Local football players excited for ‘Big’ opportunity

Big 33 Game

Two area graduating senior football players, Altoona Area High School defensive tackle Gaige Hill and Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School placekicker-punter Kolton McGhee, will be concluding their high school careers on the biggest stage of them all on Memorial Day.

Hill and McGhee will be members of the Pennsylvania team in the Big 33 Football Classic, which is set for 2 p.m. Monday at Central Dauphin Middle School’s Landis Field in Harrisburg.

The game pits Pennsylvania’s finest graduating senior football players against Maryland’s finest, and it is a supreme honor to be selected.

Hill and McGhee, like almost all the players on the Pennsylvania team, are headed to play major college football at Division I schools.

Hill is going to Toledo University to play for the Rockets in the Mid-American Conference, while McGhee is headed to West Virginia to play for the Mountaineers, who are a member of the Big 12 Conference.

Both Hill and McGhee are pleased to be participating in this year’s Big 33 Classic.

“I’m very excited,” said the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Hill, who was a three-year starter at defensive tackle for Altoona. “Almost everybody on our (Pennsylvania) team is going Division I, so I’ll have a feel for playing with people who are going to that next level.

“There will be a lot of good competition,” said Hill, who was selected as a first-team defensive tackle on the Class 6A PAFootballNews.com Coach’s Select All-State team after last season. “I’ve been having an offseason for awhile. I just want to get back into it and have fun.”

According to former Altoona coach Nick Felus, who coached Hill for the past three seasons, Hill has a very fast step off the line of scrimmage.

“The first thing you notice about him is how quick he is off the line of scrimmage,” Felus, now the head coach at Penn Cambria, said of Hill. “He’s explosive, and his first step is phenomenal. He’s powerful and athletic.”

Hill — who was also offered scholarships by Rutgers, Pitt, and Western Michigan — developed into an all-around excellent defensive lineman over the past two seasons, according to Felus.

“Early on, in his sophomore year, he was a really good run-stopper, but then we focused on him becoming a better pass-rusher and learning how to play with his hands, and in the last two years, we really saw him flourish with his pass-rushing moves,” Felus said. “He’s really good all-around. He’s the kind of kid who makes plays 20 or 30 yards down the field.

“Athletically, some of his best games were against some of the best teams that we played,” Felus said. “He went up against some guys that were Division I recruits, and he was unblockable. Toledo understood that he was playing against some top-notch competition, and they saw his ability.”

During his accomplished career at BG, McGhee earned three selections to the Class 1A Pennsylvania Football Writers All-State team as a placekicker, and one as a punter. He was also selected as a punter for the American Family Insurance All-USA Football Team in his junior and senior years, and was named a first-team punter on the MaxPreps Small School All-American Team in his sophomore through senior seasons.

McGhee averaged 46.2 yards per punt and converted all 29 extra points and seven of eight field goals during his senior season. He kicked a career-best 52-yard field goal against Somerset in his sophomore season.

McGhee hopes to get a chance to get on the field, at least as a punter, in his freshman year at West Virginia.

McGhee considers himself very fortunate to be playing in the Big 33 Classic.

“I’m pretty blessed to have an opportunity like this to represent this area with Gaige Hill,” McGhee said. “It’s a great experience to start off the next chapter of my life and college football, playing with the best players from Pennsylvania and against the best players from Maryland.”

McGhee — a four-year standout who was offered scholarships by Rutgers and Army, and was heavily-recruited by Penn State and East Carolina — was an integral part of BG’s football program over the last four years, including the Marauders’ 2015 and 2016 PIAA Class 1A state championship seasons.

“He was a huge part of everything we did,” BG coach Justin Wheeler said. “He’s been one of the best kickers in the country his whole career, and it’s definitely well-deserved for him to get a chance to play in this (Big 33) game.”

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