The Cougars will try to capture a spot in the championship game for the first time in school history.
On a sunny and warm day in late July, Canby football coach Mike Vaught stood on the field at Tualatin High School as members of his team took a break during an annual showcase event.
As he discussed the Cougars slate of opponents, Vaught lamented that Jesuit was not on the schedule for the first time in his four-year tenure.
Unless we see them in the playoffs, he said.
Fast forward four whirlwind months, and Canby got its wish.
After knocking out defending state champion Eugene-Sheldon in the quarterfinals, the No. 12 Cougars earned a chance to face the top-seeded Crusaders in the Class 6A state semifinals at 12 p.m. Nov. 30 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.
The winner will meet either No. 2 Tigard or No. 3 Central Catholic in the championship game.
Vaught said on that summer day in July that many of his players wanted another chance against Jesuit after being overwhelmed in the teams preseason meeting last year, and that chance comes with much more at stake.
Canby (7-5), which has already advanced past the second round for the first time in Vaughts tenure, will compete the semifinals for the seventh time in school history as it attempts to clinch its first-ever appearance in the state title game.
That was our goal at the beginning of the season to get to the semis, senior quarterback Austin Taylor said. We believed, even through the injuries, and weve got some people back. The coaches and players believed we could do it.
But getting to the finals probably wont be easy for the Cougars. They are 1-5 against the Crusaders since the OSAA created six athletic classifications in 2006, the lone victory coming in the first round of the playoffs in 2007. They have lost four-straight games in the series.
Jesuit (10-2) is making its sixth-straight appearance in the state semifinals after defeating Central Point-Crater in the first round, clipping Lake Oswego in the second round and overpowering Lakeridge in the quarterfinals.
The Crusaders have won eight games in a row and have scored 49 points or more on seven different occasions this season. They hung 62 on the Pacers with a five-touchdown, 190-yard passing performance by quarterback Eric Restic.
I expect to see a tough team a team a lot like ourselves, Canby senior Cole Thompson said. Its going to be a big, physical game up front. Whoevers line gets the bigger push is going to win.
Like Canby, which has been without star linebacker Sam Bodine since later September, Jesuit lost arguably its best player (Stanford commit Joey Alfieri) to injury during the season.
But running back Chase Morrison, who rushed for 1,303 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore last year, has proven to be a capable replacement for the Crusaders. The junior racked up 244 yards and four scores against Lakeridge last week, giving him 1,772 yards and 24 touchdowns for the year.
Jesuits ground game caused major problems last year for the Cougars, who allowed senior A.J. Glass to tally 224 yards and four touchdowns while mustering just 83 rushing yards of their own in a 42-3 rout.
Last year, they just outplayed us, Thompson said. But were a whole new team. Our line is a lot more physical. I think our line can compete with anybody in the state. I think its going to be a completely different game.
The Cougars have rushed for 300 yards or more in five-straight games, a testament to the offensive lines improved strength and experience. They had only attempted 10 passes through three playoff games this year.
Theyll face a Crusaders defense that is led by Christian Martinek and Trent Werner.
Canby is giving up an average of just 10.33 points per game so far in the postseason. It earned first-half shutouts against Newberg and Beaverton and only ceded seven points to Sheldon after halftime.
Thompson said smart preparation and a shape-shifting scout team have bolstered the Cougars defense.
Our coaches go through and pick apart game film and get us prepped up, and the scout team gives us a great look (at our opponent), he said. The preparation that goes into every week is incredible. There are no surprises. We know exactly what to do.
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AT A GLANCE
A look at how Canby has fared against Jesuit since the teams first-ever playoff meeting in 1989:
Nov. 17, 1989: Jesuit 21, CANBY 12 (second round)
Dec. 1, 2006: Jesuit 63, Canby 21 (semifinals)
Nov. 9, 2007: Canby 47, JESUIT 35 (first round)
Nov. 21, 2008: JESUIT 42, Canby 14 (quarterfinals)
Sept. 3, 2010: JESUIT 34, Canby 14
Sept. 2, 2011: Jesuit 67, CANBY 35
Sept. 14, 2012: JESUIT 42, Canby 3
STUMPED IN THE SEMIFINALS
A look at how Canby has fared in the state semifinals in school history:
Dec. 3, 1983 at Civic Stadium (AAA): Lakeridge 14, Canby 8
Dec. 4, 1987 at Autzen Stadium (AAA): Roseburg 14, Canby 13
Nov. 29, 2002 at Canby High School (4A): Lake Oswego 35, CANBY 28
Nov. 28, 2003 at PGE Park (4A): North Medford 26, Canby 14
Dec. 1, 2006 at PGE Park (6A): Jesuit 63, Canby 21
Dec. 4, 2009 at PGE Park (6A): Sheldon 49, Canby 14