The Canby Cougars football team roared back into action after the shortest offseason in league history this summer and made a promising start to a campaign in which expectations are higher than they’ve been in many years, defeating a tough, top 10 opponent in the Dallas Dragons on the road, 26-20.
Two veteran senior leaders, quarterback Mikey Gibson and wide receiver and defensive back Matthew Soles, helped pave the way to victory, along with super sophomore running back Tyler Konold, a newcomer to the varsity team after a dominating romp through freshman league in the spring.
Matthew Soles scored a touchdown and had two interceptions in the first half, Koby Kessler returned an interception more than 90 yards for a touchdown, and Konold took two trips to the end zone, including a 54-yard run, to power the Cougars to the victory over the host Dragons.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Dragons struck first to take a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run. Canby responded with a Mikey Gibson shovel pass to Soles to tie the score at 7 with 5:18 left in the first half.
The Cougars took the lead for good on a 24-yard flat pass from Gibson to Konold with less than a minute before halftime. On the final play of the half, Kessler intercepted Dallas quarterback Ashton Foster and took it 94 yards to the house to give Canby a 20-7 halftime lead.
The Dragons scored on their first possession of the third quarter, but Canby made it a two-score game when Konold raced 54 yards on a fourth-and-one three and a half minutes after halftime. It was the sophomore’s second touchdown of the evening.
“Tyler Konold is a guy a lot of people will be talking about for years,” head coach Jimmy Joyce said. “He and Bryce Oliver are a two-headed monster in the backfield.”
Dallas drove inside the Cougs’ 10 late in the third but Canby held firm, forcing a turn over on downs and taking over with 11:55 left. With the Dragons within six points, Soles again made the crucial play, breaking up a pass on Dallas’ final drive to clinch the victory for the Cougars.
It was the first time the Cougs had won their season opener since the 2017 campaign (though, take that with a grain of salt: They went 1-7 the remainder of that year in the brutally competitive Three Rivers League). This time, however, Canby boasts the No. 5 team in 5A, per Scorebook Live.
Gibson finished 7/15 for 82 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Konold had a combined 101 yards rushing and receiving, with two touchdowns. For Gibson, a senior and third-year starter, it marked his return to the field after missing the last two games of the 2020 campaign due to injury.
“Being back in under the lights, fans in the stands, and just having that exciting environment again was incredible,” Gibson said. “It was an amazing feeling and I’m proud of this team for going out there and putting on a great show to get our first win.”
Canby returns to Cougar Stadium for their home opener Friday: a marquee matchup against West Albany, one of the best teams in 5A. The Bulldogs are fresh off an impressive 21-17 win over 6A powerhouse Beaverton.
“When you open up against two top 10 teams in the state, it’s always going to be a challenge,” Joyce said. “But tonight, we saw guys find a way to win and that shows me they are learning how to compete at the highest level.”
The Cougars and Bulldogs face off on Sept. 10, with a kickoff set for 7 p.m.
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