It is almost like déjà vu for the Pine Bluff football team this week.
A week after beating Little Rock Hall, the Zebras’ second-round opponent is Benton, a team they beat 43-6 in the last week of the regular season, which was just two weeks ago.
Pine Bluff (10-1) coach Bobby Bolding said it is good and bad when a team faces a common opponent, but since it was just two weeks ago, it is more good than bad.
“I am glad it was two weeks ago,” he said. “I don’t know how much either team can change in a two-week period.”
The one thing that might have changed for Benton (4-7) is how much confidence it has. The Panthers were coming into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, but scored a season-high 53 points in a 53-34 win over Russellville in the first round.
“Confidence can change and they probably have a lot after Russellville,” Bolding said. “They have a chance to see what didn’t work against us now and we have the same advantage.”
While Pine Bluff blew Benton out in the last week of the regular season and the Panthers have not had too much time to adjust, Bolding is still not expecting the game to the same as the first time around.
“We scored on two special teams plays in the first half and hit on a couple of long balls that made it look kind of bad,” he said. “They are a good football team.”
The key to stopping Benton is containing running back Wallace Foote, who was held to just 56 yards and a touchdown in the first game. He did pass for 49 yards and caught two passes for 24 yards.
Last week, Foote ran for 463 yards and six touchdowns, caught three passes for 58 yards and had a 44-yard pass in the win over Russellville.
The Zebras did a good job of containing Foote, but Bolding said Foote is still dangerous and his defense will have its eye on him the whole game.
“I expect him to have 40 touches this week and as it started to get out of hand last time, they probably protected him,” he said. “They aren’t going to protect him this week.”
All the eyes may be on Foote, but Pine Bluff has plenty of players to keep an eye on. In the game two weeks ago, Rickey Clements passed for 187 yards and three touchdowns by halftime and only had two incomplete passes.
“We would like to throw the ball deep some and that’s what we do,” Bolding said. “Throw the ball deep on some play action and run the football.”
Tyrone Payne caught five on those passes for 78 yards and Devonta Jenkins had two receptions for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
Bolding hopes the ground game is better this time around, though. Walter Ashley only had 33 yards. Trever Hunt gained 51 and Clements had 32 yards rushing.
Bolding did admit that they held Ashley back a bit with the game out of hand, but he would like to see his team pile up some yardage on the ground.
“Have to have the run game improve and it’s something we haven’t been good at lately,” he said. “We want to see that improve. … I love to run the football.”
If Pine Bluff wins, it is in the semifinals against the winner of Jonesboro and Lake Hamilton. Bolding is not worrying about the semifinals, though.
“To be honest with you, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about winning,” he said. “Maybe I take a weird approach, but we don’t judge our team by the scoreboard. If we go out and do the things we need to, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”