Science Hill coach Stacy Carter has been saying for months that freshman Malik McGue has a chance to be special. No one at Daniel Boone would disagree.
McGue caught touchdown passes of 59 and 41 yards and returned a kickoff 93 yards for a TD while helping the Hilltoppers build a 35-12 halftime lead en route to a 42-26 victory Friday at Nathan Hale Stadium.
McGue has shown flashes this season while getting a few touches here and there and mopping up at quarterback, but opportunity knocked with leading receiver Aaron Greene missing the Boone game after getting his leg rolled up on from behind late in last week’s win against Sullivan South. (Greene is expected back.)
McGue’s first TD catch was a 59-yarder on a flanker reverse flea-flicker from Reed Hayes. It made the score 21-0 with 3:20 left in the first quarter. Will Adams scored on a 15-yard run and Anthony Head caught a 21-yard TD pass from Justin Snyder before McGue found the end zone for the Hilltoppers, who improved to 4-0 in the Big Eight Conference and 5-2 overall.
Hayes lofted the pass to McGue just out of the reach of a retreating, leaping defensive back, and McGue covered the final 35-40 yards to the end zone after the catch.
“It was perfect, right over the cornerback,” McGue said. “He didn’t even see me; I just ran right past him, and it was a perfect pass.”
The Trailblazers’ Cliff Sanders scored on a 3-yard run to make the score 21-6 with 10:45 left in the first half, which set the stage for McGue’s exciting answer up the middle of the field on the kick return.
“It was a wide-open hole and I just hit it hard,” McGue said. “And then (Chris) Scalf, No. 22, he came down and had a great block on the dude behind me. He probably would’ve caught me.”
McGue patiently weaved while Boone’s last defender tried to contain long enough for help around the Daniel Boone 25-yard line, but McGue was never touched.
“I was trying to figure out what angle to take,” McGue said. “I should’ve just ran on by him but I decided to get behind him and try to juke him out a little bit.”
McGue’s 41-yard TD catch from Snyder and Perry Murdaugh’s PAT kick made the score 35-12 with 3:13 left in the first half. At that point, Boone’s time of possession was 15:42 and Science Hill’s was 5:05. The 5-foot-6, 145-pound McGue finished with four catches for 126 yards.
“This was his breakout game,” Carter said. “He’s just a freshman and you’re gonna see a lot of great things out of him. I’m just proud of him.
“He’s a great kid, a smart kid – he can play anything. He can play quarterback, running back, receiver. He can do it all. And return kicks.”
The kick return and the flea flicker were the kicks in the gut, according to Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins, whose team fell to 1-3 in the league and 2-5 overall.
“I thought the turning point was the kickoff return – us cutting it to 21-6 there and getting a little bit of momentum and then they do that," Jenkins said. "I thought the kickoff return and then the reverse pass … were kind of the two plays that kind of broke our back, because after that we were kind of playing uphill all night. …
“They’ve got a lot of weapons on offense, and we just got shell-shocked early and never really recovered. And that’s not happened to us all year long. We defended D-B really good up until late.”
Boone finished with 238 yards rushing on 56 carries and tallied 315 yards of offense. Sanders rushed 28 times for 163 yards and two TDs, his final score coming with 26 seconds left in the game.
Sanders also recovered an onside kick with Boone trailing 28-12 and 7:40 left in the first half and ran a fake punt 28 yards to the Science Hill 27-yard line with nine minutes left in the game, although Boone failed to score on that drive.
The Trailblazers’ Austin McLemore had 17 carries for 92 yards, including a 5-yard TD.
Boone’s ground game was effective with unbalanced formations.
“We went back and looked at some film last year, and that bothered them some, you know, trying to get them out of their even defense,” Jenkins said. “I knew the only chance we could do was just get off the ball, get a hat on a hat and give our backs just a little crease.
“We hadn’t done that all year, and we just wanted to play physical. And we gave great effort.”
Carter was quick to credit Jenkins and his staff and players, but wasn’t thrilled with the intensity level the Hilltoppers had after building the 23-point lead in the first half. Science Hill lost 12 yards on the first play from scrimmage in the second half when Snyder fumbled the snap and fumbled in the game’s final minute, which Boone recovered at the Science Hill 6 to set up the final score.
“You want to be able to finish the job,” Carter said. “We lost the intensity right there after we got ahead. … They definitely had us on some things and moved the ball very effectively on us.”
Adams led Science Hill with seven carries for 51 yards. O’Ryen Scott had four catches for 41 yards.
Along with the TD catch, the 260-pound Head combined with Grant Janeway on a sack. Head had an expanded role with tight end Hank Overbay missing the game after being ejected last week.
“He’s versatile. … He came in and did a super job at tight end for us tonight,” Carter said.
Janeway was in on another sack with Bryson DeJesus and also had a hurry. Tyler Miles dropped Littleton for a 9-yard loss on the game’s third play from scrimmage to force a punt.
Todd Page-Gilmore intercepted a Jacob Littleton pass and returned it 30 yards for what would’ve been a touchdown with seven minutes left in the first quarter if not for a block-in-the-back penalty. Page-Gilmore’s interception did set up Head’s TD catch.
Littleton intercepted Snyder in the end zone with 26 seconds left in the first half.
Science Hill defensive tackle Isaiah Stephens had 11 tackles, two quarterback hurries and batted down a pass.
Justin Snyder was 10 of 14 for 140 yards. He also threw a 2-yard TD pass to tight end Will Craig with 2:40 left in the third quarter.
Littleton passed for 77 yards, including a 5-yard TD pass to Austin Seal that made the score 35-19 with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
Perry Murdaugh was 6-for-6 on PAT kicks and turned all seven kickoffs into touchbacks.
Science Hill hosts Volunteer Friday. Boone visits Central.