Wolves Looking Up Going Into Second Year Under Baldwin


It’s just Year 2 of the Garrett Baldwin era at Black Hills — and Year 1 did not end spectacularly in terms of the final record — but the second-year head coach can already see things moving in the right direction for the Wolves.

“It’s a much different group, a much better group,” he said.

Focusing on culture as much as anything early on in his tenure, a tough first fall turned into a productive spring and summer, leading to a chance for Black Hills to get right back in the thick of things in the 2A Evergreen Conference.
And — in Baldwin’s eyes — hopefully stay there for awhile.

“For us at Black Hills, if you look at our history, we are inconsistent,” Baldwin said. “The program’s history has had two-year, three-year stretches where you get winning seasons and trips to the playoffs. We’re just trying to fix that. And that is hard. But the way that we’re trying to go about it is just convincing the kids that it’s possible.”

The Wolves will try to make that breakthrough with a core that went through the struggle of a 1-8 season, but is back with the goal of being the group that rights the ship. 

Jaxsen Beck, who started under center immediately for the Wolves as a freshman last year, is back for his second stint under center.

“He’s quiet, he leads by example,” Baldwin said.

Meanwhile, Johnnie Stallings returns to start at tailback, after running his way onto the 2A EvCo second team in 2021. Baldwin said that Braiden Bond is close behind him, though, and that both will feature in Black Hills’ run-first offense.

“They can be a good double-headed snake,” he said.

Last year, the Wolves’ lone win came against Centralia in league play, with two non-league losses to 3A schools. This time around, the slate gets easier on paper — at least following a tough matchup with 1A Montesano — with non-league games against 1A Elma and 3A North Thurston, both of which had losing seasons in 2021.

But it’ll be up to the Wolves themselves to actually take that next step.

“We’ve got a lot of leadership in this group,” Baldwin said. “We’ve got a pretty solid amount of returning starters that were part of the 1-8 (team), but now they’re the seniors, and they’re realizing how much they can change if they change their habits.”