Baldwin Baker will open NAIA playoff action against Hastings College next Saturday at Liston Stadium where the Wildcats have won 15 in a row.
Experience has reaped its benefits for Baker football this season and the Wildcats hope it will continue to pay off through the playoffs.
Baker, 10th-ranked in NAIA Div. II, clinched a share of the Heart Of America Conference title and a playoff berth with a 34-28 victory over Missouri Valley on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats, who feature 24 seniors, will need every bit of their experience for the first-round opponent -- Hastings, Neb., College. The Broncos are ranked fifth in the nation with a 9-1 record.
"Last week, the seniors realized that this could be their last game if they didn't win," BU coach Charlie Richard said. "Now they have a shot at winning the national championship and they want to take it."
The Wildcats, 8-2, will play host to Hastings this Saturday. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Liston Stadium where Baker has a 15-game winning streak.
"I'm excited about playing at home," senior wideout Gary Greenwood said. "It gives us a great advantage being at home in front of our fans. We wanted to play at least one more game at home before we were done with our careers."
Greenwood led a cast of seniors who had remarkable performances Saturday. The 6-4, 193-pounder caught six receptions for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Greenwood's biggest day before Saturday was a 174-yard, three-touchdown outing last year, also against Missouri Valley.
"It seems like every year I have a big game against Mo Valley," Greenwood who hails from nearby Sedalia, Mo. "I have a lot of friends and family who come to watch the games, so I kind of shine when I'm close to Sedalia."
Greenwood was named NAIA District 10 offensive player of the week. Baker defensive tackle Mike Thompson was defensive player of the week. The 6-5, 230-pound senior registered 16 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Senior linebacker Scooter Fulton also racked up 17 tackles.
"We have such an experienced defensive line with Mike, Leroy (Brown), and Darren (King) and Tate (McCortmick) up front," cornerback Rob Maher said. "They always come up with big plays."
Maher was involved in the game's biggest play when Viking fullback Deandre' Campbell fumbled the ball at the Baker 5 with 2:53 left on an apparent game-winning drive. Maher, a senior from Gardner, knocked it to senior Ric Kutch, who secured the loose ball.
After the turnover, the Wildcats needed a first down with two minutes left. Senior slotback Jimmie Rose gained nine yards on second down to run out the clock.
"The seniors stepped up and made big plays in the game today," Richard said. "They've done it all year and that last three minutes was another great example of their play all year."
Senior tight end Matt McAtee caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Tim Sheldon, who led Baker with 344 passing yards.
@reefer:NAIA Div. II pairings in Scoreboard