime to lead 3-1. Central’s final goal of the game was scored with 32:23 left to play in the second half.

Tuesday’s win completes the season sweep over the Panthers, which means Cabot (7-7-2, 7-2) will enter the Class 7A state tournament as the No. 2 East seed. Central (10-5-1, 9-1) is the No. 1 East seed and conference champion.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils rolling into playoffs

Leader sports editor

The Red Devil baseball team enters the state tournament on a nice roll. Jacksonville (15-12, 11-3) has won 10-straight games and hasn’t lost since April 7. It closed the regular season this week with an easy sweep of McClellan on Tuesday, and then a 6-1 victory over East two seed Batesville at Dupree Park on Thursday.

But they have a tough draw in the state tournament with Greenbrier. The Panthers will throw Hunter Milligan in the first round. Milligan is a Top-20 prospect in the nation, and rated as high as the No. 3 overall prospect in the nation by one baseball scouting publication.

He’s a 6-foot-4, 215-pound lefty whose fastball is in the low to mid-90s, and breaking ball only drops to the low to mid-80s.

“It’s the toughest draw in the whole tournament,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “But we’re going to go play it. Anything can happen. Hawk (Jacksonville’s own 6-4 lefty Brandon Hawkins) and (Caleb) McMunn both threw real well Thursday. Hawkins hadn’t pitched in three weeks before this, other than bullpen stuff. Hopefully he’ll be back to form like he was a few weeks ago when he was throwing really well. McMunn’s tough to hit, too, when he’s under control, and he did a good job tonight.”

Hawkins threw the first four innings against Batesville for the win. McMunn threw the final three. Batesville’s run was unearned.

In Tuesday’s conference finale, Jacksonville won by scores of 18-0 and 15-0.

Game one went four innings while game two lasted just three. Both games were full of walks and hit batters, but leadoff hitter Tyson Flowers went 3 for 3 with a double to lead game one offensively. Catcher Javan Wakefield hit a three-run home run, a triple and scored two runs to lead the Red Devils in game two.

The Red Devils and Panthers face off at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Harrison.

The two teams opened the season against each other in the Red Devil Classic in early March. Greenbrier won that game 14-4 after scoring seven runs in the first inning on three hits and five walks.

SPORTS STORY >> Big error in ninth puts LHS into stat

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits earned a crucial victory in the first round of the Class 4A East Regional at Lonoke Ballpark on Thursday. The Jackrabbits’ nine-inning, 5-4 win over the Brookland Bearcats wasn’t how you draw them up, but it was good enough to earn a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs that begin next Thursday in Ashdown.

Lonoke interim coach Nick Smith knows his team must clean up its defense in order to make a deep run in the state tournament, but is proud of how the team has persevered through the terrible circumstances surrounding the loss of its head coach late in the season.

“It affected them when it happened,” said Smith of former coach Darrick Lowery’s resignation after inappropriate text messages to a student were discovered. “But they have come together and rallied around each other. This is all on them. I have nothing to do with it. They set a goal. They’ve battled through adversity and they’ve persevered. I’m so proud of them and proud to be a part of it.”

Both teams scored three unearned runs. Lonoke got an outstanding performance from Haven Hunter on the mound. He had a perfect game going through three innings before Brookland leadoff hitter Ryan Reeves singled to start the fourth.

Tyler Harrell walked and Landon Jones singled to load the bases with no outs, but Hunter got out of the jam with minimal damage.

He struck out cleanup hitter Jake Algee. Ben Robinson hit a fly ball deep enough to score Reeves, but Hunter fanned Glen Harmon to keep the Jackrabbits within a run.

The Jackrabbits then scored two runs on a walk and three Brookland errors in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead.

Brookland tied the game in an eventful sixth inning. Harrell singled to second base. An error in right field left Harrell and Jones at second and third. Algee tried to lay down a sac bunt, but hit right back to Hunter, who underhanded it to Gabe Rooney at the plate.

Harrell hit the breaks and tried to get back to third, where Jones was already standing.

Rooney tagged him just a few feet from third, but no one covered home in his place. Jones spotted the empty plate, and as soon as Rooney turned his back, Jones ran by him and scored, tying the game.

That’s how it stayed through regulation. Things looked bad for Lonoke when the Bearcats scored twice in the top of the eighth on two more Lonoke errors, but the bats came alive in the bottom half.

Hunter and Casey Martin got back-to-back singles to start the inning. Kade Stuart ripped a line drive to deep right field for an out as both base runners moved up.

With runners moving, Savonte Rountree singled to center field to drive in both runs and tie the game.

An error at first base put Brookland’s leadoff man on to start the ninth inning, but Martin struck out the next two batters and got the fourth to fly out to center field.

Lonoke won the game without recording an out. Talon Swint drew a leadoff walk and nine-hole hitter Kameron Cole singled to right field.

Caleb Horton bunted perfectly down the third base line where Trevin Winkles should have held onto the ball. Instead, he tried to get the lead runner out at third, and threw wildly into left field, allowing Swint to trot home for the winning run.

Martin got the win on the mound for his three innings of work. He struck out six, walked two and gave up one bunt single.

Hunter threw six innings, recording six strikeouts with one walk, just four hits and one earned run.

He was also the only player in the game with multiple base hits, going 2 for 4 and stealing two bases.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers blow up records

Five school marks fall at Class 7A state track meet

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ track team fell short of a championship, but turned in five school record-breaking performances and won three event championships to finish third in the 7A state track meet Thursday at Conway. Fayetteville, the favorite going in, won the meet with 132.5 points. Springdale Har-Ber was second with 115 and Cabot scored 87 points. Conway was fourth with 74 points and Bentonville rounded out the top five with 68.5.

For the second time in two weeks, junior Jarrod Barnes broke the school record in the long jump, and this time it was good enough to win the meet.

After breaking the old record by 1.75 inches at 21-feet, 11-75 inches, he finished second in the 7A-East/Central Conference meet. But his leap of 22-3.50 on Thursday topped his own school record and just beat Fayetteville’s Tyson Morris by a half inch.

It was Barnes’ only event championship, but not his only school record. The football commitment to the University of Arkansas also broke the Cabot school record in the triple jump by a fraction. Barnes leapt 44-3.75 to finish third, and the .75 is what put him past the oldest of all Cabot records set by Steve Burks in 1971.

Senior Mark Odom, already owner of the school’s 110-meter hurdles record, broke the 300-meter hurdles record held by Joe Bryant since 2010. Odom ran a blistering 38.74 to beat Rogers’ Tony Roller by exactly one second.

Odom also broke the 110-hurdles record again Thursday, but couldn’t overcome Conway’s Kevon Holder. Odom lost to Holder in the first of five meetings this year, but beat him the last four times before Thursday.

Holder, however, ran his best time ever of 14.41 to beat Odom’s 14.56. The Cabot school record coming into this season was 15.49.

Junior Panther Britton Alley is the state 200-meter dash champion with a personal record time of 22.20.Alley also PR’ed in the 100-meter dash to finish third with an 11.06, and was fourth in the 400-meters with a 50.36.

The Panthers’ 4x100-meter relay team also broke the school record, but finished .1 seconds behind Har-Ber for second place. The team of Alex Roberts, Connor Daigle, Conley Hillegas and Brandon Whitley finished in 42.88 seconds, eclipsing the old record of 43.10 set just two years ago.

Senior Brandon Jones PR’ed in the discus to finish second with a toss of 147-8.

Cabot’s 4x400-meter relay team finished third with a time of 3:27.99. The 4x800 relay team finished seventh.

Junior Matt Stanley took sixth in the high jump at 6-2 and Rocky Burke was eighth in the pole vault at 13-0. Jack Moore took eighth in the 800-meters and Gardner Howze took eighth in the 1,600. The Panthers’ 4x800 relay team also finished eighth.

Fayetteville also won the girls’ meet with 127 points to beat Bentonville’s 112. The Lady Panthers scored 15 points for 11th place.

Cabot’s 4x800-meter relay team couldn’t duplicate its school record-breaking performance of a week ago, finishing seven seconds slower and in fourth place. Last week’s time would have been second on Thursday, but still five full seconds behind state champion Rogers’ time of 9:38.69. The 4x400-meter relay team finished fifth for Cabot.

Freshman Lauren Turner took fourth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 47.26, and Caytee Wright finished tied for seventh in the high jump at 4-10.

Friday, May 06, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Guests of honor are turned away

Twenty honor graduates from North Pulaski High School were locked out of a banquet hosted by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce on Monday. It has angered and embarrassed many people in the community.

The North Pulaski students arrived late because they were taking an AP chemistry test. Not even a chamber lunch could pull these scholars away from their studies for very long.

After the test, the North Pulaski students went over to the community center, where the lunch was being held, but the guests of honor were unfortunately turned away.

Jacksonville High School had 13 honor graduates at the lunch, along with 10 from Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter College Preparatory Academy. So the 20 missing North Pulaski students made the room look a bit empty.

It was an embarrassing misstep by the chamber, which discourages stragglers from interrupting guest speakers, who are often among the most important figures in Arkansas. Even Mayor Gary Fletcher and our own Rick Kron have been locked out of chamber events when they were a couple of minutes late.

Monday’s speaker was Donald Bobbitt, the University of Arkansas’ system president, who should not have been distracted by the students’ late arrival. He probably would have been glad to have the students join him for the luncheon.

North Pulaski students often feel they haven’t been as celebrated as their counterparts at Jacksonville High. North Pulaski’s academics are stronger, its campus is in better shape and it had a first-rate marching band.

But this will be the last year North Pulaski exists as a high school. Its campus will become a middle school, and students will join JHS while a new high school is built downtown. They should have been consolidated years ago.

The Cabot chamber recently honored 193 Cabot High School honor graduates. For perspective, Jacksonville High graduated 176 students last year, and North Pulaski graduated 154. This year, Cabot will probably surpass the 639 students it granted diplomas to last year.

We salute all honor graduates and hope many of them will start businesses in the area. Perhaps one of those locked-out honor grads will become chamber president one day.

In the meantime, the chamber issued a statement Thursday reassuring the North Pulaski students and their parents that they are much appreciated. They will be honored with a special lunch at Olive Garden on Wednesday, May 18.

We hope the chamber picks up the check.

EDITORIAL >> A symbol to build on

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board this week chose the Titans as the mascot for all of the new district’s schools.

The new name is as American as the underground Titan missiles that dotted the countryside in silos across north Arkansas. The missiles were under the control of the 308th Strategic Missile Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base for more than 25 years. They were aimed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War and were dismantled in 1987 at the twilight of the Soviet empire.

The Titans symbolize victory in the Cold War, so they are also a good choice for the new district’s athletics program, but some of us thought Jacksonville High School should stay the Red Devils until the new $60 million campus is built downtown at the old middle school site.

That should take three years at least, giving the community plenty of time to find itself a new symbol. But school officials were rushed to choose a mascot because in the complicated plans to separate from the Pulaski County Special School District, the Little Rock-based district was required to paint the JHS campus, including mascot emblems, before the split.

Mascots may seem an afterthought in the new district’s quest to rebuild the community’s education system. The school board is more concerned about creating quality academic programs that can compete with Cabot. That means attracting teachers and students who will raise standards. It can only be done by building modern school buildings and creating a sense of joy and excitement about learning.

The Titans are a good choice to get that process started, but it will be a shame if the Titans football team takes the field wearing Red Devils uniforms because the new district can’t afford new ones. That would give the wrong impression that the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District isn’t financially viable, and that it can’t afford new uniforms for its team.

Let’s not let that happen. Go, Titans!

TOP STORY >> Holocaust ceremony on LRAFB

Leader executive editor

A group of eighth graders from the Flightline Academy on Little Rock Air Force Base entered the Walters Community Center auditorium on Thursday morning for a Holocaust Remembrance Day service.

Dozens of airmen attended the ceremony at the base, hosted by Col. Charles E. Brown Jr., commander of the 19th Airlift Wing. The memorial service was held simultaneously with a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Emancipation Hall at the Capitol in Washington.

The ceremony here included a nine-minute video called “Why We Remember the Holocaust” produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where my brother Steve directs the emerging young scholars program.

Col. Brown had asked me to talk about how my parents survived the Holocaust thanks to heroic efforts of the U.S. military and its allies. The memorial service was held on the 71st anniversary of my late father’s liberation from captivity. It was on May 5, 1945, that the U.S. Army’s 71st Infantry Division freed my father, Ferenc, at the Mauthausen-Gunskirchen concentration camp in Austria. Soldiers wept when they discovered thousand of corpses all around the camps.

I wanted to address the youngsters who were sitting in the back of the auditorium. I told them my mother, Ilona, and her family were put in cattle cars in northeast Hungary and taken to Auschwitz 200 miles away in Poland, traveling two days and two nights in May 1944 with a little water and no food.

My father was in a forced labor battalion in Austria, but his parents, grandmother and siblings were also pushed into cattle cars and sent to Auschwitz.

Only my parents survived from their families as more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews perished in Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. My parents married after the war. My mother was a teenaged survivor, while my father was 22.

My mother, who is 90, lit a memorial candle this week in Miami. My mother used to tell me about U.S. planes bombing Frankfurt, Germany, where she was held captive in late 1944. “Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force,” I said at the ceremony.

She had been taken from Auschwitz, where young Anne Frank and her sister Margot were also prisoners.

As the Germans retreated, they kept taking the surviving prisoners with them. After Frankfurt, my mother went to camps in Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany. Anne and Margot were sent to Belsen about the same time my mother was there.

The sisters died probably in February 1945, just weeks before my mother was liberated by British troops April 15, 1945.

A moving candlelighting ceremony followed my talk. Six airmen lit candles to honor the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. Like my parents, 300,000 other Jews survived the camps. Some 1.5 million other Jews in Europe also survived the war before the Nazis could murder them all.

I told the group that I wanted to bring them a message of hope. I ran out of time before I could tell the youngsters in the back that my family survived not only the Nazis but also communism and found a home here in America.

I should have told them, too, about the Jewish American generals leading our Air Force. Retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, who was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, was Air Force chief of staff from 2008-2012, and Gen. David Goldfein has been nominated as the next Air Force chief of staff.

My mother will think of them both when she lights her Sabbath candles..

TOP STORY >> Base plans military expo

Little Rock Air Force Base will hold a scaled-down open house Saturday, Sept. 17 called Arkansas Military Expo that will include military units from around the state.

The base canceled its air show two years ago because of federal budget cuts. This year, its runway is undergoing a major renovation and expansion so the event will not include an air show with acts like the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels.

Instead, the expo will feature several aircraft displays including C-130s. “While there will be no personnel drops due to construction, various airdropping capabilities will be highlighted.”

“There will be equipment on display from the Air National Guard and Army National Guard, including a drone from Fort Smith, artillery equipment, military vehicles such as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV/ Blackhawk helicopter with fast rope teams from Camp Robinson,” according to an announcement from LRAFB.The expo is free and will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a variety of booths and events, including many for families. Parking will be free.

Maj. Julie Honeycutt, the event’s organizer and assistant director of operations for the base’s 41st Airlift Squadron, said, “Military members throughout Arkansas are supported by their local communities and this event is an excellent opportunity to show the community what their neighbors do each and every day.”

There will be a Kids Zone in one of the hangars with a bouncy house, face painting and other activities.

There will also be food vendors.

For updates on the event, visit the 2016 Arkansas Military Expo Facebook page and website.

TOP STORY >> Meeting on I-30 Monday

The state Highway Department will hold a town-hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Jacksonville Community Center to discuss the planned improvements to I-30 that will include easing traffic congestion on I-40 and Hwy. 67/167 and making them safer.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher encourages the public to attend to learn more about the project and ask questions.

Although the highway project will be in North Little Rock and Little Rock, it is important to Jacksonville commuters and other drivers north of the Arkansas River, Fletcher said.

The junction where Hwy. 67/167 merges with I-40 and I-30 is dangerous and chaotic for drivers. Traffic on Hwy. 67/167 heading to downtown Little Rock must change lanes quickly to get on the I-30 bridge, while competing with cars and trucks on I-40 heading west that must quickly merge right.

It’s a high-volume, high-speed area that bottlenecks for hours every morning. The delays are made worse as westbound traffic on I-40 enters I-30.

It’s part of the daily grind for thousands of central Arkansas residents.

Plans call for reconfiguring lanes so that drivers on Hwy. 67/167 can remain in their lanes to connect with I-30, and I-40 drivers won’t have to switch lanes to continue west.

The I-30 bridge could have as many as eight lanes. It will be a lengthy project with the planning and design starting now and construction set to be complete by 2022.

It’s one of several highway modernization programs across the state, including the widening of Hwy. 67/167 from Jacksonville to Cabot.

“It’s crucial that our local people get involved. The I-30 expansion is as much a local as a regional issue. The idea is to create a safer road system for all for all of us,” Fletcher said.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Thanks, Lt. Dan

Gary Sinise, the actor best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in “Forrest Gump,” performed Friday with his Lt. Dan Band at Little Rock Air Force Base as part of a USO tour.
Sinise, who played a Vietnam veteran who lost both legs in the movie, performs about 30 concerts a year at military bases all over the country and around the world. The shows are one of several projects of the Gary Sinise Foundation, which is more impressive than most other support-the-troops organizations. The Sinise Foundation builds so-called smart homes for veterans who have lost limbs in battle. The homes allow them to live more independent and productive lives with their families.

On its website,, visitors can read about the dozens of service members, in as many states, who have received smart homes, some newly built and some retrofitted with handicapped-accessible features, that have computerized features to easily control lighting, window blinds, heating and cooling, and more. Thanks to Sinise’s work, these permanently wounded veterans are living more comfortably.

The website includes stories of the veterans helped by the foundation:

• Air Force Tech Sgt. Joseph Wilkinson of Averill Park, N.Y., a member of the Security Forces, who is paralyzed from a degenerative nerve condition that may have been caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“On Christmas Eve 2012, Joe and his family moved into their new custom Smart Home. Joe said, ‘More independence for me…That gives my family a break. My kids and my wife, they can go back to leading their lives…There are no words I can say to express my gratitude. Somehow I’ll pay it forward. My actions will show how grateful we are,’” according to the website.

• Marine Corporal Christian Brown of Munford, Tenn., who was maimed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2011. “He sustained multiple traumas to both hands and arms, amputations of his right leg below the hip joint and left leg above the knee, internal injuries and blast wounds to his upper left thigh,” according to the website.

After moving into his custom smart home, Brown said, “It’s just time to get back to being my own person...It’s really exciting because I know I can live on my own and I can take care of myself, even in a wheelchair.” 

• Army Specialist Jerral Hancock of Palmdale, Calif., a tank driver who on his 21st birthday in 2007 lost his left arm, was badly burned and was paralyzed below the chest from shrapnel in his spine, in an explosion.

He had been living in a cramped mobile home with his son and daughter before moving into his new home provided free by the Gary Sinise Foundation.

The foundation also provides outreach to veterans to help them integrate back into civilian life. It documents war stories of World War II veterans as well as several other programs that honor the sacrifice and courage of people who serve in the military.

We’re glad Sinise visited Little Rock Air Force Base. If you missed him, you can see his new TV show “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” tonight at 7 on CBS.        

— Jonathan Feldman 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke falls in stay-busy contest with CAC ’Stangs

Leader sports editor

Torrential downpours ruined plans for the first three days of the 4A-2 District baseball and softball tournaments. Play was scheduled to begin Friday afternoon at Stuttgart, but heavy rain meant no games Friday, Saturday or Monday.

With regional tournaments set to begin tomorrow, much of the district events were called off.

In baseball, the tournament was canceled and the top four teams from the regular season were awarded regional bids.

The softball tournament got started last night with Lonoke facing CAC and needing to win two games to qualify for regional.

The two top baseball seeds went to CAC and Lonoke, an provided the two teams with an opportunity to play a stay—busy game at Lonoke Ballpark on Monday that the Mustangs won 4-0. CAC beat Lonoke 7-6 in the regular-season.

The Lady Jackrabbits played their first district game Tuesday evening after Leader deadlines.

In Monday’s baseball game, the Mustangs got all four of the game’s runs in the first inning before the contest settled into a pitchers’ duel. Lots of players took the mound for both teams, only CAC’s Joey Bond threw more than one inning as the Mustangs used six pitchers while Lonoke (12-8) utilized seven for one inning each.

Both teams finished with just three hits. The difference in the game was that one of CAC’s hits was a home run that followed a walk and two Lonoke errors.

Cade Huckeby hit the home run while Braden Quesinberry got the win for his one-inning of work on the mound.

Ethan Holland, Casey Martin and Kade Stuart got Lonoke’s three base hits. The two first inning errors were the only ones in the game.

Lonoke hosts the regionals. The baseball team plays at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS Titans get spring practices underway

Leader sports editor

The first day of spring football practice at Jacksonville High School coincided with the announcement that the school’s new mascot would be the Titans. It was also announced that the new school colors would keep the old Jacksonville red and white, and add trims of black and gold. The name change goes into effect immediately. Uniform changes depicting a new mascot and/or logo will be done incrementally.

Jacksonville football coach Barry Hickingbotham, a former Red Devil player, had mixed emotions, but was mostly positive about the change.

“I’m just glad it’s over and there’s something now that people can get behind and unify,” said Hickingbotham. “Kept the same base colors and added a little bit of the gold. Some people wanted change, some didn’t. Somaybe it has enough to give everybody something to cheer for. I hate to lose the history, but it’s one of those give and take deals. Now everybody has a common starting point, so hopefully everybody can get motivated and support. It’s been a long time coming for our community to get our school and that’s what we should all rally together for.”

Hickingbotham’s focus Monday was primarily on getting spring practice underway, and it was all fundamentals for the very young team. Backs worked almost exclusively on tackling drills while linemen worked on blocking.

There were 46 players dressed out for the first day of full-pad practice since fall, and only 12 seniors. Coaches expect that total number to include a little more than 50 players and 13 seniors, which is very few total numbers and seniors for a 6A team.

“We’re going to be really young,” Hickingbotham said. “We only have 13 seniors and not many with much playing experience. The good thing about it is, the kids are eager. They get out there with some energy and want to learn what we’re trying to do. The negative is, there’s going to be a lot of mistakes, just from growing pains.”

Blockers were learning how to fire off the line of scrimmage with pads low, indicating a change in offensive scheme from last year’s spread attack. Assistant coach Jim Stanley was working with the linemen. He ran the Double-Wing offense for most of his 18 years as a head coach at Gosnell and Vilonia.

“We needed to really work hard on establishing the running game because it’s going to be tough on us lining up against teams like Pine Bluff,” Hickingbotham said. “We need to run the ball better than we did last year, so we’re going to work on things that will help us establish that before we throw it. I think it will be good for us, as a young team, to slow the game down a little, not hurry as much as last year.

“We’re just doing a lot of teaching right now, and we don’t have anywhere near the kind of depth you’d like to have in 6A football.”

Final numbers won’t be known until classes begin next school year, but the enrollment numbers attributed to the new JNP High School by the Arkansas High School Activities Association far exceed the actual count. The AHSAA simply added Jacksonville’s total 2014 enrollment to NPHS’s total 2014 enrollment, not taking into account that more than half of North Pulaski High School’s student population reside outside of the current JNPSD lines.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win conference

Leader sports editor

It was a close battle, but the Cabot Panthers prevailed as 7A-East/Central Conference champions over the Conway Wampus Cats last Thursday at Panther Stadium.

The boys’ track team outscored Conway 175-161 to earn the crown. The two teams have been in many of the same meets this season, and it was Cabot’s fourth time in six meetings to outscore Conway.

The Lady Panthers finished third with 62.5 points, but did establish some personal records and broke one school record.

The Lady Panthers’ 4x800-meter relay team shattered the old school record of 9:53.72 set just last year. Samantha Nickell, Lauren Turner, Hadley Dickinson and Casey Gore finished with a time of 9:44.96 to win the event.

A boys’ school record fell as well. Junior Jarrod Barnes leaped 21-feet, 11.75-inches on his first jump to beat the 17-year-old record set by David Fowler by 1.75 inches. But Barnes didn’t win the event. North Little Rock’s Nick Lewis, the next-to-last competitor in the event, sailed 22-0.75.

Barnes, who had already passed on two of his next three attempts, still had a jump remaining, but had left the area. He was finally found and notified that he was now in second place, but after a run from one end of the stadium to the other, he could only muster a 20-foot jump on his final attempt.

Senior Mark Odom won the high-point trophy after winning or placing in five events, including three PRs. Odom won the 110-meter hurdles with a personal record time of 14.69. Chris Boles finished sixth in that race for Cabot.

Odom won the 300-hurdles with a 40.15. He also finished fourth in the shot put with a PR of 44-8.25, cleared 6-0 in the high jump for another PR and fourth place. He finished fifth in the discus and seventh in the 100-meter dash to finish the meet with 36 points.

Junior Brandon Whitley achieved a huge PR in the long jump as well. He leaped 20-10.75 for fourth place for five big points the team was not expecting.

Barnes won the triple jump with a leap of 43-3. Another junior, Matt Stanley, won the high jump. He and Conway’s Xavier Hicks cleared 6-4, but Stanley did it on an earlier attempt, giving him the 10 points for first place.

Rocky Burke set a personal record of 13-8 to win the pole vault. Teammate Dylan Smith cleared 12-8 for second place while Braxton Burton went 11-6 to tie for third.

The Cabot 4x100-relay team ran its best time of the year to win that event. Alex Roberts, Whitley, Connor Daigle and Conley Hillegas finished in 43.29.

The Panthers’ 4x800 team of Landon Vaught, Jack Moore, Stuart Nickell and Greyson Kaufman finished second.

Britton Alley ran his fastest 100-meter dash of the year for third place while Whitley finished fifth with another PR. Alley was also second in the 200-meter dash with a season-best time of 22.74, while Hillegas was seventh.

Hillegas and Alley teamed up with Burke and Austin Swackhammer to finish second in the 4x400-meter relay. They were .33 seconds slower than Bryant with a time of 3:24.65.

Gardner Howze set a personal record of 2:04.34 to finish second in the 800-meters while Moore finished fourth, Kaufman sixth and Vaught seventh in that event.

Brandon Jones finished third in the discus for Cabot and Blake Scott finished seventh in the 3,200.

The Cabot teams will take all state qualifiers to Conway on Thursday for the 7A state track meet at Conway High School.

Cabot coach Leon White said his boys have an outside shot of competing for the state championship, but that three West teams have a big advantage.

“Well Fayetteville, Bentonville and Har-Ber are all so strong, they have to be considered heavy favorites,” said White. “If we win a few events and they all have some kids slip up here and there, I think we’re the one that’s right behind them, but we’re a long shot for sure.”

The state meet begins at 10 a.m. Field event finals will be in the morning and afternoon sessions. Running finals will begin at 5:30 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> Sherwood’s new library

The design of Sherwood’s new $5.8 million, 14,000-square-foot library was unveiled last week. Taggart Architects of North Little Rock has conceived a modern, nature-oriented facility that the community deserves.

It will be a big improvement from the cramped and outdated Amy Sanders branch near the municipal complex.

The new library, a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System, will be built on 14 acres on Johnson Drive near Sylvan Hills Middle School and Hwy. 107. Being so near the middle school will ensure plenty of youngsters will drop in.

It will be paid for with a 1.3-mill property tax increase voters approved in 2014. Building will start in August or September. So it should be open by the end of summer 2017.

Many people will likely visit the new library just to take a stroll on the sprawling nature trails, which will probably feature first-rate landscaping like the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library, another CALS branch.

The design somewhat resembles the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

The landscaping needs to include a pond stocked with fish to complement the library system’s fishing-pole lending program. Kids could wet a hook right outside as they do now at the small, but productive, pond near the municipal complex. That’s always fun for drivers to see while zooming down Kiehl Avenue.

The new library will have a wraparound walkway to let visitors view the grounds. It will also have an amphitheater with 200-300 capacity to host live music and other performances. It will be a perfect venue for an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra community concert, outdoor movies or the many top performers who have been performing at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock.

The new library will be a cultural events center as much as it will be a place to borrow books, DVDs, music and surf the web. It will make the community proud.

There’s also news that the legislature will restore $1 million cut previously from the state library budget. Spending more money on literacy is always a good investment.

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville salutes honor grads

University of Arkansas Systems president Donald Bobbitt (left) with honor students during the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Champions of Academic Excellence luncheon. Pictured are Jacksonville High School students David Adams, Alexis Alexander, Jordan Bell, Kinley Burrow, Hailey Elmore, Stevie Eskridge, Payton Matheny, R.J. Moore, Gavin Price, Zylah Richardson, Tyra Talley and Chelsea Taylor, and Lighthouse Charter College Prep Academy students Dalton Bryan, Courtney Hindman, Jay Jefferson, Khaleeq Mateen, Chandler Smith and Santana Tello. Not pictured were Jacksonville High School students Brandon Hawkins and Brianna Mashburn, and Lighthouse Charter College Prep Academy students Jodie Miller, Drevon Hinton, Jordan McNair, Tichina Newman, Gavin Sipes and Jacob Waldrup; and North Pulaski High School students Lonnie Bures, Lindsey Burris, Katelyn Cray, Dylan D’Anna, Kiarra Evans, Ashley Felton, Linda Fowler, Kara Graham, Kristopher Jerry, Miranda Jordan, Bethany Kasper, Kalynn Lett, Amy Nellis, Kaitlin Parker, James Robinson III, Jeremy Schmidt, Tyler Silvas, Hayley Walker, Khagji Warren and Brandon Wright.
Leader staff writer

University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt encouraged honor graduates of Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Light-house Charter College Prep Academy and North Pulaski High School to continue their education. He was the guest speaker for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s Champions of Academic Excellence luncheon held Monday at the community center.

Jacksonville had 13 honor graduates and Lighthouse had 10 honor graduates who were recognized with academic medals for their achievement. North Pulaski had 20 honor graduates but were turned away at the door by a policeman for being late due to testing.

North Pulaski High School counselor Stephanie Whitfield told The Leader on Tuesday that some of the honor students were taking an AP chemistry test. The school contacted the chamber prior to the luncheon, and said they would be arriving late. Whitfield said the tests were started early so the students could attend the luncheon.

The North Pulaski honor students chose to wait for other honor students to finish the test and then depart to the community center together as a group late to the event. They would forgo the meal and wait for the medal presentation.

When the North Pulaski students, counselors and some parents arrived to the luncheon they were told by a Jacksonville police officer at the door that the luncheon was full. There were no seats available, and they needed to leave. The were told their medals would be mailed to them, and they were turned away.

Principal Mitzi Smith treated the students to CiCi’s Pizza as a consolation.

There were several empty tables reseved for the North Pulaski students that had name cards by china plates.

The the lunch began 15 minutes late, and chamber director Amy Mattison said the rest of the students were “in transit.”

After everyone was served, the Chicken Country catering staff announced that they had plenty of leftovers for seconds and thirds.

North Pulaski plans to recognize its honor students and present the chamber’s academic medals with its own luncheon at a later date.

On Tuesday, Mattison referred questions about the mixup to Richard Moss, the chamber’s vice chairman and education chairman, who was the emcee for the luncheon.

“I have no comment, and we will issue a statement later,” he said.

What North Pulaski students missed was Bobbitt congratulating the honor students because they made the choice to take the road less traveled, accepted the challenges and did not take the easy road.

“I hope each of you choose to continue your education for your personal development, economic security and for the good of your family, your community and for the good of the state,” Bobbitt said.

“Some of you will begin college this fall. Others may choose to work and others may choose to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, a noble and selfless commitment. Whatever your path, I want you to further your education,” Bobbitt continued.

Bobbitt said less than 19 percent of Arkansans have a baccalaureate degree and less than 30 percent have either a two-year or a four-year degree.

“The type of economy envisioned by Henry Ford over a century ago is no longer appropriate for the technologically advanced economy of the 21st Century,” Bobbitt said.

“In the future it is not what you know. We can all access the information. It is how you access the information, how you organize, how you prioritize it and then how you use it. It is those individuals that will lead the economy of the 21st Century,” Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt shared some expressions he believes are true that helped him a great deal the first four years as university system president.

“‘Eat the frog first.’ It is easy to put off the thing that needs to be done until later. Choose the opportunity to continue your education. It will give you the confidence to face the future,” Bobbitt said.

He said higher education will teach skills needed to be nimble, flexible and to adapt.

“You will be able to entertain multiple points of view without necessarily agreeing with any of them. Respectful conversation has a real place in our democracy,” Bobbitt said.

“You should dream big and accept new challenges even though you may not know at this point in time where they may lead you. Because of your accomplishments, society will seek you out for answers on difficult issues.”

He quoted a former Walmart senior vice president, who said, “People don’t care what you know, until they know you care.”

TOP STORY >> School voting requires a fix by legislature

Leader staff writer

Sometimes a law meant to do good or be helpful turns out to cause more problems than it cured.

“We call that ‘unintentional consequences,’” said state Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke).

One of those laws that she says needs to be tweaked during this session is the one that allows school boards to hold their election in conjunction with the general election.

“The law doesn’t require them to do it, but says they may. But since the legislature passed the law, we’ve seen that it actually causes three problems, including possibly violating another state law,” the representative said.

She explained that there is a law that requires school board elections to be conducted on their own separate ballot.

“That means during the general election you would stand in line to receive your ballot for president, governor, mayor, alderman, etc., cast your vote and then have to get into another line to get a different ballot for the school board choices.”

Bennett also said state law requires school board elections to take place in the school or district precincts and general election polling sites may differ. Thirdly, she said in making the move, the new law would actually put much of the general election cost onto the school district. “And that was definitely not our intent,” she said.

State Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) said he understands the reasoning behind moving it to the general election. “It’s an effort to save money and to get more people voting. But the school board issue,” Johnson said, “would get lost in the bigger races. School board races are really at the grassroots. You don’t want to lose the identity and intent of the school board candidates.”

Johnson added another reason not to tie in the school board elections with the general elections has to do with timing. “We elect public officials in November to take office in January, but schools don’t run on a January to January calendar. They run summer to summer, and you don’t want your school board elected almost three months into a school year.”

Johnson said, “We spend a lot of time in the legislature dealing with these unintended consequences.”

Bennett said part of the issue is the illogical manner in which the legislature meets.

“We try to get so much done in a short period of time that the research is not always done,” she said.

She suggests the legislature to meet for a full week every month. “That would give us time to look at long-range consequences and not rush everything,” she said.


Leader senior staff writer

We are the Titans!

The Jacksonville High School Titans will take the field for the first time when the Mills University Studies High School football team comes to Jacksonville for the season opener on Sept. 2.

As of about 7:15 p.m. Monday, the official Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District mascot for all uses and all schools will be the Titans after the July 1 detachment from the Pulaski County Special School District.

After about 20 minutes of discussion, the board voted 5-2 to adopt Titans as the mascot and red and white as school colors with black and gold trim.

The name “Titans” was proposed as a nod toward the historic 308th Strategic Missile Wing based at Jacksonville from the 1960s into the 1980s, and the movie “Remember the Titans,” wherein two racially diverse schools come together in unity on and off the field.

By Tuesday morning, Jacksonville cheerleaders could already be heard practicing new cheers, such as the ubiquitous “We are the Titans, the mighty, mighty Titans, everywhere we go-oh, people want to know……” heard in the movie.

Miriam Webster defines a Titan as “any of a family of giants in Greek mythology ruling the Earth…until overthrown by the Olympian gods
or one that is gigantic in size or power: one that stands out for greatness of achievement. School board president Daniel Gray found definitions that titan is a person of prodigious knowledge, strength and influence, he said.

Gray said that was a unique and powerful model for students and it was about striving for success in all matters, not just on the playing fields.


Board member Deena Toney and Ron McDaniel voted against the motion, Toney not wanting to decide yet and McDaniel choosing another way to honor the base’s 60-year importance in the affairs of Jacksonville.

McDaniel, a retired Air Force colonel, recommended red, white and blue as the school colors and for the mascot, the blue bombers.

Nearly everyone on the board is military, ex-military or is in a military family.

A few in the audience or at an earlier workshop or a survey, wanted to stay with the Jacksonville Red Devils, but nearly all board members said they recognized the need for a fresh start that wouldn’t dishonor students and graduates of either high school and which would promote unity and a new beginning.

It was Gray who promoted the Titan mascot Monday night, and when First Arkansas Bank and Trust marketing director Roger Sundermeier showed some prepared slides of possible Titan logos, including some typefaces and the suggested color scheme, the idea seemed to gather momentum.

“We could committee this to death,” said school board member Jim Moore, who is fond of saying “committee this to death,” but that it was time to change and move on.

“This would be a clear message for a change,” said Gray. “Another meeting would be divisive.”

Board secretary Carol Miles said she supported the single, unifying mascot throughout all the schools and grades.

Toney said she would be “the bad thumb.”

“We really don’t have a budget that any of us have even seen,” noting that new football, basketball, baseball, softball, track, band and cheerleader uniforms could be quite expensive for a brand new school district, which doesn’t even have a budget.”

Gray said Tuesday morning that they could continue on with most uniforms, with red and white still the main colors.

“Decals could be put on football helmets,” he said. New band uniforms are only about two years old.

“I’m Red Devil to the core” said board member Marcia Dornblaser, a Jacksonville High School graduate and former cheerleader, but in a bow to unity, she voted for the new mascot and colors. “It’s a gut-wrenching decision for me,” she said.

“The time to do it is now,” said Gray, himself a former North Pulaski High graduate. “It’s an emotional decision. Some want to get us bogged down. Remember, enrollment has declined 40 percent in the last 10 years.”

Gray said a trophy case and historical display for both schools could be incorporated into the design of the new high school, slated for occupancy by fall 2019.

“Change connotes opportunity to do something different than what you’ve done before,” said Col. William Brooks, commander of the 19th Mission Support Group of the 19th Airlift Wing, who is the Air Force’s ex-officio school board member. “We’re proud to be part of this community. It’s an honor to be accorded that kind of stature in the community. Change to make a future that you want.”

“I think we need a total new look,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said.

Final design work on the logo and mascot hasn’t yet been considered.


The board unanimously approved the proposed elementary school attendance zone changes. At a previous hearing, parents seemed more interested in trying to apply for transfers from, for instance, a newly assigned elementary school to the one the child currently attends.

An online survey will ask for specifics to see if such requests could be accommodated without too much difficulty.

The survey asks identification and contact information, the school the child currently attends, school assigned under the new attendance zones, preferred school and rationale.

Because not everyone has good Internet access or skills, the district is providing a copy to each elementary school where parents can go to complete the survey.

The board has not committed to providing with these intra-district transfers, but hasn’t yet ruled them out.

All surveys must be completed by May 17, with a special school board meeting to be scheduled soon thereafter, according to JNPSD chief of staff Phyllis Stewart.

To take the online multiple choice survey, visit

When the homepage comes up, scroll down to “Latest News” and click on “The School Board Wants to Hear from You.” Then click in the red “read more” box and at the end of the second paragraph, click on the link “survey.”


The board returned from executive session to hire 68 new employees, including Courtney Holmes, as director of special education for the balance of the current school year and for the 2016-2017 school year.

Holmes, a 1999 University of Central Arkansas graduate, received a master’s degree from Albany State University in 2001 and an education specialist degree from Argosy University in 2010.


Elementary teachers hired include, alphabetically:

Kristin Beach, John Birmingham, Lisa Buchan, Stephan Burrows, Morgan Clark; Melissa Cormier, Hayley Earls, Regina Eubanks, Maghan Evans, Patricia Gibbs;

Kristen Ging, Stephanie Glover, Amber Gordon, Teyah Green, Kristi Heathwaite;

Kelsea Jackson, Crystal Kinsey, Emily Leonard, Lora Linder, Tiffinie Martin;

Melissa Matus, Melanie Godfrey-Maupin, Carol McFall, Anna Grace Minner, Elsie Mitchell;

Jacquel Moss, Crystal McMullen, Sherrice Niece, Audra Noris, Danielle Pelletier;

Page Pennock, Donna Phillips, Terra Pilkinton, Rhonda Pool, Melissa Reed;

Kylee Robinson, Stephanie Rodella, April Ryans, Taka Smith, Rhiannon Sniffin;

Angela Sprow, Michelle Turner, Kenisha Watson, Monica Williams.

The board hired community based instructors Lori Gold, Charlotte Ramsey and Sharon Presley.

Lori Cates was hired as a counselor, and secondary English teachers Nellis Caldwell, Paula George, Kathryn Gracie and Tiffany Shettles-Till also were hired.


Licensed employees hired for the 2016-17 school year include:

Lauren Gasper, elementary school teacher; Miranda Wilborn, special education; Susan Cheatham, teacher/middle school girls coach; Morgan Collins, middle school social studies; Sarah Mitchell, middle school English language arts.

Josh Nation, teacher/middle school boys coach; NaToya Norwood, middle school English language arts; Lamont Page, middle school coach, previously hired as a teacher; Robbie Walker, middle school math; Nita Wilson, art.

Ashley Zago, middle school English language arts; Sarah Zubor, middle school social studies; Paige Viger, secondary social studies; Vincent McIntosh, secondary English language arts.

The board also accepted resignations from elementary school teacher Lisa Hickingbotham and director of maintenance Spencer Mayfield, both of whom were hired recently.