Passing attack leads Bulldogs
OTTAWA -- Baldwin High School senior Aaron Hannon was too much for the Ottawa High Cyclones as he helped the Bulldogs beat the Cyclones in convincing fashion, 55-27, here Friday night.
"We felt good offensively, but not defensively," coach Mike Berg said. "It's like we can't put both sides of the ball together in one game. We just played a great game against Louisburg defensively and now our defense doesn't show up Friday. I feel good about our offense, but we've got to fix our defense now."
The win improved Baldwin's record to 4-1 on the season and sends Ottawa to 2-3.
One reason for the defense's struggles was that Ottawa's Michael Espinosa, an offensive guard last year, played fullback Friday.
"They put a fullback in there that we weren't ready for, who was their guard, and he ran hard," Berg said. "We've got to learn to tackle low on a fullback that big."
Senior Jeremy Wright agreed, saying Espinosa was hard to tackle at 220 pounds.
"They stuck a new running back in there and he was a load to tackle," Wright said. "They kind of threw us off our game a bit."
Hannon caught seven passes for 190 yards and scored three touchdowns in the victory.
"We just realized the corners couldn't match-up with us and we used that to our ability," Hannon said. "Jeremy (Wright) was throwing really well tonight."
Wright agreed about the defense not being able to match up on the Bulldog receivers.
"They manned up on our receivers and our receivers just athletically outmatched them, especially Aaron (Hannon)," Wright said.
Berg said the team realized how many players Ottawa was placing at the line, so the Bulldogs dropped back and passed over them.
"They had a bunch of guys up on the line of scrimmage along with two linebackers to stop our running game," Berg said. "We were able to pass and I don't think there is anyone who can cover Aaron Hannon one-on-one."
Both teams sputtered on their opening possessions as Baldwin went three-and-out while Ottawa fumbled on its first play. The Bulldogs took advantage of the fumble when Wright hit Hannon on a 26-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead.
After another turnover by each team, Ottawa tied the game on a 17-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs then turned the ball over again on a fumble. Ottawa converted it into seven more points with a 36-yard touchdown run. The Cyclones took a 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Baldwin answered back with an eight-play drive that covered 63 yards. It was capped off with a two-yard touchdown run from senior Klay Garrison that tied the game 14-14.
Berg said the Bulldogs' offense was able to do what it wished, but its defense struggled early on.
"I thought offensively we did pretty much anything we wanted to do," Berg said. "We had a couple turnovers that hurt. Defensively, we didn't tackle very well."
Then Ottawa fumbled the snap on its own 30-yard line and Baldwin scored another touchdown one play later. Wright again found Hannon for a 30-yard touchdown.
Baldwin added two more touchdowns before halftime. Senior John Brown broke a 49-yard run for a score. Wright and Hannon hooked up for a third touchdown that went for 28 yards. The Bulldogs held a 34-14 lead with 55 seconds left in the half.
"I thought our receiving core just did awesome," Berg said. "Aaron Hannon had probably the best game of his career. He found the open spots on the field and Jeremy (Wright) was able to hit him. Our passing game was super."
The Cyclones busted a 59-yard run to start the drive. Then they marched down in five plays and closed the lead to 34-21 with 13 seconds remaining in the half.
"We made some mistakes of letting them score that easy in the first half," Hannon said. "We just weren't focused and we weren't doing our jobs. We just weren't doing the fundamentals."
Ottawa then closed the lead to seven points on its opening possession of the second half. It scored on a 55-yard touchdown pass to make the score 34-27. But that would be the final points of the game for Ottawa as Baldwin finished the game with 21-unanswered points.
"We needed a strong start in the third quarter to dictate the rest of the game," Wright said. "It was important that we came out strong like that. It was big."
The Bulldogs scored on three touchdown runs in the second half. Garrison, Brown and junior Aaron Mills each added scores for the Bulldogs.
"It was a sloppy win, but all that counts is that we won," Wright said. "We are happy to get the win."
Berg was pleased with the production of the offensive line.
"I thought up front that Luke Weaver had one of his best games," Berg said. "The offensive line blocked well for the passing game. But it was an overall team effort."
Ottawa was the second Class 5A team Baldwin has defeated this season. The Bulldogs defeated Gardner 50-28 the first week of the season.
"We are 2-1 versus the 5A schools and we hope Louisburg can beat Paola this weekend and we can share the league title," Berg said.
The Bulldogs play their homecoming game at 7 p.m. Friday night at Liston Stadium against Prairie View.
"We are glad to be home," Berg said. "We are 4-0 on the road and 0-1 at home. We want to give the home crowd a victory Friday night. We just need to take care of business."