Little Rock Christian may be continuing to climb the Arkansas high school football classification ladder, but the goal of excellence remains.
The Warriors, who have 54 wins over the last five seasons with three title game appearances and semifinal round appearance in that time, are making the jump from Class 5A to 6A this campaign along with rival Pulaski Academy.
That move is part of the state’s competitive equity factor formula for private schools with Little Rock Christian head coach Eric Cohu relishing the challenge, but also knowing he faces a numbers problem.
“The guys are working hard and we have a long way to go,” Cohu said. “We have what I call a depth issue in that we are a 4A school playing 6A football. Our biggest thing is going to be staying healthy and overall just being very high functioning.
“But the fellas are practicing hard and we had a good first week. We really need this week two of preseason to get a lot in because we have the benefit game next week.”
That benefit game will see the Warriors hosting Benton on Friday Aug. 19 before opening the season at Little Rock Central on Aug. 26 and then facing a road game at Shiloh Christian on Sept. 2 and opening conference play at Lake Hamilton on Sept. 9.
In addition to Little Rock Christian and Pulaski Academy, the nine-member Class 6A West also includes Greenwood, Lake Hamilton, Russellville, Van Buren, Siloam Springs, Greenbrier and Mountain Home.
“We are not going to see familiar faces much,” Cohu said. “Obviously we have Pulaski Academy going up with us, but everybody else – we have played Greenbrier before and Shiloh before in non-conference games – but it is a pretty new schedule for us. The only two we played last year that are on this year’s schedule are Little Rock Central in a non-conference game and Pulaski Academy.
“When you add Greenwood and Lake Hamilton, both traditional 6A powerhouses and non-conference Shiloh Christian, we have some very strong opponents.”
Little Rock Christian has seven starters returning on offense and six on defense from last season’s 10-2 squad.
The offense is headed up by junior quarterback Walker White (6-4, 220), who completed 128 of 236 passes for 2,012 yards and 23 touchdowns last season with 11 interceptions . He also rushed for 483 yards and 5 more scores.
White has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kansas State, Louisville, Pittsburgh and others, and will line up behind and inexperienced offensive line.
“We need Walker to have a great year,” Cohu said. “He is a phenomenal athlete and can really throw the ball around the field and he is 6-4 and 220 (pounds) and fast and strong. We need him to have an exceptional year.”
The Warriors lost leading rusher and Arkansas walk on Jayvean Dyer (1,760 yards and 20 touchdowns) and Hendrix signee Brian Gittens (789 yards and 10 scores) as well as leading receiver Eli Cooper (53 catches, 1,060 yards and 12 touchdowns).
“We also need the receiver corp to really step up and make plays,” Cohu said. “We feel like we have a good mix of the running and passing game and we are just going to have to execute with high efficiency.”
The defense graduated all-state defensive end Titus Colquitt (10 sacks among his 88 tackles), but defensive end Jordan Johnson (59 stops, three sacks and three fumble recoveries) does return.
The linebacking crew should be solid with Preston Davis (148 tackles), Holt Chappell (124 stops) and Ben Ridings (96 tackles) all back.
“We are excited to be in 6A and it is going to be in the 6A West,” Cohu said. “We were used to the 5A Central, which was an extremely competitive conference as well. We have certainly played exception competition in the 5A Central the last couple of years, but we know the 6A West is a strong conference and week in and week out we are going to have to play our best football.”