Cougars score four first-quarter touchdowns against Forest Grove and never look back
CANBY - Take away the first quarter of Friday's Pacific Conference football clash between Forest Grove and Canby, and the two teams would have played to a 7-7 deadlock.
For that matter, take away just the first 11 minutes and the result still would have been a stalemate.
But factor those critical opening moments back into the mix and the final score was all Canby. The league-leading Cougars (6-3, 4-0) scored four times in the first quarter - including twice in the opening 1:30 - and rolled to a 35-7 triumph over the visiting Vikings (4-4, 1-3) on Friday night.
It took Canby just two offensive plays to find the end zone, and it took Forest Grove just two offensive plays to gift wrap another score for the Canby defense, giving the Cougars a 14-0 lead with 10:30 remaining in the opening stanza.
On Canby's second play from scrimmage, quarter back Taylor Hunter hooked up with tight end David Seifert for a 50-yard touchdown, putting the Cougars on top 7-0 with less than a minute run off the clock. Forest Grove did not benefit from such a hot start, however. Running back Jake Toll slipped down at the 4-yard line while returning the kickoff, and two plays later Toll and quarterback Brooks Baumgartner got their wires crossed on an option pitch near the goal line. Laurence Calcagno fell on the ball in the end zone for the second Canby touchdown in less than two minutes.
Canby would add to its lead in the first quarter, getting a pair of touchdowns on short drives after Forest Grove was forced to punt from deep in its own territory. With 7:41 left, T.J. Gorman busted a 35-yard scoring run off right tackle for a 21-0 Canby cushion, and six minutes later Hunter kept the ball on an option run and coasted untouched into the end zone from 14 yards out to make it 28-0.
The Cougars didn't flex much offensive muscle over the next three quarters, but they didn't need to. Forest Grove got on the board late in the first half on a 3-yard touchdown plunge by fullback Josh Matiaco, but the Vikings never really threatened Canby's early four-touchdown lead. The Cougars would tack on an insurance score in the third quarter when Gorman busted into the end zone from 4 yards out, providing the final 35-7 margin of victory.
Although the final score was decidedly lopsided, the Vikings went blow-for-blow with the Pacific Conference's top team for the majority of the game, a fact not lost on head coach Mike McCabe.
'I know I felt, and I think the kids felt, like our mental preparation wasn't great. We should have been more capable of playing right from the get-go,' said McCabe. 'We dug ourselves a huge hole right away. And then once we found we could play with these guys, all of a sudden it was like, 'Hey, we're right here. Let's see if we can take care of business.''
The Vikings did take care of business to a certain extent, but turnovers killed several promising drives.
Baumgartner was intercepted three times, the first by Seifert midway through the second quarter on a drive that could have potentially shaved Canby's lead to two touchdowns. Early in the third quarter, Andy Loscutoff picked off a Baumgartner pass near the end zone after Forest Grove had driven down to the Cougars' 30-yard line. That turnover set up Canby's final touchdown of the night.
Forest Grove's next possession also ended with an interception when Calcagno jumped a slant route in Canby territory.
'To our credit, we did chip away at it and we did work on it, and we did mount a few nice drives,' said McCabe. 'I think we did feel like we could get some things done in the second half. We actually did move the ball, we just had some inopportune picks.
'Overall, that's a good football team. They're awful tough to beat.'
To Forest Grove's credit, the final score could have been even more lopsided if not for a pair of big plays. After Seifert's interception killed Forest Grove's promising drive in the second quarter, the senior tight end hauled in a long pass from Hunter and dove for the end zone. A battery of Forest Grove defenders, led by Matiaco, converged on Seifert and knocked the ball loose, resulting in a touchback.
Then, late in the fourth quarter, Forest Grove's defense bristled and stuffed a fourth-and-five attempt from the 10-yard line to keep the final score at 35-7.
For McCabe and his troops, the message is simple - be ready to play right from the opening kickoff, because it's next to impossible to beat a team as good as Canby after spotting them 14 points.
'Mental preparation is huge. We usually bring it on Friday night. We play pretty hard. If we can take anything away from tonight, it's that we have to focus. We have to focus, period, and be ready to go when the bell rings,' said McCabe.