Baroffio quite a catch for W&J
Alex Baroffio needs 15 receptions to become W&J’s career leader in pass receptions. Dave Ravida’s 192 is the current record.
Photo courtesy W&J
At some point early in the college football season, maybe as soon as this weekend, Alex Baroffio will become the all-time leading receiver in Washington & Jefferson College history.
That’s quite an accomplishment for an athlete playing in one of the more prolific offensive systems in NCAA Division III that normally features more than one go-to guy.
Baroffio, a 5-10, 185-pound senior, has 178 career receptions and needs 15 more to pass Dave Ravida’s mark of 192 set from 2005-2008.
The countdown begins Saturday, when the Presidents open their season at Wooster in a nonconference game. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
To think that Baroffio is simply a great receiver would be to understate his abilities. Baroffio has been used as a runner, turning end-around plays into big gains at critical times in games. Last season against Thiel, he was forced to play quarterback when starter Matt Bliss went down, and head coach Mike Sirianni did not want to use one of his freshmen backups. Baroffio completed six of 11 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Presidents’ 17-0 win.
“I enjoyed it. I always nag (Coach Sirianni) to make me play quarterback again,” said Baroffio, a graduate of Bethel Park High School. “We can give teams different looks. Slot is my natural position, but I like getting moved around.
“I like throwing the ball. I play a game with the quarterbacks where we see who can hit the goal posts the most. I was confident in my arm. One thing that took me a while was getting the run plays the right way. I’m not used to that part of the game. I knew the routes because I play the position. … Coach didn’t ask too much out of me. I threw short routes or ran it. I was used to doing that because I was doing that as wide receiver.”
Sirianni realizes W&J’s offense is at its most efficient when Baraffio is playing the slot receiver.
“He goes into this season knowing he doesn’t have to play quarterback this year,” Sirianni said. “That’s a lot of pressure for a kid who didn’t play quarterback in high school. He played it well. We’re really excited about where he can be this year. We’ll move him around a lot and get him the ball as much as we can.”
Baroffio is coming off a season in which he led the Presidents with 78 catches for 679 yards and scored five times. He returned 11 punts for 147 yards and ran the ball 10 times for 80 yards.
He saved his best effort for the biggest game, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the regular-season finale against then undefeated Waynesburg.
“That was like a storybook ending,” he said. “I won a championship in high school, and it was great, because it was the first time I ever did it. But that moment, being on that field when we won was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was such a relief off our backs. Most of the team would tell you nothing compares to that moment.”
That victory assured W&J a tie for first place in the PAC, the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III playoffs, and allowed the team to achieve one of its main goals: winning a title in running back Tim McNerney’s memory. McNerney was killed in an altercation while returning to campus from a Washington bar early last season.
Now, a new season brings different goals, different perspectives and a different scenario for the conference race. W&J, not Thomas More, was the No. 1 pick in the PAC preseason poll. That hasn’t happened for four years.
“We got a new weight room, and we worked out extremely hard,” Baroffio said. “I think it can transition into a good camp. I’m just excited to be back and playing football. Being picked No. 1 (in the preseason poll) was great. We have that target on us now. Everyone will be gunning for us.”