Bulldogs set sights on district
EUDORA Wild was the night Friday around the Frontier League and it was no exception here where Baldwin High jumped quickly to a 14-0 lead over the Eudora Cardinals, only to see Brian Harris run over, around and through the BHS defense to lead his Cardinals to a 41-21 win.
A five-way tie for first in the league went catty-wampus and Eudora and Paola emerged from the craziness to set atop the standings, both with 5-1 records. Paola beat Prairie View 24-13 (which was undefeated and alone at the top two weeks ago) to muddle the waters further. Gardner also topped Louisburg 20-13 to recreate last week's log-jam, only this time for second place.
Now, forget all of that. It's district time.
"We went from five teams in first to two," said Mike Berg, Baldwin High coach, of the restructuring of the league race, but pointing quickly to the last three district games which count for all the marbles for a chance to move on to the playoffs.
"Everyone is gunning for those last three games," said Berg. "It's like the start of a whole new season. It's a must-win situation to go to the next level. Anything can happen, but it's usually the team that ends up 3-0 in district that moves on."
Baldwin's district games are this Friday's contest at Paola, followed by a trip to Louisburg the next week and the regular-season finale at home against Spring Hill Oct. 26. Nothing else matters now, starting with Paola, which lost its opening game of the season 14-13 to Eudora in overtime, but has since won five straight. As usual, the Panthers are potent, although they're running a little bit different offense.
"They're running a one-back set and run the option and quick traps," he said. "They have a big offensive line, which concerns me. They run reverses and a bunch of razzle-dazzle. We'll need to stay at home on defense. Their running back is not like Harris. He runs hard, but he's not like him."
That's a good thing. Eudora's Harris owned Baldwin High Friday night, running for 293 yards on 40 carries and scoring three touchdowns. The 5-foot-6, 155-pound senior almost doubled his average of 150 yards per game against the Bulldogs.
"He's a great back," said Berg. "It has a lot to do with him, but they also had a good offensive line blocking for him."
But before the Harris show got under way, BHS appeared well on its way to winning the Douglas County showdown. For the first time this season, the Bulldogs chose to receive the kick after winning the opening coin toss. In the past, they'd deferred the kick to the second half. Berg wasn't going to do that this time if the coin shined on Baldwin. It paid off.
Tyler Inzer, a 5-10, 170-pound junior, picked up the opening kickoff, a grounder trying to stay away from the Bulldog's potent return game, at the 18-yard line. For the second week in a row, Inzer went into a group at around the 40-yard line, broke free and was gone for an 82-yard touchdown return. It was the fourth straight week BHS had returned a kickoff for a score, the third by Inzer.
Yancy Richards added the extra-point kick and BHS was up 7-0 before all of the huge crowd on hand Friday had showed up, much less found a place to set or walk the sidelines. It got better for the Bulldogs real quick. On the ensuing kickoff, Eudora fumbled. Nathan Floersch, a 6-3, 175-pound senior, recovered and BHS was in real business at the 34-yard line.
Four plays later the first three runs by senior Tyler Craig, junior Adam Turk and freshman Micah Mason to move the ball to the 17-yard line seniors Heath Knight and Ben Cosman hooked up on a scoring pass. Richards added the kick and Baldwin was up 14-0, barely two minutes into the game. The Bulldogs were barking, big time.
"We did exactly what we wanted to do," said Berg. "We wanted to score quickly and keep the ball out of their hands.
"It was a perfect atmosphere for high school football. The weather was perfect and there was a huge crowd," he said.
At that point, all was more than well for the Bulldogs and their faithful fans who filled the west side of the Eudora field. Unfortunately, it all went down hill from there for BHS. On its next drive, Eudora marched 55 yards in 11 plays to score a touchdown (Harris' first) to pull within 14-7.
Then, Baldwin fumbled. Eudora drove 34 yards in six plays to score again. A bad snap on the extra point attempt looked good for BHS. But, instead, the Cardinals turned it into a successful two-point conversion with a pass to go up 15-14 with 3:38 left in the quarter.
"That one point was big," said Berg. "They went up on us instead of being down and we never recovered."
Indeed. On the Bulldog's next series a pass from Knight slipped through a receiver's hands and Eudora intercepted the tip. Three plays later, Harris scored again, the kick was good and the Cardinals were up 22-14.
BHS answered, but another problem developed that would plague the Dawgs the rest of the night stalled drives. Baldwin mixed the pass and run to perfection to drive to the 18-yard line. From there, the Bulldogs went no where and turned the ball over on downs. That scene would be repeated several more times.
Eudora tacked on another touchdown with the help of BHS penalties, yet another developing problem, and went up 28-14. The Bulldogs again drove but again ran out of steam. That's the way the half ended.
The second half opened with the first appearance of the punters. Both Eudora and Baldwin had to kick. Then Eudora put together another ground attack which was aided by two BHS personal foul penalties. Another touchdown resulted and the Cardinals were up 35-14.
Baldwin again answered, driving to the 12-yard line, but a sack on third down threw BHS back and the Dawgs again ran out of downs. A clipping penalty during that drive didn't help, either. In all, BHS was flagged 11 times for 113 yards. It would have been around 150 yards but two of the personal fouls occurred near the goal line and were only assessed at 1 and 2 yards.
"I told the players we can not make mistakes," said Berg. "Against good teams, it's all about not making mistakes. We had too many penalties. You have to play with controlled emotion. We didn't.
"We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties," he said. "We have to eliminate the penalties."
Baldwin High had one last punch left. After forcing a Eudora punt, BHS drove 70 yards in just six plays for a touchdown. Inzer provided most of those yards with a 36-yard reception from Knight and a 17-yard run on a reverse. Turk chipped in with a 10-yard pickup on the ground and Mason had three carries, including an 8-yard romp for the touchdown. Richards added the kick and BHS was only down 35-21 with 7:14 remaining in the game.
An onside kick didn't work and Eudora stayed on the ground to cover all 52 yards in the last scoring drive of the night. That put the Cardinals back in firm command at 41-21 with 4:17 left and that's the way it ended.
Now all eyes turn to Friday's game at Paola. Game time is 7 p.m.