Pennsylvania team set to reignite rivalry with Maryland in annual Big 33 Football Classic
After two decades of battling Buckeyes, Pennsylvania will welcome another neighbor to Hershey for Saturday's Big 33 Football Classic.
Maryland has replaced Ohio as the out-of-state opponent in the high school all-star game, even though fans from Western Pennsylvania might disagree with its rival status.
“We don't see Maryland as a rival, but the eastern part of the state definitely does,” said North Allegheny's Art Walker, Pennsylvania's coach. “Once you're up here for a week and you see them, (the rivalry) starts to build.”
The teams have practiced this week at high schools around Harrisburg. This year's game will be televised by PCN and the NFL Network.
A change from Ohio to Maryland should draw a larger crowd to Hersheypark Stadium for the 7 p.m. game, a key reason why organizers made the switch in October.
Schedule conflicts with similar all-star games in Ohio also prompted the move. But this Mason-Dixon Line rivalry isn't entirely new; Maryland was the Big 33 opponent in 1985-92.
“The relationship we had before with Maryland was very good,” said Central Valley's Mark Lyons, an assistant coach for Pennsylvania. “A couple years ago the Ohio situation started to break down a little bit ... and the Maryland people were eager to get back in.”
The event's format has matched the Keystone state against a number of opponents during its 56 years, including Texas in the 1960s.
Pennsylvania won six of eight games against Maryland.
“The crowds were at their biggest when we had Maryland,” Lyons said. “When you ask people to not only cross Ohio but also the state of Pennsylvania, that's a pretty big drive.”
Pennsylvania's roster has nine players from the WPIAL; among them are North Allegheny quarterback Mack Leftwich and Clairton teammates Tyler Boyd and Titus Howard. All three won PIAA championships at Hersheypark Stadium in December.
The rosters also have six Pitt recruits: Boyd, Howard, Harverford linebacker Matt Galambos, Chambersburg lineman Aaron Reese, West Catholic lineman Jaryd Jones-Smith, La Salle College kicker Ryan Winslow and Avalon (Md.) running back Rachid Ibrahim.
While this game historically has featured a number of Ohio State recruits, this year there are six committed to Maryland.