The Canton-Galva Eagles hope a new coach will breathe new life into the football program in 2012.
“We’re taking over a program that has seen little success in recent years,” said Jeff Savage, a Montana native and veteran coach.
Savage coached most recently at Central High School at Burden after coming to Kansas five years ago. He was 17-7 in three seasons there.
“They had one winning season in 23 years when we got there,” Savage said. “We were fortunate to get things turned around there. We won the district championship the three years we were there.”
Central also broke several national records in eight-man football, relying heavily on the passing game.
But Savage faces an uphill climb if he hopes to see the Eagles soar to a similar reversal in upcoming seasons after a 2-7 mark last season in eight-man play.
“We lost the majority of starters from last year, a lot of seniors graduated,” Savage said.
Canton-Galva’s only senior this season is a transfer from another school; nearly half of the 22-player roster are freshmen.
“They are young and very green, but they are working extremely hard,” Savage said. “It’s one of the few teams I can look across the board and say, ‘We have a lot of kids who are thinkers and intelligent,’ and when you have kids like that, they don’t make mistakes.”
The young Eagles will rely heavily on their junior class, which brings size as well as some experience to the table.
Heading the list are Kaden Litrell, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior who will anchor the offensive and defensive lines, and Trevor?Unruh, who is 6-2 and 210.
“Those are good-sized kids and they’re intelligent kids, so that’s very good,” Savage said.
Added to the mix is the coach’s son, Cody, a junior who will be coming in at quarterback.
Coach Savage said he has a few underclassmen who will probably see significant playing time.
“When you have to play freshmen, that’s never a good situation,” he said. “But these freshmen are probably capable of getting out there.”
The new Eagle squad will still rely heavily on the passing game, Savage said, though not as much as his team did at Central High.
“I think the fans are really going to enjoy our style of ball,” he said. “We’re going to run a no-huddle offense, so that’s always fun to see. When you throw the ball, I think that brings some excitement.”
They’re going to need that spark as Canton-Galva battles for wins in a schedule Savage described as “brutal.”
It includes football powers Quivera Heights, Claflin and Lincoln, all of whom have won district in recent years. Little River will also be a formidable opponent that returns most of its offense.
“It makes for an extremely difficult district to win games in, so it’ll be a challenge,” Savage said. “You don’t want to beat yourself in the game of football. More often you beat yourself than the other guy beats you.
“If we can line up correctly, do the assignment correctly, we’re going to have a chance.”
Canton-Galva opens the season Friday with a 7 p.m. game at Central Christian in Hutchinson.