At home here, too

At 8, Jason Mattison chose the rough-and-tumble of catching in baseball. Today, he's Perry Hall's quarterback, comfortable as the Gators' leader.

Football

November 15, 2006|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Reporter

When Perry Hall senior quarterback Jason Mattison first donned shoulder pads and a helmet as an 8-year-old offensive and defensive lineman, it took him only a few weeks to determine that football was not the game for him.

"I don't think I was tough enough to appreciate the physical part of it," said Mattison, who that same year found his niche as a catcher in the Lutherville recreation baseball program.

"The physical contact of playing catcher seemed a little less difficult, but at the same time, it was tougher on you mentally," said Mattison, 18, who returned to football as a seventh-grader. "Even though a catcher gets beat up sometimes, blocking pitches, dealing with [sliding] runners at home plate, I felt like I was challenged a lot more. You have to know where everyone is on the field, on the base paths. Playing quarterback is very similar - that's what I believe attracted me to the position."

Count Perry Hall coach Nick Arminio among those who is glad Mattison is back on the football field, where he has quarterbacked the 11th-ranked Gators (9-1) to the past two of their three straight Baltimore County 4A-3A League titles.

"Jason manages the game real well, and he's a very heady player," said Arminio, who called Mattison "the difference" in Friday night's 28-26 comeback victory over league rival Kenwood, during which he threw for a season-high 270 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a score.

The effort by Mattison, 6 feet and 180 pounds, earned the Gators the No. 1 seed entering Friday night's Class 4A North region playoff semifinal against league rival Parkville.

After leading last season's Gators to 11 straight victories before losing the regional title game to eventual 4A state runner-up Sherwood of Montgomery County, a stronger and more mature Mattison was among the Gators' few returning starters this year.

Mattison, who maintains a B average with a course load that includes advanced placement physics and government as well as honors college algebra, has persevered off the field as well, despite having lost his brother, Tyler, who died three years ago at the age of 10 as a result of a hunting accident.

"Tyler had the potential to play sports and would have probably been better than me because he was a lefty, had a natural talent and could throw the ball a mile," Mattison said. "I'm a Christian, and I'm very strong in my faith. I do think about Tyler, but I try not to take that onto the field with me. Sports are the type of thing where I can get away from my emotional life and concentrate more on the mental part of the game, keeping my mind away from my troubles."

John Kehner, Mattison's grandfather, said: "Jason has faced some adversities in his young life, and he's always been a source of great pride to his grandmother and me. Yet he's constantly responded in a positive and confident way that uplifts the entire family."

Mattison's athleticism and familiarity with the Gators' triple-option offense have helped him draw attention from the U.S. Naval Academy and Penn State. Although he may be close to landing a baseball scholarship to the University of Tennessee-Martin, the chance to play both sports could land him at Division III Salisbury.

"I'd have to say I like baseball more. I've been with it so long," said Mattison, whose pitching and hitting skills helped the Gators to a berth in the second round of last spring's regional baseball playoffs. "They're definitely very close in my heart. If I can play both sports in college, I will."

Mattison, who has rushed for nearly 200 yards and nine touchdowns, and thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 15 scores, spreads the ball evenly to his receivers - Sean McColligan, Ryan Pittillo and Dave Stinebaugh.

"Jason's presence forces teams to defend the whole field. Without him in there, it's an adjustment for us," said Arminio, whose Gators struggled to defeat Woodlawn, 14-8, in one of two games Mattison missed with an ankle injury. "Mentally and physically, he's just a real tough kid."

lem.satterfield@baltsun.com

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