Bulldogs club Cards for district crown
It was another first for the Baldwin High School football team Thursday. A stifling defense made the difference as the Bulldogs beat Eudora 14-6 to claim the first district title for BHS since 1993.
"This was a huge win for our program over a good team," said coach Mike Berg. "We have beaten Eudora the last three times that we have played them and our players take pride in that.
"A district championship shows that this programs has taken the next step towards achieving our ultimate goal, a state championship," said Berg.
Thursday's district-title bout at Eudora's Laws Field didn't get off to a good start for BHS. The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their first series and a punt into a stiff wind gave the Cardinals the ball at the 40-yard line. Four plays later, they scored a touchdown, but a bad snap prevented a conversion and the lead was only 6-0.
BHS stormed back with a 12-play drive that covered 65 yards. While most of the yardage was picked up on the ground, there were two huge fourth-down passes that made the difference. First, junior quarterback Jeremy Wright, who had set out the previous week with an injury, hit senior Ricky Baker with an eight-yard pass on a fourth-and-five situation.
The drive again stalled at the 18-yard line and BHS was faced with fourth-and-eight. This time Wright found senior Austin Inzer in the end zone, who made a leaping catch for an 18-yard scoring pass. Senior Emery Baughan booted the extra point and BHS was in the lead for good at 7-6 with 3:22 left in the first quarter.
The remainder of the half was a defensive struggle, although Eudora did mount a long drive on the final series of the half. It stalled at the 18-yard line and with just seven seconds left, the Cardinals opted to try a 35-yard field goal. It was blocked and BHS preserved its slim one-point halftime lead.
It was more of the same in the second half, but the Bulldog defense came up even bigger with three turnovers. The first of those came with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter. Senior linebacker Klay Garrison intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 14 yards to the Cardinal six. Four plays later, junior fullback Josiah Mason drove in from the two for BHS's second touchdown. Baughan add the kick and the final 14-6 margin was in place.
Eudora was driving at the end of the frame and into the final quarter when the BHS defense came up with its second turnover, this one on a fumble recovery by senior defensive end Scott Johnson.
Then, with 4:32 left in the game, Baker came up big when he intercepted a Cardinal pass. The Bulldogs then picked up two first downs and ran the clock out to secure the victory and the district title.
"After looking at the film, we played with great intensity the whole game," said Berg. "It was one of the hardest hitting games of the year."
Defense was the main stay for both teams. BHS had 210 total yards and Eudora had 214. Of that total, the Bulldogs had 180 yards in rushing, with Inzer gaining the lion's share of that with 87 yards on nine carries. Garrison had 44 yards on 17 totes and Wright had 36 yards on seven carries.
The victory closed out the regular season for BHS with an 8-1 record. Eudora was 6-3. The Bulldogs played Louisburg, the only team to beat them this year, Tuesday night in the first round of the state playoffs. (See story this page.)
A late season rash of injuries has had the Bulldogs scrambling to fill positions. Berg thought that was one of the reasons the offense didn't have its usual performance.
"We are still making mistakes that we shouldn't be making at this time of the year," he said. "It's because we have so many new players at different positions. We have some young guys learning on the run. Our seniors are doing a great job holding things together right now."