BAKER — There was a time when winning district and state championships was common for Baker School's football team. The Gators are the proud winners of 15 district titles and four state crowns.
But the last decade hasn't been kind to Baker, which, prior to Friday night's 24-20 win over Northview, hadn't won a district title since 2001.
Gator head coach Matt Brunson, who is in his third year at his alma mater, has played a key role in much of Baker's success. He was a player on the state championship teams in the mid-1980s and the Gator defensive coordinator when they won the state title in 1993.
Friday's win was especially sweet for Brunson.
"It was a great win for Baker," he said. "I've been a part of some great football teams and in some great football games. But none is sweeter than this one: turning around a 12-year drought and winning district championship at my alma mater is awesome."
For Baker seniors who were in kindergarten in 2001, the championship is a sign they helped return Baker to its former glory.
Senior defensive end Izayaih Thomas said the hard work the Gators have put in the last three years has paid off.
"It feels great," he said. "Everything is working good now. We are back.
"Baker is back. We had the toughness to win the game."
Senior tight end Kodi Nixon, who had a 7-yard touchdown reception in the win over Northview, found it hard to describe what he was feeling.
"It's the best feeling I could ever have," he said. "It feels amazing. It's a good feeling to get back to our winning ways.
"It's been a long time."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.