DESTIN — Rocky Bayou Christian’s defense did everything right in the first half.
Pitted against a Baker offense averaging 44 points a game and yet to be held to less than 35 points in any contest, the Knights garnered two red-zone stops and Josh Preston hauled in a pick-six to help them trail 7-6 at halftime at Destin Middle School.
But the momentum — which carried over from last week's 49-0 shutout of Oak Hall — would quickly wear off.
Led by D.J. Thomas, who racked up 158 rushing yards and two scores, the Gators had four different running backs find the end zone in the final 24 minutes of play and ran away with a 35-13 win.
“Josh Childers has done a good job with the Rocky Bayou program, and we came out a little flat,” said Baker head coach Matt Brunson, whose team improved to 4-0. “But they had a lot to do with that. They did a great job.”
Thomas, who now has 10 touchdowns this season, has yet to be held under 100 yards in any contest and is averaging just under 200 rushing yards per game, added, “We underestimated them and we had to get right after halftime and play that Gator football, that downhill Alabama-style football.”
Joining him with rushing touchdowns were Brandon Engler, Richard Stroheker and Austin Martin, who contributed to a backfield that gained 274 yards.
The Knights (2-3), rushed for just 76 yards, all by Levi Derry. The senior had seven carries, including the Knights’ lone offensive touchdown on a 37-yard burst that cut the lead to 21-13 early in the fourth quarter. But Stroheker followed with an 11-yard touchdown and, after a Jacob Nixon interception of Tyler Paskell, Austin Martin added a 1-yard score to put the game out of reach.
“We got the run game going, hit a couple of passes and did what we wanted to do in the second half,” Brunson said.
As strong as the Gators’ rushing attack was, their defense was even better. With Rocky Bayou, which entered the tilt averaging almost 33 points per game, committed to the passing game in their spread offense, the Gators sacked Paskell five times and held the senior without a touchdown for the first time all year. Paskell ended the night 15-of-22 for 118 yards.
Baker quarterback Jon Beck, meanwhile, was 5-of-13 for 103 yards and an interception.
“We actually defended the spread pretty well,” Brunson said. “We gave up an interception for a touchdown but overall our defense played well.”
The Knights, who are just one win shy of matching the program's single-season win record of three set in 2008, fell to 0-4 lifetime against the Gators.