An opening sack by the Baldwin Brave defense set the tone against West Laurens on homecoming Friday night. Baldwin smothered the Patriots 29-0 to clinch a state playoff birth.
Braves head coach Dexter Copeland said the night's defensive effort was vintage Baldwin.
“It was a great game, probably the best they've played all year. We were really focused this week in practice,” Copeland said.
Baldwin High's defense kept them in control the entire first half. Quondarious Holsey recovered a West Lauren's fumble for a scoop and score taking the early lead.
Jaitavious Jackson harassed the Patriot quarterback early and often. West Laurens fumbled again at the 10:22 mark.
Baldwin took advantage of its second forced turnover to add touchdown number two. Deon Kelsey caught a pass over the middle and hit pay dirt pushing the Brave advantage to 15-0.
Back Kentavious Thomas revved up the engine dodging numerous tackles late in the second quarter. Thomas scored on a direct snap soon after.
The Braves turned the ball over at the goal line, but a touchdown saving tackle maintained a first half shutout 22-0.
Copeland said the defense had its feelings hurt lately, but turned the tide Friday.
“They had been a little embarrassed. They hadn't been playing defense the Baldwin way. The defense finally got back to it,” Copeland said.
The second half was all about clock control. Quentin Barfield flew around the third quarter recording eight tackles.
Both Kentarious Cooper and Quavez Hill dropped potential interceptions in the quarter, while the score remained unchanged.
Homecoming king Marcus English caught a crafty third down conversion, helping Baldwin sustain a clock drenching drive late in the fourth. The offense played conservative by design.
“I was disappointed in our offensive play. We cut it back because we knew our defense had it under control,” Copeland said. “We didn't want to turn the ball over deep in our own territory.”
With the game in hand, Jerrell Simmons converted a short fourth down to setup quarterback Tajhea Chambers. Chambers jetted 35 yards up field for the game's final touchdown.
Copeland said they would gladly take this win. More importantly the Braves still have an outside shot at hosting a playoff game.
The final region home game against Veterans next week determines a lot.
“We are in, but we still have a chance to finish second. That's going to be a big game,” Copeland said.
Thomas had 149 yards on 15 carries. Chambers threw for 165 going 12-for-20. The Baldwin quarterback also posted 15 rushes for 74 yards.
Kelsey caught four passes for 81 yards. Holsey pitched in four tackles on the night.
Baldwin hosts Veterans in the regular season finale next Friday with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.