Baldwin High School's varsity football team began official on-field preparations for its 2012 season on Monday with a two-session day of summer camp at Baldwin High Stadium.
Baldwin finished 2011 with a 4-5 overall record, including a 1-4 mark in the Great Southern Conference, a WPIAL AAAA (highest level) conference.
The Highlanders did not qualify for the postseason last year, their downfall marked by three straight conference losses from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14. But the team has come a long way since going a dreadful 0-9 in 2008. In fact, in each of Head Coach Jim Wehner's three seasons at the helm, Baldwin has improved its wins total and winning percentage, going 2-8 in 2009 and 3-6 in 2010.
Wehner believes that another increase will mean a postseason appearance for Baldwin this year.
Realignment has moved the Highlanders from the Great Southern to the still very competitive Southeastern Conference in 2012, where they will take on Penn Hills, Plum and Woodland Hills high schools as well as last year's Great Southern foes Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair high schools.
A nonconference game at Fox Chapel Area High School is also scheduled.
Senior running back Dorian Brown will lead the Baldwin offense again this year.
Brown emerged as one of the WPIAL's best players in 2011 by amassing exactly 1,200 rushing yards on 197 carries (a 6.1-yard average), including 10 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 78 yards and one TD and returned eight kickoffs for 223 yards (a 27.9-yard average), including a 96-yard TD return in Baldwin's 35-10 win over Fox Chapel Area on Sept. 2. He had 1,501 all-purpose yards last year for an average of 166.8 all-purpose yards per game.
And after Brown rushed for 278 yards and two TDs on 34 carries, including a game-winning 80-yard TD with less than two minutes to play, to lead the Highlanders to a 21-14 victory over Thomas Jefferson High School on Sept. 23, WPXI honored Brown with its Player of the Week award. He eventually earned WPXI's Player of the Year award, as well.
As to whom will hand the ball to Brown and throw it to him and the rest of his teammates is still to be determined. Wehner and Offensive Coordinator Peter Wagner Jr. say that a camp competition for the starting quarterback job is going on between juniors Billy Howley and Luke Smorey and sophomore Doug Altavilla.
The coaching staff rotated between Altavilla and Smorey last season, eventually settling on Altavilla, who finished the year going 49-for-99 passing for 479 yards, three TDs and seven interceptions. Smorey went 11-for-20 for 132 yards, no TDs and three picks.
Two other skill players to look for in 2012 will be junior defensive back Jay Morrison (Brown's brother) and senior defensive back/wide receiver D'Andre Andrews.
The coaching staff expects Morrison and Andrews to contribute on both sides of the ball. Morrison was a game-changer at times for the Highlanders last year, forcing a team-high three fumbles as part of 45 tackles. He also intercepted a pass. Andrews also forced a fumble as part of 31 stops and broke up a pass.
The coaches also speak highly of improved size and talent in the trenches, highlighted by senior offensive/defensive tackle Zack Nieman.
Below is Baldwin's schedule this season. Wehner says that the Thursday night Penn Hills game will be broadcast on TV by ROOT SPORTS.
Full 2012 Schedule (* = conference game):
|Aug. 31||at Peters Township*||7:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||Plum*||7:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 13||at Penn Hills*||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Mt. Lebanon*||7:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Upper St. Clair*||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Woodland Hills*||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Fox Chapel Area||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Canon-McMillan*||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||Bethel Park*||7:30 p.m.|
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch for updates on the 2012 Highlanders.
(View the video above to enjoy interviews and some action from Monday's first day of camp.)
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