Watson Chapel football coach Jared McBride doesn’t feel pressure going into Friday night’s home game against Hot Springs Lakeside, although a win likely will secure a seventh straight state playoff appearance for his school.

Watson Chapel football coach Jared McBride doesn’t feel pressure going into Friday night’s home game against Hot Springs Lakeside, although a win likely will secure a seventh straight state playoff appearance for his school.


"Just grateful to have the opportunity," the first-year head coach said. "It’s like we tell our kids: It wasn’t that long ago that nobody gave us a chance."


Five weeks ago, to be exact. That’s when the Wildcats suffered a 24-7 setback at Hot Springs to open 5A-South Conference play and slip to an unusual 0-4 overall start for the program.


Since, the Wildcats have rallied off four straight wins, needing triple overtime last Friday at Magnolia to protect their newest streak and stand at 4-4 and 4-1 in the 5A-South – tied for first place with perennial power Camden Fairview and upstart Hot Springs.


The method of operation for the Wildcats, however, has been the same each week, according to Dutton.


"It’s still about each week getting better," he said, reviewing the 3-0 win at Magnolia. "It’s not that we played bad. Anytime you get a shutout, the defense has done things well – and special teams.


"The offense, we moved the ball, but we could not ever finish off a drive. I know we were in the red zone once or twice, but on either of those plays, we could not finish. Our defense kept us in the ballgame and gave us a chance to win, and luckily, Sam (Beavers) went in and knocked one (field goal) through."


The Watson Chapel defense is in for a big test Friday against a Hot Springs Lakeside (4-4, 3-2) team that’s won two straight but is on the wrong side of a fourth-place tie with White Hall. (White Hall defeated Lakeside 49-35 in Hot Springs on Oct. 10.)


The Rams have scored 35 or more points in all but one game this year, most recently holding off winless De Queen 57-42 at home.


"Our defense has to wrap up, make plays at the point of attack," Dutton said. "If you watch them on film, their guys run hard and run through tackles. I don’t know if they faced as much speed as we’re going to have, and I hope that is going to work in our favor."


Despite Watson Chapel barely avoiding being shut out itself last week, Lakeside coach Jared McBride is conscious of the Wildcats’ big play ability with Kevonte Coplin, Trayvarious Cole and Travion Woods at running back and Roger Totten II at quarterback.


"We have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides, not turn the ball over, minimize the big play and be effective in the special teams game," McBride said.


The Rams must win their last two – the finale being at home against Hot Springs next Friday – to be guaranteed a playoff spot, McBride said. It’s just a sign of the improved parity in the 5A-South.


"I’ve said it from the start that the conference is wide-open this year," said Dutton, whose Wildcats can win at least a share of the conference championship by winning their last two. "I was mainly telling our kids, but I meant it: Any team – from Hope to Magnolia, who’s improved this year – any team could have a chance to win it. It’s still five teams that have the chance to be in first place."