Chapel Hill Shakes Off Injuries + Early Mistakes to Turn Season Around
Despite a 1-5 start to the season, Chapel Hill clinched a playoff berth with a one-point victory over Henderson last week.
The Bulldogs suffered through injury and mistakes early in the season, but are 2-2 entering the regular season finale against Carthage.
“Our non-district and district schedule is such a test. We know we’ve seen just about all there is to see by the time the district season is over because we’ve played some of the best teams in the state and know what it is like to play against that level of competition,” Chapel Hill head coach Thomas Sitton said. “If you make it out alive, you’ll be ready for the playoffs. We feel like we’re ready for anything.”
Sitton’s confidence in his club comes from the perseverance it showed during the 1-5 stretch. It is that ability to face adversity and focus on the task at hand that has him believing his team will come out against Carthage with something to prove, even if there isn’t a ton to gain in playoff rankings.
“We’re in fourth place right now, but there are some ways we can move up if we beat Carthage by enough points, but our main focus is to play our best and win this game,” Sitton said. “We’ve had such a tough year in so many ways. We couldn’t catch a break early in the season, but I’m proud of the kids and how hard they’ve worked without giving excuses. We want to win so we can build momentum towards the playoffs and a win against Carthage can send us into the playoffs in the right way.”
One of the main reasons Chapel Hill is in this position is quarterback Konnor Hitchcock. He was injured for most of the season, but returned and threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with less than a minute left in the game against Henderson -- the 28-27 victory that clinched a playoff berth.
“It wasn’t his first game back because he played against Brownsboro, but he is such a great leader, worker and competitor. He really makes our offense go at full-speed. He’s an accurate passer and can extend plays with his legs. What I like is he always keeps his head up to try and make a play downfield,” Sitton said. “He doesn’t let adversity get to him. He threw an interception the other night and came right back on the next drive to lead the team to a touchdown. He’s always working to get things done.”
Another reason for the turnaround is an improving defense. Chapel Hill is allowing fewer points this season than in the 2014 season that ended in the area round of the state playoffs.
“We have several kids from last year’s group back and that helps with experience. The big thing for us was improving the ‘want-to’ on that side of the ball and we’ve done that,” Sitton said. “We’ve worked really hard on defense and we’re doing a good job of tackling and getting to the football. We could keep improving, but we’re at least seeing the effort.”