Zebras take conference lead after beating Wildcats


Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding was in the fieldhouse after the Zebras’ 21-6 win over three-time 6A defending champion El Dorado on Friday at Jordan Stadium.

After his end-of-the game speech, Bolding went to get some of the team’s Gatorade, which was purple — El Dorado’s school color.

But the color of the Gatorade was not symbolil; Bolding just likes the taste of grape Gatorade the best.

Pine Bluff (7-1, 5-0 7A/6A-South) and El Dorado (5-3, 4-1) were the only two undefeated teams in the conference coming into Friday’s matchup.

With the win, Pine Bluff has a one-game lead over El Dorado and Bryant, which the Zebras also beat, with two conference games to go.

But Bolding downplayed the fact that the win put the Zebras in the driver’s seat for a conference title and a first-round playoff bye.

“It’s just one win, it’s all it is and next week’s game is bigger than this game,” he said. “That’s how we are going to approach it. … We are going to approach the next game the same as we did this game and we are going to try and get better every week.”

Pine Bluff’s game next week is at Sheridan (3-5, 2-3) and the Zebras finish the season at home against Benton (3-5, 2-3).

El Dorado’s last game of the season is at home against Bryant, which faces Lake Hamilton next week in another key conference game.

Pine Bluff defensive end Cameron Jackson said the team was ready for the three-time defending champion.

“We practiced hard this week and the results showed,” he said.

While the win over El Dorado is big in terms of conference standings, the last time the Zebras beat the Wildcats was in 2009 during the regular season. El Dorado won the first of its three consecutive state titles that same year by beating Pine Bluff in the championship game.

Bolding is going to make sure this game doesn’t go to his team’s head.

“This win has to be kept in perspective,” Bolding said. “Our kids are going to hear how great they are and Sunday when they go to film and show them all the mistakes they made. We are going to show them how to fix them.”

El Dorado never led in the game and had trouble sustaining drives for much of the game.

“They are a good team and we have to execute better,” El Dorado coach Scott Reed said. “We missed some things and it’s frustrating, but they are really good.”

Pine Bluff held the Wildcats to 233 yards of total offense.

“Our defense has been together for a long time and it’s basically the same guys as last year and we have great chemistry,” Jackson said.

Pine Bluff struck first in the game on its second drive. The Zebras started at their 38-yard line and the first play was a screen pass to fullback Kelvin Sergeant, who went 44 yards down the sideline.

Running back Walter Ashley was stopped for a loss of four yards on the next play and Rickey Clements tried to hit Devonta Jenkins with a pass in the end zone, but Jenkins dropped it.

On the next play, however, Clements hit Jenkins at the 12-yard line and he worked his way past a couple of El Dorado defenders for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 3:21 remaining in the first quarter.

It did not take El Dorado long to respond as Marque Burris capped a five-play, 49-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown.

Pine Bluff kept the lead, though, as the Zebras blocked the extra point to make it 7-6 with 1:58 left in the opening quarter.

Both teams were unable to score on each of their next two possessions before Pine Bluff got on the board again.

Pine Bluff started its drive on the 39-yard line with 4:56 left in the first half and Clements hit Jenkins for a 43-yard pass to put it at the El Dorado 18-yard line. Clements’ next pass was incomplete before he hit Tyrone Payne on a fade route for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead with 4:39 remaining before the half.

Clements finished the game 10-of-21 passing for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

“I thought he really came out in the start of the second half and threw the ball well,” Bolding said.

Pine Bluff opened the second half with the ball and had it at the El Dorado 39-yard line and it was fourth-and-9. Punter Austin McGehee went back for the kick, but faked a handoff to Devarious Rice, who came behind McGehee after the snap, and took off toward the left sideline and ended up getting enough yards for the first down.

Six plays later, Sergeant scored from 3 yards out to put Pine Bluff up 21-6.

“Our coaches did a really good job at halftime making adjustments and get that score and we were able to hang on with our defense,” Bolding said. “It enabled us to do some different things defensively and mix up our coverages and bring someone periodically.”

El Dorado was able to drive to Pine Bluff’s 30-yard line on the next possession, but the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs as Jackson sacked El Dorado quarterback Lucas Reed on fourth-and-5.

That was the last time El Dorado was able to move the ball into Pine Bluff territory.

A week after passing for 350 yards, Reed finished the game 18 of 32 for 146 yards and his receivers dropped a fair share of passes.

Pine Bluff defensive back Deandre Gridley said the secondary played a good part in that.

“I think we had a pretty good impact,” said Gridley, who had an interception on El Dorado’s last drive. “We were all in place in the right coverage. … Big win and we are not trying to look to far ahead now.”

Ashley finished the game with 72 yards rushing and Clements had 67 yards on the ground. Ashley added 31 yards receiving as Pine Bluff had 323 yards of total offense.