BAKER –Baker enjoyed a 48-27 win over Port St. Joe in the 1A state semifinal last Friday.
at Doug Griffith Memorial Stadium.
The game ball belonged to many.
There was Junior McLaughlin of course, the senior back padding his state-leading rushing total with 241 rushing yards (mostly out of the wildcat) and four rushing touchdowns on 24 carries to accent a 40-yard touchdown jump pass.
There was Eric McQueen, the recipient of that jump pass to give the Gators some breathing room at 27-14 in the second quarter.
There was Brad Inscore, who shined on both sides of the ball. On a fourth-and-14 at the Sharks’ 15 yard line, Inscore hauled in a pass around the 7, turned upfield and carried three tacklers to the sticks at the 1 yards line, where McLaughlin did the rest to push the lead to 21-7. Moments later he forced a fumble that bounced directly into the hands of Derek Peoples, who took the gift 40 yards to the house to give the Gators a 41-14 halftime lead.
There was Baker’s entire defense, which in the first half limited the Sharks to 11 yards rushing and forced three sacks and found the end zone. By game’s end the Gators allowed a Sharks backfield averaging 200-plus yards per game with 35 touchdowns to just 81 rushing yards and a score.
Josh Butts threw for three scores and 144 yards.
Baker quarterback Payton Rockwell, not getting many snaps with McLaughlin playing under center, tacked on a 2-yard touchdown run for the Gators, who moved the chains at will against a foe that had allowed 62 points all season on the shoulders of six shutouts.
No team had topped 20 points. Baker posted 41 by halftime.
The pair of teams entered the night with no common opponents or a head-to-head matchup this season. Yet while the Gators hadn’t been challenged all season, the Sharks had been challenged twice. First came a 14-9 win at 4A Marianna and most recently in a 17-12 region semifinal win over Blountstown.
On Friday night they simply couldn’t contain McLaughlin. Baker’s other 12 foes can empathize, no opponent able to hold McLaughlin to under 130 yards or out of the end zone
McLaughlin had touchdown runs of 4, 1, 26 and 1 yards and connected with McQueen on his only pass for a 40-yard score.
Baker ended the night with 323 yards of offense, while Port St. Joe mustered 225.