If Watson Chapel can win its final three games of the regular season, the Wildcats could finish the year with a share of the 5A-South Conference title.
It won’t be an easy task for the Wildcats (3-3, 3-1 in 5A-South) as they face Magnolia, Hot Springs Lakeside and Camden Fairview.
The bright spot for the Wildcats is two of those three games will be at Wildcat Stadium beginning with tonight’s matchup against the Panthers (2-5, 1-3).
“They are a very good improving football team,” Chapel head coach George Shelton said. “They have a strong and athletic running back and their defense is very quick and aggressive.”
After Magnolia finished last year 0-10, former El Dorado defensive coordinator John Panter was hired to replace Robert Day as the head coach. Panter was at El Dorado the past six seasons, helping the Wildcats advance to the semifinals five straight times and to four consecutive state title games.
“There is a lot of exciting things happening in Magnolia,” Shelton said. “They have a new coach from El Dorado and he is kind of familiar with us.”
Day went 85-87 in 16 seasons with Magnolia and led the Panthers to a share of the 2002 league title. Magnolia missed the playoffs the past two seasons after making eight straight appearances.
Magnolia is currently riding a two-game losing streak following a 21-19 loss to Hot Springs last week. The Panthers turned the ball over four times and missed two extra points in the loss.
However, they still have an opportunity for a playoff spot.
“We are both playing for a playoff berth, so I believe we have to play our best football that we have all year to get a win,” Shelton said.
Shelton said the key for the Wildcats in tonight’s game is being more productive on offense.
“We just got to be better in our technique,” Shelton said. “We are awfully young up there, but I think the kids realize we have to play better than what we have for us to have some success on offense.”
In last week’s 14-6 loss to rival White Hall, the Wildcats had trouble getting anything going offensively. Kris McCullough managed just 57 yards on 5-of-12 passing and a touchdown. Devonte Batles had 11 carries for 44 yards to lead Chapel on the ground.
Shelton credited the low offensive numbers to an inexperienced offensive line.
“We are very young,” Shelton said. “The offensive line that we have out there is not the line we had in the spring.
“We had a couple of kids move and we were forced to play some kids that weren’t quite ready to play, but I think they’ve done a good job thus far.”
Shelton said the offensive line has “to step it up for us to be successful.”
White Hal and Hope are also 3-1 in the conference. White Hall will travel to Hot Springs tonight and Hope has conference leader Camden Fairview at home.
Chapel defeated Magnolia 34-12 last year. The Panthers averaged just 13 points per game in 2012.
“We have to continue to play good run defense and win the time of possession,” Shelton said. “We have to get off the field as quick as possible and create opportunities for our young offense to score.
“I’ve been real pleased with our defense so far and I expect them to play well (tonight).”
Shelton felt like the time of possession in last week’s loss to the Bulldogs played a big factor in the outcome.
“It came down to their quality of execution on offense,” Shelton said. “We got to do some things to be disruptive.
“Of course, the main objective is to get them off the field as quick as possible without them scoring. Hopefully we will play with a sense of urgency.”
Shelton said Chapel has to be “stingy with the run.”
“We have to get off the field and get the ball in the offense’s hands.”