Olentangy Orange: Pioneers' Joey Guagenti uses defensive instincts on offensive side
Joey Guagenti has a quiet confidence that has made him one of the top defensive backs in central Ohio.
The Olentangy Orange senior is in his third season starting at cornerback, but this year he also is going against opposing secondaries.
The 6-foot, 170-pounder led the team with 23.5 tackles, 21 solo, and had four pass-breakups through five games. As a receiver, he had six receptions for 69 yards.
“Joey came in his sophomore year and won a job mainly because he’s such a confident kid and a competitor,” said Orange coach Zebb Schroeder, whose team was 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Liberty on Oct. 2. “He believed from Day One that he was ready to play for us. That’s how he’s operated.
“He’s explosive, and he has great jumping ability. Some kids can jump, but they can’t high-point a ball. He can put that coordination together. He can judge a ball really well. He has great skills, and he has just been the total package for us.”
Guagenti wasn't fazed by playing as sophomore and much of that had to do with the confidence he had in his teammates.
“Coming in as a sophomore, I knew I was young, but I knew I didn’t have to make all of the plays,” he said. “I had a lot of older guys there to coach me up and do the brunt of the work.
“I wanted to do what I could to help out the seniors. That showed me how hard I had to work to be a varsity football player and helped me get used to the speed of the game.”
Guagenti had three interceptions as a sophomore and two last fall. This season, opponents have tried to avoid throwing in Guagenti’s direction, and his only interception came in a 37-34 league win at Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 25.
“The most important thing for a DB is your eye placement,” he said. “If you can read the keys, if you can read your receivers, if you can read the quarterback drop … if you can do the small things with your eyes, the rest will take care of itself.
“The eyes connect to your feet and your hands. If you can play with those three things, you’ll be a successful defensive back regardless of the system you play.”
Guagenti is enjoying his time on offense and first thought that would be his primary destination.
“I have always wanted to play receiver. And coming in as a sophomore I thought I was going to play more offense than defense, but there was a spot at corner I had to fill,” he said. “I have worked extensively at receiver to get my skills better. I worked with last year’s quarterback Spencer Hawkins in the offseason.
“DB-wise, it helps a lot knowing how to guard routes, how to play schemes and where I will be open against certain defenses, based on where I would be playing as a defender. That helps me to get open and find weak spots in the defense. It helps me to attack a DB’s leverage because I know how hard it is to cover an inside slant or a post when I attack inside or take leverage away. The little things help me be a better wide receiver.”
Guagenti has a 4.08 GPA and wants to major in political science in college but hasn't decided if football is in his future.
“I love football, but I’m not sure if it’s the best thing for me right now,” he said. “I’m leaning toward playing, but there is still a thought in my mind to go to school, focus on academics, get a degree and do my thing there.”
The sixth-seeded Pioneers open the Division I, Region 3 playoffs Friday, Oct. 9, as host to 11th-seeded Upper Arlington. Orange defeated the Golden Bears 31-14 on Sept. 18 in league play. The winner advances to play third-seeded Westerville Central or 14th-seeded Central Crossing on Oct. 16.
“The culture we have here, the expectations and the legacy of carrying on what the great defenses have done before us have helped us,” Guagenti said. “That’s what makes us special. We have to continue carrying on that legacy and keeping the culture the way it is. The rest will take care of itself.”