A year ago, North Mecklenburg High quarterback Aaron Scott threw for 1,786 yards, ran for 638 and accounted for 24 touchdowns. That was in 13 games.
Just four games into his senior season, Scott is on pace to shatter those marks. He’s thrown for 924 yards, 12 touchdowns, and he’s rushed for 338 yards and two scores. He’s averaging nearly 11 yards every time he carries the ball.
Scott’s team is 4-0, ranked No. 13 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll and is on pace for back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 12 seasons.
Heading into Friday’s game at Mooresville (4-0), Scott was asked how he felt about his season. His answer was surprising.
“I’m kind of disappointed,” Scott said. “I think we should be doing way better as a team and me personally. Once we’re 100 percent, I feel like we can’t be stopped.”
Scott, who is 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, said he’s battled injuries this season (which he wouldn’t disclose) and still isn’t fully healthy. He said there are teammates in a similar situation. Despite that, the Vikings are averaging 40 points. The school’s season record for average points per game is 31, which was set 18 years ago.
Maybe there was a time when North Mecklenburg would be content with last season’s 7-0 start and a 4-0 start this year, and scoring so many points. But these Vikings believe they belong in the class with state powers such as Butler, Mallard Creek and Wake Forest.
Scott credits his mindset and his team’s new mindset to second-year coach Eric Morman, who played in a championship culture at Richmond Senior and wants to bring it to Huntersville. Morman often asks his players to be “uncommon” in the classroom, on the field and at home. He monitors grades as much as he monitors how much weight each player lifts. His practices are scripted to the second, and Morman demands that players go harder than they ever imagined.
At first, that caused a rift between coach and quarterback.
“We bumped heads in the beginning,” Scott said. “He said I needed to practice harder than I was in order for us to be a better team. But sometimes I wouldn’t go 100 percent. He said it’s got to be every play. I thought I was doing enough.”
Even before Scott’s junior season, Morman had similar conversations with all of his new players. Before his first season in 2017, Morman was successful in at least convincing his future players they could win, though North Meck had posted but one winning season in the past 10 years. He asked for 100 percent attendance for summer practices. He got 90 percent.
Then North Meck started 7-0 and the players - including the quarterback - started believing that all the practices, all the lifting, trying to be “uncommon” - well, it was working.
“Winning heals a lot,” Morman said. “The kids bought in. And it carried over to this year. The guys understand what it takes now. It’s going to take everybody being here all summer and a great off-season in the weight room and the meeting rooms, and we’re seeing it carry over into this year.”
Morman said 93 percent of his players attended every 2018 summer session, hoping to improve on last season’s 9-4 record.
A big reason for this year’s 4-0 start has been Scott, who was given the freedom to make many play calls at the line of scrimmage, often changing formations and plays, depending on what the defense does. And Vikings receiver Justin Olson, who is 6-3 and 195 pounds, has been as hot as his quarterback, catching 25 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns. He has returned three punts and a kickoff for touchdowns.
“I tell (college) coaches that (Olson) is one of the best around,” Morman said. “He can do everything: play in the slot, play outside. He’s a great route runner and he can take the top off offensively (stretch the defense with his speed). He and our other receivers have made a lot of plays for Aaron when the ball is in the air.”
But for North Meck to remain successful, Morman said Scott will have to guide the Vikings there. After some initial resistance, Scott has accepted Morman’s discipline and coaching, understanding that if he goes hard every play in practice, his teammates will follow..
“At first,” Scott said, “I would be like, ‘I will listen to him,’ and then I would take it easy again and it’s like, ‘You’ve got to do this.’ But when I finally changed, I saw how it prepared me better for the games. You could see the difference. I feel like my numbers are better now and I’m still not 100 percent. I know once I’m going 100 percent, it’ll be better.”
Morman said Scott has college scholarship offers from Stetson and Marshall, but said bigger schools are starting to show interest.
“We put a lot on him,” Morman said. “He has to make a lot of adjustments at the line of scrimmage. And he’s done a great job of handling our offense for us. He has to be the guy in charge and that’s where he stands out. He’s a very smart young man and he always wants to learn more. Sometimes, he tries to outsmart me. It’s definitely fun to have a guy who loves football so much and wants to learn and buys into it.
“You see the success this year he’s had with the touchdowns he’s thrown and the runs. Everything is slowing down for him and you can see it on the field.”
Scott believes that his best play - and his team’s best play - will come later this season when everyone healthier.
“I don’t think it’ll be long,” Scott said. “Not this week, but probably a week or so after that. So that’s when it’ll get real. That’s when we’ll be really ready to go.”