CURWENSVILLE — On Thursday night, the Curwensville school board approved former Curwensville football player and coach Jimmy Thompson as the Golden Tide’s new head coach.
Thompson replaces his former mentor, the late Andy Evanko, who passed away on June 5 after a lengthy battle with ALS.
Evanko was a big part of Thompson’s life, taking over the Tide in his junior year. Curwensville won a district title that year.
As a senior, Thompson was the team’s quarterback and a defensive back, positions for which he was named a Progressland all-star in 2001.
Once out of school, Thompson became a member of Evanko’s staff, where he stayed until two years ago.
Thompson’s best friend and former DuBois football standout Justin Marshall took over as head of the Beavers. He offered Thompson the defensive coordinator job.
After mulling over the offer, Thompson said Evanko helped him make the decision.
“I talked to Andy about it and honestly if he would’ve told me it was a bad decision, I probably would’ve stayed at Curwensville,” Thompson said. “And I can’t remember the exact words he used, but it was something to the effect of, ‘You’d be an idiot not to do it.’”
This time, the decision to come back home was a little easier.
With longtime Evanko assistants Chris Folmar and Mickey Morgillo deciding to stay on staff, along with Shawn and Brad Sopic, Thompson said the decision pretty much made itself.
“That made the decision exponentially easier,” Thompson said. “I have known Coach Folmar for a very long time and he is one of the best coaches I know. Alot of people don’t realize that he was here with Andy the whole time and helped make the program great.
“He is a defensive guy, so we have a lot of the same views on football. Knowing that they were coming back really made the decision pretty easy.”
Also key to coming back was the fact that Thompson was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Curwensville Elementary.
That means Thompson will no longer have to commute to DuBois to teach or coach.
With three young children, Rilee, Camryn and Liam, the travel time means Thompson will also get to spend more time with his family.
“Life will be, as crazy as it sounds, much simpler now.,” Thompson said. “It will be a lot easier on my wife (Courtney). She deserves a break. And, it was getting hard. I can’t remember what game it was but the girls were cheering at Curwensville and I was with DuBois. Even Justin said that he knew it was tough missing stuff like that.”
Courtney is no stranger to the coaching life. Her mom was long-time Curwensville head volleyball coach Sandy Bailor.
“She understands it better than anyone,” said Thompson. “She is probably one of the most competitive people I know. She has just been so supportive of the whole coaching thing.”
Thompson said the biggest challenge he thinks he will face this year will be his own expectations.
But he still plans to follow Evanko’s philosophy of raising great young men first, good football players second.
“I want the community to know that we are going to work hard and we aren’t going to stand for any nonsense,” Thompson said. “We want to do things the right way and work hard to get it. Andy did a lot for this program but the biggest thing was he cared about the young men he coached. We want to continue that.”
Thompson said he realizes it is hard to get numbers nowadays in smaller programs, but that he hopes once the kids see what they are all about, they will want to come and play.
“It’s hard today with all of the things that are going on,” he said. “There are a lot of outside things for kids now, and there are things like Netflix and Twitter and stuff that is more instant.”
Thompson now has experience coaching both a 4A team and a 1A team and said he learned a lot at DuBois.
“We learned a ton,” he said. “I had an opportunity to be the defensive coordinator and saw the big difference in coaching from quad A from the single A level.
“The level of coaching at places like Grove City and Clearfield, who are some phenomenal programs, is just amazing. We played up and played Hollidaysburg, a 5A school. Their coaching staff was great as well. It was a challenge mentally.
“We also got to work in the weight room with our kids and basically design that strength program between Justin and I, with the input of some other coaches, so that was cool. It was a different aspect that I never got involved with when I was coaching at Curwensville.”
Now as he enters his first season as head coach of the Curwensville Golden Tide, he hopes to keep building the program and continue the legacy that Evanko left.
And there is no doubt that he is the right person to do it.