Lake Oswego hopes to prove its 2013 season was an outlier as it returns talent to contend in the TRL

Photo Credit: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Clockwise from back left, Kayode Rufai, Mack Tenneson, Mitchell Verburg and Zach Parker all figure to play a major role for the Lake Oswego football team this year. The Lakers caught some tough breaks last year, bowing out in the second round of the playoffs but expect a return to form this fall.It will take a few weeks for the Lake Oswego football team to get up to full strength after 10 senior starters were suspended for three games and last week's jamboree for violating team rules. But once the Lakers hit their stride, they could very well be in the mix in what is expected to be the most daunting league in the state.

Despite the hit, Lake Oswego will be far from crippled in its first few games. The team returns a strong core of experienced players that looks to rebound from a 2013 campaign in which the Lakers failed to reach the quarterfinals.

“We're getting some young guys some opportunities, and they're playing with a lot of spirit,” coach Steve Coury said.

On offense, Mitchell Verburg will be the team's quarterback, and he is expected to be one of the top in the state at his position.

“I think he's going to have an excellent year. He has a great arm and a presence about him. Anytime you get your quarterback returning, it's always a plus,” Coury said.

Lake Oswego will have a stable of solid running backs again this season and will likely give multiple players plenty of carries.

Max Mattern and Max Morton will likely provide much of the heavy lifting out of the backfield, and Coury hopes that the team will be well-balanced in its offensive attack this year.

“We definitely want to be able to run effectively, but we have plenty of skill players who are going to make us a threat to throw,” Coury said.

Verburg will have a handful of dangerous targets to throw to this season. Zach Parker figures to be one of the most athletic receivers in the state this year, and Drew Todd has come on strong in the offseason. The standout basketball player will likely give opponents match-up problems because of his height.

Andrew Bartley, who came on in the second half of last season, will be another weapon for the offense.

Lake Oswego's offensive line will likely take a little time to jell, because it features a handful of new faces this year. Mack Tenneson returns as an anchor up front for the Lakers, while Gunnar Braden and Tanner Moore will also give the line some bulk.

Lake Oswego also returns its kicker, Ethan Agritelley, who should give Lake Oswego some additional firepower.

“He could be huge for us this year. I've never been a guy who really likes to kick it much, but I'm excited about having him back,” Coury said.

On defense, Lake Oswego is deep in the secondary, with Parker and Jonas Lamont shoring up the cornerback positions and Devon King and Bartley patrolling as safeties.

Tenneson and Jack Haney will be strong linebackers for the Lakers, as will Nate Hidalgo, who will also see time on offense at the fullback position.

Up front, Kayode Rufai is expected to be one of the league's top pass rushers this year, while Moore and Christian Warren will help make for a difficult group to push around.

In all, it makes for a team without many holes or areas for concern and, for the first time in a number of seasons, it may be a Laker team that sneaks up on the competition.

“We're probably a little more under the radar than we have been, but I know the rest of the league still has plenty of respect for us. We're coming off a year that wasn't great by our standards, but we were in a lot of those games and didn't get a few bounces,” Coury said.

The Three Rivers League appears to be an absolute juggernaut this year with the addition of powers like Sherwood and Tigard. Lake Oswego hopes to be very much in the mix for one of the league's three automatic playoff berths.

“I think it's a pretty good system. It gives the league games more meaning, and it'll be fun to see how it all works out,” Coury said.

Lake Oswego opens the season by hosting Southridge on Friday. The Lakers then travel to South Medford before visiting West Linn Sept. 19 to open league play.

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