Dogs jolt unbeaten Chargers
By Jeff Myrick
Baldwin City Signal
It was another chance for the Baldwin High School Bulldogs to play giant killers Friday night against unbeaten Santa Fe Trail. The Bulldogs like that role and for the second straight week put the first blemish on a previously unspoiled record.
This time BHS handed Trail a 34-20 loss. The week before, the Bulldogs had done the same to Eudora with a 33-32 upset win. Eudora had been ranked No. 3 in the Class 4A consensus poll, this time SFT was in the "others ranked," which basically meant No. 6. Whatever, the Bulldogs brought the Chargers back to earth, just like the Cardinals the week before.
"It doesn't get any better than that," said BHS coach Mike Berg about the back-to-back spoiler victories. "This team has really peaked at the right time. The results of those games have been phenomenal how the kids have prepared and gone out and done it.
"It was another big win for us," said Berg. "This is the time of year to get on a winning streak."
It opened district play for BHS with a victory, which is always important. But, it wasn't easy. SFT took the early lead when quarterback Shane Miles directed an eight-play, 45-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown run to go up 6-0.
From there, the Bulldogs made the most of SFT miscues. With 2:48 left in the first quarter, senior defensive end Ryne Jackson recovered a Charger fumble at the 43-yard line. Seven plays later and just into the second quarter, junior tailback Micah Mason scored on a three-yard plunge. That tied it at 6-6.
On the ensuing drive, Miles was intercepted by senior linebacker Brian Lauridsen who returned it to the 21-yard line. Two plays later, junior quarterback Jason Kesinger found junior wide receiver Andrew Hannon in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. This time senior kicker Justin Goff's extra point kick was good and BHS was up 13-6 with 8:05 left in the half.
Trail answered, however, but used a strong running game instead of the expected pass. The Chargers drove 71 yards in six plays, with the biggest chunk coming on a 45-yard run. But the touchdown came on an 11-yard pass from Miles to Dustin DeSitt. Then Miles hit Cameron Babb with the conversion pass and Trail was up 14-13 with 5:04 remaining.
That lead didn't last long, though. On BHS's next drive the Bulldogs were faced with a second and 17. Instead of a pass, Berg called Mason's number on a draw. After getting through the line and a few well-placed moves, Mason turned the draw into a 72-yard touchdown gallop that gave BHS a 19-14 halftime lead.
"They were very physical up front, very strong, and we weren't firing off the ball real well. We hadn't played them before. It took us awhile because we hadn't faced them before. We were playing back on our heels on defense, expecting the pass, and I think that carried over to our offense," he said. "Then Micah breaks the 72-yarder and the kids realized they could play with anyone."
That margin vanished quickly in the second half. On SFT's first play from scrimmage, Miles hit Babb with a 74-yard touchdown strike.
"We miss aligned on that play," said Berg. "We came out in the second half and didn't concentrate. I was wondering how our team would do from there and they responded. There's no quit in them."
BHS started an answering drive, but it sputtered. Trail started another drive and moved to the 18-yard line. Miles looked into the end zone on third down for a receiver, but found BHS senior safety Joe Gipp instead.
The interception sent BHS on another scoring drive. This time the Bulldogs took 13 plays to drive 80 yards for the go-ahead-for-good touchdown. Mason, who gained 36 of those yards, scored the touchdown on a four-yard run. Kesinger then hit Jackson with the conversion pass and BHS was up for good at 27-20 with 10:47 left in the game.
The Bulldog defense stuffed Trail on its next series and forced a punt. BHS then took off on a drive that would put the game away. The Bulldogs used seven plays to ground out 56 yards. Mason covered all but 11 of those and drove in from the four-yard line again for the final TD. Goff added the kick and BHS had its 34-20 lead with 7:05 remaining.
After the defense stopped a fourth-and-eight pass attempt to regain possession the game was over with 4:04 left. BHS picked up one first down and then let the clock run out.
"It was the second week in a row we've comeback from behind and found a way to win," he said. "I thought Santa Fe Trail was one of the most physical teams we've played all year. We wore them down, especially on that last drive. I think our kids showed a lot of stamina."
He also thought a big key was mistakes SFT's two interceptions and a fumble that all led to BHS scores and the Bulldog's lack of them.
"Yes, we did take advantage of their turnovers," said Berg. "You need to do that at this time of the year. You need to take advantage of those. We've done a good job of cutting our turnovers and penalties down. If you do that, it will take you a long way."
The victory moved BHS's record to 5-2 on the year, while SFT dropped to 6-1. Mason had 237 yards on 29 carries to go along with his four touchdowns. That brings his season totals to just shy of 1,000 yards at 997 yards on 137 carries for an average of 7.2 yards a carry and 14 touchdowns. Lauridsen has rushed for 407 yards on 61 carries for an average of 6.6 yards-per-tote. He's the leading receiver with 11 catches for 188 yards and has four touchdowns. Hannon has five scores to go along with nine catches for 137 yards. Jackson has five catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Kesinger is 31 of 65 throwing for 534 yards.
The Bulldogs will face another top-notch team Friday. They square off against Topeka Hayden, which is 6-1, with its only loss coming to Topeka Seaman.
"Hayden is running the split-back veer and mostly likes to run the option. They like to get their speedy quarterback on the edge and control the ball," he said. "They use multiple fronts on defense 5-2, 4-4, 6-2.
"They haven't really won big," said Berg, with the exception of their 49-0 win in the district opener against Perry-Lecompton last week. "I think we match up well with them. They aren't as big as they have been in the past. They like to run, not pass. They're fundamental sound and disciplined."
The game will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Hayden. Directions are simple. Take U.S. 56 west, to U.S. 59 north, to K-10 west, to I-70 west and then take the Gage Blvd. exit. Hayden is just south of 1-70.