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Chelsea Clinches Division, Playoff Spot With 14-7 Win Over Ypsilanti

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Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush congratulates his players after their victory

It had been raining all day Friday leaving the sloped football field in Ypsilanti muddy and slippery before it welcomed its gridiron warriors to it. As the temperature dropped, a foggy mist hung over the field resulting in conservative playing between the visiting Chelsea Bulldogs and the home Grizzlies. It became a battle in the trenches between two powerhouse defenses leading to a smashmouth game of old-school football between two very evenly matched teams. But it was the Bulldogs who would prevail with a 14-7 victory securing them with a playoff spot and a Southeast Conference White Division Title.

The Grizzlies received the ball first and drove downfield and had a first and goal at the Bulldogs 5 yard line but strong defensive play kept them out of the end zone as the Bulldogs were able to stop them on fourth down and take over possession.

Chelsea then was able to move the ball through a mix of runs and short passes and drove 94 yards using good clock control and finished the drive with an Aaron McDaniels 3 yard run into the end zone giving the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead with Cullen Lindsay’s extra point being good.

With the weather and the field conditions, both teams tried to stick to a ground game. The Bulldogs hardnosed defense forced Grizzly quarterbacks Matt Harmon and Garvin Crout out of the pocket forcing them to scramble or throw errant passes. This would be an early pattern that would continue throughout the night.

With Chelsea up 7-0 Ypsilanti finally got the break it needed as late in the third quarter, Harmon was able to connect with his receiver Jalen Allen down the right sideline for a big 39-yard score and with the extra point tied the game up at 7.

The Grizzlies kicked the ball short to prevent a big return but the Bulldogs were able to get a good return from Kyle Simmerman to set them up at their own 43-yard line. Several passes to Hunter Neff and good ground gains from Jacob Grubbs and McDaniels were able to lead the Bulldogs to the end zone as McDaniels scored again from 1 yard out and after the Lindsay extra point, it was the Bulldogs with a hard fought for 14-7 lead.

But there was still almost a whole quarter of football left and the Grizzlies were not quitters. Although they sparsely had much of a crowd behind them in their homestands, despite it being their homecoming, they still persevered. But the powerful resilient Chelsea defense would not break as they made hit after hit, tackle after tackle, and kept the heat turned up on the Grizzlies.

As the Grizzlies were driving for the tying score it was Chelsea defensive back Doug Zarinnia coming up big at the right moment with a much-needed interception to stop the drive. Chelsea would move the ball in clock control and took a knee in victory formation giving them the victory and their sixth win on the season securing them a playoff spot for the 18th team out of the last 19 years.

“That’s a good football team,” Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush said of his tough opponent. “We played a conservative game because of not just the weather, but because of their defense. They are much better than their record shows.”

The Grizzlies drop to 3-4 on the season and have their playoff hopes doused. They’ve lost several close games on the season. They were led by Harmon who threw for 81 yards and ran for 14. Emerson Wilson led them on the ground with 89 yards while Allen had 53 yards receiving. Deon Willis led the defense with 9 tackles.

“We played through a lot of issues this week but we battled through them and put them behind us and stuck to the game plan to get the great team win,” Chelsea quarterback Thomas Steele stated. “I’m proud of our team and how we played”

Steele would finish on the night with 144 yards through the air and 20 on the ground. Chelsea’s leading rusher was McDaniels with 59 yards while Neff made several spectacular catches finishing with 5 for 115 yards.

“I’m proud of all you guys,” Head Coach Bush told his team after the game as they gathered around him. “This is a big moment, you’ll remember this night forever. You stuck to the gameplan and we had no turnovers. You played great, the defense came up big,  and I couldn’t be more proud of you all.”

The Chelsea defense has been outstanding all season only giving up 71 points so far. And they didn’t fail to disappoint as they forced several turnovers on the night. Sophomore Garret Steele led the Bulldogs with 8 tackles and 1 interception. Owen Nikischer had a huge night with 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Dion Mite had a sack, a tackle for loss, and forced a fumble.

“This means a lot, it’s a night I’ll never forget,” said Senior Defensive End and Western Michigan University commit Ronnie Buford. “This was more than just another win, this is for all those who came before us and the entire Chelsea community. I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Buford was all over the field and seemed to be in on every play as the 6 foot 5-inch speedster finished with a huge night as he had 5 tackles, a sack, 3 tackles for loss, forced a fumble, and had a big fumble recovery for his Bulldogs.

Chelsea returns home to host Ann Arbor Huron next Friday night. It will be Chelsea’s homecoming. Kickoff is a 7 p.m.

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Chelsea Dominates Dexter 34-14

 

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Doug Zarinnia picks off a pass in the first quarter for Chelsea. He would have two on the night.

 

The Chelsea Bulldogs football team came into Dexter with 21 wins in a row against their arch rival and the Dreadnaughts were looking to snap that streak in front of a large home crowd. But on a chilly, windy night it was not meant to be as Chelsea made several big plays to dominate early and never looked back en route to a 34-14 victory.

Dexter received the kick and moved the ball downfield but the strong Bulldog defense came up big as Doug Zarinnia jumped in front of Luke Coogan’s pass as he rolled to his right and made a great diving interception at the Bulldogs 10 yard line. The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize and both teams exchanged punts in the first quarter.

On a very good drive for the Bulldogs on first and goal at the Dreadnaughts 2-yard line, they lost the ball on a fumble and Dexter recovered. On the ensuing play right after, Dexter’s running back lost the ball and it was recovered by Dion Mite.

Chelsea quarterback Thomas Steele rolled out to his right on the Bulldogs first possession after Mite’s fumble recovery and he hit Hunter Neff near the goal line. Neff momentarily lost the ball but recovered the ball in the scrum that followed.  As he was getting up a Dexter player kicked him and a personal foul was called giving the Bulldogs first and goal at the one-yard line. It was going to be a scrappy game between the bitter rivals. Then it was Steele putting his head down on the keeper and getting the Bulldog score early in the second quarter, giving Chelsea the 7-0 lead.

After a great kickoff that resulted in a touchback Dexter’s Coogan rolled out to his left and it was Zarinnia jumping the route and getting his second interception of the night. A penalty gave the Bulldogs good field position. Steele immediately took advantage of the short field and launched a perfect long pass to Neff who got down to the 1-yard line. After the 41-yard pass play, it was Aaron McDaniels blasting up the middle behind his solid offensive line to give the Bulldogs a 2 touchdown lead with plenty of game left to play.

Dexter then took the kickoff and drove 72 yards in only 5 plays as Mason Loudermilk capped the drive with a 3-yard score to cut the Bulldog lead in half.  Chelsea came right back after a big kickoff return by Jacob Grubbs set the Bulldogs up near midfield. Steele wasted no time and hit Neff over the middle on a quick slant and Neff took it all the way for a Bulldog score, putting them up 21-7 with almost 6 minutes left to play in the first half.

The Bulldog defense forced another punt and it was a short one giving the Bulldogs the ball in Dexter territory. Steele threw a quick pass deep to Neff who took the ball to the 3-yard line where McDaniels would once again finish the job giving the Bulldogs a huge 27-7 lead going into halftime.

In the second half, the Bulldogs would once again score as Jack Smith burst into the end zone. Smith would finish on the night with 27 yards on 8 carries. Dexter would score late in the game as Coogan hit Andy Duran for a touchdown. Dexter threatened again but the Bulldogs held them as they had a first and goal and couldn’t put the ball in. The Bulldogs drove down the field and had a first and goal of their own but simply let the clock run out for an excellent show of sportsmanship, giving them the 34-14 victory and 22 straight wins over Dexter.

Neff was by far Steele’s favorite receiver on the night as he finished with 8 catches for 140 yards and 1 touchdown. Steele would finish the night early as Quinn Starkey took over late in the second half but he still finished with an almost perfect 14 completions on 15 attempts for 209 yards and one touchdown while running for 74 yards on 11 carries and one score. Sophomore Kyle Knight finished with 46 yards on 7 carries. The Bulldogs offense almost doubled Dexter on time of possession.

The Bulldogs defense only gave up 89 yards on the ground and forced 4 turnovers. Patrick Bertoni led the team with 6 tackles and a forced fumble, while Evan Vaughn had 3 tackles, 1 for a loss and James Mida had 2 tackles, both for big losses.

The 0-6 Dreadnaughts host Tecumseh next week as they look for their first win while Chelsea (5-1) will travel to Ypsilanti and look to secure a playoff spot and a Conference title.

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Chelsea’s Owen Nikischer Leader Of The Pack

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Senior Middle Linebacker Owen Nikischer leads his team on the field for its first home game of 2017

The first thing you notice about Chelsea’s senior middle linebacker Owen Nikischer is how much he bulked up over the summer from last season. It is very apparent that he takes his role as a defensive leader very seriously and puts in a lot of hard work as he added much muscle to his already solid 6-foot 2-inch frame.

“I worked out a lot by myself over the summer,” Owen stated. “Sometimes I work out alone, sometimes I bring others along, but I like to always improve myself and help others improve themselves if I can.”

Owen or the “Big O” as many call him has one of the most important defensive jobs on his side of the ball in football. He has to back up the linemen and also use quick judgment on every snap to determine his role on that play. The middle linebacker is usually called the “quarterback of the defense” because they shout plays into other players and has much responsibility as a defensive “jack of all trades”. And they have to be a leader and be vocal. And that’s Owen to a tee.

“I’ve been playing tackle football since the 3rd grade,” Owen explains. “And I’ve been at middle linebacker since 5th grade. I feel like I am mentally there more than anything else and I need to know all the plays and everyone’s responsibilities. I love playing my position and I love football so much!”

His passion for football shows as it seems he is in on almost every play.  He’s very vocal and quick to help another player and when mistakes are made he’s there to help correct his teammate in a very positive way.

“I honestly love being the leader of the defense,” Owen said. “It’s a good feeling helping other players and knowing they look up to you.”

Owen, who earned starting time as a Junior last season,  is coming off perhaps his most memorable game ever as he was able to read the quarterbacks eyes and defenses against Tecumseh last Friday and had 3 interceptions in the game along with several tackles.

“That was amazing for me,” Owen proudly stated. “It was something the defense has struggled with, getting turnovers this season. But what matters most is that we were able to come back after a tough loss (to Lincoln) and get the win and the defense shut them (Tecumseh) down.”

Owen, one of the Bulldogs top leaders in tackles,  will be playing basketball this year also. In the fall he works at the Dexter Cider Mill. He plans to go to college after he graduates whether it’s to play football or not. His passion is sports but he knows a higher education is good for him. And although his senior football season is 4 games in he knows there is a lot of football left to play and that’s where his focus is right now.

“We are a good team, “Owen stated. “I feel really good about this team and think we have a great shot at going far.”

Owen is the son of Craig and Sue Nikisher and has two brothers, Ryan and Zach.

 

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Chelsea Sophomore Garrett Steele Showing He Can Run With The Pack

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Chelsea’s Garrett Steele brings down a Lincoln player for a loss 

Most high school football teams try to play all seniors if they can, because of their experience. But many high school coaches realize that skill and passion for the game can come before age and seniority. And Chelsea’s varsity football teams sophomore safety Garrett Steele has both of those attributes and more.

While it’s not rare for a sophomore to play on the Bulldogs, it’s not common either. And Steele just doesn’t play here or there or in “mop up” duty, he starts in the defensive backfield.

“Coach Bush and I had conversations about me playing varsity but there was not a specific date,” the 15-year-old stated referring to Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush. “It’s a great honor being in this situation and everyone is very supportive of one another.”

Steele has been playing football since he was in 7th grade and it shows as the 6 foot 175-pound safety shows a skill set far beyond his age. He can read receiver sets and is able to shed blocks and picks to pick up and lock down his man. He has shown flashes of brilliance in coverage and is a hard hitter and has made several big stops for the Bulldogs so far this season. He is third on his team in tackles with 17 in 3 games including 1 tackle for a loss and one pass broken up.

Garrett shares the backfield with his cousin Braden who is a senior. His brother Thomas, who is also a senior, is the Bulldog quarterback.

“Getting to play on a team with my brother and cousin is an unbelievable experience that I will never get again,” Garrett said.  “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to play my first varsity season with.”

Garrett loves football but he also plays baseball but his major sports passion is hockey. He currently plays AAA travel hockey for the Oakland Jr Grizzlies.

“I love hockey so much and I’d really like to thank Coach Bush for being so supportive of me playing hockey and football at the same time this season, ” Garrett stated.

Being the youngest on a team with players mostly 2 or 3 years older than you could cause much division in most football locker rooms but Chelsea isn’t like that. All the players get along really well and everyone has been very supportive of Garrett and he feels no extra pressure on him because of his age or grade.

“Whether you’re a senior, a junior,  or a sophomore playing on varsity has a lot of pressure but that’s why we play the game,” said Garrett.

Garrett thanks his family for all their support (Mother Gretchen, Father Tucker, brother Caden, sister Savannah)  but most importantly his quarterback brother Thomas for all the support and leadership he has shown him all summer and for the start of this season.

The Bulldogs are a third of the way through the season and stand at 2 wins and 1 loss overall and travel to Tecumseh Friday to take on the Indians.

“I feel we are starting to figure things out defensively and offensively and once we do we will be a team others won’t want to play,” Garrett asserts.

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Dozer’s Pigskin Picks

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We are pleased to announce a new weekly feature on our website. It is called Dozer’s Pigskin Picks. Who is Dozer you ask? Well, Dozer is a pig. Not just any pig but the worlds smartest pig. And he can talk!

Dozer lives in Chelsea and he is a proud Bulldog and loves the Chelsea community. And he really loves Chelsea sports. Especially football. He has very strong ties to Chelsea football going back several generations as his great, great, great, grandpa took part in Chelsea High Schools very first game. As the original Chelsea pigskin.

“I’m very proud of that,” Dozer snorted. “A rich tradition was born that day and I’m glad my family was a part of it.”

Dozer knows sports. And loves Chelsea football almost as much as he does eating. And Dozer understands the rivalries too, as he cannot stand Dexter!

“The other pig that lives in my barnyard went to Dexter,” Dozer growls. “his name is Spike and he’s dumb as a brick and nobody likes him. Hmmph, Dexter!”

So without further ado here’s Dozer for his prediction and thoughts on the upcoming home game this Friday against Ypsilanti Lincoln.

“Hey everybody I’m Dozer the pig and I want to talk Chelsea Bulldog football. I just found out Chelsea won the voting so we will be the Mlive game of the week in our area. That’s cool, that’s cool. I voted quite a bit. I hope you all did too. So this weeks game is against Lincoln. Lincoln, what has he done since he freed the slaves.

What? Oh, my bad, I’ve been informed that it’s not Abe Lincoln, who is dead, but Lincoln High out of Ypsilanti. Pshh, Railsplitters. I bet they don’t even really have a clue where that name came from. Anywho Lincoln has given up an average of 32 points a game in their 2 losses this year. But they’ve racked up an average of 27 points per game in those losses. But they haven’t faced a defense like Chelsea’s.

Those boys up front are big! I haven’t seen that much beef since I visited my friends in the cattle barn at the fair. Oh, the Chelsea fair. Cotton candy, caramel corn, everything on a stick, everything deep fried, mmmmmmmm!

What? Oh whoops got sidetracked there for a minute. Chelsea is strong up front and has a lot of depth. They shut down a very good Pinckney team last week only giving up one touchdown on their first drive. My homey Ronnie Buford had 3 sacks, 8 tackles, and 2 of them for loss. Braden Steele, Garrett Steele, Doug Zarinnia, and Patrick Bertoni did great in the defensive backfield. And Owen Nikischer has been a beast at Middle linebacker. Owens crazy. He’ll hold the door open for a little old lady then smash it on some Dreadnaught kid. Heh Heh, I love that Owen!

The defense will have to be strong as they face the speedy senior quarterback Cam Thompson who is a dual threat.  He can run and throw and is their most explosive weapon. Other big players on their team are running back Derrick Thomason and wide receiver Matthew Moorer. Moorer, a 2017 track and field state champion in the 400-meter dash, will be an explosive threat for Thompson in the passing game. Chelsea is going to have to be aware of him at all times and lock him down. They also can’t let Thompson get loose and have to lock him up fast and make him throw bad passes with lots of pressure.

The Chelsea offense struggled a bit last week but Head Coach Brad Bush is going to fix that. I know he worked with those kids all week because there’s way too much talent on that team to not rack up a lot of points. They’re big up front & they got speed.

I have to say, this is going to be a very exciting game but I’m all in for the Bulldogs! Go dawgs!!!! I’ll be watching it online while pigging out on pizza. Yeah pigging out is an offensive term but not for me, we pigs can say it!

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Chelsea Defense Comes Up Big In 10-7 Comeback Victory Over Pinckney

 

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Chelsea Sophomore Garrett Steele wraps up Pinckney’s back in the first quarter

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)

 

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Chelsea’s Patrick Bertoni Locking The D Backfield Down

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When opposing quarterbacks line up against Chelsea, they look over the defense and look to see where number 17 is. And then they change up their play. Because Chelsea Defensive Back Patrick Bertoni plays the position like a pro. He covers well, he hits hard, he jumps routes, and he picks off passes.

Bertoni, who has been playing organized football since 7th grade,  had the rarity of starting every game for the 11-1 Bulldogs in 2016 and had 6 interceptions earning him honorable mention on the all SEC team. Quarterbacks learned right away not to throw his way and receivers would try to run away from him.

“I’m really excited for my senior season and I’m hoping to have an even better season this year,” Bertoni said.

Bertoni is very involved as he is participating in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), National Honor Society (NHS), Orchestra, student council, St. Mary youth group, and is a student liaison to the school board. He also starts on the Chelsea basketball varsity team.

“I like playing both sports (football and basketball) and I can’t decide which one I like better,” Bertoni states. “I’m a better person for playing them and I can’t say enough great things about the guys on my teams.”

When Bertoni does get the spare time he likes to spend it with those people that are close to him. He enjoys doing puzzles, going camping, and listening to music. He plans on attending the University of Michigan after he graduates.

“I would like to thank all my family, my teammates, and my coaches for helping me be the person I am today,” Bertoni said. “But most of all I’d like to thank God for all he has blessed me with.”

Patrick is the son of Rob and Sue Bertoni and he has an older brother Daniel, and two older sisters, Colleen and Kelly.

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