Emotional victory over Jesuit lifts Lake Oswego into state finals
Emotions ran deep on the Lake Oswego sidelines after the Lakers' dramatic 21-13 victory over Jesuit Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field, and Steve Coury was at the maelstrom of it.
Coury has had more victories than you can shake a stick at during his 20 years at the Lake Oswego helm, and the Lakers take a 13-0 record into next Saturday's Class 6A championship game.
But this one was special, and the 53-year-old coach was misty-eyed as he set a stadium record for most hugs received and delivered.
There were several reasons emotions were spilling out like the Exxon Valdez.
A Lake Oswego High senior, Allison Cohen, died after cardiac arrest on Thanksgiving, and many of the players attended her memorial service last Sunday.
A long-time Laker assistant coach, Jeff Young, was in a wheelchair behind the team bench following the game. Young, beset by Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, has been an inspiration to all those in the LO program.
'I'd love to be able to hand the trophy to Jeff after next week's game,' Coury told his assembled players on the field after the Jesuit game.
The game featured a gripping finish, with the Crusaders at the Laker 3-yard line and trying to stop the clock by spiking the ball just a micro-second too late as time expired.
And there are the Coury family dynamics. Stevie, a 5-11, 165-pound senior, caught four passes for 46 yards Saturday. Dick Coury, Stevie's 82-year-old grandfather, was last in line to greet his son after the game.
'One more kiss,' winked Dick, the long-time pro coach who volunteers as an assistant coach on the Laker staff.
Steve Coury's teams are a perennial state power, having reached at least the state quarterfinals 11 straight years. They'll be making their fourth title-game appearance next Saturday, with a chance to erase the only thing missing from the coach's resume.
You can understand why a few tears were flowing.
'I'm just so proud of these kids,' Coury said. 'That was a tough game to win.'
Indeed, it was.
Jesuit was masterful running the ball and controlling the clock behind a college-sized O-line that goes 280, 340, 245, 250 and 285 from tackle to tackle.
Then there was tight end Henry Mondeaux, a 6-4, 225-pound sophomore and Lake Oswego resident who snared a pair of long bombs, and running back Morgan Sellers, who motored and pounded for 184 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.
The Crusaders won all the major statistical categories, including first downs (21-18) and total offense (391-322) while dominating rushing yardage (289-71), total plays (68-43) and time of possession (30:59 to 17:01).
In the first half, Sellers rushed for 121 yards on 18 carries, one fewer than Lake Oswego's total number of plays.
But the Lakers moved through the air, with Alex Matthews completing 17 of 23 passes for 251 yards and three TDs with no interceptions.
'Alex has had an unbelievable year,' Coury said of his 6-3, 200-pound senior signal-caller, who has thrown for 2,486 yards and 24 TDs with two picks this season. 'He has been how he was today all year. He is calm in the pocket, doesn't throw the ball up for (defenders) to grab, makes a lot of huge throws.'
Matthews throws to what Coury considers the deepest group of receivers he has had at LO, including 6-4, 195-pound junior Connor Griffin, who hauled in four passes for 88 yards and a pair of scores.
In a 49-21 regular-season win at Jesuit, Matthews passed for six touchdowns - four to Stevie Coury.
'We knew they would try to cover Stevie because he tore them apart last game,' Matthews said. 'They kept Stevie in check, but we went to Connor and Jack Anderson.'
When Mondeaux hauled in a 34-yard pass at the Lake Oswego 3 in the game's closing seconds, Steve Coury's heart went through his throat.
'I thought, 'This is going to overtime,' " the LO coach said.
On first-and-goal, though, the Lakers stuffed Sellers on a run for no gain. Soon the clock struck zero, and Coury was accepting hugs from coaches, players, cheerleaders and mothers of his players (coaching isn't such a bad gig).
Many of those players sought out Young, too, some mentioning what Coury had said about him.
'I'm flattered that he would say that,' Young said. 'But I want to win one for Steve and all our seniors. I'm so proud of them.'
Young seems to have a rare relationship with the players.
'I met coach Young when I was a freshman, and he is the most special guy I've ever met. I get emotional talking about him,' said Matthews, choking on his words. 'I've spent so much time with him.
'He is a testament to strong character. He has taught us how to go about things and be strong. It's all about state of mind in this program.'
Now Young is providing extra incentive for the Lakers to take their final step, so they can present him with the championship trophy.
'It's a big-time great story,' Coury said. 'That's my dream. People talk about me getting one, but it doesn't mean nearly as much as if we could do that for Jeff. I'm hoping we get a chance to do it.'
Matthews said the Lakers will dedicate their performance to Long, but would love to get the head coach his first state championship, too.
'It's about both of them,' Matthews said. 'Put them together. We would like nothing more than to put that trophy in coach Young's lap, and have coach Coury smiling behind him.'
That sounds pretty good to the ol' coach, too.
'There is going to be a great team we're going to have to play, but I'm excited for my kids,' Coury said. 'They deserve to be there.
'It's been a phenomenal year. We've played a great schedule. Just to get there, it's a hell of an accomplishment. Let's see what happens once it's over.'