By Matt Popchock
The Big 33 may have come and gone, but there’s still one more exhibition football game to be played.
On Wednesday Mr. High School Sports went down to Blackhawk High School for Media Day, as some of the top outgoing seniors from Pennsylvania and Ohio get set to square off in the 32nd annual Penn-Ohio All-Star Football Classic. Kickoff is set for 7:30 next Thursday night at Geneva College’s Reeves Stadium.
Here’s what some of the top players on the 2011 Pennsylvania team, which consists largely of the top Beaver County seniors, had to say about the upcoming event, and about the year that was in WPIAL football:
What was your favorite memory from the 2010 season?
Christian Farris (WR/DB, Hopewell; headed to Slippery Rock): “Winning our last four regular season games to make the playoffs.”
Jason Adamsson (QB/DB, Rochester; headed to California University of PA): “When we played Sto-Rox, and I had the game-winning touchdown.”
Aaron McKinney (RB/DB, West Allegheny; headed to Lock Haven): “Seeing the team come together after all the adversity we had to overcome when Mike Caputo went down.”
Darius Walker (RB/DB, Aliquippa; headed to Mercyhurst College): “Knowing it was my last time playing with people I’ve played with throughout my life, and going to Heinz Field.”
Lukas Turley (RB/LB, Central Valley; headed to West Liberty University): “Knowing that everything was a first for our program…first tackle, first touchdown, first everything. Winning at Heinz Field was cool because no one expected it, but just making the playoffs was great, because people predicted we would struggle.”
What’s it like being able to represent your school in this game?
Farris: “It’s great…these are some of the best players in the WPIAL, so it’s nice to be honored as one of them.”
Adamsson: “It’s an honor, and it’s also an honor to have Jesse [Battaglia], one of my teammates, here with me. We want to represent Rochester as well as we represent western PA.”
McKinney: “It’s a huge honor to play my last football game with some great guys and teammates, and to honor my school.”
Walker: “It feels good knowing I’m going to be a part of history, knowing they’re going to say my name and Aliquippa’s name [in the same sentence].”
Turley: “It’s pretty cool to represent a WPIAL champ. You’re playing with guys you normally don’t like, but they respect you because they know what you accomplished.”
What excites you about playing college football (or your other sport of choice) for the first time this fall?
Farris: “The game speed is going to be a lot faster, and the hitting a lot harder, but I’m ready for it.”
Adamsson: “Since I’m getting redshirted this year, I want to get bigger, faster, and stronger, just like the rest of my team.”
McKinney: “Competing…you’ve got guys out there that always want to be the best, trying to win a national title and everything. [Wrestling in college] is a whole new feeling, and a difference experience…one I’m looking forward to.”
Walker: “[Mercyhurst] had a pretty good team last year, so I really want to try to make the team and play.”
Turley: “Playing with my brother is going to be pretty cool, because we played together my sophomore year.”
Meanwhile, here’s what Beaver head football coach Jeff Beltz, who will coach the Pennsylvania squad next Thursday, had to say about this year’s game and last year’s season:
Q: What was your favorite memory of the 2010 season?
A: Well, unfortunately, they both ended up in losses, but our overtime game with Aliquippa, and our double-overtime game with Beaver Falls. Tremendous, competitive football games.
Q: Are we going to see such a game next Thursday?
A: We hope. I think that’s what puts people in the stands, and it’s a tremendous, long-standing rivalry of 30-plus years. I think those things, in combination with some good athletes, really makes this game entertaining.
Q: What’s it like to get to coach this team?
A: It’s fun. It’s actually my third time, and I played in it in 1991, then representing Freedom, and now Beaver. It’s awesome. There’s a ton of tradition, and you’ll get to see a lot of old faces you traditionally don’t see.
Q: What can you tell us about this year’s Pennsylvania team that we might not know otherwise?
A: There’s a lot of smart kids in our group. I know football players get stereotyped a lot, but these kids have been awesome in terms of what we’ve been able to put in on offense and defense during two-a-days. They’ve done a great job.
If you can’t make it to the game, be sure to revisit 937thefan.com next Thursday evening for special live coverage of the Penn-Ohio All-Star Classic!
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)