Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: No cold shoulder for Northside's Philip Scott

His teeth chattering, his body shivering, Philip Scott stood by himself on the Northside sidelines as the final minutes ticked off the clock.

Then up walked 6-foot-4, 352-pound offensive tackle Cameron Carter, who wrapped his arms around the 5-8, 175-pound Scott and held him in a bear hug for about 30 seconds.

"I've got a lot of extra body heat," the big man said with a grin. "Why not hand some of it over, you know?"

Why not? Carter might have been the first guy to hug Scott on Saturday, but he was far from the last. As he walked to the locker room after Northside's 28-7 victory over Cave Spring in the VHSL Group AA Division 3 semifinals, Scott couldn't take two steps without landing in somebody's embrace. Parents. Coaches. Fellow players. Fans.

The gestures all sent the same message: Thank goodness you're back.

Scott calls not playing football last season "the worst decision I ever made." Returning to the team this year has proven to be one of his best, both for him and the Vikings.

On Saturday, the senior tailback ran for 248 yards and Northside's first two touchdowns, helping the Vikings advance to their first state championship game in school history.

"There's nothing like that feeling of being with the guys -- these 50 guys right here," Scott said. "I regret [not playing], but it feels good to be back."

Scott, a starter as a freshman and sophomore, said he sat out last season to focus on track. He emerged as the fastest 200-meter runner in Timesland (22.07 seconds), but the decision ate at him immediately.

"I was at every game," Scott said. "It was driving me crazy not being on the field. I'm a football player."

Northside coach Burt Torrence knew that, too, but he wasn't about to try to talk Scott into playing. He knew the commitment had to come from the player himself.

"He came to me the Monday after our last ballgame last year and said, 'Coach, I want to make it up to you. I want to come out and play,'" Torrence said. "I said, 'You ain't got to prove nothing to me, man. I know what kind of young man you are. You have to prove it to your teammates.'"

That meant attending all the weight-training sessions and the 7-on-7 drills in the spring. Not only did Scott regain the trust of his teammates by doing that, but he also became much stronger and quicker.

His toughness was evident throughout the first half, as Cave Spring defensive back Michael Cole laid several punishing hits on him. Scott popped right back up each time.

Scott's first scoring run -- a 78-yard burst up the middle on Northside's first possession -- pushed him over the 2,000-yard mark for the year.

His second one was equally impressive, as he got the corner and churned 68 yards down the left sideline to make it 14-0 with 8:14 remaining in the second quarter.

The performance was particularly sweet for Scott, whose family moved from the Northside zone to the Cave Spring zone this summer. He received permission from the principal to stay with the kids he grew up knowing.

"I can see my house from here," Scott said, pointing toward a neighborhood beside Bogle Stadium.

Carter worries about that.

"We told him go ahead and set up your barriers around your house," Carter said. "I don't want anybody to try and hurt you or egg your house or nothing like that."

He was joking, of course. Scott knows that won't happen. He's friends with many of the players on the Cave Spring team -- although he might want to give them a few days to get over this one.

Besides, he'll probably stay indoors for the immediate future. The icy conditions overtook Scott in the second half, and he couldn't stop his body from shivering. He gained just 1 yard on five carries after halftime.

By then, though, his presence had been felt. His hugs had been earned. And there was only one thing left for the prodigal tailback to do.

"Hot shower," Scott said, grinning. "That sounds good."

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