BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Before Palmyra’s Jon Hicks competed in Saturday’s Big 33 Classic, the last Lebanon County native to play in the premiere high school all-star football game in the country was Lebanon’s James Capello in 2009. Could the next County resident to play in the Big 33 be another Cedar quarterback?
Current Lebanon High quarterback Mark Pyles was in attendance Saturday evening at Hersheypark Stadium, as part of the Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association’s Big 33 watch list. Pyles, along with many of the other top senior and junior players in Pennsylvania, was introduced to the crowd during halftime of Ohio’s 24-21 overtime victory over Pennsylvania.
The Coaches Association’s watch list is designed to identify the top college football prospects in the state and promote their skills.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in the Big 33 game?,” said Pyles. “Every high school player dreams of being in the Big 33.
“It means a lot,” Pyles added. “There are some big names that come out of here. All these kids earned it. They deserve to be here.”
Pyles, who will be a junior quarterback for the Cedars in the fall, has top-level skills. He’s got a big arm, he can run, he’s smart and understands Lebanon’s complex offense, he has exceptional vision, he has a superior feel for the game and he has great leadership skills.
The only thing the 6-0 Pyles might lack is typical quarterback size.
“It’s just a good opportunity to get my name out there,” said Pyles of accepting the PA Coaches Assocation’s invitation to attend the game. “It’s a great atmosphere. It’s a great football game.”
Pyles also plays basketball and baseball at Lebanon High. But there is no doubt which sport is Pyles’ top priority.
“Football’s my thing,” said Pyles. “It’s number one. Definitely.”
So what needs to happen for Pyles to play in the 57th Big 33 Classic in 2014? He needs to continue to grow as a player, work hard and his Cedars need to win some football games.
“Just keep progressing myself as a quarterback,” said Pyles. “Get my body in top shape and perform during the season.”