Ranked as Scout.com’s No. 10 outside linebacker, Baker instead left his mark on the offensive side of the ball.
After Alter tied the game at 14 with 55 seconds to go in the third, Baker went to head coach Joe Schaefer and told him that he was willing to do whatever it took in the finish the game off.
“He came up to me with I think it was 55 seconds left in the third quarter,” Schaefer said after the game. “I looked up and clicked over to the offensive headset and he just said ‘I don’t care. There’s 12 minutes left, wherever I need to play, whatever you need to do, let’s go.’
“So that was where we kind of said ‘All right. We use him sparingly at quarterback to have that dual threat back there, but there’s 12 minutes left in the season.’ ”
Schaefer sent Baker out there in the Wildcat position and was rewarded with a five-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Baker running it in from 14 yards out to give the Bengals the winning score.
“My thought was just to score and as soon as (Tyler) Bias got that block it was just, I just (saw) the end zone and I wasn’t letting anybody stop me,” Baker said of his game-winning score. “Offensive line, I just give them big credit all year round and I’m just happy to have these brothers blocking for me and I’m happy that we all could share this state championship.”
Baker had a hand in all but 3 yards on the drive, rushing for 28 yards and throwing a screen to star junior wideout Justin Layne for 36 yards.
He remained in at the Wildcat for the next two series for the Bengals and was almost unstoppable against the Knights’ defense.
“The difference for that is there’s two threats back there now,” Schaefer said of the Wildcat. “Those linebackers start playing fast and things like that and getting over the top of blocks, we have the potential to pull it at quarterback. That makes a big difference for us and we’ve done that all year long to just keep people honest, and we went back to it at the end there in the fourth quarter to kind of possess the football for a little longer.”
Baker also got the scoring started on Benedictine’s first drive of the game.
The Bengals made it down to Alter’s 17 without having Baker touch the ball but sent the bruising back in to finish the job. It took him two plays to accomplish that. Lining up in the Wildcat, he took the first snap 5 yards up the middle and took the next one 12 yards to the house for his first touchdown in Ohio Stadium.
As the workhorse for the Bengals’ offense, Baker was rewarded by playing nearly every snap on defense as well. He finished with 11 total tackles, including being a part of a tackle for loss. He came mere inches from blocking a punt as well.
“(There’s) nothing like it. I’ve been here with 108,000 people screaming and yelling, but just to have my family, my friends, and the people that really saw me grow … it was amazing,” Baker said of playing in Ohio Stadium. “I just thank them all for being here and supporting me.”
With Benedictine playing as the home team, Baker used his familiarity with the stadium and locker room to put himself where he will be sitting on Saturdays for the next few years.
“When I came to the locker room for visits I always see the linebackers in a certain area and sure enough that’s where I sat,” Baker said.
Now with his high school season over, he will take some time to enjoy this win with his family and teammates, but he knows there are even bigger and better things coming here in the future.
“I don’t know yet about official visits and everything, but I’m just happy it’s just two hours away,” he said of OSU. “Coming back down here any time I want to. It’s just amazing to actually win the state championship here and go on to, hopefully, win national championships.”
If his first game in Ohio Stadium is any indication, Buckeye fans have a lot to look forward to from Baker in the coming years.