Starting Zebras nearly perfect


Following a week when Pine Bluff had major breakdowns in every phase of the game, the Zebras’ first-string units played a nearly flawless 20 minutes or so on Friday night.

The first-string probably would have been nearly flawless for 48 minutes, but it only took 19 minutes, 10 seconds for Pine Bluff to build a 35-0 lead against Little Rock Fair in the Zebras’ homecoming game at Jordan Stadium.

Even before they took the 35-0 lead, Pine Bluff had started using second-string players, but after that score even the second-string punter saw action for the Zebras.

Not until the Arkansas Activities Association sportsmanship rule had been in effect for a quarter and half did Fair put points on the board.

Playing against the Zebras’ third-string defense, War Eagles receiver-turned-quarterback Dangelo Veasly scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to end the shutout. Veasly’s two-point conversion pass to Micheal Gay set the final spread at 35-8.

“I thought as an offense we played a lot better, and our first-string defense absolutely stoned them,” Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding said. “We played well on special teams, although, it did get sloppier in the second half.

“But overall we improved on what we needed to do.”

Even though Fair (1-6, 0-4 in 7A/6A-South) was the weakest opponent Pine Bluff (4-2-1, 3-1) has faced this season, Bolding said the team’s approach didn’t differ.

“We’re just trying to get better,” he said. “We approach it that way always.”

Asked about how he thought his second- and third-string players did, Bolding said, “Some of the twos did pretty well.

“When the threes got in there, you expect it to get a little sloppy, but it was good experience for them.

“They got to see what it feels like to play in a high school game with our band jamming and a big crowd on homecoming.”

Thanks to the work of its special teams unit, Pine Bluff’s first-string offense had a 7-0 lead before they ever took the field.

A short, angled kickoff by Zebra senior kicker Austin McGehee forced the War Eagles to start the game from its own 4-yard line.

After the Pine Bluff defense forced a three-and-out, the Zebras’ special teams unit struck again.

Pine Bluff‘s cornerback Braylen Jones fielded the Fair punt at the War Eagles’ 40-yard line and promptly pitched the ball to David Beasley. The wide receiver took the reverse and raced basically untouched into the end zone. McGehee’s first of five extra points gave Pine Bluff a 7-0 lead just 2:19 into the game.

While Pine Bluff defense was completely shutting down Fair, the Zebras’ offense was piling up the points.

Pine Bluff’s offense finished off its first four possessions with rushing touchdowns by four different players.

Sophomore quarterback Ladarius Skelton scored the first one on a 34-yard touchdown run. Junior running back Kentorious White’s 13-yarder had Pine Bluff up 21-0 after the first quarter.

A 1-yard TD run by senior Trevor Hunt and a 5-yard TD run by sophomore Romar Reades was more than enough for a Pine Bluff defense that held Fair to just two first downs in the first half.

Pine Bluff’s win — combined with El Dorado’s 44-34 win over Lake Hamilton, Benton’s 38-21 win over Texarkana and Bryant’s 49-0 win over Sheridan — means there is a five-way tie for first place in the 7A/6A-South Conference with Pine Bluff, El Dorado, Lake Hamilton, Benton and Bryant all at 3-1.