BHS wins finale, but Berg isn’t satisfied
Even several days after the Baldwin High School Bulldogs blanked the Spring Hill Broncos 22-0 in the season finale Thursday at home, head coach Mike Berg isn't sure about what it says about the program.
BHS threw its only shut out of the season and it came against a state-playoff bound team. It meant a winning record at 5-4 for Bulldog football for the first time since 1994, but still it wasn't enough.
"I haven't seen us play so hard for four quarters," said Berg. "It's good to see us go out on a positive note. The love of football showed."
That's the good side. Now for the other side.
"It means to me we have a lot of work to do. I'm not satisfied," he continued. "I want to make sure we do everything we can to play next week (in the state playoffs). That's our goal and that's what it was this year and we didn't make it.
"We've got some great attitudes coming back next year and it should be fun in the off season," he said.
But before that off season takes place, the Bulldogs can savor yet another season-ending win over Spring Hill, a team for whatever reason the Dawgs have chosen as their whipping boys. They did it last year and followed it up with a season-saving victory this time around.
And, before you listen to those who said Spring Hill was saving its starters for the playoffs, think again.
"They played their starters the whole way," said Berg. "They were a great team against the run, so we wanted to make them defend both the pass and the run."
Spring Hill had beaten Paola and Louisburg two teams BHS had been beaten handily by to wrap up the district title. Both Paola and Louisburg decided to try and run over Spring Hill. It didn't work. Spring Hill beat Louisburg 13-7 in overtime and Paola 6-0. In those games, the Broncos played close to the vest, stopped the run and didn't make mistakes. That didn't happen against BHS.
It looked like a repeat of those games early on. The teams battled to a 0-0 tie in the first quarter. Then the Broncos made their first mistake. They went for it on a fourth-and-five from their own 44-yard line with 2:49 left in the half. BHS threw them for an 8-yard loss and took over on downs.
The Bulldogs went straight to the air on the first play and the senior tandem of quarterback Heath Knight and wide receiver Ben Cosman connected on a 36-yard touchdown pass. The conversion pass failed, but BHS was up 6-0 with 2:41 left in the half. After a couple of late skirmishes, that's the way the half ended and with the way the defensive battle was going, it looked like that might be enough points to win it.
But, the Bulldogs weren't done. They received the second-half kickoff and, after a penalty a major problem of the night, once again, for BHS which was flagged 10 times for 85 yards it was big-play time again. Freshman tailback Micah Mason took a hand-off from Knight and was gone 79 yards worth for the Bulldog's second score. This time Knight and Cosman connected on the conversion for a 14-0 lead with just eight seconds gone in the third quarter.
The third quarter didn't get any better for the Broncos, whose next three drives would end in turnovers. They made the mistakes they hadn't made against Paola and Louisburg.
BHS only cashed in one of the miscues, but it was enough. Senior cornerback Erol Kinkaid picked off a Bronco pass at the 6:33 mark to set the Bulldogs up once again. This time it took three plays to cash in. The biggest was a 26-yard pass from Knight to Cosman to put BHS at the 10-yard line. Mason ran it in from there for the score. Knight and Cosman then connected on the conversion pass and the Bulldogs had their 22-0 lead.
Spring Hill then put its biggest drive of the night together, moving to the 1-yard-line with first and goal. Time for another mistake. Quarterback Hunter Bigbie got stuffed for a 2-yard loss and fumbled. BHS senior defensive tackle Andy Breedlove pounced on the ball his third fumble recovery of the night to thwart Spring Hill.
It was a theme of the night. Although BHS again gave up yardage on defense, the Bulldogs managed to come up with six turnovers four fumbles and two interceptions to keep the shut out in check. For the first time this season, BHS didn't go exclusively with the 4-4, much to the pleasure of its head coach who had allowed defensive coordinators Gerard Aligo and Tom Harman to call the defense all year.
"We gave them a different look on defense and we need to do that every week," Berg said of the addition of the 5-3 in the final week of the season. "I think that was the key. Our defensive line played well. We've been saying that all year if our lines play well we win. Our offensive line played well, too."
The defense held Spring Hill to 223 total yards, well below the season-long of average of over 300 yards. On offense, the Bulldogs had 198 yards on the ground 182 of those from Mason and another 121 yards through the air for a total of 327.
"I think we were very consistent," he said. "We were able to move the ball every quarter. The only thing that stopped us was ourselves. I was disappointed with our penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot. We played with a lot of emotion and that can be good, but you have to play with controlled emotion."
There were a couple of other good news-bad news situations.
"Our seniors stepped up. They came to play," said Berg of the good news, before turning to the question he'll ponder throughout the offseason. "After the way we played Thursday, I'm wondering what I could have done to make them play like that every game. I'm not happy with 5-4. We beat Spring Hill and they beat Paola, Louisburg and Eudora, three teams we struggled with.
"We beat a playoff team," he said. "It beats me how. I don't know what it was. I wish I did."