Pine Bluff head football coach Bobby Bolding has promised to not let the distractions of playing in a state championship faze him or his team.
Saturday’s championship game against Greenwood will be Bolding’s fourth as a coach. His previous include two with Stuttgart, including a win in 2002, and another in 2009 with Pine Bluff.
“I learned after the very first one,” Bolding said. “Do not let the media change what you are doing.
“You get so much media coverage, that you are not accustomed to, that it can be overwhelming.”
Bolding said he had TV stations and newspapers from all over the state calling him, wanting to talk.
“I was only in my fourth year as a head coach and I had come from a small school, where there was zero media coverage,” Bolding said.
Bolding said he’d try to keep it fair and let different players interview for stories because “I didn’t want kids to get jealous.”
“I just did not know how to deal,” Bolding said. “I am no different from anybody else. I had to learn from my mistakes.”
So in order to prevent any distractions this year, Bolding said the team will keep their normal routine and have this week be as routine as possible.
“We are not changing anything,” Bolding said.
Pine Bluff punched its ticket to the state championship last week with a 24-0 win over Jonesboro in the 6A semifinal at Jordan Stadium.
“Everybody in the town gets so excited,” Bolding said. “It is a wonderful thing for our community and our school. But I’m just focused on keeping our young men on our normal routine.”
Bolding said Pine Bluff High School was planning a couple ceremonies or parties this week, but Bolding wanted to hold off until next week.
“We’ve got to be careful,” Bolding said. “Do whatever you want next week. But let us focus on the task at hand.”
Bolding he didn’t want his team to look back 10 years from now and be disappointed that they did not give this game their full undivided attention.
“I don’t want there to be any excuses,” Bolding said. “I want us to play as hard as we can and we either win or we lose.”
Bolding credited his success and trips to state championships to his players and coaches at both Stuttgart and Pine Bluff.
“I have worked with some great coaches and some exceptional football players,” Bolding said.
Josh Keith played for Bolding at Stuttgart and is now an assistant coach at Pine Bluff. Bolding also named off people like Freddy Dancy, Keithdrick Smith and Darnell Horner.
“They were important to the success of that team,” Bolding said. “This whole staff here. The good Lord has blessed me over the years.”
Bolding went on to name players and coaches such as Tony Chambers, the head coach at Camden Harmony Grove; Claude Johnson, Mark Montgomery, Jonathan Frasier and Kelsey Collins.
“There were many, many more,” Bolding said. “The ones I didn’t name were just as important.
“Getting to the finals takes a team effort. It is not one or two people that get you there.”
Bolding said these kids have to buy in to what you’re selling.
“They have to put their personal stuff and their individual goals on the backburner, and put what is best for the team to the front,” Bolding said.
One thing Bolding will be sure not to do this season is try to win the game as a coach, but instead let the kids win the game.
“I am not going to try to scheme up something that we haven’t been doing all year,” Bolding said.
Bolding said in 2009’s state championship game against El Dorado, there were about 14 different things that if they had gone Pine Bluff’s way, the Zebras would have won the game.
Six of those things, Bolding took the blame.
“Decisions I had made proved costly,” Bolding said. “We need to do what we do and let the kids play and I won’t make that mistake again.”
6A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: PINE BLUFF (12-1) vs. GREENWOOD (13-0)
Noon Saturday • War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock • Radio: KTRN-FM 104.5