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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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Jackson High School to join SEC White starting in 2018-19 school year

Jackson High School has been seeking a new athletic conference to join, and it now has one. The Jackson School Board voted unanimously to approve the switch from the Capital Area Activites Conference (CAAC) to the Southeastern Conference White Divison for all Jackson High sports teams beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

The SEC White, a six-school league in 2016-17, will add Pinckney to the conference for the 2017-18 year before Jackson makes it an eight-team league the following season.  Jackson’s enrollment of 1,246 would make it the third-largest school in the SEC White. In addition to newcomer Pinckney (1,279), the SEC White includes Adrian (794), Chelsea (867), Dexter (1,146), Tecumseh (832), Ypsilanti (1,115) and Ypsilanti Lincoln (1,404).

The Red Division includes Ann Arbor Huron (1,589), Ann Arbor Pioneer (2,055), Ann Arbor Skyline (1,752), Monroe (2,046), Saline (1,923) and Temperance Bedford (1,597). There are no plans for expanding the SEC Red.

The CAAC consists of eight teams, seven of which are considered Lansing area. The SEC White will have eight teams, each of which has its own geographic region.

“Each school (in the SEC) has its own sense of community,” Jackson High Athletic Director Jack Fairly said earlier this month. “The CAAC has been good to us, but being from the Jackson area, we’re down here by ourselves. Teams in (the SEC) all have their own community, whereas the CAAC was really a greater-Lansing conference and then us.”

Joining a conference that didn’t increase travel was also an important dynamic. The distance between Jackson and every school in the SEC White ranges from 26-51 miles while the distance between Jackson and the CAAC schools ranged from 32-49 miles. Additionally, the annual SEC league fee is $700, compared to $3,125 in the CAAC.

Starting this fall in 2017 Pinckney comes back to the SEC after it left in to join the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) in 2000. The Pirates held rivalries with Dexter and Chelsea, as well as Tecumseh, still playing an annual basketball game with the Dreadnaughts.

Pinckney was looking for a good conference fit and as their enrollment falls they will be on pace with several of the other schools in the SEC White.
 “We’re joining a conference where schools have some of the strongest programs in the state,” Pinckney Athletic Director Brian Wardlow said. “But it does allow us to get back into a more level playing field and against some of our neighbors. This seemed like a natural fit, even on more levels than athletics.”
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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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Jackson Christian Soccer Devastates Hillsdale 9-3

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Jackson Christian Junior Audrey McCollum moves the ball upfield against Hillsdale

On the last night of the season, the Jackson Christian Royals went out in style as they scored early and often guiding themselves to a big 9-3 victory over Hillsdale to end the season on a winning note. It was a great way to send the 6 senior players on the team out.

Senior Mary Hawthorne got the scoring started 12 minutes into the first half. Senior Sierra Chevalier put the ball into the back of the net and then Junior Audrey McCollum to give the Royals a big 3-1 lead going into halftime.

At the halftime, the Royals honored those seniors playing in their last High School soccer game ever. Also honored were two boys for their dedication in their spring sports.

After the brief, but beautiful ceremony, the girls got back to the scoring again as only 2 minutes into the second half Hawthorne scored her second on the night. 20 seconds later Hillsdale cut the Royals lead in half as Emily Wright got one by the Royals goalkeeper. Chevalier took over after that scoring 2 more goals in just 16 seconds for the hat trick and a Jackson Christian record for fastest 2 goals ever scored in a game!

Haley Hands then scored for the Royals and McCollum netted her second of the evening to build a huge 8-2 lead. Hillsdale never gave up and kept on battling as Kathy Tempa was able to score. Sam Hershberger put the icing on the cake to give the Royals a 9-3 lead with 4 minutes left with her first goal of the season.

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Chelsea Lacrosse Stomps Huron River Rats 19-2

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Chelsea’s Nick Childress (no. 26) scores for his Bulldogs

Temperatures were brisk on Friday night at Jerry Niehaus football field in Chelsea as the Bulldog lacrosse team looked to snap a 4 game losing streak against the Ann Arbor River Rats. In the 4 game losing streak, Chelsea was up against some state-ranked competition and it was a rough stretch of their schedule and goals were hard to come by.

Looking to get back on track, it looked a bit grim in the beginning as Huron jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. But Chelsea Head Coach Joe Koengeter called his boys over and gave them a pep talk and whatever he said worked because the Bulldogs caught fire quick as Doug Zarinnia got the Bulldogs on the board. Two quick goals by Cam Breining And Mikal Nelson put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

The Bulldogs opened it up and took a big 10-2 lead at the half. In the second half, it was more of the same as Senior netminder Josh Ciaccio stopped everything that was thrown his way with the help of his stingy defense. In the 4th quarter, a midi stayed back as Ciaccio took the ball all the way down the field and was able to get a shot off on goal, just slightly missing the net.

“It was the first time I’ve ever been able to do that,” said a thrilled Ciaccio. “It was exciting, I really wanted to get a goal. But I’m happy with the big win for the team and I hope I get to do that again someday.”

The Bulldogs were led in scoring by senior Nate Bero with a hat trick. Breining, Nelson, and Aidan Boote each chipped in 2 goals apiece. The Bulldogs will look for another goal fest in their favor Monday night as they play host to the Lincoln.

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Chelsea Softball Splits Series With Dexter

 

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Alise Hale makes the tag on a Dreadnaught trying to steal second base

 

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, the Chelsea Bulldogs played host to their arch-rivals Dexter from just down the road in a doubleheader. Game 1 was a pitchers duel between Chelsea’s Peighton Root and Dexter’s Katelyn Niswonger. Dexter came out victorious 1-0. In game 2 Dexter’s strategy was to keep Niswonger in but it backfired big time as Chelsea stomped the Dreadnaughts 13-2!

Dexter took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning and it would hold up for the entire game as Niswonger gave up only 3 hits while striking out 11. Chelsea’s young sophomore pitcher Root gave up only 3 hits also while fanning 6. Chelsea just couldn’t get the bats going and Root was backed up by her outstanding fielders including senior second baseman Olivia Leonard who made a great diving catch in the 4th inning and Sydney Hines who ran all the way to the wall in right field and made a spectacular catch. But the Bulldogs till came up short in only their third loss on the year and second in conference play.

Dexter thought since Niswonger kept the Bulldogs bats mostly silent in game one that they would let her pitch game two. But the strategy backfired as Chelsea jumped out fast in the first inning scoring 5 quick runs behind big hits by Hines, Grace Bush, and Alise Hale. Maddie Vasquez cleared the bases as the young sophomore multi-sport star turned a single into a triple through good heads up base running, good coaching,  and a Dexter error.

In the second inning, the Bulldogs tacked on another run as Hines singled and Root drove her to third with a single of her own. Then as Root stole second base beating the throw Hines took off for home and dove head first safely at the plate to give the Bulldogs a comfortable 6-0 lead thanks to a perfectly executed double steal.

Young sophomore pitcher Maddie Kemp kept the Dreadnaught bats silent until the fourth inning when Niswonger was able to score from first on a double hit by her teammate. The Bulldogs came back with a run of their own as Sara Stribe scored off a Hannah Kahler single.

Dexter would tack on another run in the sixth only to have the Bulldogs explode in the bottom of the inning for 5 more runs behind big hits by Kahler, Root, Vasquez, and Allie Heinen giving the Bulldogs a huge victory and running their record to 10-3 on the season.

Kemp went the distance for the Bulldogs going 6 innings and only allowing 2 runs on four hits and 6 strikeouts. Vasquez, Hines, Kahler, and Root all had 2 hits apiece for the Bulldogs who had 12 hits on the nights.

Chelsea will travel to Ann Arbor Huron on Tuesday the 25th for a makeup doubleheader against the River Rats. Gametime is at 4 p.m.

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Chelsea Opens Softball Season With Sweep Of Western

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The Bulldogs celebrate Autumn Johnson’s walk-off home run in the second game of their sweep

On a very brisk afternoon with a rapidly swirling wind chilling to the bone, the Chelsea Bulldogs hosted Parma Western to open their Softball season in front of many loyal fans that braved the elements. But it was well worth the climate battle as the Bulldogs fought back in game 1 to take an 8-6 victory and shutout Western in the second game 11-0 to complete the sweep.

The Bulldogs first inning did not go as planned as Western was able to rack up a big 4-0 lead after their first at-bat, fueled by Western’s starting pitcher Taylor Nichols 2 run home run.  But the Bulldogs came right back and scored two runs of their own behind solid hitting and alert base running by Sydnee Liedel and Hannah Kahler.

Western added two more runs in the second and although down by 4 runs the Bulldogs did not give up, whittling away, hit by hit, to try to take the lead and achieve victory.  In the fifth inning they scored two runs to pull within one but in the 6th they exploded for 3 runs, led by Liedel, Kahler, and Sydney Hines who all scored for the Bulldogs.

With an 8-6 lead, Bulldogs pitcher Peighton Root retired the side for the huge come from behind victory.  The sophomore Root started out a bit slow but after two shaky innings went on to keep Western from scoring anymore, along with a solid defense behind her. Root finished with the win and 7 strikeouts of Western.

After a brief intermission and warming up period for many of the players and fans, it was sophomore pitcher Maddie Kemp getting the call to start in her very first varsity game also. The cold didn’t stand a chance and neither did Western as the red hot pitcher found her mark and came away with a complete game shutout, only giving up 2 hits and getting 11 strikeouts!

“I’m just happy I was able to help my team sweep the double header”, an elated Kemp said.

Kemp helped her own cause out with a big bat, getting a big double and then scoring on hits by Phoebe Kahler and Liedel. An inning later it Was Grace Bush blasting a triple to the opposite field and then Kemp singling her home to increase the Bulldog lead. Up 9-0 going into the 6th and hoping for the mercy rule, Kahler was walked making her way on to base for the 4th time in the nightcap. Then it was Autumn Johnson taking her turn at the plate. Her bat had been unstoppable in game two and she didn’t let up at all as she blasted a huge walk-off home run over the left centerfield fence to mercy Western and take the series.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Head Coach Jeff Connelly said with a big smile on his face. “They never gave up in the first game. They kept their spirits up and kept battling back. ”

Chelsea will play host Thursday to Milan at 5 o’clock.

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