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Football: Multi-talented Gainesville QB Baxter Wright eager to get back to work with its prolific group of playmakers
Gainesville football 2021
Gainesville quarterback Baxter Wright (11) runs in for a touchdown against Flowery Branch on Sept. 10, 2021 at City Park Stadium in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

It would be hard to match Baxter Wright’s enthusiasm. 

Right now, Gainesville’s rising junior quarterback is like a kid in a candy store, just thinking about all the options in store for the 2022 football season. 

After a productive spring football session and scrimmage win against South Gwinnett, the third-year quarterback for the Red Elephants is itching to get back on the field for their first-year coach Josh Niblett. 

“Everything is so high energy with our program now,” Wright said. “Practice is so much faster now.”

With Wright’s development and the prolific collection of talent around him on offense, Gainesville is certainly going to be a factor as it moves down to Class 6A for the next classification cycle by the GHSA, after two seasons in Class 7A. 

With a couple weeks off before the Red Elephants reconvene for summer conditioning, Wright’s job is simple: keep working out and eating calorie-filled meals. 

Already established for his fearlessness running the ball, Wright said he’s put on 25 pounds since the 2021 season ended, which will help when he’s giving up his body for extra yards in the fall. 

Now, he’s 6-foot-2 and weighs 170 pounds. 

In a perfect world, he’ll be able to add another inch or two to his frame to help look the part as a hopeful Division-I football player. 

“I’m eating as much as I can” Wright said. “I eat four or five meals a day and drink two shakes.”

Still, there’s comfort in knowing that Wright won’t have to do anything on his own offensively in 2022. 

It’s likely that the Red Elephants will have one of their most potent offenses since they won the state championship 10 years ago with Deshaun Watson at quarterback.

In the spring game, Wright showcased his maturation with plays running the ball and getting it downfield to his pick of talented receivers. 

First, he dodged traffic in the backfield and ran for about 40 yards in the spring game. 

Later, he showed off his arm strength with a long touchdown throw to Tre Reece, a senior who moved in from Jefferson. 

Still, Wright knows his biggest weapon in the backfield is running back Naim Cheeks, who is going to be a four-year starter for the Red Elephants. 

The speedy ballcarrier was responsible for a remarkable 75-yard run in 2021 against Forsyth Central when he was cornered near one sideline, changed direction and sprinted all the way to the other sideline and was stopped just short of the end zone at City Park Stadium. 

Cheeks went over 1,000 yards last season. 

And Gainesville’s quarterback said that Cheeks, who is now receiving a moderate level of college offers, is going to be even better in 2022. 

“Naim is so versatile,” Wright said. “He’s so illusive and can make everyone miss (trying to tackle him).”

And at wide receiver, Gainesville will have talent as good, if not better, than when it routinely won double-digit games and made a deep postseason run almost every season for former coach Bruce Miller. 

Wright will have a pair of move-ins to throw it to this season, led by Darius Cannon, who caught passes for 785 yards and eight touchdowns at White County in 2021. 

Also joining the Red Elephants is Reece, who ran for 631 yards last season for the Dragons. 

In addition, Gainesville returns two-way talent Dre Raven, a senior wide receiver and defensive back, who emerged as a first-year player in 2021 for the Red Elephants. 

Along with a host of electrifying skill players, Wright is ready to see his offensive line in action, which he said is ‘thousands of times better’ for first-year position coach Christian Hunnicutt. 

“Our offensive line makes my job easy,” Wright said. 

Still, the end goal is the state championship. 

Gainesville’s quarterback saw Niblett’s success at Hoover, Alabama, a program he guided to six state championships from 2007-2021.

Now, Wright is ready to do his part this season to bring the trophy back to Gainesville in football. 

“We’re all just trying to be ready to go win a state championship,” Wright said. 

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