WPIAL Football Team of the Week: Week 4
Monday, September 23, 2019 | 5:03 PM
After making the playoffs in 2018 for the first time in a decade, the 2019 campaign was slipping away from Canon McMillan.
They were 0-4, 0-3 in Class 6A and had been outscored 172-44.
They also had played their last two games without head coach Mike Evans, who had been suspended by the school district for a locker room incident.
After a show of support from the team at a school board meeting last week, Evans was reinstated on Friday, just in time to drive to Hempfield to join his team at halftime.
“I definitely felt a boost of energy from (the players). They attacked me along with most of the coaches,” Evans said. “It was a moment I will remember, but I’m more excited that we won the game.
“I told the team that I was sorry I was out. I thanked them for their support and said we can talk about that later and that we had a game to win.”
The Big Macs responded with a 21-12 triumph over the host Spartans to move into a tie with Hempfield for sixth place in Class 6A, a classification that takes six teams to the postseason.
The victory was a must for a return trip to the playoffs for Canon McMillan.
“I think that goes without saying when you start 0-3 in your league,” Evans said. “We are still in a hole and have a lot of work to do in an unforgiving league.”
The Big Macs allowed bookend scores for Hempfield in the first and fourth quarters while scoring themselves three times in between. Evans said he thought the play of his defense was a big part of securing the team’s first win of the season.
“Our kids were focused all week from what I was told,” he said. “We are young and we make mistakes, but that bodes well for the future. Our kids are figuring it out, some ahead of schedule, which helped us win this game.
“Maybe my presence provided an emotional boost, but I was leaning hard on the staff and just stayed out of the way.”
On offense, the Big Macs were sparked by senior quarterback Jon Quinque, who connected on 12 of 19 passes for 191 yards and three long touchdowns, two to Blake Joseph and one to David Mowod.
“When JQ is playing well, it’s because his feet are right and he knows where his hots are and executes,” Evans said. “He is an intelligent kid who is a quiet leader. He usually makes good decisions with the ball and is very accurate in the intermediate throwing game. He is a great kid who takes care of himself academically and socially as well.”
Canon McMillan has two tall tasks the next two weeks with games against undefeated Peters Township and Pine-Richland.
However, if they can beat both Norwin and Butler (both winless in 6A) in two of the final three weeks of the regular season, the Big Macs and their head coach will be returning to the postseason.
“We need to continue to get healthy. (If so,) the defense will continue to improve like they have. I am concerned about the turnovers on the offensive side. Turnovers and average starting field position are the two largest factors in giving us a chance to win.”
Now that he’s back, does Evans believe things will quickly return to normal?
“Because the coaches did a nice job without me there, I realize there may have been some adjusting and so forth, but I think it will be business as usual,” he said.
“I know I will really enjoy this week and really appreciate the opportunity to get back to the only thing I have ever done, coach.”
Past HSSN teams of the week:
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