by: MATTHEW SHERMAN  Turner Young and Stevie Coury are two of Lake Oswego’s top returners from a team that made the semifinals last fall.

Lake Oswego's football team will begin this year's quest for its elusive first state title at home against Central Catholic this Friday.

The Lakers beat the Rams 38-19 last year in a game that was marred by Central Catholic's injuries. By the end, the Rams were playing with their third-string quarterback and the injuries put a damper on their season, one that Central Catholic thought could have ended with a deep playoff run.

This year Central Catholic has reloaded and, after going undefeated in the Mt. Hood Conference in 2010, is the favorite to win its league again.

"I expect them to run the ball very well and they have a lot of team speed," Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury said.

The Lakers play a non-league schedule that is identical to 2010's.

Lake Oswego takes on Metro League opponents Westview and Jesuit and Washington powerhouse Skyline before bracing for another difficult league campaign.

The Lakers enter the year with a little less experience than they had last year but, as usual, there is no shortage of talent or athleticism.

Lake Oswego lost Tyson Coleman to graduation last year but Stephen Long, a transfer tailback from Sherwood is expected to fill that void admirably on offense.

Alex Matthews will take over at quarterback. He is agile and led a handful of series for the Lakers last year.

On defense, Lake Oswego is loaded with speed. Turner Young is expected to be one of the top returning linemen in the league and linebacker Grant Taylor and cornerback Alec Torkelson should also give opposing offense problems.

The Lakers figure to be one of the state's elite programs again and will be more than battle tested once the postseason rolls around.

Lake Oswego is coming off another stellar year but one that ultimately ended in frustration.

The Lakers fell to eventual state champion Aloha in the semifinals last year when a late two-point conversion attempt failed.

Still, Lake Oswego has been a fixture in the quarterfinals for the better part of a decade now and carries a substantial league winning streak into the 2011 season.

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