Wildcats win at MNU for first time since 1996

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The No. 2 Baker Wildcats went into the locker room on Saturday afternoon in Olathe trailing for the first time this season. MNU led Baker 17-14 at the end of the first half, and the Pioneers were looking for their 15th win in their last 17 football games against Baker. But the Wildcats exploded in the second half, scoring 41 points and winning 55-34.

The Wildcats are now 8-0 on the season and have won three of their last four against the MNU Pioneers. This was Baker’s first win in Olathe since 1996 and Grossner’s first win in Olathe.

“We hadn’t hit this kind of adversity at halftime all year,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “I think all it took was us to make some adjustments and then I talked to them about playing to win.”

Junior running back Cornell Brown sparked the Wildcats’ big second half. Brown rushed 17 times for 107 yards on the afternoon and scored three times. He also caught five passes for 112 yards and had a game-changing, 56-yard score in the fourth quarter.

“Cornell has been running like that all year,” Grossner said. “He’s creating some opportunities and you have to tackle him.”

Baker led MNU 14-10 late in the second quarter, but the Wildcats allowed for MNU to score a touchdown with 3:34 to play before halftime, and MNU took a 17-14 lead. In the locker room at halftime, Grossner spoke to his team for the first time all season.

“He said play like winners,” Brown said. “We know who we are but we just have to want it. Whoever wants it the most was going to win the game. I think we showed that we wanted it the most.”

The Wildcats outscored MNU 20-0 in the third quarter. The defense didn’t allow MNU quarterback Trey Cooper to complete a pass in the entire third quarter.

“Our defense made a stop to begin the half and then our offense was running on all cylinders,” senior cornerback Avery Parker said. “The third quarter was huge for us.”

Junior quarterback Logan Brettell threw for touchdowns to Quanzee Johnson and Clarence Clark in the third quarter. Brown also rushed for his second touchdown of the game in that third quarter. Baker led 34-17, and it looked the Wildcats were back in control.

“It was a little bit of déjà vu,” Parker said. “We were up last time we were here and then they came back, and, of course, they ended up winning in overtime. They started to come back (this year) and we fought through it, and I think that’s what made the biggest difference between this year and two years ago.”

In the fourth quarter, the Pioneers rallied to cut the Baker lead to 34-27. The Wildcats had the ball at their own 44-yard line with a third-and-6. Brettell checked down to find Brown on the MNU sideline short of the first down. But Brown kept the play alive, sprinted back into the middle of the field and raced down the opposite sideline 56 yards for the touchdown. That play changed the game and gave Baker the necessary cushion.

“I just made a play,” Brown said. “One guy missed, and I saw an opening and my teammates were blocking downfield.”

Senior safety Darrain Winston then picked off his seventh pass of the season, which is tied for second in the NAIA, and set up Brown’s third rushing touchdown of the game to let the Wildcats go up 48-27. MNU scored another touchdown, but the Wildcats followed MNU’s score with a long touchdown run to seal the win. Senior running back Adonis Powell, in his first game of the season, raced 72 yards for his first touchdown since Nov. 14 at Evangel.

“I’m really happy for Adonis,” Brown said. “He’s worked hard his whole career and had an unfortunate injury and now he’s back. He makes our team that much better.”

The Wildcats exploded for 674 yards of offense. Brettell passed for 412 yards with three touchdowns and completed 68 percent of his passes.

“We needed him,” Grossner said. “He’s so efficient with the football and doesn’t throw bad balls. He gives our guys a chance or he takes it down and runs it.”

Clark caught 10 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. This was his third 100-yard receiving game this year and his best game of the 2016 season.

“We take him for granted,” Grossner said. “He did all that and made about 10 kicks. He’s got big-play ability and we used that today.”

The Wildcats have now won 18 of their last 19 conference games and 19 of their last 21 games overall. Baker will play its final road game of the regular season next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Fayette, Missouri, against the Central Methodist Eagles. CMU is 1-7 on the season and 0-2 in South Division play after losing to Evangel 30-28 this past Saturday.

Baker hasn’t lost to Central Methodist since 2006 The Wildcats will look to keep their perfect season and No. 2 national ranking alive.