Quick, crisp and clean.
That’s the kind of game the Pine Bluff coaches were hoping for on Friday night and the Zebras didn’t disappoint.
Touchdown runs by four different players and two Ladarius Skelton-to-Will Gragg touchdowns were plenty for Pine Bluff as it won its 6A first-round playoff game 48-0 over Little Rock Hall at Jordan Stadium.
“I thought they played really well,” Zebras head coach Bobby Bolding said of his starters. “We’re getting closer to a clean game.
“That’s what were trying to do and we got close to it, especially in the first half.”
That first half saw Pine Bluff (7-3-1) grab an insurmountable 35-0 lead to initiate the Arkansas Activities Association sportsmanship rule.
Any hopes Hall (0-10) had of pulling the monumental upset seemingly slipped away as soon as the Warriors fumbled the snap on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Pine Bluff recovered the botched snap and two plays later a short screen pass to Gragg turned into a 14-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 28 seconds into the game.
The junior tight end caught his second TD pass — this one from 10 yards out — early in the second quarter to extend Pine Bluff’s lead to 28-0.
The Zebras came out throwing the ball all over the field with Skelton. The sophomore quarterback finished just 8-of-16 for 118 yards but did connect on six of his first 10 passes.
The first rushing play for Pine Bluff resulted in an 8-yard touchdown by sophomore David Beasley. Senior kicker Austin McGehee tacked on the extra point to give the Zebras a 14-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
“We were going to throw it the first 10 plays,” Bolding said. “We got down there and had to change our play to a run but we scored on it.
“So we just ran (the passing play) the next time out.”
The Pine Bluff defense pitched a shutout without arguably its best defensive player.
According to Bolding, senior linebacker Brandon Lee was held out with a thigh bruise. Lee led the team in tackles last year despite coming off the bench. And this season has put together a remarkable senior season having accumulated 109 tackles in 10 games.
“We need him back full-speed,” Bolding said of Lee. “Hopefully, he’ll be back Monday to full-speed.”
One of the benefits of building a sizable lead is giving some second- and third-string players game experience. Pine Bluff took full-advantage of that on Friday night and Bolding liked what he saw.
“It’s very important,” Bolding said of getting to play his backups. “Being able to give them a little enthusiasm and a little confidence heading into next year. …
“I saw some good things from the young guys. I mean, we won the second half 7-0. No, wait excuse me, 13-0. So that’s pretty good.”
The second half saw Pine Bluff run the ball effectively on every one of its plays punctuated by a 76-yard touchdown run by sophomore Kalumm Moore.
Eleven different Zebras ran the ball Friday night totalling 283 yards led by Moore’s 72. Sophomore Romar Reades added 56 yards and a second-quarter touchdown run, while junior Kentorious White rushed for 43 yards and a first-quarter touchdown.
Next week Pine Bluff will have what will likely be its final home game of the season against Siloam Springs.
The No. 6 seed Siloam Springs went on the road Friday night and knocked off No. 3 seed Searcy 26-21 to earn a date with Pine Bluff.