The streets of Chelsea at 4:20 P.M. were lined with a large crowd of both young and old alike Saturday, November 30. They were holding signs, taking pictures, waving, and all there with the common bond of sending their football team off in prideful style. As the two charter buses carrying the team weaved it’s way down main street led by a Police escort, many fans and parents followed behind them in a convoy on the way to Ford Field in Detroit.
The Bulldogs had earned their first trip there in the playoffs and were set to face off against 6 time state champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (OLSM). As the crowd filtered in during the Bulldogs warmups you began to wonder if anyone was left in the Chelsea area. The entire north side of the field, the visitors side, was awash in a sea of blue and gold. Across the field representing OLSM was a spattering of red and white.
The Bulldogs kicked off to OLSM & the Eaglets moved the ball down the field running the ball and burning off early clock time. Justin Myrick scored from the 1 to put the Eaglets up and with a two point conversion the Eaglets were up 8-0. The Bulldogs took over and on their first offensive drive threw an interception. The Eaglets struck quick with a 34 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brendan Tabone to Kahlee Hamler putting the red and white up 15-0.
Many teams would’ve given up right there. But not the Bulldogs. They fought back and never gave up and in the second quarter they got their first score of the game on a 47 yard gadget play pass from Graham Kuras to Noah Van Reesema to make the score 15-6 .
In the most controversial play of the game, the Bulldogs Jordan Haber put big pressure on Tabone, along with Trevor Kingsley, and forced a fumble deep in the Eaglets territory. But the referee called it an “incomplete pass” which caused a record setting decibel level of boos to be launched in the stadium. It was very apparent to all it was a fumble including the Fox Sports Detroit television announcers. This would be just one of many bad calls and non calls on the night and the fans would let the refs know it.
After a very entertaining halftime show by the Chelsea Marching Band, the Bulldogs received the ball down 15-6. But they had a hard time moving the ball. After another Tabone to Hamler touchdown, the Bulldogs found themselves in a big hole. But they kept battling on. And it was quarterback Jack Bush completing a 14 yard pass to Cam Cooper to keep the Bulldogs in the game. But it just wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs just couldn’t catch a break or get the right call and OLSM just ran the ball and the clock up en route to a 29-12 victory.
In the end, St. Mary’s power-run scheme was too much to handle eating up large chunks of clock to secure their third title in five years. OLSM’s 29-12 victory was earned mainly on the ground gaining 293 of its 372 total yards by running the ball.
“They certainly ran the ball well, which we knew they would,” Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush said. “I felt like after the start they scored, we turned it over, they scored and boom, it’s 15-0. But then it’s a game. So you give them credit. When you take a group of athletes that good and combine good coaching, that’s tough.”
Chelsea (12-2) took its share of risks in the game, finding success in some such as Bush’s trick-pass play by Kuras, as did the squib kick by Christopher Roush recovered by Cole Septer in the third quarter. But a few other good plays were broken up by OLSM and some rather questionable officiating.
“I told our guys when we came down here we weren’t coming to keep it close,” he said. “You can question the fake field goal, choosing to go for it, but in a game like this you’re going to have to do stuff like that to win. We didn’t come down here to keep it close; we came down here to win.”
Chelsea came up short of its goal of bringing home the championship hardware but just making it to game No. 14 was enough for the Bulldogs to walk away, heads held high. The Bulldogs were led by Jack Bush who went 13-21 for 145 yards and a touchdown. Van Reesema led the team in receiving with 4 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Cooper led the team in all purpose yards with 107 yards, including a big 48 yard kickoff return.
On the defensive side of the ball Caden Murphy led the team with 10 tackles followed by Kuras with 9, and Ryan Stasiak and Kingsley with 8. Kuras had an interception in the end zone to stop a OLSM drive before the half.
“That’s a great football team,” Bush said. “For my money, that is probably the best team in the state. We’ve played some great teams from all over the state, but I felt like defensively, coming into this game, that’s the best defense we’ve ever played against.
“We had our chances; we were right there with them, and our guys played their tails off. I’m proud of our guys.”