NEW CHAPEL HILL — It’s been four months since the Chapel Hill Bulldogs captured the Class 3A Division I state championship at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
On Monday night, the players and coaches were finally able to fix their eyes on the ultimate prize after being presented their state championship rings during a ceremony at the high school auditorium.
“It seems like it’s been a while since we got to play in Cowboys Stadium,” Chapel Hill head coach Thomas Sitton said. “It was great seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, seeing all the support the community gave us. It’s just been an awesome night.”
The evening began with the invocation led by Bro. Mike Ford, who traveled with team all season and led the pre-game prayers in the locker room. That was followed by the national anthem sung by Karen Bender.
Head coach Thomas Sitton took to the microphone next and reflected on the past season before introducing the night’s guest speaker Lamond Dean, former Chapel Hill High School principal and a member of Chapel Hill’s 1989 state championship team.
Dean borrowed from late-night comedian David Letterman to deliver his own top-10 list — reasons why the Bulldogs won state.
Topping the list was Sitton, which prompted a standing ovation from the crowd of hundreds.
A video presentation, which included still photographs accompanied by music and an inspirational speech, preceded the highlight of the evening — the ring presentation.
One by one, Sitton brought each player onto the stage to receive their rings, followed by the assistant coaches.
“To win something like that on a stage like Cowboys Stadium, it didn’t really set in until now,” senior defensive tackle Sir Calvin Wallace said. “When we got our rings, we did something that not a lot of people get to do. I’m just so grateful to God that he allowed us the opportunity to do this.”
Senior quarterback Avery Saenz, who missed six games during the regular season after suffering a broken ankle, returned just before the playoffs and piloted the Bulldogs through an arduous postseason run that included four come-from-behind victories.
“The year wasn’t exactly what we expected, but it was an honor to be a part of this team and a part of this community, with all my teammates and the relationships we built this year and what it stands for, and what it means to be a Bulldog,” said Saenz, who earned offensive MVP honors in the state championship win over Alvarado. “There’s no greater feeling in the world.”
Senior Anthony Kincade, who sacrificed his status as the team’s leading receiver to take over for the injured Saenz at quarterback, epitomized the team-first attitude championed by Sitton and his coaching staff.
“I didn’t care about my stats or anything else except getting back to the state championship,” Kincade said. “When Avery went down, I knew it was my turn to help out.”
As for the rings …
“I think it’s what one of the nicest things I have,” Saenz said.
Added Wallace: “It’s big. I’m never going to let anybody else wear it. Maybe my momma, but that’s about it.”