Team Maryland’s Rasheed Gillis dropped back, inching toward his own goal line, then zeroing in on the football as Pennsylvania’s quarterback floated a pass toward the end zone. This was uncharted territory for the Northwest High School linebacker, known more for his blitzing than his coverage, but it was exactly what he’d been preparing for in the days leading up to the 57th Big 33 Football Classic.
And so, in what would be the final play of Saturday’s double-overtime thriller, Gillis timed his jump perfectly and came down with the game-ending interception, helping Maryland escape Hersheypark Stadium with a 31-24 victory.
“The ball was up in the air, so I just went for it,” said Gillis, one of nine Montgomery County players representing Team Maryland. “... I’m usually a blitz guy but I’ve been working on it all week and I got it down now. I just wanted to make that play to secure the win for my teammates.”
It’s an historic victory for Maryland, its first since 1991. The team returned to the Big 33 last summer after a 21-year hiatus, only to lose 58-27. If not for Gillis’ interception — and the go-ahead 25-yard touchdown pass from Antwaine Carter (Westlake) to Reggie White Jr. (Milford Mill) in the preceding double-overtime possession — this one could have turned out worse for Maryland, which blew a 24-0 first-half lead. But behind its defense, the road team regrouped in overtime and staved off Pennsylvania’s comeback bid.
“It means a lot. Everybody was against us basically. We were the underdogs,” said defensive back Anthony Chesley (Gwynn Park), who broke up five passes. “Everybody thought they were going to win because of past years but the team stepped up and made history.”
Maryland moves to 3-7 against Pennsylvania in the Big 33.
“This is really what we needed in Maryland,” said Maryland coach Brian Van Deusen (River Hill) “A lot of these guys when they were invited to play, they didn’t know what it was, because Pennsylvania played Ohio for so many years. For us to win a game like this, I think it’ll be a lot easier to get top guys. The kids are going to want to play in this.”
Marquel Dickerson (North Point) opened up the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown run and Maryland went ahead 10-0 after Alex Potocko’s (River Hill) 39-yard field goal. Chesley broke up a pass on Pennsylvania’s ensuing possession, forcing a turnover on downs, and Maryland added to its lead with Jalen Jones’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Joppy (Quince Orchard). Later in the second quarter, Josh Woods (McDonogh), the Player of the Game, returned an interception for a touchdown that put Maryland ahead 24-0. Pennsylvania slowly trimmed the lead, eventually tying the game on a 29-yard field goal from Joe Julius (Lower Dauphin) late in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody was falling apart but during the [overtime] break we had to bring everybody together and tell them we got to lock it down,” Gillis said.
And that they did, holding Pennsylvania scoreless in both overtime periods and ending the 23-year drought.
“I don’t think I could [think of a better way to end high school football,] said Gillis, who won the 2013 Class 4A state championship with Northwest. “This was like the best experience of my life.”
Maryland 31, Pennsylvania 24
Maryland 10 14 0 0 0 7 — 31
Pennsylvania 0 7 7 10 0 0 — 24
Md. — Marquel Dickerson 72 run (Alex Potocko kick)
Md. — Alex Potocko 39 kick
Md. — Kevin Joppy 14 pass from Jalen Jones
Md. — Josh Woods 60 interception (Alex Potocko kick)
Pa. — Chase Edmonds 28 run (Joe Julius kick)
Pa. — Terry Swanson 5 run (Joe Julius kick)
Pa. — Mark Pyles 21 run (Joe Julius kick)
Pa. — Joe Julius 29 kick
Md. — Reggie White Jr. 25 pass from Antwaine Carter (Alex Potocko kick)
Maryland — Marquel Dickerson 6-73, Jalen Jones 7-14, Solomon Vault 2-5, Dalonte Waters 2-5, Kevin Joppy 1-(-5), Josh Gills 2-(-11), Antwaine Carter 3-(-15),.
Pennsylvania — Chase Edmonds 9-73, Terry Swanson 13-39, Mark Pyles 5-21, Lenny Williams 5-4.
Maryland — Antwaine Carter 6-12-128, Jalen Jones 3-10-62-1.
Pennsylvania — Lenny Williams 9-22-99-0, Mark Pyles 6-14-60-3, Rasaan Stewart 0-1-0-1.
Maryland — Reggie White Jr. 3-96, Solomon Vault 2-48, Micah Till 1-26, Kevin Joppy 1-14
Marquel Dickerson 1-3, Josh Gills 1-3.
Pennsylvania — Delane Hart 1-48, Thaddius Smith 6-33, Chase Edmonds 3-29, De’Quan Ware 2-22, Alec Bloom 2-19, Mallory Claybourne 1-10.