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Local stars get defensive in Norths Schwab Bowl victory

by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego head coach Steve Coury, left, was an assistant for the North squad during last Friday’s Les Schwab Bowl. Coury discusses strategy here with Centennial’s Chris Knudsen.

There was no need for a last-second comeback, like what happened in the 2005 Les Schwab Bowl. This time, the North squad, which included two local players and two local coaches, jumped to a big, early lead and never looked back en route to a 49-25 victory over the South team.

A disparity in talent was the main reason that last Friday's game, which was played at PGE Park, turned into a blowout. The North squad was loaded with future Division I players. They made the game look ridiculously easy for about three and a half quarters.

Standing out almost as much as some of the spectacular touchdowns were a series of menacing hits delivered by the North all-stars. Some of them were the kind of hits one might expect to see in an NFL game.

'I only laid out a couple players, mainly because our defensive line and linebackers played so well,' Lakeridge strong safety Chase O'Byrne said.

With South's two quarterbacks seemingly running for their lives to avoid the North's strong pass rush, it became difficult at best to complete passes against the tight coverage provided by North players like O'Byrne and Lake Oswego cornerback Pat Salvo.

'Nobody caught a ball on me. So I was glad,' O'Byrne said.

Salvo, who had two pass deflections and two tackles, was equally effective.

'I was happy with the way I played,' Salvo said.

During their senior years in high school, both Salvo and O'Byrne saw significant time as pass receivers. But neither one got to play offense in Friday's game, and neither one complained.

'I love defense. Defense is my side,' Salvo said.

The Lake Oswego star also was fully aware of how good North's receiving corps was.

'During practice, I was having trouble covering those receivers,' Salvo said. 'I knew that offense would do what they did.'

While he didn't see any time at receiver for the North squad, Salvo did get to serve as the team's punt returner. But returning punts is not easy in an all-star game, when players are not allowed to rush the kicker. Most of the time, Salvo had to call for a fair catch because the punt coverage players didn't have to worry about blocking anybody before leaving the line of scrimmage.

'When I caught the ball there would be six guys around me,' Salvo said. 'It got annoying. But at least I caught them all.'

Although winning the game was important, Salvo and O'Byrne seemed to cherish the new friendships they developed even more.

'It was a blast. I had so much fun with these guys. We bonded so well … It's like playing with your brother out there,' O'Byrne said.

'It was one of the best weeks of football I've ever had,' Salvo added. 'Just meeting all of these guys was cool. No matter what happened in the game, it was an honor just to be selected.'

Also on the sideline for the North squad were Lake Oswego head coach Steve Coury and Lake Oswego offensive line coach Bill Hewes. Coury was almost as intense during this game as he would have been during a high school playoff contest.

'At practice, he's a laid-back guy … but when he gets on the field it's all business,' Salvo said of Coury. 'Coach Coury is a competitive guy. He doesn't mess around. He's out here to win no matter what.'

Also chosen to play for the North was Lake Oswego's Gabe Miller, Oregon's 4A defensive player of the year. However, a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered during the spring track season kept Miller from playing in Friday's contest.

He spent the game on the sideline with his teammates, though, and at times he was itching to put on the pads and join in the hitting.

'It was kind of a bittersweet feeling,' Miller said. 'It was nice watching those guys playing, but it would have topped off this week real nice if I was out there playing.'

Instead, Miller had to remind himself that he'll get his chance, probably in 2007 (as a tight end), at Oregon State University.

In the meantime, Miller's rehab is slightly ahead of schedule and he expects to be jogging within another two weeks. If things go according to plan, he might get a chance to participate in some drills with the Beavers in mid-to-late fall.

'I may not be in shape to practice with them, but my plan is to maybe run some routes and work with the scout team,' he said. 'Four months from now - that's probably when I'll be able to open it up and just go for it.'