GAINESVILLE -- Scott Chewning is nowhere near the biggest or fastest player Chestatee fields on Friday nights. His resume won't make a college football coach drool.
But War Eagle fans that have watched the senior closely this season might have had to wipe their mouths on occasion, as the quarterback/free safety has developed into one of the most important players in northeast Georgia.
"He's a good leader; the team knows how important he is to us," Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said of Chewning. "He's really making a difference for us."
Chewning isn't necessarily a flashy player -- though his three interceptions, two of which went for touchdowns last week (74 and 98 yards respectively), show he's a playmaker. Rather he is the heady quarterback that is making a young offense click. He's also shown that he can play anywhere on the field with his exploits as a starting defensive back -- his first varsity campaign in that role. And he's a big reason why Chestatee is 2-1 and rising as it heads into Friday's game at Monroe Area (3-0).
The senior leads the War Eagles offense -- which was altered slightly coming into this season to take advantage of Chewning's abilities -- with 195 yards per game, including 499 yards passing in three games.
"I'm just trying to be a coach on the field," Chewning said. "I don't want to make big plays. I just want to get the ball quickly into the hands of our other guys to make plays."
Simply put, Chewning is a football player. Not that he had much choice in the matter after growing up with a father and two brothers that totally immersed him gridiron culture.
"We're a football family," Chewning said. "My dad (Wayne) played quarterback in high school and in the Marines. And both my brothers (Kyle, 25, and Lee, 22) played at North Gwinnett. Kyle also played at Maryville College. I've been playing ever since I can remember."
It certainly shows on the field.
"I was talking to the defensive coordinator at LaGrange (College), who coached against his brother (Kyle), and he told me if Scott's anything like his brother, we'll take him right now. That's the kind of football players there are in his family," Luttrell said. "He plays like a coach's son, someone who's been around the game all his life and just understands everything that's going on."
Chewning's feel for the gridiron is perhaps best illustrated in his quick transition to the defensive side of the ball.
After playing quarterback for much of his career, Chewning was asked by War Eagles coaches prior to the season to also start at free safety -- due to youth on the Chestatee squad.
Since taking up defense, all Chewning has done is rack up 21 tackles, including 16 solo stops (second best on the team) and pick off three passes, two of which he returned for scores in last week's win over Dawson County.
"I've enjoyed it," Chewning said of defense. "It's a different experience -- and it's much nicer to deliver the hit rather than get hit."
Chewning learned all about taking the big hit last season when, in a 31-17 loss to White County, he landed badly on his shoulder while being tackled. The fall broke his collarbone and forced him from the remainder of the campaign, as the War Eagles finished with four straight losses and a 4-6 record.
"Watching your team struggle and you can't play... it's hard," Chewning said. "It really helped me appreciate how much I love the game. I had been hit a lot harder before with no problems, but that's just the way things go sometimes."
Yet there was no doubt amongst the War Eagles coaching staff that a healthy Chewning would be ready for the extra duties this season.
"We'd always tried to protect him because he was the quarterback," Luttrell said. "But this year, we just needed him to do more because of the situation we were in. And he's handling it well. He's played the second most amount of plays of anyone on the team."
The situation Luttrell referred to is youth, as Chestatee entered 2010 looking for big things from a number of underclassmen. And while that youth hurt in a season-opening loss to West Hall, the younger War Eagles have been learning quickly thanks in large part to Chewning and the other Chestatee seniors.
"That first night of Friday night lights is hard to handle," Chewning said. "But we've gotten a lot better since then."
Indeed, the War Eagles have won two straight, as younger players have begun stepping up. Older players like Alex Moore, a running back turned wide receiver, have also turned in breakout performances -- something that Chewning says is the key to his impressive offensive output so far.
"They're making my numbers look a whole lot better," Chewning said. "I throw a 10-yard pass and they take it 70 yards to the house. I've been making good passes, but I've gotten a lot of help."
Luttrell says Chewning's role on the team is much more intricate than the senior indicates.
"He's -- and all the seniors have -- helped a lot of young players get better," Luttrell said. "In the last game, he only made one mis-read. He also helps the kids understand what's expected of them on Friday nights. And the thing he is, he really cares about helping them. He wants to build them up."
If Chewning can help the War Eagles knock off Monroe Area on Friday, Chestatee's quarterback, and the War Eagles in general, will certainly have the attention of all of Region 8-AAA.
"We expect great things of Scott," Luttrell said. "And he's only going to get better."
CHESTATEE at MONROE AREA
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Legion Field, Monroe
-- CHESTATEE (2-1, 0-0 Region 8A-AAA): Defeated Dawson County 55-7 last week.
-- MONROE (3-0, 0-0 Region 8B-AAA): Defeated Lumpkin County 10-3 last week.
-- LAST MEETING: This is the two teams' first meeting.