Russell scores four as Chelsea beats Calera to snap losing streak

Published 12:48 am Saturday, September 2, 2023

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By SAMANTHA HAASE | Special to the Reporter

CHELSEA – After the first week of the regular season, the Chelsea Hornets and Calera Eagles both found themselves looking for their first win of the season.

After a devastating loss last week, the Chelsea Hornets returned to their home turf with a fierce attack against the Calera Eagles, leading them to a 38-24 win for their first victory after a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season.

“We had a great week of practice, and I just felt like our kids were excited to play on the home field,” Chelsea head coach Todd Cassity said.

Chelsea was led on offense by running back Emerson Russell, who rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns off 22 carries.

The Hornets got off to a fast start after quarterback Carter Dotson threw a 45-yard pass to Raymond Bridgeman on the first play of the game. The drive ended with a touchdown run by Emerson Russell on a fourth down which gave the Hornets a 7-0 lead.

The Hornets’ second drive was a short, one play, 60-yard outside run by Russell for another touchdown to go up 14-0.

On the third drive of the game, the Hornets settled for a 36-yard field goal, while they held the Eagles scoreless through the first quarter.

The second quarter got off to an explosive start as Russell scored his third touchdown on the first play of the quarter.

Elijah Backer led the Eagles to their first score of the game after a 36-yard completion and an 18-yard touchdown, but the Hornets blocked their kick to only hold them at six points.

The rain throughout the game held both teams to running the ball and throwing a lot of screens.

On a short third down, Russell continued to score by breaking tackles for a 37-yard touchdown.

After the game, Cassity praised Russell’s heart and drive that led to his four first half touchdowns.

“I don’t care how big he is, that kid’s a baller and he could have 400 yards rushing if we wanted him to,” Cassity said. “He’s just an outstanding human being. I love that kid. There’s no words to put in place on how much heart he has. You can put the size on him, but his heart’s bigger than anybody else’s around.”

The Hornets led the game 31-6 going into halftime.

Towards the end of the third quarter, after a promising start to the drive with a 30-yard run by the Hornets, Calera’s Mac Graham returned a 70-yard interception for a touchdown, but the team failed to capitalize on the two-point conversion.

Dotson threw to Jaxon Shuttlesworth to seal the game with a 28-yard touchdown pass, helping Chelsea to win, 38-12.

Cassity was proud of Dotson for the progress he has made so far as a starter as he went 18-for-32 passing with 143 yards.

“We just try to keep building off of it,” Cassity said of Dotson. “He’s a great player. I’m proud of him for continuing to work on the progression and getting better.”

The Eagles made a small comeback to keep the game close with quarterback AJ Johnson throwing a quick pass to Elijah Bates trying to help close Chelsea’s lead.

In the last minute, Celera was able to clinch a 30-yard touchdown by KD Young which tightened the lead to 38-24. After trying the two-point conversion, the Eagles failed to score, and the Chelsea Hornets broke their seven-game losing streak.

After the game, Cassity felt his team made the right improvements after their Week 1 loss to Helena to pick up the win this time around.

“Last week, we sort of got out-physicaled a little bit, and I felt like our kids tonight got after them a little bit more,” Cassity said. “We wanted to play faster and I felt like our kids did that tonight. I was proud of the way they came out and played hard, and I felt our defense played really well.”

Chelsea will now turn their attention to Tuscaloosa County next week, and Cassity wants to work on holding on to the football going into their region opener.

“Our goal is to protect the football,” Cassity said. “We did not do a great job with our second guys and protecting the football, and our younger players have got to be able to do that. The biggest thing is open-field tackling on the defensive side.”

As for Calera, they will open their region schedule against Benjamin Russell on the same night.

Special thanks to Mark McLaughlin for providing statistics.