It was fourth and short again for the Chelsea Bulldogs. They were too far away from the end zone for a field goal and yet too close for a punt and needed a score, down 7-0 with time winding down. Bulldog quarterback Thomas Steele rolled out to his left and threw a quick pass to his receiver Hunter Neff who had no chance at the reception as he was draped and held by the Pinckney defender. This was the second time on the night this had happened to the Bulldogs and Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush was livid at the lack of the call. But this was how Chelsea’s night was going. Try as they might, they just weren’t getting the calls and things weren’t going their way offensively.
The Pirates, who are back in the Southeast Conference White Division, were playing the Bulldogs for the first time in 19 years. They came into the game off a big victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. Pinckney boasts a lot of size up front on both sides of the ball. And they used that to their advantage right away as the drove down the field on their first possession after kickoff, a drive that took only 4 minutes and moved 69 yards capped off by a Levi Collins touchdown run.
The Bulldog defense gathered off the field and proudly proclaimed that this was “their house and that the Pirates weren’t going to score again!” And they kept their word.
While the Bulldog offense just couldn’t get the running game going (just 64 yards on the night), the defense played true to their word keeping the Bulldogs in the game. Led by Sophomore Garret Steele’s team leading 9 tackles (.5 for loss), Owen Nikischer’s 8, Braden Steele’s 7, and Western Michigan commit Ronnie Bufords 8 tackles with 3 sacks the Bulldog defense was relentless.
“Our defense played extremely well tonight,” Coach Bush stated after the game. “They kept us in this game, they never gave up, and they gave us every chance to win. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
And it was the defense who forced a fumble with Patrick Bertoni returning it 23 yards for the Bulldogs. But again the drive would stall. After another great Quentin Beck punt (48.3 average on the night), the Pirates were backed up on their own end. They had tried a fake field goal earlier which the Bulldogs thwarted and this time on a fourth a 1 they tried a fake punt with punter Levi Collins running right but the defense swarmed him and Pinckney lost 3 yards on the play giving the Bulldogs the ball on the Pinckney 48 yard line with just a little over 5 minutes left in the game and down by a touchdown.
The Bulldogs offense moved the ball with a couple short runs by Aaron McDaniels and on third and long, Steele, under a lot of pressure as he rolled to his left launched a perfect 33-yard strike to the speedster Aiden Chisholm who made a fantastic catch over Pinckney’s Nolan Houghteling for the score! Cullen Lindsy kicked the extra point to tie the game.
“It felt amazing to make that catch for my team late in the game,” Chisholm excitedly said. “It was an even better throw by Thomas (Steele) under pressure. That game meant a lot to the team and to be able to help them win it was something I’m never going to forget!”
Cullen’s kickoff went deep to the Pirates right side where the kick returner dropped the ball then tried to run behind a wall towards his own sideline but the Bulldogs grabbed him early and forced a fumble which the Pirates recovered. The Pirates were pinned deep in their own territory at their own 8-yard line with just over 2 minutes to go in the game.
The Bulldogs forced a 3 and out and as the Pirate punter Collins got the kick away two Bulldogs were able to get their hands on it deflecting it and Chelsea took over at the Pirate 24 yard line with plenty of time for them to move the ball closer to a game winning score.
Chelsea ran the ball conservatively and was faced with another fourth down. This time Coach Bush called on his kicker Lindsay to do his thing. Lindsay in only his first year ever kicking in football made the 32 yard 3 pointer with ease and then some to give the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead with little time left in front of a large, excited home crowd. The defense did the rest as the Pirates tried to run sideline out routes but ran out of timeouts and time as the Bulldog faithful erupted in joy after watching one of the most exciting comeback victories in Chelsea history.
“It’s just like soccer to me,” Lindsay explained when called upon to make the big kick for the lead and the eventual victory. “I’ve been in front of crowds before, I just went with it. I did what I had to do, just went out there and executed. I’m so pumped, I’m happy for the team to get the victory.”
“We’ve never had a soccer style kicker before,” Coach Bush said about his kickers game winning field goal. “But he’s used to competing and he’s a calm, laid back guy. I felt good about it the whole time.”
The Bulldogs were outgained in yardage overall by the Pirates especially in the running game. The Pirates Collins had 118 grounds on the ground while their quarterback Wurzer was 14 for 22 for 121 yards. Steele led the Bulldogs through the air with very similar stats, going 11 of 17 for 147 yards. The big difference was Steele’s touchdown pass late in the game.
“That’s a good football team, a really good football team,” Coach Bush said of the Pirates. “I felt they outplayed us for about 3 1/2 quarters. Our defense made great plays for us, came up big. Pinckney is a great defensive team but I think we need to go back and look at our offense, I was a little disappointed with our production on offense tonight, but in the same sense, we found a way to win the game.”
“We really stepped up tonight with our defense,” Bulldog defensive end Ronnie Buford said. “They came out strong, they got us on the first drive, but we came up big after that. I feel amazing, amazing, this was a great team win.”
Chelsea will get back to work after the long labor day holiday weekend as they start school on the 5th and will be hosting Ypsilanti Lincoln on Friday the 8th. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Lincoln will come in looking for their first victory of the season while Chelsea remains undefeated at 2-0 (1-0 in Conference)