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River Rouge beats Chelsea in weather-shortened game

Al Willman
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit – Saturday’s Prep Kickoff Classic game between River Rouge and Chelsea got off to a slow start, and an even slower finish.

River Rouge won 34-16 after a 2 hour, 59 minute lightning delay, with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The coaches agreed to call the game at that point.

“My guys competed at a high level,” River Rouge coach Corey Parker said. “There were mistakes, being the first game. There are some things to tighten up – becoming more efficient in certain situations. But I think the team played hard.”

River Rouge quarterback Jairus Grissom was 12-of-22 passing for 198 yards and an interception. He also had 13 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Alexander Carter rushed seven times for 19 yards and a touchdown. Lee Payton had five catches for 100 yards.

For Chelsea, Jack Bush was 5-of-16 passing for 54 yards and two interceptions. He had 10 rushes for eight yards and a touchdown. Gus Reynolds had 14 carries for 60 yards and Bryce Jubenville had a pair of catches for 39 yards.

“Aside from the three turnovers, I thought we were right with them,” Chelsea coach Brad Bush said. “I really wanted to come back and play. At the end of the day, if we play at 6 (p.m.), I mean, the kids ate their pregame meal at 7 (a.m.) and one orange (each). That was really for me the defining factor (in cancelling the rest of the game). At some point, you’ve got to think about what’s best for the kids. But it’s hard, because there’s still a full quarter to play.”

Neither team could set any offensive rhythm early, and the game was scoreless after one quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Cameron Cooper returned a River Rouge punt 75 yards for a touchdown. With 10:36 left in the half, Chelsea led 7-0.

“Cam made a nice play,” Brad Bush said. “We spend more time on special teams than maybe we should. We felt like to have a chance against a team as talented as Rouge, we’d have to win it (special teams battle).”

After the two teams traded interceptions – first, Grissom was picked off at the Chelsea 7-yard line, before Bush was picked off at his own 25 by Eric Chenault, who returned it to the 2 – River Rouge got on the board. Carter punched in the 2-yard score and with 8:14 left in the half, the game was tied, 7-7.

River Rouge added to its lead after another Bush interception. Grissom scored on the 1-yard keeper, which he set up two plays earlier with a 28-yard pass to Sekou Doukoure. With 4:43 left until halftime, River Rouge had a 14-7 lead.

Chelsea got another big return – 60 yards on the ensuing kickoff from Lawrence Buckley, to the River Rouge 30 – but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Christopher Roush. With 3:25 left in the half, River Rouge was still ahead, 14-10.

River Rouge’s next drive started in Chelsea territory, after a confusing flag. Chelsea attempted an onside kick after the field goal, but River Rouge called for a fair catch. A member of Chelsea’s kick coverage team interfered with the fair catch, and got a 15-yard penalty.

Jaylen Jackson scored on a 19-yard run, set up by a 14-yard pass from Grissom to Ben Brown. With 2:43 left in the half, River Rouge was up 20-10 after the extra point went wide left.

Chelsea tried to chip away at the River Rouge lead, after its last drive of the half stalled in River Rouge territory. Roush was short on a 39-yard field goal attempt, and at halftime it was still 20-10.

On River Rouge’s second possession of the second half, Grissom ran 32 yards to the left for a touchdown. Grissom connected with Payton on the two-point conversion, making it 28-10 with 6:12 left in the third.

Grissom scored again, on a 1-yard run, set up by his 73-yard pass to Payton. With 2:23 left in the third, River Rouge increased its lead to 34-10, after the second extra point attempt – River Rouge committed a false start on the first – went just wide left.

Bush cut into River Rouge’s lead again in the third, on a 1-yard run. The two-point conversion failed. With 1:09 left, it was 34-16, River Rouge.