BAKER — Dillon Cage is a big guy with large ambitions that may prompt him to move away from home next year. But for now, Cage is where he wants to be — anchoring the offensive and defensive lines for Baker High School.

“My grandfather always wanted me to come to Baker and help change it around,” Cage said. “He talked to me about winning and bringing a state championship before I leave. He passed my freshman year, so that is part of my motivation. I can see the change in the team and everything we do. It’s made me transform myself too.”

Cage’s late grandfather, William Sept, wasn’t the only one with a vision for Baker. Coach Eric Randall recalls visiting Cage and his family when he was a middle school student, imploring him to attend Baker instead of opting to move to another school outside the area as others have done.

“To me, that is the story about Dillon … he chose to stay at Baker,” Randall said. “He could have gone other places. Other kids have. But I’ve said that all along, that if the kids who live in Baker choose to stay here, we’ll be all right. 

“He was one of the first kids we went to and said, ‘We want you here. We’re going to bust our rear ends for you and if you do what you’re supposed to do, things will work themselves out for you and the team.”

Many things have worked out for the 6-foot-1, 340-pound Cage and the Buffaloes. He has scholarship offers from Memphis, Houston and Tulsa. In the classroom, Cage has a 3.4 grade point average and scored in the mid-20s on ACT, meeting the NCAA’s academic qualifying standards.

Cage plans to major in nursing, which may seem odd to some. But it makes sense for a player who relishes his current caretaker role as a team leader for the Buffaloes. In addition to growing two inches in the offseason, Cage said he has grown into a leadership role in new ways.

“I think our confidence grew last season,” Cage said. “But the thing it also did was make me want to be a better leader. We are a team and the more together we are, the better we will play. I'm being recruited and I'm pushing the others guys, telling them they can do it too.”

Though two-time defending champion University High is the presumptive favorite in District 7-3A, the Buffaloes (1-0) are no longer an afterthought. After an open date last week, Baker hosts Wossman of Monroe at 7 p.m. Friday. Cage is a four-year starter and leads a group of 16 returning regulars for a Baker team that finished 7-5 last season and garnered the school’s first playoff victory since 2002.

“That playoff win was a really big victory for the community, not just the school,” Cage said. “I never forget that point. It also helps motivate me and the team.”

Cage turned that motivation into action over the summer. In addition to growing two inches, he shed nearly 40 pounds by increasing the intensity of his workouts and by eliminating junk food from his diet. He continues to work on his speed and footwork.

“You have to focus every day, not just some days,” Cage said. “That was an important thing for us to learn. I love the team, and I think we have something to prove. And there are ways we can improve.”

The addition of one notable player to the Buffaloes’ 54-player, Eric Randall III, a defensive back-receiver, who sat out last season after transferring to Baker. Cage refers to the son of the coach as the “my general in the secondary.”

Wossman is the next challenge, one Cage wants his team to be primed for.

“This is step up in competition,” Cage said. “They have speed and talent. Our job is to be ready for that.”

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