Canton AcademyBy ALISON MARTIN,
Everyone knows that months of preparation go into a football program long before the stadium lights come on for fall Friday nights. Coach Dennis Allen has been a part of that process for 40 football seasons spanning his career, and this year (his sixth as a Panther) he’s looking forward to “the same thing I look forward to every year – seeing our kids get better and succeed.” That vision should be realized, too, as Canton Academy is blessed to have an amazing, experienced coaching staff and new MAIS district classifications to take CA football into a promising 2019 season.
The CA football coaching staff is comprised of Head Coach Craig Bowman, Kenner Purvis, Ron Oakes, Dennis Allen, David Blount, Chad Smith, Kevin Sanderson, and Jeff Foreman. With a combined 112 years of experience among just three of them – Coach Allen, Coach Blount, and Coach Oakes – Coach Bowman’s years of coaching are small in comparison, but he loves learning from their past successes and failures. “There has rarely been, if ever, a situation we’ve come across that they haven’t dealt with already and know just how to navigate through. Their experience is invaluable to the success of the team.”
Coach Allen spent 25 of his 40 years of coaching at West Point, and his favorite part about his time there was “the people. They loved football.” He coached eleven state championship games earning nine titles. “My first state championship as a head coach – next to being saved and my daughter being born – was one of the happiest days of my life.” His family brought him to Canton Academy, as his grandkids now live in Canton and go to school at CA. “They love it.” Coach Allen loves his athletes and teaching them the correct way to play the game of football. He brings a sound system teaching his players that as long as they get better and are determined, they will succeed. To parents, he says, “Let kids be kids, and enjoy them for the short time they are young and carefree. They have the rest of their lives to be adults.”
In Coach Oakes’ 32 year career, he was at both Winona and Horn Lake for five years each noting that his favorite part of being at both schools was the relationships he developed with the students and community. His favorite part about coaching is seeing the light come on in a player’s eyes when he believes he can win. The opportunity to be closer to family and the “lure of a great school and program” brought him to the Panther family, and in his third season at CA, he hopes to bring a certain degree of understanding and knowledge while making the kids better athletes and people.
The newest addition to this experienced group is Coach Blount returning to CA after several years. He recently resigned from full time coaching and is ready for the somewhat slower pace of part time. His son and side-kick Clay is familiar with the campus, Coach Blount thinks a lot of the coaching staff, and he already has friends in Canton, making the move to CA a smooth one. His career spans 40 years also with the longest stretch coaching at Jackson Academy for 14 years. His favorite part of his time there was that it really was a family affair with his wife on staff and son there with him, too. In 1995, JA beat Prep which had never happened before, and they went on to win the State Championship that same year. Coach Blount hopes to bring experience in all positions and influence on and off the field to the Panthers. “I’m looking forward to getting there [CA].”
Fall 2019 looks to be a bright season for the Panthers. “I am very excited about the wealth of experience and knowledge on the coaching staff. More importantly, our coaches are all quality people,” says CA Head of Schools and former Head Football Coach Ron Jurney.
Recently, the MAIS concluded the classification process for all member schools for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, and in this new classification, Canton Academy will be participating in 4A football competing with schools that are very similar in size, more so than the last couple of years. The new district CA will be in for the next two years is likely the strongest district in the classification so the Panthers will need to be prepared to compete at a very high level. If it’s true that “experience is the father of wisdom,” Canton Academy is poised for an extraordinary 2019 football season.
The relationship between coach and quarterback is a special one. Coach Craig Bowman discusses the next play with junior Nick Foreman who will be returning for the 2019 season.