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Senioritis: Canyon senior class a tidal wave of leaders


The Canyon Eagles celebrate a win against Pampa earlier this season. [Trevor Fleeman/ Press Pass Sports]

Canyon High football coach Blake Bryant sounds like a recorder on fast forward when the question pops up.

How’s the senior leadership for your Class 4A Division I state semifinalist Eagles?

Name after name after name rolls off the tongue of Bryant, who if he wasn’t cutoff might have reached all the way to the end of the 21 seniors listed on the 2020 Canyon Eagles football roster.

“I think these seniors have completely bought in to being Canyon Eagles in a deeper way than I have ever been around,” Bryant said.

That’s saying a whole lot since Bryant has been around as the Canyon head football coach for 20 years.

While 2020 is a year the world wants to forget in a hurry because of COVID, the Canyon Eagles have put together a season that won’t ever be easy to forget.

Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. the 12-1 Eagles meet undefeated Argyle (14-0) on Anthony Field Wildcats Stadium in Abilene in the 4A DI state semifinals.

The winner advances to the 4A DI state championship game scheduled for AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

To knock off talented Argyle, Bryant knows a strong start and arguably the Eagles best overall game of the season will be needed to pull off the first state semifinal football win in Canyon history.

What Bryant also knows is his seniors are meant for this moment and will see all 48 minutes of the game through because of their bond and leadership.

COVID has been brutal on this world and this area. But every so often a ray of sunshine peeks through and Bryant said COVID is one reason the 2020 Eagles are so bonded.

“I do think the current situation created some of this leadership,” Bryant said. “Because when school closed because of the pandemic they had to do so much on their own. It turned them into leaders and made them close.”

While senior leadership doesn’t catch a touchdown pass, doesn’t make a touchdown-saving tackle, or ever score a point, Bryant said it’s one of the most crucial aspects to any winning team on and off the field.

“To have senior leadership means everything to a football team and a football program,” Bryant said. “There is something every single day when you talk about that leadership showing through that has nothing to do with football. It’s the 98 percent rule. For 98 percent of time we can focus on football and you are going to have a good season. But you naturally start chipping away at that over at time, and without great leadership it can fall apart.”

Canyon senior Jack McKay is a four-year starter for the Eagles and an all-stater at wide receiver. He said of course he and his fellow seniors and younger teammates simply love to play the game of football and that has impacted this season.

But dig deeper into the 2002 Eagles and McKay – mature beyond his years when it comes to expressing himself - said you find young men owning a strong faith all over the lineup.

“Our team is faith led and that has a direct impact on a ton of our guys,” McKay said. “There is a standard of selflessness and a sense of brotherhood, and we have a ton of leaders who have stepped up to ensure that that standard doesn’t change.

“The reason we have so many leaders is because all of those guys live their lives with that same standard of selflessness outside of football. Christ set the example of serving others, and that’s exactly what you see on a day to day basis with our team.

“The coaches, the players and trainers root themselves in serving each other and I think that’s what makes this team special.”

Bryant said the impact of this Canyon senior class will be felt for years to come.

“You can’t measure the impact our youngers players receive by seeing this kind of leadership every day,” Bryant said. “When these freshmen and sophomores are seniors, I promise you we will see the incredible impact these seniors had on our younger players.

“And the thing is it’s not only these guys are our better players and leaders, they are our hardest workers. They are the first one out to practice and the last ones to leave.”

That leadership has been put to the test several times this year starting with the spring individual workouts, a district loss at home to Dumas, and then early in last week’s 17-14 state quarterfinal win over Springtown.

Canyon senior quarterback Jay Defoor went out of the Springtown game early with an injury and wasn’t able to return. In stepped sophomore quarterback Derrek Clements who had thrown four passes this season on the varsity level.

“I can’t explain to you what our sideline was like when Jay came out,” Bryant said. “This senior class I love them and we have graet leaders. But our leader is Jay Defoor. Our players just started playing harder. It was the most unique experiences I’ve ever been around. “

So when Canyon takes the field Friday night, just know they do so with a 12thMan – senior leadership.

It’s those two words – senior leadership – which push Bryant’s speech moved to fast forward.

How’s the senior leadership for your Class 4A Division I state semifinalist Eagles?

“You mean the Jay Defoors, the Jack McKays, the Brody Cooks, the Brody Olsons, the Sam Williams, the Shane Whitworths … you can just go down the list. They just do everything right and they do it without prompting anymore.”

2020 Canyon High Seniors

(Note: Listed alphabetically)

No. Name, Position

3 Brandel Barrett, WR-DB

82 Slade Baumann, WR-DB

84 Dustin Bledsoe, TE-DL

12 Rafe Butcher, WR-DB

9 Catch Brown, WR-DB

17 Nuelly Brown, WR-LB

54 Gabriel Cassles, OL-DL

2 Brody Cook, RB-DB

16 Jay Defoor, QB

5 Grayson Hack, WR-DB

29 Dalton Hale, WR-DB

10 Tommy Inthachack, TE-LB

18 Jack McKay, WR-DB

11 Jett Meek, WR-DB

50 Brody Olson, OL-DL

63 Cash Page, OL-DL

8 Joe Shaw, WR-DB

58 Dylan Whitfill, OL-DL

45 Shane Whitworth, TE-DL

20 Blake Wilhelm, WR-LB

60 Sam Williams, OL-DL

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