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No. 5 Canby notched another victory in its resurgent 2021 campaign with a convincing 43-14 win over Forest Grove (3-5, 1-5 Northwest Oregon Conference West) on the Vikings’ home turf Friday, setting the stage for next week’s showdown with the top-ranked Wilsonville Wildcats (8-0, 6-0 NWOC West) at Cougar Stadium.
Tyler Konold, who led the state in 5A rushing yards going into Friday night’s matchup (1,154 on 98 attempts, for an absurd average of 11.8 yards per carry), had a 41-yard touchdown run.
But his backfield mate, senior Bryce Oliver, stole the show this week, rushing for more than 100 yards and three scores, while senior quarterback Mikey Gibson commanded the offense with his arm and legs.
Friday saw the Cougars (7-1, 6-0 NWOC West) start out quickly once again, running down the Vikings’ throats before Gibson punched in a five-yard touchdown on the quarterback keeper to put Canby on the board.
Less than five minutes later, Oliver found an outside seam for a 21-yard score to keep the Canby offensive machine rolling. After a Gibson TD pass to Matthew Soles at the end of the quarter, the Cougs led 19-0 — their sixth straight game building a lead of three scores or more in the first half.
While Konold and Oliver’s commanded much of the spotlight — as they have all season — much of the credit for Friday’s victory is due to Joe Brauckmiller, who was a one-man wrecking crew on both sides of the ball.
The senior, who has also shined as a receiver this year, finished the night with an interception, fumble recovery and a crucial, momentum-swinging sack that ended a Viking drive.
Cougar head coach Jimmy Joyce called Brauckmiller the X-factor in Friday’s victory.
“Joe is impressive in so many ways,” Joyce told the Canby Current. “What he does for us on both sides of the ball is invaluable. His ability to play the entire field on defense puts a lot of pressure on the offense.”
Brauckmiller’s interception in the second quarter gave the Cougars possession in the Viking red zone, while his fumble recovery in the third led to Konold’s only rushing touchdown of the day. His sack in the fourth quarter stopped a Forest Grove fourth-down attempt and kept the score at 37-7.
The night wrapped with a Viking touchdown on the last play of the game that made the final score seem slightly closer than it really was: 43-14, Cougars. Gibson finished 10-22 with three touchdowns (two passing and one rushing) and one interception, while the team piled up more than 250 yards for the third straight game.
With the win, Canby has clinched an automatic playoff berth by finishing in the top two of the Oregon Northwest Conference West with Wilsonville. It will be Canby’s first trip to the postseason since 2014, when the Cougs squeaked in as the 29th seed out of 32 and fell in the first round to fourth-ranked Sheldon.
The win sets up the season-ending showdown with Wilsonville, with the Northwest Oregon Conference West league title on the line (both teams have perfect 6-0 records in the NWOC). It’s the biggest game for the program in eight years and a dress rehearsal for a possible playoff clash that could decide this year’s state champion.
Despite the prominence of the match, Joyce won’t be approaching the week any differently.
“We need to commit ourselves to a great week of practice and remember what has gotten us this far — hard work and a commitment to excellence,” Joyce said. “Right now, nothing else matters but practice on Monday at 3 p.m.”
Next Friday’s game is also another chapter in the budding crosstown rivalry — and, for Canby, a much-anticipated rematch of the disheartening setback last spring, in which the well-oiled Wildcats had their way with an injury-riddled Canby squad at Randall Stadium.
No doubt Gibson, who played injured in that game and took about half of the snaps at quarterback while limping back and forth from the sidelines, has had this one circled on his calendar for months.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
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