Football: Canton hopes experience serves him well

Eric Canton, a 1986 South Kitsap graduate, was hired as the Wolves
Eric Canton, a 1986 South Kitsap graduate, was hired as the Wolves' football coach Thursday. He is just the third person to hold that position since 1974.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

New South Kitsap football coach Eric Canton speaks fondly of his playing days at the school during the mid 1980s.

Canton, who was named D.J. Sigurdson’s successor May 17, said his playing experiences under Ed Fisher (football), Darrell Anderson (basketball) and Elton Goodwin (baseball) were a catalyst toward him becoming a teacher and coach.

“I don’t know if anyone played under three better coaches at the time,” he said.

Canton, who turns 45 next month, wants to deliver a similar experience to the next generation of athletes at South.

“I want my impact to be on kids so they can be better husbands, employees and community members,” he said.

But Canton said winning is an important factor to him. He knows there will be critics of the decision to hire him after he had a 3-24 record during his first coaching experience from 1996-98 at Bremerton High School, but Canton said there were factors people should be cognizant of before making an evaluation.

“I learned how important it is to have good support from building administration,” he said.

Canton also cited the work he put in with the junior-high players during his tenure with the Knights that he said helped them finish with a 5-4 record in 2001. Bremerton did not finish with a winning record again until 2010.

That does not mean Canton felt he performed well in every facet. While he said his players “knew I cared about them,” Canton felt he could have done a better job communicating with them.

“I was a lot more high-strung and not as wise,” he said. “When you’re communicating with your players, you don’t have to rant and rave.”

Canton, who was a punter at the University of Washington, compared his sideline disposition to that of former Huskies’ defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who frequently was seen screaming.

“I don’t know him,” Canton said. “But just watching how he was on the sideline, I probably was a lot like him.”

After serving as an assistant to Sigurdson from 1999 to 2008, Canton moved on to John Sedgwick Junior High, where his son, Cooper, was the quarterback. The younger Canton will be a sophomore this fall.

But Canton said that move was more than about coaching his son. He said Sigurdson wanted to develop strong ties with the three junior highs that feed into South, and Canton said the plan was for him to coach at Sedgwick for three years to become familiar with the players before returning to the Wolves as an assistant coach. He believes the transition will be beneficial to him and the players.

“You know the kids and what they’re capable of,” he said.

Athletic director Ed Santos said that experience should benefit Canton as he becomes just the Wolves’ third coach since 1974.

“I think one of the luxuries with Eric is that the transition will be fairly seamless,” he said.

Santos said he also liked Canton’s history with the program and that he previously has guided a program.

“We hired who we thought was the best person for the job,” he said.

Canton, a 1986 South graduate, becomes the first alumnus to coach the Wolves’ football team since Maynard Lundberg (1933-39). He said he knows some will be excited about his hiring because he comes from the Fisher coaching tree — as did Sigurdson, who resigned April 11 after 15 years to move into administration at South — but cautioned that does not mean everything will be the same.

One immediate change involves summer football camp. The Wolves traditionally went to Eastern Washington University under Sigurdson, but given that costs $350 per student before transportation fees are factored in, Canton said they will not attend a camp this year.

“These are tough times,” he said. “That’s money we can take and put back into the program.”

Canton, whose team opened spring practice this week, said he is focused on being an innovator. He credited much of South’s success to Fisher’s focus on the weight lifting and conditioning program, which were areas where Canton said opponents lagged behind at the time.

“You have to find different ways to get ahead,” Canton said. “You have to find different ways to get that edge and and it’s not obvious anymore.”

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