The Pine Bluff Zebras road to a state championship will begin the same way it did last season — with a first-round home game against the Little Rock Hall Warriors.
No. 2 seed Pine Bluff (6-3-1, 5-2 in 7A/6A-South) will he hoping history repeats itself when it takes on No. 7 seed Hall, which it beat last year 57-0, at 7 p.m. Friday night at Jordan Stadium.
Heading into the game Zebra head coach Bobby Bolding has turned his focus entirely to the Warriors (0-9, 0-7 in 7A/6A-Central).
“I don’t really remember what happened last week to be honest with you,” Bolding said when asked about how we thought his team did in last Thursday’s 59-42 win over Benton. “When the playoffs come, we don’t evaluate film anymore.
“All we’re doing is figuring out a way to get a win.”
On paper, at least, that win shouldn’t be hard to find. Hall finished as one of only two winless schools in 6A, Mountain Home of the 7A/6A-East conference was the other.
Hall, which has lost 26 games in a row and won just 11 games combined the last eight years, has two common opponents with Pine Bluff.
The Warriors lost in a shootout, 42-40, with the Sheridan Yellowjackets in Week 1. That same week Pine Bluff finished in a 31-31 tie with Fort Smith Northside. In the Zebras’ final home just two weeks ago, Pine Bluff routed Sheridan, 48-0. Ironically, that same week Hall lost to F.S. Northside, 52-20.
Those two games represent Hall’s two highest point totals this season. With the 20 points against Northside serving as the only time Hall scored more than 8 points in a conference game.
Even with the odds stacked in their favor, the Zebras are going to respect the Warriors. Or at least they will if they learned anything from last week’s game.
An overconfident Pine Bluff team went into Benton last week and needed a 17-0 scoring edge in the fourth quarter to avoid being upset by the Panthers.
“I think our kids looked at the Benton-El Dorado score instead of respecting them,” Bolding said following the game, referring to the Panthers 35-0 loss the week before.
Looking ahead, the winner of the Pine Bluff-Hall game will take on the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 6 Siloam Springs and No. 3 Searcy. If the Zebras win, they will host the second-round matchup. If Hall wins, then the Siloam Springs-Searcy winner will host the game.
Despite their low offensive output (9.78 points per game), Bolding said the Warriors have some skill-position players who can do some damage.
“Offensively, they’ve got some skill guys they try and get the ball to out on the edge,” he said. “They try and get the guys in space and into one-on-one situations.”
Bolding said his defense worked a lot this week on tackling in space. That being just one part of their overall work on preventing big plays.
“When you get to the playoffs, I think it comes down to three things,” Bolding said. “Not turning the ball over on offense. Being solid on special teams. And not giving up big plays on defense.”
If Pine Bluff is able to pick up the win come Friday night, Bolding said the focus of his coaching staff will shift completely to their next opponent.
“Once the game is over we won’t even look at that film,” Bolding said. “Normally, we evaluate it, but come Saturday morning we’ll start preparing solely for our next opponent.
“We won’t look at that film again until the spring.”