Bulldogs keep focus on semifinal rematch

Chapel Hill wide receiver Anthony Kincade has 13 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns through two games this season. (Jaime R. Carrero | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

CARTHAGE — What a difference a year makes.

Top-ranked Chapel Hill and three-time defending state champion Carthage enter Friday ’s clash of Class 3A heavyweights with the 2010 roles reversed.

In the week prior to last year’s meeting, Chapel Hill suffered through a humbling setback to rival Whitehouse, while Carthage survived a back-and-forth thriller with Lindale.

Chapel Hill dominated last year’s encounter from start to finish, setting the tone for its run to the 3A Division I state final. In the process, Chapel Hill put an end to Carthage’s 31-game winning streak.

Fast forward 12 months, and it’s Chapel Hill coming off an emotional, see-saw win over Whitehouse. Carthage, on the other hand, is recovering from a loss to Lindale that booted the powerhouse program out of the state’s top 10.

There is, however, one streak still on the line for Carthage. It currently carries a 22-game home winning streak, and Carthage is still unbeaten (18-0) in its new stadium that opened in 2008.

“Our goals each year are to go undefeated at home, win our district and then play after Thanksgiving,” Carthage coach Scott Surratt said. “We’ve been able to go undefeated at home, and that’s been one of our goals. It’s a mindset that nobody comes into our house and beats us.”

Carthage (1-1) will have its hands full defending a Chapel Hill (2-0) offense that has scored 133 points and put up more than 1,200 yards in two games.

“They run so well at every position,” Surratt said. “Their quarterback runs well, their running backs run well. They’ve got four or five receivers, so you don’t know who’s going to get it. That’s a great thing for them and a bad thing for us.”

Quarterback Avery Saenz has been the sparkplug for Chapel Hill, completing 35 of 46 passes for 716 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“They’re doing a great job right now,” Chapel Hill coach Thomas Sitton said of his offense. “We’re playing with a high tempo and playing fast. Our receivers are catching the ball and our running backs are running hard. We’re not where we need to be yet, but I’m proud of the way we’ve started off the year.”

Chapel Hill, which was one of the area’s stingiest defenses a season ago, was torched by Whitehouse last week to the tune of 570 yards. Chapel Hill allowed six touchdowns that covered more than 30 yards.

Sitton said most of the problems were due to poor tackling.

“We put a big emphasis on that this week,” he said. “When we watched video, it was even worse that what I even thought it was after the game. I don’t want to take anything away from Whitehouse’s offense because they do a great job, but we didn’t tackle well at all.

“This week, we’ve put a huge emphasis on No. 1, getting to the football and No. 2, tackling when we get there. Hopefully it will pay off for us on Friday.”

Carthage rolled up 371 yards on Lindale last week, but Surratt said the offense needs more balance and efficient if his team is to be successful.

“We were too much in the passing game last week,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to run the football a little bit, and also score in the red zone. We got down in the red zone and couple times and didn’t score, and that was a key in the game.”

NOTE: Saenz was honored this week as the Built Ford Tough Texas High School Football Player of the Week in Class 3A for his efforts in the first two games of the season.

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