Keeping Pace: Rivals stand in front of Wildcats’ run for league title

Watson Chapel sits a game ahead of White Hall in the 5A-South Conference, tied for first place with Camden Fairview.

The goal for Watson Chapel now is to be better than White Hall — on the field.

“If someone beats you, they’re better than you,” Watson Chapel coach George Shelton said. “They beat us last year. They own the victory over us. We don’t own the victory over them.”

The victory was big for White Hall. The 32-20 win solidified the No. 1 seed in the 5A-Southeast for the Bulldogs and it came on the Wildcats’ field.

“That is a degree of motivation,” Shelton said of the loss. “Certainly anytime somebody beats you, you’re trying to redeem yourself to a certain degree. Last year is certainly water under the bridge, but you don’t forget what happened in the past. It’s not very smart to forget it. Hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes the last time you faced a team and you’re able to overcome the mistakes that you had in the past and be successful.”

Emotions are likely to run high in a football game that pits two schools from the same area and same conference against each other, especially if there is a prize on the line. A championship won’t be won Friday, but Watson Chapel can keep pace with Camden Fairview with a win and White Hall can gain a head-to-head advantage in the race for home-field advantage in the state playoffs.

Shelton is selling the idea to his team that emotions won’t win football games.

“I don’t see that in any of our kids right now,” he said. “I just see us going about our preparation. That’s the main thing, being prepared. That’s the main thing we try to sell to our kids. Emotions don’t win football games; preparation does.”

Watson Chapel (5-1, 3-0 in 5A-South) has seemed to be well prepared in conference play, winning by an average of 39-18. The Wildcats have won four straight thanks in part to the play of quarterback SanAntonio Cole and a strong backfield led by junior Devonte Battles, while the defense has shown improvement in each game.

The Wildcats had their closest 5A-South test last Friday at home, holding off Hope for a 28-23 victory. They kept Hope to 144 total yards in that game and seek to limit White Hall’s offensive capability this Friday.

White Hall (4-1, 2-1), which lost 47-8 to Camden Fairview two weeks ago, has averaged a 41-12 score in its four victories, scoring 50 points twice.

“Formation-wise, they have a little diversity in what they do,” Shelton said. “You’ve got to be able to adjust properly to what they’re doing. They play with a lot of intensity and effort. They’re a very good tackling football team. They’re very aggressive. They’re just a good football team.”