Big-play Bulldogs capsize Cardinals
That loud thud Friday night around 9:30 was the Eudora Cardinals falling from the ranks of the unbeaten and the state rankings.
That loud celebration heard just afterwards was the Baldwin High School Bulldogs and the legion of screaming fans that witnessed the thrilling 33-32 victory. With 5 minutes left in the game, BHS trailed 32-20. But the Bulldogs used the big play to rally for 13 points and pull the stunning upset of the formerly No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A.
"I'm ecstatic for the players and the community," said coach Mike Berg. "There were a lot of people who wanted to beat Eudora and we got it done."
Eudora entered the game with a 5-0 record, compared to BHS's 3-2 mark, and that lofty state ranking. That made the victory even sweeter, he said.
"Yes, it really did," said Berg. "I think our kids believe they can line up against any team on any Friday and win. I think this will help our confidence and work harder."
The Bulldogs had worked on their razzle-dazzle and it helped produce the big plays that secured the victory. Trailing by 12 with just those 5 minutes left, BHS junior tailback Micah Mason swept right, stopped and lofted a pass to senior tight end Ryne Jackson on the other side of the field. Jackson hauled it in and galloped for a 58-yard touchdown. Eudora blocked the extra-point kick and was still up 32-26.
After an exchange of possessions, BHS got the ball back with just 54 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs didn't need all of that. On the first play junior quarterback Jason Kesinger sent a pass out in the flats to senior fullback Brian Lauridsen. The Eudora defender, as happened on the Jackson score, went for the interception. Lauridsen outjumped him for the ball, came back down and raced for a 74-yard touchdown.
"It was a big play," said Berg. "It's a wheel route we like to run. He's a good athlete and was able to out jump him. Then he just outran everyone."
That knotted the score at 32-32. Senior Justin Goff lined up for the extra-point kick with all eyes on him.
"Do you think Justin Goff had some pressure on him?" Berg said. "He handled it. We had just had one blocked and the guys up front came through on this one and held them out. It sailed right through the uprights. Best extra point all year."
That gave BHS its 33-32 lead and Eudora 41 seconds to try a comeback. Didn't happen. On the Cardinal's first play, junior cornerback Andrew Hannon intercepted a pass and all the Bulldogs had to do was run the last 27 seconds off the clock.
It happened and the Baldwin High side of the field went crazy.
"Our fans were awesome," he said. "It was just great community support Friday night."
That crowd was treated to more big plays than just the last two touchdown producers. BHS's first score came on a 75-yard kickoff return by Hannon that answered Eudora's first-quarter score. Goff added the kick and BHS was up 7-6 with 5:05 left in the first frame.
In between those big plays, BHS scored its other two touchdowns with its bread-and-butter a running game featuring Mason and some more razzle dazzle with a reverse by Hannon, a "quickie" by junior Brian Turk and a pass to Mason. Mason scored the touchdowns on 16- and five-yard runs. Goff converted one of the kicks and a bad snap prevented the other.
"There were a lot of big plays," said Berg. "I was just really happy with how our special teams did. We had the big kickoff return for a touchdown, we didn't give up very many yards on their returns and we converted three extra points. We didn't make any mistakes on special teams and that goes a long way to being successful."
BHS also only had three penalties and a lone fumble. Eudora had five penalties, two lost fumbles from a total of five and also had the interception.
"I think that was a big key," he said of the lack of mistakes. "I said before the game we had to play mistake-free football. We kept playing hard and playing hard and we came up with some turnovers. That was really big."
Also big was the defense's overall performance. The Bulldogs gave up 444 total yards, but stuffed the Cardinal's big threat, Andrew Pyle, who only averaged 2.8 yards per carry.
"They got a lot of yards against our defense, but we made them earn them," Berg said. "That was a good football team. We put nine guys in the box. We wanted to control the line of scrimmage. I really was happy with our defensive line play. That allowed Micah and Brian to fly to the ball, but it was the line that let that happen."
In fact, the fifth-year head coach was happy with everything.
"I just think it was a team victory. Everyone contributed," he said. "Ryne Jackson's first touchdown, Andy's kickoff return and interception, Micah ran hard and Lauridsen had the big touchdown at the end."
Mason ended up with 88 yards on 16 carries, but also threw for a touchdown and had another 20 yards in receiving. BHS had 185 yards on the ground and another 159 through the air for a balanced attack. The Bulldogs, now 4-2, will need that against their first district opponent, Santa Fe Trail, which is also unbeaten.
"It doesn't get any easier," said Berg. "We're playing an undefeated team for the second week in a row. We can't relax. We've got to play our kind of football."
SFT runs a pro-I formation and likes to pass.
"They have some really good athletic wide receivers and a quarterback that can throw," he said. "We're going to have to get some pressure on the quarterback and mix up our pass coverages."
Game time for the district opener is 7 p.m. at Liston Stadium.