NEW CHAPEL HILL — It had been since 2013 that the Chapel Hill Bulldogs had reached the fourth round of the high school football playoffs.
That changed last Friday night at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium when the Bulldogs rallied from an early 17-0 deficit to take a 41-35 win in double overtime over district foe Kilgore.
Chapel Hill reached at least the state quarterfinals three times from 2010-13, including winning a state championship in 2011. From 2013-19, the Bulldogs advanced to the second round of the postseason just once and missed the playoffs from 2016-19.
And after going 8-5 and reaching the third round a season ago, the Bulldogs (10-3) are now one of just eight teams remaining in Class 4A Division II.
“I’ve been telling them that last year, to practice on Thanksgiving and go to the third round was unbelievable,” Chapel Hill coach Jeff Riordan said. “All offseason, I told them that’s the floor. That’s where we were last year. We’ve got to do better than what we did last year.
“Now we’ve got 10 wins and playing in the fourth round. Teams they remember play in December.”
The Bulldogs will do just that when they take on Little Cypress-Mauriceville (11-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium in Cypress.
The Bears have won six straight games since a 29-12 loss to Vidor on Oct. 15. Chapel Hill defeated Vidor 25-20 in the opening round of the playoffs. Chapel Hill has also won six straight since a 41-20 loss to Kilgore on Oct. 15.
“I think they’re very similar to us,” Riordan said. “They kind of caught fire late. They’re playing really good football right now. They have an extremely dynamic quarterback that can throw and run. They have a tailback that’s quick as a cat. They’ve got a couple of receivers that can play, and they’re pretty good up front.
“Defensively, their defensive front is no different than the ones we’ve seen against Kilgore, Henderson and Vidor. They’re very good. They just play sound football, and they’re well-coached.”
Little Cypress-Mauriceville is coached by Eric Peevey, who is in his first year at Little Cypress-Mauriceville after a four-year stint at Beaumont West Brook, where he lead the Bruins to the state title game against Longview in 2018. Riordan said Peevey also coached at Crosby before Riordan became the Crosby head coach in 2012.
Leading the defense for the Bears is defensive lineman Amier Washington, a junior who has offers from Baylor and Texas Tech.
That will present another challenge for the Chapel Hill offensive line, which imposed its will a week ago to pave the way for 396 rushing yards against Kilgore. Freshman running back Rickey Stewart had 21 carries for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Demetrius Brisbon had 15 carries for 101 yards and two scores. Senior Samari Willis added 10 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score in the second overtime.
“They’re getting better every week,” Riordan said. “I think what you’re seeing is the cohesiveness and the chemistry of that offensive line, working together and understanding what their job is. And we’ve got special guys with special talents touching the ball.”
Making up the Chapel Hill offensive line are senior center Nathan Ruiz, junior left guard Corey Johnson, junior left tackle Keviyan Huddleston, sophomore right guard Pablo Martinez and sophomore right tackle Dyllan Drummond.
“We know we have to step up in the trenches and protect our guys back there,” Johnson said.
“We just have to continue to block,” Huddleston said. “Even though they keep on going, we have to continue to block until the play is over.”
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to the Class 4A Division I semifinals to face either Austin LBJ or Fredericksburg.
Friday’s game will be on the same date (Dec. 3) and at the same location — the Berry Center — that the 2010 Bulldogs won a state semifinal game against West Columbia in 2010 before falling to Henderson in the state championship game. Little Cypress-Mauriceville defeated West Columbia 42-21 in the second round of the playoffs this season.