The Baker Orange

Football team improves to 8-1

Story by Chad Mullens

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With a revolving door of offensive lineman lining up for the Baker University football team, the Wildcats were still able to rush for a season-high 378 yards in a 54-10 victory over Evangel University on Saturday.

One lineman in particular, junior Justin McCandless, made a switch from left tackle to right tackle, which proved to be a good decision for the Wildcats.

“He is an amazing offensive lineman,” junior Scott Meyer said. “He has been moved around his whole career. He can play it all. I can’t give him enough credit.”

McCandless was an anchor for a line that pounded the Evangel defense on the ground, gaining 8 yards per carry.

“We had a game plan going in all week of running the ball, and we executed very well,” Meyer said.

Head coach Mike Grossner knew the Wildcats had to approach this game differently than previous contests.

“We had to come into this game being very aggressive, and I’m really happy with the way we ran the ball so (quarterback Jake Morse) didn’t get hit all day,” Grossner said.

Grossner was also impressed with the team’s margin of victory.

“Evangel, if I remember back, was picked third or fourth in the league and were a top 20 team coming into the season, so I’m really proud of the way our guys played today,” he said.

Baker gained 545 yards of offense, more than three times the yardage gained last week against Missouri Valley College.

“It’s great seeing the transition from struggling to coming out and getting those yards,” freshman Nick Becker said.

Meyer saw his first extended playing time as a running back after starting the year as a wide receiver and missing two games due to injury. He used that time effectively, rushing for a team-high 136 yards.

“(Sitting out) was rough, especially with how hard I worked all summer long,” he said. “For it to be taken away like that, it was rough.”

The team’s 378 rushing yards came on 47 carries, and Meyer, junior Camren Tornaden and freshman Adonis Powell accounted for 351 yards and three touchdowns on 34 of those carries. Despite not seeing the field until the fourth quarter, Powell still hit the century mark, rushing for 104 yards on 12 carries.

“It’s nice to have a great stable of running backs,” Meyer said. “Whether it’s me, whether it’s Camren, whether it’s (Dillon) Baxter, and Adonis can get it done, too.”

Seven different Wildcats reached the end zone, including senior linebacker Darrick Smith on an interception return and senior punter Bryan Williams on a fake field goal.

Baker’s defense gave up only 315 yards and 10 points, and have now gone four consecutive games allowing 12 points or fewer. Much of the credit goes to the defensive line, which is paced by two freshmen, Becker and Adam Novak.

“We have a lot of speed, especially on the line with Adam Novak, and we have really good, quick (defensive) tackles, and that’s really our advantage this year,” Becker said.

Evangel’s offense lost a dimension with Crusaders quarterback Andrew Brimhall not being able to run the triple option. From the pocket, Brimhall completed only 11 of 30 passes for 127 yards and three interceptions. Two interceptions came from Smith, who now leads the NAIA in with seven interceptions on the season.

“It’s always nice when you don’t have (the option) thrown at you,” Becker said.

Becker credits the defensive effort the past three games to defensive coordinator Jason Thoren.

“He’s a great coach. His enthusiasm is unlike any other coach I’ve had, and that’s why it’s so much fun playing for him,” Becker said.

At 8-1, Baker is in second place in the Heart of America Conference, behind the undefeated Benedictine College Ravens. The Wildcats will take on the 1-8 Graceland University Yellowjackets at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Huntsman field in Lamoni, Iowa.