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Belpre’s Baker to suit up for Muskingum

Golden Eagle will play tight end for Muskies

Belpre’s Connor Baker (4) brings his team to the line against Shenandoah. (File Photo)

BELPRE — An accomplished student-athlete all his own, Connor Baker will continue his playing days at Muskingum University. When he isn’t busy as a tight end on the McConagha Stadium gridiron, Baker looks to continue his academic excellence. As a student who is in the top five of his graduating class (with a more than 4.3 GPA), Baker is on his way to nursing school. When asked how he would balance those responsibilities, Baker was confident in his ability to make the most of every opportunity.

“I plan to get my bachelor’s and then go back in a couple years to get my nurse practitioner’s licence,” he said. “It all just comes down to time management. I’ve been pretty good at that throughout my high school career, because I’ve always taken college courses. Muskingum will have academic advisors up there, and I know someone is doing nursing and a sport, so I’ll talk to them and get their advice.”

The decision to play at tight end comes down to the Muskies’ offense and how he will fit in that role. Running a variation of the spread offense with two tight end sets, he’s putting himself in the best position to succeed. A four-year starter on the gridiron, Baker spent time playing offense at quarterback, running back and receiver. It was an abbreviated 2020 campaign for the Golden Eagles, but Baker left a notable final impression in the eight games he played.

At running back, he found paydirt seven times and ran for almost 5 yards per carry. He stepped up at wideout with 14 receptions for 205 yards and a score. That was good for 15 yards a catch.

Even though the Belpre offense isn’t primarily focused on passing, Baker still threw for 136 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Baker shined with 40.5 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. Head coach Lance Binegar reflected on Baker’s final year. In taking over head coaching duties from Mike DeVol, Binegar had his hands full trying to navigate through an uncertain 2020 season.

“He definitely made things easier. I can tell you that much,” Binegar recalled of Baker. “When coach DeVol kind of dropped off, it was very easy (to connect with Baker). I was Connor’s lifting partner, in the offseason. He was helping me fill that role, and it was a very smooth transition. We had Connor at running back, quarterback and wide receiver, and he did it all for us. We’ve got some very big shoes to fill, and hopefully, we’ve got some kids who are ready for it.”

Baker said coach DeVol played a part in him choosing football over basketball, but he could have gone either way. He was a focal point of head basketball coach Tyler Leasure’s offense, and he ended his time on the hardwood with 1,000 points scored in a Golden Eagle uniform. DeVol is currently in Florida, but was still able to take time out of his day to share some thoughts on Baker’s signing.

“My thoughts on Connor and the whole group of seniors at Belpre is that they’re great kids,” he said. “Connor is one of those who I think can do whatever he wants in life. In what he’s done in both football and basketball, and what he’s done in the classroom, he’s a leader. He gave 110 percent, and he was a great example for the young kids in junior high and high school. He’ll probably never understand the fact that he was an idol to an awful lot of kids. With what he did on the field and in the classroom, that’s going to make them better, because he was that idol.”

There are three major memories Baker will take with him from his time playing high school football, as he sets his sights on New Concord.

“Definitely during my sophomore year when we beat Southern, we beat them when they were undefeated at the time,” he said. “I’ll always remember my first career start as a freshman. Then, just being able to have a season with my friends I’ve had since I was 7-8 years old. Those are my three biggest ones for football.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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