Unlike last year, there would be no 42-0 blowout. This time, the top-ranked Lake Oswsego football team had its hands full with upset-minded West Linn.
For two and a half quarters of last Thursday's game, West Linn seemed to be in perfect position to pull off that upset, and take over the top spot in the Three Rivers League standings.
Then, the Lakers unleashed star running back Zach Young and the host Lions found themselves playing catch-up almost before they knew what hit them. After starting the game slowly, Young wound up with 273 yards rushing and three touchdowns as Lake Oswego remained unbeaten with a 29-12 victory.
The difference was Young's ability to turn short-yardage plays into long gains by using his incredible cut-back ability. His night included touchdown runs of 47 yards, which gave the Lakers the lead for good in the third quarter, and 80 yards, which gave Lake Oswego some much needed cushion in the fourth period.
In the first half, West Linn 'was selling out for the run,' Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury said. During that half, Young was held to a modest (for him) 54 yards rushing on 10 carries. By keeping Young somewhat in check, the Lions were able to hold Lake Oswego to a 7-6 lead at intermission.
'I told our kids at halftime, 'Just be patient. We're going to make big plays,' ' the coach said.
Coury and his staff noted that West Linn was putting nine players inside the imaginary tackle-to-tackle box, which is an invitation for most teams to throw the ball.
Lake Oswego didn't really accept the invitation as quarterback Jack Lomax threw only nine passes. Although, he did complete six of those tosses for 91 yards and a touchdown, which made it a very efficient night. But most of the heavy lifting that evening was done by Young.
To overcome a nine-man front, it often requires a big back that can run over would-be tacklers. But the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Young used his quick feet and his elusive moves to zig-zag his way through the West Linn defense. In the second half, he ran for 219 yards and all three of his touchdowns for the evening.
'He's just a great running back. He's really a very gifted kid,' Coury said of Young, who pushed his season rushing totals to 1,330 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Before Young got untracked, West Linn managed to turn the first half into a defensive struggle. The Lakers' lone first-half score came early in the second quarter, when Lomax connected with backup running back Will Storey for a 14-yard touchdown pass. West Linn, meanwhile, was limited to two Robert Truax field goals in the first half.
West Linn took the second half kickoff and went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by Kyle Kraus' four-yard touchdown run. That gave West Linn its last lead of the game at 12-7.
Despite falling behind, 'our guys didn't panic,' Coury said. 'I was very proud of them. We never got to the point where we were playing not to lose.'
In fact, the Lakers didn't even give up the lead for long. West Linn's advantage lasted the time it took Lake Oswego to run five more plays. The fifth play went to Young and was good for a 47-yard touchdown. The play was highlighted by a sharp cutback along the right sideline that allowed Young to break loose from a pack of defenders. After Lomax's two-point conversion pass to Storey, the Lakers were in front for good at 15-12.
West Linn looked to tie the game early in the fourth period when Truax lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt. Despite being one of the top place-kickers in the state, Truax's attempt came up five yards short.
The next play proved to be the game's most pivotal play as Young ran for an 80-yard touchdown. The play featured three elusive cutback moves, including one at the line of scrimmage and another one just before the goal line. The Lakers iced the contest with a late fourth-quarter drive that ended with another Young touchdown.