Canon-McMillan looks to join elite in shrinking Class 6A

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Monday, August 8, 2022 | 12:01 AM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 26.

Canon-McMillan football coach Michael Evans is not a math wizard. However, he seems to have a grasp on the numbers breakdown in Class 6A this season.

“Lebo, Seneca, Central and NA are all proven teams with recent championship history,” Evans said. “Canon-McMillan has an opportunity of a lifetime to prove we belong. I love it.”

Canon-McMillan finished 4-7 overall last season but won the fifth-place tiebreaker and earned a spot in the Class 6A quarterfinals. The Big Macs lost to North Allegheny, 49-26.

It marked the third time in four years Canon-McMillan earned a 6A playoff berth. Not bad for a program that went nine years without a postseason game from 2009-2017.

“Last season was a tough one for me personally. I will remember just really enjoying coaching the kids,” Evans said. “I know we won just four games, but this was one of my favorite teams. I was personally going through some things and these kids were a godsend. I don’t know if I had ever enjoyed or needed coaching more in my life. On the football side of things, we had some highs and lows.”

The Big Macs do have experience with seven starters returning on offense and six back on defense.

“We have had some really good players, but I feel we have as solid a first 25 as we have had here in my time,” Evans said. “Lots of players with higher level school interest. This group has worked hard in the weight room, practice and through the running program all summer. We really like this group, their work ethic, their lack of entitlement, their toughness level.”

Leading the offense again will be 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior quarterback Michael Evans, and the son of Coach Evans who enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign. He hit on 101 of 214 passes for 1,596 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“We have always made a commitment to throwing the ball,” Evans said. “Every starting quarterback we have had has gone on to play college football, so we have always liked to throw the rock. Our philosophy offensively does center around a strong running game. We don’t believe you can win championships without it. With Mikey’s offseason improvements, a strong offensive line returning and a receiving corps led by Austyn Winkleblech, we will certainly throw the ball.”

Other weapons on offense include three senior wide receivers/defensive backs in Austyn Winkleblech, Ben Urso and Treyvon Mullen.

“Austyn is one of the best receivers in the WPIAL with legitimate sub 4.5 speed,” Evans said. “Ben’s transition to wide receiver has gone well and is a key factor this season, and Treyvon has (good hands) and is an aggressive safety.”

Both the offensive and defensive lines return key contributors such as seniors Andrew Kocan and Noah Livesay along with juniors Kaeden Singleton and Liam Reamer.

“Andrew (6-4, 276) is a physical, athletic big man,” Evans said. “Noah (6-2, 265) will transition to center. He is a big, strong, intelligent player. Liam (6-5, 315) has excellent feet and unlimited potential. Kaeden (6-2, 220) is an excellent athlete and pass rusher.”

Livesay feels the when it comes to the interior line, the Big Macs may have a big advantage in many games.

“We average 275 pounds across the board and move very well,” he said. “We are also coached better than any offensive line, as well as the fact everyone is a returning starter. Our running backs are in good hands.”

The Canon-McMillan defense looks to improve after allowing nearly 28 points per game last season. Seniors Austin Hillebrand and Kent McMahon and junior Geon Calgaro with join some of the aforementioned offensive starters to come up big on defense.

“Austin is a returning starter at safety,” Evans said. “Kent is an outstanding playmaker who is physical and has started since his freshmen year. Geno is a very strong, capable linebacker coming of a strong sophomore season.”

Canon-McMillan football has taken some steps forward in recent years. Now the Big Macs hope to make a big step ahead into the top four of Class 6A.

“Making the playoffs was nice, but until we win a playoff game to validate our entry, I’m not sure we will ever feel great about making it by itself,” Evans said. “We have some great programs in our league, we have been really competitive at times, but we have to do a bunch of things better and we are working on that.”

The players are ready to take that next big step.

“We need to do what others aren’t willing to do,” Livesay said. “Work hard, give effort all the time and fly around. This year, our chances against the other teams are better than we’ve had. We may shock the world, but we will not shock ourselves.”

Canon-McMillan

Coach: Mike Evans

2021 record: 4-7, 2-5 in Class 6A

All-time record: 387-528-43

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Penn-Trafford, 7

9.2 North Allegheny*, 7

9.9 at Seneca Valley*, 7

9.16 Bethel Park, 7

9.23 at South Fayette, 7

9.30 Central Catholic*, 7

10.7 at Baldwin, 7

10.14 at Upper St. Clair, 7

10.21 Peters Township, 7

10.28 at Mt. Lebanon*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Michael Evans

101-214, 1,596 yards, 13 TDs

Rushing: Ryan Angott*

162-862, 11 TDs

Receiving: Deuce Lyons*

26-306, 2 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

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

• If the Big Macs are to reach the playoffs again this fall, they will need to buck history big time. Since the expansion to six classifications in 2016, Canon-McMillan is a combined 1-20 against the four other Class 6A teams in regular and postseason games: Central Catholic (0-4), North Allegheny (0-6), Mt. Lebanon (1-6) and Seneca Valley (0-4). The lone win was an incredible come-from-behind victory in which the Big Macs trailed the Blue Devils 17-0 at halftime before scoring the game’s finals 24 points in the second half in Week 2 of the shortened 2020 season.

• After losing to North Allegheny in the 6A quarterfinals, Canon-McMillan’s all-time WPIAL playoff record dropped to 1-11-1. The program’s only district postseason victory came 18 years ago when the Big Macs blanked Belle Vernon, 22-0, in a 2004 Class AAA first-round game. They have lost six 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 116th season of Canon-McMillan football, including preceding schools in the district.

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