West Xtra: Big 33 game caps high school careers for district threesome


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The Big 33 Classic football game is one of the premier high school all-star football games in the eastern part of the United States.

This year, three players from the Post-Gazette's West Xtra region, will be competing in the game against a squad of Maryland high school all-stars at 7:06 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

All three players -- Sto-Rox standouts Lenny Williams and Mallory Claybourne along with Aliquippa's Terry Swanson -- will be competing for playing time on the college level.

Swanson, who rushed for 1,704 yards and added 242 receiving yards while scoring 23 touchdowns for the WPIAL Class AA runner-up Quips, will be attending the University of Toledo.

Williams became the all-time WPIAL passing leader during a stellar career at Sto-Rox. For his career, Williams threw for 8,509 yards and 102 touchdowns. In his senior season alone, Williams completed 136 passes for 2,709 yards and 34 touchdowns. He hopes to get plenty of playing time for the Temple Owls.

In his one season with Sto-Rox, Claybourne, who transferred from Perry Traditional Academy, caught 41 passes for 988 yards and 16 touchdowns, Had he not been injured in the 14-0 WPIAL Class A championship game loss to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Claybourne likely would have surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in one season. Claybourne has not yet decided where he will go to college.

Both Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac and Dan Bradley, who coached at Sto-Rox last season and will take over at Ambridge this season, are excited for their players' appearances in the game.

Aliquippa's Dravon Henry had been invited to play in the Big 33 Classic, but he opted out.

"Both Terry and Dravon [Henry] were tailbacks, but they never played together until their senior seasons [having alternated at tailback during their first three seasons]," Zmijanac said.

"Between them, they rushed for 10,000 yards [in their careers]. There were games when we'd take them out of the game after they'd rushed six times for 180 yards."

Henry, who also had a stellar career and will play at West Virginia University, chose not to play in Saturday's game.

Zmijanac believes Toledo fans are in for a treat when Swanson begins his career.

"Toledo got a steal," he said. "The best thing about Terry is his character. He was never late for anything, never missed a practice and he never complained. He and Dravon alternated at tailback, and they were each other's biggest fans."

Bradley said both Williams and Claybourne chose to lead by example as the Vikings enjoyed success in all but their final game last season.

"Lenny was a calming influence," Bradley said. "We'd look for him to lead us in the big games, and he did it whether he was throwing passes, running the ball or intercepting passes on defense. He had great command in the huddle, and everyone knew he was our leader."

It would be fitting if Williams and Claybourne could connect again on Saturday as they did so plenty of times this past season. Bradley said it didn't take long for the two to become an effective combination after Claybourne came to Sto-Rox for his senior season after playing for Perry Traditional Academy of the City League.

"It took awhile at first for him to get used to our terminology," Bradley said. "But once he did, the comfort level [between Williams and Claybourne]was second to none. It was like he and Lenny had an unspoken language on the field."

Neither coach will have the opportunity to see their standout players much when they begin their college careers. But both plan to stay in touch with them, and they expect that they will come back to visit when they get some free time.

"[Swanson doesn't] need me to hang around," Zmijanac said. "But I'll keep an eye on him, as I do with all of the players who have played for me."

Bradley expects he will talk with both Williams and Claybourne on a regular basis and he's hoping to catch one of Williams' games at Temple.


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