The list of high school all-star games has grown so long in recent years that the NCAA capped the number of exhibitions senior standouts could play in at two. Inspired by the promise of TV revenue and the explosion of interest in top-rated recruits, companies have drenched the high school football market with senior all-star showcases whose weight comes less from tradition and more from the scale of their television contract.
But before there were all these games, there was the Big 33 Football Classic: “the game,” as former NFL defensive lineman Reggie White called it in a 2013 Post story. Held in Hershey, Pa., the Big 33 matches Pennsylvania’s top senior football talent against that of a neighboring state. Recently, that opponent was often Ohio. Until last year, Maryland hadn’t earned the chance since 1992. But after a 58-27 loss to Pennsylvania in last year’s game, Maryland is back in the Big 33 game again, and 23 locals will try to shift the result Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
Those 23 locals, selected through a try-out process, have been in Hershey since Sunday, staying with host families and contributing to the Big 33’s community service initiative, which pairs the players with “buddies” who have special needs. While some all-star games bring players in for a few days of practice , if that, the Big 33 experience includes a week of hard practice, an early tune-up for college-bound seniors, many of whom will take off shortly after for summer classes.
This year’s Maryland crew is coached by River Hill’s Brian Van Deusen, who is assisted by Wise Coach DaLawn Parrish, Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney, and assistants from their high school staffs. They’ll coach a team comprised in large part of players from Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Defending Maryland 4A state champion Northwest is the best represented squad of that bunch, with three graduating Jaguars on the roster.
Here’s the full list of locals with name, school, position, and college plans. You can watch them on the NFL Network on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Daniel Appouh, Seneca Valley, DE, Old Dominion
Antwaine Carter, Westlake, QB, Maryland
Anthony Chesley, Gwynn Park, WR/DB, Coastal Carolina
Javonn Curry, Paint Branch, WR, James Madison
Jerome Dews, Potomac, LB, Tennessee
Marquel Dickerson, North Point, RB, Towson
Rasheed Gillis, Northwest, LB, Shepherd
Josh Gills, Northwest, RB, Dusquesne
Melvin Gowl, Spalding, OL, Air Force
Gary Gross, Douglass, DT, Nassau Community College
Jake Hawk, Meade, OT, Navy
Anthony Jackson, Suitland, LB, Delaware
Jalen Jones, South River, QB, New Mexico
Kevin Joppy, Quince Orchard, RB, Shepherd
Samer Manna, Northwest, LB, Wesley
Zach Nicholas, Mount Hebron, DB, Buffalo
Alex Potocko, River Hill, K, Salisbury
Avery Taylor, Gaithersburg, DE, Merrimack
Micah Till, Wise, DE/TE, N.C. State
Solomon Vault, Gaithersburg, RB, Northwestern
Casey Wokocha, Eleanor Roosevelt, LB, West Virginia State
Jamal Woodland, DuVal, CB, Toledo
NUMBER CRUNCH: 48
The number of Super Bowls played, and the number of Super Bowls with a Big 33 alum participating. Denver Broncos Zak Dysert and Steve Vallos and Seattle Seahawk Jordan Hill are all Big 33 alumni.
— Despite being dismissed all season, the Langley boys’ lacrosse team is back in the state title game after a dominating win against Osbourn Park
– Loudoun County’s Kyle Buresh became an unlikely hero in the Raiders’ state semifinal win over Western Albemarle Tuesday
— Battlefield pitcher Nick Wells will sign with the Toronto Blue Jays
— Paul VI’s Raven James committed to Villanova, the Panthers’ first 2016 commit
— Wilson defensive end Kareem McDonald commits to Old Dominion
PHOTOS OF THE DAY:
Last night in a Virginia 6A girls semifinal, Westfield breezed by Battlefield and into the state title game. Here’s what it looked like:
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Virginia 5A girls’ lacrosse state semifinal at Woodgrove. The Wolverines host Salem (Salem, Va.) at 6 p.m. in Purcellville with a state championship matchup against cross-town rival Loudoun Valley on the line.