TYLER — If the Chapel Hill Bulldogs and their 6-4 record didn’t look good on paper, they sure looked good in person.
The Bulldogs booted the previously undefeated Athens Hornets from the playoffs Friday night with a 52-26 win in a Region II-3A Division I bi-district matchup at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. Athens, the District 15-3A champion that posted the first undefeated regular season in program history, saw its season end at 10-1.
In getting the victory, Chapel Hill claimed its ninth-consecutive win over Athens.
The Bulldogs, hailing from the so-called “District of Doom” that includes state-ranked powerhouses Kilgore and Gilmer, will face Crandall in the second round of the playoffs next Friday. Chapel Hill’s four losses came to teams that finished the regular season with a combined record of 37-2.
One of the big questions coming into the game was whether the Bulldogs could contain the Hornets’ run-heavy Wing-T offense. The answer was no, they couldn’t – Athens rushed for 333 yards, including 184 from sophomore fullback phenom Logan Fuller, the Athens single-season record holder for most rushing yards in a season (1,724) and touchdowns in a season (27).
But with the way the Bulldogs’ offense was clicking, they didn’t have to stop the Hornets’ run game. They just had to outscore them. Chapel Hill senior quarterback Andrew Black broke down the Athens defense with his arm and his legs, rushing 14 times for 124 yards and three touchdowns. He was an efficient 12 of 18 for 166 yards passing with two more scores.
The game didn’t get out of hand until the final six minutes, when a pair of touchdowns sent the Bulldogs past the half-century mark on the scoreboard – easily the most points the Hornets have yielded this season. Chapel Hill grabbed a healthy dose of momentum much earlier thanks to clutch special teams play.
Black’s one-yard trot put the Bulldogs ahead first, but the Hornets responded with a 15-yard run from Fuller that gave Athens a 7-6 lead with 7:40 left in the opening quarter. That lead, the only one for the Hornets, lasted for a little more than three minutes, ending when Black hit Jeffery Minor with a six-yard touchdown pass.
Athens took the ball on its next possession and drove down to the Chapel Hill 3-yard line in eight plays. The drive stalled, however, and after a five-yard penalty, kicker Christian Chairez (filling in for the injured David Cedillo) came on to attempt a 24-yard field goal that could have cut the Bulldogs’ early lead to two points.
Instead, Chapel Hill’s Wesley Thompson blocked the attempt and teammate Rex Cicero picked up the ball and rumbled 88 yards for a touchdown to put his team ahead, 18-7, on the first play of the second quarter. Athens cut it to four, 18-14, on Fuller’s second touchdown run of the night, a two-yarder with 8:20 left in the second quarter, and trailed at the half, 24-14.
Playing from behind, the Hornets didn’t have the luxury of trading scores with the Bulldogs. But that’s exactly what the Bulldogs did. Devin Hall’s two-yard plunge that cut the Chapel Hill lead to 10 late in the third quarter was followed by another Black touchdown run that pushed the lead to 18. Anthony Sanders hit Travon Fuller with a 17-yard touchdown pass with 9:42 left in the game, but the Bulldogs answered with Ja’Braylon Franklin’s four-yard run to move the lead to 46-26 at the 5:41 mark in the fourth quarter.
After the Hornets turned the ball over on downs late, Malik Walker broke free on a 63-yard touchdown run with three minutes left to put the game away for the Bulldogs.
Chapel Hill 52, Athens 26
Athens 7 7 6 6 -- 26
C. Hill 12 12 14 14 -- 52
CH -- Andrew Black 1 run (kick fails), 10:53
A -- Logan Fuller 15 run (Christian Chairez kick), 7:40
CH -- Black 6 pass to Jeffery Minor (kick fails), 4:11
CH -- Rex Cicero 88 FG block return (kick blocked), 11:43
A -- Fuller 2 run (Chairez kick), 8:20
CH -- Black 46 pass to Gabriel Robinson (kick blocked), 1:14
CH -- Black 1 run (kick fails), 6:52
A -- Devin Hall 2 run (pass fails), 2:20
CH -- Black 16 run (Black to Robinson pass), 1:35
A -- Anthony Sanders 17 pass to Travon Fuller (pass fails), 9:42
CH -- Ja'Braylon Franklin 4 run (Black run), 5:41
CH -- Malik Walker 63 run (kick fails), 3:05
First downs 19 24
Rush-yards 50-333 42-302
Passing yards 66 166
C-A-I 5-14-0 12-18-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0
Punts-avg. 2-30-0 0-00.0
Penalties-yards 7-50 4-35
Rushing — A: Logan Fuller 31-184; Anthony Sanders 8-89; Devin Hall 10-54; Ladarius Jordan 1-6. CH: Wesley Thompson 9-76; Andrew Black 14-124; Jeffery Minor 3-(-1); Jesse Mumphrey 6-17; Ja'Braylon Franklin 5-28; Malik Walker 4-64; Konnor Hitchcock 1-(-6).
Passing — A: Anthony Sanders 5-14-66-0. CH: Andrew Black 12-18-166-0.
Receiving — A: Devin Hall 1-9; Travon Fuller 4-57. CH: Jeffery Minor 6-59; Ja'Braylon Franklin 1-8; Blake Mayfield 1-4; Gabriel Robinson 3-77; Lex Heckel 1-18.