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Written by: Guy Smith on Monday, June 6th, 2022
Back for 2022. Pam and I are pleased that high school football supporter extraordinaire Billy Splain has invited us back to blog about our travels again this season. We will again attempt to keep it light and amusing, while leaving the hard-core football analysis to those more qualified.
It Ain’t Just Football for Us. In fact, before last year, it wasn’t even football. We always went to many high school and small college games each season, but before last season, we never included football in our official list of “Quirky Goal” sports, which includes auto racing, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, basketball, and specific colleges.
So far in 2022 we completed a couple of what we call our “Quirky Goals.” I graduated from Bloomsburg University and Pam is a professor there. So we set out to see all 41 current sports teams (varsity, club, men, women) play. An April outdoor men and women’s track and field meet were numbers 40 and 41. Along the way, we saw a number of sports that we never saw in person before, such as water polo, rugby, equestrian, golf, and even ultimate Frisbee.
Basketball is usually our last option, so not surprisingly our resume in that sport is pretty thin, although we did see basketball at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. So we set a Quirky Goal for this year to see ten new minor league pro teams/venue combinations from the TBL/ECBL this spring. Mission accomplished.
We are currently halfway through the next Quirky Goal, ten new, Tier 4 or above soccer teams/fields this year.
For the first time last fall, we set a Quirky Goal for football, that being to see as many of the District 11 high school teams as possible play at home, which was chronicled on PA Football News. We never enjoyed football as much as we did last fall, and hope that our enthusiasm translated to our weekly blog. We received a lot of nice feedback from schools, coaches, and fans, which was very gratifying. We always welcome feedback or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Football in the Spring? I told you, we are new to this sport. But we are very fast learners. Before this year we almost never strayed out of the EPC or Colonial League, and had never before been to a spring high school football game. Prior to this year, the closest we ever came to spring outdoor football was a 2020 late winter DC Defenders XFL game just prior to the pandemic shutdown.
We were both aware of the Big 33 game, as well as the all-star game played in the Lehigh Valley, but had never attended. Our first all-star game was actually last November on the evening before Thanksgiving, when we went to Schuylkill Haven for the SCFCA Senior All-Star Game; a game we didn’t even know existed until 12 hours before kickoff.
Since then we learned that there are actually a total of six high school all-star games that include players from D11.
–SCFCA Schuylkill North vs. South Senior All-Star Game (2021 @ Schuylkill Haven)
–Colonial League vs. Schuylkill League All-Star Game (2022 @ Schuylkill Haven)
–PSFCA East vs. West Small School All Star Game (2022 @ Bishop McDevitt)
–PSFCA East vs. West Big School All Star Game (2022 @ Bishop McDevitt)
–PSFCA Pennsylvania vs. Maryland Big 33 Game (2022 @ Bishop McDevitt)
–Lehigh Valley All-Star Football Classic (2022 @ Nazareth)
Of course we set out to see them all.
SATURDAY, MAY 21. 1ST ANNUAL SCHUYLKILL VS. COLONIAL ALL-STAR GAME. SCHUYLKILL HAVEN AREA HIGH SCHOOL. It was a very hot afternoon as Pam and I set out for Schuylkill Haven High School for the first of what is hoped to become an annual all-star game between the two leagues and what was our first of what will likely be many more spring high school games.
Being our first, we didn’t know what to expect but thought the turnout in the stands was as good as the all-star game last November, and better than I was expecting on a scorcher of an afternoon.
The Colonial teams performed well against the Skook teams during the regular season, but on this day it looked like the Schuylkill players came to win a football game while the Colonial team came to participate in one. As Pam is a Colonial League girl (Catasauqua, 1981) we sat on the Colonial League away side. But credit goes to the Schuylkill players, who meant business and showed it right from kickoff. The Colonial League didn’t even bring cheerleaders, while the Schuylkill cheer squad was also an all-star team with a winning performance. Skook 28, Colonial 6.
We noticed that not all of the Colonial League teams participated. There were no players on the roster from Bangor or Northern Lehigh, and the latter school was the most successful team in the league last year. It would be nice if the schools would be unified in support of their league and all participate in the all-star game next season.
We always try to eat at the refreshment stands during the games to support the teams and their schools. But although the burgers grilling on the outdoor grill smelled delicious, it was too hot to eat during the game on this day. Next time we are at Schuylkill Haven for a game, I promise to eat double.
We were told that the plan for next year is to play the game at a Colonial League school, namely Palmerton. After that, the game will rotate back and forth between the two leagues and at different schools willing to host.
Despite the heat, after the game we drove to Reading, where the USL2 Reading United soccer team had an evening game at Alvernia University. Love those two-sport doubles.
SUNDAY, MAY 29 (AFTERNOON). PSFCA EAST VS. WEST SMALL SCHOOL ALL-STAR GAME, BISHOP MCDEVITT HIGH SCHOOL. Billy Splain said to me: “You and Pam should come to the Big 33 weekend games.” We needed little convincing.
The first of the three games was the east/west all-star game. District 11 was well represented with 11 players and three coaches on the roster. Of the players, four were from Northern Lehigh, three were from Notre Dame-Green Pond, three were from North Schuylkill, and one was from Nativity BVM. The three coaches representing D11 were Wally Hall from North Schuylkill who was the head coach, Chris Walkowiak from Palmerton and Justin Frantz from Minersville.
This was our first time ever at Bishop McDevitt High School and it is a nice location for the slate of games. We were very impressed by the excellent game program for this event, as well as the completely different program for the following day’s Big 33 game.
In addition to the main refreshment stand, there were three additional food trucks brought in for the weekend. It was another hot day, but we just couldn’t pass up those fresh cut fries from Schnader’s French Fries. After sitting in the scorching sun for a couple of hours, the Hawaiian Shaved Ice truck was a true godsend.
During halftime of the game, Billy Splain interviewed Guy on the “PA Football News” live broadcast of the event. That was a lot of fun. Just being up in the press box with the VIPs like Billy and Hollywood Brian was cool.
The East was the home team this year so we sat on the home side. Unfortunately, we dropped to 0-2 for the year as the West was clearly the better team on this afternoon, earning a 49-14 win over the East.
There was good news for our D11 players, as Trevor Amorim, a wide receiver from Northern Lehigh, was named the game MVP for the East squad. Amorim scored the first TD for the East, a long pass from anther D11 player, QB Jake Hall of North Schuylkill. Guy & Pam’s Off the Field MVP (Most Valuable Potato) went to the folks at Schnader’s Taters.
SUNDAY, MAY 29 (EVENING). PSFCA EAST VS. WEST BIG SCHOOL ALL-STAR GAME, BISHOP MCDEVITT HIGH SCHOOL. We headed to Arooga’s Grille House and Sports Bar to cool off between games and to watch the finish of the Indy 500. A plate of wings complemented the fries eaten earlier at the game quite nicely.
Back at McDevitt, we were still two hours from game time so set up our lawn chairs in the parking lot under one of the few trees. We had a number of visitors seeking to share our shade, a scarce and valuable commodity. One of the visitors was the father of Spring-Ford captain Cole Turner who would be playing in the game. Dad flew up from New Orleans to see his son play his final high school game. I had the pleasure of showing his family the gorgeous full-page tribute to their son that had been placed in the program by the Spring-Ford Touchdown Club. In another coincidence, Cole is headed to Bloomsburg to play this fall, where I am an alum and Pam is a professor.
District 11 was represented in this game by six players. There were two from Whitehall, two from Freedom (Bethlehem), and one each from Emmaus and Blue Mountain. Of course of special interest to us were the two from Freedom, as that is the school where Guy taught for nearly 30 years. There were no D11 coaches.
We were surprised and pleased to see Miss Pennsylvania, Meghan Sinisi perform during halftime of the game. Pam is acquainted with Meghan, as they are both Speech-Language Pathologists, which is what Pam teaches at Bloomsburg. They did get a chance to meet up and chat after Meghan’s flaming baton halftime performance. Of course Meghan was our “Off the Field MVP” (Most Valuable Pathologist of Speech) for the game for all the good work she does year round promoting Autism Acceptance throughout the state.
“Our team” finally got a win in this one, as the East rolled over the West in just about the same way the West did to East in the Small School game earlier in the day. It was already 31-0 at halftime. And Freedom’s Deante Crawford scored the touchdown that put the game into mercy rule. We don’t remember ever seeing as many personal fouls and ejections as we saw in the ugly second half. 37-0 final.
MONDAY, MAY 30. BIG 33 GAME, MARYLAND VS. PENNSYLVANIA. BISHOP MCDEVITT HIGH SCHOOL. It’s hard to believe we had never attended the Big 33 game before, as this one is called the “Super Bowl of High School Football.” I can’t commit to attending every year, but this was certainly not a once and done visit for us by any means.
It’s called the Super Bowl for good reason, as at least one player in all 56 NFL Super Bowls is a “Big 33 Game” alumnus. Many, many famous pro players played in this game, including District 11 players that I recognized Ed McCaffrey (ACC), Dan Koppen & Matt Millen (Whitehall), and Nate Hobgood-Chittick (Allen, my alma mater). That may not be a complete list, but those are the names I recognized from a quick scan of the players on the list.
The game used to be Pennsylvania vs. Ohio, but for the past nine games Maryland has been the opponent. District 11 was represented by a pair of players, Lavon Johnson of Allentown Central Catholic who is headed to Chesire Academy and served as one of the team East captains, and Nate Voorhis of Stroudsburg, headed to the University of Connecticut.
Determined to sample “Mel’s Rock N BBQ” before it got too hot, Guy lunched on the pork bbq while Pam went with the hot sausage with peppers & onions. Not surprisingly, Mel’s was our “Off the Field” MVP (Most Valuable Protein).
There was a great crowd on hand for this one, despite the hot weather. The Big 33 Game really had that “Big Game” feel to it. We loved it.
Only “Jaw Dropping” could describe the 2022 Big 33 All-Star Cheer Team’s absolutely phenomenal halftime performance. I’ve never seen better. District 11 was represented by Ryan Green of Easton, Victoria Jordan of Nazareth, and Cyana Rodriguez of Bangor.
Pennsylvania won for the 7th time in nine games since Maryland replaced Ohio as the opponent in 2013. The final in this one, the 65th annual, was 28-7. What a great weekend with three amazing games at one excellent host school.
See you in Nazareth in a couple of weeks for the last of the spring all-star games to feature players from District 11.
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