After going 7-0 in 7A/6A-South play last year, the Pine Bluff Zebras have two conference losses with two weeks still remaining in the regular season.
The team’s two losses could not have been more different.
According to head coach Bobby Bolding, Pine Bluff had “major breakdowns in every phase of the game” in its 33-25 loss at Lake Hamilton on Oct. 11. Two weeks later, Pine Bluff played “the best we’ve played all year” at El Dorado, but the Zebras lost 21-14.
Now sitting in a tie for fourth place in the conference at 3-2 (4-3-1 overall), Bolding and his players are focusing on the positives things they did in last Friday’s loss to the Wildcats.
“Stats don’t do it justice,” Bolding said of how well his team played. “We were flat whipping people at the line.
“(The Wildcats) did some different things in their passing game and we adjusted to that really well, too.”
Despite Pine Bluff’s dominate effort, exemplified by its 286-73 edge in rushing yards, the Zebras gave the game and a 14-0 lead away with seven turnovers, five of which were fumbles.
“We didn’t really have a whole lot to fix,” Bolding said. “We’re pressing ball security, obviously.
“It was just so unexpected because we’d lost only two fumbles all season before that game.”
Bolding stressed that so far this season his team has been able to keep from making the same mistakes from week to week.
“Hopefully it’s a good lesson for these guys,” Bolding said of last Friday’s loss. “Its reared its ugly head and hopefully we move on.
“This team has been really good about not repeating mistakes.”
Arguably, the most impressive thing Pine Bluff showed in its loss to El Dorado was resiliency.
“They did not panic at all,” Bolding said. “They just came back out and worked.
“They are resilient young men.”
Bolding believes that attitude stems from “a belief in the success we’ve had.”
“Our senior high assistant coaches coach the junior high,” Bolding said. “So, we’ve been around them since seventh grade.”
Bolding feels his team’s never-say-die philosophy shows a lot about the kind of kids they are.
“It really says something for their character,” Bolding said. “It also says a lot about the leadership of our seniors.
“We’re always telling them, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing and good things will begin to happen.’”
If his team continues to improve, Bolding thinks those good things could start happening in just a few weeks.
“I’ve said all along that this can be a really great football team come playoff time,” Bolding said. “We’re getting closer now and I really think this will be a dangerous team come playoff time.”
Bolding said he sees a lot of similarities between this year’s team and his 2009 squad that reached the state title game.
“In 2009, we were preseason No.-1 ranked,” Bolding said. “We started off 2-4 and lost a couple of games the same way we‘ve lost our two conference games.
“That team won seven in a row and made it all the way to the state championship game.
“Now I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen, but I definitely see a lot of similarities between those two teams.”