Chapel Hill Is Shining Early in Two-A-Days
NEW CHAPEL HILL -- The Bulldogs' midday practice was crisp. Head coach Thomas Sitton's offense was able to dink and dunk the ball down the field, the defensive front swallowed up running attempts and effort level did not drop drastically as temperatures soared.
It was a good day for Chapel Hill.
"We're very fortunate to be coaching these kids right now," Sitton said Tuesday after the team's second day of practice. "We have a great group of kids. They love each other and they love playing the game. We don't have many coming back from last year's group, three on offense and three on defense. But we feel like we've got a good chance.
"If we can learn to play as fast as what we've been given in all three phases, I feel like we'll play some pretty good football this year."
That's a glowing second practice assessment.
The Bulldogs need days like Tuesday. The team has been aligned in District 9-4A Division I with Carthage and Kilgore. Their opponents squared off against each other for the Class 3A Division I crown last season with Carthage coming out on top.
Chapel Hill was the only common opponent between the two schools, and Sitton's squad lost both games by considerable margins.
The league is rounded out by Brownsboro, Henderson and Palestine. Each program has had its moments to say the least.
"Without a doubt, the district that we were put into by the UIL is the toughest 4A Division I district in the State of Texas," Sitton said. "Every week, you're going to have to be ready to play. You've got Kilgore and Carthage that are ranked way up there. Kilgore knocked us out (in the regional finals).
"Palestine is always unbelievably athletic. You've got Henderson, Coach (Phil) Castle's second year there. Brownsboro's Coach (Jason) Hooker is in his second year there and they're just going to get better and better."
The non-district schedule is threatening as well. It consists of Lindale and Whitehouse from Class 5A plus Paris, Tatum and a neutral-site game against Port Neches-Grove from the Beaumont area.
Chapel Hill appears to be in good shape.
The defensive line has junior defensive tackle Jeremy West (6-3, 270). He's likely going to be a 2016 college football prospect.
A.J. Mosely will start at nose tackle in Chapel Hill's 3-4 defensive scheme as well as see playing time at fullback.
"It's a great defense," Mosely said. "We've got three down linemen with outside linebackers who can move around. Everybody is moving fast and everybody is ready for the season."
Chapel Hill's offensive line is on the small side, but it is extremely fast and athletic. The coaching staff seemed very pleased with what it saw from the first-team group.
Rex Cicero (6-1, 232), a very good senior defensive end, worked as the starting left tackle.
"I think I'll be playing on both sides," Cicero said. "I think we have a great chance of winning if we do execute and do the things the coaches are teaching us. We're a little small on the O-line with the biggest one being 270 or 280 pounds, but I know we can get the job done."
Gonzalo Arreguin (5-10, 230) has moved from guard and will anchor the line at center.
The skill position groups battled each other through the afternoon.
Konnor Hitchcock has a lead for the starting quarterback job as a sophomore. He has good chemistry with wideouts Jeffery Minor, Kenyotta Henderson and Deundre Phillips who doubles as a starting linebacker.
"Konnor has a great work ethic and is a student of the game," Sitton said. "He's a great character kid and one of the smartest kids in the building. He's a guy you want to be leading your football team at that position. The other two guys we're working out right now, they're starting at another position, Zac Walters is working at inside receiver along with Marian Hinojosa."
The defensive backfield had its moments and gets sharpened with a lot of one-on-one drills against the offense. An assortment of players are battling for the starting jobs and should provide the positions with some depth.
The offensive backfield can fly with Jabraylon Franklin, Delenis Garrett, Michael Bledsoe and Johntaveon Martin leading the way. Reggie King started at fullback as a freshman but will be used further on defense as a sophomore. That opens the door for Deundre Hordge and Mosley to play fullback as well.
With so many players doubling up on duties, the team must be in good condition and have strong depth.
It's looking good so far.
"I thought they did a great job throughout the offseason," Sitton said. "Our boot camp is one of the most special things we do around here and they came together as a team. In the spring, our kids did a great job learning how to play the game and the concept of the schemes.
"What we're so proud of, the first two days, the kids have remembered what they learned really well. We feel like even though we don't have a lot of returning starters that we have a chance to play some really good football."