Despite facing a 10-point deficit early in the game, El Dorado scored 24 unanswered points to take the lead, then held off a late charge from Pine Bluff to win the program’s fourth state title in five seasons with a 31-24 victory in War Memorial Stadium.
The Wildcats (9-5) needed a heavy contribution from their defense in the second half, when their offense was only able to score once in the games’ final two quarters and quarterback Clayton Waldrum was stripped by Romar Reades in the endzone to make it a one-score game. Reades fell on the ball for the score and pulled the Zebras (9-4-1) within a touchdown with 10:37 left in the fourth quarter.
While a comeback was necessary for Pine Bluff to threaten the Wildcats late, the Zebras scored the games’ first 10 points on a 44-yard touchdown run by Reades and a 40-yard field goal by Austin McGehee to take a 10-0 lead at the four-minute mark of the first quarter.
It would be the last offensive points of the game for Pine Bluff, as El Dorado score three touchdowns and a field goal in a span of 11:21 between the first and second quarter to take a 24-10 lead.
However, the final play of the first half provided a spark for the Zebras, as the Wildcats attempts a 52-yard field goal as time expired. The ball barely got into the air as Justin Williams blocked it and Greg Harvey scooped it up and returned it 52 yards for the touchdown and a 24-17 halftime deficit.
El Dorado extended their lead back to two touchdowns when Waldrum hit Dadraques Harris for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
Reades’ strip-sack and score on Waldrum set up a tense final few minutes, as the Zebras drove to the Wildcats’ 37 yard line with under two minutes remaining in the game. However, a false start penalty and a sack of quarterback Ladarius Skelton by Braxton Manning pushed the Zebras offense back to their own 49 with 1:29 left. Facing a 4th and 19 with 1:21 left, Skelton rushed for 18 yards up the sidelines, being pushed out of bounds just short of the goal line. El Dorado retook possession and ran out the clock.
Waldrum finished 15-for-33 passing for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. Skelton ran for 112 yards and threw for another 59 yards and two interceptions.
Read more about this game in tomorrow’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.