BY JEFF FALK
Two years ago, Mark Pyles stood in the middle of the Hersheypark Stadium field,at halftime of that year’s Big 33 all-star football game, being honored as one of Pennsylvania’s ‘juniors to watch’ for the upcoming season. Afterwards, a curious reporter approached Pyles and asked him if he would like to play in the Big 33 game some day, and if he did, what it would take for him to get there.
Naturally, Pyles responded in the affirmative, and that for him to reach his goal he would have to work hard and that the members of the Lebanon High football squad would have to come together as a team. Turns out, Pyles was very prophetic that day, on a number of levels.
Pyles, a senior quarterback for the Cedars, recently realized his dream when he was named to the Pennsylvania team for the 2014 Big 33 senior all-star football clash with Maryland, to be played June 14 at that same Hersheypark Arena Stadium. First selected as an alternate for the game, Pyles is replacing Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s J.J. Costentino, who declined his Big 33 invitation to report to college at Florida State early.
It should be interesting to see how Pyles, who is headed to Bucknell to play linebacker, is used in the Big 33 game. While he will likely serve as Pennsylvania’s reserve quarterback, it may be Pyles’ talents at linebacker that will serve Pennsylvania better.
Pyles is a competitor, and competitors want to play, and look for him to do whatever the Pennsylvania coaching staff asks him to do to get on the field. Pyles certainly doesn’t want to follow in the foot steps of former Lebanon High quarterback James Capello, who was chosen for the 2009 Big 33 game and saw limited action as Pennsylvania’s reserve quarterback.
Still, being selected for one of the most prestigious high school all-star football games is an honor itself, one of many Pyles has garnered since leading Lebanon High to a 7-4 record and the District Three Class AAAA playoffs, after going 0-10 the year before. In addition to be selected the Class AAAA all-state quarterback by the Pennsylvania Football Writers’ Association, Pyles received the Maxwell Club’s Pennsylvania Scholastic Player of the Year and the Jim Henry award, given to the outstanding high school player in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey region.
This fall, Pyles accounted for – either with his arm or legs – all 48 touchdowns that the Cedars scored, and 3,900 total yards.
Lebanon County’s Big 33 Participants