2011-08-31 / Sports

Bears pound Baldwin to win opener

By Anne Marie Kyzer annemariek@thetruecitizen.com


The Bears storm onto the field to open the season. The Bears storm onto the field to open the season. The Bears opened the season last Friday with a win that catapulted them to the No. 2 spot in some state Class AAA rankings.

Burke County High School overpowered reputable Baldwin High 31-14 in a victory that gave Bear fans even more to talk about considering the hype surrounding this year’s team.

“The biggest thing that stands out to me is that this was probably the best collective effort, of offense, defense and special teams, we’ve had in recent history,” Head Coach Eric Parker said. “To me, that’s the difference between a good team and a championship-caliber team.”

Burke County grabbed the momentum from the opening kick when Antwan Walker returned the ball 90 yards to score 10 seconds into the game.

“That was a welcome surprise,” Coach Parker said. “We tweaked our kick return this week and it paid off like a charm. Now, we have our number one guys wanting to be on special teams for the chance to make a big play.”


Sophomore Untorrey Thomas sends the ball past a Baldwin defender to score on a 26-yard field goal. He also hit all four PATs that night. Sophomore Untorrey Thomas sends the ball past a Baldwin defender to score on a 26-yard field goal. He also hit all four PATs that night. The Bears played with similar force for four quarters, with their defense denying Baldwin all but 25 yards on the ground and picking off their veteran quarterback three times. The Bears moved to a 3-5 defense two years ago under the leadership of now-defensive coordinator Michael Youngblood, and their proficiency with it showed Friday night.

The Braves didn’t muster a single yard on punt returns either, despite having a first team all-state punt returner. Two of the interceptions were courtesy of Burke County senior Montres Kitchens, who made major contributions throughout the game. He scored the Bears’ second touchdown, catching a pass from Corey Mayton and then shaking off tacklers until he crossed the goal line 30 yards later. Thanks also to a 26-yard field goal by sophomore Untorrey Thomas, the Bears were up 17-6 by halftime.

Despite a big pass play that landed Baldwin in the end zone and a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, the Bears had the speed and strength to keep the game in their hands.

Burke County scored twice in the fourth quarter thanks to an 18-yard carry by Orlando “Dre” Howard and Mayton’s keeper 4 yards out for the final touchdown.

Thomas was perfect for the night, hitting all four extra points as well.

Offensively, the Bears more than doubled the Braves yardage, finishing with 354 yards compared to Baldwin’s 175 and had possession of the ball twice as long.

When the two teams faced off in previous seasons, the games were close battles to the end but this one showed a Burke County team with speed and defensive ability that overwhelmed the Braves from the start. It was a welcome sight for many who considered this to be a real test from the previously No. 10 ranked Braves.

Still, the season has only just begun and there’s a long way to go until the playoffs.

“One thing we did last year was get better every week,” Coach Parker said. “ That’s something we have to do this year as well. One thing about these kids is that they have been focused and don’t have time to sit around and pat themselves on the backs. It’s still an uphill battle and we’ll be the big underdog in just two weeks at Lowndes County.”

BURKE CO. LEADERS

Rushing Mayton-17carries/105 yards Kitchens-9/59 Donquell Green-8/53 Howard-3/24

Passing Mayton-6/9 for 82 yards

Receiving Kitchens-3 catches/36 yards Jermaine Baxley-2/32

Punt Returns Green: 2 returns/50 yards

HARD HITS

The game proved to be even more physical than expected with a number of delays for downed Baldwin players.

Two Braves were spine boarded from the field and transported to MCGHealth Medical Center, and many local fans were left worrying about their condition. On Tuesday, one of the players, who suffered a concussion after being knocked out late in the game, had returned to school. He will remain inactive through the week and have a follow-up evaluation next week.

The other player, who was injured early in the game, suffered a spinal cord contusion and is still at home recovering. Fortunately, no permanent damage is expected. Many fans breathed a sigh of relief as he gave them a thumbs-up while being loaded in the ambulance on a stretcher.

PACKED HOUSE

The Bear Den was packed Friday night with fans clamoring to see hard-nosed high school football at its best and was one of the largest crowds recorded in more than 10 seasons. Coach Parkers said the huge turnout motivated the players even more.

“It makes them realize what they’re doing is important to the community,” he said.

HOLIDAY WEEKEND

The Bears will take Friday off and welcome Josey on Sept. 9 for their second game.

Return to top