New offensive twist for Pa. in Big 33
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The game rules for the Big 33 Football Classic mandate plenty of passing. Teams must throw on at least one-third of their plays.
But a stable of talented running backs dictates that the Pennsylvania team will try to establish a running game.
Pennsylvania meets Ohio Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium at 7 p.m. in the 55th annual Big 33, a high school all-star game featuring top graduating seniors from both states. During practices this week, Pennsylvania offensive coordinator Don Holl has been impressed with his trio of running backs.
"The way the game is makes it a challenge to find ways to run the ball, but I think you have to run it," said Holl, the head coach at Seneca Valley High School.
"And with the kids we have, it would be a disservice to them and the offense if they weren't getting touches."
Pennsylvania's three running backs are Hopewell's Rushel Shell, Montour's Julian Durden and Archbishop Wood's Desmon Peoples.
Shell is the headliner of the group, a Pitt recruit and the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania. Durden is a Kent State recruit who finished his career as the WPIAL's sixth all-time leading rusher. Peoples is a Rutgers recruit.
Seneca Valley has scrimmaged against Hopewell the past few seasons, so Holl is familiar with Shell.
"He is everything as advertised," Holl said. "He has great acceleration in small spaces, makes great cuts and he's really physical.
"I know it's a cliché, but he has the total package. He can run over you, away from you and make you miss -- all on the same run."
Pennsylvania's quarterbacks are Skyler Mornhinweg of St. Joseph's Prep and Blake Rankin of Bloomsburg. Mornhinweg was at one time a Penn State recruit, but he eventually signed with Florida. Rankin is a Rutgers recruit.
Holl made a point to recognize Upper St. Clair offensive lineman Ian Park, a Northwestern recruit.
"We knew he was good, but he has been super," Holl said. "He is just so physical. But some of our defensive linemen have looked good, like Treyvon Hester [of Penn Hills]."
Hester will play at Toledo.
The Big 33 seems to have lost some of its luster in recent years, mainly because it was moved from late July to mid-June. Some top players have turned down invitations to play, and attendance has dropped.
This year, the game will be televised live by PCN cable television. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played for Ohio in the Big 33, is the game's honorary chairman.
"Things change and maybe the date of the game changed it a lot," Holl said. "Some kids are getting pushed not to play [by their] colleges and maybe you don't see all of the marquee players like you used to. But there is still plenty of talent here."
Especially in the backfield.
First Published June 15, 2012 12:00 am