Lakers put selves in big hole but still win

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Zach Young, foreground, made the most of his first game as a running back for the Lake Oswego football team. After a slow start, Young rushed for 234 yards and four touchdowns as the Lakers rebounded for a 29-28 victory. Young also got a lot of help from his teammates, including some outstanding leads blocks by fullback Garrett Cook, inset.

It took him a quarter to warm up but once he got going, Zach Young was nearly impossible to stop.

Playing in his first game as a member of the Lake Oswego football team, Young carried the ball 38 times for 234 yards and four touchdowns. His final score, plus Pat Barry's extra point, which came with three minutes left in the game, was the difference in the Lakers' thrilling 29-28 come-from-behind victory over West Salem on Friday.

Young managed just 12 yards in the first quarter, but he wasn't the only Lake Oswego player who had trouble in the opening period. The entire offense seemed to be spinning its wheels in that quarter; and some glaring missed assignments on defense led to some easy scores by the visiting Titans. By the time the Lakers snapped out of their doldrums, they were down 21-0.

Fortunately for the Lakers, there was still three quarters remaining, which left plenty of time for one of Lake Oswego's greatest comebacks ever, at least during head coach Steve Coury's 16-year tenure.

'I'm getting too old for these kind of games,' Coury quipped. 'But (the Lakers) showed a lot of heart and character.'

For a while, it looked like West Salem had all of the necessary ingredients to pull off the victory. The Titans, who are favored to win the Central Valley League this year, seemed unable to do anything wrong in that opening period.

Jordan Jenkins, who moved this year from quarterback to running back, ran the ball nine times in that period for 56 yards. And Aaron Hire, who was starting his first game at quarterback, completed 3 of 4 passes in that stanza for 104 yards.

One of those passes turned into a 35-yard touchdown by Chase Sexton, which gave West Salem an early 7-0 lead. A short time later, Jenkins hauled in a short screen pass and rambled 63 yards for another score to make it 14-0.

Coury couldn't believe his eyes when he saw that second touchdown.

'There isn't a screen pass in history that goes for 63 yards,' the coach said with amazement.

Lake Oswego's next possession ended with an interception by the Titans' Steven Ellis, who returned the ball to the Lakers' 11. Four plays later, Jenkins scored on a two-yard plunge and the Titans were ahead 21-0.

At that point, Coury was thinking 'our team looked more like spectators.'

'We just didn't come out ready to play,' Young added.

But the Lakers became full participants the rest of the way. In fact, they owned the rest of the game.

Young got his first score early in the second period on a seven-yard run. But a failed extra point attempt left the Lakers' deficit at 21-6.

Young scored again on Lake Oswego's next possession, this time on a three-yard run. A missed two-point conversion left the score at 21-12, which is how the game stayed until the final quarter.

Young capped the first drive of that last stanza with a two-yard scoring run and Pat Barry's extra point trimmed West Salem's lead to 21-19.

By then, everyone on the Laker sideline was thinking about a come-back victory.

'I think we started figuring out some things. Things just started clicking,' Young said.

The Lakers' celebration didn't last long, though, because West Salem's Jordan Bishop returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and the Titans pushed their lead to 28-19.

Lake Oswego followed with one of its longest drives of the game, but the Lakers wound up settling for a 24-yard field goal by Barry, which trimmed West Salem's lead to 28-22.

Then, after a three-and-out series by the Titans, the Lakers needed just three plays to score again. This time, Young found the end zone on a 27-yard run around left end. And Barry's kick capped the incredible comeback.

'It doesn't get much more exciting that that,' Young exclaimed. 'That's what football games are supposed to be like.'

Young, who played at Lakeridge the last three years, broke loose for 99 yards in the second period, and then added 58 in the third quarter and another 65 in the final stanza.

'He's got the ability that great backs have,' Coury said of Young. 'One of them is his vision and the other his explosion.'

'I'm sure it was part of their scheme but (Young) does a great job of getting guys flowing one way and then cutting back (against the grain),' West Salem coach Shawn Stanley said.

Both Coury and Young gave the Lakers' offensive line and fullback Garrett Cook a lot of credit for the yardage that the Laker running back collected. In fact, Coury called Cook the player of the game because some of the devastating blocks he threw in front of Young.

Jack Lomax, Lake Oswego's first time starter at quarterback, also had a good game. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 128 yards.

For the game, Lake Oswego had a 411-to-242 advantage in total yards. Approximately two-thirds of West Salem's total came in the first period. It showed how good the Lake Oswego defense could be when it had to be.

'They played well,' Coury said of his defense. 'They played like I thought they were capable of.'

The coach was pleased with the play of his secondary, especially cornerbacks Kyle Hayes and Anthony Culver. After Young's final touchdown run, Hayes came up with an interception that sealed the victory.

Coury also applauded back-up nose guard Jeff Kremer, who did a solid job of filling in for Nate Morse, who was injured on the thrid play of the game. It was initially feared the Morse had suffered a broken leg. Instead, it wound up being a deep bruise and some stretched ligaments. He could be back in action within a week, Coury said.