Lake Oswego puts itself back in the race for the league title, drubbing the No. 2 Cavaliers

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Lake Oswego's Craig Hodges finishes a run during the Lakers' 42-18 victory over a Clackamas team that hadn't lost a game heading into Friday's contest.Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury has preached patience and confidence to this year's inexperienced football team and that mantra is paying off. On Friday, the Lakers looked like the team that the rest of the state hoped might not show up this year.

The Lakers prevailed 42-18 over previously undefeated Clackamas, taking advantage of a plethora of miscues to pull away in the second half, outscoring the Cavaliers 21-0 in the final 13-1/2 minutes of play.

Had Clackamas won the game, it would have been the Cavaliers’ first 7-0 start to a football season in school history.

The Lakers had prevailed in their last eight games with the Cavaliers and had not lost to Clackamas since 2004. And they had changed their offensive scheme since this fall’s loss to West Linn.

“Everyone was saying we didn’t have a chance (of beating Clackamas),” said Lake Oswego senior co-captain Craig Hodges. “But I knew coming out we could do it. We had a lot of momentum and confidence from Canby (a 35-14 Laker win on Oct. 4). We just knew we were ready, despite what everyone was saying.”

“Everyone was saying Lake Oswego’s not going to be able to keep up with Clackamas,” said Lake Oswego senior co-captain Travis Sanders. “That Clackamas is going to win the Three Rivers League ... We studied game films and knew their tendencies. We had no doubt in our minds our guys were going to match up with them. We came into this game very confident. We were prepared, and we fought hard.”

Sanders noted, “We’ve completely changed our offense since (playing)West Linn. We’ve changed up our whole offensive scheme, from spread to power I. And obviously it’s working for us.”

Heading into play this week, Clackamas (6-1, 2-1), Lake Oswego (3-4, 2-1) and Oregon City (6-1, 2-1) were tied for first place in the TRL. Oregon City and Clackamas meet this Friday at Clackamas, while Lake Oswego squares off with cross-town rival Lakeridge (5-2, 1-2), which was a 28-14 winner over Canby last Thursday.

“It’s too early to start talking about league titles,” said Hodges. “Right now I’m just looking to the next game. Lakeridge wants to beat us just as much as Clackamas did.”

The Cavaliers were their own worst enemies in last Thursday’s loss to the Lakers. They had four turnovers and they hurt their own cause with a partially blocked punt, a bungled fake punt play, missed tackles and suspect defensive play defending against the pass, which resulted in four Laker touchdowns.

Still, the Cavaliers made a game of it for most of the first three quarters.

Lake Oswego fumbled the opening second-half kickoff and Nathan Kemp claimed the miscue for Clackamas at the Laker 28. Six plays later, Dan Sherrell ran wide left four yards to the end zone. Clackamas quarterback Doonie Johnson passed to Taylor Stinson for the two-point conversion, and the Cavaliers were within three points, trailing 21-18.

But that was the Cavaliers’ last hurrah, as they turned to self-destruct mode.

On the fifth play of their next possession, Johnson threw a pass that was intercepted by Lake Oswego senior linebacker Nick Underwood at the Laker 36.

Ten plays later, Lake Oswego's 180-pound sophomore running back Max Mattern dashed through a gaping hole in the Cavalier line, broke several tackles and rambled 18 yards for a Laker score and a 28-18 lead. Just 1:17 remained in the third quarter at the time.

The Cavaliers continued to help the Lakers out on their next possession, handing the ball over at the midfield stripe on a bungled fake punt attempt when the punter couldn't get a grip on the ball.

On their first play from the 50, Laker 6-2, 175-pound sophomore quarterback Mitchell Verburg found Will Burton open down field. Burton hauled in the ball and raced into the end zone untouched, upping the Laker lead to 35-18.

Mattern pounced on a fumble at the Lake Oswego 47 on the Cavaliers’ next possession. Four plays later, Lake Oswego senior wide receiver Jordan Horak beat Clackamas’ defensive secondary and hauled in a 27-yard pass from Verburg. The scoreboard read Lake Oswego 42, Clackamas 18; and the game was in hand.

Most of the first half was a defensive battle, with a Cavalier miscue setting up Lake Oswego’s first score.

Lake Oswego senior cornerback Brandon Warner claimed a Clackamas fumble for Lake Oswego at the Clackamas 13-yard line near the midpoint of the first quarter. Five plays later, Lake Oswego junior quarterback Zach Parker dove into the end zone from the 1-yard line, for a 7-0 Laker lead.

The two teams then traded punts until the midpoint of the second quarter, when a partially blocked punt gained Lake Oswego possession at the Laker 40. Four plays later, LO senior wide receiver Charlie Callen beat Clackamas’ man-to-man coverage and hauled in a long pass from Verburg for a 47-yard touchdown.

Sherrell was quick to respond, scoring on a 54-yard run to trim Lake Oswego’s lead to 14-7 with 3:33 remaining in the first half.

But Lake Oswego had momentum. And Underwood hauled in a screen pass from Verburg at the end of a six-play, 75-yard drive, putting the Lakers up 21-7 with 51 seconds left in the half.

The Cavaliers, in a hurry-up drive, drove deep on their next possession, with Michael McDonald splitting the uprights for a 34-yard field goal as time ran out on the first-half clock, making it Lake Oswego 21, Clackamas 10, at the intermission.

The Lakers finished up with a 474- to 298-yard advantage in total offense on the night.

Clackamas quarterbacks Johnson and Cade Wilkins, who had passed for 342 yards a week earlier in the 40-7 win at West Linn, were held to just 159 yards in the air.

Sherrell rushed 28 times for 142 yards in the losing effort.

For Lake Oswego, Verburg completed 13-of-20 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns; Hodges rushed 24 times for 123 yards; and Horak had six receptions for 65 yards.

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