The Baker Orange

Football improves to 6-1 with win over CMU

Story by Chad Mullens

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The Baker University football team scored 39 unanswered points to defeat Central Methodist University 46-12 on Saturday at Liston Stadium.

Baker’s offense struggled in the first half, running a number of wildcat formation plays with senior Dillon Baxter. Later in the game, the tailback even threw a pass that fell incomplete. BU also had two turnovers in the first half, one of which the Eagles converted into points.

Midway through the second quarter, Baker fell behind 12-7. The Eagles scored on two field goals and a 3-yard Francois Matthews touchdown, but failed the two-point conversion following the touchdown.

Baker was able to regain the lead in that same quarter, with a 6-yard Camren Tornaden rushing touchdown with 2:26 to play. On the ensuing Central Methodist drive, freshman defensive end Adam Novak burst through the line to block a punt with less than a minute remaining in the first half, giving Baker a chance to extend its lead before halftime. The Wildcats capitalized on a 33-yard Clarence Clark field goal, giving them a 17-12 halftime lead.

In the second half, sophomore quarterback Jake Heller led the offense. Filling in for injured starter Jake Morse, Heller went 14-21 for 244 yards and a touchdown. After missing two long throws earlier in the game, Heller hit freshman Clarence Clark for a 79-yard touchdown to help BU take a 26-12 lead, which put the momentum of the game permanently in the Wildcats’ favor.

“We worked on (that play) all week, and coach told me the corner may cheat on it and he did,” Heller said. Then I saw him pop open, and all I did was launch it and he ran underneath it.”

After going 7 of 10 for 92 yards in the first half, he threw for 152 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

Heller said that he was ready after spending time as the primary quarterback during spring workouts.

“That was huge, being the only quarterback in the spring,” Heller said. “They gave me every opportunity to get to where I’m at, and the coaches, as well as everyone in the program, have done a great job of helping me. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that the coaches gave me today.”

The 10 combined turnovers by both teams played a large role in the sloppiness, especially in the first half. But Baker’s ability to score points off of the six Central Methodist turnovers gave the Wildcats the edge. The biggest turnover of the game came from senior Emmerson Clarke. The linebacker intercepted a Kaleb Broghardt pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Wildcats a 33-12 lead early in the fourth quarter, essentially putting the game away.

“With the limited opportunities I have with the ball in my hand, I’m going to try to score every time,” Clarke said.

Baker used a number of running backs to gain 206 yards on the ground, led by Baxter’s 86 yards on 22 carries. Baxter scored in the first quarter, junior Camren Tornaden near the end of the second quarter, and sophomore Alex Stebbins and freshman Adonis Powell both scored in the fourth.

“We rotate them all through practice.” Heller said. “We usually have three or four guys that are working, and we knew we were going to try to run the ball hard, and the numbers show that they work hard and produce.”

Head coach Mike Grossner said Baker uses this rotation to keep the Wildcats fresh.

“With Dillon being the wildcat-back, he was getting a lot of pounding in there,” Grossner said. “So we had to get him out of there and get a couple of other guys rolling, so I’m glad everyone got in there and we controlled the line of scrimmage.”

Baker’s 450 yards of total offense eclipsed Central Methodist’s total of 336, even though both teams ran 84 plays. The four yards per play the Wildcats’ defense gave up was the third lowest average of the season. The three lowest totals came in the last four outings, a testament to the improvement of the defense.

“We knew that ultimately, if we kept playing like we were playing (in the first three games of the season), then we wouldn’t be able to reach our goal,” Clarke said. “We started focusing more on the fundamentals and taking care of the small things that could be passed by quickly.”

The Wildcats, now 6-1, will travel to Marshall, Mo, to take on the No. 6 Missouri Valley College Vikings at 1:30 p.m Saturday at Gregg-Mitchell Field. Baker has not defeated the Vikings since 2008, and the team knows it will take a strong effort to win against the sixth-ranked team in the NAIA.

“We’re going to have to play the best we’ve played all season,” Clarke said of the defense. “We will have to pull out the ball, get picks and score on defense.”

Grossner said that starting quarterback Jake Morse will be ready to play on Saturday.

“If push came to shove and we needed him in there (today), (Morse) would have played, but we felt confident enough in Heller to where we thought we could get it done,” Grossner said. “But he’ll be a go, and we’ll have to pull out all the stops, because going to Missouri Valley is always a tough place to play.”

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