The 48th Anniversary of "The Super Bowl of High School Football" is a week long event bringing players, coaches and families from the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania together to celebrate friendship, great athletes and families.
While the start of Big 33 week started 10 days ago, it finished as families parted ways Saturday night and some even Sunday morning.
Bearcat Insider was on hand for many of the events from Friday afternoon until the final whistle sounded as Ohio left the field with another victory.
While I wished we could have updated our content while we were in Hershey, I'm sure you'll find the stories we brought back entertaining and informative.
We'll start our recap with our trip on Friday.
HIT THE ROAD
If you've never made the trip from Southwest Ohio to the Eastern side of Pennsylvania you've missed a long but enjoyable trip. Access to Hershey is easy, and except for a few areas of construction you arrive before you know it.
Once you hit the Harrisburg/Hershey area you learn very quickly what rules the area. The Hershey Company is a leading employer and part of the fabric making this area one rich in American tradition. The rolling hills and dairy farms are vital parts of the culture and economic structure of the area. But one thing is for sure, you're not in some small farm town.
Hershey has everything you'll expect to find from a major city. With it's small town appeal, the Chocolate Capital of America can give visitors a great family vacation or just a little get-away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While my visits have always involved the Big 33 Game, you could spend a week and know you've seen some great Americana.
But while Hershey has many attractions, our goal was to cover the biggest event during the month of July.
WEEK OF WORK
On the Friday before the Toyota Honors Banquet, teams from Pennsylvania and Ohio hit the trial towards Hershey. Once there both teams found warm weather and warm hearts.
While teams didn't take the field during Friday, they spent the rest of the week getting ready to battle and bring a victory home to their home state.
COACH TONY BROEING
Talking with Ohio assistant coach Tony Broeing, he had the following to say about the week. "The kids worked hard all week. The weather saw a lot of heat, but everything went well and I feel the kids stepped up and did what was asked of them."
For those just learning about the Big 33, players from both teams spend the week with host families as they prepare for the big game. While every year a new family joins in hosting a player, some families have been host for over 20 years.
For future Bearcats the following families opened their homes and hearts.
Donnell McKenzie - Chuck & Stephanie Curry - Host for 20 years
Terrill Byrd - Tracie & Doug Teahl - Host for 2 years
Steve Gawronski - Tara & Barry Betz - Host for 3 years
Dominic Goodman - Pam & Jerry Ellsesser - Host for 6 years
Brad Jones - Stacy & George Cvijic - Host for 5 years
Jared Martin - Cheri & Carl Comasco - Host for 3 years
Mike Mickens - Debbie & Dan Campbell - Host for 10 years
Curtis Smith - Ellen & Wayne Sanderson - Host for 6 years
Derrick Stewart - Linda & Herb Weidman - Host for 8 years
3 year host Tara Betz had the following to say about being a host and having a Bearcat in the family's house. "This is our third player and second Cincinnati player. While we live in Penn State country, we'll be routing for the Bearcats when they travel to Happy Valley this year. We hope to get tickets and see Bill and Steve play."
HOST FAMILY TARA & BARRY BETZ
The first year we hosted we had Bill Poland. Bill was such a great kid I still stay in contact with his father. In fact, we learned this week that Bill just got engaged to his girlfriend who we go to know during Big 33 week."
"Last season my husband, son Brice and I made the trip to Cincinnati for the Memphis game to see Bill play."
"Last year we hosted a player who's at Kent State. Shawn Donaldson still stays in contact with us and he's coming to the game this year to see us. Because of kids like Bill and Shawn, we've encouraged our friends and even other family members to get involved. This year our family is hosting two UC players. Tracie & Doug Teahl have Terrill Byrd. So you could say this has become a family affair."
"If Ohio keeps coming and Cincinnati has a player in the game were going to request we host them."
Friday before the game the Toyota Honors Banquet is held at the Hershey Lodge. With over 1400 people in attendance many of college footballs local coaches make the trip to speak. This year saw a Notre Dame theme as Rocket Ismail was the 2005 Honorary Chairman.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS SPEAKS TO THE GUEST
Ismail, a 1988 Big 33 Alum, also would see new Irish Head Coach Charlie Weis speak.
To help raise money the Big 33 held a live auction of two Notre Dame Helmets signed by Ismail and Coach Weis.
ROCKET ISMAIL SIGNES HIS TRADING CARD AFTER BANQUET
Other coaches who spoke included Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel along with new Pittsburgh Head Coach Dave Wannstedt. Wannstedt, also a Big 33 Game Alum, spoke about his memories of the game. Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno was scheduled to speak but instead sent an assistant coach so he could stay with his wife who is recovering after breaking her leg.
During the night players, coaches, officials and cheerleaders are introduced to the crowd. Each team selects one player to speak on their behalf. After hearing from the team's speaker, a player is introduced along with his buddy.
CURTIS SMITH WITH OHIO COACH STEVE CHANNELL
JARED MARTIN WITH COACH STEVE CHANNELL
BRAD JONES WITH COACH STEVE CHANNELL
What is the buddy system? Each year players involved in the Big 33 are partnered with a young person who has exceptional needs. Together, players and buddies enjoy several events during the week (lunch, practice, banquet, and game introduction). Players learn the gifts they enjoy and the friendship these young people give without any strings attached. For Ohio, Bearcat Dominic Goodman was selected to speak about his buddy and his buddy in return spoke about Dominick during the banquet. I'm sure there are several new Bearcat fans in Pennsylvania after this year's game.
DOMINIC GOODMAN TALKS ABOUT HIS BUDDY
GOODMAN'S BUDDY TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW FRIEND
Stay tuned for our coverage leading up to the game and the game itself. You won't want to miss our photos of Bearcats along with some special video interviews from the field after the game.