Robert McGee sat in a diner in his hometown of Wading River and reflected on the events that led, ultimately, to his participation in this weekend's Long Island football championships.
The hard-nosed McGee still had the remnants of a bruised eye, swollen nose and scratches on his face and neck from last Sunday's 35-14 victory over Mount Sinai in the Suffolk Division IV final. The cut on his right ear was glaringly obvious.
McGee, the starting quarterback for St. Anthony’s at the beginning of the year, transferred to his hometown high school of Shoreham-Wading River after playing three games with the Friars.
The decision to leave one of Long Island’s most prestigious programs impacted both teams — and ultimately changed the face of Suffolk Division IV.
The day after McGee was named the CHSFL’s Offensive Player of the Week for leading St. Anthony’s in a 16-14 comeback win over powerhouse Delbarton (N.J.) at MetLife Stadium in Week 3, he announced he was leaving South Huntington.
His heart always was back home.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” McGee said. “I thought about coming home for two years. I wasn’t happy in football or lacrosse. I realized how much I missed it after coming home. The Shoreham coaches and players made the transition easy. Nothing was guaranteed for playing time and everything had to be earned. I respect that.”
The addition of McGee, a versatile player, to a team that already had one of Long Island’s most dynamic players in quarterback Xavier Arline was a game-changer. Now opponents were forced to be concerned with two impact players.
“X is the best player in the county,” said Shoreham-Wading River coach Aden Smith, whose team will face Seaford (10-1) for the Long Island Class IV title at noon on Saturday at Hofstra. “And now he has McGee and that’s some combo. From the first minute McGee got here we became a better team. He’s the ultimate team player. We gave him no guarantees. He was patient and waited for his opportunities and that speaks loudly about his character.”
McGee, a 6-1, 195-pounder, blended into the tight group of Shoreham athletes and let his skillset do the talking.
“Whenever the coaches asked me to do something, I’d give them my all,” McGee said.
Said Smith, “He’s an impact player on offense, defense, special teams, just everything.”
The only blemish on the Wildcats' 10-1 record came in a 35-21 regular-season loss to Mount Sinai. McGee played mostly on special teams in that game.
In last Sunday’s title game, McGee took the first shotgun snap at quarterback and immediately fired a short pass to Arline for an 8-yard gain. He rotated between quarterback, fullback and wide receiver throughout the game as Smith mixed different looks against the previously undefeated Mount Sinai defense.
“We never showed anyone our offense with McGee at quarterback,” Smith said. “We saved that for a big game. We kept those formations in our back pocket. And it really helped getting Arline into space where he’s unstoppable.”
Arline finished with 194 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 35-14 win. He also passed for 85 yards. McGee contributed 47 yards rushing on 10 carries and a two-point conversion run.
“My job is to get the ball to X in space and let him do his thing,” said McGee, who also played defense and special teams. “He’s awesome and we have an unbelievable O-line.”
McGee deflected the credit for success to center James Lavalle and linemates Matt Zahn, Jeff Lackenmeyer, Jake Ekert, Dylan Blanco and Jake Wilson.
“They have so much pride in their blocking,” McGee said. “And Seaford looks like a very physical team. So, our line will be the key.”
Arline, who has 2,067 rushing yards, 37 rushing touchdowns, 1,157 passing yards and nine passing scores, also said the Shoreham line play has been fantastic.
“They make is possible for me to find an alley or a crease,” Arline said. “But Bobby is a beast out in front blocking for me. And this is the ultimate team sport – it’s so much more than one guy. Our line never disappoints. I’m a patient runner this year, more mature.”
The addition of McGee could be that final piece to the championship puzzle.
“He’s been my best friend since we played together in youth football,” Arline said. “I knew the transition back here would be smooth. He’s a team first guy. And we’ll need him to win the Long Island title. It’s a team game.”
One more hill to climb.
Shoreham-Wading River LIC Results
Year, Opponent, Result, Score
2014: Roosevelt, won, 47-13
2015: Locust Valley, won, 35-7
2016: Seaford, won, 20-10
2018: Cold Spring Harbor, lost, 42-20