The Cougars reach the semifinals for the seventh time in school history by knocking out the defending state champion Irish.

by: THE REGISTER-GUARD / COURTESY - A.J. Schlatter celebrates after the Canby football team defeats Eugene-Sheldon on the road in the Class 6A state semifinals Nov. 22.When senior Cole Thompson said earlier in the year, “This is when the giants fall,” he wasn’t talking about Sheldon.

Details, details.

Thanks in part to two second-half touchdowns by Thompson, the Canby football team conquered a different giant — the defending state champion — with a 24-17 triumph in the Class 6A quarterfinals Nov. 22 in Eugene.

Injuries and all, the No. 12 Cougars stormed into the state semifinals for the seventh time in school history and for the first time since 2009 under then-coach Mike Doty. They will face top-ranked Jesuit, which cruised past Lakeridge in the quarterfinals.

“We knew at the start of the year that we were a top-four team,” Thompson said. “It was a tough road getting there, but we knew we could do it. It proves how good we are and how much depth we have as a team.”

Canby advanced to the quarterfinals with commanding victories against Newberg and Beaverton in the first two rounds, and it used a familiar formula to flummox the fourth-seeded Irish.

The team relied heavily on its experienced front line to move the chains — it did not complete a single pass — and it executed well in another inspired defensive effort.

The Cougars (7-5) took their first lead over Sheldon on a 1-yard touchdown run by Thompson with 2 minutes 24 seconds left in the third quarter. The drive was set up by an interception of Irish quarterback Joseph Kuehn.

“Once we got the lead,” coach Mike Vaught said, “our kids thought this could really happen.”

Thompson added the highlight of the night on a 61-yard breakaway touchdown run up the middle early in the fourth quarter, and senior Alejandro Sandoval added the extra point to extend the team’s lead to 24-10.

“The line made a huge hole, and as soon as I got through it I was just praying I didn’t get caught,” Thompson said. “I could hear the guy behind me, and I was running as fast as I could.”

Sheldon (9-3) scored with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kuehn to Kellen Strahm, but Canby recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal its first playoff win over the Irish in school history.

The Cougars finished with 392 rushing yards, topping 300 for the fifth game in a row and for the seventh time this season.

“Our line’s doing great,” senior quarterback Austin Taylor said. “They’re making huge holes, and the running backs are doing their jobs. I give a lot of credit to the line.”

Dominic Shorter, who played despite aggravating a foot injury in Canby’s win over Beaverton, took 18 carries for a team-high 112 yards. Thompson added 108 yards on 10 carries, while Taylor added (91 yards on 19 carries and senior Noah Kylo rushed 16 times for 55 yards.

“In the end, we were just a little bit bigger than they were,” Vaught said. “More physical, at least at times, and were able to control the ball. That was our plan going in.”

The Cougars had prepared to face a heavy dose of passing against a team that was missing running back Yadie Dunmore, who injured his foot in the Irish’s second-round win over Tualatin.

Kuehn, who entered the game with 2,871 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air, went 20-for-33 with 196 yards and two touchdowns but was also picked off twice.

“We had a hard time moving the ball against them and the bottom line is, they were just better than us,” Sheldon coach Lane Johnson said. “Our kids fought and they fought. I hate to admit that they were better than us, but they were.”

The teams were locked in a 10-10 tie after a back-and-forth first half.

The Irish scored first on a 31-yard field goal by Nathan Starnes, but Canby responded later in the opening quarter with a 26-yard field goal by Sandoval.

Sheldon reclaimed its lead in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kuehn to Strahm, who finished with 78 receiving yards on eight catches.

The Irish regained possession on Trevor Vill’s interception of Taylor. Sheldon failed to take advantage of the turnover but pinned its punt at the 1-yard line.

The Cougars responded by engineering a vintage Canby drive, covering 99 yards on 16 plays — all on the ground — and pulling even with Taylor’s 4-yard keeper and Sandoval’s extra point just before halftime.

“That was huge, doing that right before half,” Taylor said. “We knew we could move the ball on them. It gave us confidence. ... This group’s been together since fourth and fifth grade, and we all believed in each other. We knew we could stick with it and get through it, and the coaches believed in us.”

Lucas Clark of The Register-Guard contributed to this report.

For updates, follow Jeff Goodman on Twitter.



Class 6A quarterfinals


                        1          2          3          4          F

Canby              3          7          7          7          24

Sheldon           3          7          0          7          17

First quarter

S — (7:06) Nathan Starnes 31 field goal

C — (4:20) Alejandro Sandoval 26 field goal

Second quarter

S — (9:57) Kellen Strahm 15 pass from Joseph Kuehn (Starnes kick)

C — Austin Taylor 4 run (Sandoval kick)

Third quarter

C — (2:24) Cole Thompson 1 run (Sandoval kick)

Fourth quarter

C — (10:15) Thompson 61 run (Sandoval kick)

S — (:35) Strahm 8 pass from Kuehn (Starnes kick)



The Canby football team topped Sheldon in a playoff game for the first time in school history:

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)

Nov. 22, 2013: Canby 24, SHELDON 17 (quarterfinals)

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