Conference realignment will hit home for the Watson Chapel Wildcats and the White Hall Bulldogs this season as both are now members of the 5A Central.
After being mainstays in the 5A South for a number years, the teams are in for some tough new competition. Watson Chapel Head Coach Jared Dutton said that they'll be playing six new teams, so a key part to having success will be learning how their new foes play.
"It's going to be different overall," Dutton said. "I guess you can say six different teams because us and White Hall, we were in the 5A South together, so we know them. Everybody else is going to be a new team that we haven't seen. You have to learn about them and what they're doing."
Both the Bulldogs and the Wildcats entered into the 5A South in 2012. White Hall Head Coach Mike Vaughn referenced the fact that they had to go through that conference change six seasons ago, so he feels they're equipped to handle their newest move.
"We've been in the Central before several years ago," Vaughn said. "I know some of the coaches in that league, but the kids don't really know much about it. From conference to conference sometimes style of play is different. They may throw the football more than we did in the South. We enjoy the fact we don't have to travel very far."
The 5A Central is made of the four-time defending 5A State Champions Pulaski Academy. Other members of the Central are Little Rock Christian, Little Rock Parkview, Maumelle, Beebe and Little Rock Fair.
On paper, it's one of the most competitive conferences in the state, and Dutton believes it'll be the strongest from top to bottom.
"You have six or seven teams that can finish in that top four, and you're going to have some good teams who are not in that top four at the end of the year," Dutton said. "It's going to (be a) fight each and every week. You can't take a week off because after one good team comes, if you're able to get that win then another one is coming. It's no time off, we have to get ready to go, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
Watson Chapel was picked by Hooten's Arkansas Football to finish fourth in the 5A Central Standings while White Hall was picked to finish in sixth place. But Vaughn said he isn't worried about the prognosticators.
"That varies from year to year," Vaughn said of the competition level in the 5A Central. "P.A. has been a dominant team in Arkansas for years, and we know we'll have to play them now. Some teams are up one year and down the next so you just don't know."