Bulldog victory paves way to playoff date
With a 28-13 victory over Perry-Lecompton Thursday, the Baldwin High School Bulldogs took the football program to the next level with a berth in the Class 4A State Playoffs.
The victory moved the Bulldogs to 6-3 on the year and brought coach Mike Berg, who inherited a decimated program with an 0-9 record in 1997, the next step in rebuilding the BHS football tradition.
"I think it's a tribute to the players and all the hard work they've done over the last four or five years," said Berg. "They bought into the program with off-season weight programs, going to camps, playing 7-on-7. Those are all the little things the came together to make it a program. The kids are getting the payoff now for all that hard work."
The victory was important as a payoff and next step as BHS returns to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
"It was really big," he said. "The last two years we've been at five wins, but couldn't get that sixth. We got that this year and it happened to be the one that got us in the playoffs."
Although the 28-13 final doesn't look close, it was. BHS had to battle to come up with the win that brought a 2-1 district mark, good for second place and the trip to the playoffs. The Bulldogs sputtered most of the first half and when standout senior Brian Lauridsen went down with a knee injury midway through the first quarter, it looked bleak for BHS.
"When Brian got hurt it deflated us. He's been such an inspirational leader. It was a shocking blow to our ball club," said Berg. "We kept plugging away and good things happened. Andy's punt return kick started it."
The first quarter ended deadlocked at 0-0. BHS was in the midst of a 99-yard drive, but saw it stall out just into the second quarter with an illegal procedure penalty. After forcing a Perry punt, BHS got untracked with a 79-yard drive that junior Micah Mason covered all but nine yards of. Mason 50-yard touchdown gallop was the big play and gave BHS a 7-0 lead with 6:43 left in the half.
The Bulldogs started another drive, but saw it end with a turnover. But, the defense held and Perry chose to punt with just 14 seconds left in the half. Bad mistake. Hannon fielded the punt at the 25-yard line and streaked down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown return with no time left on the clock. That put BHS up 14-0 at halftime.
Still, Perry-Lecompton would not fade. The Kaws came out after halftime and went on a 65-yard drive mixing the run and pass. They scored on a 12-yard touchdown toss to pull within 14-7 with 6:40 left in the quarter.
Then it was time for more Mason. First he returned the kickoff 48 yards to put BHS at the 49-yard line. Then he carried eight straight times to cover the entire distance and capped it with a three-yard touchdown run. Senior Justin Goff's third straight extra point kick put the Bulldogs up 21-7 with 2:47 left in the quarter.
A pair of BHS fumbles just into the fourth quarter kept Perry alive. The Kaws took advantage after the second one and took just two plays to cover 21 yards for a touchdown. The conversion failed, but the Kaws were only down 21-13 with plenty of time 5:51 left in the game.
More Mason would put the game away, this time for good. The 6-foot, 200-pounder needed just three carries to cover 70 yards, but most of it came on a 64-yard scoring scamper that put BHS in control at 28-13 with 4:15 left.
A pair of interceptions by Bulldog defenders Ryne Jackson and Ricky Baker thwarted any hopes for the Kaws, who ended the season with a 4-5 mark.
"We really worked hard last week on going back to the basics fundamentals," said Berg. "It really showed in our running game. That was a pretty good team that hit us hard. But Micah ran hard."
Mason ended the night with 281 yards on 34 carries. That gives him an even 1,300 yards for the season and an average of 6.9 yards per carry. Lauridsen had 21 yards on five carries before leaving with the injury. That gives him 459 yards and a 6.5-yard average. Junior B.T. Turk chipped in with 53 yards on four carries to bring his season total to 232 yards and a whopping 12.2-yard-per-carry average.
BHS moved its sights onto the Eudora Cardinals, the team it faced Tuesday night in the first round of the playoffs. (See results, page A-1). The Bulldogs gave Eudora its lone loss of the season on Oct. 11. BHS won that one with a last-minute pass from junior quarterback Jason Kesinger to Lauridsen that gave the Bulldogs a thrilling 33-32 win, with a big assist from Goff's extra point.
The Bulldogs had practices Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday in preparation for their first playoff game since that '93 season.
"I think the kids are very focused," said Berg. "We got the game plan in the next day. We've been working on execution and working to be mistake free.
"We know each other well," he said of the Cardinals. "I think it will come down to who executes and doesn't make mistakes."
It's that time of the season one loss and it's over.
"That's for sure," said Berg.