Watson Chapel’s total offense of 369 yards was not enough to seal a victory as the defending state 5A champion, Camden Fairview, defeated the Wildcats 28-14 Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
The loss cost Watson Chapel a co-championship and the No. 1 seed from the 5A-South Conference and dropped the Wildcats all the way to the No. 4 seed in the 5A state playoffs. Watson Chapel will travel to Little Rock next Friday night to take on Pulaski Academy in the first round.
The Cardinals (9-1, 6-1 in 5A-South) got on the board 14-0 midway through the second quarter before Watson Chapel (5-4, 5-2) picked up, but the Wildcats could never capitalize on key plays and turnovers.
“We had an opportunity to make a play in the secondary. We got our hands on several balls, but we never secured the interception. We’ve got to make those turnovers in our favor,” Watson Chapel coach George Shelton said.
The Cardinals used half of the clock in the first half. After a 23-yard pass from senior quarterback Matthew Ollison to junior wide receiver Cornelius Page to the Wildcats’ 1, Ollison scored on a keeper the next play. Watson Chapel senior quarterback Kris McCullough and the offense managed the next drive all the way to the Cardinal 18. On a third-and-15, the Wildcats were called for holding. Deciding to go for it on fourth-and-28, Watson Chapel was bailed out on a pass interference call against Camden Fairview. However, the Wildcats’ field goal attempt from 33 yards out was no good.
On the following drive for Camden Fairview, senior running back Deion Holliman carried the ball 43 yards inside the Wildcats’ 5 yard line. Two plays later Ollison punched in the score again on a quarterback keeper.
Both teams traded drives, and the Wildcat defense kicked into gear and backed the Cardinal offense into the end zone. On third-and-19, Watson Chapel senior linebacker Larry Cunning sacked Matthew Ollison for a safety.
Receiving the ball after putting two points on the board, the offense had a balanced attack that ended with McCullough finding senior running back Devonte Battles for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
“We ran the ball fairly well. We tried to get the ball in our tailbacks hands and mix in some pass here and there,” stated Shelton.
The Wildcats opened the second half with the same type of offensive scheme, and senior linebacker Josh Harris scored on a critical fourth down as he ran the ball from 7 yards out to tie the ball game up, 14-14. Ollison answered Watson Chapel’s opening drive by leading his offense down the field for another score to take the lead back, 21-14.
Watson Chapel attempted three field goals throughout the game and all were no good. With 8 minutes left in the game, on a fourth-and-3 from the their own 48 yard line Wildcats senior linebacker Josh Harris came in on offense again to convert the fourth down, but was stopped short.
A second chance to tie up the game was given to the Wildcats as Cunning highlighted the night with another clutch play. Cunning recovered a Camden Fairview fumble to set up shop at the Watson Chapel 38 with 6:07 left in the fourth quarter.
Two plays later McCullough was drilled by a Cardinal blitz but managed to get off a 33-yard pass off to senior wide receiver Austin Goodwin.
McCullough only stayed out for one play. On fourth and 9 at the Cardinal 31 with 4 minutes left, McCullough was flushed out the pocket and his pass to Trey Woods was incomplete.
Camden Fairview took advantage on the following drive. On third-and-16 from the 24, Ollison completed a pass to Deion Holliman and he took it all the way to the Watson Chapel 1. On the next play Ollison ran on a quarterback sneak to score the final touchdown of the game.
“We got to do a better job containing people on the outside,” Shelton said.
McCullough completed 4 of 8 passes for 149 yards. Battles rushed 20 times for 119 yards and Kirel Young had three catches for 78 yards.