The Springdale Har-Ber Wildcats never trailed Friday as they toppled the Pine Bluff Zebras 27-18 at Jordan Stadium.
The Wildcats used a complex offense and depth on defense to keep Pine Bluff grounded. Prior to the game, Pine Bluff Head Coach Bobby Bolding said that the Wildcats don’t play guys both ways and they have a lot of guys that they can shuffle in and out.
The Zebras were missing a couple of their weapons on offense in senior Michael Johnson and senior Kamariea Wilkins, who were out with injuries. The Wildcats’ starting quarterback for their first two games, junior Blaise Wittschen, was also inactive, so they had to go with junior Hunter Wood as the starter.
Wood didn’t pass the ball much, but when he put it in the air, he averaged 24.7 yards per catch. Wood finished the game 6/10 for 148 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Wood was also effective in Springdale’s offensive attack on the ground, rushing the ball 22 times for 108 yards and one touchdown.
Turnovers played a big part in the outcome as Har-Ber lost two fumbles early, and Wood threw an interception late in the game. Pine Bluff turned it over twice in the fourth quarter.
On the Wildcats’ opening drive, Wood marched them down inside the Pine Bluff 10 yard line, then ran the ball to the Pine Bluff five yard line on 3rd and 4 for a first down.
However, a holding call pushed the Wildcats back to the Pine Bluff 12 yard line, but the Zebras got called for roughing the passer to put Har-Ber back inside the five yard line. The Zebras’ defense dodged a bullet by recovering a fumble on a bad hand-off that kept Har-Ber off the board.
Pine Bluff senior running back Braylon Moody came out and made a few big plays on the ground before a holding call stalled the drive and forced them to punt.
Har-Ber took advantage as Wood found junior wide receiver Micah Seawood streaking down the right sideline for a 56-yard touchdown reception with 2:32 to play in the first quarter.
Pine Bluff junior quarterback Tyler Foots and senior wide receiver Berkarion Black were in sync as Foots hit Black for a 40-yard reception on a post route to put the Zebras in Wildcat territory. However, the Zebras’ offense stalled again, and they came out of the drive scoreless.
Just as the Wildcats were moving the ball again with Wood being effective on the ground, Pine Bluff sophomore Treyvon Woodard recovered a fumble in their red zone.
Pine Bluff couldn’t take advantage of the turnover as penalties kept them behind the chains. A sack by the Wildcats on fourth down forced a turnover on downs, but the Zebras’ defense would respond with a turnover on downs of their own to give their offense the ball on the Har-Ber 44 yard line.
Moody continued to run the ball to lead the Zebras inside the Wildcats’ 20 yard line. On a 4th and 6 play, Foots connected with senior receiver Isaiah Mays for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Zebras in the scoring column. The PAT was blocked, so Har-Ber held onto a 7-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
Har-Ber Head Coach Chris Wood sent sophomore Noah Livingston out for a drive, and the Zebras’ defense quickly got him off the field by forcing a three and out.
Pine Bluff’s offense continued to misfire and Har-Ber forced another turnover on downs before orchestrating a scoring drive that started with 2:43 to play in the first half.
Seawood broke free to put the Wildcats on the Zebras’ 21 yard line. Wood then capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Errington Mcrae to give the Wildcats a 14-6 lead going into halftime.
It didn’t take long for Pine Bluff to score after the break as Foots connected with Mays for an 11-yard touchdown, their second of the game. Pine Bluff initially scored on the two-point conversion attempt, but it was called back by an illegal formation penalty. On the second attempt, Foots attempted to hit Black, but they couldn’t convert.
On the ensuing kickoff, Har-Ber used a double handoff to run the ball down to the Pine Bluff one yard line. On the next play, Wood punched it in to make it 21-12 with 7:32 in the third quarter.
Pine Bluff had a costly turnover as Mays fumbled on the run after a catch. The defense would stiffen at that point, and after a couple stops, Mays redeemed himself by intercepting Wood with 3:34 to play.
Right after Foots and Black connected for 19 yards, Har-Ber stopped any momentum that the Zebras were building by forcing their second turnover as Foots threw an interception to junior defensive back Jay Burn.
The interception allowed the Wildcats to start their drive on the Pine Bluff 39 yard line, and they ran it four straight times with senior running back Max Pena scoring from two yards out to give the Wildcats a 27-12 lead as the PAT was blocked.
Black returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the 50 yard line, and then caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Foots as time expired.
Foots finished the game completing 15/30 passes for 176 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Moody carried the ball 12 times for 97 yards. Black caught six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, while Mays caught four passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
That concludes Pine Bluffs non-conference schedule, and they’ll look to get their first win of the season at Sylvan Hills on Friday.