Bulldogs lose battle in trenches
After a long, hard fought battle between linemen, the Baldwin High School football team fell one touchdown short of beating another Class 5A school Friday, as it lost 26-19 in its home opener to Paola.
"It was a war in the trenches," coach Mike Berg said. "It was their big guys versus our big guys. It was a fight and I was real proud of how our kids fought the entire game. We were up at one time, then got back down, but we never gave up."
Senior Klay Garrison said the Bulldogs played well, but just weren't able to stop the bigger team.
"We played to the best of our ability, but we learned what we needed to do against a big, 5A school," Garrison said of the Class 4A Bulldogs. "They are big, especially on the line. We also had some missed blocking assignments."
The Bulldogs had a hard time stopping Paola's rushing attack, as they gave up 331 yards on the ground.
"We had a feeling coming in that we were going to have to stop their quarterback," senior Jeremy Wright said. "They are very big up front and they used that to their advantage."
The Bulldogs started the game off with a bang, as they scored on their first drive. On the game's second play, Wright hooked up with senior Aaron Hannon for a 34-yard pass. The play set up a five-yard touchdown run by Wright.
"We felt like we could stay with these guys," Wright said. "It gave us some confidence."
Berg knew the first drive was important, but he said the Bulldogs' defense didn't answer the call after the score.
"I felt great," Berg said. "We did some things that we thought could hurt them. It was hard for us to get the ball back. Their drives were 15 or 17 plays. When you can do that as an offense and don't make mistakes, you will win a lot of games."
The Panthers marched down the field on their first drive to score a touchdown. The 17-play drive, which ate up 7:57 of the clock, was capped off by two-yard touchdown run from senior Matt Shay.
After the Bulldogs punted on their next possession, Paola once again began to march from its own 18-yard line. On the 12th play of its drive, Paola's quarterback, junior Jeremy Dilliard, fumbled deep in Bulldog territory. Baldwin sophomore Luke Weaver recovered the fumble at the Bulldog 18-yard line.
On the first play after the turnover, Hannon threw the ball to senior Ryan Jorgensen on a reverse pass. The play went for 47 yards. Later in the drive, a pass from Wright to junior Aaron Mills to the goal line was called complete, only to be overturned by another official.
"When they called our pass incomplete down at the goal line after they called it complete, it was a big momentum changer," Berg said. "It changed the whole momentum of the game. Two officials called it complete and one ruled it incomplete across the field. That really makes your team put their head down. We didn't do a very good job recovering from that call."
After the Bulldogs failed on a fourth down try, Paola drove down and scored a touchdown with 4.4 seconds remaining in the half to take a 13-7 halftime lead.
Paola struck first in the second half, as it took a 19-7 lead near the end of the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown run from Shay.
The Bulldogs twice turned the ball over in Panther territory. But early in the fourth quarter, Baldwin closed the lead to 19-13 with a two-yard run from Garrison.
Paola then sealed the game with a 14-play drive that took 7:01 off the clock and ended with a 21-yard touchdown run. The Panthers then led 26-13 with 1:56 remaining.
Baldwin tried to mount a comeback as it answered with a touchdown of its own. Wright connected with Hannon on a screen pass that went for 61 yards and a touchdown. The Bulldogs then trailed 26-19, with only 1:07 left.
"I knew the game wasn't over," Berg said. "I had all the confidence in the world we could go down and score, but we weren't able to get the onside kick."
The Bulldogs were unable to recover the onside kick and Paola ran the clock out to win the game.
"We had a lot of mistakes," Berg said. "We need to work on our tackling. We missed some blocking assignments. It's just little things we need to work on."
Despite the loss, Berg still loved the effort his team displayed all game.
"The effort was there the entire game," Berg said. "I am kind of disappointed with the outcome, because I know we are capable of beating a team that good. I think we are going to learn from it and fix our mistakes."
Berg said Garrison was able to make plays all night, especially on defense.
"Our linebacker Klay Garrison had 23 tackles," Berg said. "He had 12 solos and 11 assists. Our defensive lineman did good filling the trenches, we just didn't make plays. Offensively, Jeremy Wright had another good game and Aaron Hannon had an awesome game receiving."
Berg knew his team would be undersized, but he said the Panthers are a quality football team.
"It's the best Paola team I have seen in years," Berg said. "They are very good. They are just so big up front. They are going to be hard for people to stop."
The Bulldogs next game is at 7 p.m. Friday at archrival Wellsville.
"We're just going to try and fix our mistakes and try and get over that loss," Berg said. "They are big like Paola so we have another big team."