One in a summer series looking at top players for the 2018 high school football season.
Malvern Prep's Keith Maguire can't be defined by one play, although the best one of his high school career tells a lot about the senior receiver-linebacker.
It showed his athletic ability, his competitive fire and his will — all in one simple 8-yard fade pattern. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Maguire, among the top players in Pennsylvania, has made an oral commitment to 2016 national champion Clemson, and he has made many sensational plays. Last season, he had 20 receptions, five for touchdowns. As dangerous as he is as a receiver, he was recruited to play linebacker in college. As a junior, he had 101 tackles, four interceptions, and four sacks for the Friars, who won the Inter-Ac League championship. Maguire was also an Inquirer first-team all-Southeastern Pennsylvania choice on defense.
The one play from Maguire's outstanding junior season that people still talk to him about is a crazy, one-handed touchdown catch in the Friars' 31-7 win over Haverford School on Oct. 27.
Running a short fade pattern, Maguire had one-on-one coverage in the back of the end zone. It was tight coverage, but it didn't deter him from making a grab that made its way to ESPN's SportsCenter as one of its plays of the day. Maguire appeared to have jumped too early for Drew Gunther's pass, but he lingered in the air and made a one-handed catch with a defensive back right there.
Here is a look at the big play, which came with 51.6 seconds left before halftime and increased the Friars' lead to 24-0.
Here is how those involved saw the play:
Maguire: "Me and Drew [Gunther] always had a little signal if we were calling for a fade. So we lined up. I told Coach [Dave] Gueriera, and he gave me the go, and I told Drew. He kind of threw it up, and it was a pretty successful play for us. I guess, going up, I jumped a little early and was a little nervous, and kind of threw my hand up and was able to come down with it. Everybody was kind of shocked at the moment, including myself. At halftime, we watched the film, and it was a pretty cool moment."
>>READ MORE: Malvern Prep beats Penn Charter in Inter-Ac opener
Mike Murphy, Haverford School head coach: "It was probably the best high school football catch I have ever seen. … The thing is that the kid covering him had great coverage and made a nice play. It was just a great play by a terrific athlete. There is nothing else our guy could do. [Maguire] was there off the ground, and it was an incredible catch. How he extended, how high he was and for him to come down with it one-handed is amazing."
Gueriera: "That was the best live event I have ever seen. Drew Gunther threw an awesome fade route to Keith. He actually went up and mistimed his jump and still was able to snatch it out of the air with one hand and come down inbounds. It was remarkable. For everybody who was here and saw it, they will talk about it for the rest of their lives."
Ryan Maguire, Malvern Prep wide receiver: "I saw him go up with the one hand. The ball kind of stuck to his glove. I saw him come down, and it was a bit crammed in the end zone, so I didn't see where he was. But I saw him walk up, and I saw where the ball was, and everybody's jaw kind of dropped. I didn't know what to expect, and then the cheering started."
Gunther: "It was a run-pass option and something we trusted very much. As soon as I saw Keith one-on-one with the corner, I knew we had them, and I put it out there, and he made a great play. I put it up there, and I am not going to lie. I felt it was a good ball and was going to be caught. He jumped up early and mistimed it, and initially I thought it might not get caught. When he came down with it, the whole sideline went crazy, and everybody was in disbelief. Keith was in disbelief."
Keith Maguire: "It was really cool, and my teammates were so pumped up [by] being able to get it out on the internet and everything. It was definitely surprising all the attention the catch got. I wasn't sure what would happen with it, maybe on YouTube. But going on Instagram, Facebook, and making the Top 10 is something you never think about."
Ryan Maguire: "Honestly, his hands are extremely big, and he can catch lot of balls like that. In practice, joking around, he does that, but it just happened to be reality, and it was pretty cool."
Gunther: "We saw it next morning on TV. We were going to West Virginia that next morning for a recruiting visit when they played Oklahoma State, and the coaches there were talking about it."
Gueriera: "It validated [Maguire's reputation as a clutch player]. You watch him on defense, and your eyes tell you he is a good athlete. But how do we validate it? You turn on the tape and watch that play and say, 'Oh, my goodness.' "
Keith Maguire: "I was never able to play offense that much coming into [last] year, because we had a lot of depth at the wide-receiver position. I knew coming in that it would be my year to show what I could do on offense, in addition to defense. It was a ton of fun. I like playing offense a lot, but defense is pretty fun as well."
Gueriera: "I was as super-impressed how Keith handled recruiting throughout the whole process. He was very grounded. For a 17-year-old kid having that much attention and love showered upon you, I was very impressed how he handled it. He didn't put himself above the team or anything. He took everything in stride and handled himself maturely. He has been mature beyond his years."