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Tough finish

Five turnovers doom the Lakers in the state title game as Sheldon exacts revenge for 2011


by: VERN UYETAKE - Reid Penney and Mitch Lomax share a hug as the season ended. Uncharacteristic. That's what Saturday's state title game was for the Lake Oswego Lakers. Completely uncharacteristic from what the team had shown in its previous 13 contests this year.

Lake Oswego lost 13-6 in to Sheldon in the state title game last week in a result that left fans and players alike shaking their heads afterwards. It wasn't so much that the Lakers were shocked at the loss itself, but the way the game unfolded was both baffling and discouraging.

By all accounts, Lake Oswego outplayed Sheldon in the contest, slowing down the Irish's high-powered offense and moving the ball up and down the field, particularly on the ground.

But the Lakers had five turnovers in the game, many coming at crucial junctures and the lack of that one big play on offense which could have turned the game around simply went missing.

“You can't beat yourself in a game like this and we helped them out a bit. I just feel sorry for the kids, especially the seniors, because they really had a great year,” coach Steve Coury said.

It was a strange way for the season to end. It was a year where the Lakers faced very little adversity. The team rolled over high-ranked opponents and league foes alike, staying relatively healthy along the way.

But it seems that adversity was just storing up to rear its head at the worst possible time.

Bounces that had gone Lake Oswego's way all year suddenly switched allegiances and tailback and defensive end Spencer Anderson was knocked out of the game with a knee injury.

Even with those issues mounting up, the Lakers found themselves in position to win or at least force overtime until the closing moments of the game in a testament to the team's attitude.

“We've been together since we were little kids to its sad to see it end,” tailback J.B. Holmes said.

The game was a somewhat unexpected defensive slugfest. Sheldon started with the ball and, after two big screen passes moved the Irish into Laker territory, Lake Oswego rallied for a stop, getting a key tackle on fourth down from Romello Washington.

The Lakers opened the game with a 14-yard keeper from Justen Ruppe and converted on fourth-and-one, eventually reaching the 14-yard line before being stopped.

Lake Oswego's 32-yard field goal attempt fell short keeping the game scoreless.

After another defensive stop, the Lakers threatened again when a 44-yard burst from Nick Underwood instantly put Lake Oswego in striking distance of the end zone.

After a 16-yard run from Holmes, moved the Lakers to the 12-yard line, Sheldon came up with a spectacular diving interception in the end zone, continuing to keep Lake Oswego off the board.

Lake Oswego's defense held firm and the Lakers took over at their own 41-yard line but failed to get a drive going.

“They kept everything in front of them and didn't give up the big play,” Coury said.

Sheldon then moved into Lake Oswego territory before a holding penalty and a sack by Underwood brought the drive to a quick end.

It appeared that the game was headed for a scoreless first half but a late Lake Oswego interception gave Sheldon the ball back at midfield.

With just moments left in the half and the Irish driving, Anderson, a vocal leader on the team this year, went down with a knee injury and was carried into the locker room. He would return to the sideline on crutches in the second half.

Sheldon moved to the 15-yard-line with seconds left in the half and appeared to miss a 33-yard field goal but the Lakers were flagged for encroachment, their only penalty of the game, and the Irish responded by making a 28-yarder to lead 3-0 at the break.

Lake Oswego opened the second half with the ball and got back-to-back catches from Mitch Lomax and Conner Griffin. Ruppe then hit Griffin for a 15-yard reception that put the team into the red zone.

However, Sheldon tightened up its goal line defense and kept the Lakers out of the end zone, forcing a fourth-and-goal at the two-yard line.

Lake Oswego went for it and came up a yard short, giving possession back to the Irish.

“They just executed better than we did. It was a heck of a game,” Holmes said.

However, just one play later, the Irish fumbled back to Lake Oswego at the 11-yard line.

On the next play, an apparent defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone was waived off by an inadvertent whistle from one of the referees.

But Lake Oswego would finally get on the board three plays later on a four-yard keeper from Jack Anderson. However, the extra point attempt was blocked and Sheldon regained a small bit of momentum.

Sheldon took over at its own 25-yard line and started its best drive of the day. A big scramble by quarterback Taylor Alie and another screen pass got Sheldon into Lake Oswego territory and the Irish picked up solid yardage on the ground to move to the one-yard line.

On fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line, Sheldon finally scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to go up 10-6.

Sheldon then picked up its third interception of the game and was on the verge of taking command of the contest but the Laker defense hung tough again, forcing a three-and-out and Sheldon settled for a short field goal to keep it a one-possession game.

The fourth quarter turned into a nightmare for Lake Oswego as, two plays later, the Irish recovered a Laker fumble.

Sheldon picked up a first down but the Laker defense continued to keep the team in the game, this time forcing a 32-yard field goal that missed off the post.

“If you told me we'd have four or five turnovers and hold them to 13 points I wouldn't have believed you. That's just how our kids play. There was no quit,” Coury said.

Lake Oswego still had time to mount a game-tying drive starting at its own 20-yard line. A big run by Holmes and a 15-yard facemask penalty moved the Lakers past midfield. Lake Oswego reached the 33-yard line before an incomplete pass and a sack forced a fourth-and-11 play with the season on the line.

Sheldon quickly got pressure on Ruppe and forced him out of the pocket where he ultimately threw a desperation pass that was intercepted.

It was the end of another remarkable season for Lake Oswego, one that saw the team outscore its opponents 535-139, featuring a balanced attack on offense and one of the best defenses in school history.

The Lakers graduate a large and exceptionally talented senior class this season and will look to reload again next fall.