HOPE — Watson Chapel’s Kristen Trammel intercepted a pass with 1:45 left in the game to help seal a 19-17 win over Hope in 5A-South Conference action at Foy Hammons Stadium on Friday night.
Watson Chapel (3-2, 3-0 in 5A-South) and Hope (4-2, 2-1 in 5A-South) went back and forth all night until the final minutes of the game. Watson Chapel head coach George Shelton praised his players’ effort and his coaches’ throughout the night for their resiliency and determination.
“It was just a real hard-fought win,” Shelton said. “I’m real proud of our kids. Our staff worked really hard and they worked really hard to get prepared for their (Hope) multiple offense. Hope has outstanding talent. Our kids fought hard and we were able to get the win.”
The Wildcats and the Bobcats battled back throughout the first quarter resulting in a 0-0 tie at the end of the first quarter. The Bobcats struck the scoreboard first early in the second quarter when Kyler Means knocked through a 36-yard kick to give Hope the lead. After the short kickoff, Watson Chapel took over from its own 46-yard line. The Wildcats needed just one play to find
pay dirt when quarterback Kris McCullough found Kirel Young down the right sideline for a 53-yard TD pass. Corey Baxter added the PAT to put the Cats ahead 7-3 with 10:04 left before halftime.
Watson Chapel forced a punt later in the quarter, which landed in the stands about four rows up, and took over from their own 49-yard line. With great field position, the Wildcats marched down to the Bobcats 28-yard line. On first down, McCullough threw a beautiful fade pass to Young on the right side for a 28-yard TD pass. The PAT after was botched and the Wildcats lead 13-3 approaching halftime.
The Bobcats added a 29-yard field goal at the end of the first half to make the score 13-6.
Senior running back Devonte Battles had a quiet first half without finding the end zone through two quarters. That would change in the second half as the Wildcats found ways to get him the ball.
“He was (banged) up a little bit and been a little sick during the week,” Shelton said of Battles’ struggles in the first half. “He has a special skill set as I’ve said all the time. He can run it and he can catch it. We put him in some situations in the passing game and he came through for us.”
After the Bobcats forced a safety on Battles early in the third quarter, he responded in the fourth quarter with two huge plays for the Wildcats. Leading 13-11 with 9:47 left in the game, McCullough found Battles on third down on the wheel route down the left sideline. Battles caught the pass and burst down the sideline before cutting back up field and breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown.
The Wildcats forced a punt with 8:01 left in the game and took over from their own 5-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, McCullough once again found Battles on the wheel route for a big 35-yard gain for a first down. The Wildcats were able to run down the clock to 3:05 before being forced to punt.
Hope responded however with a double-reverse pass as quarterback Nathan Stubber found a wide open Kenneth Thompson down the middle for a 60-yard TD catch. The two-point conversion passed sailed over Channing Knight’s head as Watson Chapel clung to a 19-17 lead.
The Wildcats were unable to run out the clock as they had to punt with 1:45 left in the game, but Trammel’s heroics shut down the Bobcat comeback as Chapel escaped with a hard fought two-point victory and remain undefeated in conference play.
After the game, Shelton gave all the credit in the world to his defense and staff for sticking to the end and prevailing for the win.
“Our defense, wow, we have been begging, hoping and praying and working hard and they finally came through,” Shelton said. “They were prepared and played vicious all night long. They did a great job tackling and responded when Hope made some plays. They just did a great job.”
McCullough finished the night on 5-of-8 passing with 186 yards and three touchdowns. Young led the receivers with three catches for 89 yards and two scores. Battles finished the night with 149 all-purpose yards and one touchdown.
Watson Chapel will host the rival White Hall Bulldogs next week during Chapel’s homecoming.