Main man

Sept 1-7. 2005
VOL 124 NO. 29
Main man
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
CBA defensive end Mckenzie Mathews is among the top prospects in CNY

Last season, the Christian Brothers Academy varsity football team boasted no fewer than six players with NCAA Division I potential. In the end, three were awarded full scholarships to compete at the sport’s highest amateur level.

Receivers Lavar Lobdell and Bruce Williams both committed to Syracuse University on National Signing Day and, while he could have had his pick among Division IA football programs, quarterback Greg Paulus elected to accept a scholarship from Duke University for basketball.

But the well isn’t dry at the mighty football program and the diminutive school that houses it in Dewitt.

Like Lobdell before him, senior defensive end Mckenzie Mathews is quickly becoming a highly sought commodity.

At 6-foot-3 and some 242 pounds, Mathews possesses the speed, size and tenacity to compete among the top programs in the country, according to CBA coach Joe Casamento.

According to assistant Jim Giufre, Mathews has already received scholarship offers from SU, Pittsburgh, Alabama, the University of North Carolina and Rutgers. He is also sparking interest from the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Duke and, most recently, the University of Miami.

“Everybody likes him because of his size and speed and his tenacity,” Giufre said. “He gets off the blocks really well. He’s got great separation; he’s got great speed getting up the field. He’s got outstanding grades and he’s an old-time Miami defensive end, a real hustler and a tough, hard-nosed kid that gets up the field.”

Rivals.com lists Mathews as the No. 6 ranked prospect in New York State and the No. 15-ranked weakside defensive end in the country. Although CBA’s coaches insist that Mathews is a natural fit at defensive end alone, The Sporting News High School Preview ranks him as the nation’s No. 18 linebacker. (The Sporting News registers Mathews as the No. 30 player in the East Region.)

Mathews said that while most colleges are recruiting him strictly as a defensive end, some have noted they would consider repositioning him as a pass-rushing linebacker.

“My brother [Richard Williams, who played college football at Canisius] was a linebacker so he wants me to play that position,” Mathews said, laughing.

“He’s a ‘d-end’ [defensive end] here and at the college level,” Giufre said. “We play a four-front, just like Miami, so we can stand him up or down. But he’s a defensive end.

CBA will also get its prime athlete out on the field as a tight end this season, according to coach Joe Casamento, who said the senior still has yet to come into his own on the football field.

“He’s a great athlete. He’s just a young puppy. He doesn’t even know how good he is,” Casamento said. “I’ve never seen him mad on a football field. I’ve never seen him mad. The day he gets angry, he’s going to be a handful. He just goes out there and plays hard. He turns the corners so well on his rush. He’s got great technique.”

According to Giufre, academics will be an important part in determining which school Mathews selects. The senior scholar athlete has a 3.1 GPA. The Central New York native also has an affinity for Syracuse University.

“He’s interested in everybody,” Giufre said. “I think academics is going to play a big part in wherever he chooses. Naturally with Syracuse being close to home and being around that type of football, I think that could be a major interest for him.

Since former teammates Williams and Lobdell elected to put on the orange and blue (Lobdell passed up a scholarship offer from Miami to play for his hometown college), Mathews has been encouraged by the two all-state wideouts to join them there.

“Of course, they want me to go there,” Mathews said. “And, of course, I’m from Syracuse, so a lot of people want me to go there.”

But Mathews wants to wait and see what kind of options open up.

“A lot of schools have offered me, but I’m still waiting on a lot of other schools. I’m just waiting to find out what the best fit for me is,” he said.

Giufre says Mathews compares favorably to former SU and National Football League all-pro Dwight Freeney as well as Utica-Proctor graduate Will Smith, who played on Ohio State’s national championship team in 2002 and was drafted by the New Orleans Saints NFL franchise in 2003.

“He’s a little bit bigger than Dwight Freeney was at the same time in high school as well as Will Smith,” Giufre said. “I think Mackenzie fits that type of mold. He’s very athletic. He’s really good in space, he’s real good in contact and he’s a real good football player.”

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