Pine Bluff’s Trever Hunt slips into the end zone just past a Little Rock Hall defender during Friday’s game at Jordan Stadium. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Pine Bluff did exactly what a No. 1 seed in the playoffs should do.
The Zebras extended Little Rock Hall’s 17-game losing streak with a 57-0 win in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“Proud to get the shutout and I thought all of the kids on defense did a good job,” Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding said. “Did what we were supposed to and now we will face stiffer competition and we have to step up to the next level. Glad to have this out of the way.”
Pine Bluff’s second and third-string defense played all of the second half. Hall was held to 86 yards at halftime and had 139 yards total.
“(Hall) struggled and I felt like they would,” Bolding said. “We are going to have a better challenge next week and we need it.”
Pine Bluff had more yards (220) by halftime than Hall got total in the game. By the end of the game, the Zebras had 412 total yards and 313 came on the ground. That yardage is surprising considering Pine Bluff had 13 players run the ball and no one had more than five carries.
“Every time we handed it off to our running backs in the second half, they were determined to score,” Bolding said. “We ran every running back we had in and it seemed everyone of them started ripping off big runs.”
It was not all sunshine and roses for Pine Bluff (10-1), though. The Zebras misfired on their first possession of the game.
It started with a false start, but it seemed to be business as usual as Rickey Clements hit Tyrone Payne for a 26-yard pass along the left sideline. But Walter Ashley was stopped for a loss of four yards and two incomplete passes led to a punt.
Bolding said a reason for the sluggish start was because the team was not mentally prepared enough when the game started.
“We did a good job (Friday), but where we didn’t do a good job was mentally preparing for the game,” he said. “Talked about it at halftime with the seniors and we will do something different to try and help them do a better job of getting ready.”
Hall (0-10) did all it could to help Pine Bluff get its minds into the game.
On the ensuing possession, Hall lined up to punt at its own 15-yard line. The snap went over the punter’s head and through the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Pine Bluff lead.
Ashley then fielded the kickoff at midfield and returned it 20 yards. Clements hit Payne for a 27-yard pass and Trever Hunt found the end zone on a 2-yard run for an 8-0 lead.
Hall was able to get its first first-down of the game on the next possession, but on third-and-13, Kelvin Sergeant scooped up a botched option pitch and returned it 32 yards for the touchdown and a 15-0 lead.
Pine Bluff’s last score in the first quarter came with 1:20 left and Ashley capped a four-play, 50-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run and a 22-0 lead.
Hunt added his second touchdown of the game in the second quarter with 6:58 left with a 7-yard run and a 29-0 lead.
“Feels good to get the win and we know we still have to work and have three games left,” Hunt said. “Those are just two touchdowns for me and it isn’t a ring. The offensive line did all of the work.”
Hall went three-and-out and Brandon Starks came in at quarterback for Pine Bluff. He faked a handoff to Paris Mack and took off in the middle of the field and went 35 yards for the touchdown.
Hall went three-and-out again and Ashley returned the punt to the Hall 17-yard line. Kentarius White needed just one play to score on a 17-yard run and a 43-0 halftime lead.
Pine Bluff’s first score of the second half came on its opening possession as Malik Jenkins broke a 20-yard touchdown run for a 50-0 lead.
The last score came on the next possession as senior Jordan Bradley scored on a 5-yard run.
“It means a lot and coach put me in and I did what I can and it feels good,” Bradley said. “Pine Bluff has great running backs and we all did great and our offensive line helped us through.”
Bradley finished with 17 yards, Jenkins had 71 yards on three carries and White added 51 yards. All three players had three carries. Starks had 54 yards on two carries.
Pine Bluff faces Benton next week in the second round of the playoffs. The Zebras beat Benton 43-6 in the last week of the regular season.