The Watson Chapel Wildcats (4-3, 4-1 5A-South) will have their final regular season road matchup of the season when they take on the the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams (2-6, 1-4) on Friday night.
The Wildcats are coming off a conference win at home with a 30-0 victory over the Magnolia Panthers while the Rams enjoyed their first conference win of the season with a 42-12 road win over the De Queen Leopards.
With the season winding down, Watson Chapel’s head coach George Shelton said his team is keeping focus by taking it one game at a time despite already clinching a playoff spot.
“I’m not looking two weeks from now and I’m not looking at playoffs,” Shelton said. “I’m totally focusing on Friday night against Lakeside. We’re looking to try to win another conference game.”
With two games remaining in the regular season, Watson Chapel is currently in a four-way tie with Camden Fairview, Hope, and White Hall for the 5A-South title. White Hall and Hope play this week and Chapel gets Fairview next Friday at home. The Wildcats are guaranteed at least a share of the conference title if they can win out. Shelton said they have been aspiring to win the conference title all season long and will keep working to reach their goal for at least a share of the title.
“That’s something we certainly set our eyes to,” he said of winning a conference championship. “As far as how it impacts our program, it would be great. It would be the second time we have been able to win a conference title so we’re trying to win a championship.”
Watson Chapel, currently ranked 9th in 5A by Hootens.com will not take 24th-ranked Lakeside lightly despite the Rams only having one conference victory. Shelton said Lakeside is better than its record indicates and it will be a tough battle on Friday night.
“They’re a very good football team,” he said. “They have played everybody close and lost to Hope on a last-second field goal. They will be very inspired. This could be a win for them to salvage their season to a certain extent and certainly play spoiler to our dreams.”
Shelton said he remembers the 25-21 loss last year against Lakeside at home.
“They beat us last year in a heartbreaker,” he said. “We were up and we fumbled the ball away. They were able to make plays and come back and beat us when we had a substantial lead. Hopefully we won’t make the same mistakes.”
Watson Chapel’s defense continues to play well coming off their second shutout of the season last week. Shelton gave credit to his defense for playing well throughout the year and will look for another solid performance from them against Lakeside.
“Our defense has been playing much better for the last month or so,” he said. “We knew at the beginning of the season that our best football players were on defense. We felt like they had enough experience and had been battle tested enough to put on a quality defensive performance. We know that if we are going to be successful, we will be led by our defense.”
Senior running back Devonte Battles continued his impressive campaign this season scoring four touchdowns last week against Magnolia while also lining up in the quarterback position. Shelton said they look for many ways to give Battles the football and will line him up at the quarterback position again.
“(Battles) provides a dimension at that position that we are accustomed to having,” Shelton said. “We just felt like that we needed to be a little bit more nimble at times in that position, but by no means have we thrown Kris McCullough to the salvage yard. He is still going to be an integral part of what we do offensively. We are in full awareness of what kind of football team we have in terms of our strength and our weakness, and we’re hoping that we can play to our strength.”
The Wildcats and the Rams are set to kickoff from Chick Austin Stadium at 7 p.m.