By Allen Wright
Photo galleries by Burrill Strong
The drive for five consecutive district championships fell short for the Chelsea football as the Bulldogs fell to the River Rouge Panthers 35-10 Friday night. Chelsea ends its great season with a 9-2 record while River rouge will take its 9-2 record and move on to play 10-1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
The Panthers started out quickly as they took the opening kickoff for the early score giving them an early lead. The Panthers came into the contest averaging 50 points a game, but they hadn’t faced a defense like Chelsea’s.
The Bulldogs were able to move the ball down the field but weren’t able to finish for the score.
The Bulldogs fell behind 14-0 before Cullen Lindsay was able to get the home team on the board with a 32-yard field goal that had plenty of room to spare. The Panthers would run the ball for another score then Aiden Chisholm took the kickoff 58 yards to set the Bulldogs up in great field position. But the drive came up short as the ball was picked off in the end zone.
As River Rouge moved the ball downfield to try to add to their lead before the half, Chelsea’s Patrick Bertoni was able to jump in front of the Panther’s first pass of the night, intercept it and return it 25 yards to stall their drive and end the half with River Rouge up 21-3.
After halftime, the Bulldogs took the ball and were able to drive, but again, were unable to finish to put points on the board. Several drives were stalled by many missed calls by the referees, including a third down and long for the Panthers where an offensive pass interference call was missed. The Panthers were called for 9 penalties on the night including some personal fouls.
River Rouge would put 2 more scores up on the board before the cold night was over.
The Bulldogs defense still held them below their season scoring average. Chelsea quarterback Thomas Steele would put his athleticism to good use on the night as he finished as Chelsea’s leading rusher on the night 84 yards rushing and a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 110 yards passing. Hunter Neff was the Bulldogs leading receiver with 86 yards on 4 catches.
Senior middle linebacker Owen Nikischer led the Bulldogs on defense with 11 total tackles while Ronnie Buford would finish with 7 including one for a big loss. Bertoni would finish with 6 plus the interception.
After the trophy award ceremony, Chelsea Head Coach Brad Bush gathered his gridiron warriors and addressed them.
“That’s a great team,” Bush said. “You did a great job and you should all hold your heads high. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud of each and every one of you.”