Saturday’s season-opening bout against Washington County did not go the way the Baldwin Braves (0-1) had hoped, so they’ll look to rebound this week when they play on their home field.
Baldwin will have to do so against another tough opponent as the team is set to face its second straight opponent ranked eighth by the AJC in Class 5A Jones County. Friday’s Week 2 GHSA matchup between the Braves and Greyhounds of Gray will be played inside Braves Stadium.
BHS had a tough time last week defending WACO’s run-heavy, no-quarterback offense. Baldwin’s spread offense did not do much to help out as the unit posted just one touchdown in the 42-7 loss, and even that came just a couple of minutes before the final horn sounded. The season opener was played under some unusual circumstances at Mercer University in Macon after lightning forced the contest into an 11 p.m. kickoff. The two teams did not leave the field until after 1 a.m. BHS head coach reiterated that his defense is very inexperienced, returning only a couple of players with significant varsity reps.
“Our coaches are doing the best we can to get those guys ready to play ball, but there’s nothing like game reps,” Hicks said. “I think we’ve had a great week of preparation, the thing is, they’re just youthful so they haven’t been in those situations a lot.”
The Jones County Greyhounds (1-0) faced a similar scenario, although that came on their home field and it was Friday night. They opened up against the Howard Huskies of Macon, and like Baldwin and WACO, the game was pushed much later due to bad weather. Jones County scored 34 points to Howard’s 10 to get the win in Gray.
The Greyhounds are led by former Warner Robins head coach Mike Chastain, who helped take the Demons to the Class 6A state finals a season ago. Justin Rogers, Jones County’s former head, left to take the open position at powerhouse Colquitt County in South Georgia. The Greyhounds finished 2018 at 8-3 overall after getting knocked out of the first round of the state playoffs against Bainbridge. One of those eight wins came at Baldwin’s expense in a 41-17 decision played right down the road in Gray.
Jones County lost a couple of All-State linemen from last year to graduation but returns a big-time playmaker in 2019 senior wideout Jontavis Robertson. He finished 2018 just a couple highlight plays shy of 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns, earning him the attention of some big-name FBS programs. Throwing his way will be senior quarterback Hunter Costlow who finished with 30 touchdowns to just eight interceptions as a junior. The mostly inexperienced Baldwin secondary will need to keep that Costlow-Robertson connection in check if they want to help the team earn its first win of 2019.
“I think we match up with anybody in our region and across the state when it comes to skill kids,” Hicks said. “At the end of the day it’s about us and our execution and how hard our kids are willing to play and I think they’ll do that. They (Jones County) are going to throw the ball around a bunch, so our kids just have to be ready to tackle in space and make plays on the ball.”
BHS is on top of the overall series with Jones County, owning a 9-5-3 record, though last season was the first time the two teams met since 2007. In Coach Hicks’ first Milledgeville tenure his teams went 5-1 against the nearby school.
Friday’s kickoff between the Braves and Greyhounds is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.