CANTON — The uniforms are the same but there are different bodies in many of them this season for the Canton football team.
The Golden Bears produced one of their most successful seasons in recent years last fall, finishing with a 5-3 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in Northern Athletic Conference play. Canton beat Massena 48-34 to claim the Section 10 Class A title, but opted not to participate in the state playoffs.
Canton totaled 36 players a year ago, but 22 were seniors, including four players who made the Times All-North football team: quarterback Declan Porter, wide receiver Patrick Recker, linebacker Bobby Beaudin and defensive back Chauney Douglas.
“The intensity, and our numbers are really good,” Canton coach Tom Cloce said. “We’ve got a lot of juniors that played (junior varsity) last year, and I really like our chemistry, with all of our mergers coming in. They are playing like a bunch of guys that are getting together, playing football, and having fun.
We brought up about 10 players in our Class A championship game against Massena and we had seven or eight of those players play key roles in that game and actually helped us win that game. We have some kids that will really fill in and be an important part of the program.”
Some of Canton’s returning players were not starters or stars a year ago, but they bring the experience of what it took to deliver a successful season and are eager for the chance to show what they can do.
“I feel like we have to catch up with the new guys (on the team), but it’s going to be a really good team,” said senior Nathaniel Pennyman-Given. “I don’t want people to think we have to match up with what we did last year. We have to come with a lot of punch and do really well this year. A lot of hard work and a lot of talent goes a long ways, so we have to work and keep grinding.”
Those who were on the junior varsity last year are also eager to showcase their own skills, including junior lineman Tanner Cloce, one of two sons of coach Tom Cloce on the squad.
“The camaraderie is really high,” Tanner Cloce said. “You look up to all the older players and it’s really fun. There is a lot of hard work that needs to be put in. Success isn’t inherited. You have to work for that spot, you can’t go off of what happened last year.”
Porter was the top quarterback in the NAC a year ago, as well as the league’s best punter. Heuvelton student Adam Calton is stepping into the quarterback spot.
“He has a learning curve to do because he’s coming to play varsity,” Cloce said. “He seems to be very cool under pressure and he gets it.”
Top running backs for Canton include veteran Connor Ramsey, junior varsity standouts Hunter Blauvelt and Zach VanBrocklin, and Heuvelton student Bryce Lake, a fullback. Pennyman-Given and Ashton Cloce are two of the top receivers.
Heading the offensive and defensive lines is Hermon-DeKalb student Tyler VanBrocklin, who made the all-NAC team last year.