Tonight, the No. 1 seeded Pine Bluff Zebras will face off with the No. 3 seeded Searcy Lions for the second time this season. The semi-finals of the 2017 6A state playoffs are made up of the top three seeds out of the 6A East and the No. 1 seeded Greenwood Bulldogs of the 6A West. The Lions are under the direction of Head Coach Mark Kelley.
Many around the state are surprised that Searcy is here, including Hootens Arkansas Football, which picked El Dorado to knock off the Lions by 10 points in the second round. El Dorado hadn’t given up more than 28 points in a single game this year until Searcy hung 38 on them last week, ending the Wildcats’ run. On Oct. 13, Pine Bluff handed Searcy their second loss of the season by a final of 57-34.
Since then, the Lions have reeled off five straight wins, including victories over Jonesboro, Lake Hamilton and, as previously mentioned, El Dorado. Last week, Pine Bluff defeated the defending 6A state champion Russellville Cyclones 40-21. Between the stable of Kylen Williams, Braylon Moody, Kerry Hadley and Tyler Foots, the Zebras combined for 378 total rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Zebras sophomore quarterback T. Foots has passed for 1,647 yards, and he has a bevy of play makers at wide receiver led by Senior Jyrimee Thompson, who hauled in two touchdowns last week. According to Pine Bluff Head Coach Bobby Bolding, the Zebras defense has carried them throughout the season.
Tonight, they’ll have to back up their coach with a solid performance, as all signs are indicating that Searcy’s offense is heading in the right direction. The Lions are led on offense by their senior quarterback Mason Schucker. The proof is in the pudding for Schucker, as he’s passed for 3,911 yards, 46 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Schucker has the luxury of having three fellow classmates on offense who have been productive. Searcy senior running back Gabe Chapman has carried the ball 246 times for 1,397 and 14 touchdowns.
The Lions have a pair of receivers in Eli Nevills and Alonzo Tripp who have eclipsed the mark of 1,000 receiving yards. However, earlier this season against the Zebras, Chapman was held to 46 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Also in that game, Schucker attempted a whopping 69 passes against the Zebras, completing 20 for 407 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Although the two previously met in the regular season, the stakes will be significantly raised in this match up. A spot in the 6A state title game is on the line, and the Zebras are attempting to get there for the fourth time in the past five seasons. Kickoff between the Lions and the Zebras is set for 7 p.m. at Jordan-South Stadium.