Last season, Pine Bluff won its 7A/6A-South opener at Texarkana, 23-17, on its way to an undefeated conference record.
The Zebras (1-1-1) hope history repeats itself beginning with their home game against the Razorbacks (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Jordan Stadium.
Friday’s game will be Pine Bluff’s fourth consecutive contest in Jefferson County to start the season; however, the Zebras are still searching for their first home win. Pine Bluff tied Fort Smith Northside 31-31 in the season opener, beat Watson Chapel 24-15 in the team’s lone road game thus far, and followed that up with a 35-14 home loss to North Little Rock last Friday.
After this Friday’s game, the Zebras will hit the road and travel outside the county the next two weeks when they take on Bryant (Oct. 4) and Lake Hamilton (Oct. 11).
When it takes the field at Jordan Stadium Friday night, Texarkana will be playing its first game since Sept. 13. The Razorbacks’ scheduled game against Bossier City (La.) Parkway was rained out last Friday.
Texarkana has split its first two games of the season, losing 16-0 week one to Texas High and beating 5A-West Greenbrier 33-21 in week two.
Last season, Texarkana finished the season with a 2-9 record, including a 1-6 mark in conference play. The Razorbacks lost in the first round of the 6A state playoffs to Jonesboro 52-20. Including the Jonesboro game, Texarkana gave up 41 or more points six times last season.
“They’re much improved defensively from last year,” Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding said of Texarkana. “They have a strong running game and one receiver that is really fast.
“We spent last week going against (North Little Rock’s Juan) Day, so hopefully the guys understand the angles they need to take.”
With the offense Bolding said Texarkana possesses, Pine Bluff’s ability to tackle will be key come Friday night.
“It all comes down to how we tackle,” Bolding said. “We get several guys to the ball, which is good, but we need the first guy to be able to wrap up and the rest of the guys to come try and knock his head off.
“It’s not a scheme issue; if our guys weren’t getting there, then we’d make adjustments. The problem is just that we’re not wrapping up.”
After finishing the nonconference portion of their schedule at 1-1-1, Bolding said the Zebras will be making a change on offense.
“We’re going to change up our mentality a little bit on offense,” Bolding said. “Not in our play-calling, but being more physical on that side of the ball.”
The coach said he and his assistants “challenged our offensive line this week.”
How did they respond?
“You could tell a difference, big time,” Bolding said. “I told them that as an offensive lineman, ‘You’ve got to absolutely want to own the person you’re blocking. You have to have the mentality to make them want to quit.’”
Three games into a season that has featured several young and inexperienced players starting at the varsity level, including 10 sophomores, Bolding has seen several positive things out of his guys.
“I’m pleased with our effort,” the coach said. “I’ve been very impressed with that.
“I also like how they’re taking to the coaching.”
Of course, there is still work to be done.
“We just need to focus on fixing the mistakes we’re making,” Bolding said. “We’ve simplified everything about as much as we can.
“Now, we just have to go out and execute, because there is only so much simplifying you can do.”