BHS football team crushes Paola
PAOLA — Josh Hoffman and Ryan Rogers helped the Baldwin High School football team turn back the clock — two years — here Friday night in the season opener.
The pair of senior running backs provided most of the offense on the ground and through the air as the Bulldogs stomped Paola 32-14. The Panthers were ranked as high as No. 2 in some Class 4A preseason polls.
“It’s a humbling feeling, because the kids worked so hard in the offseason,” coach Mike Berg said. “They believed, trusted in the system and they executed. That was the difference tonight — execution.”
Friday’s system was the single-wing offense. In 2007, the Bulldogs ran the single wing all the way to the state semifinals. They used it in 2008 to an 8-3 record.
Hoffman, who ran the single-wing offense as a freshman and sophomore, was happy to be back running it Friday night.
“It feels like the Baldwin boys are back,” he said. “The single wing is back. It’s back. It feels like we are one big family right now marching down the field together.”
Hoffman and Rogers combined to score all five touchdowns Friday. After the game they were quick to give their teammates and offensive line the credit.
“Oh man, our offensive line tore it up,” Rogers said. “We need to do something for them.”
Hoffman quickly suggested something as the two backs laughed together.
“We may have to buy them pizza,” he joked.
Baldwin opened the game with a 75-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock. It was capped off by a Hoffman 8-yard touchdown run. He gave BHS an early 7-0 lead.
Paola intercepted a pass on the Bulldogs’ next drive. One play later, the Panthers’ star senior running back, Skylar Hawkins, busted a 51-yard touchdown run to tie the score, 7-7.
The Bulldogs responded with another scoring drive. It lasted nine plays and ate 4:31 off the clock. Hoffman broke a 30-yard run for the score and gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.
Near the end of the half, Baldwin added another touchdown. Hoffman threw a deep pass for Rogers, who caught it with a defender in his face before running into the end zone for a 63-yard play.
“I said we are going to spread it out a bit,” Berg said. “They had nine guys in the box, sometimes 10, so we have to be able to take advantage of that.”
BHS stuffed Paola on its next drive at the goal line to head into halftime leading 20-7.
“Our goal was to take time off the clock and keep the ball out of Hawkins’ hands,” Berg said. “We wanted to grind and pound all night. We’ve got the offensive line and big backs to do that.”
The Panthers added their second score during the middle of the third quarter. Hawkins finished a long drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. That would be the last time the Panthers scored in the contest.
Baldwin scored two more touchdowns to seal the victory. BHS answered Paola’s score with one of its own. Rogers threw a 43-yard pass to Hoffman to start the drive. Then Rogers found sophomore Dayton Valentine on an 8-yard pass on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Rogers scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run on the next play.
“It’s good to have a dual threat,” Rogers said. “We like to use both of us as quarterbacks. They don’t expect Josh to throw, because I threw most of the game. He throws better than I do.”
Hoffman sealed the game on a fourth-down attempt. The Bulldogs faced a fourth-down-and-1 at their own 39-yard line. Hoffman hit the hole in the middle of the field and soon left all defenders behind him. He broke a 61-yard touchdown run with 7:57 remaining in the game.
“All I saw was the linemen and then the hole opened,” Hoffman said. “Then there was nobody there. I was expecting to maybe gain 5 yards and then it just opened up. Once you see the open field, you just have to run. It was a great feeling.”
Berg was thrilled to win Friday, but he knows the team has room for improvement.
“It’s a good measuring stick,” he said. “Are we satisfied? No. We’ve got to continue to get better. I know the kids’ work ethic and they will keep working hard and getting better.”
The Bulldogs host Spring Hill at 7 p.m. Friday at Liston Stadium for their home opener. The Bulldog Bash will be that evening before the kickoff, starting at 5 p.m.
“We are ready for the Bash,” Hoffman said. “Their (Paola) home game was nothing like our first home game. It’s going to be crazy.”