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BY JEFF FALK

If I called you a ‘beast’, you might be taken aback, insulted or hurt. Call Matt Vines a ‘beast’, and it puts a huge smile on his face.

Vines is a beast in the most figurative sense of the word. But off the gridiron, Vines is the furthest thing from the most literal sense of the word.

A Northern Lebanon senior, Vines is the best football lineman in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. He is also the best player in an up-front group that is the key to the 4-0 Vikings’ success.

“It’s always a positive thing when you’re getting a compliment,” said Vines of the ‘beast’ tag. “Some guys on the team have called me that before. It means ‘nice hit’, ‘good play’, ‘keep it up’ ‘keep it going’ It means you excelled on that play. That you put in the work.”

“He’s been the best lineman in Section Three the last two years,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Roy Wall. “His tackles-for-loss are off the charts. He has almost as many tackles-for-loss as he does tackles. He’s just a force. He just does a really good job for us, up-front.”

IMG_2893Between the lines, the Vikings’ offense often looks to run behind Vines, while opposing offenses try to run away from him. Yet whether it’s as an offensive guard or a defensive end, Vines is almost impossible to handle.

His combination of speed, strength, agility and a quick first burst are rare for 6-0, 225-pound frames. And that doesn’t take into account his always revved motor.

Last season, Vines was a first-team all-Lebanon County and L-L Section Three selection on both offense and defense. His 77 tackles were second on a Northern Lebanon squad that won the Section Three championship and qualified for the District Three Class AAA postseason, and he led the Vikings in sacks and tackles for losses.

IMG_2898“I like defense better,” said Vines. “It’s always been my thing. I like blasting through the line and hitting the guy with the ball. For this season, my goals were to achieve more than I did last year.”

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” said Wall. “He’s a great wrestler. It’s all natural strength. He doesn’t spend hours in the weight room because he’s always competing.”

But while Vines might be the first one to knock you over on the football field, he’s also be the first one there to dust you off and help you up. Talking to him might lead you to believe he’s just too nice of a kid to play the violent sport – that is unless you’ve seen him play.

“I don’t really talk on the field,” said Vines. “But I’ll always show up. The only talking I’ll do is if I know someone from the other team from another sport, and then I’ll ask how they’re doing. If it’s trash talk, it’s not worth my while.

IMG_9533“I just like to go out there and do work,” continued Vines. “I’m not outspoken. But if I’m around our guys and I get excited, I can get loud. I’m a strong, silent leader. I don’t like to talk about myself. I don’t like to say I’m this or that. It doesn’t match up to what’s going on.”

Vines’ on-field and off-field personalities may be slightly different, but he is always humble, respectful, unassuming and courteous. He would prefer to tiptoe around the spotlight than have it illuminate his talents.

“I’m quiet,” said Vines. “I guess I can be loud around my friends. But I don’t like to stand out too much. I try to work hard and get stuff done. I guess my personality is a little different on the field. I’ll be quiet until I get worked up, and then I’ll say things like ‘good job’ or ‘way to go’.  My only thought on the field is, ‘Hit this guy and get to the guy with the ball’. But I wouldn’t say I can turn it off and on.

IMG_2855“Coaches use me for an example sometimes,” added Vines. “I have people asking me, ‘How do you do that?’ or ‘Where am I supposed to go?’. My mindset is: ‘If I work hard, they’ll (his teammates) work hard too.”

“Yeah, he’s a leader,” said Wall. “The one thing really unique about Matt is that since the winter season of his sophomore year he’s been a section champion. He’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s a leader by example. Our younger players are almost in awe of Matt. He’s the total package.”

Because of Vines’ and the play of the people around him, Northern Lebanon has been dominant in each of its outings this season. Right now, the Vikings appear to be the favorite to repeat in Section Three.

“Things are going pretty good,” said Vines. “The team is looking like it should. We’re hoping to do well, and we’re doing good so far.

IMG_9512“The past two weeks I didn’t perform like I should have,” Vines added. “But I’m working hard in practice, and hoping to step up.”

“Our whole defensive line is playing outstanding, not just Matt,” said Wall. “But he’s the focal point. You have to have two blockers on him all the time. His hustle is outstanding, and his angles of pursuit are very good.”

Vines is also an accomplished thrower in track and field and one of the top 220-pound wrestlers locally. He played a big role in Northern Lebanon creating Lebanon County wrestling history last winter, with an extended run in the state team tournament.

IMG_2968“Football is definitely my favorite sport,” said Vines. “I’ve been playing football for 11 years. One of our (assistant) coaches (head wrestling coach Rusty Wallace) talked me into going out for wrestling because he said it would help my football. It was like going from one family to another. He’d been asking me, and I’d say it has helped me. Wrestling is a different sport. It takes a higher endurance level, a higher fitness level.

“I missed three weeks of the wrestling season because of a leg injury, and I came back for team states,” Vines continued. “There were a lot of good teams there and we performed well.”

Vines would like to attend college, and play sports, but his priority is his major. If he was accepted to a school that offers robotic engineering, but didn’t offer football, wrestling or track and field, it may be that Vines never competes in athletics again.

“That’s exactly right,” said Vines, an ‘A’ and ‘B’ student. “I’m sure I’d miss it, but it’s a bigger decision to get the major. I haven’t made any visits yet. I’ve talked to some football coaches, but they were from schools that don’t offer my major.”

“He is one of the most grounded young men I have ever met,” said Wall. “Academics come first for Matt. His goal in life is to study robotics. You couldn’t ask for a better young man. He has tremendous values. He’s been a delight to coach for the last three years.”

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to see more go to www.http://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/gallery-nine/.

IMG_2924Lancaster-Lebanon League

Section Three Standings

TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
Northern Lebanon 1-0 4-0
Donegal 1-0 2-2
Elco 1-0 1-3
Annville-Cleona 0-1 3-1
Pequea Valley 0-1 2-2
Ephrata 0-1 0-4
Columbia 0-0 0-4

 2015 Northern Lebanon Results

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DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
09/04
Pine Grove
7:00 PM W 52-0
09/11
@Lebanon
7:00 PM W 51-27
09/18
@Hamburg
7:00 PM W 36-25
09/25 *
Ephrata
7:00 PM W 57-26
DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
10/02 *
@Pequea Valley
7:00 PM Pequea Valley High School
10/09
Williams Valley
7:00 PM Northern Lebanon High School
10/16 *
Elco
7:00 PM Northern Lebanon High School
10/23 *
Annville-Cleona
7:00 PM Northern Lebanon High School
10/30 *
@Donegal
7:00 PM Donegal High School
11/06 *
@Columbia
7:00 PM Columbia High School

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