After a successful 14-year tenure as the head football coach at Elco High School, Evans announced Monday he will be leaving Myerstown to take the head football coaching job at another Lancaster-Lebanon League school - Manheim Township.
Evans informed his Elco players Monday morning of his impending hiring at Township, where he will take over for Mike Melnyk, who resigned to take the Mount Lebanon job in Western Pennsylvania in March. Evans' new job is pending school board approval, which should come Thursday when the Manheim Township school board holds a workshop meeting.
"I said goodbye this morning, and it was very painful," said Evans, who has also accepted a guidance counselor position at Manheim Township. "I've loved these guys like my own children. They've invested a lot of time, effort and energy with me."
Evans leaves Elco after compiling a 74-71 record and taking the Raiders to the District Three playoffs four times - 2000, 2001, 2008 and 2009. He also departs with the best wishes of the man who hired him back in 1998, Elco athletic director Doug Bohannon.
While Evans' departure leaves him with a small window of time with which to find a successor - fall practice begins in mid-August - Bohannon noted he is happy for Evans and pleased with the opportunity he has received.
"I think it's a very good move for him, and I'm happy for him," Bohannon said. "He lives for it, he's so passionate about football. I think they picked a good guy. He's a good person, and we'll miss him. But I'm excited for him. I think he'll do well."
He inherits a similarly successful - but one more high-powered and larger in numbers - program at Section One power Township, which saw Melnyk post a 75-63 mark and notch six District Three playoff appearances before taking the Mount Lebanon job in March. The selection of Evans, a 1985 Cedar Crest grad and former Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman, as its new head coach comes after a prolonged search for a successor to Melynk that hit a speed bump last month.
In early May, the list of applicants had been whittled down to three finalists, including Cedar Cliff head coach Jim Cantafio. But the Township school board passed on all three finalists, who then withdrew from consideration, forcing the position to be re-opened for applications.
Interestingly enough, Evans noted he was not one of those applicants, having turned a bit gun-shy after going through the interview process for previous openings at Cedar Crest and Hempfield and coming up short when it came time for those schools to name a new coach.
But this time was different. At the end of May, Evans was contacted by a school board member in the district to see if he was interested in the job, which eventually led to him being offered it last Wednesday and officially accepting it on Friday.
"I wasn't looking for it," Evans said. "I was approached (about the job). It's funny how things find you when you're not looking. But I'm looking forward to a new challenge. I'm excited for it and ready to hit the ground running."
At Township, a Class AAAA school, Evans will be able to pick from a deeper talent pool than he had at Elco, where smallish rosters between 30 and 40 players were the norm for most of his tenure.
Evans, though, was fiercely dedicated and showed steadfast loyalty to those in the Raider family. That was reciprocated in the results on the field and the numerous players that went on to compete at the collegiate level.
The Raiders' greatest success under Evans came in 2000 and 2001, when, with Zach Kulp quarterbacking a high-powered offense, they qualified for the then four-team Class AA district playoffs, advancing to the championship game in 2001. Elco also captured the Section Three title in 2000, just one season after posting a 1-9 record.
The Raiders then went to the playoffs again in 2008 and 2009 behind quarterback and current University of Maine linebacker Arron Achey, before going 3-7 the past two seasons. But with a promising core group - led by quarterback Anthony Pletz, running back Cameron Strause, receiver Adam Shoemaker and lineman Schuyler Harting - returning, Evans is not leaving a bare cupboard behind.
"The house is in order here," he said.
Bohannon agreed, saying, "He has our program in good shape. That guy had everything under control."
It's just that the program is going to be headed by somebody else from now on. But after, as he noted, spending a third of his life as a Raider, Evans isn't going to just give up that title overnight.
"Once a Raider, always a Raider," Evans said he told his now former squad Monday. "They'll always be a part of me. I will take great joy in their successes, and I will feel for them in their losses."
Note: Bohannon said he plans to accept applications for Evans' successor until June 27, conduct interviews the first week of July and have a candidate to recommend to the school board at its July 9 meeting.