Canby Football Dominates in First 5A Contest

In Canby’s long-awaited debut in 5A football, the Cougs (1-1) performed — well, about as well as you could possibly hope for a team temporarily playing down a classification.

The Canby football team accepted the OSAA’s offer to move from 6A to 5A for at least two seasons in December 2019, after the once-mighty program endured a 4-23 record over a three-year period — including a winless campaign in 2018 that was its first since 1975.

Friday was the Cougars’ second game of the Covid-shortened season, but their debut last week was a non-league tilt against perennial 6A powerhouse Clackamas.

And though Canby lost that game, 32-15, the contest was more competitive than the final score might suggest. Which makes the Cougs’ 48-0 thrashing of their first true 5A opponent, the Hillsboro Spartans (1-1), not entirely unexpected.

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After a sluggish showing by the Cougar offense against Clackamas, taking only 11 snaps in the second half and making only a single trip into the end zone, the offensive machine roared to life at Hare Field Friday night, led by junior quarterback Mikey Gibson, who threw for four touchdowns, and senior receiver Chance Miller, who caught two of them.

It represented some vindication for Coach Jimmy Joyce, who told the Current last Sunday that he expected the team would make a big jump between weeks 1 and 2.

Hey — when he’s right, he’s right.

“Offensively, we were able to put things together consistently,” Joyce said Saturday. “Mikey Gibson was able to get into a rhythm and did a great job taking control of the offense. We were also able to establish a run game between our two-headed monster of Tyler Mead and Jackson Valdrow.”

The dynamic Miller, who has verbally committed to play for the Division I Air Force Academy next year, actually made three trips to the end zone at Hare Field.

He was the first to put Cougar points on the board, taking a punt return all the way to the house barely two minutes into the first quarter. It was the second game in a row in which Miller scored on a kick return in the first frame of the contest.

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“Chance Miller has taken his game to an even higher level — which is scary,” Joyce said. “Two weeks, two special teams touchdowns.”

While his speed and agility are obvious, his stamina and conditioning are perhaps even more impressive. Though it’s not uncommon for high school football stars to play roles on both offense and defense, Miller also plays both sides of special teams — even serving as the Cougars’ kicker.

“He never comes off the field,” Joyce said. “He is — by far — one of the most dynamic athletes in the state.”

Another big storyline was senior wide receiver Kaden Boyd’s breakout performance. He caught Gibson’s other two touchdown passes — including a 63-yard bomb on a 2nd and 23 that put the Cougs up 41-0 in the third quarter.

Workhorse running back Tyler Mead, also a senior, punched in his second rushing touchdown of the season on a 4th and 1 from the 3-yard line early in the second quarter, while Valdrow put the finishing touches on the Cougs’ offensive masterpiece, earning his first points of 2021 with some fancy footwork late in the third.

Valdrow’s 60-yard scramble was Canby’s fifth scoring play of the night that went 50 yards or more.

Despite the gaudy scoring, Joyce also made a point to laud the Cougars’ defense — which had also shown up against Clackamas — and shut out a Spartan offense that had dropped 54 points in its season opener one week ago.

“The defense continued its fantastic play,” Joyce said. “Defensive coordinator Brett Rhodes has done a fantastic job preparing these guys to be ready when we got our chance, and now that we have the opportunity, they are performing.”

Canby’s non-league matchup against Sandy Monday (which was planned as an underclassman-only outing) has been canceled, so their next action will be Friday, March 19, against 5A St. Helens (0-1) at home.

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