Two of Class 2A's more tradition-rich football schools are meeting tonight for the first time.
The first meeting between Fordyce and Des Arc comes in the Class 2A state championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
"It will be big for the both of us," Fordyce Coach Tim Rodgers said. "I've heard of Des Arc and kept up with them. I know the town supports their football team.
"I expect a great ballgame."
Des Arc Coach BJ Paschal said his team is ready to face the defending state champion Redbugs (14-0).
"You've got two really good ball teams going to play each other," Paschal said. "I think it's going to be a good game to watch. It might be a little stressful for me. But I think it will be a good game to watch."
The Eagles (13-0) are playing in its first state championship game since 2013, clinching the appearance with a 22-20 victory over Junction City in the semifinals last Friday.
"I can't be more excited than what we've done," Paschal said. "The first half of the season, we started slow offensively. But in the last half of the season, we've come on. Defensively, I don't think we've played to our potential yet.
"I'd love to see us play our best game [against Fordyce]."
Des Arc is led by senior quarterback Luke Morton, who has rushed for 858 yards and 26 touchdowns in the Eagles' triple-option offense.
Morton dislocated his left elbow in Des Arc's victory over Bigelow on Nov. 27, but still played last Friday against Junction City.
"He's a warrior," Paschal said. "He played and the whole team rallied behind him."
Rodgers praised Des Arc's offense, saying that the Redbugs must play disciplined to try to limit the Eagles.
"They do a great job of running it," Rodgers said. "We haven't played anyone that does it. The quarterback [Morton], he runs hard. He's smart and he takes care of the ball. They do the right things. They're fundamentally sound.
"This is not going to be an easy game."
Senior quarterback Jaheim Brown and senior wide receiver Ja'Quez Cross have been a force for Fordyce.
Brown has passed for 1,895 yards, 26 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Cross, who has orally committed to Purdue, has accounted for 29 touchdowns this season (20 rushing, 9 receiving).
"They're good. There's no way to make any bones about that," Paschal said. "They're a pretty good ball team. The first thing you notice when you turn on the film is their speed. There's not a position on the field where they're not faster than us at.
"For us, it's about holding on to the football, contain their speed the best that we can and play our brand of football. Run the ball down field the best that we can."
Fordyce won its first state championship since 1991 last season when it knocked off Junction City. The Redbugs, Rodgers said, were determined to return to War Memorial Stadium to play for another state championship.
"It started out hard with all of the covid stuff," Rodgers said. "But once we got to play, the kids were ready to play.
"The guys wanted to go back [to the state championship game.] They did what it took to get back."
Des Arc is looking to win its first state title since 1976. Paschal hopes the Eagles can play a cleaner game than their last two games against Bigelow and Junction City as they attempt to dethrone the Redbugs.
"We have to put four quarters together in this game," Paschal said. "The last two weeks, we've done really well in the first half. But we've trailed off toward the end of the game. This game, we have to have four quarters of great ball."
At a glance
FORDYCE VS. DES ARC
WHAT Class 2A state championship
WHEN 6:40 p.m. today
WHERE War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock
TV Arkansas PBS
RADIO KHLR-FM, 106.7, in Little Rock
RECORDS Fordyce 14-0; Des Arc 13-0
COACHES Fordyce: Tim Rodgers; Des Arc: BJ Paschal
Class 2A capsule
DATE OPPONENT RESULT
Aug. 28 at Rison W, 29-28
Sept. 11 at Camden HG W, 62-13
Sept. 18 Monticello W, 23-22
Sept. 25 at Clarendon W, 51-16
Oct. 2 at Carlisle W, 47-14
Oct. 9 at Junction City* W, 21-6
Oct. 16 Strong* W, 55-0
Oct. 23 Parkers Chapel* W, 55-12
Oct. 30 Hampton* W, 62-0
Nov. 6 at Bearden* W, 56-6
Nov. 13 Earle#+
Nov. 20 Clarendon# W, 49-6
Nov. 27 Foreman# W, 47-8
Dec. 4 at Gurdon# W, 27-24
#Playoff game +forfeit, covid-19
COACH Tim Rodgers (97-40 in 11th season at school)
MASCOT Redbugs CONFERENCE 2A-8
RECORD 14-0, 5-0 2A-8, first
RANKING No. 1 in Class 2A (at end of regular season)
PLAYERS TO WATCH QB Jaheim Brown (Sr., 6-0, 205); FB Gary Lewis (Sr., 6-2, 215); WR Ja’Quez Cross (Sr., 5-10, 170); OL/LB Josh Harrington (Sr., 5-11, 220); LB Trey Merritt (Jr., 6-0, 210)
DES ARC (13-0)
DATE OPPONENT RESULT
Aug. 28 Palestine-Wheatley W, 43-6
Sept. 4 McCrory W, 44-24
Sept. 11 at Barton W, 52-18
Sept. 18 at Earle W, 43-12
Oct. 2 Mount Ida W, 47-14
Oct. 9 at Hazen* W, 54-14
Oct. 16 Carlisle* W, 44-14
Oct. 22 Marvell* W, 54-0
Oct. 30 England* W, 38-0
Nov. 5 at Clarendon* W, 16-7
Nov. 20 Mount Ida# W, 40-22
Nov. 27 Bigelow# W, 38-22
Dec. 4 Junction City# W, 22-20
COACH BJ Paschal (13-0 in first season at school)
RECORD 13-0, 6-0 2A-6, first
RANKING No. 3 in Class 2A (at end of regular season)
PLAYERS TO WATCH QB Luke Morton (Sr., 5-9, 170); RB Trevion Reed (So., 5-11, 170); SB Eyan Holloway (Sr., 5-6, 140); C Jarret Hambrick (Sr., 5-9, 230); G Cooper Childers (Jr., 5-10, 170)