Over the past several years inside the Sciotoville Community Schools umbrella, there have been some exciting times.
However, even after East’s SOC I Championship-winning 10-0 campaign on the gridiron in 2016, one would have been hard-pressed to find a more exciting scene than the one that took place on Friday afternoon in Sciotoville.
There, inside the walls of East Junior and Senior High School, family, friends, classmates, and individuals from not only the community of Sciotoville — but all of Scioto County — packed the entire set of bleachers and both baselines in the high school gymnasium as hundreds gathered in a standing-room-only crowd to watch Blaine Scott announce his decision.
A crowd like that could make anybody nervous — especially when it’s an announcement that will shape the next three or four years of one’s life.
But Scott — who admitted to the crowd that he was nervous before making his decision — did an excellent job in keeping that nervousness hidden in a beyond-his-years type of speech. The junior lineman and consensus top-15 player in Ohio’s Class of 2018 committed to Ole Miss on his birthday over Arkansas, Duke, Michigan State and Rutgers, while giving Rebels the Buckeye State’s second-best offensive lineman in the junior class in the process.
For Scott, the atmosphere that highly successful head coach Hugh Freeze has created during his time at Ole Miss was the ultimate difference-maker.
And with guys that Freeze has coached in a highly successful coaching tenure at Briarcrest Christian High School (Tenn.) and Ole Miss, such as fellow offensive linemen in Michael Oher and Laremy Tunsil, it’s easy to see why Scott would make such a decision.
“It’s been a pleasure getting to know everybody and seeing the culture that the coaching staff has built in Oxford,” Scott said. “There have been legends that have gone through the program, like Archie Manning, Eli Manning, Michael Oher, Laremy Tunsil, and Evan Ingram. There’s a lot of great players that have gone to school at Ole Miss, so it’s a blessing to be able to become a Rebel. Arkansas, Duke, Michigan State, and Rutgers are all awesome or they wouldn’t have been in my top-five. I can see myself playing anywhere. It was just what (Hugh) Freeze and (Matt) Luke (co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach) brought to the table with their faith in the program and how they treat their student-athletes. I can really see myself excelling with them.”
However, Scott couldn’t make that decision without incorporating an individual that has been paramount to his own experiences at East.
Matthew Kingery, who is a special needs student at East High School and who Scott described as a person who “never has a bad day,” helped Scott announce his choice by unzipping his pullover jacket to show the “Hoddy Totty” slogan — the same slogan that has become synonymous with Ole Miss football — as the 6-5, 308-pound lineman announced his choice.
“Since I first started here at East in the eighth grade, we’ve tried to do what we can to make Matthew’s school experience enjoyable,” Scott said. “Every Friday, we eat pizza together, and at Christmas time, we’ll spend time together and play Secret Santa with him. He comes to school smiling every day, and you just can’t help but love him because of it.”
In Ole Miss, Scott will join one of the fastest-rising head coaches in the college football world in Freeze, who won two THSAA State Championships with Briarcrest Christian and Oher in 2002 and 2004 — part of a much bigger story that was displayed in Michael Smith’s award-winning book, The Blind Side, and later, on the big screen via the same name. The film later won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Freeze — who also won four THSAA championships as a girls basketball coach in a career that spanned from 1992 to 2004 — obtained the head coaching position at Ole Miss on December 5, 2011 after leading Arkansas State to a 10-2 record, including an 8-0 mark in Sun Belt Conference play. He then led the Rebels to four straight bowl appearances from 2012 to 2015, and in the 2016 NFL Draft, produced three first-round draft selection in Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell, and Robert Nkemdiche, which was the first time that Ole Miss had produced even one first-round choice since 2009.
Like his future head coach, Scott is also no stranger to success.
After a 5-5 regular season in his initial campaign as a freshman, Scott helped East improve to a 6-4 mark in his sophomore season before the Tartans blew everybody away in the offensive lineman’s junior campaign by completing an undefeated regular season mark en route to the school’s first SOC I title since 2008. In the latter pair of campaigns, Scott was named as an All-SOC performer and a Division VII First-Team Southeast All-District honoree.
And like most players, Scott isn’t afraid to test himself.
At the signing, the junior announced plans to graduate in December of 2017 — which all but means that Scott will be enrolling in college early.
“Academically, it’s always come easily to me,” Scott said. “However, this year, I want to graduate early with honors, so I’ve had to take 13 classes. It’s been hard to do that with the additional workload, but thanks to excellent teachers like (Brian) McClure and (Jennifer) Stapleton guiding me through the entire process, it’s really been a blessing, especially when you have administration and faculty that have helped me as much as they have.”
Testing himself, however, is something that Scott has grown accustomed to.
“Coaches like (James) Gifford, as well as the guys at AP Prep in Chillicothe, have pushed me to my limits,” Scott said. “They not only made a better athlete but a better man. It’s just been a blessing to have them guide my way throughout the entire process.”
However, even though Scott’s college decision is well in hand, the junior still has one more goal that he’d like to accomplish before leaving East High School — a second straight SOC I Championship, and the gold ball that comes along with it.
“No doubt about it,” Scott said of the goal. “The sky’s the limit. We’re looking forward to making it happen again.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7