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Big changes to Big 33 Football Classic Game in its 60th anniversary

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LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- The Big 33 Football Classic has been one of the premier high school football games in the country for the past 60 years.

After the previous organizers halted operations earlier this year, Dauphin County commissioners stepped in to help.

County commissioners pledged $100,000 to ensure the annual game would continue and the best players from Pennsylvania and Maryland could continue competing in Dauphin County.

The commissioners say they couldn’t afford to lose the game because of what it brings to the county and for what it gives to the players.

“You know, I’m just excited to play. All the players coming in, a lot of talent, you know,” said Grant Breneman, Cedar Cliff’s quarterback.

All star players like Grant Breneman, Pennsylvania’s quarter back will play under these lights at Landis Field at Central Dauphin High School on June 17th. It’s something some of them, like Breneman, have looked forward to their whole football career.

"Especially in the state of Pennsylvania. This is the game you want to be in, this all-star game,” added Breneman.

"I wrote down my goals for this year, and the Big 33 was one of them,” said Jaelen Thompson, Middletown’s running back and cornerback.

For another, it’s a family legacy.

"My brother had played in it so when he played in it I said I wanted to be in it too,” said Damion Barber, Harrisburg’s defensive end.

Once the Big 33 was in trouble, the Central Dauphin School District immediately offered up its turf for the game - a slight change from playing at Hershey.

“It was within minutes that this district had volunteered to come on board and to help this event grow,” said Garry Cathell, the executive manager for the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.

County commissioners couldn't be more thankful to keep 60 years of a major football tradition alive.

"It's a major revenue driver. The folks that come in. They stay at the local hotels. They eat at the local restaurants. They buy gas at the local service stations so it's a big deal here in Dauphin County,” said Mike Pries, a Dauphin County commissioner.

And mentors like Gerry Yonchiuk, Lebanon high school’s head coach, are pretty happy too, especially because he’ll be coaching one of his players.

"Anytime you have a player, it’s like a dream come true as a high school coach to be able to have a young man play in the game, and it’s a lifetime experience so it’s very cool,” explained Yonchiuk.

That lifetime experience something organizers are pleased to continue.

"For the love of football, and for the love of the kids, and I knew it had to continue,” said George Connor, the executive director of Dauphin County Economic Development.

The Big 33, the grandfather of high school football all-star games kicks off Saturday, June 17th at 7 p.m. at Landis Field in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County.

County officials say 10,000 people will attend. Practice for the Pennsylvania players starts three weeks from today.