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The Lakers get a balanced effort and move on to face No. 1 Jesuit

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego's Jordan Horak secures a game-clinching interception in the final minute of last Friday's road victory against Sunset. Although is has occasionally been a trying season for the Lake Oswego football team, the Lakers' 35-28 victory on the road at Sunset in the opening round of the playoffs was a defining win.

Lake Oswego has been competitive in virtually every game it has played this year, coming out on the short end of a handful of close decisions. And, due to the extreme level of talent and parity in the Three Rivers League this year, it forced the Lakers into the unique position of underdogs as the postseason opened.

But Lake Oswego proved that its still a force to be reckoned with as it knocked off a strong Metro League opponent, becoming one of five TRL teams to advance to the second round.

The Lakers got off to a quick start and never gave up the lead, fending off a late charge from the Apollos to move on.

Lake Oswego scored on its opening possession. After a big kickoff return from Devin King to open the game, Mitch Verburg connected with Jordan Horak on a four-yard touchdown pass.

Sunset then fumbled on its opening possession, giving the Lakers great field position and Craig Hodges punched in a three-yard run to quickly make it 14-0.

To Sunset's credit, the Apollos rallied with a nice drive, scoring right before the end of the first quarter to cut the lead in half.

Lake Oswego came back with a balanced attack. Verburg was efficient, particularly in the first half while Hodges and Max Mattern combined for 170 yards on the ground for the game.

Verburg would hit Horak again, this time from 31 yards out to make it 21-7 with less than five minutes to play in the half.

Sunset had an immediate answer, getting a 72-yard touchdown pass but missing the extra point to make it 21-13 at the break.

Lake Oswego was determined not to let momentum swing to the home crowd. The Lakers stuffed Sunset on its first possession of the second half, then scored quickly, getting a 39-yard touchdown pass from Verburg to King, Verburg's longest completion of the evening.

Sunset continued to stay on the Lakers' heels, putting together an impressive drive and getting the two-point conversion to close the gap to 28-21.

After a defensive stop, Sunset had an opportunity to tie the game but came up short on fourth down deep in Laker territory.

Lake Oswego responded to the scare with its best drive of the night. The Lakers marched 90 yards, getting another clutch reception from Horak and big rushes from Mattern.

Mattern would score a one-yard touchdown to make it 35-21 with less than 10 minutes to play.

Again Sunset refused to give in, scoring once more late in the game and then getting a stop on defense.

The Apollos would get the ball back for one final drive with a minute and a half remaining.

Sunset started to drive against the Lakers but Horak came up with a game-clinching interception to seal the win.

Verburg threw for 214 yards and no interceptions in the game. Lake Oswego now advances for a rematch with No. 1 Jesuit. The Crusaders remain one of the best teams in the state but have lost their star running back for the season with an injury.

Lake Oswego will play at Jesuit on Friday at 7 p.m.

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