Zebras hope simplicity leads to season-opening win


Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding hopes a simple game plan will lead his young football team to success.

The Zebras hope the simplicity will pay off when they open the season with a home game against the Fort Smith Northside Grizzlies at 7 tonight at Jordan Stadium.

“We have a pretty good package put together offensively,” Bolding said Wednesday. “Same thing defensively.

“We feel like we’ve repped it enough, but if we need to, we’ll simplify as the game goes along.”

According to Bolding, Pine Bluff started nine sophomores in its 33-14 scrimmage victory over West Memphis on Aug. 27. In the game, the Zebras ran just three different passing plays and four different running plays.

“We try to have them not think too much,” Bolding said. “We try to be vanilla, but not too vanilla.

“We just want them to be able to play and not worry about thinking.”

Last year, Pine Bluff traveled to Northside to open the season and came back with a 53-27 victory. The Zebras finished the year as 6A runner-up and 7A/6A-South champs, while the Grizzlies finished 3-7, including a 3-4 record in 7A/6A-Central games. This year’s contest will likely be much closer with Hootens.com giving the preseason No. 1-ranked Zebras just a three-point advantage over their 7A opponent.

“They’ve got two really good running backs,” Bolding said of the Grizzlies. “We expect them to try and establish the running game early.

“They also have a very heady quarterback, and they’ve got some receivers who they’ll try to get the ball to in space.”

The matchup between Northside’s receivers and Pine Bluff’s secondary could be a determining factor in the contest.

“(Northside’s) opponents in their jamboree had trouble tackling a wide receiver (Shakari Jones),” Bolding said. “We have three sophomores starting in the secondary, so I’m a little concerned with our ability to tackle him. …

“(Jones is) a big kid but he’s got some speed, too. They have a couple of guys like that, which is not unusual for them. We’ll just have to see how our young guys (in the secondary) can do.”

According to Bolding, the Zebras spent the week following the scrimmage with West Memphis working on correcting the fundamental mistakes the team made in the game.

“Mistakes are going to still come,” the coach said. “The younger they are, more often than not, the more mistakes they are going to make. …

“The best thing about having the scrimmage on (last) Tuesday is it gives us time to look at the film and see what we did wrong and work on it.”

Pine Bluff’s scrimmage performance was far from perfect, but Bolding did see one thing he really liked.

“We made a lot of mistakes in the scrimmage, but we played hard,” he said. “And I know we’ll play hard on Friday night, too.”