While Bryon Turner and Daryl Smith were butting helmets last fall inone of Harford County's more pivotal high school football games, they probably had no idea they would be sharing the same sideline this summer.
But that's what happened last weekend at Hersheypark (Pa.) Stadium in the 34th annual Big 33 Football Classic, which pitted the top 33 graduated seniors from Maryland against the best from Pennsylvania.
And when the celebration began after Maryland beat Pennsylvania, 17-9, before nearly 19,000 spectators -- the second Maryland victory in seven years -- Turner and Smith joined in a victory party togetherfor a change.
Turner (Aberdeen High) and Smith (C.M. Wright), thetwo county players selected to the Maryland team, were joined by Aberdeen coach Macon Tucker, who assisted head coach Doug DuVall (Wilde Lake) by coaching the defensive line. Before they survived the Big 33tryout and the player cuts last spring, Tucker had seen enough of both players to know they belonged in Hershey.
"I laid out the wholepicture for Byron as a sophomore," said Tucker, who will never forget the day Turner walked in the door at Aberdeen as an agile, 250-pound freshman. Turner, a two-time All-Metro player, is headed to Marshall University (W.Va.) on a scholarship.
"I told him (Turner) when he was a junior, the scouts were going to be here from the big conferences, and when he was a senior he was going to sign," Tucker added. "And I told him he was going to be good enough to play in this game. Here he is."
As for Smith, a first-time All-Metro lineman as a senior, Tucker remembers him vividly from C.M. Wright's 14-13 victory over Aberdeen last fall.
That victory sparked C.M. Wright to its bestseason in school history. The Mustangs won their first county championship by going undefeated, then advanced to their first state title game, before losing to McDonogh to finish the season at 12-1.
"Daryl left us with a big impression," Tucker recalled. "When they (the Mustangs) wanted to move the ball, they ran his way. On defense, they moved him down to guard to play against Byron, and it made us ineffective inside. From that game, we noticed him more the rest of the season."
Turner and Smith are hard to miss. Each stands 6-feet-1, 285 pounds, and each was a reason DuVall touted this year's Maryland teamas one of the bigger teams to represent the state in the Big 33 game.
"The Aberdeen game was tough. We had a nice battle going on. That's the game that put me on the map," said Smith, who is headed to Central State (Ohio) University on a scholarship. "We became friends after that. Byron is a real joker."
Turner didn't take kindly to thejokes he said some Pennsylvania players made about the Maryland teamduring the practice week preceding the game. The teams ate meals together.
"The whole week we were getting put down in the paper, and they (Pennsylvania players) would laugh at us when we came in to eat," Turner said. "They thought they were going to walk over us. But it was a different story."
Indeed, Maryland sent a message in the first half. Despite a stalled offense that produced only two first downs, Maryland's defense halted two promising Pennsylvania drives to keepthe game scoreless at halftime. Maryland then broke on top late in the third quarter on a 27-yard field goal by David DeArmas (DeMatha, Prince George's County).
Maryland took a 10-0 lead early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Matt Byrne (Damascus, Montgomery County)hit Asim Penny (Bishop McNamara, Prince George's County) with a 21-yard touchdown pass. Maryland clinched the victory on an 85-yard interception runback for a touchdown by Russell Thomas (Oxon Hill, Prince George's County) late in the fourth period.
"I could have played alittle better. The competition was excellent," Turner said. "It was much better than anything at home."
After the game, the Maryland players were mobbed on the field during an hourlong celebration that featured Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs -- his son, Coy, played on the Maryland team -- extending congratulations to DuVall, and hordes of autograph seekers pursuing the players.
"That went on all week," said Smith, alluding to the players' trips to local hospitals to sign autographs for cerebral palsy victims and the night at Hersheypark when fans surrounded them with pens and paper in hand.