Lake Oswego football team celebrates successful 2017 campaign
There's no two ways about it — the Lake Oswego football team would very, very much like to be preparing for the Class 6A state championship game right now.
That's not the case, unfortunately, because the Lakers saw their season come to an end in a 49-27 semifinal loss to South Medford on Friday at Hillsboro Stadium.
But none of that — not the disappointment of opportunities missed nor the regret that comes with key plays unfulfilled — takes away from the Lakers' incredible season.
And to their great credit, Lake Oswego's players and coaches knew it — even before they left the turf at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday night.
"We've gone through a lot of adversity and we stayed together, stayed close and battled through," said senior lineman Shawn Elliott, who had four tackles on defense and also helped his team rush for 145 yards against South Medford. "It got us back to the semis and back to Laker football. It was an awesome year."
"It's been a great year and I'd just like to thank the seniors for leading us and getting us back to where we needed to be for a great year," said sophomore running back Casey Filkins, who made nine catches for 101 yards and one touchdown in the loss.
And what a year the Lakers had. Let's take a look back at the team's many 2017 accomplishments.
• The Lakers won 11 games in 2017, more than any other team in the state save for the two state championship-game participants, top-ranked Clackamas (13-0 overall) and No. 5 South Medford (12-1). It's also the program's best record since going 12-1 and reaching the state championship game in 2012.
• The Lakers won a piece of the 2017 Three Rivers League championship (sharing the crown with Tigard), going 6-1 in TRL play to grab the league championship for the first time since 2012. Along the way, they got key wins over both West Linn (a 21-20 thriller at Lake Oswego that marked the team's first victory over the Lions since 2012) and Sherwood (a 27-16 battle at Sherwood that gave the Lakers their first win over the Bowmen since they joined the TRL in 2013).
Further, their one loss was a 31-28 classic on Sept. 15 at Tigard that saw the Tigers escape with a victory after getting a five-yard Nick Heinke-to-Braden Lenzy touchdown pass with just 18 seconds left in the contest.
• Lake Oswego won nine straight games — a streak that started with its 35-9 victory at Canby back on Sept. 22 and continued through its 48-17 semifinal win over Jesuit in the Class 6A state quarterfinals on Nov. 17 — for the first time since 2012. Included in that streak were consecutive playoff victories over Jefferson (54-13), Sherwood (45-0) and Jesuit.
• The Lakers were also rated No. 1 in the OSAA power rankings and carried that position into the state playoffs. West Linn, the 2016 state champion, was ranked No. 1 from the start of the fall season until its 9-0 home loss to Tigard on Oct. 6. The Tigers took over the top spot there, but held it for just a week before falling to Sherwood 25-16 on Oct. 13. That catapulted the Lakers into the top spot — the third straight Three Rivers League team to hold the position — and they stayed there until the rankings froze at the end of the regular season.
• In the all-Three Rivers League voting for 2017, the Lakers had players honored at 28 positions, 10 of them first-team selections including junior linebacker Bryson Breeze — he also shared Defensive Player of the Year honors with Lenzy — senior quarterback Jake Dukart, senior wide receiver Jordan Newlin, sophomore running back Casey Filkins, senior lineman Dawson Jaramillo (on both offense and defense), senior linebacker Sam Haney, senior defensive lineman Shawn Elliott, junior linebacker Keenan DeRaeve and junior cornerback Matt Sebolsky.
But it wasn't just talent that lifted this year's Lake Oswego team to the heights and the Lakers knew it. Talent was indeed an important part of it, but the team's success was also built on coaching, camaraderie, competitiveness and an unwillingness to quit — ever.
"It's 'LO 48,'" said Breeze, referring to the team's motto — playing hard for the full 48 minutes of every game. "It's kind of what the program is built on. It's a state of mind — all 48 minutes. That's what we are built on."
"Our motto for a long time now is 'LO 48' and you can expect us to compete 'til the last second rolls off the clock," Filkins said.
"We believe in each other and we just wanted to work as hard as we could and work as a team and play for 48 minutes," said junior running back Collin Bracken, who had 98 yards rushing and one touchdown against South Medford.