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Baker helps Brockport bring home Empire 8 Championship

by Paul Cifonelli - Staff Writer
Fri, Nov 9th 2018 02:00 pm
Brockport senior defensive back Rashad Baker, recorded four interceptions against Cortland including one that saved Brockport's perfect season.
Brockport senior defensive back Rashad Baker, recorded four interceptions against Cortland including one that saved Brockport's perfect season.

Every young athlete dreams of making the big play to win a championship. Whether it be a walk-off base hit or an overtime golden goal tally, the feeling of bringing a team to victory is unbeatable. On his senior day for The College at Brockport football team, defensive back Rashad Baker did just that.

Baker recorded two interceptions in the first quarter. These interceptions gave him the program record for most passes defended, surpassing Colby Morabito’s record of 39 over his career. 

Baker would only increase the record as the game went on. He recorded his third interception of the game which came in the second quarter, keeping Cortland’s offensive efforts to a minimum, but then nearly saw the game slip away.

SUNY Cortland got the ball back with just 2:24 left on the clock. The score was 21-16, in favor of the Golden Eagles. Cortland drove down the field with relative ease. Every time Brockport began to put the drive on hold, a penalty or unpredictable play would extend it for the Red Dragons. 

Then, with 7 seconds left in the game, Baker did what seemed impossible. He picked off Cortland quarterback Brett Segala for the fourth time in the game, tying a program record. The interception not only sealed Brockport’s victory, but also sealed the squad’s second straight Empire 8 championship.

After the interception, Baker spiked his helmet and strutted over to the fence where his father, Kenny Baker, stood. A huge hug from his father was waiting for Baker when he got there. After that, he had Brockport’s diamond studded turnover chain around his neck as his teammates carried him around the sidelines. It was the ultimate moment for Baker considering he did it on the day he was honored for his hard work and dedication to the program.

After the game, handshakes and team pictures with the championship banner, Baker still had the turnover chain on.

“Honestly, I might keep it on the whole night. It’s my good luck charm,” an exhausted yet ecstatic Baker said.

Brockport head coach Jason Mangone did not have enough good things to say about Baker after his heroics.

“When you break the passes defended record that Colby Morabito set, who I think is one of the best players we’ve ever had here, that’s already saying something,” Mangone said. “And then to have the day he had today, they challenged him and he responded. To end the game that way was just fantastic.”

Baker more than doubled his interception total on the season in this game, increasing the number from three to seven. While he stole the show for his record-setting performance, Brockport’s defensive backfield also includes three other senior starters, Matt Arita, Cedric Campbell II and Jake O’Connell. Defensive backs coach David Blahowicz raved about his unit.

“That’s the best group of guys I’ve ever coached, they play together, they’re a family and they do everything for each other,” Blahowicz said.

Brockport’s 21-16 win clinched its second Empire 8 championship in as many seasons. Also for a second season in a row, the Golden Eagles are undefeated in the regular season. The victory over Cortland extended Brockport’s regular season win streak to 21 games. Ranked #3 in the country, Brockport has now clinched its berth in the NCAA tournament. However, that is not enough, as Mangone wants to earn the #1 seed in the East region and secure home field advantage for as long as possible.

“If we are able to take care of our business against Morrisville State, hopefully get a one seed and then see what happens,” Mangone said. “There’s so many different scenarios that can play out in terms of teams leaving the region, teams coming in the region, teams may be traveling from Maine or New Hampshire. So there’s so many scenarios yet, but it’s really fun to know that we’re in.”

The first time that Brockport gets to take the field as Empire 8 champions will come on Saturday, Nov. 10. The Golden Eagles will visit Morrisville for that contest, which is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m.