One quarter and even one play can make all the difference in the world.
In the Baldwin Braves’ (2-1 region, 3-6 overall) case, those instances came the past few weeks at home against the Thomson Bulldogs and on the road in the Burke County Bears’ Den. Against Thomson, the Braves played poor football in the opening quarter and put themselves in a 29-0 hole. They climbed back into the ballgame, but not far enough to win it. Against Burke, Baldwin was up 44-22 late, needing to win big with the possibility of a three-way tie for first place in Region 3-4A looming. The Bears lost the game but scored a touchdown and two-point conversion late to make the final score 44-30. They went on the following week to beat Thomson 37-21, which put them in the driver’s seat for the region championship. Point differential among the three tied teams is used to determine where each finishes in the region. Heading into the final week of the regular season Burke stands atop the standings at plus-2 while Baldwin and Thomson are both minus-1. Thomson wins the tiebreaker over BHS having beaten the Braves head-to-head.
“We gave the region away. We literally gave the region away when we played bad football for a whole quarter,” Baldwin head coach Jesse Hicks said, referencing the Thomson game.
Had the 22-point Baldwin-Burke margin held true the Braves would be staring back-to-back region championship status in the face. Instead, they very well may have to hit the road come postseason time as a No. 3 seed. With Burke idle this week, Baldwin’s final fate lies in the Thomson-Richmond Academy game that will be played in Thomson Friday night. A Richmond Academy (also called the Academy of Richmond County, or ARC) win would make Baldwin the region champ and Burke the runner-up. A Thomson win solidifies Burke as the region champion and drops Baldwin down to third, presuming also that the Braves take care of business at home this week against Cross Creek, a team that has lost seven straight.
Cross Creek (0-3 region, 2-7 overall) won its first two games this season, but has spent its last seven contests in the loss column. The Razorbacks came close last week at ARC, losing only 20-14, but were blown out in the five losses prior.
“They’ve got some pieces,” Hicks said of the Cross Creek Razorbacks out of Augusta. “They’ve got a quarterback and running back that are real good. There’s a new coach and a new system in over there. They’re a bit frustrated because they haven’t won a whole bunch of games, but the big thing for us is the playoff mentality has got to be there. We need to go out there and seal this thing in the first half. Our kids are getting into that playoff mentality where they know that every play, every series, every quarter and every half counts. Our kids know how important it is — no matter who we’re playing — it makes a difference in how far we’re going to go and how long our season’s going to last. I think they’re in the right mindset.”
While Coach Hicks’ eyes will be on the field Friday night when his team is facing Cross Creek, his ears will occasionally turn to the sounds coming out of the Braves Stadium PA system where Thomson-ARC scores will be announced periodically throughout the night.
“I think ARC can beat Thomson,” said Hicks. “I think it’s going to take them playing a perfect game, but after you get through playing a four-quarter game and losing like Thomson just did it’s tough.”
The Braves will first need to take care of their own business against Cross Creek before worrying about any other outcomes. Kickoff between Baldwin and the Razorbacks is set for 7:30 p.m. inside Braves Stadium.