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Prep football: The other side of Canyon football

Cowboys linebacker Adam Evans helps lead a defense that has also helped the team win in 2011

Posted: November 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Canyon’s offense has attracted attention this season, but senior Adam Evans has led a strong defensive effort. After switching from defensive line to linebacker, Evans leads the team with 59 tackles and he also has two interceptions.

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In football, crowds are drawn to high-scoring games and football teams with flashy offenses.

That’s OK with a defensive players like Canyon senior Adam Evans.

He happens to play for one of those teams that gets a lot of credit for its offense, but it’s not like he plays football just for the attention.

In fact, Evans actually prefers to have the spotlight away from him and the rest of the Cowboys’ solid defense.

“I like it that way because they don’t expect it,” Evans says. “They just think that we have a power offense. Once you get the offense off the field, they have to deal with us.”

“Us” meaning all 11 players on defense. It’s never about an individual, even with a players like Evans, who is the centerpiece of the unit by all accounts.

And due to the play of an offense that has routinely scored 40-50 points in games this season, it’s a unit that has flown under the radar despite its success.

Canyon is allowing a little more than 15 points per game and is coming off a 21-0 shutout of Palmdale in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs on Friday. It was the team’s second shutout of the season.

“They’re a real family type of group,” says Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez. “They don’t really concern themselves too much with where the hype’s coming from.”

No one embodies that attitude more than Evans, who willingly made a major position switch for the team’s benefit.

He played both ways as an offensive and defensive lineman during his junior year, but was asked to move out of a three-point stance and into the middle linebacker role this summer.

At first, the idea was met with some resistance by fellow linebacker Garret Miller.

“We were like the linebackers and the core of the team, and then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Adam is going to be playing linebacker’ and we’re kind of like, ‘Oh shoot, who’s going to lose their spot? What’s going to go on?’” Miller says. “We were kind of (hesitant) about it at first and he just instantly started making plays — interceptions, big hits — as soon as he was there. He fit right in.”

Evans didn’t just fit in. He’s taken over the defensive play calling duties and he leads the team with 59 tackles to go along with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

He and Miller have a joke between them where they refer to themselves as the “Shake n’ Bake” twins.

“If someone gets the feet, someone else is getting high for the big hit,” Miller jokes. “That’s how it goes. Shake n’ Bake.”

Linebacker appears to be a natural position for Evans given his hard-hitting, athletic and instinctive style of play.

He picked up the position change just as quickly as he learned the game of football itself. Technically, Evans didn’t start playing organized tackle football until eighth grade, though one could argue he recorded his first tackle long before that.

“He tackled me when he was 2,” says his father, Shawn. “I was standing there and he got me from behind. He took me down.”

Not much changed as Adam grew up, either.

He recalls playing football and baseball in the streets with kids as much as four years older than him.

Adam gave flag football a try, but he would often get in trouble for accidently knocking players over.

Tackle football was clearly the only way to go, so in eighth grade, he asked his mother Christina if he could sign up.

Though hesitant at first, Christina knew she couldn’t say no to a natural-born football player like Adam.

So her message was simple. It’s the same thing she tells are her kids.

“If you want to play a sport, you’ve got to give 100 percent,” Christina says.

Adam happily obliged, and he has done so throughout his career.

“I try to be dominant on the field,” Adam says. “I try to not let anyone scare me by strength and height and size. I’m not much of a verbal leader. I don’t believe in that. I believe in leading with your actions.”

That hasn’t been a problem, as the stats suggest.

Beyond that, Adam has established a presence on the defense that makes opponents hesitate before running it up the middle.

“I think when you put him in a game, it’s almost like he takes it to the next level,” Gutierrez says.

In a year where Canyon football has grabbed the headlines for its ability to score points, allow the spotlight to shift squarely on the 11 guys that prevent them.

And on a defensive unit that focuses on the team, rather than the individual, allow that trend to be broken in favor of Adam Evans.

Not that he asked for it.

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