Last week against Lake Hamilton, Pine Bluff junior wide receiver Tyran Simmons had two touchdown catches in his first varsity game.
The two touchdowns were the longest passing plays of the game for Pine Bluff at 39 and 80 yards. Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding hopes Simmons’ big-play ability will help stretch the field for the Zebras.
“He’s shown he can do that,” Bolding said. “He’s getting more reps this week, but we’ve got to be able to throw it to him.
“We’ll see how it goes, but he is definitely a deep threat.”
After last week’s 33-25 loss to Lake Hamilton, which snapped a nine-game winning streak in 7A/6A-South play, Pine Bluff will look to bounce back against Little Rock Fair at 7 tonight at Jordan Stadium.
According to Bolding, one of the Zebras’ (3-2-1, 2-1) main focuses in practice this week was improving the overall play of its receiving corps.
“We’ve got to be able to block on the perimeter,” Bolding said. “That’s the biggest thing we need.
“We need (the receivers) to be able to block out in space, or it might also be a pulling guard or something.
“Either way we’re not doing it very well, which means we’re not coaching it very well.”
While Bolding is looking for his receivers to become “more complete players,” he understands the group is incredibly young.
“This could be the best core of receivers I’ve had,” Bolding said. “In my career, I’ve had a lot of talented receivers.
“I mean, I’ve had receivers in the national record books for receiving yards in a game, catches in a game, but as a group they could be the best I’ve ever had.”
The scariest thing for Pine Bluff opponents is that all of the Zebras’ receivers will be back next year.
“They’re all leaning and maturing together,” Bolding said. “How far they’ll go we don’t know, but the talent and ability is all there.”
If there were ever a time for the Pine Bluff passing attack to have a breakout game, it would be tonight.
Fair (1-5, 0-3) is by far the weakest of Pine Bluff’s opponents to date. The War Eagles, currently ranked No. 15 out of 16 teams in 6A by Hootens.com, have only scored 17 points total in their three conference games.
Last week, Fair was crushed 49-0 by Bryant, which lost to Pine Bluff 9-3 the week before. Fair’s Week 1 win over North Pulaski was the War Eagles’ first win since 2010 when Benton forfeited its entire season. The 20-0 triumph ended a 22-game losing streak (26 games not counting the forfeit).
Even still, Bolding stressed his defense needs to make Fair’s mobile quarterback JaQuan Smith a pocket-passer to be successful.
“He can move around back there if you let him,” Bolding said of Smith. “He’s definitely got escapability. …
“We need to keep him in the pocket (and) make him a throw it in the pocket.”
Bolding said that if given the chance, Smith will tuck it and run, but that he’s also shown the ability to throw on the move, too.
According to Bolding, 12 of Pine Bluff’s 22 offensive and defensive starters didn’t play high school football last year, so the Zebras’ 41-0 win over the War Eagles last season shouldn’t have much carry over to Friday night’s contest.
The casual fan will look at tonight’s game as a chance for Pine Bluff to blow up its half of the scoreboard and keep Fair’s half stuck on 0. However, games against teams deemed to be inferior can often lead to sloppiness, which tends to come out in areas like special teams.
When it comes to the kicking game, the Zebras can’t get much sloppier than they were last week.
“There was a 16-point swing because of special teams that got us beat,” Bolding said of last week’s game at Lake Hamilton.
Not too surprisingly, special teams was a point of emphasis in practice this week for Pine Bluff.
Last Friday, Bolding said, ”We’ve got the wrong people out there” and he was going to “fix that on Monday.”
On Friday, he’s hoping the changes pay off.
“We put some old guys in there,” Bolding said. “We tweaked some schemes a little bit, too.”