Aliquippa’s Devonshire among top names playing in Big 33 Classic
By: Chris Harlan
Sunday, May 26, 2019 | 3:48 PM
Track season ended Saturday for Aliquippa’s M.J. Devonshire, who won state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the PIAA championship.
Now, it’s football season again.
The Kentucky recruit will trade track shoes for football cleats and join his Pennsylvania teammates to compete against Maryland all-stars Monday in the Big 33 Football Classic at Central Dauphin’s Landis Field.
Kickoff is 2 p.m.
“It’s an important game,” Devonshire said. “The Big 33 in Pennsylvania was something crazy back in the day. So being able to carry on the tradition of somebody from Aliquippa making the Big 33 game, I decided I was going to play.”
He said Kentucky coaches supported his participation.
Big 33 organizers moved the game up a few weeks to Memorial Day this year with hopes that more of the state’s top college recruits like Devonshire could participate. The game was held in mid-June in recent years, a date that often conflicted with college plans.
“Our intentions were to try to get the kids before they have to leave and go to their universities,” Big 33 executive director Garry Cathell said when all-star rosters were announced. “Last year, when we made our calls for kids to participate after we’d picked the team, we had 14 kids say they couldn’t play. And nine of the 14 said they would have played if it were before June 1.”
In years past, some athletes would play the game Saturday night and report to college a day or two later, he added.
“Now kids can actually play in the game and still have a couple of weeks off in terms of actual football,” Cathell said.
Pennsylvania’s 38-player roster includes three Pitt recruits, three Penn State recruits and two for West Virginia.
It also contains 10 players from the WPIAL. Along with Devonshire, the others are Aliquippa’s Will Gipson (Pitt), McKeesport’s Thomas Wyatt (The Citadel), Woodland Hills’ Mike Coleman (Toledo), Penn Hills’ Daequan Hardy (Penn State), Seneca Valley’s Jake Stebbins (Cornell), Central Catholic’s Brian Dallas (undecided), North Hills’ Lirion Murtezi (Navy), Thomas Jefferson’s Dom Serapiglia (Tulsa) and Latrobe’s Trent Holler (East Carolina).
Central Valley’s Mark Lyons is Pennsylvania’s coach and Hampton’s Jacque DeMatteo is among his assistants.
All-star organizers made arrangements for the athletes who had to compete this weekend in the state track championships. Devonshire had yet to practice with his Pennsylvania football teammates until Sunday.
The other Pitt recruits are linebacker Brandon George of Berks Catholic and defensive end Bam Brima of Loyalsock. Kicker Anthony DaSilva and lineman Dalton Daddona, both of Bethlehem Catholic, are Penn State recruits. Imhotep Charter defensive back Tykee Smith and Halifax defensive back Broc Grosser are headed to WVU.
The Pennsylvania roster also includes players headed to Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and elsewhere.
Maryland’s roster has two Pitt recruits: defensive lineman Jules DeAndre and defensive back A.J. Woods, both from Northwest High School.
“We know we’re never going to get the kids who early enroll,” Cathell said. “But we still should have a shot with kids who don’t.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .