Baker whips Eagles to earn its first winning season since 2000
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Season finales like this don't come around too often.
Baker University's football team (6-5) ran all over Avila University here Saturday ... literally.
The Wildcats rushed for 411 yards as they routed the Eagles 58-23 to finish the 2007 season. This was the first winning season for Baker since 2000.
"We focused on the run this week," coach Mike Grossner said. "We came off a good passing game, so we were confident in our passing game. They both came together today."
This season was Grossner's first winning campaign during his four-year tenure at Baker. He was proud of his players for winning the final game to claim the winning season.
"We ended up with the first winning record at Baker University since 2000," Grossner said. "That's something to be proud of. We went 6-4 in a very tough league."
Baker senior Micah Mason, 2004 Baldwin High School graduate, played his final game for the Wildcats on Saturday. While the moment was a bit emotional, he was thrilled to be a part of the 6-5 season.
"This was a nice goodbye to my fellow teammates, because I've played with them for four years," Mason said. "We grew together. We've had some adverse seasons, so it was great to get a winning season this year. This was a great goodbye."
Although the emotions after the game were mixed, all of the Wildcats were smiling and enjoying the blowout victory.
Many of the Wildcats chatted with friends and family after the contest, all the while taking their time leaving the field. Mason was one of them in particular, leaving the collegiate field for the final time as a player.
"It was very nice," Mason said of the win. "A lot of those games we lost were very close, which is promising for the future Wildcats. This winning season is a demonstration of the hard work and the leadership that the seniors had this season."
Before the seniors could enjoy their moment after the game, the Wildcats scored 58 points on their Heart of America Athletic Conference opponent. The Wildcats compiled 519 yards of offense in the victory.
Junior Richie Bryant and senior Frank Owens did most of the damage on the ground. Bryant rushed 17 times for a career-high 240 yards and four touchdowns, while Owens finished his Baker career with 16 carries and 169 yards.
"Frank went out in style," Grossner said. "I told him if he ran a 4.4 40 (meter dash), you would have four or five touchdowns. He said 'I know.' He got pulled down a couple times from behind. We also finally saw Richie get out into the open field."
While the offense was the highlight of the afternoon, the Wildcats' defense held Avila in check for most of the game. The Eagles scored their final touchdown on the final play of the game as their quarterback scrambled around before finding an open wide receiver in the end zone.
"Our defense played really solid today," Grossner said. "There were a couple of times they got behind us on a couple of trick plays, which is going to happen if you play aggressive defense. Our secondary played really well."
Junior Derek Doerfler closed the most prolific season ever for a Wildcat kicker, finishing with a school-record 23 field goals this fall. He made three of four field goals and all seven PATs against Avila to earn NAIA special teams player of the week honors for the third time this season. In 2007, Doerfler also set school records for most field goals in a game (five) and longest field goal (62 yards).
Before 2007, the NAIA record for field goals made in a season was 22 by Herve Roussel of Wayne State (Neb.) in 1984. Doerfler is currently tied with St. Xavier (Ill.) kicker Shane Longest with 23 field goals. Longest will have a chance to extend his total on Saturday when No. 10-ranked St. Xavier hosts St. Ambrose (Iowa) in the first round of the NAIA playoffs.
Although Baker won its last game and finished with a winning record, Grossner was still slightly disappointed after the win Saturday. The Wildcats had a chance to make the playoffs with one more victory during the season.
"My disappointment is we are one game out of the playoffs," Grossner said. "We know we could have been there. I thought we had a good year and this team played hard all year long."