The Baker Orange

Football prepares for County Line Clash

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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For BU football head coach Mike Grossner, coming into the season ranked No. 5 is a sign of the progress his team has made the last few seasons.

“Winning games is cool, making the playoffs is fine, but we’re ready to take that next step,” Grossner said.

Starting this season strong will be a tough task, as the Wildcats take on the No. 14 ranked Ottawa University Braves at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Ottawa. The Braves will be seeking revenge after Baker came out on top last year, 25-24.

“As you’d expect with a top 15 team, they have a lot of talent,” Grossner said. “They probably have the best defensive ends in the country. And following last year, you know special teams will be a factor, and we’ll just have to see who comes out and makes their field goals.”

Grossner mentions field goals as he refers to the final seconds of last year’s battle, when the Braves had three different chances to hit a game-winning field goal but were penalized once and missed the other two attempts.

That “next step” Grossner speaks of will be made with a new quarterback, after the graduation of 2013 starter Jake Morse. Stepping up this season will be redshirt sophomore Nick Marra, who sat out last season due to a knee injury.

“(Marra) has all the tools needed to be a successful quarterback. He’s got the smarts, a great arm, the instincts,” Grossner said. “Sometimes he’ll throw a ball and I wonder what in the heck he was thinking, but he makes plays.”

Coming off a spectacular freshman campaign, sophomore Clarence Clark is slowly gaining chemistry with his quarterback.

“Nick has been getting into a groove,” Clark said. “He started off kind of slow, but as we get geared toward game day, he has been focused.”

Clark is confident in BU’s passing game this weekend.

“(Ottawa) corners aren’t the best we’ll see all year, but we can’t get too comfortable,” Clark said. “All we have to worry about is lining up and beating the guy in front of us.”

One player Grossner is excited to showcase is freshman Ladai Boose, who will see time at receiver.

“(Boose) can make plays, he’s very dynamic,” Grossner said. “We’ll see how much we can get him out there, because he can play some quarterback as well.”

On defense, the Wildcats are looking to replicate the production of last year’s senior linebackers Darrick Smith and Emmerson Clarke, combining for a total of 13 interceptions.

“It’s been fun to see the defensive coaches work in the tip drill, telling everybody that someone has to replace all of those picks we had last year, and 16 of them came from our linebackers,” Grossner said.

A unique situation has arisen on the defensive line. Senior defensive end Andre Jolly is coming back from two torn patellar tendons, but last year’s freshman duo of Adam Novak and Nick Becker return from a stellar 2013.

Becker knows he’ll have to share the load with Jolly, a 2012 All-American, but will see time on the field following his success last season.

“We will have a rotation with me, (Novak) and (Jolly,) but I am excited to be out there again,” Becker said.

Grossner knows that the key to the game will be in the trenches. Ottawa features a running back in Luke Lundy, who at almost 240 pounds, can wear down a defense.

“He rushed for 1,500 yards last year, so we’re going to have to key in on him,” Grossner said. “That kid is no joke.”

Grossner is as anxious as everyone else to see what unfolds on the field this weekend, especially after last year’s County Line Clash. This could be the last matchup of the two schools in the near future due to the upcoming Heart of America Athletic Conference expansion.

“Of course, we’re just going out there and playing the same old football, but we’ll see what happens with turnovers and special teams,” he said. “Who knows what could happen with after last year?”

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