White Hall and Watson Chapel going to battle
Sitting in totally opposite positions in the 5A South standings, the White Hall Bulldogs (3-0) will host the Watson Chapel Wildcats (0-3) in a crucial rivalry game tonight.
White Hall has reeled off four straight wins, including a combined margin of victory of 92-0 in their last two games. Watson Chapel, on the other hand, has lost their last three outings, and they are in need of a big win to turn things around.
Watson Chapel Head Coach Jared Dutton and the Wildcats are well aware of the adversity they face, but they haven't given up on the season. Watson Chapel still has a chance to earn a playoff spot, but first Dutton knows they have to play better football.
"We've definitely dug ourselves a hole," Dutton said. "We haven't played good football all the way around. We're doing it at times, but not we're doing it for four quarters. We know our backs are against the wall. We're facing adversity, and it's all about how we react."
According to Dutton, the Bulldogs are putting forward a winning effort every game, and they've been rewarded for it.
"They've been playing very hard, and they've been doing things right," Dutton said. "They're scoring a lot of points and haven't given up many. It'll be a challenge on both sides of the ball. We're going to their place, their crowd is going to be there and be loud. They're sitting at the top of the conference. It ought to be a great night for football and a great atmosphere."
The Wildcats have edged out the Bulldogs in their last two meetings. In 2017 it was Watson Chapel that beat White Hall 21-20, and in 2016, Chapel beat them 41-36. That 2016 loss to Watson Chapel was during White Hall's last conference championship season, so even when one of these teams is rolling or the other is down, it's been a solid matchup over the years.
"It's been a good game every year except one since I've been here," Dutton said. "About three years ago it was the mercy rule, and other than that it's come down to the end. The past couple of years have been crazy endings, and we've found a way to come out on top. Our confidence is definitely there we just have to find a way to put four quarters together."
Watson Chapel has totaled 819 passing yards and 1,243 rushing yards. Wildcats junior quarterback Devin Curry leads the team in both categories with 775 passing yards and 503 rushing yards.
White Hall has totaled 1,033 passing yards and 1,286 rushing yards. They've been highly balanced on offense as they've recorded nine rushing touchdowns and 15 passing touchdowns. Bulldogs senior quarterback Josh Looney completed 20/21 passes last week against Beebe for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Bulldogs junior running back Dante Buckner is nearing the 1,000-yard mark with 837 rushing yards on the season.
The Wildcats and Bulldogs are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff tonight at White Hall.
Pine Bluff travels to Searcy
The Pine Bluff Zebras and the Searcy Lions are both 2-1 in the 6A East standings. That's indicative of how pivotal their matchup tonight will be. After the game, one of the two teams will be solely in third place; the other will be solely in fourth place in the standings.
The Zebras are coming off of a 29-12 road loss to Jonesboro, while Searcy bounced back with a 37-23 win over Marion last week. Pine Bluff Head Coach Bobby Bolding said he knew Jonesboro would be a tough out, but he sees this Searcy team as something they haven't had to deal with up to this point.
"Jonesboro ran the ball, mostly," Bolding said. "We haven't seen nobody throw it like Searcy does. They throw it almost every down. It'll be a different creature for us."
Pine Bluff has been decimated by injuries this season, and they currently have 14 new starters on the field. Inexperience on both sides of the ball has hurt the Zebras, but they're still playing hard.
"It's all we have, we have injuries," Bolding said. "We're playing hard, we're just making too many mistakes. We turned it over four times last week, and we missed one-on-one tackles. We've been in every game in the fourth quarter, we've just made mistakes that catch up with us."
One of the biggest injuries that the Zebras are dealing with is the loss of junior quarterback Tyler Foots. Junior quarterback Shauwn Howell has stepped right in and controlled the offense, and he'll get his third start of his high school tenure tonight.
Bolding said he didn't expect much dropoff in production when Howell was inserted, as he got playing time with the first-team all throughout fall practice and during the season.
"We have to do a little bit better job of protecting the quarterback and protecting the football," Bolding said. "Howell was getting reps with the ones before Tyler got injured."
As Bolding referenced, Searcy likes to air it out on offense. Searcy senior quarterback Peyton Wright has been another prototypical quarterback for Coach Mark Kelley. Wright has completed 136/239 passes for 1,767 yards, 14 touchdowns while throwing six interceptions. Wright is a pocket passer, and he won't look to run the ball much. He's recorded 18 carries for 33 yards on the season.
The Lions have three receivers with at least 30 receptions, and senior Tim Williams leads the group with 32 catches for 528 yards and seven touchdowns.
"They've had a run of good quarterbacks the last couple years," Bolding said. "That position is so important in today's game. He has good skill position guys to get the ball to. Seary is playing fundamental football, and they've made steady progression."
With playoff seeding positioning on the line, Bolding just wants his team to play well.
"We just have to worry about ourselves, and the rest will sort itself out," he said.
Pine Bluff will be on the road at Searcy for a 7 p.m. kickoff tonight.
Dollarway traveling to Drew Central
The Dollarway Cardinals will travel down to Drew Central to face the Pirates in a conference matchup.
Dollarway and McGehee were tied at halftime last week, but Dollarway had two turnovers and allowed McGehee to score 22 unanswered points to suffer a loss. Dollarway Head Coach Martese Henry has made it a point to put this team on the back of the seniors from here on out.
"We had a good conversation after the loss to McGehee," Henry said. "Everybody is focused and all-in. We know we have the opportunity to make the playoffs. We're currently in fourth place. This ball game is very important and we're riding our seniors coat tail going forward."
Dollarway ended an 18-game losing streak after defeating Lakeside 20-14 a couple of weeks ago.
Senior QB Terrance Brown tossed TD passes to Jercorian Dickson and Da'Vion Brown against McGehee.
Drew Central has not qualified for the playoffs since 2008 season. The Pirates have lost 12 straight games.
First-year Pirates Head Coach Matt Gonzales is in a similar spot as Henry who is also in his first year at the helm. Henry has been able to scout the Pirates out, and he respects what Gonzales has done with that program.
"We've been able to evaluate them," Henry said. "Coach Gonzales and I are kind of in the same boat. They have a good size team, and we're pretty even on depth. A lot of younger guys, they're fast, and they that have size. He's going through the growing process just like I am. It can be anybody's ball game."
As far as players to watch for Drew Central, junior athlete Travarus Shead has really stood out on film according to Henry.
"Shead is pretty much their go-to guy," Henry said. "He's going to be a special player."
The Cardinals and the Pirates are set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Drew Central.