Young but dangerous
It's one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams that Lake Oswego has fielded in a number of years. But it's also a team that is favored to win yet another Three Rivers League title.
Lake Oswego returns just three starters from last year's squad which lost an overtime game to eventual state champion Sheldon in the quarterfinals.
One of those returners is quarterback Jack Lomax and coach Steve Coury knows that having experience at that position is an enormous luxury.
'He's a student of the game and understands what we're trying to do. It's like having a coach in the huddle. We're going to put a lot on his shoulders this year,' Coury said.
Lomax was a consistent and accurate presence for the Lakers last season, helming an offense that relied heavily on the running game. Now, with the graduation of Zach Young, Lake Oswego will likely air the ball out more this fall.
'We won't be such a pounding offense this year. We have a lot of skilled players and I think will spread it out more,' Coury said.
Lomax will have a talented crew of receivers to target downfield. Micah Hatfield and Nick Rulli are both described by Coury as 'big-time players' and are among the fastest members of the Lakers this year.
But Lake Oswego has plenty of depth at that position as well with Will Storey, Brad Halberg and Ryan Bradley expected to catch their fair share of passes as well.
'I think that group is as good as we've had here,' Coury said.
One area where the team is not blessed with so much depth is on its offensive line. Currently the Lakers are banged up on the line with Brendan Lake nursing a broken foot, Peter Sorenson dealing with a broken hand and Matt Swindells nursing a shoulder injury.
'We're hurting there a bit but we'll be patient. It gives a lot of guys a chance to get valuable experience,' Coury said.
As a result, Lake Oswego's healthy linemen have added pressure and Coury is also depending on some talented sophomores to fill the early season void.
Andre Lee and James Cooper are a pair of sophomores expected to make a significant impact on the line while Scott Johnson, Jeff Kremer, Adam Rosa and Khashi Jafari will also be called on to protect Lomax. Some of the players on the Lakers' line will play defense as well.
Aside from keeping Lomax upright, the line will need to open holes up for Storey and Tyson Coleman, the team's tailbacks.
Storey is one of Lake Oswego's most versatile players as he can be used as a tailback, receiver and tight end on offense and will also be an outside linebacker on defense.
'Will's a terrific player who can run and catch as well as anyone,' Coury said. Cole Naone and Blake Heim will also be used as tight ends for Lake Oswego.
Defensively, the Lakers are loaded with athletes and have plenty of team speed. Hatfield and Rulli will double as cornerbacks along with Tyler Phelps and Brian Zinsmeister will make plays from as a safety.
Along with Johnson, Halberg and Storey will play linebacker on a defensive squad that should be aggressive and adept at creating turnovers.
As has been the case for the past few seasons, Lake Oswego has one of the toughest non-league schedules in the state.
The team opens the year on Saturday at PGE Park against Alaska's Juneau-Douglas, one of that state's top programs.
Then Lake Oswego plays host to Jesuit at 6 p.m. the following Friday for a game that will be nationally broadcast by CBS College Sports. Fans attending that game are encouraged to wear white to support the Lakers. With that schedule, Coury knows that the team could take some lumps but knows the experience should only help in the long run.
'You'd like to be playing your best by game seven or eight and then peak in the playoffs,' Coury said.
In league, Lake Oswego is once again a favorite but should receive some stiff challenges.
Both Clackamas and West Linn should also vie for the title while Oregon City could be the surprise of the league again.
Saturday's game at PGE Park begins at 3:30 p.m. and fans wanting to buy tickets are encouraged to buy them from the high school's box office as proceeds from those sales go to support the school's athletic department.
Sept. 6* Juneau at PGE Park
Sept. 12* Jesuit
Sept. 19 at Clackamas
Sept. 26 Lakeridge
Oct. 3 at Putnam
Oct. 9* at West Linn
Oct. 17 Milwaukie
Oct. 24 at Sprague
Oct. 31 at Oregon City
* Most games held on Fridays at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 12 game on Friday at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 game on Thursday at 7 p.m.