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Chelsea Reloads For 2017 Football Season

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Head Coach Brad Bush talks with his skill players during throwing scrimmage

It’s almost the end of summer and back to school for the kids and that brings with it football! With almost 8 million high school kids playing sports in the USA, the most popular by far is 11 player football, with over 1.1 million kids participating. It is what pulls people and communities together. It brings people of all different classes, gender, and races together. The future players watching the game in the stands or playing in a grassy spectator area, the former players coming out to cherish their memories and cheer for the gridiron warriors of their beloved alumni. The cheerleaders getting the crowd revved up by getting the defense chant going, the student section packed with screaming girls cheering for their boyfriends and classmates and holding signs, the band performing the fight song while the flag girls twirl their hardware in synchronicity. The smell of popcorn and hot beverages being brewed waft through the crisp fall air. And the crowd in all its glory decked out in their home teams colors, being as loud and proud as they can be. And nowhere is that more prevalent than the city of Chelsea.

The Bulldogs have a rich history of football. They are 2 years removed from playing in the state championship game at Ford Field and last year came up just a 2 point conversion short of winning Regionals. The Bulldogs have 1 AP State Championship, 22 SEC Conference championships, 9 perfect 9-0 seasons, 7 District Championships, and 1 Regional Championship. The Bulldogs have only missed the playoffs once this century. And they are looking to reload and win again with their local homegrown talent as they go for their fourth straight District title.

“The 2017 slogan for the Bulldogs is C9 because we are trying to develop leadership and camaraderie within each unit,” Head Coach Brad Bush stated. “If the 4 groups on Offense and Defense and special teams work together we could be a good team.”

And Bush definitely knows football as he enters his 21st season as Bulldogs Head Coach. The award winning coach played quarterback for the Cornell Big Red from 88-90 and was a part of thei  88 Ivy League Championship team. He has assembled a great group of coaches on his staff and they have remained intact for several years.

“I appreciate the loyalty and hard work of our staff every year,” says Bush. “We are very fortunate to remain mostly the same from the past few years.  There are a few position changes but mostly everything remains the same.”

One thing that does change every year is the players. The Bulldogs graduated seven players on offense who received SEC White all-conference honors and six on defense, but still are the early favorites to repeat as league champions. All State Quarterback Jack Bush has graduated and will begin his playing career at Hope College while defensive star Travis Frazier takes his size and strength to Ferris State University. This leaves many gaps to fill but the Bulldogs find a way.

“We have a large senior class (38 players) and 71 on the team,” said Bush. “I think we have a lot of guys that will contribute.  Our depth will be a great strength of the team.”
A few key players returning will be Thomas Steele stepping up in place of Jack Bush at the quarterback position. He has some big shoes to fill as Bush has placed himself firmly in the Bulldogs passing records finishing in the top 3 in every category. But Steele is as solid as his last name represents and is more than ready to compete, looking solid in practices and scrimmages this summer. Coming back for his senior year is Gus Reynolds at the running back position. Reynolds had a great junior season carrying the ball 157 times and reaching the end zone 16 times. Other key offensive returners are Jeret Hirst, Hunter Neff, and Rafe Reyes.
On the defensive side of the ball, Patrick Bertoni returns after a stellar season in the defensive backfield and has had an outstanding scrimmage and practice season. Ronnie Buford, the former quarterback from Ann Arbor, made the transition to defensive end just fine and had an excellent second half of the season in 2016, earning him an early scholarship to Western Michigan University. Braden Steele brings his speed and skill while James Mida brings his size and strength up front for the Bulldogs. It’s very apparent that senior Owen Nikischer has been hitting the weights as he is bigger and much stronger than last season and he has done a great job of taking command and helping the many underclassmen in training camp and instructing them. He will be doing his talking on the field with his hard hitting at his middle linebacker position again this season.
The Bulldogs have a very tough schedule playing some highly skilled teams and playing several teams that made the playoffs last season and a few teams that were just one game away from making it. They open up play on August 25th on the road against Milan then come home to face an old foe that has now rejoined their conference, the Pinckney Pirates. Both teams made the playoffs last year and return many outstanding players. The Bulldogs round out their schedule at home against a team they have never faced before, Alpena.
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Chelsea’s Ronnie Buford Announces College Commitment

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Chelsea Bulldog Ronnie Buford picks off a pass in his junior season

The Chelsea High School football team has produced yet another great young athlete to commit to a Division 1 college as Junior Ronnie Buford announced that he has officially committed to Western Michigan University (WMU) to continue his football career.

Ronnie has committed to the Broncos as a defensive end, where he excelled for the 11-1 Bulldogs team in 2016. The 6 foot 4 inch Buford also excels on the basketball court where he and his Bulldog teammates won the Districts in their division last season.  Buford moved recently to Chelsea from Ann Arbor where he was the starting quarterback for Skyline, but he was moved to defensive end for the Bulldogs where they could take advantage of his size and speed.

“The adjustment from offense to defense wasn’t a real big deal to me,” Ronnie stated. “It was a smooth transition because I understood both offensive and defensive schemes and learned quickly what my coaches were teaching me.”

Many colleges noticed Ronnie’s play in his first year on defense and were interested in him and he and his family visited many of them to get a feel for the community and check out the academics to see if the fit was right for him. Ronnie took his time and with the help of his loving family, friends, and coaches finally decided on his gridiron home for the 2018 season.

“The decision was hard, yet easy. We went to many places but when we went to WMU I just knew I wanted to be a Bronco after the first unofficial visit,” Ronnie stated. “As soon as I stepped foot on the Bronco’s football field,  I just had this feeling that I had at no other visit! It was a confirmation feeling like I belonged there.”

Ronnie also gives much credit to the WMU coaches for making him and his family feel comfortable on their visit.

“They treated me and my family so nice,” Ronnie said. “They were extremely good to my little brother and I could tell this was a great, solid family organization like Chelsea football is. And that’s what I’m all about, family.”

Ronnie plans to major in Business and get a minor in civil engineering while enjoying all the community of Kalamazoo and WMU have to offer. Ronnie is the son of Willie Buford, and Shallis and Laura Mask.

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Chelsea Student-Athletes Make History

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Senior Jack Bush poses with the Chelsea basketball district championship trophy

Chelsea High School is known for its academics. It was recently listed by the U.S. News as the 7th ranked school in the state of Michigan, the only public school to crack the top 10. That’s an excellent ranking since there are over 1,500 high schools in Michigan. Nationally it was listed number 554 out of almost 40,000 high schools! The student body of Chelsea have a 56% ranking in Advanced Placement classes and have very high test scores. Not too shabby for a town of just over 5,000 people.

But academics isn’t all Chelsea is about. They put a good focus on athletics and encourage all students to participate and many of the students will play more than 1 sport. The athletic department is strong and solid and many students go on to earn sports scholarships for Division 1 schools,  and some even have gone on to play professional sports.

This year, a few students have done something that hasn’t been done in quite a while and is very rare for most student athletes. Jack Bush, Hunter Neff, Quinn Starkey, Thomas Steele, and Alex Vasquez have all etched their names in the Chelsea record books as they are among the few student-athletes in the long history of Chelsea sports that have won 3 district championships in one year!

Bush was the starting quarterback for Chelsea the past couple seasons and was a key element of leading the Bulldogs to the MHSAA Class B state championship in 2015. He also started for the basketball team and this year’s baseball team which just clinched a district title last Saturday. Bush will attend Hope College in the fall where he will look to carry on his illustrious football career.

Neff was a part of this years football, and baseball team, and was called up for the districts in basketball.

Starkey played on the basketball team, the baseball team, and was called up for the Districts in football.

Steele was the Bulldogs leading rusher in football last season as well as winning a district championship with the Bulldogs hockey team. He also will be on the field looking for a regional title in baseball, after sealing up a district championship last weekend.

Vasquez starred at end for the Bulldogs football team this past season and was also a part of the state championship runner-ups in 2015. He used his size and strength to help the Bulldogs win districts not only on the gridiron, but on the basketball court, and for this year’s baseball team. Vasquez will be taking his talents to Michigan State University in the fall.

The Bulldogs baseball team will head to Carleton-Airport on June 10th where they will be taking on the South Lyon East Cougars and will be looking to win the regional playoff and help bring more hardware to Chelsea, the city of champions.

 

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Chelsea Loses Heartbreaker In Regional Finals In Overtime 42-40

 

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Chelsea’s Cam Cooper beats his defender and makes a big catch for a Bulldog first down

 

With a chill in the air and in front of a packed home crowd, Chelsea was playing in it’s third Regional Final in a row, this year facing off against the undefeated 11-0 Edwardsburg Eddies in a battle of unbeaten teams. The Eddies came into the game ranked as the number 2 team in the state playing a power wing t offense and featuring a defense that had 5 shutouts and was only averaging giving up less than 6 points a game. The most points they had given up all year was 20 in their divisional final game.

But they had never played a Chelsea team like this. It was their first and only challenge of the season. They had two score leads twice in the game but the resilient Bulldogs never gave up and kept fighting back forcing the game into overtime. But the Bulldogs came up just inches short and fell 42-40 in overtime bringing an end to their outstanding season, finishing the year 11-1.

The Eddies struck first with their ball control offense taking almost half of the first quarter to score. It became apparent on the ensuing kickoff that they wanted to keep the ball out of the Bulldogs Cam Cooper’s hands as they short kicked it away from him. They didn’t realize though that Chelsea is full of weapons as Aaron McDaniel’s fielded the ball for a nice return setting the Bulldogs up with good field position. The Bulldogs moved the ball downfield rather easily with a mix of short passes and runs before quarterback Jack Bush hit Bryce Jubenville in the left side of the end zone for a 5-yard score.

In the second quarter though it was all Edwardsburg as they drove downfield twice to take a big 22-7 lead.

With only a minute to go in the half after another short kick off, Bush and his boys went into action. With a few good runs by Gus Reynolds and with only 22 seconds left Bush completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Steele who had a defender all over him but he managed to rip the ball from him and hold on for the score. The two-point conversion was no good and Chelsea went into the halftime down 22-13.

The Eddies would receive the ball first in the second half and drove 78 yards to build a bigger gap between the two teams. But the Bulldogs came right back and in less than two minutes later it was Bush hitting Steele over the middle where he would sprint into the end zone for a 28-yard score. With a Chris Roush extra point, it brought the Bulldogs within 8 with plenty of time left in the game.

After a big fourth down stop made by the Chelsea defense, it only took one exciting play to get the Bulldogs even closer in the score as Bush hit the outstanding Cooper for a short pass. Cooper out ran and out dodged every defender juking by everyone for a 58-yard touchdown bringing the Bulldogs within two points. The Eddies were reeling, not being used to a team that played so well against them, not being used to a team that scored this many points, and was holding them well below their season average of 45 points scored per game.

The Eddies would score again but the defense would stop them on the two point conversion keeping the Bulldogs with good chances as they were only down by 8.

Time would be a big factor as the Bulldogs took over late in the fourth quarter. With just over 2 minutes to drive over 60 yards for the tying score, the Bulldogs buckled down and went to work. They knew time was running out on their spectacular season and they didn’t want it to end in any way. Bush was perfect on the final drive as he hit Cooper over the middle on a big pass play and then another one to Hunter Neff. A few mix of great runs by Steele & Reynolds had the Bulldogs close to the end zone. With one minute and 28 seconds left to go, Bush took the snap from his center Connor Christian and rolled right looking to the end zone. With no receiver open and under heavy pressure, Bush was able to use his strength to avoid tacklers and took off running for the blue and gold endzone. He ran down the field on the right side and powered his way to the end zone bringing the Bulldogs within 2 points of tying the game.

As the Bulldog faithful let out a raucous roar of joy, the Bulldogs lined up for the critical two-point conversion. The first try was broken up but a defender was hanging all over the receiver Steele and was called for pass interference, giving the Bulldogs an even closer attempt. Whenever Chelsea needs a couple extra yards on a big play it’s Bush who puts his head down on the quarterback keeper and he’s never failed. And this time was no different as he plowed his way into the end zone tying the game up at 34.

After another great Roush kickoff and a great defensive stand, it was clear the Eddies would play for overtime as they had only thrown the ball 3 times in the game and were unsure of their passing game against the Bulldogs defensive backfield.

Chelsea won the coin toss and deferred to play defense. The Eddies scored and converted the two-point conversion. Now it was the Bulldogs turn.

Bush hit Jubenville on the right side as he made a spectacular diving catch at the edge of the end zone but held onto the ball. But the two-point conversion came up just inches short for the Bulldogs ending their great season in an exciting yet dismal fashion.

As Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush gathered his team as he does after every game, he told them “how proud he was of them”.

“This was a great football team,” Bush stated. “They made one more play than we did. But you competed like a champion and did everything right. Every guy here should feel good, we did everything good and everything right. When you walk off that field you all know you gave everything you have. I couldn’t be prouder of you”

To the 26 seniors, who in three years are the winningest team in Chelsea football history he said a very heartfelt “thank you”.

Chelsea was led by Bush who was 18 for 28 with a whopping 234 yards and 5 touchdown passes. Reynolds had 78 yards on the ground on 12 carries while Cooper had 7 receptions for 109 yards and Steele finished with 75 yards on only 4 catches.

The Bulldog defense was led by Patrick Bertoni and Drew Anstead who both finished with 13 total tackles, while Cole Septer had 8, Cal Barrett had 7, and Ronnie Buford, Owen Nikischer, and Chris Roush each had 6 total tackles. Barrett also had a fumble recovery. Travis Frazier got a sack giving him a team leading 10 1/2 on the season. Anstead finished the season with the team lead in total tackles with 61.

Chelsea finished the year at 11-1 and will be bringing back 41 underclassmen next year.

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Chelsea Football Hoping For District Title Threepeat

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His number may have changed this year (54) but Chelsea’s Cash Shegan still hits hard and makes plays. Here he is in the 2015 Semi Final game against Coldwater. 

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.

 

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Chelsea Dominates Dexter 33-6

 

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Gus Reynolds dives into the end zone for one of his 3 touchdowns on the night

 

Chelsea hosted rival Dexter on Friday night and it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to show why they have dominated this series for 21 years in a row.

The Bulldogs sent Dexter home with a 33-6 loss.

On Dexter’s third play from scrimmage, a strong Bulldog defense forced a fumble, which was recovered by Cal Barret. On Chelsea’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jack Bush threw a beautiful pass to Cam Cooper for a Bulldog 14-yard score. This gave the Chelsea fans and student section, adorned in black for a black out, something to cheer about early on, and they didn’t let up from there.

The Bulldogs defense was outstanding not giving Dexter any opportunities at all. After a quick 3-and-out Chelsea moved the ball down the field behind some great blocking and running and on fourth-and-1 from the 5-yard line Gus Reynolds blasted it into the end zone.

Reynolds wasn’t done for the night either, as he would score two more times in the first half on runs of 24 and 3 yards. Reynolds would finish with 81 yards on 12 carries for the night.

After taking a 27-0 lead into the half, the Bulldogs came back onto the field after a great performance by the Chelsea band. The Chelsea defense kept putting pressure on Dexter all night. Travis Frazier, who returned to Chelsea for his senior season after playing in 2015 for Jackson Lumen Christi, led the Bulldogs with 2 sacks and 3 tackles.

Cash Shegan, Cal Barrett, and Braden Steele each finished with 4 tackles while Owen Nikischer had two tackles and a sack.

In the second half, Head Coach Brad Bush made many substitutions, getting some of the younger players more experience. With time running out in the third, it was Barrett getting some offensive time and running the ball in for a hard-fought 14-yard touchdown run, putting the finishing touches on a hard hitting game.

Bush was 9 for 12 on the night for 120 yards and a touchdown. Alex Vasquez led the Bulldog receivers with 45 yards. The Chelsea defense held Dexter to 103 total yards offense and allowed only a net total of 8 yards rushing.

“It was a great victory for the team and for the fans,” said senior defensive back Cole Septer. “It was great to see all the younger guys get in there to play. Now we just need to get ready and focus on the next game.”

The next game will be Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Lincoln.

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Chelsea Dominates Toronto Canada Northern 43-0

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Chelsea Senior Cam Cooper celebrates his rushing touchdown

It was an absolutely perfect night for Chelsea’s first home football game of the season. The Bulldog faithful piled in and the student section and many fans were dressed in patriotic colors as Chelsea were set to take on the Toronto Northern Secondary School Red Knights from Canada. It was the first time a Canadian football team had ever played in Chelsea. There was no game film or scouting reports on the Red Knights but Head Coach Brad Bush had his team ready and prepared.

The Bulldogs kicked off and the defense shut down the Red Knights immediately. On fourth down as Northern punted hard hitting Junior Matt Weisberg plowed past his blocker and was able to block the punt. After a scramble for the loose ball, it was Chelsea that recovered and would start on offense on the Northern 21 yard line. It only took less than a minute and 3 plays for Gus Reynolds to put the ball in the end zone giving the Bulldogs the early lead. After another quick 3 and out and a great Cam Cooper punt return it was Quarterback Jack Bush taking off under pressure and making a great throw on the run, hitting Reynolds on a fade in the left side of the end zone to give the Bulldogs an early lead, 14-0 after the always reliable Chris Roush extra point kick.

After an excellent Roush kickoff and good coverage by Chelsea, Northern was backed up near their own goal line. After a few stops, it was right defensive end Travis Frazier shedding his blocker and putting pressure on the Northern quarterback and tackling him in the end zone. The ball was spotted at the 1-yard line though and Northern took the safety on fourth down instead of punting to the speedster Cooper.

“I really thought it was a safety, I had him good,” said an elated Travis Frazier. “But it’s ok, they took the safety on the next play, it’s all about the team.”

Chelsea took over with great field position again. With Chelsea lined up at the Northern 30 Bush threw a quick pass to Cooper who flew down the field and behind great blocking was able to score for the second time in the game putting the Bulldogs up 23-0. It was at this point Coach Bush started putting in some of the younger players to give them all a chance to play and gain experience.

In the second quarter, Drew Anstead took over at quarterback and completed a perfect pass to Tight End Alex Vasquez for the score, the team going 50 yards in just 3 plays. After another defensive stop, it was Reynolds picking up his second touchdown of the game  following his blockers and juking defenders to blast it in for a 27-yard score. Quarterback Bush came in to kick the extra point giving the Bulldogs a huge 37-0 lead going into the half.

In the second half, it was all Chelsea again but playing more conservative. Senior Mikal Nelson went in to finish the rest of the game at quarterback. Nelson scored late in the fourth on a 6-yard quarterback keeper, using his strength and power like he does in lacrosse.

“I used to play quarterback but then I stopped growing,” joked Nelson.

The Bulldog defense played exceptional forcing bad passes, making great tackles, and forcing turnovers. Hunter White and Braden Steele each had interceptions for Chelsea. Travis Frazier had an excellent game for Chelsea finishing with 5 tackles and 3 sacks in limited duty. James Mida finished with 2 tackles and a sack. The defense limited Northern to just 3 total yards of offense on 32 plays.

Bush finished perfect for the night completing all 6 of his passes for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns. Reynolds led all Bulldog rushers with 54 yards on 6 carries and 2 scores, while Junior Aiden Chisolm-Blockton finished with 23 yards on 3 carries. Cooper led all receivers with 46 yards on 2 receptions.

Chelsea plays host to their rival Dexter next Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

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