The UIL realignment in February had some schools breathing a sigh of relief while others shook their heads. Cheers could be heard throughout Class 2A Division I as the two time defending state champion Canadian Wildcats moved up to 3A Division II.
Moving up the classification ladder will likely not phase the 2016 Wildcats as they have spent a decade building arguably one of the best football programs in the state of Texas.
The back-to-back 2A state champions were rarely tested the past two years, outscoring their opponents a jaw dropping 1,571 to 308. That’s an average of 52.3 points per game while holding their opponent to 10.2 points per game.
Winning is second nature for the Wildcats, who have not experienced a loss since the 2013 2A Quarterfinals against Cisco.
Canadian’s losses on their home turf are few and far between, only having lost two games at home since a 33-27 loss to Alva, Oklahoma on September 14, 2007. Those two losses at home were at the hands of the Stratford Elk, who defeated Canadian 17-7 in 2008 and 22-21 in 2013.
The Wildcats return five players on offense and four on defense in 2016, including All-State 5’8”, 145 lb wide receiver and defensive back Cameron Copley. Last year, Copley hauled in 1,409 receiving yards while scoring 23 touchdowns. Even more impressive on defense, Copley racked up 96 tackles. The stingy Canadian defense brings back 6’1”, 220 lb linebacker Holton Hufstedler and 5’9”, 170 lb linebacker Cade Throgmorton who combined for a staggering 335 tackles and 12 sacks.
The loss of quarterback Tanner Schafer, running back Chance Cook, wide receiver and defensive back Sawyer Cook and defensive end Cory Chidester is huge for the Wildcats, who look more like a team who is reloading than rebuilding.
Corgin Douthitt will step into the role of play caller this season for the Wildcats and has plenty of experience to lead Canadian on their quest for a three-peat.
Douthitt played in 15 games last season where he was 19 of 28 and 214 yards passing, rushed for 75 carries and 353 yards, caught one pass for 20 yards and had five solo tackles and 22 assists. He also added five rushing touchdowns to his stats, proving he’s more than capable of leading a high powered Canadian offense.
The Wildcats join the Childress Bobcats, Amarillo Highland Park Hornets, Dimmitt Bobcats, Spearman Lynx and Tulia Hornets in district 1-3A DII this year and are picked to win the district in front of Childress, who will be looking to upset the Wildcats at home this year.
The district championship could be decided early, with Canadian and Childress squaring off in the district opener on October 7th in Canadian.
Childress traveled to Canadian last year for a preseason matchup and left with a 52-13 loss. The loss is still fresh in the minds of the Bobcats, who were in their first season under head coach Jason Sims.
Childress was the district runner-up last season to the Muleshoe Mules and suffered a heartbreaking 34-31 bi-district loss to Denver City in 2015.
Upsetting the Wildcats for the district title will not be an easy task as the Bobcats have not won a district championship since 2007, one of the longest droughts without a district championship in the program’s 113 year history. The playoffs have eluded the Bobcats as well the past six years, only capturing one playoff win since 2009.
However, the Bobcats have a highly touted senior class which includes plenty of speed in the backfield including 5’6”, 170 lb running back Bo Lott and 5’11”, 165 lb halfback Alfonso Salinas, who were the first and anchor legs on the Bobcat’s state qualifying 4×100 and 4×200 meter relay teams in May.
The Bobcat defense could prove to give the Wildcats all they can handle with the return of middle linebacker Felix Garza, outside linebacker Caleb Tucker and defensive lineman Cam Garcia and Rhett Buckley.
There’s no doubt Canadian’s road to the state championship will be tougher this season with the loss of several key players and the move to 3A Division II. With players moving up from an undefeated Junior Varsity squad, Canadian head coach Chris Koetting has to like his chances this season. The Wildcats will be a team to keep your eye on this post-season as they could storm 3A and take another title and solidify their name among the best in the state, regardless of classification.