By William

CANTON – The question will be, can they do it again? Can the Canton/Galva football team run the table and repeat as 8-Man Division I State Champions, that is the question.

The answer is – yes, they very well could do it even though they have lost their all-state quarterback Landon Everett to graduation, because they return nine starters that include five who earned all-state honors at the end of the 2019 season.

Eagle Head Coach Shelby Hoppes begins his fourth season at the helm and all he has to show for the first three years is to take a team that went 4-5 and 10-2 in his first two season to a team that went 13-0 and closed out the 2019 season with one of the most miraculous comebacks in Kansas high school football history in the state championship game.

The heart of the Canton/Galva football program came through in that game as they were down by 36 points at halftime before they put the offense in high gear and pounded previously unbeaten St. Francis for 66 second half points and the state championship.

Coach Hoppes reflected on the past few seasons and what is ahead of the Eagles in 2020 when he noted, “With making the playoff runs as we did the last two years, we return a lot of experience playing at a high level against top competition which should set us up this year for another deep run. This year’s team returns a lot of size and athleticism at multiple positions which will make us competitive in all three facets of the game.

Despite losing one of the most exciting players in Kansas high school football last season, Landon Everett, the Eagles return another of the top players in the state of any class in Tyson Struber. Struber, a six-foot-three, 190 pound junior had a spectacular sophomore season that earned him 1st Team All-State by both the Topeka Capital Journal and the Wichita Eagle, Sports in Kansas Defensive Player of the Year, Sports in Kansas Finalist for Offensive Player of the Year, and a member of Sports in Kansas Non-Senior Top 100. Struber will be what Coach Hoppes builds his offense around the wide receiver.

Struber will not be the only offensive weapon on the field for the Eagles as they will also return seniors Keaton Littrell, Tyler Rummel, Connor Koehn, and Brayden Collins. Littrell, a five-foot-ten, 240 pound lineman and Collins, a six-foot-two, 215 running back both earned honorable mention all-state honors last season, while Rummel and Koehn, combined with Littrell, gives Coach Hoppes his entire starting front line back from 2019.

The biggest question will be how well Garrett Maltbie will do replacing Everett at quarterback and will junior Xavier Westbrook provide much needed value opposite Struber at wide receiver.

On the defensive side of the game, the Eagles will be led by First-Team All-State linebacker Brandon Huff, a six-foot-two, 210-pound senior. Senior defensive end Connor Koehn returns as well after earning defensive honorable mention all-state honors in 2019 while Brayden Collins will line up next to Huff to make a very formidable set of linebackers for any opponent to plan for. Of course, Struber will return to anchor the defensive backfield, giving Canton/Galva a very solid four-man crew to build the defense around.

While the team has a strong middle school team moving up to high school and solid group of sophomores, Coach Hoppes has high hopes for the 2020 Eagle squad while understanding the challenges ahead, something he noted when he concluded his preseason reflections by saying, “One of the challenges this year will be overall depth after graduating a large senior class. We will need our younger players to step in and fill those rolls that the 2019 seniors left behind.”

Barring any issues caused by the new normal due to the pandemic, the Eagles are scheduled to open the 2020 season on the road at Goessel on Friday, September 4 before battling Rural Vista in their first home game on Friday, September 11.

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