Thrill of victory
Bulldogs chomp Chargers 62-10 to earn first win
CARBONDALE — As the old adage goes, it’s better late than never. That couldn't be truer for the Baldwin High School football team here Friday night.
A disappointing 0-6 start by the Bulldogs has a chance to be reconciled this week. After earning their first win of the season Friday, the Bulldogs are 1-0 in district play.
A win Friday over Perry-Lecompton (1-6) at Liston Stadium would guarantee the Bulldogs (1-6) a spot in the Class 4A playoffs in November.
“There are 64 teams in (Class) 4A and 32 of us are 1-0,” coach Mike Berg said. “Yeah, we are going to have confidence. We are one of the best 32 teams in the state right now. That’s the way I’m looking at it. Our preseason record is over. We’ve learned from it and gotten better.”
Baldwin earned its first victory of the season in convincing fashion. Although both teams entered Friday’s 4A district game winless, BHS came away with a dominating victory, 62-10.
“It was pretty exciting to get that win,” sophomore Will Simmons said. “We’ve worked all year and it finally paid off for us.”
Smiles could be seen from almost everyone on the Baldwin sideline during most of the second half as BHS had built a 42-0 halftime lead. The BHS players said they felt like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders after the victory.
“This just feels so great right now,” senior Sam Foye said. “I’m glad we finally got a win. It’s nice to start off districts with a win. We were able to get a good early lead and put them away.”
Santa Fe Trail was the fourth team Baldwin played this season that also entered the game winless. However, BHS lost to Spring Hill by eight points, De Soto by seven and Ottawa by 11. The difference Friday, according to Berg, was his team played well the entire 48 minutes.
“We played on both sides of the ball tonight,” Berg said. “Our defense played like it did last Friday and we got our offense rolling. I couldn’t be happier for the kids tonight. They’ve fought through adversity. We’ve been sick, we’ve had turnovers and we’ve missed tackles. They’ve come back every week, worked hard, gotten better and now they’re rewarded for it. I’m happy for them, because they haven’t quit on us.
“This was our most complete game of the season, by far,” he said. “Everybody did their job. We put in a new wrinkle in our offense and we executed. We kept the ball from rolling on the ground. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of them.”
Baldwin jumped on the Chargers quickly Friday night. BHS scored six touchdowns in the first half on 20 offensive plays. A pair of those touchdowns was scored by the BHS defense.
The Bulldogs set the tone early with a punt block after an SFT three-and-out. Sophomore Jake Mindez blocked the punt to give the Bulldogs possession on the SFT 12-yard line. Four plays later, junior Josh Hoffman scored on a 7-yard touchdown run.
Simmons intercepted the Chargers on their next drive. Mindez ran 31 yards on the next play, setting up another touchdown run for Hoffman. Both teams exchanged interceptions on the next two drives. Then junior Ryan Rogers recovered a fumble in the end zone to give BHS a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“We just played our positions tonight on defense,” Foye said. “We didn’t try and make huge plays. We just played our own spot.”
On Santa Fe Trail’s next punt, junior Will Von Bargen returned the kick more than 50 yards to give the Bulldogs great field possession. Three plays later, Mindez scored on a 2-yard run.
Baldwin scored 48 seconds later on a 39-yard interception return from Simmons. He jumped the route and took it the distance.
“We had a great pass rush and we worked as a team,” Simmons said. “I’m giving credit to the pass rush for my interceptions. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
The Bulldogs’ final score before halftime was a 3-yard run from Foye. It was his first touchdown on the varsity level.
“It was pretty cool to score,” Foye said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will. It was exciting.”
Baldwin opened the second half with a fumble. However, Mindez gave BHS the ball back with the team’s fourth interception of the night. Hoffman rushed in from 22 yards out on the next play to give Baldwin a 49-0 lead. He scored a few minutes later on a 12-yard run.
The Bulldogs’ final touchdown came late in the fourth quarter. Junior Jove Mortensen scored on a 15-yard run.
“This was an entire team victory,” Berg said. “Our offense was executing. We played great team defense and had a few interceptions. We almost ran back a punt. Everything was clicking tonight and I think the hard work is finally paying off.”
Friday was the first time freshman Tyler Cawley started as the Bulldogs’ quarterback. He switched series with Von Bargen for most of the game. Neither quarterback completed a pass, although they only threw three combined passes.
“I can’t say enough about our two quarterbacks,” Berg said. “They came in and knew they would be splitting series. They are total team players. They want to do what’s best for the team and they did that.”
Baldwin will host Perry-Lecompton at 7 p.m. Friday at Liston Stadium.