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The Lakers reach the title game for the second straight year and will look for a 28th straight victory that would give them back-to-back championships this Saturday


by: VERN UYETAKE - Mitch Lomax strikes a pose after scoring the game's first touchdown in the Lakers' 42-21 semifinal victory over Tigard on Saturday.Lake Oswego's defense of its first football state title has already been one of the most impressive in recent memory. The Lakers have run their winning streak to 27 straight, dating back to its 2010 semifinal loss to Aloha.

The team has rarely been tested this season, winning all but one game by more than a touchdown while playing a schedule which featured two of the other No. 1 seeds in the OSAA bracket this year.

With the team's convincing 42-21 victory over Tigard on Saturday, the Lakers became the first program since 2006 to make the state title game in successive seasons.

Now, after an extended championship drought, the Lakers are one win away from capping a truly astounding two-year run.

“We want to write our own history with the program. The past is in the past,” receiver Connor Griffin said after the win.

Tigard gave Lake Oswego a game on Saturday but, when the Lakers stopped hurting themselves, they were able to run away.

The Lakers held Tigard's vaunted running attack to 146 yards on 46 carries and came up with key stops in the fourth quarter to propel them into this week's rematch with Sheldon for the championship.

Lake Oswego jumped out to a 21-0 lead and was thoroughly in control until a blip in the final two minutes of the first half allowed the Tigers to quickly get in the game and to take momentum into the locker room.

“The kids played really physical and we felt that we were dominating much of the game,” coach Steve Coury said.

The Laker defense was fired up to start the game. The team held Tigard to a three-and-out on its first drive and then marched down the field on its first possession.

Griffin recorded a pair of catches, including a diving grab on third down to move the Lakers into Tigard territory.

Justen Ruppe then hit a wide open Mitch Lomax in the middle of the field for a 33-yard touchdown.

Tigard moved the ball on its next drive, converted on fourth-and-inches in its own territory and getting help with a personal foul on the Lakers. However, a sack by Reid Martin helped bring an end to the possession.

“We didn't want to completely sell out against the run but we knew we had to watch their play action and stay in the box,” Lomax said.

Ruppe and Griffin connected again on the Lakers' next drive, getting a 32-yard catch on the team's first play from scrimmage. Tigard made it clear that it was going to try to take away the run from Lake Oswego and the Lakers had no problem going to the air early on.

“They kind of had to pick their poison in terms of what they want to try and stop. It's a real dilemma,” Coury said.

A 25-yard catch by Nick Palermini set up a three-yard touchdown by J.B. Holmes late in the first quarter.

Tigard moved to midfield on its next drive but was stopped on fourth-and-two.

Lake Oswego took over at the Tigard 46-yard-line. On the very next play, Jack Anderson took the snap at quarterback and was quickly under duress in the backfield. He rolled to his right and appeared to be about to throw the ball away, but he tossed the ball deep down the sideline and hit Nick Underwood. Underwood then outran the Tigard defense for an electrifying touchdown to make it 21-0.

To the Tigers' credit, they responded with a critical drive and finally got their run game working. Aside from a big third-down conversion, Tigard ran the ball exclusively, converting on fourth-and-one at the four-yard line before scoring from four yards out to make it 21-7 with 2:22 to play in the half.

Lake Oswego moved to midfield on its next possession, looking to regain momentum before the half. But it quickly became a worst case scenario for the Lakers when they fumbled with 53 seconds left.

Tigard then went 54 yards in just four plays, scoring with 18 seconds left in the half to suddenly make it 21-14.

Lake Oswego started the third quarter with the ball and responded quickly. The team overcame an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Ruppe hit Griffin on the left sideline in single coverage.

Griffin then made a move and shook the defender, going 57 yards for a score.

“We knew they'd play man all game. He played off me a little, I just did a hitch and took off running,” Griffin said.

Tigard came back with another methodical drive. The Tigers went 54 yards on 14 plays to make it 28-21 late in the third quarter.

Lake Oswego was then stopped on its next drive and forced to punt for the first time in the game.

Tigard took over with a chance to tie and converted on another short fourth down play. The Tigers continued to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground but, on a deep throw, Jordan Horak tallied an interception to give the Lakers the ball back.

A penalty negated a first down for Lake Oswego on its next drive and the team was forced to punt again.

Tigard started at its own 20-yard line and another sack by Martin set up a fourth-and-nine with just over four minutes to play in the game.

Tigard opted to go for it and came up short, giving Lake Oswego the ball back at the 21-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Anderson ran a keeper from the wildcat formation into the end zone to make it 35-21.

Horak then tallied his second interception of the game on the first play of Tigard's next drive to put the game away.

“Jordan's definitely played big in this park. He likes the big stage and he's come up with some big plays for us,” Coury said.

On fourth-and-short, Lake Oswego handed the ball off to Lomax and he took it around the left end for a 38-yard score, capping the victory for the team.

“We've been working on a short yardage play like that for a while. They brought everyone and it just opened up for me,” Lomax said.

The Lakers now gear up for a rematch with a Sheldon team that would love to exact some revenge for last year's lopsided loss in the title game.

Sheldon features one of the state's most prolific passing games which will provide the Lake Oswego defense with yet another stiff challenge.

“Not many teams do what they do. I's a big-time challenge because you know you have to stop it and their quarterback is very good and very elusive,” Coury said.




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