Brain power: Baldwin quarterback among WPIAL’s top passers

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Sunday, October 18, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Baldwin’s starting quarterback is a brainiac, for sure.

At 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Colton Brain is on the smaller-scale of quarterbacks in Western Pennsylvania.

His know-how and athletic ability, however, more than make up for his undersized stature.

“Colton has been great in so many ways for our football team,” Baldwin coach Tim Sweeney said. “He is a strong leader and is driven every day to get better in practice. He has learned coach (Mike) Melnyk’s system and he trusts coach Melnyk in what he’s being coached to do.

“His strengths are his desire to be the best he can be every day in practice, his intelligence and the leadership he provides to the team is immeasurable.”

As the 2020 season headed toward the home stretch, the Baldwin senior rated mention among the WPIAL’s top passers.

He had completed 40 of 72 tosses for 646 yards and six touchdowns with one interception entering Week 6.

“I think the team has done a lot of positive things so far and has done a very good job overcoming adversity,” Brain said. “We have a great group of guys that all work very hard together. Our goal is to continue to improve every day and to win.”

Speaking of winning, Brain recently led Baldwin to a rousing 37-34 Class 6A Conference victory Oct. 9 against Hempfield. It was the Fighting Highlanders’ first home game.

Brain threw for 201 yards and three TDs, connecting on scoring strikes to senior wideouts C.J. Robbins (64, 67 yards) and Connor Lavelle (16 yards).

Luke Loeffert, a hard-charging senior running back, rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, scoring on a 41-yard second quarter dash.

Lavelle and junior RB Kam Allen, who accounted for the game’s decisive points on a short TD jaunt with 2:26 to go, combined for another 122 yards on just 10 rushing attempts.

Bobby Benton, a sophomore lineman, rounded out the home team’s scoring with a 29-yard field goal and four PAT kicks.

Lavelle (6-1, 195), a Lehigh recruit who also mans a defensive back position, has proven to be a potent catalyst this season, leading the team in scoring, receiving, kick returns, punt returns and, on defense, tackles, unassisted tackles and tackles for loss.

Baldwin opened its 2020 schedule with a 27-7 nonconference win at Hollidaysburg, as Brain hit on 18 of 25 passes for 310 yards and two scores.

The coronavirus pandemic then disrupted the Fighting Highlanders’ season. The team had to be quarantined for 14 days when an assistant coach tested positive for covid-19.

“Given all of the challenges this team has faced, I am extremely proud of the players and their perseverance in overcoming so many difficult hurdles,” Sweeney said. “Their attitudes have been great and they are a pleasure to work with on a daily basis.

“There are a lot of first-time starters for us that have made significant contributions, players like (WR/LB) Kevon Lowry, (TE) Elijah Moore, (RB/LB) Keith Mincin, (OL) Bobby Benton, (WR/DB) C.J. Lucas, (TE/FB) Evan Lavelle and (OL) Aaron Martire are guys who have really stepped in and played major roles for us.”

Sweeney is in his first season as Baldwin’s coached. He formerly coached at Derry, his alma mater, where he helped turn around a crumbling program with four straight postseason berths that included a trip to Heinz Field in 2018.

Baldwin, competing in the tough Class 5A Allegheny Eight Conference, qualified for the playoffs last year for the first time since 2013.

The Highlanders finished 5-6 a year ago.

“The Baldwin community has been terrific, starting with the administration and the support that has been provided,” Sweeney said. “All of the parents of our players have been great, as well. My coaching staff is the best in the WPIAL and I learn from them on a daily basis.

“I have come into a really great situation and I am very fortunate to be in this position, but all of the credit goes to our players as they are truly the ones doing the work. I am proud of every one of the kids on the team.”

Brain actually made his starting varsity debut at QB last season in a nonconference game at Butler, sparking the Fighting Highlanders to a 42-21 win. He turned in a near-perfect performance, hitting on 7 of 8 tosses for 121 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The cerebral signal-caller admitted he was a bit jittery before the contest held at Butler’s Art Bernardi Stadium.

“I was a little nervous, but I was mostly excited to compete with my teammates,” Brain said.

As his name suggests, Brain is whip-smart. He is a straight-A student with a 4.3 GPA, and has earned all A’s in high school except for a B in honors geometry as a freshman. He was a staff writer for two years for the Purbalite, the school newspaper, and is a sports editor this year.

Prior to 2020, Brain earned two varsity letters in football and one in baseball.

He said science is his favorite subject, and he plans to study pre-med in college.

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