Lady Tide win titles: A top 5 moment in Curwensville history
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By Rich Murawski Assistant Sports Editor
There have been quite a few great sports stories in Curwensville since the school's inception in 1887.
Picking a Top 5 was certainly no easy feat, and several worthy individual and team performances were certainly in the discussion.
The undefeated 1958 football team is legendary, but it was hard to ignore the 1936 squad making it to the state finals or the high-powered 2004 team that went to the Western Finals.
Wrestling has had some memorable moments, including Randy Cathcart's 1977 gold medal - the program's first individual title.
And more recently, the 2011 girls soccer team won the first district title in school history, going 18-0-2 on the way to its first PIAA playoff win. It also captured a victory in the state tournament before falling.
But the following five made the cut as the school's Top 5 sports stories:
It's highly unlikely that a high school sports team in our area will ever put together the kind of run the Curwensville softball team did in the latter half of the 2000s.
During that four-year span, which happens to follow the careers of Ashley Demchak, Holly Lansberry and Shannon McDonald from freshmen to seniors, the Lady Tide were nearly unbeatable.
The Lady Tide went 91-10 in that time, winning PIAA gold twice, while also earning a pair of District 9 Class A titles and coming in second twice. They appeared in the PIAA playoffs each of those four years and compiled a record of 9-2 against the best competition in the state.
And Demchak, Lansberry and McDonald rewrote the Progressland softball record books.
Demchak is the career leader in hits (129) and RBIs (109) and is second in career doubles (33), while also holding the single season hit record of 41.
Lansberry is the career leader in wins (75), ERA (0.69) and strikeouts (865) and has the three best individual seasons in strikeouts and three of the top four in shutouts. She also holds the career record in runs scored (130) and is sixth on the total hits list with 123.
While McDonald doesn't lead any category, she finds herself in the top five in hits, runs, RBIs and doubles, making her the only Progressland softball player to appear in the top five in four categories.
During the 2009 title run, Curwensville outscored its opponents 222-10 and put 21 shutouts on the board during the 26-1 campaign. Curwensville was 8-0 and had played nearly 50 innings before surrendering its first run, and it actually took 17-plus games before Lansberry allowed an earned run.
Demchak, Lansberry and McDonald, along with Tess Bloom were also starters on the 2007 state title team led by its own trio of seniors in Dana Johnson, Kristi Newpher and Dani Struble.
That squad complied a record of 25-2 on the way to the first PIAA title for the program. That team outscored its opponents an eerily similar, 220-21, while collecting 17 shutouts.
Lansberry put together an ERA of 0.44 with 247 strikeouts as a sophomore, which was very comparable to her incredible senior season where she compiled a microscopic ERA of 0.18 and rung up 293 strikeouts.
Johnson is the all-time leader in doubles in Progressland with 38, and her total of 18 triples is one off the all-time lead. She is also in the top 10 in RBIs and stands 11th on the all-time hit list.
Newpher shared pitching duties with Lansberry in 2006 and started the two years prior and has a career ERA of 1.45, good for 12th all-time.
Struble's 35 runs scored in 2007 is the fifth-best single season in that category. She batted .381 that year with 12 stolen bases and was as slick a defender as the area has seen at shortstop.
2004 Golden Tide football
While the four-year run by the Curwensville softball team is almost unfathomable, the 2004 Golden Tide football team certainly put up some pretty lofty numbers in its own right.
Paced by four sets of brothers, Curwensville had a historic run in 2004, going all the way to the PIAA Class A Western Finals before dropping a heartbreaking 20-12 loss to the Derek Moye-led Rochester Rockets.
Moye, a mainstay in the Penn State football program from 2005-08, caught two touchdown passes against the Tide, including the 30-yard game-winner with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
Moye also had a huge defensive play when he ran down Nick Sipes on an apparent 56-yard touchdown run early in the game, knocking the ball out of Sipes' hands and through the end zone for a touchback, instead.
The Golden Tide nearly had three 100-yard rushers in the contest as Nick Sipes carried 15 times for 119 yards, Nate Sipes ran 22 times for 107 yards and quarterback Shawn Sopic picked up 94 yards on seven carries.
One of Sopic's runs was a 99-yard touchdown on a naked bootleg that gave the Tide a 6-0 lead.
Nate Sipes broke the all-time, single-season rushing record in District 9 in the game, finishing with 2,534 yards. Nick went on to become the district's career rushing leader.
Curwensville was 12-0 heading into the Western Final, including playoff wins over Sharpsville (34-6), Clarion-Limestone (41-8) and Clarion (42-0).
The Golden Tide outscored their opponents 567-78 in those 12 games, including a 78-0 dismantling of Ridgway and a 70-0 shellacking of Elk County Catholic. Curwensville averaged 438 yards per game and 47 points per game prior to the Western Final and led or was near the top statewide in both categories.
Most of that yardage came on the ground where the Tide racked up 5,228 yards. Nick Sipes had 1,739 yards on the ground and Sopic added 382 with 208 coming in the playoffs. The Sipes brothers racked up 58 touchdowns with Nate accounting for 38 of them.
In addition to the Sipes, Curwensville featured three other brother tandems in Shawn and Brad Sopic, Dean and Doug Swatsworth and Gary and Sam Kephart.
Curwensville's 41-8 win over C-L gave it the second of three District 9 titles under current head coach Andy Evanko. The Tide's 26-14 victory over Coudersport three weeks earlier was the second of three Allegheny Mountain League tiles for the program.
Two-time PIAA champion
There are a handful of wrestlers who have eclipsed the 100-win plateau during program history, but no Golden Tide matman had the kind of success Dave Irwin did in his three years on the varsity squad.
Irwin compiled an 81-2 record that includes two PIAA golds, two Northwest Regional titles and three District 9 championships.
Irwin's win percentage of 97.5 is easily the best mark in Tide history, and it could have been even better had it not been for a slam that cost him a match he was winning 12-2 during his senior campaign.
As a sophomore in 1978, Irwin was derailed by Blairsville's Rudy Rura, 3-2, in the Northwest Regional quarterfinals. He then went 30-0 as a junior, winning the PIAA Class AA title at 98 pounds with a come-from-behind, 4-4, 8-4 overtime victory over previously unbeaten Dave Stewart of Waynesburg.
His quarterfinal win (7-5 over Northwestern Lehigh's Kurt Wentz) and semifinal victory (7-4 over Canevin's John Wandrisco) were also close.
Irwin's second title run included an Outstanding Wrestler award at the District 9 Tournament where he pinned all of his opponents and a second regional title win (10-4) over General McLane's Bill Kirdahy. Irwin edged Kirdahy, 8-7, in the regional finals as a junior.
At PIAAs, Irwin met Wandrisco in the semifinals again, this time earning a 12-5 win. He followed that with a hard-fought, 7-6, verdict over freshman Chris Cooper of Canevin.
2005 PIAA runner-up
Curwensville wrestling team
What the Curwensville wrestling team did at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships in 2005 was nothing short of remarkable.
With just three wrestlers competing in the tournament, the Golden Tide walked away with the second-place team trophy, scoring 56 points to edge third-place Schuylkill Valley by three points.
To achieve the feat, the Tide put two wrestlers in the championship finals and a third in the third-place bout.
Nate Sipes won his second consecutive PIAA title with a dominating 12-3 major decision over previously unbeaten and top-ranked Kyle Davis of Valley View in the 215-pound finals.
Sipes also avenged his only loss in two seasons when he beat Biglerville's Jake Showers, 7-2, in the semis. Sipes ended his senior season with a 34-1 record and posted a 110-18 record for his career.
Nick Sipes finished second at 189, losing by fall to Saegertown's Pat Bradshaw in the finals after giving him the only blemish on his record the week before in the Northwest Class AA Regional Tournament. Sipes was 32-1 during his sophomore season.
While not wrestling for the gold, Tide 103-pounder Johnny Sutika's journey to the medal stand may have been the most impressive of all.
After falling 9-3 in his preliminary bout to Northern Lehigh's Andrew Arnold, Sutika stampeded back through the consolation bracket, winning four bouts by a combined 15-1 score to earn a spot in the bronze medal match.
There, he turned a 4-2 deficit to a win by reversing Penn Cambria's Nathan Link to his back and pinning him with seven seconds left in the bout.
Curwensville was second only to Reynolds, which also bested the Tide at the regional tournament. The Golden Tide were third at regionals, just 2.5 points behind second-place Mercer despite having just three kids at the event.
Nate and Nick Sipes each won regional titles, while Sutika placed third.
Nate Sipes pinned all of his opponents at regionals, including a 42-second fall in the finals - the only fall of the championship round.
1936 Golden Tide
state finalist football team
The 1945 and 1958 Curwensville football teams are the only unbeaten squads in program history, but the 1936 edition did something those two did not - compete for a state title.
The Golden Tide, who represented the Western Conference of Pennsylvania, dropped a 6-0 decision to host Kingston, the Eastern Conference champs.
To this day, there is still much debate on whether the Kingston player actually got the football across the goal line for the game's only score.
Curwensville became the Western Conference representative at a meeting in Altoona where it was determined a powerhouse Windber team, which had beaten the Tide 39-0 during the season, had to forfeit its games for using ineligible players.
So the Golden Tide had a regular season record of 10-0, which included eight shutout wins and the forfeit.
The only team to score on Curwensville was Morris Township, which the Tide topped, 19-13.
Curwensville outscored its other eight opponents in the regular season by a grand total of 183-0.
That included two wins over Clearfield as well as victories over Brookville, DuBois, Punxsutawney, Redbank Valley, Sykesville and Huntingdon.
The Tide downed the rival Bison, 6-0, in the first meeting and routed them 58-0 in the second battle. That marks the largest margin of victory for Curwensville in the series.
The 1936 team was coached by Reggie McKnight, who headed the program from 1930-1938, compiling a record of 54-20-12.
The starting lineup for the 1936 squad was left end Edward Cochrane, left tackle Louis Tagliaferri, left guard Tony Orlando, center Dick Gabrielson, right guard George Way, right tackle Joe Marafine, right end Robert Morgillo, left halfback Lester Knepp, right halfback Lawrence Maloni, fullback George Thacik and quarterback Don Campbell.
Knepp went on to play four years at Western Maryland and Marafine played for both Duquesne and Saint Vincent.
A book of memoirs by Morgillo titled, "A Game. A Life. A Story." was published in 2011.
The book talked about the early years of the Curwensville football program and included a chapter about the 1936 team.