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Football: Smith, McGee return to SWR

Not only does Shoreham-Wading River have its head football coach back, but it now has not one, but two star senior quarterbacks — not to mention a spotless 4-0 record.

“Life is good in Shoreham,” said Xavier Arline, one of those QBs.

SWR welcomed coach Aden Smith back to the sideline with a fine defensive performance in a 34-7 Suffolk County Division IV win over visiting Elwood/John Glenn Friday night at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. It was Smith’s first game of the season after he had been reinstated as the team’s head coach following an investigation into an incident at a preseason scrimmage at Islip High School. Smith had been removed from the team just days before the season opener amid allegations of physical contact he had with an Islip player during a scuffle. Offensive coordinator Virgil Romer served as the interim head coach for the first three games before Smith returned to the team Monday.

“It was nice to be back with my team and be around the boys,” Smith told reporters after the game. “I love football, but any time I can be around these boys — they’re a special bunch of boys, they’re working hard, they’re committed — I’m really grateful.”

And here’s something else for SWR to be grateful about: Robert McGee.

Stunning news came earlier this week that McGee, a senior quarterback, had transferred from St. Anthony’s back to his hometown school, SWR. The 6-1, 195-pound McGee had started St. Anthony’s first three games, and was credited with 403 passing yards, three touchdown passes, four interceptions, 301 rushing yards and two rushing TDs, according to Newsday.

“I went to St. Anthony’s to play football and lacrosse, and then things didn’t work out,” McGee said. He added: “It just wasn’t out of the blue. Me and my family have been thinking about it for a couple of years now. It was a tough decision, but in the end, I think it’s the right decision for me and my family.”

SWR athletic director Mark Passamonte said: “New York State rules allow a one-time transfer from any school back to your school of residence. So, basically, his parents resided in Shoreham, have always resided in Shoreham, and he was allowed to make that one-time transfer.”

McGee joined the team for Thursday’s practice. He needs to play three games with SWR to be eligible to play in the playoffs, said Passamonte.

The first of those games came Friday. McGee, wearing No. 41, saw limited action. He was only on the field for five kickoffs. “Today it was a story about me coming home, but I really didn’t play, so it was about all the other kids on this team that showed up and played today,” said McGee, who last played for SWR as an eighth-grader in middle school.

The addition of McGee raises an interesting scenario. SWR already has a standout senior quarterback in Arline, so now the question is, how will the two be used?

“We’re both quarterbacks, but we’re both athletes, so we’re going to figure out where to put him,” Arline said. “We’re going to figure out how to get it done. We could use him all over the field in so many different ways. He’s an athlete and he’ll make plays wherever he’s put, and I’ll make plays wherever I’m put.”

What’s the plan, Coach?

“Hopefully we’re able to get [McGee] caught up to speed and find the right, appropriate spot for him,” Smith said. “Any time you get a player of that caliber, you’re excited and you want to see where you can fit him in.”

“We’ll just take it daily,” he continued. “They’ll both be used in some capacity. We don’t know how we’re going to use them at this point.”

SWR has a bye next week, giving the Wildcats more time to figure things out.

The ironic thing is Arline and McGee are longtime friends who live only three houses apart. Arline said he is “ecstatic” to have McGee as a teammate. Arline recalled jokingly asking McGee in the past when he would return to the defending county Division IV champion Wildcats.

That day arrived.

McGee said, “We’ve been playing football [together] since we were like 4 years old, so let’s finish what we started.”

How did it feel for McGee to be in a SWR uniform again?

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “For all these kids, there’s history here with the program.”

McGee said he likes the idea of representing his town on the field. “It’s a small school, so you know everyone, so it’s different,” he said. “You grow up from when you’re little, ‘Go Wildcats,’ and then to be back here playing for the Wildcats is a great experience.”

Smith appeared to have a hop in his step during pregame warmups. Wearing a navy blue SWR football polo shirt, shorts, with a headset on top of his cap and a whistle hanging around his neck, he had nothing to offer about the alleged incident that separated him from the team for three weeks. “I have no comment,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here with the boys and hopefully, you know, the narrative can be about the boys, because that’s what it’s always about.”

Arline said Smith “brings a whole different energy to the team and he’s one of the best coaches I’ve had. I’m more than happy to have him back, running the show.”

Winning the game for Smith was a motivating factor, too.

“That was our number one reason to come out here and win this game for Coach Smith,” Arline said. “He’s been through a lot, stuff he shouldn’t have been through.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River head coach Aden Smith, left, and offensive coordinator Virgil Romer confer during Friday night’s game against Elwood/John Glenn. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)