BRADFORD, Pa. — The 48th annual Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic, a football game between the area’s top graduated seniors, is set to kick off Saturday with major state bragging rights on the line.
Last year’s 35-0 ‘goose egg’ win for Pennsylvania evened the all-time series at 22-22-3. New York hasn’t won the game since 2015 and only avoided defeat once since then, a tie in 2019. Is this the year Pennsylvania finally takes the series lead, or will New York stop the recent drought of Big 30 wins?
Gates open at 5 p.m. for fans before a 7 p.m. kickoff time at Bradford High’s Parkway Field.
Salamanca has three players set to take the field for New York along with six Warrior cheerleaders. Cole Hedlund is set to line up at wide receiver, while Shawn Remsen and Kody Shinners will play on defense at outside linebacker and defensive line, respectively.
Coming off its Section 6 Class D championship, Randolph has three recently graduated seniors on the Big 30 New York roster: running back/fullback Luke Pagett, safety Josh Bush and defensive lineman Jodey Frame, but Frame is listed as out for the game due to injury.
Franklinville/Ellicottville has five players set to play in the game, including four on offense: Ethan Frank (guard), Logan Grinols (wide receiver/running back), Lucas Marsh (quarterback) and Caleb Ploetz (tackle). Andrew Bolya is set to play defensive line.
Cattaraugus-Little Valley’s Gage Furl is set to play tight end while teammate Christian Hines is set to play outside linebacker.
Southwestern coach Jake Burkholder, the 2022 New York head coach, will call plays for the defense, with help from assistant Chris Payne, a mainstay on the Clymer/Sherman/Panama staff. Mark Arnold, a Southwestern assistant, and Ty Harper, the CSP head coach, split the top offensive coaching duties, while Dustin Bowser, a fellow Southwestern assistant, and Jeff Pagett, a Randolph assistant, both primarily help that side as well.
“We've got four guys working with the offense just because there's a little bit more flexibility with what we can do offensively, whereas (on) the defensive side, there's a handful of restrictions in terms of formations and things like that,” Burkholder said of the coaching staff breakdown. “So there's a little less I guess to focus on in terms of install with the defensive side of things, so we wanted to focus on having a few more guys hands-on on the offensive side of the ball.
“So we haven't really defined like a specific DBs coach and this and that, we're just kind of working together as a group. There's not enough time to break into individuals and do all that kind of stuff, so it's a lot of total team install and walkthrough and that kind of stuff.”
A defensive minded coach, Burkholder was pleased how many of his players volunteered to line up on that side on the first day of practice.
“When they get nominated, their coaches put where they think that they'd be a best fit offensively or defensively,” he said. “So we take that into consideration obviously. We want the kids to have fun too, so we want them to play where they're most comfortable and where they think they can succeed the most and then at the end of the day we've got to put kids where we need the bodies too. So it's a mixture of those three things.
“We met all the kids and asked them what they wanted to play and there were like six guys that wanted to play offense. Everybody wanted to play defense. So we had to obviously make some changes there, had to have enough guys to go both ways.”
Burkholder plans to challenge his players to make an impact on defense, regardless of the rules they must play by, including specific formations and restrictions on blitzes or stunts.
“The biggest thing is you want to make an impact, whether that's on a big hit, a turnover, a defensive touchdown, whatever that is,” he said. “Go out and make an impact, focus on doing your job and have confidence that everybody else is going to be doing what they're supposed to be doing and it'll all work out. But we do definitely let them know that they are kind of handcuffed with what we can and can't do and that they've got to kind of overcome that obstacle to be successful. We're just going to drive that home like, ‘They don’t think you can stop ‘em.’ It's a good time and it's a great group of kids.”
On the offensive side, Harper had high praise for the “skill” position players picking up new offensive schemes quickly.
“They've been great. They've been super receptive to our concepts and they're very gifted athletes,” Harper said of the “skill” position players. “We've got kids like Lucas Marsh and Logan Grinols, who obviously we've been competing against those guys, and they've really picked it up super-fast and they are super fast.
“Luke Pagett is the valedictorian from Randolph, so whatever we tell him, he's a sponge, he soaks it up pretty quick. We've got a really nice quarterback from Pioneer, Brody Hopkins, and that's kind of interesting because they don't really throw the ball very much out there, they're a pretty run-heavy team and this kid can really sling it. I'm excited to see what he can do. Cole Hedlund from Salamanca, he's picked up the offense really quick. I'm impressed.
“Obviously it's an all-star game, so you're getting the best players from each team but they've really picked it up quick and they're receptive and they want to learn. They're eager to get out there and show what they can do against the Pennsylvania kids. So I'm pleased overall.”