LO pounds unbeaten West Linn

by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego defensive back Jay Matthews, left, goes high to knock away a pass during last Thursday’s game against West Linn. First place in the Three Rivers League was riding on the outcome, but it was not a close game as Lake Oswego rolled to an easy 42-0 victory.

Typically, the Lake Oswego football team doesn't need much motivation to get up for a big game. But the Lakers had a little extra incentive last week against previously unbeaten West Linn.

While beating Putnam two weeks ago, the West Linn fans started chant-ing 'bring on LO!'

After seeing that comment in the newspaper the next day, Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury decided to use it as a way to motivate his team.

'Well, if it's LO they want, we'll give them LO,' Coury told his team several times during the past week in order to get his squad pumped up for one of its biggest games of the year. So, it was no surprise that Lake Oswego turned in its best effort of the season en route to an easy 42-0 victory over the Lions last Thursday.

'All week long our kids were ready to play. We knew it,' Coury said after the game. 'We've been in some big games and you just have that feeling when they're ready to play. And I knew our kids were ready to play.'

So ready was Lake Oswego that the game almost got out of hand early in the first quarter. In fact, the Lakers (4-0 TRL, 5-2 overall), scored on their first two possessions - on a five-yard run by Will Darkins and a 10-yard pass from Duncan White to Jon Dulong. The Lions, meanwhile, were sputtering on offense, picking up just four yards in the first quarter.

'After that first quarter, I thought, 'man, this could be a blowout,' ' Coury recalled saying to himself. 'We were dominating every phase of the game. They couldn't do anything on us defensively. I think we had their number.'

By late in the second quarter, the game was all but decided. That period featured another touchdown run by Darkins, this time from two yards out, and an 82-yard pass-and-catch play from White to Anthony Culver, which made it 28-0 at halftime.

The pass from White to Culver looked like something one might see in a major college game. White's pass, which traveled approximately 40 yards, was thrown so well that Culver never had to break stride to catch it. And Culver, who spends most of his time playing defensive back, showed that he might be one of the fastest guys in the league as he blew past the West Linn defender with ease.

'Culver's got speed that's unmatched,' Coury agreed.

'He's a track star,' White said of Culver. 'So, we just get the line to block, then I drop back and throw it as far as I can … It worked that time.'

The Lakers completed the scoring with third-quarter touchdowns by Darkins (from 14 yards out) and a 27-yard interception return by Adam Garside.

After missing last week's game against Oregon City with the flu, Darkins ran 22 times against West Linn for 166 yards and three touchdowns. He now has 722 yards rushing for the season.

Maybe missing a week with the flu wasn't such a bad thing.

'I think everyone was thinking, 'hey, you're going to be flat this week.' But it didn't matter. I worked twice as hard in practice,' Darkins said.

There were several times in Thursday's game where Darkins appeared to be hemmed in for a short gain. Then, he put a move on the would-be tackler and ended up with a 15 or 20-yard gain. In the past, he might have run over opposing players. Now, he can out-run them as well.

'I'm trying some new running styles and I'm trying to intergrate more speed into my running,' Darkins said. 'But I still like to stick with my straight-ahead style. It just works well.'

White also had a good night, completing 6 of 12 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

With Lake Oswego's smash-mouth running game, White doesn't get the chance to throw very often. But he usually makes the most of his chances.

'Duncan is all I said he would be in throwing the ball,' Coury said.

It also helps that Lake Oswego has a stable full of quality receivers for White to pick from. Sometimes it's hard to spread the wealth around.

'(Our receivers) deserve to get more passes than they do. But the way our offense works is we pass when we need to,' White said. 'So, some receivers, like Frank Forward, didn't have a reception tonight.'

How many other teams can use their leading receiver for the season as a decoy and still win 42-0 against a previously unbeaten team?

Maybe Lake Oswego is getting closer and closer to its peak level, which Coury figured would happen about this point in the season.

'It's still kind of coming together … But we're getting closer,' Coury said. '… We're right where we want to be. We're not the best team in the state. We're still getting better.'

Part of the reason for Lake Oswego's recent success has been its defense, which held a good West Linn offense to 147 total yards for the game. Quarterback Mychal Zito, who played after suffering a severely bruised fibula against Lakeridge, completed 11 of 26 passes for just 51 yards and he was intercepted four times, including twice by Dulong. With the Lake Oswego defense blitzing as often as possible, Zito seldom had time to set up in the pocket.

'We got him running around and he looked like he was looking to run around too,' Coury said.

'Our defense is very fast,' the coach added. 'I think our speed was really apparent tonight.'