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Big 33 Classic gets defensive

HARRISBURG >> Billy Shaeffer said the goal was to not allow a point, and he and the rest of the Pennsylvania defense weren’t far off.

PA turned the clock back and kept turning Maryland backwards. In a low-scoring, hard-hitting contest, the Pennsylvania All-Stars limited their opponent to just three field goals on the night in what was the lowest-scoring Big 33 Game since 1968 (won by PA East over PA West, 7-6).

“It was awesome. It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to,” Shaeffer said after Maryland squeaked out the 9-6 victory, “but the whole week was just a great experience. Meeting our buddies, practicing, getting close with all these guys — throughout the whole state — was a great experience.”

Bill Shaeffer (23) of Archbishop Wood on the Pennsylvania all-stars tackles Antwan Squire (4) of the Maryland all-stars in the 61st PSFCA Big 33 Football Classic at Central Dauphin Middle School in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, June 16, 2018. Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media.

Maryland never reached the end zone, thanks to a PA defensive front that included the hard-charging Shaeffer. The Archbishop Wood grad was a looming presence at defensive end, even dropping Antwan Squire for a loss of six yards to start the second quarter.

“We built a good relationship through the week,” Shaeffer said of the defense, which forced a turnover and three punts in a dominant third quarter Saturday night. “We just bonded. We were trying to stop them, every series we got.”

With Shaeffer helping to control things up front, key contributions in the secondary were made by North Penn grad Justis Henley (University of Delaware), who broke up a third-quarter pass deep inside PA territory.

That set up 3rd-and-9 for Maryland at the PA 26. On came Shaeffer, who dropped Jamari Jones for a loss of six, forcing a Maryland punt.

Any time Maryland threatened, the PA defense stiffened. It took a 39-yard field goal with just five seconds left to provide the winning points.

Marquez McCray (14) of St. Joseph’s Prep on the Pennsylvania all-stars tries to escape the Maryland pass rush in the 61st PSFCA Big 33 Football Classic at Central Dauphin Middle School in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, June 16, 2018. Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media.

St. Joe’s grad Marquez McCray, a Lansdale product headed to Sacred Heart University next year, threw a Hail Mary as time expired, but it would fall incomplete. McCray had a nice, 11-yard scramble earlier in the evening to avoid Maryland pressure.

Shaeffer, meanwhile, brought the pressure for PA.

“I’m hoping to get into the rotation next year,” said the defensive end, who will play at Lafayette College in the fall. “Hopefully we can get a league championship and build towards that.”

Forever Young >> Avery Young, a Coatesville grad headed to Rutgers, was continuing a family tradition.

“The experience was cool because my older brother (Jordan) played before me and I knew I wanted to play in it,” said Avery, a Coatesville grad who will play at Rutgers. “It was fun. It was fun playing with the all-stars around the state. I really enjoyed myself. It was great. I had a great time. New teammates, new friends, and a new family — close family that is. I enjoyed myself a lot.

“And it was better competition than I’m used to in regular high school games.”

Young and Brassir Stocker (Downingtown East) were both part of that strong secondary for Pennsylvania, which simply wasn’t allowing any openings. Maryland was held to just 122 yards through the air.

Said Young of going to Rutgers: “I can not wait. I’m looking to get in there and make an impact.”

Rahsul Faison (1) of Pottsgrove on team Pennsylvania is tackled by a Maryland defender in the 61st PSFCA Big 33 Football Classic at Central Dauphin Middle School in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, June 16, 2018. Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media.

Faison breaks loose >> Neither team had much success on the ground Saturday night, but Rahsul Faison provided plenty of burst for PA.

The Pottsgrove grad gained 16 yards on his first four carries, helping to set up a field goal, then broke free for a gain of 22 in the second quarter.

“We had a counter play,” Faison said with a smile, “and we kicked it up and they let me get in the open field and I just did what I had to do.

“It was a great experience of competing with the best around,” Faison said of the 61st Annual Big 33, “and just being able to show what I’m capable of doing.”

On the first-quarter field-goal drive, Faison broke two tackles on one play and nearly slipped into the end zone.

“I kinda got it going in the first half, and not too much in the second half,” said Faison, who will be doing a postgrad year in Connecticut. “I think (Maryland) caught on a little bit to what we were doing, and started sending more people in the box.”

Two defensive jailbreaks ensured Faison was caught in the backfield for two big losses in the second half, thusly choking his numbers down to 26 yards on nine carries.

But Faison was a weapon to watch on a night dominated by the defenses. The former Falcon was running behind a strong offensive line that included Episcopal grad Adam Klein, who will be playing at Temple.

Adam Klein (74) of The Episcopal Academy on the Pennsylvania all-stars gets set to block on a screen pass against the Maryland all-stars in the 61st PSFCA Big 33 Football Classic at Central Dauphin Middle School in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, June 16, 2018. Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media.

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