Defense put Pine Bluff High School on the board in a crucial moment, and the Zebras rode that wave of momentum to a 41-25 win over Maumelle on Friday night at Jordan Stadium.
Jonathan Goins returned an interception 60 yards for Pine Bluff's first score of the game. That was after Maumelle successfully executed an onside kick following a touchdown on its opening drive.
The Zebras (4-1, 3-0 in 5A-Central), who have scored five defensive touchdowns this season, needed three drives to score on offense. Landon Holcomb lofted a 39-yard touchdown pass to University of Arkansas commit Courtney Crutchfield on the left-hand side to put Pine Bluff in front, 14-7, with 9:53 left before halftime.
Kayvon Stringer kept Pine Bluff in control with one of his three interceptions of the game, this one off a high deflection. Stringer also picked off a pass late in the first quarter and another with 4:45 left in the game.
Both teams struggled with turnovers. Pine Bluff fumbled the ball twice and lost it once, the turnover coming on a snap near the goal line. Maumelle lost two of five fumbles.
Maumelle (2-2, 0-2) pulled within 21-13 at halftime on an 11-play, 66-yard drive in the final 1:50 before halftime. Quarterback Andrew Bjork, who completed 10 of 28 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, scored on a 2-yard keeper with three seconds left.
Bjork, however, was saddled with five interceptions. Marques Lee, who returned a pick six last week at Vilonia, returned an interception 26 yards on Maumelle's final possession.
Pine Bluff outgained Maumelle 497-349 in total yards. Holcomb completed 15 of 27 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. Crutchfield caught three passes for 81 yards.
Marquez Brentley rushed 13 times for 94 yards. He also threw a reverse touchdown pass to Kendall Burton from 25 yards out late in the third to make it 41-13 in Pine Bluff's favor.
Jayden Worsham ran 19 times for 144 yards and a touchdown on the game's first possession.
THE GAME CHANGED WHEN ...
Goins' pick six gave the Zebras a much-needed boost in the early going.
Austyn Dendy returned the second-half kickoff 56 yards to the Maumelle 22. Despite a 5-yard penalty and 2-yard loss on a zip pass, Pine Bluff capitalized when Holcomb threw a 26-yard strike to Brentley in heavy traffic. That started a 20-0 third quarter for the Zebras.
After Bjork converted fourth-and-4 with a 23-yard keeper to the Pine Bluff 31, the Zebras defense forced a turnover on downs, pressuring the quarterback into four straight incompletions.
Maumelle started the fourth quarter with a 50-yard interception return by Johnathan Frost for a touchdown. Bjork also found Alan Timmons down the Hornets' sideline from 57 yards out to draw them within 41-25.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO ...
Holcomb, who rushed 5 yards for a touchdown and threw for four more scores; and the Zebras' defense with five interceptions.
Goins also forced a fumble at the end of a 22-yard Worsham carry that otherwise converted a fourth down for the Hornets.
NEXT UP ...
Pine Bluff will travel to Beebe for another 5A-Central game next Friday. Maumelle will host Mills University Studies on Thursday.