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Junior star running back Tyler Konold put an exclamation point on the opening statement of his Offensive Player of the Year junior campaign, and a young Canby Cougar (1-0) squad held on to snag a thrilling 21-18 victory in its season opener at Mountain View High School Friday in Bend.
Konold, who led 5A in rushing yards as a sophomore last season (1,650 yards on 162 carries with 18 TDs), put the league on notice with an eye-popping season-opening stat line of 243 yards and two scores on 23 tries — highlighted by a 68-yard first-quarter romp for the first touchdown of the game.
Head coach Jimmy Joyce said he was impressed by Konold’s performance.
“He is a workhorse and the great thing about him: He runs as hard in the fourth quarter as he does in the first,” Joyce told the Current. “He understands that he is going to have to carry a bigger load this year.
“Last year, we aimed for 15 to 18 rushing attempts a game. This year, it will have to be around 22 to 25 or more.”
The win did not come easily, as the Cougs watched a 21-3 first-half advantage be slowly whittled down by a furious rally from the home team.
Mountain View’s junior quarterback, Connor Crum, led the way, tossing scores to Sam Creech and Jackson Hersch, along with a two-point conversion, to make it a three-point game late in the fourth quarter.
But, carried by Konold and a two-man quarterback corps of Parker Ackerman and Gage Millar, the Cougs held firm in the final series and escaped Jack Harris Stadium with a victory in hand.
“I think the complexity of a first game caught up to us,” Joyce admitted. “A few mistakes really turned into a scary few minutes. A bad snap, a few blown assignments and missed tackles gave life to a good opponent.
“Mountain View is a great program and was a 6A playoff team last year. We knew they wouldn’t just roll over. Proud of how we fought back and walked out with a win.”
Though Joyce is loath to use the word “rebuilding,” Canby certainly had a bit of, let’s say, retooling to do after graduating a core of talented seniors last season, including the state’s best lineman, Jacob Strand, who is now at OSU, co-Defensive Player of the Year Joe Brauckmiller, and three-year starting QB Mikey Gibson.
“We are a super young team that is still building depth,” Joyce said. “We had 17 guys make their first varsity start tonight. In 100-degree heat after a three-hour school bus ride with no AC. In many cases, those guys saw their first varsity action ever. Happy to see this young team start to gel.”
The Cougs alternated quarterback duties with their two junior signal callers throughout the game, with both doing about as much damage on the ground as they did through the air.
Millar was 2-for-4 for 36 yards, with another 27 rushing including a score, while Ackerman added one completion for 27 yards and another 38 on the ground.
Joyce is not sure if that will continue all season, but he’s in no hurry to name a permanent starter.
“We are in a constant state of competition,” he said. “I like how both push one another. I’m very pleased with how both played. We’ll see what the film looks like.”
The Cougs will make their home debut at 7 p.m. Thursday, hosting a familiar foe, Oregon City (1-0) of the Three Rivers League, Canby’s former 6A conference. The Pioneers beat Jefferson 15-12 at home in their season opener.
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