Preston Bell tolls for Baker _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Baker running back-defensive back Preston Bell: 'I played a lot in the streets and in my backyard before I actually started playing for a real school that wore helmets and shoulder pads.'

To call Preston Bell an asset on both sides of the ball for Baker might be an understatement.

Bell grabbed two interceptions and the scored the game’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter as the Buffaloes notched a 6-0 victory over Tara on Friday night in a nondistrict game at Glen Oaks.

Baker coach Richard Oliver called Bell one of the Buffaloes better players and said his versatility is needed at a Class 3A school like Baker.

“He’s a pretty good athlete,” Oliver said. “At our school, of course, you have no choice but to be diverse because a lot of kids have to play a couple of different positions with us being a small school.”

Last season was Bell’s first year to play both sides of the ball as a running back and a defensive back. The Buffaloes finished 3-7 and 1-5 in District 7-3A.

There are no guarantees for the 2014 season, but a season-opening win is certainly a good start for Baker, which hosts Class 2A Northeast at 7 p.m. Friday at Wedge Kyes Stadium.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Bell already knows about opportunities and finding ways to take advantage of them. On Friday, he provided a perfect example.

Bell failed to score on his first touchdown opportunity. After a completion, Bell was heading to the end zone for a touchdown but dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

Bell said he felt terrible about the play and wanted to make up for the mental mistake that cost the team points.

“When he dropped the first one running across the goal line, I was really upset with him,” Oliver said. “He told me ‘Coach, I’m going to get it back for you.’ ”

And that’s just what he did.

“He came back, made a couple of defensive plays on the other end and scored the winning touchdown,” Oliver said. “I think he did a good job of bouncing back and shaking it off. Some times kids can’t. It’s all you can ask for a kid to shake something like that off.”

Bell began playing organized football in seventh grade, but, for the six years prior, he played outside in his neighborhood wherever and whenever he could.

“I played a lot in the streets and in my backyard before I actually started playing for a real school that wore helmets and shoulder pads,” Bell said.

Bell said the learning curve wasn’t too large for him to handle; he just had to learn the rules of the game. Once in high school, he also joined Baker’s track and field team as a sprinter participating in the sprint relays and 400-meter dash.

Oliver said the cross training in the spring benefits Bell when football returns in the fall.

“Track goes hand-in-hand with football,” Oliver said. “Him being one of our top sprinters in the school and getting that track workout really helps him on the field once football is back. By him running track, it just adds to his talent of being a better football player.”

Although he contributes on offense and defense, Bell said his favorite part of football is to run the ball and score for the Buffaloes.

“Scoring touchdowns helps the team win,” Bell said. “It puts points on the board. I’m just crazy about the sport.”