Tigers end BHS title hopes
There was little doubt which team was the best Saturday night when the Baldwin High School Bulldogs lined up with the Fort Scott Tigers Saturday night at Liston Stadium in the Class 4A Regional football playoffs. BHS fell 38-6 to end the season.
"Fort Scott was a very good football team that we played Saturday," said coach Mike Berg. "We haven't played a team with that much speed for I can't remember how long. Its going to be a very hard team to beat in the playoffs.
"They've got the entire package," said Berg. "They've got a quick defense, a good offensive line and they're very well coached. I would say they have a lot of new players this year, but they could be better than they were last year."
Fort Scott ended the Bulldogs' season last year with a 20-7 loss in the sectional playoffs. But, this year's Tigers were even better.
"I totally misjudged that team," he said. "I've done that before, but not like this. After seeing them on film, I really thought we could play with them.
"They just came out and smacked us in the mouth," said Berg. "Their offensive line never missed a block. Their pass protection was outstanding. We had no pressure on their quarterback. It was their quickness at every position."
BHS actually stopped the Tigers on their first possession, forcing a punt. But, the Bulldogs couldn't muster any offense, which would be a sign for most of the night, and the Tiger onslaught began.
Fort Scott drove 60 yards in 10 plays for its first touchdown with 4:11 left in the first quarter. The Tigers then forced another BHS punt and promptly drove 32 yards in five plays to go up 14-0 with less than a minute left.
Then, a Bulldog fumble set up another Tiger touchdown. This time they drove 46 yards in 11 plays to go up 21-0 with 7:40 left in the half. But, BHS didn't fold the tents and went on its only drive of the night to close out the first half.
BHS took the ensuing kickoff and drove 63 yards in 16 plays. The Bulldogs missed the run and pass and converted two fourth-down plays along the way. Both times, sophomore quarterback Blake Wieden hit senior tight end Earl McNish for the conversions, the first one covering nine yards and the second 15.
That put BHS on the seven yard line, but there was less than a minute left to play. After a pair of runs, Wieden had to spike the ball to stop the clock with 13 seconds left. That set up the last of the fourth-down situations and Wieden lofted a pass to senior wide receiver Austin Inzer who corralled it in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown, the Bulldog's lone bright spot of the night. BHS had pulled the margin to 21-6, but that's as close as it would get.
"I was very proud of our team," said Berg. "They played hard to the end. They could have laid down, but they didn't. The one long drive that we had, some of the catches we made, the fourth-down conversions we made, just show the character of the team.
"It's just a compliment to how good their defense is because we haven't had that much trouble moving the ball for two years," he said. "They don't have any weak spots."
It looked as if the change in the momentum might work for BHS after the halftime score, but it didn't. BHS only had 67 total yards in the first half and most of that came on the last drive. But, Fort Scott's domination in the second half would be even stronger, as the Bulldogs could gain only 15 yards and ended up with 82 total yards for the game. Fort Scott had 267 yards in total offense, split evenly between the two halfs.
Fort Scott came out in the second half and put the game away with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. The Tigers added a 27-yard field goal in the fourth frame for the final 38-6 margin, which improved their record to 11-0. They will face unbeaten Holton, last year's state champion, in a showdown Friday at Fort Scott. Also playing in Friday's sectional games are Topeka Hayden (11-0) at Eudora (8-3), Goodland (10-1) at Rose Hill (7-4) and Ulysses (11-0) at Wellington (11-0).
BHS's final record of 9-2 stacks right up there with the rest of those marks. The Bulldogs had another good season with their third straight Class 4A playoff appearance. They also finished first in the Frontier League for the first time since 1981 and won their first district title since 1993.
"We had a lot of firsts -- first league title, first district title and making it into the top 16 teams in the state," said Berg. "We got to play two playoff games at home this year. We just ran into a real good team. Fort Scott ended our season last year and they did it again this year. We have to learn how to play against teams with great traditions, because they have a great tradition.
"I'm very proud of the leadership our seniors had all season," he said. "They led by example in the off season and were rewarded for their efforts with a great season. We have a lot of good players coming back. They just need to follow the examples of the classes before them and work hard in the off season, playing other sports, going to camps and lifting weights."
BHS has come a long way during the past seven seasons under Berg. But there are more steps to go before a tradition like Fort Scott's, which has played in the state title game in four out of five years, is attained.
"They have a tradition and we're building that tradition," said Berg. "We're not there yet. We need the stepping stone of beating a Fort Scott or Topeka Hayden."
But, that will have to wait until next year.