Jackson’s Cade Wolford showcases his multi-positional versatility on the diamond and the gridiron
Cade Wolford’s versatility on the gridiron is finally catching the attention of Division I college football programs, but his multi-positional abilities also extend to a sport that he might be even better at, baseball.
Although the sophomore Jackson High School athlete is very talented at several positions on the diamond and more than capable of playing that sport at the next level, he says “Nothing compares to Friday Night Lights.”
The 16-year-old hybrid running back has spent his whole life growing up in Jackson, Ohio, which is located approximately 27 miles southeast of Chillicothe.
Baseball was the first sport that he fell in love with and his love for the beautiful game has never wavered. He may pursue baseball harder in the future, but that is only if football doesn’t work out. He pitches and plays in the outfield for the school team in the spring. The summers are reserved for his travel team, the SLS Baseball Club.
Wolford says he couldn’t imagine a life now without football. The thrill of playing for your brothers and your community every Friday is a large motivator.
The Jackson Ironmen effectively utilized a three-headed rushing attack to propel them to a 10-3 record and the third round of the state playoffs in Ohio’s Division III.
Wolford was the most gifted of the bunch, so the coaches tried their hardest to find creative ways to get him on the field. If he wasn’t carrying the ball, he was toasting defenders on routes out of the backfield or in the slot.
He has developed into a 5-foot-10, 187-pound speed back who runs a 4.53 second 40-yard dash. He enjoyed a breakout 2021 season as he tallied 1,570 all-purpose yards and 16 total touchdowns. He earned first-team all-conference and first-team all-district honors, to go along with being an all-state honorable mention.
His football coach at Jackson, Andy Hall, says he feels comfortable lining Wolford up everywhere, including in the slot, in the I-formation and occasionally at safety if necessary. He had a limited role at safety, but being able to show that versatility on tape is huge.
Hall gushed about his ability on the diamonds, saying “He might have more looks for baseball.”
Wolford’s mind is set on playing football at the next level. He said he still loves baseball, it has just taken a backseat to football and it’s his backup plan.
Wolford’s developmental path is going according to plan, but he is confident that he can take his game on the gridiron to another gear. Hall added that he would most like to see Wolford improve his inside running vision because “once he gets on the perimeter, he can really fly.”
Hall said Wolford has always been a speed guy, noting that he ran a 4.70 second forty-yard dash in eighth grade. Wolford has worked diligently to get it up to a 4.53 and if he continues progressing like he is, it could get to the high 4.4’s by the end of his prep career, which would go a long way in getting him looks from college programs.
Wolford’s natural football ability started to shine once he reached the seventh grade and it became his main sport then. He began sending out highlights to coaches after his stellar seventh grade year. With his 4.7 speed, he dominated middle school ball.
He worked hard that summer going into his freshman year with the goal of getting playing time on the varsity team, but he knew that coach Hall didn’t typically play freshman. He would have to really stand out to touch the field. The good thing is that it doesn’t take him long to pick things up and he is as coachable as you can be.
Wolford envisioned having a breakout freshman season, but those plans took a slight detour due to the COVID-shortened season. Jackson only played seven games in 2020 and he missed two of them.
He had a rough start to his high school athletic career, the nerves got to him and he fumbled his first carry on varsity. He quickly realized that the things that he could get away with in junior high didn’t work at this level. Being fast simply wasn’t good enough anymore. He had four carries for 20 yards in his debut.
He broke onto the scene the following week with 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Getting that first touchdown was a massive confidence builder for him. It was his first taste of tangible success and he was hungry for more.
It took him a few weeks to learn how to block and fully understand his role in the offense.
He put together a productive first-year even after missing two games, as he went for 450 yards and seven touchdowns. In his own words, Wolford said he’s “proud of what he accomplished in that season, but felt as if I didn’t do nearly enough to make myself known.”
In the offseason going into his sophomore year, he figured out what his weak points were and went back into the lab. He gained 11 pounds and got much stronger. He went to camps that summer with the hopes of impressing college coaches. He was starting to get recognized, but he always felt like he could have done more. He had his best showing at a camp put on by Marshall University.
Wolford had a great 2021 campaign, yet there are some moments he wishes he could have back.
Most notably, the Ironton game in week two. It was the biggest stage he ever played on and his team had the victory in its grasp.
Jackson knocked in a field goal to go up 10-7 with 1.6 seconds left — at this point, it was almost a foregone conclusion that they were going to get their biggest win in school history against the back-to-back state runner-up.
As we all know, the game is never over until you hear the buzzer sound.
The Jackson coaches decided to tell their kicker to do a squib kick, which would likely all but ensure the win 99 times out of 100.
Ironton then proceeded to pull off one of the craziest lateral kick-return touchdowns of all-time, a legendary sequence that was No. 2 that night on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.
The final clock showed: Ironton 13, Jackson 10.
The play will forever be burned into Wolford’s mind, you can’t forget something like that. He is certain that he will never get over it. It was the game he had circled all year on his calendar.
Wolford said he had a terrible performance in that game, but he truly believes that the moment was a turning point in his career.
He picked up some kick-team duties for the rest of the year after the demoralizing defeat. He watched film of the game for hours on end and noticed that what worked against lesser competition didn’t flow against the best of the best.
Jackson lost two of its first four games in the 2021 season (Ironton and Western Brown). Then, the Ironmen won eight games in a row and got as far as the third round of the Division III state playoffs, where they ran into Western Brown, again.
Unfortunately, Wolford sprained an SC joint in his team’s 17-6 second-round win over Eastmoor Academy and had to miss his team’s chance to get revenge on Western Brown. He said not getting to be out there with his teammates was more painful than any injury he could have suffered. They lost 35-28 without him and closed with a 10-3 record. He has fully recovered from the shoulder injury over the past few weeks.
Wolford accumulated 1,570 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns in his second year. He was first-team all-conference, first-team all-area and first-team all-district.
He wants nothing more than to crack the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. He was satisfied with the 1,570 all-purpose yards, but he wants a bigger chunk of that to come from rushing yards.
During the 2021 season, he took gameday visits to Youngstown State and West Virginia State. He has since received numerous camp invitations and is going to attend as many as he can in the coming months.
Wolford boasts a 3.88 GPA in the classroom and is a student of the game. He does not have any scholarship offers yet.
Some schools that he is interested in playing at are: Akron, Miami (OH), Toledo, Cincinnati, Marshall and Kent State.
40-yard Dash: 4.53 seconds
10-yard Dash (Laser): 1.56 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.08 seconds
Broad Jump: 10 ft, 3 inches
Vertical Jump: 35 inches
Three Cone Drill: 6.75 seconds
Deadlift: 315 lbs x 7 reps
275 - Bench
440 - Squat
245 - Power Clean
LINK TO HUDL TAPE: https://www.hudl.com/profile/13193565/Cade-Wolford
Thank you to Cade Wolford and Coach Andy Hall for letting me tell his story. I will continue to keep rolling out as many feature stories as I can. If you are an athlete and want someone to tell your story, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com or 614-572-6739
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NOTE: Jackson High School is not to be confused with Massillon Jackson High School. Jackson is in southern Ohio and Massillon is up north