CANTON, Okla. — Second-year coach Jeremy Brashears is seeing progress as he tries to build a program at Canton, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 when the Tigers reached the state finals.
Canton’s success a year ago can’t be necessarily be measured in the win-loss column.
The Tigers went 2-8, but that doubled the number of wins Canton had in the previous three seasons (1-9, 0-10, 0-10). Canton went from being mercy-ruled seven times to four times — three of those coming against state champion Shattuck (54-8), state quarterfinalist Laverne (66-16) and Class C semifinalist Buffalo (48-0).
Canton scored 232 points, more than 100 points than it scored in 2017. It had wins over Geary, 34-0 and Kremlin-Hillsdale, 44-8 and were competitive with the two other playoff teams in B-1 (Seiling, 44-20) and Turpin (44-28).
“Success can’t always be measured on the scoreboard,’’ Brashears said. “We were in a lot of those games. We showed a lot of improvement offensively. I think we’re making a lot of head way.’’
Canton lost only three seniors from that team — lineman Morgan Murray, lineman Charley Moldrup and wide receiver-defensive back Deonte Murray.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,’’ Brashears said. “We’ll see what happens. The boys are working hard and we’re optimistic. We have high expectations.’’
Brashears was Canton’s third head coach in as many years last fall. He feels more comfortable now.
“It’s always easier the second year,’’ he said. “Every year is easier than the first year. They are doing what I want them to do. We were starting from ground zero but now we have a system in place and you don’t have to rebuild everything. I hope the culture is changing. I think it is.’’
The summer pride numbers were up from last year. Brashears said work ethic was his team’s biggest strength.
“I think the kids are just working hard,’’ he said. “That will pay off at some point. The attention has been good.’’
Canton’s offense should be better with the return of quarterback Claysen Scott, running backs Trevor Ross and Josh Edwards, tight end Seth Bromlow and linemen Caden Koehn and Nate Lang.
Scott passed for 800 yards and ran for another 302 yards last season as a junior.
“Claysen has the ability to pass the ball,’’ Brashears said. “We like to open up more on offense. Our incompletion percentage was way too high last season. We are working to get better on that.’’
Edwards, a 165-pound senior, ran for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Ross, a 175-pound junior, ran for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Josh is a good open field runner,’’ Brashears said. “We would like to get him out in space where he can use his speed. Ross is a good inside runner. He’s a typical fullback. He does a good job blocking.’’
Bromlow, a 170-pound junior, has shown improvement from last year.
“He’s a good, hard-nosed player,’’ Brashears said. “His motor goes all of the time and that helps.’’
Weston Waldrep, a 170-pound junior and Jake Sinclair, a 175-pound junior, are projected as the other starting receivers.
Koehn, a 210-pound junior and Lang, a 215-pound senior, will be joined by either Johnie Burton, a 185-pound sophomore or Beau Fuqua, a 270-pound junior on the offensive line. Moldrup’s maturity and leadership will be missed here. Burton is a converted fullback.
“Losing Charley definitely hurts, but I think we will be OK there,’’ Brashears said. “Everyone has played before. Caden and Nate have been standing out. Johnie Burton was a good blocker as a fullback. I think of all the kids have progressed, but we’ll find out how much better they are once the season starts.’’
Canton will be looking to improve a defense which allowed 40.6 points per game.
Ross, a linebacker and Edwards, a cornerback, should be the leaders of the unit.
Fuqua, Koehn, Lang and Sinclair are projected starters in the line. Bromlow joins Ross at linebacker. Waldrep and Scott are expected to join Edwards in the secondary.
“We have put a lot of focus on defense,’’ Brashears said. “We have to hook it up a little better. We have to be better all the way around, but being a year older should help.’’
Brashears admits his job is more difficult being in what he called “one of the toughest districts in any class.’’
“No doubt it makes it tougher,’’ he said. “It’s always been a tough district. How many times have three or four teams from B-1 made it to the semifinals? I expect it this year to be as tough as ever, but it’s something that we have to live with.
“To them (Canton players) it’s just playing football. They don’t know anything different. They have always played against those guys in district. We just have to keep playing.’’
Canton opens the season Aug. 30 at home against Mountain View-Gotebo.