By sheer production alone, Gilman's Jake Matthai would be difficult to overlook on the field. Then, when you consider his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame, it's easy to see why rival defenders had no trouble locating the senior midfield star — or why they would want to dismiss someone accomplished enough to be recruited by the University of North Carolina.
Deceptively fast for his size and possessing a wicked shot, the 2012 Baltimore Messenger Player of the Year was a force for the Greyhounds during a 2012 season that ended in a 13-5 loss to Loyola Blakefield in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal.
"He's a threat all over the field," said junior faceoff specialist Stephen Kelly of conference champion and rival Calvert Hall. "He's a good feeder and a very good shooter with both hands. He'll do great things at UNC."
Stephen Kelly's cousin, Patrick, a standout senior attackman for the Cardinals, added to the Matthai tribute without commenting at length on his skill-set as a player.
"He was the second guy to text me after (Calvert Hall won) the championship," Patrick Kelly said. "That's the kind of guy he is. We've been friends since the eighth grade and we're on the same club team (Trilogy). He's just a great guy and a great player."
Matthai also became the midfield's most potent weapon after a junior season in which he totaled nine goals, four assists and 34 groundballs for the a Gilman squad that topped the Kelly cousins and Calvert Hall for the 2011 conference crown. This spring those totals rose to 21 goals, 12 assists and 35 groundballs.
"Jake was the focal point of every team's defensive game plan," Gilman coach Brooks Matthews said. "He faced off, played defense, and served as the top offensive midfield threat and improved his shooting and passing to become a very effective scorer and feeder. He played with great energy and passion for the game and for his teammates. Being a great teammate and leader was just as important to Jake and being a great player."
The Greyhounds (12-4) began the 2012 season with a 10-3 verdict over five-time state champion Hereford with Matthai contributing two goals and an assist in the triumph.
Four days later, he notched the game-tying goal in a 7-6 win at Georgetown Prep and assisted on teammate Gordie Koerber's game-winner in overtime.
"That was a really fun game," said Matthai, who also played on the runner-up soccer team and B Conference winning basketball squad. "The environment was great."
Although he led a spirited comeback in an 11-8 loss to Calvert Hall, Matthai said, "I got hot at the end, but for the larger part of the game, I was kind of cold."
He still led all scorers with four points (3 goals, 1 assist) in the contest, willing his way around and through a slew of Cardinal defenders in the fourth quarter to make the score closer.
After earning the third seed for the postseason, Matthai and his mates could feel momentum building after the Greyhounds edged Boys' Latin in overtime near the end of the regular season and routed Severn in a playoff opener.
Then game a disastrous first half in a semifinal against Loyola in which Gilman trailed, 10-0, before being eliminated from the title hunt.
"We went into the playoffs feeling pretty good, like we were peaking a the right time," he said. "But it was like the first time when we played them (a 10-5 loss), we got behind and then they scored one goal after another. We couldn't recover."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun