Saturday, September 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville earns first volleyball win

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Titans beat Hall High School at home on Tuesday, giving the team its first win under first-year coach Savannah Jacoby. Scores in the games got closer as the match wore on, but the Lady Titans won 3-0 by scores of 25-4, 25-9 and 25-15.

Jacksonville lost its first two full matches last week, 3-0 to Greenbrier and 3-1 to Episcopal Collegiate, then dropped three best of three matches on Saturday after being put in a brutal pool in the Spikefest Tournament in Little Rock. Jacksonville had to play Vilonia, semifinalist Benton nd two-time defending tournament and Class 5A champion Valley View.

Despite those losses, Jacoby, who is the team’s fourth coach in four years, believes her team is where it needs to be so early in the season.

“They’re doing really well,” said Jacoby. “Every single coach we’ve played, who has played us in the past, has told me they’ve improved tremendously from last year. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. But I’m also telling the girls I’m not just OK with being better than last year. We want to build a strong, competitive program here.”

Hall scored the first point of the match. Jacksonville took its first lead at 3-2, and that’s when No. 9 took serve for a long stretch. No. 9 scored 19-straight points on serve, including seven aces.

Hall finally broke serve to make it 22-3, but only added one more point in the game.

Lady Titan senior setter Elizabeth Brown served six-straight points to start game two. With Jacksonville leading 8-3, Shy Christopher served seven more in a row, four of which were aces, for a 14-3 Lady Titan lead.

The two teams traded service breaks to 20-9. That’s when Skyra Gulley served out the set with five-straight points, including four more aces.

Jacksonville pulled away much more slowly in game three, never serving for more than four consecutive points at any given time.

Junior Rebecca Brown led Jacksonville with eight kills. Kayla Rearden added four kills. Brittney Eskridge had three while Elizabeth Brown, Christopher and Aaliyah Brooks had two kills apiece.

The visiting Lady Warriors are practically a start-up team, and is led by former North Pulaski coach Benji Belton. He knows his team isn’t very good right now, but is excited about how willing his players are to learn.

“Most of these girls have never played before,” said Belton. “But I’ll tell you this. I’ve never had a group so willing to listen and learn. They’ll do anything you tell them. They just want to get better. I can work with a group like that. Watch us later in the year. I’m not saying we’re going to the playoffs or anything, but by the end of the year, by the time we play Jacksonville again, we’ll be a much different team. Just watch.”

Jacksonville, 1-6, lost 3-0 at powerhouse Little Rock Christian on Thursday. The Lady Titans will host Parkview on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears’ offense gets big lead, defense holds

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills scored 41 of its 48 total points in the first half, and it was just enough to earn a 48-34 victory over Catholic High in the season opener Friday at Blackwood Field in Sherwood.

A wild first half turned into a defensive struggle in the second half, as each team managed just one touchdown apiece in the third and fourth quarters after combing for 68 points in first two.

Sylvan Hills led 41-27 at the break, but went three and out on the first possession of the second half, and a bad punt set the Rockets up at the Bears’ 39-yard line.

Catholic quarterback Taylor Price later scored from 2 yards out to pull within one score of the Bears halfway through the third quarter.

That’s the way it stayed until late in the fourth quarter. Sylvan Hills quarterback Jordan Washington had a 70-yard touchdown run called back for holding early in the fourth quarter. Later in the same drive, Sylvan Hills got all the way to the Catholic 7-yard line before throwing an interception in the end zone.

Penalties hurt the Rockets late. A pass interference call and a holding penalty nullified big third-down conversions, and an interception gave Sylvan Hills the ball at their own 44-yard line with 2:46 remaining.

On the next play, Washington keeps up the middle to Catholic’s 7-yard line, but a holding penalty on the next play moved it back to the 17.

From there, Deon Young-blood ran it in with 2:21 remaining in the game and Tito Mendoza set the final margin with the extra point.

Both teams scored easily in the first half, but Catholic made a couple mistakes and Sylvan Hills took advantage. The Rockets got the ball first, but fumbled it away on their own side of the field.

Sylvan Hills scored a few plays later on a 2-yard pass from Jordan Washington to Daelyn Fairrow. The extra point was blocked and Sylvan Hills held a 6-0 lead for exactly 11 seconds.

Catholic’s Samy Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. That point-after-try was also no good, leaving it 6-6 with 5:03 left in the first quarter.

Sylvan Hills needed just a couple of plays to take back the lead. Washington hit Jamar Lane for a 75-yard score, and Tito Mendoza added the extra point for a 13-6 lead.

Catholic also didn’t need much time to score, and again it was Johnson. Just a few plays had the Rockets on the Sylvan Hills 25, where Johnson broke a tackle in the backfield and went in for the tying score with 2:01 remaining in the quarter.

Washington capped the Bears’ next drive with his own 25-yard touchdown run, and the PAT made it 20-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Sylvan Hills got a defensive stop early in the second quarter, and Washington and Lane hooked up again for the score. This time it was from 20-yards out, and a missed extra point left it 26-13 with 8:15 left in the half.

Catholic answered with another long kickoff return, and then a 36-yard touchdown pass. The PAT pulled them within 6 points with six minutes to go in the half, but the half was a long way from over.

A good drive ended well when Washington hit Ryan Lumpkin from 6-yards out for a 33-20 lead with 2:58 on the clock. Sylvan Hills then covered a kickoff that Catholic failed to field on the Rockets’ 18-yard line.

On the very next play, Washington kept for the score, and Deon Youngblood added the two-point conversion for a 41-20 Sylvan Hills lead with 2:35 left in the half.

That was plenty of time for Catholic to get back to within two scores. This time Luke Schildknecht scored capped a quick drive with a 5-yard run with 1:25 to go. The extra point made it 41-27 going into halftime.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans strike fast to win opener

Leader sports editor

tball team opened the Titan era with a 27-26 victory over the Mills Comets on Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The first year of independence from Pulaski County Special School District and combining with the former North Pulaski Falcons sparked the mascot change, and the newly donned Titans displayed a quick-strike offense in the season opener.

Jacksonville scored on the second play of the game when Harderrious Martin took a sweep right 74 yards for the opening touchdown with just 13 seconds expired from the game.

It took the Comets, however, almost as little time to score as Jacksonville. After a good kick return, Mills quarterback Jereme Allen kept up the middle for a 46-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, leaving Jacksonville with a 7-6 lead just 30 seconds into the game.

Jacksonville milked some clock on the next possession before hitting a big pass play to go up by eight points. On third and 6, quarterback Rowdy Weathers hit Jonathan Hall for a 43-yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead with 7:36 still remaining in the opening quarter.

The pace slowed after that touchdown. The two teams traded fruitless possessions until a little more than halfway through the second quarter. That’s when running back Rajhon Ware rumbled 15 yards to cap a 43-yard drive with 6:14 left in the second period. A two-point conversion try failed, and Jacksonville took a 14-12 lead into the locker room.

Mills got the ball to start the second half and put together its best drive of the game. The Comets started on their own 29, and went 71 yards in 12 plays, capping the drive with a Brandon Bunting run from 15 yards out. A two-point conversion was successful, and Mills held a 20-14 lead with 5:22 left in the third quarter.

A high snap on first down put Jacksonville 14 yards behind the chains to start the next drive. An illegal procedure penalty made it worse, but Jacksonville almost got the first down with an 11-yard rush by Shawn Ellis and a 17-yard reception by Debious Cobbs. The Titans, however, failed to convert on fourth and 1 and turned it over on downs.

Mills went backwards on its next possession before hitting a 12-yard pass. On fourth and 3, Bunting lost 4 yards and Jacksonville took possession on its own 44.

On the very next play, Martin again broke loose, this time for 56 yards and the score, but a missed extra point left the score tied with four seconds left in the third quarter.

The two teams traded fruitless possessions again until Mills made the first big mistake.

Jacksonville senior Kendrick Rhynes covered a fumbled snap on the Comets’ 21-yard line, and Jacksonville scored on the next play. Weathers found Marcus Casey in the end zone with 6:06 left in the game, and Darryl Kimble-Brooks’ extra point was good, proving huge later in the quarter.

Mills went 66 yards in 10 plays and less than four minutes, scoring on another Allen keeper from 17 yards out with 2:25 left in the game. The Comets’ extra point, however, was no good, and they were forced to try an onside kick.

Jacksonville covered it at midfield, but lost 6 yards thanks to two penalties. The Titans were able to run the clock down so that Mill had time for just one hail Mary pass attempt, which resulted in a sack to end the game.

Mills will play its home opener next week against Hall High, while Jacksonville will play Catholic High at War Memorial Stadium on Friday. Catholic lost its opener 48-34 at Sylvan Hills.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke beats old foe Bison

Special to The Leader

When Lonoke hosted Carlisle Friday night at Abraham Stadium, it was the first time the two teams had met since 1990. The game was close the first half, but the home team took advantage of second half turnovers by the Bison to pull away in the second half for the final 41-28 advantage.

“Turnovers killed us in the first half,” said Lonoke coach Doug Best. “We had three fumbles. You can’t put points on the board by doing that. We cleaned it up in the second half, didn’t have any turnovers, and I’m proud of our defense. We made the adjustment at halftime, and the first group didn’t allow any points. That was the key to the game. Twenty-six years is a long time. It was a good crowd, one of the biggest I’ve seen here at Lonoke. They came out, and they hit us in the mouth. They gave us a game. I’m proud of how the boys responded the second half, came back and finished the job.”

Lonoke’s E’shaun Brown returned the opening kickoff to the 47-yard line. Quarterback Braidon Bryant ran for 14 yards, and then Michael Hodges picked up 16 yards on three consecutive carries. Bryant connected with Isaac Toney for 19 yards and a first and goal on the 9-yard line. Hodges finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to get the Jackrabbits on the board first. Mario Reyes added the extra point for the 7-0 early lead.

Carlisle answered right back, moving down the field from the 16-yard line with a run of 13 yards by Ty Golleher, and a 38-yard completion from quarterback Carson Cunningham to Golleher. The Bison scored with 14 seconds to go in the first quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Golleher. The extra point try was no good, leaving the score 7-6.

Lonoke fumbled twice on its next possession, and the second went to the Bison. Carlisle turned the ball back over on downs, just to have the Jackrabbits lose another fumble to them.

Taking advantage of great field position on the Lonoke 19-yard line, the Bison used runs by Golleher and Devon Kendrick to score and take the lead with 2:47 to go in the half. Kendrick scored the touchdown from four yards out.

Carlisle went for the two-point conversion, but Brown tackled the quarterback in the backfield, leaving Carlisle’s advantage at 12-7.

Xavier Hodge took the first play of the Lonoke possession 54 yards to the Bison 16-yard line. Bryant completed an 11-yard pass to Hodge, and Hodge ran again for 9 before Bryant took the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out as time expired in the half. Reyes added the extra point for a 14-12 halftime score.

Lonoke opened the second half with an 83-yard touchdown run by Steven Barrett. Reyes added the extra point, and the lead was 21-12. The Jackrabbits struck again on a 22-yard pick six by Hodge, increasing the lead to 28-12 with the extra point by Reyes.

Kameron Cole intercepted a pass on the next Bison possession, leading to another Lonoke score on a 20-yard quarterback draw by Bryant. The lead was now 34-12.

The Jackrabbits scored once more in the third quarter on a 1-yard keeper by Bryant with 14.9 seconds remaining. Again, Reyes was good for the extra point, and the lead had grown to 41-12.

Carlisle scored twice in the fourth quarter, the first on a 23-yard run by Kendrick. JaSean Harper scored the two-point conversion for a score of 41-20 with 2:13 remaining. Harper then scored from 1-yard out, and quarterback Braiden Jenkins was complete to Kendrick for the two-point conversion to set the final score at 41-28.

“I don’t like it to end that way, but the first half fight was pretty good,” said Bison coach Mark Uhiren. “I think that surprised many, many people. They are a 4A football team and a pretty good 4A football team. We are just a real, real small 2A team. It’s really hard to look a bunch of kids in the eye and go play a big team like that and still have the fight they had. I’m okay with that. I know we got tired, and we are going to continue to condition and work hard.”

Lonoke had 337 yards of total offense, 267 yards rushing and 70 passing. The Bison had 341 total yards of offense.

Hodge rushed for 81 yards for Lonoke, and Bryant 47 yards and three touchdowns.

Kendrick had 97 yards, two touchdowns, and one two-point conversion for Carlisle. Golleher had 62 yards rushing, a 38-yard reception, and one touchdown.

Lonoke (1-0) will be at Beebe Friday night, while Carlisle (0-1) will host DeWitt.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win on final play

Leader sports editor

The clock indicated the game was over, but a Pine Bluff penalty kept hope alive for the Cabot Panthers on Friday. The Panthers turned that extra chance into a touchdown to beat the two-time defending Class 6A champions 28-27 in the season opener at Panther Stadium.

Trailing 27-21, Cabot’s Jarrod Barnes threw to the end zone from 14 yards out, and Pine Bluff’s Ronald Rockett knocked it down, seemingly giving Pine Bluff the victory. But a flag came out and pass interference was the call, giving the Panthers one final, untimed play. Even before the next snap, Pine Bluff jumped off sides, moving it even further to the 3-yard line.

Quarterback Jarrod Barnes then went right from the shotgun formation and leaped high into the air and over the goal line to tie the game at 27-27.

Mason Martin’s extra point sealed the victory for the Panthers.

“Jarrod’s a difference maker,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We’ve never had one like him around here before. We were in the option but I knew he was going to keep it, and I wasn’t going to argue with him.”

Pine Bluff trailed 21-13 going into the fourth quarter, but scored twice, the second with just 1:17 left in the game. The Zebras tied the game with 8:24 remaining. Simeon Blair connected on a 7-yard fade pass left to Xavier Smith to make it 21-19, and then hit Jyrimee Thompson on a fade to the right side for the two-point conversion and tie.

Cabot failed on a fake punt with 6:02 left, and Pine Bluff took over on its own 43. As was the case most of the game, Blair scrambling was the Zebras best offensive play.

Cabot pressure forced him out of the pocket three times on the drive, and he picked up 52 total yards. Two of the scrambles converted fourth down attempts, including the second one, which resulted in a 14-yard touchdown run on fourth and 5.

But the Zebras missed the extra point, leaving Cabot with a chance for the win with just a touchdown and PAT.

Special teams got even worse when Pine Bluff tried to kick off. Three penalties moved the kick back to the 25-yard line, and Cabot started the game-winning drive on its own 24.

In the first half, Cabot scored on its opening drive of the game after a pair of mistakes cut short Pine Bluff’s first possession. An illegal block negated a big play and put the Zebras behind the chains. Two plays later they tried to punt, but a high snap resulted in a loss of 16 yards and Cabot took over on the Pine Bluff 39.

On the very first offensive play of the season, quarterback Jarrod Barnes went around the left end on an option keep and went 39 yards untouched for the score.

Mason Martin’s extra point made it 7-0 with 8:10 left in the first quarter.

The lead didn’t last long. Pine Bluff put together another good drive, converting a third and 9 along the way with a 10-yard run by quarterback Simeon Blair.

Two players later, Blair connected with Xavier Smith for 32 yards to the Cabot 27.

After another 10-yard run by Blair, he connected with Kamarea Wilkins for 13 yards on a wheel route for a touchdown with 4:34 left in the first quarter.

Cabot put together a long drive, but stalled inside the Pine Bluff 20-yard line. A 37-yard field-goal attempt was no good, and Pine Bluff took over on its own 20.

Blair kept the drive alive on the first set of downs by keeping for 7 yards on third and 5.

Two plays later. Blair’s legs kept a play alive when he was rushed out of the pocket by the Cabot pass rush. Blair stepped up in the pocket and then out to the right side line, and hit Xavier Smith for a 63-yard scoring strike. Justin Nabors blocked the extra point, leaving the Zebras with a 13-7 lead with 1:33 left in the first half.

That lead lasted precisely 12 seconds. Barnes took the ensuing kickoff at the 22-yard line, and raced up the middle for 78 yards and the score. The extra point was good, leaving Cabot with a 14-13 lead, which it took into the locker room at halftime.

Pine Bluff gained more yards than Cabot, 321 to 283. Blair accounted for 310 of the Zebras’ offense. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns, and carried 15 times for 136 yards and one score.

Xavier Smith caught 11 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Barnes led Cabot with 15 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns, as well as the 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also completed 8 of 12 pass attempts for 107 yards.

Cabot (1-0) travels to El Dorado next Friday while Pine Bluff plays its home opener against crosstown rival Watson Chapel. El Dorado beat Camden-Fairview 34-7 on Friday.

Friday, September 02, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Let’s insure all Americans

Another cascade of headlines last week, mostly on the predictable pages, foreshadowed the doom of Obamacare—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—when a new president and Congress assemble in four and a half months.

Three of the insurance giants, Aetna, Humana and United Healthcare, announced that they probably would stop offering plans in Obamacare’s exchanges for many counties across the country after this year because they are losing money, which will reduce the competition in those exchanges. In order to get bigger and more profitable by saving $3.5 billion in duplicated costs, Aetna is trying to buy Humana, but President Obama’s Justice Department has been resisting it as anticompetitive merger that violates antitrust laws. We are sure that had nothing to do with Aetna’s threatened pullout from the president’s signature program.

So this must be the final blow for Obamacare, as the Arkansas Democrat Gazette predicted Thursday in the latest of scores of editorials condemning the 2010 healthcare law, this one labeled, “Kill the monster.”

Almost simultaneously, the paper carried front-page stories about the phenomenal success of Obamacare’s biggest feature, Medicaid expansion. More than 325,000 low-income working Arkansas families are now enrolled in Obamacare and are getting medical attention that they formerly could only get with the charity of the overflowing emergency rooms of big hospitals. But Republican lawmakers, opponents of Obamacare, saw that as the forerunner of ruin. When the state must start paying a small fraction of the premiums for medical insurance for those people, the legislators said, it will just about bankrupt the state treasury.

No one dared to speak up at the legislative meeting where the mourning occurred to remind the legislators that their own conservative business consultants, whom they paid handsomely, had given them hard figures showing that the more p eople signed up, the better off the state would be. And not just the poor policyholders but also the state treasury and the taxpayers. Owing to the vast infusion of federal dollars into the state, their cumulative fiscal impact and the collection of state insurance premium taxes for all those policies, the state treasury will be flusher for many years than it would be if Obamacare had never become law. Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin), a former critic, now says Medicaid expansion is working fine in Arkansas.

But the pullout of three big insurers in many U.S. counties is a big, big concern, and has been since the law’s implementation three years ago. Too many very sick people and too few young healthy people have bought policies on the exchanges. About 20 million Americans who weren’t insured in 2010 when the law passed are now insured, but almost that many more have so far chosen not to be covered, primarily because good health policies are still expensive even when the government offers assistance for families whose earnings are below 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

The truth is that Obamacare is not going away, whoever is elected president. Donald Trump says he would ask Congress to repeal Obamacare immediately, but he also says he will replace it with something that would cover every single American. What that would be —Medicare for all or something else—he has never said, but you can be sure that it would be far costlier to the taxpayers than Obamacare or else a giant addition to the national debt.

The insurance industry warned about the shortcomings in the new law when it was enacted. It said the taxes on those who remained uninsured were way too low to encourage young and healthy people to buy plans, that the diminishing subsidies for people based on their incomes were still too low to persuade low-income families to enroll, and that it should tackle the exorbitant costs of many drugs, which were driving up the insurers’ costs for chronically sick people.

Originally, the problem was that, owing to the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose vote enabled the Senate to block a filibuster, Congress had to enact the weaker Senate version rather than the better researched and written version by the House of Representatives. The House had better subsidies for lower incomes, simple subsidies rather than the complicated tax credits of the Senate bill, more realistic penalties, and provision for a government-run plan that would compete with commercial insurers.

Ordinarily, big programs like health insurance require almost annual tinkering. Social Security had to be amended almost yearly to work out the kinks and omissions and still needs it. Congress amends Medicare and its funding mechanisms regularly, no matter which party is in control.

The last two insurance reforms before Obamacare, the introduction of Medicare Advantage plans in the 1990s and the Medicare drug program in 2004 were on a death spiral like opponents say Obamacare is on, but Congress came back—under Republican leadership no less—and added federal expenditures to make the plans workable and extremely profitable for the insurers.

But partisanship had become so fierce by Obama’s election that no amending has been possible. The House of Representatives has voted many times to repeal Obamacare but will not permit even a comma change to the act.

One hopes that may change in 2017, though who would bet on it? Hillary Clinton laid out a comprehensive set of changes to the law that she would try to enact—changes in the schedule of premium subsidies, perhaps more strenuous penalties, and a public option to compete with Blue Cross and the others to hold the premiums down.

Congress could do what both it and the president opted not do in 2010, which was to place some mandates on the pharmaceuticals’ profiteering on life-saving drugs, like the $94,500 a year that the company holding the patent for vital hepatitis C medicine charges a family. An insurer with many such patients is going to see its profits go down. Big insurance companies need to tend to their exorbitant salaries and administrative costs, like the insurance startup Oscar, which thrives on the exchange.

Even a President Trump will not cancel insurance for 20 million Americans, after saying he would guarantee it for everyone. The name Obamacare may disappear, which would be merciful, but no one should be either hopeful or scared that the great progress of that act of Congress will disappear. — Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Mushrush kept eye on spending

Leader staff writer

Former Jacksonville Finance Director Paul Wayne Mushrush, 71, died Wednesday night after collapsing at his home.

For many, it was a shock as he was at Walmart just that afternoon where he ran into former Mayor Tommy Swaim, and they spent an enjoyable amount of time chatting about government. It was Swaim who hired Mushrush to become the city’s finance director.

He retired from that position in 2011, but still came by city hall to visit and was called in to review the city’s financials from time to time.

“He was a walking encyclopedia,” said Mayor Gary Fletcher. “You can never replace someone like that.”

Many joked that Mushrush was a sesquipedalian, a user of long words, and it was a term he endeared. Nikki Wilmoth, with the finance department, said Mushrush loved to find and use enigmatic words.

Cheryl Erkel, who was promoted to finance director when Mushrush retired, added, “Every day we would find a new uncommon word and work it into conversation and even his financial reports just make other stop and think.”

Under his watch, the city’s budget grew from $4 million to about $20 million and his department won the international Certificate of Excellence award every year in a row since 1997, one of the longest streaks in the nation.

Wilmoth said Mushrush was a wonderful person and a great boss. “He was well respected, and I was blessed to have worked under his leadership,” Willmoth said.

Erkel said all the employees in the financial department looked to Mushrush as a “father figure. We were his second family. He was a great man and a very good mentor.”

She added that even after his retirement he would help if needed. “He never gave us the answer, that wasn’t his leadership style, but he directed us to it.”

Tonja Gilbert, accounting services assistant with the finance department, said, “He was a brilliant man with a lot of neat life adventure stories. He truly loved his family. He was a good mentor. He will be missed more than words can describe. I am so blessed to have known him.”

Debbie Jernigan, accounts payable specialist, said, “Paul was such an inspiration to work with at city hall. His knowledge and dedication as finance director earned him many awards and designations. But what amazed me most about Paul was his overwhelming love and devotion to his wife Karin, daughter Sam and his grandchildren. They were always his first priority.

“I also remember listening to stories about his ‘escapades’ with his brother Grant, and Paul laughing like a mischievous little boy! ‘Good times,’ he would say. Paul’s legacy will always be a part of our office.”

Mushrush began working for Jacksonville in 1988 and became the finance director in 1992.

He was a longtime member of the Arkansas Government Finance Officers Association. Mushrush was elected secretary/treasurer in 1998 and became president in 1999 (skipping first and second vice president positions). He received the Arkansas Government Finance Officer of the Year award in 2003.

He was active in Jacksonville’s Historical Society, which promotes the Reed’s Bridge Civil War Battlefield. He was also involved in the Jacksonville Education Foundation, which helped create the new Jacksonville school district.

Mushrush was born on Aug. 14, 1945, in Stuebenville, Ohio.

He is survived by Karin Dooley Mushrush, his wife of 37 years; his daughter, Samantha Jones and her husband Bruce of Jacksonville; two grandchildren, Cadence Jones and Brooks Jones, and one brother, Grant Mushrush, of California.

A celebration of his life will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday at A Natural State Funeral Service, 2620 W. Main St.

Additional arrangements are pending.

TOP STORY >> Annual FestiVille coming up soon

Leader staff writer

FestiVille in Jacksonville is less than a month away and organizers are working to finalize the music headliners. They are also seeking more crafts and merchant vendors.

“We are looking forward to it. It is exciting with new activities and events,” festival organizer Dana Rozenski said.

FestiVille is a two-day family-friendly festival held at Dupree Park on Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct.1 Admission and parking are free.

The fun begins on Thurs-day, Sept. 29 with a carnivalamily night with a $20 armband for the rides.

On Friday, Festiville will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The evening will have vendors and entertainment. Bingo games will be free for the public to play for prizes. A new activity for the festival this year is hot air balloon rides.

Entertainment on Friday includes performances by Lighthouse Charter School and Arkansas Platinum Diamondettes dance group.

Movies in the park will happen at 7 p.m. with the showing of “Zootopia.”

On Saturday Festiville continues from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Arkansas Street Machines will host a car show. There will be a 5K run, a volleyball tournament, a climbing rock wall, a children’s area with inflatables, a petting zoo and pony rides and a Senior Centers of Arkansas bean bag baseball tournament.

The park will be smoking with the Grill in the Ville barbecue contest sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network.

Rozenski said they are accepting teams for the barbecue cookoff.

“There will be something for everyone, kids, adults, teens and families,” Rozenski said.

Saturday’s entertainment includes the Community Theater of Jacksonville. Performances by Huff-N-Puff, Dance FX, Limelight Performances Academy, Sharon’s, Miss Teen Greater Jacksonville and Miss Greater Jacksonville, The Jacksonville High School vocal jazz ensemble and the New Livin’ quartet.

Food vendors serving festival goers include Beals BBQ with barbecue sandwiches, dinners, chicken wings, nachos; Boss Hog with barbecue and Kona Ice with sno-cones. Reggae Flavas will be serving Jamaican cuisine; jerk chicken and waffles, gumbo and desserts.

W and M Concession will feature fried fair food favorites from funnel cakes to cheese sticks, corn dogs and nachos.

TOP STORY >> Issue 3 is seen helping Lonoke

Leader staff writer

“Somewhere between here and Little Rock” would be the perfect spot for a big auto plant or another large industry, Randy Zook told about 35 Lonoke Chamber of Commerce members who had gathered for Thursday’s regular meeting.

Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas president and CEO, was talking about the potential economic benefits of Issue 3.

It will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general election ballot.

He said his organization is in favor of it, which allows the state to possibly attract more and larger industries by “removing the limitation on the principal amount of General Obligation Bond that may be issued under Amendment 82.”

In other words, bonds currently issued by the state are limited to 5 percent of its total revenue and this would remove that cap, he said.

Basically, he said it would give the state a fighting chance when it came to attracting large industries like the Toyota plant at Blue Springs, Miss.

“We weren’t equipped to complete,” he said. At one point, the state tried to entice Toyota to consider Arkansas as a location in the late 2000s.

Issue 3 is also known as Jobs for Arkansas.

“It would allow the state and local governments to step up to the plate,” Zook said.

State Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke), who was at the meeting, said, “I agree with everything Randy said. Ourstate has a great opportunity for economic development.”

She said the state is ideally situated in the country’s center with easy assess to interstate, rail, air and river transport.

However, she said, “The state has to be cautious when issuing bonds. Only 6 percent of our (Arkansas tax) income comes from corporations, so it needs to be a great enough return to impact our bottom line,” Bennett said.

Chamber co-director Adam Starks said, “It’s a cause I believe. It has its negatives and positives, but the positives outweigh the negatives.”

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said, “There is a problem that needs to be resolved,” but at this point, he said he has not studied the matter and isn’t ready to endorse or reject it.

There’s also something in Issue 3 for local municipalities.

Cities could hire chambers of commerce for services related to economic development, and through bonds approved by local voters, cities would be allowed to borrow money for economic development, Zook said.

Chamber co-director Bill Ryker said, “Zook did a good job of explaining Issue 3,” and he supports all aspects of it.

“I feel like it would be a win-win situation for all communities, and I don’t think it put smaller communities at a disadvantage,” Ryker said.

The measure could help Lonoke better attract potential employers.

Starks said the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors will meet next week, possibly Wednesday, to decide whether to support or reject Issue 3.


Zook also talked about other issues that would be appearing on the ballot. His organization had no position on Issue 1, which would extend elected county official terms from two to four years.

Bennett, who was part of the House’s State Agency Committee that brought the issue to the House floor, strongly supports it and said, “I think it’s a great idea.”

However, Zook’s association supports Issue 2, which would extend the Arkansas governor’s power beyond the state’s boundaries, meaning he would retain his authority even when out of state.

Prior to modern communication, Zook said this limitation was needed but often misused by certain individuals who suddenly took control of the state, but Arkansas needs to update this amendment.

“It’s long overdue,” he said.

His association opposes Issue 4, an amendment that limits lawyers’ contingency fees and non-economic damages in medical laws; and Issue 6 and 7, both designed to legalize medical marijuana.

They take no stand on Issue 5 that allows casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

Starks introduced Lt. Col. Walter (Wally) Lesinski, chamber liaison from the Little Rock Air Force Base.

The next Lonoke chamber luncheon will be at noon Thursday, Oct. 6.


Lonoke will host a 9/11 ceremony in memory of the 2,996 people who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

In honor of the 15th anniversary, the city will hold a 9/11 ceremony at noon at Memorial Flag Plaza, adjacent to the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce at 102 Front St.

It will include the Lonoke High School Band, members of the Lonoke Junior Army ROTC, the Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard, Lt. Col. Walter Lesinski will attend and David Hixson, assistant band director at Lonoke Middle School, will play taps.


KickStart Lonoke has launched a key phase in the process of developing a strategic five-year action plan for Lonoke.

Lonoke’s residents are encouraged to take their online survey. Their voices are crucial in an effort to identify the top priorities for economic growth so please take a moment to fill out the survey, said organizer Ryan Biles.

An online community survey is available at…/lonoke-launches-co…/.


Deborah Swayne Moore, Lonoke County Library System director, said the William F. Foster Public Library at England will be offering its patrons a new sub-genre of books called Steampunk.

Basically, it’s the Victorian period meets science fiction, Moore said.

The machinery highlighted in the book is more often powered by steam than by modern technologies.

Steampunk has also influenced fashion, and Moore said, in the spirit of the genre, the England branch will be hosting a Steampunk-themed teen dress-up event around Halloween. She encourages all Steampunk fans to stay tuned for more information about the upcoming event.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

TOP STORY >> Police planning forums

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville and Lonoke police departments will hold meetings with residents Thursday, Sept. 8.

Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd said, “In light of all the issues nationwide with law enforcement, various communities and the judicial system, I felt it was time for us to have a ‘straight talk’ meeting between the department and citizens.”

That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Lonoke Police Chief Patrick Mulligan has set a “meet and greet” gathering for 7 p.m. at the Lonoke Community Center.

For Mulligan, who has been on the job for six months, it will be a chance share his vision about the police department and the city. “I’ve spent a lot of time visiting church leaders about the community and this is the next step.”

For the Jacksonville meeting there will be a panel, including the police chief, the incoming district judge, one or more aldermen and a city police officer who works the streets and will field questions and comments from the public.

Boyd, in an effort to make the exchange as transparent and open as possible, asked The Leader to have one of its reporters moderate the event and compile the questions. The police department will have no control over the questions. “If it’s asked, someone on the panel will answer it,” the chief said.

Boyd said the idea of reaching out to the public came to him after one of the recent police shootings. “I had emails from two residents asking me what I was doing to prevent Jacksonville police from shooting black people. I told them come on in and talk to me. One did, and it was a very good conversation, and I want to extend that conversation.”

At the start of what the chief is calling the “straight talk” session, each panelist will introduce themselves, give residents some insight into their philosophy and then the moderator will start with the questions.

Residents can ask questions in three manners.

Either by emailing the questions or comments to The Leader at, or they’ll have an opportunity to submit them to the moderator at the meeting or, if time permits, ask the question themselves from the audience.

“We just want the city to know what we are doing, what we are trying to do and what we want to do,” the Boyd said.

Both police chiefs said they have an open-door policy and want to give the communities as much transparency as possible.

Mulligan said he has already named a civilian group, dubbed the chief’s cabinet, to review any incidents of excessive use of force or shootings. “We are meeting once a month to keep them in the loop.”

Besides Lonoke’s Sept. 8 meet and greet, a picnic-style lunch saluting all first responders will be held from noon till 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 at the Lonoke City Park. Sponsored by Gwatney Chevrolet, the luncheon will include plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers.

FEATURE STORY >> A different breed

Leader staff writer

 A chorus of barking dogs greets all visitors long before entering the Jacksonville Animal Shelter on Redmond Road. It’s endless and loud, laughs Hedy Wuelling, the shelter’s manager. It’s her usual qualifier that immediately follows every “Hello.”

Wuelling is dressed in a dark blue department-issued jumpsuit, making her tall, lean frame appear even more so, topped off with a sparkle in her eye that rarely fades.

And even though she’s a professional caterer, an accomplished furniture maker and enjoys needlepoint, she loves to talk about the animals and the shelter. These days, she says she has little time to pursue outside interests, so the conversation quickly circles back to the animals.

Her boss, Jimmy Oakley, Jacksonville’s public works director, says, “I’m lucky to have her, so is the city. She’s ethical, driven, has a passion for the animals and does a superb job. She always goes above and beyond. She’s super woman.”

Twelve-year dispatch employee Kerrie Henderson is fond of Wuelling and says, “I wouldn’t have another boss. I don’t think anyone else would care as much about the animals as she does.”

Behind the shelter’s foyer, receptionist desk and a few offices are rows of cages. The cats are separated from the dogs and the short timers from the pit bulls. Gentle or not, a Jacksonville ordinance prohibits adoption of this breed by  individuals. There are at least 11 waiting for a permanent shelter designed to house pits to take them in and another two are part of court cases, but meanwhile it takes money to feed and care for these dogs.

The pits take up a sizable portion of the shelter’s 32 cages so this meant that earlier in the week, as a large number of strays came in, the shelter was starting to experience overcrowding, but the word went out and Wuelling says, “We did really great this week. We took in 28 dogs and adopted out 27.”

Along with pit bulls, black dogs—even playful and family-friendly labs and pure breeds—are hard to place in homes.

“People just don’t want them,” she says. It’s so common in the animal rescue business that they call it, “Black Dog Syndrome.”

Black animals don’t photograph well and perhaps seem older than their lighter counterpart and most people want younger ones, Wuelling says. Black cats are usually passed over as well.

But that doesn’t mean Wuelling and her crew will put a healthy animal down; instead they post pictures on their website, hoping to find the animal a home.

“It might take a little longer,” she says. Again, costing the shelter extra money.


The city’s animal shelter is unique among many in Arkansas and Wuelling has a goal, she wants to make it a no-kill shelter, but that’s expensive.

Still, since taking over in 2008, she has drastically reduced the annual number of animals euthanized. It used to be that a dog or cat only stayed at a shelter for a few days, and if an owner didn’t show up or if it wasn’t adopted quickly, the animal was put down.

She also became a U.S. citizen in 2008.

As a reminder of the old days, the kill ovens are still standing behind the shelter but are no longer operational.

Since Wuelling has taken over the shelter, the numbers of dogs killed dropped from more than 650 a year to about 150. The number of cats euthanized also dropped.

For the first five months of this year, zero animals were put down, Wuelling says.

“We’ve made changes little by little,” she says.

So far, she managed to make it a “low-kill” shelter that reflects a growing trend of a more humane treatment of animals, she says. As well, people are willing to adopt mixed breeds, and people from northern states where there are fewer animals for adoption are eager to take in southern animals.

“We working hard to become a no-kill shelter,” then Wuelling adds, “If you want something, you can make it possible.”

And like her dad, Henk De Jong, says, “Just do it.”

So she is.


Wuelling’s work and her philosophy are the reasons Christine Henderson of Jacksonville, no relation to Kerrie Henderson, is volunteering her time, talent and money to the animal shelter.

Prior to setting up and operating the Jacksonville Friends of the Animals Facebook page, a support organization, she sat on the Pulaski County Humane Society Board of Directors. So far, the Friends website has attracted nearly 10,000 fans.

Christine Henderson also photographs the animals who are up for adoption at the shelter in hopes of finding each a home.

Often the animal is gone the day after it appears on their webpage.

The Friends’ page replaced Pet Angels in 2014, and the nonprofit raises money to help purchase meds and pay vet bills.

They’ve manage to raise about $40,000 a year, that mainly goes to pay vet bills, Henderson says.

“It takes an entire community to have a no-kill shelter,” Wuelling emphasizes.
Wuelling says with the Friends’ help, she’s able to be more frugal with the city’s money.

Their animal operating budget is about $250,000 and they’re often dealing with as many as 75 dogs and cats at a time.

She has three animal control officers, one kennel worker and one part-time weekend worker. The department has a facility and dog play area at 217 South Redmond Road, and three animal control vehicles.

Jack Henderson, who also donates his time and talents to the shelter, agrees with his wife, Christine Henderson, saying, “Hedy is wonderful and has a huge heart. She is devoted to the animals.”

They both respect what Wuelling has accomplished, says Christine Henderson.

So much so that they donated a mobile unit and generator to the shelter. It cost about $18,000 and allows staff to take their animals to various events. People get a chance to see the dogs and cats and adopt them without visiting the shelter.

When Daniel Dominguez, former Air Force, of Cabot signed up for classes at ASU Beebe, he was required to do community service as part of a class assignment so he decided to volunteer at the Jacksonville Animal Shelter.

“I’ve been here before and it’s clean, a lot cleaner than most other shelters…The dogs are treated well,” he explains while playing with a blonde lab named Marley.

Oakley says, “We have several volunteers who dig deep and help when needed…We appreciate them all.”


Wuelling grew up in Holland and her father bred and trained dogs, including German Shepherds for police units and dog shows around Europe.

“I watched lots of dogs compete.”

She, in turn raised, mastiffs.

“They appealed to me and they’re lovable,” Wuelling says about the dog breed made famous in movies like “Sandlot,” “Harry Potter,” and “Turner and Hooch.” Technically, Hooch was a French mastiff.

Like her father, she also competed, and when pressed, Wuelling says, “I did pretty well.

She also was a caterer before coming to the United States.

Both Wuelling and Henderson, who is originally from England, say that in Europe and the United Kingdom, dogs are treated like members of the family.

“They go on vacation,” Henderson says.

Wuelling adds, “They’re welcome in many restaurants.”

Getting rid of a pet is almost unheard of, Henderson says.

It’s different in the U.S., they both agree.

Her childhood and the culture she grew up in, influenced how she sees and treats animals, Wuelling says. That influences the decisions she makes at the shelter.

In 2002, Wuelling spent a few months in the United States but didn’t officially move to this country until late 2003. While visiting for the first time, she volunteered at the shelter and after moving to Arkansas, she went to work for Oakley in 2004.

He says, “She’s done wonders with the shelter and for the animals. I’m proud of her adoption rates and accomplishments.”

Wuelling says the shelter is a perfect fit for her, “I love it.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Distractions abound for Arkansas opener

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – As Arkansas season-openers fare on Razorback fans’ attention spans, Saturday’s 3 p.m. clash with Louisiana Tech of Conference USA at Reynolds Razorback Stadium fits somewhere between last year’s opener with Texas-El Paso and the 2014 season opener with Auburn.

That’s probably true for the Razorback coaches, too, though of course, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema isn’t doing his motivational job should he admit that publicly.

“I get the question, but from our point of view you’ve got to take it all the same,” Bielema said.

Perhaps most should, but most don’t. Including any SEC coach kicking off the season with an SEC opponent.

Louisiana Tech’s Bulldogs, with a rich tradition that includes eventual Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Hall of Fame quarterback become long time NFL TV analyst Terry Bradshaw, and coming off a 9-4 season, certainly evoke respect way beyond the UTEP Miners program that Arkansas routed 48-13 last September at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

However, in SEC vernacular, Louisiana Tech ain’t Auburn.

The timing and place couldn’t have been worse for Bielema the first and only time Arkansas has opened the season on the road against an SEC team. The then second-year Bielema had gone 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC when he took his 2014 Hogs into Auburn, Ala. The Tigers of Gus Malzahn, the Arkansas native, formerRazorbacks offensive coordinator and Shiloh Christian and Springdale state champion high school coach in Arkansas, had gone 12-2 as the 2013 SEC champion and national runner-up.

Shattering in the second half a 21-21 first half, Auburn romped, 45-21 that sultry Aug. 30 night. Given that Bielema’s Hogs finished by surging to 7-6 as Auburn fizzled to 8-5 that season, Arkansas fans had cause to ponder the what-ifs, had that game been scheduled for November rather than August.

“Auburn was unique because it was on the road,” Bielema said last week. “That was the SEC Network (debut) and we were the guinea pig that year, I think. We weren’t quite where we needed to be and the SEC just kind of slotted us where they needed us to go. But as we’ve gained a little bit of clout, hopefully that’s helped us in our scheduling and everything else.”

With tongue in cheek, Bielema, at last week’s Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club, remarked Arkansas didn’t help itself by scheduling attachments to this Saturday’s season-opener.

Skip Holtz, a former Fayetteville High student, coaches Louisiana Tech.
His dad, Lou Holtz, went 60-21-2 coaching the Razorbacks from 1977-83, including an epic 31-6 Orange Bowl rout over prohibitively favored Oklahoma. After a Friday night banquet inducting him among eight Razorback legends into the UA’s Sports Hall of Honor, Lou and his fellow Hall of Honor inductees also will be honored Saturday during the game in which his son coaches the opponent.

“I don’t know why they did this,” Bielema told the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown at Mermaid’s restaurant in Fayetteville. “But the Razorback Foundation decided to honor his father the day that we have him here as a coach. They’ll probably have three buses of Holtzes here. I’m sure they’re great people, but I don’t need them.”

For the record, Bielema was joking as he was with another story alleging his wife, Jen’s, fondness for Holtz’s quips as an ESPN college football analyst.

“My wife has a little crush on Lou Holtz,” Bielema said.

So Bielema made note of that one summer when the Bielemas together met Holtz and other ESPN celebrities at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Ct.

“I said to him, ‘my wife has kind of had a crush on you,” Bielema said, using Holtz’s famous lisp while quoting Holtz’s reply.

“Oh, you don’t shay,” Bielema said quoting Holtz.

Actually, Bielema has great respect for Lou Holtz, a college Hall of Famer most notably for his success at Notre Dame and Arkansas. He also has a great rapport with Skip Holtz.

“I know Skip very well,” Bielema said, noting not only his own experiences, but also that of Arkansas linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves.

Hargreaves assisted Holtz’s defense at East Carolina and South Florida.

“I have been around him on several occasions,” Bielema said. “Vernon has spent a lot of time with him. They’re going to come in here with the intention to knock out a SEC football team and we gotta prepare that type of answer.”

While Arkansas fans undoubtedly peek ahead to visiting the Big 12’s nationally 13th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs on Sept. 10 in Fort Worth, the Razorbacks have the glaring reminder of last year’s upset loss at Little Rock to Toledo in the season’s second game as a grim reminder of consequences of putting the game after ahead of the one you are playing.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits and Bison rekindling old rivalry

Leader sports editor

Only about eight miles of Hwy. 70 separate Lonoke and Carlisle, but it’s been 26 years since the two schools have faced off on the gridiron. That all changes Friday when the Bison invade the Rabbits’ meadow at Abraham Stadium.

The last time these two teams met in 1990, Carlisle won 16-6.

There are some interesting connections in Friday’s game at LHS as well. Carlisle’s new coach, Mark Uhiren, is a Carlisle graduate and former head coach at Lonoke, and Lonoke head coach Doug Bost was one of his assistants. Jackrabbit assistant coach Jack Keith was Carlisle’s head coach last season.

The 2A Bison will be underdogs to their Class 4A hosts, but old rivalries are often unpredictable. It might be two small towns, but it will be one packed stadium on Friday.


The Cabot football team has a major test coming Friday when the two-time defending Class 6A state champion Pine Bluff Zebras enter Panther Stadium.

Pine Bluff only has six returning starters from last year’s championship team, but has benefited this offseason from transfers.

Likely the two biggest pieces of the Zebra offense this year are both transfers. Pine Bluffscrimmaged against Parkview and dominated. The two offensive leaders were both transfers. Quarterback Simeon Blair moved over from nearby Dollarway High School to PBHS, and running back Dalvin Smith (5-foot-10, 230 pounds) moved back to Pine Bluff after spending last season at Lufkin, Texas.

There’s also returning tailback Keshawn Whaley (6-1, 220) who carried for 299 yards last year.

“That quarterback is pretty good and that running back is a load,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “I think our defense has a chance to be pretty good, and we’re going to find out pretty quick how far along we are. Those backs are big and they have some speed. They pretty much stayed in the spread against Parkview, so they’ve changed some things from last year. But they’re going to be good – athletes all over the field.”


Jacksonville will officially take the field as the Titans for the first time in school history when it hosts the Mills Comets on Friday. Jacksonville didn’t look as good as coaches had hoped when it played Mena last Monday in a preseason scrimmage game. The Titans failed to score, but did have some success moving the football, and the defense held the Bearcats to just one touchdown.

“I felt really bad that night, but not as bad when I watched film the next day,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We scored one touchdown and got it called back. We had some success, but we had too many mistakes. We’d get something going and get a penalty or miss a snap or something that would get us behind the chains. We’re not an offense made for third and 12. Not many are. We have to be next to perfect in our execution, and that was the first time out there for a lot of those guys.”

Mills has gone from a tightly packed Wing-T offense to a wider alignment, but not exactly the spread. In their scrimmage against Hall, the Comets ran some Double Wing, and at other times removed the tight ends and were in more of a Flexbone formation. Whatever they’re lined up in, the goal is usually to create opportunities for big and bruising fullback Brandon Bunting. He ran for more than 1,000 yards last year, including a 6-yard per carry average against McClellan, which had the best defense in the 5A-Central last season.

“Coach (Patrick) Russell says he could be the best one he’s ever had,” Hickingbotham said of Bunting. “He’s about 230 and he’s a Hoss.

The Titans and Comets kick off the game and season at 7:00 p.m. at Jan Crow Stadium.


Beebe opens the season with Greenbrier for the 15th consecutive season. The Panthers did not look very good when they were drubbed 42-14 in one half of play in their preseason scrimmage with Sylvan Hills, but Beebe coach John Shannon isn’t basing any projections of Greenbrier’s prowess on that outing.

“One thing I know is that Greenbrier has always been one of the better prepared teams we’ve played each year,” said Shannon. “I know coach Tribble wasn’t satisfied with how they played in that scrimmage, and they’ve gone to work to correct those mistakes. They’re well coached and they’re coming to play.”

Shannon’s squad had a better outing in its scrimmage, although the competition level wasn’t quite the same. Beebe’s starting lineup handled defending Class 3A champion Harding Academy pretty easily most of the time, although the Wildcats did hit a couple of long passes.

And although they played well last Tuesday, Beebe’s considerable youth is still a question mark going into a regular-season road game.

“I was pleased with our sophomores in the scrimmage, but Friday night in a real game, 5A competition on the road, will be something they haven’t experienced before. So it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that.”


Sylvan Hills hosts 7A Catholic. The Rockets scrimmaged against neighboring Hall High, and didn’t produce much offense. They did keep the Warriors from scoring, but Bear coach Jim Withrow isn’t basing much off of what he saw in that game.

“They only scored one touchdown, but I think they were playing a lot of people,” said Withrow. “They have a couple of pretty quick backs and they’re quarterback looked pretty good, but they really didn’t do much. I think we have to focus on just doing what we have to do.”

Much has been made about the Bears surprising rout of Greenbrier in the scrimmage, and Withrow was just as surprised as anyone else, and very pleased. But he wasn’t so pleased with the team’s performance later in the week in the annual Blue-White intrasqaud scrimmage. He did feel better, though, after Monday’s practice.

“I didn’t think we played that well in our Blue-White,” Withrow said. “I think some of that, at least I’m hoping, was just being tired of practice and wanting to play someone else. We came back and had a good practice on Monday, so I don’t want to put too much into Friday. It’s going to be a big challenge, going against a 7A team in the first game, so I think we’ll come out ready to play.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot second at Spikefest

Leader sports editor

Opening week of the season was roller coaster ride for the Cabot volleyball team, but the Lady Panthers ended it with a terrific performance on Saturday. Cabot won six-straight matches to advance to the championship game of the Spikefest Tournament, where it lost a hard-fought match to defending tournament and Class 5A state champion Valley View.

Spikefest is the premier mid-season tournament in central Arkansas, and Saturday was the first time for Cabot to advance to the championship round.

“We played great Saturday,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “Passing was good. The setters did a really good job of pushing the ball out towards the antennas, and the hitters finished for us.”

Saturday’s 6-1 performance came just two days after a disappointing and shocking 3-0 loss to Batesville at home, which followed a 3-1 win over Benton on Tuesday in the season opener.

“We didn’t play well in the jamboree we went to (in preseason) then we did a lot better against Benton,” Chanthaphasouk said. “Then against Batesville, we just weren’t very good at all. We didn’t do hardly anything right. We really had a serious team meeting after that match. So I’m pleased with how they responded to that. Saturday was great. They did the things we’ve been asking them to do and working on.”

The tournament format was best 2 of 3, and Valley View won the championship match 25-22 and 25-19, but not without a struggle. Cabot led 22-21 in game one before Valley View called timeout and then scored four-straight points for the win.

Cabot played from behind most of game two, but the head coach thinks fatigue was a likely factor in the late fade.

“There’s no doubt we were exhausted,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We played a very close and intense match with Benton in the semifinals. Valley View had been finished for about 45 minutes, while we had to turn right around and play them as soon as we beat Benton. All of a sudden in game two against Valley View, we were slow to our spots and not getting in position again, but I think the exhaustion was part of that.”

Cabot opened the tournament by winning three games in pool play, all in straight sets. The Lady Panthers beat Morrilton 25-14 and 25-12 to start the tournament. Texarkana, Texas was dispatched 25-20 and 25-14, and Cabot beat Wynne 25-21 and 25-9.

That put Cabot in the Gold bracket, the upper echelon of three levels of bracket play. There it met Van Buren in the first round, and suffered its first minor letdown in game two. After hammering the Pointers 25-14 in game one, Cabot dropped game two 25-23. That forced a race to 15 in game three, where Cabot again won easily, 15-8.

One of the tournament’s most dramatic moments came in game two of Cabot’s semifinal win over Bryant. The Lady Panthers won game one 25-20, but Bryant had a 24-18 lead and six set points in game two when Chanthaphasouk called timeout.

After the break, Cabot got a sideout, and Kaelee Simmons served seven-consecutive points, including two aces and a service winner for the 26-24 Cabot victory.

That put the Lady Panthers into a rematch with their namesakes in the semifinal, and Benton looked much better than in its match at Cabot the previous Tuesday.

“I really didn’t think they played that well when we played them at our gym,” Chanthaphasouk said of Benton. “They were much more fundamentally sound on Saturday, and we had to be very good to beat them.”

Every game was by the minimum two-point margin. Benton won game one 25-23 and Cabot reversed that in game two. Cabot then took game three 15-13.

In the championship game, besides his team being tired, Chanthaphasouk said Valley View’s defense was a big key.

“Their defensive specialists were outstanding,” said the Cabot coach. “I think our hitting is as good as anybody’s. Maddie Brown is one of the best in the state. She and Taylor Bell were doing a great job the whole tournament. But they were digging everything. It’s just a very good team.”

Valley View beat tournament host Mount St. Mary to get into the championship game, and that’s who Cabot (7-2) will face in the conference opener on Thursday at Panther Arena.

“They’re very good to have gone as far as they did in the tournament,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We played them in team camps over the summer and they were always very competitive matches.”