Baker football

Baker’s Alex Hammans outruns La Grande defenders and Baker teammates for a fumble return touchdown Friday at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

La Grande’s opportunistic defense took advantage of four first-half Baker turnovers Friday on the way to a 34-21 Greater Oregon League football win at Bulldog Memorial Stadium.

“Our defense was solid,” said La Grande coach Rich McIlmoil.

But it was actually Baker’s defense that first lit the scoreboard.

Two plays into the game Baker’s Alex Hammans stole the ball from a La Grande runner and scooted 35 yards for the touchdown.

Hon Rushton’s extra point gave the Bulldogs a quick 7-0 lead.

But it didn’t last long.

Less than two minutes later La Grande evened the score when Payton Cooper raced off right tackle and outran Baker defenders for a 51-yard TD.

That’s when La Grande’s defense took over.

The Tigers recovered a Baker fumble at the Baker 7. Two plays later quarterback Parker Robinson scored the first of his three touchdowns, going 5 yards off left tackle.

La Grande’s Dawson Gaertner then intercepted Kaden Myer’s pass, giving the Tigers the ball at the Baker 5.

Two plays later Robinson scored again, this time from the 1.

La Grande led 21-7 at halftime.

“We got off to a great start,” said Baker coach Jason Ramos. “Then we had too many mistakes, too many turnovers in the first half.

“We gave them a short field a couple of times. You can’t do that against a good team,” Ramos said.

McIlmoil said the Tigers took advantage of the Baker miscues, then got its running game on track.

“We made some adjustments in the second half and started pushing the ball up the field,” McIlmoil said. “We ran the ball pretty well.”

The Tigers outgained Baker 220 to 13 on the ground.

In an attempt to jumpstart a stagnant offense, Ramos switched to Spencer Smith at quarterback in the second half. Smith, a senior, had not played quarterback since his sophomore season.

“Spencer did fine. In fact he did more than fine,” Ramos said.

Smith finished 9-of-19 for 174 yards and tossed a pair of TD passes.

Robinson’s third touchdown run gave La Grande a 28-7 lead before Smith connected with Myer for a score with 4:09 left in the third period to cut the Tigers’ lead to 28-14.

La Grande added a TD run in the fourth quarter before Smith connected with Riley Flanagan for Baker’s final score.

“We challenged the kids to play better in the second half,” Ramos said. “We fixed some things. I was proud of the kids the way they played hard to the finish.”

Baker outscored La Grande 14-13 in the second half.

La Grande received a minor scare when Robinson was knocked out of the game twice in the second half.

“I think he’ll be fine,” McIlmoil said after the game.

La Grande (2-0 in the GOL and 5-0 overall) is ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A rankings. The Tigers travel to Ontario Friday. La Grande defeated Ontario 56-6 in its GOL opener.

Fifth-ranked Baker (1-1 in the GOL and 3-2 overall) travels to Pe Eli/Willapa Valley, Washington, for a nonleague game Friday.

La Grande ­14 7 7 6 — 34

Baker ­ 7 0 7 7 — 21

B — Hammans 35 fumble return (Rushton kick)

L — Cooper 51 run (Kick good)

L — Robinson 5 run (Kick good)

L — Robinson 1 run (Evans kick)

L — Robinson 15 run (Evans kick)

B — Myer 23 pass from Smith (Rushton kick)

L — Shaw 4 run (Kick failed)

B — Flanagan 28 pass from Smith (Rushton kick)

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