2022 Valley News Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year: Apollo-Ridge’s Nick Curci

Saturday, December 17, 2022 | 8:21 PM


In a year where several outstanding players in the Alle-Kiski Valley distinguished themselves, one saved his team’s season three times.

Apollo-Ridge seemed to be off to a great start with a narrow, 34-28 victory over Leechburg to start the season before injuries started to mount. Senior Nick Curci ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns over a top-five Blue Devils team.

Vikings quarterback Carter Schrock was lost, and Gage Johnston switched from tight end to take Schrock’s place. Receiver Jake Mull also was hurt, and Corbin Johnston was taken by ambulance for treatment of an injury and would miss four games.

Curci stepped up his game to keep Apollo-Ridge in the hunt.

“I think what was even more impressive we didn’t have a lot of options,” Vikings coach John Skiba said. “We knew that he was our guy, and he accepted that role.”

Said Curci: “We had to battle through things. We stepped up, and everybody pulled together. We didn’t want another 2-8 season like last year.”

Slowed by injuries last season, Curci suffered a strained shoulder against Imani Christian and missed the game against Yough, a 26-13 victory.

The Vikings faced playoff elimination as undefeated and top five-ranked Serra Catholic came to town. Curci stole the show, running 51 times for 338 yards and five touchdowns, with the the final one coming in overtime to keep playoff hopes alive, 43-36.

“We were excited about being in a position to get to the playoffs,” Curci said. “Our energy was high and coach Skiba put together a great game plan. We tried to shave as much time off the clock as we could.”

But the injuries persisted.

“(Gage) Johnston was hurt intercepting a pass in the end zone that took us into overtime,” Skiba said. “I had to put Nick in at wildcat quarterback for the overtime. I knew he could do it.”

Apollo-Ridge still needed a victory in the regular-season finale at Burrell. Curci did the job again, carrying 22 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings prevailed 28-14 and earned a playoff berth.

In a win-or-go-home scenario, Curci had 73 carries for 586 yards and seven TDs and is the 2022 Tribune-Review Valley News Dispatch edition Offensive Player of the Year.

The Vikings came up short in the opening round of the playoffs, dropping a 21-14 decision at Keystone Oaks.

Curci finished the season with 1,571 yards and 23 touchdowns. For good measure, he added four 2-point conversions for 146 points.

“He came about 20 yards short of Duane Brown’s record for a season rushing,” Skiba said. “If he plays against Yough, I believe he gets it.”

Earlier this past week, Curci made a verbal commitment to Duquesne.

“I love the staff and the campus. I love the city of Pittsburgh,” said Curci, projected to be a linebacker for the Dukes. “I’ll play wherever they want me to.”

Also receiving strong consideration for offensive player of the year was Chandler Thimons of Highlands and Braylan Lovelace of Leechburg.

Thimons became the first player in the 124-year history of A-K Valley football to pass for more than 5,000 career yards, and Lovelace was the fifth area player to eclipse 4,000 career rushing yards.