Forget, for a moment, the 4-1 start to the 2007 season.
It’s been a difficult debut to this new adventure for Canyon State Academy. The Queen Creek school jumped from 1A to 2A last fall, and the leap hasn’t left a spring in many steps thus far.
Will these growing pains produce pleasure?
Possibly. The Rams return two starters on each side of the ball, and eight players overall from last year’s squad that learned the hard way that reality can bite in the 2A Central Region.
With troubled kids — usually from somewhere else — coming in every year, continuity is difficult to maintain. The average age is 16, and few who can match up with 6-foot-2, 240-pound kids in 2A.
The result was five consecutive losses to end the season, and a better understanding of what’s coming, whether they like it or not.
“A little more is being passed to spread the wisdom,” coach Louis Ruesing said. “They understand the reasons we work them so hard to get them ready. We’re not lying when we talk about Scottsdale Christian and Valley Christian, who are really fast and hit harder than our team.”
Undersized kids with no football experience and hours of psychological massaging are part of life at Canyon State.
Numbers are down slightly this year, which wasn’t a big problem in 1A, where the Rams went 18-5 in their last two seasons of eight-man football.
There is talent. Wide receiver Jacoby Splunge has drawn interest from a few Division II colleges, as has linebacker/fullback Coty Gilley. Two defensive linemen starters return, and the Rams have two-year continuity at quarterback in Devonne Ross for the first time in years.
Still, wins and losses are (usually) moot points if it means kids are willing to keep the “I” out of “team.”
“The core of it is individual and that mentality, and we try to get them to understand sacrifice and unselfishness,” Ruesing said. “Kids’ definition of 'individual’ is totally different than us, especially without parenting or if they have been skewed by the legal system. We try to change that in a short period of time. It’s the focal point of the program.”