Chelsea falls to Hartselle in opener

Chelsea High School head coach Wade Waldrop entered the season opener hoping that his team got their mistakes out in last week’s scrimmage. Unfortunately for the Hornets, fumbles would cost them their season opener.

After five fumbles, including two in the second half that were returned for touchdowns, Chelsea stared at a 34-15 defeat at the paws of the Hartselle Tigers on Friday night.

“This is the second week in a row where we have made costly mistakes,” Waldrop said. “We have to cut them out, especially against a well-coached team like Hartselle.”

With heavy rain falling at the start of the game, turnovers were costly for both teams. Chelsea fumbled on their opening play setting up a William Lang touchdown pass to Malcolm Fossett for the early 7-0 Tiger lead. Chelsea’s defense tightened with the help of interceptions by Blake McLaughlin and Ricky Jordan. The Hornets gave Hartselle their third turnover of the quarter with a late fumble recovery.

“The defense held up and we had some big plays,” McLaughlin said. The junior linebacker’s defense would force another fumble and recovered at the Hartselle 14. From there, a one-yard dive by DJ Washington made the score 7- 6 after a blocked extra point.

Chelsea took the lead midway through the second quarter with Alex Levinson’s 42-yard field goal.

“It’s huge to know you can get points at a certain yard line on the field,” Waldrop said of his senior kicker. “You have to have a strong kicking game to win in this region.”

Hartselle would make a late charge down the field. The drive ended with an 8-yard touchdown reception by Payton Sittason to give the Tigers a 14-9 lead going into halftime.

Chelsea’s luck ran out in the third quarter. A holding penalty that erased a Hartselle touchdown would go for naught as the Tigers eventually scored on a 4-yard run to push the lead to 21-9. Chelsea’s next drive would be the backbreaker as John Lawley’s lateral to Washington was fumbled and returned by the Tigers for a touchdown.

“We got tired,” said McLaughlin. “We have to keep working hard, hold on to the ball and win the region game next week.”

A fourth-quarter fumble was also returned by Hartselle for a touchdown making the score 34-9. Chelsea would add a late touchdown for a final score of 34-15.

Still, Waldrop was pleased with the effort.

“The defense played great all night long,” he said.

Hunter Picklesimer led the Hornets defense with nine tackles and Will Snider added seven tackles. Washington finished with 62 yards on 17 carries.

The Hornets (0-1) open region play next Friday night at John Carroll.