The Baker Orange

Wildcats cruise past MNU, 38-19

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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The Wildcats, who now have a 7-1 record, will take on the 3-5 Central Methodist University Eagles at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, in Liston Stadium. It will be senior day, the team’s final home game of the season.

The Baker Wildcats turned what was anticipated to be a competitive rivalry game into a beat-down in a 38-19 win over the MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers Saturday at Liston Stadium.

“At first it felt like a rivalry game, then we started beating up on them and it started to feel like every other game,” junior linebacker Akim Francis said.

The game was sloppy on both sides, with four turnovers each for the Wildcats and Pioneers. The Wildcats’ offense was able to overcome those turnovers by tallying 432 yards of total offense, while the Pioneers were only able to attain 235.

“It was a great game for our offense despite the turnovers,” junior Adonis Powell said. “It just goes to show how much skill we have, to have the success we had even with all of those turnovers.”

Junior Nick Marra had his second turnover-heavy game of the season with three interceptions, but he also had 261 yards and three touchdowns. Grossner knows that it comes with the territory of trotting out a risk-taking quarterback.

“I thought Nick made some great throws, and obviously there were some awful throws,” he said. ”But that’s the type of quarterback he is. He’s a gunslinger and we just have to live with that sometimes.”

Grossner was most excited about stopping MNU’s Javon Taylor, who came into the game leading the conference in rushing yards, with just 16 yards on 19 carries.

“You know, he’s the returning player of the year in our conference for a good reason,” Grossner said. “He’s a very good football player. I saw it live, but you don’t realize what we’re doing to him until you see the stats, and we took him out of the game.”

The linebacker trio of Tucker Pauley, Francis and Kharon Brown combined for 34 tackles, impressing Grossner.

“They kept showing up,” he said. “Every time they ran to Tucker’s side it was over, Kharon made some great flow plays, and Akim was all over the field.

Francis attributed the linebackers’ success to the effort of the defensive line.

“The defensive line got good penetration, and that allowed me, KB and Tucker Pauley to slide through the holes and get to the ball,” he said.

The Pioneers had to stretch the limits of the depth chart at quarterback, playing backups Jakob Jordan and Brandon Jeffries. Francis and the Baker defense watched enough film to know what to expect from each quarterback.

“We knew Jordan was a running quarterback, and Jeffries was the throwing quarterback,” he said. “Knowing that going into the game helped a lot.”

MNU kept the game close in the first half, answering a Baker touchdown in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7. Then the Pioneers scored on an interception return to take a 14-10 lead for a large chunk of the second quarter, until sophomore Cornell Brown ran in for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats up 17-14 right before halftime.

The Wildcats broke the game open in the second half, and Powell started the charge with a 12-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

“In the second half, a lot of the plays they weren’t making was because we physically beat them up,” Grossner said.

Powell finished with his second-highest rushing total of the season, 122 yards on 18 carries. Grossner was pleased with the Wildcats’ ability to run the ball, but knows there is some improvement to make if they want to run the ball consistently.

“The coaching staff saw something there and took advantage of it, but it’s also a direct correlation of us going fast, wearing them down then deciding to go to the run game at the right time,” he said. “We know there’s going to be a time where the weather turns on us and we have to grind it out, and those are my worries right now.”

At the end of the game, Powell was just glad that no animosity spilled over into after-the-play scuffles with a Pioneer team that was frustrated with its lack of execution

“You can just tell that there is tension between us, but I’m glad we were able to shake hands at the end of it and nothing broke out,” he said.

At 7-1, the Wildcats lead the Heart of America Athletic Conference South Division into next Saturday’s game against Central Methodist University. Powell is confident that there will not be a letdown in effort following the emotional victory over MNU.

“At this point, we’re thinking about the playoffs every week to motivate us,” he said. “We’re treating each game as a stepping stone to Daytona.”

The Wildcats will take on the 3-5 Eagles Saturday at 1 p.m at Liston Stadium for senior day, the team’s final home game of the season. The Eagles last defeated Evangel 34-28 on Saturday. Last year’s matchup saw Baker defeat CMU 28-14.

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