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If the fourth-ranked Canby Cougars felt rust or nerves in their first playoff match after a seven-year drought, they didn’t show it, cruising to a confident, 37-7 win over the No. 13 Lebanon Warriors (4-6, 4-3 Mid-Willamette Conference) at home Friday night.
The rebuilding Cougs (8-2, 6-1 Northwest Oregon Conference West) had not seen playoff action of any kind in seven years and have not hosted or won a playoff game since 2013 — when a surprising 12th-seeded Canby squad marched all the way to the semifinals, where they fell to eventual state runner-up Jesuit.
The Cougs got things going in the first half with a grueling, 61-yard drive that taxed the Lebanon defense. Canby didn’t call a single play that gained more than 15 yards but marched their way into the end zone on the backs of their hard-working front line and relentless running game.
Senior Mikey Gibson drew first blood, diving into the end zone from six yards out on the quarterback keeper. The Cougars kept the visitors on their feet, as senior Joe Brauckmiller recovered a fumble three plays into the Warriors’ opening drive to get the ball back. Canby would go on to recover three fumbles on the day.
“Our defense has been opportunistic all year and tonight they were ball hawks,” Cougar head coach Jimmy Joyce told The Canby Current. “We have had some great defensive performances all year and tonight was definitely one of them.”
Super sophomore running back Tyler Konold would score a 36-yarder on the final offensive play of the first quarter to make it 14-0. Konold finished with 103 yards on 13 tries and a pair of rushing TDs on the day, adding another footnote to what has been a magnificent debut season for the first-year varsity starter.
His backfield mate, workhorse Bryce Oliver, punched in another six points to put the game out of reach in the second quarter. Oliver tallied 94 yards on 16 carries, while Gibson scrambled for another 69.
The second half saw Gibson continue to command the Cougar offense, his lone passing touchdown going to fellow senior Joe Brauckmiller for a 17-yard touchdown. He finished the first playoff game of his career an impressive 9-16 for 132 yards and no interceptions.
Lebanon’s only touchdown of the day came on an 80-yard kick return touchdown in the fourth quarter that made the score 37-7 — which ended up being the final tally.
Joyce was impressed with a team effort in the win Friday, but most importantly, he talk of how much the win meant for the community.
“When I took the job three years ago, I understood even then what football means to Canby,” Joyce said. “This town draws a lot of its identity from Friday night lights, and the pressure to bring back that pride is what drew me to this job.”
As the packed stands and loud cheers would tell you, Canby pride is back in a big way.
The win sets up an intriguing quarterfinals showdown with the undefeated, fifth-ranked Thurston Colts (8-0, 7-0 Midwestern League), who trounced No. 12 Ridgeview 31-2 Friday. Considered underseeded by many pundits, the Colts are among the favorites to repeat as state champions after winning the 5A crown in 2018 and ’19.
Fortunately for Canby, the game will be played in front of a raucous and enthusiastic home crowd Friday, Nov. 12, at Cougar Stadium.
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