Bulldogs prepare for host of changes
After a season of ups and downs, the Baldwin High School varsity football team hopes to stay at the top this year. To do this, the Bulldogs have to deal with quite a few changes.
Among these is a change in the Frontier League setup. The league is now divided into two parts, one division is for the smaller Frontier League schools such as Prairie View and Anderson County. The other division, which is for the larger schools such as Gardner-Edgerton and Paola, happens to be the new home of the Bulldogs.
The new league changes make the Bulldogs one of the smaller teams in the newly divided league. It would seem that this could pose a problem for the Bulldogs, but senior fullback Brian Lauridsen thinks it is a change for the better.
"It is a good opportunity to be more prepared for district and state. Instead of playing 0-8 teams, we play teams that are our skill or better. That will make us a better team," Lauridsen said.
Another change this year is the lack of Wellsville, a rival that has been on the schedule since both schools had football.
"It's disappointing not having them on the schedule. It has been a rivalry for years, but it shows some changes that are taking place," said junior tailback Micah Mason.
A new setup for district is also on the grocery list of changes on the year. The usual district formula is basically a group of four teams in one "round robin" tournament. Each team plays the other three teams one time. The team with the most wins goes on to the state playoffs. This year a new change is that the two teams with the best record are state bound.
"The new setup for district is perfect. It gives more quality teams that are worthy the opportunity to go to state," said senior tight end Ryne Jackson.
There is also a "changing of the guard" of sorts. Sixteen seniors from last year have graduated, leaving many spots on offense, defense and special teams up for grabs. What do the Bulldogs plan to do to fill not only the physical void, but also leadership roles the graduated seniors generated last year?
"A lot of people have really stepped up. Dan Hamilton, Ryne Jackson and Micah Mason are being great leaders," said Lauridsen.
"The seniors last year brought leadership and hard work that is hard to replace, but the new seniors have done a great job representing Baldwin High School," said Mason.
Whether good or bad all the changes made were not by choice for the Bulldogs. However, Baldwin's change in offense and defense is another story.
"Last year with (now graduated) Tyler Inzer, we mostly ran an I-formation with an emphasis on the option. This year we are going to put in a Wing T formation," said junior wide receiver Andy Hannon.
"Our new offense is perfect for us. It is fast paced, and uses a lot of misdirection, which really utilizes our speed," said Lauridsen.
Not only is the offense changing, but the defense has had a facelift as well. Instead of running a 4-4 defense like in years past, a 5-2 defense will be the new set.
"The defense is a lot more comfortable to play in and it is more efficient. No person is in the same spot twice," said Mason.
"It brings a new look as far as each down goes," said Jackson.
If the Bulldogs are to be successful this year, they must have a few cards fall into place. Replacing a senior is always hard.
"We have to bring intensity for an entire game, not just the first or second half. Also we need to execute plays," said Mason.
"We have an excellent offense, so if we execute, then we should kick some butt," said Hamilton, a senior offensive lineman.
One thing hasn't changed and that is definitely a positive. Both Hamilton and Jackson summed it up pretty well.
"We have a 'Micah'," they said.
That "Micah" thing happens to be the starting tailback who has just come off of a season in which he was named first team All-League as well as All-State honorable mention as a sophomore after running for more than 1,300 yards and a 8.3 yards per carry average.
"Micah is a heck of an athlete. He can run like a hobo with his pants on fire," said Hamilton.
An exciting season looms ahead, with some great games. Of course every year the most important games are at the end of the season, which is when the district games are played. This year the Bulldog's district includes Topeka Hayden, Santa Fe Trail and Perry-Lecompton.
"Hayden and Santa Fe Trail are going to be huge games. We have to bring everything we have against them," said Hamilton.
What fortunes will these changes bring for the Bulldogs? Will it bring a trip to state for BHS? Time will tell, but you know what they say change is good.