A crispness was in the air on a late summer evening in Milan as a huge crowd turned out to watch one of the most anticipated first games of the high school football season. The Big Red played host to the Chelsea Bulldogs with both teams coming off big seasons last year.
Chelsea won the coin toss and deferred until the second half and the Big Red started their season deep in their own territory and their first drive ended quickly in a 3 and out as the Chelsea defense stood strong in the trenches. Chelsea took over off the punt and moved the ball slowly downfield and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Cullen Lindsay.
Milan was able to move the ball on the ground but Chelsea came up big on a huge 4th down and 2 play, stopping the Milan back short of the first down. Chelsea took over and struck quickly with their first touchdown of the season as they faked a reverse and Hunter Neff launched a 74-yard bomb downfield to Ryan Sanborn for the score to put the dogs up 10-0 after Lindsay’s extra point kick.
The Chelsea defense again forced Milan to punt and the Bulldogs drove down the field with short quick passes and runs. Aaron McDaniels capped off the 42-yard drive with a right dive into the end zone for the score. The Bulldogs would take a big 17-0 lead into the halftime.
In the third quarter, both teams would go back and forth playing tough defense as both teams had several large players up front. One of the more interesting match ups was watching Chelsea Defensive End Ronnie Buford go up against Milan’s two-way lineman Michael Furtney. Both players announced their commitment to college their junior year, Buford to Western Michigan, Furtney to Wisconsin.
“Milan is really good up front,” Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush stated. “They’re a really good team and Furtney is probably the best lineman I’ve seen in the Ann Arbor area in my 21 years of coaching.”
The Bulldogs defense again would come up with a big 4th down stop giving them the ball and the big lead near the end of the 3rd quarter. The Bulldogs struck fast with quarterback Thomas Steele throwing a deep pass to Neff for a big 61-yard score and an even bigger 24-0 lead.
“I was really excited for this game,” Steele said about making his first start at varsity quarterback for the Bulldogs. “It started off a little rough but then we settled down and started playing our game. I love playing with these guys, it’s a great group.”
Chelsea had more opportunities to run the score up but in a show of good sportsmanship, they took another Lindsay field goal for a 27-0 lead. Milan scored late in the game to close the gap but the Bulldogs walked away with a big 27-7 victory.
“Defensively we played really well,” Coach Bush stated. “Special teams were a big factor. Breaking in a new kicker for him (Cullen Lindsay)to be 100% on extra points and field goals is a big deal.”
The Bulldogs were led by in rushing by McDaniels and had 182 yards in passing which was more than Milan had overall in team yardage. Hunter Aeschbecker led Milan with 90 yards rushing. The Bulldogs were led on the defensive side of the ball by Buford who had 8 tackles, while middle linebacker Owen Nikischer had 6. Nicholas Baugher led the Big Red with 7 tackles while Victor Knight had 6.
Milan will host Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central next week while the Bulldogs head home to host the Pinckney Pirates.
“They’re a good team,” Coach Bush said of the Pirates. “They’ve been out of the league several years and now they’re back in so it’s been since 1999 since we’ve faced them. ”
Kickoff is set for 7 in Chelsea.