Halfway through Ridgeland's loss last Friday to Allendale-Fairfax, exhaustion surprised Wesley Scott.
The Jaguars defensive end, accustomed to playing both sides of the ball, had been forced into action on every unit. Ridgeland's roster had been thinned by 20 suspensions that resulted from a confrontation in a game one week earlier at Whale Branch.
But at halftime, winded, Scott worked to make sure his more inexperienced teammates knew where they should be on the field. He said this week he was surprised how well the team played, despite the circumstances.
Ridgeland defensive line coach Clarence Mitchell was not surprised when Scott approached him at halftime with suggestions. The senior, who committed last month to play football at Division I Miami of Ohio, often tells Mitchell when he thinks he should line up at defensive end and when he should move down to tackle.
He's never wrong -- at least not yet, Mitchell said. Mitchell once coached defensive line at Carvers Bay, where he coached brothers and future NFL defensive ends Robert and Clifton Geathers. He thinks Scott compares favorably with -- and that he might even be faster than -- Robert Geathers, a Cincinnati Bengal who finished with 10.5 sacks on 2006.
"He can put Ridgeland on the map," Mitchell said. "Period."
Scott came up through the Small Fry, Pee Wee and Midget divisions of the local recreation league, but none of those names fit him well. He was in the Jaguars' weight room by the time he was in seventh grade, and was big enough to have played varsity, if rules had allowed, Ridgeland coach Richard Kirkland said.
Scott has been a state champion weight-lifter the past three years and still owns the broad jump record for his weight class from a couple years back.
His father, an avid body builder who lives in Maryland, receives credit for Scott's weight training. Scott's parents divorced when he was young, but he and his father lift whenever Scott is able to visit, usually for a couple weeks at a time during school breaks.
Scott received a letter from UCLA before his junior year, and for the first time realized he could play this game at the next level. An online recruiting service gobbled up Scott's game film and allowed Kirkland to spread the word to college coaches via email. Letters documenting Scott's recruiting process now fill his mother's scrapbook.
Camps at places like Georgia Tech and Clemson helped mold Scott's technique. He heard from the Yellow Jackets and from Maryland. Both ACC schools said they were prepared to offer, Scott said. But Miami of Ohio delivered.
And after initially wanting to stay close to home -- all of his family lives in the area except for his father, whose job has required multiple moves -- Scott has warmed to the idea of a cooler climate.
Now 6-foot-4 and about 235 pounds, Scott said the RedHawks coaches' priority for him is adding weight. They told him he has a chance to start as a freshman, but would like him to bulk up to 260. They wooed him with talk of one day playing professional football, and dropped the name of a famous example, former Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
For now, Scott is content for more chances at rushing the passer. As a high school defensive end, his main priority against the many run-heavy schemes is containing the outside and forcing the action inward.
But Scott always has had great speed, his coaches said, and has sharpened various pass-rush techniques. He'll soon be able to test his ability against more pro-style schemes in the college game.
"His rip, it's the best I've seen somebody rip somebody," Mitchell said. "He can throw his hips better than anybody I've seen throw his hips my whole life."
THE MADDEN EFFECT
Wesley Scott's introduction to football came at age 5, when his father popped Madden '98 into the Sega Genesis. Scott still likes to round up his friends these days to play the popular NFL video game.
He'll choose the Indianapolis Colts and control his favorite player, defensive end Dwight Freeney. He loves watching Freeney and Philadelphia Eagles end Trent Cole.
He still roots for the Colts, even during a down year.
"Ever since they lost Peyton Manning -- he was the heart of their team," Scott said. "But I still stick with them."