The Pennsylvania All-Stars enter tonight's Big 33 Football Classic trying to end a three-game losing streak to Ohio. This might be Pennsylvania's last chance to end the streak.
The Big 33 will continue next year, but it's not certain whether Ohio will be Pennsylvania's opponent. Tonight's game (7 p.m. kickoff at Hersheypark Stadium) could be the final time the two states meet in this high school all-star game.
Pennsylvania's contract with Ohio is up after this game and Big 33 officials are considering playing Maryland next summer. A decision on next year's opponent will be made next weekend. Seventeen Big 33 board members and 40 representatives of the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association will pick between Ohio and Maryland.
"Maryland definitely wants to play us," said Mickey Minnich, executive director of the Big 33. "They're sending four representatives to the game. We'll see if we can work things out with Ohio."
This is the 14th year of the Pennsylvania-Ohio series. The two states also played each other from 1972-76. But, Minnich said he and some other Big 33 officials are not happy with the team Ohio has sent to this year's game.
The Big 33 is usually played in late July, but the game was moved to mid-June this year because of a new NCAA rule that allows incoming college freshman players to start their scholarships in the summer. If the Big 33 didn't play its game earlier, it would probably lose many top players who would already be taking college classes.
The problem is Ohio has its annual North-South all-star game tonight. A number of Ohio's top players are in the North-South game, which irks Minnich. Although Ohio's coaches have claimed they still have a talented team, 14 of its players are headed to colleges at the Division I-AA level or lower. Five others are still undecided. Of the top 33 players in Ohio this past season, according to Super Prep magazine, only seven are playing in the Big 33. One of them is Copley running back Delone Carter, Mr. Football in Ohio last season.
Pennsylvania has an East-West all-star game that will be played next Saturday in Altoona. Players in that game are not in the Big 33.
"We'd like them to send their top 34 players to the Big 33 and then pick their players for the North-South game," Minnich said.
Ohio wants to continue playing in the Big 33.
"I know our whole coaching staff this year wants to continue to play Ohio," said Mars' Scott Heinauer, a Pennsylvania assistant and also secretary of the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association. "The kids want to play Ohio also. Ohio has a ton of talent and the kids know that."
Here is the starting lineup for Pennsylvania tonight:
Offense: QB Pat Devlin, Downingtown East; RB Da'Rel Scott, Plymouth-Whitemarsh; FB Andres Morales, Liberty; WR Anthony Walters, Cardinal O'Hara; WR Anthony Parker-Boyd, Great Valley; TE Nate Byham, Franklin.
OT Jared Odrick, Lebanon; OG Chris Daino, Neshaminy; C Kevin Uhll, North Penn; OG Chris Neild, Stroudsburg; OT Jim McKenzie, St. Joseph's Prep.
Defense: NT Abe Koroma, Milton Hershey; DT Tom McEowen, Neshaminy; DT Charlie Noonan, St. Joseph's Prep; DE Jeremiha Hunter, Harrisburg; DE Alex Johnson, North Penn; LB Nate Nix, Thomas Jefferson; LB Greg Webster, Woodland Hills; CB Aaron Berry, Bishop McDevitt; CB Elijah Fields, Duquesne; SS Barry Church, Penn Hills; FS Clem Johnson, Carlisle.
The players voted for captains and they are Devlin, McEowen, Odrick and Scott. Devlin, McEowen and Odrick are all Penn State recruits.
At a glance
What: Pennsylvania All Stars vs. Ohio All Stars, 7 p.m., Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, Pa.
TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
Tickets: $12 (reserved) and $6 (general admission).
Host families: During Big 33 week, all players on both teams stay with families in the Hershey area.
History lesson: There has never been a Super Bowl without a former Big 33 player.