Hutchinson, Baker backfield leads Rams to undefeated region start
Published 9:00 am Thursday, October 3, 2019
VALLEY — The Valley Rams (4-2, 3-0) lead all 5A Region 2 teams entering the second half of the season with an undefeated start in region play.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams are led by senior defensive linemen Jaden Hamilton and Daniel Osborne, but offensively, everything runs through the sophomore backfield of KD Hutchinson and Bj Baker.
Through Valley’s first six games of the season, Baker has 648 rushing yards on 94 carries to go along with 95 receiving yards on three receptions and nine total touchdowns. Hutchinson has 663 rushing yards on 57 carries while completing 5-of-10 passes for 100 yards and nine touchdowns.
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“It started in the summer,” Hutchinson said. “Last year, we had a bitter taste in our mouth. This year, we learned from past mistakes and we came out harder, executed on things that we messed up last year and that’s just been a big focal point.”
Hutchinson entered the season as an athlete and primarily wide receiver on offense for Valley. After the starting quarterback battle between juniors Gabe Harmon and Will Kennedy was still undecided after the first couple of games, Hutchinson was inserted to the quarterback position.
“It’s not really a wildcat,” Valley head football coach Buster Daniel said of the formation after the Rams’ game against Greenville on Sept. 13. “KD’s running our regular offense. He just gives us a better threat with running. Guys have got to play it straight up, whether we have KD and Bj or KD and [junior] Josh [Heath] in the backfield, they can’t key on one guy. Will and Gabe are going to play, but this game just wasn’t for them. We had to run the football, we established the run and we had to keep doing that. Those guys [Kennedy and Harmon] are going to get playing time down the road.”
Hutchinson said that having a history of playing receiver helped his transition to quarterback tremendously because he already knew who to read and how to make the best pass.
“It was kind of like a perfect fit, almost,” Hutchinson said.
After making the 2018 All-Valley Area team as freshman rushing for 857 yards and nine touchdowns, Baker said he’s thankful to another athlete in the backfield like Hutchinson with him.
“[I’m] very [thankful],” Baker, who calls the tandem “sophomore rockstars,” said before smiling. “It draws attention off of me and they focus on him. Then, I get a break.”
Hutchinson said that the two have a great chemistry on-the-field.
“This man and I talk [to each other] before the play,” Hutchinson said. “He’ll be like ‘hey, I got you. You block for me, I block for you.’ We just have a big mindset, nobody’s touching me when I get the ball, so when I get it, it’s 90, 80, however many yards it is to get the touchdown, we’re gone to the house.”
Baker was an athlete who was known around the area for his dominating performances coming up through junior high school. He said he knew wanted to play football in third grade after watching his older cousin Devon Bailey play for the Rams.
“He inspired me to play,” Baker said of Bailey. “I used to watch him at games and how he came home from them. He would come back in bruises and everything, I just liked that. That’s hard work.”
Hutchinson and Baker have known each other since they were third-graders. They grew up competing against one another, and they both have 33-inch verticals and 4.5 40-yard dash times, although both teammates admit that Baker’s faster. Both the 5-foot-6 Hutchinson and 5-foot-10 Baker can dunk a basketball and have now played football and basketball together for the last three years. Since becoming teammates, the two said that they have set aside their childhood rivalry for the greater good of their teams.
“Nobody can outshine anybody, it’s a team thing,” Baker said. “Scoring, to me, doesn’t really mean much. I don’t really care if I score. I just want the yards, the blocking and for everything to be successful.”
Baker also said that he’s gone to Hutchinson a couple of times for off-the-field advice.
Hutchinson is the son of pastor Frankie Hutchinson, Sr., and he said that he takes the responsibility to pray for and lead his peers by example. In the classroom, he has a 3.9 GPA.
“If I lead by example and not just talking, but by being what I’m about- this goes for the whole team [as well],” Hutchinson said. “If they see KD doing this or that, then they have no choice but to follow.”
With the region-leading start, Hutchinson and Baker said that they are still aiming to accomplish their preseason goal of winning a state championship.
“The season isn’t about KD, it isn’t about Bj,” Hutchinson said. “We still have a team that we have to rock with, so we have to rock with them.”
Both Hutchinson and Baker said their next football goal after high school is to play for defending national champion Clemson University.
It was a goal the duo set while playing in an All-American game in South Carolina last December.
Valley returns home this week to host region-opponent Tallassee (2-2, 1-1).