Watson Chapel’s tough non-conference schedule continues against Nashville

The Watson Chapel football team really has no chance to dwell on its 48-12 loss to city rival Pine Bluff last Friday.

This week, Watson Chapel plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Nashville, which is the top program in Class 4A according to Hootens.com.

Watson Chapel coach George Shelton is happy to have a talented team like Nashville on the schedule, though.

“Them being on the schedule is no accident,” he said. “We try and play top flight talent and we’ve seen them in the preseason and looked at them on film. They have a really good football team.”

The Wildcats have shifted their focus to Nashville, too, even though there was a lot to think about after the loss to Pine Bluff.

Shelton said his team can use that loss as a life lesson.

“Bounce backs are nothing,” he said. “Life is full of disappointments and set backs. It’s certainly a platform that you can teach the kids some life skills.”

Nashville has already played two Class 5A teams to open the season — De Queen and Hope. The Scrappers won those games by a combined score of 97-24.

However, those two teams are considerably lower on the Hootens.com rankings than Watson Chapel. Despite the setback to Pine Bluff, which is the No. 2 ranked team in Class 6A on Hootens.com, the Wildcats (1-1) still come in fifth in the rankings. Hope is ranked No. 18 and De Queen is No. 27 out of 32 teams.

Shelton said his team’s ranking is based on the program’s accolades.

“We have had a lot of success and a lot of accolades that are program accolades,” he said. “Our team is not chalked with Division I or Division II college recruits right now. That would be an indicator for the talent you have, but we have some good football coaches that do a really good job.”

This week’s game against Nashville ends a tough non-conference stretch for Watson Chapel, who opened the season with a win over Class 6A Siloam Springs.

Shelton said even if his team wins or loses this final game against Nashville, it will have prepared the team for the conference season.

“You can schedule a bunch of pansies if you want and feel pretty good about yourself after you beat them,” he said. “Get to your conference schedule and meet a might good football team, you are going to see something you haven’t seen before because of those pansy football teams.

“I would rather pit mine against the toughest teams early and you certainly learn more in a loss than you do a win.”

One of the areas Shelton learned about was the offensive line, which allowed five sacks against Pine Bluff and the Wildcats rushed for -10 yards in the game.

“We start four sophomores on the offensive line,” Shelton said. “That speaks for itself and there is a learning curve for them.”

Nashville senior quarterback Joel Hendry has completely about 75 percent of his passes this season for 602 yards and nine touchdowns this season and reportedly has an injury to his knee that he has played through.

“They are big, rangy kids and a very athletic team that can throw the ball well and run the ball well,” Shelton said. “Nashville is certainly similar to most teams you see in Western Arkansas.”