Baldwin set for challenge Friday night at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart

challenge: Baldwin football coach Doug Bolles talks to his team about Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart prior to a practice Monday. (Star/John Raffel)
challenge: Baldwin football coach Doug Bolles talks to his team about Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart prior to a practice Monday. (Star/John Raffel)

BALDWIN — It’s not often that a football team loses its season opener 61-0 and is still considered an excellent squad.

But Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart isn’t any ordinary football team. Neither is the squad that beat it last Friday, Beal City, the defending Division 8 state runners-up and heavy favorites for this season’s state title.

Baldwin, 1-0, coming off a 46-0 win over Hale, is at Sacred Heart Friday night in what the Panthers are anticipating to be one of their toughest games of the season, despite Sacred Heart’s lopsided loss to Beal City.

“They’re strong,” Baldwin coach Doug Bolles said of Sacred Heart. “Beal CIty is for real. We’ll have to pay mistake-free ball. It will be a track meet. I don’t know if we can stop them. I think we have a lot of weapons. I think we’ll score points on them as well.”

Coach Rick Roberts has a 146-63 record in 20 years at Sacred Heart. Last year’s team was 8-1 during the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs. They did lose some good graduates with quarterback Mitchell Myler, running back and linebacker Nick Hire, lineman Steve Rudoni and defensive back Mile Heller.

The Irish have five players who are four-year seniors, including quarterback and safety Dustin Neyer, tight end and defensive end Brooks Hyble, two-way lineman Cole Younger, center and defensive end Matt Motz and running back and linebacker Justin Cowell.

“These five players bring a ton of leadership to our team as well as being very good players at their respective positions,“ Roberts said. “We fully expect to compete for our sixth straight conference title as well as to make the playoffs. Our goal has always been to be playing our best football at the end of the regular season.”

Roberts expects to be a strong defensive team with the return of seven starters.

“We lost a lot of our offensive production from last year so we will be a work in progress as the season moves along,” he said. “We need to find out who will carry the load for us this year on offense. We feel very comfortable with the pieces we have but the players need to step up and perform in games if we are to reach our goals.”

Bolles said this will be the first time Baldwin has played Sacred Heart in four seasons.

“They’re pretty decent size up front,” Bolles said. “They have a 6-foot-6 tight end with good hands. To say that a team is really good and lost 61-0, they’re really good. Beal City is just that good. They’re bigger than us up front. Team speed wise, I think we’re equal. If we can block up front and get the edge, and if we can make some tackles, they’re tough. I’m not waving the white flag by any means but we’ll definitely have to come ready to play.”

Sacred Heart is a perennial playoff team that can show the Panthers where they’re at right now.

“Our goal is to win a playoff game or go deep into the playoffs,” Bolles said. “Sacred Heart is that stepping stone of where you’re at and what you have to do. The next two weeks will be a good challenge for us.”

The Panthers open their home season Sept. 13 against Carson City-Crystal.