By Gerry Steele
In its final two nonleague football games the Baker defense had allowed an average of 35 points and 400 yards a game.
Part of that was due to injuries up and down the Bulldogs' lineup.
Friday at Bulldog Memorial Stadium, Baker had almost every one of those injured players available, and turned its fortunes around, hammering La Grande 43-8 in the Greater Oregon League opener for both teams. It also was Baker's Homecoming game.
"We thought we played really well on defense," said Baker coach Dave Johnson.
"We were grinning about the way the defense played. Defensively, ,we had a solid game."
The Bulldogs allowed La Grande just 164 yards on offense.
"Our challenge to the boys before the game was to play 48 minutes," Johnson said.
"They did that with a pretty fair amount of intensity."
Offensively, the Bulldogs totalled 450 yards - 253 passing and 197 rushing.
"I thought we ran well, and threw the ball well," Johnson said. "But we didn't always take care of the ball the way we should."
One area Johnson could only chuckle and shake his head about was the number of penalties called in the game. Baker was whistled for 17 yellow flags for 150 yards, and La Grande nine for 85 yards.
"Seventeen penalties. That has to be a record," Johnson said.
"More than 100 plays in the game and 26 penalties. That's a lot of flags. But, to the kids' credit they kept making plays. They didn't get their daubers down."
After stopping La Grande's opening drive, Baker marched 67 yards on seven plays to take a 6-0 lead.
Quarterback Thomas Hamilton found Lukas Huggins on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
After forcing a second La Grande punt, Baker needed just two plays to go 60 yards for its second score.
Hamilton and Huggins connected for 21 yards to the La Grande 39. Hamilton then found Porter Cline wide open over the middle of the field for the touchdown. Ben Baxter added the conversion run to boost Baker's lead to 14-0 with 4:43 left in the quarter.
That was the halftime score as well, as Baker had two other potential first-half touchdowns nullified by penalties.
The Bulldogs needed just four plays to increase their lead to 22-0 early in the third period.
Baxter did the honors on a 7-yard run. Hamilton then connected with Mason Powell on the two-point conversion.
Then, after stopping La Grande again, Baker needed just five plays to go up 30-0. Baxter again scored the TD, this time on a 3-yard run. Hamilton found Huggins on the two-point conversion.
Baxter scored his third touchdown on the final play of the third period, this time on a 39-yard completion from Hamilton.
On the play, Hamilton found Baxter on a short toss over the middle. Then, using a Huggins block, Baxter raced down the sidelines for the score.
Baker's defense then got on the scoreboard when Powell intercepted a Brandon Dall pass and returned it for the touchdown.
Tyler Osborn, playing in his first varsity game, then added the conversion kick.
Baxter led Baker with 190 yards on 19 carries.
Hamilton finished 19-of-27 passing for 253 yards.
Huggins and Cline each caught five passes, and Zarom Bruce four.
Baker (1-0 in the GOL) travels to Mac-Hi Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
"Now it's on to Mac-Hi to work on another 'W' toward the GOL championship," Johnson said.
"They're a physical team. We know we better have our heads screwed on straight."
La Grande 0 0 0 8 - 8
Baker -14 0 22 7 - 43
B - Huggins 9 pass from Hamilton (Run failed)
B - Cline 39 pass from Hamilton (Baxter run)
B - Baxter 7 run (Powell pass from Hamilton)
B - Baxter 3 run (Huggins pass from Hamilton)
B - Baxter 39 pass from Hamilton (Kick failed)
B - Powell 40 interception return (Osborn kick)
L - Hively 13 pass from Dall (Cederholm pass from Dall)
Rushing -La Grande: Rogers 10-40, Dall 21-21, Jimenez 3-9, Wicklander 2-7, Cederholm 1-5, Fuller 2-4, Huffman 1-2. Baker: Baxter 19-190, Cline 1-12, Osborn 2-4, Hamilton 5-(-9).
Passing -La Grande: Dall 11-20-2-76, Huntsman 0-1-1-0. Baker: Hamilton 19-27-0-253.
Receiving - La Grande: Hively 3-20, Rogers 3-18, Wicklander 3-13, Cederholm 2-25. Baker: Cline 5-97, Huggins 5-48, Bruce 4-51, Baxter 2-45, Powell 2-5, Bachman 1-7.