11 seniors set to lead Baldwin High School football team’s defense of league crown
Baldwin High School football fans will get a peek at the team’s new offense when the Bulldogs take to the Liston Stadium field at 7 p.m. Friday for the annual purple-white game.
Coach Mike Berg’s 2014 squad went 6-4 and won a second-straight Frontier League title before falling to Fort Scott in the first round the 4A Division I playoffs. Eleven seniors and 30 lettermen return from that team, giving the Bulldogs plenty of experience.
The starters in the offense backfield are all seniors, although there has been some reshuffling of positions.
With his twin brother Jake missing the first seven games of the season last year, Joel Katzer started at quarterback, taking the majority of snaps in a single-wing or double-wing wildcat formation. He led the team with more than 1,800 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
This year, Berg has moved senior Garrett Burkhart to quarterback and he will take most snaps under center with the Katzer twins starting in a pro-set backfield behind him.
“Garrett has shown good leadership and toughness,” Berg said. “We won’t use the wildcat formation as much as last year.”
The formation with help with the offensive line, which returns senior sAlex Cigard and Tanner Schneider and junior Caleb Flory but must replace departed all-state lineman Christian Gaylord — now a red-shirt freshman offensive tackle at the University of Nebraska — and all-league performer Tyler Davidson. Berg said the formation will allow the Katzer twin who is not running the ball to block for his brother. Also getting minutes at running back will be junior Justin Howard.
“I really like our running back situation,” Berg said. “They run hard and should give confidence to our offensive line.”
Receivers will be Nick Pattrick, Ben Ogle and tight end Garrett Borth, a sophomore who transferred from Gardner in search of immediate playing time and whom Berg compares to former Bulldog great and now Kansas State freshman Dayton Valentine.
The defensive looks solid at linebacker with the Katzers back and the return at safety of Burkhart. Joel Katzer and Burkhart were first-team all-league selections last year. Burkhart finished the season with 53 tackles, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Katzer led the Frontier League champion Bulldogs with 79 tackles and eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Bulldogs will need three new starters to step up on the defensive line to join senior Alex Cigard. Sophomore Borth looks to be one of those starters. Berg said several players remain in the mix at cornerback.
Baldwin will open at home Sept. 4 against Basehor-Linwood, who bested the Bulldogs 20-17 in an overtime in last year’s opener. Berg looks for a tough game as the Bobcats return their quarterback who threw and ran well against his team a year ago.
Also helping the Bulldogs prepare for a tough Frontier League schedule will be non-conference games against Piper and Perry-Lecompton. As for the league, Berg said Paola will be a contender for the title, as always, and that Louisburg was a team on the rise.
The favorite, however, might be Ottawa, which is lead by junior quarterback Isaac McCullough. The Bulldogs will end the season in district play against league foes Cyclones, De Soto and Eudora in district play. The two teams with the best head-to-head records will move on to the playoffs. De Soto is returning a lot of players and should be a better team, Berg said.