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By: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com 

The Chelsea Bulldogs, 2-0 (2-0), defeated the Pinckney Pirates, 1-1 (1-1), in their home opener, a Southeastern Conference (SEC) contest as well, by a final score of 28-7.

This Bulldog win makes it eight straight against the Pirates, including the three since the Pirates rejoined the SEC after 2016.

Although the Bulldogs had a 100-yard rusher last week, Bulldog head coach Josh Lucas, also working with the offensive line this year, said they challenged the offensive line this week.

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“We ran it decent against Dexter but we felt we missed a lot of blocks up front,” said Lucas. We challenged them, technique-wise, to trust what we taught them. They did that tonight.”

They responded by paving the way for senior Brennan Van Riper’s three touchdowns, grinding down the Pirates as the game wore on. Bulldog senior Mitch Reynolds and Van Riper combined for 166 yards as the Bulldogs outgained the Pirates on the ground 166-40.

After the first quarter, the two teams were tied at seven. After two Pirate three-and-outs to start the game, the Bulldogs got on the board on a 69-yard touchdown from Van Riper with 2:41 left.

The Pirates responded with two deep passes, both to senior wide receiver Cameron Gaden from senior quarterback Joe Bona. The second was a 22-yard touchdown throw that was wide open and tied the game with 39 seconds in the quarter.

Bona finished 12-21 for 206 yards and a touchdown while Gaden finished with five catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. After a strong season opener week, the Bulldogs held Pirate senior running back Sal Patierno to 37 yards on 11 carries.

On the ensuing kickoff, a 99-yard touchdown return by Bulldog junior defensive back Joe Taylor was called back for a block in the back that brought the ball back to their own 9-yard line.

Five plays later, Bulldog senior quarterback Kyle Knight found senior wide receiver Ross Stofflet for a 69-yard catch and run for the touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 14-7 with 10:30 in the second quarter.

Stofflet said the play developed so fast he didn’t really realize what happened, but getting faster and route running were two areas of focus for him this offseason. Most of that 69-yard catch and run had him pulling away from everybody.

The Bulldogs and Pirates would both miss field goals later in the quarter to take the same 14-7 score into halftime.

First, the Pirate defense held on a third and goal from the one-yard line. Then the Pirates missed a long 42-yarder after their drive stalled.

“They did some good things on defense with some different schemes that kind of got us in a loop down there in the red zone. On the one, we should’ve scored,” said Lucas. “Hats off to that defense.”

Bulldog senior Ross Stofflet runs down the field for a 69-yard catch and run for a touchdown against Pinckney on Sept. 6. Photo by Dawn Miller

After the Pirates missed their field goal the Bulldogs got the ball back with 1:16 left at their own 20-yard line. They were moving the ball with quick sideline passes when Knight was hurt with 44 seconds left after scrambling out of the pocket and cutting inside rather than stepping out of bounds on the sideline

Knight would not return after leaving the field nor after the halftime break, more precautionary than anything, with what Lucas calling it a hip pointer.

Bulldog junior Griffen Murphy would finish the game at quarterback for the Bulldogs but the success on the ground ensured a smooth second half.

Knight finished 6-12 for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Stofflet had four of those catches for 87 yards and the touchdown.

After the break, the Bulldogs scored on their first drive of the second half and capitalized on a high snap on a Pirate punt the next Pirate possession to put the game away.

First, Van Riper broke a 39-yard run on the first offensive play of the second half to put the ball on the Pirate 12-yard line. Four plays later, he punched it in from a yard out for his second score of the day.

Van Riper told The Sun Times he knew the Bulldogs had a chance for success in the trenches when he saw big holes open early and often. With the focus on the run game as it saw success last week, Van Riper knows how important it is to have a balanced attack with Lucas’ spread concepts.

“It’s very important for a spread offense (to have a balanced attack),” said Van Riper. “It brings in the linebackers and makes the strong safeties pinch in. It really opens up the middle of the field for passing.”

On the botched punt that went over the punter, Gaden, Bulldog junior Chase Kemp was the first one there to fall on it at the Pirate 14-yard line.

Three plays later it was Van Riper again on a third down and short from the Pirate 5-yard line to make it 28-7 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

The last three drives for the Pirates ended in two punts and a turnover on downs as the Bulldogs moved to 2-0 (2-0).

Defensively, the Bulldogs had five players, senior linebacker Sam Michael, Taylor, senior linebacker Gabe Vowles, junior linebacker Corbin Steele, junior defensive linebacker Brendan Westcott, finish with six tackles.

For the Pirates, senior Drew Pilley had seven tackles and senior Noah Bachmeier added six.

“Hats off to Chelsea,” said Pirate head coach Rod Beaton. “A physical team, they executed well. You got to give them a lot of credit, they played a very good game tonight. A heckuva football team.”

Photos by Dawn Miller

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