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Lakers reach the Final Four

Lake Oswego methodically puts away West Salem and awaits Tigard this Saturday in the semis


by: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego's Jack Anderson, left, and Mitch Lomax combine to make a big hit during the Lakers' quarterfinal victory over West Salem. The Lake Oswego defense shut out the Titans in the second half to nail down a 28-7 victory. West Salem executed its game plan effectively and hung with the Lakers until midway through the third quarter but, ultimately, the Titans became the latest team to struggle putting up points against Lake Oswego, who knocked them out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The Lakers took what the Titans gave them on offense and did virtually all of their damage on the ground, despite being without starting tailback J.B. Holmes who missed the game with an injury.

Lake Oswego quarterback Justen Ruppe attempted just six passes in the game, completing two of them for 18 yards.

But he did hurt West Salem with his legs. On Lake Oswego's first drive, Spencer Anderson picked up some nice yardage to get the Lakers into the Titans' territory. Then, on fourth down, Ruppe scrambled out of trouble and ran 33 yards for the game's first score.

West Salem moved into Lake Oswego territory on its first drive but opted to punt on fourth and three, showing faith in its defense early on.

Two big Laker penalties thwarted the team's next drive and West Salem mounted drive when it took over.

The Titans barely converted on a fourth down play and then connected on a big pass reception. A short touchdown pass capped a long drive and West Salem tied the game.

“It took us a little while to get into the flow of the game. We were over-pursuing things on defense a bit,” Coury said.

Lake Oswego countered by pounding the ball. Nick Underwood and Anderson picked up tough yardage on the ground with each of them breaking multiple tackles throughout the game and Anderson punched in a short touchdown run with 2:33 left in the half.

West Salem received the ball to start the third quarter and quickly went three-and-out and a bad punt gave Lake Oswego great early field position.

The Lakers continued to gash West Salem on the ground. Anderson picked up more big yardage and Underwood finished the drive off from 10 yards out to make it 21-7.

“It was wet and we were running the ball so well we just figured there was no need to try and take chances by throwing it over their heads,” Coury said.

The Lakers came up with a stop on fourth down late in the third quarter to stop another West Salem drive.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Lake Oswego capitalized on good field position again after a defensive stop and Anderson scored another touchdown to salt the game away.

The Lakers ran for more than 250 yards as a team and, again, relied on a stellar defensive showing to move into the semifinals.

“Spencer really showed what he's capable of and the offensive line played exceptionally well,” Coury said.

The game marked Lake Oswego's closest contest since its 41-20 victory over Canby on Oct. 5.

The Lakers move on to face Tigard at noon this Saturday at PGE Park in Portland.

The Tigers boast one of the state's top offenses this year and are coming off a terrific performance in a 43-37 victory over Central Catholic.

“They're the best team we've seen all year and their running back is the best we've seen. They'll try to run right at us and they've been able to do it against everyone. When we get a chance to create a turnover we've got to take advantage of it,” Coury said.

Tigard hasn't lost since the second week of the season when it fell 36-34 to Aloha.

Lake Oswego and Tigard will play the first of the two semifinal games at Jeld-Wen Field with the game kicking off at noon on Saturday.