Canadian’s 2016 Opener with Bushland: Escaping the Hype Isn’t an Option

The preseason scrimmages are over and season openers far and wide will have pregame capsules written with the expected fervor Texas high School football season brings. To borrow a popular motto of the Lone Star Gridiron website, “The greatest sport in the greatest State” helps to explain the insanity. Of course, not all Texas high school teams will experience the level of hype others will. The “others” must learn to deal with the hype, because it is inescapable.

Canadian is a prime example of a program that has had such success, they can’t prevent another record looking them square in the face, ready or not. However, most fans or even football junkies might be surprised at the fact that the coaches, the team captains, and the team probably won’t even discuss what everyone else will be writing and talking about. The season opener with Bushland presents a unique opportunity for Texas Panhandle area football history. Canadian is tied with the Wheeler Mustangs with the two longest winning streaks ever in the Panhandle area, an impressive 31 consecutive wins. The Wildcats can own that streak record with a win on the 26th of August. It’s the only game that will allow a change to the record books. One game. One chance. And that’s it. They will either own the new record, or they will continue to share it with Wheeler until another program in the Panhandle comes along and wins 32 or more consecutive games. 

Many casual fans are probably not aware of the drama involved, that is, if you aren’t a die-hard Canadian Wildcat fan. Part of that drama is the motivation the Falcons have to get a win over Canadian and not just to spoil a win streak. The four game series between the two schools is currently 3-0-1 in Canadian’s favor, one game being called for weather on 9/27/2013 before an official score could be recorded. Bushland wants a Wildcat pelt hung in their locker room in the worst way. August 26th will be the third season opener the two have shared in as many years. And how difficult is it for a good team to beat another good team four out of five times? The odds are stacking up against Canadian. 

Falcon’s Head Coach, Jimmy Thomas, in his third year, is certainly taking the win streak issue in stride. He told one reporter that if he had thought about the win streak deal he wouldn’t have scheduled Canadian for the opener. But you would’ve had to have been there, because he was grinning and laughing as he said that. And YES, that means that they will use being the spoiler as motivation – no question about it. The odds, the motivation, and playing at home have the Falcons excited for this year’s opener. 

With that said, Bushland will certainly be bringing it up front with Senior first-team all-district selection Erik Smith with help from Zach Zaccardo and Jaren Alvarado. That experience in the trenches will be much needed against Canadian’s returners who have just come off of two State Championships. Marshal Cates, Tyler Richardson, Center Logan Godino, and a hometown boy that returned before the end of last school year, Tyler Carr. Did we mention that Carr was named OL/DL MVP of the Texas Tech camp this summer? 

Wildcats Head Coach Chris Koetting could hold the advantage with quarterback experience. QB Corbin Douthitt backed up the most efficient QB in the State for two seasons and was there for every practice through two long Championship seasons. That’s ten extra weeks of practice if you’re counting. Not to mention all of the actual game minutes he played with all of the blow-out wins the starters provided in the first half. Douthitt has been prepared for this season since the ride home from Houston last December. There was never any doubt that he would be leading the fast paced NASCAR offense this season. Coach Thomas, on the other hand, was not settled on a starting QB as of a couple of weeks ago. Senior Cameron Thomas and Junior Colton Moore are vying for the job to replace two-year starter Kameron Mathis. 

A bonus for all of the fans on this Friday night will be the run game. As Canadian proved the last two years, they are not a strong spread-it-out pass offense because they have a weak run game. This year brings some new excitement with Junior Chris Jones, a transfer from Childress. And right there ready to take reps with Chris is last year’s Championship Game Defensive MVP Cade Throgmorton. The proven star power, however, will be Falcon Senior RB Bostyn Andrews. Andrews totaled 1,149 rushing yards with six TDs last season. In his third and final year, Andrews is ready to get past one of the best defenses in the State the last two seasons. Wildcat fans will be on pins and needles every time he touches the ball. 

So if you’re making a pick based on what you see on “paper”, wad it up and throw it away. You won’t be able to factor in the emotion, the first game nerves, the momentum shifts, or the big breaks a team can get in the early season. 

Of course there will be the win streak watch. You can blame that on the last two Canadian Wildcat teams setting up all of the fans, sports writers, and broadcasters with a “big story” for the season opener. The best thing you can do is to leave the records to the record keepers and enjoy some great Texas High School Football.

Jerry Brunson for @CHSWildcatNews

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Borger visits Canadian for First Preseason Scrimmage

Fans of the 2014-2015 Back-to-Back Class 2ADI State Champion Canadian Wildcats will get a chance to evaluate the results of a long, hot summer of camps,  weight room, sprints, and two weeks of UIL sanctioned two-a-days with the Wildcat coaching staff. Wildcat players, on the other hand, will be working to achieve positive evaluations from Head Coach Chris Koetting and his staff as they get their chance to go full-speed with 4A Borger as they have the last several years. Koetting has already made it abundantly clear that they are looking for the guys willing to get physical with big hits and how efficient they perform after fatigue sets in.

Although not a regular season game, this match-up is bound to have a little emotion building as the Bulldogs can’t be happy with how a lower classified Canadian squad has not only held their own in these scrimmages, but has dominated them. That’s not a put down as such for Borger, knowing that Canadian has had their way with several other higher classified teams in the area the last several seasons as a legitimate Championship program.

The Bulldog defensive secondary will catch a break Saturday morning with the absence of Canadian’s All-State wide receiver, Cameron Copley out with a wrist injury, but will still need to shutdown standout Manny Ramsey and several up-and-coming WRs before they call it a day.

For many Wildcat fans far and wide, starting with a mention of the receivers makes little sense whenever the biggest question since last December while the Wildcats were toting home another State Championship trophy was “who in the world will replace QB Tanner Schafer?” Schafer, of course, was the Wildcats Offensive MVP two consecutive years in the Championship game and proved to be the most efficient QB in the State from all classes. His passion for the game continues as a member of the QB corps at OU. The answer to the question should not surprise anyone that has followed the Wildcats. Backing up Schafer the last two seasons was Corbin Douthitt, who got in a lot of minutes in the blow-out games that occurred during the Wildcats 31-0 win streak, not to mention the ten extra weeks of playoff preparation practices Douthitt consumed during the two Championship runs. Douthitt has already mentioned in an interview that he learned A LOT from Schafer and Wildcat fans are itching to see what and how much.

HC Koetting has already mentioned a tone of excitement about the defense, coordinated by former Pampa native and coach’s son, Andy Cavalier. That is significant when you consider coming off of two seasons fielding the highest rated defense in Class 2A. Joining the 2015 Defensive MVP LB Cade Throgmorton will be All-State LB Holton Hufstedler and Tyler Carr, who picked up a Lineman MVP honor of his own this summer at the Texas Tech camp.

And speaking of linemen, O-Line coach Hayden Merket is confident to move forward with the experience and capabilities with the likes of Fernando Acosta, Marshal Cates, Harrison Culwell, and Tyler Carr. These guys know that it all starts up front and positive offensive yards will not accumulate and translate into scores if they can’t do their job. A very important truth demonstrated by the last two Wildcat teams with that aforementioned 31-0 record.

If there were any worries that the Wildcat program would be decimated by the loss of one of the greatest Senior classes in Texas small school football history, those worries were unfounded. When they hung the sign in the locker room that says “Tradition Never Graduates”, they meant it and every Wildcat player that reads it believes it. 

The JV teams will begin the scrimmage tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. followed by the varsity. No bands, no concession stand, no game ball raffle, no flyover by the Blue Angels. Just a bunch of hard work and hard hitting.

Jerry Brunson

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The 2016 Season: Emerging From the Shadow

There has never in history been a Texas high school athletic program face the challenge that the Canadian Wildcats face in the 2016-17 school year. That statement was not composed with any intentional drama, it merely states a fact.

In the season of 2012, the Wildcats began fielding one of the most historic small school classes of football athletes Texas has ever seen. Most of these Freshmen were paying their dues on the JV team, a few saw action on the varsity. They were, in a word, brothers. They had begun a journey of winning football games as mere tikes in organized flag football and when they graduated to pads the momentum only gained. They learned each other’s body language. They learned to forgive each other’s mistakes. They learned watching from the sidelines two Wildcat teams win the first and second State Championships for Canadian High School Back-to-Back; and saw the anguish of the next great Wildcat team lose a close game that would have been a Three-peat.

Fast forward to the 2014 season and this Class, now Juniors, became a significant factor along with a great Class of 2015 Seniors to win a State Championship at A T&T Stadium, dominating a very strong team from Mason. If that wasn’t proof enough of their dominance, the Wildcats returned to the State Championship in 2015 at Houston’s NRG Stadium for a 61-20 blow-out of Refugio for the repeat, going 31-0 for the two seasons.

Then there’s the basketball team, comprised mostly of Wildcat football players. With a short season coming off the football championship, they end the 2015 season with only ONE loss and the first State Basketball Championship in school history. The 2016 season, short again due to the repeat football championship, wasn’t as pretty. Early losses made Wildcat fans realize how hard it was to get to the State tourney, especially after losing twice to the District Champion Stratford Elks. But Canadian beat Anthony, the team that eliminated Stratford in the Regional Tourney, and went on to shock the 2A world and win another State Title, finishing 18-6, and completing the historic Double Back-to-Back titles.

Needless to say, the boys in the Canadian Class of 2016 will forever be considered legendary in Hemphill County and beyond.

So what about the upcoming 2016 season? What about the UIL alignment moving Canadian ISD up to 3A DII? What about who’s left to play for the Wildcats?

The conventional wisdom would explain that after “losing” a class of athletes so dominate as the CHS Class of 2016, it would be time for Canadian to hope and pray for a decent rebuilding year, go .500 in 2016 and plan to make the playoffs in 2017. However, the program at CISD has much more to offer. The sign in the locker-room says “TRADITION NEVER GRADUATES”, and they mean it.

The 2016 Canadian Wildcats will emerge from the shadow of the greatness displayed by the 2014 and 2015 Wildcat Championship teams because they believe that hard work pays off more than they believe in “conventional wisdom”. This team buys into what the best coaching staff in Texas high school football has to offer for them to succeed. This team couldn’t care less if you remember that they (many of these current teammates) were there to help secure State Championships as Sophomores and Juniors the past two seasons with the Class of 2016. What they REALLY care about is showing up all summer long at scheduled team conditioning work-outs and attending football AND basketball camps according to UIL rules to sharpen their skills and be competitive in practice and on game day.

There is no need to list all of the higher level 2016 Wildcat players and their positions here. All of the team members will be recognized for their outstanding play throughout the season via the local newspaper, The Canadian Record, the regional paper, The Amarillo Globe News, local TV coverage from Amarillo, and internet sources like this blog and the Facebook and Twitter accounts supported from this blog, not to mention several other sources.

The story, as boring as some readers and even some reporters might find it, is that these guys are a unit. A team. A brotherhood. A family. They train, practice, plan, and EXPECT to win as a TEAM without any other option available. Playing “hero ball” is something they only recognize when watching other teams in the film room. They are motivated by the love of the game, their teammates, their school, and their community.

Last year at this time, there was talk of a possible repeat Championship, but not so much in the locker room as everywhere else. The locker room was one-game-at-a-time. Period. Any talk of a double repeat, i.e., the basketball team also defending it’s Championship status was even more subdued. And now, with that story in the history books, they face the same questions this year by default. It seems that records and history chase the Champions more so that the Champions that set them do. With each new season, there is yet something new to overcome and unregulated expectations can distract and become obstacles. Not so with the Wildcats. The expectations are set week-to-week, without any focus on the end results of their season. These guys love to play ball so much, the focus becomes playing better every week means they get to play longer. Pretty simple.

The Canadian Wildcats seem comfortable and confident with their one-game-at-a-time preparation philosophy and you can bet real money that’s where they’ll start and finish the 2016 season in Class 3A DII.

And perhaps that is all you need to know about the Canadian Wildcats; where they are and what they are all doing this summer.

Jerry Brunson, for @CHSWildcatNews

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Defining “The Best” in Sports

Did the title get your attention? Although it sounds much more authoritative than what will be offered, let’s just say you will hopefully come away with some thought processes that will help you understand what’s really happening on the field, the court, or your broken NCAA Basketball bracket. A lot of folks need help with the latter this year.

For the first time in one hundred six (106) years of Texas University Interscholastic League history, a member high school has achieved what can be referred to as a “Double Back-to-Back” by winning State Championships in the sports of football and basketball in two consecutive seasons. A school which had previously joined the list of other high schools which won State Championships in the same school year that numbered only seven (schools) in the same 106 years.

The Class 2A Canadian Wildcats fielded the teams which accomplished what other schools could have only six times before, but could not. The list of factors of why other schools had not accomplished the Double Back-to-Back is unnecessary to explore here. But what has been said about the final of four (4) Championships (the 2016 Basketball Title) that Canadian brought home to their school trophy case and their community within fifteen (15) months will the be the focus of the remaining comments.

In a letter to the Amarillo Globe News, Mr. Phillips, claiming residence in Amarillo, questioned whether or not the Canadian Wildcats were really the “best” team in the Texas Panhandle. To be fair to Mr. Phillips, who has been the brunt of jokes and comebacks on social media for his comments, the following explanations and conclusions will be offered.

The “best” team in any sport means a lot of different things. There is the best team on paper. There is the best team in the polls. There is the best team athletically. There is the best team with the best season record. There is the best team in YOUR mind. From all of these distinctly best there must yet be determined the best of the best.

The average sports fan relies on a lot of various opinions published and broadcast that know sports teams, and provide facts to give fans enough information to ascertain which team is the top ranked, the chosen, “THE BEST”. But it doesn’t always work that way, does it? Why? Because there is no valid, exact science included in the formula of “sport”. Athletic competition depends on the individual or the team to show up, be prepared, and perform well enough to defeat the competition at the appointed time and date or forfeit their opportunity to be declared the victors.

The irrelevant meaningfulness of “the best team” was just recently extolled by Pablo S. Torre, a Senior Writer at ESPN when he tweeted: “A single-elimination basketball tournament is a pretty bad way to assess which team is the best and a pretty foolproof way to entertain us.” With all due respect, Mr. Torre, you can have your “best teams” and we will take our tournament and playoff CHAMPIONS.

A Champion team (or individual) will prepare themselves to face opponents of superior experience or athleticism and WIN despite overwhelming odds. A Champion will kickoff, tipoff, or set himself (or herself) in the blocks against an opponent that everyone including coaches and media expect to win, and rob that opponent of the expected victory. A Champion is the team or individual that not only played their best when only their best would succeed, but they played their best BETTER than the opponent on the date and time the event was scheduled. So what is your preference? Cheering on a Champion? Or witnessing a mythical, formulated process that crowns an individual or a team “the best”?

Back to Mr. Phillips and his assertions that the Canadian Wildcats were not “the best” basketball team in their district, being beaten by Stratford, as he said, “not once, but twice”. Canadian Wildcat fans, coaches, players, and this writer, can not deny the Elks of their well deserved District Championship. As a matter of fact, @CHSWildcatNews has more than once congratulated the Stratford programs on being the most competitive team the Wildcats have faced at any level of play in Class 2A in the State.  We even took a poll asking which team presented the Wildcats the greatest challenge in the 2015 Football season; Stratford or Refugio. Fans voted 80% in favor of Stratford, many of those votes from Canadian fans.

Mr. Phillips also mentioned that he attended the double-overtime playoff game Canadian won over Panhandle, stating “The Panthers received no help from the officials in that game…” insinuating that the Wildcats were helped (more so) by the officials. Mr. Phillips, do you believe that the Wildcats have never experienced less than acceptable officiating? It is the ability to defeat opponents AND bad officiating that distinguishes a Champion.

Mr. Phillips should note that at the Regional tournament, it was Canadian that beat the UNDEFEATED Anthony team that defeated Stratford in order to move on to the State Championship Tournament. The issue here that Mr. Phillips fails to acknowledge is that Champions continue to improve their overall game performance when it matters the most. @CHSWildcatNews has not heard ONE Canadian player or fan brag that they could have beat Stratford that weekend. The truth is, we were not required to play Stratford again and the Elk’s season win/loss record against Canadian remained intact at 2-0. Congratulations to the Elks, District 1-2A Champions, but they are not Region 1 Champions. That Title went to the Wildcats. Fair and square.

Rather simplistic of Mr. Phillips to think that after the Regional tourney, for teams like Canadian it “is fairly easy coasting” to win a Championship. Did he miss the fact that Thorndale made up a 10 point deficit in the 4th quarter against Canadian to actually have two shots in the last seconds that would have beat the Wildcats in the Semi-Final? And you call that coasting, Mr. Phillips? (Congratulations to Thorndale for a great comeback effort in the Semi-Final and for a great season played.) As for the assessment Mr. Phillips wrote about the 10 point win over Muenster, he should have mentioned that not only was Muenster favored to win, but they were more than capable enough to win. But the team made up of Champions were able to take control of the game away from the favorites and win despite what the experts had predicted. If you want to call that coasting, Mr. Phillips, then many of us would like to visit the universe where you watch basketball. (And a hearty congratulations to a young Muenster team who had a great season and will most likely appear in next year’s Class 2A State Tournament.)

And this was, and forever will be recorded as the legitimate struggle that the Canadian Wildcat basketball team (all of which were also members of the Back-to-Back Championship Football team) fought through to complete the only Double Back-to-Back Championships in UIL history. And speaking of Football Championships, the Wildcat 2014 and 2015 State Championship teams are undoubtedly the two most dominate high school teams in Texas UIL history by lining up 31 times in two seasons without the taste of defeat. They proved that the titles of “the best” and Champions can and do indeed co-exist.

Mr. Phillips was CORRECT about what is probably the most important issue when he wrote: “I couldn’t be more proud of the conduct of Panhandle-area Class 2A sports teams — splendid behavior.” Canadian ISD extracurricular programs take pride in representing their community with class, honor, and sportsmanship.

The explanation of Champions versus “the best” is being played out on your TV as this is being written by seeing more lower seed NCAA basketball teams defeating highly seeded teams in record numbers. Somehow, Mr. Torre, ensconced within the Ivory Towers of ESPN, believes this process is unfair. Unfair to “the best” teams.

Agree or disagree, but @CHSWildcatNews believes that after you have read this, you will understand there is a difference in being considered the “best” or being a “Champion”. If you understand that difference, you will probably decide to teach you children it’s more desirable to become a CHAMPION, than to be perceived as “the best”.

March 19, 2016

@CHSWildcatNews

 

 

#1 Canadian Defends State Title vs. Refugio 61-20

HOUSTON, TX – The debut of the Texas UIL Football State Championships in Houston’s NRG Stadium brought a number of story lines packaged in team buses from all around the Great Lone Star State. One story highlighted by the media was the 600 mile one-way trek one team would travel from the Northeast Panhandle in order to defend it’s 2014 Championship in Class 2A DI.

The Canadian Wildcat coaching staff not only faced a short week of game preparation due to a schedule that demands 10 Championships that must be played in 3 days, but had to put in extra hours planning the logistics it would take to deliver a high school football team the farthest of any program represented in the Championship Finals.

The team travel itinerary began at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, taking 30 minutes just to get 7 miles south of Canadian on US Highway 60/83 due to an elaborate community send-off which not only included a mounted rider in a Santa suit waving the Canadian Wildcat flag, but also a light single engine aircraft flying slow enough alongside the team buses so that the “GO WILDCATS” sign pasted in its window could be read.

Once the cruise down Highway 83 had been established, one stop for a meal and another for trash disposal and restroom break, the team arrived on schedule to have a 4:00 p.m. practice at the indoor facility located on the campus of Springtown High School. The team left the practice with just enough time left in the day to make a stop for dinner and arrive at a DFW area hotel for lights out at 11:00 p.m. This same routine would be repeated on Wednesday with another borrowed indoor facility at Cleburne and on to downtown Houston for dinner and a hotel. The schedule would get even tighter as the Wildcats had to be prepared for the “early game” at 10:00 a.m. Friday, December 17th.

This Championship, like others on the schedule, matched two teams familiar with State Final playoff games. Refugio has appeared 3 times in the Finals in the last 5 years, taking home a Championship in 2011. Canadian has reached the Final game 5 times since 2007, winning 4 of those Championships.

The pre-game hype was typical with the exception of an unusually high 23 point prediction line published by Harris rankings favoring Canadian. There have been more ways used to prepare for Canadian than has been seen from other teams in years and confidence to take on the defending State Champions have been a part of it. The coach from Anson who Canadian met in the regional round used the Mike Tyson quote: “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” to keep his players fired up.

The anticipation was generally considered to be that Canadian would face the toughest opponent of the season, having dominated the class along with wins against 3A and 4A teams for the last 30 games. That’s not a typo; Canadian brought a 30-0 win streak with them to NRG. Finishing the season 16-0, made the consecutive win streak of 31-0 tying the record held by Wheeler for all Panhandle teams. The streak is even sweeter for one young man, team Quarterback Tanner Schafer. 31-0 represents every game he has played for the Wildcats since becoming the starting QB.

The first quarter opened with the Refugio Bobcats forcing the first of 3 three-and-outs against the fast-to-line-up-quick-snapping Canadian NASCAR offense, but met disaster in their first offensive series when Canadian LB Cade Throgmorton (the game’s Defensive MVP) jumped a pass route of a quick screen and took the INT 35 yards for the pick-6.  Benigno Heredia (7-for-7 PATs, 4 FGs) was good on the PAT and Canadian was on the board with 8:46 left in the first quarter.

When Canadian QB Tanner Schafer (14-for-24, 243 yards, 3 TDs passing, 9-for-26 yards rushing, 1 TD rushing, Championship game Offensive MVP) was forced to punt from his own end zone, Refugio RB Omri Oliver set up a short field for the Bobcats to work with a 14 yard return to the Wildcat 22 yard line. Canadian’s defense held for 8 plays until Refugio RB Isaiah Perez took the direct snap and pushed into a scrum for the TD. The PAT by K Marcus Arredondo tied the score at 7-7 with 11:24 left in the second quarter.

The first quarter would prove to be the last remnant of anything that resembled a close game, with Canadian’s scoring floodgates opening to produce 24 points in the second period, while the Wildcat defense continued to frustrate Refugio’s offense and allowed the Wildcats to go in at halftime with a 31-7 lead.

Schafer hit RB Chance Cook (17 carries for 100 yards, 2 TDs) with a fast ball that flew 30 yards downfield from the 36 yard line for the second Wildcat TD with 9:13 left in the half, then with 3:10 left, Schafer took in a keeper for a TD. After a Canadian defensive stop the punt by Refugio QB Jaylon Mascorro (13-for-34, 183 yards, 4 INTs) was deflected by the back of Kobie Herring due to the pressure given by DB Manny Ramsey and gave Canadian the ball on the Refugio 27 yard line. Five plays later, WR Cameron Copley took a reverse and lowered his shoulder and ran through CB Les Rhodes on the 2 yard line for the score and Canadian led 28-7 with 14 seconds left in the half.

The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Bobcat receiver Austin Moya and the Wildcats recovered on the Refugio 8 yard line with 5 of the 14 seconds left in the half, time enough for K Benigno Heredia to kick a 25 yard FG as time ran out, giving Canadian a 31-7 lead going in at the break.

The second half opened with Refugio receiving the kickoff and driving down to the Canadian 33 in 6 plays. The 7th play Mascorro was attempting to hit WR Les Rhodes in the end zone for a score when it was intercepted by DB Cameron Copley, bringing the ball out to the 20 yard line to begin Canadian’s next possession and a 5 play, 80 yard drive, featuring a 44 yard pass from Schafer to WR Manny Ramsey and capped by an 11 yard strike to WR Cameron Copley for the score, extending Canadian’s lead to 38-7.

The next Refugio offensive series ended in a 3-and-out and the Wildcats took over on the Bobcats 35 yard line and went 3-and-out as well, but advanced the ball to the Refugio 29 yard line. Kicker Benigno Heredia went to work on 4th and 4 to make his longest FG of the season from 46 yards out, thrilling Canadian fans with 3 more points to increase their lead to 41-7 with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

Refugio returned the next kickoff to their own 21 yard line and put together a drive consisting of 7 plays and 71 yards that ended with Mascorro throwing a 30 yard TD pass to WR Daidrin Dukes. The PAT by K Marcus Arredondo was blocked by Chance Cook, just a reminder that Canadian was still going full speed despite the 28 point deficit with 4:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Bobcats were on the board again, down 41-13.

Refugio executed a successful on-side kick with WR Les Rhodes recovering the ball that couldn’t be handled by C Logan Godino. The resulting drive for the Bobcats ended in 7 plays with an INT by FS Chance Cook. Cook’s number was called on the very next offensive play by Canadian for a 27 yard TD rush around the weak side. Cook not only had the speed to hit the edge, but used a burst going down the sideline that ruined every angle the Bobcat DBs had to push him out of bounds before going into the end zone. Heredia’s PAT was good and a stunned and weakened Refugio team trailed 48-13 with 3:30 left in the third.

After Canadian’s Semi-Final win over Crawford,  Greg Tepper, writer and on air personality for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football created a hashtag that described the Championship game at this point. Refugio was matched with #TheCanadianMachine.

Chance Cook went on to intercept another Mascorro pass from his Free Safety position on the next series which setup the efficient Canadian offense on their 44 yard line. One of the most exciting and physical plays of the game came with the next snap as Schafer hit WR Sawyer Cook. Cook fired up the Canadian crowd and was honored by Fox Sports Southwest tagging the play as one of the top 10 of the week when he rambled approximately 35 yards-after-catch when 3 Bobcat defenders couldn’t stop Cook, continuing to drag one defender over 20 yards until 2 other Refugio defenders could finally help bring him down. Wildcat WR Manny Ramsey was assisting Cook all along the way and a face mask penalty placed the ball on the Refugio 8 yard line. Schafer’s 8 yard TD pass to WR Cameron Copley ended the drive on the next play, adding to the scoring already getting comfortable for Canadian to 55-13.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Refugio turnovers, penalties (11 for 115 yards compared to 3 for 25 on Canadian) along with the stiff and unforgiving Canadian defense had done significant damage making a comeback rally impossible. The next Wildcat offensive series took advantage of 3 different penalties assessed on the Bobcats, but finally held on a 4th and 12 on the Refugio 14 yard line where K Benigno Heredia came out to line up yet another FG that was good from 31 yards out with 9:21 left in the game. Heredia was not able to get any rest yet, however, as Schafer and Co. moved the ball into position for Heredia’s final FG from 35 yards out making the score 61-13 with 6:11 left in the game. This drive would be the last of Schafer’s stellar high school career as reserve QB Corbin Douthitt and other reserves would take the reins for the last 2 Canadian possessions.

Refugio would go on to score late with a punt return by Omri Oliver of 53 yards with 1:11 left in the contest. Canadian QB Douthitt would take care of the final possession and run the clock out to begin the celebration of Canadian’s fourth State Championship.

The 2015 Wildcats have finished one of the most dominate seasons played by a 2A team in history, lining up and winning over 16 teams, at least 6 times pulling key starters after the first half. Canadian scored 820 points this season giving up 131 points. An average of 51.25 points scored per game and 8.19 points given up by defense per game for the season. Van Harris of the Harris Rating system, said the closest team he has ever rated next to the 2015 Wildcats was the 2012 Munday team at 231. This year, Harris, who only ranks through the regular season, ranked Canadian at 245. The highest ranking for a 2A/1A 11-man team since Harris’ father John started the system in 1963.

Key players, such as QB Tanner Schafer, ended his season with 4,053 yards passing with 292 completions on 377 attempts (a 77% completion rate), 49 TDs, and incredibly only 2 INTs. RB Chance Cook finished the season with 223 carries for 2,110 yards (9.5 YPC), and 32 TDs. WR Cameron Copley totaled 1,409 yards on 85 catches and 23 TDs, plus 6 defensive INTs.

Refugio’s QB  Jaylon Mascorro finishes the season with 4,238 yards passing. He had 80 yards rushing and 183 yards passing in the Championship game, but was sacked by Canadian’s defense 8 times and had 4 INTs.

There is no doubt that the stats, which validates the dominance of the entire schedule which included 3A and 4A teams as with the other teams in Class 2A will cause research and debate for years to come as the 2015 Canadian Wildcats will be compared with the very best teams that ever played Texas High School Football… not just Class 2A.

By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent

@CHSWildcatNews on Twitter

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#5 Crawford is Devastated by #1 Canadian 61-14 in Class 2ADI Semi-Final

WICHITA FALLS, TX – Even if the Crawford coaching staff had decided to use the same strategy that Stratford used to limit Canadian’s scoring to one TD in the first half two weeks ago, it still wouldn’t have worked. The Pirates were held to only 26 yards total offense in the first half with no first downs. Stratford, to their credit, proved that a team must at least be able to make first downs to burn the clock and keep the ball out of the possession of what has to be the fastest paced offense in Texas High School football.

It must have been shock and awe for undefeated Crawford, now 14-1, fielding a defense that hasn’t given up more than 20 points per game all season to look up at a scoreboard that said Wildcats – 42, Pirates – 0 going in at the break. The 47 point deficit left by the final score of 61-14 was the largest point spread of any class of 11-man Texas High School Football Semi-Final this season. Next to that was a 36 point deficit in a 4ADI match. And Crawford’s RB Max Viladevall kept that deficit from being 54 points by scoring on a one yard run (Foss PAT) with only 11 seconds left in the game.

Crawford Head Coach Delbert Kelm admitted to what a number of opposing coaches that prepared for the Wildcats this year have noted, that being the fast-to-line-up-quick-snapping offense led by QB Tanner Schafer (29 for 34, 316 yards, 2 TDs) cannot be imitated in practice. Therefore, many defenses get a true feel for what’s coming at them far too late in the game, not to mention the physical conditioning the Canadian offense displays to maintain the blistering pace; a pace that causes many defenses to be “sucking wind” before the end of the first half. That advantage combined with the ability to give little or no time for the defense to line up and read formations can easily create a snowball effect of scoring on short field situations handed to them by the tough Wildcat defense. Through the playoffs, Canadian has outscored their opponents in the first half by 214 to 8.

Canadian received the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive 75 yards in 10 plays, topped off with a scrambling Schafer hitting WR Sawyer Cook in the back of the end zone from the 14 yard line for the first score of the game with 9:28 left in the first quarter. The kickoff to Crawford was followed by a 3-and-out forced by the Wildcat defense. Taking over on their own 35 yard line, the Wildcats ripped off a 49 yard screen pass form Schafer to WR Ryan Royse (8 for 119 yards) to the Crawford 16 yard line. RB Chance Cook (147 yards on 15 carries, 4 TDs) then ran off tackle for 15 yards down to the 1 yard line. First and goal saw Cook push against several Pirate defenders to break the plane of the goal line for the second score with 7:25 left in the first quarter.

All-State kicker, Benigno Heredia (4-for-5 PATs), having kicked most of his kickoffs out of the end zone, hung the kickoff in a 12 mph wind that was received at the 25 yard line and was returned to the Pirate 40 yard line by LB Koby Smith. The drive was ended by a Wildcat stop on a third and two, another 3-and-out.

After Crawford’s punt rolled out of bounds at the Canadian 14 yard line, the Wildcats went to work moving the ball up to their 45 yard line. On the 5th play of the drive Schafer was sacked by DE Cade Johnson on a 3rd and 6 and was forced to punt.

The next offensive series for the Pirates started out with Canadian LB Cade Throgmorton getting a sack on QB Wyatt Griffith by hustling from a block that had him on his knees to get to Griffith’s ankles for a 5 yard loss. Then on 3rd & 13 Griffith was tripped up as he backed away from the center after the snap, ending another drive with a 3-and-out, the frustration building for the Pirates.

Chance Cook fielded the Pirate punt on the 8 yard line and advanced it to the 24, where the Wildcats started a 7 play, 76 yard drive that included another 21 yard gain on a Ryan Royse screen pass and capped with a 3 yard run by Cook.

As the second quarter ended, so did the next possession by Crawford as a bad exchange between Griffith and RB Noah Bleything yielded a fumble recovery by Canadian LB Throgmorton on the Pirate 19 yard line. Four plays later, RB Chance Cook went into the end zone standing up making the score 28-0, Canadian with 11:32 left in the second quarter.

The second period would play out much like the first, with Canadian scoring on two more drives of 67 and 50 yards, Cook would run in another TD from the 1 yard line and Schafer would throw another TD pass to WR Cameron Copley running a slant route from the Pirate 20 yard line.

The second half began with a renewed effort from the Pirate offense taking their first possession and driving 77 yards on 16 plays for the first Pirate score. QB Griffith hit WR Cade Johnson, making a great play on the ball in double coverage by Chance Cook and Manny Ramsey on a flea-flicker from the Canadian 23, setting up a TD run from the 2 yard line by Noah Bleything with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

With half of the third period taken by Crawford, Canadian answered the opening second half scoring effort by the Pirates in three plays taking only 50 seconds off of the clock. The short kickoff to Cameron Copley returned to the Pirate 48 yard line gave the Wildcats another short field to work with. Schafer hit Royse on an 8 yard pass then handed off to Cook on 2nd and 2 for a 36 yard romp to the 4 yard line. Schafer, on first and goal, unable to find an open receiver scrambled to the pylon for the score.

Disaster struck the Pirate offense once again when Griffith launched a pass downfield 30 yards to RB Jeff Ward, however, the slightly under-thrown ball was picked off by DB Cameron Copley. Canadian would convert the turnover to points 12 plays later with Schafer executing the quarterback bootleg to perfection from the Crawford 4 yard line for the TD with 11:20 left in the game.

Canadian would convert yet another fumble by Crawford caused by a pitch-out by Griffith to Jeff Ward that Ward couldn’t control. Canadian RB Bailey Urschel would push in the final Wildcat score from the 1 yard line (Douthitt PAT no good) giving the Wildcats a 61-7 lead with 4:25 left in the game.

Crawford’s RB Max Viladevall would score on a one yard run (Foss PAT) with only 11 seconds left in the game, concluding the contest with a final score of 61-14.

This Semi-Final win by Canadian marked the 30th consecutive win by the Wildcats, the longest current win streak in Texas High School football. It is also the career win status for QB Tanner Schafer as a starting QB for Canadian. Schafer will have the opportunity to finish the season with 4,000 yards passing in the Championship game Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in Houston’s NRG Stadium, where the Wildcats will face the Refugio Bobcats for the Texas UIL Class 2ADI State Championship. RB Chance Cook is less than 10 yards away from rushing for 2,000 yards this season and should easily achieve that goal on Thursday morning.

The Wildcats have worked their way through the 2015 season with the same methodical one-game-at-a-time philosophy as they did in the 2014 season and the results have been eye-opening to anyone that follows Texas High School Football. Although it appears that the results have matched the hype, Canadian will not consider their season goal achieved until they successfully defend the State Championship on Thursday. It is expected, and rightfully so, that the Refugio Bobcats will be the toughest opponent Canadian will face this season, creating the perfect atmosphere for a Championship game. As last year, all of the State Championship games will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest and scheduled to be rerun in the weeks to come. Check your local cable or satellite provider for the correct channel assigned to FSSW.

By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent

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#7 Stratford Shutout 31-0 by #1 Canadian In UIL Q-Finals: Region 1 Final

AMARILLO, TX – There’s no question that Stratford’s plan to stay with their tried and true ground game and burn up the clock while keeping the high octane Canadian offense off of the field was a success; for the first half of the game. Unfortunately for the Elks, there would be a second half to play.

Anyone watching Twitter, Facebook, or the mobile score update world as did many of the 7,000 + fans at Dick Bivens stadium this afternoon might have gone into shock to see the Canadian Wildcats had been held to only 7 points in the first half. Perhaps there were even upset alerts sent out far and wide. The Elks have proven to be the most competitive team versus the Wildcats this season even before their well-executed strategic plan to stifle one of the highest scoring Offenses in Class 2A. And stifle them they did; in the first half.

After Canadian’s opening kickoff by Benigno Heredia (4 for 4 PATS, 1 FG) the Stratford offense reeled off a couple of 1st downs with their potent ground game until they were stopped at the Wildcat 38 yard line looking at 4th down. QB Jack McBryde received the long snap for the punt short in order to hit WR Ty Hess on a route to secure a 1st down with the fake punt. The pass was defended by Canadian DB Cameron Copley well enough to cause the incompletion and the Wildcats took possession on downs.

After watching Stratford burn up almost half of the first quarter, the Wildcat offense finally took the field just to suffer a 3-and-out. The Elks took over again and reeled off two more 1st downs before being stopped on the 50 yard line. The speedy fast-to-line-up-quick-snapping Wildcat offense ran two plays before the first quarter ended, making the offensive plays by Canadian in in the first quarter come to a total of five. For the Elks, with one period in the books, their plan was a raving success. However, as the 2nd quarter began, Canadian finished off the 9 play 83 yard drive with an 11 yard TD pass from QB Tanner Schafer (17 for 22, 2 TDs) to WR Manny Ramsey (Heredia PAT good) to light up the scoreboard 7-0 with 10:41 left in the 2nd.

Stratford burned even more of the 10:41 left, but without a score to show for it. The last offensive series for Canadian was made up of  six plays and a 1st down, ending the half with a hook-and-ladder play that was stopped on the Elk 31 yard line, Canadian driving hard and fast for another score, but was denied the time to find the end zone. With the first half in the books Stratford had done what no other team in two seasons has been able to; sidelining Canadian’s NASCAR offense long enough and harassing them just enough defensively to hold them to only one score in the first half.

Of course, everyone in the Panhandle was interested in what was being said in the locker-rooms at halftime. QB Tanner Schafer recalls, “Going in at halftime and only having scored 7 points from the offensive standpoint was not what we expected. We have one of the best defenses in the state, and they showed that this afternoon.” Schafer went on to say, “At halftime we fixed a couple of things we didn’t expect them to do and came out with new plays that helped us out a bunch. Defense wins games and they proved that today.”

The second half opened with Canadian receiving the kickoff, driving 75 yards on 13 plays to push the score to 14-0. RB Chance Cook (191 yards rushing on 24 carries, 2 TDs) displayed both power and speed with punishing run plays on the drive, one for 16 yards and another for 22 yards. Schafer also delivered WR Manny Ramsey a pass for 16 yards and WR Sawyer Cook hauled in a reception for 8 yards on the same drive. The Canadian O-line finally made it possible for Cook to walk into the end zone from the 1 yard line for the TD exactly where he had been upended on a big hit earlier by Elks DB Fernando Jacquez.

On the second play of Stratford’s next drive, a slightly under-thrown pass from QB Jack McBryde to RB Fernando Jacquez was intercepted by Wildcat LB Sawyer Cook and returned to the Elk  19 yard line, but was spotted at the 32 yard line due to a penalty. The Elks held off the Wildcats converting the turnover into a TD, however, All-State kicker Benigno Heredia was able to punch a 35 yard FG through the uprights against a gusting 15 mph wind making the score 17-0 with 4:45 left in the 3rd quarter.

The ensuing drive the Elks put together had made it to the Canadian 33 yard line until the next play when McBryde was sacked by LB Cade Throgmorton (returning from a knee injury) for a 10 yard loss. McBryde proceeded to make up for the yards lost by hitting WR Ty Hess on a beautiful out pattern to bring up a 4th and 2, which they couldn’t convert and turned over the ball on downs.

The Wildcat NASCAR offense then cranked out a 9 play 65 yard scoring drive with a mixture of pass/run calls against a tiring, but very determined Elk defense. RB Chance Cook’s number was called for his second TD, going in standing up from the 2 yard line with 9:57 left in the 4th.

This game was without question the most physical played by either team all season. WR/LB Sawyer Cook reflected on matching up with a team known for hard hitting like Stratford. “I believe the preparation throughout the week led us to being the more physical team throughout the game. The game was won in the trenches on both sides of the ball.” Cook’s first cousin, DE Cooper Trolinger, added that there’s a very strong team brotherhood component involved:  “We went in at half and fixed some things and came out and were physical. We play as a team and have each other’s backs.”

The Elks next drive began with McBryde being sacked by DE Cory Chidester for an 11 yard loss and ended with a shanked punt that setup the Wildcats on the Stratford 34 yard line.

The momentum Canadian’s offense had regained with the supersonic tempo that is a normal day at the office for them, took full advantage of the short field left by the shanked punt and scored on the 4th play in just a couple of minutes. RB Cooper Trolinger received a 5 yard pass from Schafer out in the flat, and then powered his way through Elk LB John McBroom for the TD near the pylon with 6:49 left in the game, 31-0 Canadian.

On their last possession, the Stratford offense appeared to be devastated by one of the the stingiest defenses in Class 2A and had only 107 total yards until the last play of the game, a 32 yard run by RB Kevin Hernandez. Canadian finished with 408 total yards compared to Stratford’s 139.

The win by Canadian places them in the State Semi-Final with the Region 2 Champions, the Crawford Pirates (14-0) scheduled for Friday, December 11th, 7:30 p.m., at Wichita Falls Memorial Stadium. Completing the Final Four teams in Class 2ADI is the Semi-Final match between Lovelady (14-0) and Refugio (12-2). The State Championship will be played at Houston’s NRG Stadium, at 10:00 a.m., December 17th.

By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent

@CHSWildcatNews on Twitter

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#1 Canadian to meet District Rival Stratford Elks in Quarter-Finals

AMARILLO, TX – After the wait from Thanksgiving evening until Monday evening for confirmation of the next opponent Canadian will face in the Quarter-Final round (Regional Final), the Wildcats now know the Stratford Elks will get a second shot at Canadian by winning the Regional round against Wellington, 42-8.

 Texas UIL rules require a five day span between games; making a Saturday game the earliest the next playoff game for the Elks can be scheduled. That schedule, will be Saturday, November 5th, 2:00 P.M at Dick Bivens Stadium in Amarillo for Stratford and Canadian to square off again this season.

 The Elks were expected to be in this position from the start of the season. Taking on the Wildcats in their own house was a standing room only affair on October 23th, but the rivalry showdown didn’t quite materialize with Canadian not allowing a score by Stratford until the second half. Even though the Elks held the Wildcats to a field goal in the second half, the 28 points Canadian lit up on their side of the scoreboard in the first half became the spoiler alert for the game-of-the-week that never was.

 The major factor that hasn’t gone anywhere in this matchup is the motivation that continues to build for the Elks, especially as they advance into the playoff season improving with each week and each win. Stratford does not envision going to the same movie they saw last season as the Wildcats took them down 51-35 in conference play then humbled the Elks once again in the Regional round with a 34-0 shutout. It appears the Wildcats have collected their payback and more for the 2012 loss to the Elks (13-12) and the next year (2013) having the Elks take another game by only 1point, 22-21 at Canadian.

 Stratford was favored in the Regional round game against Wellington, and certainly took care of business with a turnover plagued Skyrocket squad. Elk LB Tanner Stone got the ball rolling, so-to-speak, when Wellington had driven all the way down to the Stratford 3 yard line and with a 4th down try for the end zone, Stone saw a chance to strip the ball of RB Jose Tellez and took it 97 yards for a TD. The Elks would go on to score 28 points on 5 Rocket turnovers.

 QB Jack McBryde even made some people rub their eyes in disbelief that they were watching a Stratford offense by throwing 4 TD passes in the same game. He went 5 for 10 and 139 yards with 1 INT. You can just hear old Elk alums now, “Say it ain’t so! Where’s our ground and pound?” You’ve entered the Twilight Zone whenever the Elks pass for 139 yards and rush for 118, but that’s what they did against Wellington Monday night.

 But will all of this be enough when lining up against a defense that allows only 7.4 points per game and an offense averaging 53.3 points per game? As much as the Elks have improved since they met last in October, the Wildcats also keep improving.

 Elks QB Jack McBryde and his offensive line can’t ignore the fact that the Wildcats 3-man defensive front account for 24 sacks this season alone, then add to that the linebacker and DB blitzes chalking up 20 more sacks. When all of the havoc created by a vicious pass rush isn’t enough, the DBs will be happy to add to their 15 interceptions this season.

 Then there’s the fast-to-line-up-quick-snapping NASCAR offense that has also been improving; and unlike the game in October played on a semi-slick rain soaked natural turf at Stratford, this Saturday, in comparison, they’ll be on a race track at Dick Bivins Stadium on Field Turf. Canadian QB Tanner Schafer has reached 3,332 yards of passing. That kind of yardage doesn’t materialize without some very capable receivers like Cameron Copley, Manny Ramsey, Ryan Royse, and Sawyer Cook. If that’s not enough to keep the Elks busy in the film room, they’ll be working on a plan to stop Chance Cook, the premier running back in Class 2A that just happens to take handoffs from Schafer and finds huge holes opened up by his offensive line to the tune of almost 1,700 yards this season.

 As is always the case, with the kickoff of the pigskin next Saturday afternoon both teams will be starting at zero. All of the talking and writing and predicting will mean very little in that moment. The only thing that will matter is what the point totals on the scoreboard say when the final buzzer sounds.

 By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent

 @CHSWildcatNews on Twitter

 “Canadian Wildcats & Lady Cats Update & Review” on Facebook

 

 

Anson Tigers Ready to Challenge #1 Canadian in Regional Round in Rare Thanksgiving Day Game

The Canadian Wildcats (12-0) will meet the Anson Tigers (6-5) in the third round, Regional Championship game on Thursday, November 26th, 2:00 p.m., at Plainview’s Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium. The rare high school Thanksgiving Day game came about due to a reschedule of the original Friday schedule, which had been put in jeopardy by the  possibility of dangerous road conditions. Although Canadian usually experiences more games in a season below 40* than most teams south of Lubbock, neither team has played in significantly bad weather this season. One predicted forecast timeline has a 50% chance of showers and 66* at game time.

Anson enters the contest with a fresh recharge of confidence with impressive wins in the Bi-District and Area rounds of the playoffs, defeating Christoval 44-6 in Bi-District round and outscoring Panhandle in last week’s Area round 37-29. The only opponent Anson can compare with Canadian is Panhandle, which had a 56-7 loss to the Wildcats in District play.

The Tigers are also known for running a fast paced offense and have skill players ready to pitch and catch on Canadian with any snap of the ball. In the Christoval game WR Israel Aguirre (603 yards rec on the year) went 5-for-112 yards with 4 TDs and added a fifth TD rushing as a scatback. QB Cade Baker, who delivered those TD passes has 2,283 yards passing this season with a completion rate of 57.7% and leads the team with 712 yards rushing. RBs Dustin Moore and Nicholas Tanner have contributed almost 600 rushing yards each this season.

On the Canadian offensive side, production from QB Tanner Schafer has reached 3,063 yards of passing completing 218 of 282, or 77%. Most of the passing yards are divided up between WR Cameron Copley (1,219 yards, 19 TDs), WR Sawyer Cook (735 Yards, 11 TDs), WR Manny Ramsey (407 Yards, 4 TDs) and WR Ryan Royse (351 yards, 3 TDs). From his RB position, Chance Cook has tallied 314 yards receiving and 4 TDs. The Wildcat offensive line has opened up defenses for a bona fide rushing attack that has turned RB Chance Cook loose for 1,522 yards on 156 carries. All of these yards and TDs translate into a 50.8 point per game average.

As in all playoff or Championship games, defense will play a major role in the success of the winning team. Not only will Anson be faced with cutting that 50 point-per-game average of Canadian in half to stay in the game, but will also will need to have a plan to crack the Wildcat defense that only allows a little over 6 points per game. 

Anson is riding a wave of wins and doesn’t want to waste their opportunity to dethrone the defending State Champions in Class 2ADI; and what better day to do it than on Thanksgiving Day? The only thing missing will be John Madden and a six legged turkey after the game for the winners, but advancing to the next playoff round will be celebration enough for either team.

Next week the winner will face either Wellington or Stratford, the remaining District 1-2A contenders along with Canadian, in the Quarter-final (Regional Final) round. This sets up a possible repeat of last season’s Regional final with District rivals Stratford and Canadian.

 By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent

 @CHSWildcatNews on Twitter

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