Turnovers doom Bulldogs in 28-21 loss
GARDNER Big plays and turnovers were standard fare here Friday night as the Baldwin High School Bulldogs fell for the first time this season with the Gardner Trailblazers riding five turnovers to a 28-21 win.
Still, the game wasn't decided until the final series of plays. BHS stormed back from a 28-14 deficit to pull within seven points with 1:52 left. After a successful onside kick, the Bulldogs took over at midfield with one last gasp left. However, penalties stalled that would-be tying drive.
Ultimately, though, it was the three fumbles and two interceptions that proved to be BHS's undoing.
"We have to take care of the ball, especially against good teams," said coach Mike Berg. "We played a very good team Friday night. Every facet of their game was good. They have been dominating people.
"But, if we keep a hold of the ball, we could play with them," said Berg. "We had problems with penalties the previous week and corrected them. Now if we can get our turnovers eliminated, we'll be a good team."
Turnovers are never timely, but BHS made a bad habit of coughing up the ball early and often. On the opening drive, the Bulldogs were cramming the ball down Gardner's throat with the run and looked to be headed for an early score. Ooops, first fumble. Gardner couldn't cash it in, missing a 24-yard field goal attempt, but the eventual story line was set.
But, prior to that, the big play surfaced. Gardner did it first, scoring on a 25-yard pass play. The extra point kick failed. BHS answered right back when senior quarterback Tyler Inzer broke free for a 51-yard touchdown scamper. Senior kicker Hans Broers added the kick and BHS was up 7-6 with 10:56 left in the first half.
Then the Bulldogs got their only fumble of the night. Sophomore linebacker Kyle Flory jumped on the fumble caused by senior defensive end Brett Myrick. Two plays later sophomore tailback Micah Mason ran through and past Gardner for a 38-yard touchdown gallop. Broers again converted and BHS was up 14-6 with 9:14 left.
Gardner then used two big plays to tie it up, the first on a 29-yard run by tailback Davey Highfill and then an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Trailblazers went for the two-point conversion and got it to knot the score at 14 with 4:19 to go.
Then there were two more BHS turnovers, this time interceptions. The first gave Gardner possession at midfield and the Trailblazer immediately went to the air for a 34-yard gain. But, the BHS defense held. Baldwin then drove 70 yards to the 17-yard line. But, with 13 seconds left in the half, another interception ended that drive.
Gardner took the lead for good in the third quarter with an eight-play, 55-yard drive. After two more BHS fumbles, Gardner made it 28-14 with a two-play, 12-yard drive with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
It was Gardner's other turnover of the night, an interception, that got BHS untracked in the fourth quarter. Sophomore safety Andrew Hannon picked the pass off at the 15-yard line. On the first play following the pick, Mason broke loose on a 63-yard run. Five plays later he scored on a three-yard plunge. Broers added the kick and BHS was within 28-21.
Despite the onside kick recovered by senior Adam Turk, the Bulldogs couldn't cash in. But, Berg was pleased with the effort to get them to that point.
"I was real proud of the way the team played four quarters," said Berg. "There were times in the third quarter where we could have folded up, but we didn't. In past years, we would have let down then, but not this group. I was very proud of how they wouldn't give up."
He was also pleased with Mason's efforts and the offensive line that helped the 6-foot, 200-pound speedster gain 241 yards on 24 carries. There were other bright spots on offense, too, but it was the turnovers that extinguished them.
"Our offense did a super job," he said. "Our offensive line came off the ball. We controlled the ball, but we turned it over. You can't do that."
After two straight games where opponents were held well under 200 yards, the BHS defense gave up 395 yards with 102 of those coming through the air.
"They were passes that were up in the air a long time and you've got to go get those," said Berg. "If you give up that many yards, they're moving it on you."
But, again, the turnovers played a factor there, too, he said. The defense spent much of the game on the field. Bottom line was, BHS fell to 2-1 and the Bulldogs will now focus on Friday's homecoming opponent, Osawatomie, which is a misleading 0-3.
"They're a really good 0-3 team," he said. "They've got a couple of fast kids and a quarterback that can throw. They're a balanced team that likes to run and pass. They play hard. Rod Madden is a good coach."
Osawatomie lost to Paola 41-12 last week, but it was only 7-0 after the first quarter. Game time at Liston Stadium is 7 p.m. Homecoming festivities will be at halftime.