Most coaches and athletes are loath to acknowledge a “moral victory.” You win, or you lose, they say, and that’s all there is to it. But if such a thing does indeed exist, then it would be hard to find a better example of one than the Cougars’ narrow loss to West Albany — perhaps the best 5A team in the state of Oregon.
It was Canby’s home opener — and their first fall game at Cougar Stadium since 2019. The highly anticipated matchup between two top 5-ranked opponents went back and forth and down to the wire, but ultimately, the visiting Bulldogs prevailed, 17-14.
Following a 26-20 road win over the No. 6 Dallas Dragons, the Cougs roared onto the field with their first packed home stadium since Canby’s 42-15 win over Roseburg on Nov. 1, 2019, and the energy in the stands was noticeable. So noticeable, in fact, that FOX 12’s Friday Night Flights crew was out to cover the game.
In front of the raucous home crowd, the Cougs began with a three-and-out before super sophomore Tyler Konold, fresh off of a two-touchdown performance against Dallas, intercepted Bulldog quarterback Michael Cale at the Canby 20-yard line. But Canby was unable to take advantage, and West Albany would score on a 12-yard pass to take a 7-0 lead late in the first.
The Bulldogs would tack on a field goal to make the score 10-0 before Canby head coach Jimmy Joyce, a longtime offensive coordinator for Beaverton, dipped into his bag of tricks. Running back Bryce Oliver took a pitch before throwing the ball back to senior quarterback Mikey Gibson for a 45-yard touchdown to tighten the score to 10-7.
Then, with 12 seconds left in the first half, Gibson would find senior Koby Kessler in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard score to take a 14-10 lead into halftime. After only one first down in the first quarter, Canby had fought back to take the lead.
The second half saw West Albany embark on a relentless, 13-play, 80-yard march downfield that resulted in a one-yard score. The Bulldogs were able to hold onto that 17-14 lead for the remainder of the game. With 53 seconds left and Canby driving, Gibson heaved a hail mary that was intercepted at the one-yard line and effectively ended the game.
Gibson finished 13/24 for 97 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and one touchdown reception. Gibson also used his legs, recording the longest run of the day for the Cougs.
The loss drops the Cougars to 1-1 as they finish up their non-league play. West Albany advances to 2-0. Both teams will likely stay in the top 10 in 5A rankings and remain in the upper echelon of 5A teams.
“When two top 5 teams in the state go head to head it comes down to who does the little things better,” head coach Jimmy Joyce said. “Tonight, West Albany did those things better. We are motivated by the fact we could see these guys again in November.”
Canby will be right back at home next Saturday with a league matchup against North Salem. The Vikings just played an Albany team themselves, falling to South Albany 21-48. Kickoff time is set for 7 p.m.
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