Friday, November 25, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills sweeps Devil Dogs

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills basketball teams got a sweep of Morrilton on Tuesday in Sherwood, keeping both teams undefeated so far this season. The Lady Bears played a dominant first quarter and stayed on top from there for a 62-46 win, while the boys needed overtime to pull away for a 63-57 victory.

Sylvan Hills’ junior Jayla Bell more than doubled Morrilton’s first-quarter output. She scored nine of the Lady Bears’ 12 points, while her team held the Lady Devil Dogs (1-2) to just four. Morrilton bounced back to outscore Sylvan Hills 14-12 in the second quarter, but Sylvan Hills turned it up offensively in the second half to pull away.

After hitting just one 3-pointer the entire first half, the Lady Bears made four in the third quarter. That forced Morrilton to defend the perimeter, and that opened up the inside game, where Bell and Alana Canady combined for 13 of the team’s 19 fourth-quarter points.

Bell led all players for the second game in a row, scoring 23. Canady added 14 for the 4-0 Lady Bears. Point guard Mallory Kimble scored nine points.

In the boys’ game, the Bears and Devil Dogs were tied at 26 at halftime after trading big quarters in the first half. Morrilton opened the game with a big run to open up an eight-point lead, but the Bears battled back late in the period to trail 16-11 by the start of the second quarter. In that frame, Sylvan Hills outscored Morrilton 15-10.

The second half played out the same way, only in reverse order. It was the Bears who dominated the third quarter, only to go cold in the fourth and score just eight points.

But the overtime belonged to the home team.

In just his first game of the year for the 4-0 Bears, Jordan Washington posted eight of his 12 total points in the extra frame, while Morrilton managed just two baskets and 2 of 4 free-throw shooting.

Telah Wade scored Sylvan Hills’ other four overtime points.

Only seven Bears scored in the game, a stark contrast from its previous game where 13 players got on the scoreboard. But the scoring was balanced. Washington’s 12 led the team while Jacobe Davis added 11, Wade and Alex Curry scored 10 each and Zion Butler posted nine.

Morrilton’s Xavier Wright led all players with 21 points. Morrilton dropped to 0-2 so far this season.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans split with Zebras

Leader sports editor

Long droughts and sudden bursts of rapid runs was the routine for the Titans Tuesday at Jacksonville High School. Fortunately for the home team, the biggest run of all came in the fourth quarter as the Titans beat Pine Bluff 60-51.

Jacksonville (2-2) led 33-24 at halftime, but managed just one basket through the first six minutes of the third quarter, and found itself trailing 42-38 with 20 seconds left in the third. From that point until 50 seconds left in the game, the Titans went on a 22-3 run until the Zebras (0-4) scored the final six points of the game to set the final margin.

Senior guard Tyree Appleby led the charge, scoring 12 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, but Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner took a more long-term, analytical approach to how the game played out, and found some concerns.

“We’re improving on defense, and Pine Bluff has some players that just make it hard on your defense sometimes,” said Joyner. “Defense was my big concern after the first week. We were giving up way too many points. We addressed that, and we’re getting better. Right now, this team is not balanced enough on the offensive end. We talked about getting the post players more touches, and we did get them a few more. Maybe five. That’s more than none like we had been doing. But that part of our offense has got to get better. We have great guards, and we can win a lot of games. But to get one of them, (pointing at his championship plaques on his office wall) we have to develop an inside game as well. And that’s on everybody. The guards have to understand that as well.”

Despite the win, Jacksonville’s outside shooting woes continued as well. In the Titans’ two-point loss to Mills in its previous game, Joyner said it was the worst shooting night he’s ever seen as JHS coach. On Tuesday, the Titans were 2 of 13 from 3-point range.

“We have good shooters,” Joyner said. “I see it every day in practice, and we hit outside the first two games. I don’t know what’s happened the last two, but I’m not too worried about that. These guys can shoot the ball.”

Pine Bluff didn’t make a high percentage from outside, but came out firing and never stopped. The Zebras took 10 3-point shots in the first quarter, and finished 5 of 25 from long range.

Jacksonville made 20 of 44 from inside the 3-point arc, while Pine Bluff was just 13 of 39. The Titans went 12 of 18 from the free-throw line, where Pine Bluff was 10 of 17.

Caleb Parker led the Zebras with 15 points. Forward Dequan Morris posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while post player Braylon Griswold came off the bench to score 10 points for the visitors.


The Lady Titans (4-2) played much better than in its first meeting with Pine Bluff, but still fell in overtime 51-48. In the first game of the season, Jacksonville lost 39-30 at PBHS, and first-year head coach Marian Kursh is pleased with the progress she saw from that game to this one.

“I told them I’m proud of them,” Kursh said. “We have some execution issues on offense we have to clean up. But these girls are learning a whole new system and a whole new way of doing things. It’s going to take some time. Like I said at the beginning of the season, there’s nowhere for us to go but up. They played extremely hard defensively and that kept us in the game. If they keep working hard, they’re going to keep getting better.”

Freshman Shy Christopher led the Lady Titans with 13 points, and made it a double-double with 14 rebounds. Josie Starr added nine points for Jacksonville while Martina Knight had seven points and 10 rebounds.

Alexis Reed scored 16 for Pine Bluff (5-1) while Jaidan Woods had 10.

The Jacksonville boys and girls will host McClellan on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe holds line against Southerners

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badger basketball team picked up two nice home wins this week, holding off 4A power Southside-Batesville 53-51 on Monday, then edging past a much larger Valley View team 52-48 in overtime on Tuesday.

Junior guard Libbie Hill’s outstanding season continued in both games. She is averaging more than 20 points per game this season, and scored 23 and 25 respectively this week.

“There’s a reason Henderson State has offered her already,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “She’s capable of doing a lot of things and not just score, and that’s what good players do.”

In Monday’s game, Beebe took control right away, scoring within seconds of the opening tip and jumping out to a quick 10-point lead. It was 17-9 at the end of the first quarter, but the margin never got much larger, despite phenomenal outside shooting by the Lady Badgers

Beebe led 29-20 at halftime, and scored 18 of those points from 3-point range. Sophomore Marianna Richey had 11 of those, nine from outside.

That forced Southside to make a defensive adjustment at halftime, and the 3-point shot was largely taken away in the second half.

Still, Beebe maintained its lead with aggressive defense. Southside hit a 3-pointer early in the quarter, and Richey called for pressure at midcourt. The halfcourt trap troubled the Lady Southerner ball handlers, and Beebe took its biggest lead of the game at 34-23 after Hannah Camp scored five-straight points for the Lady Badgers.

That forced a Southside timeout with 6:40 left in the third, and the Southerners came out of the break applying their own ball pressure. That also troubled Beebe, and with 4:05 left in the third, Southside had quickly climbed back to within 36-34.

The Lady Badgers re-grouped and held SSB scoreless for the last half of the period while taking a 42-34 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Southerners still had a run left.

Senior point guard Reese Gardner made both ends of a one-and-one after getting a steal to cut Beebe’s lead to 48-47 with 1:17 left in the game. That’s when Hill came through for the home team.

She was only 4 of 8 from the free-throw line up to that point, but she made two big free throws for a three-point lead with 59 seconds left. Hill then flew out to the wing on defense to block Gardner’s 3-point attempt. She also came down with the ball and was fouled at the other end. Again, Hill made both foul shots for a five-point lead with 34 seconds to go.

Hill finished with six steals and four assists to go with her 23 points. Camp had 14 points and eight rebounds for Beebe, while Richey also finished with 14 points.

Senior post Kessie Jenkins led Southside with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Gardner had 14 points.

In Tuesday’s overtime win over Valley View, the Lady Badgers blew several opportunities at the line to put the game away. They made just 14 of 26 foul shots, but still overcame a massive size disadvantage inside to pick up the victory and run their record to 4-1.

The Lady Badgers will travel to Sylvan Hills on Tuesday.

EDITORIAL >> Duffie poised to lead JNPSD

There may be good reason not to hire Bryan Duffie, the current assistant superintendent for support services, as the next Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District superintendent effective July 1, but if so, it is not apparent to us.

Duffie and Robert Ross, superintendent of the Mansfield School District (Scott, Sebastian counties), were the two candidates selected from a field of five to be interviewed for the district’s superintendent position currently held by Tony Wood, former director of the state education department.

Among the search criteria was five years or more experience as a superintendent and Duffie and Ross were the two to meet that standard.

Although we don’t have much information on Ross, he’s apparently a good, experienced and qualified candidate.

Ross has been Mansfield superintendent since 2011. He has also been chief executive of two Texas districts—Sulphur Bluff Independent School District from 2008-2011 and before that the Olfen Independent School District in Rowena Texas. He has worked as a principal and assistant principal in Texas schools dating back to 1989.

But here’s what we think speaks to hiring Duffie to lead the new district through its next phase.

First: He and assistant superintendent for curriculum Jeremy Owoh already meet daily with Wood to deal with running the district and dealing with problems.

Owoh, well liked and apparently very competent, is younger and less experienced than Duffie.

We wrote earlier in this space advocating for Owoh. He didn’t apply for the job. We think that with some more experience under his belt or for a district with fewer needs than the fledgling JNPSD, he’ll make a great superintendent. Owoh was the first full-time hire the district made, after interim superintendent Bobby Lester, Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart and then Wood, and he’s been in charge of meeting the district’s court- imposed desegregation milestones and working toward bringing an academically failing school district into a world-class one.

Before coming to JNPSD this year as an assistant superintendent, Duffie was (coincidentally?) for five years superintendent of Westside Consolidated School District at Jonesboro—2010-2015.

His Ph.D. is from Vanderbilt; by any measure the top rated SEC school academically.

So we suspect that in addition to being friendly and experienced, the guy is smart.

He got his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and his master’s degree in school leadership, management and administration from the University of Central Arkansas.


We would forgive him for doing some undergraduate work at LSU.

Prior to that he was middle school and high school principal in that same district since 2005.

For a dozen years prior to that, he worked for North Little Rock High School-East Campus as a math teacher and trainer, student council adviser and Key Club adviser.

Duffie has a public-service record dating back to 1993, including Kiwanis Club service projects like Boys’ and Girls’ Club mentoring.

His reputation throughout the district seems good. Any negatives have yet to appear.

If there are any, the board is sure to hear of them when they meet in special session Monday to discuss the two remaining candidates.

With his extensive background, we suspect Duffie may have been hired as an assistant superintendent last year with an eye toward the possibility of his being eventual successor to Wood, who has said from the git-go that he was a short termer, helping guide the new district.

Here’s the capper, though.

Duffie’s been active in community service with little interruption since 1993, often as part of Kiwanis Clubs or student council projects such as working with a food pantry.

He was recognized for excellence with the Educational Leadership Award by the University Council for Educational Administration in 2015, the same year he was Arkansas Rural Education Association Superintendent of the Year; School District of Best Practice, 2013; Arkansas Association of Student Councils administrator of the Year, 2011; North Little Rock High School PTA Teacher of the Year and North Little Rock School District PTA Council’s secondary teacher of the year.

A frequent presenter, he has talked to programs and organizations over the years on topics such as Staffing and Enrollment; Best Practices in Hiring Teachers; School Finance and Budgeting and School Board Governance; Louisville Freshman Academies—Merging Academics and Community; Arkansas Code of Ethics for Educators; School Finance Issues for Teachers and Leadership Training for Students.

We want the board to hire the best new superintendent it can. We suspect that’s Bryan Duffie.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood’s Trail of Lights

Leader staff writer

Even before Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman Young flips the switch on the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights this Monday, visitors will notice one big change.

The entrance to the popular light show has been moved from Maryland Avenue to the parking lot of the Sherwood Sports Complex on Bear Paw Road.

Young says the decision was made because the Sherwood holiday tradition continues to grow in popularity and traffic was becoming a problem. In part because of the increased number of visitors but also the residential and commercial growth the nearby neighborhood was experiencing.

“It was becoming frustrating for people who live there,” Young says.

According to A and P Commission Chairman and Alderman Marina Brooks, in 2014, about 13,352 cars, most with multiple occupants, traveled the trail.

Last year, volunteers counted 14,541 vehicles, with about $49,000 in cash donations and 8,000 pounds in food donations.

Brooks feels that the increase can be attributed, in part, to the fact that North Little Rock no longer has a holiday-lights display.

“We gained a few more cars,” and she says she expects the number to grow this season.

The money for the Trail of Lights displays comes from Sherwood’s hamburger tax and is sponsored by the A and P Commission, while the cash donations collected are used to purchase new light displays.

As well as getting people in the holiday spirit, Brooks says it’s the city’s way of giving back and the Trail of Lights is more popular than other celebrations throughout the year.


The annual Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights lighting ceremony and reception will happenat 5:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 at the entrance of the trail with free warm drinks and snacks available as Young lights up the 2016 holiday season, and the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce commemorates the new entrance with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The mile-long driving trail will be open Monday, Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 30 every evening, and a few of the displays include a soda shop, the Sherwood Express, Santa Claus and a field of angels.

Admission is free, however, cash donations or non-perishable food items will be accepted at the trail’s end.


The mayor has held a ceremony to open the Trail of Lights for public viewing since 2007, and this year is no different.

Young says about this year’s Monday evening ceremony, “It’s still fun to throw the switch. It kicks off the festivities in our city.”

Brooks says more than days like Black Friday, the Trail of Lights means the holiday season in Sherwood has arrived.

“It’s so joyful. It gets people in the Christmas spirit,” but she says it also appeals to the community’s softer, giving side.

She cites recent food donations that are collected during December, and says it goes to the Sylvan Hills Community Church Food Pantry.

“It’s a very magical time, especially for kids,” Brooks says.

But behind the scenes, Sherwood Assistant Parks Director Darren Austin says it takes two parks employees about a month to get the displays setup and all the LED lights working, which requires a few evening hours.

Austin says it’s “a challenge to see if the LED lights are working in the daylight.”

In addition to two full-time employees, another three employees help out when needed.

The Trail of Lights became reality in Sherwood after former Mayor Bill Harmon visited Pine Bluff and saw their holiday light display called the Enchanted Forest Land of Lights & Legends at Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park.

That was in the early 2000s.

Austin says, “It was popular right from the start.”

Now, he says the first generation who saw the displays as young kids are bringing their young kids, and he adds, “It’s very rewarding.”

This year, the new display includes the first three days of the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which are: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves and three French hens.

Hopefully, the city will add more days from the song over the next few years.

As important as Austin’s employees contributions to the process, he says Trail of Light volunteers, who are out there every evening, make the whole process run more smoothly.

It takes at least four volunteers at the entrance and at the exit.

“The guys at the end get to hand out the candy canes. They have a good time…Seeing one car full of smiling and excited kids makes it all worth it, now multiply that by 14,000.”

For more information about the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights, call 501-413-8030.

TOP STORY >> Officials in Cabot can sell to city

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council on Monday passed several ordinances, including one allowing two city officials to do business with the city.

The council adopted an ordinance allowing Alderman Rick Prentice to do business with the city after its third reading. Prentice abstained from voting. Alderman Kevin Davis was absent.

Prentice is a risk-safety manager for Summit Truck Group and Summit Bus Company. The company sells new and used trucks and buses, parts and service.

Prentice wanted people to know he works for a company that does business with the city. He does not sell parts or service.

The council also adopted an ordinance on its third reading allowing Director of Operations Eddie Cook to do business with the city.

Cook and his father are co-owners of Cook Screen Printing. Cook is a full-time city employee.

Previously, Cook said the ordinances show transparency and the city is following procurement policies. It states exactly what services the employee or city official can provide.

Alderman Ron Waymack opposed both ordinances and Alderman Ann Gilliam did not vote.

“I don’t think city employees should do business with the city,” Waymack told The Leader after the meeting.

He said they should decide if they want to be a contractor or work for the city.

Waymack referred to state law 14-42-107: Interest in offices or contracts prohibited.

The statute reads, “No alderman, council member, official or municipal employees shall be interested, directly or indirectly, in the profits of any contract for furnishing supplies, equipment or services to the municipality unless the governing body of the city has enacted an ordinance specifically permitting aldermen, council members, official or municipal employees to conduct business with the city and prescribing the extent of this authority.”

The prohibition does not apply to city officials or employees who do not hold any corporate executive or managing office.

In other businesses:

The council adopted an ordinance on its third reading to rezone 19.2 acres of property at the northwest intersection of Hwy. 38 and Hwy. 367 South from R-1 residential to C-2 commercial.

The council voted to accept the annexation of Class A Tooling’s two lots. The parcels are off Gateway Drive near Hwy. 5.

Aldermen voted on adding commercial building design standards to the city’s unified development code on the ordinance’s first reading.

The council adopted an ordinance on its third reading prohibiting driving and parking vehicles on bike lanes. Golf carts are allowed on bicycle lanes to and from golf courses.

Aldermen amended an ordinance with an emergency clause allowing the parks department to utilize the $200,000 balance of a $400,000 promissory note issued to Regions Bank for 1.82-percent interest. The funds will be used to buy exercise equipment for the Veterans Park Community Center expansion that will open in January. The ordinance was passed in February.

The council passed an ordinance placing tax liens on properties in the city to recover funds spent on services due to code violations. The ordinance passed on its first reading with the second and third readings waved. Property owners have 30 days to make an appeal.

Properties with liens are: 36 Parkview Drive, 1010 South Hills Drive, 1457 Mountain Springs Road, 62 St. John St., 64 St. John St., 32 Wolverine Drive, 305 Campground Road, 20 Tahoe Court, 40 Timberwood Drive, 14 Park Circle, 12 Mallard Cove, 12 Burns Drive, 14 Buttercup Lane, 309-B S. Pine St., 11 Statesboro Cove, 13 Cains Cove, 90 Earnhardt Circle and 45 Woodbridge Drive.

City attorney Jimmy Taylor told the council the ordinance was a prime example of the city violation of the state constitution.

“The city is lending its credit to citizens,” Taylor said.

“Every city in the state of Arkansas is in violation, because everybody does it,” Alderman Eddie Long said.

TOP STORY >> County passes $8.2M budget

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County Quorum Court on Tuesday approved next year’s county budget. At $8,227,558, it is up $560,302 compared to last year’s $7,667,257 budget.

The budget was the only item on the agenda, and it passed unanimously without discussion.

Revenues next year are expected to be $8,234,071.

Special Funds spending is slightly up and expected to be $14,628,937. This year’s Special Funds spending was $14,480,083.

Expected Special Funds revenues for 2017 are estimated at $19,381,130.61.

Part of the extra Special Funds revenues includes an approximately $8 million Road Department surplus, said County Treasurer Patty Weathers.

In addition to the higher costs of doing business, JP Roger Lynch, who worked on the 2017 budget, said the sheriff’s office grew by three employees and the raises caused an increase, but overall, “the department heads held their costs close to last year’s.”

He said county officials are easy to work with, and he added, “I think the whole process went well. We were pleased with it.”

JPs B.J. Weathers, Adam Justice and Bill Ryker missed the special meeting.

Problems with pay raises

Prior to the budget’s passage, Lonoke County Judge Erwin said he was upset over the unfairness of the way the county gives pay raises.

Approving the budget was delayed last week until the pay raises were straightened out.

He said he thought all employees were to receive 3 percent raises, and he based his calculations on that assumption.

“But that was not in compliance with the ordinance,” he said.

After the meeting, Erwin told The Leader that he disagreed with the ordinance.

“It’s not fair to some employees, and it doesn’t treat everyone the same. There’s no credit for experience or long-term employment,” he said.

He was referring to a 2015 ordinance that set employee salaries and laid out a formula for determining raises.

Under the new system, a Level 2 starting salary is $22,500 and the employee maxes out at $30,000. Raises are figured on the gap between an employee’s current salary and the cap, so an employee just starting out is eligible for a raise based on $7,500, while a more experienced, longer serving employee’s raise, who is higher on the Level 2 pay scale, would also be based on the gap.

An employee’s raise — making $27,000 — would be based on $3,000. That means the employee making $22,500 is eligible for a 3 percent raise of about $810, while the employee at $27,000 is eligible for a 3 percent raise of about $675.

An employee, who had reached the cap, isn’t eligible for a raise under this system, Erwin said.

“Based on this, the guy who has driven a grader for 17 years, who is more valuable to the county and has more experience, receives a smaller percentage (or no) raise than the person that’s been with the county for three years. I want to be fair to everyone,” Erwin said.

While taking a roll call vote, JP Darlene Byrd hesitated before voting “yea” for the budget, and when asked after the meeting about her long delay, she said, “I almost voted no because of the unfairness of the raises.”

While Byrd was appointed to fill a seat vacated by Matt Sanders about three months ago and will be off the quorum court Dec. 31, she said, “The ordinance isn’t doing what it was designed to do. The quorum court will need to revisit this issue in the future.”

Allen Dodson is now serving as the quorum court’s attorney. Dodson, who serves at the pleasure of the Lonoke County Judge, has a practice in Conway.

The Lonoke County Quorum Court’s next regular meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22 in the Lonoke County Office of Emergency Management conference room at 210 N. Center St. in Lonoke.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan HIlls boys go unbeaten at Classic

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills boys won their second game of the Lake Hamilton Classic on Saturday, plowing through Class 1A powerhouse Kirby 67-40 to improve to 2-0 this season. The Trojans were 9-0 entering the Lake Hamilton Classic, but had not played anyone above Class 2A.

After falling to Pine Bluff by 10 in the first round at LHHS, the Bears invoked the mercy rule when they took a 30-point lead with about three minutes remaining.

“It was really one of those games that didn’t feel like a blowout,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “We won every quarter, but we never really put a huge run on them where I thought we had put them away. Then you look up there late in the game and it’s a mercy rule.”

Sylvan Hills entered the fourth quarter leading 47-31, and the run came in the early portion of the fourth period. It was a stark contrast to the Bears’ first game, when they trailed Lake Hamilton by four points in the fourth, and came back to win 53-59.

“We’ve had two very different games and I thought we closed both of them out the way you want to,” Davis said. “So that’s a good sign.”

Senior Taleh Wade turned in an explosive offensive performance, dropping in 26 points to lead all scorers. Jacobe Davis and J.D. Smith scored 11 and 10 points respectively for the Bears.

“Taleh, I knew he could do that,” coach Davis said. “I kind of expected more from him in the first game when he only had four points. I thought that was a big disappointment based on how he plays in practice. I’m expecting him to be another scorer for us, so it was nice to see him get going.”

Though football players Jordan Washington and Omari Hervey have been with the team since the football Bears exited the playoffs on Nov. 12, Davis has yet to insert them into the lineup.

“We’re still looking forward to getting Jordan plugged back in there and seeing what Hervey can do,” Davis said. “Jordan has been basically a starter for us since he was a sophomore, so he’s going to be right back in there. Omari came out when I held a tryout for football players, but those are the only two from the (football) team that are sticking with us.”

The Bears hosted Morrilton on Tuesday. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s Leader. They will host the Beebe Badgers next Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls hold off Star City rally

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panther basketball team claimed the consolation bracket championship Saturday at the Mount Saint Mary Heavenly Hoops Tournament by defeating the Star City Lady Bulldogs by a score of 53-48. The Lady Panthers also led by five at the half, but Star City was able to tie the

game in the fourth quarter before Cabot pulled ahead for the victory.

Cabot had lost to Watson Chapel in the first round, but then defeated eStem to reach the consolation final.

“We played really hard, we never quit,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder. “Carly Melder came in and got a gigantic rebound that cinched the game right there. I’m proud of them for working hard. We never gave up. We played hard the whole game.”

Star City took a 5-0 early lead before Cabot’s Lesley Roberts hit a 2-point basket. She was fouled on another made 2-pointer and added the free throw to tie the game at 5-5. Anna Wynn then hit her second 3-point basket to give the Lady Bulldogs an 8-5 lead.

Cabot made it 8-6 on a free throw by Josie VanOss, and that score held for several scoreless minutes before Star City turned the ball over to Roberts who took it the length of the floor to tie the game at 8-8 with a lay-up at the buzzer to end the quarter.

The game was tied at 11 early in the second quarter, and the Lady Bulldogs took a 15-11 advantage before VanOss was fouled on her own offensive rebound, and converted two free throws. Roberts then hit the first free throw of a one-and-one, and then scored on a cut to the basket with an assist by Holly Allen to give the Lady Panthers a 16-15 lead.

Star City went back ahead by two, but Cabot went on a seven-point run to end the half with a 23-18 advantage. Allen hit a 3-pointer, followed by a two under the basket after a Lady Bulldog turnover. Haley Sobczak then rebounded her own miss for a put-back to end the half.

In the third quarter, VanOss made the lead 26-18 with a two-point basket on an assist by Roberts on a sideline out-of-bounds play.

Kenzie Wagner hit a reverse lay-up, and Allen hit the two free throws awarded Cabot for a technical foul on the opposing coach, and the lead was 34-26. The Lady Bulldogs cut the lead to 34-30, but VanOss scored on a cut to the basket, and the Lady Panthers led 36-30 at the end of three quarters.

The lead grew to 43-34 in the fourth, but Star City went on a nine-point run to tie the score at 43 with 2:29 remaining in the contest.

Camryn Harmon hit both ends of a one-and-one to give the lead back to Cabot, but a free throw by Sarajane Linsy cut the lead back to one. Harmon was fouled and made two more from the line for the 47-44 edge. Linsy answered with a 2-pointer, but Allen responded with a basket for the Lady Panthers and the 49-46 lead. Harmon, Wagner, and Allen added free throws for the final points for Cabot, while the Lady Bulldogs added another two-pointer to set the final score at 53-48.

Allen led in scoring for the Lady Panthers with 13 points. Roberts added 12, and VanOss had 10 points. Linsy led Star City with 16 points.

North Little Rock won the tournament with a 76-67 victory over Conway. Watson Chapel won the game for third place, defeating Mount Saint Mary 43-22. E-Stem defeated Forrest City 63-50 to finish in seventh place.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville ladies cruise past Comets

Leader sports editor

The Marian Kursh era continues to be a successful one in the early going of the Lady Titans’ 2016-17 basketball season.

Jacksonville picked up its fourth win in five games last Friday with a 71-39 victory over Mills University Studies in the team’s home opener. The game was a rematch from a week earlier when Jacksonville beat Mills 58-24 in Little Rock.

It was also Jacksonville’s highest point total of the season, and a game in which 10 different players got on the scoreboard.

“I definitely feel like we are getting better,” said Kursh. “Team chemistry is starting to build and we’re beginning to understand things better. Defensively we weren’t as sharp. We gave up entirely too many points. But these girls have been asked to do a lot this year. This is totally new and I know it’s going to take some time.”

Jacksonville was in control for most of the game, but didn’t blow it open and invoke the mercy rule until the fourth quarter. The Lady Titans exploded for 24 points in the final frame to put the game away.

Jacksonville led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter and 30-17 at halftime. That lead increased to 47-30 by the start of the fourth, when the Lady Titans outscored Mills 24-9.

Second-chance points played a key role in the game. Jacksonville outrebounded Mills 38-26, and 18-7 on the offensive end. That translated into a 23-5 advantage in second-chance points.

Jacksonville did, however, commit 22 turnovers, and are still learning some of the fundamentals of man defense.

“I would say not everybody understood or even knew the principles of man-to-man defense,” Kursh said about her first-year team. “We’re strengthening that. We want to pick them up at halfcourt, force them to go away from their strong hand, basic stuff that we’re still working on. But we’re getting better.”

Freshman Shymaryia Christopher shined in the win, turning in the team’s first double-double of the season She finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and was also one of four Lady Titans with four steals. Jacksonville forced 36 Mills turnovers, of which 22 were steals, resulting in 32 points off turnovers for the Lady Titans.

Senior Dayzya Jordan added 14 points for Jackson-ville while junior Shatorria Briggs scored 13.

There have been three different leading scorers for Jacksonville in five games, and seven different players have scored in double figures so far this season.

“I’ve also noticed in just about every game, I have three or four different girls in double figures,” said Kursh. “So that tells me we’re working as a team and distributing the ball around. That’s going to help us.”

Jacksonville hosted Pine Bluff on Tuesday after Leader deadlines. The Lady Zebras handed Jacksonville its only loss so far this season, 39-30 on Nov. 8.

Look for details of that game on Saturday’s edition of the Leader.

The Lady Titans will also be in action this weekend in the Turkey Crossover Classic at Pulaski Academy.

Jacksonville takes on eStem Charter at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, and will face Hot Springs at 10 a.m. Saturday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears win tourney

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls’ basketball team remained undefeated and knocked off a previously unbeaten team to win the Joe T. Robinson Invitational Tournament on Saturday. The Lady Bears made things more exciting than they needed to be, but held on for a 59-58 victory over Little Rock Christian Academy in the tournament championship game.

Sylvan Hills led 59-56 with a minute to go after point guard Mallory Kimble penetrated LRCA’s defense and dished to Jayla Bell for a layup.

But the Lady Bears failed to get back on defense and the Lady Warriors got back to within one just eight seconds later. Sylvan Hills’ Alana Canady recovered and blocked the first attempt, but Jaylen McGowen was there for LRCA for the putback with 52 seconds remaining.

That ended up being the last points of the game, though both teams had chances to score more. Sylvan Hills’ Andrea Dolphin missed a shot in the lane. Teammate Jayla Bell got the rebound but was stripped, the first of three Lady Bear turnovers and six combined turnovers in the final 40 seconds.

LRCA missed at the other end and Canady got the rebound. The Lady Warriors needed to foul, but were still three short of the bonus that would send Sylvan Hills to the free-throw line.

They fouled Canady near midcourt, and then stole the inbound pass. Canady then fouled out with 17 seconds to go and sent McGowen to the line. She missed the front end of a one-and-one. Her teammate, Emma Kelly, got the rebound, but was called for traveling when she fell to the floor.

But again, Sylvan Hills threw away the inbounds pass to LRCA’s Victoria Best. She missed a short jumper and Kelly came down with another offensive rebound. This time she was tied up by Kimble, and the jump ball went to Sylvan Hills.

The Lady Warriors fouled enough to send Bell to the line with five seconds remaining, and she also missed the front end of a one-and-one. LRCA got the rebound, but Diamond Flanders, in for Canady, deflected the first pass and time expired during the scramble for the loose ball.

“At least we stayed aggressive on defense and pulled it out,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “We sure didn’t handle the ball well in that last minute. But this is the first tournament we’ve won since I’ve been at Sylvan Hills, so overall I’m pleased. We beat an outstanding team, but we obviously still have some things to work on.”

One thing Davis addressed at halftime was guarding the perimeter.

Lady Warrior Aspen Satterwhite made four 3-pointers in about two minutes, turning a 21-16 LRCA deficit with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, into a 28-22 LRCA lead early in the second.

Davis called a timeout and her team controlled the rest of the half. Sylvan Hills took its first lead since Satterwhite’s hot streak with 1:38 left in the half. Flanders blocked a shot and got back-to-back steals, helping the Lady Bears take a 33-32 lead.

Dolphin, who missed her first four 3-point attempts, hit one at the buzzer to send the Lady Bears into the locker room with a 38-34 lead.

It was the biggest lead either team would enjoy the rest of the game.

“I told them we were going to run on a Sunday if they let her (Satterwhite) keep getting 3-pointers up,” Davis said. “We did a much better job with that in the second half. But 13 (Bradley) is their best player, and she really got going in the second half. So there was a lot we had to deal with and we still pulled it out. So I’m pretty pleased with how we did overall.”

Bell led all scorers and rebounders. She finished with double-double totals of 23 points and 12 rebounds. Kimble scored her season high so far this year of 13 points, while Canady added 11 for the Lady Bears.

Satterwhite led LRCA with 16 points, all in the first half. Bradley added 15, 14 of which came in the second half. Kelly scored 10 for the Lady Warriors.

Sylvan Hills (3-0) won the rebounding battle 32-24, despite only having nine rebounds in the first half. Both teams shot 14 free throws. Sylvan Hills made only six while LRCA made 10.

The Lady Bears hosted Morrilton on Tuesday in a girls’/boys’ doubleheader. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s Leader. They will get back to action next Tuesday when they host the Beebe Badgers.

EDITORIAL >> Thankful for little things

Just as one small cell atop another small cell forms life, so it is with little things. One little thing atop another little thing is what we call living, and it is those little things that we need to remember and be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Too often people focus on the big things, the things that cannot be changed, adjusted or even controlled—but the little things where we live.

’Tis not the time to discuss, argue or worry about politics, nor to talk work or what ails the country or the world. It’s time for the little things.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in little things, once saying, “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

Little things to be thankful for include waking up, breathing or driving home and pulling into the driveway with the car shiny-side up.

A smile, a thank you, a hug, a raindrop, a snowflake and a random act of kindness – those are all little things to focus on at Thanksgiving dinner.

Little things like the fast-food counter person saying thank you or you’re welcome, a warm smile from a passerby, a hug from a friend or family member, a drawing from a first-grader who tried her very best but couldn’t stay inside any of the lines.

Little things like a cold nose of a pet nudging to be closer to you, a chance to view the recent supermoon or going to pay the water bill only to find out you had already paid it.

Little things like a job-well-done from the boss, the car getting to the gas station after being on “e” for more miles than it should have, finding enough change in the sofa cushions to buy a large soda, or opening a box of old family pictures and discovering mom and dad were actually kids at one time, too.

Even the guru of football coaches, Vince Lombardi, focused on little things. “Inches make champions,” he has been quoted saying.

Among those little things should be family memories that are told and embellished every year. Little things like grandma trying to top the pumpkin pie with Reddi-Whip only to have the can’s nozzle pointing the wrong way and dousing grandpa’s Sunday-best shirt.

Or having mom say pass the rolls, and someone at the other end of the table picking up a roll and throwing it like Peyton Manning and then mom grabbing it one-handed Beckham style.

Everyone has some sort of holiday memory — just a little thing — that may only come out once a year, but does need to rise to the surface and make us smile.

Professor and business coach Hermann Steinherr, who loves to write, sums it up: “Our greatest achievement in life is being happy with the little things that probably mean nothing to others.”

That’s what Thanksgiving should be: Recalling a series of little things, of small memories, all building up to great joy that hopefully will spill over into the days to come.

Happy Thanksgiving!

TOP STORY >> Butterball’s crises hotline

Did you hear about the woman who called the Butterball hotline and asked how long it would take to roast her turkey? To answer the question, the Talk-Line home economist asked how much the bird weighed. The woman responded, “I don’t know, it’s still running around outside.”

Or the one about a restaurant owner who called wanting to know how to roast a turkey for a vegetarian menu. He was from California, of course.

Or the woman who complained that her turkey didn’t have any breast meat. She had placed the bird upside-down in the pan.

Then there was a woman who couldn’t find the turkey she buried in a snowbank, a guy who wanted to know how to carve his bird with a chainsaw, and a mechanic who worried about using motor oil as a baste.

One caller told the operator she had always cut the legs off the turkey before putting it in the oven, thinking that was the method everyone used, because that is how her mother had always done it. As she later learned, her mom did it that way because her oven was small.

Then there was the time a lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn’t find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The stock boy replied, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”

Haven’t heard these? That’s OK. Jan Allen and her cohorts at Butterball Turkey Hotline have.

Allen, a home economics teacher by trade is in her 34th year as a hotline consultant. She is one of up to 50 experts who man phones, emails, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Between now and Thanksgiving, the experts are even available for texting 24/7. “Just text 844-877-3456,” Allen said in a Sunday interview.

The regular Butterball hotline number is, naturally, 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

Allen handles between 200 and 300 inquiries every day during Thanksgiving week, and after 34 years manning the phones she said the No. 1 question is still how to thaw a turkey. One recent Thanksgiving a man called and said, “OK, I’ve got my frozen turkey ready to thaw, and I have one question: What number should I set the dial to on my electric blanket?’” she recalled.

Allen says all the consultants have a food background, a frequently-asked-questions guidebook, charts on the wall with cooking times and years of phone-bank experience, but still get stumped.

“Just last week,” she said, “I got a call from a guy who wanted to do something different. He wanted to take his turkey out to a remote area and dig a hole, line it with hot coals and bricks and cook it like he was at a luau.”

“We don’t dig a lot of holes up here (near Chicago) so that’s not a cooking method we’ve tried. I gave him some tips, but it’s hard because the temperature would be so inconsistent. I finally suggested he go to that remote place with a grill or smoker,” Allen said.

“Food safety is our No. 1 concern when we give advice.” she said. “We want everyone to have a happy Thanksgiving.”

Then there was the call from a lady who instead of traditional stuffing wanted to know if she could stuff the bird with bratwurst and German potato salad. “That was a new one,” Allen said, adding from a food safety side it was OK. “But I told her while turkey drippings add flavor to traditional stuffing I wasn’t sure of the taste quality with her idea.”

Another recent call that Allen handled was from a woman who was having several tall men over 6 foot 3 inches attend her Thanksgiving feast. “Will they eat more turkey?” the women asked. Allen said the rule of thumb is 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. “That’s usually enough for dinner and leave some leftovers. But I told her if it made her feel better to buy a turkey a couple of pounds heavier than normal. The worst that could happen is she’ll have plenty of leftovers.”

Allen, like most of the consultants, have a cornucopia of stories about their work at the hotline.

Some of Allen’s favorites: The time a young wife was cooking her first Thanksgiving turkey and both her mom and her mother-in-law were giving her advice. “It was often conflicting advice,” Allen said, “so she snuck into a closet with her cell phone and called us, asking how to prepare it. She followed our suggestions, and afterwards thanked both moms privately for their wonderful advice.”

A flustered father who called the hotline a few hours after his wife had given birth to their first child. He was concerned that their Thanksgiving turkey had been thawing in the fridge for too long while he was at the hospital. When asked the man how much it weighed, he replied, “The turkey or the baby?”

Or the woman who was walking into the dining room with her turkey on a platter all decorated, garnished and ready. Yep, she tripped, and it fell on the floor and everyone was instantly devastated. “Her quick-thinking husband said, ‘Don’t worry honey, we’ll just bring out the other turkey,’” Allen said, adding there was no other turkey.

“They took the dropped one, cleaned it up, re garnished it, brought it out on a different platter and everyone had a great meal,” Allen said.

And I say, “See, husbands can be useful.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

TOP STORY >> Interviews start for district chief

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville North Pulaski School Board will interview the two applicants with at least five years experience as superintendents to succeed Superintendent Tony Wood at a special meeting called for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the district office.

Wood announced Nov. 7 he was resigning and retiring effective June 30, the end of the current school year, and the board began its search the next morning.

Of the five applicants, only current JNPSD assistant superintendent Bryan Duffie and Robert Ross, who is Mansfield School District superintendent, met the superintendent experience criteria.

Ross will be interviewed at 5:30 p.m. Monday for an hour, Duffie at 7 p.m.

The board could emerge from executive session and offer the job to one of the two men at that time or take it up at the regular Dec. 5 board meeting.

Ross has been Mansfield superintendent since 2011. He has also been chief executive of two Texas districts—Sulphur Bluff Independent School District from 2008-2011 and before that the Olfen Independent School District in Rowena, Texas. He has worked as a principal and assistant principal in Texas schools dating back to 1989.

Ross has a bachelor’s of science from East Texas State University; a master’s of education from Tarleton State University; and superintendent certification from Texas A&M at Commerce, according to JNPSD Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart.

Before coming to JNPSD for the current school year as assistant superintendent, Duffie was superintendent of Westside Consolidated School District at Jonesboro from 2010-2016.

Prior to that he was middle school and high school principal in the same district since 2005.

For a dozen years before that, he worked for North Little Rock High School-East Campus as a math teacher and trainer, student council adviser and Key Club adviser.

Duffie has a public service record dating back to 1993, including Kiwanis Club service projects like mentoring at Boys and Girls Clubs.

His Arkansas license certification include district administrator, building administrator, general science, math and applied math

Duffie received his Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy in 2010 from Vanderbilt University, his master’s degree in school leadership, management and administration from the University of Central Arkansas in 2004 and earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Central Arkansas in 1992.

In proposing search criteria to the board, Wood said his successor should have five years experience as a superintendent because of the many challenges a school district in only its second year.

The challenges include an ambitious building program where ground will be broken on both an elementary and high school.

The district is still bound by a desegregation agreement overseen by the U.S. District Court Judge D. Price Marshall and must become unitary in school facilities, discipline and other areas.

Stewart said Wood, and apparently the board, decided it would take a well-experienced hand to deal with all that.

School Board President Daniel Gray said he was pleased with the two finalists they will met with, but he didn’t expect the board would make its final decision Monday night. “Anything could happen,” he said.

“We got two qualified candidates, we’ll interview them and hopefully one will be our guy, or else we’ll repost the opening.”

“The board is respecting the process,” he said. “We went over all five, and scored them accordingly.”

Asked about Duffie, who has worked for the district for several months, Gray said he was well experienced and has done a fantastic job.

Other applicants included Dr. Michael Booker, principal of the Corrections Corporation of America at Whiteville, Tenn.; Timm MacDonald, former administrator West Adams Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, who moved to Arkansas in July; and Dr. Angela Olsen, a former assistant superintendent in the North Little Rock School District, currently office manager at Century 21 in Harrison.

TOP STORY >> Community holiday meal

Leader staff writer

Gravy was flowing and fellowship filled the Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School cafeteria during the first Jacksonville Community Thanksgiving Meal on Sunday.

A joint effort by local churches and businesses had 250 volunteers serve 2,000 meals to those who might not have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The food was prepared at First Baptist Church and brought over to the Lighthouse Charter School.

Meals could be eaten at the school, carried out or delivered to people who could not get out. Dinner included ham or turkey, potatoes, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, roll, stuffing and pie.

“We had a steady stream of people. Some arrived at 1 p.m. (three hours before the meal was to begin),” Second Baptist Church pastor David O’Dell said.

“It was heartwarming to see the community come together. It was a momentous task. It took days to cook the meals and months of planning. I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said.

Plaura Hunter of Sherwood was told about the dinner by a family member.

“It was nice. Everyone is friendly. They greeted us and made sure we had everything. The food is wonderful,” Hunter said.

Jamia Smith-Hughes, 8, of Sherwood said, “I like it because it was nice for them to do it.”

Her cousin Jacquelynn Kimble, 5, of Sherwood, said, “They are doing it for us. They are the best.”

Volunteer Norma Smith said, “I enjoyed it. I helped prepare the trays. It was the best organized event I’ve seen. The food is good, too. We’ve talked about doing it next year.”

Helping to make the Community Thanksgiving Meal a success were NFL football players Clinton McDonald of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Demetrius Harris of the Kansas City Chief, both of Jacksonville, and the McDonald and Associates Collective Collaboration-Light into Darkness (MACC-LID) Foundation.

Other sponsors include, Jacksonville First Baptist Church, Jacksonville Second Baptist Church, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Military Road Baptist Church, Maddox Road Baptist Church, McArthur Assembly of God, Cross Roads Free Will Church, First United Methodist Church, Evangelistic Ministries Church and Way of Salvation Outreach Ministries.

Gwatney Chevrolet, Daniel Gray Homes, James Gowen State Farm Agency, Doug Wilkinson Realty, Families Counseling Services, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Peebles Brothers Supply, Action Sign and Neon, the Jacksonville Rotary Club and Whit Davis Lumber.

Monday, November 21, 2016

TOP STORY >> Five seeking top post in new district

Leader senior staff writer

Of the five applications for the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Superintendent’s job on file at press time Friday, only two met the minimum posted requirement of having been a school district superintendent for at least five years, and one of those is already familiar with the new district, having been hired as a deputy superintendent last March.

Both Dr. Bryan Duffie, superintendent for support services for JNPSD, and Robert Ross, superintendent of the Mansfield School District in Sebastian County, met that requirement. Duffie served as superintendent at Jonesboro Westside Consolidated School District from 2010 until he was hired as assistant superintendent at JNPSD in March. Ross has been a superintendent since 2007 in Sulphur Bluff, Texas, Rowena, Texas, and Mansfield superintendent since 2011.

Both men have doctorates.

The board will convene a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the district administrative office to determine which of the applicants to interview and what questions to ask them and it will set an interview schedule.

Interviews will be conducted Nov. 28, and the next superintendent could be selected as early as the Dec. 5 board meeting.

Superintendent contract extensions occur in January, Wood said, so the board could choose to wait for that result.

The new superintendent will go to work July 1, 2017.

Other applicants included Dr. Michael Booker, principal of the Corrections Corporation of America at Whiteville, Tenn.; Timm MacDonald, former administrator West Adams Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, who moved to Arkansas in July; and Dr. Angela Olsen, former assistant superintendent in the North Little Rock School District, currently office manager, Century 21 Realty in Harrison.

Superintendent Tony Wood announced his retirement Nov. 7, effective June 30, the end of the school year. He recommended the following qualifications for his successor and a timeline.

Qualifications in addition to a minimum of five years superintendent experience were: Doctorate preferred and Arkansas district administrator PK-12 licensure or equivalent.

Special knowledge and skills included: Ability to demonstrate administrative and technical expertise in multiple areas. Requires knowledge of the laws and regulations governing public schools in Arkansas. Requires sufficient language and human relation skills to prepare and deliver formal presentations to diverse audiences and to build productive and effective work teams. Requires sufficient accounting skills to read and interpret financial statements.

TOP STORY >> Christmas for Kids asks for help

The Christmas for Kids toy drive is asking the public to donate new toys or monetary donations to help buy new toys so that kids can have a happy Christmas.

“The Christmas for Kids committee works side by side with the Cabot Christmas Alliance in their food drive. We help families that need help during the Christmas Holidays in providing toys for the children so that they may have a good Christmas and enjoy the spirit of the holiday,” the announcement said.

“The families that we help, grows year after year and all money and toy donations helps only children that live in the Cabot School District. We try to help all different ages of children and with your kind heart and generous donation we will be able to do so,” it continued.

To sponsor a family or to bring a family in need to the attention of Christmas for Kids, call Terena Woodruff at 501-843-3363, ext. 1029.

Checks can be mailed to Christmas for Kids, c/o Bill Holden, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark. 72007.

Families who need assistance this year with food or toys, please go to Recipients must live in the Cabot School District area to be eligible. 

To arrange for donated toys to be picked up, call Bill Holden or Rita Stewart at 501-743-3560. Toys may also be brought to any elementary school in the Cabot Public School District today through Dec. 16 or leave a message for Shelley Montoya at 501-286-8912.

TOP STORY >> Donor's heart still beating

Leader staff writer

Editor’s note: This  article, originally published on Oct. 24, 2015, recently won the Arkansas Society of Professional Journalists’ Diamond Award for narrative and feature writing.

The judge’s comments said, “What a great bit of reporting. This story has a number of twists and angles that were all delicately handled by the writer. Every reader should be touched in some way by this story.”

As Kristy Cotillier lay her head on her dying son’s chest, listening to his heart, she prayed that she would be able to hear it again.

She did this past weekend in the chest of a 20-year-old girl from Iowa. “Oh, my God, it was overwhelming to hear again, so strong and so healthy,” his mother said.

She compared it to having another child. “His heart gave her life,” Kristy said.

The heart was one of many organs that Evan Cotillier, a Cabot sophomore, had asked to be donated before he died in October 2013.

“Some people say there aren’t miracles, but we are living one,” said Evan’s dad, Rodney.

The Cotilliers said they received some backlash when they donated their son’s heart, kidneys, liver, eyes and tissue.

“It was an easier decision because it’s what Evan wanted,” his mom explained. His heart went to Iowa, his liver to Florida, and his kidneys stayed in Arkansas.

Smiling, she said, “He even wanted his brain donated to science to help them find a cure for epilepsy, but it was too damaged.”

So how did this 16-year-old honor roll student, who loved football, decide to donate his organs?’

His dad, Rodney, tells it best: “We had just finished watching the movie ‘Seven Pounds’ with Will Smith, and it revolved around organ donating and transplants. He asked me if I was a donor. I told him absolutely.”

Evan then asked him how one could become an organ donor. “I told him I had it marked on my driver’s license,” his dad said, “But, he said, ‘Dad, I have epilepsy. I can’t get a driver’s license, how will they know?’”

Rodney said he just put his son off. “Evan, you’re 16, you are not going to die anytime soon,” Rodney said.

A few minutes later, he heard Evan in the kitchen asking his mom the same thing.

“She said the same thing I did, that he wasn’t dying. His response was that, whenever he did die, she had to tell the doctors that he wanted to donate his organs.”

Rodney said his wife continued to hem and haw, but Evan made her “pinkie promise.”

“It was something they had been doing since he was in third grade and she was his teacher. A pinkie promise was serious, and she said she would,” Rodney said.

Neither parent knew that, a month later, they would find the popular high school student in their house unresponsive after an epileptic attack.

He died Oct. 3, 2013.

Two days later, his heart was being placed in Jaclyn Montour’s chest in Iowa on her dad’s birthday.
Kristy said it was a miracle that she was alive to receive Evans’ heart.

“She had been on life support twice, but did manage to walk across the stage with the rest of her senior class with her IV and other medical equipment,” she said.

Rodney said, according to the doctors, shortly before receiving Evan’s heart, she had 72 pints of blood.

“The doctors couldn’t stop her bleeding,” Rodney said. “When they did, her doctor rejected a couple of other hearts, looking for the perfect one, looking for Evan’s.”

How did the Cotilliers meet Jaclyn and her family?

The Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency, known as ARORA, allows both the receiving and giving families to write letters. The agency makes sure the letters get to the right people.

“We weren’t allowed to give any personal information in the letter we wrote to the family receiving Evan’s heart,” Kristy explained. “Jaclyn and her family wrote one, too, and the Cotilliers couldn’t have received Jaclyn’s letter at a better time.”

They received it around Thanksgiving 2014. “The fall was Evan’s and my time. We did everything together from Halloween right through Christmas. But, that year, I wasn’t in the mood. I was struggling really bad. I was miserable,” Rodney said.

But the letter came and it said the heart successfully went to a 19-year-old from Iowa.

“That’s all we knew,” Kristy said. She then hit the Internet and found the name of a girl matching the description and messaged her. “We emailed them a picture of the letter they sent.”

The two families got to know each other on Facebook and by phone.

Jaclyn invited the Cotilliers up to Iowa for a heart-and- lung-recipient gathering that she was going to and it just happened to be last weekend, the Cotillier’s anniversary.

“You can’t write this stuff,” Rodney said, still in disbelief.

“We said yes and were going to drive up, when we were told that ARORA often helps financially to unite families. We applied, thinking he’d get some gas money. They gave us a check to fly up there, for lodging and for food,” Rodney said. “I was speechless.”

Besides the hugs and tears, both families spent time together, and the Cotilliers were asked to speak at the transplant gathering.

In a hallway after that meeting, both Kristy and Rodney had a chance to listen to Evan’s heart. “I had left my stethoscope in Arkansas, but Jaclyn’s grandmother is a nurse and had one,” Rodney said.

At first, he was worried that listening to his son’s heart would bring back all the grief.

“But, when I heard the heartbeat, I was proud. My son paid the ultimate sacrifice but was still able to give all he could to let others live,” he said, adding, “I felt a grace, a peace. I was tearful, but in a proud way.

“Do you know he always said he wanted to be like me, but at his funeral I read a letter I wrote in which I said I wanted to be like Evan.”

Evan showed no signs of epilepsy until he was about 7 or 8, according to his parents.

“It started with a ‘tick,’” his dad said. By the time he was 12, Evan had been diagnosed with epilepsy.

“It was his final year of football,” Rodney, who coached him in youth programs, said. “The doctors said the hits would be detrimental to him.”

The story starts long before Evan’s death, according to his father.

Rodney said it was Evan who steered his dad to his wife and the woman Evan called mom.

The Cotilliers were living in Chicago and things weren’t going well. “It was Evan who suggested we move here to be near an uncle. So I packed up the four kids and headed to Arkansas,” Rodney said.

The family moved into a Gravel Ridge home just one street within the Warren Dupree attendance zone.

Evan went to elementary school and had Kristy (Miss Terry back then) as a third-grade teacher.

Once, he got in trouble and wrote Ms. Terry a note apologizing for his foolishness and saying that he wished she was his mom.

Rodney said, at the time, Kristy was married and he was dating someone else.

One day, Evan got off the bus and was running home on air, and his dad asked him why he was so excited.

“Evan said, ‘Dad, Ms. Terry’s divorced, Ms. Terry’s divorced.’”

“It’s amazing how much he’s guided our lives,” the Cotilliers said.