Schedule Breakdown: Chelsea prepares for year two in 7A

Published 4:06 pm Friday, August 4, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

While the Chelsea Hornets had a difficult first year in Class 7A, there is hope that this year will see the program take another step towards success.

Todd Cassity’s Hornets will face multiple perennial state title contenders in their regular season schedule, but Chelsea has plenty of chances to win this season not just in their region, but also in their full slate of county rivalry games.

First, Chelsea will face Helena on Thursday, Aug. 24 on the road. Just a couple of years ago, this was an annual matchup of 6A regional rivals. Now, Chelsea has a classification advantage over Helena, but that hasn’t stopped these two teams from continuing their rivalry. The Hornets lost to Helena last year, but the offense was just getting their feet under them and should match up better against a talented Huskies team.

Then, Chelsea will take on another former regional foe in Calera, this time for their home opener on September 1. This was another close loss for Chelsea last season, but now, they carry in more experience and arguably a more talented team. This will be Calera’s second game under new coach Jerad Holder, and while the Eagles will retain their identity and playstyle from last year, they will still very much be figuring out who they are, and the Hornets can take advantage of that.

Afterwards, Chelsea will start their regional campaign with a trip to Tuscaloosa County on September 8. This was the game where Chelsea started to find out who they were and they displayed their talent in a 42-41 barnburner contest where they fell just short of topping the Wildcats. The Hornets will no doubt come into this contest highly motivated to flip that result.

Once they get back from Tuscaloosa, the Hornets will host Oak Mountain on September 15. Since the two schools are just a short drive from each other, this matchup is always intense, but now that it has regional stakes attached to it, a win means even more. Chelsea’s win last year meant a lot to them because it was their lone win of the campaign, and they will hope to shut down Oak Mountain’s offense like they did last year to secure another victory.

After that, Chelsea will travel to Alabaster to face the four-time defending state champion Thompson on September 22. This will no doubt be Chelsea’s toughest test of the season simply because Thompson is the only preseason nationally ranked opponent on their schedule. However, there is always the chance that Chelsea can perform better than expected and make a bold statement about the direction of the program.

Then, Chelsea will remain on the road for their final non-region game of the season against Pelham on September 29. While the two school no longer share a region, the Hornets and Panthers still share a county rivalry, and each side will be playing for pride and bragging rights. This should be a great matchup on both sides of the ball, and it will be particularly interesting to see how Emerson Russell and the run game stack up against Pelham’s quick and aggressive blitz style.

Chelsea will then resume region play at home against Vestavia Hills on October 6. The Hornets fell victim to Vestavia’s high-octane offense last year in a 52-10 loss, and stopping that will be one of the keys to making this game closer than expected.

Afterwards, it’s another rivalry game for the Hornets as they will make the short trip over to Spain Park on October 13. The Hornets finished tied with Spain Park in the region last season with one win apiece, but the consensus around the region was that both teams were a lot better than the win-loss column showed. Each side should be improved from last year, and the experience of Chelsea’s offense versus Spain Park’s defensive playmakers will be a key matchup to watch. However, both sides of the ball will need to show up if the Hornets want to make better on last year’s 35-21 loss.

That will be the last road game of the regular season for Chelsea as their last two games will be regional contests at home. First, Hoover will pay Chelsea a visit on October 20. This game is another chance for the Hornets to make a statement against a nationally recognized program and one of the perennial competitors for the 7A state championship. It won’t be easy to compete, but it isn’t impossible.

Finally, Chelsea will wrap up their regular season against Hewitt-Trussville on October 27. The Huskies are the other part of the top three teams in Region 3 who yearly contend for the title, and there’s a strong chance that the Huskies will have playoffs on their mind again. However, there is always the chance that Chelsea will be in the postseason mix as well, which would make this game even more important. Regardless of Chelsea’s playoff positioning in the final week of the season, this will likely be the final home game of the Hornets seniors’ careers because their bye week is the last week of the season, and every one of them will want to go out on top.