BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — We are less than two months away from the first Friday night of the 2020 high school football season. As we get ready for another outstanding year of football in WNY, we’re going to spotlight some of the players that stood out on the field in 2019 and are looking to shine in 2020.
The 2019 Canisius Crusaders were an exceptionally young team, but when you watched the Crusaders during their state championship run, it would be hard to guess that the player leading the offense was one of the youngest on the team.
“It was the first time for us, in my tenure, that we had a sophomore start at quarterback for us, so I think sometimes early on it’s tough to navigate that,” Canisius head coach Rich Robbins said. “To lead a bunch of 18 year old seniors and have them listen to you, but I think as soon as Tyler really established himself and got the chance to play he got confidence in himself.”
“I think for a lot of these kids, you have to have that street cred, that in-game experience, and once Tyler got that, he was the unquestioned leader of our offense for sure.”
“In the beginning, I had to really earn my teammates trust and get them to follow me and get my back,” Canisius junior quarterback Tyler Baker said. “The first game at Euclid, I had to show them I’m their guy, they can count on me, I can count on them, so I think I gained their trust out there and their respect.”
As a sophomore, quarterback Tyler Baker led the Crusaders to their third Catholic State Championship with the strength of his arm, and by using his legs. The dual threat QB threw 117 completions for 1,472 yards and 13 passing touchdowns, and also led the ground game with 87 carries for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I’ve been a runner my whole life, and I’ve always been running away from the defense, so I just kind of used the skills I’ve had my whole life to work around the defenders and find open areas and hit those holes,” Baker said.
As many young teams do, Canisius experienced some growing pains at the beginning of the season when they started off 0-3. But once Tyler settled into his roll as QB 1, the Crusaders were hard to stop.
“As the season went on, those are the things you started to see. The leadership, the fact that you could count on him on third and fourth downs, he was really starting to understand the offense and his teammates and how everything clicks and works,” Coach Robbins said. “His development last year was really unbelievable. It was great to see through the playoffs how well he played, then in the State Championship game, he was dynamite.”
“Certainly everyone knows that last drive, a sophomore goes in and takes our team 90 yards down the field against, in my opinion, one of the best teams we’ve faced in the last 5-10 years. That’s the kind of kid he is. He wants the ball in his hand on fourth down, he wants the chance to win it for his team, and that’s certainly what he did.”
The Crusaders return 15 starters from last season’s state championship team, Tyler is looking forward to getting back out on the field with his teammates and taking the season by storm.
“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting ever since the last game to get back out there on the field,” Baker said. “I can’t wait. There’s a big target on our back. We gotta repeat, we can’t let people down.”