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Talent takes backseat to attitude

Canyon focused on winning with the players who want to be there

Posted: August 24, 2009 10:12 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Canyon's offense runs a play against the defense during Friday's practice at Canyon High School.

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The Canyon football program has had several players leave the program the last couple years.

Some of those players figured to be key contributors on the field, but they wound up out of football for different reasons.

Now, the Canyon coaching staff has a simple message for its players: If you don’t want to be here, don’t show up to camp.

“I think the trap I fell into the last two years is taking kids who are tremendous athletes but don’t have a good work ethic,” said Canyon head coach Chris Varner. “They come back to hurt you.”

Therefore, Varner is changing the approach this summer.

“We’re trying to coach up kids who don’t have as much talent, but they bust their butts,” he said.

His players appreciate the gesture.

Senior lineman Shane Moniz feels talent can give some players a sense of entitlement that’s dangerous to the team.

“When people are that good, they feel like they don’t have to work,” Moniz said. “Eventually people like that will catch up to you.”

So far during preseason camp, Varner and his staff are putting the team through arduous conditioning drills.

Varner compares the process — albeit on a lesser scale — to his time in the Army in the mid-1990s.

“We’re just putting them through the grinder and seeing who wants to be here,” he says. “We had a weeding out process (in the Army). Everyone’s out for their own reason. If they come together by going through the same thing, they’ll share that.”

So far in preseason camp, senior defensive end Donovan Brownlee has exemplified what Varner is looking for.

Brownlee suffered a season-ending leg injury late in the first half of the second game last fall against Granada Hills.

He rehabbed through the offseason and still wasn’t at 100 percent when preseason camp began.

But that didn’t stop Brownlee.

And Varner said teammates could learn from him.

“He just pushes and pushes,” he said. “I guarantee you no one is close to the pain that he’s in. That’s the kind of kid you want.”

And it’s the kind of kid Canyon needs if the program wants to return to the playoffs for the first time since the state title season of 2006.

Under the new approach, the Cowboys may sacrifice some talent.

As long as it creates a bond, however, the team will take it.

“Kids were sick of other kids trying to get out of stuff because they were the best,” said Moniz, a second-team all-Foothill League selection last season. “All we’re missing to win championships is a bond as a team. If you like the person next to you, it goes a long way.”

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