Mistakes doom Bulldogs
Coach Mike Berg said heading into Friday's game against Paola that whichever team made fewer mistakes would win. He was right, but it was his Baldwin High School squad that committed more miscues which resulted in a 28-20 loss.
BHS fumbled five times, lost four, and the Bulldogs were flagged nine times for 80 yards in penalties. Several of those penalties were extremely costly, one which negated a touchdown and another that handed Paola its third touchdown, which gave the Panthers the lead for good.
"We haven't fixed our mistakes and this week will be the time we concentrate on fixing the mental mistakes," said Berg. "There is absolutely no excuse for us to be fumbling the ball away and making penalties at crucial times."
The mistakes overshadowed another wise strong performance by BHS. The Bulldogs dominated the first half until the last minute. BHS scored on its second possession of the first quarter after driving 89 yards in just eight plays. Standout senior tailback Micah Mason covered most of those with 79 yards on five carries. Senior quarterback Jason Kesinger covered the final yard on a sneak for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead with 2:26 left.
The Bulldogs followed a similar script in the second quarter on their second possession. This time they drove 94 yards in 13 plays. Mason had a good chunk of that yardage, but the big play was a fourth-down pass from Kesinger to senior Andrew Hannon that covered 25 yards and put BHS at the four-yard line. Mason took it in from there and the Bulldogs were up 12-0 with 3:01 left in the half.
"I thought in the first half we executed our plays to perfection at times," he said. "We opened up some big holes and our defense pretty much kept them in check. They didn't have very many big plays and that was our game plan."
BHS held Paola on the ensuing series and forced a punt. Then the mistakes took over. With just a minute left, a Bulldog fumble gave Paola the ball at the 32 yard line. Aided by two costly BHS penalties, the Panthers converted the turnover into a touchdown, added the extra point kick and trailed on 12-7 at the half.
The Bulldogs got back on track to open the third quarter ... almost. Mason, who had 138 yards on 14 carries in the first half alone, broke a long run for 70-plus yards to put BHS knocking on the door again. However, a holding call negated the run, which eventually led to a punting situation. The punt only sailed 14 yards.
However, BHS held again ... almost. The Bulldogs forced a punt, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Panthers a first down. Five plays later, Paola scored another touchdown to take the lead for good at 14-12 with 3:14 left in the third frame.
BHS fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Paola turned that into another touchdown just into the fourth quarter for a 21-12 lead. The Bulldogs were forced to punt on their ensuing series. They held Paola, but fumbled the punt. They held Paola again, but fumbled the punt one more time. That set up the Panther's last score of the night for a 28-12 lead with 4:11 left in the game.
The Panthers then pulled off a successful onside kick, but fumbled on the first play. BHS took advantage this time, with Kesinger directing a nine-play, 61-yard drive. Kesinger completed two passes and ran four times for 41 yards, including a four-yard touchdown run. He then hit senior tight end B.T. Turk with the conversion to close it to 28-20 with 2:23 left.
BHS tried an onside kick, but didn't recover it. Paola ran the clock out and had the eight-point win.
"I really like the way we fought back from the adversity and that was due to Jason Kesinger," Berg said. "I commend him for that. He's taken on the leadership role. He ran the ball well and passed well."
Berg wouldn't point the finger at any one of the mistakes that was more costly.
"I think there are so many factors. There was the fumble before halftime. We had costly penalties. We fumbled a kickoff return, they returned a kickoff for a touchdown. We botched a couple of punts," he said.
"It's mental right now," said Berg. "We're hitting people in the back of plays. The kids have proven physically that we have a chance to be a good team. We've just got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot. We're not making excuses. It was the entire team."
BHS out gained Paola 275 to 196 in total yards. Mason wound up with 141 yards for the game. Kesinger had his biggest game as a Bulldog, running for 42 yards on seven carries and completing six of 12 passes for another 53 yards. There were positives, even in the loss.
"I thought the offensive and defensive lines played great," he said. "We were opening holes and the defense was making penetration. We've got to be able to play with the intensity that we did in the first two quarters for the entire game."
BHS, now 1-1, hits the road for the first time this year, traveling to Gardner Friday. The Trailblazers are 2-0.
"They have scored over 100 points in the first two games," said Berg. "They are opposite of Paola. They are very fast and have a lot of athleticism. They like to throw the ball. The run the old 4-3, so we'll see the same defense we saw against Paola."
Now it's a matter of fixing the mistakes.
"We're going back to basics," he said. "We're going to concentrate on ourselves and fixing our mental mistakes. I think we have the talent. The offensive line really improved from the first week. We were blowing people off the ball."
Game time Friday is 7 p.m. at the Gardner stadium on the west edge of town.
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