Big win at Graceland sets up homecoming showdown

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The No. 4 Baker Wildcats picked up their fourth win in four games with a 44-15 victory at Graceland in Lamoni, Iowa , on Saturday. After leading only 16-3 at halftime, the Wildcats scored 28 second-half points to win their second-straight road game.

After leading the NAIA in passing offense through the first three weeks, Baker dominated the ground game and rushed for 285 yards. Junior running back Cornell Brown carried the ball 20 times for 232 yards, the best rushing game of his career.

This was Baker’s best single-game rushing performance since Camren Torneden rushed for 252 yards on Nov. 1, 2014, against Culver-Stockton.

Brown rushed for three touchdowns in the game and now leads the Wildcats with four rushing touchdowns this season. He scored Baker’s second touchdown of the game on a 56-yard run in the second quarter. Brown’s second touchdown came from 15 yards out on Baker’s first drive of the third quarter. He completed the hat trick with an 8-yard run early in the fourth quarter, pushing Baker’s lead to 37-3.

Junior quarterback Logan Brettell had problems with the Graceland secondary early in the game, throwing his first and second interceptions of the season in the first half.

He began improving in the third quarter, however, and finished 33-for-47 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns. For the first time this season, the Wildcat passing offense was outgained by the run game, but they still totaled 270 passing yards.

After taking an early 16-0 lead thanks to a 55-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Ladai Shawn Boose, a safety and Brown’s long score, the Yellowjackets got on the scoreboard with a 31-yard field goal. Then the game slowed down for the remainder of the second quarter due to penalties. At the break Baker led 16-3.

The second half was a completely different half for Baker, as the Wildcats put themselves back into a rhythm on both sides of the football.

Senior receiver Quanzee Johnson followed his four touchdown performance against William Penn with 11 catches for 89 yards. Boose caught seven passes for 74 yards, and Brown caught four passes out of the backfield for 35 yards. Senior Damon Nolan and junior Clarence Clark combined for 10 catches and 57 yards.

The first-team Wildcat defense didn’t allow a Graceland touchdown and forced two field-goal attempts. Baker forced nine Graceland punts and added four sacks of Graceland quarterbacks. Junior Josh Kock had two and seniors Adam Novak and Nick Becker both were credited for one.

The win sets up the Wildcats’ biggest game of the 2016 season to date, a matchup with the No. 15 Benedictine Ravens on Saturday. Baker’s homecoming game kicks off at 2 p.m. at Liston Stadium.

The Ravens are 3-1 on the season after beating No. 18 MNU Saturday 24-14 in Atchison. The Ravens have won two of their last three games against Baker, but they haven’t played in Baldwin City since 2011.

With a win, the Wildcats would finish their run through the North Division with a perfect 5-0 record. A win would also avenge the Wildcats’ only regular-season loss of the 2015 season.