Have to admit I was baffled by Pennsylvania’s approach to its passing game in its 18-15 loss to Ohio in the Big 33 game Saturday in Hershey.

Quarterbacks Tyler Smith (Wilson Area) and Anthony Gonzalez (Liberty) are fine quarterbacks, but the passing game appeared to be set up more for Peyton Manning or Dan Marino than a couple of guys fresh off their high school graduations. The Pennsylvania passing stratgey appeared to be this: Hit tight end Tyler Beck on a drag, then throw the ball straight downfield the next 10 attempts.

Didn’t work real well. Combined, Smith and Gonzalez were 16 of 48, picked three times (a fourth was erased by a penalty). Sure, you’re going to point to their combined 315 passing yards and two touchdowns and claim that balances the ledger. If it were only about numbers, that case could be made.

But the bottom line is this: Ohio’s coverage was just awful. Ohio d-backs, playing the game’s required man-to-man, either kept losing their man or had no idea who their man was. That was case throughout the game, including the first half when Smith and Gonzalez completed just one of their first 13 attempts.

It was frustrating to watch Pennsylvania wide receivers run to open areas on deep patterns (often just jets straight upfield) and come away with nothing.

Let’s be frank: Smith and Gonzalez just didn’t have “A” games throwing the ball, in part because they misfired too often and in part because the patterns were oversimplified. With the wideouts running straight downfield, Pa. could have made a killing with shorter crossing routes, but only seemed to take advantage of this with Beck.

In addition, I have to admit that, with plenty of time to mentally wander during an awful first half, I kept thinking, “I wonder how Kyle Smith would do against this defense?”

Smith, of course, is the state’s career passing yardage and touchdown leader from Lancaster Catholic who was shuffled off to Friday’s East-West game in Altoona instead of Big 33, a move I just didn’t get, especially since Gonzalez, who absolutely deserved to be in the Big 33 Game, could have played several positions for Pa.

I have been baffled by the ongoing snubs that Kyle Smith, who has an Ivy League brain and Division I ability, has endured. The word-on-the-street rap on Smith was his arm strength, although the lefty was a PIAA javelin champion who hit 200 feet (that’s 66 yards) several times. And although I didn’t see a whole lot of LC games, the times I did watch him, his arm seemed fine to me

Ah, well. I’m not the first guy who’s slapped his forehead on Big 33 picks. And I won’t be the last.


The following was pointed out to me in the press box at Altoona’s Blair County Ballpark during Friday’s PIAA baseball championship games, although I’ll be darned if I can remember by whom.

AAAA champion West Chester Henderson’s clean-up batter was senior first baseman John Iezzi. The first-base umpire for the game was Joseph A. Iezzi, no address given. I am definitely not implying anything because I haven’t the slightest idea if the Iezzi’s are related; I’m just pointing out the same curiosity that was pointed out to me.

But we can say that John and Joseph Iezzi were close, physically. They spent one half of the game working about 10 feet apart.

I suppose Serra Catholic baseball coach Brian Dzurenda is fading some heat for ignoring baseball convention and intentionally walking a batter in the seventh inning to put the potential (and eventual) winning run on second base in the PIAA Class A championship game against Christopher Dock. But I’m not among the critics.

First, some table-setting: Serra led Dock 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh of the PIAA Class A championship game. Dock’s No. 8 and 9 hitters are quickly struck out Serra relief pitcher Oliver Girman, who works a 1-2 count to leadoff batter Drew Mininger.

Mininger singles to left. Then Girman hits Dock. No. 2 batter Brandon Reichart, putting runners on first and second with two out. And as baseball purists know, you take your chances with the next batter, even if he’s Ted Williams.

The problem was the next Dock batter was senior Ryan Seiz, a Louisville recruit. And in the PIAA playoffs, Seiz was better than Ted Williams: Seiz was batting 1.000 in his four state playoff game. That’s right, 1.000.

And in the state championship game against Serra Catholic, Seiz was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a single, all cover-rippers and – this is key, too – all on pitches that were tough to hit. The last time Seiz made an out in an official at-bat was in the District 1-A championship game on June 1.

Dzurenda knew this and he didn’t hesitate a bit to call for the intentional walk to load the bases. True, that brought up Dock clean-up hitter Alex Summers, but Summers was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Simply put, Dzurenda was playing the percentages, and he played them properly.

But fate was cruel to Serra. Summers cracked a hopper to third that Serra third baseman Ken Tomco awkwardly put the glove on, but the hop handcuffed him and shot past him into left field. Mininger and Reichart both scored, and Dock had its thrilling victory.

That left Dzurenda open to some classic second-guessing. But as I said, not here. He did the right thing, period. I would have done it with Seiz coming up and I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else coming to the plate.

Except Ted Williams. Maybe.

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