Eyler has it covered

After starting last season on the JV lacrosse team, Nate Eyler of Francis Scott Key has made his mark as a standout defenseman.

April 05, 2006|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Liberty star attackman Matt Latham tore through the area competition in lacrosse last season.

He scored five goals in a game three times and had nine goals against North Hagerstown. In all, he scored 49 goals with 20 assists on the season.

But there was one noticeable time last year when Latham left the field scoreless after a game - when he matched up with Francis Scott Key defenseman Nate Eyler.

Despite starting his junior year on junior varsity, Eyler quickly established himself as a standout varsity defenseman, earning All-County status.

Now a senior, Eyler, a fourth-year lacrosse player, is looking to turn his strong defensive skills into more wins for the Eagles (1-1).

"That might have been the first time some people noticed how good Nate is," said Francis Scott Key assistant coach Brent Whalen, referring to Eyler's shutout of Latham. "But he does that every single week. He wants to mark the best player on the other team. That's who he wants every game. He's not afraid of that confrontation. He thinks the only way to push himself is against the best. If Nate lines up against you, that's a sign of respect, because he only wants to face the best."

Eyler, 6 feet 4 and 210 pounds, is also a standout performer in football.

An inside linebacker, he recorded 109 tackles and four sacks last fall. He also played offensive line, where he opened up holes for running back Matt Angell, who rushed for nearly 1,400 yards.

For his efforts, Eyler was named The Sun's County Defensive Player of the Year this fall.

Despite his success in football, Eyler said lacrosse is quickly becoming his main sport. He plans to play the spring sport next year at West Virginia University.

"I like the emotion I get from playing it," Eyler said of lacrosse. "I had never played before my freshman year. I was just playing to keep in shape for football. But I just fell in love with it."

Eyler, who carries a 3.7 grade point average, said he and his defense's goal for the year is to keep opponents to five or less goals a game.

The midfielders and attackmen on the team said they know Eyler will not let them down in big games.

"He's very intense," senior attackman John Martin said. "He has a lot of heart and emotion. He's always doing what he needs to do on the field."

Said midfielder Nick Hanson: "I know he'll get his job done and he can bring the ball down to us so we can get our job done."

Coaches said that Eyler's best attribute is his ability to push himself beyond what most players will force themselves to do.

In his team's opening game against C. Milton Wright on March 27, for example, Eyler pushed himself so hard by running late in the game that he got physically sick on the sideline.

But he re-entered the game to scoop up a ground ball and contribute a key assist, which led to an eventual 7-6 victory in triple overtime for Francis Scott Key.

"He pushes his body so far," Whalen said. "There are other players who, if they get a little bit winded, they want to get a drink of water and take a break. Nate reminds me of a thoroughbred horse. If they break a leg, they still want to push to get the finish line. Every coach wishes they had a whole team of [players like] him. He leads by example. He'll go out and back up what he says."

Said Francis Scott Key head coach Geoff Waugh of Eyler: "He has a tremendous amount of want. He gives everything he has when he's out on the field."

Eyler said his drive comes from a desire to set a good example for his teammates.

"I'm the captain and I feel the need to show heart to make everybody on our team play like that," Eyler said. "Once we get our offense together, I think we can be successful."

Senior Josh Muskin, a fellow defenseman, said: "As a player, he seems that he tries harder than everyone else. He takes a lot more responsibility than other people. Playing with him is really uplifting, because regardless of the situation, he always stays positive."

Eyler said he is looking forward to marking Latham again when Francis Scott Key plays Liberty on May 2.

"His size and his skill makes him hard to cover," Eyler said of Latham. "He takes awesome shots. I've got to stay in front of him and put pressure on him. I'm looking forward to it."

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