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Pine Bluff poised for return to top | Preps on 11

The Zebras are ready to embrace their history as one of the top-tier programs in Arkansas.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — For generations, Pine Bluff football has been the pride of the city.

“A lot of people got big expectations because of our culture," Junior tackle Danny Ray Johnson Jr. said. "All we know is winning."

Senior Austyn Dendy knows that Pine Bluff carries a target on its back every season.

“Back in the day, it was a winning school, so everybody knows us for winning,” Dendy said.“All you're going to hear is Pine Bluff High. That’s the heart of the city. Everybody loves the Zebras.”

Pine Bluff has the second most state titles in Arkansas history. However, the Zebras haven’t won more than five games since 2017. 

The priority is clear in Michael Williams’ second year back at his alma mater.

“I want to get some shirts made that say ‘Back To The Standard' because Pine Bluff has a standard way that we do things," Williams said.

Teaching that history to its current players has been a big step.

“It’s very important, especially to the people that’s been through here," Johnson said. "We get that all the time. It’s a lot of weight on our shoulders sometimes."

With all eyes on the Zebras, Williams thinks his team is better prepared heading into this season.

“They didn’t know what the expectation was last year," Williams said. "They're ready to go this year."

And it's going to start with an intimidating defense.

“Fast, hard-hitting," Dendy said. "Everybody is scared of us when they step on the field.”

Pine Bluff's offense features wide receiver Courtney Crutchfield, an Arkansas commit. Williams thinks Crutchfield's talent can open doors for his teammates to be successful.

“Be Courtney," Williams said. "You’re always going to be able to score. You’re often going to help other people score and get scholarship offers because you demand double and triple teams.”

It might have been a few years, but Pine Bluff is ready to remind the city and the rest of the state precisely what the Zebras can be.

“Everybody’s looking at us as role models,” senior Zric Washington Jr. said. "As a city and a school, it means a lot to us.”

Pine Bluff starts the season on Aug. 25 with a trip to Mississippi against Grenada before returning to Arkansas and reigniting an old rivalry with Little Rock Christian on Sept. 1.

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