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LO is once again the team to beat

Lake Oswego is everyone's favorite to finish on top in Three Rivers League football this fall.

The Lakers have tradition and experience on their side. Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury has taken Laker teams to the state playoffs seven years in a row and he's got 13 starters back from last year's team that lost to Lincoln in the Class 4A semifinals.

Clackamas also has tradition, and the Cavaliers have an experienced defense. But the Cavaliers were dealt a huge blow last Friday when two-time, first-team all-league wide receiver Ricky Cookman went down with a broken collarbone.

With a veteran running back returning and a new quarterback who has proven himself against two very good teams, the Cavaliers will still be good. They're probably the second-best team in the Three Rivers League. But without Cookman it's unlikely they'll contend for the title.

The Rex Putnam Kingsmen are this year's darkhorse. The Kingsmen haven't had a winning record since 1987. A losing tradition in one of the state's toughest leagues makes it difficult to turn things around.

But a turnaround at Putnam appears underway. Putnam varsity, jayvee and freshmen teams are all off to 2-0 starts.

With loads of experience, a veteran quarterback and two explosive running backs, look for the Kingsmen varsity to earn a winning record and make the playoffs this fall. And if one of the TRL's top teams should overlook the Kingsmen, they could be in for a surprise.

Lakeridge appears to have the inside track for the TRL's fourth playoff spot. The Pacers are short of depth, but they return 19 lettermen as starters, including two of the TRL's top skill players in brothers Taylor and Zach Young. Zach was the league's leading rusher last year, with over 1,000 yards rushing on the regular season.

Oregon City, West Linn and Milwaukie will likely battle it out for fifth through seventh place. West Linn appears to have the best chance of the three of stealing a playoff spot, because the Lions have a senior dominated team with players moving up from jayvee teams that went 14-4 over the last two seasons.

Oregon City has a veteran quarterback and a beefy offensive line. The Pioneers gave the Barlow Bruins a run for their money in their season opener, but they got buried in preseason games with ranked teams from North Medford and Grants Pass.

Milwaukie has one of the TRL's top returning running backs in Mike Collazo, but the Mustangs are short on experience.