It’s been 44 years since Des Arc last tasted victory in a state championship football game, so forgive the small Prairie County town for being a bit excited about the opportunity the Eagles have tonight.
“Man, everybody’s excited about this,” said Des Arc Coach B.J. Paschal, whose Eagles (13-0) will try to put an end to that lengthy title drought when they battle defending champion Fordyce in the Class 2A final at 6:40 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. “The community’s excited, the town’s excited. There’s signs up and down the roads. I’ve had people constantly calling and texting just congratulating us and offering their support.
“It’s huge because Des Arc is a football town, and it’s been a long time since there’s been a state title won here. We’re going to do everything we can to try to change that.”
Paschal has done everything in his power in his first season at the helm to help get the Eagles back in the final for the first time in seven years.
He spent the previous three seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator before moving into the head coaching spot in June when his cousin, Tyler Paschal, resigned after one year. But there was never any doubt in B.J. Paschal’s mind that he’d be able to keep Des Arc among the state’s elite.
Getting the Eagles over the hump, however, was his biggest chore going in.
Paschal’s uncle, Van Paschal, has won more than 225 games as a high school coach during a head coaching career that started in 1991 and is coming off an 11-win season at Wynne. Tyler Paschal led the Eagles to nine victories and a conference title in his lone season, too.
“Coaching is big in our family in general,” B.J. Paschal said. “I’ve got a lot of relatives in the business. There’s always some teasing going on because every year, they all want to be the last man standing. This year, I think I got a little lucky.
“Hopefully, all of us will be standing at the end next year.”
Des Arc’s last appearance in a final came in 2013 when it was hammered 60-0 by postseason nemesis Junction City. Until this year, the Eagles had advanced no further than the quarterfinals since that time, with three of those setbacks coming to the Dragons in blowout fashion.
Last week, Paschal helped the Eagles clear that quarterfinal hurdle when Des Arc finally beat Junction City 22-20. The Dragons had defeated the Eagles by a combined 219-35 in their previous five meetings.
“Beating them was big for the town,” Paschal explained. “Just to kind of get the stigma off our back on that one because we’d been 0-5 against them in the past. So being able to beat them took the excitement level up a notch or two.”
Paschal imagines that the excitement will be at a feverish pitch if he can guide Des Arc to its first state championship since 1976 when the Eagles beat Prescott 29-22 for the Class 2A crown.
“The people love football in this town, and if we’re able to go in there and play a good ballgame, it’d be so big for everybody here,” B.J. Paschal said.