Mallard Creek High football coach Mike Palmieri says senior quarterback Emiere Scaife, an Appalachian State recruit, is the perfect leader for his nationally ranked team because he’s seen it all.
“Everybody knows how hard he’s had to work,” Palmieri said. “It sets a good tone for the younger kids to know where he’s been and what he’s been through to get to where he is now. He’s the ultimate leader now.”
Scaife has had to change positions, move up to varsity, then back down, then back up for a horrific first game as a junior.
“It’s been quite a story,” Scaife said.
Scaife, 17, is one of five children. Everyone’s athletic. His older sister, Ice’es Green, played football at Harding in 2008. She also was a track star. His younger sister, Eaysha Scaife, plays soccer and basketball. She will be a freshman at Mallard Creek this year.
Like his sisters, Emiere always had a gift.
“In kindergarten, I started having parents and coaches come up to me saying how they wanted him on their teams,” Scaife’s mother, Myaneka Green, said. “He’s always been good at whatever he did.”
Scaife, now 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, had no reason to believe that would change when he got to Mallard Creek four years ago. He started as a quarterback on the junior varsity team, but didn’t play his freshman year. Instead he backed up Cameron Mattison, now a senior safety committed to Toledo.
Mavericks coaches like Scaife’s size and asked him to try linebacker as a sophomore, eventually moving him up to varsity. Scaife decided after a few weeks on defense that he wanted to play quarterback, even if that meant moving back down to junior varsity.
This move was unusual. Most players never want to go back down.
“Most kids would take it as a demotion,” Palmieri said. “You’d have to have several side conversations with them. But Emiere does whatever we need him to.”
So he finished out his sophomore year on junior varsity. He showed the coaches he could play the position. Then, he worked extra hard in the offseason and earned the starting varsity job going into his junior year.
“I loved playing quarterback and that was my opportunity, to show what I could really do,” Scaife said. “Moving back down was the best thing for me to do. I wasn’t going to start on varsity at linebacker.”
In his first game as varsity starter on one of the state’s top teams, Scaife faced the nationally ranked Butler Bulldogs in front of a large crowd at Memorial Stadium. That didn’t go so well.
Scaife wasn’t sharp and wasn’t able to get the ball to All-American receiver Marquez North, who didn’t have a catch. Scaife completed 8 of 16 passes for 113 yards, but he looked out of sorts. Mallard Creek fell behind 24-0 in the first half and lost 27-6.
“I remember I threw a pick on my first play,” he said. “When I threw the pass, I knew it would be a pick. I was hit when I let it go. The protection broke down and a free linebacker hit me when I threw it.”
Many who saw the game felt Scaife played tight. He said that wasn’t the case.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I was anxious and people thought I was nervous. I was ready to play, but I tried to do too much.”
The next week in practice, Palmieri said he saw his quarterback even more focused and serious than usual.
“He’s the hardest worker we’ve got,” Palmieri said. “We knew he would get better every practice and every game. We knew it would be a rough transition early and he worked hard in practice and got better and better as the year went on.”
Scaife led his team to an unbeaten conference season and a conference championship. Then he led the Mavericks through impressive playoff wins against Lake Norman, Vance and Olympic before a second loss to Butler in the state semifinals.
Scaife finished the year with more than 2,500 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. He added more than 400 yards rushing.
In the offseason, he choose Appalachian, his dream school, over Charlotte, Georgia State and Marshall.
He’s continued to work on his game. Opposing coaches are noticing the growth.
“We saw him at a 7-on-7 at Catawba,” Butler coach Brian Hales said. “You could really tell that his confidence level has grown. He had so much more command of the offense and gave them a charge. He had the whole year to get all those reps and not worry about them doing the wildcat or this or that. He was the guy behind center.
“He looks different physically, too. He’s gotten so much bigger and he throws the ball so much better now. There’s a lot of zip on it and you can see the quick decision making and familiarity of being in the offense another year. He’s grown by leaps and bounds.”
Scaife said he wants to make the most of his senior year. He wants to put his name in the Mallard Creek record books as the starting varsity quarterback of the school’s first state championship team.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I feel we are a state championship calibre team. We say that every year, but as a unit, we play more as a team versus as individuals last year.
“We’ve lost in the semifinals two years now. I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, it kind of eats at you when you’re so close but so far away at the same time. You feel like it’s right there. It makes you push just that extra amount. It makes you want to do better.”
Scaife has a 4.1 GPA. He can bench press 300 pounds and squat 405. He’s the starting quarterback on the state’s best team. It took him a while to get here, but Scaife said he’s living his dream.
“I am extremely proud of him,” Green said. “He deserves all the great things he gets. He’s a hard worker and a leader.
“I’ve heard his whole life from teachers and coaches that he’s a true leader and he has the spirit of a winner. He’s worked hard to get where he is and I never doubted he would make it.”
Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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