Seemingly, the only downside to the Pine Bluff football team reaching Saturday’s 6A state championship game is that the Zebra basketball team will be shorthanded when they take on Watson Chapel Tuesday night.
“They need some experience,” said Pine Bluff head coach Carl Smith. “We got enough players.
“We’ll be competitive.”
Smith admitted that Chapel being the opponent helped make the decision easier.
“Didn’t want to turn that down,” he said. “You might not get a chance to play them again.”
The Zebras will play Tuesday night’s game without five players, including two of its starters from a year ago, who are currently preparing for Saturday’s football game against El Dorado.
According to Smith, sophomores Ladarius Skelton and John Tate were starters last year and sophomore David Beasley started a few games, too. The Zebras will also add senior Jerod Willis and junior Will Gragg to the roster next week.
Tuesday night’s game will be Pine Bluff’s first of the season, and it will be the team’s only game without the five players. The Zebras’ next game isn’t until the Conway tournament scheduled for Dec. 9-14.
Watson Chapel enters the game with a 1-0 record after defeating Searcy last week.
Wildcats head coach Matt Busch said he was particularly pleased with the play of Tevin Brown and Leonard Robinson in the victory.
“One thing that stood out to me was our senior leadership at the point guard position by Tevin Brown,” Busch said. “We led the entire way and in a game where you are ahead and getting pressured it’s important to have solid point guard play. …
“I was also impressed that we had our leading scorer Leonard Robinson coming off the bench, so we’re going to start him tomorrow.”
Smith said with Tate, Willis and Gragg out his team will be hurting inside against Chapel.
“They have good guys that play inside in the post,” Smith said of Chapel. “We won’t have that kind of size.
“I think with our guard play we can play with them, but I think they have a definite advantage inside.”
Busch doesn’t think his team will have much of an advantage even against a shorthanded Pine Bluff team.
“I wouldn’t say anything changes,” he said. “In their benefit game, Pine Bluff was right in there with Jonesboro.
“They still have some pretty good players.”
And don’t expect the missing players to diminish the significance of the rivalry game.
“They beat us last year at their place,” Busch said. “So our kids are hungry for revenge.”