The Baker football team returned to Baldwin City around 10 p.m. on Nov. 7, the new owners of a 24-17 victory over Evangel University, with the regular season finale against Central Methodist University a week away.
This would allow for plenty of time to enjoy the tough win on the road, right? Wrong.
At least after a long day of football and traveling, coaches and players will have a chance to rest and relax, right? Wrong again.
The end of a game on Saturday is just the beginning of a new week. The outcome of a three-hour Saturday football game is the result of a full week of practices, with each day bringing an opportunity to study and improve in all areas to ensure the next three-hour battle is a success.
Sunday Nov. 8
Sunday is not a day of rest if you are a member of the Baker football program.
Most teams will have Sunday off, but head coach Mike Grossner has been meeting on Sundays and giving his players Mondays off since 2001, and loves it.
"If you wait until Monday to watch that game, you've wasted a day of preparation ... for the next opponent," Grossner said. "As a coach, you're still going to be in here Sunday, whether the players are or not."
As soon as the Wildcats return to Collins Center on Saturday night, home of the football offices, graduate assistant Kendall Bradley begins working on the video of the game, which is ready for Grossner to watch when he arrives back at his office at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.
The players' day starts out with treatments for those who are injured and a weightlifting session. While the players lift, the coaches are in a meeting, starting at 12:30 p.m. to discuss the game and vote on team awards, which are only given out after wins. These will be presented during the 2:05 p.m. team meeting. The meeting will last until around 2:40 p.m., when the players will break up into their positions and view the game film from Evangel.
The players' day will wrap up with a practice at 4:05 p.m. where they will jog and run sprints as punishment for penalties they committed in the previous contest. It has just been 24 hours since the Evangel win, yet the game is now out of players' minds, and is replaced by the thought of the Central Methodist game looming ahead.
"It's a very quick turnaround, but that's kind of what is unique about the season, you keep looking toward next week," quarterback Mack Brown said. "It's a lot easier to prepare for next week if you win the week before."
After practice, the coaching staff will begin to prepare for Central Methodist, usually putting in a 14 or 15-hour day Sunday.
Monday Nov. 9
It's the players' day off, yet the coaches' offices are far from empty.
Many players use Monday as an opportunity to study film of Central Methodist on their own. Brown will spend around two hours on a Monday watching film of the upcoming defense.
"That way on Tuesday when I talk to coach Grossner before practice, I can have an idea of what his game plan is and we can intelligently talk about what Central Methodist is doing or trying to do," Brown said. "When it comes to Saturday, watching film really slows the game down."
Tuesday-Thursday Nov. 10-12
During the afternoon practices each day, the offense and defense will face each other in game situations. The teams will go head-to-head in these situations at the very beginning and end of practice. On Thursday, after the opening stretches, the focus is on execution in the red zone.
Players will return Wednesday and Thursday nights for meetings. Wednesday night's meeting was at 6:30 p.m., and meetings usually last 30 to 45 minutes. During that time, the players and coaches will watch film, and on Wednesday, the defense will hand out its scouting report of Central Methodist. Grossner will wait to give the offense its scouting report until Thursday.
This Thursday, however, is different. It is the final Thursday of the regular season, which means the seniors' final regular-season game wearing the Wildcats' black uniforms on the turf at Liston Stadium is quickly approaching. To celebrate, it is a tradition for the seniors, as well as the coaching staff and manager, Director of Sports Medicine Lynn Bott, and six to eight boosters of the program to share a meal together, this year at Hickory Creek BBQ.
"The dinner was a lot of fun. It's a chance for all of us to hang out one last time as a group," senior Clint Benge said.
Friday Nov. 13
Friday's focus is on special teams.
Baker will go through a game run-through of the special teams to cover every situation, before breaking up into team sessions. The special teams groups will meet again after practice, with each team meeting for a brief five to eight-minute period.
"We take a lot of pride in our special teams," Grossner said. "I think it's paying off. I think we are playing pretty darn good on special teams."
As the final moments of preparation before Saturday wind down and practice ends, one more tradition must still be fulfilled. University Minister Ira DeSpain will give the team a sermon, usually relating a message that has been preached throughout the week.
Saturday Nov. 14
It's Saturday, which means game day. It is an overcast day with temperatures in the 50s at the 1 p.m. kickoff. It is a day that Baker seniors will remember — their last in a Wildcat uniform.
The team takes the field two-and-a-half hours before kickoff for the final walk-through, which lasts 15 to 20 minutes. The players get taped, if needed, and prepare for the game before taking the field again 55 minutes before game time to start the pre-game warmups.
A KMBC-TV helicopter flies over Liston Stadium to drop the game ball to the turf and soon the Wildcats began their final game of the year. Baker is victorious in front of the home crowd, winning 33-7.
"You couldn't really ask for a better way to go out," Benge said. "(Central Methodist) has been pretty good the whole year, so it was nice to beat a team like that pretty soundly. Even though we didn't get into the playoffs, it was still nice to end it on a victory."
Sunday Nov. 15
The football offices are empty. The team has the day off as Baker waits to see if it will be included in the national playoffs.
Three teams from the HAAC were announced on Sunday, but Baker was not one of them. The season is over, with Baker finishing the year at 7-3.
Although the Baker football team did not reach the national playoffs this year, at least it will be able to enjoy this final win for more than 24 hours.