Ohio brings home another victory in Big 33
HERSHEY — Hopewell tailback Rushel Shell had a hand in deciding the Big 33 Classic, but not the way most would have expected.
Shell couldn't grab an errant overtime pass that instead was intercepted by Ohio's Nana Kyeremeh, a turnover that sealed Pennsylvania's 24-21 loss Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium.
Shell had been held mostly in check, but quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg turned to him on Pennsylvania's first play of overtime. The quick pass at Ohio's 25-yard line was thrown behind Shell.
“It's a tough way to end,” he said. “It wasn't the greatest throw, but it happens. I tried to reach out and make a one-hand snag, but I just couldn't.”
Instead, the winning points were the 39-yard field goal kicked by Ohio's Tyler Grassman one possession earlier.
Woodland Hills' Shakim Alonzo and Shaler's J.P. Holtz caught touchdown passes for Pennsylvania, but it couldn't stop Ohio from stretching its winning streak to four.
Pennsylvania's defense did all it could. With less than seven minutes left, Pennsylvania led, 21-7. But Ohio scored twice in a 30-second span, beginning with a 1-yard touchdown run by Lima Central Catholic quarterback Tyler O'Connor.
Seconds later, Archbishop Wood's Desmon Peoples fumbled the kickoff return, and Ohio recovered in the end zone for the tying touchdown.
Three quarters of solid defense had been negated.
“It's frustrating when your defense does as well as ours and then comes up short,” said Woodland Hills linebacker Mike Caprara, who recovered a fumble. “When you're on the sideline, you can't do much about it.”
The Ohio defense forced six turnovers. It also contained Shell and Montour's Julian Durden, two talented tailbacks from the WPIAL. Shell, the state's all-time rushing leader, had 23 yards on five carries. Durden had 8 yards on five carries.
Still, Pennsylvania led, 14-0, at halftime.
A 51-yard touchdown pass from Mornhinweg to Allentown Central Catholic's Kevin Gulyas gave Pennsylvania a 7-0 lead with 7:14 left in the first quarter. Mornhinweg, a Florida recruit from St. Joseph's Prep, was 7 of 14 for 131 yards.
The lead doubled with 2:49 left in the second when Alonzo caught a 13-yard touchdown from Bloomsburg quarterback Blake Rankin, a Rutgers recruit.
Rankin, who was 10 of 16 for 138 yards and two touchdowns, was the Pennsylvania MVP. Alonzo had three catches for 52 yards. Penn Hills' Corey Jones had two catches for 43 yards. Durden had three for 25.
Seneca Valley coach Don Holl oversaw this year's offense, which borrowed passing schemes from his team.
Steubenville's Najee Murray gave Ohio its first all-star-caliber highlight when the Ohio State recruit caught an 85-yard touchdown pass from O'Connor, a Michigan State recruit. The touchdown, 4:35 before halftime, cut Pennsylvania's lead to 14-7. O'Connor, who was 9 of 23 for 161 yards and a touchdown, was the Ohio MVP.
Holtz made a leaping catch with 47 seconds left in the third quarter for a 4-yard touchdown that gave Pennsylvania a 21-7 lead. Holtz, like Shell and Caprara, signed with Pitt and new coach Paul Chryst.
“He said he'd be watching tonight,” Shell said. “Hopefully he's seen a lot of things he liked.”
The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback for Ohio in 1999, walked the sidelines as the honorary chairman.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5666.