Canby football has never been known for fancy offense or high-scoring, West Coast-style affairs. For decades, the Cougars built their fearsome reputation on wearing down opponents with a tough Wing-T scheme and a relentless running game. Passes were a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” sort of thing.
This old-school approach powered Canby to several state quarterfinal appearances, most recently in 2013.
But times have changed. After a brutal, 15-game losing streak in which the Cougs went winless in the 2018 campaign and managed barely 7 points per game over the course of two seasons, longtime Beaverton offensive coordinator Jimmy Joyce was brought in to breathe new life into the team’s Xs and Os.
The transformation completed itself Friday night, as the Cougs put more points on the board than they have in at least a decade, racked up 484 yards of total offense and ran all over the St. Helens Lions for a 55-13 win.
With their 42-13 drubbing of North Salem at home last week, the Cougars have now averaged nearly 49 points over the past two games. It’s safe to say Joyce’s offense is looking pretty good.
Led by senior quarterback and third-year varsity starter Mikey Gibson and the two-headed backfield monster of Bryce Oliver and Tyler Konold, the Canby offensive machine has been basically unstoppable since No. 4-ranked West Albany managed to hold it two scores in its 17-14 Week 2 victory — the Cougars’ lone loss of the season.
The high-scoring night started defensively for the Cougars. Oregon State commit Jacob Strand — who was a wrecking ball in the Lion backfield all night long — broke through the line on the third play of the game and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Lions in the end zone, leading to a rare safety.
Following the safety punt, Mikey Gibson and the Cougar offense needed just three plays to find the end zone again, as Gibson targeted the explosive Koby Kessler for a 28-yard score. Less than two minutes later, Gibson connected with another senior, Matt Soles, to put the Cougars up 16-0.
At the end of the first quarter, Canby was up 23 points and had eight plays of 10 or more yards. St. Helens had a negative five total yards of offense.
“I think it all comes back to practice,” Joyce told The Canby Current afterward. “After West Albany, we made some changes to how we did things Monday through Thursday. It lit a fire under us.”
The second quarter saw a Cougar drive fail to score for the first time since that West Albany game, as a Gibson scramble came up short on 4th down.
The Lions were able to get on the board after a grueling drive that ended in an 8-yard passing TD. Konold quickly responded with a 39-yard TD scurry to make the score 29-6.
The final snap of the half saw Strand scamper into the end zone on a zany 50-yard run that featured a lateral from Konold.
Unfortunately, the play was called back due to a penalty. Despite that, Canby went to the break with their largest halftime lead in the last five years.
The Cougs came out of the locker room ready for more, as Konold started the quarter with a bang, running 56 yards for a score on the first play of the half. Most of the starters’ work was done by the third quarter, as the Canby reserve corps took over for most of the second half.
Backup quarterback Cameron Lee scored on a 35-yard keeper, and junior tailback Davis Hagen scored the final touchdown of the game on a one-yard blast.
Gibson finished a highly efficient 6/9 with 110 yards and three touchdowns. Konold, in only his fourth game on the varsity squad after putting up Madden NFL-level numbers in freshman league last year, had a career night.
Already ranked in the top 10 in 5A rushing leaders despite sharing backfield duties with another elite running back in Oliver, the dynamic sophomore looks poised to climb those rankings after piling up 257 yards rushing and three touchdowns — the first time a Cougar eclipsed the 200-yard mark since Kendle Boykin collected 201 rushing yards against Reynolds in 2016.
Joyce credited the offensive line for its hard work in securing the victory.
“Our big boys up front have been very impressive this year,” Joyce said. “You can see it in how they practice. Confidence has been growing in themselves and in what we are doing. Tyler and Bryce have been putting up big numbers because of the hogs up front.”
Canby is off to a 3-1 start, and is on track for their best season since at least 2013. The Cougars return home next Friday to take on the McKay Royal Scots as Northwest Oregon Conference (NWOC) West play continues. The Scots are fresh off a 31-28 win over Forest Grove and are 2-2 on the year. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
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