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Chelsea Conquers Milan 23-14 In First Round Of Playoffs

 

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Jacob Grubbs runs for a Chelsea touchdown in the first quarter

 

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.

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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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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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Chelsea’s Gus Reynolds Looking To Bust Out In 2017

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Chelsea’s Gus Reynolds stiff arms a Gabriel Richard Defender

Chelsea’s tailback Gus Reynolds had a breakout year in 2016 sharing the backfield with some talented teammates but he still managed to gain over 1,000 yards rushing on only 157 carries, giving him almost 6.5 yards a carry. When Gus’s number 10 was called he never let the team or the fans down always pushing his way to the sticks or the end zone. In fact, he made 19 trips there for the Bulldogs, placing him 4th all-time in Bulldog history on the touchdown list.

“I’m really looking forward to this season,” Reynolds stated. “I think our team is looking great this season. We have a lot of depth and we can use that to our advantage. Plus we have a lot of guys coming back with a lot of playoff experience.”

Reynolds has spent a lot of time in the off season working out and getting stronger for the 2017 season. His goals are to be bigger, stronger, and faster and to smash the 1,000-yard mark again and do whatever it takes him to do to help lead his team to victory.

Reynolds, or the Gus Bus as his friends and fans call him, has been playing football for the last 6 years as well as wrestling. In wrestling, he placed 6th in States. But football is his first love.

“I really enjoy playing football,” Reynolds said. “I like it because I find it more fun and and I also like not having to starve myself during the season.”

The Bulldog players, their fans, and the community always have high expectations and a positive attitude when it comes to their sports, especially the football team. After all, Chelsea has been in the playoffs 17 of the last 18 years and going for their fourth district title in a row. And in 2016 they battled in the Class B state Championship game.

“That has to be my favorite football memory ever, going to Ford Field,” Reynolds reminisced.

Reynolds is just like any other teenager. He works at Los Tres Amigos and likes to spend his spare time playing his Xbox 0ne, skiing, and just hanging out with his friends. But he is also getting ready for his future.

“I plan to go to college after High School, but not sure where yet,” says Reynolds. “I’m hoping to play football in college and hopefully I get some offers. But what matters most to me is the success of my team!”

Gus’ parents are Mike and Joanne and he has a brother Mitchell. Chelsea opens the season this Friday on the road against Milan.

 

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Chelsea Football’s James Mida Ready For The Trenches

 

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James Mida leaps to hit the banner pre-game 

Many football pundits are saying that the linemen for the Chelsea football team this season are deep and might be among the best group of players ever. And anchoring that line will be Senior James Mida, who mainly plays defensive end, but can play offense and like a Swiss army knife, he can and will do it all. He will do whatever his coaches ask of him and whatever it takes to help his team, like all the defensive linemen on the team.

 

“We have what we think is the most athletic defense to come through in a while,” Mida excitedly proclaims. “I mean, I think the team looks great! The Offense looks really good from what I’ve seen, very balanced. There is a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.”

Mida, like most Chelsea athletes, is a multi-sport participant. He wrestles, does track and field, and archery (but not with his school).  He also plays baritone in the marching band. He loves each sport he performs with equally because they all complement each other for him.

“I love the team and family environment of football,” Mida explains. “I love the conditioning and physicality of wrestling, and I love track because it is the sport I can  relax with and heal up any injuries I might have acquired in my other sports.”

Mida lived in Ann Arbor for the first ten years of his life so when he moved to Chelsea it was a big change for him. Not only was it a smaller city, he noticed right away how it was a much closer community. He wasn’t used to living in a place where everyone cared for each other and looked out for each other.

“That’s why I love football like a family,” Mida explains. “We’re like a band of brothers, like Chelsea. We all feed off each other, thrive off each other, look out for each other. It’s amazing how everyone on the team looks out for one another.”

Mida knows the expectations are always high for the Bulldogs, with their great record of District Championships, undefeated seasons, and a trip to the state championship game in 2015. And that’s where the C9 program comes in Head Coach Brad Bush and his staff are encouraging.

“To be successful we all need to live up to C9, where every unit matters and helps the other,” Mida said. “I have no doubt we will do more than just buy into the program, but we will make it succeed, on and off the field.”

In his spare time, when he ever finds any, he likes to watch youtube and Netflix videos, play video games, lift, practice for any sport he is playing, and eat. He also works on a farm baling hay with his close friend Zack Taylor.

 

As he enters his senior season, Mida hopes to earn a scholarship by playing his heart out in any sport he does. He’d like to go into law enforcement after High School, or possibly teaching. And then there is the possibility of enlisting in the United States Armed Forces.

Mida is the son of Robbie Hinsman, Rob Elie, and he has 2 sisters Mary Mida and Amarah Hinsman. He also has two close friends that live with his family, Danny Nelson and Brian Vannewkirk.

As he steps out on the field after practice Mida begins to reflect on his senior football season.

“We’ve worked hard, all of us,” Mida states. “I’m very happy on this field. It’s a great place to play, the fans, the coaches, the players. Now it’s time to make our hard work pay off and us seniors can go out with a bang or a whimper. And we all know Bulldogs don’t whimper!”

 

 

 

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