Elite stars from Maryland and Pennsylvania will battle on Memorial Day in the 63rd annul “Super Bowl” of high school football
by Gary Adornato
The Baltimore Touchdown Club and the Maryland State Football Coaches Association rolled out the red carpet on Sunday afternoon, at the Baltimore Ravens’ Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, as the Team Maryland roster for the 2020 Big 33 Classic was revealed.
With several of the players who have been selected on hand, 38 players from across the state were announced for the contest which will take place on May 25th (Memorial Day) in Harrisburg, Pa. for the 63rd annual edition of this high school football all-star classic. The event included a highlighTooltip Text
“It’s the Super Bowl of high school football games,” said Scott Ripley, a Senior Vice President with the Baltimore Touchdown Club and Team Director for Team Maryland. “Maryland is involved with PA and we’re the underdog program. It’s a great rival game, but it’s a great opportunity for our kids in Maryland to showcase their talents for high school football and go up to participate against the best on the east coast.”
With Maryland only back in the 62-year old contest for seven years, the Big 33 does not yet carry the same tradition and reverence that it does in Pennsylvania, where top players make it a priority to participate.
In addition, with more and more elite college programs requiring their recruits to report earlier in the summer and, in some cases, during the spring semester of their senior year of high school, both states have experienced a drain of their most elite athletes.
According to Ripley, these developments make it challenging to put together a competitive roster to go up against a state the size of Pennsylvania, but he believes Maryland, which has gone 2-4 since returning to the game in 2014, is up to the challenge.
“We have a selection committee which identifies the very best players in the state of Maryland,” said Ripley. “They evaluate film. They speak to the high school coaches. They ask (opposing) coaches. We put together a list of the 200 best high school football players in the state. For those kids still in the state, we have a one day workout and have them tryout in front of a great group of coaches. And then we sit down and try to pick the best 38. Our big thing is not about which school a kid is going to, it’s about character.”
Prince George’s County leads the way with nine players on the Team Maryland roster, followed by eight from the MIAA and seven from Montgomery County. Frederick County has the next most players with four and Baltimore County placed three players on the roster. Baltimore City has two players on the team, while Allegany, Calvert, Cecil and Howard Counties, along with Washington, D.C., have one each. In addition, Mike Neubeiser of Northwest High School in Montgomery County will serve as head coach of the team.
Big 33 Executive Director Gary Cathell was also on hand and he talked about the outstanding relationship that has been forged by the two neighboring states.
“This being the seventh year of the comeback, it’s been great,” said Cathell in referencing Maryland’s second stint in the series. “I really feel like we’re building a good brand again that we once had years ago. We’re going to have close to 50 Division I players playing in the game. More important is the relationship between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The game was gone (from Maryland) for 20 years, so it took the game a couple of years, but it has really caught fire here in the state.”
The Big 33 has also made some changes to accommodate players. Once held in July, the game was moved to June for many years as NCAA rules began to change. Then last year the game moved to Memorial Day for the first time. Any fears that the holiday weekend would impact attendance were dispelled by the nearly 10,000 fans who attended.
It’s very exciting,” said Elkton’s Trevin Ewing, who will play his college football for the University of Maine. “Coming where I come from at Elkton, not a lot of guys make it, so it’s exciting and I get a chance to play another game. It’s really exciting just to be honored by the state and to be able to play with these guys. These guys are great also and they’re going to great places.”
Calvert Hall’s Peter Moore, who will punt for Team Maryland before beginning his college career at Virginia Tech, is looking forward to being part of the Big 33 experience with players on a similar tract.
“I am very excited about it,” said Moore. I am looking forward to working with the coaches and other players. There is another Virginia Tech commit (Wise’s Dorian Strong) here. I know the other kicker, Danny (King of Fort Hill), who is going to West Virginia. I am excited to get to work with him and get to know the guys.”
Boyle, who proved to be valuable as a blocking tight end on the Ravens team which set the NFL’s single season rushing record in 2019, encouraged the members of Team Maryland to “build their DNA as a player.”
Boyle explained that he did not “buy-in” and develop a love for football until he was a junior in high school. He was also a blocking tight end in high school for a running team and, thus, was not highly sought as a pass catcher on the college level. Once he got the passion, however, he also gained the desire to work hard and became motivated to prove himself.
“I never really thought I made it, ever,” said Boyle. “I didn’t think I would go to Delaware and start and play my freshman year, but not knowing allowed me to work harder. I played all four years at Delaware, but I never thought I was going to make it to the NFL, ever. That stuff, not knowing, is what drove me to do it. When you already put it in your mind that you are going to do it, you relax and you don’t work to it. That’s what helped me get to where I am today.”
This message is important for Big 33 players because scores of them have gone on to NFL careers. In fact, all 54 Super Bowls have included at least one former Big 33 player.
Team Maryland will hold several practices in the spring before traveling to Harrisburg the week of the game. In Harrisburg each player will live with a host family while the team continues its preparations for the contest. Kickoff will take place at 2:oo p.m. More information about the game and tickets can be found at www.big33.org.
The video playlist below includes interviews conducted after the press conference and the Big 33 roster highlight reel. It is followed by the Big 33 roster.
BIG 33 2020 TEAM MD ROSTER 2-19-20