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Lakers fall to No. 3 Grants Pass in overtime

LO ties the game in the final seconds but drops a heart breaker against the Cavemen

Photo Credit: JOEL TAKARSH - Devin King looks to apply a stiff arm while making a run in last week's game at Grants Pass.Lake Oswego was technically a heavy underdog heading into last week's second-round playoff game against Grants Pass.

Playing far away from home for the second week in a row, the Lakers now faced one of the state's more surprising teams this season in the undefeated Cavemen who had rolled through a strong Southern Conference, putting up gaudy offensive statistics along the way.

However, Lake Oswego entered the contest playing its best football of the season and, given the strength of the Three Rivers League as a whole, not many people would have been surprised if the Lakers gave Grants pass everything it could handle.

Lake Oswego did that and more last week, scoring on fourth down with less than two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime before losing a heartbreaker 28-21.

Lake Oswego knew it had its work cut out for it to slow down the Cavemen's offense which was averaging more than 50 points a game and had cracked 70 three times in its last four wins.

And the Lakers accomplished that goal in impressive fashion, holding the Cavemen to just 21 points in regulation when their previous low output of the season was 38.

“The kids played great. They really did everything we asked of them and it was just a shame to lose this one,” coach Steve Coury said.

Lake Oswego got off to a strong start with Mitchell Verburg finishing up an early drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Zach Parker three minutes into the game.

Grants Pass would respond quickly moving into Lake Oswego territory before connecting on a big touchdown pass just two minutes after the Lakers' score.

But the pace of the game would slow down from that point on. Lake Oswego was able to exert its game plan, pounding the ball against Grants Pass while controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The Lakers held Grants Pass to just one touchdown in the first half and then were able to finish off a strong drive with an eight-yard touchdown run from Will Burton. Lake Oswego held a 14-7 lead heading into the locker room after the Cavemen knocked a field goal attempt off the post with 11 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Cavemen clamped down on defense in the second half and were able to tie the game midway through the third quarter.

Lake Oswego continued to move the ball well on the ground but couldn't break through in what turned into a defensive slugfest.

Grants Pass took control of the game with less than six minutes left in the contest, breaking a 46-yard pass play for a touchdown to go up 21-14.

With their season on the line, the Lakers responded in impressive fashion. Lake Oswego moved down to the Grants Pass goal line but stalled, setting up fourth and goal at the one.

Lake Oswego called time-out and set up a play and Verburg hit sophomore tight end Ben Shimota for a score.

“We let the clock wind down and Ben made a really nice catch in that situation,” Coury said.

The decision to kick the extra point was decided earlier in practice.

“We always let the seniors decide what they want to do in situations like that and we had talked about it on Thursday. They wanted to kick it and send it to overtime,” Coury said.

Ethan Agritelley calmly nailed the extra point and the Lakers stayed alive.

Grants Pass started with the ball and was quickly backed up, forcing third and 23. However, the Cavemen completed a huge pass behind the Laker defense for a 39-yard touchdown that, again, put the Lakers' season on the line.

“It looked like we had made a great call and then they just hit a big play on us. We had decided that if we scored a touchdown on our possession that we'd go for two this time,” Coury said.

Grants Pass came up with a stop on fourth down during Lake Oswego's possession ending the team's season.

After a slow start following a three-game suspension of some of its key seniors this year, Lake Oswego rallied impressively and was very competitive in the TRL with its only losses coming to top-10 ranked teams.

“I'm so proud of the kids. They learned an awful lot this year and were taught some difficult life lessons which is always what the season should be about,” Coury said.

The Lakers emerged as a late-season power and, despite graduating a strong class, hope to be equally competitive next season.

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