Camp Kovak, sixth (and final) stop – Canon-McMillan
Blogger's note: This is the final in a short series based on Observer-Reporter sports writer Mike Kovak's travels to local high school football training camps.
In recent years, Canon-McMillan posted high-profile regular season victories over Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair, Hopewell, West Allegheny and McKeesport. Each provided evidence that Canon-McMillan is a football program in far better shape than it was 15 years ago.
Similar victories have eluded the Big Macs in the postseason since the move back to Quad-A football. One reason is Canon-McMillan never fielded a secondary that met the level of play exhibited by the linebackers and defensive linemen.
In 2008, the Big Macs rarely let a team rush for more than 100 yards. Against WPIAL champion Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan allowed 80 but lost.
"We have to get better in the secondary," C-M coach Guy Montecalvo said. "We've been good against the run. Now, we have to get better against the pass."
The Big Macs' secondary will be without Ohio State recruit Chad Hagan, who is targeting an October return after being diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition which created a rapid heartbeat for Hagan.
No doubt Hagan will be missed in the defensive backfield but Canon-McMillan believes capable talent is in place. Depth, the other facet C-M needs to become a regular player at the Quad-A level, has become a characteristic of the 2009 Big Macs.
In the past, injuries to key players were something the Big Macs struggled to overcome as evidenced in last year's playoff loss to Shaler when key players such as Penn State recruit Mike Hull, Hagan and quarterback Steve Roach exited the game.
This year, as the school's enrollment increases, more talent is on the roster. While there may not be a player of Hull's caliber waiting for a chance, the gap between starters and reserves is closing.
That talent will be needed as Canon-McMillan replaces all five starters from last year's offensive line and three of four defensive linemen.
"There's two across at every position," Montecalvo said.
How well those lines perform could determine whether C-M, a second-place finisher in the Great Southern Conference, improves upon last year's 6-4 record and advances in the WPIAL playoffs.
"Our kids want to set expectations high," Montecalvo said. "There was a tremendous amount of offseason preparation, a heck of a commitment."