Catoctin defensive tackle Jacob McIlvaine returned a fumble recovery 28 yards for a touchdown in the Cougars’ 41-0 win over Fort Hill in the 2019 Class 1A state semifinals.
After scooping up the loose football, McIlvaine doesn’t remember much about his jaunt toward the goal-line. He does have one vivid memory, though, provided by his jubilant teammates.
“Everyone was jumping on me in the end zone,” he said.
For a lifelong lineman like McIlvaine, who also played left tackle for the Cougars, that was a rare moment in the spotlight. It wouldn’t be his final one, though.
McIlvaine, one of four Frederick County players selected to play in the 63rd Annual Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Big 33 Classic all-star football game before it was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic, won the United States Marine Corps and Big 33 “Fan Favorite” award. The game had been scheduled for May 25 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
A Big 33 poll was held to choose “Fan Favorites,” one from Team Maryland and one from Team Pennsylvania — Cocalico High’s Noah Palm took the latter honor. A phone call informed McIlvaine that he was Maryland’s winner.
Normally, McIlvaine would’ve been recognized at the Big 33 game as a “Fan Favorite.” But as a winner, his school will be awarded a donation on behalf of the United States Marines, according to a release on psfca.net.
Also, McIlvaine was one of four Big 33 players, two from Maryland and two from Pennsylvania, who were interviewed on a live YouTube stream hosted by PSFCA. Dubbed a virtual watch party, the event honored Class of 2020 players selected to play but unable to do so because of the pandemic.
“I was kind of surprised when they asked me,” McIlvaine said.
The modest McIlvaine was a worthy subject. The two-way lineman was a key piece of a Catoctin team that captured the second state title in program history.
As a left tackle, McIlvaine helped pave the way for a potent rushing attack that featured Carson Sickeri, who rushed for 2,352 yards and 36 touchdowns.
McIlvaine also shined on defense, earning Frederick News-Post all-county first-team honors as a defensive tackle. A highlight reel on the Big 33 virtual watch party shows McIlvaine, in his blue No. 51 jersey, scoring on his fumble return against Fort Hill.
During the watch party, McIlvaine talked about that win over the Sentinels, which came a year after the Cougars were trounced by Fort Hill.
Aside from McIlvaine, other Frederick County players picked to play in the Big 33 game were Middletown quarterback Reese Poffenbarger, Middletown receiver Brian Walker and Walkersville lineman Alex Rice. All of their names were announced on the YouTube stream.
Unfortunately for those four and the others selected, this year’s Big 33 was the first one canceled in the 63-year history of the event.
“I was pretty disappointed when they canceled it,” McIlvaine said. “I was really looking forward to it, I thought it would’ve been like a great little preview of what college is going to be like, but I understand they had safety precautions to take.”
McIlvaine, who will play football at Frostburg State University, still managed to keep in shape when the pandemic-related shutdown — which closed gyms — hit.
He focused on improving his footwork and did body-weight exercises, like pushups, body squats and sit-ups.
An accomplished thrower for the Cougars track and field team, McIlvaine didn’t get to compete during outdoor season in the spring. Still, he was a standout during indoor season, earning all-county first-team honors after winning the 1A West region shot put title and placing second at the state meet.
And of course, he got to help the Cougars during their football state title run, which concluded with a 31-8 win over Dunbar in the 1A championship game.
“It was great,” he said. “I wouldn’t have rather done it with another group of guys. Knowing that I grew up with those guys for pretty much my entire life and going to win states with them was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”