LITTLE ROCK – For almost the entire game, the Pine Bluff Zebras were able to match the Greenwood Bulldogs point-for-point offensively in Saturday’s 6A state championship, in which Pine Bluff lost 51-44.
Leading as much as 21-7 at one point, Pine Bluff looked like it was well on its way to winning its first state championship since 1995.
After a 66-yard interception return by Pine Bluff’s Kelvin Sergeant, the Zebras scored one play later when quarterback Rickey Clements completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Payne to give Pine Bluff a 21-7 lead with less than 5 minutes left in the first quarter.
Greenwood wasted little time to answer though. Three plays later, Bulldog quarterback Jabe Burgess completed a 12-yard pass to Jansen Stein for a touchdown.
That would cut Pine Bluff’s lead to 21-14 with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter.
It would be that back and forth affair that would last for almost the entire game.
“Hats off to their offense,” Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding said. “We haven’t had guys that open on us all year. I’ve got no explanation for it.”
It was the second half before Pine Bluff started showing signs of slowing down offensively.
Pine Bluff would have the ball to begin the second half, but would go three and out, including having to burn a timeout.
Greenwood quickly scored again thanks in part to a 59-yard pass and catch to Austin Harris. Running back Saul Palmer capped the short drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a 37-28 lead with about 9:23 left in the third quarter.
Pine Bluff was able to tie the game in the third after a fumble on a kickoff set up a 30-yard field goal by McGehee.
“Pine Bluff is a great football team,” Greenwood coach Rick Jones said. “We made a couple mistakes early, but our guys just kind of hung in there and played great Greenwood Bulldog football.”
With the win, the Bulldogs have now won 38 straight games and three state championships. But Saturday’s win is their first in Class 6A.
Greenwood took a two-score lead by the end of the third quarter.
Greenwood racked up 528 total offensive yards and Pine Bluff had 393 yards. Coming into Saturday, Pine Bluff averaged about 387 yards of offense and held teams to an average of 232 yards.
Pine Bluff attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter and the Zebras were able to cut it to a one-score lead with about 4:28 left in the game. But with only one time out left, Greenwood ran out the clock to hold on for the win.