High School Football

Beaufort's Baggett stands firm on commitment to East Carolina

Bluffton, Hilton Head High football players also sign with colleges

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.com, mmccombs@islandpacket.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Among Ruffin McNeill's last moves to ensure everything was smooth with Beaufort High School tight end Stephen Baggett was to drop in on his family.

The Pirates football coach had received Baggett's commitment the previous summer and had no indication Baggett would flinch. But he wooed the parents during an in-home visit in January, convincing them of his stature as a father figure in Greenville, N.C.

"He's a kid's coach," said Steve Baggett, Stephen's father. "They love playing for him. When we went up there this summer for the camp, he was great. When he came down to visit, he was the same guy."

Baggett signed early on National Signing Day, faxing his National Letter of Intent from the school at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. He was one of nine football players to sign in the area on Wednesday.

At Bluffton, six players signed, led by K.J. Ford's decision to play at James Madison. At Hilton Head High, in addition to Poona Ford's highly publicized signing with Texas, running back Khalil Lewis signed with Gardner-Webb.

Baggett did not hide his affection for the Pirates. He received late interest from Louisville, which invited him last week for an official visit, and Wake Forest and Georgia Southern.

But he likes the Pirates' system and doesn't mind waiting to play, if that is what the team needs. Pirates coaches want him to bulk up to 250 pounds, from his current 220.

"Really I won't know until I get up there (about playing time)," he said. "Pretty much whatever they ask me to do, I'm all for it."

At Bluffton, Ford was beaming about his choice of the Dukes, where former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers has taken over as head coach.

"The coaching staff is unbelievable," Ford said. "The coaches there are all new this year so everything that I'm learning, they're learning, too. The facilities are awesome, and they want me to play as a true freshman."

Bobcats offensive lineman Taylor Gordon and athlete Jae Middleton are headed to Savannah State. Gordon has been committed since December and is looking forward to studying engineering. Middleton, though, got a late offer from the Tigers.

"I had planned on committing to Newberry, but when Coach (Cribb) told me, I couldn't resist," Middleton said.

Defensive lineman Mike Davis made a late decision for Newberry saying he "felt like he was at home," on his first visit.

And wide receiver Vinny Boni chose Limestone because of the atmosphere around the new program that starts play in the fall.

"There's a big football atmosphere up in Gaffney," Boni said. "They've won a lot of state championships in football at the high school, and I know there will be a lot of people there to support us."

Wide receiver Gerald Roberson committed to Newberry but couldn't be at school Wednesday for the ceremonies.

At Hilton Head Island, Lewis explained that he chose the Bulldogs because they "weren't too far away and are still Division I."

Lewis said he wouldn't have taken advantage of the opportunity if not for Seahawks head coach B.J. Payne.

"I couldn't do anything at all without him," Lewis said. "He's there to give you opportunities. He makes sure we're good in school and we get our work on the field. He makes sure it happens."

Baggett was joined in a ceremony at Beaufort High by Eagles quarterback Ben Vaigneur, who will walk on at Presbyterian College. Vaigneur had considered a chance to walk on at Appalachian State, and Clemson and Ole Miss for academics. But he enjoyed his tour of campus this past weekend and the chance to reunite with former Eagles teammate Rob Dennis, who plays for the Blue Hose.

Vaigneur said he could be tried at slot receiver or quarterback.

"I'm just excited to be up there, and I know they'll put me in the best place possible."



  • Indicates schools have not yet included athletes on their official list of signees.)

  • Football

    TE Stephen Baggett, Beaufort High, East Carolina

    *WR Vinny Boni, Bluffton, Limestone

    DL Mike Davis, Bluffton, Newberry

    DL K.J. Ford, Bluffton, James Madison

    OL Taylor Gordon, Bluffton, Savannah State

    *LB Jason Green, Battery Creek, Limestone

    RB Khalil Lewis, Hilton Head Island, Gardner-Webb

    *ATH Jae Middleton, Bluffton, Savannah State

    *WR Gerald Roberson, Bluffton, Newberry


    Dillon Heffner, Hilton Head Island, USC Sumter

    Michael Perez, Hilton Head Island, USC Salkehatchie

    Cross Country

    *Ciara McMahon, Hilton Head Island, Wofford

    Girls soccer

    Amanda Green, Hilton Head Island, Armstrong Atlantic

    Ashley Green, Hilton Head Island, Armstrong Atlantic

    Kitava Stout, Bluffton, LImestone

    Miranda Weslake, Beaufort Academy, Clemson


    Jordan Franklin, Bluffton, KIngs

    Competitive Cheer

    Mackenzie Hrobar, Hilton Head Island, Limestone

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