The Baker Orange

No. 3 Wildcats reach halfway point undefeated

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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Baker enters its bye week with an unblemished record after beating No. 22 Peru State 42-21 on Saturday in Peru, Nebraska. For the second time in the last three years, the Baker Wildcats are 6-0 to begin the season.

“I love the mentality of our football team,” head football coach Mike Grossner said. “We completed the North (Division) schedule at 6-0 and that’s all you can ask from a team. Now we’re 0-0 and we’re fighting for a conference title.”

The Wildcats used a balanced offense to score three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns on Saturday. Despite two first-half interceptions, junior quarterback Logan Brettell still threw for 332 yards.

“He was a little off in the first half,” Grossner said. “He settled in after halftime and had a big third quarter to get us going.”

The coaching staff wasn’t sure if junior running back Cornell Brown would be able to start the game. But Brown made an immediate impact and rushed for two scores in the first half, his seventh and eighth rushing touchdowns on the season. Then Brettell found Damon Nolan for a 19-yard score to give Baker a 21-0 lead before the half.

First half turnovers, as well as a combined 12 penalties in the game for Baker, kept this game close. Baker could’ve been up by more than just 21 points at the break. But it was the Baker defense that kept the Bobcats off the board in the first half.

“I thought they played inspired football and I thought our coaches prepared them well on defense,” Grossner said.

Peru State scored first in the third quarter to cut the score to 21-7 and the Wildcats were forced to punt on the following drive. Baker pulled a fake punt with junior punter Jacob Tompkins as he raced 21 yards into open field for a first down to keep Baker’s drive alive. Then the Wildcats scored with a 43-yard strike from Brettell to senior receiver Quanzee Johnson to go up 28-7.

Peru State then had its longest drive of the game, 13 plays and 52 yards, capped off by a 12-yard passing touchdown to cut into the lead again, making the score 28-14 late in the third quarter.

Baker put the game away in the fourth quarter by scoring two quick touchdowns. The first was a 44-yard bomb to junior receiver Clarence Clark and the second was a 5-yard quarterback scramble by Brettell. Leading 42-14, the Wildcats would cruise into their sixth-straight win and 12th-straight win in conference play.

“This is a tough place to play,” Grossner said. “It’s homecoming and the place was packed. It’s loud down there and the fans are behind this team.”

Cornell Brown finished with 80 rushing yards and his two rushing touchdowns. Johnson caught five passes for 104 yards, Clark caught six passes for 88 yards, and seniors Ladai Shawn Boose and Damon Nolan combined for 11 catches and 89 yards.

Senior safety Darrain Winston added to his team-leading interception total with two picks in Saturday’s game. Senior linebacker Akim Francis led Baker in tackles with 12, including one sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. Senior Kharon Brown and sophomore Mikeice Adams were busy in the run defense with 11 tackles each and a combined five tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Sophomore cornerback Nate McLaurin played his best game of the season with 10 tackles and a pass breakup. McLaurin has only played in six games at Baker and has already made an immediate impact.

“I told Nate that they didn’t want to throw to him after they threw his way the first time,” Grossner said. “Any corner that’s making 10 tackles is near the ball making plays.”

The Wildcats will take a majority of next week off, from Wednesday to Tuesday, in order to keep themselves fresh with 14 days in between games.

“We’ve asked a lot out of them mentally and physically,” Grossner said. “They need as much of a break away from us as possible. My hope is they come back hungry.”

Grossner took a step back to analyze where the team’s currently at.

“I love our first team defense and if you look at their stats through the first six games, they haven’t given up many points,” Grossner said. “There’s not a lot I dislike about this squad. They’ve just got to focus and keep in condition to come back after the bye and have a purpose.”

The Wildcats have been dominant through six games and haven’t trailed at any point this season. Grossner and the Wildcats are confident that even if they do fall behind in a game, that they’ll respond well.

“Knowing this group, I think they’ll be determined, a little embarrassed, and they’ll get after people,” Grossner said. “I see a group that will rally together. I’d be shocked if they ever laid down.”

The Wildcats host the Avila Eagles at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 at Liston Stadium. The football game will be the Saturday evening nightcap to Baldwin City’s Maple Leaf Festival that weekend.