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Sto-Rox's Williams shows he belongs in Big 33 loss to Maryland

| Saturday, June 14, 2014, 10:42 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania quarterback Lenny Williams (Sto-Rox) eludes Maryland's Gary Gross during the first quarter of the Big 33 Classic on Saturday, June 14, 2014, at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey.

HERSHEY — The WPIAL's all-time passing leader wasn't here to prove anything.

“If I throw 30 touchdowns, I'll still have doubters,” said Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams, a Temple-bound quarterback, before Pennsylvania's double-overtime loss to Maryland, 31-24, Saturday night in the Big 33 Football Classic. “There are always going to be doubters. It's in the back of my mind, but I don't think about that. I just try to play football.”

Still, he proved much.

Williams started for Pennsylvania and led the all-star team on a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter at Hersheypark Stadium. Lower Dauphin's Joe Julius kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:19 left to force overtime. But neither Williams nor Lebanon's Mark Pyles, Pennsylvania's other quarterback, could score in overtime.

Maryland won it with a 25-yard touchdown catch by Maryland's Reggie White Jr. of Milford Mill on the first play of the second overtime. Maryland recruit Antwaine Carter threw the pass to White, a Monmouth recruit.

Listed at 5-foot-11, Williams is shorter than most college quarterbacks. And, yes, he played “only” Class A football for the Vikings. But surrounded by many of the best high school football players from Pennsylvania and Maryland, Williams fit in.

“He's a college quarterback all right,” said Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta, a Big 33 assistant who watched Williams during a week of practice. “The kid can run the ball well. He's strong. He's elusive. With (college) coaches who'll work with him individually, I think his skills will be improve to where he'll be able to play at that level.”

And Botta wasn't all that concerned with Williams' size.

“He's a lot bigger kid that I thought he was,” Botta said. “He's a thick individual.”

Williams had a 10-yard run and a 43-yard pass on a first-quarter drive that should have ended with a touchdown. But Toledo recruit Delane Hart dropped a well-placed pass from Williams two plays later on the goal line. It was the first of several drops by Pennsylvania receivers.

Maryland led 17-0 early in the second quarter and 24-7 at halftime.

“Lenny's a good runner, but he's got a good arm, too,” said Gateway coach Tom Nola, a Big 33 assistant. “He throws the ball real nice. It's just a matter of him learning coverages and reading defenses. There's no question about him throwing the ball.”

Williams alternated series with Pyles, a Bucknell linebacker recruit. In four seasons as Sto-Rox's starter, Williams had 8,509 career passing yards. As a senior, he had 2,709 and 34 touchdowns.

“A lot of Single-A players get downgraded because we're only in Single-A,” Williams said. “This is our chance for everyone to see what we really can do.”

Nola faced him several times coaching Clairton.

“He was elusive in the pocket,” Nola said. “We had a tough time handling him.”

The WPIAL had nine players in the game, including Aliquippa running back Terry Swanson, who helped Pennsylvania rally in the second half. Swanson's 1-yard touchdown run with 4:23 left in third quarter cut Maryland's lead to 24-14.

A 21-yard touchdown run by Pyles made it 24-21 with 7:52 left in the fourth.

Also representing the WPIAL were Bethel Park's Mike Grimm, Central Catholic's Niko Thorpe, Thomas Jefferson's Cole Costy, Upper St. Clair's Ben Huss, Franklin Regional's Colin Jonov and McKeesport's Jawan Hill.

The matchup was much lower scoring that last year's 58-27 Pennsylvania victory. The series stands tied at 1-1 since Maryland returned as the opponent in 2013.

Maryland held a 10-0 first-quarter lead after a 72-yard touchdown run by Towson recruit Marquel Dickerson of Potomac and a 39-yard field goal by Salisbury recruit Alex Potocko of River Hill. A 14-yard touchdown pass from South Rivers' Jalen Jones to Quince Orchard's Kevin Joppy gave Maryland a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. Jones is a New Mexico recruit. Joppy signed with Shepherd.

Maryland also had a 55-yard interception return by Maryland recruit Josh Woods in the first half.

Woods, who had two interceptions, was named Maryland's team MVP.

Central Dauphin East running back Chase Edmonds earned Pennsylvania's award. Edmonds, a Fordham recruit, had a 28-yard touchdown run in the second quarter when Pennsylvania trailed 24-0.

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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