Chelsea takes down rival No. 1 Briarwood, improves to 1-1

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Last year, it took the Chelsea Hornets nine weeks to win their first game under head coach Dustin Goodwin, in 2019, it took seven less as the Hornets took down rival No. 1 Briarwood 17-14 on the road to pick up their first win in week two of the season.

“It’s a great feeling and obviously against a great opponent,” Goodwin said after the win. “We knew our kids were going to show up ready to play and ready to fight so we’re just so proud of them and thankful it turned out the way it did.”

The victory didn’t come with ease, however, as the Hornets had to hang on late defensively, while the Lions failed to score on several great chances in the final quarter.

Following an exciting first quarter that saw both teams score a combined 21 points behind a 1-yard touchdown run from Chelsea’s Caleb Moore, a bad snap over Briarwood quarterback Jonah Carroll’s head leading to a Hornets’ touchdown and an incredible 99-yard touchdown run from Briarwood’s Luke Prewett.

The Hornets ended up taking a 14-0 lead with 2:53 to go in the quarter, but on the ensuing kickoff, Prewett took the ball at the 1-yard line, found an open space up the left-middle of the field and hit the hole. He broke one tackle, almost hitting the ground, regained his balance and took it all the way to the house to cut Chelsea’s lead to 14-7 with 2:38 to play in the quarter.

Following that exciting start, the second quarter was far less active with just three points on an incredible 49-yard field goal from Cooper Neal on a kick that would have been good from close to 60 yards.

That led to Chelsea taking a 17-7 lead into the break.

Following two quick three-and-outs to start the second half, Briarwood got the ball back for a second time in the third quarter and Prewett made his presence known again.

Following a big 15-yard pass from Carroll to Blake McKenna on third-and-13, Prewett got the rock on first down from the Chelsea 27-yard line and took it to the house after hitting a hole on the left side of the line.

All of a sudden, the Lions had pulled to within three points at 17-14 with 6:02 to play in the third quarter.

For the rest of the night, it was all about Chelsea holding on and making plays defensively and Briarwood missing opportunities.

On the Hornets’ next drive, Briarwood recovered a fumble two plays in to immediately get the ball back at Chelsea’s 24-yard line.

The Lions eventually faced a third-and-17 in which Carroll found McKenna for a 30-yard pass down to the 1-yard line, but an ineligible man down field negated the play. Briarwood went on to miss a long field goal attempt shortly after.

On the Lions’ next drive, they got down to the Briarwood got to the Chelsea 21-yard line but a holding and a sack ended up costing them another chance at points.

After another good defensive stand, the Lions got another chance with 8:26 to play in the game. A nice drive got them all the way down to the 9-yard line where they faced fourth-and-1.

Out of a timeout, Briarwood was lined up to go for it, but a penalty for 12 men on the field pushed the Lions back 5 yards to set up fourth-and-6, which forced them to attempt another kick.

This time, Noah Nall’s kick for the second kick in a row was just inches from being good to keep Chelsea in front 17-14 with less than five minutes to play.

But on the very first play of the next drive, Moore was picked off by Chase Travis for the second time in the game, which gave the Lions life at the Chelsea 16 with 4:30 to play.

Briarwood quickly earned a first-and-5 from the Chelsea 9-yard line after a facemask, but then decided to throw the ball three straight times, eventually leading to fourth-and-goal from the 9-yard line.

Again, Nall was called on, and again one of the state’s best kickers narrowly missed, this time hitting the left upright.

Briarwood forced another three-and-out to quickly get another chance starting at the Chelsea 33-yard line with 1:07 left.

The Lions eventually ended up facing a fourth-and-1 with 32 seconds left.

Having been called on to make play-after-play in the second half to hold onto the lead, the Chelsea defense answered the call one last time and gave Carroll no time, as the Hornets swarmed for the sack to seal the 17-14 victory.

“We kept putting them out there in tough situations in the second half,” Goodwin said of the defense. “Our defense continued to fight and we’re extremely proud of them.”

Being able to make the plays to put away a close game late was a welcome sight for Goodwin and the Hornets, who lost three games by four points or less last year and five by 13 or less.

“I was a little nauseous,” Goodwin said with a laugh of being able to put the game away. “No, it’s a great feeling. These kids deserve it.”

Moore finished with 71 passing yards and one touchdown run for Chelsea, while Collier Blair posted 38 rushing yards in a tough physical game.

“We know they’re tough kids and know they work extremely hard,” Goodwin said of his two offensive playmakers. “We knew Caleb would have to run the ball as well to keep them honest, and they did everything we asked them to.”

Defensively, the Hornets were led by Cole Berryman with 7.5 tackles, including two sacks, while Jordan Smith added three sacks.

Chelsea improved to 1-1 with the win and is set for a matchup with region foe Carver-Birmingham on Friday, Sept. 6.

“This gives us a shot in the arm,” Goodwin said. “I think once we got the one last year, we felt like two was achievable, so this gives them some validation that they are a good football team.”

Briarwood was led by Prewett with his 27-yard touchdown run and 99-yard kickoff return. He totaled 51 rushing yards on 13 carries. Carroll ended his night 15-for-24 with 172 passing yards. McKenna finished with 90 receiving yards, while Luke Reebals finished with 70 yards.

The game marked the start of a new era for Briarwood football with head coach Matthew Forester taking over for Fred Yancey, who retired after 29 years in the offseason.

Despite the outcome and the improvement needed, the moment was spoiled for Forester.

“It was fun,” he said. “It’s what I want to do and it’s been great. We’ll improve, we’ll get better. For me, I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but it’s a dream come true. To be back at your alma mater and have the opportunity to lead the next generation of boys and follow in coach Yancey’s footsteps is a huge honor.”

Briarwood will host region foe Pleasant Grove (2-0) on Friday, Sept. 6.