Lake Oswego ready to challenge the best again in 2018
The 2017 season was one for the memory books in Lake Oswego football history.
The Lakers won a share of the Three Rivers League title for the first time since 2012, reached the state semifinals for the first time since '12, took the state's top seed into the Class 6A state playoffs and finished with an 11-2 record.
But the 2018 team graduated all-leaguers at 14 spots, six of them first-teamers led by lineman Dawson Jaramillo (now a member of the University of Oregon football team) and quarterback Jake Dukart (now at Oregon State).
Despite those losses, the Lakers believe they have what it takes to battle the best again in 2018.
"I think that by the end of the year, we've got a chance to be a very good football team," said longtime Lakers' coach Steve Coury. "We've got as good a schedule (this year) as anybody. The key for us is to just keep getting better every week."
While the Lakers must replace Dukart, Jaramillo and fellow first-teamer Jordan Newlin at wide receiver, the cupboard is hardly bare. This year's offensive unit will be led by first-team junior running back Casey Filkins (673 rushing yards and nine TDs in 2017, plus 476 receiving yards and another three TDs), and honorable mention picks Joe Hutson (349 receiving yards and three TDs) at wide receiver, and senior linemen Ryan Bertelsen and Alex Ledoux.
Considering his 2018 offense, Coury doesn't expect a big drop-off from a year ago.
"I think we'll look similar to what it's been the last couple years," he said. "We've got a good running back or two and our line can do a little bit of run-blocking and pass-blocking."
Senior Jackson Laurent (6-foot, 200 pounds) takes the reins at quarterback this season, and as a player who's grown up in the program, Coury expects him to hit the ground running.
"I'm really impressed with his work ethic. He really studies the game," Coury said. "He's a strong-armed kid and one of his great assets is his understanding of the game."
Senior Quinn Gunter (6-2, 195) will back up Laurent at quarterback.
Up front, the Lakers will look to junior Tiger Shanks (a 6-6, 330 transfer from Lakeridge who won honorable mention all-league honors last year) at right tackle, Ledoux (6-0, 216) and junior Cody Carlson (6-3, 240) at right guard, senior Mo Linver (5-11, 250) and senior Asher Corbett (5-11, 200) at center, Bertelsen (6-3, 285) at left guard and senior Tanner Hall (6-1, 225) at left tackle. Senior George O'Brien (6-0, 175), junior Marshall McGuire (6-3, 220) and senior Chris Todd (6-2, 225) will battle for time at tight end.
"(Bertelsen is) the glue. He played all last year and he's gotten bigger and stronger since then," Coury said, adding that Shanks is "a big kid who's having to learn a lot about what we do."
Three Rivers Previews
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• To read the West Linn team preview, click here.
• To read about the favorites in the Three Rivers League race, click here.
• To read about the new shape of the Three Rivers League/Special District 1, click here.
As a whole, though, Coury likes what he's seen so far and is excited about his offensive line's potential.
"They've got the makings of a real good group," he said. "We've got to replace two very good players (Jaramillo and Shawn Elliott — now at OSU), but I've got a lot of confidence in our coaches."
In the backfield, senior Collin Bracken (6-1, 215 after rushing for 583 yards and nine TDs last year) will take over at running back, while Filkins (5-11, 185) will play primarily at wide receiver. Also ready for time at running back is senior Keenan DeRaeve (5-10, 180) and Filkins.
"(Bracken) had a great year last year and we expect great things from him this year," Coury said. "We're in good shape there at running back."
Joining Filkins at wide receiver will be Hutson, junior Thomas Dukart (6-1, 175), senior Jack O'Brien (6-0, 175), senior Emmet Daly (5-10, 170), junior Jonas Hunter (5-11, 155) and sophomore Malcolm Williams (6-0, 160).
"We made that move (shifting Filkins to wide receiver) last year to get him out into space and because we had some other good guys in the backfield. He's electric out there," Coury said. "Those guys are all good receivers. We're solid out there."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lakers must replace first-team linemen Jaramillo and Elliott, and also must bide their time as senior linebacker Bryson Breeze (5-11, 190) — the 2017 TRL Defensive Player of the Year — works his way back from a summer knee injury (Coury said he expects Breeze to begin practice before the team's first game).
In addition to Breeze, the Laker "D" will be led by senior linebacker DeRaeve and senior cornerback Matt Sebolsky (5-10, 165) — both returning first-team all-TRL picks — Thomas Dukart (a second-teamer in '17) and honorable mention selections including senior defensive end Miles Lewis (6-4, 215), senior defensive end Mike Mercep (6-2, 220), McGuire at defensive end, senior linebacker Gabe DeVille (5-11, 195), Bracken at linebacker and Hutson at cornerback.
"We've got a chance to be one of the top units we've ever had," Coury said. "We've got to gel and we've got to have a couple spots come through, but we're real athletic, we've got good speed and we've got lots of experience."
Up front, the Lakers will call on Lewis, Mercep, McGuire and Carlson at defensive end, and senior Mario Pronnarongvat (6-3, 240) and junior Niko Smith (6-0, 250) at noseguard.
"They'll all play. They're all good enough to get in there," Coury said. "They're physical enough, they're very athletic and they can all run."
The team's linebackers will include Breeze, DeRaeve (he had four interceptions last year), DeVille, Bracken, Hutson (three interceptions), Todd, O'Brien, junior Cooper Winn (5-10, 190), junior Connor Willihnganz (5-10, 180) and senior Brandon Roberts (6-1, 180).
In the backfield, the Lakers will call on Thomas Dukart, Sebolsky (three interceptions) and Hutson, along with Filkins, senior Henry McNish (6-0, 155) and junior Jonas Hunter (5-11, 155).
"We've got a lot of depth, a lot of speed and a lot of experience back there," Coury said. "That group has a chance to be a real good group back there."