But now, that has all changed.
McDonald proved in his starting debut in 2019 that he could deliver the goods – a school-record 3,812 passing yards and 49 touchdowns – in leading the Sentinels to the Class 2A state championship game.
And on Thursday, he reaped the rewards of his breakout season by giving a verbal pledge to play at Western Kentucky University, a member of Conference USA, as part of the class of 2021.
“Honestly, I never expected any of this to happen,” McDonald said. “But I just put my head down and went to work.”
In March, McDonald was in contact with WKU co-offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis, who had been the quarterbacks’ coach at USC, and recruited Northern California and the Northwest.
The Hilltoppers gave McDonald an offer April 3. That is when he started thoroughly researching the university – and the football program.
“Me and my mom sat down and watched the virtual tour, and saw how nice of a campus it was,” McDonald said. “And they have a winning tradition and culture.”
McDonald also received an offer from San Jose State, and a few FCS schools. But the teenager said he continued to talk to Ellis daily, and that “connection has been strong” – enough that he made his college decision Thursday.
Last season, WKU had no players from the West Coast on its roster. That has changed in the past few months, starting with landing Eastlake High School quarterback Grady Robison as part of its class of 2020 – and now McDonald for next year.
But first, the Sentinels get one more season of McDonald directing the offense, which is a nice luxury for coach Colby Davies.
Of course, it also helps that McDonald has one of the most talented receiving corps in the state coming back, including five-star 2021 prospect Emeka Egbuka, who just trimmed his recruiting list down last week.
“Last year, Chance was better than we expected,” Davies said. “We knew he had arm talent. He was accurate. He was a good decision maker. But the most impressive thing is how tough he is … because he took some shots in the pocket.”