NEW CASTLE —
Evan Lipp claims he was in the right place at the right time.
That’s how explains his success as a running back at Marietta College where he finished his collegiate career as the Pioneers’ all-time leading rusher.
However, he credits the lessons learned growing up in Shenango Township, too.
So, he’ll be honored to come back home for his induction into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame on April 28 at the New Englander.
“It was a huge surprise and it caught me completely off guard. I was completely surprised, thrilled and honored,” he said. “The honors or accolades I had in high school were good. I was a good Lawrence County athlete. Things took off when I got to college. In a lot of ways, I was at the right place at right time. A lot of that stems from the foundation that was built at Shenango, playing for coaches like Frank Bongivengo Sr. and even early as some of those Pop Warner coaches.”
Football was Lipp’s top sport, but he participated in three others at various times throughout his time at Shenango High — baseball, basketball and track and field.
“It was all about the relationships you form and the experiences you have as a team. Those are just as important as any individual success,” he said. “Plus, I never wanted to go right home after school. I wanted to stay active.”
Lipp was a fullback and linebacker for the Wildcats. He even punted as well under Bongivengo, the program’s legendary coach.
“He was an individual who led by example and gave me preparation for life,” Lipp said.
“Seeing how he took care of himself and his competitive spirit, those are the things I remember about him. Just doing things the right way and always being prepared. You need to be prepared to be successful. The foundational things he taught still apply to me today.”
Lipp faced a couple dilemmas when he graduated from Shenango in 1984 — where to go next and what position to play.
“How I ended up there is somewhat of a mystery. I probably would have ended up at Westminster if it wasn’t near New Castle. The success of the program and the great coaches they had there, that was the type of program I really wanted to be a part of. Something just said I was maybe ready for a difference experience,” he said. “A football official who reffed one of my games at Shenango actually recommended me to Marietta. At that time, Marietta was in the midst of one of the longest losing streaks. I sort of laughed about the idea. Then, I got a call from the referee and then a call from the coach. I came down for a visit and it just felt right. It was the right place, the right time and the right opportunity.”
The Pioneers’ new coaching staff installed the run-heavy Wing-T offense, which Lipp ran at Shenango. So, he fit right into the backfield and started every game of his collegiate career.
“When I got to Marietta, there were a lot of conversations of me being a linebacker or running back. I was fine with whatever the coaches decided. That first week, I was going back and forth between offense and defense,” he said. “But, coming out of a Wing-T offense at Shenango gave me an advantage and they decided to keep me at running back. It was the springboard to give me the stats that lead to All-American status.”
His freshman year, the Pioneers snapped their 41-game losing streak with a 15-12 win over Wooster. Lipp gained 201 yards rushing on 45 carries in that triumph. That performance helped him gain mention in the Nov. 12, 1984 issue of Sports Illustrated.
“Breaking that streak gave us a lot of pride. I think that’s what convinced a lot of people to go there. We felt we could be part of something special. We started 11 or 12 freshmen that year. We took our lumps. The game before we broke the losing streak with a win, we actually tied. Then, we went up to Wooster and we won the game,” he said. “The only reason I was mentioned in SI is because it just happened to be the right game when we snapped the losing streak.”
Lipp graduated as Marietta’s all-time leading rusher with 3,844 yards on 900 attempts. He now ranks third in yards, but still owns the attempts mark. He earned All-Ohio Athletic Conference honors each of his four years at Marietta — honorable mention in 1984, second team in ’85, and first team in ’86 and ’87. He was an NCAA Division III Third-Team All-American in ’87.
“It absolutely is an honor. We worked hard as a team and I worked hard in the offseason as an individual to get better,” he said. “There was no guarantee that starting job was going to be mine each year because we kept getting good recruits. I liked getting the ball, so I kept working hard.”
Lipp, 47, works as the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Assumption College in Worchester, Mass. He and his wife, Heather, a Pittsburgh native who is an assistant women’s soccer coach at Holy Cross, live in Shrewsbury, Mass. They have two sons, Jake and Coupar.
TOMORROW: Stacy Robinson.
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