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Big 33: Woodland Hills' Breaston shines as Pennsylvania routs Ohio, 40-17

Sunday, July 21, 2002

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

HERSHEY, Pa. -- George Curry, Pennsylvania's coach for the Big 33 All-Star game, had talked all week about how no one on his team could cover or run with receiver Steve Breaston in practices. Then again, Ohio didn't have anyone who could do it, either.

Breaston, a former star at Woodland Hills High School, put on one of the best shows in Big 33 history last night at Hersheypark Stadium and led Pennsylvania to a 40-17 victory against Ohio. A crowd of 17,800 watched Pennsylvania beat Ohio for the third year in a row.

Breaston caught three passes for 169 yards, had two long touchdown receptions and also ran for a two-point conversion. On top of that, he returned four punts for 122 yards. He averaged 41.6 yards on those seven plays.

Breaston was an easy pick for Pennsylvania's MVP, and somewhere the University of Michigan coaches have to be smiling. Breaston is a Wolverines recruit.

"He's unbelievable. He's Superman," said West Allegheny's Tyler Palko, Pennsylvania's starting quarterback. "I don't know if everyone knows how great of an athlete he is. I think he proved it tonight."

Ohio had co-MVPs -- tight end Brandon Cornell of Kenton High and kicker David Abdul of Massillon Washington. Abdul, a Pitt recruit, set a Big 33 record with a 57-yard field goal. Cornell was Ohio's leading receiver with four catches for 89 yards.

What made Breaston's performance even more impressive was that this was the first time he played receiver in a high school game. He was a quarterback the past two seasons at Woodland Hills and was the Post-Gazette co-Player of the Year with Palko for 2001. Breaston will play receiver at Michigan.

"It wasn't as easy as it might have looked out there. I had to work at it," Breaston said. "I guess this might give me a little confidence heading into college, but it's a different level there."

Ohio's best chance to slow down Breaston might have been to water down the field. That worked seven months ago on the same field. Breaston led Woodland Hills to the PIAA Class AAAA championship game in December, but a steady rain turned Hersheypark Stadium into a mud bath. The bad field conditions slowed him down, his ankle was injured in the game, he fumbled the snap from center several times, and Woodland Hills lost to Neshaminy.

But last night, he zipped around like one of the roller coasters at the amusement park next door. Besides his 291 yards on receptions and punt returns, Breaston, a slender 6-foot-1, 175-pounder with exclamation points for legs, also had a 57-yard punt return called back because of a penalty. He also came close to making a beautiful diving catch of a long pass.

"The kid is just unreal," Curry said. "What he did tonight is what he did in practices."

Breaston's touchdown catches were 66 and 70 yards and both came from Palko, Pitt's prized recruit. Palko finished 3 of 7 for 172 yards. All of his completions were to Breaston.

"He only played about 15 plays because we scored so fast when he was in there," said Bob Palko, Tyler's father, West Allegheny's coach and a Pennsylvania assistant.

Breaston and Palko hooked up for two long scoring passes on Pennsylvania's first two plays. After an Ohio punt, Palko eluded a rush, rolled to his right and threw deep to a wide-open Breaston for a 66-yard touchdown.

Ohio scored on the first play after the ensuing kickoff when Massillon Washington's Justin Zwick hit Mark Philmore on an 84-yard scoring pass.

On the first play after the next kickoff, Breaston got behind his defender again, and Palko hit him for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Breaston ran an end around for the two-point conversion to make it 14-7. Three touchdowns were on the scoreboard and the game wasn't even two minutes old.

"Before the game, I said we were going to Breaston on the first play of the game and the second play. Look what happened," Curry said.

"Breaston just has an extra gear," Tyler Palko said. "He's got all five gears, and then when he gets the ball he has a sixth and seventh gear."

Ohio defensive back Trumaine Banks of Eastmoor Academy said Breaston surprised Ohio's secondary.

"We didn't even know about him this week," said Banks, who often covered Breaston. "Our main focus was [Archbishop Carroll receiver] Maurice Stovall because of his height. We didn't know about Breaston's speed. We were giving him about a 4- or 5-yard cushion early in the game, but he ate that up."

After Breaston's second score, Pennsylvania was in the end zone again a little more than three minutes later when defensive back Ed Scipio of Bethlehem Catholic stepped in front of a sideline pass by Ohio's Nathan Szep (St. Ignatius), intercepted it and returned it 55 yards for a score.

One of Ohio's few highlights came early in the second quarter when Abdul made a 57-yard field goal to make it 21-10.

But Bishop McCort's Matt Domonkos came close to matching it later in the half when he made a 52-yard field goal. Domonkos, a Wisconsin recruit who kicked a Pennsylvania-record 58-yard field goal as a senior, also made a 31-yarder earlier in the first half.

Pennsylvania led, 27-10, at halftime, and its first touchdown of the second half was set up when Breaston made a nifty 60-yard punt return to the Ohio 14. Then on fourth-and-8, Neshaminy running back Jamar Brittingham took a handoff and was going to throw a pass. But he tucked the ball in and rambled 12 yards for a touchdown. Domonkos' extra-point kick made it 34-10.

Brittingham scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter and the rout was on.

Zwick, Ohio's star quarterback, threw for 187 yards but completed only 8 of 27 passes.

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