Chapel Hill began preseason workouts as the defending state champ for the second time in school history on Monday. The Bulldogs will learn a lot about themselves during the next month heading into Aug. 31’s season opener.
With only three starters returning from the title squad, Chapel Hill will have new faces at just about every position. And with their move to one of the state’s toughest districts, the Bulldogs will be working fast to prepare for 2012.
“We’re not going to win any games on what we did last year for sure,” head coach Thomas Sitton said. “We have to find out through our practice level and our dedication to what we want to do this year. We have to find out what we want to be in 2012.
“We have a few kids that played with us on Friday nights, but most of our kids played on Thursday.”
Chapel Hill returns one starter on offense and two on defense from a team that finished 15-0 and beat Alvarado for the Class 3A Division I title — the program’s first since 1989. Biennial realigns and reclassifications pushed the Bulldogs into 16-3A alongside three other teams with state championships during the past eight years — Gilmer, Henderson and Kilgore.
Bullard, Gladewater and Spring Hill are also members of the seven-team league.
Opening the season against two Class 4A teams (Lindale and Whitehouse) will perhaps allow the Bulldogs to measure their progression early on. Then the non-district schedule features state powerhouse Carthage in the home opener Sept. 14 and Palestine, which returns a ton of talent and might be one of the area’s top sleeper teams this fall.
“The non-district schedule is to prepare you to play in district and we’ve got four quality football teams that we’ll be playing that know how to play well and will hopefully grow our kids up quick. ...Our kids know that our district is a district that plays a high level of football and of course our non-district schedule is the same.”
District 16-3A promises to provide fans with weekly drama throughout the season as seven teams combined to win 63 games last season.
Gilmer, considered the league favorite by many, returns two starters on offensive and seven on defense from a 13-1 regional finalist in 3A Division II. Henderson, the 2010 3A Division I champion, brings back five on offense and six on defense from a 11-3 state semifinalist.
A new face to the 3A ranks is Kilgore, which returns three on offense and six on defense from a 9-5 4A Division II state quarterfinalist. Up next in many estimations is Bullard, which has eight starters on offense and nine on defense from the best team in program history — 8-5A 3A Division II regional semifinalist.
Gladewater returns four on offense and six on defense from a 5-5 squad, while Spring Hill brings back four on each side of the ball from a 2-8 team.
All teams in 3A, 2A and 1A were allowed to begin preseason sessions Monday. All teams in 5A and 4A that didn’t participate in spring drills were allowed to begin practice as well.