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2013-14 Conference Champs

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Saturday, 07 September 2013 01:00

Football Looks to Sustain Success in '13

No. 15 BU and No. 18 OU will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday in the 'County Line Clash' No. 15 BU and No. 18 OU will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday in the 'County Line Clash'

GAME NOTES (PDF)

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – Baker University head football coach Mike Grossner heads into his 10th season at the helm of the football program and is coming off of his second appearance in the NAIA FCS Playoffs.

The Wildcats reached the playoffs in 2008 and 2012 under Grossner and have posted six straight winning seasons. Grossner feels the 2013 team will sustain that success.

"I feel like on paper this is one of our better football teams," Grossner said. "We still have to put a couple of pieces in place here late in the summer. But we should come out of the summer camp with athletically a very good, experienced football team. We have 13 seniors and a lot of those guys have game experience in key positions.

"We always have the same five goals every season, which are to win all of our home games, go undefeated in the regular season, win the HAAC championship, win a playoff game and then win the national championship, and those never change.

"I fell like we are taking another step in our program. We came in in 2004 and it takes a good four years to get your recruiting class through and develop them. We were able to qualify for the playoffs in 2008 and then four years later do it again in 2012. We've been consistent with six winning seasons in a row. Our trend is good, but we are in a tough league."

The Heart of America Athletic Conference consistently sends three teams to the NAIA FCS Playoffs. At the end of the 2012 season five teams from the HAAC — No. 3 Missouri Valley, No. 11 MidAmerica Nazarene, No. 14 Baker, No. 22 Benedictine and No. 23 Evangel — were ranked in the postseason NAIA Top 25 Coaches' Poll.

"You have to be a Top 15 ranked team to make it to the playoffs from the HAAC," said Grossner. "Because we always have a top five team and a top 10 team, grabbing a spot in the Top 15 is a good place to be. We have a chance to be pretty darn good this year, but there are a lot of teams in our conference that are stepping up too. We should be able to compete and make a run at it."

The Wildcats lost 19 seniors from last year's 8-3 squad but return 13 seniors this season and 12 starters.

Nine of those returning starters earned all-HAAC honors, including Baker's all-time leader in sack, junior defensive end Andre Jolly.Jolly had one of the best years on the defensive line in school history with 16 sacks and was named a 2012 AFCA-NAIA All-American and earned a spot on the all-HAAC first team.

Other returners to the Baker defense are senior linebacker Emmerson Clarke (HAAC honorable mention) and junior defensive back Mike Stevenson (all-HAAC second team). Both players were tied a year ago for second on the team in interceptions with three and each returned an interception for a touchdown.

Senior defensive back Joshua Fairley also returns to the BU secondary. He had all three of his interceptions in one game at Culver-Stockton back on Oct. 27. For his stellar performance he was named the HAAC defensive player of the week.

The Wildcat defense, which is led by assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Jason Thoren, also returns its two starting safeties in juniors Gunnar McKenna and Preston Schenck. Both players received all-HAAC honorable mention.

On offense, the team's top rusher is back in University of Southern California transfer Dillon Baxter, and three-year starting quarterback Jake Morse is back for his senior campaign.

Morse suffered a knee injury in BU's season opener in 2012 against Ottawa and sat out the next two games before returning against Central Methodist on Sept. 15.

He finished the year with 1,024 yards pashing and 10 touchdowns with a passing efficiency of 145.3. He received all-HAAC honorable mention in 2012 after being named the HAAC co-offensive player of the year in 2011. His backup in 2013 will be sophomore Jake Heller, who appeared in two games last season.

Baxter had a slow start in his first season in a Wildcat uniform with just 180 yards and one touchdown in his first three games. But then the speedy rusher ran for 446 yards and four touchdowns in the final three games of 2012, including 102 yards and a score in the Wildcats' 22-17 playoff loss at No. 6 University of St. Francis on Nov. 17.

With the return of sophomore Jermaine Broomfield, who ran for 597 yards and six touchdowns last season, and the return of junior Scott Meyer who didn't play a down in 2012 due to a knee injury after running for 375 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, the Wildcat running attack looks strong in 2013.

The offensive line will bring back two all-HAAC performers as junior Justin McCandless returns to the line after a 2012 campaign that earned his a spot on the all-conference third team, and senior Ian Autry returns after receiving all-HAAC honorable mention.

"If you analyze our offense, the key is up front and we have some talented young guys that need to step up and play," said Grossner. "I feel really well about our running backs. We have a group of about seven guys that we will need.

If you are going to make a long run in a very tough conference and then a playoff run you have to stay healthy at running back. A great example is Alan Troyer who came into camp last year in the fifth-string spot, he ended up starting for us in a couple of games late in the season and carried the ball well. At times we went into games last season with just two healthy backs.

We made it a point in recruiting that we need some more guys and more bodies to carry the load. I think that is the trend for a running back. It used to be you would have just one guy and you would ride the horse. The position is so physical and so punishing that you cannot have one guy doing it and expect him to be fresh late in the season."

Troyer ran for 244 yards and two touchdowns for offensive coordinator Miguel Regalado last year and will be joined by some newcomers that should fit in nicely with Baxter, Broomfield and Meyer.

One of those newcomers is Camren Torneden, a junior transfer from the University of Central Missouri. He played his high school football at Lawrence Free State and was named to the Sunflower all-decade team by the Sunflower League Football Blog in 2010.
He was a first-team all-state quarterback and kick returner while at Free State and first-team all-Metro quarterback and kick returner.

Fellow Lawrence, Kan., product Michael Lisher will look to help block for Torneden and the rest of the running backs, as he comes to Baker after two years at Washburn University. He appeared in nine games in his career with the Ichabods and hopes to jump in at center for Baker.

"On defense I think our linebackers need to grow up quickly," said Grossner. "Darrick Smith played great in spring football. He has waited his turn and will get an opportunity. Clarke will be the big leader in that position on the field and Josh Finau is a guy that we redshirted in the past and will fit well as an inside linebacker. I think he's ready to give us what we need in the middle.

"I think the secondary could be one of the best we have ever had. Duane Sims is back off of a redshirt, we have added Preston Randolph from Coffeyville Community College, who has great length and instincts. McKenna and Stevenson return in the secondary after great 2012 seasons.

"We will have three top corners with Sims, Stevenson and Fairley. Schenck will join McKenna in the back at safety. With a solid secondary we think we can do a little bit more up front."

Two linebackers that will be newcomers this season are freshmen Kharon Brown of Lawrence High School and Matt Bush of Columbia Rock Bridge High School.

Brown was a first-team all-state defensive lineman at Lawrence High, while Bush was a first-team all-district linebacker at Rock Bridge.

Another newcomer that will look to join Jolly on the other side as a defensive end is junior transfer Tyrell Everett. Everett played two seasons at Butler County Community College as a fullback, but he will play on the defensive line for coach Thoren, which is the position he played in high school.

Baker will open up the 2013 season in the County Line Clash against No. 16 ranked Ottawa University at 6 p.m., Sept. 7, at Liston Stadium.

Other highlights for the 2013 season is the University Family Day game at home against Avila University on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.

Baker will then host nationally ranked MidAmerica Nazarene on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. for its annual homecoming game. The Wildcats next home game will take place at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19 against Central Methodist during the Maple Leaf Festival weekend. The annual event attracts thousands of people from around the country and BU hopes many of which will come to Liston stadium to cheer on the 'Cats as they take on CMU.

Baker will then travel to take on No. 3 ranked Missouri Valley on Oct. 26 at 1:30 p.m. Liston Stadium will be blacked out on Nov. 2 when Baker hosts Evangel for its annual Black Out game.

The final game on the schedule is Nov. 16, as Baker hosts Peru State for senior day at 1 p.m.

All games will be shown live via live video streaming and live stats will be provided both at www.bakerwildcats.com.

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