The Cougars likely will be without Dominic Shorter, who aggravated a foot injury against Beaverton; Sheldon star Yadie Dunmore (foot) also is expected to be sidelined.

by: JEFF GOODMAN - Running back Dominic Shorter might not be available for the Canby football team as it takes on Eugene-Sheldon in the Class 6A state quarterfinals on the road Nov. 22. Shorter aggravated a foot injury in the Cougars' win over Beaverton.All season long, the Canby football team has figured out ways to overcome injuries. Can the Cougars do it against the defending state champion?

By defeating Beaverton to advance past the second round of the OSAA playoffs for the first time in coach Mike Vaught’s tenure, they earned a chance to face Eugene-Sheldon on the road Friday in the Class 6A quarterfinals. The Cougars will meet a team that has played in the finals in three of the past four seasons.

The winner will face either Jesuit or Lakeridge in the state semifinals.

The result of Friday's game could hinge on which team is able to rise above an injury to a key running back.

Canby senior Dominic Shorter, who broke a bone in his left foot against Oregon City, aggravated the injury in the first half against Beaverton. Fellow senior Noah Kyllo ended up being the Cougars’ primary rusher.

“It’s not good,” Vaught said of Shorter’s injury. “He said it feels like last time, when he broke it. He’ll have to get X-rays.”

The Irish, meanwhile, could be without leading rusher Yadie Dunmore. The star senior, who had 725 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground through 10 games, hurt his foot in his team’s second-round win over Tualatin. His status for the quarterfinals has been unclear.

Sheldon, however, is comfortable with winning through the air. Senior quarterback Joseph Kuehn completed 18 of 24 passes for 309 yards and five touchdowns in a second-round win over Tualatin. He’s thrown for 2,871 yards and 29 touchdowns this season, while completing more than 70 percent of his passes.

“Sheldon’s going to be a good team and a good challenge,” Canby senior A.J. Schlatter said. “We’ll get a good game plan going. We’re used to having to adjust on the fly. It just makes us closer when one of us goes down and someone else has to step up.”

The Cougars (6-5) are seeking their first playoff win over the Irish. They are 0-3 all-time, losing in the 4A first round in 2004, stumbling in the 6A semifinals in 2009 and falling again in the second round in 2010.

This season, Sheldon (9-2) has won seven games in a row since losing to North Medford in September. The Irish defeated Portland-Lincoln in the first round of the playoffs and scored the final 24 points of the game to pull away from Tualatin last week.

The Irish don’t appear to be the unstoppable force they were last year, but Canby knows it’s up against a program that is familiar with playing late in the season.

“They’re always Sheldon,” Vaught said.

The upcoming contest will be the first road game since Oct. 10 for Vaught’s team, which closed the regular season with two home games before hosting two playoff games.

Taking a pass

Vaught said entering the playoffs that the Cougars probably would have to diversify their offense — essentially, pass more — to be successful.

Yet his team has done just fine despite attempting only eight passes combined (completing three) in its playoff wins over Newberg and Beaverton.

Vaught said senior quarterback Austin Taylor might have thrown the ball more against the Beavers but weather conditions encouraged Canby to keep it on the ground.

“It would’ve been nice, but with the weather you could only throw it when you had the wind,” Vaught said. “And even when you did, the conditions weren’t good for throwing the ball. But we’ll keep working on it.”

Thanks in part to their large and experienced offensive line, the Cougars have rushed for 704 yards in their two playoff games this season. And they’ve stuck with their running game even when opponents are lined up to stop it.

“We’ve still got a lot to work on, especially when teams are stacking the box,” Schlatter said. “But we’re starting to figure things out.”

‘It’s a small world’

Canby’s defense has turned in two of its best performances of the season in the past two weeks.

Since giving up 42 points in an overtime loss to Clackamas in their league finale, the Cougars have held two playoff opponents scoreless through the first half and have given up just 14 points. They held Beaverton to five rushing yards.

At least part of the team’s success on defense is due to the work of assistant coach Grant Boustead, who has convinced his players to think and act locally instead of worrying about the big picture.

“Like Coach Boustead says, it’s a small world,” sophomore defensive end Tony Kraus said. “It’s just, ‘Do your job.’ We get our assignments and do our jobs. ... (We’re) comeback kids. We play one game at a time and don’t take it for granted. We go hard all week. We’re taking pride in (our defense).”

Staying power

With Shorter sidelined in the second half against the Beavers, Canby hardly flinched. And that’s probably because the team has grown accustomed to playing shorthanded.

The Cougars lost quarterback Timmy Johnson and running back Devon Fortier before the season started.

They lost star linebacker Sam Bodine for the year after a grotesque ankle injury against Oregon City.

They lost Shorter for most of the conference slate, then played without him again against Beaverton.

They’ve dealt with injuries to Kyllo, linebacker Jace Cates, fullback Keltin Boykin, tight end Braxton Ennes and lineman Chad Coon, among others.

And yet Canby was able to get past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009 — even after posting its first sub-.500 record in league play since 2005.

“It’s really gratifying to know how these kids stayed together,” Vaught said. “You lose Timmy and Devon, then Sam and Dom. But one thing after the other, they’ve shown so much character. It’s really exciting to lose that many kids and still be in the quarterfinals. But it would be a lot more fun if we had them.”



A look at the Canby football team’s three previous playoff games against Eugene-Sheldon:

Nov. 12, 2004: SHELDON 48, Canby 21 (first round)

Dec. 4, 2009: Sheldon 49, Canby 14 (semifinals)

Nov. 19, 2010: SHELDON 42, Canby 24 (second round)

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