Bulldogs knock off 5A Paola, too
PAOLA -- Back-to-back victories over Class 5A schools have Baldwin High School football coach Mike Berg happy. His Bulldogs took a different route here Friday night, but ended up beating the Paola Panthers 28-14.
"I'm just very happy with where we're sitting right now," said Berg, in his seventh season at the Bulldog helm. "We've taken care of business. We haven't beaten Gardner and Paola in the same year since 1991. Seems like we could only beat one of them each year."
There have been lots of differences already in the 2004 team. The Bulldogs roared to a 20-0 first-quarter lead in the opener against Gardner and ended up thrashing the Trailblazers 34-7. Against Paola, it was very different as three straight BHS turnovers let the Panthers have a 14-0 lead.
It didn't look good for the Bulldogs, but they bounced back.
"The kids knew what our game plan was and they followed through with it," said Berg. "We wanted to wear them down and we did. Our kids won't give up. They just keep fighting. The know we have a quick strike offense this year and they have all the confidence in the world in it."
After spotting Paola the 14 points, it was all BHS. On their first drive of the second quarter, the Bulldogs drove 71 yards in 11 plays. There was a good mix of the run and pass seven runs and four passes. Senior tailback Austin Inzer, a 6-foot-1, 180 pounder, ran it in from 14 yards out to cap the drive. Senior kicker Emery Baughan added the conversion and BHS had pulled to within seven at 14-7 with 8:04 left in the half.
That's how it would end, but Berg could tell his squad was well on its way.
"We knew at halftime we had the momentum," he said. "You could see it in their faces and Paola looked tired."
BHS wasted little time in the second half proving that. The Bulldogs stuffed the Panthers on the opening drive and forced a punt. Then, they took just six plays to move 60 yards for their second score. Klay Garrison, a 5-10, 185-pound junior, provided most of that with a 34-yard run. Quarterback Jeremy Wright, a 5-10, 140-pound junior, finished it off with a 16-yard touchdown run. Baughan's kick tied it at 14-14 with 7:57 remaining.
Paola couldn't muster much in the quarter from there and BHS had another turnover to leave the score tied heading into the final frame. Again, it didn't take long for the Bulldogs to take the lead.
After holding Paola on a fourth down, BHS took off on a seven-play, 73-yard drive. This time it was Wright with the lion's share of the work, with 60 yards of rushing -- including a 37-yard scamper -- mostly off the option. Garrison capped this one with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. A bad snap prevented the kick, but BHS had the lead for good at 20-14 with 9:14 left in the game.
Then the turnovers came, but this time it wasn't just BHS. First, Paola fumbled with senior Luke Halford recovering. BHS was driving after that for an insurance touchdown, but fumbled, too. Five plays later, Ricky Baker, a 6-0, 180-pound senior, stepped in front of a Paola receiver, intercepted the pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that sealed the win with just 1:56 remaining.
"The perseverance was incredible by our team," said Berg. "We just never gave up. We finally took advantage of some of their turnovers.
"We had the defense set to make them do what they didn't want to do and that's pass," he said. "We got an interception for a touchdown out of it. I can't say enough about our secondary. They had one of the greatest games I've ever seen."
BHS held Paola to 239 total yards while picking off two passes and coming up with the fumble. The Bulldogs had 293 yards in total offense, with most of that -- 249 -- coming on the ground. However, BHS had five turnovers.
Wright led the offense with 101 yards on 13 carries, but he was far from alone. Garrison had 58 yards on eight carries and Inzer had 55, also on eight totes. A total of six Bulldogs contributed yardage in the "running back by committee" employed this year, another difference in this year's squad.
"Klay had some big runs, Luke had a big run, Jeremy had some big runs, Austin had a big run, John Brown had a big run from the quickie back," said Berg. "We want to keep the defense guessing on who's going to get the ball."
BHS moved to 2-0 on the season with the win, while Paola fell to 0-2. Next up for the Bulldogs is the revival of the Wellsville rivalry at 7 p.m. Friday in Liston Stadium. Wellsville is 1-1 after beating Anderson County 14-0 last week.
"It's homecoming week and the kids are excited to play Wellsville again," said Berg. "It's been two years since we've played them and we've got a three-game winning streak against them. It's one of the biggest rivalries in the state of Kansas, or at least it used to be, and we're excited about playing them.
"They have eight returning starters on defense," he said. "They are very aggressive and good tacklers. They have held their opponents to 21 points. Right now their strength is their front seven. They play a 4-3 and like to take chances. Offensively, they run a Pro-I with a tight end, two wide receivers, a fullback and a tailback. They mostly like to run power sweep with a little option thrown in. They know how to win football games. They are well coached. They make the playoffs every year. We're looking forward to the challenge."