by:  VERN UYETAKE From left, Turner Young, Grant Taylor, Zach Walen, Alex Matthews, Steven Long, Stevie Coury and Alec Torkelson head up another strong Lake Oswego team this year that is eyeing a league title and potentially more.

In order for Lake Oswego not to be the preseason favorites in the Three Rivers League, someone in league will first have to beat them. And that simply hasn't happened in a long time.

As is usually the case, the Lakers graduated some terrific players and have some more terrific players ready to step up and fill in the gaps this season on what should be another top-five caliber team in the state.

The biggest absence to the program was left by linebacker and tailback Tyson Coleman who had a stellar year last fall and is now with the Oregon Ducks.

But, in the offseason, tailback Steven Long transferred from Sherwood to Lake Oswego and instantly gives the team another dangerous running attack.

The diminutive Long is only listed at 5'8" but is very quick and difficult to pick up in the backfield. He has also fit in extremely well with the team.

"He's such a likeable kid. He definitely has a lot of talent and we're pretty excited about him," coach Steve Coury said.

Long will be running behind an inexperienced offensive line but one with plenty of potential. Turner Young returns to anchor the line and should be one of the best at his position in the league.

Center Kyle Peterson was also a starter late last season and returns. In its first test of the season, the offensive line performed extremely well against a large and talented Central Catholic defense.

Taking the snaps for Lake Oswego this year will be Alex Matthews who saw limited time at the position last season.

"He's still green but he had a great summer. He's very athletic and has a lot of tools," Coury said.

Matthews will have plenty of options to throw to. Stevie Coury returns and figures to be a big target for Matthews and is a dangerous deep threat.

Jack Anderson, Nick Salita and Clayton Lee are also fast with good hands.

Zach Walen will also be a weapon in the offense at tight end while Grant Taylor returns as one of the top fullbacks in the league.

"We have really high expectations this year. Some of us have been together since third grade," Matthews said.

The Lakers also have one of the better kickers to come through the system in recent years. Harrison Greenberg is very accurate with good range and a knack for putting the ball in the end zone on kick-offs.

On defense Lake Oswego will be able to come at opponents in waves with plenty of athleticism.

"We're very quick on defense and I expect that to be something that really helps us this year. I think the defense is going to be pretty good right from the start," Coury said.

Young will help shore up the defensive line along with Remi Rufai, Spencer Anderson, Austin Faunce and Ryne Hill.

The Lakers also have a large corps at linebacker led by Taylor and supported by Mitch Lomax, Corey Maultsby, Evan Shoreline, JB Holmes and Peter Lewis.

There is more athleticism in the secondary with Anderson and TJ Dorado filling in at safety and Alec Torkelson playing the role of lockdown cornerback.

Jasper Yildirim, Trenton Bilodeaux and Will Shannon are also very speedy options in the secondary.

The Lakers expect to be very well balanced and should improve from week to week.

"The kids look forward to the challenge this year. We're doing a lot of teaching in a short period of time," Coury said.

It will be another difficult preseason for the team. Along with Central Catholic, Lake Oswego plays Metro League powers Westview and Jesuit along with Skyline, one of the top teams in Washington.

And the Three Rivers League could be even more competitive from top to bottom as it was last season.

Lake Oswego ran the table again but received a scare from West Linn.

The Lions should be very strong again this season along with Canby and a dangerous Lakeridge squad while both Clackamas and Oregon City should be stronger than in 2010 as well.

"It's going to be a great league. We just hope to be playing our best by week eight or nine," Coury said.

Lake Oswego Schedule

Sept. 9: @ Westview 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 16: Skyline (Washington) 7 p.m.

Sept. 23: @ Jesuit 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 Canby 7 p.m.

Oct. 7 @ Lakeridge 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 Clackamas 7 p.m.

Oct. 21 West Linn 7 p.m.

Oct. 28 @ Oregon City 7 p.m.

All games on Fridays except Oct. 13.

Game to Watch

Lake Oswego @ Jesuit

Friday, Sept 23 at 7 p.m.

These teams have virtually become league rivals over the past few seasons as they continue to do battle in entertaining preseason contests and, occasionally, the playoffs. This year the teams seem to be fairly evenly matched and the winner of this game will separate themselves as a strong contender for a state title. For the second year in a row the game is about slightly more than bragging rights as the winner will also receive a large boost in the OSAA's RPI rankings. Both teams are coming off of appearances in the semifinals in 2010. Jesuit was upended by Tualatin while Lake Oswego fell to Aloha.

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