McDonald, Robinson Impress in Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game

Ever since Darius Wade transferred to Delaware this offseason, all eyes have been on E.J. Perry—the sophomore gunslinger who took limited snaps in relief of Wade during Boston College football’s blowout win over Connecticut at Fenway Park this past November. Due to the fact that starting quarterback Anthony Brown is still recovering from his season-ending knee injury, Perry has assumed the role of QB1, at least for the moment.

On the first drive of Saturday afternoon’s Jay McGillis Memorial Spring Game, the Everett, Mass. native—quarterbacking Team White—caught the ball out of the shotgun, backpedaled, and fired a 15-yard pass to Korab Idrizi. The ball never made it to the junior tight end, though. Jahmin Muse jumped the route, intercepted the pass, and returned it 22 yards to the 12, setting up Team Maroon for the game’s opening touchdown.

“I felt bad, we had Jahmin Muse in a white jersey with the mesh [pinny], and [Perry] didn’t see him,” head coach Steve Addazio told reporters after the game. “But there was nothing we could do—we were trying to rotate jerseys fast out here because of depth.”

Regardless, the play was simply a reminder of just how inexperienced Perry is. While the sophomore eventually bounced back, the turnover ended up costing Team White. In the waning seconds of regulation, Team Maroon scored the game-winning touchdown, stealing a 26-21 victory in the annual exhibition contest.

Perry’s interception was just the culmination of Team White’s mistake-ridden, game-opening series. On first down, the sophomore signal caller was pressured up the gut. Instinctively, Perry weaseled his way out of the traffic, but was soon “brought down” at the line of scrimmage. One play later, the quarterback botched the handoff exchange with Travis Levy, resulting in a loose ball that the sophomore tailback quickly recovered. Faced with a 3rd-and-long, Perry tried to drive the ball downfield, but instead was picked off.

Muse’s interception catapulted Team Maroon into the red zone. In a matter of seconds, Matt McDonald snapped the ball and handed it off to Andrew Strader. With a ton of room to run, the 5-foot-7 running back/wide receiver scampered 12 yards for six. But that’s all Team Maroon would get: Colton Lichtenberg, who shanked three extra points last season, missed another chip shot, jeopardizing the one-score lead.

Soon enough, Perry retaliated, in large part thanks to wide receiver-turned-running back Ben Glines. The sophomore dissected Team Maroon’s defense with a couple of chunk plays, moving Team White into scoring position. On the 14-yard line, Levy inched the first-team offense closer to the end zone with a six-yard carry. That’s when Perry tossed his first and only touchdown pass of the game. The sophomore hit a wide-open Kobay White on a drag route to give Team White a one-point advantage.

Calm and collected, McDonald methodically moved the sticks on the ensuing possession, hitting his receivers in the flat and the middle of the field. The redshirt freshman, who completed 10 of his 13 passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns, capped off the drive with a nine-yard throw to Noah Jordan-Williams in the back of the end zone.

Running clock and all, both sides continued to run up-tempo offenses into the second quarter. Team White eventually stalled at midfield, forcing Grant Carlson to punt for the first time in his BC career. The sophomore made the most of the opportunity, pinning the opposition inside its own 10-yard line. Unfortunately for Team Maroon, Carlson didn’t have the same luck the second time around.

After McDonald was sacked at the one-yard line, Addazio called on the punt team. With his back against the end zone sideline, Carlson caught the snap and booted the ball less than 30 yards, gifting Team White fabulous field position. The first-teamers capitalized—most notably Levy. The sophomore extended the drive with a reception out of the backfield on 4th-and-2 and promptly trotted into the end zone on the very next play.

Trailing for the first time all day, McDonald and Team Maroon battled back to take the lead before the half. A swing pass to John Fadule shortened the field, but Elijah Robinson did the dirty work. Near midfield, McDonald rifled a 25-yard pass to the senior wideout, who jumped up,  caught the ball over defensive back Tate Haynes, and sprinted 19 yards into the end zone.

Playing shortened third and fourth quarters, the teams continued to swap jerseys—typical of most spring games. Perry and McDonald flipped sides, and redshirt freshman Dennis Grosel made his collegiate debut in the exhibition’s final stages.

It didn’t take long for McDonald to string together a scoring drive with the ones. Following a handful of short completions and a defensive pass interference call, the redshirt freshman hit White streaking across the left side of the field for a fourth-down conversion and touchdown—White’s second of the day—cutting Team White’s deficit to one.

Grosel replaced Perry for a series, but the sophomore soon returned to throw his best pass of the game. After looking off the safety, he fired a 30-yard bullet to Robinson. Diving, the senior came down with the catch.

“Elijah has been making plays all spring, especially deep,” Perry said. “He’s a big athletic receiver who can go up and get it. You saw that other one down in the left corner where he jumped over the guy. I knew I had a matchup, one-on-one—I tried to hold the safety as much as I could, but Elijah just made a great play.”

But Perry and Team White stalled and quickly turned the ball over on downs. Team Maroon didn’t fare much better—in fact, neither unit scored until the final seconds of the game.

In what was the unlikeliest of combinations, Grosel connected with ex-quarterback John Fadule for a two-yard touchdown as the clock struck zero. Coaches rejoiced, and kids trickled onto the field to see their favorite players. Yet, as always, the annual game served as not only a football scrimmage, but also a recognition of Jay McGillis, the former BC defensive back that passed away from Leukemia in 1992. Lukas Denis was this year’s recipient of the Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship.

“It’s just an honor to be up there, especially with those guys on the list and what the Jay McGillis award means—just the heart he had, the way his teammates felt about him really spoke volumes, and I’m just really blessed and honored to be able to represent him,” Denis said.

As far as BC is concerned, there is more optimism surrounding the program than there has been in quite some time. Unlike last season, Addazio has a healthy and deep offensive line. The guys up front, coupled with an improved wide receiver corps and a defense primarily made up of returning starters, are poised to build off the team’s 6-2 finish in 2017.

When asked to compare this spring to offseasons of year’s past, Addazio confidently answered with a six-word response before ultimately elaborating.

“We’re ahead of where we’ve been,” the sixth-year coach said.

Featured Image and Photos by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff

April 14, 2018