A barrage of big passing plays sent Pine Bluff to the state semifinals Friday night.
Zebra quarterback Landon Holcomb threw five touchdown passes as Pine Bluff defeated Hot Springs Lakeside 41-28 at Jordan Stadium.
Pine Bluff (10-2) will host Shiloh Christian next week in the state semifinals. Head coach Micheal Williams said it feels great to be among the final four teams in Class 5A.
“I’m proud of my guys for fighting through,” Williams said. “We kinda got sloppy at the end, and I understand why, because we sustained a lot of injuries. But even with that being said, we think our second team is just as good as our first team. So I’ll be excited about that. I think we did well.”
Lakeside (8-4) reached Zebra territory several times, but the Rams were stopped on fourth down three times. Pine Bluff defender Chandler Blunt also intercepted two passes.
Holcomb completed nine of 13 passes for 469 yards. Courtney Crutchfield caught five passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns.
Williams said that with an injury to one of Pine Buffs’ top running backs, the Zebras knew they needed to get it done through the air.
“[Holcomb] was laser-sharp,” Williams said. “Some of the passes he made is something we talked about already, and I’m glad he made the passes directly like he said he was going to do them. He knew when to throw it in the air. He also knew when to put it on them. He was perfection tonight.”
The Zebras scored touchdowns on four of their five possessions to take a 27-0 lead. Holcomb’s first pass of the night was a wide receiver screen to Austyn Dendy, who took it 52 yards for a touchdown. His second pass was a 67-yard touchdown strike to Crutchfield.
Holcomb’s third pass was a 48-yard throw to Dendy, and his fourth was a 93-yard touchdown to Crutchfield. His fifth was a 44-yard completion to Crutchfield to the 1-yard line. Tristain Helloms scored on the next play on a jet sweep.
Holcomb said he knew before the game that he would have a big night, and his receivers helped him accomplish it.
“Everybody was getting open tonight,” Holcomb said. “All four of them. Everybody got at least 30, 40, 50 yards tonight. Everybody did their thing tonight.”
Lakeside’s special teams gave the Rams a spark late in the first half. After a couple of nice kickoff returns had been negated by penalties earlier in the game, Kyler Wolf took one back 81 yards 4:11 before halftime to get Lakeside on the board. Gabe Venbebber then recovered an onside kick for the Rams. Lakeside got to the Pine Bluff 8-yard line before a holding penalty and a sack backed them up to the 38. The Zebras stopped the Rams on fourth down, then ran out the clock to take a 27-7 lead into halftime.
Lakeside began the second half by recovering another onside kick, but the Zebra defense once again held on fourth down.
Pine Bluff took a 34-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Lakeside quarterback Jacob Hermosillo gave the Rams three fourth-quarter touchdowns, one a 79-yard scramble, and the other two through the air, make the final score closer in the end.