BAKER — McDonogh 35 interrupted Baker’s improbable run to the Superdome by coming from behind to claim a 19-8 win in a Class 3A quarterfinal at Wedge Kyes Stadium on Friday night.
Senior running back Steveland Williams ran for two touchdowns in the second half to pace the No. 6 Roneagles (10-3) to victory.
No. 30 Baker scored on its first possession and took an 8-6 into halftime, but the Buffaloes couldn’t hold off McDonogh’s pounding running attack.
“The 30th seed? I think something was wrong with the computer,” McDonogh coach Wayne Reese quipped. “That’s not a good team … That’s a great team. They’re explosive, and they can score from anywhere on the field. We knew they’d fight until the end.”
Baker’s explosiveness was evident from the outset as running back Desmond Windon broke free around the right side for a 44-yard touchdown run on the game's first possession.
Williams led all rushers with 168 yards on 17 attempts. The Buffaloes (7-5) gained 266 yards on 37 carries.
Baker coach Eric Randall said his team’s deep run into the playoff bracket was the result of hard work by the coaching staff and the players. It was the program’s first quarterfinal appearance since 2007.
“We’re very happy with our season because it instilled some belief in these kids and the community. They saw the benefits of coming out and working hard,” Randall said. “There’s nothing for them to hang their heads about. There were a lot more pros than cons.”
Randall said he had confidence in his players enough to go for five fourth down conversion attempts.
The most crucial attempt came at the 6:38 mark of the fourth quarter with McDonogh holding a 12-8 lead. Quarterback Damien Knighten threw three straight incompletions to give the Roneagles possession.
Knighten finished 5 of 13 with 59 yards and one interception.
“We called the right plays, but we just didn’t execute,” Randall said. “We had a lot of dropped passes tonight, passes that were right in the breadbasket.”
The Roneagles responded to Baker’s game-opening TD with a scoring drive of their after the Buffaloes forced McDonogh to punt at midfield.
The ball was touched by the receiving team, however, and the Roneagles earned a fresh set of downs at the Buffaloes 20. Manuel Armstrong later found Renwick Doyle wide open in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. Armstrong’s pass attempt on the conversion was off the mark as Baker held onto an 8-6 lead.
The Buffaloes were rebuffed twice on fourth-down situations in the second quarter. Early in the period, the hosts elected to go for the first on fourth-and-16 at McDonogh’s 37, but Knighten was sacked by Tyree Nelson.
On their next possession, the Buffs went for it again on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. This time, Windon was stopped short at the 2.
McDonogh also failed to convert on fourth-and-14 with 30 seconds to play in the first half. Jamarian Henderson attempted a fake punt but was stopped short and Baker drained the clock to preserve the 8-6 lead.
Baker is the first No. 30 seed or higher to advance to the quarterfinals since 2003 when Class 5A Huntington of Shreveport pulled off the feat.