Baylor football coach Phil Massey thought he knew exactly what the blueprint would look like if his Red Raiders were going to win Friday night's Division II-AA state quarterfinal against a stubborn Montgomery Bell Academy squad.
"I really thought that the team making the least amount of mistakes would walk away the winner tonight. Obviously, I was a little off there," Massey said, able to laugh a little.
Despite two red-zone turnovers, the Red Raiders moved into next week's semifinals with a 20-10 triumph that was a testament to their determination to move on toward a state title that eluded them a year ago by a mere few seconds. Baylor (10-1) will host Christian Brothers, an upset winner over Brentwood Academy on Friday.
"We definitely have some unfinished business, and as a senior that is what motivates our team," Baylor quarterback Matthew Oellerich said. "We have to a better job, especially in the red zone, but hats off to our defense tonight. It's not our time to go just yet."
The two prep-school powers battled to a similar outcome early in the season, and despite Baylor's top seed and MBA's 6-5 record coming in, the Raiders knew they would have their hands full. Baylor struck early, going 52 yards in five plays on its first possession with Oellerich hitting Charbo Clark on a 25-yard pass to make it 7-0.
MBA showed right away, though, it wasn't going away. The Big Red staved off a Baylor score with an interception inside the 10 on a tipped pass and drove 59 yards in 13 plays before Landon Bullock booted a 35-yard field goal to make it 7-3. Baylor immediately turned it over on a fumble after the ensuing kickoff, and MBA took advantage of the short field with Aaron Simonis' 28-yard strike to Mattison Hamilton for a 10-7 lead.
Baylor turned in its best drive of the night, though, going 76 yards in 13 plays with Ollerich completing five of eight passes and making a big 17-yard run. His 26-yard toss to Reggie Upshaw in the end zone came with just 26 ticks remaining before the half.
"I thought that drive was huge. These kids really overcame some things tonight. It was a character game for sure," Massey said. "When some bad things happened to us, we managed to respond and handle it. We did our job tonight."
MBA managed to keep the ball away from Oellerich and Co., thanks to a decisive time-of-possession advantage. The Red Raiders had eight possessions and all but the two TD drives were less than five plays. Baylor did two field goals off the toe of Mr. Football finalist Henrique Ribeiro in the final half. Riberio nailed a 42-yarder in the third period and sealed the win with his 26-yard boot with 1:25 left in the game.
"It definitely helps to have that weapon in the arsenal," Massey said.
Down the stretch the Red Raiders kept the Big Red in check with a strong defensive front and a hard-charging linebacker corps. MBA wound up with 162 total yards while Baylor racked up 321, including 151 passing yards from Oellerich and 104 rushing on 13 carries.
Upshaw had a big night receiving until a hard hit sidelined him in the second half. He finished with 82 yards on six catches.