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Pioneers stumble in TRL title showdown

Five turnovers prove costly, as Oregon City is blown out by Lake Oswego 46-14


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Lake Oswego defenders Nick Bunick (5) and Romello Washington (8) corral Oregon City running back Mitchell Thompson early in last weeks Three Rivers League showdown with the Pioneers.OREGON CITY — Emotions were flying sky high here Friday night, as the upstart Oregon City Pioneers anticipated giving the third-ranked and defending state champion Lake Oswego Lakers a run for their money in a game that had a share of the Three Rivers League football title at stake.

But you can’t make mistakes and hope to contend with a team that has outscored eight previous opponents by an average tally of 41-11, and the Pioneers made more than their share of mistakes.

Oregon City had five turnovers in last Friday’s game, including three in the first quarter, as the Pioneers spotted the Lakers a 27-0 advantage with the game barely underway. And the Lakers went on to win in a 46-14 blowout.

“We came out knowing they’re the No. 1 team in the state and we were pumped,” said Oregon City senior co-captain Mitchell Thompson. “I don’t know why [we made so many mistakes]. Maybe knowing we had two linemen [center Trevor Wolf and right guard Mason Kloer] and a wide receiver [Nick Martin] out had something to do with it....

“We’ve got one of the best lines in the state, and we can run against anybody. We just can’t make stupid mistakes.”

Asked if he thought Lake Oswego was the best team Oregon City has played this season, Thompson said: “Camas is pretty good too. We came out and made the same mistakes against them. I believe we can hang with both Camas and Lake Oswego, if we don’t make mistakes.”

“I think it was a lack of concentration,” Oregon City senior co-captain Austin Phanouvong said of the early turnovers in last Friday’s loss. “Not executing hurt us, especially in the first half.”

The Pioneers had four turnovers before the intermission and they trailed 33-7 at halftime.

Thompson said that he anticipates that the three starters who sat out the Lake Oswego game with injuries will be able to return to the gridiron for the playoffs.

With the decisive victory over Oregon City, the Lakers improved to 5-0 in league and 9-0 on the season, as they bagged their eighth straight Three Rivers League title and their 48th consecutive league win. The Lakers have not lost a league game since Oct. 22, 2004, when they fell 10-6 to Clackamas.

With the loss, the Pioneers (5-4, 3-2) finished third in the TRL. The top-three finish in league gained the Pioneers, Lake Oswego and TRL runner-up Canby (5-4, 4-1) a bye from this week’s state playoff play-in round. The three teams automatically advance to the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs, scheduled for a week from Friday.

Ranked third, 10th and 16th in the state respectively, Lake Oswego, Canby and Oregon City will all likely have home games in the first round.

The Lakers got plenty of help from Oregon City in last Friday’s game. Turnovers at the Oregon City 16, Oregon City 32 and Oregon City 38 led to three of the Lakers’ first four touchdowns.

The Lakers also stopped an Oregon City drive with an interception at the Lake Oswego 13 in the second period, and they stopped an Oregon City drive in Laker territory with a fumble recovery near the midpoint of the third stanza.

Lake Oswego senior linebacker Travis Sanders recovered a fumbled snap at the Oregon City 32 on the Pioneers’ fourth play from scrimmage. And six plays later, J.B. Holmes dove two yards to the end zone for a 6-0 Laker lead.

The Pioneers punted on their second possession; and the Lakers followed with a 10-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, with senior tight end Mitch Lomax hauling in an eight-yard pass from senior quarterback Justen Ruppe for the score.

Moments later, Laker senior defensive end Spencer Anderson picked off a pass and rambled 20 yards for a third touchdown, and a 20-0 Laker lead.

A fumbled handoff gained the Lakers the ball at the Oregon City 38 on the final play of the first quarter. Oregon City senior defensive back Brandon Espy slowed the bleeding, pouncing on a Laker fumble at the Oregon City 6.

But, following an Oregon City punt, the Lakers drove 19 yards in four plays for yet another touchdown. Lake Oswego junior fullback Nick Underwood did the honors, scoring from the 12. Harrison Ramsey’s third on-target PAT kick made it a 27-0 game with just 3-1/2 minutes elapsed on the second-quarter clock.

Oregon City finally found the end zone four minutes before the half. Thompson capped off an 11-play, 71-yard drive with a three-yard sprint to the end zone.

But Ruppe found senior wide receiver Connor Griffin open near the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown pass, upping the Laker lead to 33-7 at the intermission.

Underwood scored on a 38-yard run on the Lakers’ first possession of the third quarter.

The Pioneers gave the ball up on downs near the midfield stripe on their first possession of the second half. And just four plays later, Ruppe passed 36 yards to senior wide receiver Romello Washington, making it a 46-7 game just six minutes into the third quarter.

Both coaches then turned to reserves through much of the remainder of the game.

Oregon City’s final score came with 5:22 to play, when Oregon City quarterback Jon Hall hooked up with Trevon Bradford for a 66-yard touchdown pass play on a fake punt.

The Lakers finished with a 458- to 281-yard advantage in net offense on the night.

Underwood led a balanced Laker ground attack, with eight carries for 101 yards. Ruppe completed 8-of-10 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns.

Thompson, who had averaged 239 yards in eight previous games, carried 25 times for 130 yards. Hall completed 6-of-11 passes for 108 yards. Matt Oades hauled in seven passes for 53 yards.

“Right now everyone is 0-0,” Phanouvong said. “Records don’t matter. When you get to the playoffs, it’s a clean slate....

“I think we can [do as well as last year]. Execution on offense and flying around on defense. If we do that and practice hard, I think we can go far.”

A year ago the Pioneers advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals, after going 2-3 in the TRL.

“I’d love to take it deep into the playoffs and keep the year going,” Thompson said.

Cavs give Cougars

a run for their money

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Clackamas running back Dan Sherrell picks up a block from Brody Haehlen as he rambles for yardage in Fridays game with Canby.The hard luck continued for the Clackamas Cavaliers last Friday, as they dropped a 35-28 heartbreaker to Canby. Had the Cavaliers won the game they would have tied Canby and Oregon City for second place in the Three Rivers League.

With the win, Canby (5-4, 4-1) finished second to Lake Oswego (9-0, 5-0) in the TRL. Clackamas (4-5, 2-3) finished fourth — behind Lake Oswego, Canby and Oregon City (5-4, 3-2).

Last Friday’s loss was the second consecutive heartbreaker for the Cavaliers, who lost to Oregon City 42-36 in an Oct. 19 game at Oregon City.

The Cavaliers last Friday dug themselves an early hole, with the Cougars going up 21-0 on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Stelk to junior tight end A.J. Schlatter on the first place of the second quarter.

But there was no quit in the Cavaliers, as they rallied around sophomore running back Dan Sherrell to close the gap. Sherrell scored three straight touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to narrow a 35-7 gap to just seven points.

Sherrell’s 4-yard sprint to paydirt cut Canby’s lead to 35-28 with 4:21 left to play. But that was as close as the Cavaliers could get.

Sherrell had a career night, rushing 38 times for a career-high 308 yards and four touchdowns. It was the fifth 200-plus-yard game of the season for Sherrell, who has 1,662 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns through nine games.

The Cougars had a balanced offensive attack, picking up 208 yards and two touchdowns through their aerial assault, and 318 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Isaac Shrier (8 carries/129 yards), an 185-pound senior tailback, and 180-pound senior halfback Mike Caruso (10 carries/93 yards) led a stable of Canby running backs.

Stelk, a 6-5, 225-pound senior, played a major role in the Cougar victory, completing 13-of-17 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Stelk’s 47-yard play-action pass to junior running back Dominic Shorter early in the third quarter proved the game-winner in the 35-28 Cougar victory. Shorter had a team leading four catches for 86 yards in the game.

Clackamas junior quarterback Doonie Johnson completed 13-of-28 passes for 101 yards, but his receivers didn’t score any touchdowns.

Ranked 25th out of 42 teams in the Class 6A power rankings, the Cavaliers host 39th-ranked North Medford (2-7, 1-6) in a state playoff play-in game this Friday, with the winner advancing to the 32-team state playoffs.

The Black Tornado lost to 21st-ranked Roseburg 42-8 last Friday.



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