The Baldwin Braves (1-0 region, 1-0 overall) got their season started on the right foot last week.
A late Westside Seminole surge was kept in check as Baldwin came away with the 35-28 opening victory.
BHS head coach Jesse Hicks was happy with many aspects of his team’s performance given the late start to the season, including their conditioning.
“I always knew we were well-conditioned,” Hicks said. “I know they (Westside) ran the ball on us a little bit late, but I don’t think that had anything to do with conditioning. A lot of it was just mindset because we are playing a bunch of young kids who have never really played varsity football. I expected some of those things in our first game of the season. I thought our kids were really aggressive too, which I was glad to see.”
Contributing to that conditioning was the fact that the Braves did not have to lean on just a couple of players to do all the heavy lifting. At least eight different guys got touches offensively rushing or receiving, led by junior Jeramiyah Scott’s 108-yard rushing performance. Nearly every player who got the football turned in at least one chunk play on opening night.
“I thought the first half was some of the most exciting football I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been here,” said Hicks. “You could see a difference in our speed versus theirs. We’re so good at our skill positions that it’s hard to just feed one person. Hats off to Coach [Jamoski] Ward (BHS offensive coordinator) and all the offensive coaches. They really did a good job of spreading the ball around.”
Baldwin is getting ready to face a team with the exact opposite offensive philosophy in the 1-3 Rutland High School Hurricanes (0-1 region). The Macon school has been riding senior running back Jessie Phelps Jr. through its first four games, and, according to stats on MaxPreps, has already surpassed 1,000 yards rushing this season. Right now Phelps leads the entire state, regardless of classification, in the rushing yards category.
“I think the kid’s a good running back,” Hicks said. “He’s a load and runs real hard, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that they give the ball to him so much. When you watch film, he really sticks out because he and the quarterback are the only ones touching the football. We’ve put a No. 34 (Phelps’ number) on the field at practice so our defense can work on identifying where he is. Our kids have been watching film too, so they know who he is and what plays they run.”
Phelps has two 300-yard rushing games under his belt this season along with a 247-yard effort. Those astronomical numbers were brought back to Earth last week when Rutland opened region play against Perry, but he still posted a respectable 127 yards. Numbers are great, but they have so far only translated to one win over Class A school ACE Charter. Lack of options seem to be hurting the green-and-orange Hurricanes, so stopping Phelps will be paramount if Baldwin wants to move to 2-0 in this year’s region-only schedule.
“We’ve got business to take care of and a W to get,” said Hicks. “We’re not going to look at their record. We’re going to watch the film and get prepared.”
Friday’s Baldwin at Rutland matchup is being played at Macon’s Ed Defore Sports Complex located at 2851 Heath Road. Tickets are not being sold at the gate, so fans should go to the GoFan app or gofan.co to purchase admission for $10. Only clear bags are being allowed into the stadium.
Kickoff between the Braves and Hurricanes is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday.