Next stop: Little Rock.
Pine Bluff punched yet another ticket to a state football championship game, shutting out Jonesboro’s vaunted offense for a 24-0 victory Friday in a 6A semifinal at Jordan Stadium. It’s Pine Bluff’s first title appearance in three years.
“We’re just proud to be getting to Little Rock,” Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding said. “Couldn’t be more proud of the way they played tonight, shutting out that very potent offense and doing what we needed to do offensively and special teams. Very proud of them.”
The Zebras will play Greenwood, which ended El Dorado’s three-year 6A reign 42-39, at noon Dec. 1 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Wingback Walter Ashley ran 17 times for 116 yards to lead Pine Bluff (12-1). He ran from 10 yards out for the game’s opening score at the 4:54 mark of the first quarter.
“It feels real good. I mean, I can’t explain how it feels,” Ashley said. “We practiced hard all week against all the fronts and everything. When you practice hard, you get execution.”
While the Zebras found their usual offensive groove — outgaining Jonesboro 274-194 in total yards — their defense rose to the occasion, limiting a Golden Hurricane offense that boasted a 1,870-yard rusher in Martin Stafford and 1,000-plus yard rushing quarterback in D.J. Anderson. Anderson completed 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards with an interception by Devarious Rice on the opening drive.
That pick halted a 43-yard drive to the Pine Bluff 22. The Zebras scored in 11 plays to go up 7-0.
The Hurricane (9-3) had a 58-yard touchdown pass called back because of a holding penalty on the next drive and were forced to punt. On the Zebras’ next offensive play, Ashley bolted 44 yards to the Hurricane 12, but Pine Bluff eventually settled for a 28-yard Austin McGehee field goal.
Jonesboro came up empty on two more possessions before Pine Bluff scored again. McGehee split a 29-yard kick through the uprights, but he was roughed by a Jonesboro player, and the Zebras took the first down at the 7. The decision paid off three plays later, when quarterback Rickey Clements kept the ball from the 4 and flipped over a defender onto his back for the TD.
Clements said the Zebras didn’t think they had the game won despite leading 17-0 at halftime.
“We had to keep coming out and fighting hard,” he said. “We didn’t think it was over. We came out second half and played even harder.”
Clements finished the game with 10 carries for 64 yards and completed 4 of 9 passes for 113 yards. His last strike was a 64-yarder to a wide open Rice behind the Hurricane secondary.
“They had been biting on the curls, and I looked up and I saw number 6 wide-open, stepped up and made a good throw,” Clements said.
The Zebras kept the Hurricane out of the red zone on all but one drive. Jonesboro moved the ball to the Pine Bluff 23 to open the second half before turning it over on downs. On its next drive, Rakeem Leverett forced Stafford to fumble, setting up the short march capped by Clements’ long pass.
Jonesboro made it to the Pine Bluff 10 in the fourth quarter before losing possession on four straight incomplete passes. That would be its last serious threat.
“We did a good job against the run, and that forced them to be a little bit one-dimensional,” Bolding said. “We felt like if we could get to a point where they had to throw the ball, then we had them, and that’s what happened.”