Finally back at home, Baldwin seeks to follow up big Peach win

Aug. 23—It was a signature win, Baldwin High going to Ft. Valley and toppling the Peach County High Trojans on their new football turf. It put the Braves on the winning side of .500, somewhere they didn't see in the 2022 season.

But it wasn't for the state championship, not even a region or city championship. That's something head coach Jesse Hicks was stressing over and over and Braves players ran over and over Monday. Call it a "Bust their bubble" Monday.

At Braves Stadium this coming Friday, Baldwin High will play in front of the home crowd for the first time since ending the 2022 regular campaign on a winning note over Griffin High last November (every playoff and offseason scrimmage was out of town in addition to the 2023 opener). It's against a program like Peach County that's going through a transition with a new head coach. After three successful seasons in Eatonton, Putnam County High head coach Shaun Pope stepped down, so in came Joel Harvin from Early County.

This will be the 2023 debut for the new War Eagle regime. Putnam had its first bye week on Aug. 18.

"They are completely different," said Hicks. "Wing-T, something we don't see a whole bunch of in this area. They are playing a straight 34 defense, playing some different coverages on the back end."

It's also a program that was part of Baldwin's 0-3 start in 2022. It's a neighboring rivalry connected by Hwy. 441.

"No matter what happens, no matter how well you play, that's over," said Hicks about defeating Peach rather handily 34-13. "If we don't learn how to move to what's next, and we lavish in what happened last week, that's how you get beat. We are not going to allow them to go through the motions. We have to figure out how to execute a bit better."

Players in War Eagle uniforms — if not the coaches — may be familiar to the Braves staff (no more Kilgores). Harvin asked the incumbent quarterback, now sophomore Branan Griffin, to play some linebacker, too. Hicks said several Putnam players go both ways.

"The running back's playing nose," he said. "We have to be as physical as we were last week. That's going to come through execution, how we do it during the week."

Hicks had several raving comments after watching the win at Peach live, from play on the line of scrimmage to three touchdowns from senior Micah Welch. Even after watching the contest again on video, there were more "likes than dislikes."

"The one thing that separated it was the effort," he said. "Effort was very high. That's the standard now. You have to give that effort every time. Our D-line was not as big as their offensive line, but our guys played with so much passion, it kind of evened itself off.

"Not a lot of people expected us to come out on top. I had no doubts what we were capable of doing. You have to let stuff like that drive you. The only way you can prove it is to get it done on the field."

And Hicks said Baldwin football should be high on the list of priorities for the community on Friday, fill up the stands and create standing room only.

"We're hoping everybody will take the time to come out and see these young men," he said. "We have a good squad, a great staff. What we are trying to do is be consistent. We are asking them to be consistent and come see us."

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