Before the start of the season, Coach Mark Paredes thought there was cause for alarm about the Bishop Amat High football team.
Never mind that the Lancers had been perennial CIF Southern Section powers and had won the Angelus League title five years in a row. Paredes was concerned because the team would be starting as many as 15 juniors and sophomores in the usually senior-oriented program.
More important, Bishop Amat didn't have the typical break-away threat that has characterized its offense in recent years.
At least not until junior Scott Fields stepped into the starting lineup at tailback.
In his first season as a varsity tailback, the 6-foot-3 and 190-pound Fields ranks among the San Gabriel Valley leaders with 1,236 yards and 14 touchdowns in 129 carries--an average of 8.5 yards a carry. He is also plays defensive end and is one of the team's top defenders.
Fields rushed for a season-high 214 yards in only 16 carries in Bishop Amat's 31-13 victory over Lakewood in the first round of the playoffs last week.
Paredes said the emergence of Fields has been important to the success of the team, which once again won the Angelus League title and is seeded No. 2 in the Division I playoffs with a 9-1 record heading into a quarterfinal game against Canyon on Friday night at College of the Canyons.
"In order to get to the playoffs and succeed you need someone who can give you a little something extra and he's the type of person who can give you that something extra," Paredes said.
Just how good is the 17-year-old Fields?
"He's the type of player that can make the big play and for that reason he's a great player," Paredes said. "At any time we feel like he can take control of the game himself and that makes him dangerous."
But Fields' success is not a complete surprise.
"We had an inkling that he'd be able to do this well," Paredes said. "Nothing's a sure thing but we felt he had as good of a chance as anyone to accomplish what he's done."
The impact of Fields as a tailback this season has been especially impressive considering that he last played the position as a part-time starter on the Bishop Amat freshman team.
Even then Fields had to share playing time with Miregi Huma, who has since developed into a standout linebacker for Bishop Amat.
Fields was promoted to the varsity last season, although his playing time was limited to sporadic duty as a defensive end.
"I didn't play much at all," he said. "Last year I didn't even play offense. I was a backup defensive player. In my freshman year I played tailback and defensive end but when they moved me up it was as a defensive player."
Paredes said Fields has been making steady progress during the season.
"He's grown into his roles and he's improved with each week," he said. "He still has a long way to go, though. He's nowhere near a finished product yet. But he definitely has the potential. It's just a matter of developing it."
Fields said he has much to learn.
"There's a lot about (tailback) that I don't know," he said. "Mostly I have to work on my weight. I'm pretty light for the size I have and that's something I have to work on.
"My coaches also tell me I'm dancing around too much instead of looking for the holes and taking what my offensive line gives me. A person who's experienced knows where the holes should be. For me it's kind of natural and sometimes I just hit (the hole) wrong but when I hit it right it can turn out pretty good."
Fields' potential has already drawn comparisons to former great tailbacks at the school, including all-time rushing leader Eric Bieniemy, who is a Heisman Trophy candidate at the University of Colorado, and Mazio Royster, who starts at tailback for USC.
Paredes said Fields has the ability to develop in the same mold as a Bieniemy or a Royster, but Fields is simply satisfied to be starting for the tradition-rich Lancers.
Fields doesn't feel as if he has to chase the records of Bieniemy or any other Bishop Amat tailback of the past.
"I'm not trying to beat any of Eric's records," he said. "Having fun is what I'm really striving for and I'm having fun because that's what my brothers always wanted to do when they played."
Fields has a large family with seven brothers and a sister. Two of his brothers were also outstanding tailbacks. Arnold, 25, started at tailback for Bishop Amat in 1982 before playing collegiately at Kansas and briefly with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1988. Arby, 30, was a standout tailback at Bassett High in La Puente and held many school rushing records until Marshawn Thompson shattered them last season.
Fields said he looks up to his two brothers as role models.
"Both of my brothers have been here for me and helped me out," he said. "They've shown me what I had to do. At first I didn't think I would be a starter but they showed me that if I worked hard, that is what I could become.
"Instead of looking up to Eric Bieniemy, I've always looked up to my older brothers. They've been my real role models."