Spring swing football: Baldwin's big goal in 2019 is to 'finish'

Indians' breakthrough last year came up short in playoffs

By Justin Barney - Sports Editor

BALDWIN, Fla. - NewsJax’s high school football Spring Swing continues daily throughout spring practice across the First Coast. Today, we’ll take a quick look at Baldwin. 

Robert Shields makes no secret about it. 

How the Baldwin football team ended its 2018 season still doesn’t sit well with him, so much so that he’s attached one word to the Indians this year.

Finish. 

“We got to finish, correct the mistakes,” said the first-year Baldwin coach. “Other team took the ball away, we gave it away. However you want to put it, we didn’t finish the job. We’ve got unfinished business, we’ve got to finish. Finish this year. We didn’t finish [in 2018]. The goal is to make a run. And then you don’t finish the game?”

Baldwin had a resurgence last year, going 9-1 in the regular season and earning a home playoff game for the first time. But the Indians gift-wrapped things for Taylor County, with turnovers leading to 17 points and penalties keeping another drive alive that led to allowing the Bulldogs to pull away for a 24-17 win. 

Having seen the Indians in the regular season, the playoff game was a pivot from how Baldwin typically performed. 

“9-2 is nice, I guess we’ll have fun at the 20-year reunion,” Shields said. “But in my mind, that’s going to be one that’s going to be hard to remember.”

Shields, who was promoted to head coach this season after his brother, Steve, stepped down, said this year is about drilling into his players that 2018 was nice, but it’s in the rearview. 

“All those wins graduated, we just got 10 guys in college somewhere,” he said. “They’re gone. Those wins graduated. We’ve got zero wins now. We’re a zero-win football team.”

That blunt assessment in a matter-of-fact delivery details Shields’ commitment to fundamentals that he learned while coaching with Kevin Sullivan, first at Jackson and later at Atlantic Coast. No looking back, only ahead. 

The Indians graduated 14 players from last season’s team, a number that doesn’t seem overwhelming until one factors in the size of Baldwin’s roster. 

That was nearly 30 percent of the roster. 

But the Indians are far from picked clean in terms of talent. 

Running back Amos Port (563 rushing yards, 11 TDs), and receivers Xavier McGriff (43 catches, 774 yards, nine TDs) and Christian Sanderson (39 catches, 455 yards, five TDs) return to lead the offensive core. LB/DL Dale Walker (57 tackles) is back to lead the defense. 

Quarterbacks Bryce Tompkins and Ethan Krause are competing for the chance to replace Troy signee Gavin Screws.

McGriff, a major college prospect, said that Baldwin’s biggest growth area is for the Class of 2020 players to take a more proactive role.

“Our seniors have to mature more for our young guys to look up to,” he said. “I feel like we don’t have the leadership as of right now, but going on into the spring, we should have more.”

Baldwin 2019 football schedule

Aug. 23, Baldwin at Ridgeview

Aug. 30, Bradford at Baldwin

Sept. 6, Westside at Baldwin

Sept. 13, West Nassau at Baldwin

Sept. 20, Baldwin at Episcopal

Sept. 27, TBA

Oct. 4, Baldwin at Jackson

Oct. 11, Fort White at Baldwin

Oct. 18, University Christian at Baldwin

Oct. 24, TBA

Nov. 1, Middleburg at Baldwin

All games at 7 p.m.

Note: Baldwin competes in Region 1-3A and does not play district games.

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