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Cougars kick off their season Saturday night when they play host to Clackamas to begin six-game slate

By the time the Canby High football team lines up in a game that counts this Saturday night, it will have been more than 460 days since the score mattered.

But the wait will be over when the Cougars host Clackamas at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Second-year coach Jimmy Joyce is ready. What's more, he says his players feel the same.

"It's crazy to think we haven't played in that long, but even though football hasn't been going, football has been going at the same time."

FILE PHOTO - The Canby High football team has overcome a bumpy and uncertain right to get to this point. Now, a six-game season is on tap.

Joyce credits the young men on the football team for carrying a lot of the emotional weight of staying in shape, staying on task and being ready when the gates opened for high school football in Oregon. Joyce noted the recurring uncertainty that the last year-plus has generated and how the march to the season-opener has been one of slow steps forward and some steps back.

"It has been fun to see how well the kids have adapted to everything," said Joyce. "Obviously, it has been hard on them, but they've maintained a positive attitude and they will get their reward now."

The Cougars went from not being able to share a football when things started last July to realizing their 2020 season was on the move. January became the team's new July, a large tent was set-up outside so that weight room equipment could be moved and used, then the ice storm and other issues cut early practice days. But through it all, the carrot of a season loomed larger and larger. Now, it's here.

"It's something I'll never want to relive again, but will never forget," said Joyce.

The coach said that he's got a solid crew returning and said there's some excitement surrounding this season given the way the team finished the 2019 campaign.

"It felt like we turned a corner the last five games (of 2019). We've got a lot of kids from that team returning," said Joyce.

FILE PHOTO - Canby's spread offense has plenty of experience and talent back to take that next step in its development.

The Cougars will again run the spread offense and it would seem the skill players are in place to make a little offensive magic this year. Leading the way is wideout Chance Miller, who recently signed a letter of intent to the Air Force Academy. Joyce called him one of the top receivers in the state and expects more of the same this season.

Also looking to make some noise will be the two-headed running back tandem of Jackson Baldrow and Tyler Mead, who moves into the backfield from a receiver slot. Mead was honorable mention all-league in 2019 and is garnering some collegiate attention. Kyle Sander, probably the fastest guy on the team, will provide some big-play potential from a receiver slot.

Pulling the trigger on this offense will be junior Mike Gibson, who started the final five games of the 2019 season and threw for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns – with just one interception. He's also getting some college football attention.

Also keep an eye on Joe Brauckmiller (honorable mention all-league), who will play outside linebacker and tight end. Joyce said that at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, "he's gonna be a force."

Up front, the Cougars have a handful of linemen that will go both ways, including Josh Haynes, Payton Martin, Clayton Landale, Jacob Strand (HM all-league) and a guy that Joyce said "will turn some heads," Sturgeon Anderson, who at 6-5, 355 pounds, should be a catalyst on the line.

"We are still transitioning from the wing-T offense to the spread," said Joyce of the Cougar offense. "We put the training wheels on the spread last season – it's an easy switch, but there's a lot to learn. This year, because of the time we've had to work, we've really taken the next step in the evolution of the spread.

"Defensively, we will run a 4-2-5 and try to get after people," Joyce added. "We ant to use our athletes where we can and take advantage of our speed and size."

Here's a look at what this year's Canby football schedule will feature.

3-6 Clackamas

3-12 @ Hillsboro

3-19 St. Helens

3-26 Scappoose

4-2 @ Wilsonville

4-9 TBD

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