PREP FOCUS: Senior dominates on both sides of the ball for No. 7 Lake Oswego
Steve Coury has coached plenty of studs during his 15 years as head coach at Lake Oswego, including Mark and Kevin Maher, Gabe Miller, Billy Anderson, Keith Robertson, Andy Darkins and Nick Lomax.
So when Coury includes Will Darkins in such exalted company, it's saying something.
'Will is one of the best I've had, if not the best,' Coury says of the 6-3, 225-pound senior tailback-linebacker.
Darkins has rushed for 722 yards and 11 touchdowns in six games for the seventh-ranked Lakers (5-2). Statistics, though, don't reflect Darkins' true value.
'He is the cog in the wheel, the guy who makes us go,' says Coury, whose teams are 118-46. 'Will is everywhere. He's such a leader, such a hard worker in practice. He expends all of his energy; by the end of the practice, he's spent. He leads by example, and when he plays the game, he plays 100 miles per hour.'
Darkins moved into the starting lineup midway through the season as a sophomore in 2004, when the Lakers lost to Sprague in the state finals. For the last two years he has been a starter on both sides of the ball. Last week, he rushed for 168 yards and three TDs on 22 carries as the Lakers blasted eighth-ranked West Linn 42-0.
'West Linn is a good team, but we came out more ready to play,' Darkins says. '(The Lions) are 90 percent intimidation, 10 percent play. We noticed that and said, 'OK, they're going to try to intimidate us. We have to just play our game,' and we did. We played perfect.'
Lake Oswego's two losses have been to top-ranked Jesuit and another Metro League power, Southridge.
'I'm glad we played those two teams early,' Darkins says. 'They're two of the best teams in the state, and playing them only made us better. Right after (the Southridge) game, we got together and said we need to start working harder. We buckled down, realized we needed to be more serious. Things started getting a lot better for us.'
Darkins says he has enjoyed playing on this year's team, in some ways more than the '04 team or the '05 team that reached the state semifinals.
'I'm playing with guys I've been playing with for 10 years,' Darkins says. 'It's our last year playing together, so it's a sentimental year. We're growing, becoming better with time, and it's exciting to see that.
'We can go as far as the state championship. We can win it - I definitely think so. Coach Coury has said all along this is going to be a very good team, even when we were 1-2. The most important thing is, we listened to him and not to anybody else.'
Coury says Darkins compares favorably with older brother Andy, who started part time at linebacker last year for Oregon State before giving up the sport.
'Andy was a great player, but Will is a better athlete,' Coury says. 'He runs better, and he's just as tough as Andy was. There's a bigger upside to him because of his athleticism and ability to run.
'Will has become a very good running back. Last year, he kind of plowed through things. This year, he has better vision, more strength, more explosiveness. And he is fearless as an inside linebacker. We bring him on the blitz a lot, and he is fast enough to cover the back out of the backfield. If you're scheming (offense) against us, you have to know where he is. If he's coming and you're not sure where he is, it's a train wreck.'
Coury considers Darkins as good a college prospect as he's coached, probably as a linebacker. His only major-college scholarship offer thus far is from Oregon State. He says he won't make a verbal commitment until late in the season or after the season.
'I'm waiting on a lot of things - responses from colleges, on how the season's going to go for me,' Darkins says. 'I'm waiting to see what Oregon and Washington are doing. I'm glad I have an offer from Oregon State. I love that school, and I love everybody there who has shown interest in me. Oregon State is still very much a front-runner, but I don't want to jump the gun.'