Baker football holds off Benedictine 29-21

Story by Kyle Davis

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In recent years, the Baker University, Benedictine College football games have been close, but the Wildcats have still come out on top.

So, even when the Wildcats took leads of 12 and 15 Saturday, the Ravens insisted on making the game close.

Ultimately Baker sealed a fourth straight win over Benedictine with a 29-21 victory at Liston Stadium, improving its record to 3-3 on the season.

“That team never backed down, and they’re not going to,” head coach Mike Grossner said. “We always have a tough, physical game and it was that way tonight.”

Both offenses started slow, recording a three-and-out on each of the teams opening possessions.

Baker held Benedictine to a second three-and-out on the next possession and a high punt snap went out of the Benedictine end zone for a safety to put the Wildcats on the board first, up 2-0.

A 36-yard field goal by kicker Derek Doerfler, with 2:30 left in the first quarter, gave Baker a 5-0 lead. With the kick, Doerfler became Baker’s all-time leader in career field goals with 42, passing Mike Gardner.

The Wildcat offense kept working to improve its lead in the second quarter. With the team driving, Bryant rushed for 13 yards and was brought down at the Benedictine five yard line. With a third-and-goal from the two yard line, Brown found receiver Brad Fawcett in the end zone for a touchdown to put Baker up 12-0.

The Ravens finally struck with 1:03 left in the first half on a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Kelly to receiver Conor Walsh to cut the lead to five at the half.

It was a cold night, but Baker did not take long to re-heat its offense after halftime. Brown found Fawcett for a 22-yard reception down to the Ravens’ 18-yard line. Brown then found Bryant for a 16-yard touchdown pass, at just under four minutes into the third quarter, and again extended the lead to 12, at 19-7.

Kelly and the Ravens answered again with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Derek Lowe and the lead was again five.

Doerfler tried to hit his 13th career field goal of more than 50 yards, with a 54-yard field goal attempt, but came up just short.

Baker’s lone turnover came with 8:23 remaining in the game, still leading by five, when running back John Babb fumbled and the Ravens recovered the ball on their own 33 yard line. The Ravens were not able to capitalize on the turnover thanks to senior Rodney Harris, who broke up two deep Benedictine passes on consecutive plays and the Ravens were forced to punt.

Doerfler knocked in his second field goal of the game, this time from 46 yards out, with 5:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

With an eight-point lead, the Baker defense made the first of several big plays to keep the Wildcats on top. With 5:26 left, Kelly was sacked and then fumbled, which was recovered by defensive end Andrew Patch and taken down to the one-yard line. Bryant then took the ball in for a touchdown on the first play to give Baker its largest lead of the game, at 15, with the Wildcats leading 29-14.

The Ravens found the end zone one final time, to cut the lead to eight, with a 16-yard pass to Chris Langley.

Bryant then broke a 65-yard run down to the 15-yard line on the first play of the Baker drive. On fourth down, Baker tried a fake field goal pass, but the pass was incomplete.

“Our kids were excited,” Grossner said. “We had it called all game based off where they aligned. They finally aligned the way we wanted to.”

The defense came through again, this time in the form of a Brandon Hill interception to seal the win with 1:24 left in the game.

“Those were big plays by the defense in the second half,” Grossner said. “They kept coming up with them and that allowed us to win this game.”

A week after setting a new school record for most completions in a game, with 36 against Lindenwood University, Brown was again very efficient, completing 30 of 44 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

Bryant also had a productive day, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while also catching 10 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Fawcett led all receivers with 86 yards on nine receptions and a touchdown.

Next up for the Wildcats is Graceland University, 2-4 on the year and loser of four straight, at 1:30 Saturday in Lamoni, Iowa.