For the last three years, the Pine Bluff football team has relied predominantly on the ground game.
This year, coach Bobby Bolding decided to air the ball out more with Rickey Clements as his quarterback and a group of athletic wide receivers.
The plan has paid off and the new offense was on display in the win over Benton on Thursday.
Clements passed for 185 yards by halftime with three touchdowns. Devonta Jenkins had two catches for 71 yards and two touchdown, Paris Mack hauled in a 41-yard touchdown and Tyrone Payne had five receptions for 78 yards. Devarious Rice, the fourth receiver in the group, did not have a catch.
“Coach (Ryan) Stinson has really been patient with the receivers because we really haven’t thrown the ball much the last three years, so they haven’t caught many balls,” Bolding said. “Coach Stinson has been real patient with them when I haven’t been at times and they get better each week.”
Jenkins has six touchdowns on the year, but could have four or five more if not for some drops.
Two weeks ago, Bolding made what he thinks was a key change for Jenkins to help cut down on his drops.
“I took his gloves from him and said that’s why he is dropping balls,” said Bolding with a laugh. “I don’t know if that’s helped, but he is doing a better job of concentrating and looking the ball in. Each catch, he gains more confidence.”
For the last three weeks, Bolding has mentioned how hard Mack has worked and how much he has improved. That paid off with his touchdown last week and a 51-yard reception against Sheridan two weeks ago.
Payne has not played football since he was in junior high. The senior, who is 6’2 and 180 pounds, was coaxed into playing this year and has been a major threat for the Zebras.
“Ty had a good night (Friday),” Bolding said. “He’s got a lot of room to grow still and we just have four weeks left to grow him. So we have to push him to get better.”
Pine Bluff hosts Little Rock Hall in the first week of the Class 6A playoffs at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Cards are conference champs
In its first year in the 2-4A Conference, Dollarway shared the conference title with Stuttgart. Each team had 6-1 conference records and were both 9-1 overall.
Even though it is a share of the conference title and not an outright one, Dollarway coach Cortez Lee said the team met one of its goals and is happy with at least a share of the title.
“There’s no disappointment and we realized that the situation could have been worse and it could’ve been better,” he said. “We had the opportunity to share it and we are not going to dwell on that and put it in the past. Just be thankful and move on the next goal.”
The next goal for the Cardinals was not hard to guess — they want to win the Class 4A state title.
“Most definitely the state title,” Lee said. “We are heading for that, but still taking it one game at a time.”
With a conference title at hand, Lee said the team feels good about its chances to make the title game.
“We are not going to diss anyone, but at the same time, we realize we have just as good of a shot as anyone,” he said. “We are confident and we just have to take care of business.”
Watson Chapel faces Wynne
Watson Chapel is the only team to have a lead Camden Fairview this season, but the Cardinals pulled out a 21-13 win over the Wildcats last Friday
That loss dropped Watson Chapel (6-4, 4-3 5A-South) to the fourth seed because Hot Springs Lakeside beat Hot Springs to pass the Wildcats, who lost to the Rams two weeks earlier.
Watson Chapel is on the road this Friday to take on Wynne (9-0, 7-0), which is the top seed from the East.
Bulldogs get Mustangs
White Hall (8-1, 6-1 5A-South) faces the third seed from the East on Friday, which is Forest City (6-4, 4-3).
The Mustangs earned the third seed with a 33-6 win over Blytheville, but they have lost two of their last three games.