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Lakers run away from Pacers to take fourth

Lake Oswego wears Lakeridge down to claim the Battle for the Lake


Photo Credit: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego's Max Mattern celebrates a second-half touchdown as the Lakers knocked off rival Lakeridge to earn an automatic playoff berth. The Lake Oswego football team finished the regular season on a high note, pulling away from rival Lakeridge in the second half for a convincing 37-14 victory that clinched an automatic playoff berth for the team.

The Lakers got their running game going after the half and wore the Pacers down, turning a six-point lead into a comfortable advantage by the end of the third quarter.

Lakeridge had its opportunities in the first two quarters, resulting in multiple trips inside Lake Oswego territory.

However, the Pacers had a pair of turnovers and a missed field goal and the Lakers came up big on fourth down to keep Lakeridge's high-powered offense in check.

Lakeridge opened with the ball and got strong running from Lopeti Aisea before Zach Parker came up with an interception, kicking off what would be a huge night for him on both sides of the ball.

Lake Oswego then went three-and-out but got a huge stand on fourth-and-one near midfield to quickly get the ball back.

After failing to pick up a first down again, it was the Lakers' turn to go for it on fourth down and Verburg connected with Drew Todd down the sideline for a 40-yard strike to make it 7-0.

Lakeridge went on the move again, getting a 37-yard pass from Eric Dungey to Graham Leib but a fumble in the red zone, recovered by Will Burton, ended the drive.

Lake Oswego turned it over on the very next play as the Pacers' Keaton Wood picked off a pass.

But the Pacers couldn't move much closer and settled for a field goal attempt that fell short.

Lakeridge's defense kept it in the game in the first half, getting another stop and mounting a drive late in the opening quarter.

A 17-yard run by Holden Catlett, a scramble by Dungey and a first-down reception from Jack Cole put the Pacers on the doorstep again.

From the two-yard line, Aisea was held up at the line of scrimmage but then pitched the ball back to Dungey who made his way into the end zone, tying the game.

Lake Oswego responded immediately, getting a 21-yard reception by Daniel Dennis and a 16-yard run from Max Mattern to set up a short touchdown plunge by Burton.

The extra point failed, putting the Lakers up 13-7.

The Lakers would take that lead into halftime and opened the third quarter with a kick-off return from Dennis that put his team into Lakeridge territory.

Two plays later, Parker came up with a 30-yard touchdown reception to make it 20-7.

The Lakers started to pull away just moments later when Parker picked off his second pass of the night off a deflection.

Lake Oswego then went to work pounding the ball with Mattern, with the tailback eventually scoring from 12 yards out.

"We just started to run the ball better. The game plan was to throw it around a bit and we took a few shots but the run game was working," coach Steve Coury said.

With momentum firmly in the Lakers' corner, Lakeridge needed an answer. But, after an impressive scramble from Dungey, a pair of penalties pushed the Pacers back and a fourth down pass fell incomplete.

"We tried to contain (Dungey) with a spy but he definitely kept us on our toes," said Mack Tenneson who had a pair of sacks in the game for the Lakers.

The Lakers marched down the field again, running the ball six straight times, culminating with Burton's second score of the night to make it 34-7 with less than a minute to go in the third quarter.

This time Lakeridge answered, getting big catches from Cole and Leib before Dungey scored on a six-yard keeper.

But it would be too little too late. On Lake Oswego's next possession, Verburg hit Devin King for a 73-yard gain as King rumbled through tacklers to the one-yard line but a sideline infraction brought the ball back 15 yards and the Lakers settled for a field goal by Ethan Agritelley.

The Lakers sacked Dungey twice on the Pacers' final possession to seal the victory.

Lake Oswego clinched fourth place in the brutal Three Rivers League and enters the playoffs seeded No. 19.

After a 1-2 start while the team was missing a large contingent of suspended seniors, the Lakers lost a pair of one-possession games to Tigard and Sherwood before rebounding with back-to-back wins.

Lake Oswego could be a dangerous playoff opponent again like it was last season but it will need to do its damage on the road.

The Lakers open up with a rematch against South Medford, a team that it lost to 21-14 earlier in the year. If Lake Oswego can win that game, it would likely face Grants Pass in the second round.

"The goal is always to be playing your best football at the end of the season. We lost to a pair of top-five teams this year so we've seen good competition," Coury said.

For Lakeridge, it was an up and down regular season that saw the team look explosive at times. The Pacers are ranked No. 21 and face a Westview team that possesses one of the state's best offenses in its playoff opener.

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