Unlikely? Oh yeah.
Unbelievable? Well, most of the people who saw it first-hand still don't believe it.
"It," in this case was the Lake Oswego football team's come-from-behind 28-21 win over Jesuit in the Class 6A state semifinals at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday, Nov. 29.
The Lakers forced three Jesuit turnovers in the fourth quarter — all fumbles — shut out the Crusaders for the game's final 27 minutes, 45 seconds and used their never-say-die ethos to beat Jesuit for a second time this year and win a second straight berth in the Class 6A state championship game.
"It's unbelievable," said Lake Oswego senior linebacker Connor Willihnganz, who sealed his team's win by recovering Jesuit's final fumble with one minute left to play in the game. "Just being able to come back — it's amazing."
"You can't really put it into words," said Laker senior running back Casey Filkins, who rushed 27 times for 133 yards and three TDs, and also completed 13 of 27 passes for 225 yards with one TD and one interception. "Jesuit is a great team on both sides of the ball. They're intimidating, they're physical — we knew it would take all 48 minutes. It just feels great to be able to accomplish that."
"This means a lot to us," added Lake Oswego senior wide receiver Thomas Dukart, who caught eight passes for 170 yards and one TD. "It's for coach Jeff (Young) — LO 48. I'm excited to go (to the championship) back-to-back years."
With the win — the Lakers' fifth straight — third-ranked Lake Oswego improved to 11-2 overall after finishing tied for second in Special District 5. The victory also gave the Lakers — who beat Sheldon 34-27 in the 6A title game a year ago — a shot at fourth-ranked Central Catholic (11-2 overall after winning Special District 4) in the 2019 championship; that game is set for noon, Dec. 7, at Hillsboro Stadium.
"They had a really good game today so we've got to watch some film on them," said Lake Oswego senior defensive end Marshall McGuire, who recovered another Rams' fumble and returned it 33 yards to set up his team's winning touchdown. "I think we'll probably have a much different game plan, but I'm really proud of how our guys practiced this week. We got locked in and I don't expect any less for next week."
"It's going to take a whole week of good practice, a good game plan and LO 48," added senior wide receiver/defensive back Joe Hutson, who forced and recovered a fumble and prevented a Jesuit touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Jesuit, meanwhile, saw its eight-game winning streak snapped and ended its year at 10-3 after winning the Special District 2 title. Needless to say, the Crusaders were devastated by Friday's result.
"It's not that we should have won that game, it's that we could have won that game," said Jesuit two-way lineman Charlie Pickard. "(Lake Oswego) is an amazing team, we're an amazing team. It was everything you could want out of a football game, everything you could want out of your team."
"This one stings," said Jesuit senior fullback Logan Horton. "We had a big dream, big goals and came up a little short tonight. It's a bummer."
"If it didn't hurt in the end, then it wasn't worth doing," said Jesuit senior wide receiver/defensive back Campbell Brandt, who had one catch for 13 yards and five tackles. "We all love the game so much and we're just sad it's the last one."
While Jesuit ended up on the wrong end of the score, the Crusaders could not have started faster. On just the fourth play of the game, Jesuit senior running back Kade Wisher went over the left side out of the Wildcat formation, broke away from the Lake Oswego defense for a 42-yard touchdown and — after Stanley Schoppe's extra point — took a 7-0 lead.
After a trade of punts, the Lakers needed just one play to tie the score at 7-7. After taking over at LO's own 44-yard line, Filkins ran right out of the Wildcat, cut back to his left and sped 56 yards to score with 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.
But after a pair of three-and-outs —LO's stop included a sack by sophomore Gavin McGuire — Jesuit pushed back in front. Starting from their own 7-yard line, the Crusaders drove 93 yards in just eight plays, with senior Ted Atkinson carrying three times for 37 yards and Wisher capping the series with a 45-yard burst around right end to give his team a 14-7 edge with 5:46 remaining before the half.
That score kicked off a whirlwind second quarter that saw the two teams combine for four scores, including three touchdowns in the final 4:12 of the half.
The Lakers launched that late stretch with a 67-yard TD drive of their own, a series that — after losing 7 yards on a fumble and another 5 on a penalty — ended when Filkins hit Dukart down the middle for a 69-yard score. But when Laker senior kicker Diyar Dezay missed his extra point attempt wide left, Lake Oswego trailed 14-13 with 4:12 left in the half.
The Crusaders hardly flinched, though, sending Wisher up the middle on first down for 81 yards to the Laker 1-yard line, and scoring one play later on a Wisher plunge to lead 21-13 just 27 seconds after LO's score.
Again, however, Lake Oswego answered in short order, marching 71 yards in six plays to close within 21-20 at the half. Filkins completed 3 of 4 throws on that series for 54 yards — the last of those a 30-yard pickup by Dukart to the Jesuit 1-yard line — and Filkins then bashed into the end zone on the next play to cut the Crusader lead to one.
"They're a really good team," Marshall McGuire said. "They were battling and their game plan was great. We have a lot of respect for them and I'm sure they have a lot of respect for us."
"We gave it our all on every play," Pickard said. "We said things like 'I love you' or 'We got this' or 'Here we go.' There was never a sense of negative doubt on the field."
As wild as the second quarter had been, it paled in comparison to the second half. The Crusaders started with a fourth-down stop of the Lakers at the Jesuit 23, but saw their ensuing series short-circuit when Marshall McGuire, senior Cooper Winn and Gavin McGuire teamed up to sack Jesuit senior quarterback Jack Heyden.
Next, Lake Oswego was on the verge of a three-and-out — facing a fourth-and-7 from its own 33 and ready to punt — when Jesuit was flagged for an offsides call. Now at their own 38, the Lakers decided to go for it on fourth-and-2, but saw Filkins get stuffed for no gain by Jesuit senior linebacker Lucas Christen.
Then things got really crazy. Four plays later, with Jesuit going for it on fourth-and-6 from the Laker 31-yard line after Willihnganz stopped Wisher for a 3-yard loss on third down, Heyden hit Wisher over the right side and he seemed destined for a runaway touchdown.
But nobody told Hutson. He sprinted across the field to catch Wisher, knocked the ball out of Wisher's hands from behind inside the 1-yard line, then tumbled into the end zone and caught it while lying on his back to save a touchdown and give the Lakers possession at the 20 with a touchback.
"After halftime, we came out a different team and we were ready," Hutson said. "That's how we are."
"What a play on the goal line. It's crazy," Dukart said. "He won us the game right there."
"(Hutson) made an awesome play," Horton said. "You can't teach that. Kudos to (Hutson). He wanted it, so he went after it and got it."
While Hutson's play prevented a Jesuit touchdown, Lake Oswego still trailed 21-20 and failed to score on its next two series, the second of those ending when Crusader senior Solomon Bandy stepped in front of LO junior receiver Malcolm Williams, picked off a Filkins pass near midfield and seemingly gave Jesuit the inside track to victory with just 3:24 remaining on the clock.
The next play proved otherwise, however.
On first down from the Laker 47-yard line, Wisher ran left out of the Wildcat, got hit by Gavin McGuire and fumbled the ball away. Marshall McGuire scooped it up at the Jesuit 48, sped 33 yards to the Crusader 15, then pitched it to senior teammate Jonas Hunter for another two yards to the 13.
"It was crazy. I got bumped outside and it was actually my brother ... who knocked it out," Marshall McGuire said. "I saw the ball get punched down and I was thinking about falling on it, but I saw that the running back got tackled along with the ball getting knocked out so I thought I had an opportunity to make a play and I picked it up and started running."
"Our defense continued to make plays, and Gavin got that strip and Marshall took it all the way down," Filkins said. "Plays like that — it's a lot of heart."
From there, Filkins carried the ball three straight times up the middle, eventually tumbling into the end zone at the end of an 8-yard run to score with 2:21 remaining in the game. Then, on the ensuing conversion attempt, Filkins hit sophomore running back Gabe Olvera over the right side to give the Lakers a 28-21 edge.
Jesuit managed two first downs on its ensuing series, but then, facing a fourth-and-4 from its own 48-yard line, Heyden scrambled for yardage, Marshall McGuire hit him to force a fumble and Willihnganz recovered to essentially end the game with 1:00 left on the clock.
"I just picked it up and knew that we had the game then," Willihnganz said. "I saw it on the ground and I knew I just had to get down and I knew we had the game at that point. It's amazing. It feels great."
"We come in day in and day out and we do it for the coaches, we do it for the fans, we do it for the love of the game," Hutson said.
Lake Oswego's decisive plays down the stretch, however, had the exact opposite effect on the Crusaders.
"Shout out to (Lake Oswego). They're a good team," Brandt said. "I wouldn't say we were unlucky, (Lake Oswego) just made a few more plays than us. That's how it works sometimes. That's football. We battled, (but) it didn't come out our way in the end."
"We were so close, but I'm proud of my team," Horton said. "We all worked really hard to get here. We had some doubters in the beginning of the year, so it feels good to prove them all wrong."
For the game, Marshall McGuire led the Lakers with seven tackles (four solo), including one sack. For Jesuit, Wisher carried 20 times for 189 yards and two TDs, Atkinson carried five times for 43 yards and Heyden went 6 of 14 passing for 118 yards and one score, with Wisher catching three balls for 93 yards and another score. On defense, Christen led his team with nine tackles (five solo) while junior Darius Mims added eight (six solo).
Matt Singledecker contributed to this story.
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