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Guido: Super Bowl-Big 33 streak stays alive

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The Super Bowl-Big 33 connection continues as the big game approaches the half-century mark.

All 48 Super Bowls have contained at least one player who played in the Big 33 game.

This time around, Seahawks defensive lineman Jordan Hill is helping to keep the streak alive.

Hill played in the 2009 Big 33 game after starring on Steelton-Highspire's 2008 PIAA Class A title team that defeated Clairton.

The Seahawks drafted Hill after a successful career at Penn State.

On injured reserve for Denver is Dan Koepen, a graduate of Whitehall who played in the 1998 Big 33 game.

The Big 33, which dates to 1957, is an annual all-star game that features outstanding seniors from the previous high school football season in various formats.

The game features Pennsylvania against Maryland.

This year's game is June 14 at Hersheypark Stadium.

Some local players also have sustained the Big 33-Super Bowl connection.

Among them is Freeport's Eric Ravotti, a member of the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

The late Mitch Frerotte of Kittanning played in three Super Bowls, all with the Bills.

Denver's roster includes two past members from Ohio Big 33 teams. Steve Vallos played in the 2008 game and Zac Dysert played in '02.

Ex-Ford City coach dies

One-time Ford City boys basketball coach H. Mark Fruehan died last weekend.

Fruehan took over the program in 1970 and led the Sabers to a section title in 1971 and runner-up finishes in the WPIAL and the PIAA in 1979.

He was 78.

Fruehan was born in Brownsville in 1935 and graduated from Fairmont (W. Va.) State before coming to Ford City in 1960.

He took over the Alle-Kiski Valley's most decorated high school basketball program at a time when Ford City was playing in the highest enrollment classification, but found its section opponents becoming bigger schools.

“It was definitely a transition period where the schools in the section were becoming larger,” said Tom Dinga, who played three years in junior high for Fruehan before adding three varsity seasons when he became head coach.

For example, New Kensington was consolidated with Arnold to form Valley, Har-Brack merged with Tarentum to form Highlands and Vandergrift joined with the former Bell-Avon and Washington Township high schools to form Kiski Area.

Fruehan's junior high teams won 53 consecutive games at one point.

“When we were getting ready for our first (varsity) section game against Valley, Mike Rice said ‘We'll see how they do in section, there we no ‘Elders Ridges' here,' as a way to diminish the junior high streak,” said Dinga. “We beat Valley by two and won the section by two, proving the junior high streak was no fluke.”

Still, Ford City played in the largest class until 1977.

It can be argued that Fruehan suffered as devastating a championship game defeat as any coach in local history.

In the 1979 WPIAL Class AA title game at the Civic Arena, Ford City was leading Midland in the waning seconds. Midland's Roosevelt Kirby tossed an off-balance shot as he was falling out of bounds at midcourt.

The shot somehow went in. Midland players were silent at first before what happened sunk in, while Ford City players fell in disbelief.

WPIAL personnel and others had to lift the players from the floor for the post-game ceremony.

Fruehan and assistant Larry Rybicki, to their credit, got the team up within a few days to begin a drive to the state playoffs, where the Sabers won four games before losing to York Catholic in the state finals.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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