Jaylin Kelly leaves for Youngstown State University June 30, so this week of practice while preparing for the Big 33 Football Classic has helped the former Washington High School linebacker get back into shape.
“Playing with all of these guys is pretty much what Youngstown is going to be like,” Kelly said. “It will get me ready for the weeks to come.”
The 56th Big 33 Classic kicks off at 7:06 p.m. Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium when the Pennsylvania All-Stars take on the Maryland All-Stars.
Kelly, a 6-2, 235-pound linebacker, will wear No. 40 – his Prexies number – and figures to get plenty of playing time, too, as there are only five linebackers on the Pennsylvania roster.
“I’m excited to play high school football one more time with a lot of competition,” said Kelly, an Observer-Reporter Elite 11 selection after finishing his senior season with 114 tackles, eight sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery while also forcing five fumbles.
Kelly led Wash High to a 12-1 record, the WPIAL Class AA Interstate Conference title and a spot in the Class AA final at Heinz Field.
After arriving in Hershey Sunday, Kelly attended a picnic with the Maryland team. Two- and three-a-day practices opened the week, and he took part in a punt, pass and kick competition Wednesday night.
Like all participating, Kelly volunteered with the Big 33’s Buddy program, which since 1985 has been pairing athletes with special needs kids who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Kelly is staying with a host family, the Etters, and even has his own room.
“They make it feel like home. It really is like a home away from home,” Kelly said. “They do everything that you need them to do: wash your clothes, cook for you, stuff like that, pick you up from practice.”
Because Wash High held graduation last night, Kelly actually came home to walk with his classmates. So far he’s been asked a handful of times about national recruit and former teammate Shai McKenzie.
“All good things,” Kelly said of what he told those who asked about McKenzie.
Any possible soreness from practice was downplayed by Kelly. Same for being awestruck or intimidated by some of his talented teammates, a group that includes North Allegheny’s Mack Leftwich and Clairton’s Tyler Boyd.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Kelly said. “Everybody up here is good and going to the next level. It’s going to get me ready for college.”
BeeGraphix game Saturday
The Big 33 isn’t the only high school football game to be played this weekend.
Locally, the Tri-County Football Coaches Association will hold the BeeGraphix Football Classic Saturday at Southmoreland High School.
Start time is 7 p.m. For complete rosters, see page C2.
At halftime, eight men will be inducted into the TCFCA Hall of Fame. They include:
Gary Dongilli: Former head coach at Yough, Belle Vernon and Hempfield. … At Belle Vernon had an overall record of 71-11, conference record of 47-1, won seven conference titles, reached the WPIAL finals three times, winning once.
William P. Ellis: Head coach for the Monongahela Wildcat Termite League for 12 years and longtime PA announcer at Ringgold. … former coordinator and game director for Tri-County Football All-Star Classic.
John Fortugna: Coach at Uniontown for 19 years, leading his team to the WPIAL playoffs 10 times. … Took Uniontown to the second round in 2009, first time in 40 years a Uniontown team had gone that far.
Jan Haiden: Head coach at Jefferson-Morgan for 19 years, has also had stops at Beth-Center, Ringgold and (currently) Carmichaels. … Haiden has coached 75 players who made it to the college ranks, three in the NFL.
George Messich: Started at offensive tackle on Pitt’s 1976 national championship team. … Has been the head coach at Mapletown since 1987 and got his 100th win in 2009.
Jeff Metheny: Former Waynesburg coach has been a head coach for 27 years, most recently at Bethel Park where his 167 wins rank No. 1 all-time. … His teams have made the playoffs 15 times and won one WPIAL title.
Mike Scrip: During stops at Charleroi and Peters Township, Scrip has been on the sidelines for 135 wins over his career. … He was also among the group that started this game 17 years ago.
J. Gawen Stoker: Former Indian Valley coach compiled a 248-197-4 record. … Spent four years at Trinity. … Was associate executive director of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.