11 Aug BENTON HARMONY GROVE: Preparing for first season
Parker is one of Arkansas’s legendary football coaches, having had college stops at Clemson, Arkansas A&M (now the University of Arkansas at Monticello), Vanderbilt, Delta State, Southern Arkansas, The Citadel, Ouachita Baptist and Ole Miss. He won more than 150 games at the college level and more than that many again in several high school jobs. His Fordyce teams won state titles in 1958, ’59 and ’60, and his Rison squad captured another in 2000. Rison Woodlawn was his previous stop.
“All my coaching life, every job I’ve ever had has been a major, major rebuilding job,” he said. “Never have I been fortunate enough that the job wasn’t pretty near the bottom of the barrel, so here, that’s taken on a new entity all its own because these children have never played, and because of that, the difficulty is so great and yet so rewarding, too.”
He’s completed a year at the school. He said he expected about 28 varsity players for the Cardinals this fall, half of what he said he should have, but he has about 60 in junior high.
“We tried to have all grades last year so they’d have an opportunity,” he said. “It was kind of like a glorified intramural team.
“But it really is fun, and I’m working with a great school and administration and faculty. It is just fun, but it’s also about as challenging as anybody could ever, ever have.”
Just before the team convened for fall drills, he said he hadn’t settled on anything scheme-wise.
“I know it sounds like I’m giving you the runaround, but we’ll look at several things I like and come up with something our personnel can run,” he said. “We’ll find something that will match our personnel the best we can.”
He also wasn’t ready to name starters.
“The No. 1 thing we want to try to do is to improve every day,” he said. “When we worked in the spring, we worked as hard as we could to try to get two teams deep everywhere, but we really haven’t started yet. This is kind of the way I coach, trying to get as many ready as I can, and somewhere in the first 10 days, I’ll try to see who our starters will be and who our backups will be.
“I don’t know yet who we can count on. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach and hoping we can improve every way we can.”
The Cardinals will play in the 5-3A, which features the 2009 state finalists – Fountain Lake and Prescott – as well as Bismarck, Centerpoint, Cutter Morning Star, Glen Rose and Jessieville.
“I’m not sure what we did to deserve that,” Parker said. “Somebody really had it in for us, and we just happen to be in one terrific football conference. I wish we could do something to uphold the tradition of the conference.”
A refreshingly old-school coach, he didn’t have to look far to find team weaknesses.
“We only really lack size and speed and strength and depth and experience,” he said. “We’ve got a chance if we can acquire those things real fast. But they’ve got a great attitude.”
Parker, who has grandchildren several years older than his Cardinals, is an unabashed fan of high school football.
“I love it,” he said. “After I got out of coaching major college football, I took a great liking to going back into high school. I watched it and really did enjoy it. I really do enjoy working with these kids.”
He did make one prediction.
“One of these days, this is going to be a great little football community,” he said.