Head in the game

Jon Grant's speed and accuracy strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams and boost Harford Christian School's team spirit


September 24, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special To The Sun

Havre de Grace found a way to shut down high-scoring Harford Christian forward Jon Grant last week. The Warriors put three and four players on Grant whenever he'd touch the ball.

That strategy kept Grant scoreless and helped Havre de Grace post a 3-0 shutout. But not many teams have done anything close to that against Grant. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior is a four-year starter who reached the 100-goal plateau earlier this month.

"There are a lot of kids who have that frame, but few have the explosiveness and breakaway speed he's got," Harford Christian coach Bryan Wilson said. "I've seen very few high school athletes who can match his speed, but the ones who can match his speed can't match his footwork."

Grant, who helped the Eagles win the Maryland Association of Christian Schools Athletic Conference (MACSAC) championship last season, has career totals of 107 goals and 40 assists.

"I'd say I'm a lot better now than I was as a freshman," said Grant, whose team was 3-3-1 through Wednesday. "But there's no way I'd call myself a complete player yet because there's so many things I have to work on."

Grant's speed enables him to cut through defenses to get one-on-one scoring chances. In a recent game, Grant did just that at the outset and scored at the 15-second mark.

Wilson also coached Grant in middle school and has seen teams try all kinds of approaches -- most often double teams.

"Jon can unleash a full volley from the middle of the pack," Wilson said. "He is capable of scoring with either foot. He's scored off of bicycle kicks, and he can bend the ball right to left or left to right."

Grant's ability has forced Wilson to call him off against some opponents because the Eagles don't want to embarrass teams. Wilson might let Grant score three goals or watch the team take a 6-0 lead before moving him back to defense or sitting him down.

"When he's not on the field, it seems like we're going to be playing defense the whole time," Harford Christian sweeper John Mark Edwards said. "The team spirit goes way down when he's not on the field."

Grant started playing soccer at age 4 and was in travel team competition a few years later. He also played club ball for the Harford Kicks, Baltimore Bays and Baltimore Pompei -- usually serving as a striker and a leading scorer.

Loyola coach Kyle Swords coached Grant for a few seasons in club ball. Swords said that even though Harford Christian's schedule isn't as strong as others', there's no question Grant would fare well against tougher teams.

"The goals that he is scoring, it doesn't matter the competition he's playing," Swords said. "The things that he's doing, I don't think the level of competition would make a difference. I don't know if he'd score as frequently, but he'd do just fine."

Grant knows that some might think his numbers are inflated because the Eagles don't play the strongest of schedules, but Harford Christian also plays a number of public school teams. Grant recently scored all of the Hawks' goals in a 3-1 victory over Aberdeen.

"It's the truth: There are schools that aren't very good in our league," Grant said. "But we play public schools, and I've scored goals against them, too. No, we're not playing schools like Bel Air, C.M. Wright or Fallston, but we're still playing big schools and we're still beating some of them, and I think that says a lot about our program."

Swords and Wilson said that Grant is a college prospect, possibly a Division I player. But Grant said he's not sure he wants to do that.

"I think I can make it in college playing, but I've tried to look at it from a more practical standpoint," Grant said. "I could play soccer for four years and get into a league somewhere, but I'd like to get a good education and get prepared for life in the real world."

Grant has fared almost as well in basketball. He's about to reach a milestone in that sport this winter, having scored 960 career points, but he knows going from that level to college basketball also would be difficult.

That's why he is trying to have fun now. School officials got Grant to pull a net off the back of a truck, releasing 100 balloons into the sky after he scored his 100th goal. Sharon Grant said her son doesn't enjoy the spotlight, but he understood this time.

"I knew there was going to be a little bit of a celebration," Jon Grant said. "They surprised me, and it was nice."

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