Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tough Lost For Bearden


Baker gets recipe just right

Posted on Sunday, December 9, 2007

The perfect script ended with a perfect ending.

Senior Josh Baker kicked a 22-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to give No. 2 Mount Ida a 17-16 victory over top-ranked Bearden in the Class 2 A final before a crowd of 5, 284 on Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

It was the first state championship for the Lions (15-0 ), the only team in Arkansas to finish with a perfect record this fall.

Baker was perfect, too He attempted only two field goals this season, but, of course, nobody in Montgomery County will remember his successful 35-yarder in a blowout victory over Danville in the first round of the playoffs. “In practice, he’s usually dead-on from 45 [yards ] in,” Mount Ida Coach Michael White said. “We were very confident in the decision there. He’s real good from that hash mark, at that angle.” Baker’s field goal capped a dramatic 1 10-play, 76-yard drive in the final 2 / 2 minutes that erased a 16-14 Bearden lead. Baker, the game’s most valuable player, ran eight times for 40 yards on the drive. But it also included a 36-yard pass from senior quarterback Taylor Elder to junior wide receiver Josh DePriest to the Bearden 18 with 1: 25 remaining. Five consecutive runs by Baker allowed Mount Ida to reach the 5 and use its final timeout to set up its field-goal attempt, from the left hash mark, with nine seconds remaining.

After Bearden’s final timeout, Baker, a straight-on kicker, successfully drilled the attempt through the collegiate-width uprights in the north end zone.

Baker recovered a fumble as Bearden tried to lateral on the ensuing kickoff, a fitting ending since he rushed 37 times for 159 yards and 1 touchdown and had a team-high 13 tackles at linebacker.

“The Baker kid proved he’s one of the best around,” Bearden Coach Mike Cox said. “It’s hard to go in there and kick the field goal playing every down of the game and have to play as hard as he did.” Bearden (13-1 ) was trying to give Ouachita County a state championship for the first time since Camden in 1952.

But the Bears, who were playing in their first final, had 4 turnovers and were penalized 6 times for 60 yards.

Maybe more important, standout senior quarterback Dewayne Watts was hampered much of the day with a knee problem he’s had the past three weeks, Cox said.

Watts helped Bearden overcome a 14-0 second-quarter deficit — the first time the Bears trailed this fall — with a touchdown pass and 2, two-point runs.

But Watts, who entered with more than 1, 000 yards rushing and 1, 000 yards passing this season, clearly was limited physically. He accounted for only 52 yards rushing and 58 yards passing.

Bearden spent much of the second half snapping directly to senior tailback Carlos Chambers in Single-Wing and Spread sets.

“We just didn’t get it done,” Cox said. “I probably didn’t help myself. I should have just ran the ball when we had a lead. Bottom line is we just came up short. We ain’t got no excuses. They just beat us today.” Mount Ida outgained Bearden 309-211, had no turnovers and had a 27: 58-20: 02 advantage in time of possession.

Mount Ida, which won its final three playoff games by a combined five points, finished the season plus-40 in turnover ratio.

“That’s been a big factor in all our games,” said White, a 1993 Mount Ida graduate and former Lions player. “We’ve had a lot of close games. Getting that turnover margin in our favor has won several games along the way. It gave us a chance to get here. When we got here, the same thing happened.” The Lions opened the game with a 17-play, 64-yard drive that ended in Baker’s 1-yard touchdown run with 4: 28 left in the first quarter.

The drive, which included two fourthdown conversions, consumed 7: 32.

Defense set up Mount Ida’s second touchdown.

Senior linebacker Chase Whittington raked the ball away from Watts on a keeper, and senior defensive end Randall Dickerson recovered the fumble at the Bearden 29 with 11: 37 remaining in the first half.

Nine plays later, Elder scored on a 1-yard run with 7: 19 remaining in the first half.

At that point, Mount Ida had run 38 plays for 140 yards and held possession for 14: 46. Bearden had run just five plays for 22 yards, with only 1: 55 of possession time.

“We had trouble with their front,” Cox said. “Their offensive line kind of dominated us a little bit. But we don’t have anything to be ashamed of. We represented pretty well, I thought.” Aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty, Bearden moved 81 yards in 10 plays to finally score late in the first half.

Chambers took a direct snap and ran 4 yards for the touchdown with 1: 58 remaining in the second quarter. Watts ran for two points on a power sweep around left end to cut Mount Ida’s lead to 14-8 at halftime.

Bearden took its only lead when, on fourth-and-3, Watts threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Michael Belin and then ran for two points with 5: 31 left in the third quarter.

Bearden seized the momentum midway through the fourth quarter when it stopped Mount Ida on fourth down from the Bears’ 41.

But after the only punt of the game rolled dead at the Mount Ida 19 with 2: 35 remaining, the Lions wouldn’t be denied the perfect ending.

“We have to play hard to compete with the athletes like Bearden’s,” White said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s why we won. It’s because of the desire and the passion of the kids.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
212 N. East Ave.
Fayetteville, AR 72701

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