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The Tigers look ahead to a major test on Friday versus the Reynolds Raiders and their acclaimed running back

CANBY HERALD PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Senior running back Justin Holtan is part of a three-headed monster in the Newberg backfield that ran for 385 yards against Canby.

On a rainy night in Canby, the Newberg Tigers football team found its success on the ground amid the puddles and mud. Newberg won 40-14 to bring its record to 3-1 entering the final non-league game of the season – a highly-touted matchup with Reynolds on Friday. The Raiders are 3-1 as well.

The Canby game was expected to be significantly less competitive. The Cougars haven't won a game in more than two years and fell to 0-4 with the loss. They struggled all night to defend a group of Newberg running backs led by sophomore Price Pothier, who ran for 185 yards on 21 carries and scored an eye-opening five touchdowns.

Newberg as a team managed more than 400 yards of offense – 385 of which came on the ground. It threw the ball just six times.

"It's extremely tough on a defense when the offensive line is physical and we have three backs who can carry the football," NHS coach Kevin Hastin said. "You can't really key in on one guy the whole game, and we've got three guys who are pretty dangerous. A big part of our offense, too, is misdirection and faking, which I think causes a lot of problems for defenses."

Newberg led 40-0 in the fourth quarter before it put its backups in the game on defense. The overall play of the Newberg defense has been superb over the past two weeks, with its first-teamers posting two shutouts in the 41-0 win over Summit and in their time against Canby.

Hastin said the physicality and team speed of his team's defense has brought it plenty of success so far. If it weren't for a one-point loss on the road at Grant, the Tigers would be undefeated, having held their opponents to 16 or less points in three of four games. They'll settle for touting their defensive abilities as they look ahead at 3-1, though.

"Our defense has played really well the last few games," Hastin said. "Our starting defense has shutouts in the last two games and I expect us to keep up this level of effort, be physical and execute. These kids have put in a lot of work and they're starting to see it pay off on the field.

"Honestly, I was pleased in all three phases of the game. We did a great job on kickoff coverage, defensively and offensively. We swarmed to the ball really well on defense and put up some great numbers on offense."

Canby scored two touchdowns on Newberg's backups, but by that point the game was well in hand for the Tigers. Looking ahead, they face what Hastin called the biggest challenge of their season so far as Reynolds comes to town.

Fresh off a 56-7 loss to Mountainside, the Raiders might appear to the casual follower of high school football as a team in disarray, prime for Newberg's pickings. But they were without their best player last week – junior running back Miles Wilson – due to an ankle injury. Hastin said Wilson is one of multiple Reynolds players capable of playing NCAA Division I football after graduating.

The athletic ability of Reynolds' skill position players is something Hastin said his team is focused on. How the defense and special teams reacts to the explosive Raiders, he said, will likely be the difference in Friday's game.

"We need to keep them in front of us on offense," Hastin said. "Our kickoff team and defense have a challenge in terms of the athleticism Reynolds brings to the table. They're the most athletic teams we'll face this season, in my opinion.

"I'm expecting their best game coming off a hard loss like that. They're capable of being very dangerous, so we see this as a huge test. We're not looking at last week's score or taking them lightly."

Thankfully for Newberg, the game will be played in the Chehalem Valley under the lights at Loran Douglas Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday as the Tigers wrap up non-league play.

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