Baldwin returns to conference action at Canon-McMillan
Following a grinding stretch of midseason matchups, the Baldwin Fighting Highlanders took a break from their conference schedule to visit Fox Chapel last week.
The local squad (2-5, 1-5), which plays at Canon-McMillan this Friday at 7 p.m., rallied from 10-0 and 20-13 deficits to win, 27-20, thanks to 14 unanswered points in the decisive fourth quarter.
Baldwin's veteran head coach, Jim Wehner, was proud of his team's overall performance.
“We did not quit; the kids played to the end,” Wehner said. “We did a lot of good things. We still need to work on the little aspects of the game.”
A blocked punt by junior defensive back Bill Howley triggered the Fighting Highlanders, who return to Quad Central Conference action at Canon-McMillan (1-6, 1-5) this week.
“Canon Mac has a few Division I prospects. They are big up front,” Jim Wehner, Baldwin's head coach, said. “They are playing well the last few weeks. It's tough playing on the road.”
Howley blocked and recovered a Fox Chapel punt at the home team's 15-yard line late in the first half.
“Howley did what he was taught during the week,” Wehner said. “We thought that we could block a punt against them.”
On the ensuing play, senior running back Dorian Brown bolted 15 yards into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns on the night.
Donald West, a sophomore linebacker, provided the spark after halftime with a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter, giving Baldwin its first lead at 13-10.
“West got to see that play all week in practice, and took advantage of the situation,” Wehner said.
Brown, who rushed for 137 yards on 22 carries, accounted for his second touchdown on a 20-yard run at the 8:46 mark of the fourth quarter.
On the season, he has accounted for 819 yards and nine touchdowns to rank among the WPIAL's leading rushers.
“Brown got the extra yards we needed,” Wehner said.
Junior running back Nick Barca tacked on the game-winning touchdown on an 18-yard dash with four minutes left in the contest.
The Fighting Highlanders marched 80 yards in seven plays in 2:54 to score the game-winning points.
“Barca is starting to become the offensive player we thought he could be. He did a good job running the ball,” Wehner said.
Barca helped seal the decision by forcing a Fox Chapel fumble at the Baldwin 34-yard line late in the game.
William Jackson, a 6-0, 270-pound sophomore lineman, recovered the loose pigskin with less than two minutes showing on the fourth-quarter clock.
Barca was a terror on the defensive side, finishing with 19 tackles, including 12 solo stops, and two forced-fumbles.
Along with West, who had a fumble recovery to go along with his key interception, Barca was complemented defensively by Jackson (9 tackles), and senior linemen Zack Nieman (6 tackles) and Mainza Mweetwa (5 tackles).
“I thought (Luke) Smorey also made a few plays that put us in position to be successful,” Wehner said.
Fox Chapel fell to 1-6 overall with last week's loss.
Canon-McMillan lost at Woodland Hills last week, 45-16, as the Wolverines jumped out to a 38-7 halftime advantage.
It's been tough-sledding for the Canon-McMillan football program the past few years.
The Big Macs were 0-10 last year, preceded by a 1-8 campaign in 2010. The only teams they have beaten in the past three years are Plum, which is 0-7 overall this season, and Butler, which finished 0-9 overall in 2010.
This year, the Big Macs opened up with successive games against three of the WPIAL's most successful football programs — Penn Hills, Upper St. Clair and Central Catholic.
“These things you can't control. You have to be ready to play,” Tim Sohyda, Canon-McMillan's head coach, said. “I tell the players you have to do the little things right.”
Despite the Big Macs' poor record, major college coaches are finding their way to Canonsburg.
One reason is Alex Paulina, a promising 6-foot-4, 293-pound two-way sophomore lineman. Senior lineman Torre Carr (5-11, 244) also is grabbing the attention of Division I colleges.
Senior tight end Alex Campbell (6-4, 232) placed fifth at 215 pounds at last year's PIAA wrestling tournament.
Two of the Big Macs' skill-position plaers are junior running back Deonte Kelly and junior quarterback Alec Hutchin.
Canon-McMillan has managed just 57 points this season, an average of 8.1 ppg, and has been shut out three times.
The Big Macs' are allowing an average of 35.9 ppg, one of the highest marks in the Class AAAA division.
SETON-LA SALLE at MOHAWK 7 p.m., Friday
Seton-La Salle plays its only nonconference game of the regular season this week against Mohawk in Lawrence County.
Mohawk is a member of the rugged Midwestern Conference, which includes the likes of undefeated Aliquippa and Beaver, and Beaver Falls, which is 6-1 on the year.
The Warriors (2-5, 2-4) lost at home to Beaver last week, 35-14, after slipping past Ellwood City two weeks ago, 28-21.
Seton-La Salle (6-1, 6-1) defeated Quaker Valley, 35-6, last week.
“Mohawk has played a brutal schedule, having played Montour and Aliquippa in recent weeks,” Greg Perry, Seton-La Salle's head coach, said. “They are a run-first team that uses many offensive sets.
“They seem to start a lot of young players and are in a playoff battle; it could be an interesting evening. And we have a long bus ride ahead of us so that won't help.”
Mohawk, which finished 0-9 last season with a lineup of mostly first-year starters, has been in a rebuilding mode.
“Last year, we were a young football team; we knew we were going to be building,” Joe Lamenza, Mohawk's head coach, said. “Every week we got a little bit better. We've got a year of experience under our belt. There's no substitute for experience.”
Mohawk, which has seven seniors on its 2012 roster, hasn't generated much offense this season.
The Warriors are averaging just 9 ppg while allowing 33.3 ppg, and suffered four consecutive shutouts to Beaver Falls (41-0), Montour (41-0), Riverside (27-0) and Aliquippa (48-0).
Shane McFarland, a 5-9, 165-pound junior, is the team's leading rusher.
On the opposite end, Seton-La Salle ranks among the leading scorers among Class AA teams with its 36 ppg average. The Rebels surrender 10.1 ppg.
The team's offensive field general is senior quarterback Luke Brumbaugh, one of the leading passers in the WPIAL. Brumbauch has thrown for 1,262 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Seton-La Salle was sparked last week by senior wideout Lou Rotunda, who reeled in 12 receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown to climb among the WPIAL's leading pass-catchers.
“Lou has been our go-to receiver for most of the season,” Perry said. “We knew he was capable. He seems to be playing with an edge since his dad passed. He's a good kid; we're happy for him.”
On the year, the 5-11, 200-pound Rotunda has nabbed 33 passes for 603 yards and six scores.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.