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Cougars miss playoffs, but win back-to-back games for the first time since 2016

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Canby senior Jackson Linman celebrates after the Cougars defeated Oregon City on Friday, Oct. 25.

Canby (2-7) did not qualify for the playoffs.

But the Cougars were closer than first-year head coach Jimmy Joyce ever expected, finishing 36th in the final OSAA Class 6A football rankings.

"If you would have told me whenever I took this job that we would have been playing in week nine for a playoff spot, I would have thought you were crazy," Joyce said.

"It's hard to wrap my head around it right now because it shows how far we came that we were even in the running for the playoffs. Honestly, the win last (Friday) night overshadows any disappointment we have about not making the playoffs."

Canby defeated Roseburg 42-15 Friday at home to close the regular season with back-to-back wins.

The Cougars had not won two straight games since 2016.

"Finishing the season 2-0 is absolutely the icing on the cake for a great year," Joyce said. "I really think the kids were able to take a deep breath. I think everyone was able to take a deep breath after last week. Getting that win just kind of opens you up. They played more confidently. You just saw it in the kids' faces all week at practice. I don't think I heard the word 'playoff' really mentioned once. It was more about going out and beating Roseburg."

Quarterback Mikey Gibson threw touchdown passes to Chance Miller and Ronan Gay in the first half. Nick Vandecoevering then returned an interception for a touchdown to give Canby a 21-7 lead at halftime.

The Cougars added two more touchdowns late in the third quarter on runs by Wyatt Ramos and Gibson.

Andrew Peters scored Canby's final touchdown on the ground with 3:04 remaining in the game.

"There were a lot of mistakes made in the game, but it was probably our most complete game of football that we've had all year," Joyce said. "Our defense really stepped forward and played a really good game. Our defense the last two weeks has stepped up huge, all season they really have."

Payton Martin and Nathan Bailey each had interceptions against Roseburg.

"They're playing confident," Joyce said of the defense. "Once you get over the hump and you learn how to win a game, you can actually play a little more free and confident and you could see that out of the kids. Guys were playing aggressive and fast. They're not thinking. They're just reacting and that's an amazing thing to see. Early in the year that wasn't happening, on offense or defense."

Canby's offense put up 221 points this season after scoring just 62 last year, and 139 in 2017.

Before the game, Joyce honored his first group of seniors.

"They're a group that I'm going to remember when I'm in a wheelchair and can't even remember what football is anymore," Joyce said. "They stuck around and they bought in and that's an impressive thing because they could have very easily walked away. At anytime in the last few years they could have walked away and done something else. These are 16 young men that stuck it out. Not only did they embrace the changes we were making, they led the way in the changes we were making. They knew what we were up against this year and it didn't bother them once. We talked early on about laying a foundation because that first step is really hard. We wanted to make sure they laid a foundation for future success and that's what they've done. They earned my respect for the rest of their lives."

Derek Wiley
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