WEST VALLEY PREPS

PEORIA’S MIGHTY PRESENCE

Panthers receiver Jovon Scott plays far bigger than his height

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Soon after first watching Jovon Scott play, opponents and spectators learn edto look beyond his listed 5-7, 140-pound frame

The Peoria High wide receiver has gone around, over and through defensive backs for two years. And the numbers he put up once the whistle blows are the important ones.

As a junior first-time starter, Scott led the Panthers with 26 catches for 790 yards and seven touchdowns — for an eye-popping 30.4 yards per reception. With more frequent targets this year, Scott already blew most of those numbers away — 41 catches for 1,049 yards and 14 scores.

“Jovon is a joy to watch. He is one of the toughest players I’ve coached and competitive. I don’t know that I’ve ever coached a guy his size that started and had such an impact at wide receiver,” Peoria coach Will Babb stated in an email.

Scott said football was always his favorite sport. He started playing when he was 8 years old.

Ever since, he’s been one of the smallest players on the field.

“Yes I was always one of the smallest on my team. My coaches used to tell me just make one cut and get to the sideline cause you’re faster than the other kids,” Scott stated in a Twitter interview.

He said he was not a lifetime Panthers fan, and had not watched a high school football game before playing in one.

Babb said he met Scott in eighth grade at a feeder school football camp and originally thought he was athletic but not very big.

Scott fit in with his undersized but skilled classmates. Linebacker Alaa Barakat leads the Panthers in tackles the last two seasons and is 5-8, 170. Defensive end Gabriel Ocampo is 6-0, 205 pounds, but is tied for fourth in the state with 13 sacks.

“Coach says if you can play and help us win on Fridays you will play no matter the size,” Scott said.

Babb said he saw a change before Scott’s junior season, He became perhaps the Panthers’ strongest players, pound for pound.

“He’s more confident and much stronger. The weight room changed his physical and mental make up,” Babb stated.

Scott and junior quarterback Kyle Samford were not called upon much early in 2018. Then star tailbacks Juwaun Price and Malachi Potee were injured before a crucial region game at Desert Edge.

Suddenly, the Panthers had to pass. Scott finished with seven catches for 201 yards that game, after entering it with five catches for 138 yards in the previous four games.

“We always had a chem-istry. He’s been my quarterback since freshman year so we always had that connection. The Desert Edge game I told him just throw it far as you can and let me go get it. And we get better every day at practice. He tells me what I should on some routes so I can get open faster,” Scott stated.

Babb said the duo’s success feeds off one another, and that the other receiver and run game also help them do their jobs so well.

This season, the Panthers played three full games without sophomore Cameron Mack, their top running back. That meant more work for safety/tailback Micho Cordero and a more extended time in the spotlight for Samford and Scott.

Scott caught 17 passes for 574 yards, carrying the offense during that stretch. His play helped seal a one-point win at San Tan Poston Butte.

He then was the difference in a 35-28 victory at Estrella Foothills, catching seven balls for 248 yards and four touchdowns.

Despite all this evidence, opponents are careful to double Scott and open up things for the Panthers’ pistol flexbone offense.

“I haven’t got double teamed that much because the teams our still worried about stopping the run game. The corners just play deeper to stop me,” Scott stated.

Even though the next game against Deer Valley was never in doubt, it may be Scott’s favorite. He caught a 99-yard touchdown against the Skyhawks.

And most of that was Scott’s speed.

“I was amazed,” Scott stated.

Now with Mack back, the Panthers should be at full strength as the playoffs start Friday. 

Whatever their seed and whomever they play, Peoria’s returning players will not forget a 54-49 upset loss to Chandler Seton Catholic in the first round a year ago.

“It will be very intense for all us seniors because we will have some anger from last year,” Scott stated.

This time around, Scott will be one of the team leaders dead set on making sure it does not happen again.

“He loves the game. He practices like he plays and that’s why he is a joy to coach. He is also a great young man that is respected and loved by his peers,” Babb stated.

Colleges tend to be closed minded when looking at players who do not fit their height and weight prototypes.Scott said he has not received an offer yet.

He said he would like to study business or in a field that allows him to work with kids.

Babb said college teams are just starting to clue in to this special talent.

“Jovon will definitely get a chance at the next level and people are starting to ask about him. Whoever gets him will be pleasantly surprised and fairly amazed at the gifts he has,” Babb stated.

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