FOOTBALL | Younger Canton eager to guide Wolves

South Kitsap junior Cooper Canton hopes to become the Wolves’ first two-year starting quarterback since Gordy Anderson in 2008-09. - Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo
South Kitsap junior Cooper Canton hopes to become the Wolves’ first two-year starting quarterback since Gordy Anderson in 2008-09.
— image credit: Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo

It almost seems impossible that South Kitsap quarterback Cooper Canton has two years of eligibility remaining.

Perhaps that is because Canton spent years around the program retrieving balls from officials while his father, Eric, was an assistant for former coach D.J. Sigurdson from 1999 to 2008.

But the younger Canton used that time for a larger purpose than simply stomping through mud puddles at Joe Knowles Stadium. He watched the quarterbacks go through their progressions and then analyzed them with his father, a former All-American defensive back at South who also punted for the University of Washington during the late 1980s.

“I remember in seventh grade you could see that he was so much better than the other kids,” said Gordy Anderson, who volunteered at junior-high camps around the district when he was the Wolves’ starting quarterback in 2008-09. “He was a natural at it.”

Canton now has the rare opportunity among South quarterbacks to start in consecutive years. Anderson was the last and the only other player who did it during the last decade was Kyle Pease (2004-05). That list could be even smaller because Bryan Dorsey was slated to be the starter five years ago before suffering a knee injury during practice leading up to the season opener.

But Canton is not focused on the distant future. After all, he was situated behind Logan Knowles, who now is a senior, on the depth chart this time a year ago. Canton said he emerged as the starter during spring practices, which led to a discussion between Knowles and himself.

“I just kind of talked with him about playing wide receiver,” Canton said. “He liked the idea of it. He kind of agreed that I would be the starter and it would be best for the team if he moved to wide receiver. It was a [selfless] move on his part. All he cares about is helping out the team.”

When Canton searches for Knowles and others during Thursday’s season opener against Kentridge at French Field, fans will notice some differences between him and other recent signal-callers for the Wolves, such as Anderson and Eddie Meisner. Unlike those two — and specifically the 6-foot-3 Anderson — Canton does not feature a prototypical quarterback build. He is a slender, 5-foot-11 junior.

Canton said that focusing too much on measurements is shortsighted, though. He cites second-year Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is listed at 5 foot 11, as an example of how smaller signal-callers can be successful.

“When people tell me I’m too short to play quarterback I laugh at them,” Canton said. “I look at guys like Russell Wilson and they’re doing it, so why can’t I?”

Canton also might have as strong of an opportunity to produce record-setting statistics at South as any quarterback in program history. A program that perhaps was just identifiable for its prolific power running game as it was for its 23 consecutive state-playoff appearances tweaked its offense last year. The elder Canton, citing the tendency of teams throwing more at the high school, collegiate and professional levels, and the dearth of large children coming up through the district’s three junior highs, switched the base offense to three wide receivers and eliminated the tight end.

Anderson, who is now a student assistant at Washington State University and works with the Cougars’ inside receivers in coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense, said he would have loved to have played in the Wolves’ new system. But Anderson also arguably had the best starting pair of receivers in school history with Isaiah Davis and Leon La Deaux.

Canton does not have that experience returning as last year’s starters, Devon Newquist, Tom Simpson and Nic Stoner, graduated. He said that is not a concern, though.

“I have confidence in my arm and my receivers to catch the ball,” Canton said.

Along with the wide receivers, South graduated several of its top players, including all-state defensive back Bryce Broome, who had eight interceptions last season, and running back Adam Gascoyne. The Wolves finished with a 6-4 record during Canton’s first season as coach. Despite those losses, the younger Canton thinks South can be better this season. He cited the team’s increased comfort level with the new staff’s changes on both sides of the ball and some emerging playmakers as reasons behind that confidence.

“We have a lot of shoes to fill, but I think the seniors and even some of the juniors are ready to fill them,” Canton said.

That follows the leadership mantra that Anderson often stressed the importance of to Canton.

“He’s got the traits of a quarterback,” he said. “I know he’s a captain.”

New South quarterbacks coach Jared Prince, a former standout signal-caller for North Kitsap, agreed.

“He’s got all of the qualities a really good quarterback should have,” he said. “He throws a great, catchable ball. He is really accurate and knows what the defense is doing before they do it.

“I just want to give him some of the finer qualities to help him achieve his full potential and bestow some of the stuff I’ve learned from being a high-level athlete for a long time.”

Canton said he is ready for that challenge.

“It’s a big responsibility, but I’m ready for it,” he said. “I’m excited about the job.”

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