The Baker Orange

Unbeaten Wildcats cruise past William Penn

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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The No. 15 Baker University football team has put the Heart of America Athletic Conference on notice after a second straight blowout victory, this one a 48-13 win over the No. 19 William Penn University Statesmen Saturday in the home opener at Liston Stadium.

At 3-0, BU is the only remaining undefeated team in the Heart, as the Statesmen were 2-0 prior to the game, defeating two impressive opponents in MidAmerica Nazarene and Missouri Valley.

“After this win, the other teams in the conference will be looking at Baker, and we just gotta keep the ball rolling,” sophomore Clarence Clark said.

Clark was one of the stars in this pass-heavy game, catching nine passes for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 60-yard screen pass in the second quarter. In his third game back from a season-ending injury last year, he looks to be back in the form that got him All-American nods at kicker and honorable mention at wide receiver in 2013.

“It feels good to be playing pretty well after I tore my ACL last year, but what I’m most happy about is that the team is playing well,” Clark said. “That’s what matters the most.”

Along with the two receiving touchdowns, Clark scored 11 more points, with five extra points and two field goals.

“I am just trying to put as many points on the board for my team as I can,” Clark said.

Another big game came out of junior quarterback Nick Marra, who went 31 or 43 for 392 yards and five touchdowns, giving him 11 scores in the past two games.

“He’s been the leader on the practice field, he’s been the leader in the games, and he’s been hitting on all cylinders,” Clark said of Marra. “We have quite a bit of talent at the receiver position, and we decided to line our five cats up and let Nick have a day, and that’s what he did.”

For all the success of Marra and the Wildcats’ passing game, junior Adonis Powell had some first-half production in the running game, scoring a 16-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Powell finished with nine carries for 37 yards and a touchdown.

That was the second touchdown of a 21-point first quarter, and the Wildcats scored another field goal to take a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter. The lead stretched to 41-7 by halftime, which gave the starters a chance to rest, and provided the backups some playing time for a second straight week.

“You see those guys working hard in practice, and you want to give them a chance to get some game experience, because we’ll need them down the road,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “And especially with a wishbone team with a line that cuts a lot, it leaves guys susceptible to injury, so it’s good to get guys with fresh legs out there.”

The Wildcats’ pass-heavy attack was a direct contrast to William Penn’s wishbone offense, with 59 rushing attempts to 14 passing attempts. The Wildcat defense held the Statesmen’s rushing attack to 197 yards on the 59 carries.

“We ran the wishbone every single minute of practice this week,” junior Kharon Brown said. “It was grueling, it was fun, and by the end of the week I could run it in my sleep.”

Brown both practiced the wishbone on the field and studied it in the film room, and it played a big role in stopping the attack led by quarterback Tyler Hafner.

“We noticed that he likes to have the ball in his hands in clutch situations, so we really keyed on him after the dive,” Brown said. “We made sure he had to pitch the ball every time.”

The defense held WPU in check through the air as well, picking off Hafner three times in the game, two by junior Akim Francis. Another three turnovers came on fumbles lost by the Statesmen, giving the Wildcats 12 forced turnovers the past two games.

“I think on both sides of the ball, we were precise in our preparation, and it showed tonight,” Grossner said. “And the coaches can have the best game plan in the world, but it comes down to the players executing, and what a great job they did.”

The Wildcats will take on 2-1 Graceland University in a second straight home game at 6 p.m. this Saturday at Liston Stadium.

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