TJ's Costy plays in all-star clash for the ages
This was one he always will remember.
Cole Costy played in some epic battles during his days as a member of Thomas Jefferson's varsity football team, and he's sure to play in more at the collegiate level when he arrives at Youngstown State University later this summer.
But the game he participated in Saturday was as dramatic and memorable as anything he's ever experienced on the gridiron.
Costy, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound offensive lineman, played in the 57th annual Big 33 Football Classic on Saturday in Hershey.
It was a game that truly ended up being a classic.
“It was probably the best game I was ever associated with,” Costy said. “It was crazy.”
The contest features graduating high school football stars from Pennsylvania against those from Maryland. In this year's installment, Pennsylvania was behind 24-0 late in the second quarter, then stormed back to tie the game in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
The game remained knotted through one overtime period before Maryland scored on the first play of the second overtime, then grabbed an interception moments later to take a 31-24 decision.
“We fell behind, but then we started to really get things together, and we all came together as a team to get back into it,” said Costy, an all-conference lineman at Thomas Jefferson.
Costy described the atmosphere in the waning seconds of regulation at Hersheypark Stadium when Pennsylvania's Joe Julius nailed a 38-yard field goal to force overtime.
“Everyone was going nuts when he made that kick,” Costy said. “Even though we fell behind earlier, we knew we could get back into it.”
And the Pennsylvania all-stars almost pulled off the win. While the loss was tough to take, the experience overall was “amazing” to Costy.
He and his teammates arrived in Hershey on June 8. Costy then spent the week leading up to the game living with a host family and learning a new system.
“At some points, the Xs and Os were pretty different than what I'm used to,” Costy said. “Different terminology; but it wasn't too bad to figure out.
“I knew my pass protections, and I only had a couple running plays to learn. We all worked to learn it together.”
The condensed learning time also meant trying to quickly mesh as a team with a roster full of players unfamiliar with each other.
“That was the thing I was most surprised by,” Costy said. “I knew a couple kids on the team, just from the recruiting process and being around them, but for the most part we didn't know each other at all. But by the end of the week, I felt as comfortable with this team as I did my high school team.
“That's what happens when you get high-caliber players together. We ended up becoming a team and becoming really good friends during the week.”
It helped that the week wasn't all about football, as the players were able to enjoy off-the-field activities like visiting Hersheypark and participating in the Big 33 “Buddy Team” in which athletes are paired with special needs youngsters for companionship and fun.
But by the time the Big 33 game rolled around, the atmosphere was just as serious as a WPIAL playoff battle.
And knowing the litany of college and NFL superstars who have played in the game previously — at least one Big 33 alumnus has played in every Super Bowl contest — made it even more meaningful.
“It was definitely a big honor to be named to the team,” Costy said. “Knowing some of the players that have come through the Big 33, the caliber of players they were, it's an honor that opposing coaches thought enough of me to be named to the (Pennsylvania) team. It's definitely something to be really proud of.”
Thomas Jefferson alumni who have participated in the all-star game include Lou Cecconi, Jimbo Cramer, Brad Dawson, Brock DeCicco, Dom DeCicco, Chris Drager, Jim Giansante, John Harchar, Nate Nix, Tyler Reed and Michael Wainauskas.
The game also serves as a bridge from high school to college football, which, for Costy, begins in less than two months when he reports to Youngstown State.
“With the caliber of players that were there, I think the Big 33 really helped me to get ready for college,” he said. “I'm really excited to get to Youngstown State. I'm excited about the coaching staff we have up there, I'm excited about getting on the field.
“They said you'd know ‘the school' as soon as you set foot on campus, and for me, that was it. I'm ready.”
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.