Carlynton grad Isiah Canton carves niche in Westminster backfield

November 18, 2018

Isiah Canton spent his first college football season as a redshirt at Alderson Broaddus. When he returned the following year, he decided the team and the school weren’t a good fit for him, so he left after training camp already had begun.

Canton started to weed through old emails to see which of the other programs that recruited him out of Carlynton might be more to his liking. Among the batch of emails was one from Westminster, and he remembered coach Scott Benzel showing a lot of interest in him.

So Canton went to New Wilmington to get a new lease on his football life.

“The first day on campus when I met the team, I really felt like I fit in as a person,” Canton said. “As a player, I’m still trying to get the hang of everything. You can’t step into a new program and feel like you know everything.”

The 5-foot-9, 225-pounder found a niche as a short-yardage back, and he played his role perfectly in the Titans’ Oct. 20 game against then-No. 7 Washington & Jefferson. Canton scored two touchdowns -- both from 2 yards -- in Westminster’s 27-20 victory.

In both cases, Canton dove over the W&J defensive front to reach the end zone. From watching film on the Presidents, he decided taking the high road would be a better option than trying to bulldoze toward the goal line.

“Those are instinctive plays,” Benzel said. “If you watch films on W&J, they tend to be low tacklers, too. You get a guy like (Canton), he can kind of read the temperature of the defense, and he decided to go airborne.”

Benzel likes Canton’s football brain, but he also likes his brawn. Whether crashing into a defender or leaping over one, Canton’s willingness to give up his body has won the admiration of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Perhaps most importantly, his physical play brings another dimension to an offense that has relied heavily on its rushing attack.

With the graduation of mainstay quarterback Paul Columbo, the Titans (5-3, 5-2 Presidents’ Athletic Conference through Oct. 20) have been striving to find consistency in their passing game. So Benzel has turned to his stable of running backs to steady the offense.

The Titans don’t get a lot of big plays on the ground, but they are productive. Their 18 rushing touchdowns led the PAC through Oct. 20.

Over the first eight games, Canton carried the ball only 10 times, but four of those resulted in touchdowns, second on the team. None were bigger than the two he scored against W&J.

“I’m happy with the contributions I am doing now,” Canton said. “But you can never be satisfied because you can always get better at what you’re doing.”

Because he never played at Alderson Broaddus, Canton came to Westminster with all four years of eligibility remaining. Benzel said he can foresee Canton’s role increasing over the next couple of seasons as he continues to become more comfortable in the offense.

In his recruiting, Benzel tries not to pigeonhole players into specific positions. He said he likes to look for “football players” then decide where to plug them in to maximize their contributions.

Canton has fit that mold.

“When you look at guys coming from smaller programs in high school, you kind of look at the guy who does a little bit of everything,” Benzel said, “and Isiah was that guy.”

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