It was a tough first three weeks of the season for the defending state champion Chapel Hill Bulldogs, but everything came together last week in a 34-14 win on the road against Palestine.

“It was nice, let me tell you," Chapel Hill coach Thomas Sitton said. "It was a definitely a breath of fresh air on a Friday night.”

That's because the previous three weeks included losses to Lindale, Whitehouse and Carthage by a combined score of 99-34. In the two years prior, Chapel Hill had just two losses total.

The Bulldogs (1-3) broke open a 13-7 game by scoring the next three touchdowns against Palestine. The first came on Chapel Hill's first play of the second half -- a 37-yard pass from Andrew Black to Corey Starks. Chapel Hill put the game away with a 1-yard TD run by Joseph Clark and a 15-yard scoring strike from Black to Sammy Guzman.

“I thought we played a lot smarter and a lot more physical than we have been," Sitton said. "We swarmed to the football better. It was just an all-around good night.”

It was a much better performance offensively for the Bulldogs, who were averaging just a shade over 11 points per game through three weeks.

Black passed for a season-high 163 yards and three touchdowns, while Clark finished with a team-best 101 yards on the ground. Starks had three catches for 71 yards and two TDs.

“We threw it and caught it much better than we have been," Sitton said. "Our running backs did a good job, running the ball really hard. It’s all a mindset. Our kids had a much better mindset going into it as far as our kids being who they could be if they gave the effort. They played with the intensity that they needed to play with.

"It was definitely a step in the right direction, but we’re still not very good yet, but we’ll get there.”

The win comes right before Chapel Hill begins play in District 16-3A, a.k.a. the District of Doom, one of the toughest districts in the state.

“You talk to the team and tell them that those first four games don’t really count, but in the back of your mind they sure do," Sitton said. "It was nice to get a win and get some momentum rolling into district. Hopefully we can keep rolling and get better every week.”

The Bulldogs face Henderson (2-2) on Friday night in a rematch of the 2010 Class 3A Division I state title game, a 28-21 Henderson win that gave former Chapel Hill coach Dickey Meeks his second championship ring after capturing the 1989 4A title while with the Bulldogs.

“Henderson’s got some unbelievable athletes," Sitton said. "The kids play hard and they’re coached well. It will be a kind of homecoming for Coach Meeks, coming back to Chapel Hill. He’s kind of a legend around there so that will be big. I think it should be a great way to start district. They’re a good football team, and hopefully we can play with them.”