New head football coach Jimmy Joyce came to Canby after seven years as offensive coordinator at Beaverton High School with one thing on his mind: Rebuild the culture from the ground up.
In a recent interview, he told us that his focus throughout this summer has been less about wins and losses this season — and even less about last year’s brutal 0-9 finish — and more about how to deal with adversity on the field, especially when the odds are stacked against them (as they often will be this year, as one of the youngest and greenest teams in one of the toughest leagues in the state).
“The one thing we want them to do is always have a short memory in this game,” he said. “That’s something that I think every athlete needs to learn: That this is a game of failure, like life is a game of failure. You’re going to learn from your mistakes, how you respond to them and how well you can grow from them.”
That attitude was on full display during the team’s season opener Friday, as the Cougs found themselves in a 19-0 hole against the visiting Lincoln Cardinals midway through the second quarter.
Surely, some fans in the capacity crowd found themselves wondering if — despite the optimism surrounding the new coach, and the new energy brought by him and his experienced staff — this season might just wind up being a repeat of last year anyway.
But the Cougs refused to quit, and senior Ronan Gay (#4) would play a huge role. Shortly before halftime, he took a kick return and barreled down the field all the way to the Lincoln 41, in a play that electrified the home crowd and proved to be a turning point.
A few plays later, senior Andrew Peters (#8) connected with Gay on a 30-yard bomb that put Canby on the board and lit the sky with fireworks.
And we’re on the board!! Ronan was huge in that entire drive, start to finish. #GoCougars #CougarPride #CougarCountry #CougarsRISE https://t.co/vu1tvGn6dL
On the opening series after the half, Canby drove down the field with renewed swagger, capping it in much the same way as they had the last one, although this time the score was from Peters finding junior Tyler Mead (#9) on a textbook corner route.
The two teams traded punches for the remainder of the third and most of the fourth, until finally, the Cougs earned themselves a shortened field with an impressive stop on 4th and 1.
Some great scrambles and more passing brilliance by Peters (along with a timely taunting penalty) got Canby to the goal line, and senior Wyatt Ramos (#44) made it official with a bruising 8-yard TD run that left several Cardinals reaching for the ice packs.
The two-point conversion made it 22-19. Canby had scored 22 straight points. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be unanswered for long, as the Cards needed just three plays to drive 82 yards and take the lead and, ultimately, the game, 26-22.
Refusing to be discouraged, the team and their fans capped the night with a brand-new tradition.
A new tradition begins… #CanbyProud pic.twitter.com/fRQXpqlXWP
And there’s good reason to be encouraged about the new-look Cougars’ performance. The comeback, the refusal to quit, the offensive success all showed leaps and bounds worth of progress from last year’s team.
And the numbers back it up: the 22 points Canby scored Friday is more than a third than the total the team managed during the entire season last year (62).
Coach Joyce, too, was optimistic after the game.
Peters went 13 for 30 for 128 yards in his varsity debut at quarterback, with two touchdowns against one interception. Ramos led the ground assault, totaling 74 yards on 13 carries, with the score.
The Cougs continue their non-league schedule on the road next week as they head to South Medford to face the Panthers, who dominated Centennial in their season opener, 40-13.
For crowd and game photos, see our Facebook page.
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