Baldwin Blake Wieden knew he was one play away from quarterbacking Baldwin High's football team. He just didn't know it would be the first play.
Wieden, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound sophomore, came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes as Baldwin toppled Louisburg, 28-6, in Class 4A bi-district football Tuesday night at Liston Stadium.
"He was awesome," Jeremy Wright, the Bulldogs' regular quarterback, said of Wieden. "He came in and played flawless."
Wright was awesome, too. For one play, anyway. On Baldwin's first possession, Wright shot off guard and scampered 66 yards before being hauled down from behind on the Louisburg 14.
Wright arose slowly and limped off the field. Wieden took over while the trainers checked on Wright, a 5-10, 150-pound junior. Two plays later, Wieden handed off to tailback Austin Inzer, who rambled 14 yards around left end to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. Only 89 seconds had ticked off the clock.
Soon thereafter, it was clear Wright was done for the night. Trainers put ice on the ankle and the Bulldogs' starting QB watched the second half on crutches.
"It's his ankle," Berg said. "It's real tender. We'll look at it and see if he'll be ready for this weekend."
aBaldwin will play host to unbeaten Fort Scott, a perennial 4A power, Saturday night at Liston Stadium. By then, the northwest bank of lights should be operational. Baldwin and Louisburg played with only three light standards working, forcing the officials to switch all the action to the east side of the field.
"It was good for me," Berg quipped. "I didn't have to walk so much. But it was kind of awkward for the players."
Still, the gloaming at the west end of Baker University's facility didn't seem to bother Wieden who tossed TD passes of 33 and 9 yards to tight end Earl McNish and a 23-yard TD aerial to wide receiver Aaron Hannon.
"He's only a sophomore," Berg said of Wieden, "and he's playing like a true varsity quarterback. He doesn't get that many reps in practice, but he's a smart guy, and if the chance presents itself, he's ready."
Until 15 days ago, Wieden basically was merely a mop-up quarterback. Then Wright suffered a hip injury, and Wieden had to go the route in a 32-12 victory over Santa Fe Trail.
"That game really helped me," Wieden said. "It made me a lot more comfortable tonight. I was ready."
Curiously, Wright finished as the Bulldogs' leading rusher with that single carry for 66 yards. Fullback Josiah Mason gained 46 yards on 10 carries and Inzer 34 yards on eight carries.
Wieden completed four of nine passes for 131 yards. His lone non-touchdown completion was a 63-yard bomb to Hannon who, like Wright, was hauled down from behind. Unlike Wright, though, Hannon was able to continue.
Baldwin (9-1) avenged its only defeat, a 13-12 loss to the Wildcats earlier in the season.
"We made so many mistakes when we played Louisburg the first time," Berg said. "They're a very physical team. I thought we had more speed than they did, but they ran us down a couple of times."
Louisburg (5-5) didn't display much speed on offense, however. The Wildcats' longest play went for 26 yards, and they didn't score until less than a minute remained.