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Lake Oswego gets defending state champions on Friday

For the fifth time in the past seven years, Lake Oswego's football team will face a clover-shaped speed bump in its quest for a state title.

The Lakers will square off against Sheldon Irish, the defending state champions in a rematch of last year's quarterfinal showdown that saw Lake Oswego upended 28-27 in a thrilling overtime game.

And while some key components are gone from last year's title-winning squad, a solid core remains, including a talented group of linemen and standout quarterback Jordan Johnson.

Johnson helms a diverse offense and is one of the most dangerous signal-callers in the state. Johnson's ability to run the ball out of the backfield makes him a constant threat but, unlike most of the state's agile quarterbacks, Johnson also has a strong and accurate arm.

Sheldon features a similar offense to Grant's except that the Irish are more dangerous through the air. Lake Oswego didn't get to see much of the Generals' normal offense after quarterback Kenneth Acker left the game with a knee injury early in the second quarter.

'Their quarterback makes it all go. He's as good as we've seen this year. I actually wish we'd been able to see more of Acker before he went down,' Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury said.

While the Lakers' defensive line is dramatically smaller than Sheldon's offensive line, it is a seemingly good match-up for Lake Oswego as the team has utilized its quickness well this year.

'He's explosive and very hard to tackle but I think our speed is a good match,' Coury said.

Johnson spreads the ball out to a variety of receivers but his favorite targets this year have been John Campbell and tight end Curtis White, a player who has proved to be difficult to defend this season.

Defensively, Sheldon is big and athletic and will look to put as much pressure as possible on quarterback Jack Lomax.

In league play, Sheldon predominantly took on run-first teams but has shown the ability to defend against the pass in the postseason with a pair of wins over Tigard and Westview.

The Irish also have plenty of experience playing in close ballgames with five games being decided by four or less points. That includes a pair of overtime games against Grants Pass and North Medford.

'Like always they're well-coached and have a ton of talented kids. This could easily be a game for a state title,' Coury said.

Like Lake Oswego, the Irish have made the playoffs every year since 1998 and have advance to at least the second round in each of those years.

'This time of year everything starts over. I love this team and their attitude. We just have to hope we make the big plays when we need to. These are two good teams and one of them's going to keep going. It's going to be a good football game,' Coury said.