With the first week of practice for the 43rd annual Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic safely in the books, Pennsylvania head coach Jim Berlin is pleased with his squad’s progress and looking forward to Saturday night’s game.
“So far real good,” said Berlin, who’s about to begin his fifth season at the top of the Smethport program after five years as an assistant coach there. “The guys have been picking up the offense fairly quickly, picking up the pace on both sides of the ball. It’s exciting to have a bunch of all-stars. You’ve got a bunch of 17-18-year-old guys who’ve been playing since they were little kids. They aren’t awestruck by the terminology.”
The Pennsy roster includes seven players from Allegheny Mountain League North Division champion Port Allegany, with Tre’ Garzel (quarterback), Dylan Baumgarner (receiver), Nate Lowery (tackle) and Ethan Budd (guard) slotted in on offense, and Bryan Stahlman (end), Mac Tanner (strong safety) and Jordan Seefeldt (cornerback) lining up on defense.
“I was talking with Justin (Bienkowski) when we were in Port the other night, and I said I could see why they were successful even with low numbers, because that’s a talented group of guys,” Berlin said of the Gator contingent. “Jordan has a very high football I.Q. as well as Tre’, and Mac’s just ready to get after it all the time.”
Sheldon VanPelt is the lone Coudersport player in the game, with Jordan Crosby and Austin Doud (Cameron County), Heath Stewart and Brycen Schneider (Otto-Eldred), Tanner Barr, Logan Connolly, and Ryan Lemay (Sheffield), and Brayden Howard and Adam Shunk (Smethport) also selected from the AML North. The Hubbers’ Dylan Dinch was chosen, but was unable to participate.
“It’s fun being around those guys, especially the guys I got to see all season on the other teams. You’ve got a good idea of what they’re about,” Berlin said.
Three of the four Smethport coaches are Big 30 alumni themselves, with Berlin and Larry Dennis playing in the 1997 edition a year after Ryan Yingling suited up for Pennsylvania. Adam Jack is the fourth Hubber assistant, while Chris Fee and his Cuba-Rushford staff helm the New York side.
“It’s very exciting to me,” Berlin said of his return to the game. “As a kid growing up around here and playing football, the Big 30, besides going to college and playing football, is one of the things you strive for. Having the opportunity to play in that game and now coach in it is very exciting. It’s real fun.
“The crowd, the buzz around the whole game, it’s exciting. Going around to the different schools for practice, hanging around with different guys, you make lifelong friends in this game. I still have guys that I talk to that I played with, and I relayed that message to these guys a little bit. These guys will make some lifelong friends and get to play in an all-star game with a bunch of really talented players. It’s fun for everybody.”
The 43rd annual Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic is slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Parkway Field in Bradford. New York will once again claim the home sideline after winning last year’s game, 44-8, to take a 22-18-2 lead in the interstate series which has raised more than $1.6 million for area charities and individuals in need.
This year’s honorary captains, Mike DaCanal from Elk County Catholic and Paul Rinko from Ellicottville, played in the 1982 game.
Presale tickets are available at Man’s World and Northwest Savings Bank in Bradford, or by contacting any Big 30 committee member.
The pregame parade begins at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon, with lineup at 12:30 p.m. in the Best Western parking lot. Following the parade, there will be a tailgate party in the high school parking lot outside the football field in the pavilion. (Note: No alcohol is allowed on school property.) Gates open at 5 p.m., with pregame ceremonies commencing at 6:15.