Fall weather in Chelsea seemed to turn to winter almost overnight as near freezing temperatures embraced the city as the Bulldogs played host to Milan in the first round of the MHSAA football playoffs. A hard, cold rain pelted the football stadium and a heavy, gusting wind didn’t help matters much. But the weather nor the Milan Big Red were no match for Chelsea are they battled and fought their way to a 23-14 victory.
In a rematch of the first game of the season, a 27-7 Chelsea victory at Milan, the Bulldogs got started very quickly as Jacob Grubbs took the opening kickoff 57 yards to give the Bulldogs great field position. Two plays later it was Grubbs catching a pass from Thomas Steele and busting around the outside corner to his right and diving into the end zone as he was flanked by defenders for a big 13-yard score and the early Bulldog lead.
Milan would come back though and drove meticulously down the field before running back Hunter Aeschbacker would score from 34 yards out. The 2 point conversion try was broken up by Ronnie Buford keeping the Bulldogs up by 1 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs would drive down the field only to be stopped short of a first down and in spite of the rough weather, called on Cullen Lindsay for the field goal attempt. On a beautiful snap and a perfectly placed ball, Lindsay was able to boot the ball through the uprights for the 33-yard field goal and the 10-6 lead.
Less than two minutes later it would be Milan’s Aeschbacker breaking free for a 50-yard score and with the 2-point conversion it gave the Big Red their first lead of the night, 14-10.
With 50 seconds left before the half and the Bulldogs driving they were faced with a third down and very long situation. Thomas Steele took the snap out of the shotgun and was looking for an open receiver. He found one over the middle with Hunter Neff who dragged defenders into the end zone for a 23-yard score and a 21-14 Chelsea lead.
In the second half, Milan kept the ball on the ground and was trying to get the pressure up front against Chelsea. But time and time again the Bulldogs came up big on third down forcing punts or forcing Milan into 4th down situations which they would attempt three and all three times the Bulldogs defense came up huge making big stops and forcing the turnover on downs.
After a forced fourth down turnover on downs midway through the final stanza, the Bulldogs would drive 69 yards down the field with Thomas Steele being forced out of the pocket under heavy pressure and blazing his way juking defenders for a huge 38-yard Bulldog score and adding a bit of security for the Bulldogs. The kick would be blocked giving the Bulldogs a 23-14 lead and the defense would hold the rest of the way for the big District playoff victory.
“It’s hard to beat a team twice,” Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush would say after the game. “They’re a good team and they had a really good game plan and they had some things go against them, they lost a couple key guys early in the game.”
The Bulldogs were led on offense by Thomas Steele with 73 yards rushing and 100 yards through the air with 2 touchdown passes and 1 scored on the ground. Grubbs led the receivers with 4 catches and a score while Neff had 3 catches and a score.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was Buford with 8 total tackles, 1 for a loss and 1 pass broken up. Garrett Steele had 7 total tackles and a pass broken up while Gus Reynolds and Riley Lukomski each had 6 total tackles. Owen Nikischer and Dion Mite each had 5.
Chelsea will host River Rouge this Friday at 7 P.M. River Rouge won their playoff game against Flat Rock and is 8-2 on the season. This will be only the second time the teams have ever played.