Big 33 Football Classic an ‘amazing experience’ for Thomas Jefferson’s Serapiglia

Friday, May 31, 2019 | 9:03 PM

Perhaps it was only fitting that a four-year starter in the Thomas Jefferson football program capped his high school career at the prestigious Big 33 Football Classic.

Tulsa commit Dom Serapiglia participated in the all-star event May 27, competing for Pennsylvania against a team of Maryland all-stars.

The Pennsylvania all-stars blanked their counterparts 21-0 at Central Dauphin’s Landis Field in Harrisburg.

“The game was absolutely awesome,” Serapiglia said. “It is an amazing experience, and I’m so fortunate to have played in it. The best part was hands-down the Buddy Program. Being able to spend those couple of days with your buddy really puts life into perspective and shows how fortunate you really are to be able to play the game of football — all while being able to make a buddy for life.

“Another great part of it is the host family aspect. My teammate, Ricky Santiago, and I were welcomed into the Smith’s family home. They took great care of us all week and treated us as if we were their own. I want give a special shout-out to my man Jackson, my host brother. Thanks for an awesome week and for sharing your Xbox with Ricky and I.”

Serapiglia, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound lineman who made his mark as an all-conference center/long snapper in high school, was one of 10 WPIAL players who represented Pennsylvania in the classic.

The others were Aliquippa’s M.J. Devonshire (Kentucky) and 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) and Latrobe’s Trent Holler (East Carolina).

Big 33 organizers moved the game up a few weeks to Memorial Day this year, anticipating that more of the state’s top college recruits would be able to participate. The game previously was held in mid-June, a date that often conflicted with college plans.

“Going to the VA (hospital) in Lebanon and getting to meet the veterans was amazing, especially since we played the game on Memorial Day,” Serapiglia said. “The game this year was special for them, and to us as a team to be able to put on for our state, as well as the country.

“The experience is second to none. I really did make some friends for life, and I’m excited to see where their journey takes them as I know they will be watching me, as well.”

Serapiglia’s long list of other accolades include being part of four WPIAL championship games and winning three titles; being named to the Tribune-Review Terrific 25 and PennLive All-PA teams; being selected first-team all-state, All-WPIAL and all-conference twice; and, in his first year of wrestling competition, earning all-county status. Serapiglia said he relished the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by the Big 33 Football Classic.

“The highlights of the game were hands-down watching those ESPN Top10 kind of plays,” he said. “And highlights from practice were seeing the (individual) battles take place. I mean the one-on-one’s at wide receiver and defensive back were literally with some of the top players in the country.

“We had some good battles down at the other end of the field with the O-line and D-line. The week of practice was awesome, as well. We practiced for three days prior to the game, plus had two days of practices back in April.”

By being selected for the Big 33 classic, Serapiglia, who manned the center position in the game, gained entry into an exclusive club within the storied TJ football program.

He joined the likes of TJ football products Chase Winovich, Cole Costy, Noah Palmer, Dom DeCicco, Chris Drager, Brock DeCicco, Nate Nix, Lucas Nix, Brad Dawson, Tyler Reed and Michael Wainauskas to be selected to play in recent years.

“It was great for Dom to have the opportunity to experience all that comes with playing in the Big 33,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “I played in it in 1985 and have great memories, and many relationships developed through the game.

“It really is more than just a game. It is a great way to finish an incredible high school career. We are very proud of him and happy that he represented our program in such a positive and successful way. He will do great things in college.”

Winovich, who went on to an outstanding career on defense at Michigan, was selected by the defending Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

“It’s an honor to be selected for the Big 33 game,” Winovich said. “There have been so many big-time players who have played in it and represented Pennsylvania.

“When I started working out as a freshman (at TJ), I thought about what I wanted to achieve in my high school career, and down the road I thought playing in the Big 33 game would be an awesome achievement. I thought it would be cool. I heard so much about it growing up and the history of it. It’s a great accomplishment in my life.”

Serapiglia, a high honors student who recently celebrated his 19th birthday, will depart soon — June 14 — for the Tulsa campus in Tulsa, Okla.

The Golden Hurricane football program is coached by Philip Montgomery; the offensive line coach is Mike Bloesch.

“My expectations are to go in and compete at the highest level and fight for early playing time, all while getting bigger, faster and stronger over the summer,” Serapiglia said. “And to go into camp with a full head of steam ready to challenge the upper classmen for reps and playing time.”

Serapiglia, a team captain at TJ, was one of eight offensive lineman chosen for this year’s all-star event.

He was recruited as a center/guard by Tulsa, which is a member of the NCAA American Athletic Conference.

The Golden Hurricane opens the 2019 season Aug. 30 at Michigan State.


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