Canon-McMillan must make up for loss of more than 20 graduates

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Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 1:51 PM


Almost on a daily basis, Canon-Millan coach Mike Evans will get stopped by people and asked the big question.

“People ask me every day who do I have coming back,” said Evans, who is entering his fifth season as the Big Macs coach. “I say, ‘I have two people coming back that caught a ball last year.’

“We have so many young players. They’re talented. They just need experience. We just got to find out what their learning curves are, and we’ll try to shorten that the best we can.”

If Canon-Mac (4-5, 3-5) was a Class A program, the Big Macs would have lost the equivalent to an entire team. Graduation led to an exodus of more than 20 players. That’s a lot of players and leadership that pushed the Big Macs to a sixth-place finish in the WPIAL Class 6A, earning the No. 6 seed in the postseason bracket.

The Big Macs closed the gap from an early-season 43-29 loss to Mt. Lebanon. Canon-Mac had the Blue Devils on the ropes, leading at the half before Mt. Lebanon scored 21 points in the third quarter to pull out a 38-31 win in opening round.

“You have to learn how to play in those games,” Evans said. “The last four years, the kids have gone from not winning any games to winning games. We’re starting to beat the people that we haven’t beaten, and now we want to start wining playoff games.”

This year’s team is short on seniors. The bulk of the roster comprises juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

“We have a core (group),” Evans said. “We have, for whatever reason, a small senior class of only nine. They’re kids I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

On paper, the loss of so many players could prove devastating for a program, but the Big Macs return the nuts and bolts of their offense: four out of five linemen and quarterback Jon Quinque. Quinque threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason loss to Mt. Lebanon. With a veteran offensive line, Quinque is the steady hand the offense needs while the rest of the unit catches up.

“He has a really good pocket presence,” Evans said. “His arm strength is growing every year. We’re excited about it.”

The holes in the Big Macs offense are at the skill positions. Evans lost four running backs and his top four receivers from a year ago. The Big Macs will be a question mark for opposing defenses early in the season.

Evans is high on sophomore running back Ryan Angott. Juniors David Mowod and Isaiah Chandler bring different running styles and will get opportunities.

“Angott looked good in the scrimmages,” Evans said. “We’re excited about David Mowod. He got some speed and is a hardworking kid, and Isaiah Chandler is fast and shifty.”

Senior Joseph Blake will get the nod as the slot receiver, and senior Colton Irwin will move around the formation from tight end to wide receiver and even fullback. Outside of Blake and Irwin, there’s still a battle a for the starting wide receiver spots.

“We got a couple of young guys with a lot of speed and good hands,” Blake said. “Most of us are putting in the work. We know that the young kids are going to play a lot, and we’re trying to help them learn as fast as they can.”

Evans will deploy a 4-2-5 as the Big Macs base defense and, on occasion, switch to a 3-4.

The Big Macs are set on defense, with the exception being in the secondary, where there are holes that will be plugged by youthful and inexperienced players. Blake is in the mix for one of the cornerback spots but could end up at safety. Senior Caleb Rancher and Junior Akili Sutton, among others, are expected to battle for the starting cornerback spots.

The Big Macs travel to Thomas Jefferson for a Week Zero matchup before playing back-to-back home games against Mt. Lebanon and Seneca Valley to open conference play.

“I know this: We know that we’re gonna have our work cut out for us every Friday night,” Evans said.

Schedule

Coach: Mike Evans

2018 record: 4-6, 3-5

All-time record: 377-513-43

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, at Thomas Jefferson, 7:30

8.30, Mt. Lebanon*, 7

9.6, Seneca Valley*, 7

9.13, at North Allegheny*, 7:30

9.20, at Hempfield*, 7

9.27, Peters Township, 7

10.4, at Pine-Richland*, 7

10.11, Norwin*, 7

10.18, at Central Catholic*+, 7:30

10.25, Butler*, 7

*Class 6A Conference game

+At Shaler

Statistical leaders

Passing: Jon Quinque

112-190, 1,353 yards, 11 TDs

Receiving: Drew Engel*

38-530 yards, 12 TDs

Rushing: Joshua O’Hare*

136-1,111 yards, 11 TDs

*Graduated

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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