Wadsworth has produced three of the greatest quarterbacks in Medina County history. Joey Baughman, Clint Cochran and Mike Hoover can be found all over the record books, and someday they will all be on hall of fame plaques just outside of the high school gymnasium.
Trey Shaffer only needed 12 career starts to get within striking distance of their statistics.
The current signal caller for the undefeated Grizzlies isn’t the replacement for Baughman anymore. This is his team, offense and moment, and his skills are a reason why third-seeded Wadsworth believes it can upset No. 1 Massillon (12-0) tonight in the Division II, Region 7 championship at North Canton Memorial Stadium.
“He’s exceeded a lot of people’s expectations,” third-year coach Justin Todd said.
Shaffer is set become the first QB to have four seasons of grooming under Todd. The transition from the I-formation wasn’t a big deal, mainly because every QB dreams of being in the shotgun and slinging the ball all over the field.
What Shaffer had was a naturally quick release, silky-soft touch and quiet, sturdy leadership. What he lacked was the confidence of deciphering X’s and O’s, even after a sophomore season in which he and running back Dom Loparo led the junior varsity to a gaudy 37.8 scoring average.
Each Tuesday before school, the Grizzlies’ QBs meet with Todd and analyze the upcoming opponent. On some Wednesdays, the previous afternoon’s practice is critiqued to further fine tune the game plan.
Shaffer has had a few hiccups along the way — mainly by floating balls into zone coverage — but there is little he isn’t prepared for these days.
“I feel like I’ve just become a better student of the game,” he said. “I’ve had to step into a bigger role this year. I’ve had to notice more things, smaller details.
“It’s just making the right decision, for the most part. I feel like last year — obviously (Baughman) was the starter, so I played JV — there wasn’t really as much pressure to make a game-defining play. Decision-making is what I’ve gotten better at.”
The 6-foot-1, 181-pounder enters tonight 158-for-222 (.712) for 2,236 yards, 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 118.0 NFL rating. He has recorded efforts of 224, 291 and 308 yards.
Shaffer’s season yardage ranks seventh in Medina County history behind a who’s who of Hoover (3,332, 1999), 2007 Mr. Football finalist Sean Bedevelsky of Brunswick (3,305), Baughman (3,060, 2017), Cochran (2,926, 2003), Medina County Sports Hall of Famer Darian Miskewycz of Brunswick (2,273, 1995) and the Blue Devils’ Grant Relic (2,249, 1999). None could match Shaffer’s completion percentage.
While Shaffer doesn’t have a cannon connected to his shoulder, the 12-0 record speaks for itself.
“He’s really locked into our plan and what we’re trying to do,” Todd said.
The statistics didn’t tell the entire story Friday, when Shaffer powered the Grizzlies to a second-half comeback in a 13-3 win over Dresden Tri-Valley. His .586 completion percentage was his second lowest of the season, but multiple incompletions were intelligent throwaways to avoid sacks.
Against a top-flight defense that didn’t give him much to work with, Shaffer remained patient, shuffled in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield and allowed the game come to him. The run-pass option to wide receiver Barret Labus clicked, especially with Shaffer making perfect lead throws, and Shaffer went 8-for-9 for 98 yards and a touchdown to Tyler Montgomery in the second half.
Todd was impressed with Shaffer’s poise after the pregame plan was adjusted on the fly when wide receiver Carl Pennington went down with a broken collarbone. Shaffer was pleased, too, with his resolve.
“Up to this point, that’s the best defense we’ve played all year,” Shaffer said. “Not to take anything away from any of the other teams that we’ve played, but they were just so fundamentally sound.
“I almost had to slow every play down because there were so many things that I had to (read). All week coach Todd taught us up. I just took what he said and looked in the right spots.”
The Grizzlies are not intimidated by Massillon. They have a calm confidence knowing this is their opportunity to join 1995 Brunswick, 2007 Brunswick and 2013 Highland as the only county teams to reach the state semifinals.
They’ve already broken the school record for victories, so why stop here?
“I feel really good,” Shaffer said. “I’d say I feel better this week than last week — not because of the opponent, but because of the win. That was so exciting. I feel like we’re in a good spot right now.”
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