Baldwin High rides ancient offense to quarterfinals
By Chuck Woodling
No one can accuse Mike Berg of standing pat.
Now in his 10th season as Baldwin High's football coach, Berg threw away his playbook following a disappointing 4-5 season and installed the single-wing.
Yes, THAT single-wing, the high-button shoes offense that was popular when Baby Boomers were playing Little League football.
"Our kids have gotten used to it," Berg said.
Quick learners, the Bulldogs have parlayed that ancient formation into a 9-2 record and a berth in the Class 4A quarterfinals tonight against Columbus (10-1).
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at Liston Stadium.
Basically, in utilizing the single-wing, Berg is taking advantage of the Bulldogs' bulk up front. He has, in fact, enough sizable linemen to make many Class 6A coaches envious.
Seniors Jacob Enick (6-foot-1, 255), Beau Elder (6-4, 265) and Anthony Ciambrone (6-2, 255) are a load and a half. Then coming right behind them is blocking back Drew Berg, the coach's son, at 6-4, 195 pounds.
No wonder ball-carriers Sam Beecher, Jared Hall and Gabe Mason all have compiled more than 900 yards rushing apiece. Usually at the Class 4A level, a coach is fortunate to have one quality runner. Mike Berg has those three plus subs Chris Behrend and Zach Durr.
"The kids have been so unselfish," Berg said. "They knew our offense wouldn't have a superstar."
Meanwhile, Columbus has two superstars -- quarterback Corbin Stanley and wide receiver Tyler Fleming.
Stanley has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns while amassing more than 3,000 yards of total offense. Fleming has 52 receptions, including two for touchdowns in last Friday's 41-27 victory over Fort Scott that propelled the Titans into the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Baldwin hasn't faced such a prolific passing attack all season, and Berg does not regard his pass defense as a team strength.
"To be honest," he said, "that's probably where our weakness is."
Still, you can't score if you don't have the ball, and Baldwin's offense is geared toward eating the clock.
"That's our goal," Berg said. "We have to keep it on the ground, use the clock and speed up the game."
Both of Baldwin's defeats were to teams still alive in the playoffs. Gardner-Edgerton, a Class 5A school, edged the Bulldogs, 14-7, in the season opener. Four weeks later, Louisburg thumped them, 31-20.
If Baldwin defeats Columbus, the 'Dogs could face Louisburg (11-0) again in the semifinals. Louisburg will meet traditional 4A power Holton (10-1) tonight on the other side of the bracket.