Maryland falls in return to Big 33 Football Classic

After spending a busy week in Central Pennsylvania preparing for the Big 33 Football Classic, Maryland began the 56th-annual all-star game by allowing a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Pennsylvania’s Tyler Boyd.

Wise defensive end Myles Humphrey later called that early gut punch “a bummer,” a feeling that quickly became the theme for a nightmare start.

Pennsylvania needed just one offensive play to score three touchdowns in the game’s first two minutes, and Maryland couldn’t fully recover in a 58-27 loss in Hershey, Pa. Making its first appearance in the game since 1992, a Maryland squad that featured 21 local players cut its deficit to 10 points in the second half but got no closer.

“That [start] wasn’t fun, but I’m proud we came back,” said Humphrey, a Shepherd recruit who had a hand in two sacks and forced a fumble that he also recovered on another quarterback hit. “You’re on NFL Network, and you want to take advantage of the opportunity. People got pumped up a little bit, and we started playing our game.”

Boyd did the most damage, accounting for five touchdowns. In addition to his return score, the Pittsburgh recruit found the end zone via catch twice and rush. He also tossed a 68-yard touchdown on a trick play.

Maryland managed three touchdowns in the second quarter and pulled within 37-27 in the third quarter on its final score, a two-yard rushing touchdown by Atholton quarterback Luke Casey (Rhode Island).

Ultimately, Pennsylvania pulled away, capitalizing on Maryland’s mistakes. Pennsylvania scored on the kick return, an interception return, a blocked extra point return and two pass plays of at least 57 yards. Maryland fell to 2-7 all-time in the Big 33 Football Classic.

“It’s disappointing with the outcome, but at the same time, the kids did play hard,” said Coach Dave Mencarini, who begins summer workouts with his team at Quince Orchard on Monday. “It would have been easy for them to say, ‘This is an all-star game,’ and pack it in, but they didn’t do that.”

Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille earned team most valuable player honors with 247 passing yards and two scores. He also rushed for a touchdown.

One of five Maryland recruits on the team, Cockerille earned praise from Mencarini as “the calming force we needed in the huddle.” Future Terrapin DeAndre Lane of Catonsville also posted a game-high 122 receiving yards.

The game’s wider mission helped make the lopsided result on national television easier to take.

After Saturday’s contest, most of the players met with their special needs buddies for the week a final time on the field at Hersheypark Stadium, promising to stay in touch with tears flowing all around, according to Mencarini. The 2011 All-Met Coach of the Year called the postgame scene “my lasting memory of the week.”

Humphrey made the most of his selection to the game. He arrived in Hershey last Friday night, dropped off with his young host family two days earlier than his teammates with his parents headed to South Carolina for vacation.

The defensive lineman visited Hershey Park twice with Curt and Kelley Buckwalter during a memorable week. Among four Wise players in the game, he was picked as a team captain for the game and stood out in a contest filled with Football Bowl Subdivision recruits.

“I had a great time,” Humphrey said. “It’s nice to be away from home in a new environment for a little bit, just having fun. … This will probably be the highlight of my summer.”

Wise lineman Antonio Harris was the lone All-Met to play in the game and after starting at right tackle, the Towson recruit endured a scary moment when he crumpled to the ground in pain late in the fourth quarter. On Sunday, Coach DaLawn Parrish, an assistant on the squad, said Harris escaped with a minor ankle sprain.

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Preston Williams · June 17, 2013