Dexter Copeland went to Baldwin so late in the offseason that the Braves didn’t have a spring practice.
The former Twiggs County head coach only had a few months with the team before fall practice began.
But Copeland and the Braves looked like they’d been together for years Friday night at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex against Westside.
The sixth-ranked Braves (3-0, 2-0 GHSA Region 2-AAA) looked downright dominant in a 35-0 win over the fourth-ranked Seminoles.
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Baldwin quarterback DeAndre Thomas completed all but one of his 11 passes, and the Braves’ starting defense scored two touchdowns and held Westside to 63 yards of total offense and three first downs.
It was the third worst loss in Westside history and the first time in nearly five years that the Seminoles have been shut out.
“This was surprising,” Copeland said. “You don’t ever expect to come in to a place like Westside and win 35-0. But we had a great night.”
The Braves scored touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions and mixed an interception return for a touchdown as they stunned the Seminoles with 28 first-half points.
“That was a shellacking,” Westside head coach Sheddrick Risper said. “We looked like the Bad News Bears out there. We looked like cole slaw.”
Thomas started razor sharp in the Braves’ no-huddle spread attack. He completed his first three passes before his only misfire of the game. He completed his next seven before finishing with 113 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re really just starting to get everything going,” said Thomas, who didn’t attempt a pass in the second half and finished with 47 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. “We’re getting better every week.”
Westside (2-1, 1-1) looked befuddled from the start and never could get a grasp on the Braves’ offense.
Baldwin started the game operating out of the no-huddle with four- and five-wide receiver sets. The Braves threw quick passes and ran some option and some zone reads out of the offense. They later mixed in the wing-T.
The Braves had 10 first downs in the first 12:03 as they scored on touchdown runs of 6 and 2 yards to cap drives of nine and 12 plays, respectively.
“It’s a big advantage to score first and quick,” Baldwin senior Kitray Solomon said. “It breaks the other team’s pride.”
The Baldwin defense got on the board with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by Donte Backam that gave the Braves a 21-0 lead.
The lead stretched to 28-0 on the Braves’ next drive when Thomas found Solomon for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 4:30 to play in the first half.
Baldwin played conservatively on offense the rest of the game, but it still had a clock-eating eight-minute drive in the third quarter that ended in a missed field goal.
The Braves held up the shut out by continuously smothering the Seminoles’ offense. Westside ran only four plays in the third quarter, and it didn’t pick up a first down until less than two minutes remained in the game. The Seminoles lost yardage on three of their eight designed runs in the second half and had incompletions on all six pass attempts. Adding to the forgettable second half, the Seminoles had a 6-yard punt and allowed the Baldwin defense to score on a 3-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“We weren’t surprised with what they did,” Risper said. “We didn’t execute at all. But we won’t throw a pity party for ourselves. We’ll forget about this and get back to work.”