By Jim Irish
Bastrop football players Seth Mouser and Julius Baynard are no overnight sensations. They’ve been plying their trade together for seven years.
This season, Mouser and Baynard, the starting quarterback and wide receiver, respectively, transformed themselves into one of the leading passing combinations in Central Texas.
Mouser, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior with curly brown hair, completed 51% (170-of-330) of his passes for 2,607 yards with 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He ranked first in Central Texas in passes completed and second in yards during the regular season. With remarkable 4.7 laser-timed speed in the 40-yard dash for his height, Mouser also rushed for 211 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Baynard, a 5-10, 170-pound senior, ranked third in Central Texas with 58 receptions for 1,029 yards and eight touchdowns. Baynard would have had more catches on the season but bruised his right knee in the eighth game against Veterans Memorial. He was primarily a decoy because of the injury in the ninth game against Lockhart and had no receptions and only one errant pass in his direction.
He missed the final game of the season against Liberty Hill because the knee hadn’t recovered.
First encounter in physical education class in fifth grade
Mouser and Baynard first encountered each other in the fifth grade at Bastrop Intermediate during a physical education class that included football.
“…We both realized that we were good at it,” Mouser said.
Both had begun playing years earlier in youth football leagues, Mouser in Bastrop and Baynard in Manor although he lived in Bastrop. Initially, Mouser was a running back and Baynard a fleet-footed quarterback.
Once they entered junior high in the seventh grade, they played for the first time together. By that time, Mouser had been converted to quarterback and Baynard to wide receiver. They have been teammates ever since.
"My confidence is at an all-time high this year. We're throwing a lot more. ..."
-- Bastrop quarterback Seth Mouser
Mouser grew four inches to 6-2 in the eighth grade and another four inches in high school. He has no problems seeing over rushing linemen and blitzing linebackers. Perhaps because of his growth spurt, Mouser struggled with consistency his two years on varsity but has now come into his own.
“My confidence is at an all-time high this year,” he said. “We’re throwing a lot more. I’ve got the offer (from UTEP) under the belt. I’m more comfortable back there (with) my ability to stay in the pocket, going through my reads, and delivering the ball.”
Baynard, who has 4.4 speed in the 40 and has received an offer from the Naval Academy, is wiser beyond his years.
Offense scored more points this season with Mouser and Baynard in lineup
“I’ve learned that the more you work on your craft, the easier it is to get open,” said Baynard, who braids his hair. “I rely on my speed and a lot of film to know what (defenders) do wrong, and I can exploit it.”
Bastrop’s 2-8 record (2-4 in District 13-5A) can’t be blamed on the offense, which averaged 31 points a game. The defense yielded an average of 37 points a game. Much of the offensive improvement is credited to Mouser and Baynard.
“I think every time a quarterback-wide receiver duo performs on the field, you've really got to look at what that relationship looks like off the field,” said first-year head coach Jake Griedl. “These guys are always together. They’re constantly throwing and catching in the offseason and all summer long. There’s a comfortability level there.
“Seth knows JB is going to do his job and get open. Both are competitors and leaders. It’s been fun to watch both grow over the course of the season.”
"I've learned that the more you work on your craft, the easier it is to get open. ..."
-- Wide receiver Julius Baynard
Griedl said Baynard had only four or five catches after two games because coaches were spreading the offense to multiple receivers. He and other staff reevaluated and realized (Baynard) is “one of our playmakers, and we need to get the ball in his hands. He’s kinda a quiet assassin.”
Development of close friendship over the years
Mouser, a self-described extrovert, said of Baynard, “He’s caring. He’ll always be there for you if you need to talk to him. And he’s funny.”
Baynard, whose cousin is Texas Tech running back Tahj Brooks, said Mouser offers a lot of encouragement to teammates.
“He has a lot of charisma,” Baynard said. “He’s a very good influence, very helpful.”
Mouser, who has verbally committed to UTEP, is waiting for more college interest after the end of the college season when recruits will decommit.
Baynard, who has not made a commitment to the Naval Academy, will also be in a wait-and-see mode.
Their high school careers are finished, but the friendship continues.
Jim Irish is a freelance writer living in Bastrop, Texas