The Baker School football team (10-1) is set to host Vernon (8-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Doug Griffith Memorial Stadium with a fifth straight Final Four appearance on the line.
BAKER — Every year, the Baker football team prides itself on practicing Thanksgiving night.
It’s a rite of passage for the team’s younger players, a badge of honor for its seniors, finishing out their final days in pads, and a stark reminder of all the hard work the Gators have put in since the spring and beyond.
And if they win Friday, they can hold that practice for the fifth year in a row.
“Our guys take a lot of pride in practicing over Thanksgiving, and that’s definitely our goal to get there,” Baker coach Matt Brunson told the Daily News. “It’d be awesome to do it five years in a row, although it’s very hard to do so.
“We’ll have our hands full.”
Namely with K’wan Powell, the dynamic running back and his Vernon teammates set to renew their bitter rivalry with the Gators at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Doug Griffith Memorial Stadium.
The last time the two squads faced off, Powell totaled 250 rushing yards on his first eight carries, ripping off touchdown runs of 88, 65 and 48 yards in the Gators’ 51-19 Region 1-1A championship victory.
The game film from that contest, though not some Roesetta Stone, did offer a few clues as to how Baker (10-1 overall) might slow down Powell. After starting the game hot, he was held to just 48 yards on his final 14 carries, good for just 3.4 yards per tote.
“We hope we don’t let him off to that same kind of start, but he’s definitely capable,” Brunson said.
Powell’s season numbers certainly indicate that. A junior, he has averaged 10 yards per carry thus far en route to 1,691 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns as the focal point of Vernon’s (8-3) offense.
That offense, Brunson said, has transformed significantly since 2018, adding elements of the vertical passing game thanks to the developments of senior quarterback Dyvion Bush and talented receiving threats in Darrell Powell, E.J. Reddice and Shyron Green.
Bush has thrown for 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns against six interceptions, adding 301 yards and five scores on the ground, while Reddice, Green, Darrell Powell and K’wan Powell have each totaled at least 140 receiving yards. Darell Powell leads the group with 541 yards and six scores on 22 catches.
“We just hope they don’t all hit their stride tomorrow night ’cause they have the potential to be very good,” Brunson said. “We’re gonna have to battle and be in the right spots and stop ’em when we can and maybe keep the ball away from them. Our best defense will be our offense controlling the clock.”
That’s not a bad thing when your offense is as good as Baker’s has been this year.
Behind its Wing-T attack, Baker’s ground game is averaging 342.2 yards and 4.2 touchdowns per game. Junior Joe Brunson’s 2,022 rushing yards (8.7 yards per carry) and 23 total touchdowns lead the Gators, who’ve also gotten a ridiculous 15.1 yards per carry from Jackson Adams en route to 15 total scores.
This past week, Joe Brunson scored four times and racked up 231 all-purpose yards against a Graceville defense that was allowing just 10.1 yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Gator defense is allowing just 12.5 points per game and has forced 23 turnovers (12 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries) with 16 sacks and 64 tackles for loss.
Both units, Matt Brunson said, are hitting their stride.
“Our guys are very mature and battle-tested,” he said. “They understand as we get deeper into November, the games get bigger, for sure, and the stakes get bigger.”