Bulldogs hold off Kaws’ attack
Perry Momentum was gained and lost multiple times here Friday night in a thrilling high school football game.
There was a 21-point beginning, a 28-point string in the middle and a 14-point ending to the Class 4A district contest. Throw in the mix a few turnovers and highlight reel plays and it was a recipe for a wild night of football.
It was Baldwin High School who gained the final momentum swing with an eight-minute, fourth-quarter drive. It was just enough for the Bulldogs (7-1) to defeat Perry-Lecompton(5-3) 35-28.
“It was a momentum-changing game,” BHS coach Mike Berg said. “It went back and forth all night. That was some good high school football tonight.”
The most stable quarter of the night was the final one. Most of that was because of Baldwin driving 83 yards in 15 plays. The drive ate up 8:11 of the fourth quarter clock and gave BHS a 35-28 lead.
Baldwin primarily ran the ball on the drive, but it needed two big plays to keep the drive sustained. Senior Sam Beecher completed a 31-yard pass to senior Clad Kueffer early in the drive on a third down and 13. Sophomore Landon Ausherman converted a fourth-down conversion on the ground. Ausherman also finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
“It felt really good to get the win,” Beecher said. “The game was a roller coaster as each team had their highs and lows. We were playing better at the end and sometimes it matters more how you play in the fourth quarter than the previous quarters. We finished really well and ended on a high note.”
Perry-Lecompton tried to mount a comeback to tie the game. However, Kaws’ quarterback Shane Gimzo only completed two passes and was sacked twice by the BHS defense.
Baldwin took possession of the ball and ran out the remaining 1:11 on the clock. The victory was enjoyed by all of the Bulldogs.
“It feels really great,” senior Ethan Hebenstriet said. “I’m proud of the defense and offense tonight. We call really came together tonight to get the win.”
Fellow senior Andy Thurlow said the Bulldogs were wary of Friday’s game all last week, so the win felt incredible.
“Oh my gosh, this was a great win,” Thurlow said. “We were dreading this game all week so this feels amazing. To come out on top feels great.”
Thurlow sparked the Bulldogs’ defense with two takeaways in the third quarter. After a short punt by Baldwin gave the Kaws the ball at the BHS 42-yard line, Thurlow recovered a fumble at the BHS 39-yard line.
The fumble recovery began to change momentum as Baldwin picked up a first down. Then Baldwin punted and pinned the Kaws at their own 4-yard line. On the ensuing play, Thurlow intercepted a tipped pass at the 25-yard line and re turned it to the Kaws’ 2-yard line.
“It felt so good,” Thurlow said. “I thought I was going to have a touchdown, but I got tackled right at the end. It was a big play in the game, though.”
On the very next play, Ausherman powered his way in for a 2-yard touchdown run. His score tied the game at 28-28.
Perry-Lecompton nearly drove right back down the field to take the lead again. The Kaws drove 67 yards deep into Baldwin’s territory. The Bulldogs’ defense hung tough as it dropped Gimzo for a loss on third down at the 3-yard line. On the Kaws’ fourth-down attempt, BHS junior Sam Foye sacked Gimzo for a 12-yard loss.
“We told our linemen at halftime that we were going to put the game on their shoulders,” Berg said. “We needed to control the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. I thought we did that pretty well in the second half.”
Baldwin’s offensive line paved the way for the Bulldogs’ early success in the first half. They took the opening drive 70 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Beecher carried the ball every play on the drive and he finished it off with a 12-yard run for the score.
“After watching the Eudora film against Perry, coach saw the No. 2 backs could run against them,” Beecher said. “He thought I could do that on the first drive. It’s nice to know he had confidence in me like that.”
After forcing a Kaws’ punt, Baldwin scored in two plays. Beecher broke a 91-yard scamper for the Bulldogs’ second touchdown in the first quarter. For the night, Beecher carried the ball 30 times for 259 yards.
Ausherman then intercepted Gimzo on the Kaws’ first play from scrimmage after the BHS touchdown. Baldwin took advantage of the turnover by marching 65 yards in 13 plays. Beecher found junior Camdon Schwartz for the 3-yard touchdown. That gave Baldwin a 21-0 lead with 6:45 remaining in the half.
“In the first quarter, we came out and ran all over them,” Thurlow said. “We might have got a little too cocky and they came back on us. After that, it was a dog fight.”
The contest soon became a battle as the Kaws scored a trio of touchdowns during the next 6:45 to tie the game before halftime. Berg said he expected them to rally, but he also expected the Bulldogs to keep producing offensively. During that stretch, Baldwin had a short punt and a fumble on a kick off.
“I thought we had a good game plan against them and they adjusted well,” Berg said. “They are very shifty on defense with a lot of team speed. We weren’t able to pick them up with our blocks.”
The Bulldogs said the coaches challenged them at halftime and it worked.
“We got a little cocky after the first quarter and they showed they could put points on us really easily,” Beecher said. “At halftime, the coaches told us we aren’t as good as we think we are so we’re going to have to come out and play tough. That’s pretty much what we did in the second half, even though we gave the ball to them on a turnover and the had a long kick return.”
Baldwin came out in the second half and won the game to earn its second district victory.
Now Baldwin will finish district play at 7 p.m. tonight at Eudora.
“We’ve got a short week,” Berg said Friday. “We have some bumps and bruises we are going to have to heal up really quickly.”