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Carlynton alum having breakout season with the Passion

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Angela Baker, left, is in her third season with the Pittsburgh Passion.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Angela Baker said the feeling around the Pittsburgh Passion before the season was 2014 would be a special year.

Turns out the feeling was right.

The Carlynton grad wrapped up an 8-0 regular season with the Passion and is working with the team to get ready to continue the run into the postseason.

“With the players coming back and the new athletes we got, we had a good feeling,” Baker said. “We are a pretty tight-knit group so we work really well together.”

Baker has been part of a Passion offense that is scoring an average of 34.75 points per game. She was one of Pittsburgh's top receiving threats during the regular season as she finished with 10 touchdown receptions.

Baker had a breakout performance in the fifth game of the season against Montreal. She finished with 93 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a 35-0 win. A week later, she had a career game with 105 receiving yards, 44 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 51-0 win over Carolina.

In the regular season finale against Baltimore, her touchdowns were bookends to the 38-6 shellacking of the Nighthawks.

“I didn't realize it until after but I had the first and last touchdowns of the last regular season game,” Baker said. “After we got the first score, it just gave us momentum.”

While she is in only her third year with the team, Baker said she took on new responsibility this season. Instead of being a follower, she embraced the role of stepping into a leader position to help some of the newcomers grow a custom to the team.

“I have to be a leader now,” Baker said. “The coaches have trust in me and have seen what I have done the last two years. I have been given the chance to do a little more than in the past.”

Baker received a boost before the season when she went with seven teammates to the first Women's Word Football Games in Texas. Players from across the United States – as well as Australia, Spain and Germany – attended the event.

The gathering featured several NFL position coaches working with the athletes.

“It was phenomenal,” Baker said. “Some of the best coaches out there taught me different ways to be a better player. I learned new exercises and stretches to do.”

The camp was beneficial as Baker has an extended role this season.

The Passion returned to the Independent Women's Football League after a couple of seasons competing in the Women's Football Alliance. The major difference in the leagues is that the IWFL rosters are limited to 45 players.

“The depth chart is not as deep as before,” Baker said. “But we all work really well together.”

Baker has filled in as a backup quarterback – even throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Valerie Riley in the regular season finale against Baltimore – and has lined up in the backfield as a running back.

“I was a receiver the past two years and returned kicks,” Baker said. “But I have been moved around to a couple positions this season.

“I really like having to adapt.”

A smaller depth chart hasn't slowed the team down. The Passion have been dominating on both sides of the ball as they outscored their opponents 278-24 and won its games by an average of 31.75 points.

The Passion will take its first step towards a title this weekend when they play the Keystone Assault (8-0) in the first round of the IWFL playoffs.

“I think we have the ability to make it to South Carolina for the championship game,” Baker said. “We need to take it one game at a time and focus on Keystone (in the first round).

“If we keep on doing what we have done all season, we have what it takes to win a championship.”

The Passion will host the Assault at Cupples Stadium at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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