MA’s Wallace named runner-up

Published 10:26 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

Matt Wallace is actually the first underclassman to finish in the top two for Athlete of the Year nominees. But that is just one many precedents Wallace has managed to set.

See, in Marengo Academy athletics, Matt Wallace is as close to Mr. Everything as anyone has ever been. A three-sport standout, Wallace is the unquestioned leader of every boys team that wears an orange jersey.

That is an unusual position for a junior to be in, but Matt is not the usual junior. He has an unparalleled moxie that has earned him the respect of teammates and coaches alike.

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On the basketball court, he is the point guard. Entirely capable of filling it up almost at will for sustained intervals, Wallace defers to his teammates first. He embraces the responsibility of getting everyone involved. So he works it to the post and out onto the wing. When no one is open, he drives to rim, collapsing the defense and making things happen. His gritty determination was an integral cog in the Longhorns continuing their run of state tournament appearances.

Speaking of gritty determination, the slight in frame Wallace put that aspect of his personality on display weekly during the Longhorns’ football season. The junior bore the responsibility of leading an outmanned roster under a first-year coach. So he did. He took the snaps at quarterback. He played free safety. He was the punter and the punt returner. Other than blowout situations, Wallace only left the field on kickoffs and kick returns, and even that was too much for him.

Time and time again, Wallace could be found trudging across a muddy Linden field, taking a play from his head coach and limping back to the huddle. Then, with wild consistency, he would execute the offense, showing an uncanny ability to shake off the negative and focus on the task at hand.

Perhaps it is that resiliency that made him so effective on the mound in 2010. Again the heartbeat of the Marengo Academy dugout, Wallace proved to be a big game pitcher for the Longhorns. That fact was never more apparent than a 13-inning playoff stretch that saw him fan 16 batters, allow only three hits and give up no runs. And while his batting average wasn’t where he would have wanted it, Wallace continually found ways to get it done for MA. Defensively? He earned enough favor in his coach’s eyes that he played four positions during the playoffs, covering his customary ground at short as well as stints on the mound, at second base and even a brief cameo at first base.

And after the Longhorns fell in the state championship, Wallace was as emotional as anyone. But he did not show that to his teammates. He kept it together, remained an encourager and walked off the field with pride. Then he let his frustrations show around the edges. But that is entirely indicative of the passionate player that he is. He wants to win as much as anyone and more than most. So this offseason, Wallace will probably be found doing whatever he can to make himself better. And when it comes time to once again dawn the orange jersey, Wallace will probably do what he does best, lead his team into the fray against whatever odds, show no fear and walk off he field with pride, even it means he has to limp in the process.