Everything has gone according to plan for Patriots … so far

Coach Brad Bolding said he believes his team has only gotten better over the past two seasons since the hiring of his brother Bobby as his defensive coordinator.

With a defense learning on the fly to start last season, the Patriots dropped two of their first three games before winning 11 in a row, including taking the Class 5A state championship over Shiloh Christian to end the season.

In Year 2, the Patriots (13-0) have hardly put a foot wrong entering today's 5A state championship game at Little Rock's War Memorial, again against Shiloh Christian

With an undefeated regular season, a win over then-No. 1 Bryant, a second conference championship in a row and a state-leading 24-game win streak, everything has gone to Brad Bolding's plan.

"What we do is complicated," he said. "It requires a lot of reps, and that's why last year, when [the defensive staff] came in July, we were behind. They had a lot of coaching and catching up to do.

"We're light years ahead defensively [now]. I think that makes a big, big difference."

Parkview has held teams to 9.8 points per game this season and 6.6 per game against 5A teams.

But Parkview will likely have its toughest test yet today against Shiloh Christian. Under first-year Coach Tucker Barnard, the Saints (11-2) lead Class 5A with 47.8 points per game. Shiloh Christian has scored 42 points or more in each of its playoff games .

The Saints' offense starts with running back Bo Williams. The senior has rushed for 1,875 yards and 37 touchdowns, including 350 yards and five touchdowns last week against Pine Bluff in the 5A semifinals.

"The big thing about them is they're going to get yards," Bolding said. "The main thing is we need to gang-tackle and get a lot of people to the ball. We have to limit their big-play potential. Bo is one of those players if one player tries to make the tackle, he'll end up with a broken arm.

"The thing about our defense is our scheme is built on guys doing their jobs. You might not be the guy who is making the tackle, but your job is to put the guy in position to make the tackle. We've got to be sound in how we play defense."

Parkview outscored its opponents 599-128 this season, the second-most points in Class 5A. The Patriots returned much of last year's state championship offense, including the title game MVP, quarterback Eric McGehee. The University of Central Arkansas commit has thrown for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 257 yards and 8 touchdowns.

"It's like a whole 'nother universe because he understands the game. He understands defenses," Bolding said of McGehee's improvement. "He was 11 of 11 in the semifinal game, which tells you a lot. You look back early on last year, we ran the ball. We relied on our running backs because he just wasn't there yet.

"He's light years ahead of where he was. He runs the ball better. He's just a total package.

McGehee is surrounded by arguably the deepest group of playmakers in the state. Junior Cameron Settles (823 yards and 19 touchdowns), junior Monterrio Elston (808 yards and 10 touchdowns) and senior Jaden Ashford (788 yards and 11 touchdowns) create a balanced rushing attack.

Elston leads the team in receiving as well with 745 yards and 9 touchdowns on 54 catches. Classmate Omarion Robinson is known for his work at safety, but he also has 372 yards and two touchdowns on 14 receptions.

On top of rotating at the running back and receiver positions to keep play fresh, the Patriots' starters have played just two second halves this season, meaning underclassmen like sophomore receiver Kyrick Fulks (269 yards, three touchdowns) have seen extended playing time.

"A lot of the games we've played, the starters have played about two quarters. If some of them played all four quarters, they would have put up monster stats," Bolding said. "The big thing I teach to them is it's nice to go someplace and be the man, but when you go to college, you're going to have to learn how to compete for playing time and we have that type of atmosphere here. Also, it allows us to have fresh legs in the game which allows our backs to compliment each other."

While those starters will likely play all four quarters like they did a year ago, the game plan will remain the same for Parkview today.

"The big thing for us is to keep doing what we've been doing all year and try to get better," Bolding said. "It's tough to go 13-0 and it's tough to win a state championship."

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Class 5A state championship game

LR Parkview vs. Shiloh Christian

WHEN 6:30 p.m. today

WHERE War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock

TV Arkansas PBS

TICKETS $9, available online at gofan.co/app/school/AAA

RECORDS Little Rock Parkview 13-0; Shiloh Christian 11-2


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