LITTLE ROCK - On the scoreboard, it is a 41-0 shutout victory for Pine Bluff (6-1, 4-0 7A/6A South) over Little Rock J.A. Fair on Friday.
But the scoreboard does not reflect Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding’s feelings about the game. He blamed himself for the outcome and for the sluggish start the Zebras had.
Bolding leaned on his 29 seniors to get the team prepared for this week’s seemingly easy game against J.A. Fair (0-7). He learned his lesson.
“Disappointed in the way we played and it’s my fault,” he said. “I thought they would do what’s necessary to have our team ready to play and they didn’t. I should’ve been responsible for that because I am the head coach.
“I know now that I have to do that and can’t count on them for that. But we got a win and we are healthy.”
Pine Bluff never trailed in the game and the closest J.A. Fair got to the end zone was the Zebras’ 36-yard line in the fourth quarter.
It was not until the start of the second quarter, though, that Pine Bluff opened a two-touchdown lead on the War Eagles.
“We had to fight a little bit,” Bolding said. “They gave us all we wanted and they scraped and battled.”
Even running back Walter Ashley, who played wide receiver on Friday, was not totally happy with the win.
“I think we started off a little slow, but once we started to get going, we got a lot of yards,” he said. “We are just disappointed with how we started.”
Pine Bluff was unable to score on its first drive and got the ball back later in the first quarter on Devarious Rice’s interception.
The Zebras found the end zone on that drive, which started at their own 29-yard line. Rickey Clements hit Tyrone Payne for a 27-yard pass to get it to the 11-yard line and two plays later Trever Hunt scored on a 1-yard dive.
Pine Bluff stopped J.A. Fair on fourth-and-6 at the Zebras 38-yard line to get the ball back. The Zebras drove to the War Eagles’ 20-yard line on Clements pass to Ashley. He then hit Payne for a 19-yard pass before Hunt scored on another 1-yard dive and a 14-0 lead with 11:35 left in the second quarter.
J.A. Fair was forced to punt on the ensuing drive and Pine Bluff got to the War Eagles’ 2-yard line when Brandon Starks found Paris Mack for a 22-yard reception. Starks went in for the 1-yard keeper to make it 21-0 with 4:55 left before half.
The War Eagles were forced to punt again and Pine Bluff took over with 3:56 left before halftime and Starks hit Walter Ashley at about the 5-yard line. Ashley had to wrestle out of a tackle and took it in for a 47-yard touchdown reception.
“It was like me and the defender had a conversation while the ball was in the air and it got more competitive as the ball got closer,” Ashley said. “I just went up to grab it and looked it in.”
Bolding was very impressed by Ashley’s touchdown grab.
“That was a heck of a catch by anybody,” he said. “Walter made a play and that was big-time of him.”
Pine Bluff went into halftime with a 28-0 lead and scored with 7:27 left in the third quarter when Starks hit Devonta Jenkins for a 37-yard touchdown.
The Zebras’ final touchdown came with 3:29 left on Jordan Bradley’ s1-yard touchdown run. Bradley, a senior, rushed for 40 yards on five carries.
“Really proud of Jordan Bradley there getting that last touchdown,” Bolding said. “He ran hard and we were really happy for him and wanted to see him score.”
Hunt finished with 64 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Ashley did not have a carry in the game and that was how Bolding scripted it.
“That was designed that way,” Bolding said. “We wanted to limit what Walter did and tried to limit some other guys a little bit.”
Ashley did finish with 89 yards receiving. Clements passed for 126 yards and Starks passed for 116 and two touchdowns. Victor Ryland intercepted a pass to end the game.
Next week, Pine Bluff plays El Dorado, which is the three-time Class 6A defending champion, at Jordan Stadium.
Bolding said his team is going to be in a lot of trouble if they play like this against the Wildcats.
“Move on and get ready for El Dorado,” he said. “If we play like this, we are going to get mercy-ruled against El Dorado. We can’t play anything close to this and we won’t. I don’t believe we will.”