Sheldon makes big plays down the stretch in 28-27 quarterfinal win
Top-ranked Lake Oswego and third-ranked Sheldon were so evenly matched that it took a special teams play to decide their quarterfinal playoff game last Friday night.
Anthony Yakovich's blocked extra-point try wound up being the difference as Sheldon squeaked out a 28-27 overtime victory.
It capped an impressive come-back for the Irish, who trailed 21-14 with 2:22 left in regulation. But Sheldon mounted a 13-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with Jordan Johnson's three-yard scoring toss to Curtis White with 17 seconds remaining.
'It was just a battle of two great teams,' Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury said. 'But give Sheldon credit. They scored when they needed to.'
Sheldon's crucial drive included a number of big plays, but none of them were any bigger than Tyler Martell's 18-yard reception on a fourth-and-four play that advanced the ball to the Lake Oswego 22. Only a minute remained in the game at that point, so Sheldon had only one option, which was to go for the first down.
White's touchdown sent the game to overtime and, after starting at the Lakers' 25, the Irish needed just four plays to register the first score in the extra period. The last play was another three-yard pass from Johnson to White, which gave the Irish a 28-21 lead.
Lake Oswego cut that deficit to a single point when Jay Matthews scored on a five-yard screen pass from Jack Lomax on the Lakers' first possession of overtime. All that was needed to send the game to a second overtime period was an extra point by Lake Oswego's sure-footed place-kicker, Pat Barry.
The center snap appeared to be a little high, but holder Nick Halberg was able to make the placement. Still, the timing was off just enough that Yakovich was able to break through the line and get a hand on the ball, which wound up falling well short of the crossbar.
'It's tough to lose it on a PAT. But (Sheldon) made a great effort,' Coury said.
'Coming in, I thought we had the better game plan … Then, it comes down to a kick, and if you can't make a kick you can't win the game,' a dejected Lomax said afterward.
Those who love to second-guess coaches probably got a lot of mileage out of the decision Lake Oswego was faced with at the end of overtime. Some people believe the Lakers should have gone for two points, which would have decided the game, one way or the other.
Even though Coury opted for a two-point play late in the semifinal game against Lincoln two years ago, he didn't see that as a good option this time.
'It's too easy to look back now,' Coury said. 'Sheldon just made a great play to block (the kick) … Kicking the PAT is the way to go. You want to try to keep playing in overtime.'
It was a game that neither team led by more than a touchdown. It was 7-7 at halftime, although Lake Oswego could have taken a lead into intermission after Sheldon failed to convert a fourth-down try from its own 21. But the Lakers couldn't capitalize on the opportunity and wound up turning the ball back over on downs just before the break.
The Irish got bold again with their first possession of the second half when they opted for a fake punt from their own 17. That attempt failed, and this time, the Lakers capitalized when Zach Young scored on a one-yard run to give the Lakers a 14-7 lead.
That's the way it stayed until the 4:51 mark of the fourth quarter when Martell scored on a five-yard pass from Johnson. To get that score, the Irish traveled 80 yards in eight plays.
But the Lakers answered quickly, maybe too quickly, as they went 79 yards in just over two minutes. Lake Oswego got the lead back, at 21-14, when Lomax hit Anthony Culver with a 36-yard scoring strike with 2:22 left.
At that point, Lake Oswego seemed to be in control.
'(Lake Oswego) is a good team, so it's hard to be on your 'A' game all of the time,' Johnson said.
'I was pretty confident that the game was over once we got that last touchdown (in regulation),' Young said. 'But it's not over until there's zeroes across the board.'
Then, Sheldon mounted another 80-yard drive in two minutes. The drive nearly stalled when Sheldon faced fourth-and-four situation from the Lake Oswego 40 with 1:08 remaining. That's when Johnson found Martell by himself in the middle of the field and hit him for an 18-yard gain.
Five plays later, Johnson connected with White in the right corner of the end zone and the game was tied again. But this time, the Irish seemed to have the momentum on their side and that was enough to push Sheldon into the semifinals.
'All the credit to (Sheldon),' Young said. 'They made big plays when they needed to.'
'They just made plays and they deserved to win,' Coury added.
Johnson finished the game 14 of 20 for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He was also his team's leading rusher with 21 carries for 90 yards and another score. After starting slowly, Johnson wound up being the star of the game.
'We just believed in each other and we knew we could get the job done no matter the circumstances,' Johnson said.
Young led the Lakers with 169 rushing yards on a season-high 37 attempts. He finished his senior year with 2,225 yards and 35 touchdowns.
If he could have extended his season for two more games, Young would have been close to breaking the state's single-season rushing record. But the 5-8 speedster took the loss in stride.
'It's a football game and stuff like that happens all of the time,' Young said. 'I just can't believe that I'll never play high school football again. Hopefully something will come along with college.'