Pine Bluff traveling to Marion

The rigors of the 6A East are being felt by the Pine Bluff Zebras even though they’re unscathed in conference play. For the past three weeks the Zebras have had to prepare for formidable opponents, and that includes their match up this week with the Marion Patriots. The Zebras have put up solid numbers on offense, as they’ve had to outscore their opponents in the last two games against Jonesboro and Searcy.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Foots and senior athlete Jyrimee Thompson have hooked up for eight touchdowns in the last two weeks alone.

The running game has been steady, and the offensive line has continued to work to get better. However, Pine Bluff Head Coach Bobby Bolding realizes they’re coming off of two tough games, and it can be tiring.

“I don’t know, we’re pretty tired right now,” Bolding said. “We’ve had some battles in the last few weeks. I don’t know how much better you get at this time of the year. The main thing is we recognize what they do and we’re able to do our assignments.”

Heading into the Jonesboro and Searcy games, the Zebras’ defense had only given up 46 points in five games. Against Jonesboro and Searcy combined, they gave up 68 points.

Bolding referenced that he isn’t directly speaking about his defense when he says they’re tired, and he believes they’re starting to catch their second wind.

“In regards to defense, we’ve just had one quarter where we lighten up and the other team is back in it,” Bolding said. “It’s just that time of the year, and we just have to catch that second wind, and they’re about to. We just played two long football games. There was almost 200 plays in the last game, and in high school that’s a lot of snaps.”

As for the Patriots, they enter into the game with an even conference record. However, their two wins were over the two teams who are at the bottom of the conference standings: Mountain Home and Little Rock Hall. Against Searcy, Marion fell 37-20.

Last season, Marion came into Pine Bluff and played the Zebras down to the wire. It was a last-second touchdown catch by Jyrimee Thompson that ultimately propelled the Zebras to victory. Bolding knows that the Patriots return a lot of guys from that team.

The main guy that Bolding is concerned with is their quarterback Jacob Green, who didn’t play in the game last season due to an injury.

“They really hadn’t lost much, and their quarterback is very special,” Bolding said. “He was hurt last year, and we played against their backup. We have to keep Jacob Green hemmed up and not give up the big plays. Defensively, they can run. They have a lot of speed on that side of the ball.”

Slowing down Green and the passing attack will be key for the Zebras. The Patriots don’t look to pound the ball on the ground, and that’s indicative from their 637 yards rushing as a team. Through the air, Green has completed 99/174 passes for 1,383 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions.

Junior wide-out Joyrion Chase leads the team in receiving with 35 catches for 600 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide-out Taylor Brown leads the team in touchdown receptions with four. Kickoff between the Zebras and Patriots is set for 7 p.m. at Marion.

Wildcats hosting Magnolia

There are only two undefeated teams in 5A South conference play, one being the Watson Chapel Wildcats. Watson Chapel Head Coach Jared Dutton is aware that they’re in the exact same spot as they were last year record-wise seven games in.

Tonight, the Wildcats will try to protect their unbeaten conference record and home field when the Magnolia Panthers come rolling in.

“We’re in the same spot that we were a year ago,” Dutton said. “Both of our goals are still attainable, and it starts with a conference championship. To win the conference championship and get the number one seed you have to bring it every week. We had a tough challenge against White Hall, but our defense has been big for us. White Hall had been scoring 40-50 points a game, and we held them to 20. Our defense is doing a really good job, especially up front.”

That Wildcat defense that Dutton speaks highly of will be put to the test this week by the Panthers’ high-powered ground attack. Magnolia, lead by Head Coach Jon Panter, likes to run their offense primarily out of the option, and they have the personnel to do it. The leader in the backfield is without a doubt their AllState full back Kadyn Roach.

Roach is a high major Division I athlete, as he’s receiving interest from the likes of Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Ohio State. Dutton is assured that what Magnolia puts out on the field can’t be defined by their record.

“They’re a much better team than their record shows,” Dutton said. “Against White Hall, it was a one-score game late, and against Lakeside it was the same way. They got some confidence against Hot Springs last week, and they’re going to come in excited. They beat us down there last year, so their confidence will be sky high. They run an option attack, and we’ll have to play hard defensively. Their full back is really tough to bring down, and they have speed on the edges. Our kids know what’s at stake: Keeping our perfect conference record and staying on path for that number one seed.”

On offense, the Wildcats were dealing with injuries in key positions, mainly sophomore quarterback Devin Curry. According to Dutton, Curry is full-go, and the offense is growing each week.

“Everybody’s good to go,” Dutton said. “Curry has been healthy, and he continues to do things better each week. He’s understanding the offense and the details of the game. He’s only a sophomore, and he’s doing a good job of grasping things. He did have a fumble last week, but he learned from it. Our offense is not as explosive as last year’s, but at times we can be. We just have to find how we can gain the advantage and continue to not turn the ball over. Our defense is playing so well that we don’t want to put them in bad situations. Omar (Allen) has been running the ball well, and I expect him to have a pretty big game this week.”

Allen is one of the many good running backs in the 5A-South conference, even though he may not receive as much praise as the others. Dutton believes that as the season goes on, when other guys are wearing down, Allen will only get stronger.

“He always wants the ball, and in our type of offense we try to spread it around … we have multiple people who can carry the load,” Dutton said. “This week we’ve had a winnable week of practice, and I expect him to have a really good game. He’ll only get stronger as the year goes on. He doesn’t slow down, and I can really see him having a good week this week.”

Kickoff at Wildcat Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

White Hall traveling to Spa City

The White Hall Bulldogs have hit a rough spot in the past few weeks as they’ve dropped three games in a row.

Fortunately, the Bulldogs still control their own destiny as far as playing in the post-season. The postseason quest will begin tonight as they travel to take on the Hot Springs Trojans. In the last three weeks, White Hall has gone from the top team in the 5A South to now sitting in a three way tie for fifth place in the standings.

The three-week stretch that included losses to Camden, Lakeside and Watson Chapel was the toughest they’ll face all regular season. Down the stretch, they finish with fifth-place Hot Springs, sixth-place Hope and DeQueen, who is in second.

For now, the Bulldogs can only focus on one game at a time. Hot Springs has only won one game this season over the win-less Hope Bobcats. Last week, they fell at Magnolia 49-21, and the week prior to that they dropped a home game against DeQueen 28-8 White Hall will look to give Hot Springs their third consecutive loss.

The Bulldogs and Trojans are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Dollarway at home vs. Star City

Although the Dollarway Cardinals haven’t gotten over the hump to pull out a win this season, there are still three games left to be played.

Tonight, the Cardinals will welcome in the Star City Bulldogs, who have been a longtime conference foe. Just like any team at this point of the season, the Cardinals are dealing with a few injuries.

One of the key pieces to the Dollarway team, junior athlete Kavareous Lowe, is still out with a high ankle sprain. Other than working to get guys healed up, according to Dollarway Head Coach Lee Hardman, they’ve had good practices and are still fighting for that first win.

“Practice has gone pretty good, even though we have quite a few kids banged up,” Hardman said. “Several starters that will be out and that’s never good. We have our young guys pitching in, and they’re working trying to get ready. Overall, we’ll be up, and we’ll be ready to play. We know that we have to control the offensive and defensive lines to a certain extent to have a chance to win the game. That’s something that we will have to do.”

Controlling the line of the Bulldogs will be a tall task. Up front on offense and defense, the Bulldogs are led by their All-Conference lineman Jax Gasaway.

Gasaway holds numerous Division I offers from the likes of Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech, and he’s even garnered interest from the University of Arkansas. Hardman referenced that although they may be stout up front, their quarterback Sam Reed is the one who makes things happen.

“They have the Gasaway kid and a couple other big lineman,” Hardman said. “The quarterback is the one that make the offense go. They have a pretty good scheme, and we have to be ready for all of it. We have to be more physical and mentally ready to play.”

The Bulldogs only have one conference win, but all of the games except the outing against Warren have been close. Dollarway on the other hand never foresaw themselves being win-less this late in the season, but they’re not giving up.

“I don’t think the kids are going to quit,” Hardman said. “I know its tough on them because we were expecting a better season than this. Their attitudes have been good, but at the same time I know it’s hard for the players to be in this situation.”

One positive is that the Cardinals will get another chance to play at their newly-refurbished home stadium. Hardman expressed what it means to be able to play in front of their fans again after not playing a game at Cardinal Stadium since 2015 prior to this season.

“It’s been a while since we played at home, other than our game a couple weeks ago,” Hardman said. “This is an opportunity for the players to let the fans come out, support them, and watch them play. I’m hoping it aids to our opportunity of having a chance to win.”

Kickoff between the Cardinals and the Bulldogs is set for 7 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium.