The Baker Orange

Wildcats start 3-0 for third straight season

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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The No. 4 Baker Wildcats have opened the season with three wins and no losses for the third consecutive year. Baker dominated No. 6 Grand View 36-13 in the season opener, dismantled Culver-Stockton 89-27 in its second game and shut down William Penn’s triple option on Saturday, 41-7.

“I love this football team,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “They’re playing at a very high level.”

Led by junior quarterback Logan Brettell, the Wildcats have the most explosive pass offense in the NAIA at 452 yards per game. Brettell was named the Heart of America Athletic Conference’s Player of the Week for the third-straight week following his 427 yards and five touchdowns on Saturday.

“That’s what makes us such a dangerous team. When they try to take away one receiver, we go to the next one,” Brettell said. “Every one of them can score from anywhere on the field.”

Brettell is averaging 376 yards per game through the air and is first in the NAIA in total yards through his first three games of his junior campaign.

The Wildcats have the NAIA’s second-best scorer in senior Quanzee Johnson. Johnson leads the Wildcats in yards (269) and touchdown receptions (six). Johnson caught four touchdown passes in Saturday’s win over William Penn with 169 yards on five catches, including a 96-yard touchdown grab to begin the scoring.

“I’ve got a quarterback that can deliver the ball perfectly on a dime every time,” Johnson said. “In practice we call him ‘the Machine.’”

Brettell has distributed his passing evenly among his core five receivers. Johnson, juniors Clarence Clark and Cornell Brown and seniors Damon Nolan and Ladai Shawn Boose have been on the receiving end for 73 of his 94 passes, 1,025 of Baker’s 1,356 passing yards and 13 of Baker’s 16 touchdowns passes.

“Five of us who can get in the end zone any time, who can make a play any time,” Johnson said. “I think that’s something that the other teams have to watch out for, five receivers that can make you pay at any time.”

The Wildcats established their rushing attack in Saturday’s win with Cornell Brown and freshman Nazayah Brown. Cornell Brown rushed 13 times for 97 yards and his first rushing touchdown of the season (fourth overall) and Nazayah Brown rushed 14 times for 70 yards.

“Cornell and Naz ran so hard for us this week and they did a fantastic job, which opened up a lot of play action and double moves for us,” Brettell said.

Defensively, the Wildcats have been almost untouchable. William Penn scored on a kick return touchdown but couldn’t dent the Baker defense, and BU’s first-team defense allowed only seven points to Culver-Stockton before coming out of the game early in the second quarter.

“We’ve been preaching all year long that defense wins championships,” Johnson said. “We have beasts back there.”

Senior Kharon Brown leads the Wildcats in tackles with 20, senior Akim Francis is second in tackles with 18, including 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage. Francis is first on the team in solo tackles with 12. Seniors Avery Parker and Darrain Winston each intercepted their second passes of the season on Saturday. Winston has nine picks in his last 16 games and Parker has five in that stretch.

Baker plays at 6 p.m. this Saturday at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. Baker beat Graceland 52-21 last season, and the Wildcats have won eight straight games against the Yellowjackets. Graceland is 1-2 on the season. After beating Avila 16-9 in the season opener, the Yellowjackets have lost to Missouri Valley and MNU.

After the visit to Graceland, the Wildcats play their toughest game in the month of September. Baker hosts No. 15 Benedictine at 1 p.m. on Sept. 24 for homecoming at Liston Stadium. Baker looks to avenge its only loss of the regular season in 2015, a 35-31 loss in Atchison. The Wildcats have lost two of their last three to Benedictine, the only win coming at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 11, 2014.

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