Ex-quarterback makes run for it

Francis Scott Key's Matt Angell has been dominant since switching to fullback.

November 09, 2005|By RICH SCHERR | RICH SCHERR,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Matt Angell always saw himself becoming an impact player for the Francis Scott Key football team.

He just never envisioned doing it from so deep in the backfield. Groomed to be a quarterback from his earliest days in the sport, the senior has long since given up his dreams of slinging the ball around the field. These days, he's gaining yardage in large chunks as one of the area's most dominant fullbacks.

The change didn't come without more than a little trepidation.

"I was pretty upset at first," said Angell, who was asked by coach John Baugher to switch from quarterback to running back prior to last season. "I knew a younger quarterback was going to take my spot, and I wasn't sure because I was a junior at the time. I was kind of iffy."

As opposing defenders quickly learned, however, there was no wavering in his running style. Always quick to the hole, Angell consistently uses his power to break arm tackles, his balance to stay on his feet and his speed to burst into the secondary.

Last season, he gained 813 yards as part of a potent tandem with Layton Hersh, now a freshman at Division II power Shepherd University. Switched to fullback this season - the primary rushing position in Key's offense - Angell has amassed 1,094 yards by averaging nearly 8 yards a carry, helping put the Eagles (6-3) on the cusp of the Class 2A playoffs.

Earlier this season, he gained a career-best 282 yards on 22 carriers against Century, including touchdown runs of 20, 58 and 54 yards.

"He's killed us the past two years," Century coach Tony Shermeyer said. "In the game this year, he would just hit the line so quick on a trap. He has great vision to see where the hole is going to be and get there. He's a hard kid to bring down."

Not bad for a player who had always pictured himself attacking defenses with his passing.

His father, Steve Angell, a quarterback at Key in the early 1980s, said he began teaching his son how to play the position when he was 7. He coached Matt throughout his days in the Taneytown Junior Eagles football program, and left him with some invaluable lessons along the way.

"One thing I taught him in football was that you either hit or you get hit, and you want to be the one hitting," Steve Angell said. "When we needed a first down, basically we just put the ball in his hands. He always got the job done."

Angell remained a quarterback when he got to high school, but he seldom got the opportunity to throw the ball. On a team built around its dominant running game and huge offensive line, his talent seemed to be going to waste, and it wasn't long before the coaches knew it was time for a change.

"We realized [his running ability] early on," Baugher said. "Even when he was a quarterback, when we would waggle or run any type of play-action passes, he would end up running probably three-quarters of the time. He was so successful at it that we quickly realized he was going to be an awesome running back, as well."

After nearly a decade as a quarterback, however, Angell at first had a difficult time accepting the move.

"I think at first it was tough for him," Steve Angell recalled. "He kind of doubted it a little bit."

These days, those doubts have vanished. Angell relishes the chance to be his team's primary offensive weapon.

What truly sets him apart is his uncanny ability to take a hit, yet stay on his feet and keep chugging along.

"He's got awesome balance," Baugher said. "His ability to just recover from a hit and stay on his feet is pretty amazing. If he gets a seam and a crease, he's usually pretty successful getting 5, 6, 7 yards a pop."

Even more impressive is the fact that he's running behind an inexperienced offensive line that's still learning the nuances of the game.

Angell's production increased earlier this season when Baugher decided to rest him much of the time on defense - where he's an outside linebacker - instead of keeping him on the field for every snap.

Prior to the move, Angell gained 324 yards over his first four games. In the four games since, he's run for 777.

"In the third and fourth quarters, I was usually dead-dog tired," Angell said. "I couldn't move my legs and didn't have much power. But now I have a lot more energy in the second half and I can go a lot longer."

Now, he's hoping his legs can carry him straight into a collegiate program. Baugher believes that Angell has the talent to play at the Division I level, particularly if a school is willing to wait a year or two for his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame to fill out. He's also sent tapes to several Division I-AA schools in the Atlantic 10.

As Angell pours through form letters and attempts to gauge the interest of various coaches, he attacks the recruiting process much like his father years ago taught him to attack opposing defenders.

"He always told me that if I'm running toward somebody ... never stop moving my feet," Angell said. "Just keep moving forward."

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