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The Baldwin Highlanders entered the 2020 season ready to prove themselves at the highest level of the WPIAL.
After a promotion from Class-5A to Class-6A, with a new head coach in former Derry bench boss Tim Sweeney and Division I prospects in lineman Dorien Ford and wide receiver and defensive back Connor Lavelle, the Highlanders were ready for a new, tougher challenge.
But as the WPIAL enters the fourth week of its 2020 season, that hasn’t gone as expected for the Highlanders.
Their season opener against Mt. Lebanon wasn’t played after the Blue Devils shut down their training camp and delayed the start of their season because of positive COVID-19 tests, leaving Baldwin to play District 6 foe Hollidaysburg.
Then, a Baldwin coach tested positive, shutting the Highlanders down entirely for two more weeks.
In their WPIAL Class-6A opener against Norwin last Friday, the Highlanders looked very much like a team still finding its way after an unsettled early part of the season. After hanging touch with the experienced Knights early, Norwin wore out the Highlanders for a 28-12 victory.
“You usually have your biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2,” Sweeney said to PSN after the game. “For us, that didn’t happen.”
In reality, that Week 1 to Week 2 gap will come this week for the Highlanders, as they hope to be able to turn the lessons learned against the Knights around for a home date with the Hempfield Spartans.
“Our first game, we couldn’t even play a section game,” Ford said. “We had to play somebody un Hollidaysburg. It was different good that was our first official 6-A game as a Baldwin team. … A lot of our players were getting hurt and cramping up. They weren’t physically prepared. They stared losing their endurance because we weren’t with our team constantly, running.”
There’s no question that avoiding Ford, who recently committed to Pitt, was a big part of the Norwin offense’s game plan, with most of the Knights’ rushing yards coming on plays away from the 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive lineman. Norwin also seemed to get better as the game went on, using three rushers as the Baldwin defense tired.
Those are things to work on, but the Highlanders remain confident that once they get a second crack at the classification, they’ll be able to show they belong.
“I don’t really think there’s that solid of a team that could really beat us if we’re in a groove,” Ford said. “We’re kind of getting back into it.”