CANTON— Building a winning program is contagious. Especially in a small community. Once its spreads, other programs would want to same, and the bleachers and stands will be filled every week with supporters.
Shelby Hoppes brought that to his Canton-Galva High School football team. Before the season started, Hoppes wanted each of his players, especially his senior class, to have a common goal they want to accomplish before they graduate. A common goal that does seem common at first, but provides a bigger picture.
In 2016, the Eagles were 1-8. It's not encouraging to be part of a program that only knows losing records and small attendance. Guys like Landon Everett, Jay Nightingale, Nick Pearson, and Kinser Colgin were freshmen during that year. Now, all seniors, they hope to not only take home a state championship for the first time in school history, but create a legacy for the next coming students.
"When I came in as a freshman, there wasn't a great culture. Canton-Galva wasn't really big. We lost lose football games, basketball games and nobody really cared. Then my sophomore, junior year, I was thinking, 'It kind of sucks losing.' One thing that I really wanted to accomplish was changing the culture. I know the other guys in the same class, have that same common goal. Change the culture and get us to a winning culture. I think we accomplished that this year."
Since hired, the Eagles are 22-7 in the last three seasons under Hoppes. Canton-Galva was 4-5 in 2017, and then made a leap to a a 10-2 record in 2018. Canton-Galva was one game away from playing in the state championship. This season, the Eagles are No. 1 8-man football team in the state and completed its first 8-0 record in the regular season.
"This senior class started their career at C-G getting their butts kicked every game as freshmen," Hoppes said. "There was a losing culture here, and most kids were ok with that and accepted it. The culture was the first thing addressed when my staff and I took over the program. We let them know it was going to be extremely difficult at times to stay on the new path and not fall back into how they had done things up to that point."
Hoppes also mentioned that building a winning culture is more profound than a winning record. For the Eagles, it was a slow, steady process that is more off the field than it is on the field.
"Culture change isn't just wins and losses on the football field. It's buying into the weight room, summer practices, classroom behavior, being active in the community, among many other things," Hoppes said. "Making them understand that it means something to be an Eagle football player. This senior class has taken on the challenge of this culture change for three years now and never looked back. You see it on Friday nights, in the classroom and hallways, and all around the community. I just want to continue to stay focused at practice. We have to get better every day if we want to have a long postseason run."
Saying that Canton-Galva has been dominating the regular season is a bit of an understatement. The Eagles averaged 58.3 points a game on offense. They also shut out six out of their eight opponents every night. Not even a 45-point mercy rule couldn't stop the Eagles from scoring even if the starters played one half of football. However, there will be a time when Hoppes will need his starters for all four quarters, and he is making sure the Eagles ready for what's coming to them.
"We know we will have four-quarter games once we get into the playoffs, and the only way to prepare for that is at practice," Hoppes said. "We have to practice harder than anyone else day in and day out to prepare ourselves for a four-quarter game."
The Eagles are 9-0 on this season after beating Chase County last Thursday in the opening round of the playoff. They will take on Lebo High School in the round of 16 on Friday at 7 p.m.
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