BAKER — To be the champ, you got to beat the champ.
Chipley — on the shoulders of a Daquayvious Sorey-led defense that clipped Baker's Wing-T attack — did just that Friday night in a 22-7 Region 1-1A championship victory at the Swamp.
Baker, fresh off a 14-0 run in 2020 to capture the first football state title in Okaloosa County since 1995 and bidding for its seventh straight Final Four, simply didn't possess the athleticism or depth of a faster, stronger Chipley program.
"I was proud of the way our defense played tonight, but offensively we just couldn't match their scores," Baker coach Matt Brunson said. "We were definitely out-athleted tonight, but we battled."
By halftime it was 9-0 after Neal Adams found Antonio Lewis for a 34-yard touchdown and Trace Weaver's 36-yard field goal split the uprights.
Baker drives were stalling in the red zone. Numerous false starts were ruining the continuity of the Wing-T. The Gator offense looked one-dimensional as Tanner Kimbrel couldn't make much happen with his right arm.
Baker found new life out of the locker rooms with a 3-yard touchdown from Kayleb Wagner on a night he'd pound out 157 yards on 22 carries, but Adams scored on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter to make it 15-7 and Sorey's red zone interception set up Harrison Adkison's nail-in-the-coffin 1-yard plunge late in the fourth quarter.
"Everyone said we couldn't do it, but we did it," said Adams, who ended the night with 103 passing yards and two touchdowns. "They were playing man and leaving the middle open, so that's where a lot of our big plays came from."
To be fair, Baker's defense was plenty electric, continuously winning the field battle and giving its offense opportunities. But they were gassed.
"We knew we'd have our hands full, so we doubled up some things on the back end to create some pressure," Brunson said. "We did it for a majority of the time, but when we got pressure we got outmatched a bit. They have some great athletes."
Baker's misdirection attempts with Brandon Moss and Ryan Fleming also offered little momentum as the penalties mounted and the aerial attack stalled against a lauded defense.
"We've given up just 100 points all year, so we're pretty solid on defense," Adams said.
Brunson knew it'd take a perfect effort to win. This was Baker's C-game, which can in a lot of ways be attributed to Chipley's athleticism.
"Hats off to them," Brunson said. "We had some drives stall in the red zone and some opportunities where we couldn't convert close. But they did a great job and played extremely well too."
Now Region 1 champ Chipley will hit the road for Region 4 champ Hawthorne, which dismantled 2020 state runner-up Hawthorne 51-12. On the other side of the bracket is Region 3 champ Chiefland hosting Region 2 champ Madison County.
Baker, for the first time since 2014, will sit out the Final Four. But as an incosolable Jared Raybon buried his tears into Wagner's chest postgame, Moss put it all into perspective for a senior class who went 34-5 the past three years.
"At least we got a state title," he said. "That's all that matters."
Follow sports editor Seth Stringer on twitter at @SethSnwfdn.
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Chipley football beats defending state champ Baker, advances to Final Four