CURWENSVILLE – The Curwensville Area High School football team is preparing for its 19th season under the guidance of longtime head coach Andy Evanko after going 9-3 in 2017, losing to Ridgway, 9-7, in a heartbreaker, in the District 9 championship game.
With last year’s playoff appearance, the Golden Tide have now made a run to the playoffs 14 straight years and have won three District 9 titles, 2000, 2004 and 2010.
Curwensville, under the direction of Evanko, also has won three Allegheny Mountain League (AML) titles in 2000, 2004 and 2009.
Going into this season, Evanko has a sparkling record of 143-58, a winning percentage of 71, and returns a total of 16 letter winners from last year‘s squad.
However, even with the return of 16 letter winners, this is perhaps the youngest squad Evanko has ever coached, as 14 of the 40 member roster are freshmen.
Now, the AML is gone, being replaced by the newly created District 9 Small School North and South Divisions, a combining of the AML and the Keystone State Athletic Conference, better known as KSAC.
The Tide will be in the south division with Clarion-Limestone, Elk County Catholic, Keystone, Redbank Valley and Union/AC Valley.
In the North, the teams are Cameron County, Coudersport, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Sheffield and Smethport. This Division (North), is exactly the same as the old AML North Division.
There will also be a District 9 Large School Division that is made up of Bradford, Brockway, Brookville, Clarion, Kane, Karns City, Moniteau, Punxsutawney, Ridgway and St. Marys.
Evanko commented about the challenge that the new league brings to the Golden Tide, “I like the idea of the new league. I think it was something that should have been done years ago. To me that was evident by the addition of Bradford to the AML South division. Also, with the number of former co-ops and recently Johnsonburg and Ridgway merging, there was definitely a need to address the league structure. So overall, we are extremely excited and optimistic about the league, the new teams and competition it presents.”
Curwensville will be looking to replace District 9’s all time leading rusher in Nick Stewart, who last season rushed for 1,790 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The cupboard isn’t exactly empty as the Tide have two veteran running backs returning in seniors Avery Francisco and Blake Passarelli.
Francisco picked up 311 yards on the ground in 2017 and scored four TD’s, while Passarelli added 240 yards and three scores.
Other backs in the mix to bolster the ground game will be senior Cole Bressler, sophomore Duane Brady and freshman Thad Butler.
Senior Noah Von Gunden will be under center full time this year after seeing some action last year on a part time basis. Von Gunden attempted just three passes in 2017 completing one for 34 yards.
Looking to haul in some passes from Von Gunden will be seniors Dakota Bloom and Lincoln Giuffrre along with Jake McCracken, a sophomore.
At tight end it will be Jeremiah Farley and Dylan Hipps, both seniors.
Anchoring the offensive line will be senior center Hayden Walnock with Shayne Derrick and Curtis Caldwell at the guard spots. Derrick is a senior and Caldwell a sophomore.
Two juniors will be on the offensive unit as tackles for Curwensville in Nick Holbert and Cameron Brown.
Other Golden Tide that will see action on the offensive line are sophomore Jayce Witherite and freshman Shawn Orcutt.
Longtime assistant coach Chris Folmar said during the pre-season, “We are first of all thankful to be back coaching and playing for Coach Evanko. His daily battle seems to make everything else easy. And we have 12 returning seniors who all come back with significant playing time from last year and have committed themselves in the off season and now to train and prepare for the challenges this season presents.”
Concerning the offense without Stewart carrying the ball Folmar commented, “The running game will look to reload which is centered around the three returning senior backs. And as with any coach Evanko team, the run game will be a priority. Of course the ground attack is only as good as your offensive line and we have some returning linemen that will help reestablish our running attack.”
As is the case in a lot of small schools many players see action on both sides of the ball. Two other Tide that will see action on the defense will be senior Jeromy Dunlap and freshman Andrew Fryer
Coach Folmar then talked about the 2018 Curwensville defensive unit, “Defensively the squad will be anchored by some returning letter winners that provide needed leadership. And, we are excited about our defense. What we lack in game experience at certain positions seems to be working out due to the competition by numerous underclassmen. It has been a number of years since we have had as many people at various positions competing for starting roles. Hopefully this will translate into a fast group with needed depth.”
The kicking game (PATs/FGs) is in good hands with returning senior Madison Weber who in 2017 connected on 29 of 37 (80%) extra point attempts.
Besides Evanko and Folmar other Tide coaches are Mickey Morgillo, Brad Sopic, Luke Grata and Bill Hayward.
The Golden Tide open the 2018 season Friday night on its home turf at Riverside Stadium against visiting Elk County Catholic (ECC) at 7 pm.
Last season Curwensville crushed ECC in St. Marys 43-12.
Listen to Crusader-Golden Tide football on WOKW-FM, 102.9, with the pre-game show starting at 6:45 pm.
SENIORS: *Dakota Bloom, *Cole Bressler, *Shayne Derrick, *Jeromy Dunlap, *Jeremiah Farley, *Avery Francisco, *Lincoln Giuffre, *Dylan Hipps, *Blake Passarelli, *Noah Von Gunden, *Hayden Walnock, *Madison Weber
JUNIORS: *Cameron Brown, *Benjamin Bumbarger, *Justin Hartman, *Nick Holbert, Zach Holland, Noah Lee
SOPHOMORES: Duane Brady, Curtis Caldwell, Scott Condon, Michael Lezzer, Jake McCracken, Michael McCracken, Travis Silver, Jayce Witherite
FRESHMEN: Noah Brady, Cael Butler, Thad Butler, Alan Farley, Andrew Freyer, Trenton Hipps, Collin Jacobson, Kaleb Lee, Brennan McCarty, Matthew McCracken, Jacob Mullins, Shawn Orcutt, Mitchell Sutika, Ty Terry
* DENOTES RETURNING LETTER WINNER
24 HOME – ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC
1 at CAMERON COUNTY (SAT)
7 HOME – UNION/AC VALLEY
14 HOME – SMETHPORT
21 at KEYSTONE
28 at COUDERSPORT
5 HOME – REDBANK VALLEY
12 at OTTO-ELDRED
19 HOME – CLARION-LIMESTONE
26 HOME – BROCKWAY
NOTE: ALL GAMES ARE TO START AT 7 PM UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED