Chelsea edges Briarwood in close contest

Chelsea's Joey Chiofalo wraps up Briarwood quarterback Walker Lott in a 23-22 win on Aug. 29. (Contributed/Cari Dean)

Chelsea’s Joey Chiofalo wraps up Briarwood quarterback Walker Lott in a 23-22 win on Aug. 29. (Contributed/Cari Dean)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

CHELSEA — The Aug. 29 matchup between the Chelsea Hornets and the Briarwood Lions lived up to its hype as one of the budding premier Shelby County rivalries, as the Hornets used a hard-nosed running game to take a 23-22 win.

The Hornets came out fired up in front of the hometown crowd, who were encouraged to “white-out” the game by wearing white clothing to provide an intimidating presence for the visiting Lions.

Chelsea didn’t disappoint, taking the opening kickoff after Briarwood elected to defer. Starting at their own 33, the Hornets marched down the field, scoring on a 8-yard run by quarterback Chase Wilson. The extra point was no good, and the Hornets held a 6-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first quarter.

After a Briarwood punt, Chelsea again took the ball and drove down the field. Starting from their own 30, the Hornets used five-play drive to score on a 7-yard run by A.J. Jones. The extra point by Tyler Thomas was on the mark, and the Hornets held a 13-0 lead with 3:06 left in the quarter.

Briarwood then began to gain momentum on the ground, grinding out an 8-minute drive that used a 7-yard run by quarterback Walker Lott to cut the lead to 13-6. The Lions got the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 13-8 with 7:54 left in the half.

The two teams swapped possession four times before the Hornets tacked on a 37-yard Thomas field goal as time expired in the half to take a 16-8 lead.

Upon receiving the second half kickoff, Briarwood went back to its relentless run game, using the legs of Lott, Jordan DePaolantonio and Will Barfield to go 66 yards on 10 plays. On the 11th play of the drive, Lott kept the ball for a 1-yard run to score. The two-point try came up shy, and the Lions found themselves behind 16-14 with 7:35 left in the third.

The Hornets got the ball on their own 29, but the drive stalled and Chelsea was forced to punt.

Briarwood’s run game again took control, using a fourth down conversion to set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Lott to John Rutledge to give the Lions the lead. The two-point try was good, and the Lions held a 22-16 lead with 49 seconds left in the third.

Chelsea took over from its own 24, and proceeded to take to the ground. A 14-play drive ensued, using a 21-yard run by Matthew Marquet to set the Hornets up deep in the Lions’ territory. A Zalon Reynolds 10-yard scamper set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Jones to tie the game at 22-all. Thomas drilled the extra point, giving the Hornets a 23-22 lead with 7:50 to go.

The squads exchanged punts, with the Lions taking over with 3:09 left in the game on their own 30. With time ticking away, the Chelsea defense forced a turnover on an incomplete pass on fourth down, sealing the win.

“Our kids have had this one circled since the schedule’s come out,” Chelsea head coach Chris Elmore said. “And not as a revenge (game), they just know how good Briarwood is and they want to test themselves against the best programs in this area. They’ve been looking for it, and I’m just so happy for them and our coaches have worked so hard to get those guys ready. We didn’t play great at times, but we played hard, and if we can keep doing that, we ought to get better as we go.”

Stats were unavailable at press time, but the Lions move on to face Jackson-Olin on Sept. 5, while the Hornets travel to Valley High.