Bryce Cox will remember the 66th Big 33 Football Classic for two things: Making new friends and reconnecting with others.

The recent Mount St. Joseph graduate was the Most Valuable Player for Maryland, which fell to Pennsylvania, 31-27, at Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg, Pa. Sunday evening.

“It was a phenomenal week, like life changing,” said Cox.

Called the “Super Bowl of High School Football,” the Big 33 has had a participant play in every Super Bowl. The first Big 33 game took placed in 1957.

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For Maryland, which returned to compete in the Big 33 in 2013, players stay with host families around Harrisburg. They also partner with a special needs child through the Big 33′s Buddy Program.

“It gives you a different perspective on life,” said Cox. “Hanging out with them is really cool.”

On the field, Cox got to reunite with former Gael teammate Sean Williams, who transferred to Milford Mill for his senior season. Williams helped lead the Baltimore County school to its first state title (Class 2A) since 1987 last fall.

“It was a dream, that’s my guy,” laughed Cox. “Transferring to Milford I think was a great decision for him so it was no hard feelings.”

Cox and Williams, who will play for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, were part one of the best offensive showings for Maryland in recent years. Cox rushed for 39 yards and two touchdowns and Williams (20 yards) added a rushing score as Maryland produced more points (27) Sunday than the previous four Big 33 matches combined (16).

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Maryland, which last won in 2018 (9-6), was in position for victory when Charles H. Flowers quarterback Sean Johnson scored on a 10-yard run, giving the Free State a 27-24 advantage with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left in regulation. Devin Malloy from Rock Creek Christian Academy appeared to put the game away with interception return for score, but was flagged for holding Pennsylvania wide receiver Kenny Johnson coming off the line of scrimmage.

After a helmet-to-helmet hit on Pennsylvania wiped out a Johnson’s catch-and-run score, the University of Pittsburgh recruit hauled in Colin O’Sullivan’s pass from 31 yards for a touchdown with 1:15 left in regulation. Johnson (nine receptions, 161 yards) was Pennsylvania’s MVP.

Maryland got to Pennsylvania’s 42 with eight seconds left, but Liberty quarterback Jack Pelliccotti’s pass fell incomplete, giving Pennsylvania an 8-2 edge over Maryland in the second chapter of its Big 33 rivalry (Pennsylvania won 7 of 8 between 1985-1992).

“We went into two-minute drill and it was a series of unfortunate events and weren’t able to really get the ball downfield,” said Cox. “It was very tough because they knew what we had to do and just couldn’t do it on our side.”

Maryland trailed 10-0 in the first quarter before Cox scored on a 15-yard scamper to cap a six-play, 76-yard series. After a 76-yard interception return by Bel Air’s Nate Furrow (Marist), Cox scored from three yards, bringing Maryland to within, 17-14, in the third quarter.

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Cox was the top rusher last fall for the Gaels, who reached the MIAA A Conference semifinals for the second straight year. A three-year starter, Cox was an all-MIAA A selection last fall.

Cox, who will suit up for Georgetown University, relished the opportunity to represent Maryland in the Big 33 Sunday.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to play on the field with the people you’re playing with,” said Cox. “Knowing that there’s never been a Super Bowl without saying a Big 33 player has played it in is great.”

BIG 33 FOOTBALL CLASSIC

at Bishop McDevitt (PA)

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PENNSYLVANIA 31, MARYLAND 27

First quarter

Pennsylvania - Jahmil Perryman 52 run (Ben Sosnowski kick)

Pennsylvania - Sosnowski 43 field goal

Maryland - Bryce Cox 15 run (Alan Zhao kick)

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Second quarter

Pennsylvania - Sincere Smitbh 66 punt return (Sosnowski kick)

Third quarter

Maryland - Cox 2 run (Zhao kick)

Pennsylvania - Perryman 1 run (Sosnowski kick)

Maryland - Sean Williams 4 run (kick failed)

Fourth quarter

Maryland - Sean Johnson 10 run (Zhao kick)

Pennsylvania - Kenny Johnson 31 pass from Colin O’Sullivan (Sosnowski kick)

Bryce Cox holds the Team Maryland MVP trophy after Sunday's Big 33 Classic. The Georgetown University recruit rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries. (John Bowers)

STATS (area players on Team Maryland)

Passing: Jack Pellicciotti (Liberty) 9-of-14, 180 yards, INT

Rushing: Bryce Cox (Mount St. Joseph) 13 carries, 39 yards, 2 TDs; Sean Williams (Mount St. Joseph) 8 carries, 20 yards, TD; Mekhi Dukes (Patterson) 1 carry, 2 yards; Pellicciotti 4 carries, -18 yards

Receiving: Max Moss (Archbishop Spalding) 6 catches, 98 yards; Trey Goodridge (Mount St. Joseph) 3 catches, 43 yards; Corey Jones (Milford Mill) 1 catch, 35 yards; Dukes 2 catches, 15 yards

Kickoff returns: Moss 1 return, 27 yards; Dukes 1 return, 21 yards; Ricardo Cooper (Calvert Hall) 1 return, 13 yards

Punt returns: Anthony Hawkins (Broadneck) 1 return, 15 yards; Tony Hart (Dunbar) 1 return, 5 yards

Punting: Alan Zhao (Marriotts Ridge) 5 punts, 32.2 average

Defense: Nate Furrow (Bel Air) 6 tackles, INT; Hart 5 tackles; Ebubedike Nnabugwu (Dunbar) 3 tackles; Julien Moutome (St. Frances) 3 tackles, 1 pass block; Josh Fedd (Dunbar) 2 tackles; Abraham Olugbemi (Arundel) 2 tackles; Dajuan Jones (Dundalk) 1 tackle; Emmanuel Gee (Milford Mill) 1 tackle; Zhao 1 tackle; Cox 1 tackle; Cooper 1 tackle

Derek Toney is content editor of Varsity Sports Network, a high school sports news network that became part of The Baltimore Banner in August 2022. 

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