Lakers make themselves at home in Roseburg
Much was made about Lake Oswego's quarterfinal trip down I-5 to Roseburg last week. There was talk about the fairness of the top-ranked team in the state being forced to drive more than four hours in its most important game of the season to date. And there was talk that Roseburg, coming off a thrashing of league rival South Medford, might be able to use its substantial home field advantage to give the Lakers their first legitimate test in months.
But none of that talk was coming from Lake Oswego coaches or players.
The Lakers have been on a mission since the beginning of the season and last week's quarterfinal game was just another step on that journey. The fact that the journey unexpectedly went through Roseburg was of little consequence.
Lake Oswego had made multiple runs at a state title over the past decade and have been one of the most successful teams in the state in that time period. But this year, perhaps more than any other, they're walking with a certain swagger.
While the message to all of coach Steve Coury's teams has always been about players keeping their heads down and staying on an even keel, this year's squad is combining that workmanlike approach with an extremely high level of confidence.
That confidence was on full display at what has traditionally been one of the toughest venues in the state for visitors.
Lake Oswego took the life out of Roseburg's boisterous crowd early, building a 41-0 halftime lead before coasting to a 47-7 win in perhaps the team's most impressive showing of the season.
"I was proud of the way the kids responded. It was kind of a trip where we weren't sure why we had to take it but the guys enjoyed it and enjoyed going into another team's house and trying to beat them," Coury said.
The Laker defense forced five turnovers on the night and the offense proved nearly unstoppable for the better part of three quarters and the Indians simply had no answers on either side of the ball.
Lake Oswego got on the board quickly with Alex Matthews hitting Stevie Coury for a 42-yard touchdown to set the tone for the evening.
"They're a ball control team and the defense really responded. We took a shot at some big plays early and came through," Coury said.
The Lakers hit Roseburg with a balanced attack and had success with both the run and the pass but it was Matthews who stood out again, completing 14 of 17 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
"We're not a team like Sheldon that puts the ball up 40 times a game but our quarterback has had an all-state type of year. Statistically he's been unbelievable and he's the reason why we're so versatile," Coury said.
After getting a stop on defense, Lake Oswego methodically moved the ball again on offense, getting inside the 10-yard line before facing third down.
Roseburg brought a blitz and hit Matthews as he threw the ball. But the pass was still on target and Connor Griffin wrestled it away from a defender for an eight-yard score.
The rout was on just a few minutes later when Zach Walen picked off a pass by Hayden Lent and returned it to the five-yard line.
One play later, Steven Long scored to make it 20-0.
Roseburg moved the ball into Lake Oswego territory on its next drive but a fumble was recovered by Nick Underwood, the Indians' third turnover of the first half and the Lakers took over.
Again, Lake Oswego found success on virtually everything it did offensively, moving into the red zone again.
Then Long broke his most impressive run of the night, spinning through three tacklers and staying on his feet for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Lakers up 27-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Lake Oswego's offensive line handled yet another big defensive front and did particularly well at protecting Matthews.
Early in the second period the Lakers continued to pour it on as Matthews hit Coury again and the receiver outran the Roseburg secondary for an 82-yard score.
Lake Oswego's speed on both sides of the ball proved to be a significant mismatch for the Indians.
Linebacker Mitch Lomax was particularly fearsome on defense, tossing blocker aside to make life miserable for the Roseburg offense.
Later in the half J.B. Holmes punched in a six-yard touchdown to cap a dominant first half.
The Lakers then had the luxury of taking their foot of the gas for the entirety of the second half.
Holmes would score his second touchdown of the day from one-yard out early in the third quarter to wrap up the Lakers' scoring for the game
Lake Oswego's defense continued to pitch a shutout until the waning moments of the game as Roseburg notched a touchdown against the second-string.
Trenton Bilodeaux recorded an interception, giving the Laker defense five forced turnovers for the evening as Lake Oswego sent a message to the other four remaining teams in this year's championship hunt.
For the game the Lakers racked up more than 450 yards of offense and yielded just 249 yards to Roseburg, much of which was picked up when the game was well out of reach.
Lake Oswego won't have to worry about another road trip for the rest of the year. Both the semifinals and the state title game will be held at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland this year.
"We've been fortunate to be in this situation a number of times over the years and the extra practice is great and getting that experience for our younger guys is a big deal," Coury said.
The Lakers will face Jesuit in the first of two semifinals this Saturday. Lake Oswego blew out the Crusaders in the teams' preseason meeting, torching Jesuit through the air.
But the Crusaders figure to be much improved from that early season showdown and are coming off an impressive win over previously unbeaten Tigard.
The semifinal game will kick off at noon.