A really solid matchup is on tap for Friday night up in Glen St. Mary.
The Baker County Wildcats (9-1) will play host to Clay (8-3) in a 5A region semifinal. The two teams met back on Oct. 21 where Baker County won at home 28-14.
Clay is 2-3 against Baker County since 2007 as the Wildcats have gone 2-1 on their home field in the span. The last postseason meeting between these two came nine years ago when Baker County won 44-14 in a 3A region quarterfinal.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then. These are two tremendous offenses as the Wildcats average 37 points per game and the Blue Devils are close at 30.9.
However, Clay’s defense is allowing 22.2 points per game. Last week in a region quarterfinal win over North Marion, the Blue Devils gave up 30 points in the first half alone to hold on 41-38.
For Baker County, it’s defense has surrendered 14.2 points per game which includes just two games with 20 or more points. The Wildcats handled Belleview last Friday in a 35-7 win.
These two teams don’t like one another.
Baker County junior wide receiver Wesley Belford said that Clay’s defense is pretty good, but “once we start punching them in the mouth, the game is over.”
The Blue Devils have a dandy of a running back in Louisville commit Colin Wilson. The senior is fresh off a 270-yard, six touchdown performance. Belford said this game won’t be easy for his group.
Baker County had a scare last week when senior quarterback Joe Green suffered an ankle injury last week. Green is on track to return to the lineup.
Without Green, backup Cam Mobley relieved him and found Belford for a 67-yard touchdown pass in spot duty.
Wildcats junior back Josh Haygood is hoping that Green can play at 100 percent health this week.
“Joe going down last week was an eye opener for me and my team,” Haygood said. “We just had to have our back up quarterback step in and play the role.”
Haygood says this week’s preparation is key leading into the second round of the playoffs.
“Even though we have played them once before we need to practice hard to ensure victory,” he said. “They are not invincible by any means. If we come out and play with effort and intensity from start to finish, we will come out victorious.”
Playing at home where the Wildcats are a perfect 7-0 this season and 12-1 dating back to 2015 is something they like. Belford said it feels good to be at home because the county completely shuts down to watch the games.
Belford went on to say that you won’t find another group like this in some years. Defensively, sophomores Shaquan Griffin and Roderick Haygood are two guys to monitor for Baker County.
As for Clay, junior quarterback Caleb Eason took over under center two weeks ago. Senior Jaylen Jenkins moved to an athlete role as a running back and wide receiver. Since then, the offense has opened up a bit more alongside Wilson’s efforts out of the backfield.
Baker County knows what this game means. It’s all about making a run and getting into the state tournament.
“This team is so special to me because these are my brothers,” Haygood said. “I know each of them like the back of my hand. We grew up together and I know that they all want this as much as me.”
Expect a close battle in this 5A region semifinal. Baker County certainly has an edge at home with an explosive offense and stout defense. However, the Clay offense is going to be hard to slow down especially with Wilson playing at a high level consistently.
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.