Bulldogs whip Wellsville
Baldwin High's Bulldogs got better, much better, Friday night and it couldn't have come at a better time. For the second year in a row, the Dawgs handled the arch-rival Wellsville Eagles, this time by a 28-8 count.
"It was a very big win for us," said head coach Mike Berg. "We executed much better. Fundamentally we did some things very well. We tackled well, the offensive line blocked well and we took care of the ball.
"We showed a lot of improvement in those areas," said Berg.
Baldwin needed to. In the opening game lopsided loss to Prairie View, the Bulldogs didn't do any of those things well. A week's worth of practice in "back to basics" cured those ills. Still the Bulldogs were installed as 34-point underdogs going into the annual grudge match with the Eagles.
Maybe the role fits Baldwin High well. The Bulldogs responded by jumping out quickly and never trailing. On the first play of the game, senior quarterback Heath Knight found junior wide receiver Tyler Inzer on what was supposed to be a five-yard quick hitter. However, Inzer broke a tackle and was gone 85 yards later he was in the end zone with the touchdown.
It sent the Baldwin sidelines and the sizable crowd Baldwin had more fans in its stands than hometown Wellsville did into an immediate frenzy.
"That was very big," Berg said of Inzer's catch and run. "Getting the momentum like that in a rivalry game was a good motivator for us. It took the momentum out of their sails. Our kids got excited.
"It was good to be in the other shoes," he said in reference to the previous week when Prairie View bolted to the quick lead on a similar play.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for BHS, however. Penalties hurt the Bulldogs and helped the Eagles. BHS put a drive together that went 84 yards in eight plays and put the ball at the two-yard line. The Bulldogs couldn't punch it in, thanks in part to a 15-yard holding call.
BHS squandered another scoring opportunity on the next series after stuffing a fake-punt attempt. The Bulldogs were just 15 yards from a score, but a clip moved them back 19 yards and on the next play lost the ball on an interception.
"We still have some football players who are inexperienced and are making mistakes, especially with penalties. We should have scored a couple more times," Berg said. "We'll get better. They're full-speed mistakes."
Luckily, the BHS defense rose to the occasion and held Wellsville in check. After Baldwin's turnover, Wellsville gave it back with a fumble that was recovered by junior cornerback John Bones with 4:03 left in the half. Mixing the pass with the run, Baldwin High converted the fumble into a touchdown with a 41-yard drive in 12 plays. Knight scored on a four-yard run that resembled a rugby scrum, with about 15 players pushing a big pile before Knight eventually wound up in the end zone. Senior fullback Tyler Craig ran in the conversion for a 14-0 halftime lead for BHS.
The third quarter didn't provide much except for the BHS defense. Bulldog defenders stuffed a fourth-and-two attempt to open the half and senior defensive tackle Daniel Lang recovered a fumble on Wellsville's next series. Still no points, however. But, after forcing another Eagle punt on the next series, the offense started to move with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
This time it was pure groundDawg. A nine-play, 57-yard drive used runs by junior tailbacks Caleb Mason and Adam Turk, along with a good dose of Craig for the score. After Mason moved BHS to Wellsville's 12-yard line just into the fourth quarter, Craig took it in from there on three runs, the last covering two yards for the touchdown. The kick failed and BHS was up 20-0.
Wellsville then put its only successful drive of the night together, aided by three Baldwin penalties which were the only ones committed by the Bulldogs in the second half. The Eagles tried an onside kick, but sophomore Brian Lauridsen scooped it up with 6:07 to play. BHS tried to burn some clock, but had to punt.
Then Wellsville put the game on a platter. The Eagles took over at their own 11 after a 40-yard punt by Knight. Four incompletions and a delay of game penalty gave BHS the ball just six yards from the end zone with just under five minutes to play.
On the first play, Knight found senior wide receiver Ben Cosman in the corner of the end zone for the final touchdown. It was the first time this season the combination has clicked for six. Double teams and other factors have limited the duo that set records a year ago.
"Wellsville did a good job on our receivers," said Berg. "It made it hard for them to get open. Heath made a nice throw and Ben had a good catch on that one. I was happy for them."
Turk ran in the conversion and BHS was firmly in control at 28-8 with 4:36 left in the game. BHS's defense had to hold one more time and then it was done.
"Our defense played superb," he said. "They gave us the ball in good position several times. We've got to take advantage of that. The defense played assignment football. We had kids where they were supposed to be. Our defensive ends were asked to do a lot this week in keeping (Josh) Flett in check."
Flett, the Eagles main weapon, was a nonfactor. He was limited to three catches and was stuffed on the fake punt for negative rushing yards.
Even though there were plenty of positives from Friday's game, Berg knows there's more work to do as BHS prepares to face the next Frontier League foe, Gardner-Edgerton, at home Friday at 7 p.m.
"There's a lot of room for improvement," he said. "If you win a game and still make mistakes like we did, it's good. We're going to work on fundamentals some more this week. We're going to do things right."
There were good and bad signs and developments Friday. The good was BHS's conditioning.
"I was pleased with the condition of our kids. We weren't cramping up or coming out of the game like they were," Berg said.
The bad were two injuries. Mason suffered a high ankle sprain late in the game and will miss the Gardner game. Senior cornerback/wide receiver Evan Durnal has a MCL (not ACL) tear in his right knee and will be out a couple of weeks.
BHS will gear up without them for Gardner, which lost 21-19 to Prairie View Friday and also stands at 1-1 on the season. Gardner scored one of its touchdowns on a long punt return and capitalized on a fumble for another. The Trailblazers have a new coach, but are using the same offense and defense.
"They're using their speed," he said. "You'll see sweeps and lots of runs up the middle. They have five returning starters on the line. It'll be smash-mouth football. On defense, they use a 4-4, pretty much like what we do."