Coming off an 0-10 season, Donovan Catholic's football program just picked up a huge win months before the 2017 season.

As first reported by Shore Sports Network, Donovan Catholic has hired former Wall head coach Dan Curcione as its new head coach while also bringing in Chip LaBarca Jr. as part of the staff.

"It was a family decision," Curcione said. "I'm very familiar with the Toms River area and in meeting with the people at Donovan Catholic I thought they were very serious about turning the whole program around and building a championship-type program. It's very exciting to me."

Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography.
Dan Curcione led Wall to the 2016 NJSIAA South Jersey Group III championships. (Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography).

Curcione, the 2016 Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year, guided Wall to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III title as the Crimson Knights finished 10-2 and captured their first state championship since 2002. Curcione went 17-15 in his three seasons leading the Crimson Knights.

"I made the decision based on what's best for my family, and if I did it based on the kids at Wall I would have stayed there because they're awesome," Curcione said. "I loved working with (Wall athletic director) Tom Ridoux. He gave me my first opportunity and is a great athletic director. I could have worked with him until the day I retire."

For the past two years Wall's offensive coordinator has been LaBarca Jr. He was previously the head coach at Toms River North from 2006 through 2012, which included leading the Mariners to a 12-0 season and the South Jersey Group IV title in 2007. He went 51-22 during his tenure at Toms River North and has a 58-34 career record including two seasons at Lakewood in 1997 and 1998. LaBarca Jr. was also the offensive coordinator at Brick when the Dragons won the 2013 Central Jersey Group IV sectional championship.

With Curcione as the head coach and defensive coordinator and LaBarca Jr. as the offensive coordinator, Wall had the No. 7 offense in the Shore at 28.5 points per game and the No. 5 defense allowing 13.1 points per game.

Curcione was a linebackers coach from 2006 to 2011 and the defensive coordinator in 2012 under LaBarca Jr. at Toms River North. He is currently a teacher in the Toms River Regional School District at Intermediate North while LaBarca Jr. is an administrator as an assistant principal at Intermediate South.

He replaces Tom Tarver, who was not rehired after going 0-10 in his only season.

The announcement of Curcione's move to Donovan Catholic happened to come on National Signing Day. Wall had three players sign National Letters of Intent - running back Sean Larkin at Assumption, tight end Gene Scott at Monmouth and offensive lineman Mike Andrejco at Bryant - and Curcione was able to take part in their signing ceremonies. He said he did regret the announcement coming on the same day, however.

"For me to take anything away from them today, I feel terrible," Curcione said. "It's not the way I go about things, I just want to coach football. I'd prefer there were never articles written about me because it's about the kids and what they do on the field. It's not about the coaches and it's certainly not about me."

The move is a major, high-profile splash for a Donovan Catholic program hasn't had much success since the NJSIAA playoff system began in 1974. The Griffins have only one postseason win in 11 playoff appearances, although they are credited with the 1976 South Parochial B title as the only team in the bracket when the school was named St. Joseph. They won the Shore Conference Class C South division championship in 1993 under Dennis Toddings and claimed a share of B South in 2012 under Dan Duddy.

The program has a 184-282-7 record since its inception in 1967, according to the Shore Football Coaches Foundation archives. Donovan has just 10 winning seasons since 1980, including a program-record nine wins in 1992. The Griffins have finished 0-10 three times since 2006.

The potential for a swift turnaround is certainly there as Donovan Catholic is the only non-public football program in Ocean County. With Curcione and LaBarca Jr., two state championship coaches, the Griffins have more potential than ever to attract talent and become a consistent contender.


Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 


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