It all comes down to this week for the 5-3 (5-0) Chelsea Bulldogs. They have clinched the conference title with their victory last week and now they just need to win their last game of the season to qualify automatically for the playoffs. This week, they will play a non-conference opponent in the 4-4 (3-2) Haslett Vikings. Haslett needs help and a victory over Chelsea in order to have a shot at getting into the playoffs. They will need to shut down the Bulldogs’ Berkley Edwards, which won’t be an easy task.
The Vikings started their year off at home when they hosted the East Lansing Trojans. The Trojans went up early on them and never looked back as they left with the 38-18 victory.
Haslett from here hit the road for three games. First they traveled to the Okemos Chieftains. As a team they showed a strong running game with three backs gaining 75+ yards and adding at least a touchdown. The trio was lead by Connor Brewer, who gained 132 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
They lost their next two games, though. The Vikings started conference play off against the Owosso Trojans, who snuck past them 25-22. They lost another close one when they traveled to the DeWitt Panthers and they failed twice on two-point conversions, which was the difference maker in the 28-27 defeat.
The rest of the games they have played have been at home and they have had a lot of success. Haslett first hosted the Ionia Bulldogs, who they dominated 52-28. Brewer dominated this one as he rushed the ball 17 times for 300 yards and had 4 touchdowns. He was joined by Graham Riley, who added 13 carries for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns.
From here, the Fowlerville Gladiators came to Haslett, who sent them home with a 21-14 defeat. The next team to come was the St. Johns Redwings. This one was a low scoring affair until the fourth quarter. We saw a game tied 13-13 until both teams exploded for points with Haslett winning 35-32.
Last week saw the Vikings come out of conference to take on the Williamston Hornets. They played a close game, but in the end Haslett couldn’t score and fell to the Hornets 25-22.
Chelsea’s game plan on defense this week is simple: stop the Vikings’ running game. What makes it a challenge is that they have two talented backs and others who are serviceable and can give the two a breather. The Bulldogs have struggled against running teams this season and this could prove to be a problem. Their run defense is going to need to bring everything it’s got and I think they will do just that. Forcing Haslett to go to the air will give them opportunities for turnovers since they don’t have much success using it.
The Bulldogs need to get Edwards going early and I think if they do, they will win. Haslett’s defense is giving up 26.2 points per game and has actually given up more points than their offense has scored. The Viking defense hasn’t really slowed anyone down and it creates the chance for a lot of close games this season. I think that it will benefit Chelsea. I think it will become a battle of running games, but the Bulldogs have had more success in the air. I think that will be the advantage here.
Last year when these two teams played, Haslett won the game at home 24-13. The Vikings shut down the Bulldogs until the fourth quarter and by then, it was too little too late. They kept Edwards in check as he could only manage 16 carries for 72 yards.
I think the game will be different this year. I think this Chelsea team is hungrier and needs a win to get into the playoffs themselves. With the game being played in Chelsea, home field advantage will be just that. Edwards is going to need to run hard and get his yards, plus someone is going to need to step up and help him. I think this game will be closer than last year and it could go either way. My prediction will be that the Bulldogs win and clinch the automatic berth into the playoffs 28-26.
This game will be played Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Michigan.