If you’re someone who has followed District 9 football the last two and half decades, Chris Dworek should be a familiar name to you.
That’s because the Brookville resident has been a varsity head coach for the vast majority of that time period. Dworek, who is entering his second year as the head coach at St. Marys, is now in charge of his third D-9 program overall.
Dworek, a Southmoreland High School graduate, played football at Clarion University and started his head coaching career at Keystone in 1995 — the Panthers went 4-5 a year after going winless. He then moved on and replaced Mike Donghia at Brookville in 1996.
In 1998, he took the 4-5 Raiders into the District 9 Class AA playoffs and won the title, knocking off unbeaten Karns City in the semifinals in overtime before routing Brockway 33-6 in the championship game.
Dworek also led Brookville to D-9 Class AA crowns in 2004 and 2006, when the Raiders went 11-2 and beat Karns City in the finals (21-3) before losing its PIAA opener to Jeannette — which was led by future NFL player Terrelle Pryor at quarterback.
Dworek amassed a 107-98 record in a 19 seasons at Brookville. After 18 1/2 years as a social studies teacher at Brookville, Dworek resigned to take a job as a Jefferson County juvenile probation officer after the 2014 season. The school opened the head coaching position at that time and current head coach Scott Park replaced him.
He returned to the Raiders as an assistant coach a couple years later before being hired in early 2019 as the new head coach at St. Marys.
He took over a program that went winless in 2017 and 2018, but Dworek promptly turned things around in his first season, leading the Dutchmen to a 6-5 record and a trip to the District 5-8-9 Class 3A playoffs. St. Marys’ first win of the year ended a 22-game losing streak.
Overall, Dworek sports a record of 117-108 in 21 seasons as a high school head coach. He was inducted into the Central Pennsylvania Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013.
He has coached football for 30 years overall. spending three years at Clarion University and three years as a high school assistant (1 at Greensburg Central Catholic, 2 years at Brookville). He also spent one year as a junior coach at Keystone and also coached the Brookville Lumberjack Youth Program for a season.
Football isn’t the only sport he has coached during that 30-year period though.
Dworek was the head track coach at Keystone for three years (91, 95, 96). He also coached Little League softball for one year, Little League/Junior League baseball for four years, Senior Legion baseball for a year, youth girls soccer for three years and was an assistant high school baseball coach at Brookville for three years and spent one season as junior high basketball coach for the Raiders.
Dworek took the time to answer a few other questions about himself for our series spotlighting area high school coaches in all sports.
The reason I enjoy coaching is ... My wife asked me that one day and about 100 things popped into my head. Coaching is teaching and teaching is coaching, and I feel that I can do that well. Teaching kids life lessons through the entire football experience through the season and the off-season is very rewarding. Teaching leadership skills through football is an awesome experience.
The in-season game week preparation is a great routine – from scouting reports to practices and lifting and running, it makes game days very special. But, the most rewarding part to me is trying to create great memories for the players. I have great memories of lots of good times, and some bad ones, which my high school and college teammates talk about every time we are together. Those memories, good and bad, can help players for the rest of their lives and can be very powerful.
The hardest thing about coaching is ... I would say the hardest thing is, once in a while, dealing with frustrations from a lack of respect and a lack of support. Every player and coach on the team realizes how hard that team works. When things don’t go like you want them to, the lack of respect and support creeps in from the outside and effects everyone in that locker room. When that happens, it is very difficult on every one on the team.
The biggest reason I continue to coach is ... I really enjoy it. Different experiences during the entire season helps football players grow as people. Being a part of that makes you feel good and feel proud. Having a chance to lift weights with the players, run some sprints with the players, listen to music together keeps you young and in-shape.
Plus, I’m very competitive and life is competitive. On the practice and game field, we compete and learn from those competitions every day.
My real job outside coaching is ... a Probation Officer for Jefferson County. It’s very hard, just because of the long hours during the season, to juggle my time. My typical in-season day goes from about 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. But, I have super-supportive bosses that allow me to do both, which I am extremely grateful for.
The person(s) who influenced me to get into coaching ... My 10th grade History teacher, Mr. John Bacha, and my high school coach, Bobby Thompson, really influenced me to want to be a coach. The way they both carried themselves, acted, were passionate about football, was very influential on me. Coach Thompson taught me the importance of being a conditioned football player – at the time, I hated running like a track team. But, on game nights, we were extremely thankful.
My favorite team/season or game that stands out me is ... I have so many great memories of games and seasons, it’s extremely difficult to talk about just one. But, the first one that pops in my head was this past year’s game we had against Bradford. It was our first win of the season, and St. Marys first win in a while — the players were super-excited at the end when we won. Then, a ton of students rushed the field and everyone was hugging each other. That was pretty cool to see.
Also, the 2006 Brookville football team was very special that season. We went 11-2 (and won District 9 Class AA title) and had a ton of great players that were great kids also. We lost to Terrell Pryor (and Jeannette) on December 1st (in state quarterfinals). I remember going to a winter sports pep rally and we were still playing — that was a pretty cool memory.
One final thing I’d like to add is ... What’s you favorite TV show? I’m addicted to watching Mountain Men. I think I’d like to try living off the grid and off the land this coming winter and see how long I can last.