I have to give the Big 33 organization credit. It is doing everything it can within its means to keep the game and the brand afloat.

The Big 33 has been buffeted by all kinds of problems over the last six or seven years from the change in the game’s date from July to June to a lower profile brought on by competition that has stolen away some of its top players. The result has been a huge hit in attendance and, to some, relevance.

Yet, executive director Dave Trimbur has been in there battling to keep Big 33 in the public eye and maintain the game’s status as one of the top all-star football games in the country. Make no mistake that it is a genuine battle given the new landscape, forcing Big 33 to be innovative and bold.

So, it has come with a selection show that will be show live on Pennsylvania Cable Network this Saturday, Jan. 8, at 4 p.m. The announcement show – and it is a show – will be held at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show, which opens Saturday as well. I applaud the nice marketing touch.

I will not be at the Farm Show nor will I be able to view the show live; I’ll have the family van rolling hard toward southeastern Pennsylvania for yet another indoor field hockey tournament.

But I do admire the effort that Trimbur and Big 33 is putting into the game. I’ve noted many times over the years my growing displeasure with Big 33, primarily its odd turn years ago toward de-emphasizing the football aspect of the organization for the sake of trumpeting its social credentials. It annoyed me to no end, not because I have a problem with academic scholarships, buddy programs and the like (um, I do not), but because Big 33 was turning its back on the thing that made Big 33 a visible and successful organization to begin with.

Although Big 33 was forced into its new football-first stance by economics, the fact is that Big 33 has returned to its roots and just might survive as a result.

Below is the text of the Big 33 press release regarding Saturday’s selection show:


It may be winter, but the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will be thinking spring and in particular, the upcoming June football classic between Pennsylvania and Ohio. PCN will provide exclusive coverage of the player selection announcement for PNC’s Big 33 Football Classic. Representatives from the Big 33 Scholarship Foundation will make the official announcement during a press conference at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show. PCN will provide LIVE coverage of the event on Saturday, January 8 at 4:00 p.m.

Known as the “High School Super Bowl,” players from both Pennsylvania and Ohio are selected for being a positive role model on and off the football field by the Big 33 Selection Committee.

The Big 33 awards academic scholarships to high school seniors as well as provides fundraisers to support local charities and high schools in both Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 2010, more than seventy academic scholarships were awarded by the foundation.

On Saturday, June 18, 2011, beginning at 7:00 p.m., PCN will offer LIVE coverage from Hershey Park Stadium of this football classic which pits Pennsylvania against Ohio. Thanks to the signing of a three-year agreement with the Big 33 Scholarship Foundation, PCN viewers in more than 3 million homes across the state will be able to watch the game, which will be celebrating its 54th year in 2011.

Previous players in the Big 33 Game who went on to successful professional careers include Ricky Watters, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Tony Dorsett, Joe Namath, and Dan Marino. For more information on the 2011 PNC Big 33 Football Classic, visit www.big33.org.

PCN is a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization created and supported by cable television companies. PCN receives no state or federal funding. Network programming is distributed on more than 150 cable systems in Pennsylvania serving more than 10 million Pennsylvanians in 3.3 million homes. A complete listing of PCN affiliates and network channel designations is available by visiting PCN’s website at www.pcntv.com.


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.


Here’s a collection of newspapers from around the state about Saturday’s nutty Big 33 football game:

Allentown Morning Call (Mark Wogenrich) here
Allentown Morning Call (Keith Groller) here
Bucks County Courier-Times (Stuart London) here
Easton Express-Times (Tom Hinkel) here
Harrisburg Patriot-News (Jeremy Elliott) here
Lancaster Newspapers (Mike Gross) here
Lansdale Reporter (Kev Hunter) here
Lebanon Daily News (Pat Huggins) here
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (yours truly) here
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Chris Harlan) here
Reading Eagle (Mike Drago) here
Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice (Steve Bennett) here

And from Ohio:
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OK, strung by Eric Thomas of Harrisburg) here

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