Three weeks ago, quarterback Mark Ray received the phone call that he'd been dreaming about for months. It was an invitation to join the Maryland all-stars against Pennsylvania's best scholastic football players in the Big 33 game on July 20 in Hershey, Pa. But more importantly for Ray was the chance to find out how good a quarterback he really is.
Last season he dominated the Tri-State Athletic Conference with his passing while leading Pallotti to a 10-0 record and the league championship. He completed 151 of 261 passes for 2,508 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Panthers.
But some college scouts shied away because of concern that his league's relatively weak stature inflated his statistics. Despite feelers from large schools like Pittsburgh and Boston College, Ray still doesn't have a college scholarship. He plans to attend nearby Anne Arundel Community College this fall.
"When I received that phone call to see if I wanted to play for the Maryland all-stars I immediately said, 'Yes,'" said Ray, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder. "I wasn't hesitant at all. Sure, I thought I was good enough to make the team the first time (he was named to replace another player), but just making this team is a real honor. Getting a chance to practice with and play against those other players will give me a chance to test myself against a much higher level of competition than I faced at Pallotti."
In preparation for the Big 33 game, he is lifting weights and practicing his passing nearly every day with former teammate Brian MacLean, a freshman recruit at the University of Connecticut.
"The coaches told me to practice my throwing and my dropback," said Ray, one of three quarterbacks who will play for the Maryland team. "We'll be playing a pro offense, so I expect that we'll have a wide-open offense and I want to be ready. This is my big chance and I want to make the most of it."
Ray will continue his private practice regimen until July 14 when the Maryland all-stars will assemble in Hershey for a week of practice. The game is set for 7:30 p.m. on July 20.
"This game offers me the chance to see how good a quarterback I really am," said Ray, who transferred to Pallotti from Meade two years ago as a junior.
"I expect to learn a lot from the coaches and the week of practice in Hershey. Pennsylvania high school football players are supposed to be the best in the country.
"Imagine if we went up there and beat them. That would be a big upset, but I think we have a chance. I just want to be able to contribute to something like that."