Versatile Haines is key for Key Senior co-captain an all-purpose star


Matt Haines stood out all week at the Francis Scott Key football practices.

The senior co-captain was the guy wearing the red jersey with the No. 93, as in 1993. The jersey goes to the player who gives the "biggest winning effort" in the previous Friday's game.

Haines' effort in the Eagles' tough 14-0 loss to Boonsboro -- an interception, fumble recovery, 10 tackles and a 38-yard punting average -- made it a simple choice for coach Mike Coons and his staff.

There are few players who better depict the Eagles than Haines, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound all-purpose player.

Last week, he was at fullback. This week, chances are he'll run the offense at quarterback when the Eagles meet powerful Middletown.

"If I told him we needed him to play guard, he'd go," Coons said. "We haven't had a true quarterback in five years and he stepped in and volunteered knowing it had to be done. He's the kind of kid you love to have on your team. He's an overachiever who isn't blessed with great speed or size, but compensates with hard work and a strong desire to win."

Haines just needs to be in the middle of the action.

"I just like being on the field," Haines said. "Not knowing where I'll be playing makes me work that much harder at both in practice."

He also plays free safety on defense, punts and is the holder on extra points. Coons would rather not use him on defense, but doesn't have much choice with a small Eagles roster.

"In ninth grade, he was a tiny little kid who liked to hit people," Coons said. "We don't like to play him on defense, but just don't have the numbers to allow him not to. We play him at free safety to try to keep him away from the play-to-play pounding, but he finds a way to do some pounding of his own. He loves to hit and get after people. He lays it on the line every week."

Haines doesn't mind playing both sides of the ball, because defense gives him a chance to do what he likes most -- hit.

"Basically, I like to hit and hurt," he said. "That way, they know I'm back there and the next time they come around they'll be thinking about me instead of catching the ball.

"When I was little, my dad used to put haystacks in the backyard and I used to run into them. That's how I learned to hit."

The Eagles have struggled in recent years, often being undersized and undermanned. Although their 1-4 record doesn't indicate it, they have shown signs of coming into their own this season.

Last week's opponent, Boonsboro, was undefeated in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League but the Eagles played well in what Coons described as an "out-of-this-world" defensive effort.

Haines was right in the middle of it. That's how he likes it.

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