Wadsworth's Joey Baughman plows through Hudson's Peyton Miller for a touchdown during the second quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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HUDSON — Wide receivers Mitchell Blackburn and Christian Szalay pulled off the celebratory ice water bath on coach Justin Todd perfectly, landing the dumped Gatorade cooler directly on the back of the neck.
Joey Baughman wasn’t involved. He’d done enough heavy lifting for the night.
Breaking his Medina County record for total offense in a game and accounting for all seven touchdowns Friday, Baughman showed the world why he’s one of the top quarterbacks in Ohio while leading the Wadsworth football team a 49-35 win over two-time defending Division II state semifinalist Hudson.
The Grizzlies clinched the outright Suburban League National Conference championship, fourth 10-0 regular season in school history one year after going 5-5 and earned the No. 2 seed in the D-II, Region 6 playoffs.
“It’s awesome,” Baughman said. “It’s all our hard work paying off now. It feels real good. It feels great.”
Baughman finished with 19 carries for 245 yards and five touchdowns while going 22-for-33 for 273 yards and two scores. That gave the senior 518 yards total offense, bettering his 486 at North Royalton earlier in the year.
With Baughman running up the gut, bouncing outside, stiff-arming defenders all over the FieldTurf and even all-out trucking a defensive back en route to the end zone, the Explorers (7-3, 5-2) had no answer for the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder headed to the University of Virginia on a wrestling scholarship.
In Wadsworth’s two biggest games of the season, vs. Stow and at Hudson, Baughman has 882 yards total offense, eight rushing touchdowns and three passing scores. Both opponents qualified for the playoffs.
“Joey, he’s an animal,” center Jake Daulbaugh said. “He’s ridiculous. I don’t know how you stop that. Give him time, he makes plays. You can’t stop him. He’s amazing.”
The Grizzlies never trailed, going up 21-0 while taking a 28-7 halftime lead. Included was a Baughman 82-yarder in which Hudson blitzed its free safety to leave the middle of the field wide open and a 26-yard score on fourth-and-10 in which he cold-shouldered the DB to the ground at the 3.
Hudson began in man coverage with a single safety and Baughman simply ran all over. The Explorers switched to zone in the second quarter, but Wadsworth’s offensive line known as the “Fast Nastys” gave Baughman all the time in the world.
Finally, light rain began to fall in the third quarter. The Grizzlies adjusted again by throwing short passes to Szalay (9 catches, 116 yards, TD), Blackburn (7, 75, TD) and Brock Snowball (4, 49) and allowing Baughman to improvise when needed.
Wadsworth never punted and racked up 571 yards total offense and 23 first downs.
“The people around me, they’re fricking great,” Baughman said. “I can’t do anything without them.
“We really didn’t care what (the Explorers) were going to do because we had a plan for everything.”
To their credit, the Explorers never quit despite being without star receiver Greg Mailey (knee) and losing starting running back Kevin Callahan to a leg injury in the second quarter. They cut the deficit to 14 twice in a wild 42-point fourth quarter as the Grizzlies’ line couldn’t contain quarterback Colt Pallay (20-for-32, 312 yards, 4 TDs) and the secondary imploded trying to guard Colin Paltani (10 catches, 137 yards, TD) and Dawson Wervey (4, 105, 1) despite multiple substitutions.
With Hudson trailing 42-28 with 6:04 remaining, Pallay was pounded by end Joey Fernholz and heaved a bomb on fourth-and-31 that was dropped in Grizzly territory. Hudson again dropped a potential fourth-down conversion in its final drive, and Wadsworth ran out of the clock.
“I mean, stuff happens,” said Szalay, who was pressed into action at cornerback for the second straight week. “Our defense has played great all year, and slip-ups happen. I’m just happy the way we bounced back. We’re definitely going to learn from it, because we’re not done yet.”
The hairy moments in the fourth did little to damper the postgame mood. Pictures were abundant, beginning with team photos with helmets on then off. The players then broke into positional groups for more snapshots with plenty of smiles.
As Todd reminded his team, however, there’s still a maximum of five weeks left, starting next week.
Having a manchild like Baughman will certainly help the Grizzlies’ chances of a state berth.
“He’s a bad man,” Szalay said. “I don’t know what else to say. He’s a machine.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wadsworth 49, Hudson 35
WADSWORTH 14 14 0 21 — 49
HUDSON 0 7 7 21 — 35
W — Joey Baughman 5 run (Ryan Larj kick), 7:32.
W — Baughman 82 run (Larj kick), 2:58.
W — Mitchell Blackburn 16 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 10:58.
H — Brady Ludewig 1 run (Grant Gonya kick), 3:32.
W — Baughman 26 run (Larj kick), 0:38.
H —Patrick Burdett 3 pass from Colt Pallay (Gonya kick), 4:18.
W — Baughman 14 run (Larj kick), 11:44.
H — Dawson Wervey 65 pass from Pallay (Gonya kick), 10:57.
W — Christian Szalay 42 pass from Baughman (Larj kick), 9:18.
H — Brandon Lal 13 pass from Pallay (Gonya kick), 7:26.
W — Baughman 3 run (Larj kick), 3:48.
H — Colin Paltani 43 pass from Pallay (Gonya kick), 2:59.