Ohio rallies for 17 unanswered points, stuns Pennsylvania for fourth straight victory
Written by: Josh Funk on Sunday, June 17th, 2012
That was the chant the 34 all-stars from Ohio bellowed from a midfield stage postgame after the trophy presentation from honorary game chairman Ben Roethlisberger.
But the Buckeye Staters’ four-peat wouldn’t have been possible without a “repeat” of a different sort – from defensive back Nana Kyeremeh (Thomas Worthington).
Kyeremeh bookended Pennsylvania’s six turnovers in the game by picking off a pair of passes, including what proved to be the game-winner in overtime, and plackicker Tyler Grassman (Gahanna Lincoln) converted a 39-yard field goal in overtime to seal a 17-point rally as Ohio defeated Pennsylvania, 24-21, in the 55th installment of the Big-33 Football Classic played Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
“I was looking for a fade to the back side,” Kyeremeh said of the winning play. “But the ball was tipped by the PA receiver, and I told myself, ‘I’ve got to get that ball. It means a lot (to win this game). We came out with intensity in the second half that we should have had in the first.”
The victory gave Ohio its fourth consecutive triumph and a 13-12 overall lead in the series between the two states, coming on the heels of a dominating 50-14 victory in the 2011 installment of the game. In a game that had started oh so well for the Keystone State stars, it all came undone in a 17-second span of the fourth quarter.
The overtime rules for the Big-33 Classic follow that of college football, where each team takes a possessionat the 25-yard line. If the score remains tied, the process is repeated until the start of the fourth overtime, when both sides would have had to begin attempting two-point conversions if touchdowns were scored.
Pennsylvania’s defense, a unit which put forth a stalwart effort all game long, had forced its only turnover of Ohio, a fumble, at the 9:06 mark of the fourth quarter. Staked to a 21-7 lead, Skyler Mornhinweg (St. Joseph’s Prep) lined up at the helm of Pennsylvania’s offense, looking to deliver the knockout blow.
But it never came.
Mornhinweg was intercepted by Ohio’s Andre Jones (Cincinnati Colerain), and just five plays later, Tyler O’Connor brought the scarlet and grey to within 21-14 on a 1-yard run. Just seventeen seconds later, the game was tied.
On the ensuing kickoff, Desmon Peoples (Archbishop Wood) fumbled the handle of the kickoff, then retreated into the end zone and took a knee. Under PIAA rules, that would have resulted in a safety, but the play was not blown dead. Peoples ventured out of the end zone, was hit at the 3 yard line and lost control of the ball, where Ohio’s E.J. Junior recovered the ball in the end zone.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Pennsylvania head coach Mike Brennan (Blue Mountain). “The guys played hard and we had a great week of practice. We made a lot of plays and I’m proud of the kids. But it hurts to leave here tonight because they played well enough to win.”
That Pennsylvania did, especially in the first half, as it outgained Ohio, 174-100, in total offense and led, 14-0 on the arms of Mornhinweg and Blake Rankin (Bloomsburg). The duo, bound for Florida and Rutgers, respectively, combined to throw for 165 yards and two touchdowns – Mornhinweg’s a 61-yard bomb to Kevin Gulyas (Allentown Central Catholic) and Rankin’s a 13-yard pass to Shakim Alonzo (Woodland Hills).
But it was the Keystone State’s defense that also stole the show. Linebackers Nyeem Wartman (Valley View), Mike Caprara (Woodland Hills), Bryton Barr (Mechanicsburg) and Jon Hicks (Palmyra) played with their hair on fire over the first 24 minutes. And defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett (Taylor Allderdice) was clogging up space in the interior of the trenches.
“We went out and practiced hard, in full gear almost every day,” Jarrett said. “We made it into a competition in practice – OK, you did well this play, but on the next one, we’re going to beat you. It made everybody better. We were all from different schools, but in the end, we became brothers. This was a great experience and I had so much fun.”
Pennsylvania’s defense had also made Ohio pretty one-dimensional offensively. Until late in the fourth quarter, Ohio had only attempted a trio of passes in the second half – two from scrappy quarterback Adam Wallace (Norwayne), who led his team to an Ohio Division-IV state championship in December. Wallace finished with 38 total yards of offense, leading a single-wing-esque offensive attack which churned out 120 hard-earned rushing yards.
Ohio got its initial touchdown on an 85-yard pass from O’Connor (161 pass yards, 13 rush yards, 2 total TD) to Najee Murray (Steubenville) with 4:35 left in the third quarter, but Pennsylvania countered when Rankin found tight end J.P. Holtz (Shaler) on a 4-yard pass to make it 21-7 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
O’Connor was named the Ohio MVP and Rankin the PA MVP.
“It was an amazing feeling getting selected to play (in the game) and coming out here and playing well,” Rankin said. “But we just made a few mistakes. You have to be able to finish (in this game), and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Both Kyeremeh and Jones intercepted a pair of passes for Ohio, which forced six total Pennsylvania turnovers in the game (five interceptions, one fumble).
During its four-game winning streak, Ohio has outscored Pennsylvania, 130-81.
NOTES: Saturday’s Big-33 Football Classic marked the 25th all-time meeting between the Pennsylvania and Ohio squads, and the series was tied, 12-12, entering the game….Pennsylvania and Ohio had traded three-game winning streaks in the series since 2000; PA claimed victories from 2000-02 and 2006-08, while Ohio claimed victories from 2003-05 and 2009-11….Ohio’s four-game winning streak is a first in the 25-meeting series, as neither Pennsylvania or Ohio has ever won four consecutive games in the entirity of the series, which was resumed annually in 1993…..Pennsylvania’s all-stars raised their helmets in the air as a moment of silence was held prior to the start of the game to honor the late Joe Paterno, who passed away in January after a battle with lung cancer…..Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger served as the game’s honorary chairman and posed for pictures and signed autographs prior to the start of the game.
55TH BIG-33 FOOTBALL CLASSIC
OH 0 0 7 14 3 – 24
PA 7 7 7 0 0 – 21
PA – Kevin Gulyas 61 pass from Skyler Morhninweg (Bryant Myer PAT), 7:14
PA – Shakim Alonzo 13 pass from Blake Rankin (Myer PAT), 2:49
OH – Najee Murray 85 pass from Tyler O’Connor (Tyler Grassman PAT), 4:35
PA – J.P. Holtz 4 pass from Rankin (Myer PAT), 0:47
OH – O’Connor 1 run (Grassman PAT), 6:27
OH – E.J. Junior 0 fumble return (Grassman PAT), 6:10
OH – FG, Grassman 39
1st downs 15 12
Rushes-yds 40-121 16-35
Passing 9-24-0 16-28-5
Passing yds 176 253
Total yards 297 288
Penalties 6-54 5-55
RUSHING: OHIO: Warren Ball, 13-41; Jack Snowball, 7-43; Adam Wallace, 6-23; E.J. Junior 6-13; Tyler O’Connor 3-13 TD; TEAM 1-minus-8. PA: Rushel Shell, 5-24; Julian Durden, 5-2; Blake Rankin, 3-minus-1; Skyler Mornhinweg, 2-9; Corey Jones, 1-minus-4.
PASSING: OHIO: O’Connor, 8-19-0-161 TD; Wallace, 1-2-0-15; Derik Swinderman, 0-3-0-0. PA: Rankin, 11-17-2-145 2 TD; Mornhinweg, 5-11-3-108 TD.
RECEIVING: OHIO: Ball, 2-15; Anthony Melchiori, 1-2; Matt Eckhardt, 1-17; Quincy Jones, 1-8; Malcolm Robinson, 1-12; Brice Fackler, 1-7; Najee Murray, 1-85 TD. PA: Shell, 3-18; Durden, 3-24; Shakim Alonzo, 3-56 TD; Eugene Lewis, 2-54; Jones, 2-43; Kevin Gulyas, 2-58 TD, J.P. Holtz, 1-4 TD.
Photo’s provided by Matt Topper
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