Every year, the Plant City Observer asks high school football coaches to nominate one player from their teams who exhibits great character, leadership and the ability to overcome obstacles.
It’s a new day at Durant. In 2019, the Cougars wouldn’t dare be sour — instead, they want to feel the power of positivity no matter what.
Josh Cannon is hardly the only player eager to talk about how whatever “negativity” plagued the team in 2018 is gone. But he is among the most vocal of the leaders of the team’s new movement, one the coaches count on to bring leadership to another young, inexperienced roster.
“I’m just trying to bring everybody up, bring the team together and make us a strong team again,” Cannon said. “We try to coach everybody just as hard as we can, even leadership-wise. We teach them how to do it and how to do it right.”
Cannon appeared in all 10 games for Durant in his sophomore season and recorded 67 total tackles (42 solo, 25 assisted) with two tackles for loss and one sack. Though he’s not the oldest, most experienced linebacker the team has in its arsenal, he’s got the attitude the coaching staff was looking for in a leader. Lessons learned from his “best buddy” Tanner Jurnigan, a middle linebacker who himself was crucial to the Cougars’ defensive success through his 2017 senior season, apply to what Cannon tries to do on and off the field.
“Sometimes I might get a little negative, but sometimes positive and negative can go a long way to make a person better and make him play better,” Cannon said. “I try to be excited with my team. We make a play, I get excited with them. I high five them, they do the same for me.”
The Durant Cougars have a long way to go on the field before the team can get back into the playoff picture. Many on the team are playing varsity football for the first time. Some of them are even playing positions brand new to them. Even some of the more experienced Cougars who got some game time in the last season or two are being asked to switch positions to fill needs on either side of the ball and add needed depth to the lineups. On many teams, that would make for plenty of reason for tensions to boil over and attitudes to go south. But the movement with Durant’s roster is attempting to get out ahead of any such concerns and keep everyone focused on what can be — not what won’t be. That isn’t successful without leaders like Cannon and teammates who have also spent much time with the Cougars setting the tone on the field and in the locker room.
Cannon believes that, despite the 2019 team’s lack of experience, its overall attitude and willingness to work hard every day could mean Durant’s fortunes are due to turn around for the better. He’s got his sights set on success in 2019 and thinks the Cougars are capable of turning things around, at least getting back on the right track with the first step being a record above .500 for the season.
“If we keep up the same pace and intensity play-wise, I think we’ll do pretty good,” he said. “At least a winning record. Just trying to get everybody ready for the season and how they’re gonna play.”