League race already in knots
Baldwin game takes on feeling of rivalry
It's the burning question for all Frontier League football fans in Douglas County: Is Friday night's game between Baldwin and Eudora the continuation of a rivalry?
While the Cardinals (4-1) are approaching Friday's game both as a rivalry game and an important league matchup, Baldwin Coach Mike Berg said he doesn't consider Eudora a rival but he is eager to have his team face the challenge of playing a top-notch opponent.
"We're going to treat it like another ballgame," Berg said. "Our big rival is Wellsville and we play them every year. Eudora is kind of an off and on deal but (our) kids are looking forward to playing a quality team and the defending league champions."
After playing strong defensively against Louisburg, Wellsville and Prairie View, the Cardinal defense will need to be in top form on Friday night at Baldwin (4-1), EHS Coach Aaron Barnett said.
"We need to shut down the run," Barnett said. "Every game is a big game for us and Baldwin is a rivalry game. The kids are definitely ready to play and we are anxious to meet the challenge."
Senior running back Tommy Shutt said that the rivalry is a major factor for the players on both squads.
"There is a little bad blood between us," Shutt said. "We want to go out and win because we have a rivalry with them. It would be great to beat them back to back years."
Berg, who is in his fourth season, said the game against Eudora should be a measuring stick for the Bulldogs. EHS played each of Baldwin's district opponents earlier this season.
"Eudora is a very good team and we will find out where we stand," Berg said. "I think we are balanced with defense and offense. If our offense plays better than our defense one game, the defense will carry us the next game."
The Bulldogs have 18 seniors on a team that is off to one of its best starts in recent years.
While last season's 41-21 Eudora victory over Baldwin guaranteed the Cardinals a piece of their first League crown since 1972, there are no such promises with a win on Friday. However, the game has serious Frontier League implications for Eudora and Baldwin, locked in a four-way tie for second place in the conference along with 5A Gardner-Edgerton (4-1) and Louisburg (4-1), who face each other in Louisburg on Friday night. All four teams are chasing undefeated Paola (5-0) but the Cardinals and Trailblazers will play their last Frontier League games while Baldwin, Louisburg, Paola and Spring Hill (3-2) will face each other in district play. Barnett said the league crown is awarded to the team with the fewest league losses so Eudora may not know its league standing until district play is completed. There is some good news for the teams near the league cellar. Wellsville (1-4) led 12-7 at Paola until the fourth quarter before losing 14-12. The Eagles will compete with schools of its own size when its 3A District play begins with Immaculata, Oskaloosa and Pleasant Ridge. The winless trio of Anderson County, Osawatomie and Prairie View will face each other and defending 4A champion Fort Scott in district play.
After spending almost equal time on the bus and the field last Friday night, Eudora is hoping for an even longer road trip at the end of the season. The Class 4A championship game will be Nov. 17 in the Wichita suburb of Goddard.
The Cardinals traveled to La Cygne last Friday night to play a Prairie View team that almost knocked off the Cards in a 23-22 squeaker last season. Although the Buffaloes put the same number on the scoreboard this year, the nature of Friday's 51-22 game was extremely different.
"We played pretty well and the main thing we wanted to work on was special teams," Barnett said. "Another area we wanted to work on was throwing the ball and Ronnie (Morelan) threw the ball well and we made some catches."
Eudora accomplished both of its goals as Morelan, 4-10 and 61 yards, tripled his season touchdown total with first quarter passes to senior receivers Brock Robson and Josh Bowser. Even sophomore backup quarterback Tyler Cleveland joined the action when he completed a two-point conversion play to junior running back Andrew Pyle, 19 rushes for 147 yards and one touchdown.
Bowser said that picking up a win on the road should boost the team's confidence for the remainder of the season.
"I think it gives us pretty good confidence," Bowser said. "Once we got started things got rolling and we couldn't stop it. It was pretty fun."
The Cardinals shined on the special teams front as Bowser returned punts of 53 and 67 yards for his second and third touchdowns of the evening. Shutt picked up the kicking duties for the Cards, connecting on 4 of 6 extra points and booting a 21-yard field goal through the uprights, the first three-pointer of the season for EHS.
Shutt said he enjoys his newly-acquired kicking duties after replacing senior running back/linebacker Zac Tyler.
"It's great," Shutt said. "I get kind of nervous but it is easy. I just take care of business."
Eudora also played a stellar defensive game as it held a 51-8 lead at the conclusion of the third quarter. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that former all-Frontier League running back and Prairie View senior Luke Page broke free for meaningless touchdown runs of 14 and 28 yards.