He has helped his lead his team to two consecutive FCIAC football championships and is the owner of the state’s all-time sack record, and now, Darien’s Mark Evanchick can add another notch to his belt as he has named the 2015 Connecticut Gatorade Football Player of the Year.
A senior defensive end and varsity starter since his sophomore season, Evanchick is the first football player from Darien High School to receive the award.
Evanchick and the Darien Blue Wave are undefeated at 10-0 after beating Staples 41-7 in the Class LL quarterfinals on Tuesday night. They’ll take on Southington in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Stamford’s Boyle Stadium.
Darien, which beat rival New Canaan 28-21 in the FCIAC championship game on Thanksgiving, is hunting for its first state title since 1996.
The Gatorade award recognizes “not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.”
As a state winner, Evanchick is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award, which will be announced later this month.
It marks the second straight season in which an FCIAC football player has been named the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year, as New Canaan’s Zach Allen, another defensive end, earned the honor last year. Allen is now a freshman on the Boston College football team.
The 6-foot, 240-pound Evanchick displays amazing speed for a big man, and is often battling double-teams on the line.
He has 63 and 1/2 sacks for his career, eclipsing the old mark of 60 set back in 1997 by Dwight Freeney, an NFL All-Pro who is now with the Arizona Cardinals.
Evanchick broke the record when he brought down Staples’ quarterback Andrew Speed late in the first half of the Blue Wave’s 27-0 win over the Wreckers at Darien High School on Nov. 14.
After that game, a video message of congratulations from Freeney was played on the DHS scoreboard.
Head coach Rob Trifone said that Evanchick has remained grounded, despite all the accolades and attention.
“The interesting thing about Mark Evanchick is how humble he is,” Trifone said. “He always has been and I think always will be. Here’s a guy who broke an 18-year-old state record, held by a current NFL player, and you’d think that he’s puff up his chest, but he never talks about it. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
For the season, Evanchick leads the Wave in sacks with 21 and a 1/2, tackles with 71, solo tackles with 52, and tackles for a loss with 34. His sacks have cost opposing teams 184 yards.
He has twice been named to the All-State team, and has been an All-FCIAC FIrst Teamer for three years.
“Mark Evanchick is one of the best defensive linemen I have seen in a long time,” Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said in a press release from Gatorade. “He has an incredible combination of speed, strength and leverage that reminds me of J.J. Watt. He is almost impossible to block.”
Evanchick has maintained a 3.34 GPA in the classroom.
The Connecticut High School Lacrosse Coaches Association’s Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, he has volunteered locally as part of a fundraising campaign to benefit diabetes research and as a youth football and lacrosse coach.
Evanchick will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2016, where he will play lacrosse.
For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of past winners and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit www.gatorade.com/poy.