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From the Players

Kyle Knight dodges a tackle against Farmington Hills Harrison in the playoffs last year. Photo by Mike Williamson

Senior QB Kyle Knight on making the transition back to QB after playing QB freshman and sophomore year but in the slot as a WR last year: “I like QB a lot more, being in control and making the decisions. It’s a lot more responsibility playing QB, it’s a big jump.”

What he’s been doing to help transition: “Weight room, just get bigger. I’ve been coming up the field to throw with the guys a lot, keeping the arm loose. Just practicing a lot of RPO’s.”

Moving to spread offense:“I’m excited. I’m blessed for this offense with me coming in as a senior. Under center you’re limited. We’re 90 percent in the gun. Hopefully I can do a lot with my athletic ability.”

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On his last season: “Just been enjoying every minute. Show up early, stay late. Its your last chance, make it count.”

Senior RB Brennan Van Riper on his focus this offseason:“I’ve been working on my conditioning and just getting stronger. Just polishing up on my skills.”

On the changes to the offense with more spread concepts coming in:“To me, it’s normal. My old team (Northville) used to run a spread. The transition has been easy.”

Joe Taylor returns to his safety position in the secondary after a strong sophomore campaign. Photo by Mike Williamson

Junior DB Joe Taylor returns to lead the defense after a breakout sophomore season in the secondary. Taylor on when the swtich flipped:“I think halfway thru season, it started to slow down for me and I started to understand the gameplan. I realized this is my spot and I could succeed there.”

Return experience with need to replace corners, what he’s seen from defense:“Our DB’s have stepped up big time. Vinny Yado has been a huge help with the DBs, Alex Lewis has been there before, he’ll be able to help in the secondary. Defensive line, we’ve got guys who’ve been through the fire. The linebackers are strong and fast.”

Taylor on what he wants to see defense do better:“Last year I know it may have not seemed like it but we didn’t play the ball in the air that well. This year I think we have better athletes and we should get more interceptions.”

Taylor on offseason focus:“Big time for me was lifting. For a guy like me who isn’t going to grow much more it was nice to add a few pounds from last season to now.”

Senior ILB Sam Michael on defensive focus this offseason:  “To be a lot more physical. Coaches want us to be a lot more physical and I feel we’ll be a more physical team this year, I’m excited for the defense this year.”

Michael on what he’s looking forward to his senior year: “Just being with this group of guys one last time. We’ve all been playing flag football and middle school football together. We’ve had that brotherhood even playing tag in elementary school. I’ll miss it when I graduate cause I know I won’t be playing with these guys anymore.”

 

Key losses

Quinn Starkey (QB)

Hunter Neff (WR)

Ryan Somodi (DB)

Parker Murphy (DE)

Evan Vaughn (LB)

 

Key returning players

Mitch Reynolds (RB)

Joe Taylor (DB)

Josiah Fitch (OL)

Daniel Golding (DL)

Mitch Renolds (RB)

Ross Stofflet (WR)

Brennan VanRiper (RB)

Sam Michael (LB)

 

Last season: 10-4 (6-2), 2ndin the SEC White, Lost in state title games vs. Edwardsburg

By Seth Kinker skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

The Bulldogs head into year two under head coach Josh Lucas after a trip to Ford Field in his inaugural season with Chelsea. With the coaching staff remaining and more spread concepts brought in by Lucas, the Bulldogs made it 19 trips to the postseason in the last 20 years.

Lucas told The Sun Times that it took about nine weeks to finally get the offense going. In the past Chelsea has been more under center on offense, something no longer the case with Lucas.

“It’s just a thing of understanding where they have to be,” said Lucas on the spread offense. “Having landmines and landmarks, ‘this is where I have to be every play.’”

The offense began to roll, with quarterback Quinn Starkey (2447 passing yards, 26 TD) and wide receiver Hunter Neff (1201 recieving yards, 17 TD) earning all-state honors after the season.

“Unfortunately, in the state finals, in our eyes our defense played one heck of a game. Our offense didn’t make enough plays when it mattered. That’s just the way football goes,” said Lucas.

Offensively, the Bulldogs must replace Starkey, Neff, running back Aaron McDaniels and tight end Nick Christian. Lucas told The Sun Times it won’t be easy to replace them but they have guys with returning experience that will now have a bigger role. That being said, he likes what he’s seen thus far.

“We feel we’ll be a little more explosive on offense. Last year I think we broke the school record for most first downs in a season,” said Lucas. “We weren’t real explosive but kind of methodical getting our first downs and then hitting a big play when we needed it. This year I think we’ll be a little bit faster on the perimeter.”

Lucas said they carried the momentum of reaching the state finals into the weight room. He reported that their strength coach said there’s never been a faster, collective group and that this team was also almost as strong as the ’15 team that made it Ford Field.

This year, the team motto is The Chase, which alludes to getting back to the state title game and finishing with a win.

“Our guys aren’t happy with getting there and losing,” said Lucas. “Everyone’s excited we got there but the result wasn’t what we were hoping for so we used that for some fire. We’ve got some young guys from the 8-1 JV team last year that will step in and have a good year as juniors.”

Senior Kyle Knight, a wide receiver and second-string quarterback last year, and junior Griffin Murphy are splitting reps at quarterback with Lucas telling The Sun Times both can run the offense. Knight finished with 102 rushing yards, 223 receiving yards, and four touchdowns while only throwing nine passes.

Offensively: Seniors Mitch Reynolds and Brennan Van Riper (501 rushing yards, 3 TD) return in the backfield, senior wide receiver Ross Stofflet will look to help fill the void by Neff, and senior Josiah Fitch will lead the offensive line.

Defensively: Junior Joe Taylor will be a leader and playmaker for the defense after a breakout sophomore year finishing with 79 tackles and seven interceptions, junior Corbin Steele and senior Sam Michael (35 tackles) return at linebacker, with both corner spots being up for grabs. Senior lineman Daniel Golding also returns after leading the team with 80 tackles, 16 of them for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

Vinny Yado, a transfer from Parchment High School, is competing for a spot at corner and in the offense with Lucas also mentioning Tyler Vallick and Jacob Parker as young guys in the mix.

Attrition on both sides of the lines are heavy and Lucas said the incoming junior class will play a big part in filling those roles.

The biggest question mark for Lucas this year is depth, reporting that the team was about five players lighter than teams in the past. Although it may not seem like much, he said that a team that starts 11 both ways means they have to create and fill that depth.

 

Schedule:

 8/30 at Dexter

9/6 vs. Pinckney

9/13 vs. Pioneer

9/20 vs. Lincoln

9/27 at Jackson

10/4 vs. Ypsilanti

10/11 vs. Adrian

10/18 at Tecumseh

10/25 at Skyline

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