Lake Oswego snaps its three-game skid with an impressive showing on Homecoming

by: MATT SHERMAN - Lake Oswego's A.J. Van Leeuwen finds a seam en route to a seven-yard touchdown run, helping the Lakers to a 35-14 win over Canby last week.Lake Oswego entered last Friday's game in uncharted territory. The Lakers were on a three-game losing streak and needing a victory not only to stay in contention for the league title, but also for their only psyches.

Facing a banged-up Canby team that some considered to be the biggest threat in the league for Lake Oswego this year, the Lakers responded in impressive fashion, using big plays to bury the Cougars 35-14.

“I'm really proud of our kids because they could have easily gotten discouraged in a situation like this,” coach Steve Coury said.

Lake Oswego made some adjustments heading into this week, including moving Nick Underwood from tailback to tight end and giving Craig Hodges the bulk of the carries.

“Nick's so versatile and we've been getting him used to that position and Craig's a very strong runner. We'd tried him at wide receiver and decided to put him in the backfield,” Coury said.

The move paid off as Hodges was the star of the game, going for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns and coming up with an interception on defense.

“We just had to forget about what happened before and play our football. We're still figuring out what fits us best,” Hodges said.

The teams traded fourth down stops to open the game as the Lakers were stuffed on the Canby 6-yard line.

After another defensive stop, Lake Oswego took over at its own 20 yard-line and, on the second play of the drive, Mitch Verburg hit an open Charlie Callen in stride for a 66-yard touchdown strike.

“I thought our quarterback did a really nice job tonight. We'd just been asking him to do too much,” Coury said.

The Lakers then resorted to some trickery, catching Canby off-guard with an onside kick that was recovered by Parker Brisbee.

However, that drive would stall after a Canby sack.

On Lake Oswego's next drive, a 50-yard run by Hodges set up a seven-yard touchdown keeper from AJ Van Leeuwen, who ran the ball in from the wildcat formation.

Canby responded in just two plays, breaking a 70-yard touchdown run. Canby showed little versatility with its offense, hitting the Lakers almost exclusively with the run in the first half.

The Lakers held a 14-7 lead at the break but a sack and a fumble on the first drive of the second half set up a quick Canby touchdown to tie the game.

Lake Oswego had a quick answer, getting a first-down reception from Callen and then perhaps the play of the game: Verburg with Will Burton on a short pass and Burton broke multiple tackles and sprinted for a 50-yard touchdown as the Lakers quickly regained the lead.

Canby then went on a long drive that took up the remainder of the third quarter, converting on fourth-and-12 and getting inside the 10-yard-line before a crucial fumble gave the ball to the Lakers at their own 2-yard-line.

Lake Oswego got a pair of catches on third down from Jordan Horak before Hodges broke another big run, this time for 59 yards and a score, making it 28-14 with 7:11 to play in the game.

“We definitely had great blocking tonight. All of the credit goes to our offensive line,” Hodges said.

Canby was forced to go to the air, trailing by two scores and Hodges would come up with an interception on fourth down.

Just four plays later, Hodges broke a 57-yard touchdown run, staggering into the end zone to complete his breakout night.

“I was pretty tired by the end of the game,” Hodges said.

Lake Oswego moved to 1-1 in the league and can quickly find itself atop the league standings with a win over undefeated Clackamas on Friday.

“We just have to go one at a time and see where everything falls. As long as we keep getting better that's all that matters,” Coury said.

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