Bulldogs throw shut out at Wellsville
With a 27-0 shutout victory over arch-rival Wellsville Friday in the renewal of the long-time battle after a three-year absence, the Baldwin High School Bulldogs find themselves in a position not seen for two decades.
"We are excited to be 3-0," said BHS coach Mike Berg. "The last Baldwin team to be 3-0 was 1981 and that team went 13-0 and was state champion. There have been some pretty good teams since then, like the 1988 team that won its first game, but lost the next two, that went on to the state finals."
It was fitting that the 3-0 start came after the Wellsville game, which hadn't been scheduled for three years. The proximity of the towns has always made it a battle for bragging rights. Berg was glad to see it back on the slate this year.
"Yes, I am," he said. "I think it's good for both communities. It's a fun game. When those two teams line up, they're going to play as hard as they can because they've got something to prove.
"There was a lot of intensity on both teams," said Berg. "We knew it was going to be that way because of their defense. We also knew we would get some big runs out it. That's going to happen when a defense gambles."
BHS wasted no time in establishing dominance. The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and drove 63 yards in 10 plays. All but one of the plays were runs, but the pass from junior quarterback Jeremy Wright to junior Aaron Hannon covered the bulk of it with 42 yards. Senior fullback Luke Halford covered the last four yards for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
"Jeremy had his best game passing and Aaron caught a big one there," said Berg. I think our passing game is getting better. It's something we need to continue to work on, but it's getting there."
Just four minutes later, it was 14-0. This time the Bulldogs used the run exclusively on a six-play, 57-yard scoring drive. Wright was again responsible for the biggest chunk of it, running for 34 yards on an option play that also had a face-mask penalty added to it. This time junior Klay Garrison did the scoring honors with a 1-yard plunge. Senior Austin Inzer ran in the conversion and BHS had its 14-point margin with 3:13 left in the quarter.
A rash of fumbles stymied both teams for awhile, but the Bulldogs got back in the scoring act midway through second quarter with a 71-yard drive that took seven plays. A big run by junior John Brown covering 26 yards, another Wright-to-Hannon hookup of 22 yards and another option run of 19 yards by Wright accounted for most of the yardage. Halford ran it in from two yards out for the touchdown, which gave BHS a 20-0 halftime lead.
Wellsville mounted its only drive of the night just before halftime. At the nine-yard line, the Eagles completed a pass, but the receiver fumbled. However, an inadvertent whistle stopped play. After much discussion, Wellsville chose to do the down over. It was another pass, but this time Halford, a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker, intercepted it. BHS started a drive from there, but ran out of time and the 20-point lead stuck.
Another turnover and a corresponding dose of Wright closed out the scoring just into the second half. On Wellsville first drive, Wright picked off a pass and returned it to the 47-yard line. After a one-yard run, Wright then busted open another option play and raced 52 yards for the final score. Emery Baughan added the extra point and the final 27-0 margin was in place with 9:46 left in the third quarter.
From there, the two defenses slugged it out, but Baldwin had put enough points in the bank to easily capture the win. The Bulldogs outgained the Eagles 305 to 118 yards on the ground and 419 to 138 in total yards. But, it wasn't all rosy for BHS. There were four fumbles, only one of them lost, and eight penalties.
"They have a really good defense," Berg said of the Eagles. "It's hard to tell where they were going to be on each play. I feel like we took a step back offensively. We had some fumbles and missed a lot of blocks because they were in different spots and we thought someone else would block them.
"I thought defensively we played our best game of the year, allowing them only 53 yards in the first half is pretty good," he said. "We'll take that any day. We want our defense to get us the ball and they did that. I'm waiting for the game where our offense and defense both play well. I want full-game execution. No turnovers, no penalties."
Wright ended up with 133 yards on 14 carries and was five of 13 passing for another 114 yards. The Bulldogs' committee of running backs was again at work with 10 ball carriers. Garrison led the group with 80 yards on just nine carries.
Now at 3-0 on the season, BHS will set its sights on another Class 5A team, the third 5A team in four weeks, at Louisburg Friday. The Wildcats are 2-1 after beating banged-up Ottawa 21-12 last week.
"There's no way we can say we're underdogs anymore," said Berg. "People are gunning for us. Louisburg will be a handful. They are very well coached, simple, but effective. They don't use much razzle-dazzle, they come right at you with power, option and traps. Their strength right now is their offensive linemen. They are huge. They've got a 6-6, 310-pound kid and two that are 6-3, 270. We've got our work cut out for us this week.
"Defensively, we don't know what they're going to do," he said. "They've been in a 4-4, 4-3, 5-2 and a 5-3. They are very multiple. That's why they've had success. We want to keep them guessing. That's been our game plan from the start. We have a lot of running backs who can get it done. We're going to adjust our game plan to what's going to work."