The Pine Bluff Zebras opened the 6A state playoffs with a win over a Little Rock Hall program they had played just one year prior.
In this week’s second round game, No. 2 seed Pine Bluff will host No. 6 seed Siloam Springs — a school it has never played before — at 7 p.m. Friday at Jordan Stadium.
“I don’t think Pine Bluff has ever played Siloam Springs,” Zebra head coach Bobby Bolding said. “They’ve been in Class 5A for a long time.
“They were in it until just a couple of years ago.”
Bolding doesn’t think the unfamiliarity will be an issue.
“It’s no different playing anyone else,” he said. “Everyone’s unfamiliar until you get a film.”
So what should Pine Bluff fans expect to see out of Siloam Springs?
“They’re very big, physical, disciplined, well-coached and go where they are supposed to,” Bolding said of the Panthers. “They are big everywhere.
“O-line, D-line, linebacker, tight end (and) fullback.”
Bolding said his team wouldn’t back down from running the ball inside.
“We’ve got some designed plays to get people outside,” he said. “But we’re not going to shy away from running right at them either.”
Last week, Siloam Springs upset No. 3 seed Searcy 26-21 after stopping the Lions on a fourth-and-goal play late in the game.
The Panthers gained some revenge after being edged by the Lions, 49-48, in the previous year’s first round. In that game, Siloam Springs trailed 28-0 at halftime before clawing its way back into the game.
Last Friday’s win over Searcy was just the third of the season — but second in a row — for Siloam Springs, which finished the regular season at 2-7-1 with a 1-6 mark in the rugged 7A/6A-West Conference.
The Panthers are the only 6A team in the conference meaning they’ve been outmanned virtually every week. Their only conference win came in Week 10 against Van Buren (49-40).
“They’ve been going against size,” Bolding said. “They’ve been going up against bigger bodies, which helps them in that sense.
“They’ve also playing against schools that have so many numbers, kids are playing just one way.
“I think it’s helped them. I mean, we played three 7A schools — Bryant, North Little Rock and Fort Smith Northside — and I think it definitely helped us playing those people.”
With a semifinal date against Greenwood likely awaiting the winner, Bolding said he isn’t worried about the Zebras (7-3-1, 5-2 in 7A/6A-South) looking ahead.
“I think they learned a lesson about looking ahead after the Benton game,” he said.
In fact, Bolding said Wednesday that this has been “probably the best week of practice we’ve had all year.”
“I liked everything about it,” Bolding said of the practices. “They’ve put three good days together.
“They’ve been focused, executing right, been physical and paying attention to coaching.”