BRATT — Twelve years of waiting for the Baker School football team seemed to hinge on one play as the Gators battled defending Class 1A state champion Northview in a District 1-1A showdown.
With 3:17 showing on the clock in the fourth quarter and trailing Baker by four points, Northview faced a fourth down and 19 at the Gator 38-yard line.
On the Baker sideline the Gator coaches and players urged on the defense with the shout of, “One more play! One more play!
When the pass of Chief quarterback Daulton Tullis fell incomplete the Gators had their play. A little more than three minutes later Baker had its district championship since 2001 in the form of a 24-20 win.
A game of big plays by both teams, was, for the most part, decided by turnovers and a penalty as the first half ended.
Baker (9-0, 3-0) forced four Chief (3-5, 2-1) turnovers on a pair of fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Two of those turnovers, a fumble and interception, occurred inside the Gator 20 to turn back a Chief scoring threat.
“Northview has a great football team,” Gator coach Matt Brunson said. “We had a great first half and the defense forced some turnovers and it was a great win for Baker.
“I’ve been a part of some great football teams and involved in some great football games, but none is sweeter than this one turning around the program and winning the first district championship in 12 years. This is awesome.”
The fans from the respective schools hadn’t even had a chance to find get seated before the Chiefs fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. Austin Martin pounced on the loose ball at the Northview 42.
Runs by D.J. Thomas netted 33 yards to set up a 25-yard field goal by senior kicker Malcom Griffith with 9:03 left in the first quarter.
The lead didn’t last long as the Chiefs marched 58 yards on six plays to score. Ladarius Thomas capped the drive with a 21-yard run with 6:57 left in the quarter to give Northview its only lead of the game.
Baker was back in front for good 15 seconds later when Kodi Moen took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.
The Chiefs came roaring right back as the passing tandem of Daulton Tullis to Neino Robinson took Northview to the Gator 10, but an interception by David Oglesby at the Gator 2 stopped the drive as Baker dodged a bullet.
“I did my job (on the interception) and my teammates did their jobs,” Oglesby said. “We came out here to win the district championship and we did it.
“We were confident when we came in here. We knew it was going to be hard fought, and it was. It was exciting to come out on top.”
The Gators added another touchdown in the second quarter when Jon Beck found tight end Kodi Nixon on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds left in the first half.
“It (the touchdown) was the best felling I could ever have had,” Nixon said. “It’s amazing.
“It feels pretty good to get back to our winning ways. It had been a long time.”
Northview showed its fire power moving the ball deep into Baker territory.
The Chiefs looked to have scored with time running out in the half, but a chop block penalty negated the touchdown and Baker took a 17-6 lead into the half.
Baker took the opening kick of the second half and covered 51 yards on five plays.
A 35-yard touchdown pass from Beck to Richard Stroheker on a fourth-and-8 play caught the Chiefs off guard and turned out to be the final Gator score with 10:10 left in the third quarter.
The Chiefs moved to the Baker 11 on Northview’s first possession of the third quarter before Ben Crowson forced a fumble that was recovered for the Gators by Brandon Engler.
Unfortunately for the Gators they fumbled the ball away on the next play.
Baker then had to weather a storm as the Chiefs came charging back.
Brannon Freeman scored on a 17-yard pass from Tullis with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
Northview’s final score came on a 3-yard run by Keondrae Lett with 7:06 left in the game.
Jacob Nixon had an interception for Baker on the Chief possession prior to their final score.
Thomas finished the game with 149 yards on 29 carries. Stroheker had 10 rushes for 50 yards and the 35-yard touchdown catch.
Beck was 3-of-5 passing for 49 yards and the two touchdowns.
Tullis and Robinson had big nights for the Chiefs as they teamed up on 12 passes for 148 yards. Robinson wasn’t Tullis’ only target as the senior quarterback completed 22-of-35 passes for 278 yards.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.