Lake Oswego tastes uncharted waters of a state championship
A 20-year championship draught ended poetically for Lake Oswego High and Lakers coach Steve Coury on Saturday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field.
As the clock ticked toward zero, Coury stood on the sidelines with tears on his cheeks. Coury's son, Lake Oswego receiver Stevie Coury, and Lakers running back Steven Long sneaked up and dumped a bucket of ice water over Steve Coury's head.
Coury's tears were washed away with the ice-cold water of victory, as Lake Oswego beat Sheldon 47-14 in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A final.
'That's all I wanted to do is dump that ice, and we did it,' Stevie Coury said. 'We got it.'
Stevie Coury could not have had a better partner to carry the bucket of ice over to his father. Long had one of the all-time great state championship games, rushing 42 times for 322 yards and four touchdowns to lead Lake Oswego to a 47-14 victory.
'This was a very good football team,' Steve Coury said. 'Now I can say it. They were very good, very versatile.'
In the first half, the game looked like it would be a dogfight, as Lake Oswego (14-0) and Sheldon (13-1) traded touchdowns.
On its second possession, Sheldon into Lake Oswego territory before Jack Anderson picked off a Dillon Miller pass at the Lakers' 5-yard line.
Lake Oswego then drove 95 yards in 14 plays, and JB Holmes took a 3-yard dive up the middle to give LO a 7-0 lead.
Sheldon fired back with a 4-yard touchdown by Connor Strahm that tied the score 7-7.
'It was the line,' Strahm said. 'The line blocked great, and it was just one cut.'
Lake Oswego took a 14-7 lead when Long took a handoff at the 1 and leapt over the defensive line for his first TD of the afternoon.
Strahm countered the TD with his own 1-yard dive into the end zone that tied the score 14-14 with 2:26 remaining in the second quarter.
A short kickoff gave Lake Oswego the ball at its 37. On the first play, the Irish got hit with a 15-yard face-mask penalty and an additional 15-yard late-hit penalty that moved the ball to the Sheldon 24.
The Lakers were unable to get into the end zone, but Harrison Greenberg knocked in a 35-yard field goal that sent the Lakers into halftime with a 17-14 lead.
'They were really important points,' Steve Coury said. 'It really made a difference for our kids at halftime. We were ahead.'
Coury said that his message to Lake Oswego in the locker room was: 'We are so close to making big plays, we're so close to breaking a run, we're so close to making an interception, we're so close to stopping a drive. It's going to happen.'
Coury also told his players that the first drive of the second half was the most important drive of the season.
'We put a huge emphasis on that first drive,' Coury said. 'We said, 'Look, if we can score, then we can trade touchdowns with them and still win by three.''
On the fifth play of the second half, Long took a handoff up the middle, found nothing, broke to the left sideline and was gone, 51 yards into the end zone to give the Lakers a 24-14 lead.
'Our offensive line did one hell of a job blocking and so did our other guys,' Long said. 'They were holding those blocks so I could get into the end zone.'
Suddenly, the Irish offense, which had collected 201 yards in the first half, could not gain any traction. Sheldon gained only 15 yards in the second half (216 total yards).
'We knew that they were really famous for their screen game,' linebacker Mitch Lomax said. 'We kept our ends and defensive tackle on a little slow rush to get there and one linebacker would drop back really far and one would stay out for the slant. We had it down.'
In collecting 490 yards, the Lakers' offense kept the Irish defense off balance with the passing game. Quarterback Alex Matthews was 9 of 14 passing for 141 yards.
'Sheldon is such a great team, the only thing you can do to beat them is keep them off- balance,' Matthews said. 'If you keep them on their toes, they don't know what's coming next.'
Long, a 5-8, 175-pound senior who has committed to Portland State, put Lake Oswego up 31-14 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter on a 2-yard TD.
Lake Oswego got the ball back before the fourth quarter after Sheldon went three-and-out. On the last play of the third quarter, though, Long injured his left ankle on an 8-yard run.
Long sat out the first few plays of the fourth quarter while trainers taped the ankle. The injury did not seem to bother him, however. Once he got back on the field, Long broke off a 50-yard TD run that put Lake Oswego up 38-14.
'Our trainer does a good job, getting us healthy,' Long said. 'Then we did a quick draw, and I just took it from there.'
On Sheldon's first play of the ensuing drive, a bad snap sent the ball into the end zone. Miller dove on the ball in the end zone for a safety that put the Lakers up 40-14.
The Lakers put the final exclamation point on the victory when Holmes found the end zone on a 1-yard pitch to the right side.
'I punched it in,' Long said.
Stevie Coury had not even been born yet when Steve Coury began coaching Lake Oswego 20 years ago. The senior said he could not imagine anything better than playing for his father on the team that finally won a state championship.
'It means the world to me,' Stevie Coury said. 'We set out to do it at the beginning of the year, and we did it. We came through. Fourteen and 0. We finished.'