It was one play, but it said so much about Oceanside quarterback Charlie McKee.
The Sailors’ regular-season finale was a battle of unbeatens with Massapequa. They faced a second-and-12 when the junior took the snap and looked to run left, to the short side, only to see no hole. He reversed direction and raced the width of the field all along pointing downfield to direct receiver Michael Mecca to a spot on the sideline. Hotly pursued as he reached the other sideline, McKee delivered a perfect strike for a 39-yard gain to the Massapequa 16.
Oceanside coach Rob Blount called that play "the perfect summation" of all McKee has become this season. He is a rushing threat after putting on 25 pounds of muscle since his sophomore season. He makes split decisions when he doesn’t like what he sees. He has the speed now to extend a play and keeps looking down the field for options instead of deciding he has to run. And more often than not, the poised righthanded thrower puts the ball on the money.
"He made a decision to make a play, he scrambled all the way across the field and put the receiver where he needed him," Blount said. "Then he threw the ball across his body and delivered a strike. It looked like a Patrick Mahomes play."
"I didn’t run the ball much the last two years and I had great receivers that got open and I threw them the ball," said the 6-1, 195-pound McKee. "I worked in the offseason to improve my strength and speed . . . and my mental approach to the game. This season I’d go to the line knowing where everyone was going and what I had to do to make a play successful. Physically I was capable of much more and mentality-wise I was able to excel."
Though Oceanside won that regular-season game only to fall to Massapequa in the Nassau Conference I title game, McKee’s body of work stood out. He was 126-for-196 passing for 1,459 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also rushed for 513 yards, averaged 6.8 yards per carry and had 12 touchdown runs.
McKee is the 79th recipient of the Thorp Award, presented annually by Newsday to Nassau’s most outstanding player. He was chosen ahead of three other finalists: Garden City junior running back/linebacker Jack Cascadden, Massapequa senior quarterback John Giller and MacArthur senior running back/linebacker Ryan Isom.
McKee also won the Don Snyder Award, given by the Nassau County High School Football Coaches Association each season to the county’s top quarterback. The other Snyder finalists were Massapequa’s Giller and Carey junior Dean Metzger.
McKee is the second Oceanside player to win the Thorp Award, joining 2017 recipient Tommy Heuer, who also won the Snyder Award that season.
Blount explained that McKee does a lot of film study to prepare for games and that, from time to time when they review film together, the quarterback will make suggestions about ways to attack a defense that expand the Sailors' game plan.
"And when he gets on the field, he is like an extension of the coaching staff," Blount said. "He can make free checks at the line and has option routes for his receivers. There are moments when I am not sure what he is doing on the field and then he does something that ends up making me look smart."
In addition to being humble and respectful on the field and at school, McKee has a weighted GPA of 92.7 and does community service work on holiday season food drives.
The recruiting picture for McKee is still developing. He already has the interest of Ivy League schools Brown and Dartmouth — places he says "would allow me to play football and have a [lifetime] of options after I am done playing" — but a strong senior season could bring a new wave of schools.
"I’ve always dreamed about playing big-time college football at the highest level," said McKee, "but I think the most important thing for me will be to go to a college that sincerely wants me."