By Mike Cane Herald Writer
Setting lofty goals is usually encouraged, but Tom Tri was worried that his quarterback’s expectations were a bit unrealistic.
Before the 2008 season began, Lake Stevens High School QB Nick Baker aimed to do things no Vikings player had ever done. He jotted some eye-popping goals on a list and gave it to Tri, the team’s head coach. Among Baker’s objectives: Pass for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, and run for five TDs.
Baker’s plan seemed somewhat improbable, Tri said.
“Well, I was wrong. Way off,” said Tri, who happily watched Baker demolish team records all season.
Using Lake Stevens’ new spread offense, Baker, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior, passed for 2,785 yards and 30 TDs with 12 interceptions. He completed 65.4 percent of his throws (212 of 324) and also led the Vikings in rushing.
For producing prolific numbers while guiding Lake Stevens to the quad-district playoffs, Baker is The Herald’s 2008 All-Area Offensive Football Player of the Year. The left-handed QB set all sorts of game, season and career records for the Vikings. He finished as the program’s all-time leader in passing yards (4,192), completion percentage (62 percent) and passing TDs (42).
“I hope I left a huge mark,” Baker said. “Our senior class left a mark too by the fact that there were so many guys who broke records this year.”
After working hard with teammates this past summer to learn an exciting new offense, Baker performed like he had been directing the scheme for years.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of production he provided for us this year,” coach Tri said. “I knew he was good, but not in my wildest dreams did I expect what he did.”
Baker’s most mind-blowing accomplishment came Oct. 31 against Snohomish. With his team shorthanded on defense and trailing by large margins much of the night, Baker tallied 522 total yards (395 passing, 127 rushing) and had a role in seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in Lake Stevens’ 49-48 loss.
Tri called it “far and away the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen in my years around high school football.”
Baker repeatedly rallied the Vikings with his arm and his feet. His final pass was a 31-yard TD completion to receiver Colton Tupen on fourth down that cut the deficit to one point. Lake Stevens’ two-point conversion run failed, but the TD completion gave the Vikings a chance.
“That’d have to be the best play of the year because of the situation and how it went down,” Tupen said of the clutch TD. Baker eluded several Snohomish defenders, rolled to his right and launched the ball to Tupen, who changed his route when he saw Baker’s rollout and was wide open.
Playing with Baker was a receiver’s dream, Tupen said: “He can throw the long ball. He can throw the short ball. He’s got accuracy. He’s got everything — all the components of a good quarterback.”
Tupen (66 receptions, 925 yards, nine TDs) and Trevor Riecks (55 receptions, 724 yards, 11 TDs) were the top receivers on a Lake Stevens squad that featured five players with at least 18 catches and 200 yards. Tupen set team season records for receptions and yards; Riecks broke the season TD reception record.
In addition to passing effectively, Baker led Lake Stevens in rushing. It became a necessity when starting running back Bo Dickinson was injured and missed about half the season. A few years ago teammates joked about how slow Baker was, Tupen said. But time spent on conditioning and footwork paid off for Baker, who rushed for 370 net yards (546 yards not including losses) and four TDs.
“He definitely made a big transformation,” said Tupen.
Baker wants to play college football. Interest has picked up lately, he said, but he hasn’t received an offer — yet.
“He’s getting some attention. Someone’s going to give him a scholarship,” said Tri. The University of Montana, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Central Washington University and Western Washington University have expressed interest, Tri said.
Wherever Baker ends up after high school, he will always be proud of his record-setting legacy at Lake Stevens.
Writer Mike Cane: email@example.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.