Holcomb’s 5 TDs help send Pine Bluff to semis

Pine Bluff football players celebrate Friday's 41-28 playoff win against Hot Springs Lakeside, which sent the Zebras to the Class 5A football state semifinals. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Tanner Spearman)

PINE BLUFF -- A barrage of big passing plays sent Pine Bluff to the Class 5A state semifinals Friday night.

Zebras quarterback Landon Holcomb threw five touchdown passes as Pine Bluff defeated Hot Springs Lakeside 41-28 at Jordan Stadium.

Pine Bluff (10-2) will host Shiloh Christian next week in the state semifinals. Zebras Coach Micheal Williams said it feels great to be among the final four teams in Class 5A.

"I'm proud of my guys for fighting through," Williams said. "We kind of got sloppy at the end, and I understand why, because we sustained a lot of injuries. But even with that being said, we think our second team is just as good as our first team. So I'll be excited about that. I think we did well."

Lakeside (8-4) reached Zebras territory several times, but the Rams were stopped on fourth down three times. Pine Bluff defender Chandler Blunt also intercepted two passes.

Holcomb completed 9 of 13 passes for 469 yards. Courtney Crutchfield had 5 receptions for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Williams said injuries forced the Zebras to rely on their passing game.

"[Holcomb] was laser-sharp," Williams said. "Some of the passes he made is something we talked about already, and I'm glad he made the passes directly like he said he was going to do them. He knew when to throw it in the air. He also knew when to put it on them. He was perfection tonight."

The Zebras scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions to take a 27-0 lead. Holcomb's first pass of the night was a wide receiver screen to Austyn Dendy, who took it 52 yards for a touchdown. His second pass was a 67-yard touchdown to Crutchfield.

Holcomb's third pass was a 48-yard throw to Dendy, and his fourth was a 93-yard touchdown to Crutchfield. His fifth was a 44-yard completion that Crutchfield carried to the 1. Tristain Helloms scored on the next play on a jet sweep.

Holcomb said he knew before the game that he would have a big night, and his receivers helped him accomplish it.

"Everybody was getting open tonight," Holcomb said. "All four of them. Everybody got at least 30, 40, 50 yards tonight. Everybody did their thing tonight."

Lakeside's special teams gave the Rams a spark late in the first half. After a couple of nice kickoff returns were negated by penalties earlier, Kyler Wolf took one back 81 yards 4:11 before halftime to get Lakeside on the board. Gabe Venbebber then recovered an onside kick for the Rams. Lakeside got to the Pine Bluff 8 before a holding penalty and a sack backed it up to the 38. The Zebras stopped the Rams on fourth down, then ran out the clock to take a 27-7 lead into halftime.

Lakeside began the second half by recovering another onside kick, but the Zebras' defense once again held on fourth down.

Pine Bluff took a 34-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Lakeside quarterback Jacob Hermosillo gave the Rams three fourth-quarter touchdowns, one a 79-yard scramble, and the other two through the air.