Bulldogs picking up where they left off in playoffs

Chapel Hill quarterback Andrew Black runs with fullback Lex Heckel through a crowd of Gladwater defenders on Nov. 1. (Victor Texcucano | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Chapel Hill returned to the postseason in dominant fashion last week, cruising to a 52-26 victory against then-unbeaten Athens.

In doing so, the Bulldogs finished with almost 500 total yards and kept the Hornets' vaunted rushing attack away from the end zone most of the night. It was their first playoff win since capturing the Class 3A Division I state championship two seasons ago.

"It was a great feeling Friday night because we'd been off for a couple of weeks and were excited to get back on the playoff field," said Chapel Hill coach Thomas Sitton, whose team's bye came in the final week of the regular season. "We have a great group of kids here at Chapel Hill. They are fun to coach and the opportunity they've given us to get the chance to coach them another week is very big for us."

This week Chapel Hill (7-4) meets Crandall (5-5) in the 3A Division I area round at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Royse City ISD Stadium. The winner advances to play either Decatur (8-3) or Wilmer-Hutchins (5-5) in the regional round.

Chapel Hill, which faced seven playoff teams during the regular season, is only two wins away from a possible showdown with District 16-3A champion and second-ranked Kilgore (10-0) in the state quarterfinals.

"Our non-district schedule was very tough," Sitton said. "We've got some great caliber teams on our non-district schedule and when you talk about our district, it's the toughest one in the state. … It helped us get ready for the playoffs and play some playoff-caliber football."

In the playoff opener Friday night at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, the Bulldogs needed only a minute in the first quarter to reach the end zone for the first time this postseason. They carried a 24-14 lead into the break and then scored 28 points in the second half to pull away.

Senior quarterback Andrew Black continued to lead the way on the ground and through the air, finishing the night with 15 carries for 141 yards and three touchdowns and completing 12 of 18 passes for 163 yards and two TDs. All told Chapel Hill finished with 43 carries for 317 yards and racked up 28 first downs to score more than 50 points for the third time in four games.

Explosive touchdowns were scored from 80 (blocked field goal return by Rex Cicero), 46 (Black pass to Gabriel Robinson) and 63 (run by Malik Walker) yards.

On defense the Bulldogs still gave up more than 300 yards on the ground, but made stops at crucial times.

"Athens had done such a good job running the football all year long," Sitton said. "I was excited about the way our defense played. They played tough and they played physical and got some stops.

"I thought offensively we did a great job of playing fast and playing up tempo. We didn't give them a whole lot of chances to catch their breath."

This week, Chapel Hill returns to facing a tradition spread offense after going against Athens' Wing-T formation. Crandall has won three consecutive games and opened the playoffs with a 22-7 win against Paris.

"We got a chance to watch them Thursday night against a very athletic Paris team," Sitton said. "They are very disciplined. They made some huge plays in the first half that put Paris down 22-0 at the half."

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