Wildcats win big on Maple Leaf weekend


Chad Phillips

Junior wide receiver Cornell Brown celebrates with teammates and the student section in the end zone after a 2-yard touchdown run to increase the Baker lead to 24-0 over Avila on Oct. 15 at Liston Stadium. Image by Chad Phillips.

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The No. 2 Baker football team is off to a 7-0 start for the second time since 2014. The Wildcats beat the Avila Eagles 52-7 on Saturday night at Liston Stadium and improved to 15-0 all time against the Eagles.

Even though the Wildcats scored 52 points and accumulated 429 yards of offense, Baker didn’t score a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time this season. The Wildcats led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter with only a 36-yard field goal against the winless Eagles.

“We were a little slow out of the gate,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “Once we get going, we’re a very explosive football team.”

It only took two plays in the second quarter for the Wildcats to get into the end zone. Quarterback Logan Brettell found Clarence Clark for a 38-yard touchdown and the Wildcats would score six more touchdowns.

Four minutes later, Brettell hit Ladai Shawn Boose for a 16-yard score on a screen pass to take a 17-0 lead. In the final two minutes of the first half, from the goal line, Cornell Brown dove over the pile on first and goal to put Baker up 24-0 at the break.

Avila running back Demonte McClary scored on a 42-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter. McClary finished the night with 131 yards on 23 rushes, but the Baker defense wouldn’t allow another score.

Baker’s Naz Brown followed Avila’s score with a 50-yard score on a swing pass from Brettell, and then Brown ran in for his second score and Baker led 38-7.

With 2:17 left in the third quarter, Brettell found Boose for his second touchdown reception of the night, this time from 49 yards out.

“Before that play we called that it was going to happen,” Boose said. “I sprinted and Logan delivered a good ball. I’m surprised they didn’t tackle me, but you have to play until the whistle blows.”

Brettell evenly dispersed his passes to his receivers. Brown had nine receptions for 81 yards, Boose caught five passes for 81 yards, and Clark led the Wildcats in receiving yards with 101 on five catches.

“He does that every week,” Boose said. “He gets great play calling, he’s elusive, he trusts us, we trust him. It’s a whole gathering here and we’re going to keep rolling.”

Damon Nolan returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“We had great production from Cornell (Brown), Clarence (Clark), Ladai (Shawn Boose) and Damon (Nolan),” Grossner said. “We need to do that down the road.”

The Wildcats won 52-7 but the game was overshadowed by personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

“It was just one of those games,” Grossner said. “The scoreboard showed 52-7, but I wasn’t happy with the penalties and the chippiness.”

Linebacker Akim Francis agreed.

“It wasn’t necessarily a tough game, but we just beat ourselves with missed assignments and penalties,” Francis said.

Although the stats only show 10 combined penalties between the two teams, the officials had to break up fights throughout the game. Several penalties offset each other, so those penalties weren’t accounted for.

Following their bye week, the Wildcats weren’t perfect but they didn’t have to be against the 0-7 Eagles. The team’s week off did give the Wildcats fresh legs and a week to reset their thinking for the final stretch of this season.

“It was kind of hard to be on a bye week, because we expect to be playing every week,” Francis said. “Watching other college football games made me hungry to get back out there.”

The Wildcats now turn their attention to the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers for next Saturday’s rivalry game. The Pioneers are 4-3 after beating Evangel 52-21 on Saturday in Springfield, Missouri.

Baker has won two of its last three matchups with the Pioneers, winning in 2013 and 2015. Going into the game in 2013, Baker was winless since 1999 against MNU.

“It’s always a fight with them and they’re going to give us their A game,” Boose said. “But that’s how it’s going to be for us every week.”

The Wildcats are in the exact same situation that they were in two years ago. They’re No. 2 in the NAIA, they have a 7-0 record and they’re traveling to Olathe for a 2 p.m. kickoff. Two years ago the Wildcats blew a fourth quarter lead and lost 34-27 in overtime against MNU. The loss turned into two more in the final three games and Baker missed out on the NAIA playoffs.

Baker beat MNU 38-19 last season at Liston Stadium by outscoring the Pioneers 21-5 in the second half. The Wildcats are aware of how important every game will be throughout the rest of this season, but they’re especially aware that they want to beat MNU.

“Does it feel good to beat them? Yeah,” Grossner said. “Does it probably feel really good? Yeah. In that case, it’s a newer rivalry than Benedictine.”