Baldwin overpowers Titans in quarterfinals
— By Ryan Atkinson
BALDWIN CITY, Kan — The size and power of the Baldwin Bulldogs was too much for the speed and precision of the Columbus Titans on Friday night.
Baldwin’s slow, deliberate, powerful single wing attack amassed 335 rushing yards and kept the ball out of Columbus’ hands. The Titans contributed four turnovers to the mix and couldn’t get their offense clicking until it was too late. The result was a 56-22 Baldwin victory that advances the Bulldogs to the Kansas Class 4A state semifinals. Columbus ends its season at 10-2.
“We just played flat and sloppy on both sides of the ball,” Columbus coach Sean Price said. “Of course, a lot of that has to do with Baldwin. When you only run nine plays in most of the first half, it’s hard to get things going.”
The Titans were playing without sophomore kick returner and reserve running back Wade Robinson. Robinson’s dad, brother and sister — who were on their way to the game — were involved in a two-car accident west of Louisburg. Robinson’s siblings were injured and flown to Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“That was tough on the team,” Price said. “We got a call just as we were getting into town and the kids took it pretty rough. It was emotional in the locker room before we even stepped on the field. We’re a family and if one of us hurts, we all hurt.”
Baldwin never really let Columbus’ high-powered offense into the game. The Bulldogs rushed 63 times and had the ball for more than 33 of the game’s 48 minutes. Jared Hall ran 38 times for 217 yards and five touchdowns while Sam Beecher picked up 153 yards and two scores for the Bulldogs. Beecher also added an interception return for a score.
“They run that single wing extremely well,” Price said. “That thing makes the wing-T look like junior high stuff. Then you throw in their linemen sitting there and 290 and 280 pounds ... they just blew us off the ball.”
Titan quarterback Corbin Stanley — who entered the game with more than 2,500 passing yards — was able to get the Columbus offense rolling the second half. He completed 19-of-34 passes for 230 yards and rushed for 97 more. He connected with Justin Pillar on a 40-yard touchdown pass and also had scoring runs of 7 and 58 yards.
“We did move the ball a little, but we couldn’t do it early enough to answer their first scores,” Price said.
Baldwin set the tone on the opening drive of the game. The Bulldogs marched 78 yards on 16 plays and ate up 7:10. The key play of the drive was a 7-yard pass from Beecher to Brandon Tommer on 3rd-and-6 from the Baldwin 39. It was the only pass Baldwin threw in the game.
“They throw one pass all night and we let them get seven yards when they need six,” Price said. “If they only have to throw on you one time, you’re in trouble.”
Columbus went three-and-out on its first drive and Baldwin took over again. The Bulldogs went 43 yards in 12 plays and took a 14-0 lead on Beecher’s 1-yard plunge.
Beecher added a 32-yard run on Baldwin’s next drive before Columbus fumbled the ball away and then allowed the Bulldogs to go 32 yards in eight plays for a 28-0 lead.
Columbus got on the board with an eight-play scoring drive of its own to cut the deficit to 28-6 at halftime, but the Titans could not build any momentum.
Stanley’s 3rd-down pass on the fourth play of the second half was tipped at the line of scrimmage, picked off by Beecher and returned 34 yards for a 35-6 Bulldogs lead.
“We had a couple of interceptions that hurt us, but Corbin’s just trying to make plays,” Price said. “You can’t fault him at all for those.”
The game marked just the second time in school history that the Titans played in the state quarterfinals. Columbus reached the round of eight in 1998.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these kids,” Price said. “Especially the seniors. Those kids worked so hard for four years. This definitely isn’t the way they saw themselves going out.”
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