HERSHEY, Pa. - Eric Reynolds had a mixed reaction to playing in the 51st annual Big 33 Classic last night.
The Central Bucks South running back was elated to be Pennsylvania's starting tailback in the football game that pits the state's top high school seniors against the best seniors from Ohio. He and teammate John Jackson were the first Titans to play in the All-Star Game.
But at times, Reynolds was saddened that the game at HersheyPark Stadium signified the end to his prep career.
"I was talking to Jackson - I told him I would love to play in another high school event if I get the opportunity," Reynolds said before the game.
High school fans in Southeastern Pennsylvania probably wouldn't mind, either.
The Boston College recruit rushed 260 times for 2,830 yards (10.9 yards per carry) and scored 38 touchdowns last fall. The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania player of the year registered 4,722 yards and 54 scores for his career.
A three-year starter at C.B. South, Reynolds said playing in the Big 33 Classic was one of his goals.
"Right when I came into high school, my dad talked about how Bryan Scott played in this game," said Reynolds, recalling the Buffalo Bills safety and former Central Bucks East standout. "He said, 'The Big 33 would be a big goal for you.' . . . It's a pleasure playing in the Big 33."
Reynolds and Jackson (a Villanova recruit) weren't the only Southeastern Pennsylvanians in the game.
North Catholic defensive lineman Shahid Paulhill (Temple), Souderton defensive tackle Phillip Long (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Marple Newtown defensive end Pete Massaro (Penn State) and Cardinal O'Hara defensive end Mark Wedderburn (Penn State) also played.
Dealing with a tragedy.
Ohio offensive lineman Elliott Mealer was a player to root for, even though he didn't play in last night's game. The 6-foot-6, 295-pounder has been an inspiration to both squads.
An auto accident on Christmas Eve near Mealer's hometown of Wauseon, Ohio, killed his father, David, and Mealer's girlfriend, Hollis Richer.
Elliott, his mother, Shelly, and his brother, Brock, survived. Brock, however, suffered a severely damaged spinal cord and broken right wrist. Elliott had a torn right rotator cuff - which may have been the result of his trying to lift the SUV to free the others.
Surgery after the accident forced him to sit out last night's game.
Even though he wasn't in the trenches, the Michigan recruit's visibility all week at practice unified the Ohio team. He was upbeat no matter what the circumstance was.
"And we think we have problems, huh?" Ohio head coach Jim Ryan told the Harrisburg Patriot-News. "Elliott's had to fight through a lot of adversity. He's a kid you just instantly like, and he makes everyone around him better, because everyone sees how he's handled the things that happened to him."
Mealer will wear jersey No. 57 at Michigan to honor his father. David Mealer was born in 1957.
Important to play.
Massaro could have opted to sit out last night. He was sidelined a few games with an arm injury, but the thought of reinjuring his arm in this game didn't cross his mind. Even if it had, only a letter from the Nittany Lions coaching staff would have stopped him from playing.
"I just felt like it would be a great experience," Massaro said, "because a lot of my future teammates are playing on this side and the other side with [Michael] Zordich.
"I just felt like it would be a fun time, and it has been."
The 6-4, 240-pounder was one of seven Penn State recruits in the game. In addition to Cardinal Mooney's Zordich (at fullback) and Wedderburn, the Nittany Lions' other recruits were Manheim Township kicker David Soldner, Washington Trinity linebacker Mike Yancich, Blue Mountain lineman Matt Stankiewitch and Harrisburg lineman Brandon Ware.
A recent trend in college football is to load up with towering wide receivers. It appears that the Pennsylvania team selection committee followed suit.
Pittsburgh recruits and Western Pennsylvanians Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan were the state's starting wideouts. Baldwin, an Aliquippa standout, is listed at 6-6, 215 pounds. Norwin's Shanahan is 6-5, 215 pounds.
Shanahan caught 37 passes for 731 yards and 13 TDs in 2007. Baldwin was just as productive, with 41 catches for 613 yards and 10 scores.
Big, bad Baldwin.
Baldwin was arguably the most versatile athlete on the field.
He is regarded as nation's fifth-best receiver in the Class of 2008, according to Scout.com. The Web site also listed the forward as the state's ninth-best college basketball prospect. And Baldwin was one of the state's premier sprinters in track.
He ran the second leg on Aliquippa's Class AA winning 4x100-meter relay team in the PIAA State Track and Field Championships. Baldwin was fifth in the Class AA 100 final.