Neal Evans will always keep coming back.
Even when talking about retiring from coaching, the Galway native mentions in the same breath that he’ll be around as a volunteer assistant coach in soccer and/or baseball, and he keeps the scorebook for the basketball team.
It’s not surprising, then, that Evans was the kind of person Galway Central School was looking for to be part of the inaugural class for its Athletic Wall of Fame.
It was still a little surprising, though, for the long-time soccer coach.
“First of all, because of the way the bylaws were written for this Wall of Fame, I didn’t know if I was eligible, because I was still doing some coaching in Galway, but they put me in as an athlete, so I was slightly surprised, because I didn’t think I was eligible,” he said. “It was a great honor.”
On June 7, Evans was inducted during a ceremony in the high school’s auditorium along with Earl Chase IV, Kevin DiCerbo, Michael Sivik and Everett Hartman, as well as the 2007 boys’ soccer team. Hartman was inducted as a “community inductee” and the other individuals as athletes.
Evans is a 1965 graduate who played varsity soccer and baseball both for four years and varsity basketball for three years. He then played four years of varsity soccer at Ithaca College.
Even though he was inducted as a player, the committee made sure to mention his coaching accomplishments during the ceremony. He was 282-116-22 as a varsity soccer coach — 219-100-20 during 17 years with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and 63-16-2 in four years with Galway. He also is on the Wall of Fame for BH-BL. His teams captured nine league titles, five sectional championships, one regional crown and made it to the state semifinals in 2007.
As a modified soccer coach, he is 159-30-22 over 18 seasons — 133-26-21 in 15 years at BH-BL and 26-4-1 in three years at Galway.
This past season was his last as modified coach, though he said he will return if the school can’t find anyone to take the job.
“I’m happy I’ve been able to do it, and it’s a lot of fun for me, coaching in my hometown,” he said. “I tell a lot of the players, ‘I played with your grandfather.’ ”
He led the 2007 team to a 23-1-0 record, outscoring opponents, 76-13, with 13 shutouts. They won the Section II Class C title, 3-0, over Maple Hill, then beat Northern Adirondack, 3-1, for the regional title. In the state semifinals, they fell to Red Creek, 2-1.
Goalkeeper Kevin Lafleur made it to the ceremony all the way from Texas, and Eduard Nevistic — an exchange student from Croatia who now lives in Sweden — also made it back to Galway to receive the honor in person.
Kyle Koubek, Lake Gibbins, Trevor Gibbins and Tyler Parker could not make it because they are on active duty in the military.
The rest of the team includes Western Athletic Conference Northern Division first-team all-stars Greg Gibbins, Kevin Miller and Steven Wilday (21 goals, nine assists). Nevistic also was a first-teamer, Lake Gibbins and Koubek were second-teamers.
The team also featured Jeremiah Alkinburg, Matthew Almy, Christian Beck, Vincent Laterra, Antonio Riccio, William Roy, Reinhold Schaperjahn, Calvin Thomas, John Turner and Matthew Wilday. Robert Martin and Stuart Wilday assisted Evans on the sidelines.
“That team was a slight surprise,” Evans said. “The other league coaches had us penciled in to finish third in the league that year. That team worked very hard in the offseason. We practiced at Charbonneau’s indoor facility once a week, and we played down at Halfmoon for an indoor session or two, then we played the outdoor spring CDYSL season, then we played two nights a week here, just pick-up games. So they worked very hard before that season ever started. Then when we got the exchange student, it really completed the team.
“That team was never behind in a game until we lost in the state semifinals. It was a really sound soccer team. There are other teams that may have scored more goals, or other teams that have given up less, but no teams up here ever won 23 games.”
Evans had the pleasure of watching Chase, DiCerbo and Sivik compete, and spoke highly of each of them as gifted athletes.
A 1976 grad, Sivik was a three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball, baseball) who led the soccer team in goals in 1975 and helped the basketball team to a top-10 state ranking in 1975 and ’76. His baseball career was most notable, though, as he earned a pro contract with the Chicago White Sox in 1976.
Sivik played in Chicago’s minor-league system for four years, reaching triple-A ball in 1981. In 1979, he helped the Appleton Foxes to the Midwest League championship with a 10-8 record, 129 strikeouts in 143 innings, and a 3.52 earned-run average.
DiCerbo, a 1986 graduate, was 155-14 with 21 tournament titles and four sectional titles (including Galway’s first ever). He remains the school record holder in tournament wins, career wins, career pins (98), wins in a season (36) and pins in a season (28).
He was a varsity wrestler and soccer player for five years and was on the varsity baseball team four years. In 1985, he was named the Section II Class C most outstanding soccer player. He helped both the soccer and baseball teams to sectional championships. A member of the National Honor Society, he was accepted to Cornell University, where he graduated in 1991. He added a master’s degree from UCLA in business administration in 1993.
Chase is an alumnus of the Class of 2005 and captained the soccer team for three seasons. He earned two WAC MVP awards and scored a school-record 90 career goals — 45 of those coming in 2004, his senior season.
He also captained the basketball team for two years, was a WAC first-team all-star for three years and league MVP twice. In his senior season, he scored 28.3 points per game. He finished his career with 1,168 points and 112 three-pointers.
The lone inductee who did not play high school sports at Galway is Hartman, nicknamed “Pop” by some of the baseball players he coached as an assistant for 12 years. He was active in the baseball program for more than 30 years.
“When I was a kid, growing up, Ev had just moved into town,” Evans said. “I called him ‘Mr. Baseball.’ He put in so much time with youth baseball, then actually coached our varsity team up here for a number of years. He had a tremendous passion for baseball.”
Hartman, who was inducted posthumously, started the Galway Youth Commission Baseball program and helped establish the Youth Baseball Field, the current home of the school’s softball team.
Like Evans, Hartman couldn’t stay away from Galway athletics. He remained active during the careers of his children and well afterward, typifying the dedication to the school’s programs that was shown by each of the inaugural inductees.
“I remember him coming to a lot of the games for that 2007 soccer team,” Evans said. “He came, carrying his oxygen tank, and he’d sit in his lawn chair there. He came to a tremendous number of sporting events, not just baseball, because he was into athletics.”