HERSHEY, Pa. – For Ohio head coach Matt Dennison (New Philadelphia), it was his first-ever trip to Hershey. The man placed in charge of the Buckeye State all-stars for the 54th Big-33 Football Classic had previously coached in Ohio’s esteemed North/South game, but hadn’t experienced the Big-33 game until Saturday.
“Boy, what a week,” Dennison said.
Boy, what a game. For Ohio. The scarlet and gray went bombs away on the blue and gold, roasting the Pennsylvania defense like a batch of peanuts at the county fair.
Ohio used 12 plays of 20+ yards, including six such plays which went for touchdowns, to soundly defeat Pennsylvania 50-14 from a steamy Hersheypark Stadium Saturday evening.
“Our gamebreakers stepped up and made plays,” Dennison said. “That was the nice part of it.”
Ohio’s whole roster seemed loaded with gamebreakers, but Cardale Jones (Cleveland Glenville), Tyler Williams (Cincinnati Colerain), Devin Smith (Massillon) and Akise Teague (Youngstown Ursuline) made Pennsylvania’s lives miserable with regular consistency as part of a 457-yard effort on offense.
After Chase Farris (Elyria) intercepted Pennsylvania’s Matt Johnson (Bishop McDevitt) on the game’s first play, Ohio could not capitalize. In fact, the Buckeye stars’ kicker J.D. Detmer (Hilliard Davidson) would miss field goals of 46 and 28 yards on the scarlet and gray’s first two possessions, but that was about all that went wrong for Ohio.
Teague, honored with the title of Mr. Ohio Football, started the onslaught.
The Cincinnati-bound Teague wove his way through the Pennsylvania defense for a 52-yard touchdown run on his third carry, then pushed the Ohio advantage to 14-0 with a 20-yard run with an ankle-breaking move on PA’s Jamal Abdur-Rahman (LaSalle College High School).
“Teague ran the ball very well,” Dennison said.
After Pennsylvania sliced the Ohio lead to 14-7 with a Sean Barowksi (Bishop McDevitt) 5-yard scoring run, it was Jones’ turn to turn in a big play. His 54-yard pass to Smith followed a 21-yard connection with Teague and Ohio breezed its way to a 21-7 lead.
Pennsylvania seemed poised to slice the Ohio lead to 21-14 after Jalen Fitzpatrick (Harrisburg) connected on passes of 44 yards to Tyler Kroft (Downingtown East) and 12 yards to Quinton Sullivan (Harrisburg), but Fitzpatrick’s third pass of the drive was intercepted by Ohio’s Doran Grant (Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary) and returned 102 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 lead.
Jones pushed the lead to 35-7 with a 40-yard pass to Teague and Connor Cook (Akron Walsh Jesuit) found Smith on a 28-yard pass to make it 43-7 with 10:45 left in the game.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to Ohio and their team speed,” said Pennsylvania head coach Tim Rimpfel (Cumberland Valley).
Keith Heitzman (Hilliard Davidson) capped the Buckeye State scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:47 left in the game. PA’s Johnson hit Sullivan with a 22-yard scoring pass with 6:33 left in the game to finish the blue and gold’s scoring this night.
As the Pennsylvania team huddled around Julian Turner (Woodland Hills) for the final breakdown of their high school football careers, Turner had a message for his teammates.
“No matter what the scoreboard says, we’re still the best (athletes) in PA,” Turner said.
Rimpfel said it was an honor to coach the Pennsylvania team.
“There were some outstanding young men on this team and it was an honor to coach them,” Rimpfel said. “We had our issues throughout the week…some kids missed practice because they had to leave for graduations and other kids got hurt…it was tough for us to get any continuity there.”
Jones paced on Ohio aerial assault which racked up 264 yards with a 4-of-6, 160-yard, two-touchdown night. Cook added a 4-of-11 performance with 78 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Teague finished with 164 rushing and receiving yards and scored three total touchdowns and Williams put up 106 yards of offense (80 rushing, 26 passing). Smith caught three passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. In all, Ohio had 457 yards of offense and 14 first downs.
Pennsylvania was paced by Johnson (9-of-20, 151 yards, TD, INT; 7 rush, minus-44 yards), Fitzpatrick (4-of-13, 94 yards, INT; 5 rush, minus-2 yards; 2 rec., 20 yards), Barowski (5 rush, 25 yards, TD), Sullivan (4 rec., 101 yards, TD) and Kroft (3 rec., 81 yards). The Keystone State stars finished with 224 yards of offense (including 24 rushes for minus-16 yards as a team) and 14 first downs.