On a cold and rainy night in the high desert, the Baker football team broke out after a sluggish first half to run past the Burns Hilanders 27-6 Friday, Oct. 22 at Burns.
The win — Baker’s second straight and fourth in its past five — boosted the Bulldogs’ record to 4-4 as they prepare for the regular season finale, the Homecoming contest this Friday, Oct. 29 against La Grande at Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
With both teams at 1-0 in Greater Oregon League play, Friday’s game will determine the league champion and affect playoff seeding.
Baker has already clinched a berth in the Class 4A playoffs, which start Nov. 5.
If Baker beats La Grande, the Bulldogs will have a home playoff game either Nov. 5 or Nov. 6.
If Baker loses, it likely will have to travel for a first-round playoff game.
Against Burns, neither team scored in the first half on a field dampened by heavy rain earlier in the day.
“We just struggled to get the offense going in the first half similar to the week before,” Baker coach Jason Ramos said. “A couple penalties that kind of set us back and we just missed passes that we should probably connect on.”
During halftime, Ramos said he hardly needed to remind the Bulldogs about their performance.
“They knew that they should have been executing better at that point and the reason why we were in that situation was because we weren’t executing well on offense,” Ramos said. “We just talked about what we needed to do to clean things up and how we were going to get the run game going and start completing some passes, making sure we were focused on what we were doing.”
Baker’s defense had no such issues, having held the Hilanders scoreless over the first 24 minutes.
Baker started strong in the second half, finally getting on the scoreboard when sophomore quarterback Paul Hobson used his legs rather than his arm, finding an open lane and running 16 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
“Paul had kind of a breakout game at quarterback in terms of his running, he used his legs pretty good,” Ramos said.
Hobson had four carries for 31 yards and the touchdown.
On the ensuing series, Baker sophomore Hudson Spike intercepted a Burns pass.
Then Spike made another catch — this one a pass from Hobson in the back of the end zone that gave Baker a 13-0 lead.
“We talked at that point about how we needed to get a stop, we felt like we were getting some momentum at that point on offense, and to go in and try to get a third score,” Ramos said.
But Baker’s momentum didn’t last.
The Hilanders, aided by a few Baker penalties, mounted their first, and only, scoring drive. The Burns touchdown late in the third quarter cut Baker’s lead to 13-6.
Baker then dominated the fourth quarter.
Senior running back Gauge Bloomer, who led the Bulldogs with 97 yards on 18 carries, had a scoring run to boost Baker’s lead to 20-6.
Then senior Dylon Freeman returned a Burns fumble for the final margin of 27-6.
Hobson completed 14 of 28 passes for 144 yards and the touchdown to Spike, along with one interception.
Spike had five catches for 95 yards, sophomore Malaki Myer had six catches for 37 yards and sophomore Dash Bloomer had one catch for 11 yards.
Junior Tate Powell had four carries for 27 yards, and Freeman had two rushes for 18 yards.
With rival La Grande next on the schedule, Ramos said his task this week is to prepare the Bulldogs for the challenge of the 5-1 Tigers.
“Obviously with Homecoming week we got to stay focused,” Ramos said. “There are going to be distractions this week as there always are, but we’re focused on the game obviously. Defense has been playing pretty good but we are going to have to take another step forward on that side of the ball, because La Grande is big, physical and fast.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.