Late Score Lifts Chelsea over Grosse Ile in Playoff Opener

By Mike Williamson-

Chelsea fans that made the long trip to Grosse Ile for the first round state playoffs saw a barn-burner and left happy as the Bulldogs scored with 36 seconds left to pull out an exciting 28-21 victory.

The Bulldogs entered the contest as the underdog with a 6-3 record against the undefeated Red Devils, but many projected a close game in spite of the records. It was just that.

Grosse Ile took the opening kick-off and drove to the Chelsea 38 when Evan Vaughn came up with a big sack for the Chelsea defense to stall the drive.

The Bulldogs put together a strong opening drive and capped it off with a 26-yard scoring pass from Quinn Starkey to Hunter Neff for a 7-0 lead. It would not be the last time these two connected on the night.

Grosse Ile once again drove into Chelsea territory, but again the defense held and came up with a blocked field goal to keep it 7-0.

After the Bulldogs turned the ball over at the Grosse Ile 29 to start the second quarter, Joe Taylor picked off a pass and returned it to the Red Devils 24. The Bulldogs capitalized and Starkey connected with Neff for a 6-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0.

Grosse Ile connected for a 58-yd pass play on the next drive and a few plays later ran it in from 16-yards out to make it 14-7.

Chelsea drove to the Red Devil two and faced a fourth down and two with four seconds left in the half. The ball was on the left hash and it would have been a tough angle from such a short distance and Coach Josh Lucas decided to go for it. The Bulldogs were stopped short and the half ended with Chelsea leading 14-7.

The teams traded punts to start the second half. Chelsea took over at the 47 after a punt and drove to the Grosse Ile 10 yard line, but fumbled on first down and the Red Devils recovered.

Grosse Ile drove to inside the Chelsea 20 but once again the defense held on 4th and 10 held the Red Devils to just an 8-yd gain and kept the score 14-7.

To start the 4th, the Bulldogs were forced to punt and Grosse Ile drove into Chelsea territory. They converted a 4th and 7 and on the next play ran it in from 16-yards out to tie the score at 14.

Chelsea answered when Starkey hit Mitchell Reynolds with a 39-yard scoring pass with 5:49 left and a 21-14 lead.

Picture Courtesy of Randy Lazuka- Grosse Ile Photographer

The next series saw the Bulldogs get a bad break when on 3rd and 11, the pass attempt was tipped into the air, but it landed in a Grosse Ile receivers arms for a 17 yard gain.

The Red Devils would capitalize and tie the score on a 12-yard TD pass with 3:23 left.

The Grosse Ile coach tried to surprise everyone with a risky onside kick after the tying touchdown, but the kick did not go 10-yards and the Bulldogs took over at the Red Devils 48.

Aaron McDaniels ran it to the Grosse Ile 33, but a hold on the next play moved it back to the 40.

Starkey sneaked on third and two and converted for a 1st down at the Grosse Ile 23 with 1:19 left. The Bulldogs attempted a run and on the next play, Starkey connected with Neff for a 28-yd touchdown with 36 seconds left in the game.

Picture Courtesy of Randy Lazuka- Grosse Ile Photographer

Grosse Ile took over at its own 25 and on the first play Parker Murphy hit the GI quarterback, but he broke free, the ball came loose and was picked up by the QB. Nehemiah Mite was there to take him down for a big 15-yard loss.

Grose Ile gained 11-yards on second down, a pass was blocked on third down and the fourth-down pass was incomplete and the Bulldogs celebrated.

The Bulldogs outgained Grosse Ile 432-382.

Starkey had a big night with 20 of 29 passing for 243 yards and four touchdown passes.

His favorite target Neff had a monster game with nine catches for 119 yards and three scores. Nick Christian caught four passes for 46 yards, Kyle Knight four for 24, and Aaron McDaniels two for 15, and Reynolds one for 39 yards and a touchdown.

McDaniels rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries, VanRiper 12 for 76, and Starkey eight for 19.

Mite was a force on defense with 10 tackles, including five for losses and a sack. Taylor had seven tackles, but not in the stats were two big hits on Grosse Ile receivers that forced incompletions when the Red Devils were deep in Bulldogs territory in the third quarter. Sam Michael had six tackles and a sack, while Daniel Golding and Evan Vaughn each had four tackles and a sack.

Chelsea will travel to Milan (8-2) Friday night for the District championship at 7:00 PM.

Picture Courtesy of Randy Lazuka- Grosse Ile Photographer

Pictures by Mike Williamson

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