Poly's Barry Amos won't represent just his state when he plays for Team Maryland in the Big 33 Football Classic on Saturday night. He's quick to point out that he's also playing for Baltimore City.
"I'm an inner-city kid and there's not too many inner-city Baltimore kids that are playing on the Big 33 team, so I have the opportunity to show that Baltimore kids can compete with anyone — if it's in the county, in state, out of state," said the cornerback headed for Robert Morris.
Amos is one of two players from Baltimore City public schools, along with Mervo defensive back Armarni Addison, selected for the Big 33 game that pits the best recently graduated players in Maryland against the best in Pennsylvania.
While some players miss the game because they already have reported to top Division I college programs and some skip it because they'd rather spend the summer vacationing before diving into the rigors of college football, Amos and his Big 33 teammates could not pass up the chance.
They cite a variety of reasons, including meeting new people, getting more coaching and putting the finishing touch on their high schools careers for playing in the 60th annual all-star game that kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m. at Landis Field in Harrisburg, Pa.
"It gives kids the opportunity to get a good feel for college football," Amos said. "Everybody's playing college ball, so it gives me the opportunity to see what I'm going against. Also, it helps me expand as a person. It's way more than football; it's about getting out there in the world and being social."
Dundalk split end Chrys Lane also likes the combination of the athletic and social experience. He joins three of his future Shepherd teammates on Team Maryland — Old Mill defensive lineman Jamal Boadu, Annapolis cornerback Tyson Queen and Quince Orchard kicker Hayden August.
"I've met most of them," Lane said. "This will give me a chance to see who I'm playing with for the next four years. We're getting our chemistry early, so when it's time to go to Shepherd and it's our time to play, we can make something happen."
Boadu said he had already met all three of his future teammates before heading to Pennsylvania for their first on-site practice Tuesday.
"It's exciting to play in this game, because I don't really meet a lot of people from outside the county," said Boadu, who played against Queen in Anne Arundel County. "I've already been in touch with them and I'm starting to hang out with them, so it makes it more exciting being in the Big 33 game with them."
In addition to practicing, Amos, Lane, Boadu and their Maryland teammates stay with host families and buddy up with a special needs youngster for the week. While they're enjoying the social aspects of the week, coach Chuck Markiewicz and his staff continued to prepare for the game.
Markiewicz, the coach at Arundel, ran several practices in Maryland but never had all of the players together until they got to Pennsylvania for two-a-day practices the four days leading up to the game. He said the basic offense and defense were in, but there was a lot of work to do on special teams.
Beginning last fall, Markiewicz and his staff evaluated players, tried them out and selected their team. However, they've had to make a lot of adjustments when players they wanted weren't able to play, mostly because they already had to report to Division I programs.
Markiewicz estimated that he lost about 18 of the top picks. Thirteen players on the final roster of 34 — 33 plus one kicker — weren't even on the list of 127 finalists when it was announced in early January. Five players were substituted after the 34-man roster was announced in March.
"We really worked hard to get the right bunch and we had an inkling that this might happen so our twos and threes were really people we were targeting, because we didn't figure we would get the ones, so we kind of got the people that we want. From what I understand, this has been better than it has been in most instances," said Markiewicz, a high school football coach for 30 years.
Still, losing those top players can make it difficult to counter a Pennsylvania team that has a lot more players to choose from statewide. Maryland has won only three Big 33 games and only one, in 2014, since the rivalry was renewed in 2013 after a 20-year hiatus.
Maryland isn't a big team, Markiewicz said, but the players are fast and smart. He also likes his versatile quarterbacks, Archbishop Spalding's Evan Fochtman and Wise's Jabari Laws.
He noted that Pennsylvania has two strong passing quarterbacks, including North Penn's Reece Udinski, who threw for more than 4,000 yards last fall. But Markiewicz, who runs one of Maryland's most successful passing offenses at Arundel, said it takes time to develop connections with receivers.
Maryland's quarterbacks are dual threats. Fochtman, The Baltimore Sun's Offensive Player of the Year bound for Navy, threw for 1,747 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 1,120 yards and 14 touchdowns. Laws, who is headed to Army West Point, threw for 2,401 yards and 38 touchdowns and ran for 631 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Class 4A state champions.
"Sometimes you put in a system and sometimes you put in plays," Markiewicz said, "and this is the kind of game I think you kind of put in plays that feature the people you have because they know what they're doing. We're not trying to force-feed Arundel's system on them, because they can't do Arundel's system, but they can do Spalding's and Wise's systems and we can add some stuff to make them successful."
To win, Markiewicz said, it's critical to put the players he has in position to succeed based on the skills they have.
"We don't want to fit square pegs into round holes," he said. "We want to make sure we give them something they can do successfully. I want to look at what we're doing and see the light come on, not the switch go off."
Evan Fochtman, Archbishop Spalding, quarterback
Jabari Laws, Wise, quarterback
Gary Brightwell, St. Frances, running back
Andreus Price, Franklin, athlete
Khyree Jackson, Wise, split end
Chrys Lane, Dundalk, split end
Tim Cole, Arundel, slot/halfback
Tyreek Henderson, Dulaney, slot/halfback
Chad Gleason, Walkersville, slot/halfback
Myles Wright, St. Frances, tight end
Keonte Dorsey, Woodlawn, offensive lineman
Andrew Ladd, Archbishop Spalding, offensive lineman
Sammy Levy, Glen Burnie, offensive lineman
Craig Wood, Calvert Hall, offensive lineman
Chris Darrisaw, Riverdale Baptist, offensive lineman
Mark Shekletski, Urbana, offensive lineman
Stefan Touani, Oxon Hill, offensive lineman
Jamal Boadu, Old Mill, defensive lineman
J'Quane Harris, Milford Mill, defensive lineman
B'Ahmad Miller, St. Frances, defensive lineman
Vinnie Shaffer, Archbishop Curley, defensive lineman
Savion Williams, Wise, defensive line
Gregory Benton Jr., Long Reach, linebacker
Kingsley Jonathan, St. Frances, linebacker
Nick Vermillion, Archbishop Spalding, linebacker
DeLani Carter, Flowers, linebacker
DeJuan Cooper, Northwest, linebacker
Barry Amos, Poly, cornerback
Josh Turner, Franklin, cornerback
Bryson Craven, Howard, cornerback
Tyson Queen, Annapolis, cornerback
Markus Vinson, Damascus, cornerback
Armarni Addison, Mervo, defensive back
Hayden August, Quince Orchard, kicker
Chuck Markiewicz, Arundel, head coach
Dave Doy, Arundel
Deno Campbell, DeMatha
Mike Nesmith, Paint Branch
Elwood Townsend, Reginald Lewis
Sean Sandora, Dundalk
Kyle Schmitt, Archbishop Spalding
Troy Gibson, Archbishop Spalding
Nick Good-Malloy, Annapolis
Marty Higgins, Linganore