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Showing off: McGuire rules roost for Susquenita

04 October 2017 K2_ITEM_AUTHOR  Geoff Morrow

 

By Geoff Morrow:

4th Down Magazine

When then 24-year-old Scott Acri, a first-time head football coach, prepared for his initial two-a-day practice session with Susquenita in the summer of 2015, his perfect plans were trampled by pigs, goats and sheep.

 

Welcome to Perry County, Mr. Acri.

Among those informing the new head coach — a Red Land High School and Penn State Harrisburg graduate — that these particular two-a-days were interfering with something essentially foreign to him was a blossoming football star.

Trent McGuire was entering his sophomore year at Susquenita, where he would soon claim the starting strong safety position.

Two years later, McGuire continues to shine as the Blackhawks' top defender. But now he's added breakout status as the team's starting running back and kick returner, the 17-year-old nearing 1,000 yards rushing with four games remaining in the Tri-Valley League slate.

But before any of this football stardom, McGuire was garnering recognition as a successful promoter of various livestock at the annual Perry County Fair and at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, showing goats, pigs and sheep.

Acri remembers several Blackhawks declaring they'd be forced to miss one chunk of those vital two-a-day practices for that very reason.

"And I'm like, 'Wait a second, you can't just miss practice!'" he said from Blackawks campus this week. "But after being here three years, it's something these kids value, their families value, and it's an heirloom that's been passed down from great-grandparents to grandparents to parents, and some day their kids will do it, too.

"It's a huge part of their lives, and you have to accept that and kind of support them in all that they do."
The payoff for Acri in developing that kind of patience and trust is coaching somebody like McGuire, who's providing Blackhawks fans a reason for excitement this season.

FAMILY FIRST

Dale "Andy" McGuire surmises that the McGuire family has called central Pennsylvania home since at least the late 1800s.

His father, Dale, now 86, bought the family a farm in Wheatfield Twp. in 1951, then built a new home 300 yards east in 1970.

Trent's grandfather also started the Dale McGuire Agency, an insurance company in Duncannon, in 1961.

Andy McGuire, Dale's only son, participated in both football and wrestling before graduating Susquenita in 1976. He would eventually meet and marry Shari, a Northern graduate, and settle onto the original family farm.

Together they had children Drew (soccer/baseball), Cole (football/basketball) and Allyson (field hockey/soccer), all of whom excelled in Blackhawks athletics last decade.

Ten years after Allyson was born, they welcomed Trent.

"My favorite mistake, I call him," Andy joked.

Of course, Trent followed a similar athletic path, mixing in academics, farming and showing livestock.

Like his older siblings before him, Trent was always on the move.

"I'd come home from maybe a Thursday morning workout over the summer, and I'd just want to lay down," he said. "But I knew I had to go clean my animals, go clean all eight pens and all the stalls. So it really just built my character going out there and doing that."

In sport, Trent McGuire found success in football, basketball and baseball. This past spring, with the support of new baseball coach Bill Quigley, he and some hardball teammates were permitted to run track as an aside, and he helped his team set a new school record in the 4x100 relay.

Trent also earned a medal (sixth place) in the District 3 Class 2A 100 meter finals, running a personal best time of 11.57 along the way.

All of these accomplishments came while helping maintain what Andy calls the team's "hobby" farm. (The family business remains the insurance agency, where Cole and Allyson now work for Andy in Dale's retirement.)

"We just make it," Andy said. "It's our life. We've done it the whole way up through."

BURST OF SPEED

Ignited by the successful track season, Trent McGuire entered the 2017 football season will the intention of adding offensive prowess and return-game prominence to his already dynamic defensive presence.

The season opener against Juniata showed promise, with 71 yards on 14 carries for the 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior.

Then an injury to the starting fullback prompted Acri to shift Trent's second cousin, Conner McGuire, from left guard to fullback, and Trent took off.

In a stunning blowout victory over Elco, he rushed 22 times for 251 yards and five touchdowns. The next week against Halifax, he accumulated 267 yards on 28 carries, the third highest single-game total in 'Nita history.

"I challenged him this offseason that he needed to be our go-to guy and our workhorse," said Acri, knowing the Blackhawks would need to replace versatile QB Dane Barrick, who was last year's workhorse.

"And he really did his due diligence and got stronger, got faster, got quicker and took on the role of a leader."

Last week he gained 163 yards on 31 carries, as he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark in all three wins. Overall, he's gained 875 yards on 135 carries (6.5 per carry).

According to Perry County Times sportswriter John Alvanitakis, McGuire would become the fifth Blackhawks running back to rush for 1,000 yards, and he has an outside chance at the record of 1,599 set by Kevin Kenny in 2015. With 11 total touchdowns, he has a better chance of tying or breaking the school record of 17 held by Kenny and Bob Roth (1976), also according to Alvanitakis.

"It just felt like everything paid off," McGuire said of his breakout game vs. Elco and the subsequent success. "I couldn't have been happier, couldn't have been more thankful to everybody, and it just made me want to do it more."

McGuire and Acri are quick to praise a young but improving group of blockers that includes his cousin at fullback, left tackle Aaron Etter, left guard Seth Radel, center Dan Criley, right guard Brandon Blose, right tackle John Provenza and tight end Josh Harbold.

In many ways, the born-and-bred Blackhawk, who also volunteers with youth teams when provided an opportunity, has come full circle.

"Seems like I was that young just yesterday, and I looked up to the Kevin Kennys and Hunter McGuires (Conner's older brother)," he said. "And now it's like these kids are looking up to me the same way, and it really opens up my eyes."

BEAMING PRIDE

Son and father joke about Trent being the "mistake" baby, as the parents were both in their early 40s when he was born.

But, as Trent nears the end of his final high school football campaign, there's tremendous pride and happiness in reflection.

Acri was struck when he was first introduced to Trent three years ago.

"Trent, from the moment I met him, is somebody who makes an impact on everybody around him," said Acri, whose Blackhawks (3-3) host Williams Valley (6-0) this Friday night. "And not just on the field but off. His work ethic, his personality, he treats everybody equally and is friends with a lot of different groups."

As of now, McGuire, who's in national honor society and in 4-H, is torn between wanting to study biology or business in college; business would be the path if he decides to follow in his family's insurance agency footsteps.

But what he does know is he wants to keep playing football.

There's interest in him as a running back at some local NCAA Division III schools like Lebanon Valley, where cousin Hunter plays, and Franklin & Marshall.

Other schools, like Liberty and Millersville, view McGuire's size and frame and think he could be a slot receiver.

Dad, not surprisingly, dreams of the ultimate, hoping even a program like Penn State might spot him and believe in his potential as a playmaker in the secondary.

Wherever he ends up, though, it's been a heck of a ride following his progression, said Andy.

"I am a proud papa, and I know his mother is so proud of him," Andy said. "His athleticism, his ability to find another gear. He has good vision. He's tougher than I thought he'd be. And, with the yards after contact and cut-back ability, when he gets into the open field, you might as well just watch him. I'll just put my arms up because I know he's getting to the end zone."

 

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