Watson Chapel joined its fellow Jefferson County schools in using a more versatile quarterback as senior Devonte Battles got the start behind center in Friday’s game against Magnolia.
“If you look at the quarterbacks that are in Jefferson County: Joshua Liddell at Dollarway is a run/pass guy, (Ladarius) Skelton at Pine Bluff is a run/pass guy and (Kirk) Baugh at White Hall,” Watson Chapel head coach George Shelton said. “Devonte has the ability to throw a certain set of passes but certainly his strength is running the football.”
Battles scored four touchdowns and rushed for about 163 yards on 11 carries as the Wildcats (4-3, 4-1 5A-South) defeated Magnolia (2-6, 1-4) 30-0 at Wildcat Stadium in Pine Bluff.
“We tried to put him in a position where he could get more touches,” Shelton said. “And have a little bit more freedom to use his athleticism.
“It is something we have been working with him on, even going back as far as last year.”
Shelton said sometimes they would get Battles to take a couple of snaps at quarterback during practices.
“We always felt like he had the ability to play quarterback in our scheme,” Shelton said.
With 1 minute left in the first quarter, Battles broke for a 67-yard touchdown run to break a scoreless tie. He scored again in the second quarter on a 11-yard touchdown keeper.
Facing a third-and-3 at Magnolia’s 11-yard run, Watson Chapel went to the shotgun formation with five wide receivers. On a draw play, Battles ran it towards the left side for the score. It gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead with 7:09 left to play in the first half.
“He has full command of our offense,” Shelton said. “He knows everybody’s assignment and there was no real concern about playing him at the position.”
With less than a minute left in the first half, Watson Chapel junior Kristen Trammel intercepted a pass to set up a first down for the Wildcats at their own 46-yard line.
Then with 6 seconds left in the second quarter, Battles scored on a 23-yard run to give Watson Chapel a 21-0 lead right before halftime.
“The Wildcat (formation) era of football has opened up the window for those type of guys to show their skill sets, even all the way up to the NFL,” Shelton said.
Battles’ final touchdown of the night was a 41-yard run that gave the Wildcats a 30-0 lead with six minutes left in the third quarter.
For the second time this season, Watson Chapel’s defense was able to shutout an opponent. They defeated Hot Springs 45-0 at home on Sept. 27.
“We’ve been noticing our defense playing pretty good football all the way back to Hot Springs, De Queen and Hope,” Shelton said. “We’ve been on a bit of a role and had some good momentum.
“They even played fairly well last week against White Hall.”
Watson Chapel forced three interceptions in Friday’s win over Magnolia. They also forced a safety with 6:20 left in the third quarter to give Chapel a 23-0 lead.
“We put the burden on them to try to get off the field quickly and limit the other team’s first downs and those type of things,” Shelton said. “We got a couple of interceptions and that was good.”
Watson Chapel’s Trey Cole nearly had a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He broke for a 70-yard run and was tackled just inside the 3-yard line.
Cole finished the game with 138 yards rushing on seven carries.
One thing that did plague Watson Chapel was the amount of penalties on both sides of the ball.
“We certainly know what to do better with our technique,” Shelton said. “We had holding at the wide receiver and holding at the line. And last week we had holding at the running back.
“We got to be more physical and more proficient in our blocking technique.”