Wadsworth senior Joey Baughman forever will be considered an Ohio football legend. The quarterback’s jaw-dropping accomplishments this season were impossible to ignore. Baughman has the hardware to prove that, but nothing is or will be bigger than Wednesday, when he was named Mr. Football as the state’s top player.
Mr. Football was awarded previously by The Associated Press but now is being presented by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association. Each of the state’s eight districts nominated players for the honor, which was decided by a statewide vote.
Previous winners include NFL players Mitchell Trubisky (Mentor, 2012), Delone Carter (Copley, 2005), Tyrell Sutton (Archbishop Hoban, 2004), Maurice Clarett (Warren Harding, 2001), Tony Fisher (Euclid, 1997), Andy Katzenmoyer (Westerville South, 1995), Charles Woodson (Fremont Ross, 1995), Curtis Enis (Mississinawa Valley, 1993), Mark Edwards (Norwood, 1992), Bobby Hoying (St. Henry, 1990) and Robert Smith (Euclid, 1989, ’90).
“(Emotions) have been up and down all day. I don’t know, it’s kind of crazy to me,” said Baughman, who was informed of Mr. Football by Wadsworth athletic director Brad Musgrave.
“It’s more than just a singular award. It’s definitely a team award. I’ve got so many people around me who have gotten me to this point, and I can’t thank them enough for that.
“It was an amazing season. Obviously we went 11-1 and had a lot of ups and downs with injuries and whatnot, but overall I wouldn’t want to have a season with anyone else.”
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 Medina County records for points (589) and scoring average (49.1).
Operating out of a five-wide spread offense, Baughman mesmerized with a blend of precision passing and hard-nosed running. The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder 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.
“The best part of the season was just enjoying it with my teammates,” he said. “I have the best teammates in the world, and they made it easy to come to practice and work hard every day. Especially the coaches, too, I had so much fun working with them all year.”
Individual county records fell along the way. The first was passing for 416 yards in a 61-28 win over North Royalton, while others included 520 yards total offense at Hudson (49-35) and five touchdown passes in a 61-42 playoff win over Sylvania Northview.
Entering the season, no Medina 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.
“Years from now, people will look back upon his career as maybe the best in Wadsworth history,” second-year coach Justin Todd said. “He is truly the player that future Grizzlies will be measured by.”
Football may not even be Baughman’s best sport.
Baughman played running back in peewee and did not switch to quarterback until eighth grade. The starting QB the year before was Sophia Fortner, now the star point guard for the legendary girls basketball program that won the 2016 D-I state championship when Fortner was a sophomore.
Baughman is looking for a state title himself. The University of Virginia wrestling recruit, who has not signed an official Letter of Intent, is a two-time D-I state runner-up with a 112-17 career record but hasn’t completely ruled out scholarship offers for football, which are likely to increase now that he’s Mr. Football.
“I’m leaving my options open,” Baughman said. “I’m getting a lot of texts recently, so I don’t even know, honestly.”
Baughman wasn’t on the Mr. Football radar in the preseason and didn’t start picking up steam among voters until late in the regular season. Fellow finalist Daniel Bangura of Canal Winchester Harvest Prep was coming off a state-record 4,128 yards rushing in 2016, star running back Ra’Veion Hargrove will lead Trotwood-Madison into the D-III state championship game this weekend and Sidney running back/defensive back Isaiah Bowser received a ton of hype on the internet.
Five players earned a first-place vote and Hargrove finished second, meaning Baughman earned the deciding vote from outside of Northeast Ohio. The other finalists were Bangura, Bowser, senior quarterback Lukas Isaly (Hannibal River), junior receiver Tanner Holden (Wheelersburg), senior quarterback Ja’Vez Alexander (Sandusky), senior defensive end Tyreke Smith (Cleveland Heights) and senior quarterback Jimmy Weirick (Pickerington North).
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.