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Lakers slop way to playoff win

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Despite playing on a muddy, torn-up field, Lake Oswego running back Zach Young, far right, ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns last Friday to lead the top-ranked Lakers to a 28-14 second-round playoff victory over No. 9 Canby. Young picked up his yardage in small chunks and had a 10-yard run as his longest carry of the night. But he was still able to push his season rushing total over 2,000 yards and he now has 33 touchdowns for the season.

CANBY - The ninth-ranked Canby Cougars were hoping their wet, muddy field would be enough to neutralize opposing running back Zach Young and the rest of Lake Oswego's potent offense last Friday night.

It was just wishful thinking for the Cougars, though, as Young ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns to lead the top-ranked Lakers to a 28-14 victory in the second round of the 6A state football playoffs.

To ensure that his players wouldn't worry too much about the elements, Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury offered his team some sage advice during practice last week.

'I told them, 'Don't worry about the mud. If you worry about where you're going, who we're playing, what the weather is, you're going to get your (rear end) beat,' ' Coury said.

Still, Canby's slick surface did slow Young down a little bit. Normally, he gets at least one long run per game. But against the Cougars, Young's longest run was just 10 yards. Instead, he chipped away at the Canby defense, bit by bit.

'It was definitely different in the mud … But I'd still gain five or so yards, so it worked out fine,' said Young, who finished the night with 35 carries, which was his highest total since the opening week of the season.

Helping Young's cause was the fact that Lake Oswego quarterback Jack Lomax was able to pass the ball effectively in the sloppy conditions. He completed 7 of 12 passes for 122 yards, and the numbers could have been even better if not for a severe underthrow on the game's second play, when tight end Michael Wesner was wide open 35 yards downfield.

'I totally messed up on that one,' Lomax admitted. 'I had a little mud on my thumb and when I threw it, the ball just kind of floated up in the air.'

At least it didn't get intercepted.

Yet, after seeing that throw, some of Canby's fans were convinced that the weather had already neutralized Lake Oswego's passing game. As it turned out, the effect of the weather only lasted one (three-and-out) series for the Lakers.

It was during Lake Oswego's second series that the Lakers showed they could slop around in the mud as well as anyone. The Lakers moved the ball 80 yards in 13 plays and most of the big plays in that drive belonged not to Young, but the passing attack.

Lomax completed four passes along the way, including a 24-yarder to Nick Rulli that moved the Lakers into scoring position. A pair of eight-yard strikes to Jay Matthews moved the Lakers even closer. Lomax capped the drive when he found Wesner in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown. It was the second time in the first quarter that Wesner managed to get behind his defender.

'They don't guard me that much as a tight end. I guess they think I can't get open,' Wesner said.

Not to be outdone, the Cougars quickly answered with their most impressive drive of the night. Starting from their own 15, Canby ran the ball 11 consecutive times before reaching the end zone. The drive was capped by T.J. Gorman's 10-yard run, and Paul Madeira tacked on the extra point to give the Cougars their first and last lead of the game at 7-6 with 11:03 left in the second quarter.

Then it was the Lakers' turn. With the Canby keying on Young, Lake Oswego went back to the air for the first play of its next possession and it went for 28 yards to Micah Hatfield, who spent most of the season as a backup running back to Young. Two plays later, Will Storey, the backup fullback, hauled in a 16-yard pass that took Lake Oswego to the Canby 21.

'You can't really key on anyone in this offense,' Lomax said. 'We get a couple of good completions and then they don't know what we're running.'

With the Canby defense off-balance, the Lakers went back to the run and four plays later Young scored on an eight-yard carry. A failed two-point attempt left Lake Oswego's lead at 12-6 with 7:35 left in the first half.

After a three-and-out series by the Cougars, the Lakers needed just five plays to find the end zone again. Young got the honors once again with a six-yard scoring run, which made the score 20-6 with 4:03 left in the half.

That score was redemption of sorts for the Lakers, who appeared to score on the first play of the possession on a pass from Lomax to Wesner. But the touchdown was called back on a holding penalty.

After a scoreless third quarter, both teams managed a touchdown in the final stanza. Lake Oswego started off with a 90-yard drive that was capped by Young's 10-yard scoring run. A two-point conversion pass to Hatfield made the score 28-7 with 8:02 left in the game.

After mixing up their play calling during the first three quarters, the Lakers stayed solely with the run during that drive as Young carried the ball 10 times.

'We just kept pounding on them and pounding on them, and the coach kept calling my name and handing me the ball,' Young said.

Helping pave the way for Young was an offensive line that is getting better by the week, and fullback Garrett Cook has been sensational as a lead blocker.

'That's how we're running the ball,' Coury said. 'The offensive line is great and Cook is a special kid … He's a big-time guy back there.'

It looked as though Canby would get that touchdown back on its next possession, but an impressive drive ended at Lake Oswego's 4-yard line when Wesner intercepted a pass along the sideline.

'When they're moving the ball, you can't get down on yourself. You have to just stick with the game plan and keep going,' Wesner said of Lake Oswego's belated defensive stand.

Canby got a bit of a reprieve, though, when Lake Oswego went three-and-out on its next series. Then, a one-yard punt gave the Cougars the ball at the Lake Oswego 13. Four plays later, Travis Newton found the end zone on a one-yard run.

But it was too late for a Canby comeback by then as the Lakers ran out the remaining 2:47 on the clock.

Considering the conditions, Lake Oswego almost made it look easy against a Canby team that scored 47 points against defending champion Jesuit in the first round of the playoffs.

'We had a great game plan … and we have a great coaching staff,' Coury said. 'It's incredible what they do with this program.'

It also helps having a lot of talented players and the coaches seem to find more of those players every week, especially at the skill positions.

'We keep finding more weapons,' Coury said.

The weapon everybody is talking about, of course, is Young. His performance on Friday pushed his season rushing total to 2,056 yards, and he now has 33 touchdowns. But he gives a lot of the credit for that production to his blockers.

'That's everyone doing their job,' Young said. 'It might go under my name for the stats, but it's the whole team. We have 33 touchdowns and we have over 2,000 yards (as a group).'

The victory improved Lake Oswego's season record to 11-0 while ninth-ranked Canby dropped to 9-3. Lake Oswego will now host Sheldon in the quarterfinals on Friday. It will be Lake Oswego's seventh consecutive trip to the final eight.

'There's not many teams that have done that,' Coury said.

At the beginning of the season, there weren't many people outside of Lake Oswego who thought the Lakers' young team would advance this far.

'People thought we weren't as good as we are,' Lomax said. 'But we've proved to everybody that we can play with the big guys.'