Columbus’ offense all too familiar for Bulldogs
Friday's opponent might be a new one for Baldwin High School, but its offense isn't.
BHS is trying to reach its first football sub-state game in 14 years. If the Bulldogs want to get there, their defense better learn from the previous two victories. The Bulldogs (9-2) face a Columbus (10-1) team coming off a 41-27 victory over Fort Scott.
Friday's contest will be one of four Class 4A sectional playoff games. The last time Baldwin and Columbus met, BHS won 50-19 in 1999.
"It's been a long time since we've been in the final four," coach Mike Berg said. "It's been since 1993. We're super excited."
Like the Bulldogs' previous two opponents, Columbus' offense spreads the field with an aerial assault. However, this might be the best quarterback the Bulldogs have faced.
Columbus' Corbin Stanley is averaging more than 230 yards per game as he has totaled 2,587 yards on the season. He has thrown 25 touchdowns and rushed for 784 yards through 11 games.
"They are like the past two teams we've played," senior Jesse Green said. "They like to spread you out, so we are really working on the pass defense. Most teams can hurt us with their passing, but we can stop the run really well."
Berg agreed with his senior linebacker and tight end.
"Pass defense and pass rush are our main focus," Berg said. "It's the same thing we've been working on for the past two weeks. Our kids are getting better and we need to get better, because they are a better team."
In the past two playoff games, Baldwin has faced a similar offense from Bishop Ward and Marysville. Baldwin only allowed seven points in each contest, but Berg knows Columbus is a more talented team.
"They are very athletic," Berg said. "They are a very good team. They have the same type of offense as Bishop Ward and Marysville, so we've had some practice against it. The Southeast Kansas Conference is very strong. They win a lot of games and we've struggled with them. We struggled to compete with Fort Scott and Chanute knocked us out one year. We have our hands full."
However, Baldwin also brings its powerful offense to the field. BHS has rushed for more than 300 yards in seven games this season. The trio of Bulldog running backs racked up 275 yards Saturday at Marysville.
Although BHS nearly ran for 300 yards Saturday, Berg said the team had too many mistakes. He has been working on fixing those this week.
"We are polishing the offense," Berg said. "We had too many mistakes against Marysville. We had two interceptions, a fumble and lots of penalties. We are just trying to fix our mistakes. We need to improve technique and fundamentals."
On Tuesday, he said the Bulldogs' practice was intense, because the players and coaches are ready to get to Friday.
"We are a little bit anxious, because we haven't had a full week to prepare in a while," Berg said. "Today at practice we were kind of anxious thinking we have to get all of this stuff in. We got after each other today. It was an intense practice. We were all screaming at each other because we want it bad. I just told everyone we have to be patient because we have a full week."
As far as team health, Berg said his team is in good shape, although some players are battling a slight case of the flu.
"We've got some sickness going around, but football-wise we are healthy," Berg said.
Friday's contest will be the first sectional game Baldwin has played since 2003. BHS lost to Fort Scott that game on the road.
This year's squad is ready to be back at Liston Stadium with the home crowd and artificial turf field.
"I like the turf," Green said. "It's nice. There aren't holes or bad spots like on other fields. It's a comfort zone for us. We are ready for the game. We want to keep our senior year going as long as possible. We don't want it to stop."
Even the coaches are ready for the game. Berg hopes the BHS fans will continue their great support Friday.
"We want to play every game at Liston," Berg said. "We've had a pretty good record there. It's exciting to play in front of the home crowd.
"Our fans traveled well down to Marysville and tomorrow is Purple Friday," Berg said. "We are trying to get as many people at Liston as possible and get them all in purple."
The Bulldogs and Titans kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday at Liston Stadium.