It is no coincidence that the Ohio all-stars have taken it on the chin the last two years in the Big 33 Football Classic.
Over the last two years, the Big 33 – which matches a Pennsylvania all-star team against one from Ohio – has been held on the same day that the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association holds its own Ohio North-South Classic. In these last two years, the OHSFCA picked players to play in its own all-star game before picking players to compete in the Big 33.
As a result, the Ohio all-stars got shellacked by their Pennsylvania counterparts, falling 61-42 in 2006 and 28-10 in 2007. (Those results have allowed Pennsylvania to edge ahead 8-7 in the series with Ohio since it resumed in 1993.)
For years, the Big 33 was played in July, allowing Ohio’s best prospects to play in both games. But because key players in recent years have opted instead to enroll at their college of choice in June, the Big 33 was starting to miss out on a number of headline players. Organizers of that game moved the Big 33 to June – in direct conflict with the North-South Classic.
But OHSFCA board members have decided to send a more representative team to the Big 33 this year. The Ohio team this year will include 19 players who signed letters-of-intent to play at BCS conference schools, including four headed to Ohio State.
OSU signees on the Ohio squad include Westerville Central kicker Ben Buchanan, Madison tight end Nic DiLillo, Cleveland Glenville lineman Shawntel Rowell and Washington C.H. Miami Trace linebacker Nathan Williams.
More notables on the team include Dublin Coffman linebacker Steve Gardiner (Michigan State signee), Wauseon lineman Elliot Mealer (Michigan), Trotwood-Madison wide receiver Roy Roundtree (Michigan), Clayton Northmont lineman Zebrie Sanders (Florida State) and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney linebacker Mike Zordich (Penn State).
The initial Pennsylvania Big 33 roster listed Jeannette quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of the nation’s top five prospects, according to ESPN.com, on that squad. But the updated roster does not include Pryor. It does include 21 players headed to BCS schools, however.
OSU football coach Jim Tressel appeared at an event earlier this week as the Ohio Big 33 team congregated in the recruiting room at Ohio Stadium. He addressed the team and their parents.
“You will enjoy that experience of meeting new people,” Tressel said. “You will enjoy competing on a higher level against faster, more developed athletes. The buddies you will meet, you will remember for the rest of your life.
“The families you live with, they will become some of your greatest fans for the rest of your career. This is just one of those special events. You need to take advantage of every second. Enjoy the experience in Hershey, Pa. No one does it better. No one does a better job of giving you a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The Ohio team will be coached by Olmsted Falls’ Jim Ryan. He previously served as a Big 33 assistant.
“I knew before I was there that it was a prestigious all-star game,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t aware, though, of how much every day when you are there that you’re winning. Your goal is to win the game, certainly. But your goal is also to win every single day while you are over there.
“The Big 33 is more than just a game.”
Ryan said he and his coaching staff accepted nominations for players from around the state. They pored over videotapes in making their selections.
“It was pretty drawn out,” he said. “We spent time over Christmas break and on into January. I know when we started making calls (to players), the excitement of the people we talked to on the phone was unmatched.”
From the players’ perspective, representing Ohio is a big honor.
“One thing about being an Ohio boy, everybody wants to play in the Big 33 or the North-South game,” DiLillo said. “I know the Big 33 has gotten a lot bigger and I know Pennsylvania beat us pretty good last year. If we can get after it, hopefully we can win this game.”
Williams said he is excited about the competition he will see in the Big 33 game.
“I am just looking forward to getting out there and competing with guys at my level, particularly against guys who are going on to big-time colleges like Ohio State and Michigan,” he said.
Middletown WR Phil Barnett (Toledo) and Cincinnati Turpin WR Andy Cruse (Miami -Ohio)
Lakota West DB D.J. Brown (Miami-Ohio) and Cleveland Glenville DB William Lowe
Westerville Central K/P Ben Buchanan (Ohio State)
St. Xavier S/LB Fred Craig (Stanford) and Dublin Coffman LB Steve Gardiner (Michigan State)
Madison TE Nic DiLillo (Ohio State)
Olmsted Falls head coach and Ohio Big 33 coach Jim Ryan
Big 33 Executive Director John Greene and Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel
St. Xavier ATH Danny Milligan (Cincinnati) and Dublin Scioto DB Taylor Rice
Convoy Crestview WR Briggs Orsbon (Ball State) and Trotwood WR Roy Roundtree (Michigan)
Clos. Eastmoor RB Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati) and Ada QB Zac Dysert (Miami-Ohio)
Lakota West OL Andrew Phelan (Miami-Ohio) and Wauseon OL Elliot Mealer (Michigan)
Northmont OL Zebrie Sanders (Florida State) and Glenville OL/DT Shawntel Rowell (Ohio State
Hamilton DB Kenny Veal and Strongsville DB D.J. Woods (Cincinnati)
Glenville DT/C Dawawn Whitner and Colerain DT Brandon Mills
WCH Miami Trace LB/DE Nathan Williams (Ohio State)
Huber Heights Wayne DT Jerel Worthy (Michigan State) and Marlington DT Matt Betz
Cardinal Mooney LB Michael Zordich (Penn State)