Pine Bluff has the No. 1 seed in the 7A/6A-South all wrapped up, meaning the Zebras will be playing all of their playoff games at home.
The only non-home game would be the championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock if Pine Bluff (8-1, 6-0 in 7A/6A-South) can make it that far.
Pine Bluff has also guaranteed itself at least a share of the conference title. If the Zebras lose to Benton (3-6, 2-4), they would share it with the winner of the El Dorado vs. Bryant game.
Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding and the players have not been thinking about the conference title that much until this week. Each week, the focus was on getting better that week to lead up this game against Benton with a shot at the outright conference title.
“That’s something we have talked about this week,” Bolding said. “We didn’t talk about the conference thing up until now. Just had to get better every week and win football games.
“But we have a lot riding on this and it’s senior night and we want to go out and perform.”
It would be the Zebras’ first conference title since 2008 and it would cap a great run by the senior group, which consists of 29 players. It is the same group that only lost one game in junior high.
Despite such a great career by this group of seniors, Bolding said the seniors are not getting very worked up for Senior Night tomorrow against Benton at Jordan Stadium.
“I don’t know how big of a night it is for the kids,” he said. “We have 29 of them and they have a great year so far, so we want to make sure we keep that up this year and figure out a way to win.”
Benton has lost three of its last four games and the Panthers have lost to Lake Hamilton (42-35) and El Dorado (38-0) the last two weeks. Benton’s two conference wins have come against Little Rock Fair (48-6) and Texarkana (45-17).
If the Panthers are going to beat the Zebras, it will be because of the legs of Wallace Foote, who has rushed for 1,281 yards this season and 16 touchdowns on 164 carries.
Bolding said Benton moves Foote all over the field in an effort to get him the ball in different places.
“He’s a good running back who has great speed, is elusive and has some shake and bake,” Bolding said. “He is a difference-maker and we have to try and control him as much as you can. This guy has more speed than other guys and if he gets north and south, I don’t know if we can run him down.”
Benton has given up 28.8 points per game this year and Bolding said he will just use the same offensive game plan he has used all year.
“We are going to give them 1,000 formations with motion and play action and do the same things we have done all year,” he said. “We have so many different weapons that we can utilize. Just do what we do and try and hit some big plays and pound them.”
One area Bolding would like to see his team improve in before the playoffs start next week is the Zebras’ return game.
“Our returns haven’t been as good as they were last year and we have tried to stress that,” he said.
Benton (3-6) at Pine Bluff (8-1)
• 7 p.m. today
• 7A/6A-South Conference records: Benton 2-4, Pine Bluff 6-0
• Last week: Benton lost to El Dorado 38-0; Pine Bluff def. Sheridan 35-7