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Chelsea reaches state semifinals for the first time behind a balanced offense, steady defense

By: Scott Burnstein, November 18, 2015, 12:33 pm

Chelsea – The Chelsea Bulldogs are wading in uncharted waters, preparing for their inaugural appearance in the state football semifinals on Saturday.

Last Friday the Bulldogs (11-1) went on the road and pasted Allen Park, 36-12, in Division 3 regional final. Chelsea reached the regional final round four previous times, losing all four. The last time was last season when Chelsea lost to Detroit Country Day, 21-0, in Division 4.

Brad Bush is in his 19th season as Chelsea’s head coach and has been on the sideline for all five regional games. Having come close to reaching the semifinal in the past made the Allen Park victory so satisfying.

“We’re really excited to be here,” Bush said. “The motto all season has been to play 14 games and we’re one game away from getting a chance to achieve that.”

As it showed last week, Chelsea is high-octane on both sides of the ball. The Bulldogs defense is the definition of stout, posting five straight shutouts in the regular season. The offense has been a machine in the playoffs averaging 32 points per game and boasting a powerful vertical passing attack spearheaded by Bush’s son, junior quarterback Jack Bush, and his top targets, receivers Bailey Edwards and Noah van Reesema, and tight end Jacob Scheese. 

“Our defense is our hallmark and the offense has really been hitting its’ stride recently,” Brad Bush said. “Putting those two things together has given us an opportunity to get on this run in the playoffs.”

The senior-dominated defense is highlighted by safety Justice Staton (sometimes lines up under center on offense) and lineman Tyler McTaggart. The unit was the stingiest in Washtenaw County during the course of the regular season.

Against Allen Park, the younger Bush was deadly efficient in the pocket, completing 16-of-20 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, both going to Scheeze, while rushing in another score as well. Edwards (son of former NFL running back Stanley Edwards and younger brother of retired NFL wide receiver Braylen Edwards) and Van Reesman are both seniors and being recruited by Division I colleges. Augmenting the Bulldogs’ high-flying aerial antics is a workmanlike ground assault led by senior tailbacks Jacob Somodi and Jacob Grob. Somodi scored a touchdown in the regionals.

“We want to be as balanced as possible,” said Brad Bush. “Jack’s is playing really well and we’ve got some really good receivers. We’ve been lucky in that department.”

Chelsea’s lone loss was to Southeastern Conference White Division-foe Ypsilanti, 34-24 back in Week 7. Next up for the Bulldogs in their first trip to the final four is a match-up with an undefeated Coldwater (12-0) squad Saturday afternoon at Jackson’s Withington Stadium. Coldwater rarely throws the ball, a stark contrast to Chelsea’s quarterback-friendly, no-huddle approach.

“It’s going to be a battle of two different styles of football. That usually makes for good games,” Brad Bush said. “They’re going to want to slow the game down, bleed the clock, we’re going to want to speed things up, play fast and push the ball down the field.”