Free State squad ends touchdown drought, but not enough in 28-7 decision (VIDEO HERE!)

by Derek Toney

For the first time in five years, Maryland scored a touchdown in the Big 33 Football Classic. While the Free State ended its drought, Pennsylvania continued its mastery with a 28-7 decision at Bishop McDevitt High in Harrisburg.

The Keystone State accounted for the game’s first three scores, extending its winning streak in the series to three. Pennsylvania has won seven of nine since resuming the rivalry game with Maryland in 2015, and 14 of 17 overall. Maryland played against Pennsylvania from 1985 to 1992. 

Maryland coach Bill McGregor was pleased with the showing on a humid Memorial Day afternoon.

“I’m really proud of our effort and what each person gave,” said McGregor, the legendary DeMatha Catholic coach who spent several seasons as a St. Frances Academy assistant before returning to the Hyattsville school in 2019. “We had adversity in terms of proms, graduations, state playoffs…it hurt a little bit continuity-wise, but I’m so proud of the effort.”

“It wasn’t our day today. Pennsylvania, that’s a great team, a lot of great players going to big-time players,” said Maryland quarterback Josh Ehrlich from Broadneck. “I wish we had a couple of more days to practice, but it is what it is.”

The Free State’s last triumph was in 2018, a 9-6 victory at Landis Field in Harrisburg, on three field goals from Cooper McGeehan (River Hill). Maryland was shutout in 2019 (21-0) and last year (20-0). There was no contest in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After 10 scoreless quarters, Maryland finally crossed the end zone. Charles H. Flowers quarterback Jauran Saurey lofted a pass to an open Dadrian Carter-Williams near the Maryland sidelines. Carter-Williams gathered in the throw from his Flowers teammate and ran untouched to the end zone with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in the third period. 

It was the first touchdown in 181 minutes and 46 seconds of Big 33 game action for Maryland, whose prior score came in the final three minutes of the 2017 contest.

The touchdown was set up by a big kickoff return from Parkside’s Torrez Worthy. Worthy had more than 100 kickoff return yards, earning MVP honors for Maryland.

With its offensive futility streak done, Maryland’s defense had the opportunity to build momentum. Milford Mill Academy linebacker Drew Rheubottom wasn’t able to hold on to an interception that would’ve set Maryland up inside Pennsylvania’s 45-yard line.

A few plays later, Tasheen Howard, also from Milford Mill, couldn’t come down with the ball on a Pennsylvania throw to the end zone. The Keystone State evenutally got into the end zone on Devin Whitlock’s 2-yard scamper.

“I felt he was going to throw it across the middle,” said Rheubottom, who will play for Division III powerhouse Mount Union this fall. “I snagged it (the ball) and then it fell. That play hurt.”

“That’s a momentum swing if he comes down with it,” said McGregor. “It was a great effort.”

Outside of the score following Maryland’s first touchdown and the game’s opening drive, Maryland’s defense again performed well Monday.

“We couldn’t play any better,” said McGregor.

Pennsylvania stung Maryland with a 32-yard pass play on the game’s opening play. Five plays later, Joey Daniels hit his Mount Lebanon (PA) teammate Eli Heidenreich on a 10-yard slant for a touchdown.

After zero yards on Maryland’s first two drives with Sauray, a Maryland recruit, Ehrlich engineered Maryland’s first first down. The Broadneck four-year starter, who will play for Marist in the fall, led Maryland from its 25 to Pennsylvania’s 28 late in the second quarter before a couple of penalties thwarted Maryland’s hopes of at least a field goal attempt.

On the first play of the second half, Sauray flushed out the pocket under Pennsylvania’s pressure, was intercepted. Maryland’s defense responded with a three-and-out.

Pennsylvania made it 21-0 late in the third on Alec Tecza’s 10-yard burst after an inside handoff, completing a six-play, 57-yard drive. Worthy got the ensuing kickoff and went 45 yards into Pennsylvania territory.

On the next play, Maryland scored a touchdown.

“As with any game, you get the nerves out the first couple of drives,” said Calvert Hall College offensive linemen Michael Nwosu. “As the game went on, we strengthened and worked as a family unit. Unfortunately, we heated up too late.”

Pennsylvania outgained Maryland, 211-122. Ehrlich accounted for 46 of Maryland’s 49 rushing yards Monday. Tecza, who will attend the Naval Academy, finished with 94 yards on 18 carries. 

Dalan Johnson (Dundalk) tied for most tackles for Maryland with seven. Rheubottom and Dalon Telp (Concordia Prep) finished six and five tackles, respectively. 

The Maryland team, featuring 23 Baltimore area performers, lauded the opportunity to play and make new friendships with players from around the state. Each player stayed with a host family and were partnered with a special needs child, part of the Big 33 Classic’s Buddy Program.

“We had breakfast, lunch, dinner with each other, practice twice a day,” said Howard, who’s headed to Robert Morris University. “Everybody got to know each other and had fun.”

“I made memories and relationships that will last a lifetime,” said Ehrlich.  

Big 33 Football Classic

at Bishop McDevitt (PA)

Pennsylvania 28, Maryland 7

First quarter

Pennsylvania – Eli Heidenreich 10 pass from Joey Daniels (Nathan Kirkwood kick)

Second quarter

Pennsylvania – Ethan Kohler 9 run (Kirkwood kick)

Third quarter

Pennsylvania – Alex Tecza 10 run (Kirkwood kick)

Maryland – Dadrian Carter-Williams 46 pass from Jayden Sauray (Alex Petrino kick)

Fourth quarter

Pennsylvania – Devin Whitlock 4 run (Kirkwood kick)