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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 Opens Season With Big Win In Milan

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Chelsea’s Arraon McDaniels breaks the plane for the score

A crispness was in the air on a late summer evening in Milan as a huge crowd turned out to watch one of the most anticipated first games of the high school football season. The Big Red played host to the Chelsea Bulldogs with both teams coming off big seasons last year.

Chelsea won the coin toss and deferred until the second half and the Big Red started their season deep in their own territory and their first drive ended quickly in a 3 and out as the Chelsea defense stood strong in the trenches. Chelsea took over off the punt and moved the ball slowly downfield and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Cullen Lindsay.

Milan was able to move the ball on the ground but Chelsea came up big on a huge 4th down and 2 play, stopping the Milan back short of the first down. Chelsea took over and struck quickly with their first touchdown of the season as they faked a reverse and Hunter Neff launched a 74-yard bomb downfield to Ryan Sanborn for the score to put the dogs up 10-0 after Lindsay’s extra point kick.

The Chelsea defense again forced Milan to punt and the Bulldogs drove down the field with short quick passes and runs. Aaron McDaniels capped off the 42-yard drive with a right dive into the end zone for the score. The Bulldogs would take a big 17-0 lead into the halftime.

In the third quarter, both teams would go back and forth playing tough defense as both teams had several large players up front. One of the more interesting match ups was watching Chelsea Defensive End Ronnie Buford go up against Milan’s two-way lineman Michael Furtney. Both players announced their commitment to college their junior year, Buford to Western Michigan, Furtney to Wisconsin.

“Milan is really good up front,”  Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush stated. “They’re a really good team and Furtney is probably the best lineman I’ve seen in the Ann Arbor area in my 21 years of coaching.”

The Bulldogs defense again would come up with a big 4th down stop giving them the ball and the big lead near the end of the 3rd quarter. The Bulldogs struck fast with quarterback Thomas Steele throwing a deep pass to Neff for a big 61-yard score and an even bigger 24-0 lead.

“I was really excited for this game,” Steele said about making his first start at varsity quarterback for the Bulldogs. “It started off a little rough but then we settled down and started playing our game. I love playing with these guys, it’s a great group.”

Chelsea had more opportunities to run the score up but in a show of good sportsmanship, they took another Lindsay field goal for a 27-0 lead. Milan scored late in the game to close the gap but the Bulldogs walked away with a big 27-7 victory.

“Defensively we played really well,” Coach Bush stated. “Special teams were a big factor. Breaking in a new kicker for him (Cullen Lindsay)to be 100% on extra points and field goals is a big deal.”

The Bulldogs were led by in rushing by McDaniels and had 182 yards in passing which was more than Milan had overall in team yardage. Hunter Aeschbecker led Milan with 90 yards rushing. The Bulldogs were led on the defensive side of the ball by Buford who had 8 tackles, while middle linebacker Owen Nikischer had 6.  Nicholas Baugher led the Big Red with 7 tackles while Victor Knight had 6.

Milan will host Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central next week while the Bulldogs head home to host the Pinckney Pirates.

“They’re a good team,” Coach Bush said of the Pirates. “They’ve been out of the league several years and now they’re back in so it’s been since 1999 since we’ve faced them. ”

Kickoff is set for 7 in Chelsea.

 

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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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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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