Bolding: Win had state title feel

It's easy to call a nonconference game between teams two classifications apart just another game.

But that wasn't the case Friday night when Bryant hosted Little Rock Parkview.

It was Bryant, the No. 1 overall team in the state, on a 54-game winning streak against in-state opponents, taking on the No. 1 team in Class 5A, which was on a 12-game winning streak of its own.

The Patriots did something that hadn't been done since Oct. 26, 2018, defeating the Hornets 28-27.

If you were to look at Coach Brad Bolding's phone afterward, you would think Parkview had won a state championship game.

"It's pretty close," said Bolding, who guided the Patriots to the Class 5A state title last season. "If you gauge it from text messages and phone calls that I got from friends, family and other coaches, it was about the same.

"We told the kids, there's a lot of players around the country that play football and never get to play in a game to this magnitude, in this kind of environment."

Few nonconference opponents know one another better than Bryant (2-1) and Parkview (2-0). The schools participated in five team camps together this summer and a similar number last year.

Bryant has become the gold standard for Arkansas high school football programs over the past half-decade, winning five consecutive Class 7A state championships, and Parkview isn't alone in trying to emulate that success.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for their program," Bolding said. "What they've been able to accomplish, their coaching staff, everything about them, you know, that's what we're trying to be. If you want to be that, then you got to beat that. That's kind of been our mentality since we've picked them up on our nonconference schedule."

At halftime, Parkview led 28-20 after four separate Patriots scored first-half touchdowns.

Bolding said what he saw when he walked into his locker room at halftime was the most impressive thing he saw all night.

"It was like a library," He said. "They're not saying a word. It's like pre-game, you know? And that's unusual for 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds. They want to celebrate, not really thinking that they got to play two more quarters, but they want to start celebrating now.

"That really impressed me about this team. When we walked in there, it wasn't any kind of coach-lead type deal. It's all seniors and leaders of our team. So I knew then that we would come out really ready to play."

With four touchdowns each, the game was ultimately decided by a Bryant missed extra-point opportunity late in the second quarter.

The Hornets had just scored on a 15-yard rushing touchdown by Shawn Rycraw to move within 21-20 of the Patriots, but their extra-point kick was blocked. Parkview's Jermaine Penny returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, making it 28-20.

Bolding said he knew instantly how consequential blocking that extra-point attempt would become.

"When you've been in it as long as I've been in it, you've had it happen to you," He said.

Parkview has yet to lose to a team in its own class since moving down to 5A before last season. The Patriots fell to Bryant and North Little Rock in nonconference play last season and are undefeated thus far in 2023.

Bolding said Friday's win showed his players can hang with the best teams, regardless of class. He also isn't letting a regular season win get to anyone's head.

"From our player's perspective, I'm certain that they think that they're No. 1 in the state," he said. "For me and my coaching perspective, and how we'll coach them [today] at three o'clock, will be that we're not and we got a lot of work to do. It only takes one game where you're not prepared, you come out there and you have a slipup, and it'll cost you."