Chase McGrath was called upon to kick a field goal just five times in 14 games during his senior year at Mater Dei last season.
He went the first seven games without even trying one for the Monarchs, then made his first two during the biggest game of the season to that point, a 26-21 win against St. John Bosco that ended its 23-game winning streak in the Trinity League.
McGrath found himself in a similar spot Sept. 16, only this time he was kicking for USC, the school he dreamed of attending since he was a young child, the opponent was Texas and the site was the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was teeming with 90,000 USC fans.
It was the third game of McGrath’s college career and he had attempted just one field goal to that point when he was asked to kick a game tying 31-yarder in the final seconds of regulation. McGrath lined up the kick and booted it through the uprights to send the game into overtime.
Then, in the second overtime, McGrath was called upon to win the game. Texas called a timeout to make McGrath think about the kick and possible unnerve him, but he calmly followed with a 43-yard field goal down the middle to lift USC to a 27-24 victory.
“It’s kind of one of those dream-come-true stories,” Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson told the Orange County Register. “It all worked out. He ends up at the school of his dreams, and he makes a lot of alumni, including me, happy.”
McGrath didn’t receive much attention out of Mater Dei because he didn’t get many opportunities to show off his powerful right leg.
He was 10-for-13 on field-goal tries as a junior and made all 62 of his point-after attempts. As a senior, the Mater Dei offense was so prolific at scoring touchdowns, McGrath was only 3-for-5 on field goals, though two of those were the difference in the win against St. John Bosco, which ultimately clinched the league title for the Monarchs.
McGrath had just one scholarship offer following his senior season, and that was from Army. A handful of other schools offered McGrath a spot as a preferred walk-on, though USC remained mostly disinterested.
The kicking situation at USC changed when last season’s kicker was suspended, and McGrath suddenly became an attractive candidate to fill the void.
“The tune started to change,” Rollinson said.
In April, McGrath was finally offered a roster spot with the Trojans as a preferred walk-on and he quickly accepted. He then had to win a battle during the spring and summer to become the team’s No. 1 kicker.
He passed that test as well.
Just like he did at Mater Dei last season, McGrath had to wait patiently for his first opportunity to boot a field goal. The rust may have showed when he missed his first kick of the season on Saturday, but he more than made it for it with his next two.
“Those two kicks build a lot of confidence,” Rollinson said.
And the coaching staff at USC is looking mighty smart these days, even if it took them a while to notice McGrath.
“We’re so proud he’s here,” USC coach Clay Helton told the Orange County Register. “He makes me a very happy football coach right now.”
That goes both ways, to be sure.