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HERSHEY - The Big 33 Football Classic's past was celebrated Saturday night while its future remained an uncertainty.
On a night when executive director Mickey Minnich was honored upon his retirement after 22 years of service to the game, Pennsylvania handled Ohio, 28-10, in the 50th annual all-star game for graduating high school seniors.
Pennsylvania's control over Ohio in the past two years will likely bring an end to the match up that has been in place for the past 15 years. Pennsylvania needed the two wins, against teams that fell short of the best Ohio has to offer, to take an 8-7 lead in this renewal of the series.
Earlier in the game's history, Pennsylvania had taken on All-American teams and played all-star teams from Texas, Ohio and Maryland. Susquehanna's Dick Bagnall was an assistant coach when the game went through a stretch with an East-West intrastate format.
What is next is open for debate. The 15,033 fans that turned out at Hersheypark Stadium and the nearly $2 million in scholarship money that the game has raised over the years mean there are many reasons for the contest to continue despite changes in National Collegiate Athletic Association rules that forced the game to move from August to June last year.
When the game changed dates, it went head-to-head with Ohio's North-South all-star game and Ohio coaches chose to split their best players over the three teams that would be in action on the same night.
Pennsylvania put together a record-setting offensive performance last year followed by an overwhelming defensive performance this year. In both cases, Ohio put up a good fight early, but was no match in the second half.
"My hat's off to the defensive side of the ball," said Pennsylvania coach Tom Loughran from South Park. "They did an outstanding job and really bottled up their offense."
Ohio was held scoreless in the second half and its 10 points were the fewest given up by Pennsylvania since a 36-6 romp in 1993 in the first game when the states resumed their series.
The defensive effort may have been the best turned in by Pennsylvania since the 2000 team held Ohio scoreless in the first half while opening a 21-0 lead on the way to a 31-14 victory.
Montrose graduate Chris Snee finished the defensive portion of his career in the 2000 game when he had three sacks and was second on the team in tackles (six tackles and two assists) before heading off to play on the offensive side of the ball for Boston College and the New York Giants.
Pennsylvania did not allow Ohio to get closer than the 28 in the second half Saturday night.
"We weren't able to protect," Ohio coach Dan Ifft said.
Pennsylvania had eight sacks and two other tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses totaling 76 yards. University of Pittsburgh recruits Dom DeCicco, from Thomas Jefferson, and Myles Caragein, from Keystone Oaks, each had two sacks.
Daryl Robinson, a Philadelphia North Catholic graduate who will play at Temple, broke up third- and fourth-down passes in the end zone.
Pennsylvania scored 47 second-half points, more than had been scored by one team in any previous game, in its 61-42 victory in 2006.
Dan Persa, a quarterback from Bethlehem Liberty who is headed to Northwestern, made sure Pennsylvania had enough offense for its latest win.
Persa rushed for a game-high 65 yards on 11 carries and ran for a pair of first-half touchdowns. He used his running ability to scramble around and make time for an 11-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye in the second half as part of a 6-for-8 effort for 76 yards.
"That's what I like doing," Persa said. "I try to show balance. I use my feet to open up the passing."
Henry Hynoski, a Pittsburgh recruit who has led Southern Columbia to the last three of its five straight state Class A titles, scored the final touchdown on a one-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
From there, Pennsylvania celebrated the end of the latest chapter in the Big 33 Game.
"It's very big to come through in the 50th anniversary game," Persa said. "There was a lot of excitement."
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
Edwards Breaks Hendrick Domination, Brooklyn, MI – “This one’s for you, Dad,” said Carl Edwards after winning Sunday’s Nextel Cup Michigan 400, in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford.
It was Edwards’ first win in 52 races, and it broke the Hendrick Motorsports domination of 10 wins in the first 14 races of 2007.
Car owner Jack Roush and Carl Edwards at Michigan.
While leading, Edwards decided to pit with 43 laps remaining in the 200-lap race. Since the pit window for fuel was between 38-41 laps, many fans thought Edwards might run out of fuel before the race ended.
“It was a crazy day,” said Edwards. “I mean it was crazy, but we had a good car, and it was awesome to see that we could win one like we did today. It’s been a long dry spell, and I want to thank my fans, and especially my father.”
Martin Truex, Jr. finished second and led 51 laps during the early part of the race, but he was involved in a big wreck on lap 75 and was the last car on the lead lap when the race went back to green.
He worked his way up through the field into the second spot, but he brushed the outside wall in the closing laps and was not able to challenge Edwards, who won by nearly four seconds.
“I got caught up in that early wreck and I just used my car up coming through traffic trying to catch Carl,” said Truex. “The car got too tight there at the end. I got to Carl, but I hit the wall and from then on, the only way we could win was if he ran out of gas.”
Tony Stewart worked his way up from the 41st starting position to finish third. Casey Mears, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, and Michael Waltrip rounded out the top-10.
Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas and finished 19th, one lap down.
Polesitter, J. J. Yeley finished 28th.
Denny Hamlin, the 14th-place finisher is now second in points, 264 points back of the leader, Jeff Gordon.
Top-10 Chase for the Championship contenders: 1. J. Gordon-2392, 2. Hamlin-2128, 3. Johnson-2055, 4. Kenseth-2044, 5. J. Burton-1919, 6. Edwards-1905, 7. Stewart-1903, 8. Harvick-1794, 9. Bowyer-1774, 10. Truex-1772.
Top-10 Busch Series Leaders: 1. Edwards-2534, 2. Blaney-1833, 3. Harvick-1798, 4. Reutimann-1764, 5. Smith-1744, 6. Ragan-1713, 7. Biffle-1647, 8. Ambrose-1638, 9. Hamilton Jr.-1629, 10. Leffler-1603.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series Leaders: 1. Skinner-1798, 2. Hornaday-1595, 3. T. Bodine-1508, 4. Kvapil-1443, 5. Crawford-1424, 6. Musgrave-1420, 7. Benson-1264, 8. Fike-1232, 8. Sprague-1205, 10. Crafton-1184.
How The Earnhardt Deal Happened – Early this year, when it became apparent that talks between DEI and Earnhardt Jr. for a new contract might not work out, Earnhardt Jr. and his sister, Kelley, turned to Rick Hendrick for advice about the racing business.
Hendrick said the first time they talked was about how a deal might be structured for them to buy DEI from their stepmother. Then, when it appeared that might not work out, Hendrick offered to help Earnhardt Jr., if he decided to start his own team at JR Motorsports.
The plan would have been for Hendrick to provide that team with its cars and engines and other support.
When Hendrick’s talks for a contract extension with driver Kyle Busch stalled, the door opened for the deal with Earnhardt Jr.
However, joining the Hendrick stable could anger Earnhardt followers because it will team him with Jeff Gordon, a driver generally despised by his rabid fans.
“We do have a personal competition. If you want to call it a rivalry, fine,'” Earnhardt said. “He's fun to race with, and especially if you beat him, it's a good feeling. ... We can both challenge each other to be better race car drivers.”
COT Makes Road Course Debut – NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow will make its road-course debut during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, June 24.
Mastering the twists and turns of Infineon Raceway is no small task, especially for many of the regulars on the Nextel Cup Series, who only compete on two road courses each year.
For that reason, the Toyota/Save Mart 350 usually attracts a number of road-course specialists. These drivers typically race on the two road courses each year, in Sonoma and Watkins Glen (NY), and few other races on the NASCAR schedule.
A road specialist has never won a Cup race in Sonoma, but they have come awfully close. Here’s a look at some of the specialists that boast a road-racing background:
AJ Allmendinger is in his rookie season in the NEXTEL Cup Series for Team Red Bull (Toyota). He comes from a road-course background, having competed in the Champ Car Series. He took third in the Champ Car Series in 2006 with five wins and one pole.
Marcus Ambrose will hope to become the first Australian-born driver to start a Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway. Ambrose, who left Australia in 2006 as one of the stars in the Australian V8 Supercar series, competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2006, and made the move to the Busch Series for 2007. He will attempt to qualify for the Cup Series events at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen this year.
Ron Fellows has won at Infineon Raceway a number of times in his familiar Corvette in the American Le Mans Series, but his best NASCAR finish in Sonoma is seventh (2003). He also placed eighth in 2005. His best starting position came in 2003 when he started in the second row. Fellows won the Busch Series at Watkins Glen in 1998.
This marks David Gilliland’s first full year in the Nextel Cup Series as driver of the No. 38 Ford, but the native of Riverside is no stranger to Infineon. He won the Southwest Series race here in 2004 and his father, Butch, was a four-time winner during his career in Sonoma. David took 32nd in his Cup Series debut last year at Sonoma.
This is Juan Montoya’s rookie year in NASCAR after a career in Formula One, where he had seven victories and 30 podium efforts. He finished sixth or better in each of his five full seasons in Formula One. He posted his first-ever NASCAR victory earlier this year, in the Busch Series, on the road course in Mexico. He has never competed in Sonoma. Jeff Gordon predicted a top-five finish for Montoya in Sonoma.
Boris Said will boast a very limited Cup schedule this year in his No. 60 Sobe No Fear Ford, but certainly more than just the two road courses. He has become a fan favorite at Infineon Raceway, having placed sixth twice (2003-04). Said also started on the pole in 2003. He has won at Infineon Raceway in other series, including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1998.
The Nextel Cup drivers will be at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile Infineon road course at Sonoma, Calif., while the Busch Series and Craftsman Trucks will race at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Friday, June 22, Craftsman Trucks Toyota Tundra 200, race 11 of 25, 200 laps, 8:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, June 23, Busch Series AT&T 250, race 17 of 35, 250 laps, 8 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Sunday, June 24, Nextel Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350, race 16 of 36, 110 laps, 5 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: Richard Petty has the most career NASCAR wins with 200. Which driver is second in wins?
Last Week’s Question: What is Ryan Newman’s nickname? Answer: He is often referred to as “The Rocket Man,” or “”Rocket Ryan.”
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