Gerry Steele
The Baker City Herald

By Gerry Steele

Defense is suppose to win games and championships. But a little offense doesn't hurt either.

Baker's defense had its ups and downs against Cottage Grove Saturday at Bulldog Memorial Stadium. But, Baker's offense was clicking on all cylinders.

The Bulldogs (8-1) scored on all but two drives to send Cottage Grove (9-3) packing with a 55-42 defeat in the first round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.

The victory sends Baker, which has a 6-game winning streak, on the road this weekend to Scappoose. Baker coach Dave Johnson would like to play Saturday, but the final decision will be made by the OSAA.

Johnson and his staff weren't as jubilant as one might think in the locker room following Saturday's game.

"It's a W. It goes in the left column," Johnson said.

But, Johnson was not pleased with the overall play of the Baker defense, and the Bulldogs continuing to commit too many penalties.

"For a high school football game, everybody got their money's worth," Johnson said.

"The kids played with a lot of class; a lot of character."

But, the Bulldogs were whistled for 15 penalties for 120 yards. Not that Cottage Grove was innocent, getting called for 10 penalties for 67 yards.

"We've got to do something about those penalties," Johnson said.

"We keep saying that, and then we go out and make the mistakes."

Meanwhile, Baker's offense moved the ball up and down the field all afternoon, including making some key plays on third and fourth down.

"We made some clutch third downs, and a couple of fourth downs," said Baker defensive coach Jason Ramos.

Penalties set the tone of the game on Cottage Grove's first drive.

Twice during the drive Baker was whistled for infractions on third down giving the Lions a first down.

Despite the yellow flags, Baker was able to stop the Lions, taking over on the Baker 18.

The Bulldogs needed just six plays to take a 6-0 lead.

Quarterback Braden Phillips did the honors, taking an option play 35 yards for the touchdown with 7:25 left in the first quarter.

On the play, Phillips faked a handoff to Trent Taylor, then used a block from receiver Darren Dolby to get around the end and into the end zone.

On Cottage Grove's next drive Baker appeared to have recovered a Lions fumble, but another penalty gave the ball back to the Lions. Two plays later Cottage Grove took a 7-6 lead.

Baker regained a 12-7 lead on its next series.

The Bulldogs again marched 82 yards for the score, this time on a 22-yard pass from Phillips to Dane Bachman.

The lead was short-lived as Cottage Grove needed just one play, a 76-yard scoring toss, to retake a 14-12 lead with 2:39 left in the first period.

Baker again took the lead, 20-14, 1:26 into the second period, on a Phillips 1-yard run. Phillips hit Bachman with the two-point conversion pass.

Then, after forcing a Cottage Grove punt, the Bulldogs increased their lead to 28-14 when Phillips found Bachman in the end zone from 21 yards out with 5:33 left in the first half.

Cottage Grove then mounted another drive that resulted in a touchdown with 24.4 seconds left on the clock.

But, that rally was also short-lived.

Dolby took the ensuing kickoff at his 13 and raced 87 yards for another Baker TD, giving the Bullodgs a 35-21 edge with 11 seconds left before halftime.

That also was the halftime score.

In the third period, Baker sandwiched touchdowns around another Cottage Grove score to lead 49-28 entering the fourth quarter.

Phillips found Dolby on a short scoring pass, and Ben Baxter raced 43 yards for the other touchdown.

Baxter added a second touchdown run with 5:31 left in the game to build Baker's cushion to 55-28.

But, that's when the Baker defense appeared to let down.

Cottage Grove scored two more touchdowns despite not using its vauted aerial attack.

Baker finished with 493 yards on offense, while allowing 348.

Phillips ran for 117 yards and threw for 197.

"They were bunching most of their guys inside the box, and it was hard to run the ball inside," Johnson said.

"We were able to get outside and throw the ball though. And, our front guys did a nice job of adjusting to the pressure," Johnson said.

"And, that special teams score was a nice answer to some special teams troubles we had."

Cottage Grove -14 7 4 14 - 42

Baker - 12 23 14 6 - 55

B - Phillips 35 run (Run failed)

C - Spindler 7 run (Bonds kick)

B - Bachman 22 pass from Phillips (Run failed)

C - Rauda 76 pass from Hitner (Bonds kick)

B - Phillips 1 run (Bachman pass from Phillips)

B - Bachman 21 pass from Phillips (Phillips run)

C - Bonds 8 pass from Hitner (Bonds kick)

B - Dolby 87 kickoff return (Taylor kick)

B - Dolby 5 pass from Phillips (Taylor kick)

C - Rauda 56 pass from Hitner (Bonds kick)

B - Baxter 43 run (Bachman kick)

B - Baxter 38 run (Kick failed)

C - Spindler 8 run (Bonds kick)

C - Bonds 5 pass from Hitner (Bonds kick)

Individual statistics

Rushing -Cottage Grove: Spindler 19-71, Hitner 5-14, Rauda 3-(-3). Baker: Phillips 16-117, Baxter 7-97, Taylor 15-82.

Passing - Cottage Grove: Hitner 18-34-0-266. Baker: Phillips 12-15-0-197, Hamilton 0-1-0-0.

Receiving -Cottage Grove: Rauda 7-154, Bonds 7-55, Spindler 2-38, Gates 1-14, Bloom 1-5. Baker: Bachman 8-178, Dolby 2-11, Stinson 1-9, Huggins 1-(-1).