Friday night will mark the first time Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding has coached at Bryant Stadium on a Friday night.
Pine Bluff (2-1-1, 1-0 7A/6A-South) will take on Bryant (2-2, 1-0) in its first conference road game of the year — and first road trip of the season outside of Jefferson County.
The Zebras and Hornets used to scrimmage each other prior to the regular season. That was until the Hornets joined the 7A/6A-South Conference last season. According to Bolding, Bryant will rejoin the 7A/6A-Central Conference following this season.
Bryant won its conference opener last Friday against rival Benton 42-28 in the Salt Bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The win was the Hornets’ eighth consecutive in the series. Despite the 14-point final spread, Bryant seemingly put the game away early with a 21-0 lead just 7 minutes into the game.
“Offensively, we expect to see multiple formations with lots of shifts and motions,” Bolding said. “They also run a lot of crossing routes.”
Bolding expects the Hornets to have a pretty balanced offense in regards to number of passing plays versus running plays.
“In practice we’ve been trying to get them prepared to handle the harder stuff,” Bolding said. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to adjust and rally to the easier stuff.”
With the array of formations they’re likely to see, Bolding hopes his Zebras are able to practice what has been preached this week.
“Our alignments are the thing we have been focusing on,” Bolding said. “We’ve focused on how we line up defensively against the different formations we might see.
“We’ve been caught a couple times already this season, but the mistakes are getting fewer and fewer between.”
The Bryant defense is somewhat of a mystery to Bolding and his staff.
“Defensively, we don’t really know what to expect,” Bolding said. “They’ve run mostly odd front this year, but they’ve run some four front.
“Last year, they ran four front against us.”
Last week, Pine Bluff defeated Texarkana 28-13 for its first home win of the season in three tries. In the game Pine Bluff pounded out 207 yards on the ground, including touchdown runs by sophomore Romar Reades and senior Trevor Hunt.
Sophomore quarterback Ladarius Skelton only accounted for 34 of the Zebras’ 207 rushing yards but threw for 121 yards and tossed two touchdown passes to junior wide receiver Tyler Bell against the Razorbacks. More importantly, though, Skelton orchestrated a turnover-free offense — the first such game for Pine Bluff this season.
Despite starting a sophomore QB and nine other 10th-graders, Bolding isn’t concerned with how Pine Bluff will handle the pressure of its first conference road game.
“Our guys are accustomed to playing in front of big crowds,” Bolding said. “That won’t shake them up.
“Once they get out between the lines, you can’t tell how many people are there. It doesn’t matter if there are 100,000 or 100 people there.
“The only issue could be sound when it comes to calling plays and communicating on defense.”
Overall, Bolding expects Pine Bluff to have to really earn its second conference win of the year against a team it defeated last year 24-21 at home.
“They play how well-coached football teams play,” Bolding said. “They do things the right way.
“We are going to have to go out there and win the game and not expect them to lose the game for us.”