Special to the Commercial/Mike Adam
Watson Chapel’s James Collier (5) gets by a De Queen player Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
After 13 seasons at three schools, George Shelton sits on the verge of a milestone in his coaching career.
A victory Friday will be his 100th, and it could come on Watson Chapel’s homecoming night when it hosts Hope.
“The kids are the ones who secure the victories, and it’s just a testimony to the hard work they put in and their commitment to what we tried to do in the past 13-plus years,” Shelton said. “I guess to be on the verge of accomplishing something like that at three different schools, I don’t know if it’s remarkable, but I certainly feel blessed by the success I’ve had coaching. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Shelton became a head coach in 1999 at Augusta, where he led the Red Devils to a state championship game in his third season. He led Dollarway to another title game three years later, also in his third season at the school — and did it again three years after that — before coaching Watson Chapel to the state semifinals each of the next three seasons. He has yet to win a championship.
So far, he has Watson Chapel (4-1, 2-0 in 5A-South) in contention for the conference title. The Wildcats will host a Bobcats team (2-3, 1-1) hoping to rebound from a 56-32 home loss to Hot Springs and spoil the homecoming party.
“It’s not too big of a distraction here,” Shelton said of homecoming. “There’s not a whole lot of hoopla about it. Our kids put in a lot of work to play football, and I think they understand that there’s really no homecoming festivities, per se, without a homecoming victory.”
Shelton said he’s seen strides made on both offense and defense for Watson Chapel, which totaled 417 yards of offense in a 48-9 home win over De Queen last Friday. That game saw junior Kirel Young finish with a season-high 103 yards on four catches and SanAntonio Cole complete 7 of 8 passes for 249 yards.
“Our offensive line continues to make strides,” Shelton said. “We know they’re young, but they’re physically gifted. We’ve developed a bit of continuity between our offensive line and our running backs.
“Those are the things we’re pleased with and certainly our quarterback play with SanAntonio and his athleticism. What he brings to the table has certainly taken a little bit of pressure off the running backs and what they have to do. The passing game is effective as well.”
The Wildcats had their best defensive game in terms of points allowed last Friday. Shelton said they’ve played better at the line of scrimmage, mentioning the play of sophomores Darius White and Justin Lambert, while the linebackers have improved each game and the secondary has played consistently well.
Hope has two tall wide receivers in junior Kenneth Thompson (6-foot-3) and senior Vincent Love (6-4) who Watson Chapel will try to stop. Love returned a kickoff 80 yards for the final touchdown against Hot Springs.
“Athletically they remind me of a lot of the teams that we see in Southeast Arkansas,” Shelton said. “Physically they look really good.”