Streaks on the line as Chelsea visits Lincoln in our AnnArbor.com Game of the Week
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
In 1997, Lincoln defeated Chelsea. In the 14 seasons since then, it hasn’t happened again.
In 1998, Chelsea missed the playoffs. In the 13 seasons since then, it hasn’t happened again.
Both of those streaks are in play when Chelsea (2-3, 2-1 SEC White) visits Lincoln (4-1, 2-1 SEC White) Friday night in the AnnArbor.com “Game of the Week.”
While nobody at Lincoln has been around for the duration of the Railsplitters’ losing streak to Chelsea, the game is still considered a measuring stick. From 2002-2010, Lincoln went 5-76, before making the playoffs in 2011 in a resurgent season.
The next step in the improvement process is beating a traditional powerhouse.
“There’s sort of milestones you go after, the first milestone was being competitive, then it was winning at all,” Lincoln coach Chris Westfall said. “Now we’re at the point where if we want to be at the top of our league, they’re the team that’s been there for the past 15 years. They’re the next target. They’re the next goal.”
Lincoln snapping its losing streak against Chelsea would put the Bulldogs’ 13-year playoff streak in jeopardy. A loss wouldn’t eliminate Chelsea from playoff contention, but would make it impossible for the Bulldogs to earn an automatic berth for reaching the six-wins.
Five-win teams are admitted to the playoffs based on a points system. As of this week, Chelsea has 32.2 playoff points, ranking 330th out of 595 total teams and 106th out of 179 Class B teams.
Chelsea coach Brad Bush said his team focuses on one game at a time, but the big picture doesn't go away, either.
"I think it's a big deal for our guys,” Bush said.
Chelsea started out 0-3 on the year, with losses to Jackson Lumen Christi, East Lansing and Temperance Bedford.
“When you play teams like that, you find out really quick what you do well and what you don't do well,” Bush said.
What the Bulldogs weren’t doing well then, they’re doing better now, Bush said, particularly rushing the ball. After three straight games under 100 yards, Bulldogs running back Berkley Edwards went off for 208 last week against Adrian, as Chelsea came back in the fourth quarter.
"That was probably the best game of his career," Bush said.
The Railsplitters have seen a large portion of their success come from big plays. In its last four games, Lincoln has scored nine touchdowns on plays of 30 yards or more.
Tyree Waller, the Central Michigan-committed wide receiver who has also played running back this year, has 12 touchdowns on the year.
“He's got to be as explosive as anyone in the state of Michigan,” Westfall said. “...He’s capable of scoring really from anywhere.”
And when Westfall means anywhere, he means it. Waller, who is also the team's punter, once this year recovered a botched snap while waiting to kick the ball away and ended up rushing for a 50-yard score.
But while Waller may draw the majority of attention from opposing defenses, other players including K.J. Osborne and Dalauren Roberson, have found space.
“It’s really the depth of talent,” Westfall said.
Game of the Week coverage:
AnnArbor.com will give the Game of the Week winner its Super Bowl treatment, which will include two reporters covering the game, a live chat that you can follow from your iPhone or Android device, and a photo gallery as well.