Chapel Hill scored its first win of the year with a triumph over previously unbeaten Paris last week.

But the schedule doesn't get any easier for the Bulldogs, who head to Lufkin to face Port Neches-Groves at 7:30 p.m. tonight from Abe Martin Stadium.

After opening the season with narrow losses to Class 5A schools Lindale and Whitehouse, Chapel Hill beat Paris in Week 3. The Bulldogs now play Class 5A Port Neches-Groves, which enters with 552 all-time wins (No. 68 in the state), before they battle state power Tatum, all to get ready for the District 9-4A Division I gauntlet.

"We try to design that (schedule) to prepare us for our district play," Chapel Hill coach Thomas Sitton said. "If it prepares us for our district play we know we've got a chance to get into the playoffs, which is the main goal of our program.

"Week in and week out our district is tough. We want it to be tough in non-district where we can pick our level of play up."

Port Neches-Groves (1-1) comes into the matchup off a bye week. The Indians routed Class 6A Clear Lake 38-13 in the opener and lost to West Orange-Stark in overtime, losing 33-27 after leading 27-13 at halftime.

Chapel Hill meanwhile will be riding high after pulling out a 51-41 over Paris. Junior Ja'Braylon Franklin sparked the team on both sides of the ball, providing 106 yards rushing and returning an interception for a touchdown.

"It was great," Sitton said of the win. "We've been working hard for it, finally got one and hopefully we can continue to get better and better every week."

Franklin returned his pick 22 yards for the game's first score and Kenyotta Henderson did the same from 69 yards in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs prevail last week. Chapel Hill forced four turnovers in the win.

"We're doing a good job of when we do get a turnover, producing points out of it," Sitton said. "Our defensive coaches do a good job of emphasizing what our kids need to do with it when we do get one and we've been able to capitalize on a couple of them."

They'll hope to do more of that against Port Neches-Groves, which has produced 80 percent of its yards through the air.

The Indians boast a passing attack that is averaging 318.5 yards per game but a ground game that averages 2.2 yards per rush.

Adam Morse powers the offense at quarterback. The junior has completed 43 of 68 passes (63 percent) for 637 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

In the season opener, Morse set a school record with 384 yards on 26 of 38 passing, throwing for four touchdowns and running for another.

Senior Kaleb Sparks and junior Jack Giblin are Morse's top targets, the former hauling in 19 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns and the latter tallying 266 yards and three TDs on 14 catches.

Chapel Hill will look to defensive linemen Andrew Dawson and Kris Davis to set the tone on that side of the ball, where Sitton said he wants 11 guys running after ever pass attempt.

"Andrew Dawson's doing a great job every week; he's been a warrior out there making plays all over the field," Sitton said. "Kris Davis did a great job coming in and really wreaking some havoc last week. He's got a high motor and when he decides to go he's hard to block."

Running the ball is where the Indians have struggled, having toted the ball five more times than they've passed it but for 478 fewer yards.

Chapel Hill, on the other hand, has a balanced offense, averaging 149.0 yards on the ground and 176.0 through the air.

Junior quarterback Konnor Hitchcock has thrown for 528 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions with a 56 percent completion rate. He has a number of targets to throw to, including junior Deundre Phillips (eight for 145, one TD) and senior Jeffery Minor (10 for 133, two TDs).

Franklin is the team's leading rusher with 171 yards on the season, but Reggie King (111, five TDs) and Jacob O'Neal (108) both have more than 100 yards through three games.

The production has been powered by an offensive line that has been forged in the fire against higher-classification schools.

"I thought our offensive line as young as a group they are as far as experience-wise, they've done a good job of protecting our quarterback and picking up all the blitzes we get," Sitton said.

Against a third Class 5A opponent in four games, Sitton said his team has to play smarter. Last week the Bulldogs drew 18 flags.

That will be of utmost importance in a neutral site game that should provide the perfect environment to prepare for district and playoffs.

"We killed ourselves last week in penalties," he said. "We've got to grow up as a football team, play smarter each and every week.

"They're going to have a huge crowd. I think it'll be a playoff-type atmosphere."

 
 

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