Condensed season proved challenging for Baldwin football
Sunday, November 1, 2020 | 11:01 AM
One word that perhaps aptly defines the Baldwin football season is “condensed.”
Due to postponements as a result of covid-19 shutdowns, the Fighting Highlanders played an abbreviated schedule of only five games.
After a promising 27-7 nonconference win Sept. 11 against Hollidaysburg, the purple and white went 1-3 in Class 6A Quad County Conference action to end up 2-3 overall.
Nonconference games against McKeesport and Bethel Park and conference matchups with Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny and Canon-McMillan were canceled.
“I am proud of the way our players battled and persevered through several circumstances,” said Tim Sweeney, former Derry field boss who’s in his first year with the Fighting Highlanders. “Several of those challenges were things that everyone faced and some challenges were unique to Baldwin.
“We were led by a senior class that has done more for Baldwin football than they will ever know, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with such a great, close-knit senior class. The leadership they provided will have a profound impact on the future of Baldwin football.”
Baldwin averaged close to 20 points per game this season while allowing 27.4. The Fighting Highlanders defeated Hempfield, 37-34, in conference play and lost to Norwin, 28-12, Seneca Valley, 19-16, and Central Catholic, 49-6.
Senior quarterback Colton Brain was a well-read, athletic leader on offense. He connected on 67 of 119 passes for 951 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions.
Brain completed 56.3% of his tosses and averaged 190.2 yards passing per game. His top performance came in the season opener at Hollidaysburg when he hit on 18 of 25 tosses for 310 yards and two scores. He also eclipsed 200 yards passing against Seneca Valley and Hempfield.
Brain and senior wideout Connor Lavelle ranked among the WPIAL’s leading combinations this season.
A four-year starter and Lehigh recruit, Lavelle finished with 28 receptions for 334 yards and four scores. He also led the team in scoring, kickoff and punt returns and, defensively, shared the team lead in tackles with freshman inside linebacker Keith Mincin.
Over the past three seasons, Lavelle reeled in 60 passes for 713 yards and six touchdowns. Defensively, he was credited with 136 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and one interception.
He was recruited to play safety by Lehigh.
Other leading receivers in 2020 were seniors C.J. Robbins (9-243), C.J. Lucas, Kevon Lowry and Luke Loeffert and juniors Nick Petrilli (8-110), Evan Lavelle and Kam Allen.
Loeffert (52-254) and Allen (46-193) were the team’s leading rushers, combining for 447 yards and four touchdowns on 98 carries and averaging 99.4 yards per game on the ground as a tandem.
Loeffert’s best individual effort came against Hempfield. He ran for 122 yards on 16 carries against the Spartans, including a spectacular 41-yard second-quarter touchdown dash. Loffert averaged 7.6 yards per carry in that contest.
Connor Lavelle, Brain, Allen, Robbins, sophomore Robby Benton, Loeffert, Lucas and senior kicker Fletcher Hindman did all the scoring for the Fighting Highlanders. Benton and Hindman each kicked one field goal.
Maisen Bourquin, a 6-foot-2, 310-pound senior lineman, did most of the punting, averaging 31.9 yards on 18 kicks, and booting two inside the 20.
Defensively, Lavelle and Mincin were credited with 24 total tackles apiece, as Lavelle led in unassisted stops. Loeffert, Mincin, Lavelle, Lucas and Robbins had one interception apiece.
Pitt recruit Dorien Ford, Mincin and the Lavelle brothers paced the squad in tackles for loss. The 6-4, 300-pound Ford led in sacks and blocked a kick.
Several underclassmen saw action for the Fighting Highlanders in 2020, but they have not begun making specific plans yet for 2021.
“It is too early to even think about next year,” Sweeney said. “We will start with a clean slate and see how it goes.”
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