If there is one thing that can motivate someone, it is likely the pestering and shouts of Mazama head coach Vic Lease.
For the past six months, Lease has reminded Mazama senior Charlie Baker of his potential to be among the standout running backs he has coached under his program.
Baker finally heard enough.
He put the work in and finally earned his spot.
In his first varsity game, Baker had a football game he might never forget. He was the bright spot and led the Vikings with four rushing touchdowns in No. 3 Mazama’s 40-0 victory against Ontario at home Friday night.
Baker ended with 135 yards on 18 carries.
“It is cool because I have been through the system. I have been all the way up from the bottom. I did not do it all by myself. I had my team. I wanted to push myself,” Baker said. “He (Lease) has been pushing me and my team has been. Focusing, keeping the team together, that is how it all happened for me. We have something called zero periods where we lift weights before school even starts and that was huge.”
“It has always been a dream to be a part of this team and I am a part of it now.”
As if he did not have much motivation, Baker and his family suffered a setback after his grandmother passed away this summer from cancer.
“I have been thinking of my grandma a little. She passed this summer,” Baker said. “There was one in there for her. She had some cancer. She went to some games of mine and was a big sports fan and you could definitely hear her cheer.”
The Vikings opened the game with an 18-yard touchdown pass by junior quarterback Tristan Lee to Cole Brosterhous.
There was not much offense in the first half.
Mazama took a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Baker cemented his place as a Mazama running back in the second half. He earned most of his yards the hard way.
He ended a long Mazama drive at the start of the second half with a two-yard score, followed by a 12-yard run into the end zone later in the third quarter, his longest of the day.
His following two touchdown scores in the fourth quarter were a three-yard and four-yard run, respectively.
“He has really struggled. He was a junior that played JV last year. He wanted to be the fullback, wanted to be the fullback. I really did not think he was focused enough,” Lease said. “Right before the jamboree, I told him, you should be a really good running back. The reason you are not is because it is you. You do not have the confidence to do that. You are not instilling the confidence.”
“Your body language is not there and you have to believe in yourself. It is frustrating for me to see a 6-foot, 215-pound full back to not have confidence when he has been working so hard for four years to finally have this.”
Little by little, Baker’s work ethic changed. His posture changed and it was noticeable.
Lease said it was right before his team took the field for its jamboree when he had a conversation with Baker for him to take advantage of his final season.
Cooper Hamilton was going to be the team’s fullback before Baker made sure to let Lease know one more time he could do it.
“We started practicing and I saw it. He took a lot of me screaming and getting on him but he has really
matured,” Lease said. “He is a load. You saw what he did to that kid today. He took himself off the field. He is going to be great at fullback.”
The Vikings did have a set back with injuries during their season opener.
Hamilton suffered a broken collarbone that will likely sideline him most of the season but could return for the playoffs if ready.
The injury, which broke Hamilton’s collarbone in five places, was haunting for defensive coordinator Beau Fullerton as Hamilton was his starting middle linebacker.
The average turnaround from a collarbone injury is 6 to 8 weeks.
Lee also shined against Ontario and ended with 78 yards passing and the lone touchdown pass. He ended 7 for 14 in passing attempts.
Lee’s threat on the ground also stymied Ontario and was the team’s second-leading rusher with 99 yards on 10 attempts.
A week before the team’s jamboree, Lease said he made the decision that Lee was going to be his starting quarterback. It was his intention to have Lee and last year’s starter Nate Beck share snaps but Beck was sidelined with a left leg injury.
“It was a great win for us. I love playing quarterback. I have played it since I was a little kid. Coach Lease has faith in me. We just put it out there tonight and got the win. He (Lease) has always believed in me and that is his No. 1 thing,” Lee said. “I remember being in fourth grade and playing quarterback. The only time I did not play quarterback was last year so it is great for me to be able to do that again.”