As is the case with all the players selected to participate in Saturday night's Big 33 all-star football game in Hershey, Pa., Poolesville's Irvin Smith hopes to make his final scholastic appearance something special. But Smith has added incentive because it could be his last chance to carry the ball.

Smith, who plans to attend the the University of Maryland in the fall, has been Montgomery County's leading rusher the last two seasons. But the Terrapins plan to use him at defensive back.

"He's an excellent athlete with tremendous speed," said Maryland Coach Bobby Ross. "Irvin's a tremendous prospect. He reminds me a great deal of (Terrapins running back) Tommy Neal.

"We're planning on starting him out on defense because that's where we think he'll have the best chance to contribute immediately," said Ross, whose team has been chosen as the nation's No. 1 team by Sport magazine in its college football preview. "Because of his speed (4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash), he could project himself into a role with us as a (fifth) nickle back to help with our pass defense."

But will the transition to defense be difficult for Smith, who averaged 7.5 yards per carry, scored 30 touchdowns and rushed for 2,623 yards in his varsity career?

In Saturday's all-star game, Smith's speed could negate the size advantage enjoyed by the Pennsylvania all-stars, who will outweigh their Maryland counterparts by more than 20 pounds per man.

"He's a tremendous player who could become a game breaker in a game like this," said Poolesville Coach Ernie Ceccato.

The risk of injury looms over summer scholastic all-star games, however -- a reality acknowledged by Ross.

"You're always fearful of an injury in a game like this," said Ross. "Several years ago, Keeta Covington got hurt playing in an all-star game. He missed the first five or six weeks of practice and that really hurt us, but I still support this game wholeheartedly.

"This Big 33 game is a real shot in the arm for high school athletics in Maryland," said Ross, who'll have seven recruits -- four from Maryland, three from Pennsylvania -- playing in the game.