Canyon Springs football coach Hunkie Cooper believes his team has the talent to compete for a region championship or possibly even a state title.
The Pioneers just have to stay out of their own way.
“We want to be the last one to hang our helmets up this year in the locker room and clean our lockers out, and we have the ability,” Cooper said. “Everything that’s cost us has been self-inflicted.”
Canyon Springs (6-3) gets a chance to show the focus its coach is looking for when it hosts Silverado (6-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Sunrise Region quarterfinals.
Cooper said the team has committed foolish penalties and turned the ball over at inopportune times. He also pointed to situations when the team didn’t come up with defensive stops, even in third-and-long situations.
“Our discipline and our mistakes, and when we have them and where we have them, has cost us an opportunity to be a really good football team,” Cooper said.
Senior running back Malik Brown said he thinks the team is ready to leave those troubles behind.
“(Cooper) talks about the childish penalties that we’ve had that aren’t called for,” Brown said. “I think we’ve been more disciplined this week. We don’t look at the past. It’s all about the future. The next play is the best play.”
Brown and sophomore Donnel Pumphrey give the Pioneers a pair of big-play threats in the backfield, and the two seem to be comfortable sharing carries.
“He’s a big brother, like a role model,” Pumphrey said. “We’re like thunder and lightning.”
Pumphrey has rushed for 957 yards and nine touchdowns on 92 carries. Brown has added 936 yards and 10 TDs on 113 attempts.
“D.J. is a valuable, valuable kid,” Cooper said. “He has a vision and a football IQ that you wouldn’t believe for a 15-year-old kid. And Malik is finally getting an opportunity to carry the load. He’s running hard for us and making plays for us.
“Any time you get D.J. the ball and Malik the football, it’s an opportunity that that play could change the game.”
Silverado is a physical team, and Cooper said the team that is successful running the ball could have the edge. Silverado averages 199.8 yards rushing. Also, the Skyhawks have had success stopping the run, holding Del Sol’s Chris Marshall to 20 yards on 15 carries last week. Marshall leads the area with 1,726 yards.
“It’s about kids making plays,” Cooper said. “We’ve got to be able to stop the run in order to have success, and we have to be able to establish it to win.”
Senior wide receiver Trey Evans said this is a more playoff-ready Pioneers team than the one that lost 16-15 to Liberty in last season’s Sunrise quarterfinals.
“Last year we came out and we were intimidated by Liberty,” Evans said. “This year we should come out more physical and use that as motivation to win this year.”
But discipline will be more important than motivation for Canyon Springs.
“I don’t think they’ve played the speed that we possess,” Cooper said of Silverado. “And the physical toughness, I think we’ll be able to match them man for man.
”The thing is, they’re a disciplined football team, and that’s what we’re lacking. We work on it, but we’re just not as disciplined as we need to be. And an undisciplined football team will cost you games.”