Ashland sophomore Quinton Baker played a large role in Friday’s 34-24 win at Rowan County.
It’s just not the way you expected.
Baker, who came into the game with 824 rushing yards, managed just 24 Friday night and one touchdown on the ground. Instead, he caught three passes 102 yards and two more scores.
“I’m really not a receiver, so yes, it’s the best game I’ve had so far (catching the ball),” Baker said.
Baker’s touchdown catches were equally spectacular.
The first, a screen pass from Hunter Prince, started on the left side when Baker broke a tackle at around the Rowan County 35, ran across the field and dove into the end zone. After the Tomcats recovered a fumble less than a minute later, Baker outjumped the Vikings’ Blake Carver to grab senior quarterback Tyler Rose’s 38-yard bomb.
“The second was a perfect pass,” Baker said.
To be sure, Baker was not the only star: junior Josh Vaughn ran 94 yards and two touchdowns; Tyler Rose was 2-of-3 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass; Prince threw for 76 yards and a TD before going down with a knee injury less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Ashland coach Tony Love said Prince “strained his knee a little bit” and would be evaluated today. “I think he’ll be all right.”
And finally, there was the Tomcat defense. It surrendered 355 total yards (including 263 on the ground), but it forced six Viking turnovers. Senior Miles McGranahan intercepted two of four overall thrown by quarterback Devin Helvey, and Rowan County coughed up two fumbles.
Rowan County (1-5, 0-1 in Class 4A District 8), meanwhile, had the more balanced offense. Helvey led all runners with 113 yards on 15 carries, and senior Isaac Lee ran for 80 yards and one score, Helvey hit Lee for one touchdown, and the defense recovered two Tomcat fumbles.
Vikings coach Kyle Singleton, however, didn’t think the turnovers were the main reason his team lost.
“I would definitely say Baker’s play-making ability,” Singleton said. “His ability to just make those big plays is something that’s tough to defend.”
One of Ashland’s three team buses broke down on westbound Interstate 64 between Olive Hill and Morehead, which meant the game started at 7:45 p.m. instead of the usual 7:30.
Rowan County started the scoring on Ty Alderman’s 26-yard field goal a little less than four minutes into the game. The Vikings had the more balanced and prolific running game at halftime, too: Isaac Lee, six carries for 66 yards; Helvey, eight carries for 51; Lambert, six for 32.
Singleton summarized his plan to contain Baker. “Get there quick,” he said.
And the Vikings did, at least in the first half – Baker gained just 17 yards on six carries.
Thing was, Vaughn led his team with 66 yards on the ground – mostly up the middle – including an 18-yard score with 6:36 left in the second quarter.
After Alderman’s points, Ashland moved the ball on its opening drive – the Tomcats moved the ball to the Rowan County 15. Then a turnover – James Queen’s fumble at the 10 went out of bounds for the touchback.
The Tomcats improved to 4-2 overall after winning its district opener.