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One week ago, Canby head lacrosse coach Trey Bellmore was not sure if his team would make the playoffs. Fresh off of a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of the Clackamas Cavaliers, the first-year coach admitted that his team toed the line of elimination.
Though the Cougars (8-11, 1-9 TRL) sat in last place in the Three Rivers League standings, their strength of schedule was one of the hardest in the state. The TRL boasts three of the top five teams in the state in Lakeridge, Lake Oswego and West Linn.
And after a 4-18 loss at the hand of West Linn (12-6, 7-3 TRL) to conclude the regular season, it’s safe to say that things looked grim. Though the Cougars sat high in the rankings, they would need to qualification process to go their way.
Four days later, the Cougars were not only in a playoff game — they were hosting one. Canby’s elite competition throughout the year, as well as wins over high-ranked non-league foes secured the Cougs the No. 12 seed in the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association’s championship tournament.
Canby Athletics on Twitter: “Boys lacrosse defeats West Salem at home in the first round of the playoffs! They take on Sunset next week! #CanbyProud pic.twitter.com/djklrNlNPY / Twitter”
Boys lacrosse defeats West Salem at home in the first round of the playoffs! They take on Sunset next week! #CanbyProud pic.twitter.com/djklrNlNPY
Rather than watching the postseason from their living rooms, Bellmore and his boys had home-field advantage.
“[Being in the playoffs] feels pretty good,” he told the Current prior to the first-round game. “Although the record isn’t where I want it to be, this is a reward for the effort and hard work the kids have displayed all season long.”
The Cougars’ first opponent was West Salem. The Titans (9-8, 5-1 North Valley) came into Friday’s playoff atmosphere red-hot — having won five straight to close out the season, including a three-game stretch where they outscored their opponents 48-12.
But Canby was uncowed, and the Cougars pounced from the opening face-off. The Canby D, anchored by freshman goalie Logan Corley, showed their battle readiness — forged in the crucible of the TRL — and stopped the Titans in their tracks.
Thanks to some reliable offense from Cam Lee and Carter Sprague, the Cougars led 6-2 at the half.
In the second half, Canby shut down the Titans’ offense completely. Defender Aidan Pedro gave the West Salem offense fits as the Titans failed to score in the entire half. After weeks of scoring 10-plus goals, they were blanked by the smothering Cougar defense.
Meanwhile, the Cougars slowly added to their lead. Lee scored once again, as did Gavin Boyer in the closing minutes to seal the game. When all was said and done, Canby proved their postseason invite was no mistake, dominating in a 9-2 win.
After the victory, the Cougars will head off for a rematch against the fifth-seeded Sunset Apollos (10-6, 4-1 Metro League). Canby played Sunset to open up the season back in March, losing 4-14. Tuesday’s playoff game will be a true full-circle outing for Bellmore and his team.
The game will be played at Sunset Stadium at 7 p.m.
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