Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding was as surprised as anyone by the result of Friday night’s 6A quarterfinal at Jordan Stadium.
Pine Bluff dominated Siloam Springs on both sides of the ball to the tune of a 35-7 win that was shortened due to the Arkansas Athletics Association sportsmanship rule.
“I never saw that coming,” Bolding said. “I mean, I knew we had a great week of practice and I saw that our guys had a lot of enthusiasm in warm-ups, but I never thought we would mercy-rule them.
“Our kids just keep getting better and better. It says a lot about the job those coaches in there are doing.”
The impressive performance began on Pine Bluff’s opening drive.
The Zebras (8-3-1) marched down the field in just over 2 minutes. Sophomore quarterback Ladarius Skelton capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Kacy Higgins.
Pine Bluff extended its lead to 14-0 when sophomore David Beasley atoned for two earlier dropped passes — one on offense and one on defense — with a 57-yard TD run down the right side.
With Siloam Springs (3-8-1) set to receive the second half kickoff, Pine Bluff scored a key touchdown late in the first half to take a three-score lead into halftime. Skelton this time took it in himself from 5 yards out with 51 seconds left in the first half.
“I thought they played well,” Bolding said of his offense. “I was disappointed we had the turnover.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, but we didn’t get to utilize them in the second half.”
On the other side, the Zebras’ defense stymied the Panthers in the game’s opening 24 minutes.
Siloam Springs had the ball six times in the first half. Four of those drives ended with punts. The other two ended with a turnover on downs and an interception, respectively.
Despite having a 21-0 lead, Bolding stressed to his team at halftime that Siloam Springs has the ability to come back.
“Siloam was down 28-0 last year against Searcy,” Bolding said, “and they came back and made a game of it.
“So we stressed to them that you have to come out and put your foot on their throat.”
Beasley, apparently, took that to heart.
On Siloam Springs’ opening drive of the second half, the sophomore picked off Panthers junior QB Chris Lampton. Beasley returned the interception to the Panthers’ 2-yard line, and two plays later junior Kentorious White scored on a 4-yard run for a 28-0 lead.
After the Zebras forced yet another punt, Pine Bluff initiated the sportsmanship rule when Skelton connected with junior Will Gragg for a 3-yard score. The touchdown was Gragg’s third of the postseason.
On its ensuing possession, Siloam Springs ended the shutout when senior running back Mitchell Dolezal scored from a yard out.
“I thought they played really well,” Bolding said of his defense. “That 7 (points) they scored was against our (second-string).
“It was nice to see Brandon Lee out there. He was in on a lot of tackles.
“We dropped a couple of picks, but they’re playing with a little confidence and we’re going to need that.”
That’s an understatement.
Next week, Pine Bluff will travel to Greenwood to take on the Bulldogs in a rematch of last season’s state final, which Greenwood won, 51-44. Greenwood defeated Little Rock Parkview, 45-0, on Friday night.
The Bulldogs will enter next Friday’s semifinal clash having won 50 consecutive games. Greenwood’s last defeat came when it was a member of the 5A-West Conference. The loss was a 38-31 defeat in Week 4 of the 2010 season in its conference opener against … Siloam Springs.