In an overly simplified world, Pine Bluff’s playoff seed will be in the hands of Bryant on Friday night.
If Bryant beats El Dorado, then Pine Bluff will earn a No. 2 seed in the 6A playoffs. If El Dorado beats Bryant, then Pine Bluff will earn a No. 3 seed.
But before they get caught up in all that jazz, the Zebras need to take care of their own business Thursday night.
Pine Bluff (4-2, 5-3-1 7A/6A-South) will travel to Benton (3-3, 5-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Panther Stadium in both teams’ final regular season game.
The Zebras and Panthers come into the game ranked No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in this week’s Class 6A poll on Hootens.com.
However, the two teams are coming off very different weeks.
While Pine Bluff rolled to a 48-0 win over Sheridan, Benton was smoked 35-0 by El Dorado.
Benton senior quarterback Tarek Beaugard came into the El Dorado game with over 2,500 yards of total offense and 28 touchdowns on the season. Last year, Beaugard totaled nearly 1,500 yards and 15 TDs in just eight games.
He has already led Benton to five wins this season — a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since 2006.
Even though the Wildcats slowed down Beaugard last week, Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding knows the senior could explode for a big game Thursday night.
“They run a spread option, then they turn to play-action off of it,” Bolding said of the Panthers’ offense. “In some ways there offense is similar to ours, but they have a more experienced QB.
“He’s got legs and he can throw.
“He’s probably one of the top quarterbacks in 6A-7A football.”
Bolding said the key to slowing down Benton’s offense is to get the ball out of Beaugard’s hands.
“We’ve got to make him throw it quickly, pitch in quickly or hand it off quickly,” Bolding said. “We just have to get it out of his hands as quickly as possible.
“He can make you miss, too. We don’t want him out in space.”
If Beaugard does keep the ball, Bolding said his defensive players will have to know their assignments if they are going to be able to slow down the player Bolding said, “may be the fastest guy on the field.”
But even if the Zebras force Beaugard to give up the ball on a given play, it doesn’t mean they are out of the woods.
“The problem is you’re wasting a couple of guys on the quarterback,” Bolding said. “So our other guys will have to step up or they’ll take advantage of it.
“They don’t make many mistakes.”
Coming off a shut out victory over a conference rival, it’s not too surprising that Bolding was pleased with his team’s performance last week against Sheridan.
“I thought we played hard,” Bolding said. “I thought we put them away early and got some young guys on the field.
“We had the mercy-rule in affect by halftime and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Bolding hopes this week’s game can help his team’s confidence grow heading into postseason play.
“For everybody, a new season starts in a week,” Bolding said. “We want to see our players clean up the things they need to clean up.
“If we can do that, it will give us some confidence heading into the playoffs.
“Because, if we can clean up our mistakes, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”