When Stephen Baggett moved from quarterback to tight end and defensive end after his freshman year at Beaufort High School, he might have expected never to reach the end zone again.
The Eagles were a run-first team and always had been under coach Mark Clifford. Baggett asked assistant coach and former Eagles' tight end Logan Powell how much he could expect the ball in the passing game.
Powell, who played for the 2007 Beaufort High team that finished 12-3, told Baggett he had only caught about two balls each season.
But the outlook changed as Baggett and the Eagles' offense progressed. He caught 15 passes as a junior and through six games of his senior season has more yards and twice as many touchdowns as he did a year ago.
"Just over time they started trusting me more and more," said Baggett, who is committed to East Carolina. "Now we're to the point now where we've totally changed our offense to using the tight end a lot more. It's been a lot more effective for us."
Baggett's improvement has mirrored the team's improved start. Beaufort High is 5-1 as it prepares to open the Region 8-AAA schedule Friday at home against Bluffton.
Baggett has six touchdowns and 286 yards. He scored twice during a 27-21 victory at Cane Bay, when the Cobras kept a safety over the top.
East Carolina wanted a tight end who could catch passes in its spread scheme, but Clifford thinks Baggett's most marketable attribute is his blocking.
"We depend on him a lot to get us on the edge and even inside blocks," said Clifford, who played tight end at Clemson. "And that's what a lot of people don't realize -- that's probably why he got a scholarship, is blocking and other things that he can do. ...You won't find a good tight end who can't block."
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Baggett can be seen on his junior year highlight video driving defensive ends out of the picture or turning them out to create a hole off tackle.
The Eagles' commitment to the run has helped open up the tight end in the passing game, Baggett said.
"I run full speed at the safety, and at the last second either I go to block him or I cut and take off up the field," he said. "They never really know. Us being a run team with a lot of play action, it keeps the linebackers pretty busy and allows me to get a good release."
Baggett has provided a reliable target for senior quarterback Ben Vaigneur, whose improved play has been another aspect of Beaufort High's early success.
Vaigneur and Baggett grew up playing together, usually playing quarterback on separate teams. Baggett quarterbacked the ninth-grade "B" team when Vaigneur played junior varsity.
Now both are producing their best numbers. Vaigneur has thrown for 515 yards and six touchdowns, with all the scores to Baggett.
"We never talked about it, but there was kind of that telepathy that 'We're going to make this one the best one we've had,' " Vaigneur said. "And I think we've done that so far. We're going to continue to do it."
Baggett's shift as a sophomore was where Clifford saw him as a natural fit.
"He's always been a tight end to me," Clifford said. "Usually the guys you think are great tight ends are great linebackers, great fullbacks -- you've got to play them at other places. It's nice to have a guy who is a tight end."