Football

Around District 11: The Travels of Guy & Pam Big 33—The Super Bowl

Tagged under: All-Stars, Gameday Hub, News

Billy Splain | May 31, 2023

 

Around District 11: The Travels of Guy & Pam

Big 33—The Super Bowl

 

2023.05.  Before last season, Pam and Guy had never gone to a high school football all-star game.  As is our nature, once we did, we jumped all-in and went to every game where D11 players were participating.  This year, we dialed it back to just the three PSFCA games at Rocco Ortenzio Stadium on the campus of Bishop McDevitt High School.  If we should ever decide to dial back even more to just one all-star game, it would be Big 33.  After all this is “The Super Bowl of High School Football.”  We don’t plan on missing it.

For the second straight week, football was the culmination of a four-sport weekend for us.  We were at minor league baseball on Tuesday (Federal League New Jersey Jackals), auto racing on Wednesday (Kutztown Fairgrounds Action Track), minor league soccer on Friday (WPSL Penn Fusion Soccer Academy), and more auto racing on Saturday (New Egypt Speedway).  For the second week in a row, football on Sunday was the icing on the cake and the best day of the week.

Big 33 is “The Game” and it dates back to 1958 before we were born, when it began at Hershey.  Since 2013 the game has featured Pennsylvania vs. Maryland.  Before that, PA had lost the previous four straight to Ohio.  Maryland had previously been the opponent from 1985-1992.

But Big 33 is more than just a game.  It’s an event.  A happening.  It has the “It Factor.”  When you attend the game in person, you know you are a part of something special.

If you are looking for who had the most first downs or who scored touchdowns for each team, we direct you to the PA Football News website, where an excellent game summary with complete box score is available.  We’re here to tell you the rest of the story from the perspective of the fans in the stands.

There was a Big Change to Big 33 this year.  Last year, the two East vs. West games were on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend with Big 33 itself on Monday afternoon.  This year, the schedule was changed and the East/West games were moved one week earlier to the Sunday before Memorial Day weekend.  And the Big 33 game itself was moved not only from Monday to Sunday, but from afternoon to evening.  How did the change work out?  Both the home and away side stands were very full on Sunday evening, so the change seemed a smashing success.

This year, there were six students and two coaches representing District 11 in Big 33.

Nigel Linton of Whitehall was one of the running backs.  Nigel is headed to Wilkes University, which just happens to be the fourth and final college where Guy graduated.  Nigel ended up with more rushing attempts in the game than any other team Pennsylvania player.  By the way, Nigel is not related to Jonathan Linton of Catasauqua, right next door to Whitehall (Thanks to dear friend and long-time former Catty assistant coach Brad Blozinsky for that info).  Jonathan Linton was a fifth round draft choice out of the University of North Carolina.  Linton played in the NFL three seasons for the Buffalo Bills, rushing for over 1,000 career NFL yards, plus hundreds more receiving yards.  The other D11 player in this year’s game was Dylan Darvile, a defensive back from Emmaus who is Ivy League bound for Yale.

A pair from D11 were also on the coaching staff.  Mike Farr of Schuylkill Haven was the head coach while Allentown Central Catholic head coach Tim McGorry was an assistant.

Four D11 girls were on the Cheer Squad, and all were from Easton High School.  They were Kalina Chmiel, Jessica Hirner, Sianna Sneath, and Rhiley Wheeler.  The halftime show by the Cheer squad is second to none.  They are every bit as much all-stars as the players.

Both games have an excellent souvenir program, a lost treasure at most sporting events nowadays.  There is always some great Big 33 apparel available as well.

Food?  Heck yeah we’ll talk about food!  Guy and Pam love to support high school football by patronizing the refreshment stands at almost all games we attend.  The burgers at the main refreshment stand are made on an outdoor grill so you get an authentic Memorial Day Picnic style burger.  They taste just as good as they smell.  The PA Farm Show milkshake stand, while not our thing personally, always seemed to have the longest lines.  We told you about Shnader’s Taters fresh cut fries last week.  They are so good they still tasted great even though Guy accidently seasoned them with the cinnamon sugar meant for the funnel cakes instead of the desired salt.  We ended up getting meat lover’s pizzas just because that food truck had the shortest line, only to eventually think we had stumbled onto a hidden gem.  And on a warm day, the throng certainly appreciated the Kona shaved ice and the ice cream cones, us included.

Many other activities make up the Big 33 game.  Every one of them is special.  Those include recognizing the Host Families, the Buddy Program, presentation of colors, honoring the latest Hall of Fame inductees, the Honorary Chairman (this year former NFL player and Big 33 alum Bo Orlando), and more.

One of the pregame activities was throwing miniature footballs into the stands.  People love this, and they seemed to have a near endless supply of them to zing to eager fans.  When they started pulling out additional box after box at halftime, Guy trotted down to the track, and joined in with the kids by chucking an armful of balls into the stands himself.  So much fun!  Just another great Big 33 memory.

One of the most amazing and treasured streaks is the Big 33-NFL Super Bowl connection.  It’s mind boggling to even think about it, but EVERY one of the 57 Super Bowls has had an alumnus of the Big 33 game.  Every single one!  Incredible.

This year there were four, one from the Philadelphia Eagles (Miles Sanders from Woodland Hills High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs) and three from the Kansas City Chiefs.  The previous year, there was just one, Tyler Boyd of the Cincinnati Bengals.  However, keep in mind that the key to the streak is not how many Big 33 alums end up in the Super Bowl, it’s how many of the playoff teams have former Big 33ers on their rosters.  This year, when they got down to the final eight teams, no fewer than six of them had Big 33 heritage.  Thus, there was only one possible combination that could have ended the streak, and that would have been a Jacksonville vs. Dallas Super Bowl.  Of course that did not happen, as both lost in the quarterfinals.  Long live the streak!

Guy and Pam have only two suggestions.  With all the additional activities, halftime is long.  Add to that the TV timeouts, and this game lasted longer than the average NFL game.  The scheduled 7:00 p.m. kickoff game ended at 10:15.  Considering people attend from all over the states of both Pennsylvania and Maryland and many are facing a long drive home after the game, they should seriously consider moving up game time at least an hour, if not two to match the 5:00 p.m. start time used the previous Sunday.

And although it won’t likely ever happen, we would love to see a “Big 33 Pep Band” join the players and cheer squads.  There has to be a high school band director somewhere in the state that would jump at the chance to organize one for Big 33.  They could bring in some portable stands in the end zone opposite the scoreboard for the band, which is the one great high school football tradition missing from Big 33.

In a number of ways, the game itself is only one part of the event as a whole, albeit arguably the most important part.  No matter the outcome, Big 33 would be a great event.  The fact that it was a great game made it all the better.  We cheered our Pennsylvania team, were impressed by the Maryland gutty comeback to take their first lead in five years, felt sorry for Maryland when their game clinching pick was called back due to a rule infraction not normally a part of the game, and were awed by the winning catch made by Kenny Johnson to give the “W” back to PA.

Just like the week before at the East/West Small School game, the team that was behind had the ball and was still playing for the win on the last play of the game.  How can you ask for anything more than that?  Sincere thanks to everyone who takes the time to read our blog.  We enjoy the feedback at RTRYFBAR@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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