Friday, July 22, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers off game in final team camp

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers went through their final team camp Wednesday at Conway High School. While far from pushing the panic button on such a young team, head coach John Shannon would like to have seen a much cleaner effort in his offense in its final offseason scrimmage.

Holes opened slowly and the ball hit the ground a lot, many times before a play could even develop.

“We haven’t had that much trouble getting a snap all summer long,” said Shannon between segments of the camp. “We dropped it more today than we have in all our other camps combined. This is the last one of the year, and it’s probably our worst one.”

That was before the camp teams reconvened from a water break for live scrimmaging. The offense still wasn’t as consistent as Shannon would like in its 20-minute, continuous clock games against Clinton and Morrilton, but did pick up a few first downs and broke a few big plays.

“I thought we looked a little better in the second half,” Shannon said. “We put it on the ground a lot less, but we need to get a lot more consistent. We’d look real good one drive, then go out there and not look very good the next one.”

The big play hurt the Badger defense more than sustained drives. Clinton put together one eight-play drive and scored, but failed to get more than one first down the rest of the session.

Morrilton didn’t fare any better than Clinton in sustaining offensive momentum against the Beebe defense, but it did bail itself out of a few third-and-long situations with big gains, mostly on pass plays.

Much of that is also due to having such young players in the defensive backfield. Two players who could project as the starting inside linebackers are sophomores, as is one safety and one cornerback.

“Like I said earlier this week, we’re just young and we have a lot of holes to fill, especially in the skill positions,” Shannon said. “There’s going to be growing pains. That’s just something you have to expect when you’re playing as many sophomores as we’re going to be playing. But I like their potential. They were a very successful freshmen team, but they’re learning this is a whole different level. They’re going to get better.”

One Badger back had a very good day. Sophomore halfback Taylor Boyce broke a couple of long runs. He also caught a screen pass in the left flat that appeared to be snuffed out by the Yellowjacket defense, but Boyce juked three successive defenders and turned it into a nice gain.

“He’s the quickest guy and he’s a natural at setting up blocks and making runs,” Shannon said. “As far as setting up his blocks, he’s the best I’ve ever had. It’s just natural for him. He just knows when to cut and how to turn things into big plays.”

For most of the summer, Nathan Burnett and Khalil Anthony have rotated at fullback, replacing 5,000-yard rusher Trip Smith, who broke the school career record last year.

Boyce, Connor Baker and Luke Oakley are getting most of the rotations at the halfback positions.

Juniors Mason Walker and C.J. Caldwell are battling for the starting quarterback position. Caldwell started at quarterback his freshman year, but didn’t play last season. Walker moved into the backup QB role, and led two touchdown drives against state runner-up McClellan before tearing his ACL while playing defense.

“I thought Mason moved the team better (Wednesday), but if you’d have been here last week, it was just the opposite,” Shannon said. “Caldwell was a little behind just from not playing last year, and Mason still isn’t 100 percent back to where he was speed-wise before the injury. We started out working four guys at quarterback. Those two have separated themselves from the group, but neither one has separated from the other. So I still haven’t named a starting quarterback.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lexi Weeks emotional over Cabot outpouring

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Just when her tears of joy upon vaulting to the U.S. Women’s Olympic track and field team finally dried, Lexi Weeks’ hometown opened her tear ducts again.

Cabot is the hometown of the University of Arkansas freshman pole vaulting Weeks twin sisters: Tori, amazing in her own right as a NCAA Indoor All-American and SEC Indoor third-placer and SEC Outdoor runner-up. And Lexi, unbelievable as the rookie NCAA and SEC Indoor and Outdoor champion, helping coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks win the NCAA Women’s Outdoor championship, become a U.S. Olympian by qualifying for the third and final team vaulting spot at the U.S. Trials in Eugene, Ore.

Cabot wants the Weeks family watching Lexi at the Olympic Games Aug. 16 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lexi’s parents, Brent and Amy Weeks, Tori, and the twins’ brothers, Brent, Matthew and Connor, couldn’t make it to Eugene when Lexi’s personal record 15-5 nabbed the thirdspot behind 2012 U.S. Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and Sandi Morris, the UA grad and 2015 NCAA Indoor champion off Arkansas’ 2015 NCAA Indoor championship team.

Weeks fought tears when it turned out her 15-3 vault in Eugene might make the U.S. team, which it ultimately did. Tears so overcame her that she never attempted another height after vaulting 15-5 still with a chance to compete for a top two spot with Suhr, 15-9, and Morris, 15-7.

“She was just crying and doing all that, so we said, ‘Just shut it down. You made the team,’” Arkansas women’s vault coach Bryan Compton said following Lexi’s 15-5 vault. “An hour later we are still crying.”

Meeting Arkansas media Tuesday, Weeks fought tears again discussing Cabot’s love for her and her family and the Razorbacks.

She was a qualifying long shot behind Suhr, Morris and Stephen F. Austin collegiate record holder Demi Payne, but Payne didn’t recover to jump well off her more recently broken wrist than Morris suffered, but was able to overcome.

Weeks bettered the next tier trying to fill Payne’s void. She was still emotional when queried by U.S. track officials.

“The day I qualified for the team they asked me, ‘Who of your family is going to be going?’” Lexi recalled. “And it was, ‘I have no idea.’ No one planned this is going to happen and Rio is expensive. So I don’t know if anyone is going to make it at this point.”

Citizens of Cabot plan to decide for her. They want the Weeks family in Rio some time at or between Lexi flying to Rio Aug. 3, and participating with the entire U.S. team in opening ceremonies then vaulting in the Aug. 16 prelims and, Lexi hopes, the Aug. 19 finals.

“My community has really come behind me,” Lexi said before her July 19 practice in Fayetteville. “My high school teacher set up this online fund-raiser for my parents and my sister to raise money to go, and so far our community has raised almost $12,000.”
Another tears vs. Lexi battle ensued.

“It is so overwhelming for me and my family,” Lexi said. “I am going to cry thinking about it because I am just so thankful that my community has come behind me and supported me and my family. It’s just incredible and overwhelming that they have been so supportive and encouraging. It’s so crazy to have that support from them.”

Frankly it’s still crazy to Lexi that she is a U.S. Olympian.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Lexi said. “But I am an Olympian and it sounds weird to say that. So it’s all crazy to me. The first time I go to the Olympics will be the first time I am out of the country. It’s surreal to me, this whole thing. I am thankful.”

And thankful that while the Trials marked the first time she didn’t vault with twin sister Tori, she had in Eugene and will have in Rio an Arkansas big sister with Morris among the favorites to medal.

Though with Nike since graduating the UA as the 2015 NCAA Indoor champion and NCAA Outdoor runner-up to Payne, Morris, the USA 2016 Indoor champion and World Indoor runner-up, still is coached by Compton, still trains with the UA women vaulters and mentors the UA’s youngest Olympian.

“I told her I would be a lost puppy without her because I am so new to it all, especially something like the Olympics,” Lexi said. “I am so thankful I will have her there with me to help me go through it all.”

Morris marvels that while others tensed competing for that third spot with Payne out that Lexi the rookie relaxed yet seized the moment.

“There were a lot of other girls who were under a lot of pressure to make team, and she was just out there smiling and having a good time,” Morris said. “She was able to go out there and get it done and jump high. She didn’t just end up on the team. She jumped her way onto that team.”

SPORTS STORY >> State champs stay busy

Leader sportswriter

The state champion Cabot boys’ basketball team hasn’t let up over the summer. The Panthers stayed busy last month, competing in double-digit exhibition games at team camps, and most recently took part in a Pulaski Academy team camp last week in Little Rock.

“We had a real busy June,” said Cabot coach Jerry Bridges. “We went to the Hendrix team camp and played some good teams and learned a lot about us, and then the following week we went to Russellville for three days and had a good camp there, and I thought we really made good progress.”

Cabot graduated three players in May, all three of which were 6-foot-3 or taller, but the Panthers return five of their top seven players from a season ago. Those players have continued to develop over the summer, but Bridges has always used summer competition as a way to develop his entire roster.

“I’m going to platoon people,” Bridges said. “We’ll run 10 on varsity and 10 on JV, and everybody’s going to play. One thing we try to do in the summer, we want to continue to try and develop our players. That’s the main thing.

“I’ve never hung a banner for what we’ve done in the summer. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at accepting that – you’ve got to. And I saw some good things from everybody. I think our young ones are getting better, and that gives us a chance to learn about some that are going to be juniors. Are some of these ready to step up, because we really need them to be.”

Bridges said it does help the developmental process of the entire team not having to worry about what he’s going to get from his starters/heavy contributors from last year’s championship team.

“Five of our top seven from last year is back,” Bridges said. “I’m not worried about what Bobby Joe (Duncan) can do, Matt (Stanley) can do, Gilly (Logan Gilbertson) can do, Jarrod (Barnes) can do, Jalen (Brown) can do. I know they’re going to be there for me, and it’s been good to see.”

Bridges mentioned some inexperienced juniors to-be that are going to be looked at to step up and contribute when the 2016-17 season tips off in the fall.

“Jared Vance has got a little bit of a bad back, but he’s getting better,” Bridges said. “I feel like he’s going to be able to help us out and he shoots the ball extremely well. I think Christian Weir is going to play more. He’ll be able to help us more.

“He’ll be able to give Bobby a little more (rest) time, but I feel like I can play them together some, too, because Christian’s real strong off the dribble and can D-up. Noah Allgood, he’s been a pleasant surprise. We need Noah to continue to improve to give us more depth (at forward) behind Gilly and Matt.

“It’s good to see Noah getting better because you’ve got to have an extra guy inside, because it can be physical sometimes when you get in foul trouble. Parker Childress is another guy. He’s a senior. I know he’s not real big, but he can shoot it deep and I really feel like he’s going to be able to help us some.

“It’s a different team. I know we’ve got a lot of the top seven back, but (graduates) Hunter Southerland and Garrett Rowe, they gave us so much stuff you don’t see in the scorebook, and Chandler Casteel did a great job coming off the bench. Those are three big bodies and players and great kids that we’ve got to replace. So hopefully we’ll be ready.”

One thing the Panthers have learned this summer is that being the champion means they’re going to get other teams’ best shot.

“Our guys need to understand, and I think they saw some of that as the summer went on, you’re going to get some people’s best shot,” Bridges said, “because everybody wants to say, ‘Hey, we beat the champions.’ We’ve never defended anything before, so you better be ready.”

Bridges wasn’t at last week’s team camp at Pulaski Academy. Two days before that camp, on the morning of July 11, Bridges’ father, Jack, passed away at 86 years young. Jack Bridges coached for 34 years, was an athletic director after his coaching days, and in retirement, spent a lot of time watching his children and grandchildren play and coach.

Jack Bridges was a regular on the front row of Panther basketball games, and the last game he saw his son Jerry coach was when the Panthers beat Bentonville in the Class 7A state championship game in their hometown of Hot Springs in March.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without him,” Bridges said of his father, “and that’s the honest truth. He gave me so much knowledge, and basketball, and the foundation of my beliefs. It’s why I’ve done what I’ve done. I promise you that. We’ll miss him over there in that section of his.”

Cabot assistant coach Nathan Brown coached the team at the PA camp on July 13. Cabot beat Mountain Home and PA at the team camps, but Bridges was told the team really showed improvement in the second half of their exhibition game against the host Bruins.

“We really got better, they told me, against PA,” Bridges said. “We didn’t look good the first half. We were down like two at half, just 13-11 for instance, and it’s like we ended up beating them 45-28.”

The Panthers are currently going through their weekly practice routine, working mostly on ball-handling and shooting. Bridges said practice sessions will have more focus on defense and conditioning once school starts next month.

It’s been a busy and trying summer for the head Panther. Bridges dedicated a lot of his time toward the end of June coaching the East All-Star team, and with the recent loss of his father, the CHS head coach hasn’t been with his team as much as he would like, but said he’s pleased with the progress the team has made over the last couple of months.

“I’m very pleased,” Bridges said. “It’s like I told coach Brown, part of me feels like we’re not ready because I haven’t been around with me coaching All-Stars, the two dead weeks and then my father, I haven’t seen them in a month. I saw them (Tuesday), and I miss them.

“They’ve been doing stuff and I’m fortunate I got coach Brown. He does a great job for me and I know they’re in good hands with him. Part of me says since I haven’t been here I don’t think we’ve been doing anything, but they have been, and I’m glad to be back and getting in that routine.

“We’re going Monday through Thursday now. We just want to keep getting better. Some of them got vacations planned, and my policy is, when you’re in Cabot I expect you to be at practice. If you have a family vacation, family time’s important. You go do that, and they’ve been good about being there (at practice). I’m fortunate.”

EDITORIAL >> Convention in disarray

Even after Donald Trump’s strong acceptance speech Thursday night, television viewers could not miss the deep divisions inside the Republican Party during this week’s often chaotic convention.

There was our own state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) on the convention floor harassing ing a female delegate from Colorado for her support of Sen. Ted Cruz, who gave an impassioned speech the night before urging delegates to vote their conscience — in other words, he refused to endorse Trump, which got Cruz booed off the stage.

“I don’t want his endorsement,” an angry Trump said on Friday. “If he gives it, I won’t accept it.”

Trump promised to make America great and safe again on the day of his inauguration, offering few details. Would he ask Congress to build his great wall along the Mexican border and abrogate military treaties and trade agreements? Here was a strongman offering a program of national salvation, shouting most of the time as if to make sure viewers in the upper balconies would hear him. But his biggest audience was at home and there was no need to shout for more than an hour — the longest acceptance speech in almost 50 years.

When did politicians become loud and shrill? Call us old-fashioned, but we remember hearing Ronald Reagan at two political rallies in Little Rock, one in 1984, when he was running for re-election and saying he would raise taxes “over my dead body,” managing to sound avuncular, and the other in 1988, when he campaigned for George H.W. Bush.

Reagan never raised his voice, but the crowd was mesmerized. Trump’s speech was loud as if to compensate for its lack of lyricism — no morning in America or shining city on a hill — just gloom and doom that wouldn’t inspire young people or women or independents to vote for him.

The Bushes boycotted the convention, as did most of his former rivals, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump hopes to make up for their lack of support by courting Bernie Sanders voters.

Delegates booed Sen. Cruz on Wednesday night after he refused to endorse Trump. Cruz left in a hurry and needed security to get away from the angry crowds with his wife, who was insulted with cries of “Goldman Sachs,” where she works as an investment banker.

Cruz wouldn’t back down. “I’m not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz said after his keynote address, referring to Trump’s tweeting unflattering photos of Heidi Cruz and linking his dad, Rafael, to Lee Harvey Oswald, John Kennedy’s assassin.

Old-timers were reminded of the 1964 Republican convention, when Republicans heckled New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller after he criticized Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP’s nominee that year, who lost in a landslide to President Johnson.

The night Cruz snubbed Trump, the nominee gave an interview to The New York Times that showed once again that he knows very little about U.S. foreign policy. He alarmed our NATO allies by suggesting we have no moral or legal obligation to defend them against a Russian invasion and blamed America for much of the world’s problems.

For decades, Republicans have accused Democrats of blaming America first for the world’s problems, but now have a Republican candidate doing the same thing, only Trump might be worse. In the interview, Trump signaled to his pal Vladimir Putin that a Trump administration might not honor our NATO commitments in Europe, giving a green light to a Russian invasion of Latvia and other Baltic states. Putin’s critics say Trump, dubbed the Siberian candidate, wants to make the Baltics Russian again.

Trump spoke to The Times just as Gov. Mike Pence, his vice presidential running mate, was about to give his keynote address, insisting that we must stand with our allies and lambasted the Obama administration for “leading from behind.”

If this contradiction wasn’t bad enough, the Republican presidential candidate in the interview pointed to what he said were our own moral failings, insisting that the U.S. must not lecture foreign dictators like Putin and Recep Erdogan in Turkey. “I think Putin and I will get along pretty well,” said Trump.

The two have formed a mutual-admiration society and have accused the United States of engaging in hypocrisy when we accuse Russia and others of becoming dictatorships.

“When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger,” Trump told reporters at The New York Times.

A split GOP faces huge challenges form a formidable Hillary Clinton, who will be nominated at the Democratic convention next week. Her base will be fired up. If she loses, they fear a Trump Justice Department would jail her the day he’s inaugurated — motivation enough for the Democrats to get out the vote in November.

TOP STORY >> Disaster areas named in state

Lonoke and White counties are among seven designated by the USDA as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rain, flooding, hail, high winds and lightning that occurred since March 8 and onward, according to USDA spokeswoman Linda Newkirk.

Another 21 Arkansas counties also qualify for natural disaster assistance because they are contiguous with the primary disaster counties.

That would include Faulkner, Prairie, Arkansas and Pulaski counties.

Qualified farm operators in all those counties are thus eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

They have eight months from the July 13 disaster declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual loses.

FSA has other programs to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Programs that can provide assistance, but don’t require a disaster declaration, include Emergency Conservation Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, Livestock indemnity Program, emergency assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish program.

TOP STORY >> City will appeal water ruling

Leader staff writer

“It looks like we may be going to court now,” said Jim Peacock, chairman of the Jacksonville Water Com-mission after a state commission ruled against the city Wednesday.

City Administrator Jim Durham confirmed Friday Jacksonville will challenge the ruling in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission up-held its director’s decision against Jacksonville in a property dispute between the city and Sherwood.

Peacock said, “From the beginning our city attorney thought we had a good court case and also figured the commission would not go against its director.”

At issue is about 2,600 acres of undeveloped land in Sherwood but is part of Jacksonville’s water service area. Jacksonville has promised to provide water to the area when it is developed as long as the land is annexed into Jacksonville.

The property is on the western and northwestern boundaries of Jacksonville, near the city’s newest water tank, which cost about $3 million. A large portion is in Gravel Ridge, which had been annexed into Sherwood.

Sherwood wanted the commission to place the acreage in Sherwood’s water service area after the city annexed it in 2008.

Sherwood officials made the request in June 2015 so that water service could be provided to the area without it having to get re-annexed into Jacksonville.

Attorney Roger Fitzgibbon, representing Sherwood, said Jacksonville was “strong-arming” outsiders to become part of Jacksonville and increasing the city’s tax base.

Jacksonville City Attorney Robert Bamburg said the city established the service area 20 years ago and was in place and was meant to foster growth.

Fitzgibbon told the commission that Jacksonville could keep its infrastructure, including a water tower constructed in Sherwood, and collect revenue.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher had previously said that the law is on Jacksonville’s side, laws aimed at preventing cities from annexing to gain population and, as a result, more turnback revenue without providing services to the annexed area.

He explained how the territory boundaries had been approved several times by different entities, going back to 1998.

Central Arkansas Water, Sherwood, Jacksonville, Cabot and Mid-Arkansas Utilities approved them in 2009.

“We’ve planned that area for growth area for decades as well, and made investments with infrastructure that has been financed with loans through ANRC, backed by rate increases bore by the Jacksonville ratepayers,” the mayor continued.

Central Arkansas Water has contracts with both cities and would be the ultimate water provider regardless whose service area the acreage ends up in.

TOP STORY >> District to appeal transfer ruling

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District next week will ask U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall to require the state Board of Education to live up to its obligations and deny a school choice appeal by a Jacksonville district parent to allow her child to transfer to the Cabot School District.

The state board last week overruled on appeal the JNPSD’s decision to deny the transfer of a student, child of Nacesha Dulaney.

Previously this year, parents of three students living in the JNPSD, who had unsuccessfully sought transfers to schools in other districts, appealed to the state Board of Education. In each case, the state board upheld JNPSD’s transfer denial, meaning that if the students attend a public school, it would be one in the Jacksonville district.

“I don’t think what the state Board did was an option for them,” said Scott Richardson, JNPSD’s attorney. The final settlement agreement under which JNPSD and PCSSD are required to operate makes it pretty clear, he said. Marshall approved that agreement in 2014.

In a special JNPSD board meeting Thursday, Richardson told the board its options were to bring suit in state court or take the matter back to Marshall.

“Let’s seek clarification from Judge Marshall,” said school board president Daniel Gray. “We don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes the agreement. We need to request his opinion.”

Board member Jim Moore said the state board should be held in contempt of court.

“The question is whether or not the board had the authority to override the exemption (to the school choice act,”) Richardson said.

Previously representing the state, Richardson had a large hand in drafting that 2014 final settlement agreement.

According to that agreement, “The Public School Choice Act does not apply to school districts subject to the desegregation order or mandate of a federal court remedying the effects of past racial segregation.”

Richardson told the state board in a letter at the hearing that “the state has contractually agreed that such transfers would not occur in PCSSD or JNPSD” because those districts are party to the desegregation agreement.

With school set to start Aug. 15, Richardson said he thought Marshall would be sensitive to the time issue, so that the student involved would know where to start school.

Also at the Thursday meeting, Wood told the board that the district had allotted about $1 million for asbestos abatement and demolition of the old middle schools to make room for the new high school. The asbestos contract cost $331,000 but the rest of the demolition contract when to Moyers Excavating and Trucking Company for $169,000, for a total of about $500,000.

In other business, after approving 13 teachers at the special meeting, JNPSD has “fewer than a dozen” licensed vacancies left, Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart estimated, out of more than 300.

Hired last night at the recommendation of Superintendent Tony Wood were: Lori Stinnett, school improvement specialist; Tracy Penland, ESL teacher; Kyndall Brown, secondary media specialist; Bethany Cannon, secondary art teacher and William “Gavin” McCollum, secondary speech, drama and stage teacher.

Susan Fincher, elementary teacher; Melissa Matus, reading specialist; Krystal Mayhone, elementary media specialist; Kory Alfred, elementary counselor; April Walls, CBI teacher; Autumn Pope, special education teacher and Kathy Sliter, elementary school teacher.

Wood recommended and the board hired the following classified employees:

Caren Campbell, Medicaid billing; Ava Coleman, school secretary; Anna Cullum, speech pathologist and Lesli Eagle, lead nurse, previously hired as school nurse.

Albert Bass, Michael Benton, Rosa Quintoros and Michael Walker, custodians; Joseph Dove, skilled maintenance; Jeremy Harmon and Robert Hampton, diesel mechanics.

Bus aides hired include Sandra Dodson, Charlene Frankson, Rose Gregory, Bernita Howell, Nicole Hyman, Jeanette Ruby, Essie Tappin, Thressia Taylor and Yulonda Terry.

Jennifer Hasek, Shanna Trujillo and Evette Webster hired as bus drivers; Anthony Alexander, para-professional; DeAndre Ellis, Moleta Hampton and Jan Gray, special ed para-professionals.

The board accepted the resignations of five people: teachers Dawn Coates, Maghan Evans, Sherrie Neice and Miranda Wilborn and secretary Karen Gentry.

Other employees hired this month included the following licensed employees: Rick Kron, Margaret Rivera, Amy Polk and Deborah Walters, elementary teachers; Elicia Betcher, Allison Brown, Darla Clark, Carrie Glover, Amber Menard and Tammy Stafford, reading specialists.

Eddie “Ryan” Roberts, gifted and talented teacher, middle school teachers, Harrison Brumley, social studies/coach; Gary Case, social studies; Jarred Fincher, in-school suspension; Jeremiah McAlister, math.

Secondary teachers hired: Kaylei Kennedy, science; Carrie Lee, English; Carmela Moore, family and consumer science; Elizabeth Schoessel, special education; Alexis Smith, English and Camille Wood, English and assistant ninth-grade volleyball coach.

Shelby Bullock and Anna Salzer were hired as for psychology specialists.

Aaron Zach Sloan, previously hired as elementary PE, was hired as assistant high school football coach.


The board hired six security officers: Rachel Bowzer, Schawanda Daugherty, Stanley Floyd, Gregory Harris, Roderick King and William Nolen, with Christopher Oldham as coordinator.

Others recommended for hire included Margaret Hampton, secretary main director and six special education para-professionals: Janice Austin, Jennifer Jones, Julie Nailling, Rickeal Nelson (multi-age), Phyllis Rayborn and Samantha Winkler, (dyslexia interventionist.)

Among the classified employees hired were: Gloria Harris, Greg Hunter, Terry Nelson, Richard Shackelford and Carroll Sipes as bus drivers.

Angela Evans was hired as a physical therapist and Robin Gardner as occupational therapist. Mossie Rhynes was hired as attendance secretary.

Five people previously hired submitted resignations: Ashley Cremer, secondary science; Debbie Bailey, cafeteria manager, Jasmin Davis, counselor; Crystal McMullen, elementary teacher; Jesse Nix, diesel mechanic.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Why not lift from Nancy?

The Republican convention in Cleveland has received less than stellar reviews so far this week. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) putting down a rebellion on the floor to open up the nomination to other candidates was not something we’re used to seeing at a GOP convention. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) had his speech upstaged by Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, who gave an impassioned speech Monday in defense of her husband but soon found herself accused of plagiarism. The similarities between Mrs. Trump’s speech and Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention that nominated her husband were unmistakable.

The Trump campaign at first insisted that the similarities were just coincidence, but it’s obvious someone had copied a couple of paragraphs from Mrs. Obama’s keynote address and pasted them into Mrs. Trump’s speech.

Mrs. Obama: “Do the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect.”

Mrs. Trump: “….the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect.”

Mrs. Obama: “Her integrity, her compassion and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.”

Mrs. Trump: “Their integrity, compassion and intelligence reflects to this day on me and for my love of family and America.”

Mrs. Obama: “Pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

Mrs. Trump: “Pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

When exposed, plagiarism is always embarrassing. But why lift passages from a Democratic First Lady who’s as unpopular with the Republican base as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren? It would have been wrong for a Republican keynote speaker to take passages from Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush, but perhaps more in line ideologically, and with proper attribution, it would have been a teachable moment.

A simple apology in either case would have been appropriate. The Trump campaign will probably blame a couple of young interns for the plagiarism, but how sad that this unfortunate incident has cast a shadow over Melania’s moment in the spotlight.

Note to students in our area: Please don’t try this when doing your homework.

TOP STORY >> Teens take tour of Washington

First Electric Cooperative sent four high school students on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington in June during its annual youth tour.

Mattingly Bartole of Cabot, Caleigh Pickard of Austin, Joseph Hammond of Benton and Erin Holland of Heber Springs, along with 39 teenagers from the 16 other Arkansas electric cooperatives, joined 1,700 teens from across the U.S. to explore Washington.

“Washington, D.C., is an incredible, beautiful city, and sharing the trip with such a fantastic group of people truly made the experience,” Bartole said.

They learned more about the role electric cooperatives play in communities and met members of the Arkansas congressional delegation at the Capitol.

Pickard said the highlights for her included seeing the more than 58,000 names engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, viewing the Reflecting Pool she first saw in the movie “Forrest Gump” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and admiring Dorothy’s ruby slippers and First Ladies’ dresses at the National Museum of American History.

Pickard recalled the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a humbling experience.

“I don’t think I would be able to go again just because it is so emotional, but it’s definitely something that each person needs to experience in their lifetime,” Pickard said.

“Seeing the piles of shoes is what got me the most,” Pickard said.

For Bartole the highlights included the Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorials.

“They both memorialize such incredible individuals who brought about so much change,” Bartole said.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps also was one of Bartole’s favorite stops with its unique design and exploration of the more than 237-year history of the Marines.

The theme of the Arkansas Youth Tour each year is “Freedom is not Free.” Many stops reflect that. The group watched the Sunset Parade at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, explored veterans’ memorials on the National Mall and observed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Pickard said she often has heard people say, “Freedom is not free,” but didn’t fully understand the concept until she visited the sites on Youth Tour. The phrase took on a new meaning at Arlington National Cemetery, which held 26 funerals the day the group visited.

“Until you stand in front of rows and rows of white headstones, I don’t think anyone can fully comprehend it,” Pickard said.

“I’m eternally grateful for those heroes who gave up their own lives for our freedom,” she said.

For Pickard, the experience will continue. She was selected to represent the state on the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Youth Leadership Council in Washington held July 16-20 for a leadership workshop focusing on the electric cooperative industry.

She also will attend the NRECA annual meeting in San Diego in February.

Both girls encouraged teenagers to apply for the 2017 Youth Tour.

“It’s hard to describe how amazing the trip is. Although it is a short time, you learn so much and gain a greater appreciation of how incredible our nation and the sacrifices made in honor of it truly are,” Bartole said.

High school juniors whose parents or guardians are First Electric members can apply for the 2017 Youth Tour. First Electric will have applications available at the co-op’s offices and online Feb. 1. More information on the Youth Tour, including photos from the 2016 trip, is available under the community tab at

TOP STORY >> Local police mourning comrades

Leader staff writer

So far, it has been a summer of unprecedented violence, but local law-enforcement officers and other government officials are standing with their brothers and sisters in blue—and mourning those who paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.

It was nearly two weeks ago that millions watched in horror as events near Dallas’ Daly Plaza unfolded. A shooter took aim at the Dallas police officers who were protecting Black Lives Matters protesters.

Even as a hail of bullets rained down that Thursday night, officers ushered protectors and others to safety—there were reports of heroism, like officers surrounding and shielding one civilian, who had already taken a bullet to her leg, from taking even more gunfire.

They managed to get Shetamia Taylor into a car while under direct fire and to a nearby hospital.

It was reported that the police cars rolled in again and again into emergency bays that night, running on rims and riddled with bullet holes. By the time the sun rose Friday morning, five Dallas officers were dead and another nine were wounded. The shooter lay dead in a parking garage.

In a few short hours on July 7, the department lost Dallas police Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Krol, Sgt. Michael Smith, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, and DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) Officer Brent Thompson.

Before the Dallas Police Department and the country could finish paying their respects to the officers, Baton Rouge Police Department officers came under fire on July 17.

There, three officers were killed and another three were wounded. Like in Dallas, the shooter had a military background and was killed by officers.

The dead Baton Rouge Police Department officers included Montrell Jackson, Brad Garafola and Matthew Gerald.


In light of the murder of the Dallas area police officers, Sheriff Doc Holladay stated, “On behalf of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Pulaski County, we offer our sincere condolences to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department and the Dallas Police Department in the loss of their officers. These officers gave their lives doing what they were called to do and we as a community must support their families and those of law enforcement officers throughout this great nation.”


Mayor Gary Fletcher said he is in constant contact with the city’s Chief of Police Kenny Boyd.

“It’s a dangerous job and I am concerned about our officers’ safety and their mental mindset, as well as that of their families. This was a lawless event done in the name of justice. We have to remember to honor the heroes and not glorify the bad guys,” Fletcher said.

The Jacksonville police chief released this statement to the community:

“First and foremost, our hearts and prayers go out to the Baton Rouge Police Department and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department. The Law Enforcement Family has taken a big hit these past few weeks.

“The Jacksonville Police Department has been overwhelmed with support from our community. The phone calls, comments, and just genuine display of kindness that we have received from the citizens of Jacksonville have been tremendous.

The Jacksonville Police Department has internally increased our outreach for our officers along with their families utilizing several resources. I will not discuss any changes that we have or have not made to protocol for the safety of our officers.

“We are on heightened alert and will continue to provide our citizens with the protection and service that they are accustomed to and that they deserve. Please continue to keep the first responders across this nation in your thoughts and prayers. I encourage any citizen of Jacksonville to please contact me if they should have any questions regarding the officers or Jacksonville Police Department.”


The Jacksonville Police Department offers many programs throughout the year that encourages residents to be involved and get to know the officers. The Citizen Police Academy is one of those opportunities to learn firsthand the day-to-day operations of the Police Department.

The eight-week program showcases the different aspects of law enforcement including community policing, criminal investigations, patrol duties, use of force and more.

Anyone interested in applying for the program must be able to pass a background check, have no felony convictions, have no misdemeanor convictions for one year and live or work within the Jacksonville city limits.

For more information, call JPD Officer J. Boyd at 501- 982-3191.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is hosting a civilian Active Shooter Seminar from 8 a.m. until noon Tuesday. For more information, call 501-982-1511.


“The Jacksonville Citizens Police Alumni is praying everyday for the families of the fallen Dallas, Baton Rouge and other fallen police officers. We are standing by the Jacksonville Police Department and their families. We believe we have the best officers in the world,” a spokesman for the group said.


A Sherwood Police Department spokesman said, “It’s sad that it happened and we just hope that nothing else happens. Our prayers and thoughts go out the families of those officers and all the people effected by those incidents.”

The Sherwood Police Department has a variety of outreach programs, including one designed for kids, that can be found on its website, For more information, call Keith Wilson at 501-833-3568.


Lonoke Police Chief Patrick Mulligan said, “It saddens all of us in Lonoke and raises our awareness of how dangerous our jobs can be. It’s unfortunate it happened and those officers are on our minds, in our hearts and in our prayers.”

Around the department, Mulligan said his officers are talking about the recent events and that their families are deeply concerned. He has a son who works at the Sherwood Police Department and a second son that serves on the Cabot Police Department.

Still, he said, “We’re here to serve and represent the citizens and treat them well. We have a job to do but at the end of the day, we want to go home.”

For now and in light of recent events, the Lonoke Police Department has suspended its Ride Along Program.


Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said, “There are no words that can express our grief. Our country’s law enforcement officers are being targeted and ambushed. We are a family, and we have to be vigilant and work together.”

In Lonoke County, Staley said there have been no credible threats and the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office will “continue to do its job to the best of our ability every single day.”

The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office offers a ride- along program for county residents who are interested. However, all applicants must pass a background and meet other requirements before acceptance to the program.


Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain said, “It’s heartbreaking and it’s devastating and everyone in the Austin city government and at the Austin Police Department feel the loss.”

Austin Police Chief James Kulesa said, “When something happens like the recent events, it impacts officers anywhere. There are no words to describe these tragedies.”


Ward Mayor Mayor Art Brooke said the entire community is saddened by the tragedies in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

TOP STORY >> New era starting at 314th

Leader senior staff writer

Col. Daniel A. DeVoe assumed command of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base on Monday, with Maj. Gen. James B. Hecker officiating.

DeVoe replaces Col. James D. Dryjanski, who will serve as director of operations at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Hecker, commander of the 19th Air Force, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, said that DeVoe, a master navigator, started in maintenance and was first assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base in October 1999 as a student to qualify on the C-130, “never dreaming he might return some day as commander.”

“It’s wonderful to return to Little Rock,” DeVoe told the assembled airmen. “It’s a dream come true, taking command of such a distinguished organization.”

“Today is really all about you,” he told the airmen. “You are the foundation of C-130 tactical airlift, and the work we do together is as important as at any time in our history. There is no other place I’d rather be than here leading the historic 314th.”

DeVoe, who becomes the 60th commander of the 314th, had three consecutive assignments at Little Rock.

Between April 2003 and July 2005. He was senior evaluator navigator for the 50th Airlift Squadron, then deputy flight chief of the 463rd Airlift Group weapons and tactics, and in November 2004 he was promoted to flight commander.

He comes back to Little Rock from a stint as vice commander of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia.

After multiple maintenance positions and undergraduate navigator training, he held numerous flying assignments as a C-130 Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System navigator, instructor, evaluator, Prime Nuclear Airlift Force navigator and C-130 weapons officer.

He logged more than 430 combat hours supporting operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and served as the commander of the 570th Global Mobility Squadron, where he led a contingency-response squadron tasked to provide air base opening forces in both hostile and permissive environments.

He has served as an operations planner at U.S. Central Command as deputy executive officer, then as executive officer to the deputy commander.

DeVoe has a master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the Executive Education Program in Driving Government Perfor-mance and was an Air Force Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.

Dryjanski, a command pilot with more than 3,900 flight hours in Air Force transports executing worldwide air mobility missions, commanded the 387th Air Expeditionary Group in Southwest Asia.

He has instructed at the National War College, teaching courses on leadership, national security and strategy to senior military, government and international officers.

He and his wife, Celeste, have been nominated for the Gen. and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award, recognizing the wing commander and spouse team whose contributions to the nation, Air Force and local community best exemplify the highest ideals and positive leadership of a military couple serving in a key Air Force position.

Hecker praised Dryjanski for creative leadership and problem solving. At the wing’s most recent readiness inspection, it received an overall rating of effective, with highly effective rating in the areas critical to mission readiness.

“These operators and maintainers are the best, and I’m proud of the unit and team success,” he said.

Under Dryjanski’s command, 2,300 C-130 crewmen from 47 countries, graduated from training at Little Rock with a 99 percent graduation rate.

“Jim has done a great job,” Hecker said.

The 314th Airlift Wing is transitioning to an all-C-130J wing with 13 Js and two more on the way.

SPORTS STORY >> Defensive players stand out in third Cabot 7-on-7 meet

Leader sportswriter

Cabot hosted its third of five 7-on-7 meets Monday afternoon at Panther Stadium, and the hosts continued to make plays on the offensive side of the ball, but some Panther defensive players also stood out.

None of the six teams competing Monday played perfectly, which can be expected this early in the 100 degree summer heat, but plays were made and some players on the Cabot defensive side of the ball have emerged as potential playmakers heading into fall practice next month.

“The kid that’s really sticking out to me is the Nickell kid (Spencer Nickell) at weak-side end,” said Cabot defensive coordinator Randy Black. “He’s doing a pretty good job. It’s a brand new position for him. He was a D-back last year – great kid, does everything you tell him to do, he’s working and he’s learning.”

Nickell had a nice highlight toward the end of the day, snagging an interception on J.A. Fair’s second-to-last offensive drive. Black has also been pleased with what he’s seen from his starting linebackers.

“The starting linebackers are solid,” Black said, “(Justin) Nabors and (Easton) Seidl. They’re real smart and, of course, Seidl is a three-year starter.”

Nabors, who broke his collarbone in the first game of the season last year against Conway, grabbed three interceptions Monday. Since the Panther coaching staff moved some defensive backs from a year ago to the front seven, these 7-on-7 meets are a good way for the Cabot defensive backs to show what they can do in coverage.

“We’ve got Kale Eddington back from last year, which is solid,” Black said. “Of course, we lost (Connor) Daigle during spring ball (to injury). We’re hoping he’ll be back in time for conference play. (Austin) Swackhammer, who played a lot last year, he’s doing good.

“The spot that we’re really trying to fill is our free safety spot. Evan Hooper, we’re really looking at him hard there. He hasn’t played in the last couple of years, but he’s got some skills.

“The 7-on-7 thing is basically where you’re working on fundamentals, because we see so much passing during the year. I’m pleased with the outcome so far.”

Cabot’s offense looked pretty crisp as well. Quarterback Jarrod Barnes continues to look more and more comfortable in what will be his third year as the starter. He made several nice passes, and his receivers, in turn, made several nice catches.

Barnes’ favorite target Monday was senior running back Austin Morse.

Morse was just one of several Cabot skill players, though, that contributed to the Panther offense’s success.

Lonoke coach Doug Bost thought his team showed a lot of progress at last week’s 7-on-7 meet, but the Jackrabbits didn’t have the same effort and energy at Monday’s meet, according to the head Jackrabbit.

“We came out here last week and I thought we looked great,” said Bost, “and today, we were kind of just going through the motions today. So no, I wasn’t happy with the effort.

“Did we do some good things, yeah, we did. But we’re not where we need to be, and we didn’t have the same energy and effort that we had out here last week.”

Most of Lonoke’s highlights Monday were on the offensive side of the ball. The Jackrabbits didn’t score on their first two drives against Cabot, but found the end zone on the third drive with a Logan Dozier pass to Isaac Toney on a 20-yard pass near the left hash mark.

Dozier then found Braidon Bryant in the back corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion. Against Fair, Dozier connected with Bryant for a 30-yard score on the first Jackrabbit drive, and Bryant again caught the 2-point conversion.

The next big play for Lonoke was a Daniel Seigrist catch and run for a touchdown. Seigrist caught Dozier’s pass near the sideline, and outran the War Eagle secondary about 15 yards to the end zone. Again, Bryant caught the 2-point try.

The fourth of five 7-on-7 meets at Cabot High School will be today at 4 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Youthful Badgers learning

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Beebe football team has had a work-like summer, going through several team camps at Conway High School as well as its typical “Fast Badger” workout program.

The main quest for the Badgers since the end of last season has been replacing a large senior class, including the entire starting offensive backfield.

Priority number one for coach John Shannon’s base Dead-T offense is finding a way to replace 5,000-yard rusher Trip Smith, who graduated in May.

“I’m not really sure how you replace a guy like that,” said Shannon. “I’ve never had to do that before. We’re working a bunch of different kids in the backfield. Instead of one guy getting the ball all the time, it’ll probably be a whole bunch of different guys. Right now we have six working in the backfield, two at fullback and four different halfbacks. You don’t usually just replace a guy that ran for 5,000 yards and not miss a beat. Those guys don’t come around every year.”

In Beebe’s offense especially, a strong offensive line can make an average back very effective, and that is a place that the Badgers have some experience. Beebe will return four starters from last year’s offensive line, plus another that got considerable playing time. That leaves two positions to be filled by newcomers.

Last year’s freshmen team went 9-1 and brings a lot of athleticism to the varsity program this year, but inexperience has shown this summer. Shannon says the team’s offseason program has increased strength, especially in the numerous sophomores, but results at team camps have been mixed.

“At times we’ve looked pretty good and other times we look like we’re really young,” Shannon said. “The camps in June, I felt like we looked pretty good offensively. Then we went back over there last Wednesday and started making mental mistakes. We started off pretty well, but didn’t finish off very well at all.”

The Conway camps are a unique format in which each end of the field features one defense going against several teams’ offenses rotating each play. Shannon, who is also Beebe’s offensive coordinator, spends most of his time with the offense during camps, but says the camps have been good for his young players.

“Defenses are at a disadvantage anyway because they’re going against so many different offenses so fast,” Shannon said. “We’ve had times when we got caught in the wrong coverage because we didn’t recognize the formation. Eventually they’re going to get better and be all right in that aspect. The biggest thing is with being so young, we’re trying to get people strong enough and physical enough to get in there and play hard-nosed. It’s just a growing up process.”

Beebe has 52 players going through summer workouts, and 26 are sophomores.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville Seniors finish

Leader sports editor

Conway’s Senior American Legion coaches repeatedly protested to Jacksonville’s batting order, pitch counts and pitcher availability, but they couldn’t do much about the actual Jacksonville players in the batter’s box Sunday during the American Legion Senior State Tournament at Hendrix University.

The Senior Chevy Boys racked up 14 base hits, drew 11 walks and took a pair of HBPs to hammer the tournament hosts 16-6 and advance to the round of eight in the two-weekend event.

Things went awry after that for the Chevy Boys. On Monday, the team suffered a season-ending, 12-6 loss to Little Rock.

New, strict pitch counts were a major issue for almost every team, and it caught up with Jacksonville on Monday, as did a terrible defensive effort.

“In a normal year, I’d throw my best pitcher who hadn’t pitched since Friday,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham. “But I lost him (Brandon Hawkins), I lost Brandon (Hickingbotham) and I lost (Mike) Havard. They have to wait five days. I put (Caleb) McMunn out there, and he did OK, but when he hit his limit, we didn’t have anything left.”

Even with the pitching problems, if not for Jacksonville’s seven errors, it could’ve been a different game.

“If we’d just played a little bit of defense, we still could’ve maybe have kept going,” Bob Hickingbotham said.

In Monday’s win, Conway disputed Jacksonville’s batting order twice, and challenged a pitching change on another occasion. When complaints from the visiting dugout changed focus from Jacksonville to the umpires, assistant coach Greg Bowman was thrown out of the park, and threatened with arrest when he tried to re-enter. He left without further incident.

Both teams went down in order in the first inning, and Conway got on the board first in the top of the second. It was an unearned run off starting pitcher Brandon Hickingbotham. Cleanup hitter Christian Hamilton reached on an error at shortstop to start the inning. He advanced to second on the mistake, and to third on a groundout to second base. He then scored on a passed ball, but Jacksonville didn’t stay behind long.

The Chevy Boys took the lead in the bottom of the second with four runs. Hickingbotham drew a leadoff walk and Jordan Wickersham singled to center field. After two pop-ups, Trent Toney hit a two-RBI single to right field, and moved to second on the throw home. Caleb Smith singled to left field and leadoff hitter Tyson Flowers walked to load the bases. Mike Havard drove a two-RBI single to center field for the 4-1 lead.

Conway’s first major protest came at the start of the third inning. Nine-hole hitter Bo Harmon hit a double to the fence in left field, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple on the 7-6-5 relay.

Conway did not like the call and protested vehemently. The next two batters grounded out to end the inning, but not the arguing.

Conway accused Jacksonville of batting out of order in its half of the third, but to no avail. With two outs, Kameron Whitmore doubled down the third base line, and scored on a single by Toney, giving Jacksonville a 5-1 lead.

Conway started the fourth inning with three consecutive base hits, but was only able to produce one run.

Jacksonville did not score in the fourth or fifth innings, and found itself trailing 6-5 by the time it came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Conway then questioned a potential pitching change when Wickersham started warming up in the bullpen.

Jacksonville responded by scoring five runs in the sixth. Toney, Smith and Flowers drew back-to-back-to-back, one-out walks to load the bases. Havard, Caleb McMunn and Hickingbotham then hit three-consecutive singles for a 9-6 Jacksonville lead. Whitmore later singled to left field to drive in the final run of the inning.

Despite the protest, Wickersham took the mound in the seventh inning. He gave up a single and a walk to start the inning, but picked off the runner at first and followed up with back-to-back strikeouts.

Jacksonville scored one run in the seventh on a walk by Flowers and an RBI double by McMunn. Wickersham walked one in the top of the eighth, but allowed no hits or runs.

Jacksonville ended the game early with five runs in the eighth.

Conway changed pitchers for the fourth time, and hit Wickersham to start the inning. He came all the way around the bases on two wild pitches and a passed ball before Caden Sample flew out to left field. Whitmore and Toney then walked, and after another batting order dispute, Smith surprised the Conway infield by laying down a bunt for a base hit.

Flowers walked to drive in Whitmore. Havard hit into a 4-6 fielder’s choice that also scored Toney. McMunn then singled to drive in Smith and Flowers and end the game on the 10-after-7-mercy rule.

Havard finished with five RBIs, going 2 for 6 at the plate. McMunn went 3 for 5 with a walk and four RBIs. Toney went 3 for 5 with a walk and three RBIs. Whitmore and Smith got two hits apiece. Flowers didn’t get a hit, but did his job as a leadoff by drawing four walks in six plate appearances.

Hickingbotham gave up 10 hits in six innings of work, but only four earned runs. He only had one strikeout, but it came at a crucial time, shutting down a bases-loaded rally against Harmon, who had lined a double on his last at-bat.

Wickersham gave up one hit in his two innings on the mound, striking out three and walking two.

Jacksonville opened the tournament with an 8-5 victory over Benton on Friday. On Saturday, Paragould’s Layne Ditto went off the rails at UCA. Jacksonville had swept a doubleheader against Paragould earlier this season, but Ditto hit for the cycle, including a home run off the top of the scoreboard in the 11-1 victory. Ditto’s homer was one of three by the Glen Sain GMC squad.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney makes state

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Junior American Legion baseball team qualified for the state tournament with a top-four finish in the District 3-4 combo tournament in Cabot.

The Chevy Boys earned a first-round bye by finishing second in the regular season in District 3, and opened the tournament with 12-10 marathon win over Cabot in the second round.

Jacksonville led that game 9-0 in the fifth inning and got a runner thrown out at home with no outs. A new and strict American Legion pitch-count limit then forced Jacksonville coach Chuck Winer to pull pitcher Jayden Loving with a no-hitter going through four innings, and Cabot almost pulled off a dramatic comeback.

Cabot’s first four runs came with no hits. Three walks, a sacrifice grounder and a two-run error pulled the Centennial Bank squad to within 9-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Cabot got its first hit of the game in the sixth when Brian Tillery singled to center field. The second hit came two batters later when Michael Crumbly hit a two-RBI double to left. A walk and another Jacksonville error and a sacrifice fly by Geno Germer brought another run in and made the score 9-6.

Jacksonville scored three runs in the top of the seventh, starting with a one-out triple by Axton Ramick, who later scored on a wild pitch. A hit batter and two Cabot errors brought in Gwatney Chevrolet’s final two runs.

Tillery hit a two-RBI double with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. He stole second base, and scored on a wild throw while trying to steal third. Two more walks was followed by a double steal and a sac fly by Peyton Williams, but pitcher Foster Rash got a groundout to third and a strikeout to end the rally and game.

Tillery and Crumbly both reached base on all five of their at-bats. Tillery walked twice, was hit once, doubled, singled and scored three runs. Crumbly walked three times, was hit once and doubled in the sixth inning.

Jonathan Smith only had one hit for Jacksonville, but it was a bases-loaded triple in the third inning that gave the Chevy Boys a 7-0 lead. Ramick and Loving had two apiece to lead Gwatney.

Jacksonville then lost its quarterfinal game 6-0 to White Hall to drop to the loser’s bracket. There they fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, but came back for a 11-3 victory over District 4 runner-up Monticello on Sunday.

Jacksonville got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when Quentin Stallard hit a bases-loaded double to pull the Chevy Boys to within one run. Joe Cummings hit a sac fly deep to right field to bring in Isaiah Cain and tie the game. Ramick then singled to drive in Stallard and put Gwatney up 4-3.

In the fourth inning, nine-hole hitter Braelyn Preston hit a leadoff single to left field, followed by a walk by Jonathan Smith. Cain put down a sacrifice bunt, but placed it well enough to turn it into a single to load the bases. A pitch hit Loving to score Preston, and Stallard singled for his third RBI of the game and left the bases full.

Cummings was then hit for another RBI and Stallard capped the inning by scoring on a wild pitch that made the score 9-3.

Ramick was then hit by pitch and still no outs in the fourth, but a new pitcher put the next three Jacksonville batters down in order. He did the same thing in the fifth inning, but Jacksonville got rolling again in the sixth. Stallard started it off with a double down the line in right field.

Caden Sample caught a break with a high bouncer for an infield single that left runners on the corners.

Sample got caught in a rundown on a pickoff move and Stallard scored during it. Sample ended up safe at second, and made it to third on an errant throw. He then scored on a balk to set the final margin.

Stallard went 3 for 4 with three RBIs.

Jacksonville, short on pitching, dropped its semifinal game to Prairie Grove on Monday, 13-1. The Chevy Boys will open play in the state tournament at 4 p.m. Friday at UALR.