Last week, Pine Bluff senior kicker Austin McGehee broke a 34-34 tie with a field goal as time expired, but his kick wasn’t even the most pressure-packed one in his class.
On the top half of the 6A bracket, El Dorado kicker Trent Harter connected on a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Wildcats a 23-21 win over Jonesboro.
McGehee’s field goal may have been 14 yards longer, but the fact that a miss by Harter ends El Dorado’s season means the junior gets a slight nod for clutch kick of the week.
Both kickers, though, will have the opportunity to top last week’s performance when their teams meet in the 6A state championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
McGehee and Harter were the obvious heroes for their respective teams, but a lot of players made big plays in the semifinal games to help Pine Bluff and El Dorado pull out the narrow wins.
The Zebras’ defense, which had struggled all season to come up with interceptions, came up with a pick-six in each half of the three-point win over the Bulldogs.
Junior defensive back Greg Harvey intercepted Greenwood’s Jabe Burgess and took it 90 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead with 4:30 left in the first quarter. On the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half, Zebra linebacker Romar Reades picked off Burgess. The sophomore ran it back 30 yards for the score and a 19-17 lead.
“That was big, both of them were big,” said Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding following Friday night’s game. “We wanted to put their QB under duress. …
“And Greg, he can fly now.
“That second one we got our hands up, which is something we’d been stressing all week to make them throw around, and we got the tip. It just fell to Romar and he took it in.”
For El Dorado, after blowing a 17-0 lead, it took a huge defensive stop and an impressive drive to set up the winning score.
“I think we got the ball back on the 25,” said El Dorado head coach Scott Reed about the winning drive. “Our offense made a good drive, our defense first of all got a stop and made them punt, which was huge.
“And then we got it to the 12 and kicked a field goal with 3 seconds left. …
“The last drive our kids were calm and looked like signs of having a pretty good group. Because our defense knew when we had to make a stop and they got us the ball back, and our offense just found a way to get it down there.”
As exciting as last week’s games were, both coaches know their players need to be completely focused on their upcoming game.
“That game is done and gone,” Bolding said about Friday night’s win. “We talked about that immediately in the locker room.
“I said, ‘Look guys, you enjoy this on the bus,’ and they did for about 15 minutes, then they all conked to sleep and went to sleep, ‘and then you need to start focusing on El Dorado.’”
At least one player has already taken that message to heart.
“To beat a team that people don’t think can be beaten, it means a lot,” said Pine Bluff senior Stephen Watson of last week’s game, “especially to me, because that’s who we lost to last year in the championship.
“So it meant a lot, it was very emotional, but right now we’re just focusing on El Dorado.
“And Greenwood, that’s in the past now, so you got to move forward. You can’t dwell on the past, because it will come back to haunt you.”