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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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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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Chelsea To Promote 1991 Championship Baseball Team With Heart For The Game Movie

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Chelsea’s 1991 Championship Baseball Team (Photo by Brian Hamilton)

According to fans around the state, Chelsea’s 1991 baseball team is the greatest team in Michigan prep sports history! Earlier this year Mlive had a fan vote and the Bulldogs team came in first overwhelmingly with 40,500 votes, almost 37% of all votes. And now they are being honored with a locally produced feature film called “Heart for the Game”.

Their feature premiere will be a red carpet gala event at the Chelsea High School Auditorium (740 North Freer Road) on Saturday, August 19th from 7-9 P.M. The family friendly event is free and is intended to bring the community together to celebrate the events of athletics, past and present. Donations will be accepted at the door with 100% of the proceeds going to the Chelsea Athletic Boosters and will be earmarked for their project to construct new athletic display cases near the gymnasium.

The movie is a Video Farm documentary directed by Robert Coelius and produced by Kerry and Theresa Plank. It is a ’30 for 30’ style full-length feature documenting the 1991 State Championship baseball team. Key participants and witnesses recall the events of a unique and historic baseball team 25 years later. The team overcame adversity on and off the field and won 11 of 33 games when tied or losing in the final at-bat. The team beat the #1, #4, and #2 teams in succession and won the championship game in dramatic come-from-behind fashion.

Appearing in the film are local Chelsea icons, Craig Common (Owner and Chef of the Common Grill), Jeff Daniels (Actor who has appeared in many movies including Blood Work with Clint Eastwood and Pleasantville and also the founder of the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea), Howdy Holmes (President and CEO of Jiffy Mix in Chelsea and former Indy driver), and Chelsea Mayor Jason Lindauer to name a few. 

The Bulldogs a had a knack for making late-game comebacks in that miraculous season. Of the team’s 33 victories in 1991, 13 were in the Bulldogs’ last at-bat, including the Class B state championship game.

Midland Bullock Creek scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 5-3 lead, but Chelsea rallied for three runs in the bottom of the inning. It was the team’s 20th-straight win after beginning the season 13-3.

The Bulldogs had several players move on to play at the next level, led by catcher Adam Taylor, who played at the University of New Mexico before playing three years in the minor leagues, reaching the double-A level.

Pitcher Jake Rindle played at Michigan State and Central Michigan, while Rob Clem moved on to play at Hillsdale College. The pitching duo combined to go 22-1 for the Bulldogs in 1991.

“It was such a great group of guys,” Chelsea coach Wayne Welton said. “We had a 25-year anniversary get-together at my house last summer, and we probably could have gone out and played somebody and won in our last at-bat that day, too. It was such a fun group. I love those guys.”

Key Participants in the film are Welton (former Chelsea baseball coach and former athletic Director), Todd Starkey (1988 CHS Graduate and former coach), and 1991 CHS Graduates Kerry Plank, Tucker Steele, Jude Quilter, Jeremy Stephens, Rick Westcott, Rob Clem, and Craig Ferry. Also featured are 1990 Chelsea graduates Adam Taylor (current Chelsea coach), Ben Hurst, Jake Rindle, Rob Jaques, Jason Adams, and 2001 graduate Molly Welton-Boyle.

The documentary trailer can be found at Chelsea Heart For The Game Movie Trailer

Also for information or to RSVP you can go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/444311302593205?__mref=mb

As of this writing, there are approximately 300 RSVP’s thus far.

 

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The 1991 State Champions at their 25th reunion

 

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Chelsea’s Ronnie Buford Announces College Commitment

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Chelsea Bulldog Ronnie Buford picks off a pass in his junior season

The Chelsea High School football team has produced yet another great young athlete to commit to a Division 1 college as Junior Ronnie Buford announced that he has officially committed to Western Michigan University (WMU) to continue his football career.

Ronnie has committed to the Broncos as a defensive end, where he excelled for the 11-1 Bulldogs team in 2016. The 6 foot 4 inch Buford also excels on the basketball court where he and his Bulldog teammates won the Districts in their division last season.  Buford moved recently to Chelsea from Ann Arbor where he was the starting quarterback for Skyline, but he was moved to defensive end for the Bulldogs where they could take advantage of his size and speed.

“The adjustment from offense to defense wasn’t a real big deal to me,” Ronnie stated. “It was a smooth transition because I understood both offensive and defensive schemes and learned quickly what my coaches were teaching me.”

Many colleges noticed Ronnie’s play in his first year on defense and were interested in him and he and his family visited many of them to get a feel for the community and check out the academics to see if the fit was right for him. Ronnie took his time and with the help of his loving family, friends, and coaches finally decided on his gridiron home for the 2018 season.

“The decision was hard, yet easy. We went to many places but when we went to WMU I just knew I wanted to be a Bronco after the first unofficial visit,” Ronnie stated. “As soon as I stepped foot on the Bronco’s football field,  I just had this feeling that I had at no other visit! It was a confirmation feeling like I belonged there.”

Ronnie also gives much credit to the WMU coaches for making him and his family feel comfortable on their visit.

“They treated me and my family so nice,” Ronnie said. “They were extremely good to my little brother and I could tell this was a great, solid family organization like Chelsea football is. And that’s what I’m all about, family.”

Ronnie plans to major in Business and get a minor in civil engineering while enjoying all the community of Kalamazoo and WMU have to offer. Ronnie is the son of Willie Buford, and Shallis and Laura Mask.

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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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Chelsea Lacrosse Shuts Out Lincoln

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2017 Chelsea Bulldogs celebrate a huge 15-0 victory

Last Friday Chelsea’s Senior goaltender Josh Ciaccio took off on offense and almost scored a goal against Ann Arbor. Tonight against Lincoln, he achieved a rarity in lacrosse, he shut out the rail splitters as Chelsea destroyed Lincoln 15-0.

In the sport of lacrosse achieving a shutout is almost unheard of as it is a fast, physical sport and it only takes one second or one mistake to miss the ball. But Ciaccio was on fire in spite of the unseasonably cold, blustery night. Ciaccio was not tested much but when he was he came up big for the Bulldogs. It helped to have a very stingy defense in front of him as well as some offensive firepower.

“This is actually my second shutout,” an elated Ciaccio said after the game. “I’m so happy right now, it feels good. I was getting worried there near the end but the team played hard to keep it going.”

The Bulldogs were hot on the other end of the field as they blasted 26 shots on the Lincoln netminder. With a big 12-0 lead at the half Chelsea head coach Joe Koengeter rested his varsity starters and played much of his junior varsity players in the second half. (Because of rain earlier there was no junior varsity game so they all played together in the varsity game).

The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Senior Mikal Nelson who had 4 goals on 6 shots. Nelson has been playing exceptionally well as of late, helping his team by making great plays and scoring lots of goals and playing tough defense when the occasion arises.

Sophomore Cam Breining had the hat trick with an assist to go with it while Nick Whitesall, Nate Bero, and Spencer Gobba had 2 goals apiece.  Max Gervais netted a goal and had 4 assists while Aidan Boote also scored for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs head out Wednesday to play at Green Hills then travel on Friday to take on their arch rivals Dexter.

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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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