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Lions lick wounds in Lake Oswego

by: Vern Uyetake, Josh Oltman runs over a defender after making a reception in last Friday’s road loss to Lake Oswego.

After seeing his team humbled by Lake Oswego, 42-0, last Thursday, West Linn football coach Ron Chappell had the perfect summation of the evening's events.

'Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. Tonight we were the bug,' the coach said.

No matter how you analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams, no one expected for Lake Oswego to be 42 points better than the Lions, especially since both teams were tied for first place in the TRL coming into the contest.

But things started to come unraveled for West Linn long before the game started. In fact, it started late in the previous week's game against Putnam, when Lions fans began chanting 'bring on LO!'

After reading that in the newspaper the next day, Lake Oswego head coach Steve Coury decided to make that statement a major point of emphasis during each of his team's practices last week. By the end of the week, Coury had his players so fired up that they could have eaten nails for breakfast.

'So all week long we were saying, 'bring on LO?… (OK, then) we're going to bring them on,' Coury said.

In retrospect, it was really just a crafty ploy by Coury to get his players hyped up more than normal for a big game. Whatever, the deal was, it sure worked to perfection for Lake Oswego last Thursday.

And it didn't take long for the Lakers to make their presence felt. After receiving the opening kickoff, Lake Oswego needed just five plays to score the game's first touchdown, which came on a five-yard run by Will Darkins.

After holding the Lions to a three-and-out series, the Lakers opted for a slightly more methodical approach the next time around. This time, it took 10 plays to go 60 yards and it even required a fourth-down conversion by Darkins to keep the drive going. But Lake Oswego once again found the end zone when Duncan White hit Jon Dulong on a 10-yard scoring toss.

Despite being down 14-0, there was still hope for the West Linn faithful when the Lake Oswego offense sputtered the next time it had the ball. But there wasn't much time to celebrate the defense's achievement because the West Linn offense followed with its third straight three-and-out series.

Then, on the next play, Darkins reeled off a 55-yard run to the West Linn 16-yard line. Five plays later, Darkins had his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard plunge.

Refusing to quit, the Lions responded with their best series possession of the game. But the drive screeched to a halt at the Lake Oswego 31-yard line and the Lions were forced to punt the ball back.

This time, Lake Oswego needed just one play to find the end zone. It came on a picture-perfect, 82-yard pass-and-catch play from White to backup receiver Anthony Culver. By then, West Linn's chances for winning the game were beginning to look bleak. What was surprising was how quickly Lake Oswego turned the game into a virtual rout.

'Well, Lake Oswego is an outstanding team and they brought their best game tonight. It's as simple as that,' Chappell explained after the contest.

The Lakers added two meaningless scores in the third quarter. The first one came on a 14-yard run by Darkins, giving him three touchdowns for the night. The next one came on the following series, when Adam Garside intercepted a pass and returned 27 yards for a touchdown.

It was the fourth interception of the night against West Linn quarterback Mychal Zito, who seemed to be favoring the bruised right fibula that was injured three weeks ago against Lakeridge. Because of the injury, Zito didn't seem to have his normal agility when he tried to scramble. That was bad news against a Lake Oswego defense that likes to blitz as often as possible.

'Our defense is very fast,' Coury said. '… I think our speed was really apparent tonight.'

The pressure Lake Oswego was bringing often forced Zito to throw to a safety value in order to avoid a sack. Consequently, he threw for only 51 yards on the 10 passes he completed.

Zito's favorite target, as it has been in the past, was Justin Monahan. But the Lakers keyed on Monahan all night. So, even though the West Linn star managed six receptions, he was only able to pick up 30 yards.

It was equally tough sledding for the Lions' running game, which was held to 95 yards on 32 carries. Usually, starting running back Kyle Quinn is a good bet to run for 100 yards or more. But against the Lakers, he was held to 23 yards on 12 carries. The Lions' leading ball carrier was Kyle Kraus with 30 yards on eight attempts.

It was hardly the kind of game most people expected from the Lions, but the team didn't mail it in, either. In fact, the Lions played with a lot of heart most of the night.

'I give our kids credit,' Chappell said. 'It wasn't for lack of effort on our part. Our kids played hard. We just got whooped.'

Now, the Lions must forget about last Thursday's game and move on. They certainly can't afford to have things 'snowball' on them.

'We're going to be absolutely fine,' Chappell said. 'It's just like having a bad play. You flush it and forget about it. You've got to have a short memory if you're going to be a football player.'

If West Linn (3-1 in the TRL, 5-1 overall) wins its final two league games against Oregon City and Milwaukie (who have combined for just one win all season), the Lions will finish no worse than second in the Three Rivers League. But, if Lakeridge beats Lake Oswego in two weeks, there will be a three-way tie for first between West Linn, Lake Oswego and Lakeridge.

Yet, after seeing the way Lake Oswego played last Thursday, Chappell seems skeptical that anyone else in the TRL could beat the Lakers.

'Yeah, we'll see,' Chappell said.