Coach Bob Milloy sat in a Silver Spring pizza parlor, chewing a handful of peanuts and wondering how his Maryland high school all-star football team was going to stop this bull of a running back from Pennsylvania.
"They have a guy going to Syracuse who has been promised No. 44," Milloy said. "Do you know what that means? No. 44 is what Jim Brown wore, Floyd Little, Ernie Davis. They don't give that out to everybody. He's going to be a real problem, stopping that son of a gun."
"Is that Michael Owens you're talking about?" he was asked.
"Is he from Carlisle?" he responded.
"That's the one."
He popped a few more nuts. Then he put the game into perspective. "All I know is that there hasn't been a Super Bowl played without a guy from this all-star game -- Montana, Marino, Dorsett," he said.
This year, the Pennsylvania all-star team, which will play Maryland Aug. 2 in the Big 33 game in Hershey, Pa., includes players who will attend Penn State, Ohio State, Maryland, Pittsburgh and West Virginia -- to name a few top football schools. Only six of the players are under 200 pounds, including Owens.
Still, one Maryland player, center Pat Turner of Springbrook, who will play at Towson State, isn't intimidated.
"The way I figure it, they're good, but they can't be that much better," said Turner, who is 6 feet 2, 235 pounds. "I saw their roster last year, and they were a lot bigger. But they won by only three points 17-14 . I've played football for eight years, on a lot of small teams that have won. It's the intensity. If you play that way, you will win."
When the teams met last year, in the inaugural game between the two states, many people were surprised by Pennsylvania's narrow victory. Since the all-star game was first played in 1958, Pennsylvania has hosted teams from Ohio and Texas, traditionally strong high school football states.
"It wasn't supposed to be a contest, and I heard they were lucky to get out of there alive," said Milloy, who coached Springbrook to the Maryland state title in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1985. "The director of the game Mickey Minnich said Maryland should have won. He said they would be ready this year and were going to take the game more seriously."
Turner is familiar with the tradition, hearing stories from relatives who live near Pittsburgh. Some of his relatives, who will attend the all-star game, tell him "all they hear about is the Big 33 game."
"All the football players in Pennsylvania want to be on the team," Turner said. "They're super proud if they make it."
Although Maryland's team does not have the overall size of Pennsylvania's, it certainly has some notable big men: defensive tackle Joe Hall (6-2, 250), a McNamara graduate who will play at Virginia, and offensive tackle Armin Moshyedi (6-3, 250) of Churchill and Harvard.
The biggest, though, is offensive tackle Eric Jonassen of Mount St. Joseph's in Baltimore. Jonassen, who is 6-6 and 285 pounds and will play at Penn State, impresses Milloy. "I mean, I've never been around a guy that big in all my life," he said. "Just to coach a guy like that would be fun."
If the Maryland offensive linemen can create holes, the Maryland running backs can surely find them and could steal the show from Owens. Milloy will alternate Troy Turner (Arundel, undecided), Clifton Phillips (Fairmont Heights, Temple), Durwin Greggs (McNamara, Virginia), Mike McCall (Springbrook, Delaware) and Michael Sanders (Calvert Hall, Boston College).
"It's just to have fun. That's the purpose of any all-star game," Turner said. "Hey, let's get our best guys and you get yours, and let's have fun. The kind of guys who play in this game love football."