Cougars look to make some football noise
That small lump of clay that Jimmy Joyce had to work with in his first season as the Canby High football coach has grown substantially in this, his coming third season.
And with that growth has come more talent, better commitment and a real sense that the Cougar football team is building to something special. Come the first Friday in September, Joyce and his squad start the seasonlong walk to fulfilling that promise.
"I think we are in a really good place right now," Joyce said. "Our numbers are really strong — over 40 kids in the freshman class — and the kids are excited about coming out and playing."
After an opening Jamboree at the end of August, the Cougars kick off the season Sept. 3 in a nonleaguer against Dallas. Canby once again will be competing in Class 5A Special District 2. And there seems to be the kind of talent that could help Canby make some serious league noise after last season's 3-3 record during the truncated season.
Leading the way will be Jacob Strand, who will attend Oregon State University on a football scholarship next fall. Strand, an all-league selection as an offensive lineman, will throw a twist at the football gods this season — as a tight end.
"He's such an athletic kid, and it's nice to have your tight end be one of your best blockers," Joyce said of the 6-5, 260-pound Strand. "He's got great hands, moves well, so we are hoping to utilize him in our offense quite a bit."
But he's not the only piece that will make a statement.
Mikey Gibson returns for his third year as a starter at quarterback. He struggled with injuries in the shortened 2020 season this winter, but he's healthy now and Joyce called him "one of the top quarterbacks in the area" and a kid that just makes plays.
Also on offense will be wide receiver Joe Brauckmiller, who will be a focal point for the offense, and Matt Soles, who stepped in last year when Chance Miller was hurt and looks primed for a big year. The rushing game will be handled by a two-headed monster of running backs Bryce Oliver and sophomore Tyler Konold. Oliver didn't play in the shortened season, but Joyce said he's delighted Oliver has returned, while Konold "was a force to be reckoned with last year on our freshman team." Both will see time on defense as well.
This year's Swiss army knife player will likely be Nate Bailey, who will play tight end, wide receiver, outside linebacker or wherever his unique skill set is required to play. On the line, which Joyce feels will be a strength of this team, Casey and Clayton Langdale return. Both are three-year starters on both sides of the ball and will flex out to right and left tackle offensively.
So, what will the Cougars look like on defense?
"Defensively, we are looking to take that next step," Joyce said. "We were a strong defensive team last yea,r and we are looking to build on that and be a little more dynamic. Our defensive line should be one of the most experienced in the area, so we want to re-establish the line of scrimmage. We're excited about our secondary, too."
"We are still a spread team, but we are making a few key adjustments that will fit our personnel better," Joyce said. "We think that will put us in a better place come November. We've got good running backs, an experienced quarterback and good wide receivers — we'll try to be balanced between run and pass, but we want to be a little more power-oriented spread attack."
"What I'm most impressed with is that we've kind of reestablished a culture of hard work, and the kids bought into that work in the weight room and conditioning. I think we are in a really good place right now."
After opening at Dallas, the Cougars first home game will be Sept. 10 against West Albany in another nonleague tilt. League play begins Sept. 17 with a visit from North Salem.
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