Fumbling start for Bulldogs
10th annual Bulldog Bash and BHS season opener
Friday’s 10th annual Bulldog Bash brought yet another big crowd to Liston Stadium prior to Baldwin High School’s home opening football game. The fundraising event has brought many improvements to the Baldwin School District in the decade it has been going. BHS lost the season opener to Paola, 34-7.
Fumbling the kickoff return late in the second quarter seemed costly to the Baldwin High School football team.
Instead it was a glimpse of the future for the Bulldogs as they fell to Paola 34-7 in its season opener at Liston Stadium Friday.
“We couldn't hang on to the ball,” coach Mike Berg said. “We were bringing the ball away from our bodies. We need to secure the ball better. I want them to fight for extra yards, but not so hard that we are going to lose the ball.”
The two Frontier League teams exchanged touchdowns in the first half. Paola scored its second on an 11-yard run from junior Skylar Hawkins. Baldwin’s junior Ryan Rogers returned the ensuing kickoff, but fumbled and gave Paola the ball back on the Bulldogs’ 22-yard line.
On the verge of trailing by a pair of touchdowns before halftime, the Baldwin defense came up with a goal-line stand. The Panthers marched the ball to the Bulldogs’ 2-yard line, but time ran out before they could snap the ball on a third-down play.
Baldwin took that momentum and used it early in the second half. Two plays into the half, Hawkins fumbled and BHS senior Sam Foye recovered at the Panthers’ 45-yard line.
The Bulldogs then ran the ball three straight times as juniors Josh Hoffman and Landon Ausherman moved the ball to the Panthers’ 19-yard line. Then Ausherman fumbled and Paola recovered the ball.
“We go into halftime after a great goal-line stand down 14-7,” Berg said. “After the half, they turn the ball over and we got the ball on their 19-yard line. Then we fumble. If we tie it up there, I think the game goes down to the very end.”
Rogers went as far as to say the Bulldogs were beaten after that turnover.
“We came out with all of the momentum in the second half after stopping them with a big goal-line stand before halftime,” Rogers said. “Then we came out and fumbled the ball. It gave them the momentum right back. We lost the game right there.”
Momentum may have shifted away from the Bulldogs, but they forced Paola to punt the ball four plays later. Baldwin turned the ball over with another fumble.
Paola took advantage of the field position and scored a touchdown in three plays. Hawkins ran 9 yards for his third of five scores Friday.
“We had too many turnovers and penalties,” Berg said. “We’ve got to correct those mistakes.”
The Bulldogs weren’t done turning the ball over yet. Three plays after the kickoff, Hoffman rushed for 12 yards, but lost the ball at his own 42-yard line. The Panthers once again turned that into a touchdown – in two plays as Hawkins ran 38 yards into the end zone.
“The turnover bug kind of hit us Friday,” Berg said. “It doesn’t matter who you play in football, if you put the ball on the ground eight times it’s going to kill you. I know we didn’t lose all eight, but it’s hard to recover mentally. It’s also hard to keep your defense on the field for that long against a good football team. I did see a lot positives we can build on and a lot of negatives that we need to fix.”
Baldwin did have one drive at the end of the game. It ended at the Panthers’ 12-yard line with a sack. The Panthers ran the final 2:02 off to end the season-opening contest.
BHS ended the game with 193 yards of offense, all on the ground. Hoffman led the team with 89 yards on 15 carries. Ausherman rushed seven times for 56 yards, while Rogers carried the ball 18 times and gained 47 yards.
“Josh Hoffman played superb at quarterback,” Berg said. “He also had 17 tackles on defense. He had an outstanding football game. He led us in rushing, too. He averaged more than 5 yards per carry as our quarterback.
“Our goal is to spread the ball around this year,” he said. “We’re going to see how many guys we can get involved with the offensive load. That will make it tougher on the defense.”
Baldwin’s second game of the season won’t be any easier. BHS will play host to Gardner-Edgerton at 7 p.m. Friday at Liston Stadium.
“It’s going to be an extremely tough game,” Berg said. “They look great on film. They’ve got size and speed. We told our team that great teams improve the most from week one to week two. We’re concentrating on ourselves and fixing our mistakes this week.”
Rogers said the Bulldogs will be ready, but they must stop the turnovers.
“I think we’ll be really ready to go this week,” he said. “We’re preparing really hard for Gardner. We’re excited to play them for the last year. We’re ready to come out and play, as long as we hold on to the football.”