[By Nathan Wright, Special to ETSN.fm]

NEW CHAPEL HILL -- Behind a dominating running game and a stifling defense, Chapel Hill made its case as a playoff contender in District 16-3A with a 56-7 victory against Bullard Friday at Bulldog Stadium.

Chapel Hill rushed for 314 yards in the game and took a 49-7 lead at halftime, scoring on nine of its 11 first-half possessions. Most of those yards came in the first half as the clock only stopped for possession changes in a quick second half.

With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in district play, making them a favorite for one of the four playoff spots out of the district now with two district contests remaining. The Panthers dropped to 3-3 and 1-2.

Bullard quarterback Connor Mebane tries to break away from Chapel Hill's Wesley Thompson during their game Friday night in New Chapel Hill. (ETSN.fm)

“I was proud of the way they came out,” Chapel Hill head coach Thomas Sitton said. “We have struggled all year long on coming out and playing our kind of football in the first half. I thought tonight our kids came out and set the pace, set the tone and set the physicalness that we wanted to play with.”

The Bulldogs scored on their first four possessions of the game. Wesley Thompson scored the first Chapel Hill touchdown on a 29-yard run less than two minutes into the game. Two and-a-half minutes later, Jeffrey Minor scored from 49 yards out to make it 14-0 with more than half of the first quarter remaining.

Chapel Hill’s next two touchdowns were scored by quarterback Andrew Black, on runs of 4 and 50 yards to give the Bulldogs a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Black finished the game with 139 yards rushing on 11 carries. He also completed 5 of 9 passes for 106 yards.

“We came out and didn’t do the usual Chapel Hill,” Black said. “We didn’t wait on them to start the game. We actually started the game this time. We set our own tone and we did what we had to do.”

Bullard’s only touchdown of the game came early in the second quarter on a 71-yard run by quarterback Connor Mebane. It cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-7 with 8:22 left in the first half.

Chapel Hill's Andrew Black is brought down by a pair of Bullard defenders during their game Friday night in New Chapel Hill. (ETSN.fm)

Mebane finished the game with 86 yards on 23 carries. The Chapel Hill defense tackled him behind the line of scrimmage 10 times.

The Bulldogs scored three more times in the first half. Black scored his third touchdown of the game from 1 yard out to make it 35-7 with 5:52 left in the first half.

On Chapel Hill’s next possession, Black completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Robinson to make it 42-7 with 2:14 left in the second quarter. After recovering a fumble deep in Bullard territory, Thompson scored his second touchdown of the game just 12 seconds later to make it 49-7 at halftime.

“I was real proud of our defense tonight,” Sitton said. “I thought last week we struggled a bit with our tackling. I was proud of their effort, proud of their swarming to the football.

“Offensively, our O-line has been doing a great job opening up some lanes and some holes for guys to run through. I was just proud of our phycialness tonight. I don’t think we have been as tough as we needed to be and tonight we showed some of it.”

Game officials decided to let the clock run in the second half due to the lopsided score. Neither team found the end zone in the third quarter and Chapel Hill added one more touchdown with 7:36 to go in the game on an 8-yard run by Malik Walker.

With the win, Chapel Hill improved to 10-2 all-time against Bullard.

Next week, the Bulldogs travel to Kilgore while the Panthers host Hendrson. Chapel Hill hopes to build on the momentum from Friday’s big win through the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs.

“Playoffs,” Black said. “That is what we are aiming for. So a big win like this just helps us get that much closer to our goal.”

Chapel Hill's Blake Mayfield tries to escape a Bullard tackler during the Bulldogs' 56-7 home win Friday night. (ETSN.fm)