ATHENS — Avery Saenz returned to the field Friday night for Chapel Hill, just in time for what the Bulldogs hope is another long run through the postseason.
Saenz, playing for the first time since suffering a fracture in his lower right leg in Week 2, threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the top-ranked Bulldogs’ 64-7 rout of Athens in the regular-season finale at Bruce Field.
Ironically, both scoring tosses went to Anthony Kincade, who replaced Saenz as the starting quarterback.
The win gave Chapel Hill (10-0) its first perfect regular season in school history. Athens (5-5), which began the season with high expectations after last year’s team reached the state quarterfinals, ends its season losers of four of its last five.
The Bulldogs will face Jasper in the bi-district round of the Class 3A Division I playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lufkin’s Abe Martin Stadium.
Chapel Hill racked up 308 rushing yards on the legs of 11 different ball carriers. Andrew Tucker led the way with 83 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts. Rex Rollins added 64 yards on the ground, while Joseph Clark finished with 91 all-purpose yards.
The Bulldogs defense limited Athens to just 78 total yards.
Before Saenz even took the field, the Bulldogs pulled in front when Kevin Garcia returned a blocked punt 10 yards for a touchdown.
When Saenz did enter the game, his first pass went for an 18-yard touchdown to Kincade with 6:38 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs recovered an Athens fumble on the ensuing drive, and Chapel Hill marched 52 yards in six plays, scoring on Tre Allen’s 1-yard run that gave Chapel Hill a 21-0 lead.
Chapel Hill built a 28-0 advantage on the first play of the second quarter when Avery Henderson took the handoff and rushed 5 yards up the middle for the score. The touchdown capped a four-play, 80-yard drive that was helped along by a 43-yard run by Joseph Clark and a 32-yard pass from Saenz to Henderson. Athens finally got on the board on its next drive, capping a 70-yard drive with an Adam Stallings 1-yard scoring run.
The Bulldogs went on the move again, but fumbled at the Athens 2. However, one play later, Raheem Miller was tackled in his own end zone for a safety to put Chapel Hill up 30-7. Chapel Hill began the ensuing drive in Hornets territory and built a 30-point lead Andrew Tucker’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone.
Field position worked in the Bulldogs’ favor once again after pinning the Athens offense deep in its own territory and benefitting from Nelson Onwuzu’s punt return inside the opposing 20. On the first play of the drive, Onwuzu scored from 18 yards out on a double reverse.
No. 1 Chapel Hill 64, Athens 7
At Bruce Field, Athens
Chapel Hill 21 29 24 0 — 64
Athens 0 7 0 0 — 7
CH—Kevin Garcia 10 blocked punt return (Tyler Brown kick), 9:39.
CH—Anthony Kincade 18 pass from Avery Saenz (Brown kick), 6:38.
CH—Tre Allen 1 run (Brown kick), 3:47.
CH—Avery Henderson 5 run (Brown kick), 11:54.
ATH—Adam Stallings 1 run (Jesse Durham kick), 9:37.
CH—Safety, Athens tackled in end zone, 7:35.
CH—Andrew Tucker 1 run (Brown kick), 6:16.
CH—Nelson Onwuzu 18 run (run failed), 3:30.
CH—Kincade 21 pass from Saenz (Brown kick), 1:06.
CH—Rex Rollins 15 run (Brown kick), 8:18.
CH—Allen 7 run (Brown kick), :17.
First Downs 26 10
Rushes-Yards 34-308 30-(-11)
Passing Yards 172 89
Comp.-Att.-Int. 10-13-0 8-21-0
Punts-Avg. 1-39.0 7-31.1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 6-2
RUSHING—Chapel Hill, Andrew Tucker 7-83, Rex Rollins 7-64, Joseph Clark 2-52, Tre Allen 5-40, Nelson Onwuzu 1-18, Jalen Williams 3-17, Jay Reagan 2-12, Avery Saenz 2-12, Gabriel Robinson 2-6, Avery Henderson 1-5, Anthony Kincade 3-(-1). Athens, Jawuan Martin 15-36, Raheem Miller 3-7, Adam Stallings 3-4, Kendall Sanders 2-(-3), George Hutson 1-(-5), Anthony Sanders 5-(-15), Team 1-(-35).
PASSING—Chapel Hill, Saenz 9-11-0—133, Onwuzu 1-1-0—39, Kincade 0-1-0—0. Athens, Anthony Sanders 8-21-0—89.
RECEIVING—Chapel Hill, Kincade 3-45, Allen 3-25, Henderson 2-42, Clark 1-39, Onwuzu 1-21. Athens, Kendall Sanders 4-21, Zach Basher 2-41, Javonte Johnson 1-22, Nic Fincher 1-5.