The Star: Nick Tiano (Baylor) 10-of-23, 128 yards, one TD
Up next: Baylor (7-4) at Montgomery Bell Academy (9-1).
Having lost three of its last four games, Baylor limped into the first round of the TSSAA Division II-AA football playoffs Friday night. Pope John Paul II provided some healing.
Baylor got a 128-yard passing performance from quarterback Nick Tiano and eased into the second round with a 41-25 victory at Heywood Stadium.
A seven-touchdown win over PJP II in week five gave the Red Raiders all the confidence they needed heading into this second season.
Baylor (7-4) will face Montgomery Bell Academy (9-1) next Friday in Nashville. MBA won its week-three matchup with Baylor, 28-14.
It was the anticipation of next week's rematch with MBA that set the tone of Friday's game.
Tiano threw 23 passes, completing 10 for his 128 yards, in an effort to work on what might be needed down the line.
"We need to get our quarterback going, so we thought we'd give him a chance to work it out through the air tonight,'' Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "We're going to need a balanced attack next week, and this was a good opportunity to get that done.
"It wasn't as sharp as we would have liked, but we can build on it."
Baylor was without running back George Porter, nursing a strained groin.
The Red Raiders still managed to roll up 224 yards on the ground, splitting those yards among starter Adrian Harris with 52, Robert Stagmaier's 67 and Tiano's 47 yards rushing. Harris scored two touchdowns.
The Knights took the opening kickoff and deliberately marched down the field, slowing the game by milking the play clock to seconds before each snap. Their first drive was 14 plays and took all but 1:27 of the first quarter, resulting in a 28-yard field goal.
From that point, it was all Baylor. The Red Raiders led 24-3 at halftime and 34-3 when Tiano hit Ian Jump on a 4-yard scoring pass with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
Substitutions hit the field at that point.
"They did a very good job to start the game of controlling the clock and keeping us off balance,'' Massey said. "They limited our possessions early, and that was a nice strategy. Once we got the ball, we felt like we had to get the ball in the end zone.''
Defensively, Baylor was led by Will Jumper and Ryan Parker.
"Our defense is playing right now as well as we've ever played,'' Massey said.
A strong defensive effort will be needed next week.
"We actually played a pretty good game against MBA earlier this season. We made way too many mistakes, and that took us out of it," Massey said. "It'll be a dogfight, and maybe the way we played tonight will help us get ready.''
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