Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Brothers collide in Wildcats’ matchup

Leader sports editor

The brothers Bolding meet for the second time in their careers Friday when Bobby Bolding’s Pine Bluff Zebras visit North Little Rock to take on Brad Bolding’s Charging Wildcats. The two met once before when Bobby was coaching perennial contender Stuttgart while Brad was helping turn Mayflower’s program around. Stuttgart won that meeting big, but 2012 is a different situation.

Again it’s older brother Bobby who is coaching at the more storied program in Pine Bluff, but Brad has almost all the other advantages, as Bobby Bolding so clearly defines.

“Well their offensive line is bigger and stronger than our defensive line,” Bobby Bolding began. “Their defensive line is bigger and stronger than our offensive line. Their defensive backs are faster than our receivers. Their running backs are bigger than our linebackers and faster than anybody we’ve got on defense. And their kicker kicks it farther than ours does. So I don’t really see us with any advantages at all.”

The Zebra head coach did find one good thing to say about his squad.

“Well our kids love to play football,” Bobby said. “So we’ll show up and compete. We have a contract so we sort of have to.”

Brad Bolding knows better. Pine Bluff has put up huge numbers on offense in its two games this season against good competition. The Zebras routed Fort Smith Northside 53-27 in their first game, then beat down city rival Watson Chapel 48-12 in a game that wasn’t even that close.

North Little Rock is also coming off a disappointing loss at Longview, Texas, and Brad Bolding thinks his team has its work cut out this Friday.

“Obviously that tailback of theirs is a dandy,” Brad said about senior Walter Ashley. The senior ran for nearly 2,000 yards last year and has almost 400 all-purpose yards in two games this season. “This year they’ve got a quarterback that can throw it too. I think QB was a question mark for them coming into the season, but they’ve found one that’s really become a dual threat. That offense is hard to stop. Nobody they’ve played has done it yet.”

Brad Bolding says one of his team’s main priorities right now is fixing the things that went wrong in last week’s 30-14 loss. The offense turned the ball over twice times with a lost fumble and an interception. It also gave up a safety on a reverse to end the game.

Worse and more disconcerting for the head Wildcat, was special teams’ play. North Little Rock gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, lost a fumble on a kickoff, missed a field goal and had an extra point blocked.

“We blew it on special teams,” Brad Bolding said. “We held their offense to 209 yards, 10 yards passing. Offense made some mistakes but we played well enough on offense and defense to win the game. We missed an opportunity to go down there and beat an elite Texas team on their field. For us to go down there, drive five hours and wallow around on special teams like that was disappointing. And that’s something we feel like we spend more time on than maybe anybody in the state.”

The team has added extra meeting time early in the morning this week to go over what went wrong and how to correct it.

“We have to correct it,” Brad said. “In close games, special teams is something you’ve got to have. The name ought to tell you how important it is. It’s not called special offense or special defense. So it’s a big part of the game and we have to understand that and treat it that way.”