Nobody did it better than Dillon Baxter in 2009.
Nobody in San Diego. Nobody in California. Nobody in the country.
He accounted for a state-record 76 touchdowns for the 13-0 Mission Bay Buccaneers.
Playing primarily quarterback, he rushed 261 times for 2,974 yards and 50 touchdowns, setting a section record for yardage. He was pin-point accurate throwing the ball, completing 102 of 166 passes for 1,736 yards and 25 touchdowns.
All the numbers and all the team success was the reason MaxPreps named Baxter its National Player of the Year on Monday.
He follows a pair of pretty fair quarterbacks who won the honor the last two seasons, Garrett Gilbert (Lake Travis, Austin, Texas, 2009) and Terrelle Pryor (Jeanette, Pa., 2008), who have already shown signs of brilliance at the University of Texas and Ohio State, respectively.
Whether the USC-bound Baxter can measure up to those two we will see. He's not nearly as tall as either but his numbers and athleticsm might pass them.
He certainly compared to the many greats who starred on the high school fields in San Diego the last six decades.
I can say that.
I've seen all the best the last 42 seasons.
In a way, comparing blue-chip athletes is almost unfair. If an athlete is worthy of the label "superstar," he or she obviously ranks among the elite.
Just who of this group is the best is pure speculation.
No question Baxter is one who belongs right up there with the greats around these parts.
I've seen the best – from high school aces to Dan Fouts and Tony Gwynn. Baxter is one of those who can match strides with the majority of them.
Here are some of the best I've seen that compare to Baxter in my six decades as a pen pusher:
1. Marcus Allen (Lincoln, 1977): Allen is the one player who compares most favorably to Baxter in that both were sterling quarterbacks with running back moves. Allen finished his high school career by having a hand in all five touchdowns as the Hornets stung Kearny 34-6 in the 1977 CIF-SDS championship game. Allen was considered a defensive back who also played running back because of his superb athletic ability. He scored on runs of 30, 85, 20 and 10 yards, and capped his memorable performance by returning an interception 60 yards for a touchdown. College coaches from all over the nation raved about Allen and called it one of the most dominating shows on a championship venue. Allen went on to win the Heisman Trophy at USC and then spent 15 seasons in the NFL.
2. Teddy Lawrence (Morse, 1990): Most famous for his 106-yard interception return for a touchdown as a sophomore, Lawrence started two seasons at quarterback and one as a defensive back. One of the most visible similarities Lawrence (UCLA) and Baxter have in common is punting. When Lawrence stood in punt formation he was such a crafty runner that he'd often decide to scrap the punt and take off up field. Baxter adored that approach and no doubt drove coach Willie Matson nuts.
3. Reggie Bush (Helix, 2002): Given his talent, Bush no doubt could have played quarterback for the Highlanders. Why he did not probably has something to do with teammate Alex Smith, who took the snaps, advanced to Utah and was the first overall pick in the 2005 draft by the 49ers. Take nothing away from Bush, who drew more attention with his dazzling running style than his yardage total. Few can match his stutter-step style and acrobatic ability to leap over defenders.
4. Mark Malone (El Cajon Valley, 1975): Few quarterbacks could run and pass with as much success as Malone, a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980. The Arizona State graduate was recruited by the USOC as a possible decathlete for the 1980 Summer Olympics. Spent nine seasons in the NFL. Claim to fame is a 90-yard TD reception from Terry Bradshaw that stands as the Steelers team record. Given his skills and his dancing style, Baxter definitely could follow in Malone's footsteps.
5. Brian Sipe (Grossmont, 1966): This so-called undersized quarterback was a pin-point passer that for some reason was overlooked by most colleges except the infamous San Diego State passing guru Don Coryell. Sipe could not run like Baxter, but had a soft touch to his passes that helped him become the NFL's Most Valuable Player as quarterback of the Cleveland Browns in 1980. If anything, Baxter can throw better on the run than Sipes and still find his receivers. Imagine how good Baxter can be when he throws to pro receivers.
First of all, let me say every athlete is unique and many are versatile. The 6-foot, 205-pound Baxter, who was talented yet immature as a freshman, has grown to be recognized to fit the mold of a big-time performer across the board.
Most recent of his honors was being selected the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Player of the Year, which means this unit believes him to be the best high school player in the nation.
Many of Baxter's numbers are state records, including 76 touchdowns – rushing (50) and passing (26) – burying the previous state best of 64. He amassed 481 points this season, eclipsing the year-old state record of 414 set by San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's David Mothander.
Baxter rushed for 2,974 yards this season, overhauling Tyler Gaffney's year-old SDS record of 2,866 set in 14 games for Cathedral Catholic.
Some say Baxter is second to none as an open-field runner. While this guy has all the moves, there are those who have run before him that are arguably a step better.
Maybe so. Only the future will tell where Baxter stacks up.
Dickens has covered high school sports the last 42 years for daily newspapers, including the San Diego Union-Tribune.