If Kip Bayte were an animal, he’d be a banty rooster.
At least that’s what Southern Boone assistant football coach Andy Curtis thinks. Curtis saw enough similarities between his senior wide receiver/cornerback and the small, feisty farm animal, to give Bayte presumably his oddest nickname to date.
“He only weighs about a buck-forty, but he’s got the biggest heart on the team,” Curtis said.
The Eagles’ roster actually lists Bayte as 5-foot-7, 150 pounds. Either way, he doesn’t possess prototypical football size.
“My dad tells me, ‘It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play,’” Bayte said.
Bayte, who has been playing baseball since he was 5, grew up wanting to play football. But there were no youth leagues in Ashland.
So when it was announced that Southern Boone would field its inaugural junior varsity football team in 2003, Bayte’s decision to play was predictable. And so was the reaction from his parents. He had his dad’s approval, but his mom wasn’t so sure.
“You know how moms are,” Bayte said. “They’re kind of nervous.”
Cheri Bayte knew plenty about baseball from years of watching her son block balls and slide around behind home plate as a catcher. But she didn’t know much about football.
Head coach Mike Hall said the grittiness Bayte cultivated behind the plate helps explain his persistence on the football field.
“He’s just a determined kid,” Hall said, “and he’s not going to let a couple inches of height deter him from being a good receiver.”
“People telling me ‘You’re too small,’ that just motivates me,” Bayte said. “It keeps me going.”
Drawing from that inspiration, Bayte entered the weekend as the area’s third-leading receiver in catches and yards; an essential piece of the Eagles’ prolific passing attack that has propelled them to a 3-2 start.
Heading into the weekend, the offense also featured the area’s leading passer, quarterback Matt Curtis; the area’s leading receiver, wideout Damond Lacy; and an offensive line that had allowed one sack in 125 passing attempts.
These Eagles have already scored more points than last year’s inaugural varsity squad that finished 1-9, and have also recorded the school’s first shutout and road victory.
“I think we’ve got a real good, solid bunch of kids, and they’re doing a real good job of keeping guys focused,” Hall said.
One of six seniors on the team, Bayte said that even last year, when the Eagles were getting outscored by more than 33 points per game, he never thought about quitting. Which isn’t surprising, given his passionate play.
“You won’t find a kid on our defense that plays any harder than Kip Bayte,” Curtis said. “And I wish I had 11 of him. As small as he is, I wish we had 11 of him.”
“Football’s so new,” Bayte said. “I think that’s why a lot of us like it so much.”
In fact, Bayte said that even his mom is a converted football fan.