Special to The Commercial/William Harvey
Pine Bluff linebacker Raymond Bynum takes down Lake Hamilton running back Chris Eastburn on Friday night at Jordan Stadium.
Walter Ashley of Pine Bluff tries to dodge Josh Nazario on a carry.
Pine Bluff quarterback Rickey Clements springs free from a tackle against Lake Hamilton on Friday.
A week ago, Pine Bluff starting quarterback Rickey Clements was pulled at halftime in favor of fellow senior Brandon Starks, who sparked the Zebras to a 24-21 comeback win.
After the game, Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding said Clements was still his starting quarterback for Friday’s game against Lake Hamilton. Not only did Clements start, but he was one of the captains — along with Starks — and threw for three touchdowns in a 40-9 win over Lake Hamilton.
“It feels good to come out and get this win,” Clements said. “I just stayed humble and worked hard in practice and it paid off for me.”
Clements could have hung his head after Bolding pulled him last week, but Clements trusted the decision his coach made and rebounded in a big way this week.
“Coach pulled me because he needed to do what he had to do to get the win,” Clements said. “I just wanted to do whatever it took to get this win.”
Bolding was proud of how Clements bounced back this week and said his two quarterbacks were leaders all week for the team.
“Rickey had a great game and did a heck of a job,” he said. “Rickey did not get down over last week. Brandon was a real leader out there. I said from the very beginning, we have two players that we have total confidence in that position.”
For the Pine Bluff (5-1) seniors, the game was a bit of retribution for them. During their junior high careers, they lost just one game – to Lake Hamilton.
Bolding said the players were looking forward to this game all season.
“This was a game they really wanted to win,” he said. “I was very proud of them and they were very focused and had a great week of practice.”
The game was a nightmare for Lake Hamilton almost from the beginning.
The Wolves (4-2) started with the ball at their own 6-yard line to begin the game and only gained 2 yards. On fourth down, the snap went over the punter’s head and through the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Pine Bluff lead.
The Wolves’ benefitted from a running-into-the-kicker call on their next possession and alter scored on Clay Jessie’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Levi Rengstorf.
But that was really the only positive for Lake Hamilton as the extra point was blocked.
“We made about every mistake you could make,” Lake Hamilton coach Jerry Clay said. “Pine Bluff played a good game, we just didn’t play well.”
Lake Hamilton held on to that lead for the rest of the first quarter and until 6:38 left in the second when on first-and-27, Clements found Devonta Jenkins over the middle of the field for a 37-yard touchdown.
Bolding said wide receiver Devarious Rice was the one who suggested that play.
“He said they were overplaying and the post was wide open,” Bolding said. “Good read and good catch. Good play call by Rice.”
On Lake Hamilton’s ensuing possession, Rakeem Leverett intercepted Jessie’s pass on a deep throw.
Clements followed with a 16-yard run and then hit Tyrone Payne down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown.
“We thought we could go over the top so we decided to go over the top,” Bolding said. “We had guys open and we missed on some, too. We hit on that one.”
Pine Bluff went into halftime with a 16-6 lead and opened the second half with the ball. Walter Ashley had the kickoff bounce off him, but he picked it up and returned it 84 yards to the Lake Hamilton 1-yard line.
Trever Hunt punched in the 1-yard touchdown for the 23-6 lead.
Clements, who finished with 111 yards passing, got his third touchdown with 6:47 left in the third quarter. He hit Jenkins at the 10-yard line and he took it in to complete a 22-yard score.
Clements also finished with a team-high 71 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Austin McGehee hit a 34-yarder with 7:47 left in the fourth for a 33-6 lead and Lamarcus Taggart picked off Nathan Sawrie’s deep ball and returned it 82 yards for Pine Bluff’s final score.
Taggart was not even supposed to be on the field for that play, either.
“We were trying to sub him right there,” said Bolding with a laugh. “They had the snap and we pulled (Roderick) O’Bryant back and Taggart catches it and takes it to the house. I am very happy for him for a senior to do that on homecoming.”
Lake Hamilton did add a 21-yard field goal with 9 seconds left to make it 40-9, but the Wolves were held to 224 total yards with 76 coming on their final drive.
Jessie finished the game 4-of-16 passing with two interceptions and did not complete a pass in the second half.
“Our defense played great and I was very proud of them,” Bolding said. “They were very disciplined with their eyes. Linebackers and defensive line were physical and the coaches did a great job of preparing them.”