Bulldogs finally chase off Wildcats
As victories go, Baldwin High's 27-7 thumping of the Louisburg Wildcats here Friday was proportionately large huge, some would say.
"That was a very big, big win," said coach Mike Berg. "We have not beaten Louisburg since 1993. They have a very rich tradition in football. It makes it that much sweeter because we beat a very good team.
"It was more special because it was the seniors last home game," said Berg. "You could tell how badly they wanted it by the way they played."
But, there's more. Paola, which beat Baldwin the week before in district play, only beat Spring Hill by nine points (23-14). If Louisburg beats Paola Thursday and BHS tops Spring Hill by enough points, it's possible the Bulldogs could advance to the Class 4A playoffs. Those are big "ifs," but the game is at Louisburg and anything can happen in that cat fight.
Plus, Friday's victory moved BHS's record to 5-3 and a victory Thursday at Spring Hill would give the Bulldogs their best record in a decade. In other words, there's still plenty to play for.
"We're excited about that," Berg said of not only the chance at the playoffs, but the victory total, too. "We're up for the challenge. We wanted to improve this year and one of the improvements we wanted to make was our record. We're still mathematically in the race for the playoffs. Louisburg has to beat Paola. But we've got to take care of Spring Hill, too."
That means another effort like Friday's will be necessary before any thoughts of playoffs and records can become reality. BHS put its best game of the season together in every facet of the game. Offense, defense and special teams all had a hand in the victory. It started early and never stopped.
The defense forced the first of three turnovers on Louisburg's first possession and senior Witt Hinton jumped on the fumble at the 39-yard line. One play later, senior quarter Tyler Inzer raced around left end, broke a few tackles and was off to the races on a 61-yard touchdown gallop. That put BHS up 6-0 midway through the first quarter.
Louisburg countered with its only drive of the night, moving 58 yards in 15 plays to take a 7-6 lead just into the second quarter. BHS was then forced to punt, but that set up the defense's second fumble recovery of the night two plays later when another senior, Caleb Mason, covered up the bobble.
This time it took a little longer to score, but not much. In just over a minute, BHS covered 28 yards with three runs by sophomore tailback Micah Mason and one by Inzer. M. Mason covered the final four yards on a leap over the pile into the end zone. Inzer ran in the conversion for a 14-7 lead with 5:18 left in the half. BHS held that lead for the duration.
The Bulldogs would tack on two more touchdowns, one each in the third and fourth quarters. Both came on runs by M. Mason, one covering 27 yards and the other 16. Senior Hans Broers added one of the conversion kicks for the final 27-7 margin.
But, as important as the offense was, the defense is what made the difference. For the first time this season against a strong opponent, the Bulldog defense was fierce. They held a potent Louisburg attack to just 112 total yards. Just as important were the three turnovers. The two fumbles resulted in BHS touchdowns and the interception, by senior John Bones, choked off Louisburg's only scoring threat in the second half which had been set up by BHS's lone fumble of the night.
"I thought our defense played exceptionally well and forced three turnovers," said Berg. "Our defense came with some big plays. We wrapped up this week. We improved on that from the Paola game. We were hitting hard. We put some licks on them. That slowed them down in the second half."
The offense was bright, too.
"We're executing better on offense than we ever have," he said. "We're just jelling at the right time. The offensive line played its best game of the season. We came out and dominated the line of scrimmage.
"We broke tackles," said Berg. "Tyler Inzer had a great game. So did Micah Mason. We took a tough couple of weeks and came back."
Yes, the option worked well. Inzer had 181 yards rushing on just 16 carries. That puts him at 715 yards and 19 carries for the year, an average of 9.05 yards per carry. M. Mason's 151 yards puts him at 1,151 yards for the season on 152 carries, for an average of 7.57 yards per tote. C. Mason averages 6.3 yards per carry from the fullback position to give the Bulldogs a triple option that's hard to defense.
Spring Hill will be the next bunch to try that. The Broncos use a 5-2 defense, unlike the four-man fronts BHS has faced in the past weeks. That will prove challenging.
But, the BHS defense will again face a challenge, too. The Bulldogs switched up defenses for the first time this season against Louisburg and it worked. The standard 4-4 was varied with an occasional five-man front and the defensive ends were switched from side to side. It worked.
Everything will be needed against a Spring Hill team that played Paola closer than BHS did.
"Spring Hill started the season out strong with four wins and they have lost four in a row," said Berg. "They had some injuries to key players. They run the option out of the I-formation like we do. On defense, they run the 5-2, so that will be different for us in the past few weeks.
"Their quarterback is their main weapon, kind of like Paola and Louisburg. He's their leading rusher," he said. "They like to play action out of the slot and try to hit the long ball every once in awhile. They run a good inside trap that we'll have to stop."
The Bulldogs faced a tough option team with Louisburg and stopped it. They'll need more against Spring Hill.
"We're playing the option well because everyone knows their responsibilities," said Berg. "We're staying low and getting off the blocks. We played good technique against Louisburg, especially our defensive ends, Brett Myrick and Caleb Mason. They did a super job. They're stepping it up."
As for those playoff possibilities mathematically first of all Louisburg has to beat Paola. Period. Nothing else matters. From there, it is math. If BHS beats Spring Hill by more than 13 points and Paola loses by more than four points, the Bulldogs go to the playoffs. But, it all counts on scores. Louisburg could also enter the playoff picture, depending on points.
But, bottom line, Paola has to lose. That opens the way for BHS. Berg is happy with that situation, because it keeps hopes alive for the Bulldogs. It would have been easy to shut down after the loss to Paola, but the team didn't do it, he said.
"The kids never gave up," said Berg. "We had a good week of practice. If they improve at this point of the season, which they did in practice, that's great."
He said that showed Friday night. The emotional uplift from the victory over Louisburg should keep them focused on the possibilities ahead.
"We want the kids to be hungry," he said. "It was a great win. I felt just like they did after the game. I didn't want to leave the field."
Game time Thursday at Spring Hill is 7 p.m.