Lebanon's Washington added to Big 33 team
With Lebanon High head coach Gerry Yonchiuk serving as an assistant coach, Lebanon County was already going to be represented in this year's 60th Big 33 Football Classic.
But as it turns out, Yonchiuk won't be alone in representing the county - or Lebanon High - in this year's contest.
One of Yonchiuk's players, offensive lineman Khalique Washington, will be joining him after recently being added to the Pennsylvania squad.
A massive and agile 6-foot-5 285-pounder, Washington played on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Cedars the past three seasons, but did his best work on the O-line at left tackle, where his size and athleticism served both him and Lebanon well. He was added to the team when one of the original players picked to the Pa. team pulled out of the contest.
That loss of a player is a gain for Washington, who gets to show off his skills against Maryland on June 17 at the Big 33's new site, Landis Field in the Central Dauphin/Central Dauphin East School District.
"I'm thrilled for Khalique. I think it's an unbelievable opportunity," Yonchiuk said of Washington, who was originally slated to play in the Big 33's cousin, the East-West All-Star game in Altoona. "All the other kids that are playing in the game at offensive line that were selected are Division 1 guys. I'm just really happy for Khalique because I think he has a chance to showcase his talent. He has extremely quick feet for a big guy. For a kid who's 6-5, 285 pounds, he can move."
Washington is not a Division One college kid yet, but he may be in the future. Washington, who doubles as the center on Lebanon's state playoff boys basketball team, is headed to Dodge City Community College in Kansas to work on his skills and academics, with an eye toward attracting the interest of major college programs in the future.
"The next thing will be developing his upper body strength and all the things he needs to continue," Yonchiuk said. "He's a tremendous zone blocker, in terms of reach blocking, because he has that long arm span. And with his quick feet, he can seal the edge if they run it."
Having played in Lebanon's pass-happy Air Raid offense as a sophomore and junior, Washington's strength is as a pass protector. That makes him a great fit for the Big 33, since teams are required to throw the ball 60 percent of the time.
"With us being an Air Raid offense his whole career the stuff he'll have to do in the game will only benefit him," said Yonchiuk, who'll be Pennsylvania's passing game coordinator. "He's used to doing that, that's all he knows."
Despite having a connection to the team with his head coach on staff, Washington's selection came on his own merits, according to Yonchiuk. That fact is made even more impressive by the fact that Lebanon won just one game this past season, so Washington didn't have the chance to shine in any big games or postseason contests.
"It had nothing to do with me coaching in the game," Yonchiuk said. "My job is to evaluate the receivers. When you have your own player nominated at any position, you're not even allowed to be in the room (when selections are made). So that means the guys that evaluated him evaluated hours upon hours upon hours of film and ranked him that high. Three of those guys (originally picked) were offensive tackles, so Khalique had to be the fourth-ranked kid in the state of Pennsylvania by the coaches. That's a pretty darn cool thing."
For Yonchiuk, too, who gets to see a familiar face in the offensive huddle during Big 33 week.
"It should be an awesome experience," Yonchiuk said. "I'm really looking forward to it. To have one of my players that I coached in the game, I think it's tremendous."