Ohio fends off pesky Pennsylvania in Big-33 Classic
HERSHEY, Pa. – Of all the big plays made in the 52nd Annual Big-33 Football Classic, the biggest came from one of Ohio’s offensive linemen.
Adam Replogle (Centerville HS) scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard fullback dive with :20 left in the game, and then Ohio held off a late Pennsylvania rally to win, 38-31, at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey.
“That was a designed play,” Replogle said. “I was surprised that they called my number.
“I wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”
Ohio had lost the last three meetings to Pennsylvania by a combined margin of 120-68, and in order to try to halt the skid, the Buckeye Staters turned to a cast of very talented athletes. Thirty-two of the 34 Ohio all-stars were bound for Division-1 colleges, compared to just 15 for Pennsylvania.
In the end, the Ohio talent paid off. But it was a battle for much of the game despite two double-digit leads for the Buckeye staters.
“They were never done,” said Ohio coach Mike Fell (Ada), in reference to Pennsylvania’s relentless comebacks.
Pennsylvania wasted little time cutting through the Ohio defense to take an early 7-0 lead, capping a lightning-quick 3-play, 39-yard drive with a Lyle Marsh (Bethel Park) 1-yard plunge up the middle.
Ohio countered midway through the first quarter, when Patrick Nicely (Willoughby South) hooked up with Fitzgerald Toussaint (Youngstown Liberty) for a 46-yard scoring pass and a tie game, 7-7.
Ohio grabbed a 10-7 lead on a Nate Freese 42-yard field goal, and extended it to 17-7 when Austin Boucher (Kettering Alter) hooked up with Shawn Joplin (Sylvania Southview) on a 35-yard scoring pass.
Pennsylvania countered immediately. Set up by a botched Ohio onsides kick, Curtis Drake (West Catholic) accounted for all 43 yards on the PA drive, capping the brief possession with a 1-yard plunge to make it 17-14. A Brandon McManus (North Penn) 29-yard field goal knotted things at 17-all later in the period.
Ohio appeared to take control of the game when Boucher hooked up with Micah Hyde on a 99-yard touchdown pass (a Big-33 Classic record) for a 24-17 lead. The scarlet and silver widened that margin to 31-17 when Fitzgerald Toussaint on a 6-yard run.
But Drake, cool, calm, and collected (and rather Pat-White-esque), led Pennsylvania back.
“That cat can play,” Fell said. “He showed why he’s headed where he is.”
Lyle Marsh (10 carries, 45 yards, 2 TD) scored his second touchdown, a 1-yard run, to make it 31-24, and on Pennsylvania’s ensuing possession, Drake darted in from a yard out to knot things up at 31.
“This was great. This was greater than our state championship game,” Drake said. “We may not have won, but it was a hard-fought game.”
Drake, Pennsylvania’s MVP, finished with 161 passing yards, 104 rushing yards, 22 return yards, and scored 2 rushing touchdowns. Drake’s 285 all-purpose yards topped a magnificent 2002 performance by Steve Breaston, a current NFL wide receiver. Breaston has 281 all-purpose yards and 2 scores.
The stage was set for Replogle’s heroics after Ohio MVP Boucher (18-of-25, 253 yards, 2 TD; 5 rushes, 45 yards) scampered 50 yards to the Pennsylvania 9.
Replogle scored three plays later.
Pennsylvania still had one last chance. Set up by an electric kickoff return by Rob Hollomon to the Ohio 38, Drake had two last-ditch passes fall incomplete, the second of which fell off of Hollomon’s outstretched left hand as time expired.
“We fell a little short at the end of the game,” said Pennsylvania head coach Tim Janocko (Clearfield Area). “This was a great experience. I always tell my teams to fight for four quarters, and they did that.”
Ohio had heard a lot about that three-game losing streak, Fell said. But, this win, in part, erases that part of history temporarily.
“It’s now 9-8,” Fell said. “And it feels pretty good.”
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