Pennsylvania handles Maryland in Big 33 victory

Monday, May 30, 2022 | 9:28 PM

HARRISBURG — For those immersed in Navy’s football program and its remarkably successful spread-option attack, the saying is A’s make plays.

Well, Eli Heidenreich may be a month away from his introduction to life at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., but for at least one more day the Mt. Lebanon senior and future Middie A back was busy making plays not for his school — but for his state.

On Memorial Day afternoon, in temperatures registering 90-plus on every nearby thermometer, Heidenreich’s early burst played a leading role in Pennsylvania running its Big 33 winning streak to three games with an impressive 28-7 conquest of Maryland.

Catching a pair of passes on the Keystone State’s opening possession — a 32-yarder from high school teammate Joey Daniels on the first play of scrimmage and a 10-yard slant from Daniels that accounted for the game’s first points — Heidenreich finished with four receptions for 96 yards.

“That was exciting,” Heidenreich said. “I saw the corner lined up at outside leverage, and I had a three-step slant and the rest is history.”

Heidenreich was so impressive throughout the 48-minute encounter at Bishop McDevitt’s sun-splashed Rocco Ortenzio Stadium, he nearly collared Pennsylvania’s most valuable player award. That honor instead went to Imhotep defensive end Keon Wylie, the Penn State recruit who spent plenty of time in Maryland’s backfield.

“They recruited me as an A back, which is like their slot,” Heidenreich said of Navy. “In their offense, that player does everything. They’re lining up in the slot sometimes, they’re in the backfield, they’re moving all over the place.

“They actually have a saying that the A’s make plays.”

Though A’s may make plenty of plays on the flanks for Ken Niumatalolo’s Mids — whether it’s running the ball, catching the ball and even blocking — Navy’s B’s also are counted on for production.

And what other programs refer to as fullback is the high-profile position Mt. Lebanon’s Alex Tecza is projected to play when he checks into Annapolis late next month. While the 195-pounder hopes to add weight once lacrosse season comes to an end so he can absorb the punishment, handling feature back duties won’t be new.

Tecza rushed 18 times for 94 yards and cashed in from 10 yards late in the third quarter for a touchdown that upped Pennsylvania’s lead to 21-0 on Monday. Tecza also caught four passes for 32 yards.

“It was awesome,” Tecza said of his Big 33 experience. “It was awesome.”

A first-half TD run from quarterback Ethan Kohler (Perkiomen Valley) — Kohler and Daniels alternated plays — and a score early in the fourth from wildcat QB Devin Whitlock (Belle Vernon) accounted for Pennsylvania’s other points.

Whitlock carried twice for 3 yards.

Pennsylvania outgained Maryland, 311-132, and Heidenreich and Tecza totaled more yards (222) than Maryland. Daniels (6 of 10) threw for 104 yards, and Central Valley’s Landon Alexander totaled 32 yards running and receiving.

While playing in the Big 33 was a neat finish, Heidenreich and Tecza also had the opportunity to share their final high school football games with Blue Devils classmates and teammates Daniels, Owen Halter and William Harvey.

“It’s one good last game to play with guys like Joey, Owen and Will,” Tecza said. “I’ve been playing with those kids since first grade, second grade, and that’s special. We have such a good bond, and for the season to end like it did was definitely bittersweet.

“State championship was awesome, but I won’t play with those guys again. For Owen to get called up, and for Joey, Eli and Will to be on this team and to be able to play with those guys one last time — it was definitely special.”

Said Heidenreich: “Last time playing with some of my high school teammates in a legendary game, there’s no other way to put it. Coming together and winning one last time to finish out my senior year was a really cool experience.”

Yet if there was something they could change, Heidenreich and Tecza joked about having the U.S. Army patch on the right shoulders of their jerseys disappearing. Of course, the Navy-related patch on their respective left shoulders could remain as-is.

Quite simply, “Go Navy, Beat Army” is already part of their daily jargon.

Wouldn’t expect anything less from soon-to-be A’s and B’s.

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