If nothing else, the Lake Oswego football team is getting some good practice on two-point conversions.
For the second time in nine months, the Lakers lost to a highly-ranked team by one point and each time the difference between winning and losing was a missed two-point conversion.
Unlike the last-second loss to Lincoln in last year's state semifinals, the Lakers had plenty of time to make amends in last Friday's game against Southridge.
The key moment this time came with nine and a half minutes left in the contest, after the Lakers had narrowed visiting Southridge's lead to 14-13 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Will Darkins. Realizing he could seize control of the game, Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury opted to go for a two-point conversion rather than attempt a tying, one-point kick.
It could have been a brilliant strategical move but it wound up backfiring as Duncan White's pass for Ryan Shepherd in the right corner of the end zone was knocked away by Southridge's Mitchell Edwards.
'I've never looked back on those things,' Coury said after the game. 'If we make it, then we put pressure on them.'
If a similar situation presents itself in this week's game against Jesuit, Coury said he would probably make the same call again.
'In a non-league game, I'd go for it every time,' the coach said. 'If we get the chance at Jesuit, we'll go for two to win the game again.'
Last Friday's missed opportunity should not have been a big deal, especially considering the fact that ample time remained for at least one more drive by the Lakers. That chance came when Southridge was forced to punt the ball away with 6:32 left in the game.
Starting from its own 17, Lake Oswego responded with an 18-play drive that seemed destined to end in a touchdown. But the drive stalled at the Southridge 17 and Coury called on Pat Barry (the hero of last year's quarterfinal win over Tigard) to attempt a game-winning 34-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the game.
Initially, Barry's kick looked as though it would squeeze inside the left upright, but at the last moment, the ball faded left and Southridge survived with a 14-13 victory.
Certainly, no one could fault Barry for losing the game. In addition to that missed kick and the missed two-point conversion, the Lakers also squandered two other opportunities that could have spelled the difference in the game.
The first time came late in the first quarter, after the Lakers had easily advanced the ball into Skyhawks territory. Then, things came unraveled when White's flat pass was intercepted by Southridge's Marcus Anderson and he returned the ball 69 yards to the Lake Oswego 5. One play later, Southridge's Kevin Coleman outran everyone to the left pylon and the Skyhawks had a 7-0 lead.
The visitors seemingly returned the favor when a botched punt attempt gave the Lakers the ball at the Southridge 15 with plenty of time left in the second quarter. After three running plays picked up six yards, Coury decided to go for it on fourth-and-four from the 9. But White's pass to Eric Mann at the goal line was incomplete and Southridge took over on downs.
That play helped keep the Lakers scoreless throughout the first half, which is a rare occurrence for a Lake Oswego team.
Whatever Coury said to his troops at intermission must have left an impression because the Lakers started the third quarter with their most intensity of the night. With that extra surge of energy, the Lakers needed only three plays from the start of third quarter to score their first touchdown.
The score came on a 49-yard run by Darkins. It started off as a simple off-tackle play, then Darkins made a nifty move to the outside and outran the Southridge secondary down the right sideline to tie the score at 7.
The Skyhawks didn't waste any time regaining the lead, though. On its next series, Southridge marched 75 yards in nine plays and running back Paul Werhane picked up the final yard for the score. Edwards then tacked on an extra point that turned out to be the difference in the game.
Lake Oswego put together a similar drive on its next possession, driving 66 yards in 15 plays. Twice during that drive, the Lakers went for it on fourth down and Darkins, who finished with a game-high 153 yards rushing, converted both times with short gains. He also got the call on the final play of the drive, a 1-yard plunge that cut Southridge's lead to 14-13.
After the missed two-point conversion and a change of possession, the Lakers were back in business again with 6:32 left in the game. The Lakers then proceeded to run out almost the remainder of the clock with a drive that again required two fourth-down conversions. But the drive stalled and Barry came on to attempt what could have been the game-winning kick.
It was one of several chances the Lakers had to alter the complexion of the game.
'Mistakes made the difference. It's always the little things when it's close. But it's never one play or one player,' Coury said after the game. 'Take any game and there's always five or six plays that make the difference … You just never know when they're going to happen.'
It would be hard to fault the Lakers' defense in last Friday's loss. A high-powered Southridge team mounted only one impressive drive during the game and managed just 219 yards in total offense.
'We came in knowing they had a lot of fire power,' said Lake Oswego safety Matt Stutes, who had a game-high two interceptions. 'And our defense stepped up tonight and held them to 14 points.'
Even though it was a tough loss, no one on the Lake Oswego side really seemed too upset.
'It's a bummer because you want to win all of your games. But it really doesn't mean anything because it's preseason,' Stutes said. 'Our main goal is to win league and get ready for the playoffs.'