At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Evan Galimberti can be imposing on the football field, walloping would-be blockers and then devouring any ball carrier foolish enough to stray into his vicinity.
On Saturday when State College (9-3) faces McDowell (6-5) in a PIAA Class AAAA subregional game at Slippery Rock University, the Little Lions will need Galimberti to anchor its defense against the Trojans run-heavy offense.
The senior defensive tackle plays a physical brand of football, but his coaches and teammates describe him as a quiet, very intelligent and mild-mannered young man that doesn’t show much emotion on the field — until last week.
“Last week, was really the first time I showed any emotion,” Galimberti said. “I was just going crazy. I think I even scared some of my teammates because they’ve never seen that from me before. But I was just trying to get everybody fired up.”
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Galimberti dominated the first half of State College’s 35-13 dismantling of DuBois and its high-scoring offense. His three, first-half sacks set the tone for the rest of the game. DuBois entered the game averaging over four hundred yards of total offense. The Little Lions outgained the Beavers 426-204.
But this week State College will face a much more physical team in the Trojans.
“They’re a run-first team,” State College coach Al Wolski said. “They have two big running backs and they just run it down your throat.”
“We’ll need to have (Galimberti) and the whole defensive line meet the physical play of McDowell,” Wolski said. “They’re probably the most physical team that we’ve played up until this point.”
Senior running back James Conner leads the Trojans in rushing with 1,303 yards on 118 carries. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Conner also leads the team with 17 rushing touchdowns. Fellow senior Khyre Drayer, 5-foot-10 and 210-pounds, is second in rushing with 656 yards.
“Well they are definitely huge,” Galimberti said. “And we know that they’re going to try and run it right up the middle so we just have to be ready to play tougher than them and punch them before they punch us.”
As a defensive tackle, Galimberti will be one of the keys to stopping the Trojans ground attack and sending the Little Lions to their fifth consecutive PIAA quarterfinals. And anchoring defenses is something he hopes to continue in college.
In October, Galimberti said he was offered a football scholarship to attend Bucknell. He has yet to make a decision. He has also received interest from Ivy League schools including Princeton.
And that’s what his coaches are impressed with most. Not just his size, strength and athleticism. And not even just that he’s intelligent. It’s his work ethic.
“(Sure), he comes off the ball the way we like our lineman to. He delivers some shock when he makes contact,” Wolski said. “But he not only does the job on the athletic field, he’s one of the top students in the school too.”
Galimberti, who said he has a 4.2 weighted grade point average, said there’s no secret to his academic success. It’s just hard work.
“I just don’t go to bed until my homework is finished,” he said. “But it is definitely difficult when you get home around 7 p.m. everyday and then you have to figure out how to get everything done after that.”
Mike Snyder, the Little Lion’s defensive coordinator, isn’t surprised that Galimberti has the drive to overcome fatigue and still achieve at a high level off the field. It’s a role Snyder said Galimberti also has on the team as an offensive lineman.
“He’s taken just about every snap we have on defense,” Snyder said. “Then we ask him to turn around and play offense too.”
Snyder said because of his intelligence, Galimberti had no problem learning his defensive responsibilities and his duties on the offensive line in the Little Lions veer-option running game.
“He’s a great kid,” Galimberti said. “We’re very proud of him. Evan is going to go far.”
But, Galimberti is in no hurry to go anywhere. Before Saturday’s game, he’ll eat what has become his customary pre-game meal: peanut butter, Nutella and jelly sandwiches. It’s a high school tradition he’s hoping to continue if the Little Lions can keep their season going.
“It’s kind of scary to think it was only my sophomore year when I first came out,” Galimberti said. “And to think, this is my last year and it could be over this week.”
“But we’ll be ready to take it to them and get to the quarterfinals for the fifth straight year.”