WADSWORTH — Joey Baughman ran for 1,246 yards and threw for 1,643 last season. This year, the Grizzlies hope that double-threat theme can carry the team to victories like Friday.
Wadsworth's Brock Snowball gets past the Firestone defense for a touchdown in the first quarter Friday night. JUDD SMERGLIA/GAZETTE
Baughman threw for four touchdowns and ran for two before leaving the game with three minutes to play in the third quarter as Wadsworth stormed past Firestone 55-14 in the non-league season opener.
“It felt great to get out there and throw the football around,” the senior quarterback said. “I felt like we had good communication and it was a good first week for us.”
Baughman completed 20-of-29 passes for 287 yards, throwing four touchdowns to Mitchell Blackburn. He added 14 carries for 65 yards, including TDs from 1 and 5 yards.
Wadsworth scored on seven of its first nine drives.
“I told the kids the only thing that’s stopped us this year, in practices and scrimmages, is us,” Wadsworth coach Justin Todd said. “If we cut down the penalties and don’t turn it over, we’re going to be pretty good.”
That goes for Baughman, too. The senior missed on five passes in the first quarter but missed only four over the next two, throwing 24- and 69-yard touchdowns to Blackburn in the second quarter and strikes of 22 and 6 yards to Szalay in the third.
“He missed some throws early, but I expected that,” Todd said. “Every kid in Ohio playing had goosebumps at 7 tonight. But this is his second year in the offense and he has better command.”
Baughman, who threw a pick-six in the second quarter, said his job was made easier by the efforts of Blackburn (6 catches, 139 yards) and Szalay (9, 111) on the outside.
“Those two are awesome,” he said. “You can’t cover both of them. You can double team one but the other will get open. They’re a great tandem.”
The dual-threat theme played out defensively as well. Yes, the offense scored 55 points, but a defense that gave up a school-record 31.9 points a game last year surrendered just one offensive score against Firestone — an 80-yard bolt down the right sideline by junior running back Josh Mitchell, who returned the Baughman interception for the Falcons’ other score.
“That first run was really just nerves — we pursued that at a bad angle — but after that we locked in and were ready to play,” junior linebacker Mason McMillen said.
Brock Snowball added an 11-yard TD run for Wadsworth and Teon Pickett recovered a fumble and returned it 1 yard to cap the scoring.
Mitchell finished with 93 yards rushing on six carries to lead Firestone. Junior quarterback Gavin Cornelius was 10-for-19 for 76 yards but had to be helped off with what appeared to be an ankle injury on the third-to-last play of the game.
Contact Chris Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRESTONE 6 8 0 0 — 14
WADSWORTH 14 21 20 0 — 55
F — Josh Mitchell 75 run (kick failed), 6:23.
W — Joey Baughman 5 run (Ryan Larj kick), 3:05.
W — Brock Snowball 11 run (Larj kick), 0:12.
W — Mitchell Blackburn 24 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 5:19.
F — Mitchell 46 interception return (Darshun Williams pass from Gavin Cornelius), 2:52.
W — Blackburn 69 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 2:31.
W — Baughman 1 run (Larj kick), 0:09.
W — Blackburn 22 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 9:59.
W — Blackburn 6 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 5:49.
W — Teon Pickett 2 fumble return (kick failed), 2:47.