Friday, November 03, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot competes well with NLR

Special to The Leader

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats traveled to Cabot’s Panther Stadium Thursday night and keep their season unblemished, defeating Cabot 38-21 to finish the regular season 10-0 overall and 7-0 in conference play. The Panthers finish the regular season 5-5 and 3-4. Both teams’ seasons will continue, with North Little Rock the No. 1 seed and Cabot the No. 4 seed from the 7A Central Conference, when the playoffs commence next Friday.

The Charging Wildcats scored first, but Cabot answered to tie late in the first quarter. North Little Rock scored twice in the second period to lead 20-7 at intermission. Both teams scored two touchdowns in the second half, but the Wildcats also added a pair of field goals to set the final margin.

“I thought our kids kept fighting there at the end,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “North Little Rock’s got a good team. They’re talented all across the board. We hung in there with them a little bit, but they just had a better team than us. I tell you what, l’m proud of the way our kids played. I think we’re getting a little better, and we’re looking forward to the playoffs next week.”

The Panthers had the games first possession, but were forced to punt. The Cabot defense forced the Wildcats to do the same, but the Panther defense again stalled, resulting in the third punt of the contest.

This time North Little Rock got the ball on the Cabot 43-yard line, and on the second play Brandon Thomas escaped to the 2-yard line, and then scored from there on the next play. Savana Melton added the point after to give the visitors the 7-0 lead with 6:56 remaining in the opening frame.

Again, Cabot had to punt, but Ben McCullough got a good roll to the Wildcat 27. North Little Rock quarterback David Chappell was then intercepted by Justin Nabors to give the Panthers good field position at midfield.

A penalty moved the ball backward, but after a couple of short gains, quarterback Tommy Oaks found John Wiens for a 51 yard touchdown completion. McCullough made it 7-7 with the extra point with 1:51 remaining in the quarter.

The Wildcats answered with a 63-yard drive capped off by a keeper by Chappell from 10 yards out. Melton added the PAT for the 14-7 advantage with 10:29 remaining in quarter number two.

NLR scored again in the period after yet another Panther punt. Chapple scored his second touchdown from just inches away to increase the lead to 20-7 with just 11.7 seconds on the first half clock. Melton’s point after was blocked by Zhane Harper. Lucas Crumbly had a tackle for a 10-yard loss on a razzle-dazzle play in the drive.

North Little Rock started the third quarter with a score. Chapple was complete to Aaron Griffin for a 49-yard gain and scored his third touchdown from 2 yards out. The 2-point conversion was no good for a score of 26-7.

The Panthers then fumbled the ball away on their first play. NLR had the ball on the Cabot 29-yard line, but the defense held the Wildcats to a 26-yard field goal by Melton and the lead was 29-7 with 7:23 to go in the third.

Another touchdown by Chapple increased the lead to 35-7 early in the final period.

Cabot answered with a 62-yard drive, picking up three first downs along the way, and ending with a 28-yard touchdown scamper by Noah Sorrell. McCullough made it 35-14 with 6:53 remaining.

Melton kicked her second field goal of the game, this time a 28-yarder, and the score was 38-14 with 3:28 to go.

A miscue on the reception of the ensuing kick off gave Cabot the ball at its own 2. But, Oaks broke free for an 87-yard touchdown run. After the point after, the final score was set at 38-21 with 2:06 on the clock.

The Panthers got one more chance when Janson Hubanks recovered a Wildcat fumble, but could not score again in the time remaining.

Cabot had 302 total yards of offense, while NLR had 357.

Oaks rushed 17 times for 135 yards, and had three completions for 80 yards.

SPORTS STORY >> Ole Miss win gives Hogs new fortitude

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE — It’s been 14 months since Arkansas’ football team won back-to-back games.

The Razorbacks will have a decent chance of snapping that streak on Saturday when Coastal Carolina arrives in Fayetteville for a 3 p.m. contest that will be televised on the SEC Network.

There’s been a sense of a renewed confidence around the Fred Smith Football Center this week after the Hogs pulled off a memorable comeback 38-37 road victory at Ole Miss last Saturday.

And whether the staff or players admit it during press conferences or not, it’s no secret that the Razorbacks are fighting for bowl eligibility and likely even their head coach’s job.

If Arkansas (3-5, 1-4) is to ride the wave of momentum to postseason play for a fourth straight season, defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads’ bunch will need to look more like it did in the second half against the Rebels and less like the club that gave up 415 yards and 31 points in the first half alone.

“Through 26 plays, we gave up a boatload of that yardage and 31 of the 37 points,” Rhoads said. “We analyzed why we gave it up. We showed the film and critiqued it as to why we gave it up.

“Then we looked at plays 27 through 59 and we talked about how we met our objectives and goals. We showed the film and critiqued it and showed the reasons why. Then you set out to do the mental work. We just met on Sunday changing those 26 plays.”

Ole Miss score four touchdowns and a field goal on its first five possessions, but a Santos Ramirez strip and recovery with 8:28 left in the second quarter completely swung the momentum to Arkansas’ favor.

“There’s always a handful of plays that you can point to, but certainly Santos’ caused fumble and recovered fumble changed the momentum of our fortunes, and it changed our energy as a defense,” Rhoads said. “I think it changed the energy of the offense, as well, as they went down and capitalized and scored on it.

“When we crept back and we knew we were in the game, the next thing you know, we’re down two scores and we were on defense. It probably wasn’t as high hopes for us at that point. To go out there and get that fumble, get that turnover and get that touchdown changed it right back again. We were playing at a higher level.”

In addition to Ramirez’s key turnover and a scoop-and-score from Jacksonville native Kevin Richardson, the Razorback defense also benefited from a big performance from outside linebacker Randy Ramsey.

Ramsey was recognized as the team’s Defensive MVP after recording nine tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass break-up against the Rebels.

His latest showing has head coach Bret Bielema excited for what’s to come.

“He’s very long, he’s very athletic, and he’s got a great burst,” Bielema said. “He can do some things better than other guys at that position, just athletically. When he’s playing extremely hard, he’s a very big athlete that can run.”

Ramsey isn’t likely to be pushed for his starting job this season, but the Hogs will have a deeper collection of linebackers beginning this weekend.

That group includes three who are returning from injuries at the same time in Alexy Jean-Baptiste, Junction City native Jamario Bell, and Watson Chapel’s own Josh Harris.

Jean-Baptiste, a redshirt-freshman who was highly-touted as a recruit, could add valuable depth down the final stretch of the regular season.

“It’s nice to see some guys coming along, getting some depth in the room,” Arkansas outside linebackers’ coach Chad Walker said. “I can see (Jean-Baptiste) being a slash guy where he can play RAZOR, he can play HOG. He’s a guy that has the capability to set the edge. He can play with his hands.”

The Razorbacks will be facing a Coastal Carolina team that was handled by Arkansas State, 51-17, on October 14.

The Chanticleers have played as many as four quarterbacks this season but are led by 5-9, 200-pound senior Tyler Keane, who completes 57 percent of his passes and owns a 10-5 touchdown-interception ratio.

Osharmar Abercrombie, a 5-9, 210-pound senior, leads the Chanticleers’ ground attack with 495 yards and five touchdowns.

Malcolm Williams, a junior from Shreveport (La.), paces the receivers with 24 catches for 482 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Shane Johnson and junior safety Fitz Wattley, who own 59 total tackles apiece leads coastal Carolina’s defense.

SPORTS STORY >> Safeties, wild FGA highlight JHS loss

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Titans were on the wrong end of a 53-18 shellacking by the Pine Bluff Zebras Thursday in the regular season finale at Jan Crow Stadium.

The loss doesn’t change the Titans standing in the playoffs. As the 6A-East No. 6 seed, they will play at 6A-West three-seed Benton on Friday night.

Thursday night’s game, played in balmy weather, saw three safeties, a number of big sacks, and a 75-yard field goal try.

Coach Barry Hickingbotham, said even in the loss he was proud of his kids.

“The Zebras had some long plays against us, but the kids didn’t quit.” He also talked about his banged-up quarterback corps. “We are going to play whoever is healthiest next week.”

The game was tight, 8-7, until the last minute of the first quarter. Earlier in the quarter, the Titans recovered a fumble and Shawn Ellis scampered 3 yards for a touchdown. The Zebras got two points on a safety, then scored a touchdown, but the extra-point conversion failed.

But with 52 seconds left in the first quarter, the Zebras crossed the goal line again, and with a good extra point, made it 16-7 and never looked back.

The Zebras started off the second quarter with another touchdown score, with running back Braylon Moody scoring for the third time in the game.

On their second possession of the second quarter, the Titans pushed the ball forward behind a 28-yard scramble by quarterback Shavarris Curley, but a bad snap (an issue most of the night) stalled the drive. John Huber hit a 40-yard field goal despite an off-the-mark snap, closing the scoring gap, 22–10.

With just under five minutes in the half, the Titans had another bad snap that was recovered in the end zone for another safety.

After the Titans kicked off, the Zebras were looking to score but solid tackling by Shaeq’ke Robinson and an interception by Tre Newson in the end zone gave Jacksonville momentum, but they just couldn’t move the ball.

A short punt and good return gave the Zebras the ball on the Titan 25-yard line, but an 18-yard sack by Robinson looked to end any scoring threat. However, on the next play, the Zebras’ Kerry Hadley got most of the loss back, then a 25-yard pass play gave the Zebras another touchdown right before halftime.

In the third quarter, the Titans were able to move the ball behind runs by Curley and Ellis, but couldn’t complete drives.

But a punt later in the quarter pinned the Zebras on their own 4-yard line. A bad snap gave the Titans a safety, making the score 31-12.

The Zebras ended the third quarter and started the fourth quarter with touchdowns, extending their lead to 45-12.

Right before that third quarter Zebra touchdown, the Titans tried a 75-yard field goal. Kicker Huber has a strong leg, but no one expected him to hit the field goal. The try traveled to the Zebras’ 20-yard line, but special teams couldn’t stop the return run which went back almost to where Huber had kicked it. The Zebras scored three plays later.

Jacksonville came back with Cam Holston at the helm, as Curley was recovering from some hard hits. On a fourth down with the ball on the 8-yard line, the Titans bypassed a field goal try and Holston hit Jordan Johnson deep in the need zone. The extra-point conversion failed leaving the score 45-18.

Just a few plays later, the Zebra’s Dimetrick Jones-Wallace peeled off a 58-yard touchdown run, and a two-point conversion set the final score at 53-18.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears stay alive with big half

Leader sports editor

A lot of things pertaining to the playoffs were possible before kickoff on Thursday, but the Bears knew they were in the driver’s seat if they won. The first half went exactly how they didn’t want it to, but the Sylvan Hills football team utterly dominated the second half to beat the Beebe Badgers 47-21 and earn a spot in the 5A state playoffs.

“Let me tell you something,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow began. “John Shannon (Beebe’s head coach) does an amazing job. He’s got something like nine guys sitting over there in jeans, and he’s got these guys playing week 10 for a shot at the playoffs. That’s coaching. You can talk about the teams with all the prospects and D-1 and all that. That ain’t coaching. That’s getting people on the bus. We knew we were in for a tough game. I just commend Beebe for outplaying us in the first half. We made some adjustments and didn’t get frustrated, and we got the job done.”

Beebe’s offense worked to perfection in the first half. The Badgers had three possessions and scored three touchdowns to take a 21-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. Time of possession was remarkable. Beebe held the ball for 19:01 of the first half while Sylvan Hills had it just 4:59.

But it all changed in the second half. The Bears needed a quick-strike offense to stay close in the first half, but they put together a long sustained drive to start the second. Starting from its own 29-yard line, Sylvan Hills gained 71 yards in 13 plays. Facing fourth and 3 from the Beebe 18 and having one of the best place kickers in the state in Tito Mendoza, Sylvan Hills opted to go for it. Running back Ty Compton took the read-option handoff and plowed forward for 13 yards for the first down.

Deon Youngblood got the rest on the very next play and Mendoza’s extra point tied the game with 6:41 to play in the third quarter.

For the third time in four Beebe possessions, a Sylvan Hills penalty started the Badgers with first and 5. But for the first time in the game, the Badgers couldn’t get a first down. Runs by Taylor Boyce, Kahlil Anthony and Connor Bieker gained just two total yards and set up fourth and 3.

The Badgers went to the spread formation, which worked like a charm in the first half. Quarterback C.J. Cauldwell kept on the read option and appeared to have a hole up the middle, but Compton closed it in a hurry and stopped Cauldwell about a foot short of the first-down marker.

“You got to give it to Ty Compton,” Withrow said. “He stepped up big on both sides for us tonight.”

Compton turned right around and carried twice for 21 yards on offense before Youngblood broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown run. A flubbed deep snap thwarted the extra point, leaving the score 27-21 with 3:03 left in the third.

Beebe’s next drive started with a 22-yard pass from Cauldwell to Boyce, and the Badgers got another first down on a 7-yard run by Boyce on fourth and 5. But one second and 7, Sylvan Hills’ Cole Miller got into Beebe’s backfield and tackled Boyce for a 5-yard loss.

The Badgers were forced to the air and threw incomplete twice to turn it over on downs again.

Sylvan Hills (6-4, 4-3) got back to first-half form. On the very next play, Lumpkin threw deep to Payton Terry, who went up over the defender for the catch, then broke the tackle to scamper in for a 63-yard touchdown play. The extra point made it 34-21 with 10:55 left in the game.

Beebe got one first down on its next possession, but senior Bear Lucas Parham blew up the drive after that. Lucas got into the backfield got a handful of Boyce’s jersey as the halfback took the handoff, and dragged him down for a 5-yard loss on first down.

Cauldwell kept for a 7-yard gain on second down, but Lucas sacked Cauldwell for a 9-yard loss to force fourth and 17. Beebe (4-6, 2-5) tried the guard-around play, but it only gained 5 yards and Sylvan Hills took over again.

Needing just 34 yards, the Bears got it in five plays, 32 of it by Youngblood and the score 41-21 with 6:46 remaining.

Beebe’s next drive ended with an interception by Division 1 prospect Darius Waddell at the Sylvan Hills 42. Youngblood and Compton traded carries until Compton finished it off with a 9-yard run. Boyce blocked the extra point to set the final score with 3:32 to play.

Waddell got his second interception of the game and sixth in the last three on Beebe’s final drive, and the Bears ran out the clock.

“He’s got an offer from Eastern Illinois and he visited Baylor last weekend,” Withrow said of Waddell. “The big schools weren’t looking at him last year because of his pass coverage. But he’s always been a heck of a run defender. Now he’s getting a better drop in his pass coverage and he’s starting to look the part. He’s got the ability.”

The Badgers had three possessions and scored three touchdowns. They opened the game with a 70-yard drive that took 15 plays and seven minutes off the clock. They converted twice on third down, and after failing on another, converted the fourth-down attempt.

Anthony got the last 4 yards to give Beebe the lead with five minutes left in the first quarter. The Badgers attempted an onside kick and Sylvan Hills started on the Beebe 49. Youngblood got 11 yards and then Compton got 38 for game-tying touchdown just 26 seconds after the Beebe score.

The Badgers then 65 yards in 14 plays and burned another six minutes off the clock before Cauldwell hit Boyce with a 14-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 10. Another onside kick attempt failed, and Sylvan Hills again took quick advantage of the short field to tie the game with 7:16 left in the second quarter.

This time it took the Badgers 13 plays to go 65 yards. The key play was a 21-yard keeper by Cauldwell on third and 13 that set up first and goal at the 2. Anthony got his second touchdown and Jaime Rodriguez added his third extra point to send the Badgers into halftime with the 21-14 lead.

The Thursday night games started with four teams vying for the final two playoffs spots from the 5A-Central. With Sylvan Hills win and McClellan’s 26-24 win over Parkview, McClellan will get the three seed and Sylvan Hills will be the four. Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian Academy are the one and two seeds respectively.

Youngblood led the Bears with 23 carries for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Compton had 14 carries for 145 and two touchdowns, and added 12 tackles to lead the defense.

Sylvan Hills 444 total yards to 286 for Beebe, even though the Badgers out-gained the Bears 195-156 in the first half. Cauldwell led the Badgers with 11 carries for 74 yards.

EDITORIAL >> Revisions advance for conceal carry

State Senate Information Officer

The Arkansas State Police is working on changes to concealed carry regulations to enforce the intent of Acts 562 and 859, which the legislature approved earlier this year.

Act 562 expands the number of locations where a permit holder can legally carry a concealed firearm, such as public facilities. In order to legally carry in those additional locations, the owner of the firearm must complete additional training to obtain an enhanced license.

Permit holders who maintain the traditional non-enhanced will continue to be prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm in public buildings, schools, colleges, universities, churches, bars and at parades that require a permit.

A person who obtains an enhanced permit can legally carry on public colleges and universities. However, even with an enhanced permit it will be prohibited to carry concealed firearms at collegiate sporting events such as football games.

It will be prohibited to carry at the State Hospital or the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Also, students with enhanced concealed carry may not store a firearm in their dormitory room.

Several areas will remain prohibited, even for holders of enhanced carry permits. Those locations include prisons, courtrooms and public schools from kindergarten through grade 12.

There are allowances for school security guards to carry firearms, and private schools can allow permit holders to carry on school grounds.

Churches and bars can allow or prohibit the carrying of firearms on their premises. They can post a written notice, or verbally notify the permit holder that firearms are not permitted.

At a public hearing conducted by the State Police there were questions from instructors, who train applicants in the use of firearms and teach them on the rules that specify where the carry of concealed firearms remains prohibited.

The State Police will accept written comments until 4 p.m. Friday. The proposed regulations that will implement Acts 562 and 859 can be found on the State Police web site at the address of its Administrative and Regulatory Division:

About 225,000 people in Arkansas have a concealed carry permit and there are about 1,000 instructors.

EDITORIAL >> Medical marijuana

Nearly a year after Arkansas voters narrowly approved legalizing medical marijuana, state regulators have been slow to implement the program.

The Alcohol Beverage Control Board established a Medical Marijuana Commission to issue state licenses to four growers and 32 dispensaries, which are the retailers that will sell marijuana.

The state will probably continue its cautious approach and license the minimum number of marijuana businesses required by voters.

Permits won’t be issued at least until the first quarter of next year, and it will take at least a few more months after that before a marijuana crop is produced and stores can open.

The ABC created eight zones for retailers. Each will have only four dispensaries. The Leader’s coverage area is in Zone 5, which includes Pulaski, Lonoke, White and Faulkner counties.

No more than four marijuana stores can operate in one county. That means Jacksonville, Sherwood, Cabot, Searcy and Conway, as well as smaller communities, are unlikely to have a dispensary since Little Rock and North Little Rock markets might be more appealing.

It’s possible all of the Zone 5 permits will be used in Little Rock. The licenses for cultivators will be even rarer, because only four will be issued in Arkansas.

Lonoke County may be an attractive location for marijuana farms because of its proximity to Little Rock and I-40 and fertile soil and experienced farm workers. Jacksonville’s industrial park on Redmond Road might also attract cultivators.

Sales tax from medical marijuana will support technical colleges, vocational schools, workforce training and the state’s general fund. But local sales taxes will support cities and counties.

The economic impact of medical marijuana might have been overstated, so the so-called Green Rush is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Medical marijuana is supposed to help seriously ill patients suffering from 17 qualifying conditions, including cancer, seizures, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s disease.

Research has been limited because of the federal ban on marijuana, but it has been proven in Europe and Israel, among other places, to treat an array of sufferings. It’s especially successful as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, bringing lucidity to elderly patients.

Let’s hope medical marijuana brings comfort to sick patients soon. That’s what families want for their loved ones.

TOP STORY >> Cabot High exhibit on school history

Cabot Museum of American History

What were the colors of Cabot schools before they were changed to red and white? And what was the school mascot previous to becoming Panthers?

You can learn the answer to these two questions and more by visiting the newest exhibit developed by the staff of Cabot Public Schools’ Museum of American History now on display in the high school library.

In the exhibit, titled “the ABC’s of Cabot Schools,” you will find an interesting collection of artifacts and documents dating back to the founding of the school in the 1870s.

You can take a look at the earliest known school yearbook, the 1928 Cannonball. Examine a small silver cup given to the school founder, Professor G. W. Newton, by his appreciative students in 1884.

The display includes photos, documents letter sweaters, jerseys from championship teams, a cannon once fired after each touchdown and items from the 1982 Miss USA, Cabot High’s own Terri Utley.

You can even watch a video shot during school football games and student gatherings in the 1950s. These are just a few of the approximately 100 items on display. All of these items have been collected by the museum staff over the years and are preserved in the museum’s collection.

The exhibit will be on display during regular school hours through January. The exhibit was developed by student museum interns Payton Dhooge, Chloe Smith and Isaac Wolter.

The museum staff is always interested in obtaining items associated with school history. To donate historical items and memorabilia email

TOP STORY >> Economic chief departs quietly for Oklahoma

Leader staff writer

After just nine months on the job, Sherwood Economic Development Director Donnie Crain is gone and the position is open.

He took a job at the beginning of October as chamber director in Grove, Okla.

According to a Grove newspaper re-port, Crain moved to Grove for a combination of “personal and professional” factors.

Besides his usual duties in Sherwood, Crain was working as co-chairman of the group trying to bring “alcohol by the drink to Sherwood and Jacksonville. Sherwood is 50 percent dry, and Jacksonville is 90 percent dry.

Marcia Cook, the executive director of the Sherwood chamber, said the city has advertised for a new economic director and has a number of résumés to review now.

When Crain assumed his Sherwood role in January, Cook said, “We’re pleased to an-nounce that Mr. Donnie Crain has accepted the offer for the position of Sherwood economic development director. Donnie’s background in economic development and public administration makes him an ideal candidate to continue the growth and development of our city.”

On Thursday, she said the chamber and city were happy with his work here, and she wasn’t sure what the impetus was that spawned his decision to leave. “But we wish him the best,” she said.

Crain came to Sherwood from Mena, where he was marketing and festival coordinator for the advertising and promotion commission.

Crain started his new job in Grove on Oct. 2. He told a newspaper there moving to Grove is exciting, because he believes the community will continue to grow.

“I think Grove will be a place I’ll be able to come in with my experience and be a great asset to help the community continue to move forward,” Crain said. “I’m looking forward to living here and becoming part of the community.”

His wife and 12-year-old son, who still live in Lonoke, will move to Grove at the end of the fall semester.

TOP STORY >> Drink-by-the-glass election Nov. 14

Leader editor

A vote to allow restaurants to sell alcohol by the glass in Gray Township, a dry area that banned alcohol sales in most of Jacksonville and much of Sherwood more than 50 years ago, will be held Tuesday, Nov. 14. Early voting opens Tuesday.

Supporters say it could boost the economic prospects in both cities by making it easier for restaurants to open shop, create hundreds of jobs and help spur development.

The Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution on Thursday supporting the election and asked voters to vote yes for the sake of economic development.

If approved, there will still not be any liquor stores in town or bars in Jacksonville. Even gas stations and grocery stores will still be banned from selling alcohol if they’re already in a dry area. The vote is only for restaurants to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks.

Only residents who live in Gray Township are eligible to vote in the two cities.

Early voting ballots can be cast from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. weekdays, Tuesday through Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive in Jacksonville, and at the Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive in Sherwood.

Early voting will also be held at the Pulaski County Regional Building at 501 W. Markham St. in Little Rock from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and on Monday, Nov. 13.

It’s safe to assume, if you live in Jacksonville, that you are eligible to vote. Only small sections of Jacksonville are not in the Gray Township.

In Sherwood, the township’s boundary begins at Maryland Avenue on Hwy. 107 and near Austin Bay Court off Brockington Road. So residents living north of those streets toward Gravel Ridge and Jacksonville and up to the back gate of the air base can vote.

Some of the Sherwood neighborhoods eligible to vote include Millers Crossing, Austin Gardens, Austin Lakes on the Bay, Gap Creek and Indianhead.

Dr. Robert Price has been leading the effort to allow restaurants to sell alcohol. He heads up the Vote for Progress Now committees in Jacksonville and Sherwood. Other Jacksonville members are state Rep. Bob Johnson, who helped pass legislation to pave the way for the vote, Karen Abrahamson, Mike Wilson, Thad Gray, Mindy Strand and Alderman Les Collins.

The combined Jacksonville-Sherwood committee Paul Wilson, who is co-chair with Price; Sherwood chamber president Brooks McRae; Sherwood chamber director Marcia Cook; Sherwood City Attorney Steve Cobb; Sherwood Alderman Marina Brooks, as well as Robin Benetz, Jacksonville Alderman LaConda Watson, Les Collins, Mike Wilson, Mindy Strand and Karen Abrahamson.

Each precinct will decide for itself whether to let restaurants sell drinks. That means one part of town may permit liquor sales in restaurants while another part of town continues the prohibition.

Restaurants that want to open in downtown Jack-sonville, or almost every other part of the city, now have to obtain an expensive and complicated private-club license.

Cobb said, “Sherwood and Jacksonville are working together, even though the votes are separate. We could both win, both lose or one of us win and the other lose.”

“The committee has been meeting all fall, and a third mailer just went out Thursday,” Cobb said.

Cobb said the committee’s goal has been to educate voters on what the proposal is and what it isn’t.

“It’s about restaurants serving alcohol. It is not about liquor stores or convenience stores,” he said.

He said all of that was part of Gray Township and in 1953 it voted itself dry. But townships are now defunct, having been replaced by precincts.

Vote for Progress Now has also hired a consulting firm, the Markham Group of Little Rock, to help guide them through the campaign process.

Price said, “We are attempting to raise $22,500 to pay for our share of the campaign cost. To date, we have raised $18,500 and have to raise the remainder over the next few weeks. The county pays for the election but we, the citizens, have to pay for the campaign. The city of Jacksonville is not paying for any of the costs for the election or the election campaign.”

But the signs, polling and consultant costs money. Price is asking people to make donations by calling him at 501-681-2288.

To help get out the vote, Price said the group has been training volunteers, putting up signs, conducting polls, making calls, knocking on doors, holding fundraisers and giving presentations about the election.

Price said people are supportive of the change in alcohol rules.

“I have talked to only two people in the last several months that are opposed to local option. I have contacted many people in the process of the campaign and have not encountered any organized opposition. The citizens of Jacksonville see this as an important event in the city to help with our economic growth and improve the lives of all of us,” Price said.

Many hope it will bring economic growth, but Price is measured in his outlook. He also leads an initiative to revitalize downtown Jacksonville.

“It is very important to understand that economic growth is not assured in any community. Growth must be encouraged, promoted and planned by a community. There is never any guarantee that a community will grow and prosper. We have to be proactive if we’re going to have the kind of community that has a growing economy, good schools and a prosperous quality of life,” he said.

“This is what we are trying to do with our Downtown Planning and Development Program. Our drink-by-the-glass effort is an important objective in this plan,” he said.

Price said the plan to boost economic activity downtown has 13 criteria, and topping the list was lifting the ban on restaurants selling alcohol, which has the potential to bring in other types of businesses.

“Our planning group for our downtown plan identified the drink-by-the-glass as the No. 1 objective for this plan. This effort, as it has in other communities, will benefit the whole of Jacksonville. In other cities, drink by the glass has brought other businesses into the communities in addition to restaurants. All businesses have prospered, housing values have increased as well as improved housing,” he said.

Price said all that adds up to population growth and a stronger local economy.

“In these cities (where restaurants can sell alcohol), population has increased which has driven the need for additional business. As a result, sales tax has increased, which has helped with city government expenses. Cities have been able to provide greater safety measures for citizens by updating old equipment such as ambulances, fire trucks and police cars,” he said.

This vote ties in to other economic-development initiatives Jacksonville is pursuing, such as building $123 million in new schools and the $100 million revamp of Hwy. 67/167.

“When all of these economic factors are combined with improved roads and highways such as our new interstate highway, new school system and new industry, we are looking at a new period in Jacksonville of growth and prosperity. We have to continue taking innovative and enthusiastic approaches to city planning and development,” Price said.

Price has lived in Jack-sonville for 33 years. He has a Ph.D. in psychology and worked for 37 years at UAMS, retiring two years ago, where he is still professor emeritus.

He also retired in July from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he was a clinical professor conducting research from Jacksonville. He also previously worked for Michigan State University.

He and his wife, Ginger, have three children and five grandchildren.

During the Jacksonville City Council meeting Thursday, Alderman Les Collins said, “This is not a vote on bars or additional liquor stores. We are talking about restaurants being able to serve liquor without having to get a private club license.”

Aldermen and the mayor have long backed the effort to extend liquor sales to restaurants as a way to attract businesses and boost sales-tax revenues.

Leader staff writers Rick Kron and Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

TOP STORY >> Silver Screen renovates

Leader staff writer

Silver Screen Cinema 8 in Cabot recently renovated four theaters with new seating and added more hot food choices.

The seats are electric leather recliners with swivel food and drink table. Next year all eight auditoriums will have the new seats, new carpet and curtains.

Moviegoers can reserve their reclining VIP seats on-line at, using a seating chart showing available seats at a film’s showtime. They can also purchase tickets and gift cards with a credit card. A ticket kiosk in the lobby shows what seats are available.

“We were the first theater in Arkansas to have recliner seats at the Riverdale Cinema in Little Rock and then we did it at the Hot Springs Cinema. The response has been overwhelming, so we brought it to the Cabot location,” Cinema owner Matt Smith said.

“The seats are really comfortable. They are easier to clean then cloth,” Cinema manager Joe Creamer said.

Silver Screen has popcorn, candy and soda, but expanded the menu with hot dogs, corn dogs, pretzels, French fries, fresh handmade pizza, hamburger sliders, toasted ravioli, chicken tenders, Buffalo boneless wings, mozzarella sticks and new desserts with key lime pie and chocolate peanut butter pie.

Smith’s theaters in Little Rock and Hot Springs serve beer and wine.

“If people in Cabot want us to have it, we would consider pursuing a private-club liquor license,” he said.

Movies coming out in November are “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Coco,” “Justice League,” “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Daddy’s Home 2.”Showing in December are “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Ferdinand” and “Jumanji.”

Smith has owned Silver Screen Cinema for 15 years. It opened in 1997 with four screens. He modernized it with 3D, digital light projection and stadium seating.

“We’re always trying to improve the movie experience for the Cabot movie client,” Smith said. 

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits’ goal is to win by seven

Leader sports editor

Five teams make the playoffs from the 4A-2 Conference, and Lonoke can either get the four seed, five seed or stay home, depending on what happens Thursday in Searcy and West Helena.

The short of it is, well there is no short of it if Lonoke wins. The Jackrabbits end the regular season this Thursday at Riverview. Lonoke has to win that game to have any chance at making the playoffs, but even a win doesn’t guarantee them a spot. A lot also depends on the outcome and margin of Heber Springs trip to Helena-West Helena Central.

The best-case scenario for Lonoke would be to beat Riverview by at least seven points, and for Heber Springs to beat Central. That would cause a three-way tie for the last two playoffs slots. It would also drop Central as low team in tiebreaker points, and give Lonoke the four seed for its head-to-head win over Riverview.

If Lonoke wins by fewer than seven points, it is out because that would be low team in points.

If a Lonoke win over Riverview accompanies a Central win over Heber Springs, it’s just a two-way tie for fifth place, and Lonoke would get in based on its head-to-head win over Riverview.

“I would think Heber Springs should beat Helena, so we need to win by seven,” said Lonoke coach Taggart Moore. “You never know for sure in this conference, though. Strange things happen.”

One of those strange things that happened was Lonoke’s 6-0 loss when it traveled to West Helena, and it is still having a major impact on playoff hopes.

The Jackrabbit defense held the Cougars to four touchdowns fewer than their average of 32 points per conference game. But the offense couldn’t get into the end zone against a defense that has given up 31 points per conference game not against Lonoke.

That game was three weeks ago, and Moore believes his team has made some progress offensively since then, and has he’s liked his defense all season.

“I thought we really took some steps forward in the second half of the Heber game,” Moore said. “That game with Helena, that was just a weird, weird game. Since then I think we’ve moved the ball pretty well. We Xavier Hodge back from his injury and he’s gotten into the flow of things. Our problem has been turnovers. If we take care of the football, I think we can do some things on offense to take advantage of the way they play defense. They fly around and just go. They don’t really do a lot of reads. I think we can do some things with our option stuff that hopefully will put is in good situations.”

The Lonoke defense has been solid all season long. Even in last week’s 46-6 loss to Stuttgart, the defense played well. Two of the Ricebirds’ touchdowns were scored by their defense. Another couple were on short fields due to turnovers, and two others were on short fields after on-side kicks – one of which was accidental and lucky.

“I’m extremely confident in our defense,” Moore said. “We just have to move the ball and put them in better positions. But those guys play with a swagger. I really do enjoy watching them.”

The defense will need to be good again on Thursday. Riverview (6-3, 3-3) is averaging nearly 35 points per game.

The Raiders’ games with the three teams tied for first (Stuttgart, Heber Springs and Southside-Batesville) are similar to Lonoke’s. The glaring difference in common opponents is Central. Riverview beat the Cougar 35-26.

“I think we actually match up pretty well with them,” Moore said. “It’s probably going to come down to the team that executes and makes the fewest mistakes.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears, Badgers battle for fourth

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

When the Beebe Badgers and Sylvan Hills Bears meet on Blackwood Field in Sherwood on Thursday, a playoff spot will be on the line for both teams. Because of the jumble from third place to sixth place in the 5A-Central standings, a win doesn’t necessarily guarantee either team a spot in the playoffs, but at the same time, a loss doesn’t necessarily knock Sylvan Hills out either.

No matter the outcome of the game, a lot still depends on the outcome of Parkview’s matchup with McClellan.

The Badgers must win to have any chance at playing next week, and that’s all Beebe coach John Shannon is focusing on.

“All we can do is try to beat Sylvan Hills by 13,” said Shannon. “We can’t worry about what Parkview does. We have to take care of our business and then see where it lands us. That’s enough for us to worry about because beating Sylvan Hills by 13 points, that’s no easy task.”

Pulaski Academy is 6-0 and Little Rock Christian Academy is5-1, and they have the top two seeds locked up. McClellan is 4-2 and currently alone in third place. Parkview and Sylvan Hills are 3-3 while Beebe is 2-4.

Beebe has already lost to McClellan and Parkview by more than 13, which are the maximum points to be gained from a single game for tiebreaker purposes. So Beebe has to beat Sylvan Hills by at least 13, and Parkview must beat McClellan to force a three-way tie for fourth place between Parkview, Beebe and Sylvan Hills.

Since each team would be 1-1 against the other two, a perfect triangle scenario is in play. The first tiebreaker step is point spread, but if Beebe wins by 13, the tie is still in effect. The next step is a coin toss, and winning that would be the Badgers’ way into the playoffs.

Sylvan Hills could win, but if Parkview beats McClellan, that’s three teams at 4-3 vying for the remaining two playoff positions. So the points would come into play again. McClellan beat Sylvan Hills by more than 13, and Sylvan Hills beat Parkview by more than 13. So Parkview would have to beat McClellan by more than 13 to force the perfect triangle that could possibly knock the Bears out.

“I think it’s going to be a tough chore,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “They may have some players out, but John proved years ago they can plug and play. I remember a few years ago, they lost three quarterbacks, stuck a linebacker in there and made the playoffs. It looks like they’re starting to figure their lineup out, and I’m expecting it to be tough.”

Beebe has had 10 players miss games with injuries this season, and will be without at least eight, and possibly nine, for the regular-season finale. Among those nine are six starters.

“We might have one back on defense that’s day to day,” Shannon said. “But we’ll be without at least five that were starters. But I feel like we’ve kind of solidified the offensive line. We had some injuries there and now I feel pretty comfortable with who is filling those roles. They’ve played pretty good the last few weeks. (Tyler) Boyce (halfback) and Kahlil (Anthony) (fullback) have both had good games the last couple weeks. Kahlil had been hurt, and it really helps to have them both back there so teams can’t concentrate on one guy.

“So we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, maybe hope for some turnovers and get a win. I’ve said all year long, if you can just get in from this conference, you have a chance to make a run because this league is so tough.”

Withrow agrees with that assessment about the 5A-Central.

“I think that’s true because we’re all going to be battle tested,” Withrow said. “I think this game will be the same game we’ve played against them for years. It will be hard-nosed and physical. They’re going to come out fired up with a chance to make the playoffs, so we’re going to have to be ready.

“The main thing we have to do is take care of the ball. If you turn it over or have a bad series, you could be in trouble because it’s so hard to get it back. They make you play fundamental football, and they’ll beat you if you don’t.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers playing for pride this week

Leader sports editor

Thursday’s matchup at Panther Stadium between Cabot and North Little Rock will have no bearing on the Class 7A playoffs. No matter who wins or by how much, North Little Rock will be the No. 1 seed and Cabot will be the No. 4 from the Central Conference, but bragging rights will be on the line in a game that has developed into a heated rivalry.

Last year’s finale saw North Little Rock overcome an 18-point halftime deficit to win by one point.

The two teams also met in the playoffs last season, two weeks after NLR’s one-point win. That was a different story, as the Wildcats beat Cabot easily 49-19.

In 2015, Cabot drummed the Wildcats 34-3. All of those games took place at NLRHS. Thursday’s game will be the first one in Cabot since 2014.

“All I know is North Little Rock is really good,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “They’re on the fourth string running back and he had a whale of game against Bryant. They get one hurt, they just put another one in there that looks like he’s better than the last one. It’s going to be a big challenge.”

Brandon Thomas was the sophomore running back that got the start last week in the battle between two of the state’s three undefeated teams. Bryant scored first and held the Wildcats scoreless for a quarter and a half. From the midway point of the second quarter, NLR (9-0, 6-0) outscored Bryant 28-7, despite losing the turnover battle 2-0.

Thomas had a 22-yard touchdown run and picked up 150 yards rushing in the win. Quarterback David Chapple threw three touchdown passes, including two to senior receiver Deontae Montgomery.

“There’s just athletes all over the field when you look at their film,” Malham said. “I don’t really worry about who they got starting and who’s out. They’re all good. All I worry about is what we’re going to look like.”

Cabot (5-4, 3-3) has shown some inconsistency this season. Three of its four losses have been by seven points or fewer. But there are two that Malham wishes his team had back.

In week 6, Cabot laid an egg in a 49-14 loss at Conway. In week 7, the Panthers handed Little Rock Central its only conference win of the season, 16-14.

“If you look at our three close losses, you can point to a drive where we stopped ourselves with penalties,” Malham said. “Of course at Central, we stopped ourselves with penalties and turnovers and everything you can think of. But we had the one touchdown called back that shouldn’t have been, and then we had the fumble at the goal line when nobody was around us.

“Conway was different because we didn’t even show up for that one.”

Cabot’s defense, other than in the Conway game, has been outstanding most of the season. It has gotten better since Division I prospect Dayonte Roberts rejoined the team for the Bryant game after a four-game suspension.

“Having him back has helped us,” Malham said. “I think the defense as a whole has played really well the last couple of weeks. The offense has been moving the ball. We just have to hang onto it and not get those penalties.

“We have to eliminate the turnovers and don’t give up the big play. If we complete as hard as we have the last couple weeks and do those two things, we’ll be in the ball game. If we play like we did against Conway, we won’t beat anybody.”

SPORTS STORY >> Senior Titans lead the way

Leader sports editor

Two contrasting personalities share one key attribute, competitiveness and a bond that has been forged by years of competition.

Jacksonville seniors Harderrious (HD) Martin and Shawn Ellis are going to be the key work mules for the Titan football team this year, but they’re not just teammates. They’re thick as thieves on and off the field. In separate interviews, they came up with the same word to describe the relationship.


As two of the best athletes in their age group growing up, the two became natural competitors. Ellis’ competitive nature comes more naturally, but it pulls something deep from within Martin that makes him better, even if he seems frustrated at times.

“He’s always trying to battle me,” Martin said of Ellis. “He’s always making everything a battle – literally everything. Who’s going to get to the field first? Who’s going put their shoes on first after practice? It’s just everything. That’s my brother, though. He don’t like to lose at all, but I don’t like to lose either, so he motivates me.”

Ellis is also motivated by Martin.

“It’s really like a childhood relationship,” said Ellis. “Growing up together, spending so much time together, might as well call him my brother. Everybody looked at us growing up as the only two that can compete with each other. So we were always competitive at everything. I’m always looking at him, seeing what he’s doing so I can try to do it better. That’s no grudge against him. It’s just motivation for me.”

Martin is a two-time All-State playerafter being thrust into the starting quarterback position as a sophomore when both of the other two quarterbacks went down with injury.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with him in the offensive backfield is Ellis, who made All-State last year. He is also a three year starter at running back and has seen some time at outside linebacker this year for a depth-challenged Titan team.

Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham regularly praises the 5-foot-10, 205 pound bruising back.

“He’s a hard-working kid that you’re going to get maximum effort out of every time,” Hickingbotham said of Ellis. “He realizes whatever it takes to make the team successful.”

Martin has also played a little bit of cornerback and a lot of safety this season, though he admits to preferring cornerback.

“I probably like offense better than defense, but only because on defense I’m playing safety,” Martin said. “I’m just back there chilling at safety. Corner is a lot more fun, but it takes a lot more energy.”

Martin has also split wide on offense instead of taking the snap. It’s a welcome change, he is being recruited as a wide receiver, and sees it as his most natural position.

“I love the idea of playing receiver,” Martin said. “That’s what I want to play, and that’s what (college scouts) say I am.”

Both players saw that last year’s Titan squad had a larger roster and more athletes, but both were right in predicting that this year’s team would out-perform the disappointing 2-8 season of last year. The Titans have already qualified for the Class 6A playoffs.

“I know we’re small, and we to have to play teams bigger than us,” Martin said. “I still felt like we can bounce back. I think we have more leadership this year. Last year everybody was kind of lazy. Some people were barely coming to practice. This year, there’s not too many that miss. Most people, most of the main ones, are here every day. And I don’t think anybody is fazed by playing the bigger schools or scared of anyone. I like playing on the big stage.”

Ellis, who has seven games with more than 100 yards rushing this season, had similar insights.

“Last year, we had more ability, but this year we have more hard-working people,” Ellis said. “Hard work beats lazy talent any day. This senior class right here, we try to bond everybody on the team. We try to talk and make it a family. So I think this team is playing together a lot better.”

Individually, both players have taken part in several college camps, hoping to earn scholarships and continue their playing careers. Both were invited to the Razorbacks’ game against Alcorn State in Little Rock last year and stood on the sidelines with the team, but neither has received an official offer.

They have gone to camps at Southern Arkansas University, Memphis University, Harding, Missouri Western, Arkansas Tech and UA-Monticello. Martin has always had elite speed, but not much chance to show what he can do at wide receiver.

Ellis ran a 4.7 40-yard dash the last time he was clocked but has been working hard on his strength and speed all offseason.

“I’m way stronger than last year working with coach Sloan, and he got me faster, too. I’ve been working on explosion drills, getting my footwork better. Coach Edmonds is helping me with stuff, too. I think the offers will start coming when I get myself out there more.”

Both players have some talents that perhaps aren’t as obvious as the ones displayed under the lights on Friday night. Martin likes to dance, although not necessarily to Ellis’ flute.

Ellis plays the flute for his grandfather, Herman Clark, of Newport.

“He taught me to play,” Ellis said. “He knows how to play everything. He lives in the country, and I love to go up there and go hunting with him and hang out with him. When I’m not with my brothers or girlfriend, I’m hanging with him.

“His favorite words when I’m playing for him is, just go with the flow. You hear me playing, just join in and make it sound good,” Ellis said.

Ellis also still keeps some advice he heard from his grandmother, Doris Balentine, long ago.

“Before every game, I like to eat pickles,” Ellis said. “My grandma used to say pickles make you stronger. So I follow her advice.”

TOP STORY >> Protecting rule of law essential

Leader publisher and editor-in-chief

The two indictments and a guilty plea Monday in Robert Mueller’s widening probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election has silenced just about every Republican in Congress.

As far as we know, there’s been no reaction from our congressional delegation or even Vice President Mike Pence, although they may be working behind the scenes with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to shut down the special counsel’s office.

Maybe we missed a Republican or two speaking out in behalf of the embattled president, but I don’t think so. Perhaps Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attack in lower Manhattan on a group of pedestrians will make us focus on a more immediate threat.

The president insists there was no collusion with the Russians and says Paul Manafort’s money laundering and tax evasion occurred long before he became Trump’s campaign manager.

But Special Counsel Mueller’s team insists the $17 million money-laundering scheme continued long after Manafort quit the campaign last summer. He is also accused of conspiracy against the United States, which sounds like treason.

Rick Gates, his partner in the alleged money laundering scheme with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, also was charged Monday. They pleaded not guilty and are under house arrest after posting bonds of $5 million to $10 million.

Although Republicans in Congress have gone AWOL on the Mueller indictments, pro-Trump media insist the investigation should instead focus on Hillary Clinton’s involvement with the so-called Trump dossier gathered by a former British spy in Moscow.

They also want an investigation into the sale of U.S. uranium reserves to Russian interests. Mueller and Con-gress should look into both issues. A complete review into the dossier, which was first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans and later by Democrats should prove interesting. Although the uranium reserves cannot be exported to Russia, the U.S. could void that sale and ban Russians from owning any assets in our country.

Let’s also include the seizure of all Russian-owned condominiums in Trump buildings acquired through money-laundering schemes like the ones Manafort is charged with. Those funds were stolen from the Russian people by Putin’s Mafia state, which controls all business transactions and takes a 40 percent cut of the all the dirty proceeds, which are then money laundered around the world.

Kicking the Russians out would be proper retribution for Putin’s meddling in our election. He’s a petty tyrant, a thief and a pederast. His inner circle appears stunned that their plot against America has unraveled, but there’s still a long way to go.

George Papadopolous, the Trump campaign’s go-between with the Russians, pleaded guilty Monday to lying to the FBI and is rumored to have been wired by the special counsel in his conversations with former colleagues.

Investigators may never get to the bottom of the plot without interviewing the Russian side, although there could be defections from there to round out the story. Manafort and Gates could also be considering cooperating, unless they think they can expect a full pardon from Trump. Former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, another key target, has not been heard from in months and could also flip like Papadopolous.

Sam Clovis, who’s been nominated for a top scientific post at the Agriculture Department and is said to have supervised Papadopolous in his contacts with the Russians, is said to be cooperating with a Senate committee, which sounds like he’s also talking to Mueller.

Mueller could soon wind up his investigation since he knows his tenure could end any day. It appears he’s gathered plenty of information in just a few months. The President should let Mueller finish his investigation and have his name cleared.

Here’s hoping he’ll go wherever the evidence takes him. But beyond the indictments, we must ensure that our votes aren’t hacked next year because the Russians will be back.

TOP STORY >> Perry running again for old seat in House

Former state Rep. Mark Perry of Jacksonville, a Democrat, announced on Tuesday he will run for his old Dist. 42 House seat next year. Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) recently announced he is not seeking a third term and is running for Jacksonville mayor instead.

Perry was elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and served for three terms until 2014, when he was term limited. But a new term-limit law allows office holders to serve up to 16 years.

“I enjoy serving,” Perry said at a campaign kickoff at the Jacksonville Community Center. “I try to make a difference.”

Perry said his focus has been on education, economic development and veterans affairs.

Three years ago, before he left office, he headed a committee that selected an interim Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board. Their names were submitted to the state Board of Education, which approved the seven-member school board until elections could be held.

The committee also included Sen. Linda Chesterfield, Sen. Jane English, Rep. Doug House, all of North Little Rock, along with Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Rep. Bob Johnson, also of Jacksonville.

Perry owns an insurance business, several Subway shops and a funeral home in Jacksonville.

He and his wife, Valerie, have a daughter, Emilee; two sons, Blake and Logan and daughter-in-law Janey, and a grandson, Kase.

Perry has endorsed Johnson for mayor and Johnson has endorsed Perry and cited his legislative experience in behalf of education.

“He was the lead sponsor establishing the new school district,” Johnson said. “We’re going to provide a good education and make sure we maintain funding. He also headed the lottery oversight committee. I’ll be able to talk to him as mayor.”

TOP STORY >> Gold Star monument in Beebe

Leader staff writer

Beebe held a groundbreaking Saturday for the state’s first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the Veterans Park Memorial, to be dedicated on Feb. 23.

Retired Marine Hershel “Woody” Williams, 93, of West Virginia, the last living Medal of Honor recipient at the Battle of Iwo Jima during the Second World War, attended the ceremony.

The goal of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is to place a Gold Star monument in every state and every city. So far there are 18 monuments dedicated and 45 projects in progress in 34 states, including a memorial planned on the State Capitol grounds.

Gold Star Families have a family member who died while serving in the military during a war.

“Gold Star Families continue to endure the loss of their loved ones — to make sure they are not forgotten. The memorial will be a place to honor and remember the fallen and to say thanks to the families for their sacrifice,” City Clerk/Treasurer Carol Westergren, a past American Legion Auxiliary Department of Arkansas president, said at the ceremony.

“We can hope and pray they find comfort,” Mayor Mike Robertson said.

The $44,000 black granite monument will be placed at Dewitt Henry Drive and ASU Boulevard. It is paid for with donations. The city of Beebe pledged $10,000 to meet the funding goal during a monument fundraiser dinner held on Friday.

The monument has two sides. One reads “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Mothers, Fathers, and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.” The other side has four panels telling the story of “Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice.” The scenes on each panel reflect each community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes.

At the center of the monument is a cutout representing the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.

“One of the expressions I often receive is when the memorial monument is completed and they gaze upon it for the first time, many of them say – ‘Now I know my relative will not be forgotten’. That is important,” Williams said.

Gold Star Families attending the groundbreaking were Army Sgt. Roy E. Bright, Army Staff Sgt. Paul F. Brooks, Army Corporal Loren M. Buffalo, Air Force Staff Sgt. James P. Cook Jr., Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Patrick W. Kordsmeier, Army Private First Class Robert E. Mitchell, Army Specialist Matthew K. Reece, Army Sgt. Joseph A. Richardson, Army Sgt. Jason M. Swindle, Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel R. Wassom II and Marine Corporal Kyle W. Wilks.

Beebe’s Gold Star Monument project is led by retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, Army veteran Jeff Marshall and his wife, Chelsey, a Gold Star widow who lost her husband, Jeff Swindle, in 2012 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and former Beebe VFW Post 7769 commander Ken Adams.

Beason said the monument is important to him as he wears a watch worn by Michael Bridges, who was killed in 2006 by a sniper in Iraq.

“His mother gave it to me and it changed my life letting me know what a Gold Star Mother is. I’m thankful for where I stand today, the community I live in, family and friends. I was born into freedom that a lot of people do not understand until it is removed from them,” Beason said.

He said the monument “is about the men and women who did not come back the right way to the pomp and circumstances of the U.S. flag-but they came under the U.S. flag. It is families left behind, dealing with the pain, every day. This monument is for them, so we can tell the families we will not forget. It is our duty, as a nation to never forget.”

“We are grieving, but it is nice to know we are not forgotten and their lives are remembered,” said Pam Wassom, mother of the late Daniel Wassom, who died shielding his daughter in the 2014 Vilonia tornado.

Also attending the ceremony were Little Rock Air Force Base honor guard posting the colors, Marines at LRAFB for the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, Arkansas Patriot Guard Riders, Beebe City Council members, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot), and members of Beebe American Legion Post 91, Cabot Post 71, North Little Rock Post 74 and Beebe Veterans of Foreign War Post 7769.