ELDRIDGE LEADS HIGH-FLYING CARDINALS FOOTBALL PROGRAM
BY DON LOWE | PHOTOS BY MARK STRICKLAND PHOTOS
In 2020, then North Little Rock Charging Wildcats 1st year Football Head Coach J.R. Eldridge sure seemed to be in an ideal spot as he put together a terrific debut campaign that culminated at 12-2 overall, while finishing as Class 7A runner-up to the Bryant Hornets.
Despite having just gotten settled at one of this state’s largest and most successful pigskin programs, Coach Eldridge was given an opportunity that simply couldn’t be passed up and so he accepted the job as Farmington Cardinals Football Head Coach in 2021.
“I believe Farmington has great potential,” Coach Eldridge reasoned in explaining what led him to Northwest Arkansas after a brief time in North Little Rock. “The administration is second to none here. The facilities are among the best in the state.
“I am from Fayetteville, and I was able to relocate my family near where I grew up. This is the right place at the right time for my family.”
As for the timing of it, Coach Eldridge and the Cardinals appeared to be right at home together last fall, while managing an 8-3 overall record and a three-seed finish in the 5A-West, as well as punching their ticket to post-season play.
Coach Eldridge felt there were several factors that led to a solid ’21 season, and he conveyed, “I believe that coaches buy-in, seniors buy-in, all players buy-in, administration support, and parental support all played a role for us.
“Our players at Farmington were hungry during the season and that hunger for good football carried over into the offseason.”
After a full year together, it’s clear what the expectations are for all involved with the Cardinals gridiron gang and Coach Eldridge stresses that, “Our program is built on two purposes: Make a positive difference in each other’s lives and compete for and win conference and state championships.
“And, we have six core values: Respect, commitment, believe, vicious, violent, and relentless. If we can continually try to show up with these purposes in mind and live within these values, that will make us proud.”
As for providing more specific details on Farmington’s style of play and strategy on both sides of the ball, Coach Eldridge related that, “We are a spread multiple offensive football team that distributes the football to playmakers in the space given by the defense, and controls the tempo based on score, field position and time on the clock.
“We are a 4-3 multiple defense that keeps the ball going east and west, while being VVR (vicious, violent, and relentless) and achieving 9-5-9 (which is nine players within five yards of the ball, 90 percent of the time) by running to the football. So, to make these work, we focus on the fundamentals every day, that lead to big plays for our offense and defense.”
Regardless of what system is in place, Coach Eldridge is ecstatic to be here and has a sense that there’s plenty of opportunity to win big with the Cardinals as he affirms, “I love going to work every day knowing we have players that are hungry to get after it.
“I enjoy working with our coaching staff, because we’re aligned in what we are coaching, and we have energy every day. Having administrative support and parental support has me excited about trying to provide the best possible junior high and senior high experience for these Farmington players.”
As Coach Eldridge ties it all together, he assures that, “I believe all of these factors will lead to future success, and that gets me excited.”
Apparently, there’s no reason not to be thrilled with all the possibilities, and these high-flying Cardinals likely expect to soar higher and higher on an annual basis with Coach Eldridge leading them along.