The second year of a two-year scheduling cycle doesn’t bring many surprises on the opponent front for 2021 Baldwin High School football, but the full schedule was finalized recently, so it’s time to take a look.
First, here’s a quick summary of last season. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with the 2020 slate after school officials decided to have Baldwin play only region opponents in most fall sports, football included. That forced the Braves to begin their season more than a week into October when the normal opening week is usually around mid- to late August. Baldwin finished its shortened regular season at 4-1, taking second in Region 4-4A behind Perry. A comeback win against Thomas County Central to open the playoffs propelled BHS into the second round where the team lost 8-0 at Carver-Columbus. Though short of the ultimate goal, head coach Jesse Hicks’ team did get at least into the second round for the fourth time in four tries in his second tenure here.
The only changes from last year’s original schedule come in the first couple of weeks. Baldwin’s preseason scrimmage will be Thursday, Aug. 12, at Dacula before the Aug. 20 season opener versus Liberty County. The Panthers of southeast Georgia have largely been a winning program since 2006, but were just 2-4 last season. The 3A school was knocked out of the playoffs by Central-Macon in the first round. According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, this year will bring only the third meeting between Baldwin and Liberty, and the first since 2009. The Braves won both prior contests.
The remainder of Baldwin’s 2021 schedule is made up of opponents the team was scheduled to face last year. The rivalry with Washington County (6-5 last year) continues Aug. 27, in Sandersville. Coach Hicks often likes to schedule teams that will prepare his team, not just for region play, but for the postseason, and he will have that in back-to-back weeks against the Golden Hawks followed by a Sept. 3 game at Ware County. The 5A Gators were 10-2 in 2020, including a run to the quarterfinals where they lost to Cartersville by just a field goal. Ware’s only regular season loss came against 2020 5A champion Warner Robins, 22-19.
The Braves’ non-region slate concludes Sept. 10 against Southwest-Macon for BHS homecoming 2021. The AA Patriots of Macon were just 1-5 last year and missed the playoffs.
Baldwin gets an off week before heading to Macon Sept. 24 to face the Westside Seminoles, who were 5-5 and fourth in the Braves’ region a year ago. BHS won last season’s meeting 35-28 at home in the game that served as its opener following the delayed start. Rutland comes to Milledgeville Oct. 1 to continue region play. The orange-and-green clad Hurricanes won only one ballgame last year, and that came against single A ACE. The Braves will have West Laurens on the road that following week. That matchup last year went 19-13 in Baldwin’s favor thanks to some late-game heroics by current University of Georgia Bulldog Javon Bullard. West Laurens was 5-5 overall last year, taking third in the region before losing to Cairo to open the postseason.
BHS will host Howard Oct. 15 to keep the region slate rolling. Those two teams did not meet last year due to COVID concerns on Howard’s part, marking the only region cancelation Baldwin experienced. The Braves then travel to Spalding (a 35-0 win for BHS last year) for their penultimate game of the 2021 regular season.
After a strategically-placed off week, Baldwin is set to host Perry High School for Senior Night on Nov. 5. That’s a game the Braves will surely have circled following last year’s debacle on the road. The Panthers’ go-ahead field goal late appeared to sail wide right, and video shows the entire Perry team reacting as if it did. The referee ruled the kick good, though, giving Perry the 23-20 victory and the region championship. The Panthers (8-5 last year) went on to the state quarterfinals where they lost to Marist 36-7 while BHS was knocked out in the second round.
Baldwin football will take a couple weeks later this spring to prepare for the 2021 fall season, capped off by an intra-squad scrimmage, date to be determined.