By Gerry Steele
MILTON-FREEWATER - The defending Class 4A football champion Baker Bulldogs clinched a return berth to the post-season Friday at Mac-Hi.
The Bulldogs earned the berth after stopping Mac-Hi 22-7 in a Greater Oregon League contest.
Baker and Ontario, both 2-0 in the GOL, will play for the league championship Friday at Ontario. Kickoff is 6 p.m. PDT.
The winner of Friday's game earns a first-round bye in the 4A playoffs. The loser of Friday's game will host a 4A play-in game Nov. 1 or 2.
Baker coach Dave Johnson said Mac-Hi provided more of a challenge than the Bulldogs expected.
"We'll take it," Johnson said of the win.
"We obviously expected to score more points, but we played well enough to win.
"(Mac-Hi) did a nice job of taking care of the football. They ran the read option well and played hard," the Baker coach said.
"It was good for us to have to battle. That's the plus side. We got after things throwing the football. I think that was the difference.
"We spread the ball around like we always like to do. That makes us tough to defend," Johnson said.
After stopping Mac-Hi's opening drive, the Bulldogs marched 81 yards for their first touchdown.
Quarterback Thomas Hamilton found tight end Lukas Huggins from 16 yards away for the TD.
The conversion kick was no good, leaving Baker ahead 6-0 with 5:06 left in the first quarter.
"On that first drive the kids did a nice job of making the plays," Johnson said. "We're taking steps forward. We pitched a shutout in the second half."
The score remained 6-0 until just 6:29 remained in the first half.
Then, Mac-Hi quarterback Chase Copenhaver scored on a 14-yard run. Beau Birdwell's conversion kick was good lifting the Pioneers into a 7-6 halftime edge.
It didn't take long for Baker to regain the lead after halftime.
Hamilton found Ben Baxter wide open for a 66-yard TD pass three plays into the third period to give Baker the lead for good.
On the play, Johnson said, the Bulldogs saw the Mac-Hi secondary shift and changed the offensive call to take advantage.
Hamilton hit Keaton Bachman for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 Baker lead.
Baxter, who finished with 85 yards on 20 carries, then capped the scoring with a 16-yard run with 6:02 left in the game.
Hamilton connected with Zarom Bruce on the two-point conversion.
Hamilton finished 16-of-24 passing for 231 yards.
Huggins caught six passes for 50 yards, and Bachman five for 65 yards.
Baker - 6 0 8 8 - 22
Mac-Hi - 0 7 0 0 - 7
B - Huggins 16 pass from Hamilton (Kick failed)
M - Copenhaver 14 run (Birdwell kick)
B - Baxter 66 pass from Hamilton (Bachman pass from Hamilton)
B - Baxter 16 run (Bruce pass from Hamilton)