Detroit — Chelsea came into the Division 4 championship game at Ford Field Friday night as big underdogs, facing an unbeaten Edwardsburg team that entered the game averaging 52 points and owning title game experience.
But, Chelsea (10-4) had already enjoyed playing the role of underdog, ending Farmington Hills Harrison’s program by scoring a pair of TDs during the final three minutes for a regional final win, then earning an impressive 38-13 semifinal victory over Williamston.
Edwardsburg (14-0) put an end to Chelsea’s magical run, also putting an end to numerous Chelsea scoring drives to earn a 28-7 victory after losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in last year’s championship game.
Edwardsburg junior defensive back Bryce Blue made several big plays to make sure his teammates would hoist the state championship trophy this time around.
Still, it was Chelsea which carried the momentum in the championship game, trailing 8-7 at halftime, but also blowing opportunities to take a double-figure lead into the locker room at the intermission.
Chelsea’s defense came up with a big fourth-down stop when Edwardsburg running back Chase Sager was stopped by Daniel Golding on a fourth and 1 from the Edwardsburg 34.
But, Chelsea failed to take advantage of the short field when Quinn Starkey’s pass was intercepted by Blue in the end zone to stop the threat. It was Blue's team-leading fifth interception of the season.
“It was very important, a big momentum shift for us,” Blue said. “They were driving downfield and they had the ball moving really well so it gave our offense the ball back and helped us get a drive and we went down and scored.
“I enjoy competition and I thought he (Neff) was a very good receiver. He played very well and had a good catch (one-handed TD reception) on me in the end zone earlier. I’m so happy to be a part of this team, being a part of our first state championship. Our fans have come out and supported us every night and it means the world to finally bring a championship home to Edwardsburg.”
Edwardsburg went on a 75-yard drive to take the lead on Caden Goggins’ 5-yard TD run with 1:53 left in the first with Isaiah Mitchell scoring on the 2-point conversion.
Chelsea scored early in the second quarter when Starkey found Hunter Neff, who made a one-handed grab in the right corner of the end zone to cap a 64-yard drive to pull within 8-7.
Chelsea would have a chance to take the lead late in the second when linebacker Corbin Steele punched the ball out of Mac Gaideski’s hands after he was wrapped up by multiple Chelsea tacklers. Steele pounced on the loose ball at the Edwardsburg 40 with 3:51 left.
Starkey went to work, finding Neff for an 8-yard gain, then later for a 13-yard pass to set up a first and goal at the Edwardsburg 5, but Chelsea couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and the drive ended with a missed 23-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the half.
Then, after Edwardsburg opened a 16-7 lead with 6:39 left in the third on Gaideski’s 5-yard TD run on a fourth-and-2 play, when he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and ran into the end zone, Chelsea again moved the ball, including Starkey’s 17-yard toss to Neff to the Edwardsburg 26 on a third-and-16 play.
But, again Chelsea’s drive would stall with Blue playing a hand in it. Starkey’s third-and-16 pass from the 32 was broken up by Blue, then Starkey’s fourth-down pass went high and through Neff’s hands with Blue defending on the final play of the third quarter to end another threat.
Edwardsburg running back Caden Goggins rushed for 125 yards and two TDs as Edwardsburg piled up 382 yards on the ground on 50 attempts:
“Our running game is crazy, so hard to stop when you don’t know where the ball is goingGoggins said. "We just played great today. I’m so proud of these guys. After last year our goal was to get right back and we did it.”
Chelsea quarterback Quinn Starkey completed 16-of-27 for 178 yards with a TD and two interceptions with Hunter Neff grabbing 10 passes for 103 yards and a TD.
Edwardsburg scored its final TD with Tre' Harvey's 5-yard run with 3:10 left.