Baldwin continues ‘work in progress’ under 2nd-year coach Tim Sweeney

Friday, August 13, 2021 | 6:01 AM

Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview at least one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 27.

Year 2 of the Tim Sweeney coaching tenure at Baldwin takes place this fall.

There’s more of a comfort level this season for the coaching staff and players, which they hope will prove beneficial in the win column.

The Highlanders are looking to improve on last year’s 2-3 record and sixth-place finish in Class 6A.

“It’s a work in progress,” Sweeney said. “We don’t have any goals set. We just focus on the things that will help us be successful on Friday nights.

“We lost 95% of our offensive production from last year, and it’s always a concern replacing that. When it comes to ball protection, you can’t just turn it on and turn if off when you want to. We’re not battle-tested, so to speak.”

Because of covid-related postponements, the Fighting Highlanders played an abbreviated schedule of only five games in 2020.

After a promising 27-7 win Sept. 11 against Hollidaysburg, Baldwin went 1-3 in conference play with a victory against Hempfield, and loses to Norwin, Seneca Valley and Central Catholic.

The Fighting Highlanders have a full slate this season with conference games on tap against North Allegheny, Central Catholic, Mt. Lebanon, Seneca Valley, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield and Norwin.

Baldwin opens at Class 4A McKeesport (Aug. 27), at home against 5A Bethel Park (Sept. 3) and at 5A Upper St. Clair (Sept. 10).

Sweeney, who formerly coached at his alma mater Derry, is looking to reverse the recent trends of the Baldwin football program. The Fighting Highlanders have advanced to the WPIAL playoffs just three times in 15 years, and have logged 17 consecutive losing seasons.

Several players who stepped up to hold important roles a year ago are back this fall, including seniors Evan Lavelle (TE/LB), Kam Allen (RB/DB), Elijah Moore (TE/LB), Ben Tepsic (WR/DB), Nick Petrilli (WR/DB) and linemen Aaron Martire, Blaize Richards and Sean Haney; along with junior Bobby Benton (OL/DL) and sophomore Keith Mincin (RB/LB).

Mincin, who also wrestles, finished among the team leaders in tackles as a freshman linebacker. Offensively, Mincin and Allen aim to develop into a formidable one-two punch in the running game.

“Of the returning players, Kam Allen had the most meaningful touches for us last year,” Sweeney said.

The 6-foot-2 Lavelle, a third-year starter, has grown from a 173-pound junior to where he now weighs 185 pounds, and plans to continue to add bulk to his already-sturdy frame.

“I can’t wait to see what this season brings,” Lavelle said. “The summer practices are going by really fast and the season is around the corner. It will be exciting to see all of our hard work finally be put to the test when the pads come on.

“The expectation is always to win but as a team we want to improve in all facets of the game. We have a lot of strengths in our skilled players who for the most part are returning starters and great athletes. We have a young team so as a senior class we want to be good role models for the underclassmen, not only through our performance on the field but in the way we carry ourselves off of it.”

Sweeney acknowledged Lavelle as being one of the team leaders, much like his older brother was in the not-too-distant past.

“Evan is a leader by example,” the veteran field boss said. “He’s always first in line and he’s bought into the program.”

Two sophomores, Amara Sheriff and John Kozar, along with freshman prospect Jaden Duttine, have been vying for the quarterback job vacated by Colton Brain, who graduated.

Kozar and sophomore Evan Gude have joined Allen and Tepsic in the secondary, while senior Luke Kjelshus is a starter at linebacker. Two other integral defensive players are junior linemen Tyler Oliverio and Victor Iaquinta.

New starters on the offensive line include junior Logan Murphy and senior Ronnie Irvin at tackle, with sophomore Tyler Carter at center. Isaiah King, a senior, and Tepsic intend to make some noise at wide receiver.

The pandemic disrupted the 2020 schedule for Baldwin following the season-opening win at Hollidaysburg, as the football team had to be quarantined for 14 days when an assistant coach tested positive for covid-19.

“It’s a completely different year than last year,” Lavelle said, “so it’s nice to see how the coaching staff handles an actual full football season. They’re all really committed to making us better and making sure we’re ready for the season.”

Baldwin will miss several of last year’s seniors, at least in this year’s early stages, none moreso than Brain, OL/DL Dorien Ford, WR/DB Connor Lavelle and WR/DB C.J. Robbins.

Ford (Pitt), Lavelle (Lehigh) and Robbins (Lackawanna) were four-year starters and all-conference selections.


Coach: Tim Sweeney

2020 record: 2-3, 1-3 in Class 6A

All-time record: 336-395-26


Date, Opponent, Time

8.27, at McKeesport, 7

9.3, Bethel Park, 7

9.10, at Upper St. Clair, 7

9.17, North Allegheny*, 7

9.24, at Canon-McMillan*, 7

10.1, Norwin*, 7

10.8, at Hempfield*, 7

10.15, Seneca Valley*, 7

10.23 at Central Catholic*, 12

10.29, Mt. Lebanon*, 7

*Conference game


Passing: Colton Brain*

67-119, 951 yards, 7 TDs

Receiving: Conner Lavelle*

28-334, 4 TDs

Rushing: Luke Loeffert*

52-254, 1 TD



• Baldwin is scheduled to play at home every other week, and on the road every other week. Home games in September are against Bethel Park and North Allegheny, and in October against Norwin, Seneca Valley and Mt. Lebanon.

• Dorien Ford, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound all-state player, was a finalist last year for the Bill Fralic Memorial Award, which honors the best senior football lineman in the WPIAL.

• Connor Lavelle led Baldwin last season in scoring, receiving, kick returns, punt returns and, on defense, tackles, unassisted tackles and tackles for loss.

• C.J. Robbins racked up eight interceptions over the past three years, including six (and three scores) in his sophomore season.


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