Football: Tuscarora Defensive Lineman Matei Fitz Commits to DI-FCS James Madison

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Leesburg, Va. — Over his high school career, Matei Fitz has played 38 varsity games and appeared in two state championships. In 2019, an impressive junior season earned him a spot on the VHSL 4A all-state first team while also picking up VHSL Region 4C, Dulles District, and Cheers and LoCoSports All-LoCo Defensive Player of the Year honors. That junior campaign also solidified him as a top recruit out of northern Virginia which came with nearly two dozen offers to play Division I football.

On September 5, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive tackle gave the purple and gold Dukes cause for celebration when he committed to continue his football career at James Madison University starting in the 2021-2022 school year.

“JMU offers the right mix of outstanding academics, strong football, and great people, and the campus is beautiful. Also, our family has many friends who talk about how rewarding and fun their four years were at JMU,” Fitz said. “From a football perspective, the coaches are all great people and the fan base and game day experience is incredible.”

Led by second-year head coach Curt Cignetti, the James Madison Dukes are a perennial power in the Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision, where they’ve played in 6 straight national championship games, winning titles in both 2004 and 2016. The DI-FCS Dukes finished their 2019 season at 14-2, dropping their first game of the season, 20-13, to West Virginia, before falling in the national championship game to North Dakota State.

“My goal is to work hard, compete, and earn immediate playing time,” Fitz said. “My aggressive play and ability to read defenses meshes well with how they run their defense, so they can expect me to go 110% and try to make an already outstanding defense even better.”

Due to COVID-19, JMU suspended its fall football season but continues to work with the Colonial Athletic Association and NCAA to explore a spring season. Much like JMU, Tuscarora’s fall season was suspended with the VHSL planning on hosting the football season in the spring of 2021. Although his senior year hasn’t gone as planned, Fitz has made his intentions for the spring very clear.

“It’s hard to think about college because right now I am focused on helping Tuscarora win a state championship,” Fitz said. “But having the pressure of that decision off my shoulders is a relief, and I can focus on getting better and helping my team.”

If the VHSL’s plan goes ahead as scheduled, football practices will start on February 4, 2021 with the first contest held on March 1.

In 2019, Fitz and the Huskies finished 13-2 overall, falling to powerhouse Lake Taylor in the VHSL 4A State championship game. Their only other loss came in the form of a 2-point heartbreak at the hands of Dulles District rival Broad Run to open their season; Tuscarora exacted revenge on the Spartans when it mattered most in the VHSL Region 4C championship game.

“My amazing experience at Tuscarora is something for which I will be forever grateful and never forget,” Fitz said. “Coach [Brandon Wheelbarger] and the entire football staff lead us as football players and care for us as young men. My Tuscarora experience is about far more than football: it’s a brotherhood.”

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Owen Gotimer has a passion for helping people grow and self-educate through new media. Owen spent his college years at Syracuse University, where he studied broadcast and digital journalism in the renowned Newhouse School of Public Communications. In his "free time", Owen volunteers as a varsity baseball coach at John Champe and is the president of the Jeffrey C. Fowler Memorial Scholarship.

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