Bulldogs bully Blazers
GARDNER -- Baldwin High School's football team ran the ball down the throats of Gardner-Edgerton en route to a 50-28 season-opening victory here Friday night.
"It felt really good," senior Josiah Mason said. "My senior year and season opener, 50-28. It's the best way."
The Bulldogs rushed for 366 yards and four touchdowns on only 39 attempts to defeat the Trailblazers.
Coach Mike Berg enjoyed the feeling of an opening-night victory.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world," Berg said. "I am so proud of the kids. We worked hard. We had a lot of question marks coming in, and they answered them. We are not where we want to be, but we're real happy with the outcome right now."
Senior John Brown was happy the team came out and played for the entire game.
"I was really excited," Brown said. "We weren't flawless, but that gives us something to work on for next week. The team was just pumped. I think this is the first time in a long time the Bulldogs as a team have come out and finished a game."
Baldwin came out of the chute firing on all cylinders. It held Gardner on a fourth down-and-one on its first drive. It then took Baldwin four plays to score a touchdown. Senior Jeremy Wright hooked up with senior Aaron Hannon for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs then recovered a Gardner fumble a few plays later. The very next play, Wright ran 62 yards on an option for a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
Baldwin again forced Gardner to punt and would again score a touchdown on its next possession. Wright found senior Ryan Jorgensen for a 55-yard pass, setting up a five-yard touchdown pass from Wright to Brown. Wright then scored on a two-point conversion, giving Baldwin a 22-0 lead with 2:22 left in the first quarter.
"That's what we want to do," Berg said. "We want to get on top of people early so we can keep our kids fresh. We've got quality back-ups. We played so many kids tonight and our kids are healthy."
The Trailblazers did answer with a score of their own. GEHS junior Connor Bechard threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to junior Derek George to make the score 22-6.
Two possessions later, the Bulldogs drove down the field and scored on a six-yard touchdown run from senior Klay Garrison. The drive ate up 4:26 with nine plays.
Mason loved that the offense was able to score often during the game.
"Our offense worked extremely well together," Mason said. "We ran a lot of misdirection stuff and they couldn't keep up with it. We played with a lot of heart."
The Blazers again answered with an eight-play touchdown drive to make the score 30-12.
The Bulldogs then threw an interception when Garrison tried a halfback pass. The play was capped off with a personal foul penalty on the Bulldogs. Baldwin held Gardner on a fourth down deep in its own territory to end the first half.
Baldwin added two more touchdowns in the third quarter to put Gardner away. Brown and Wright each rushed for a touchdown, giving Baldwin a 43-12 lead.
Brown was also enjoying the success of the Bulldog's new offense.
"I was really excited about it, because it gives us a lot of versatility," Brown said. "We have four running backs, including Jeremy it can go to. You can't know who it's going to and it's unpredictable."
Gardner would score twice more while the Bulldogs scored once to finish the game.
Baldwin's new offense worked just as Berg hoped it would in a game.
"It just shined," Berg said. "It did everything I thought it could. I wasn't sure because it's a new system. But the kids picked it up quick. I just didn't know in a game situation it would work as well as it did."
One problem the Bulldogs did have was penalties. They racked up 19 penalties for 118 yards, many of which were at the line of scrimmage.
Brown said the penalties are in part because of the new schemes, but also being anxious about the first game.
"It was first-game jitters and a little bit of nervousness," Brown said. "We put in a real explosive offense and defense and that was part of the problem. It's just little technique things we've got to work on."
Mason liked how the Bulldogs came out and were a team, instead of arguing like it has in the past.
"We played as a team," Mason said. "We didn't fight in the huddles like we used to. We just worked together as one unit."
Berg said the team has been tweaking a few aspects of its game, while trying to figure out its next opponent's strengths and weaknesses.
Baldwin will play its home opener at 7 p.m. Friday at Liston Stadium against Paola. Before the game, the Bulldog Bash festivities will be running.