BAKER — The Baker Gator football team had an almost picture perfect season.
The team, led by head coach Matt Brunson, finished the season 13-1. The Gators went 7-0 at home and were 5-0 in district play.
There was only one game during the regular season in which the team did not score more than 30 points. It came during a 19-6 victory over Vernon High School.
Their fantastic regular season gave the Gators plenty of momentum going into the playoffs.
The Gators started the playoffs with a regional quarterfinal match against Freeport.
Quarterback Payton Rockwell was 2-2 for 21 yards and had two carries for 31 yards, including a touchdown.
Junior McLaughlin led all receivers with 18 carries for 284 yards, including four touchdowns. Derek Peoples added three carries for 66 yards and a touchdown run, while John Mateleska added two carries for 32 yards and a touchdown.
The Gators strong offense led them to a 49-21 victory that sent the team to the regional semifinals, where they faced Northview.
Rockwell went 5-15 during the game, passing for 53 yards with one touchdown. McLaughlin again led the offense on his way to 227 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Bradley Inscore helped out on offense with an 11-yard touchdown reception.
On the defensive side of the ball, Peoples had two interceptions during the game.
The 38-14 win for the Gators led them to the regional final to face Vernon, a team they had beat during the regular season.
The victory came pretty easily for the Gators, who won 51-19, thanks to McLaughlin and Peoples.
McLaughlin had 28 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns, while Peoples had 10 carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
Trey Kolmetz also had an 11-yard reception during the game.
After securing the regional title, the Gators headed into the state competition. First up: a state semifinal game against Port St. Joe.
McLaughlin picked up where he left off, running for a combined 241 yards. McLaughlin led the team with four touchdowns.
Peoples also had 10 carries for 59 yards, while Eric McQueen added a 40-yard touchdown reception.
The Gators won the game 48-27, giving themselves a chance at the state title.
That game did not go their way, however.
Despite a 61-yard rushing night for McLaughlin, the Gators ended their season with a 48-6 loss to Madison County in the state championship game.
Even without the state title, the Gators had a stellar year.
Rockwell finished the season with 357 passing yards, including five touchdown passes.
McLaughlin had a standout year with 278 carries for an impressive total of 2,920 yards and 37 touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards in 12 of the games last season.
Through the air, Peoples finished the season with 16 receptions for 278 yards, with three touchdowns and Inscore had eight receptions for 199 yards and one touchdown.