Canby football was hindered by injuries, inexperience; Vaught eyes retirement after next year

ARCHIVE PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Canby senior quarterback Trent WakefieldThere's no way to sugar coat it: Canby football had a tough go of it in the 2018 season. The Cougars went 0-5 in league play through its tour of league play, and 0-9 overall. Surrendering 334 points and only putting together 62 offensive points.

Though the Cougars have struggled in recent years, putting together two-win seasons in three straight years, the losses and blowout nature was something wholly unexpected. At least according to head coach Mike Vaught, who came into the season with high hopes.

"If you have told me that we would have gone 0-9 this year I would never have believed it," Vaught said. "But it happened and I could give you lots of reasons for it and they would be valid, but the bottom line is even with all the things that happened to us we should have found a way to be more competitive."

On paper, the roster was promising. Several capable athletes came out for the team that had not played since youth leagues, and a promising cast of underclassmen came out to bolster the team's numbers. Unfortunately, injuries to key personnel were once again a key component of the season's storyline.

"All but one of our major injuries came in games and I don't have any idea of how to fix that," Vaught said. "When you have five broken hands, two torn ACLs, MCL, a broken collar bone, and three concussions all during games, that is just bad luck. Two of our big injuries both starting tackles came away from football before the season even started."

The injuries on the offensive line made it difficult for Canby to run with any sort of consistent success. With opposing teams aware of the detriment on the line, they were able to plan for the Cougars air game and limit senior quarterback Trent Wakefield and the wide receiver corps effectiveness.

Over the course of the winless season, Vaught recognized that the winless drought was hard, not just on the players and coaches, but also the families that sacrificed for the program's cause.

"This season was hard on so many people, not only the players their families the coaches but on everyone who is associated with Canby football," Vaught said. "But no matter how they feel I take this very personally and it makes for a very rough life on me and my wife. When you put 50 weeks a year into our football program and then have this kind of thing happen it just tears you up."

For Vaught, a Cougars coach of 28 years and 37 overall, the end is in sight. At the end of the 2019 football season, the longtime coach will hang up the gloves and walk away. Thoughts of calling it quits at the end of this particularly rough season were there, but Vaught wanted to make a point to his players.

"What I have told the kids is anyone can quit and just walk away when things get hard," Vaught said, "but the biggest show of courage and character is when you can keep your heart and your faith even in the worst of times. I can't quit on them because it is easy. I have to come back for one more year and do what I ask of them. That way they know and my coaches know that next year will be my last one. Even if we have a great year I will still have it my last."

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