The Baker Orange

No. 4 Wildcats pound Avila, 42-14

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Any worries about the Baker football team looking past Avila University were wiped away early Saturday, as the No. 4 Wildcats stormed ahead in the first half to defeat the Eagles 42-14.

“You can never look at somebody’s record in college football, because you’re going to get their best play, week in and week out,” last week’s Heart of America Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week senior Tyrell Everett said. “The one thing we have to do is take care of ourselves and stick to the fundamentals. We can’t worry about what everybody else is doing.”

Head coach Mike Grossner was also impressed with the Wildcats’ effort.

“I thought we came out very workmanlike in the first half, and did what we needed to do to get a three-score lead,” Grossner said.

The Wildcats were aided by short fields in the first quarter, as sophomore Josh Kock returned an interception to the Eagles’ 20-yard line on the first possession, and following an Avila touchdown, junior Damon Nolan returned a kickoff 83 yards to set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from junior Nick Marra to sophomore Clarence Clark.

Leading 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Wildcats were able to separate in the second quarter, starting with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that gave Marra the third of his five touchdown passes on the day.

“The first two scores were quick scores set up by our defense and special teams, but this was the first long, sustained drive that ended with six points, and that was big,” Marra said.

After that, the Wildcats went up 28-7 on a short pass to junior Ladai Shawn Boose. All four of Marra’s first-half touchdowns were shorter than 10 yards.

“In terms of efficiency, I think that’s where we excelled, in terms of getting the ball out quick and coming up with big completions in the red zone,” Marra said.

Aside from the first-quarter touchdown from Avila aided by two long passes, the Eagles were unable to get anything going on offense while the Wildcats’ first team defense was on the field. Everett thinks the defensive front played a big role in stopping the Eagles offensive attack.

“I believe the game starts in the trenches, and this defensive line, we play fast and we play for each other, and that’s what this game is all about,” Everett said.

Marra appreciates the defense’s effort, and their success gives him and the rest of the offense a sense of relief.

“We can go three-and-out and feel like the defense will be able to get the ball back for us,” Marra said. “We don’t feel like we need to score every possession.”

Sophomore Cornell Brown was able to get the Wildcats’ lone rushing touchdown of the game from 18-yards out for a 35-7 lead early in the second half. The rushing attack is the primary area in which Wildcats seek improvement.

“We have the guys up front and the running backs, but there are just little things we need to do to improve our run game, and I think they’ll come,” Marra said. “But we definitely need to improve in that area, just to be able to close out games.”

However, the Wildcats’ played most of the game without primary running back Adonis Powell, who had only three carries for 32 yards.

“From a scheme standpoint, when we have five wide and we don’t want to change personnel, Cornell lines up in the backfield,” Grossner said. “When we went to a semi-normal set, that’s when Adonis came in and looked really good. He’s the victim of us scoring points and having success, because at that point you don’t want to put somebody in there and give them a chance to get hurt.”

From there, Marra had his longest passing play of the day with a 55-yard touchdown throw to Boose to put the Wildcats up 42-7. Marra rested the fourth quarter with the game out of reach for the Eagles, but still finished 24 of 31 for 238 yards and five touchdowns.

The Eagles brought the game to within 28 points at the end of the third quarter, but neither team was able to score in the fourth, making the final 42-14. Grossner thought Avila is a better team than the score and Avila’s record, now 1-6, indicates.

“I thought from watching film and then watching them live, they have a lot of talent and skill,” Grossner said. “What we did is wear them down with the no-huddle. At one point they subbed in four defensive lineman at the same time, and when you see that that’s when you know you’ve got them.”

The Wildcats are now 6-1 on the season, holding a share of the lead in the Heart of America Athletic Conference with Grand View University. Baker holds a tiebreaker over Grand View after beating the Vikings in the opening week, 20-15.

The Wildcats’ next game comes Saturday, when they face MidAmerica Nazarene University. They will take on the (3-4, 1-0 South Division) Pioneers at 11 a.m at Liston Stadium.

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