Baldwin football team ignites in 2nd half, defeats Norwin

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Friday, October 1, 2021 | 11:12 PM


After being shut out in the first half, it seemed Baldwin’s winless start to the season might continue.

But with one kick of the ball, the Highlanders ignited a second half to remember.

Baldwin recovered an onside kick to begin the third quarter and then scored touchdowns on special teams, defense and offense to complete the turnaround for a 21-10 win at home over Norwin on Friday in Quad County Conference play.

“When you start 0-5, and you’ve been mercy-ruled five times, your backs are against the wall,” Baldwin coach Tim Sweeney said. “We were in a position where we have to play to win, and that calls for us to take more chances. If we’re going to lose a football game close or get blown out, we’re going to go down swinging.”

The onside kick recovery Davonte Jones — whom Sweeney affectionately calls “Hollywood” — put Baldwin (1-5, 1-2) in business after trailing 10-0 at halftime, but the drive ended with a field goal attempt that never got off the ground after a high snap.

But with momentum, the Highlanders defense forced a three-and-out.

On the ensuing punt, Andrew Sharp, who led Baldwin with 74 yards rushing on 13 carries, fired through and smothered the kick, allowing Victor Iaquinta to scoop it at the goal line for the score to make it 10-6.

Things got worse for Norwin (2-4, 0-3) on its next play from scrimmage as the snap went over quarterback Luke Levendosky’s head and was picked up for a 17-yard touchdown return by Keith Mincin. A 2-point run by Sharp made it 14-10 as Baldwin scored two touchdowns in 10 seconds of the third quarter.

“We did some good things in the first half but left some opportunities out there,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “But you’ve got to play against one opponent; you can’t play against two. Giving up a blocked punt, an onside kick we knew might be coming — you’re giving them extra opportunities, and those two plays hurt. I take full responsibility for not having my kids prepared and ready to go for that.”

Levendosky finished 15-for-24 passing for 185 yards, which included a 3-yard touchdown to Xander Smith in the second quarter. Only 63 of those yards came after halftime as Baldwin turned up the heat with its pass rush.

The teams exchanged possessions with just three first downs on the next five drives. A good punt return by Jones set Baldwin up on the Norwin 35, and four plays later, Kam Allen scored on an 8-yard run with 3:13 left in the game.

Norwin tried to put together a late drive that included a big 23-yard run by Levendosky on third down. But with 1:25 remaining, it was “Hollywood” providing the final highlight as Jones came across the field for a game-sealing interception at the Baldwin 2.

“We had the onside kick planned early in the week, but give it up to our players. They’re the ones who went out and executed the things we saw,” Sweeney said. “(The last drive) was a great drive, credit to our O-line, the coaching staff and the kids for having a great week of practice.”

Officially, it is the third straight loss for Norwin but only the second on the field. Last week, the Knights had to forfeit their game against Seneca Valley because of positive covid-19 cases at the school.

While Brozeski took the blame if the time off did have any effect on his team, Sweeney took a more sympathetic view. After all, his Baldwin team had half of its last season wiped out because of covid-19, playing just five games in 2020.

“Give Norwin a lot of credit. It’s hard to come back. They were getting on a little bit of a roll, and then they get shut down,” Sweeney said.

“This isn’t professional football. This is high school, and it’s hard for kids to bounce back. I want to congratulate them. They played the game hard all night.”

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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