Little Rock Parkview opens with Springdale Har-Ber in quest to repeat as Class 5A champs


Little Rock Parkview’s first state title since 1978 came last season on the strength of some talented playmakers on offense, a stout defense and playing its best football at the end of the season for head coach Brad Bolding.

The Patriots, who won their last 10 games after starting the season 1-2, downed Shiloh Christian 31-21 in the Class 5A championship game after racing past Morrilton (29-7), Wynne (42-0) and Joe T. Robinson (27-12) in earlier postseason contests.

Parkview, who opens the 2023 campaign Friday night at Springdale Har-Ber,  returns 7 starters on offense and 5 from a defense that allowed two touchdowns or less  in 7 of its last 10 games.

“I think our biggest thing is we lost a good senior class and we have a lot of good young players coming back, but I think we have put the challenge out to them this summer that the expectation is to try and repeat again,” Bolding said. “For that to happen, a lot of things have got to happen.

“…I think we are on track, just got to stay healthy and have a little luck. That’s a big part of it. We are really going to go hard at it again this year and hopefully we can repeat it again.”

Parkview will now be the hunted instead of the hunter in Bolding’s seventh year at the school.

“We obviously want to get back,” Bolding said. “It is kind of like a drug, you experience it once and you just have to kind of keep feeding the monster. So we hope the right guys will step up.”

Bolding and the Patriots will face a Springdale Har-Ber team that was just 1-9 last season, but has a new head coach in Missouri Hall of Famer Brett Eckley, who takes over for Chris Wood after 17 years.

Eckley, who was 203-59 in 24  years at Montgomery County, Union and Jackson, will present a whole new look from the  Har-Beer team that Parkview beat 48-26 to open last season in Little Rock.

“We face this every year with some team whether it is in our conference or non conference where coaches have moved around or whatever,” Bolding said. “We will kind of face it again when we play Bryant although they are not really going to change much.

“But you just prepare, you do your normal stuff and get ready for them. We have already done a little investigating on what he did in Missouri and things like that. I kind of have an idea of defensively what they are running. We won’t 100 percent know until we see some fly goes both ways.”

 Little Rock Parkview downed Little Rock Catholic 34-14 in a preseason  scrimmage on Aug. 16.

“Obviously there are some things that you still need to work on and shore up in our secondary a little bit,” Bolding said. “But I think overall, I thought we played about the way I was suspecting us to play. We definitely have some things we can work on between now and Har-Ber for sure.

“We lost a couple of offensive linemen and two defensive ends so that is a couple of areas that are the big question marks.”

The Patriots were led in the scrimmage offensively by versatile junior wide receiver Omarion Robinson (6-1, 180), junior running back Cameron  Settles (1,019 yards rushing and nine scores), receiver Montario “Money” Elston (61 catches, 1,012 yards, 15 TDs) and quarterback Eric McGehee (6-0,170), who passed for 2,102 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.

Robinson, an all-state safety as a sophomore and who has scholarship offers from Arkansas and numerous other schools, had 63 tackles with 4 interceptions last season and had two touchdown catches, seven tackles, and an interception in the title game. 

He joins senior offensive and defensive lineman Alex Martin (6-3, 308), who has offers from Memphis and Kansas State and Landon Canady (6-1, 312) and his five sacks lasts season as leaders on defense.

“It was the typical guys (in the scrimmage) – Omarion Robinson had an interception to the 1, but we had a penalty so it brought it back a little bit,” Bolding said. “..Montario Elston, the one we call Money, we had him at tailback and he went from the 50 to the one-inch line. We all thought he had scored and had a couple of catches and a couple of deep balls.

“I thought Eric, our quarterback, really looked good and our offensive line blocked pretty well. We kind of wanted to see some other players in there so we worked some guys at some different spots, just trying some things out. So there were some mistakes in there that we have got to clean up.”

Little Rock Parkview’s only losses were to Class 7A five-time consecutive champ Bryant 20-10 and to North Little Rock 28-27 in two overtimes.

It was the Patriots first conference title since 1984 and Bolding has watched he program go from 4 wins in 2019 to 8, 9 and 12 victories as the cultural has been developed.

“It goes by fast, but I have been blessed,” Bolding said. “It is and I’ve been fortunate to have some administrators that have allowed me to get the coaches in and at our school.

“That’s the biggest issue in Little Rock. For instance, a lot of the coaches at Central are working at other schools and they are late to practice.

“To be able to have all my guys except two that are actually at our school is huge for us because they are there and they are around the kids all the time and that makes a big difference in the hallways and everything else.”

Photo by John D. James