Football team searches for conference title

Story by Chad Mullens

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

At 9-1 on the season and 7-1 in conference play, the Baker University football team has a chance to win its first Heart of America Athletic Conference championship in 20 years.

The program’s last banner dates back to 1993, and after Saturday’s 40-16 win over Graceland University, the Wildcats’ post-season fate is in their own hands.

“We play games to win championships, and right now we control our own destiny,” senior quarterback Jake Morse said. “It’s something that we’ve worked for my four years here, and to be in a position to show up next Saturday and play for a conference championship, you couldn’t ask for anything more in your senior year.”

After four weeks of recovery, Morse feels prepared for the end-of-the-year run.

“I’ve been struggling through (the injury), but I finally feel at full strength, and we’re hitting it at the right time,” Morse said.

The quarterback had his best game coming off a shoulder sprain on Saturday, completing 18-28 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a three-yard score, his first rushing touchdown of the season.

“It felt good to run around a little bit,” he said. “We’ve felt good on our scrambling drills with guys getting open, but sometimes you just have to make a play.”

Freshman Clarence Clark went 4-4 on field goals, including a 51-yard kick. He also went 4-4 on extra points and had a 24-yard touchdown reception.

Baker fell behind early as Graceland scored on the very first possession of the game. Clark kicked two field goals to tie the game at 6-6, but Graceland quarterback Jake Tipton came back with a 69-yard touchdown pass with 6:38 left to play in the first half. Baker was able to strike back, though, first narrowing the gap to four points on a field goal, then taking a 16-13 lead after Morse’s three-yard touchdown run.

“I think we’re playing confident,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “A lot of football teams would have gotten wild there in the first half, being down and then instead of scoring touchdowns we’re kicking field goals and letting a team hang with us. The sign of a good football team is to take care of business, and I thought we did that in the second half.”

Baker dominated the second half, outscoring Graceland 24-3 and capitalizing on the Yellowjacket’s turnovers. Senior Emmerson Clarke picked off a pass in the beginning of the fourth quarter to set up the Morse-Clark touchdown, which gave Baker a 33-16 lead.

“We wanted to put the nail in the coffin, and Clarence made a great play going up and battling for the football,” Morse said.

Senior Josh Fairley contributed four tackles and intercepted a pass after filling in for junior Preston Schenck, who dislocated his elbow in the third quarter.

“Him stepping in, knowing what he’s doing and making a play, that’s big for us,” Morse said. “It’s also big going forward, too. If you’re in a situation like that in a playoff run, that would be a big situation, so for Josh to step in like that, we’re proud of him.”

As Baker prepares for the 7-3 Peru State Bobcats on Saturday, the team is not only fighting for a chance at a conference title but a school record.

“Baker’s record for wins in a season is 10, and we have a chance to match that next week, which is something special,” he said. “We’re going into game 11 with everything on the line against a great football team in Peru State. You couldn’t ask for anything more, and our guys will be ready to play, I’m sure they will be, and I’m excited for our team to have that opportunity.”

The Wildcats are scheduled to host Peru State for senior day at 1 p.m. at Liston Stadium.