The seniors from the Lake Oswego football team accomplished almost everything imaginable in their final year as Lakers.
So when Lake Oswego's Mike Mercep, Gabe DeVille, Keenan DeRaeve and Jackson Laurent got the chance to compete one last time in the Les Schwab Bowl on Saturday, June 15, they weren't about to let the opportunity pass them by. The Schwab Bowl is the annual North vs. South high school all-star football game featuring the state's top graduated seniors.
In the end, the South used a fast start — the team led by 12 points after the first quarter — to beat the North 33-28. Despite the loss, the Lakers — the 2018 Class 6A state champions — loved every minute of their time together on the gridiron.
"Oh yeah, it was a lot of fun," said Mercep, a defensive end who will play next year at California Polytechnic State University. "I had a lot of fun getting to play with all my friends and competing against the South team."
"It was a really cool experience and I had a lot of fun," said DeVille, a linebacker who will study business accounting at Oregon next year. "I was really close with a lot of these guys and I became a lot closer to every single one of these guys. It was awesome to play against and compete against the (South)."
"It sucks that the outcome is like this, but it was a lot of fun playing with a great group of guys," added Laurent, a quarterback who will play at Southern Oregon University in the fall. "It was a ton of fun playing with these guys from the North Squad (and) it was really fun playing for coach Joe Bushman."
The South team started fast on Saturday, using three long scoring passes — a 34-yard TD pass from Nate Overholt to Noah Page, a 72-yard scoring strike from DeMontre Thomas to Page and a 50-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Page — to grab a 20-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"We had a little bit of a rough start — the defense broke down a little bit — but we battled back," said Laurent, who went 16 of 29 passing for two touchdowns, one interception and 181 yards. "You ask anybody on the team and they'll say we didn't play to our potential. We should have played a little better, but that's just how the game goes."
"We made a couple errors there and we lost, but that happens," said Mercep, who finished with four tackles, including two resulting in 11 yards of losses. "Overall, I thought our defense played well besides those couple of mistakes."
After that slow start, the North outscored the South 20-13 the rest of the way, got the ball back with 6 minutes, 7 seconds left to play and had a chance to win the contest before finally falling short.
Laurent, after throwing an interception on his first pass, had a lot to do with his team's comeback. He hit on 16 of his last 28 throws, including touchdown passes in both the second and fourth quarters, the first a 6-yarder to Kehdon Fletcher and the second a 4-yarder to Fletcher on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"They made some plays. We made some plays," Laurent said. "It was a back-and-forth battle."
The North's defense did its job down the stretch, too, getting a Mercep sack that short-circuited a South drive in the fourth quarter and two DeVille tackles on South's final possession.
"We definitely played better in the second half," said DeVille, who tied for team-high honors with seven tackles. "We battled a lot of adversity … but I thought we made some good adjustments and I was proud of how guys came out in the second half."
"I was ready," Mercep said. "In the second half, I thought we cleaned it up and played a way better game."
The North offense, after Laurent's second TD pass brought them within 33-28 at the start of the fourth, actually had four more possessions to try and take the lead but did not score again. The North picked up just one first down on those four series, the last of those starting with just 33 seconds remaining on the clock.
"We did have a chance, but I didn't capitalize — that's the game of football," Laurent said. "They made some plays and that's how it goes."
DeRaeve, a linebacker who will play lacrosse next year at Marist College in New York, did not participate in the game after suffering a suspected concussion in Lake Oswego's quarterfinal win in the OHSLA state lacrosse playoffs.
In postgame honors, Page was named Most Valuable Player, Jared Eggleston (North) and Carter Atkins (South) were named Linemen of the Game, and Jobadiah Malary (North) and Cassius McGinty (South) were named Backs of the Game.
To see the story on Lakeridge's Javier John, click here.
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