Panic attack propels Indians past Chelsea
Being behind Chelsea’s varsity football team by two touchdowns and a field goal in the first quarter of the Division 3 pre-district game on Friday, Oct 26, had Tecumseh’s Indians rushing to catch up most of the evening. But after tying the game late in the third quarter, the Indians went on to defeat Chelsea 27-20 to keep the 2012 season alive and kicking.
It was a very big deal for Tecumseh’s football program under second year coach Al Romano. The last time the Indians advanced past the first round of playoffs was in 1991. Chelsea has gone 19-6 against Tecumseh since then. Chelsea eliminated Tecumseh in the pre-district round in 2000, 2001 and 2007, the Indians’ last post-season appearance. (Airport eliminated Tecumseh from round one in 2002.)
“Any time you beat a quality program like that in the playoffs it’s a huge win for the players, school, community, everyone involved,” said Romano. “It just shows once again, our kids are resilient.”
Spencer Hite helped carry Tecumseh to the playoff victory, rushing for three touchdowns and 112 yards, while the Indian’s defense held Bulldog star running back Berkley Edwards to a season low 83 yards on 23 carries.
“A lot of teams would like to hold him [Edwards] under 200 yards,” Romano joked. “And we held him under 100.
“The big thing is our defense was solid all night,” said Romano. “You win with defense and we proved that.”
Tecumseh’s defense limited Chelsea to only a field goal in the second half and may not have added that had the Indians not shot themselves in the foot when returning to the game from the halftime break. Tecumseh received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for being late to start the third quarter.
“It was my fault,’ said Romano. “We put our defense in a big hole but they only gave up a field goal and that was it for the rest of the game and we kept pecking away at them and came back.”
Chelsea opened scoring in the first minute of play while on defense with a pick-6 after Michael Steinhauer intercepted a pass from Tecumseh quarterback Ben Dreslinski and returning it 51-yards to the end zone. A good Point After Touchdown (PAT) kick by Zach Rabbitt had the ‘Dogs up 7-0 and their fans on their feet.
Chelsea forced the Indians to punt on their first possession and a bad 14-yard kick had the Bulldogs in great field position on the Indians’ 40-yard line. Chelsea completed the offensive drive with Colton Platt rushing six yards into the end zone and a second good PAT kick by Rabbitt had the ‘Dogs holding a 14-0 lead (7:00).
Dreslinski fumbled the ball and Chelsea recovered on the Indians’ 35-yard line with 5:55 left in the opening quarter but the Bulldogs were limited to a field goal on the possession. Rabbitt connected on the 27-yard kick and gave Chelsea a 17-0 with 2:35 on the first quarter clock.
Dreslinski threw for 216 yards including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Casey Hunt to put the Indians on the board with 23.2 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Michael Hovater blasted through the Indians line and blocked Casey Hunt’s PAT kick and Tecumseh was down 17-6 going into the second quarter.
Preston Pelham stuck the Bulldog’s for 15 tackles on the night and helped turn the game around.
“We really like what Preston’s doing. He’s turned into a leader of the front seven on defense. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm and it is contagious,” said Romano.
While the Indians’ defense kept the ‘Dogs’ offensive drives in check, Dreslinski used Hite to gain ground and score another touchdown with 3:40 left in the first half on a one-yard run. Hunt connected on the PAT and the Indians were on their way to a comeback victory with the score at 17-13.
The Indians had a good chance to tie the game after placing the ball on Chelsea’s 5-yard line on their last offensive possession of the first half. A missed first down pass had the clock down to just 4.2 seconds and a second missed pass, and the quick fingers of the home timekeeper, allowed one more attempt with 00.1 seconds remaining in the quarter. Chelsea’s defense got a hand on Dreslinski’s following pass attempt and denied the Indians any more points to end the quarter.
Chelsea drove deep into Indian territory with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter but was limited to a field goal to set the score at 20-13. However, Tecumseh didn’t allow the Bulldogs another point all night.
Hite scored another touchdown on a four-yard run and Hunt split the uprights on the PAT to tie the game with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
Hite turned into the go-to man for the Indians with 31 rushes for 112-yards. He lifted Tecumseh to its first playoff victory since 1991 by recording his third TD of the night in the fourth quarter (8:50) on a two-yard run.
“It was just a case of taking what they were giving us,” Romano said of going with Hite for so much gained yardage. “We’ve always said that about our football team and offense, we’re not going to be one dimensional and are going to take what’s there. Some times it’s in the air. Sometimes it’s on the ground.”
Hunt finished all scored with another good PAT kick.
Defensive standouts for Tecumseh included Charlie Haesler who sealed the win by recovering a Chelsea fumble on the Bulldogs’ final hurry-up drive.
“Our defense is doing this now,” said Romano. “They are just playing great.”
Anthony Ialaaci (interception), Kyle Bryan, Joey Rebottarro and Cris Dorobantu also turned in strong defensive performances.
Dreslinski connected on 15-of-26 passes for 214-yards and rushed nine times for 28-yards.
Kyle Bryan (4-84), Casey Hunt (6-96) and Spencer Adams (5-30) were Tecumseh’s leading pass receivers.
Tecumseh continues playoff action at Milan next Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.