Late field goal pushes BU past Sterling

Story by Chad Mullens

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The Baker University football team will advance to the second round of the NAIA playoffs after defeating the Sterling College Warriors 10-7 on a last-second field goal by freshman Clarence Clark.

Even after Clark missed his first three field goal attempts, head coach Mike Grossner had enough confidence to send him out to kick with three seconds left on the clock.

“He was kind of rushing it because the first one got tipped,” Grossner said. “But once we got into position, I knew Clarence would make that last one. He’s too good of a football player.”

Baker had multiple chances to break the game open, but the Wildcats came out empty on four drives that entered Sterling territory. Those missed opportunities included three missed field goals and an interception at the Warriors’ 3-yard line. But in the game’s final drive, Baker marched 60 yards to the Warriors’ 10-yard line, setting up the game-winning score. Junior Scott Meyer made a huge impact in the fourth quarter, running the ball nine times for 52 yards, including a 24-yard run that set up the field goal.

“The fourth quarter is our quarter, and our game plan is to tire them out, and that’s what we did,” Meyer said.

The Wildcats’ defense held Sterling quarterback Reggie Langford, who came into the game averaging 218 yards of total offense, to just 45 yards on 21 carries and eight for 20 passing for 49 yards.

“We did a really good job of corralling him, and as soon as one person got to him, more people were able to come and pull him down,” senior defensive lineman Austin Hamm said. “He got away once, but after that he wasn’t going anywhere.”

Long, grinding drives were few and far between in this game. The only touchdown-scoring plays came on a 68-yard run by Sterling’s Antonio Bray and an 89-yard reception by Clark.

Senior quarterback Jake Morse threw two interceptions during the game, but was efficient otherwise on a cold and windy day, completing 17 of 25 pass attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown. Not only did Morse make big plays with his arm, but also with his feet.

“How about that 15-yard run (Morse) had in the final drive?” Meyer said. “That was great. He really came through in the clutch for us.”

Grossner still wasn’t pleased with the team’s overall performance, even if it was the team’s first playoff victory in 20 years.

“You know, we played well, but we missed some opportunities,” he said. “At times on offense, we looked as good as we are, but we didn’t finish. And I believe that as a team, we didn’t play as well as we could have, but I’m sure it will sink in tonight that we’re in the top eight.”

Baker will host the Morningside College Mustangs, ranked No. 5 in the country, who earlier in the season were ranked first before losing to Northwestern College, 38-28. Saturday’s game will be the first time in five years the two teams meet up.

“We had the opportunity to play Morningside in 2008, the same head coach is there, so I’m sure they haven’t changed much,” Grossner said. “But no matter what, when you get this far, it’s who’s healthy, and who’s confident and who doesn’t make mistakes.”