The Baker Orange

Football team reaches national quarterfinals

Story by Chad Mullens, Writer

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Through the cold and wind, Baker’s offense was effective against the warm-weather Point University’s defense in a 68-21 win on Saturday at Liston Stadium. The Wildcats put up a season-high 605 yards of total offense and are now one step closer to the NAIA Championship Game in Daytona Beach.

“You could see it in the pregame that there was a sense of excitement early, but after 40 minutes they weren’t as loud, and you could tell the cold was getting to them,” head coach Mike Grossner said of the Wildcats’ opponents from West Point, Georgia.

Baker did most of its first-half damage from the midway point of the first quarter on, after the opening possession ended with a Point interception, and the second drive ended in a punt. The Wildcats scored four times in the next five possessions to take a 26-0 lead in the first half led by backup sophomore quarterback Logan Brettell. A few hours before game time, Brettell was told he would be the starter in place of Nick Marra, who is injured.

“I prepare like I’m the starter every week, but coming in knowing I was the starter was a little easier,” Brettell said. “When you come off the bench, there’s a little bit of shock, but knowing I was the starter allowed me to prepare extra, watch even more film than usual, and come in with confidence.”

Grossner and rest of the coaching staff knew that they would be getting quality play out of him.

“He’s not really a backup in the traditional sense because he’s had so many reps, but we have a ton of confidence in him, and we’ve seen what he can do,” Grossner said.

All four first-half touchdowns came from the arm of Brettell, three of which fell into the hands of sophomore Clarence Clark. Clark finished the first half with six catches for 183 yards and three scores.

“Clarence is an amazing athlete, and the offensive line really protected me,” Brettell said. “There were a few times when I was standing in the pocket for four, five seconds and I was able to do so because of the O-line.”

Clark and Brettell have already established chemistry, and both were happy with the way each other was playing.

“Logan was on the money with everything he was throwing, and he threw in front of me, which is something I like,” Clark said.

Brettell and Clark both came dangerously close to breaking individual school records. Brettell finished with 419 yards, 15 from the school passing yards record set by Mack Brown in 2008. Clark finished with 200 receiving yards, 22 yards shy the school record set by Gary Greenwood in 1993. Both were pulled at the end of the third quarter.

“I never like to look at stats, but it’s pretty cool to do that,” Brettell said. “And we now have three quarterbacks in a row to throw for six touchdowns in a game. It feels good to be a part of that group.”

The Wildcats finished the half leading the Skyhawks 26-7, but Clark knew that they would have to come out for the second half with intensity.

“We have been a great first half team, but in the second half we would come out a little complacent,” Clark said. “At halftime, coach G hit us with some choice words, and told us we haven’t proven anything yet, so we came out with fire.”

The running game came alive for the Wildcats in the second half, aided by the legs of Brettell, who converted a few third downs on scrambles. Adonis Powell led the team with 16 carries for 90 yards, Dalton Buehler added 48 yards, most of which came on a 41-yard touchdown rumble late in the fourth quarter for the Wildcats final score. Senior Alex Stebbins also added a touchdown run from 1 yard out, and scored another touchdown receiving.

“That’s a kid that for four years, he’s been a lunch pail guy,” Grossner said of Stebbins. “He’s been the leader of our team, and doing stuff on special teams, so it was great to see him with the rock in his hands scoring for us.”

Clark was excited about the offensive output the Wildcats had after not playing to expectations last week.

“Offensively, we knew we had to bounce back after what had happened against Evangel,” Clark said. “Once we saw we could beat them deep, we used that to our advantage with the screen game and running the ball as well.”

Charles Ducksworth accounted for all of the Skyhawks’ scoring, starting with a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He later scored on an 88-yard kickoff return following Clark’s fourth touchdown of the game to cut Baker’s lead to 33-14 early in the second half, and he had a 6-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, with the game well out of reach at 61-21.

The Wildcats piled it on in the second half with touchdowns from the defense and special teams. In the third quarter, Indie Allen blocked a punt in the end zone, and the ball was recovered by Birdsong Warren to put the Wildcats up 54-14. On the next Point drive, the ball was stripped by Tucker Pauley and recovered by Adam Novak 52 yards to give the Wildcats a 61-14 lead. Grossner was happy with the overall defensive effort that allowed only 88 yards on 41 carries.

“The front four as always dominated, and the linebackers played really well within each other,” Grossner said.

Novak won the defensive MVP of the game thanks to the defensive touchdown in addition to his five tackles and 1.5 sacks, and Brettell won the offensive MVP. Grossner thinks that the grueling schedule of the Heart of America Athletic Conference aided the Wildcats in overwhelming the Skyhawks.

“We’ve had a heck of a schedule, and there’s nothing we’ll be surprised by competition-wise, but I think the key to us being here is that we’re healthy,” Grossner said.

Brettell added, “I think that schedule is so tough, it’s something we take pride in. And Point didn’t necessarily face the same kind of competition, so I think that helped us.”

The Wildcats now await the announcement of when and where they’ll play next Saturday.

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