Quarterback and Mr. Football Minnesota finalist Aryton Scott led Southwest High School to its best season in 36 years
When John Biezuns was a senior on the Prior Lake High School football team in 1993, he remembers reading the newspaper on Saturdays as Southwest High School went the entire season without scoring a single point.
A decade later, Southwest was in the middle of a losing streak that spanned three years until the Lakers finally won a game in 2005.
Things have come full circle this fall, as Biezuns coached the Lakers to their first conference title (tying with Washburn and South) since 1974.
Equally remarkable is the team’s senior quarterback, Aryton Scott, who in November became the first player from the Minneapolis City Conference to be named finalist for Mr. Football Minnesota since the award’s inception in 2004.
Scott is a dual threat quarterback who passed for more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns while also leading the team with over 1,000 rushing yards and a dozen touchdowns. He also played free safety, and, heaven forbid the offense stalled out, he was the team punter.
“He was a Mr. Everything for Southwest and that’s important when we look at finalists, and it will be when we select Mr. Football,” said Jim Dotseth, a member of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, which voted for Scott.
Dotseth coached for Patrick Henry for 13 years, including a game against Southwest the year the team went scoreless. He and a MFCA committee will announce the winner of Mr. Football on Dec. 19.7
For the soccer-heavy high school, the 2010 season was remarkable considering a miserable football tradition.
“Being a co-city champion this year with (Scott) leading the team means quite a bit as far as the program itself and how it’s grown over the past six or seven years,” said Southwest Athletics Director Ryan Lamberty.
For Scott, the city title and Mr. Football honor was the culmination of years of hard work. For his mother, Tonya Jones, the season was a source of pride for a single parent who raised her son with the help of her brother and mother.
“We wanted to make a statement this year, that we weren’t that terrible team,” Scott said.
A shocking announcement
At the end-of-the-year banquet for the football team, Biezuns handed out awards as players, families and friends watched.
Scott’s name was called several times, as he racked up several honors this year, including Conference MVP, All-Metro Third-team, and KARE 11 Athlete of the Week. On one such announcement, Biezuns surprised the crowd by announcing the news he had heard that morning: Scott was a finalist for Mr. Football.
Not only was Scott shocked, so were his mother and grandmother, who looked at each other in the audience and said ‘did you know that?’
“If your heart could be the size of the moon, I think that’s what mine was,” Jones said. “I was beyond totally shocked.”
Jones raised Scott in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of South Minneapolis. She’s missed only two games in his entire sports career, and she can name both times. Usually, her mother is sitting right next to her.
Her brother, Derek Jones, is a former state wrestling champion and has mentored Scott. Last summer, he picked him up at 5 a.m. every morning for workouts.
“He’s always been there for me,” said Scott, 17. “He’s the one that started me with football. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be who I am today, just because he was pushing me to be a great football player.”
Scott is also a guard on the high school’s basketball team and plays for the Southside Rugby Club team that won the state championship last spring.
He’s been captain of the football team the past two years. Scott doesn’t brag about his accomplishments, however.
“He’s probably more of a leader by example than vocal,” Biezuns said. “He’s more the guy that’s going to lead by on-the-field example and by his actions.”
Building a program
Scott was recruited to Southwest by former coach Sean McMenomy. But McMenomy left after Scott’s sophomore season to take the DeLaSalle job.
Most observers credit McMenomy for the program’s turnaround. Since he took over, the team has at least hovered around .500, a far cry from the winless season suffered before his arrival.
Scott had a different coach his junior year who left after one season.
Biezuns, in his first year, credits Scott with much of the team’s success. But he pointed out some strengths the team will build on in the coming years.
The team has put a bigger emphasis on lifting weights. The coach will have his entire offensive line returning plus most of his defense.
Biezuns hopes that this year’s success will inspire more students at Southwest to go out for football. In a school of 1,800 students, only 80 play football while 200 fight for 90 spots on the soccer team, Biezuns said.
“I hope winning some games will get people out,” he said.
Still, without Scott, expectations won’t be as high.
“Everyone looks at Aryton (leaving) and we’re probably picked … to finish in the middle of the pack, and there’s no expectation for us to come even close to what we did last year,” Biezuns said.
What’s next for Scott?
Scott is drawing interest from St. Cloud State University, Mankato and Augustana in South Dakota. Those are all Division II schools. He originally drew some interest from D-1 schools, but Scott’s height proved to be a road block for the big programs.
At 5 feet 9, Scott is much shorter than most D-1 quarterbacks. Biezuns said if he were a few inches taller, Scott has the talent to play for a big school.
“That’s basically what’s it’s come down to,” Biezuns said.
But first things first. Biezuns is sticking up for Scott to win the Mr. Football award. He’s afraid many voters will overlook him because he doesn’t play in one of the big suburban conferences that produce state champions and D-1 players every year.
“He does deserve the award, there’s no doubt about that,” Biezuns said. “Anyone who’s watched him play can’t argue that.”
Tonya Jones is hoping to be shocked one more time.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed.”