The Crusaders rack up nearly 400 rushing yards but dont put the game away until late

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego quarterback Mitchell Verburg rolls away from pressure during last week's season opener against Jesuit. Verburg threw for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the game. A Lake Oswego football team that featured nine new starters on both offense and defense took on one of the state's top teams in Jesuit on Friday and gave itself a chance to win until the closing minutes of the game.

Jesuit's powerful line controlled much of the game, allowing the Crusaders to control the clock and rack up nearly 400 yards on the ground in a 28-21 victory.

“They're a big, physical team and I thought our line did some nice things. All of our issues are fixable and I think if we continue to work on them we should be a really good team again,” coach Steve Coury said.

But it was a win for the Lakers, too, who proved that, despite losing a huge senior class, they can still more than contend with the state's elite programs.

Lake Oswego got on the board first with sophomore quarterback Mitch Verburg hitting Jordan Horak for a 10-yard score, staking the visitors to an early 7-0 advantage.

Jesuit would rally quickly with a 54-yard touchdown pass that accounted for the bulk of the Crusaders passing yards in the game.

As has been the Crusaders' calling card over the years, they looked to pound the ball behind one of the most feared lines in the state and had success with two of Jesuit's backs picking up more than 100 yards each.

Jesuit took the lead in the second quarter on a 40-yard run by Joey Alfieri but the Lakers continued to not be intimated by the Crusaders and bounced back with a tying score. Nick Underwood ran in from five yards out to make it 14-14 at the half.

Lake Oswego tried to get its running game going but continued to struggle against Jesuit, picking up just 43 yards on 28 carries in the game.

In the passing game, Verburg spread the wealth, hitting six different receivers.

“I was proud of the way (Verburg) played in a tough spot on the road and taking some big shots during the game,” Coury said.

Jesuit took the lead again in the third quarter on a short touchdown run and the game seemed to tilt later when the Crusaders came up with a huge stop on fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line.

“We definitely had our chances in the game against one of the best teams in the state,” Coury said.

The Crusaders made it a two-score game with another touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the Lakers' backs against the wall.

Lake Oswego responded with perhaps its most impressive drive of the night, culminating with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Verburg to Charlie Callen with less than five minutes to play.

That drew the Lakers to within 28-21 and needing a big stop defensively.

However, Jesuit continued to pound away on the ground, steadily picking up first downs and the home team was able to seal the game. Lake Oswego was also hindered as Underwood, one of the team's top linebackers, was sidelined with cramps for much of the second half.

Still, the Lakers left feeling positive about how they stack up this year and will have another big test in their home opener on Friday against a strong team from Olympia, Wash.

“Now we have to continue getting better. We've got our work cut out for us,” Coury said.

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