EAST LAKE — For months, East Lake coach Bob Hudson heard about Artavis Scott, an incoming freshman whose offensive wizardry was the stuff of legend in youth leagues.
But Hudson was unsure Scott’s 5-foot-11, 160-pound frame could handle the rigors of varsity football. So he was going to put him on junior varsity.
Then Hudson watched Scott become a reliable target in seven-on-seven passing tournaments this summer. That prompted Hudson to move Scott to varsity, but Hudson was still unsure how much he would play.
Then came the preseason game against Land O’Lakes.
The first time Scott touched the ball in a high school game, he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
“Artavis has been a great surprise for us,” Hudson said. “In the high school world you get who comes to you. But it’s nice to have a guy with his explosiveness. We all knew about his capabilities, and he definitely showed us something in that preseason game.”
Scott has continued to impress in the regular season. He has 11 receptions for 173 yards and is tied with receiver Tyler Higbee for the team lead in touchdown receptions with three.
“I was surprised I got to play varsity this year,” Scott said. “I’m just trying to work hard and help the team out wherever I can.”
Though he is shorter than most receivers, Scott can still abuse defenders after the catch by losing them with his arsenal of dekes. He demonstrated those skills by catching two of quarterback Pete DiNovo’s four touchdown passes in the first half of last week’s win against Seminole.
“It’s great to have a guy like Artavis on our team,” DiNovo said. “He helps me out as a quarterback because we can line him up in a lot of places.”
Scott’s presence became that much more important this summer when the offense switched from a ball-control, run-oriented attack to a passing game to provide more balance.
“I’ve always liked to throw the ball,” Hudson said. “But you have to have the weapons to do that. We have that now.”
Because he is sure-handed and lethal in the open field, Scott is subjected to extra attention by defenders, even at the risk of leaving others open.
“It’s great because teams can no longer just focus on Tyler Higbee when we put the ball in the air,” Hudson said.
To make sure Scott remains a vital part of the offense, the Eagles have used a variety of hitch passes and screens that give him a chance to create something from very little. That’s because a single defensive back trying to tackle Scott in the open field is a scary sight.
Another scary thought is the Eagles are young and have a future together.
DiNovo is a sophomore and tailback Tyler Lane is a junior.
“We all work hard together and play as a team,” Lane said. “We have a bond and that will be here for the next few years.”
Scott’s eventual role in the offense will evolve from catching the ball to getting it on handoffs. A running back in youth leagues, Scott will eventually move to that position, but Hudson decided it was best to use him at receiver this season to get used to varsity football.
“I don’t mind where I play,” Scott said. “I’m just happy I can contribute and help our team win.”
This year, freshmen have played vital roles in some offenses. Here are other stars who have shined:
Jarvis Stewart, Largo: A starter at defensive back, Stewart was moved to tailback and has responded with 100-yard rushing performances in the past two games.
Cortavious Givens, Admiral Farragut: The running back is not new to varsity football; he played for the Blue Jackets last year as an eighth-grader. But he has assumed more responsibility this year and is a key component in the rushing attack.