By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday, Sept. 14 the Chelsea Bulldogs traveled to Ypsilanti-Lincoln High School to take on the Railsplitters in a key Southeastern Conference (SEC) battle for the top two teams in the SEC White division.
In what has started to become a rivalry for these SEC schools, the Railsplitters came out on top, 26-16.
The Bulldogs came into the game knowing that they would be getting a heavy dose of Railsplitter senior running back Trevon Davis. He came into the game averaging 7.8 yards per carry as well as being the lead receiver for the Railsplitters, running on the line behind junior Tate Mackenzie, a 6’6” left tackle who picked up a scholarship offer from Toledo last week.
In the first quarter, the Bulldog offense struggled to get going, punting on their opening drive while senior quarterback Quinn Starkey threw two picks. The Bulldog defense would force two punts before the Railsplitters would score with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Railsplitter senior wide receiver Kyjuan Rice took a reverse on a 2nd and goal for a thirteen-yard scamper. The extra point was blocked as the Railsplitters took a 6-0 lead.
After Starkey’s second pick, Railsplitter junior quarterback Ethan Rose left on the Railsplitters next drive with an injury. Rice and backup senior quarterback Jordan Roberson split snaps for the rest of the half and into the second before Rose returned. After Rose’s injury, on a third down with the Railsplitters having to pass, Rice dropped back on a third down and Bulldog sophomore cornerback Joe Taylor picked him off returning the ball 48-yards to the Railsplitter 31-yard line with 8:45 remaining in the first half.
Taylor was a bright spot for the Bulldogs, he had a pick, two tackles, and a long kick return as he continues to show his playmaking ability as a sophomore.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the good field position, settled for junior kicker Riley Sumner’s 32-yard field goal with 5:27 in the first half to make it 6-3 still in favor of the Railsplitters.
After forcing a punt on the ensuing Railsplitter drive the Bulldogs got the ball back with good field position at their own 46-yard line with 3:04 left in the half. They would capitalize on that drive, on 3rd and 13 from the Railsplitter 18-yard line Starkey rolled to his left and made a fantastic throw to the end zone with senior tight end Nick Christian rising in the back of the end zone to make a great catch to give the Bulldogs a 10-6 halftime lead.
“I thought we played alright in the first half,” said Bulldog head coach Josh Lucas. “I wasn’t very happy with the way they physically took it to us. We’re a spread team but we’re trying to run the ball. We weren’t able to get anything going tonight. Hats off to them they were more physical than us, they deserved to win the game. We made it close at the end but outside of the first half, I just felt like they were physically bringing it to us. That’s something we usually do to people.”
In the second half, it was a combination of miscues and missed opportunities for the Bulldogs and the Railsplitter running game gets going.
The Bulldogs were outrushed 224-60 with the Railsplitters getting all of their touchdowns on the ground. Railsplitter senior running back Ethan Brooks, Davis, and Rice combined for 196 of those yards and all four touchdowns with Rice having two.
Rose returned in the second half as Rice and Davis continued to run successfully for the Railsplitters, but Brooks also stepped up, adding a touchdown and many tough runs.
“(Brooks) ran the ball really well,” said Lucas. “I thought we did a good job bottling up Davis but (Brooks) came out and hurt us in the second half. That’s what happens when you’re not as physical at the point of attack.”
The Bulldogs offense was never able to get in sync throughout the night, their only scoring drive in the second half came late in the fourth trailing 26-10. Bulldog senior running back Aaron McDaniels took a draw 11-yards up the gut for a score on one of the few easy runs he had that night.
“They’re a good team, we knew that coming in,” said Lucas. “We had a great week of practice. We could just never get going on offense, never got in a rhythm, never felt comfortable in what we were doing and that hasn’t been the case all year getting in a rhythm, feeling momentum and taking advantage of that.”
McDaniels led the rushing attack with 56 yards and a touchdown. Christian (3-38, 1 TD) and junior wide receiver Mitch Reynolds (3-32) led the Bulldogs in receiving as teams continue to focus on taking away senior wide receiver Hunter Neff.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by junior defensive lineman Daniel Golding, who finished with seven tackles and a tackle for loss. Three players; senior defensive end Parker Murphy, senior linebacker Jack Smith, and senior defensive tackle Nicholas Holmberg all added six tackles, with Murphy leading the defense with a sack and three tackles for loss.
The Bulldogs have gotten off to a fast start this year despite many new starters on this year’s team. They return a lot of players with quality game experience, but this is the first year starting for many players on both sides of the ball. With these players getting their first loss of the season, Lucas was quick to point out that their goals still are ahead of them
“They’re going to understand we have to rebound,” said Lucas. “This doesn’t change our goals; those goals are still intact. Beating Lincoln is one of those goals, that’s become a rivalry the past couple years, beating them is always a goal, a goal we won’t be able to accomplish this year. We got to take care of business on our own end but still feel like we’re one of the better teams in the SEC White. Lots of mistakes to correct but I still like our guys. It’s one of those games, they played better than us. Unfortunately, we were the team that lost tonight. Now time to rebound and bounce back. The physicality is a big piece and if you watched the game tonight you can’t really argue they were more physical tonight.”
Pictures by Mike Williamson