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story.lead_photo.caption Joe T. Robinson wide receiver Mekel Kentle (left) leads the Senators into Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game against Arkadelphia. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Todd Eskola was a 10-year-old ball boy for Joe T. Robinson the last time the Senators played in a state championship game.

Robinson last played in and won a state championship in 1980, when it won the Class AA title at De Queen 26-6 under then-coach Bob Goodloe.

What does Eskola remember about the Senators' 1980 championship team?

"Very little," he joked, "other than they won. It was a long time ago. My dad [Jim Eskola] was a coach. Bob Goodloe, Jim Brady, Charlie Pruitt, those guys did a great job back then. There's a lot of pride for those guys and that time in our community."

Thirty-eight years later, Eskola will coach the Senators in the Class 4A state championship game against 7-4A Conference rival and defending 4A state champion Arkadelphia on Saturday.

"Everybody is excited about being back," said Eskola, a 1989 Robinson graduate who has coached the Senators since 2005.

The Senators (12-2), who won the 7-4A Conference championship for a second consecutive season, reached the state championship game with victories over Pottsville, Hamburg, Ozark and Dumas. They trailed Dumas 14-7 at halftime, but got two touchdown runs of 55 yards from Mekel Kentle and 1 yard from Tyler Jones to defeat the Bobcats 24-20 on Saturday at Charlie George Stadium in Little Rock.

Kentle, a senior, finished with 141 yards and 1 touchdown on 19 carries. His classmate, Jones, had 16 carries for 131 yards and a score.

Saturday's victory over Dumas was pleasing for the Senators, especially after last season's overtime loss in the semifinals to Warren at home.

"When the clock struck zero, we really felt it," said senior defensive end Davis Wofford, who has 90 tackles and five sacks this season. "We're not satisfied yet. Saturday night, we want to make history."

Said senior linebacker Isaac Dubose, who leads the Senators in tackles with 120 and has five sacks: "It was definitely indescribable. We've been working hard all summer. I'm real proud of our team, with the way our defense showed up. It's going to be a good game, for sure."

Dubose said this year's team is more together, and that's part of the reason the Senators are playing for a state title.

"We just believe in each other," Dubose said. "It's a family. We're a tight-knit group. We're confident in each other. We've worked hard for this. We just all know and trust the brother beside us."

Eskola cited experience as a key factor in the Senators reaching the state title game. But there's one more game left for the Senators, and it comes against a Badgers team that has won nine consecutive games after starting 0-5 this season.

"They've been there. They're not wide-eyed," Eskola said. "Even after the game Saturday night, there was relief to win, but there's unfinished business.

"Arkadelphia is an unbelievable opponent. They're playing exceptional right now with a whole lot of confidence. All the respect in the world for their program. It's going to be a great game Saturday night."

Todd Eskola

Sports on 12/04/2018

Print Headline: ARKANSAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Robinson prepares to close 38-year gap


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