DURYEA — Growing up in South Dakota, Bob Erfman was deprived of a local football team to root on. But in 1960, the Denver Broncos, then of the American Football League, began their franchise in neighboring Colorado. Since then, Erfman has been a fan.
That love for the Denver Broncos has rubbed off on his family, who now all live in Duryea. The family will cheer for the Broncos when they face the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7. This will be the Broncos’ seventh Super Bowl appearance — they won two Super Bowls under John Elway in the late 1990s.
“They have to continue to do what they’ve been doing all season,” Bob said. “Their defense is very strong. As long as they stick with their game plan they should be OK. It’s going to be a defensive game.”
Bob said when he moved from South Dakota, there weren’t many fans of the Broncos in Pennsylvania. Now, he believes Denver has a large following locally.
“When I started coaching for the Duyrea Wildcats I started to see more,” Bob said. “Now I see Broncos fans all over the place. They have a pretty good following now.”
Bob’s grandson, Zac, who is a 2014 graduate of Pittston Area and son of Dawn Erfman, has been a fan of the Broncos since he was 4. The youngest of the Erfman family will watch the game from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he’s visiting his brother Matthew Erfman, 22. Matthew lives there as part of the United States Air Force. Zac has been in Germany since before Christmas and is expected to return in March.
Zac began watching the Broncos because of his favorite player, John Elway. He now has a Fathead decal of the Hall of Fame quarterback on his bedroom wall.
“He is the reason why I played football and why I was No. 7,” he said via a conversation on Twitter. “This Super Bowl is amazing to share with my family.”
Zac is a little young to remember the last time the Broncos made the Super Bowl. This time, the Broncos will have future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning calling plays. Manning led the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVII and lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8. The family hopes to avenge that loss and send Manning, who is on the verge of retirement, off into the sunset.
“I love Peyton Manning,” Zac said. “He is a legend and deserves to have one more shot at glory.”
Kiki Erfman, 21, who was a Pittston Area cheerleader for many years and also a coach, is a diehard fan of the Broncos. She was born into the Broncos’ family.
“I grew up with it,” she said. “The Broncos were always there. Being a cheerleader, I always knew about football. When it came to the Broncos, there was no other team.”
The family will celebrate the Super Bowl at their home on Foote Avenue in Duryea. A few friends will be there, they said, but “nothing crazy.” Much of that has to do with Zac being overseas. Jerrit Erfman, 25, the oldest of the bunch, will take care of the food — New York Strip Steaks may be on the menu.
Gitkos family rooting for Panthers
For Mike Gitkos, 27, a native of West Pittston, seeing the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl isn’t something he’s used to. Seeing them as the underdog, however, has been the norm.
The Carolina Panthers last appeared in the Super Bowl after the 2003 season. The Panthers are one of the newest franchises in the NFL, established in 1993 and first appearing in 1995. Carolina will appear in their second Super Bowl and have yet to win one.
Mike admits he chose the Panthers when he was 7 because of the team’s colors. He said his family pressured him into liking the Philadelphia Eagles, but he stuck to his guns for the past 22 years.
“The first time it was a crazy season,” Mike said. “We definitely weren’t the best team in football. This year the team feels like they are the best in the league. It’s awesome.”
Mike’s wife, Sara (née Hando), 30, who is originally from Harding, wasn’t a fan of football until she starting hanging out with her now-husband. The couple has been married for over a year and now live in Forty Fort.
“I didn’t like football at all,” she said. “One day I watched a game with him and my obsession for Luke Kuechly began.”
The two Wyoming Area grads quickly fell in love with the all-pro Carolina linebacker. The couple went as far as naming their German shepherd/husky Kuechly.
As far as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton goes, the two are big fans. They think he and many other Panther players are a class act. You can even see the two doing Newton’s signature “dab” or “Superman” following Carolina touchdowns.
“As I watched them I saw the guys on the team were so genuine,” Sara said of players like Kuechly, Newton, Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis. “All of them have such great character. They are no Johnny Manziel.”
The couple will have a few friends over to their house to watch the game on Sunday. However, if you do go to the Gitkos house, you must watch the game. And if you aren’t watching the game, you might be asked to leave.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick