BAKER — No. 30 Baker (7-4) took another step forward under coach Eric Randall, defeating No. 14 Iota (9-3) 18-13 in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
In a rematch of last season’s second-round matchup, which Iota won 31-14, Randall said his team was no longer intimidated by playing one of Class 3A’s best teams.
“We’ve been here,” Randall said. “We told them this was the step we had not passed, yet. These kids have been fighting, this is their third year being in the playoffs, most of them. They have the experience. It was just one step at a time, and keeping their focus level up. They wanted this.”
Iota struck first with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dawson Wallace to Luke Doucet. The Bulldogs flooded the right-side of the field, and Doucet snuck out to the backside, where he was wide open and jogged into the end zone untouched.
Doucet finished with 18 carries for 41 yards and two catches for 23 yards and a touchdown.
Baker had a big play of its own to respond. The Buffaloes ran a screen, and quarterback Damien Knighten dumped a pass off to running back Desmond Windon for a 57-yard gain. Four plays later, Knighten kept the ball on a quarterback sneak for a 1-yard touchdown.
Then on the next Baker drive, the Buffaloes countered Iota’s aggressive defense with another screen — this time to wide receiver Jaylin Pendleton. Pendleton out ran Iota’s defense for a 70-yard touchdown, giving Baker a 12-6 lead.
With Iota so focused on Kiley Clifton and Windon, who had 62 yards on 14 carries and 146 yards on 19 carries, respectively, Randall and his staff decided to use Iota’s own screen passes against its defense. Randall said he and his coaching staff picked up the plays from watching Iota’s film, and the two times they ran screens, Baker racked up huge gains.
Despite the big plays by Baker, Iota managed to hold a 13-12 lead going into halftime thanks to a four-yard run by Tyrone Charlot.
Each team was comfortable avoiding passes through the air and running the ball. With the clock constantly running, the two teams only had one possession each in the third, and Baker made the most of its.
Baker had a 14-play drive, 13 of which were runs, for 92 yards. Fullback Travonte Spears gave the Buffaloes an 18-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Iota forced a turnover on downs with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter and tried to drive 63 yards for the game-winning touchdown. However, Baker’s defense, which only allowed 163 yards and nine first downs, forced Wallace to fumble, and the Buffaloes recovered and ran out the clock to seal its victory.
“Mistakes. It comes down to mistakes,” Iota coach Josh Andrus said. “Whoever makes the least amount wins, and tonight, they did.”