Without a doubt, Watson Chapel’s 30-28 win at Nashville last Friday was really big heading into 5A-South Conference play.
But in the eyes of coach George Shelton, beating the No. 1 team in Class 4A according to Hootens.com was no upset for the 5A fifth-ranked Wildcats.
“I just thought defensively we were able to match up with them ability-wise, and our kids played extremely hard on the defensive side of the ball for sure,” Shelton said.
Now, instead of a two-game slide, the Wildcats (2-1) find themselves on an upswing going into Friday night’s game at Hot Springs (2-1).
Watson Chapel was impressive in coming back from a 14-0 first half deficit to win on the road. The Wildcats were looking for a victory to bounce back from a 48-12 defeat at Pine Bluff a week earlier.
“Pine Bluff and Nashville are two totally different teams,” Shelton said. “Pine Bluff’s a 6A. Nashville’s a 4A. Pine Bluff has an abundance of athleticism on both offense and defense and tremendous size and strength. Nashville has that to a certain degree, but not in the numbers that Pine Bluff has.”
Shelton said the Wildcats gained confidence just before halftime at Nashville, scoring twice to tie the game. They scored off a turnover on a Devonte Battles run and Jordan Stargell added a 44-yard scoring reception from SanAntonio Cole.
Cole threw for 136 yards and rushed for 97 yards in his first start under center this season.
“I thought he came in right on time,” Shelton said. “He got all the practice reps last week in preparation for the game. We made the decision pretty quickly after watching film that we would go in his direction.
“We just felt like at this particular time in the season, game 3, he was ready to take the reins at quarterback.”
Cole’s expected to lead the offense again against Hot Springs, which is coming off its first loss of the season to Arkadelphia, 38-14. The Trojans already have matched their biggest win total of the past three seasons and have a strong inside running game out of the Double Wing formation, engineered by quarterback Zach Knapp.
“They have several very capable halfbacks that we’re going to have to be able to contain and tackle,” Shelton said. “Tackling is going to be a big key in the game, rallying to the football.”
While the Trojans are not a strong passing team, their ability to run the football has Shelton’s attention. Hot Springs’ offense has been explosive in wins over Pulaski Robinson (35-6) and De Queen (54-14).
Watson Chapel (2-1) at Hot Springs (2-1)
• 7 p.m. Friday
• First 5A-South game for both
• Last week: Watson Chapel def. Nashville 30-28; Hot Springs lost to Arkadelphia 38-14