BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
It’s Elk season in the Arkansas Class 4A state high school playoffs and that’s left foes just plain Dizzy and looking for Chairs the last few weeks.
Elkins (10-1), whose offense is led by quarterback Slade “Dizzy” Dean and tailback Da’Shawn Chairs, has won eight straight games and outscored its opponents 541-179 this season.
The Elks will host Nashville (9-3), winners of six of its last seven outings, Friday night in a Class 4A quarterfinal clash.
“It is a huge challenge,” noted Watson, in his second year as head coach at Elkins. “I had the good fortune of coaching down in Nashville so I know what football means to that town and those people so we are going to get their best effort for four quarters.
“They have a great coaching staff, some of the guys that I worked with are still there. It will a great challenge for us, but we have put in the work.”
It has been a banner fall in Elkins as its football teams have only lost two of 31 games.
“Program wide, the teams from 7th through 12th – and we counted it up the other day – we are now 29-2,” Watson said. “The junior high team won a conference title and obviously the senior high team won the conference title.”
Watson credits his 2021 seniors for leading the turnaround.
“I have only been here two years, but I think we started out that first year with our seniors just really buying in so fast,” Watson said. “To get something turned around so quick usually doesn’t happen, but the seniors really did a good job buying in and the juniors, who are now seniors this year, the steps to take to buy in and it has really just taken off.
“Also our community, our administration, our faculty and our players are all pulling in one direction instead of working against us.”
Elkins beat Ashdown 63-27 last week on a cold Friday night to advance while Nashville downed host Pocahontas..
“We have had great support from our community and it’s special, Watson said. “…Last Friday night it was cold, but we still had a great crowd. I’m sure we will have another this week.”
Elkins’ Dizzy Dean is a relative of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean, a member of the St. Louis Cardinals’ famed Gashouse Gang and the last MLB pitcher to win 30 games while going 30-7 in 1934.
“It is Slade Dizzy Dean and he is actually related to the real Dizzy Dean,” Watson said. “It is a family name. It is pretty unique and he is having a fantastic year.”
Dean is completing 73.5 percent of his passes this season and has thrown for 2,246 yards and 32 touchdowns.
“Dizzy is a like a coach on the field. He is the first one in the building and the last one to leave. He watches film like he is a coach and he has spread the ball out this year. We have some dynamic receivers that keep the field spread to all Da’Shawn to get his.”
Dean has thrown scoring strikes to six different receivers with Jusiah Bettencourt (13), Aden Williams (9) and Stone Dean (5) hauling in 27 of those.
“I think it all starts up front,” Watson said. “Coach Callen Cleveland has done a great job in his first year here. From day one until now, I think that group has improved more than any other and they keep getting better and better.
“…They are protecting Dizzy really well and opening up holes for Da’Shawn Chairs, who is having another incredible season. He had 30 touchdowns last season and is at 30 again this year.
Chairs rushed for 1,518 yards last season and has piled up 1,748 during this campaign.
“Last Friday he had 451 all-purpose yards by himself,” Watsob said. “He had 329 yards (rushing) on 17 carries, which is just stupid numbers like 19.3 yards per carry. He also had 71 yards receiving and a 51-yard kickoff return.
“He is special back there and they loaded the box last year and couldn’t stop him and couldn’t load the box this year.”
Elkins defense has also been outstanding.
“Our defense…is giving up something like 15 points in game and most of those are coming in the first half a game,” Watson said. “I can’t remember when somebody scored on us in the second half. They re doing a tremendous job and flying around. It’s been a great year overall offensively and defensively.”