NEWHALL — A funny thing happened to Kyle Matter on his way to becoming a wide receiver: Coach Mike Herrington dubbed him the next great quarterback at Hart High.
Two years ago, Herrington spotted Matter throwing to fellow receivers during a preseason freshman practice.
Since the quarterbacks were in a different area practicing handoffs, Herrington immediately sought out the freshman coach to provide insight: "I went down there and said, 'Hey, your quarterback is down here.' "
And the rest is history, er, the future.
Matter, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound junior who dreamed of playing receiver, is one varsity start into what could be another storybook career for a run-and-shoot quarterback at Hart.
He passed for 342 yards and six touchdowns against Quartz Hill last week, then wondered aloud about the volume of preseason hype when he hadn't thrown more than a handful of varsity passes, all in mop-up duty in the playoffs last year.
And what's up with UCLA sending him a recruiting letter at the end of last season, when he was the junior varsity quarterback?
Little by little, the 16-year-old is beginning to get the picture.
With 14 consecutive years of All-Southern Section quarterbacks at Hart, Matter is going to be under a microscope, whether or not he deserves the attention.
Regardless of who played quarterback for the Indians, it was inevitable comparisons would be made to predecessor Kyle Boller, who passed for 59 touchdowns last season, the second-best mark in state history.
And when the successor shares the same first name, well, it's a no-brainer.
"I was getting tired of [the comparisons] before the season started," Matter said. "I was thinking this is really a big thing, am I going to be able to live up to this?
"It is some extra pressure that maybe isn't necessary."
Herrington said the pressure comes from the media, not from his coaching staff.
"There are different styles of quarterbacks, and Kyle Matter has his own style," Herrington said. "We've told him you can't do some of the things that [Boller] did and I'm sure there a few things that you can do that Kyle Boller didn't do well."
Sharen Matter, Kyle's mother, was initially concerned about how the comparisons would affect her son, but she quickly realized he was mature enough to handle it.
"He says he's not trying to be the next Kyle Boller," Sharen Matter said. "He is trying to be the best Kyle Matter that he can be."
Actually, the Matters should be pleased that their son is playing in a fishbowl. With such a rich tradition of quarterbacks at Hart, Matter will get more extended looks from college coaches.
"It definitely helps having the legacy of quarterbacks at Hart, especially now that Boller and [David] Neill have done so well [in college]," he said.
Although Matter has started only one game, he appears headed in the same direction as his two predecessors. He has the size college coaches covet, a strong arm, quick feet and poise.
"There's a few things that he's not used to out there, but most of the time, 95% of the time, he's making the correct reads and recognizing the things that he should be," Herrington said.
On Hart's 80-yard opening drive against Quartz Hill, Matter completed five of seven passes for 60 yards, the last a nine-yard touchdown strike to Joe Aloisi, despite sustaining a cut chin on the third play that later needed three stitches to close.
With two years to developin the Hart system, Matter's potential seems limitless.
"Might not be this year, but when he's a senior, look out," Herrington said.
Matter, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., and moved to Newhall from a Chicago suburb when he was 9, has played organized football only since his freshman year.
He passed up youth football in favor of basketball and soccer. Now he is considering giving up basketball to concentrate on football in the off-season.
His free time is at a premium. In addition to being active in a Christian youth group, he maintains a 4.6 grade-point average with a class load that includes advanced-placement classes. He scored 1,300 on the pre-SAT.
He values hard work on the field as well.
Matter declined a Division III championship ring, which was offered to all underclassmen brought up for the playoffs last year.
"I wanted to earn one for myself," Matter said. "I think [the coaches] respected us for it. They know it makes us hungrier."
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14 YEARS OF ALL-SOUTHERN SECTION QUARTERBACKS
1998 Kyle Boller
1997 David Neill
1996 Travis Carroll
1995 Steve McKeon
1994 Steve McKeon
1993 Mike Kocicka
1992 Davis Delmatoff
1991 Ryan Connors
1990 Ryan Connors
1989 Rob Westervelt
1988 Rob Westervelt
1987 Darren Renfro
1986 Jim Bonds
1985 Jim Bonds