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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