E.A. Sports Today

Big man’s moment

Even though the play didn’t count, Anniston’s McElderry shows his skill and savvy as a receiver trying to save quarterback Kam Sandlin from a big loss in Friday’s season opener

This screen shot from the game video shows the moment Anniston lineman Ryqueze McElderry grabs a pass from Kam Sandlin in hopes of saving the Bulldogs a big loss.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The play didn’t count and it actually cost his team a penalty – and, if he were being honest about it, he knew he shouldn’t have done it – but you have to admit the catch and rumble Anniston lineman Ryqueze McElderry had in Friday night’s season-opening win at Wellborn was one of the highlights of Week Zero and by the end of the year maybe the season at large.

Who knew the massive Alabama commitment had such good hands and savvy with the ball?

at ANNISTON, 7 p.m.

The play in question came in the third quarter with the Bulldogs leading 45-18. The Panthers flushed quarterback Kamron Sandlin from pocket and a group of five chased him backwards. Looking to not take a big loss, Sandlin threw the ball back downfield where McElderry was standing alone around the line of scrimmage.

McElderry, a basketball player way before he started wowing SEC scouts, caught it cleanly, turned with the help of initial contact, and started to do what any football player with the ball in his hands has been taught to do. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound senior took over towards the end zone.

There was rumbling, but, sorry Chris Berman, there was no stumbling and bumbling to it. Several Wellborn defenders tried to bring him down, but he just flicked them off like buzzing mosquitos. 

Jaysilus Montgomery, a 322-pound junior, hit him almost immediately and held on, but McElderry dragged him for several yards before he slipped off his back. Then, 179-pound defensive back Carlos Hubbard joined the fray and McElderry never changed stride, carrying him for several yards. Finally, he steam-rolled 170-pound Xavier Parker with a stiff arm before finally being forced out of bounds after picking up about 20 yards.

“I know I’m not supposed to catch a pass, but we were already up by like 30 points, so I was like I’m kind of bored, I’m not doing anything, for real, so I was like, ‘ask for the ball,’” the big lineman said before practice Monday. “Seeing Kam, I didn’t want him to get sacked because that would have been losing yardage. I just waved my left hand in the air real high and he just threw it to me.

“As soon as I caught the ball I got hit, but I didn’t feel it, then three dudes tried to tackle me and I just made a play I guess. “I knew it wasn’t going to count, but I really didn’t care because it was really at the end of the game. If a defensive player would have tipped it, it would have counted. Even though it didn’t happen, it was just for fun. I know I’m a lineman but hey you’ve got to have fun.”

Even as the play was folding the officials were dropping penalty flags. They called McElderry for illegal touching, but he wasn’t going to miss his moment.

“He knows better, but to me that’s a lineman’s dream to get the opportunity to catch the ball or run the ball,” Anniston coach Rico White said. “He was so excited about it, but like I told him, that wasn’t the right thing to do. He knew it after the fact, but he’s a big kid , he was having fun, especially when we were winning, so that was hilarious.

“He thought that was his big moment, his chance to score a touchdown; he was planning to take advantage of it. He was breaking tackles and running hard. I told him you need to block with the same effort. He was trying to have fun and score.”

What would be “real fun” McElderry said would be scoring a touchdown. He never has before.

Maybe he will become an option in an already stacked Anniston offense, either as a tackle eligible or a big back in a goal-line situation. Don’t think the cross hasn’t crossed his mind.

In practice Monday he was catching long passes one-handed as kicker Eduardo Lopez was setting up his station to kick field goals. And then just for fun he kicked a field goal just over the crossbar in his first attempt.

“I doubt it’s going to happen, because I’ve been playing under coach White for five years, but I told him I think he should send me on a route at the goal line if it’s needed” he said. “Just give me the ball and get out of my way because ain’t nobody going to stop me. You see what happened Friday.”

He might be waiting a while.

“I’ll tell you what, you want to start a war? White said. “Because every lineman up there will be wanting to run the ball. We’ve got several guys who want to do that anyway. We’re going to keep them right there on that line and let them keep blocking for us.”

Anniston lineman Ryqueze McElderry shows off his receiving skills in a game of catch before practice Monday.

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