Hard work helps Eagle fly Football: Centennial's Matt Deuchler, better known for his baseball, has 11 touchdowns and leads his team in pass receptions after working all summer to improve his speed.

October 29, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Centennial tailback and linebacker Matt Deuchler is unquestionably his team's prime leader. In his case that means someone his teammates expect to make the big plays.

When he's not on the field making those plays, the team appears out of sync, acts a little less inspired, and certainly feels the absence of one of its best athletes.

That was apparent in last Saturday's disappointing 12-7 loss to River Hill, a game many Centennial football followers think the Eagles would have won if Deuchler had been healthy. An ankle sprain severely limited his playing time.

Deuchler, at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, lacks an imposing physical presence. And he's not vocal. He's not a power back. And he lacks great speed.

But he has an intangible quality that makes him his team's captain and best player.

"He outworks everyone else. He's coachable. He's not big-headed. He deflects credit to everyone else," Centennial coach Ed Holshue said. "He also runs the screen pass better than any kid I've ever had."

Holshue wasn't even certain that Deuchler would be his tailback this season.

"I wasn't sold that he could make the cuts and had the balance to change direction," Holshue said.

An ankle sprain his sophomore year cost Deuchler a step of speed, and Holshue asked him to work hard last summer on flexibility exercises to regain that step.

"He told me I'd be in the backfield somewhere but that he wasn't sure where," Deuchler said. "I really wanted to be the tailback, so I worked hard last summer and got some speed back."

Through most of Deuchler's 12 years of organized football he was a quarterback. That's where he played his freshman year at Calvert Hall, a private high school in Towson that recruited him.

He started seven games at varsity quarterback his freshman year and the Cardinals went 3-4, but he threw two interceptions that cost the Cardinals a victory in the Turkey Bowl against Loyola.

His sophomore year was a disaster. He broke some ribs the first game against Dulaney. After the next game he left Calvert Hall and came to Centennial. But in the sixth game of the Eagles' season, he sprained an ankle against Atholton and missed two more games.

Offensively, he played flanker last season, but has gained 758 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 156 carries as a workhorse tailback this season.

He's also the team's leading pass receiver with 11 catches for 99 yards, and second-leading tackler with 21 unassisted and 36 assists.

His best running effort was a 101-yard game against league-leading Wilde Lake two weeks ago. That was hard-earned yardage. He took some vicious hits, including one by Danny Bayron that nearly cut him in half.

"He's a slasher type," Holshue said. "He has a sense of where he needs to go."

Deuchler's biggest yardage day was 192 against Howard.

"Our line opened huge holes that day," Deuchler said.

The Eagles are 4-4 and still have a good shot at a winning record.

Although he's played football all his life, baseball is undoubtedly Deuchler's best sport, one for which James Madison University recently offered him $10,000 a year scholarship.

The two-time All-County catcher was second-team All-Metro last season. He has a powerful arm and hits well. Deuchler batted .430 with 70 RBIs in 60 games last summer for the Columbia Reds.

He was invited to attend the prestigious Team I three-day baseball camp at Clemson last summer with 119 other top college and pro prospects.

Baseball runs in the family. His father was drafted by the Houston Astros his junior year in college. He turned them down, and then blew out his arm the following season.

Deuchler has a 3.42 GPA and scored 1,200 on the SAT. He also has interest in the Naval Academy, UNC-Charlotte, Clemson and Tulane, but James Madison looks like his top choice right now.

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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