Baldwin High is ready to rumble
With the annual scrimmage out of the way and the last of the full practices over, Baldwin High School football coach Mike Berg and the Bulldogs are ready to open the season Friday at Prairie View.
It will be an older and wiser squad that takes to the field at 7 p.m. This year's team has 18 seniors and the majority of them will be in the starting lineup. They've spent the last four years working in the weight room and elsewhere to make their senior season count.
Berg expects to see that pay off.
"I feel good about it," said Berg of the upcoming season, his fourth as head coach. "I feel like we're physically a lot better than we have ever been. We're stronger, we have more endurance and more speed. A lot of leaders are stepping up, too. We're going to be senior dominated.
"I'm looking for less mistakes," he said. "We'll be more disciplined on the field and not missing assignments and tackles. This goes along with our saying for this year 'no excuses.' There will be no excuses for that (lack of discipline, missing assignments, etc.) this year. We've got kids who've played for four years and they know what we expect. We're excited and just ready to get started."
Baldwin High opens against the same team it faced in last season's first game. The Prairie View Buffaloes came to Baldwin and hung a 52-7 loss on the Bulldogs. Berg is hoping the outcome will be different after the long trip southeast, but it won't be easy.
"Prairie View has one of the best running backs in the league in Luke Page and have the biggest line with an average of 220 pounds," he said. "They'll have a new quarterback and running back, but the kids they return are big and strong. We're going to try and out speed them.
"They run the split-back veer on offense," Berg said. "Defensively they run a 4-4 and 6-2, with man-to-man coverage on the outside with the corners."
Page ran roughshod over the Bulldogs last year, gaining 92 yards on just nine carries and scoring three touchdowns. Berg hopes a few tweaks made in the 4-4 defense this year, coupled with personnel changes will make a difference.
Seniors Caleb Mason (5-10, 220 pounds) and Brett Myrick (5-11, 200) have been moved from linebacker to defensive ends. Manning the linebacker spots on the outside will be senior Adam Turk (5-5, 160) and junior Brian Lauridsen (6-2, 210). Prairie View chewed BHS up on the outside last year, but Berg is hoping that will not be the case this year.
"Our defensive ends are going to make us such a better team," he said. "They're staying at home and making the quarterback make a decision."
Another change from a year ago will be in the attack plans. Last year the Bulldogs relied heavily on the passing game. This year it will be more of a ground-oriented attack utilizing the skills of senior quarterback Tyler Inzer (5-8, 185) and the Mason brothers backfield of Caleb Mason and Micah Mason (5-11, 200).
For Friday's opener, that group won't be running much razzle-dazzle and will instead concentrate on the meat and potatoes, he said.
"We're going into this with the idea we're going to control the ball," said Berg. "We're not going to put a lot of stuff in, but we're going to execute what we do well."
Providing the blocking for that crew will be tackles Chapin Deel (6-3, 210, senior) and Dan Hamilton (6-0, 210, junior); senior guards Mark Gastelum (6-0, 240) and Witt Hinton (6-3, 210); and senior center Adam Halford (5-9, 180).
Berg said Friday's scrimmage showed him areas of concern, but also gave him reason for confidence heading into the season. On the first play of the scrimmage, Inzer broke a few tackles on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run. While he liked the run, he didn't like the tackling effort.
"I was very pleased overall," he said about the scrimmage. "I was a little surprised at that first play. I thought it would be a pretty even scrimmage and other than that first play, it turned out that way.
"I really liked our defensive effort. Pretty much the whole scrimmage we played hard, carried out our assignments and really went to the ball aggressively."
But it wasn't all pretty.
"Things I was pleased with were some assignments on offense not blocking the right guy and not going 100 percent when not having the ball," said Berg. "But overall I was pleased with the intensity and enthusiasm. I was pleased with the goal-line stand at the end."
The scrimmage also gave Bulldog fans their first glimpse at the talents of senior place-kicker Hans Broers, who came out for football for the first time this year. Broers has played competitive soccer for many years and has made quick progress with BHS's place kicking duties.
"He's got a great leg and we're going to use it," said Berg. "I have all the confidence in the world in him."