PAFOOTBALLNEWS

Curry coaching what could be final regular-season game at Crispin Field

By Rick Staron, For Pa Football News

An era comes to a close Friday night in Berwick, as Bulldogs’ legendary head coach George Curry stands on the sidelines during the regular season one last time at Crispin Field. And while nothing is certain, and Curry has walked away from the game before, only to return, the prevailing wisdom is that this is indeed the last stand for a coach who will leave behind a list of accomplishments not likely to be matched.

In 46 seasons as a high school head coach, including 39 at Berwick, Curry amassed a record of 452-101-5, with 401 of those wins coming with Berwick, including six state championships. Coaches in the Wyoming Valley Conference who have coached with and against him, say Curry’s presence in the conference will be impossible to replicate.

“He’s going to leave behind a big gap,” Crestwood head coach Greg Myers said. “You don’t fill shoes like that.”

Nobody knows that better than Wyoming Valley West head coach Pat Keating, who took over the Spartans in 2009 after Curry’s three-year stint there.

“You don’t replace him. You can’t,” Keating said. “He’s got a legacy that’s unbelievable. He put District 2 on the map. He put the Wyoming Valley Conference on the map.”

Keating served as an assistant during Curry’s last season at Valley West and he described the experience as invaluable, giving him the opportunity to learn not only offensive and defensive schemes from a master, but also the chance to see the level of preparation that fueled Curry’s success.

“He was, day in and day out, a very intense guy,” Keating said. “You could see the amount of work he put in, and the result was he always knew (on game day) what to do to set up an opponent. He was always thinking two or three plays ahead.”

Any uncertainty surrounding Curry’s departure can be traced, in part, to those three years with the Spartans and the circumstances immediately before and after. Curry left Berwick after the 2005 season and called it a retirement, but was at the helm of the Spartans the following season. After three years, citing health concerns, he hung up the whistle again, only to return to the Berwick sideline in 2012.

This most recent departure comes after a tumultuous offseason which saw the Berwick football program shut down for two weeks and face charges of recruiting. After Curry sent the school board a letter of resignation, he clarified through the media that his resignation was effective only if the school board wanted him to leave. The board decided to take the resignation at face value and voted to accept it before the season began.

So, between previous retirement false starts, and a less than ideal lead-up to this as a final season, there would appear to be room for a plot twist that has Curry back on the sidelines for Berwick or some other school.

But coming 10 years after his initial shot at retirement, most believe the 71-year-old is writing a finish to his coaching career.

Coughlin Crusaders head coach Ciro Cinti will be on the visitors sideline for Curry’s last home game, and while he fully understands and appreciates the gravity and emotion of the moment, his team is in a battle for a District 2 Class AAA playoff berth and that is what he wants his team focused on.

“I told the team to block out the 10 or 15,000 that are going to be there,” Cinti said with a bit of a chuckle. “Those people in the stands aren’t playing. They can’t make plays for you.”

Cinti’s respect for Curry goes back to his days as a player for Coughlin in the early 1980s, and he recalled facing Bulldogs was a big deal then as well.

In 1981, we played them in the Eastern Conference championship and they beat us pretty good. This was back when they had Bo Orlando (who went on to play a decade in the NFL) and they were number-one in the state,” Cinti said. “We had to wait 12 months, a whole year, to get another opportunity and when we beat them in 1982, that was a great moment that I’ll never forget.”

Cinto knows that being tasked with trying to send Curry to the end of his Berwick career with a loss is no small order. But the idea of a hard-fought, late-season game, with post-season repercussions, seems fitting.

“This is what you play and coach for,” Cinti said.

Whatever happens Friday night and beyond, the coaches all said they value the opportunity they have had to spend time with Curry as a rival and colleague.

“I’ve always respected George and his program and the kids who play for him,” Myers said. “He’s always had dedicated, committed, hard-nosed kids who want to win football games and those are the kind of players we want in our program.”

“The guy is the best. He spent his whole life in our sport and the region is better for it,” said Cinti, as he prepared to face Curry one more time. “I always looked at playing his teams a great challenge, and as a coach and a competitor, you always want to be challenged.”

Keating agreed with that sentiment. “He’s made me a better coach, just understanding the due diligence that he puts into preparing for every opponent.”

2 Comments

  1. charlie fedorco

    October 30, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Hats off to Rick Staron-fantastic article! I am close to Coach Curry and he also speaks highly of Coach Cinti, Coach Myers, and Coach Keating. A message to Coach Spencer and the coaches and players at Wyoming Area…YOU ARE ALL A CLASS ACT! Your display of sportsmanship after the Berwick game and respect displayed for Coach Curry was outstanding! We are still talking about you guys in Berwick. Mr. Staron, If possible can you please ensure this message gets to all the coaches mentioned in my reply. Thank you-Charlie Fedorco BHS ’86 and WVU grad ’91

  2. Rollie Ciffo

    November 2, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Great article. You do not (and can not) think about District 2 and the Wyoming Valley Conference without thinking of Coach Curry. The 3 coaches quoted stated things perfectly. I do doubt he’ll return though as I believe he is very ill. Time for someone else in District 2 to try to assume his mantle. Given the D2 catholic schools disdain for football, I think there are only 5 programs in the WVC that can pull it off: WVW (Keating), Crestwood (Myers), Dallas (Mannello) and Lake-Lehman (Gilsky) plus whomever would potentially take over a combined Wilkes-Barre area. Mainly, those schools are the beneficiary of demographic trends providing them the largest talent pools. One thing they all need to take from Curry is the balanced attack. He was light years ahead of the rest of D2. Defense and a running game only gets you to the dance. Diversifying the offense to include a potent passing attack will get you deep into the state play-offs as George repeatedly demonstrated and has been validated by the other teams now winning state titles outside D2. 4 passes a game will not get it done.

    In closing, God bless you George. We were lucky to have had you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *