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High School Football

Gazette MVP: Wadsworth's Baughman honed his craft -- with great results

  • 20171224BaughmanMVP-jpg

    Wadsworth's Joey Baughman is the 2017 Gazette MVP in football.

    PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY RON SCHWANE

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Regrets far more often involve wondering what could have been instead of what was, and all great athletes have the drive to chase perfection without fear.

Joey Baughman wasn’t going to let his senior season be another 5-5 disappointment. The Wadsworth football team was loaded with experience and, most importantly, had a manchild at quarterback. Potential was through the roof.

The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder was coming off only the third season in Medina County history with 1,000 yards apiece rushing and passing. The next step involved learning the intricacies of the position that were far more mental than physical. Baughman already had good throwing mechanics through work with Mount Union legend Jim Ballard, and he looked to Grizzlies coach Justin Todd for further guidance.

The end result was nothing short of breathtaking as Wadsworth went 10-0 in the regular season — Mr. Football. Division II Offensive Player of the Year. Northeast Inland District Player of the Year. Suburban League National Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Gazette MVP on top of similar honors from three other media outlets.

No county player in 100-plus years of high school football can match the accomplishments.

The Grizzlies’ five-wide, no-huddle offense was so explosive defensive coordinators tried a little bit of everything, mostly out of desperation.

The game plans were varied, yet Baughman processed the information presented and picked it apart.

A lot of teams blitzed. Some used a linebacker to spy Baughman. Some played press coverage to try to disrupt timing with receivers. Some kept linemen at the line of scrimmage to contain Baughman’s running ability. Some used single coverage against star wideouts Christian Szalay or Mitchell Blackburn. Some hung a safety over the top.

Baughman knew what to do because he put in the mental reps before school every morning with Todd and backup QB Trey Shaffer. A whiteboard X’s and O’s session, studying the opposing scouting report and dissecting film from the previous day’s practice were just a few of the many lessons.

Fans love the electrifying scrambles, but Baughman’s pocket presence went from average to great and pushed him to legendary status. Instead of bailing like a mad man at the first sign of trouble, Baughman patiently side-stepped in the pocket to fire sideline darts or low into tight windows across the middle. He also lofted 40-yard floaters with perfect touch over defenders.

That’s what Division I colleges look for, and Baughman’s phone has been blowing up since being named Mr. Football. He decommitted from Virginia wrestling for that reason and still is mulling interest from D-I football programs, ranging from mid-major Football Bowl Subdivision schools to nationally-ranked Football Championship Subdivision programs.

Baughman led Wadsworth to its first undefeated regular season since 1996 and fifth overall (1917, 1966, 1967). The Grizzlies also won their first Suburban League title since 2009 — they dominated seven SL National Conference opponents by an average of 28 points — and broke county records for points (589) and scoring average (49.1).

Baughman ended the season with 3,060 yards passing, 1,533 yards rushing and 56 total touchdowns (36 passing, 20 rushing) despite Wadsworth playing seven games with a running clock in the second half. He also broke individual county game records for passing yards (416 yards vs. North Royalton), total offense (520 at Hudson) and passing touchdowns (5 vs. Sylvania Northview).

Entering the season, no county player had rushed and passed for 200 yards apiece in a game. Baughman did so twice in two of his final three appearances and was only 28 yards rushing shy of another 200-200 outing in a season-ending loss to Olmsted Falls in the Division II, Region 6 semifinals.

There wasn’t anything Baughman couldn’t do.

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.



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