Nashville’s tunnel screens and Watson Chapel’s defensive penalties were a theme Friday night as the Scrappers went home with a 20-14 victory.
Nashville moved the ball effectively on its first drive with a pair of first-down catches for sophomore wide receiver Jackson Beavert and junior quarterback/wide receiver LaMichael Pettway. Pettway, who has a scholarship offer from Nebraska, capped off the drive with a screen pass to senior running back Kyler Lawrence, who took it up 18 yards for a touchdown. A fumble made the two-point conversion attempt unsuccessful.
On the following kickoff, the Scrappers recovered an onside kick on their own 48 yard line. The Wildcats defense made it fourth-and-1, but an offsides penalty against Watson Chapel allowed Nashville to gain a new set of downs. The Scrappers were able to move the chains and on fourth-and-13 at the Wildcats 31, the offense elected to go for it but Pettway’s pass fell incomplete.
Watson Chapel’s offense did not step foot on the field until the 6:30 mark of the first quarter. The Wildcats gained a pair of first downs from the running back tandem of sophomore Trey Cole and Devonte Battles. But on a third-and-8 at the Scrappers 45, a run by senior quarterback Kris McCullough was notched for a gain of only 4 yards. Nashville’s next drive was highlighted by two holding penalties and on fourth down the Scrappers punted the ball to the Wildcats’ 15.
Two plays later, Devonte Battles scored an 84 yard touchdown run after cutting back from an inside handoff while speeding past the Scrappers’ defense before the end of the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive for the Scrappers, the Wildcats defense was called for four penalties that allowed Nashville to move down the field. Lawrence took advantage as he scored on a 4-yard run.
With the Wildcats getting the ball back with 38 seconds left in the first half the Scrappers defense pushed them back for a loss of 19 yards. On the next play, being backed up on their own 11, Battles broke loose again for an 89 yard touchdown run to put the Wildcats on top 14-13 at the end of the first half.
In the second half, Watson Chapel’s punt was blocked and Nashville recovered the ball on the Wildcats 48. Two plays later the versatile Pettway caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Lucas Liggins with 9:41 left in the third quarter.
“It was a game of momentum”, said Watson Chapel head coach George Shelton. “We had the momentum at times but we just couldn’t capitalize on it.”
Both teams traded ineffective drives, but Watson Chapel intercepted a Liggins pass in the end zone for a touchback.
On second down, Kirel Young got going after catching a 39-yard pass. But the effective zone defense and blitzing by the Scrappers forced the Wildcats to turnover on downs.
On third-and-10 from his own 38, Liggins had time in the pocket but Watson Chapel senior linebacker Joshua Harris read the quarterback’s eyes and came up with an interception with 9:08 left in the game.
However, three plays later a touchdown pass from McCullough intended for Young was intercepted in the end zone by Nashville sophomore defensive back Leonard Snell.
A bad snap over Liggins’ head and good defense by the Wildcats forced the Scrappers to punt and Cole returned the punt 18 yards to the Nashville’s 48.
After an illegal formation penalty against the Wildcats, McCullough’s pass on third-and-15 from the 38 yard line was intercepted by junior cornerback Chris Cooper.
The Wildcats got the ball back in a critical moment. Another bad snap sailed over Liggins head, but this time it would be recovered by Watson Chapel at its own 48.
The Wildcats were unable to capitalize on this turnover as the Scrapper defense stopped Battles from converting on fourth-and-7 from the 42. With 1:33 left in the game, Nashville took over on downs to run out the clock.
McCullough completed 3 out of 12 passes for 57 yards.
“We made too many mistakes”, expressed Shelton. “Offensively, we’ve been unable able to make enough significant plays in the passing game on the perimeter, but we will get better.”
Watson Chapel hosts Hot Springs in its first 5A-South Conference game of the season next Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.