Perhaps it should not be surprising — after almost a full year and a half since they last stepped onto the field at Cougar Stadium to compete — that the Canby High School football team (0-1) looked a little rusty in its season-opening 32-15 loss to Clackamas (1-0).
OK — “a little rusty” might be a bit of an understatement.
“We were as rusty as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz,” Coach Jimmy Joyce said with a laugh afterward. “Obviously, it’s been 490 days since we played a real football game, and it showed. Not just in players, but as a coach and play-caller, I was rusty.”
That they were — for parts of the game, anyway. There were also series that showed the tremendous talent the Cougs currently boast — and their promise for the future.
One of their senior stars showed his abilities midway through the first quarter, as dynamic wide receiver and return specialist Chance Miller found a little daylight and beat the entire Cavalier team down the field for an 80-yard kick return.
That score — the first football-related fireworks at Canby High for almost 500 straight days — gave the Cougs their first and only lead of the night, 7-6.
There was also the guts of steel Canby’s defense and special teams repeatedly showed at the goal line: blocking two point-after field goals as well as a two-point conversion, and a second-half series in which the Cougs stopped not one, not two, but three straight 4th and goal attempts that had to be replayed due to penalties.
“The biggest positive was our defense battling the way they did,” Joyce said. “When you run only 11 offensive plays in a half, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense and they didn’t back down.”
Penalties — that was another big storyline of the night.
Yellow flags filled the air almost as much as the rain that set in during the second half, likely due to the rustiness of both teams — though at least one sideline reporter jokingly asked if the officials had been told to fit nine weeks’ worth of penalties into this year’s Covid-shortened, six-week season.
Big pickup by Mikey Gibson on the ground, followed by a combined 25-yard penalty for holding and a late hit on the Cavaliers. Cougar have gained more from penalty yards then anything else so far this drive, but we’ll take it. @Canby_Football @CanbyAthletics
Overall, the contest was much more competitive than the final score might suggest, with Canby trailing only 18-15 at halftime before seeming to run out of gas late in the game.
“Clackamas is a great program and a perennial 6A title contender — they won it all just three years ago,” Joyce said. “Our guys, and especially our defense, almost never came off the field in that second half, and they still stood toe to toe with them the entire night.”
The offense will take some time, Joyce believes, due not only to the extended offseason and uncertainty that a football season would even be played this year, but also the simple facts that the Cougars have new players in new roles this year, and some adjustments will need to be made.
“A team should make the biggest improvement between weeks 1 and 2 and I think you will see that from us,” Joyce said.
The Cougars will have the chance to show it Friday, as they travel to face their first opponent from their newly created 5A special district: Hillsboro.
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