DIVISION 4: Edwardsburg finally knocks down door to a title, pulling away from Chelsea, 28-7, to win first championship
DETROIT — Edwardsburg kept knocking on the door long enough, and eventually busted it in.
After four trips to the semifinals since 2010, the Eddies finally got to the title game last year, only to lose to a Grand Rapids Catholic Central team looking for a repeat.
So the Eddies just kept knocking, got back to Ford Field for Friday’s Division 4 championship game against Chelsea, then pulled away in the second half for a 28-7 win to claim the program’s first title.
“Yes sir. That was the plan. After last year, our goal was to get right back, and we did it,” said Caden Goggins, who finished with 125 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a long time coming for the coaching staff, led by Kevin Bartz, which have led the Eddies (14-0) to a 58-6 record over the last half-decade.
“Finally got the job done, 24 years into it here, yes. But there’s many that don’t get this far, ever, so that was a great job by our kids. They’re competitors,” Bartz said. “A huge moment for the program, obviously. First state title, coming back after a defeat last season here, to get back here is a tough job. To win it is an even tougher one. … Last year was more of a surprise even to get there, beating a tough River Rouge team, shocked to be here, then a real tough GRCC team. That was all kind of a new experience. So I think they were a little more focused this year on just taking care of business, rather than all of the hoopla that surrounded it.”
The Eddies racked up 382 yards rushing, while the defense sacked Chelsea quarterback Quinn Starkey five times, and held the Bulldogs (10-4) to just 69 rushing yards and a 2.2 yards-per-carry average.
“The defense did (carry us). We had a hard time getting it going — especially that first half — offensively. We were not clicking at all. Missed tackles, mistakes, fumbles. We made big plays. We got lots of turnovers, when we needed to,” Bartz said. “You hear a lot about our offense, but our defense won the game here tonight.”
Despite all that, the Eddies led just 8-7 at the half, and could’ve been behind, had the Bulldogs capitalized on any of their several first-half chances, including a short field goal attempt in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
“I’m happy to be here, but I didn’t want to just come here and be content with being in the state finals. We showed in the first half we should’ve been up at halftime,” Chelsea coach Josh Lucas said. “A couple of balls go our way, it’s a different ballgame, but unfortunately that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
The Eddies took the second-half kickoff, and ground their way methodically downfield, finishing a 12-play, 83-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring run by Mac Gaideski. Quarterback Tre’ Harvey ran in the 2-point conversion for a 16-7 lead.
“We just said we needed to clean up what we were doing. We weren’t playing Edwardsburg football. We were sustaining drives,” Bartz said. “They were doing a good job inside, rubbing against us, so we decided we were going to come out and run everything on the outside to begin with, and after we kinda did that, it loosened it back up for Goggins on the inside. Just kind of figured out what they were giving us, and did a better job o executing, second half.”
The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs at the Edwardsburg 32 on the final play of the fourth quarter, but the Eddies turned it back on the Chelsea 17 after grinding more than six minutes off the clock. Chelsea would only gain 4 yards on four subsequent plays, turning it right back on downs at its own 19 with 4:32 left, and three plays later, the Eddies capitalized, with Harvey scoring on a 5-yard run to make it 22-7.
“We’re a second-half team, definitely. We really preach with our strength and conditioning coach being the best second-half team in the state, because in the first and second quarter, every team’s going to come out strong, because they’re not tired. The third and fourth quarter is when the grind really starts,” Harvey said.
“I can definitely feel the defense start to play off a little bit, because if you keep running at people, running at people, they don’t want to feel that no more.”
One play into Chelsea’s next drive, Cayden Calhoun recovered a Chelsea fumble, and on the next play, Goggins ripped off a 53-yard scoring run to put the game out of reach at 28-7.
“Our running is crazy. It’s so hard to stop, and they never know where the ball is,” Goggins said. “We just played great today, great season, and I’m just so proud of these guys.”
While the Eddies were expected to be here, the Bulldogs weren’t necessarily, not with a 6-3 record in the regular season, and a first-year head coach. But they just kept exceeding expectations, every time people wrote them off.
“This place (Chelsea) is awesome. I know at the beginning there were some rumbles about why they hired me, but I think us and the coaching staff and the guys really responded well to those. We’ve shown it was the right move,” Lucas said. “I couldn’t be more proud to be a Bulldog. Tonight wasn’t our night, and that’s football. We’ll be back. This one hurts, obviously.”
Starkey finished with 178 yards passing, while Hunter Neff had 10 catches for 103 yards and the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown, on a one-handed catch in the end zone.