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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Baker's defensive stop helps save season for SHS

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sikeston's Steven Baker dribbles the ball upfield against Farmington in a Class 2 sectional game on Tuesday night at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
(David Jenkins photo)
SIKESTON -- Sikeston's Steven Baker didn't really know what he had done.

All that was on the defenseman's mind was getting in front of an open net which was simply inviting the Farmington Knights to end the game.

After Sikeston goalie Michael Gipson left his post to try and swat a ball out of the air, Baker was the last possible option to keep the ball out of the net. He slid into the ball, and instantly felt discomfort in his knee at about the same time roars erupted from the Sikeston bench and crowd.

"I stayed back just to make sure everything was going to be alright," Baker said when recollecting the play. "I tweaked a little bit of my knee and the back of my leg. I had no idea what happened. I'm just happy it stayed out."

Baker's deflection saved Sikeston's season and, ultimately, led to the Bulldogs pulling out a 4-3 sectional win on Tuesday night earning the team's 20th win of the season as well as their first playoff win -- something that has never been done before in Sikeston school history.

"I'm kind of like the trash man," Baker said with a smile. "I kick it out."

Baker's been known as one of, if not the best, defenseman for Sikeston this season.

His speed and quickness make it nearly impossible for opposing goal scorers to get around him or trick with different dribbling moves.

His presence of mind to jump in front of an open net while sacrificing his body is exactly what a coach likes to see.

"Other coaches don't know what to do with Steven," Sikeston coach Doyle Noe said. "He's an amazing athlete. That ball was by Mike and they had an open net. They probably had a half of a step on Steven, but with his quickness and athleticism, he put it all out there and made a heck of a stop to stop the ball and we cleared the ball off the line.

"That was a big part of the game. Anybody else probably doesn't make that play. It was all hustle and heart from Steven."

What led to Baker's heroics was the aggressiveness of Sikeston keeper Michael Gipson. Twice already in the contest, Gipson had strayed a bit too far out of the goal which ended up costing the Bulldogs two goals.

"Michael is an amazing keeper," Noe said. "He's very athletic. But, with athleticism, sometimes, might be a tad bit of overconfidence. He was just trying to make a play and sometimes that's not the best thing to do.

"Overall, he played a great game though. He made two great saves in overtime to keep us on the field. He made some mistakes, but he made up for it with big saves to keep us in the game."

Although, more times than not, the athletic Gipson grabs corner kicks and fly balls with the slightest of ease, those two occasions, he admits, was him trying to do too much.

"I was trying to do too much," Gipson said. "I was really overdoing myself. Especially during big plays like that, I try to overextend. I just want to be the key player when I know I have the potential to do it."

"I knew (Baker) was there. I was telling him to clear the ball and I knew he was capable of doing what needed to be done."

Gipson was one of the teammates that helped carry Baker off the field following the sophomore's injury when saving the game. He also helped him along when the two teams shook hands after Brandon Goodwin sent the Bulldog faithful into a frenzy with his game-winning, overtime goal. All while Baker was being tended to on the bench for what would end up being minor injuries.

"Everybody was in the way and I couldn't even see Goodwin's goal," said Baker. "Again, I just heard the cheers."

Along with Gipson, Sikeston's defense has been the unsung hero of this historic season.

With Gipson recording the most shutouts as a goalie in school history, it's the rest of Sikeston's defense that has insured and protected Gipson's feat as much as they could.

The Bulldogs defense kept Farmington under wraps the entire first half. Gipson added spectacular dives, unrivaled leaps and everything in between to keep the Knights out of the net.

"I think the defense was the key player in the first half, especially," Gipson said. "They worked well together in clearing the ball."

Guys like Baker, Paul Hughes, Josh Hampton, Trey Tigart and Adam Johnson were in waiting either to clear a ball from ever getting to Gipson or to pick up one of Farmington's forwards in the wink of an eye.

"That deflates a team when you have a great defensive stop on an open net and you get out-hustled and outworked and all you have to do is tap it in," Noe said. "I think it did Farmington a little bit and it allowed us to get the ball down to the other end and end it."

The three goals that were scored on Gipson were from two instances where the senior tried jumping up to thwart a pass in front of the net, which strayed just above his outstretched hand. The other goal given up was on a penalty kick the sailed just to his left in the corner of the goal.