LO wins the Battle, stays unbeaten
It was expected to be a high-scoring affair, with more than a handful of big plays and the Lakers and Pacers didn't disappoint last week.
After somewhat of a slow start, the points came in bunches for both teams in the second half and, in the end, Lake Oswego's relentless ground attack won the day in a 55-34 victory.
Lakeridge High School's stadium was bursting at the seams for perhaps the most highly anticipated Battle of the Lake in the game's history.
While not many teams have been able to hang with the Lakers this year, Lakeridge gave them their best shot, refusing to go away until the final minutes.
Ultimately four Lakeridge turnovers hindered the team's offense and another monster night from Lake Oswego running back Steven Long allowed the second-ranked Lakers to stay unbeaten.
Long had six touchdowns in the game and nearly seven as he fumbled at the goal line on another carry and the ball was ultimately recovered in the end zone for a Lake Oswego score.
Long racked up 267 yards on the ground but his first two carries went for losses.
Lake Oswego started with the ball and the Pacer defense came out fired up. Lakeridge stopped Long for a 12-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage and forced an early three-and-out.
Lakeridge moved into Lake Oswego territory on its opening drive, getting a 21-yard catch from Spencer Russell but a short pass was picked off by Lake Oswego's Kyle Cameron to end that threat.
Three penalties hindered the Lakers' next drive and the Pacers went three-and-out as well as both teams got off the blocks slowly.
Lake Oswego went to the air on its next drive and Alex Matthews hit Jack Anderson three times to set up a one-yard scoring run from Long with 40 seconds left in the opening quarter.
"We figured they'd have to account for Stevie (Coury) and I was able to get open," Anderson said.
Lakeridge was stopped on fourth down at the Lake Oswego 35-yard line on its next drive and Lake Oswego quickly converted.
Zach Walen hauled in a 20-yard pass and then Long broke a 36-yard touchdown run to put the Lakers up 13-0.
Lakeridge was in danger of digging itself a significant hole before the half but got a nice kickoff return from Blake Dutton to start a crucial drive.
However, a sack for a loss of 12 yards made it 4th-and-16 from midfield.
The Pacers didn't hesitate, electing to go for it and Justin Luevano made a spectacular diving catch for a 32-yard gain that kept the drive alive.
Three plays later Russell caught a 15-yard touchdown pass and the Pacers were back in the game.
Lake Oswego responded impressively, running the ball nine straight times with Long and Grant Taylor, culminating with another one-yard score by Long with two minutes left in the half.
"We were able to control the line of scrimmage which was big," Laker coach Steve Coury said.
Both teams made it clear that one of their goals was to neutralize the opposition's big-play threats.
Lake Oswego blanketed Dutton for much of the game, forcing Knecht to find other receivers. The Pacers' receiving corps stepped up as both Russell and Dylan Gaar had more than 100 yards receiving and Luevano added clutch receptions.
"We obviously wanted to try and take Blake out of the game and make some other guys beat us and they had some players step up," Coury said.
Dutton did a nice job defensively containing the Lakers' Stevie Coury but Matthews also looked elsewhere, hitting Whalen and Anderson four times apiece.
The Pacers opened the second half with the ball and, again, moved into Lake Oswego territory but a fumble on a pitch gave the Lakers the ball back.
"They didn't surprise us. They dropped eight back and tested us and we made a few mistakes which you can't do against a good team like that," Pacer coach Tom Smythe said.
It took just two runs from Long to find the end zone and the lead was pushed to 27-6.
But every time the Lakers threatened to blow the game open, Lakeridge responded.
The Pacers put together their best drive of the night, going 74 yards in 12 plays, ending with a one-yard run by Gaar.
"When we had the ball things went pretty well and we were able to move up and down the field," Smythe said.
Lake Oswego answered with a big return from Anderson and scored two plays later. Long ran 14 yards but fumbled before crossing the goal line and the ball was recovered by Kyle Peterson for a score.
Lakeridge would make it a two-possession game again with 2:12 left in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown catch by Dutton.
But Lake Oswego's run game simply wore the Pacers down in the second half. Long continued to pick up huge chunks of yardage and quickly moved the Lakers down the field again, scoring another one-yard touchdown.
Knecht was then picked off on the first play of Lakeridge's next drive, leading to yet another one-yard score from Long as the Lakers jumped out to their biggest lead of the game.
"We had some miscues in the secondary but when we needed to step up, the defense got it done," Anderson said.
Again, the Pacers refused to give in. Nick Yun received the ensuing kickoff and rambled to the three-yard line, setting up a one-yard run by Dutton.
"I thought we played fairly well on defense, holding them to six points in the first half but then we gave them a short field and you can't do that against their offense," Coury said.
But Long had another answer for Lake Oswego, breaking a 71-yard run, leading to a three-yard score from J.B. Holmes.
Lakeridge scored again late in the fourth quarter on another terrific catch from Luevano. The Pacers would then recover an onsides kick but a sack by Remi Rufai hindered the Pacers' final drive.
The win moved Lake Oswego to 6-0 heading into next week's game against Clackamas. It also moves the Lakers to No. 1 in the OSAA's most recent RPI rankings.
For Lakeridge, the team has a short week to regroup for another key tilt. The Pacers take on 5-1 West Linn in a game with huge implications in the league standings.
"We've kind of had a hangover against West Linn the past two times we've played them coming off of this game and let Lake Oswego beat us twice. West Linn's a very good team and we'll have to be ready," Smythe said.