Sophomore DeAndre Scott waits in nervous anticipation as he lines up at his flanker position. He's standing alone, uncovered on the outside as his Thomas Johnson squad moves deep into Linganore territory. He notices the defense has dropped into a zone and takes a peek back at his quarterback. Scott is the first read, and he knows he'll have a chance to make a play if the ball comes out quickly…
It all happens in less than three seconds. The ball is snapped, the quarterback takes one look at Scott and fires a 10-yard bullet. The ball sails, forcing Scott to leap and extend his 6-foot frame. Right as he gets a hand on the ball, the cornerback, Michael Johnson, levels him with a bone-crunching hit. Scott's lithe, 165-pound body is upended, flipped 360 degrees and lands in a heap at the 10-yard line. The ball is still in his hands. First down.
"It was a little high, but I didn't want to make the quarterback look bad," said Scott, laughing. "So I had to come down with it."
He has a picture of the catch plastered on his wall. Every time he looks at it he's still amazed he made the catch.
"In high school you very rarely see that [kind of catch]," said Scott's father and Thomas Johnson assistant coach Derrick Scott. "I was right in front of it and all I could think was, Wow."
Take one look at Scott's hands and it's not that surprising he held on. They're so big he can palm a basketball with one hand. Add to that a 42-inch wingspan, a tremendous open-field burst and a huge frame - he's projected to grow four more inches by his senior year - and the scouts are raving about his potential.
Central Michigan, who signed DeAndre's brother, D.J., last year, has already made him a scholarship offer. LSU and Rutgers are also intrigued, and with two more years for Scott to improve, the offers are bound to pile up.
"I'd like to play with my brother to have that bond again," Scott said. "But I do want to aim a littler higher.
"I think I can play in a place with big crowds and against superior competition," he continued. "I like LSU because of that intensity on the field and in that stadium. I can definitely see myself in a place like that."
Scott exudes confidence, and sometimes it's mistaken for arrogance. The first time he stepped foot on the gridiron as a freshman he had the gall to trash talk several upper classmen. The seniors thought he was all talk, but the freshman receiver went out and proved he belonged on the varsity. A year later he was making flip catches and beating some of the area's top cornerbacks.
Against Tuscarora, Scott was matched up against Dominic Clarke, who received a scholarship to Ohio State. Good thing OSU wasn't watching this game. Scott burned Clarke with six receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.
"On one play I made him fall," said Scott proudly.
"He's a competitor and he believes he's going to beat you," Derrick Scott said. "He wants the ball -- that's how he was brought up to play the game. If there's a big name cornerback, he wants to face him."
Scott certainly has all the natural tools to beat the best, but what's even more impressive is how refined he is. His route running is solid for a sophomore, and he puts his body in good position and shields the ball away from defenders. Scott already has a mental advantage over defensive backs because he plays corner on defense. He studies opposing cornerbacks, looking for tendencies and trends so he can get an extra step at the snap. In the red zone, he looks for height mismatches so he can use his size and leaping ability on jump balls.
And if the quarterback does throw a jump ball, it's an automatic six points. His hands have been compared to the likes of receiving-sensation Michael Crabtree's.
"He goes up and grabs it, and you're not going to take it from him," Derrick Scott said.
Scott may have all the skills to dominate in the Monacacy Valley Athletic Conference, but to play at a school like LSU, he needs to put on more weight and improve his forty-yard-dash time. (DeAndre says he runs a 4.59, but his dad says it"s really a 4.51: "I want to give him the motivation to train even harder.")
Scott is participating in several speed camps and working with personal trainers to give him that extra burst. In addition he'll work with the top 100 players in Maryland at Joe Haden's Body by Haden clinic at Annapolis Christian. And in April Scott will attend a combine in Virginia where he'll compete against some of the fastest recruits in the country.
"He'll get to see how good he really is," Derrick Scott said.
While Scott continues to improve on the field, he has already mastered the off-field game. His grades are solid and his SAT scores as a sophomore are good enough for the NCAA. And when the big recruiters come knocking, he's well prepared.
"My dad makes sure I'm performing in the classroom, and he's helping me with colleges," said Scott, who address everyone he meets with a "Yes sir" or "Yes ma'am". "He told me what my brother did and he's taking me through the same steps."
Everything is in place for DeAndre Scott to succeed. Now he just needs to hold on to that dream, just like he did on the circus catch against Linganore. Scott flashes a smile: "Yeah, I could definitely see myself as another Michael Crabtree."