Watson Chapel set to face Camden at home
Last week, the Watson Chapel Wildcats (7-2, 6-0) secured their first 5A South conference championship under Head Coach Jared Dutton.
Dutton took over the program in 2014, and from day one the goals have been the same — one of which is to win a conference title. Reflecting back on last week, Dutton attributed the win to mental toughness and preparation.
The Wildcats took down the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams 20-7, beating them for the first time since 2014. Tonight, the Wildcats will wrap up the regular season as they play host to the Camden Fairview Cardinals (4-5, 4-2) on senior night.
“It was a great trip and a great road win for us,” Dutton said. “We hadn’t beat Lakeside since my first year, so they were very confident. It was cold, sleeting, and our kids were mentally tough enough to be the better team. We only gave up two big plays, and we pitched a shutout in the second half. All my assistants did a great job of getting everybody ready to go.”
Now, the Wildcats have senior night in front of them, and the chance of running the table in 5A South play. This group didn’t win a conference championship in ninth grade like the group a year before them and a year after.
According to Dutton, he could see the determination in their eyes from the beginning, and winning that championship means something to these guys.
“It was a group that didn’t win a conference championship as ninth graders,” Dutton said.
“The group in front of them did and the two after them did. They were hungry. They came in hungry for a conference championship. With us being so close last year, they were hungry for it. It’s not a bunch of senior starters on the team, but as a group they show up ready to work everyday. They’re definitely the most mentally tough team that I’ve had. Against Hot Springs, White Hall, and De Queen, everything was against us, but we found a way to win. Anytime you’re winning close games like that there’s a lot of mental toughness involved.”
According to Dutton, the Wildcats’ defense has really come along as the season has progressed. The defensive line has become one of the stronger units on the team, the linebackers are playing better, and the secondary has been consistent.
“Our defensive line has gotten better and better each week,” Dutton said. “They’ve now gotten themselves where they’re starting to be dominant. The linebacker core has been the weaker part of our defense, and we can see them getting better. Our secondary has been huge. Several big plays, interceptions, and they come down and help out with the run. Defense was a big part in last week, as we held lakeside to seven points.”
Camden will test that defense with their multiple offensive attack. The Cardinals are entering into the game in need of a win to ensure that their season will be extended into the playoffs. Dutton believes they’re in, but he expects them to come in with a lot of confidence and with their A-game.
“They’re definitely confident, and they’re 4-2 in conference,” Dutton said. “I think they’re in either way, but they’re definitely going to try and come in and knock us off. They want the three seed so they can get the better draw. They’re coming off a couple big wins, so I’m sure they’ll be confident.”
For the Cardinals, on defense their ends Cullen Rogers and Tarrion Thompson are very athletic. On offense, the Cardinals will utilize their speed on the ground and try to get the ball to junior receiver Quaishun Thompson in space.
“Their two defensive ends are really good,” Dutton said. “Their middle linebacker comes down hill, and he’s a pretty big guy. Offensively, they want to run it, and they have speed to do it. They really like to throw it to No. 4, and he seems to be their favorite target.”
For the Wildcats’ offense, Dutton wants them to play disciplined football. Lately, the ground attack has been working well for the Wildcats. Also, when it’s time to put the ball in the air, sophomore quarterback Devin Curry has delivered.
“Our offensive line has done an outstanding job as of late,” Dutton said.
“I think we’ve rushed for 300 yards in four out of the last five games. Our ground game has picked up, and it helps our defense out. At the same time, if we’re going to finish off with a win and continue on into the postseason we’re going to have to throw it and catch it. We’ve been able to do it when we’ve had to lately. We want to just stay disciplined and finish this thing off.”
White Hall traveling to De Queen
The White Hall Bulldogs have to win to get in the playoffs, and it’s been that way for the past three weeks. Tonight, the Bulldogs will be on the road to face off against the De Queen Leopards, who also need a win to secure a playoff spot.
It has come down to the last week of the regular season to decide the final three playoff spots out of the 5A South. Understandably so, considering how competitive the 5A South has been throughout the season.
White Hall sits in fifth place in the 5A South standings, while De Queen is tied for third. The top four teams make it to the playoffs, so between White Hall, De Queen and Camden Fairview, one of them won’t garner a spot.
According to Head Coach Mike Vaughn, the Bulldogs elected to rest their starting quarterback, Ollie Reddick, last week to ensure that he would be ready to go tonight. After losing to their crosstown rivals a few weeks ago, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 98-48 in the last two games.
White Hall’s defense will have to stop the high powered ground attack of the Leopards. Leopards senior Hunter Earney leads that attack with 170 carries for 1,201 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. De Queen has only recorded one touchdown through the air this season. The Bulldogs and Leopards are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.