Lakers shut out Lions for league title

by: VERN UYETAKE Zach Walen is upended by a West Linn tackler in last Friday’s game. Walen had an interception return for a touchdown for the team’s final score.

It was workmanlike, impressive and dominant. In its most meaningful game to date, Lake Oswego picked apart West Linn 28-0, staying unbeaten on the year and clinching another Three Rivers League title.

The Lakers posted their lowest scoring output of the year but the team may have put together its most complete performance of the season.

West Linn's plan of attack for the game was no secret. The Lions looked to pound the ball behind their large offensive line and control the clock, something they have done well in recent wins against Lakeridge and Grant.

As it turned out, Lake Oswego was just fine with that style of game and did the same thing when it had the ball. And the Lakers happened to do it much better.

Lake Oswego's defense was dominant, giving up very few scoring chances in the game and holding West Linn to less than 200 yards of total offense.

The Lakers contained the Lions' star running back Mason Finnerty to less than 100 yards and, when West Linn was forced to throw, Lake Oswego was relentless in both the backfield and the secondary.

"We're really happy. We had a great week of practice and the whole team stepped up," receiver Stevie Coury said.

Lake Oswego set the tone for the game early on.

The team forced a three-and-out and, following a short punt, the team took over at West Linn's 42-yard line.

Two first down catches by Stevie Coury, including one on third-and-14 set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Steven Long just four minutes into the game.

"The coaches had a great plan and the kids really took it to heart. (West Linn)'s a good team and I'm really proud of how it ended up," coach Steve Coury said.

The Lakers gave up their biggest play of the evening on West Linn's next drive, a 35-yard pass completion but Lake Oswego pushed the Lions backward after that and forced a punt.

Later in the first quarter, Lake Oswego muffed a West Linn punt and the Lions recovered on the Lakers' 25-yard line.

But again, Lake Oswego's defense pushed the Lions backward and West Linn missed a 48-yard field goal.

"They're a big, physical team and we were able to control the line of scrimmage and handle them," coach Coury said.

Field position played a huge role in the game. When the Lakers were stopped on offense, Jack Anderson came up with a handful of well-struck punts to pin the Lions deep.

Harrison Greenberg was also very strong on kick-offs, knocking all but one for touchbacks.

"Special teams was big for us tonight and when you get to the playoffs that plays a huge part," coach Coury said.

Holding a 7-0 lead late in the second quarter, Lake Oswego mounted a drive starting at its own 35-yard line.

Runs from long and first-down catches by Coury and Anderson moved the Lakers into scoring range.

Then, with 37 seconds left in the half, Alex Matthews completed a seven-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to Connor Griffin.

Lake Oswego took complete control of the game early in the second half.

The Lakers started the third quarter with the ball on their own 20-yard line.

Matthews and Long each had runs for first downs and Matthews then hit Coury for a 43-yard gain, setting up a one-yard score from Long to make it 21-0.

Then, just two plays into West Linn's next drive, Zach Walen stepped in front of a pass attempt and returned the ball 23 yards for a score.

West Linn never threatened to get back in the game. The Lions switched quarterbacks but didn't have any more success.

Remi Rufai recorded a sack and Jordan Horak had a late interception as the Lakers were able to ice the game convincingly.

With the victory Lake Oswego not only kept its league win streak in tact and claimed another league title, it also vaulted the Lions for first place in the OSAA's power rankings.

"We know we can't get caught up in rankings. We have to stay humble and all of that other stuff will take care of itself," Stevie Coury said.

For the game, Long had 114 yards on just 11 carries and Matthews was 11-for-16 for 154 yards and no interceptions, completing passes to six different receivers.

Lake Oswego will wrap up the regular season next week against Oregon City.