They say we learn more from our failures than we do our successes.
In the case of the Canisius Crusaders football team a serving of humble pie reminded them of how hard they worked to achieve so much success in recent years.
The start to this season had a slightly different feel compared to one year ago. Last season, the Crusaders walked in on the first day of training camp as unbeaten 2014 state champions.
This season, they took time to reflect on the sting of losing to St.Francis, 42-7, in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association championship game last season.
Though the Crusaders aren’t obsessing over that loss they have taken that much needed time to reflect and learn from it. And what head coach Rich Robbins says they learned was a tough reminder of what it takes to win.
“I think the humble pie that we got at the end of last season, it gave coaches things to focus on and the players things to get motivated about,” Robbins said. “It’s hard to stay on top we’ve had all the success that we’ve had. And I think last year reminded us that just putting the Canisius jersey on isn’t gonna win you any games. How did we get to where we were? We out worked everybody. I don’t think we out worked St. Francis last year. I think they were hungry. They had gotten their butts kicked by us the previous few years by 30-40 points every time and they were the hungry group. At the end of the year they played harder. They were coached better and they kicked our butt from top to bottom. So it was good for us to get some humble pie. Get refocused and remember how we’ve got to where we’ve gotten to. It’s just a lot of hard work.”
Robbins added that the way last season ended made each person on the coaching staff look in the mirror and ask what they can do to become better.
“It sharpens everybody’s sword,” Robbins said. “Each position coach wants to do more within their position group. The strength and conditioning coach wants more time in the weight room. As the head coach, I got us more contact camps and different things in the summer to get prepared.”
Robbins also noted that last season the team operated without some key assistant coaches that were so vital to their run of success from 2012-14. Saying they are blessed to have those assistants back Robbins feels that having that core of coaches back in place will have a positive ripple effect on the team.
While captains will officially be named on Friday there is little doubt that several core returnees will be looked upon to be leaders-regardless if they wear the “C” or not.
Senior Alex Adimey returns to a line that will boast two 300-pounders in Colin Drilling and newcomer Brad Currell.
Canisius will be counting on seniors Jeremy Cych (tight end/linebacker), Mason Hoose (fullback/linebacker) and running back Cole Burniston who is considered a legitimate threat to reach 1,000 yards, to serve as team leaders and reminders of what it means to do things the Canisius way.
Hoose said everyone said all of the returning player who felt the pain of that loss to St.Francis learned a valuable lesson about what it takes to dig deep and win.
“That pretty much just told us all that we really weren’t working hard enough,” Hoose said. “This year we really need to put in more to get out what want. We all know what we want and that’s a ring. So we’re putting in as much as we can.”
The graduation of Tyler Stranahan leaves a void at quarterback, but Canisius has three very capable and skilled players ready to step in. Senior Dan Barnes, who played against St.Joe’s when Stranahan got hurt has looked good in camp. Also in the mix are junior Jayce Johnson, who matured as a person and player last year in varsity basketball, and Clarence High School transfer, Chris Louisos. All three are battling to win the role as No.1 QB.
Raequan Greer (RB/DB) also returns and will no doubt be one of the premiere defensive players in the state.
Paul Woods, Jr., a transfer from Sweet Home, should also be a standout defensive back and a threat at receiver. As will the returning Zeke Margaritis.
Other transfers include Kenyatta Huston (CB/RB) from Lockport and Joe Nicholas, who came in from Amherst High School.
Senior kicker Blake Haubeil, who has committed to Ohio St., will be the centerpiece in arguably the best special teams unit in WNY.
Headed for scrimmage Saturday on Aug.27, Robbins said one of the key messages he wants his team to understand is that it’s not just about going through camp, it’s about growing through camp. Getting better and getting closer as a team.
“Yeah there’s a lot of new kids in camp, new faces,” Cole Burniston said. “JV players coming up as juniors this year so when (Coach Robbins) says grow with each other, we’re a family. We need to get better.”
Canisius will also tackle an oddly balanced schedule that will have them at home at the Strasky Complex for the first four weeks of the season, then on the road for the next five weeks.
Facing two Section VI opponents in the regular season, Canisius will open against Lockport on Sept.3. They will also play Alden this year.
“I give those guys a lot of credit for taking the game,” Robbins said. “I called every coach in Section VI and they were the only two that got back to us.”
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