Linebacker Scott Miller has grown up on the football field.
From the first time he picked up a ball to the time spent with his father, South Iredell head coach Scott Miller Sr., the younger Miller has lived and breathed the sport for most of the past decade.
While Miller has been the constant target of the criticism that typically is directed at a coach's son, he has also reaped the rewards of the access to knowledge of the game that most players don't get.
"I've learned just about everything I know about football from my dad," said Miller. "I was always with his teams growing up watching or helping with drills, soaking up the game."
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Miller, 16, is now one of the lynchpins of his father's South Iredell football team. The Vikings have won back-to-back Catawba Valley Athletic conference titles, and they have gone 23-1 in Miller's two-year tenure as head coach after Nov. 4's playoff win against East Davidson.
The 5-10, 185-pound junior not only calls the defensive plays in the huddle, but also makes a lot of big plays for the Vikings. He leads South Iredell with 148 tackles in its first 11 games, good for 13.5 stops per contest. Miller has also registered one sack and two fumble recoveries, forced three fumbles and scored a touchdown on a botched field goal (he also serves as the team's holder).
"Scott, like many coaches' sons, has had the chance to be very close to the game from a young age," coach Miller said. "But he is also a very smart young man who works extremely hard on and off the field to become a better player. He deserves a lot of the credit himself."
The younger Miller has been a standout for the Vikings nearly since the day he stepped onto the campus. After starring on the junior varsity squad, Miller was called up to the varsity and became a starter midway through his freshman season.
Miller had 50 tackles in half a season and began calling the defensive plays in his first year.
After a slow start last year, Miller registered double-digit tackles in seven of the team's final eight games, including 18 stops against Newton-Conover and 24 tackles in a narrow playoff loss to Forest Hills. He finished with 140 tackles on the season.
It was that last-second 31-30 loss to Forest Hills, the team's only defeat of that season, that pushed Miller and his teammates to work even harder this offseason.
"The loss made us all mad because we felt like we let down the whole community, and they deserve better than that," the linebacker said. "This year, our goal was to give our community what they deserve, and we've thought about that all year."
Miller has been consistent from the start, with double-digit tackles in every game but one to help lead a Vikings defense that was giving up only 10 points per game going into the playoffs.
Miller is quick to give credit to his teammates - such as fellow linebackers LaChaston Smith and Eythan Kramm - as well as to the defensive line. But he has been the driving force with 19 tackles against West Caldwell and 17 tackles in the regular-season finale against East Burke.
A team co-captain, Miller has four more 14-tackle performances and three other games with 13 stops. The junior always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
A lot of that can be credited to his constant film study, both with the team and for 30 to 40 minutes every night on his home computer before he goes to bed, said his father.
"Scott studies so much film that he usually knows what play is coming before it happens," said coach Miller. "He really has become a great student of the game."
Scott Miller Jr. hopes his ability on and off the football field will help him earn the opportunity to play football in college, likely as a strong safety.
"Scott has a lot of things you need to play college football," said coach Miller. "He also has another year or more to get bigger, stronger and better. I like having him on our team."