STOCKBRIDGE – As a senior leader, Stockbridge wide receiver Kolby Canfield took the mature route when preparing for the 2016 season.
After a junior campaign in which he had 19 touchdown receptions and 1,209 yards, both second on the team, Canfield said he came into his senior year ready to embrace a decoy role. The Panthers lost a two-time Associated Press Division 5-6 first team wide receiver in Austin Cimala to graduation, and Canfield accepted the task of taking the new receiving corps under his wing, knowing it would be vital to the success of high-scoring Stockbridge.
“I was trying to get the other receivers (ready) so that (quarterback) Mason (Gee-Montgomery) would have other targets besides me,” Canfield said. “I was working with the other receivers on their route running and catching, so that we had more weapons.”
And, while the rest of the Panthers’ skill players have adapted nicely through the team’s 3-1 start to the season, Canfield and Gee-Montgomery have continued to build on the chemistry that started brewing in their elementary days. Canfield has become the go-to guy for Gee-Montgomery through the first four weeks of the season. The senior has a team-leading 30 catches for 440 yards and eight touchdowns.
Canfield sat out of Stockbridge’s 32-18 Week 1 loss to Grass Lake due to an ankle injury.
“If we would have had him Week 1, I think the game would have been a different outcome,” said Gee-Montgomery, who was the Associated Press’ Division 5-6 player of the year after throwing for a state-record 51 touchdowns last year. “His physical traits, he’s just a monster. He has the biggest hands that I’ve seen, and that definitely helps us.”
Canfield caught three of his eight touchdown passes in Friday night’s 70-32 win over Leslie, a game in which Gee-Montgomery threw his 105th career touchdown pass, surpassing the state record set by Ithaca’s Travis Smith (104).
Smith accomplished the feat in 42 games from 2011-13. Gee-Montgomery did it in 24.
“I’m not going to get the opportunity to play 40-something games,” Gee-Montgomery said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things: the hard work that I’ve put in, great blocking by the offensive line and the receivers have to catch the ball. … We have a great group of guys on the outside that do a great job of getting open and making plays happen.”
Gee-Montgomery credited his long relationship with Canfield as one of the reason’s the two have gotten off to a fast start. When things get chaotic, the quarterback said he often trusts Canfield to bail him out.
“We’re balanced (as an offense), but I feel like Mason likes to throw to me,” said Canfield, who was special mention all-state as a junior. “Me and Mason have been playing football together since second grade. We’ve always bonded.
“When he’s scrambling, I usually come back to him. He relies on me to catch the ball.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.