Baker overcomes illness in Week 1 rout

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Despite suffering from flu-like symptoms, Toney Baker rushed for 208 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns tonight as Ragsdale crushed cross-town rival Southwest Guilford 52-0 on the road Friday night in the season opener.

The team only punted once and was able to keep Alex Taylor (a 6-4, 195-pound wide receiver who, despite sitting out last season, will reach college radar screens soon) largely in check.

"I thought it was a good effort for our first game, though we have some things we need to work on," a coughing Baker said. "I'm suffering a bit from this cold thing, but it won't be any kind of long-term problem."

Though his usual skill set of speed, power and field vision was in evidence, it was clear throughout the first half that Baker was running at less than full speed. Even so, he finished the period with 141 yards on 17 carries. The second half was much more the usual Toney Baker, with his 67 yards on 6 carries only a shadow of what could have been.

One play in particular stands out; after receiving the hand-off in the backfield, Baker collided with quarterback Trevor Mullins (a junior to watch), bounced off two defenders and took the ball to the end zone after two successive lightening cuts. The play was called back due to a clip well behind Baker but still drew ‘oohs' and ‘aahs' from the assembled crowd of more the 3,500 people.

"I started to get it together a bit in the second half, and so did the offensive line," said Baker. "We have yet to gel, and this group isn't as huge as last season's was. When we really get there, you'll know."

As for the recruiting process, Baker cites the status quo.

"Right now it is still the same five teams, and I don't have any trips to the schools in mind soon," Baker said. When queried if any of the teams has a slight lead, he demurred with a slight smile.

Toney's father Tony Baker, an ex-ECU and NFL running back in his own right, thought of a specific reason for his son's illness.

"It isn't a big deal, but I can tell you right now that fan is coming out of his window," the elder Baker said. "He just needs to stick to his diet, up his water intake even if he doesn't like it at times, and get that fan out of his window. It isn't a big deal."

Tony Baker also said that the same five teams were in the running for his son's services but went a bit further in discussing the steps the family was taking to aid in their decision.

"Right now it is still Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Tennessee, but we're doing our research. We're checking around about styles of play, who is in place and who is coming in and the coaching staffs," the elder Baker said.

As for Carolina, the presence of John Bunting and his staff was mentioned explicitly as an important factor in the decision.

"I know that Coach Bunting and his assistants are an important thing to Toney, so we'll be watching how this season goes with the hope that he'll be there for a long time," said the young back's father. "We have developed a relationship with them and see them as a positive factor, so hopefully they will have a great season and we can see how the process goes from there."

Baker and Ragsdale next face off against Northwest Guilford, a team that is thought to be strong this season. Inside Carolina will be there to cover Baker's performance and recruitment throughout the season.

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