Former NFL star leads Team Maryland to only its fourth ever win over Pennsylvania in the Big 33
by Derek Toney,
Milford Mill Academy head football coach Reggie White receives fan mail or an autograph request, every few months.
Only one problem: Those requests are for the late Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive linemen of the same name, who died 14 years ago.
“Some of the stuff comes to my dad’s house,” said White, the longtime Milford coach who also played in the NFL from 1992 to 1995. “I am not sure how they even got my dad’s address.”
This past Father’s Day weekend (June 16th), White, a beloved figure in the state’s high school coaching fraternity, joined some impressive company as he guided Team Maryland to a 9-6 victory over Pennsylvania, in the 61st annual Big 33 Classic in Harrisburg, PA. With the victory, White joined Brian Van Deusen, who has won four state championships at River Hill, and legendary coaches Doug DuVall (five state titles at Wilde Lake) and Bill McGregor (DeMatha Catholic) to lead the Free State to victory in the senior gridiron all-star game called “The Super Bowl of High School Football.”
White played in the 1988 Big 33 Classic after leading Milford Mill to the 1987 Class A state title, in his final high school season. He starred collegiately at North Carolina A&T before playing for New England and San Diego professionally. White also played in Super Bowl XXIX with San Diego, helping the Big 33’s streak of having an alum in every Super Bowl played. That’s right, there have been 51 Super Bowls and every one of them has had at least one player who had previously played in the Big 33 Classic.
White, a former defensive linemen, watched Maryland hold Pennsylvania without a touchdown for the first time in 14 matches. White’s son, Nicholas had a tackle in the contest. Maryland is now 2-4 since returning to the game in 2013 and is 4-10 overall.
“The best thing I did for this game was get great coaches to assist me. They did a great job getting these kids ready and adjusting to what was happening in the game,” said White, whose oldest son, Reggie, Jr. (Monmouth), caught the winning touchdown in Maryland’s double overtime victory over Pennsylvania in 2014. That was the last time Maryland got past PA.
“We didn’t have all the kids going to big name schools, but if you watched, you saw we had great football players who played their hearts out.”
In terms of Division I prospects, Maryland was again at a disadvantage in this year’s Big 33 game. Ugo Obasi (Milford Mill/Virginia) was the only scholarship player.
Cooper McGeehan of River Hill, whose 37-yard field goal with 5.2 seconds left in regulation was the game-winner, is attending Pittsburgh in hopes of gaining a walk-on spot at punter. Will Knutsson (McDonogh) will be a preferred walk-on at Penn State.
Pennsylvania had seven scholarship players on display, and 12 overall bound to Division I/BCS programs.
This was not only the first time Maryland held Pennsylvania without a touchdown, it was first time the Keystone State failed to score a touchdown since 1966, when it lost to Texas 34-2.
Pennsylvania had just 74 total yards (52 passing, 22 rushing) and seven first downs. Randallstown’s Christian Benford had a tackle and two assists and Mount St. Joseph’s Brandon Savage, Maryland’s MVP, had two tackles in addition to a critical end zone interception in the fourth quarter.
Matt McDonald was also huge in Maryland’s win. The recent St. Joe graduate caught two passes for 50 yards and drew a late pass interference penalty, leading to the game-winning field goal.
Obasi finished with a team-best three catches for 38 yards.
Will Knutsson felt a little lost when he arrived at McDonogh School two years ago.
Jordan McNair quickly changed that.
“I did not know anybody. He [McNair] was the first person to reach out to me,” said Knuttson, who transferred from St. James School in Hagerstown. “He made feel at home.”
Like McNair’s family, classmates and friends, Knutsson is still reeling from McNair’s death last week.
McNair, a 19-year old redshirt freshman offensive linemen for the University of Maryland, passed away June 13, two weeks after collapsing during a team workout May 29. After being hospitalized, McNair was underwent an emergency liver transplant and suffered cardiac arrest. He had been in critical condition since.
McNair, who played in the 2017 Big 33, appeared in one game for Maryland last season. At McDonogh, McNair was an All-State, All-Metro and All-MIAA A performer.
McNair was a beloved figure at the Owings Mills private school. Knuttson spent a lot of time, on and off field, with McNair and his fellow linemen.
“I remember my junior year, Jordan’s mom had all the linemen over for breakfast before the Gilman game. It was awesome,” said Knuttson. “He’s a great guy. I’m going to miss him a lot.”