Having an Eagle Scout suit up for a high school football team may sound like a unique occurrence, but it’s become somewhat of a tradition for the Fayetteville Bulldogs and the Baker family.
Carson Baker, a senior outside linebacker, is proud of earning the Boys Scouts of America’s highest honor, but then again, it’s kind of the expectation in his family.
“I’m the youngest of five brothers, and we are all Eagle Scouts,” Baker said Wednesday between a weight workout and an afternoon practice session with his purple-clad teammates. “Yeah, it’s sort of a family tradition.”
Carson’s two oldest brothers Brandon and Preston went to school in San Antonio before their family moved to Fayetteville after their father, a Springdale native, retired from AT&T. However, Peyton and Cameron left their paw prints on the Bulldog program for Cameron to follow.
vs. Jeff. City Mo. (2-0)
Date: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Harmon Field, Fayetteville
“His older brothers were both Eagle Scouts and good players for us, too,” Fayetteville head football coach Daryl Patton said. “They are three fine young men. We’ve been proud to have them in our program.”
To earn the honor, Baker built a walking bridge near Lake Fayetteville, putting in nearly 100 hours of work to accomplish the task.
“It’s neat knowing that I did it,” Baker said. “It’s something I’m really proud of.”
Baker’s also proud to be back on the football field as a senior after missing his entire junior season with a rare but debilitating injury to his Lisfranc ligament in his foot. The ligament is located midway between the toes and. The injury was comparable to a anterior cruciate ligament injury. Lisfranc ligament stability is crucial for walking, running, jumping and cutting.
Baker remembers hurting his foot all to well.
“It was out in practice one day, the week before our first scrimmage during a drill,” Baker said. “It was just a normal day. I just planted on my foot wrong and tore my Lisfranc ligament. It’s a really rare injury. It put me out for the whole season. I had surgery, and they put a screw right in the middle of my foot. It had to heal for about six months. The recovery after that took another two or three months.”
Baker, who was slated to start after a solid sophomore season, said he is trying to cram two seasons into one after watching from the sidelines during the Bulldogs’ 2012 championship season.
“I’m putting every bit of effort I can into it to get back to where I was as a sophomore,” Baker said. “I feel a lot better now, basically 100 percent. I just have to put a lot of effort into it now.”
While his recovery went well, Baker has noticed a difference after a year away from the game.
“I’m not as fast as I was, yet,” Baker said. “I don’t have the speed I would like to have, but I’m working at it every day.”
Patton vouches for Baker’s work ethic and leadership.
“He has worked extremely hard to get back in the offseason and spring,” Patton said. “Right now, he is running second team at outside linebacker, but he plays as much as a starter. We count on him and he is getting healthier everyday. You can see the difference from the start of practice until now. He brings a great attitude to practice and is a leader for us on and off the field. He’s just a pleasure to coach.”
Baker said the injury has motivated him to drive himself even harder this season.
“Missing last season really hurt,” Baker said. “I wanted to play in that state championship game so bad. I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder.”
Fayetteville has played in the last three state title games and won the last two; however, the pundits have tabbed the Bulldogs as a middle-of-the-road squad this season.
“I have high expectations for the team,” Baker said. “I know this team can accomplish a lot of things. A lot of people doubt us because we graduated a lot of talent from last year. They don’t think we are going to go far.
“But everyone here understands what being a Bulldog is about. We know we have to play our hardest for four quarters every game. If we do that, we’ll keep making improvement and be a very good team by the end of the year.”
The Bulldogs (1-0) face the Jefferson City (Mo.) Jays at 7 p.m. Friday at Harmon Field. The Jays are 2-0 and present a distinct challenge to Fayetteville’s inexperienced defense with multifaceted option attack.
Under center, the Jays work out of the Veer, but when quarterback Gabe Marcantonio slides back into the shot gun, the Jays look at bit like Oregon in the college ranks, hitting opponents with speed sweeps and quarterback keepers.
Baker said the key for Fayetteville’s defense is to focus and each man play his role.
“Everyone has a role,” Baker said. “One person has to take the quarterback and so on. Last year we got beat, and it was evident we weren’t as disciplined in doing our jobs as we could have been. Everyone is just going to have to step up and accept the challenge. They have a highly respected program. They’ve won a lot of championships. We’ve got to go out and play Bulldog football.”
Outside linebacker plays a key role in defending an option attack.
“I have the first threat,” Baker said. “When they run the option, they hand it off a lot to the dive person, and he’s my responsibility. If you don’t stop him, they can really hurt you, picking up four and five yards a run. I’ve got to be prepared.”