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The Wilsonville Wildcats (9-0, 7-0 Northwest Oregon Conference West) came, saw and conquered at Cougar Stadium Friday night, downing Canby in impressive fashion in the highly anticipated showdown between the two top-ranked league rivals.
Though Canby (7-2, 6-1 NWOC West) showed flashes of the free-wheeling offense and stingy defense that has largely defined their resurgent 2021 season, the Wildcats’ undefeated record was never really in doubt as they galloped out to a 17-0 halftime lead en route to a convincing, 38-12 victory.
It was the second act between the two would-be crosstown rivals after the ‘Cats walloped an injury-plagued Cougar squad earlier this spring at the end of the Covid-shortened 2020-21 season.
Canby was much healthier and more confident in this go-round, though the final score in the rematch was remarkably similar to last year’s (37-14). The Wildcats, who have not lost a game since the 2019 state quarterfinals, also claimed the NWOC West league title with Friday’s victory.
Wilsonville advanced the ball scored in almost every way imaginable, with two offensive and defensive scores apiece, a special teams trick play and a field goal. The dominant performance ensured that the packed stands of Cougar faithful — including a student section decked out in Halloween attire — never became a factor in the game.
“Wilsonville taught us a good lesson,” Cougar head coach Jimmy Joyce told the Current afterward. “This is what playoff football’s all about.”
After both teams started with three-and-outs, Wilsonville embarked on a grueling 16 play, 85-yard drive that set the tone for the rest of the game. The Wildcats scored on a six-yard pass from Chase Hix to Nick Crowley to take a 7-0 lead.
Moments later, the momentum completely swung Wilsonville’s way at the worst possible time, as Canby senior quarterback Mikey Gibson completed a pass to Matthew Soles — only for a massive hit to dislodge the ball and send it bouncing toward the Wildcat end zone.
Wilsonville’s Kal Gutridge scooped it up and carried it the rest of the way to take a quick 14-0 lead — demoralizing a Cougar squad that had not trailed in a game since Week 2 against West Albany.
The vaunted Cougar offense would not be able to get into the red zone in the first half, and a field goal by Jeff Friedman would give the Wildcats a 17-0 halftime lead in a half that was all Wilsonville.
The second half began with the final gut-punch from a well-balanced Wildcat squad. After recovering a Parker Ackerman fumble, the Wilsonville offense was halted by the Cougars at Canby’s 30-yard line.
The field goal squad once again trotted out — but Friedman would not be taking the kick. Instead, holder Jack Johnson — who had a fantastic game on both sides of the ball — connected with wide receiver Judah Lesh on a perfectly executed fake to give Wilsonville a commanding 24-0 lead.
The Cougar O was finally able to find traction in the fourth quarter, much too late for this game, but providing some much-needed momentum that Canby can carry into next week. Super sophomore Tyler Konold refused to quit, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns and finishing with 132 yards rushing on 20 carries.
The box score told the grisly story, with Wilsonville piling up 344 total yards to Canby’s 183 — most of which came after the game was out of reach. Despite being down for most of the game, Joyce was pleased with his team’s effort and attitude present throughout the night.
“Guys are trying to lift each other up, not tear each other down,” said Joyce. “They’re moving forward, getting better, and I think that’s a huge credit to these kids.”
While the 38-12 drubbing at home will sting, there is good news. With the OSAA rankings freezing at midnight on Friday, the Cougars have locked in a No. 4 ranking in the state and will have two possible home matchups to start the playoffs.
Canby has since drawn Lebanon (4-5, 3-4 Mid-Willamette Conference) for their first playoff game of the year, and Gibson knows him and his team will use the loss on Friday as an opportunity.
“It’s not ‘We lost.’ It’s ‘We’re learning,'” Gibson said. “It’s one of the best things about this game: Each and every day, you’re learning no matter what.”
The Cougars have qualified for their first playoff game since 2014 and their first home playoff game since 2013. Even in their down years, the Canby community has rallied around football.
“You don’t have to worry about the atmosphere here in Canby,” Joyce said. “When we were 0-7, it was still packed. I’m just excited about playing a meaningful game in November.”
Expect a loud and joyous crowd as Canby celebrates a raucous return to playoff football Friday. Kickoff time is TBD.
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