Vickers reflects on first season as Baldwin’s football coach

BALDWIN  —  For the past four years, Baldwin’s football program has used this week to gear up for the playoffs.

But it’s been a transitional year of sorts for the Panthers with smaller numbers, a new and tougher schedule, plus a new coach.

The season ended at 1-8 last Friday with a 54-0 loss at Evart.

It had been anticipated since spring, with Baldwin as an independent, that the Panthers would be playing larger and extremely more competitive schools.

Then in late July, veteran coach Doug Bolles announced he had accepted a similar position at his alma mater, Hesperia. Panther assistant coaches continued to keep the team going and Lee Vickers was hired just as the regular season was beginning.

Vickers said on Monday the offseason program was being developed and there would be some consideration on future schedules.

The Panthers were facing a schedule with traditional powers like Muskegon Heights and Muskegon Catholic Central, plus larger schools like Evart and Ludington. They enjoyed a 40-14 victory over North Adams-Jerome and had a 16-3 halftime lead over White Cloud before losing that game 29-16.

Vickers immediately focused his attention to the future, talking about getting returning players ready for next season. He declined to speculate on the future of the program. Whether or not Baldwin will stay as 11-man football, or move to 8-player, which many of its former rivals have, is unclear at this particular moment.

“Coming into 2017, we’ll have a larger senior class,” Vickers indicated.

The roster for the Evart-Baldwin game showed seven juniors although that number could expand by next year. 

“The coaching change was a challenge,” Vickers said. “I’ll be able to be with them during the offseason.”

Vickers indicated that if Baldwin decides to go to 8-player, a decision may need to be made quickly for scheduling considerations

“If we go 11-man, we’ll have to work the independent angle, but it might necessitate more travel to find smaller 11-man teams,” Vickers said. “We want to avoid the Class B teams if we can. Ludington is close by, but they’re considerably larger. So is Evart, although not as big as Ludington.

Vickers may be involved in winter sports coaching at Baldwin, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Bolles, meanwhile, coached Hesperia to a 5-4 season and the team has qualified for the playoffs.