During postgame last week, Chapel Hill coach Thomas Sitton addressed his team about their rally from 35 points down. Even though the Bulldogs lost, they were in contention until the final moments.
“We were definitely disappointed that we lost the football game but were excited about their ability to never quit,” Sitton said Wednesday. “They showed us that whatever the circumstance is and whatever the situation is, they are going to keep fighting for four quarters. That says a lot about the character of our team.”
Even though coaches would prefer wins over moral losses, Chapel Hill appeared to have come a long way since last season following their 42-34 setback against Class 4A fourth-ranked Whitehouse at the Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic. In rewinding to last year, one would find the Bulldogs on the losing end of a 38-14 decision against their Lake Tyler rival and maligned with questions all over the field.
Many were never answered, however, and the defending 3A Division I state champs finished the season 3-7. Matters seem to have improved exponentially in a year for the Bulldogs (1-1), who opened the season with a 56-37 victory against Lindale and are No. 20 in this week’s Associated Press state rankings.
“The character of our team is our kids are going to keep on believing in each other and fighting for each other,” Sitton said. “The immediate part in both football games we’ve played is we have not started well. We made a lot of mental errors early and we shot ourselves in the foot several times. We have not started the way a good football team needs to start and we have to get that fixed.”
During the next two weeks, the Bulldogs will learn even more about themselves.
On Friday night, Chapel Hill (1-1) heads on the road to take on 3A top-ranked Carthage (2-0). And next week, they meet a Palestine team (2-0) that looked impressive in its first two games and is expected to have a big year.
Leading up to those showdowns, the Bulldogs trailed Whitehouse 35-0 last week at a packed TMF Rose Stadium before scoring 27 unanswered and pulling to within 35-27 early in fourth quarter. And after the Wildcats increased the lead back to two touchdowns, Chapel Hill answered back and then forced a turnover to put the potential game-tying drive on the field with moments left.
But a cut on his throwing hand forced Bulldogs quarterback Andrew Black off the field for the drive, which ended with a turnover. Black, who’s practiced this week and his set to play Friday, finished the game with three touchdowns rushing and one passing.
“We think it got cut on a helmet clip and it was sliced open pretty good; they ended up stitching it up there in the locker room,” Sitton said. “He’s a really tough kid and it’s hurting him, but it hasn’t slowed him. It was unfortunate to happen right there toward the end.”
In addition to Black, and a rushing attack that averages 368 yards a game, the Bulldogs’ defensive front of Shaquille Warren, Kevon Kennedy and Keith Minor played impressively and got after Whitehouse blue-chip quarterback Patrick Mahomes. And during the final games before 16-3A action gets underway, Chapel Hill once again figures to be put to the test on both sides of the ball.
With big offensive gains and big defensive hits adding up, the Bulldogs hope to continue performing at a high level.
“We will find out a lot this Friday about how physical we want to be,” Sitton said. “Carthage, offensively and defensively, is very physical. We are going to see if we match up with them there. We are excited about our kids. They are going to put their hearts on the line every Friday night. When they are supposed to quit, they don’t. They keep on fighting and pushing each other.”