It’s a rematch of last year’s Division 3 semifinal game, which the Chelsea Bulldogs defeated the Coldwater Cardinals 35-7, as the Cardinals (8-2) fly into Chelsea (10-0) no doubt seeking a bit of vengeance for last year’s big defeat. The victory sent Chelsea to the state finals at Ford Field in Detroit while the loss sent the Cardinals home. Things will be quite a bit different between the two teams, though.
The first major difference will be the weather. Unlike last year’s game, which had to be delayed a day because of one of the worst blizzards in years, this year’s playoff game will be played in what the weatherman predicts to be sunny and about 50 degrees for kick off. Last year’s game was played in Jackson while this year the Bulldogs will have the home field advantage in front of a very large, supportive, and raucous crowd.
Coldwater returns 20 seniors from last year’s team, many who played in that semi-final game. The Cardinals have a big power run offense led by Sam DeMeester who also plays on defense. They have a solid offensive line and a very good quarterback. On defense for the 2016 season, they have not allowed more than 22 points in any game this season and have allowed under 20 in all but two games.
But Chelsea has it’s own strong defense especially up front along the d-line anchored by the twin towers of Travis Frazier & Ronnie Buford. Frazier at 6’7″ and Buford (6’5″) are both able to get their hands up to block passes and use their quickness to make big plays. Frazier leads the team in sacks with 9 and a half and 17 tackles for loss this season in limited playing team because usually, the Bulldogs would have big leads. Buford, in only three games this season, has 3 sacks and 5 tackles for loss.
“This game means a lot to me,” said Travis Frazier. “Last year I was playing for Jackson Lumen Christi and Coldwater beat us in the playoffs.So I want this bad, not just for me but for Chelsea.”
Also up front for the Bulldogs is the duo of Cash Shegan & Kyle Bell, who are known as shake and bake. Shegan saw a lot of playing time in last year’s playoffs and has a lot of experience. Bell has peaked at the right time playing some of his best football ever, as was apparent in the Bulldog’s 37-7 over Vicksburg in last week’s first-round playoff game. He was all over the field making plays and big hits.
Also peaking at the right time is Chris Roush who is right near the top of leading the team in tackles along with hard hitting Cole Septer, Drew Anstead, and Cal Barrett. The defensive backs are led by Lawrence Buckley and the eagle-eyed Patrick Bertoni who leads the team in interceptions.
The Bulldogs defense has only allowed 121 points all season with a majority of those coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. In their first playoff game, the defense gave up minus 26 rushing yards on 29 carries against Vicksburg.
“Our defense has been really well as of late and we’ve been doing a great job of stopping the run and I believe we are hitting our peak right now on the d-line,” Said Frazier. “We know this is going to be a battle but we will bring our A game no matter what.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs are led by quarterback Jack Bush, who helped lead his team to the state championship last year. Bush excelled in the semi-final game between these two teams last year.Bush has had an outstanding all-conference season this year throwing for over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air while getting 7 scores on the ground, all mainly in the first half of games. Bush can beat you with his arm and legs and has a great field presence and awareness.
Helping Bush out in the backfield is running back Gus Reynolds who is closing in on 900 yards this season and has 17 scores and a 7 yard per carry average. Opening the holes for Reynolds and protecting Bush is a big, solid offensive line anchored by Preston Ewald, Connor Christian, Andrew Klink, Patrick Conlin III, and many other valuable players that can rotate in and out of the game.
The Bulldogs have an arsenal of weapons for Bush to get the ball to with receivers Bryce Jubenville, Thomas Steele, Chris Roush, and his big tight end Alex Vasquez. Then there is the multi-purpose player Cam Cooper who fields punts and kick returns, plays receiver, running back, and will shut down another teams receiver as a defensive back. Cooper leads all Bulldog receivers with 500 yards and has 9 touchdowns this season.
The Bulldogs know this is going to be a big battle and the key is to get out to an early lead. There also has to be discipline and try to play mistake-free football. It’s going to be a big fight between two really great teams but only one can be the victor and move on in the playoffs and Chelsea is looking to be the one and get that district title trifecta.