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(Pictured: Members of the Canonsburg fire department use a hose to stimulate rain at the Canon-McMillan High School football practice Wednesday. Photo submitted by Mike Evans.)
Like many football coaches, Canon-McMillan High School’s Mike Evans wanted game-like conditions at practice to get his team ready for one of the biggest games in school history. But talk about pouring it on.
Evans made it rain ... just by calling a fire department.
Tim Solobay, chief of the Canonsburg Volunteer Fire Department, and a few of his buddies brought the rain with them for about a half-hour near the end of Wednesday’s practice. You’ve heard of artificial snow? This was sort of artificial rain. And they created a veritable downpour.
“They pretty much gave us a monsoon,” Evans said with laugh.
Evans wanted his team all wet in order to get ready for Friday’s game against North Allegheny. Rain is expected all day and possibly heavy at times. He wanted the offense to practice with wet balls. He wanted the center to get used to snapping a slippery ball.
So Wednesday afternoon, a firetruck was stationed near Canon-McMillan’s practice field, the firemen brought a big hose onto the field — and then the rains came. While Canon-McMillan’s offense and defense ran through plays, the hose doused, er, pelted them with water.
“They weren’t just squirting some water. It was 90 gallons a minute sometimes,” Evans said. “Sometimes they would squirt it straight up in the air.”
And just for effect, Canon-McMillan had AC/DC’s song “Thunderstruck” playing in the background.
One might think this was a crazy way to get ready for a game that might be played in the rain. And maybe it was. But it will be memorable — and Evans said it was a fun practice.
“Anything to prepare kids for a game,” Evans said with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. “That hose was just pelting our quarterbacks and center. We even kicked field goals in it.”
“Hey, we’ve been practicing so long, since August. We needed to have some fun.”
But about the game. Canon-McMillan (5-5) will play North Allegheny (9-1) for the right to play for the WPIAL title Nov. 19. Canon-McMillan has never played for a WPIAL championship and has only one postseason win since the school became Canon-McMillan. Old Canonsburg High tied New Brighton 12-12 in a 1950 WPIAL championship game.
Canon-McMillan has struggled for years to push into the upper echelon of teams in the largest classification. The Big Macs finally pushed through this year and finished in fourth place in the Tri-County Five Conference. North Allegheny, meanwhile, is a perennial title contender and has been in a championship game four times since Art Walker became coach in 2005.
“I believe the mental aspect is very important for our guys,” Evans said. “It used to be that we had to make up things to say to our kids against these good teams, like, ‘Hey, we played a good first quarter,’ or, ‘The score wasn’t that bad at the half.’
“But this year, I think we actually have proven to ourselves that we can play with these teams. And I mean play.”
Canon-McMillan lost to North Allegheny 35-21 earlier this season.
“We were down 27-0 at the half. I say my piece at halftime and the next thing you know, it’s 27-21 and we have the ball,” Evans said. “Other teams have playing big games like this for decades. We haven’t. I think we did prove to ourselves that we can play with anybody. This team has showed it is resilient and can come back. Have we arrived? No. Are we a big story? No. But I’ll tell you what, if we win Friday night, the world changes for us.”