Baldwin High has true Bulldog Bash
As opening-season football games go, it couldn't be better than the whipping Baldwin High School put on Anderson County here Friday night in the first major game in refurbished Liston Stadium's storied history. The score 42-0 tells it all ... well, most of it anyway.
But there was so much more to it than that. First off was the pre-game Bulldog Bash, the third-annual celebration of what has become a fund-raising extravaganza that shows what Baldwin City's football community is all about. Then there was that first game on the new grass at Liston. However, it was mostly about a BHS Bulldog team getting its legs underneath it for a challenging season ahead.
"Yes, it wwas a great way to start the season," said head coach Mike Berg. "We are very happy to start out 1-0 again. The kids came out of the blocks and executed. To take the opening kickoff and drive for a touchdown is just the way you want it to happen."
There were numerous questions as Baldwin High took the field for the first time. Thankfully those could be answered, at least in part, by a matchup with a lesser opponent. The BHS Bulldogs looked good. The Anderson County Bulldogs got bashed. There aren't anymore Anderson County's on the schedule, however.
"That's for sure," said Berg. "Every week from here on out we've got to improve. We've got one of the toughest schedules around. Every team we face from here on out had a winning record last year."
That was not the case with ACHS's Bulldogs. They didn't win a game last year and Baldwin High crushed them 55-8, much like last year's team opened the season with a 90-point turnaround against Prairie View with a 44-0 win after losing to the Buffaloes 52-7 the year before after the first Bulldog Bash. It's all about confidence and that's what this year's opening victory has provided for BHS.
"That's right," said Berg. "I think confidence is a big thing. With us running a new offense and new defense this year it was good for them to see it work."
And work it did. All that needs to be said about the defense is one word shutout. It doesn't get better than that. For the offense, it looks like the wing-T will work just fine. BHS scored on its first three possessions of the game.
BHS took the opening kickoff and drove 79 yards in just four plays. That was helped in large part by senior fullback Brian Lauridsen's 50-yard gallop for the first touchdown. For Lauridsen, all 6-foot-2, 204-pounds of him, it was his first score as a fullback. He was an All-Frontier League pick as a tight end a year ago.
After holding Anderson County and forcing what looked to be a punt, BHS took advantage of a botched fake-punt attempt and drove just 34 yards in eight plays for the second score. Micah Mason, BHS's 6-foot, 200-pound standout junior tailback, capped the mini-drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge.
BHS forced yet another punt. Although they couldn't quite get another score in the first quarter, the Bulldogs padded their 14-0 lead with a 60-yard drive just into the second frame with Mason scoring his second of three touchdowns on another two--yard run. BHS was firmly in command at 21-0 with 10:50 left in the half.
And those Bulldogs weren't done. They added a pair of scores to close out the half the first on an 11-yard scamper by Mason and the second with an 11-yard pass from junior quarterback Jason Kesinger to senior tight end Ryne Jackson. Sophomore kicker Caleb Mason converted three one-point conversions and Mason ran in a two-pointer to give BHS a 35-0 halftime lead. The game was long over.
But, Baldwin High had one last score left. BHS opened the second half with a 71-yard scoring drive after forcing yet another Anderson County punt. The final score of the night came on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kesinger to junior wideout Andrew Hannon. Thomas added the kick for the final 42-0 score just minutes into the second half. Berg substituted freely from there.
Looking back, he was impressed with both the offensive and defensive play. The shutout was nice.
"I thought defensively our technique and alignments were very good," he said. "The technique and wrapping up on tackling really looked good. That's where we wanted our most improvement. It's a great way to start the season."
As for the new offense, Berg thought it provided balance, which is what he wanted. Mason gained 147 yards on 16 carries with only one of those totes coming in the second half. Lauridsen added another 104 yards on just eight carries. Other contributors included junior B.T. Turk with 40 yards on four carries and senior Justin Goff with 47 yards on seven totes. Kesinger ended the night with five-of-seven passing for 77 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I thought it (the wing-T) really did a good job or spreading the ball around," said Berg. "B.T., Lauridsen and Goff all did well and it helped keep Micah fresh. Having a new quarterback, I thought we might miss a few hand-offs, have an interception, but we didn't. But he (Kesinger) played like a veteran. He did a super job."
But mostly, Berg was pleased with the play of his linemen on both sides of the ball.
"The offensive and defensive line play was exceptional," he said. "Our linebackers didn't have to fight off blocks. Lauridsen, (Kyle) Flory and Jackson made a lot of plays because of that. The offensive line moved the line of scrimmage up five yards every time. They played really good."
BHS also had a good night with penalties, a problem that has plagued the Bulldogs for years. They were only flagged six times for 40 yards. In the past, it has not been uncommon for penalty yards to reach and/or exceed 100 yards.
"We did a good job with that," said Berg. "We've got to eliminate those."
That becomes even more crucial as Baldwin High heads into the meat of its schedule already. Friday night's bout at 7 p.m. at Paola will provide a real test.
"Friday night about 10 p.m. we'll know how good we are," he said. "Paola looks good on film. The Panthers beat a good Basehor team. They've got a lot of new faces on their team a lot of move-ins."
Paola won the league title a year ago with a 9-1 record. The Panthers run the same offense (Air Force's I-bone) and a 4-3, cover two defense. It's the multiple set offense that worries Berg most.
"If you don't adjust to it, they do a good job of running where you aren't," he said.