Canon-McMillan leaning on seniors for breakout season in Class 6A

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Monday, August 7, 2023 | 7:43 PM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 25.

Canon-McMillan is nearing the end of the Evans era. Not the head coach, the quarterback.

In the two years since taking over as Big Macs quarterback, Michael Evans has passed for more than 3,000 yards and has thrown 31 touchdown passes. More importantly, he has led Canon-McMillan to back-to-back playoff appearances.

“He has steadily improved from year to year, so we anticipate that to happen again as a senior, especially now working every day with (former Keystone Oaks head coach and QB guru) Greg Perry on the staff,” the elder Mike Evans said of his son. “He has a strong arm and can make all of the throws and make them from the field. I know he is really working on his accuracy and overall conditioning.”

Evans hopes his seniors can cap off their scholastic careers with the program’s first playoff win in nearly two decades. In Class 6A with only five district teams, one playoff win secures a spot in the WPIAL championship game.

“We were pleased with the growth of the program,” Evans said. “We fell eight points short of the WPIAL finals and that missed opportunity will never leave our coaching staff. It is the driving force behind everything we have done in the offseason.

“The feeling is that we had a good year — 5-5 with a playoff loss is not a good year. Many good things, yes — victories against some very good programs, but we are done celebrating close losses to top programs. It’s important to see the little victories and to notice the growth. It’s important for the kids to see that the ship is sailing in the right direction and there is tangible evidence of this program competing and getting better. Last year gave the players on this team more reason to believe than they have had in a while. They are confident and with good reason.”

Canon-McMillan returns five starters on both offense and defense, but Evans mentioned there are a lot of players back who may not have started last season, but saw plenty of playing time.

Besides Michael Evans at quarterback, other players expected to play big roles for the Big Macs include senior running back, wide receiver and cornerback Zyan Howard; sophomore wide receiver, running back and safety Marco Faieta; junior wide receiver and safety Bradyn Matto and senior running back Zach Welsh.

“Zyan is versatile and fluid, with great hands. He showed tons of toughness last year,” Evans said. “He’s an outstanding team guy. Like Zyan, Marco is an extremely versatile player. Coming off an eye-opening freshman season we look to expand his role to both sides of the ball.

“Bradyn has great hands and size (6-foot-3). We feel Bradyn could be a breakout player and one of the better receivers in the league. We’re looking for Zach to take a bunch of carries. He is thick and will run low to the ground. He’s a tough kid with speed and outstanding receiving skills.”

The line will be a strong point for Canon-McMillan with the return of senior defensive end and tight end Kaeden Singleton, a Delaware recruit, as well as senior tackle Liam Reamer, junior center and defensive lineman Matt McMahon and senior lineman Mason Williams.

“It may be selfish, but I’m excited to coach the offensive line fulltime,” Evans said. “Greg Perry is now our offensive coordinator, and he is running the show. I’m excited to go through the season with this group and this coaching staff.”

Evans calls senior Geno Calgaro one of the most dominant linebackers in the WPIAL.

“He has an outstanding combination of strength and speed,” he said.

Others to watch include junior Isaiah Hicks, along with seniors Roger Walton and Tyler Armstead.

“I’m always concerned that camp isn’t long enough and that 4-5 days in full pads isn’t enough time before scrimmage one,” Evans said. “Week Zero has killed camp; I will never vote for week zero again. We have to come together as a team. Everything is individual anymore; we are trying to get a shoulder-to-shoulder type mentality going with these kids. I will tell you, if you play football here, you need to be a team guy. If you are all about yourself, this program will change you quickly.”

Canon-McMillan

Coach: Mike Evans

2022 record: 5-6, 1-3, in Class 6A

All-time record: 392-534-43

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.25, at Penn-Trafford, 7

9.1, at North Allegheny*, 7:30

9.8, Seneca Valley*, 7

9.15, at Bethel Park, 7

9.22, South Fayette, 7

9.29, at Central Catholic*, 7^

10.6, Baldwin, 7

10.13, Upper St. Clair, 7

10.20, at Peters Township, 7

10.27, Mt. Lebanon*, 7

*Conference game

^At Carnegie Mellon

STAT LEADERS

Passing: Michael Evans

102-206, 1,448 yards, 18 TDs

Rushing: Jake Kasper*

213-1,404 yards, 10 TDs

Receiving: Austyn Winkleblech*

46-811 yards, 14 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Mike Evans begins his ninth season as head coach at Canon-McMillan after assistant coaching stints at Saginaw Valley State University and Cal (Pa.).

• Since the expansion to six classifications in 2016, Canon-McMillan is a combined 2-23 against the four other Class 6A teams in regular and postseason games: Central Catholic (0-5), North Allegheny (0-8), Mt. Lebanon (1-7) and Seneca Valley (1-4). The lone win in 6A last season was an early-season upset of Seneca Valley that eventually led the Big Macs to the WPIAL playoffs for the second year in a row and the fourth time in the last five seasons.

• After losing 7-0 to North Allegheny in the 6A semifinals last year, Canon-McMillan’s all-time WPIAL playoff record dropped to 1-12-1. The program’s only district postseason victory came nearly 20 years ago when the Big Macs blanked Belle Vernon in a 2004 Class AAA first round game. They have lost seven in a row since. The lone tie came in the very first playoff game and the school’s lone football championship. Canonsburg and New Brighton played to a 12-12 tie in the 1950 Class AA finals. In the days before overtime, both schools were declared co-champions.

• This is the 117th season of Canon-McMillan football, including preceding schools in the district. The Big Macs have an all-time record of 392-534-43.

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