Every time South Kitsap’s football players walk into the locker room, they see reminders — of what the program once was, and what it could be again.
Giant gold-colored letters spelling out “1994 state champions” tower high about the benches. And now 20 years later — coming of just their third losing season since 1977 — the Wolves are hoping to add to that display.
And they think they have the offensive backfield to get it restarted.
Senior quarterback Cooper Canton and running back Marshaud DeWalt are heading into this season as second-year starters. Both are the type of players who can really change the program’s recent misfortunes, and turn the 4A Narrows League upside down.
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“If we work as hard as that (1994) team, or do things the way they did … we can do anything,” DeWalt said.
Third-year coach Eric Canton — the quarterback’s father and former offensive coordinator — acknowledged that his team is young and inexperienced, but that the chemistry and belief the seniors provide can offset some of that.
“That can take you a long way,” Eric Canton said, “as long as you believe.”
Cooper Canton and DeWalt have been playing together since seventh grade.
What they’ve accomplished has come out of the same underdog status; the quarterback has had to fight the stigma of being the coach’s son, and the running back has battled through family instability.
“Cooper makes good decisions, and he’s not selfish. He doesn’t have to throw the ball 35 times a game to be happy,” Eric Canton said. “He understands Marshaud is a pretty impressive weapon, and that it’s pretty fun standing back and watching (him run).”
Cooper Canton was effusive in his praise of DeWalt, a 5-foot-5, 255-pound bruiser who rushed for 591 yards and a team-high 12 touchdowns on 85 carries last season.
DeWalt, who also holds three of the school’s weightlifting records, was named the most valuable player of the running back group at this summer’s Eastern Washington University camp.
“Teams know who he is, but they can’t stop him,” Cooper Canton said. “He runs them over. He’s a bowling ball.”
DeWalt just considers what he does part of an honest day’s work.
“It’s always great to go out there and do my thing, and show people it doesn’t matter what size you are,” DeWalt said.
Cooper Canton, 5-11 and 175, completed 98 of 180 passes for 1,414 yards, 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season in his first taste of full-time duty.
“I’m not like most football players — I don’t like to hit,” said Cooper Canton, who is an aspiring pilot. “But the best feeling in the world is finally getting a touchdown pass after a long drive.”
On the eve of the 20-year anniversary, Eric Canton said he’s received inquiries from players on the 1994 state championship squad about how good this upcoming team will be.
The coach said both groups are “eerily similar.”
“I don’t think people are thinking we’re going to do a lot of things — a middle-of- the-pack finish — and that was kind of what (the 1994 team) was dealing with.
“It gives me something to relate to this team, that we’ve been here before.”