After a 9-6 victory in last year’s Big 33 Classic, MD looks to take two straight for the first time

by Gary Adornato

The 2019 edition of Team Maryland conducted its final local practice last Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens indoor practice field in Owings Mills and headed up to Harrisburg, Pa. on Thursday evening to begin a full weekend of activities leading up to the 62nd edition of the Big 33 Classic, which will take place on Monday afternoon (2:00 p.m.) at Landis Field in Harrisburg.

Each player will has been paired with a host family, which will house, feed and care for them during their stay as the squad prepares to do something no Maryland team has ever done, win two straight Big 33 Classic games.

Last year, Maryland won for just the second time since returning to the series in 2013 when Cooper McGeehan of River Hill, who now punts and kicks for Bowie State University, converted three field goals, including the game winner with 10.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, to produce a 9-6 victory.

Maryland also won 31-24 in double overtime in 2014.

From 1993 thru 2012, Pennsylvania faced Ohio in the Big 33 and over the history of the game has also played Texas and had intra-state games featuring East vs. West. Maryland’s first stint in the series ran from 1985 thru 1992. Maryland won two of those first eight games, prevailing 26-22 in 1987 and 35-20 in 1991. Pennsylvania leads the overall series with Maryland, 10-4.

“We are the underdog,” said Scott Ripley, who has served as Team Director for Team Maryland since its return to the series and, for the first time, will be the head coach of this year’s team.

Ripley, who is also the head coach at St. Paul’s School, said his squad can compete.

“Pennsylvania is so much bigger than Maryland and has many more Division I athletes available to them than we do, but we play good football in Maryland and our kids are ready to compete,” said Ripley. “It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this great tradition and to coach this team. The kids, on both sides, will create memories that will last a lifetime, regardless of where their football careers go.”

If history is any guide, one or more will eventually see their football careers go all the way to the NFL. This is based on the fact that there has never been a Super Bowl played without at least one player on one of the competing teams who had played in the Big 33 Classic. With 53 Super Bowls now in the books, that is quite a track record.

Last year former Big 33 players Brian Hoyer (Ohio 2004) and John Johnson (Maryland 2013) continued the tradition. Hoyer was a backup quarterback for the New England Patriots and Johnson was a rookie safety and special teams player for the Los Angeles Rams, who played his high school football at Northwestern High School in Prince Georges County.

Some of the most notable Big 33 alumni include Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, just to name a few.

The Big 33 game has traditionally been played in late June, but has been moved up to Memorial Day to allow both states the opportunity to get their best players onto their teams. As colleges have continued to move up the reporting dates for their incoming freshman, many top players have had to pass on the contest in recent years.

On Friday morning, both teams will visit the Lebanon VA Hospital to spend time with military veterans. Another major component of the game is the Buddies program, which pairs one special needs child with a player on each team. The player and their “buddy” will spend time together throughout the weekend, both on the field and off. This often leads to incredible stories and the formation of lifetime friendships. The players meet their buddies on Saturday. Then on Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m., both teams will take part in a Pep Rally/Recognition Ceremony.

On game day, there will be a fan experience in the parking lot at Landis Field, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Gates open at 12:30 p.m. and opening kickoff is slated for 2:00 p.m.

Below are the rosters for both teams: