By Fred J. Robledo
Jamie Canada’s football career looked promising in his freshman year at Duarte, where his first touchdown was a 48-yard reception in the fourth quarter against South Hills. It was the Falcons’ lone score in a 48-6 loss.
After that, though, everything continued to unravel for Duarte and Canada. Duarte coach Wardell Crutchfield was fired following the 2008 season and more than a dozen players transferred to neighboring schools, including Jamie and his older brother Jordan Canada, a senior in 2009.
The Canada family moved into the South Hills school district, but Duarte challenged the transfer. It said the move was “athletically motivated” and the CIF-Southern Section agreed. That forced Jordan to miss his senior year and Jamie to sit out his sophomore campaign.
The disappointment kept piling on for Jamie Canada, who suffered a torn knee ligament in a spring scrimmage in 2010, had surgery and missed all of his junior season while the Huskies struggled to a 3-7 record and fourth-place finish in their transition year from the San Antonio to the much tougher Sierra League.
Canada, now healthy and eligible, took it easy in the spring and summer passing circuit in advance of his senior year, but he looked sharp at Monday’s practice in preparation for the Huskies’ season opener against Colony on Sept. 1. One South Hills assistant said there’s not a better receiver in the area. The Huskies will use Canada in a variety of ways.
“He’s as 100 percent as you can be,” South Hills coach Steve Bogan said of Canada. “He’s in a nice brace and hasn’t had anything slow him down. He’s done everything full speed and is ready to go.”
He’s missed two years of varsity football, but Canada has been with the team throughout as he waited for his moment to arrive.
“What happened to him (missing two years) was one of the worst-case scenarios,” Bogan said. “It was a bad deal all the way around.
“I guess there is a natural curiosity for people who haven’t seen him. He’s matured physically quite a bit since (his freshman year at Duarte). I have been in this business long enough to have seen some very special players, so what I will say is that when (fans) get a chance to watch him, they will be impressed with what they see.”
South Hills already returns one of the best backs in the San Gabriel Valley in senior Jamel Hart, who rushed for 1,318 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Vince Hernandez also is back after throwing for 1,505 yards and 13 touchdowns.
With Canada, Hart and Hernandez together, healthy and, more importantly, hungry, Bogan’s cautious optimism is hard to contain.
“Vince had a lot of colleges look at him during the spring,” Bogan said. “They love his footwork, his arm strength, and he’s making veteran decisions. He’s come a long way in a year.
“Obviously Jamel is a stud. He’s a Charles White (former Heisman Trophy winner at USC) the way he runs, sort of a thunder style. He has speed, bangs hard and has great vision for the zone concept and scheme, which is what we do.
“With Jamie, you can use him everywhere, and he will play a number of different roles for us. With options like those, your philosophy is to get the ball in a great athlete’s hands in space. When you have those types of playmakers, that’s your basic offensive philosophy: just get them the ball in space and let great athletes do what they do.”
South Hills will host Covina in a scrimmage Friday at Covina District Field at 6 p.m. a week before opening against Colony.