bulldogs, chelsea, chelsea high school, football, high school, mhsaa, mhsaa championship football, sports

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 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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bulldogs, chelsea, chelsea high school, football, sports

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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bulldogs, chelsea, chelsea high school, football, high school, high school football, mhsaa, mhsaa championship football, sports

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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Michigan Continues to Outpace Population Rank on National Sports Participation List

Michigan had the eighth-most participants in high school sports nationally in 2016-17 according to statistics released this week by the National Federation of State High School Associations, after ranking seventh in participation the last eight school years. However, this year’s level of participation again bested Michigan’s national ranking for total number of residents of high school age, which fell from ninth to 10thaccording to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 295,647, with 127,277 girls and 168,370 boys taking part in high school athletics, and included sports in which the MHSAA does not conduct postseason tournaments. The totals count students once for each sport in which he or she participates, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.

The state’s girls participation ranked eighth nationally, down one spot from 2015-16, while the boy’s participation figure also ranked eighth, down from sixth the year before. However, as with overall population, Michigan ranks 10th for both females and males ages 14-17 according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2016.

A total of 19 sports bested the state’s overall national participation ranking of eighth by placing seventh or higher on their respective lists. Three Michigan sports improved in national ranking during 2016-17, while five sports dropped one position and a sixth sport dropped two spots.

Michigan girls and boys golf both improved from sixth to fifth in national participation ranking, while girls basketball – with its first increase in participation after 10 straight years of decline – rose from seventh to sixth nationally. Michigan also moved up to seventh, from eighth, for 8-player football participation – significant because the state’s 11-player football participation ranking didn’t fall with that increase, remaining at sixth nationally for the fourth straight year.

Of the five sports that fell in national participation rankings in 2016-17, three stayed above population rank – boys basketball fell from sixth to seventh nationally, girls bowling from third to fourth and volleyball from fourth to sixth. Girls gymnastics (11th to 12th) and boys lacrosse (eighth to ninth) fell only one spot on their respective national lists.

The other Michigan sports that ranked eighth or higher all equaled their national rankings from 2015-16 and included baseball (eighth), boys bowling (third), competitive cheer (sixth), boys and girls cross country (both seventh), boys ice hockey (fourth), boys and girls skiing (both third), softball (seventh), boys tennis (fifth), girls tennis (third), boys track & field (seventh), girls track & field (eighth) and wrestling (seventh). Girls lacrosse (13th), boys and girls soccer (both ninth), boys swimming & diving (ninth) and girls swimming & diving (10th) all also held to their national rankings from the previous year.

National participation in high school sports in 2016-17 set a record for the 28th consecutive year with 7,963,535 participants – an increase of 94,635 from the year before. Girls participation increased for the 28th consecutive year with an additional 75,971 participants – the largest one-year jump since 2000-01 – and set an all-time high of 3,400,297. Boys participation also set another all-time high with 4,563,238, an increase of 18,664 participants from 2015-16.

Girls saw increases in all of their top-10 participatory sports, with competitive spirit (competitive cheer in Michigan) showing the largest increase of 18,712 participants nationally. Track & field, volleyball, soccer, and lacrosse showed the next greatest increases among girls sports. Seven of the top 10 boys sports registered increases from 2015-16, led by soccer, track & field and cross country.

Football (1,086,748), while down two percent from 2015-16, again remained the most-played high school sport overall, followed by boys track & field (600,136), boys basketball (550,305), girls track & field (494,477) and baseball (492,935).

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exist to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.

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sports

New Michigan High School Fall Rule Changes

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Aug. 3 – A pair of football rules changes taking effect this season builds on continuing work to minimize health risks in all interscholastic sports as 2017-18 fall practices begin next week for member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

The first major rule change is to the allowable level of contact on a blindside block in football which is aimed at increasing player safety. A blindside block involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration (for example, while following a ball carrier on a kickoff return), is vulnerable to injury by a block coming from outside his field of vision. Blindside blocks now must be initiated with open hands only; blindside contact that is forceful and initiated with other parts of the body outside of the free blocking zone will be penalized as excessive and unnecessary.

In addition to redefining the blindside block, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) sought to also minimize risk by eliminating the pop-up kick – that is, any free kick during which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, causing it to bounce only once and into the air similar to the flight of a ball kicked directly off the tee. Kicks off a tee that bounce multiple times and then pop into the air remain allowed.

A few other notable rules changes in football will be apparent this fall:

  • A defensive player will be called for encroachment for striking the offensive snapper’s hand or arm, or the ball, prior to the snapper releasing the ball to begin a play.
  • Non-contact face guarding is no longer considered pass interference.
  • A team accepting a penalty during the final two minutes of either half now will have the option of re-starting the clock at the snap of the ball rather than the referee’s ready-for-play signal.

While most fall sports face at least minor rules changes this season, a few more of the most noticeable adjustments will come in boys soccer and girls swimming & diving.

  • In boys soccer, overtime periods and shootouts during the regular season have been eliminated. Leagues and conferences are allowed an overtime option for their end-of-season bracketed tournaments, but overtime in those cases must not exceed two 10-minute periods plus a shootout. Multi-team regular-season tournaments also may receive waivers to employ a shootout if it is used to determine the winner of a game.
  • Also in soccer, kickoffs may now travel in any direction from the center of the field. Previously, kickoffs at the high school level were required to move forward down the field of play.
  • In girls swimming & diving, a diver will need only four regular-season wins (instead of the previous five) to qualify for the Regional Diving Qualification Meet. A diver also may qualify if she places ahead of all divers from opposing schools in varsity competition in at least four meets, even if she does not finish ahead of her teammates.
  • Also in swimming & diving, to promote safer take-offs during relays, the second, third and fourth swimmers must have at least one foot in contact with the starting platform in front of the starting block wedge during take-off. Those second, third and fourths swimmers may not take off with both feet on top of the starting block wedge.
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