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A New Era: Chapel Hill Goes Into 2012 With Rings + Great Memories

(From left) Wesley Thompson, Joseph Clark and Gabriel Robinson all won state championship rings with Chapel Hill in 2011 as sophomores. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

High school football coaches are quick to flip the switch toward that next big game, or in Chapel Hill’s case, the next season.

Bulldogs coach Thomas Sitton certainly isn’t one to dwell in the past — it’s about 2012 now, he says — as Chapel Hill goes into the new season with arguably the toughest schedule in East Texas (and playing in the District of Doom), it’s still a good time to relive five of Chapel Hill’s biggest moments in a 2011 season that saw the Bulldogs bring the crown back to East Texas.

No. 5: The Goal-Line Stand

It didn’t take long for Chapel Hill fans to experience playoff heartburn. Tied at 20 and Waco La Vega on the Chapel Hill 1-yard line with less than two minutes into the game, there had to be the feeling that this could be the end for the favorites to win it all. But, on fourth-and-1, the Chapel Hill defensive line stuffed Randy Gober for no gain and the ball.

Which leads to …

No. 4: Off He Goes

Three plays after the heart-stopping goal-line stand, Andrew Tucker took care of business. Tucker was trying to get a first down on third-and-4 to send the game to overtime, but he quickly found some daylight. Ninety-three yards later, Chapel Hill had scored the game-winning touchdown and secured a berth in the state quarterfinals.

No. 3: Fourth Down? No Problem

Down 16-14. 2:09 left. No timeouts. Yet again Chapel Hill found itself in a hole and a long way — 71 yards, to be exact — to go against West Columbia in the state semifinals. The blood pressure didn’t subside, either, when the Bulldogs faced fourth-and-7. No first down, and it’s over. But, quarterback Avery Saenz rolled right and flung a prayer toward Tre Allen, who amazingly came down with the catch to give Chapel Hill a first down at the West Columbia 25.

No. 2: Going to the ‘Ship

Three plays later on third down — following a spike on first down to stop the clock and an incompletion — the Bulldogs cemented their place in the state championship. Nelson Onwuzu cut across the middle of the field on a post route and Saenz found him on a 13-yard touchdown with only 8 seconds left in the game.

No. 1: That’s It

Alvarado gave the heavily favored Bulldogs all they could handle in the Class 3A Division I title game. The Indians had upset defending-champion Henderson the week before, and now they were driving deep into Chapel Hill territory. The Bulldogs’ 20-19 lead wasn’t safe — certainly not with Alvarado on the Chapel Hill 21-yard line.

Well, until now.

Cornerback Jay Reagan forced a fumble from Alvarado receiver Austin Ellinger and Wesley Thompson recovered with 1:58 left to play.

***

With that revisited, only time will tell what awaits for the 2012 Bulldogs. With only three total starters returning this year — not to mention facing Kilgore, Henderson and Gilmer in the new District 16-3A — the road to defending the title won’t be an easy one to travel.

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