Pennsylvania falls to Ohio in Big 33 Classic
HERSHEY — West Catholic alumnus Curtis Drake is destined to play as a slot receiver and has the potential to be a multipurpose threat when he goes to Penn State.
He certainly gave coach Joe Paterno a lot to think about with his performance for Pennsylvania in Ohio's 38-31 victory in the Big 33 Classic at Hersheypark Stadium.
"I was just coming here to play a game for Pennsylvania and, if it was all good, to come out of here with a victory," said Drake, the Pennsylvania most valuable player. "It was close, and it was a real hard-fought game, but (Paterno) was probably watching the game and probably saw some things he liked and some things I need to work on."
Drake was at times dominant playing in the shotgun with 17 carries for 88 yards and two scores, including a nifty 1-yard run on a quarterback draw with 2:21 remaining in regulation that tied the game 31-31. But Ohio's Austin Boucher, a Miami (Ohio) recruit, ran the two-minute drill to perfection with a 50-yard run on a draw of his own that set up defensive lineman Adam Replogle's 1-yard touchdown out of a full-house backfield with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
It is the 21st time the neighboring states have met in the Big 33 Classic, and Pennsylvania holds an 11-10 edge in the series. But in reality Pennsylvania wouldn't have needed Drake's late-game heroics had he not made a huge gaffe that allowed Ohio to take the lead in the third quarter.
After completing a 27-yard pass to Malik Generett on a fourth-and-16 from the Ohio 28, Drake had Pennsylvania in prime scoring position with a first-and-goal at the 1 in a 17-17 game. But after initially lining up in shotgun, Drake went under center, took the snap and tried a quarterback sneak when he lost a fumble.
"On that play, we tried a silent count and it was on the center whenever he went," Drake said. "It was just a little miscommunication."
On the ensuing play, Boucher, the Ohio MVP, hit Micah Hyde for a 99-yard touchdown to give Ohio a 24-17 lead with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter. That completion set a record for longest play, longest play for a touchdown and longest passing touchdown in Big 33 history.
"It was so exciting because I was thinking that we had a really big chance to make something special happen," Boucher said. "Micah Hyde went up, and he made the rest happen."
That 14-point turnaround loomed larger when future Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint scored his second touchdown of the night on a 6-yard run with eight seconds remaining in the period to give Ohio a 31-17 advantage.
Only seven WPIAL players participated in the game, and Bethel Park's Lyle Marsh could not have dreamed of a better beginning.
On his first carry of the game, the University of Pennsylvania recruit slashed over the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown. But it took quite a while before he had another bright spot as later, with the game tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Marsh fumbled twice on the same drive.
He didn't return to the field until less than three minutes remained in the first half and did not touch the ball again until he broke off a 33-yard run with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. He also scored his second touchdown of the game on a 2-yard plunge with 7:33 remaining in the game.
"That was hard losing those two fumbles," Marsh said. "But it was nice to be able to redeem myself a bit and help the team have an opportunity to win the game."
In his last game at Hersheypark Stadium, he carried 26 times for 195 yards and two scores in Bethel Park's 28-21 overtime loss to Liberty on Dec. 13 in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game.
"I didn't think much about that," Marsh said. "But it was exciting just to be here and it was a great atmosphere. I only hoped that we could have won."
After Marsh gave Pennsylvania that 7-point lead, though, it took little time for Ohio to counter. On Ohio's second drive, Akron quarterback recruit Patrick Nicely tossed a pass to Toussaint in the left flat where he cut back to the middle and outran the defense for a 46-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
After Marsh's second fumble gave Ohio a great opportunity at the Pennsylvania 31, St. Joseph's Prep's Mike Pinciotti sacked Nicely and forced a fumble that McKeesport linebacker Dana Brown Jr. recovered to keep the game tied.
Both teams traded touchdowns and field goals in the second quarter as the teams went into the locker rooms tied 17-17 at intermission.