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By Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com

The Chelsea Bulldogs beat Ann Arbor Pioneer in a home football game that had a wild beginning and crazy finish.

By a score of 21 to 17, the win moves the Chelsea Bulldogs’ overall record to 3-0 while Pioneer’s record falls to 1-2.

Just seconds into the game, Chelsea struck first with an 88-yard kick return touchdown by Chelsea senior Mitchell Reynolds, who broke through the defense to sprint up the sideline to make it 7-0.

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The remainder of the first quarter and a big part of the second saw both teams going back and forth as the offenses struggled while the defenses worked to keep both sides in the game.

With just under two minutes left in the first half, Pioneer was able to put its first points up on the board after a poor snap on a punt by the Bulldogs that resulted in a safety and put the score to 7-2.

In receiving the ball after the safety, Pioneer quickly scored again on a 51-yard pass play from junior quarterback Conor Easthope to senior wide receiver Geffen Peterson-Sand.

Easthope finished with 268 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Peterson Sand finished with six catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.

The Pioneer drive was capped off by a successful two-point conversion pass to junior tight end Rasheed Sampson.

The score was 10-7 at halftime with Pioneer leading.

The second half saw Pioneer receiving the ball and setting up on offense. However, that didn’t last long as Bulldog defensive lineman Daniel Golding sacked to force a fumble, which was recovered by Bulldog senior linebacker Sam Michael.

Michael, Gabe Vowles, and Golding all finished with eight tackles, while Corbin Steele added another seven. The defense finished with four sacks and eight tackles for loss.

With good field position, Chelsea’s offense went to work moving the ball, but was eventually stopped at the Pioneer 21-yard line, which left them with a fourth and five play. The Bulldogs then set up for a field goal with six minutes left in the third quarter, but again the snap was muffed.

However, this time the fumbled snap was picked up by Bulldog junior Joe Taylor, who scampered into the end zone from 25 yards out to put the score with the extra point at 14-10 with Chelsea on top.

Both teams’ defenses buckled down as they traded blows, but with little offense.

It was late in the game with two minutes left in the game that things took a turn.

On the arm of Easthope, Pioneer began marching down the field with several big passes that got them into the red zone. With less than 20 seconds left in the game and Pioneer needing 18 yards for a first down, Easthope hit wide receiver Ali Fisher with a 19-yard strike for a touchdown pass to put them up.

Before a home crowd silenced by the big touchdown by Pioneer and seconds remaining on the clock, the Bulldogs set up their offense for what was most likely the last play.

With four seconds left, senior quarterback Kyle Knight stepped back in the pocket and launched a 66-yard pass play to Taylor, who caught it around the Pioneer 35 yard line and broke free into the end zone for the winning score.

The Pioneers held the advantage in time of possession (25:16 – 22:40) and in overall yards (291-185) but the Bulldogs made the plays when it mattered.

Bulldog Head Coach Josh Lucas said Pioneer played a tough game and deserved a lot of credit, especially with shutting down the Bulldog running game.

“Hats off to coach Bellers and his staff,” Lucas said. “They did a heck of a job on defense.”

He said Pioneer quarterback Easthope also deserves a lot of credit for the last drive that saw Pioneer marching 80 yards down the field to take the lead.

However, the Bulldogs overcame the Pioneers tough game plan and were able to score when it mattered most.

“To start the game with a kick return for a touchdown and then to finish it like that…I mean what a game,” Lucas said. “I mean that’s high school sports right there. That’s why you play until zero on the clock.”

 

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