SPEED + STRENGTH = VICTORY (Baker H.S.)
Baker High School - 1999 Montana B State Football Champions.
By Matt Shepard
Published: Spring 2000
Baker, Montana is a small rural community of 2,000 people. Through hard work and dedication to perfection, the Baker High Spartans' put together an extremely impressive football team that breezed through the first six games of the season with a perfect 6-0 record.
With game number seven, came the anticipated battle against the previous years state-championship team, Huntley Project. Following the game, Fritz Neighbor of The Gazette newspaper staff wrote, “The top-ranked Baker Spartans' sputtered at the start, then came to life quickly Friday night, pinning a 42-0 loss on No. 2 Huntley Project in what was billed as a District 3B football showdown. Instead, it was a showcase of Baker’s obvious strength.” On that same game, Baker head coach, Don Schillinger stated, “One strength for us, and I think it showed tonight, is we have a fairly quick team.” A single question arose to every one’s mind, can this team be for real?
The Spartans' again continued with their obvious dominance into the playoffs. After the district quarter final game, John Letasky of The Gazette wrote, “Behind some smash-mouth football, some good defense and a couple of big passes, Baker remained undefeated with a 35-0 shutout over previously unbeaten Columbus in the quarter finals of the Class B football playoffs Saturday at Graham Field.” In the same article, Columbus coach John Smith continued, "They are very sound defensively and you can’t give them the ball close to the end zone. They are a quality football team. That’s the team people are going to have to beat to win the championship.”
After that impressive shutout, Fritz Neighbor speculated, “Seeing the Spartans'’ overall speed and sure tackling, you can make a case for them to move up a league . . . I’d pencil them in for second place behind Laurel, who some feel has the best team in the state.”
Baker was then matched up against the #10 Loyola Rams for the state semifinal game. Before the game Loyola coach, Steve Pinsoneault observed, “Baker has given up just 22 points all season (while scoring 495). They’re so impressive and they are very, very athletic. They probably have more speed than we’ve seen out of one team.” Once again, Baker proved to be stronger and faster than their opponent. Using eight running backs, Baker rushed for 252 yards to defeat Loyola 42-7. After the game, Coach Steve Pinsoneault was quoted, “The bottom line is they controlled the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively. We were concerned going in with their speed. But they just overpowered us.” Pinsoneault continued, “They played us man-to-man (on defense) a lot of the time. They’re the only team we’ve faced that could really get away with that. They’re very athletic and their linemen are deceptively strong.”
For the championship game, Baker, once again, had to face a vengeful Huntley Project. Huntley Project put up a tough fight. They stayed up to par with Baker throughout a grueling first half that ended with Baker on top 12-7. During the second half, Huntley’s offense was no match for Bakers speed and strength and Baker went on to with the State Championship game 24-7.
“In Montana, there is a rule in football designed to prevent lop-sided victories from becoming too lop-sided. When a team has a 35-point lead on an opposing team, the clock will run non-stop until the end of the game or until the 35-point lead is lost. We call this the mercy rule,” informed Baker High strength coach, Jade Melby. The Baker Spartan Football Team was able to use this rule in every game of the year except the state championship in which they defeated Huntley Project 24 to 7. Over the year, the Spartans' tallied 561 points while only giving up a mere 35 points to give them a perfect 12-0 record.
Coach Melby is positive that their strength was a huge part of their obvious dominance on the field this year. Melby states, “For six years, ever since 7th grade, about 16 boys in the class of 2000 have been lifting weights faithfully one period a day. It’s important to know there are only 22 boys in the senior class. The impact of this commitment is obvious. In the senior class, Jace Schillinger benches 405, with five others benching over 300 pounds. Nick Stevenson squats 540, with another 4 athletes squatting over 440 pounds. Nick Stevenson also power cleans 280 with Mac Strait a close second at 275 and Tyler Malchouch 3rd with a clean of 270. It’s not just the big guys lifting; others such as Matt Mason and Brian Tromble at weights of only 125 and 150 bench 245 and 265 respectfully and can bench their body weight 30 plus times.”
Coach Melby continues, “Our weight lifting program has improved steadily through its 6-year duration. Out of 198 people in the student body, we average 95 high school and middle school students that enroll in class each year.” This steady program just about guarantees Baker’s further dominance for the years to come.