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.