Play­offs start tonight for lo­cal foot­ball teams.

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Tony Burns Sports Edi­tor

The last time El Do­rado beat Pine Bluff in foot­ball was in the 2013 6A state cham­pi­onship game at War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium. Since the Wild­cats’ 31-24 win, the Ze­bras avenged the de­feat with wins in 2014 (38-19) and 2015 (34-27).

Tonight at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium, one of the state’s longest ri­val­ries re­sumes in the first round of the 6A state play­offs. Call it the MASH Bowl as both teams have been ham­mered by in­juries and will have sev­eral starters on the side­line.

Pine Bluff brings a de­cep­tive 4-5-1 record into the game. That in­cludes a four-game los­ing skid, snapped last week in a 28-8 win over Jack­sonville.

“They had some guys hurt at that time and they lost a few close games. They had a hard time scor­ing,” said El Do­rado coach Scott Reed. “In Week 9 and 10, they were a lot bet­ter. They got beat by one at West Mem­phis, who’s un­de­feated. And then they beat Jack­sonville pretty good last week. It looks to me like they’ve got­ten a lit­tle health­ier. I think they’re good.

“Early in the year, they were picked to win that con­fer­ence. He thought he had a good chance to win it. And then he got some kids hurt. They are tal­ented.”

Nei­ther team’s sea­son-open­ing start­ing quar­ter­back will play tonight. El Do­rado’s Wanya Fra­zier, a re­ceiver two weeks ago, will make his sec­ond start at quar­ter­back. The po­si­tion-switch, ne­ces­si­tated by in­juries to Alex Hicks and Stu­art Bower, fur­ther de­pleted the Wild­cats’ re­ceiv­ing corps.

Reed said Shun Lev­ingston is out with a bro­ken foot. Steven Tol­lette is out with a bro­ken col­lar­bone. Hunter Dear is also out for the sea­son.

“De­vunte Kidd had an MRI on his knee. We’re afraid he might

have a menis­cus prob­lem. It looks like all three wide re­ceivers are out,” said Reed. “Alex Boone (tight end) might have the flu. We hope he will be O.K. by Fri­day. That’s where we are.”

The in­juries to El Do­rado’s re­ceivers was al­most com­i­cal to Reed, who laughed as he searched for a sil­ver lin­ing.

“They’re not go­ing to know who to ex­pect, I guar­an­tee you that,” he said. “We have (Derek) Jobe and Trey Nor­man and we’re work­ing some kids that are de­fen­sive play­ers to go both ways some. We’re try­ing to do a lot of teach­ing this week.”

Sopho­more Jarmel Love could get his first var­sity start at the X po­si­tion.

“He’s had a good week. I’m pleased with him,” Reed said.

As Reed said, the Ze­bras ap­pear to be get­ting health­ier. Af­ter go­ing 1-1-1 in non-con­fer­ence with the win via for­feit against Spring­dale Har Ber, Pine Bluff opened league play with wins over Syl­van Hills (14-3) and Moun­tain Home (35-9) be­fore fall­ing to Jones­boro (2912), Searcy (30-24), Mar­ion (28-20) and West Mem­phis (24-23).

“They’re phys­i­cal. They have a re­ally good ath­lete in (6-3, 160) Berkar­ion Black, num­ber six. He plays cor­ner, wide re­ceiver, cor­ner­back. He can run. He’s a good player. And, they’re phys­i­cal up front,” said Reed, who said Black only plays quar­ter­back oc­ca­sion­ally.

“They bring him in at cer­tain times in kind of a run pack­age. He’s their best re­ceiver, also. He took a hitch screen about 70 yards against West Mem­phis.”

It’s been awhile since El Do­rado has seen Pine Bluff. Reed said the Ze­bras haven’t changed much.

“They’re in the gun. They run a lot of the power-read stuff, down­hill run at you and some in­side iso and a lit­tle counter and play-ac­tion off of it. They’ll throw the screen game stuff, quick screens,” he said.

Pine Bluff’s de­fen­sive base is out of a 4-3 align­ment.

“They play a lot more man cov­er­age than they have in the past. They’re ath­letic and they can run,” said Reed. “They run re­ally well in the sec­ondary. They’re good up front. They have a sopho­more (de­fen­sive) tackle to keep an eye on. I think he has a chance to be re­ally good. His name is Quentin John­son, about 6-feet, 307. He doesn’t look 307. He moves re­ally well. They’re good sized. They’ve played pretty well de­fen­sively.”

El Do­rado (5-5) is com­ing off a shutout win at Lit­tle Rock Hall with Fra­zier com­plet­ing 3-of-6 passes for 125 yards and two touch­downs. But, with the in­juries on the perime­ter, the Wild­cats will have to find a way to move the chains on the ground.

“We don’t need to turn the ball over. I worry about that when you’ve got guys play­ing po­si­tions they’re not used to play­ing against a team like this. You want to make sure you ex­e­cute and you don’t turn the ball over,” said Reed. “Our of­fen­sive line needs to play real well and carry us. We need to be able to run the ball.

“We need to play well de­fen­sively. I think we’re get­ting bet­ter there. I think we have an ad­van­tage in the kick­ing game as far as kick­ing field goals. If we can just keep them out of the end zone, they go for two a lot. We need to make them earn what they get.”

In an ef­fort to in­crease depth, Reed said he moved up a few ninth graders from El Do­rado’s un­beaten fresh­man team.

The in­fu­sion of youth spiced up prac­tices this week. But, Reed isn’t sure if the young­sters will be a fac­tor tonight.

“I don’t know. I wouldn’t think this week they would be. But, they’re do­ing a good job. They’re work­ing hard in prac­tice. I moved a few up be­cause we’re short­handed at a cou­ple of po­si­tions. There are a num­ber in that ninth grade group that are re­ally good play­ers,” said Reed, who said prac­tices were a bit dif­fer­ent.

“We’re hav­ing to work kids both ways. We prob­a­bly can’t do as much be­cause of all the teach­ing. You want them to be able to ex­e­cute what they’re do­ing. But, the kids are prac­tic­ing well. Some of the guys are ex­cited about play­ing some both ways. At­ti­tude is re­ally good. There’s go­ing to be a lot of new faces play­ing. I hope we’re able to ex­e­cute and we do a good job with the ball.”

New faces in dif­fer­ent places, the Wild­cats will take the field still ex­pect­ing to win. De­spite the ros­ter changes, Reed was up­beat about the play­offs.

“We’ve got a bunch of kids who are ex­cited about be­ing in the play­offs,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot. Now, it’s one of those deals where you go week to week. You’ve got to win to keep go­ing. I know we have a bunch that want to keep play­ing. I know we’ll give a good ef­fort.”

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