He played baseball for Bradshaw High School from 1972 through 1974. Cantrell was a stand-out from his first day on the field during which he had a double-double and a homerun. The 1972 Bradshaw Bruins baseball team finished third place in the state. In 1973 Cantrell played in the Lion’s Club East versus West game. In 1974 Cantrell led the Bruins 4A state championship team with a .356 hitting average and nine homeruns. He also led the team in the categories of stolen bases and RBIs. Through the last five games of the championship march, Cantrell started or relieved in every game. On the offensive side of the game, Cantrell had two hits and three RBIs in the first game of the finals to help the Bruins to a come from behind win. In the last game of the playoff finals he pitched a one hitter to defeat Prattville. His performance helped him earn the first ever full scholarship in baseball at the University of North Alabama. While at UNA he set the record for career strikeouts and led NCAA Division II with over twelve strikeouts per game. He was selected for the All-Eastern Conference team in 1978.