Lake Oswego falls short in 49-28 championship loss to Central Catholic
In one way, the Lake Oswego football team's post-game gathering on Saturday, Dec. 7, was very different than the one that followed the team's 2018 Class 6A state championship victory.
A year ago, that group came together around Laker assistant coach Jeff Young, with players' faces lit by smiles and the get-together highlighted by shouts, fist pumps, high fives and hugs.
This year's group came together around Young again in the minutes following the Lakers' 49-28 title-game loss to Central Catholic at Hillsboro Stadium, but it was a much more subdued affair, with tears and downcast faces replacing the thrills of 2018.
But in another way, the Lakers' last stand was extremely similar to the year before. While still hurting from the sting of their championship loss, Lake Oswego's players — all of them members of one of the state's best teams — joined with their football brothers, coaches, parents, friends and fans to celebrate one more moment together.
"They were very well prepared. They made plays when it came down to it," said Lake Oswego senior running back Casey Filkins, who carried 32 times for 228 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. "Cade (Knighton) threw the (heck) out of the ball and Silas (Starr) and Kalvin (Souders) and their receivers made plays and that's what it came down to."
"They just made more plays than we did. That's just kind of how it unfolded," said Lake Oswego senior lineman Tiger Shanks, who helped the Lakers rush for 281 yards in the contest. "They've got playmakers and their quarterback played great — they all played great. Hand it to them. They balled out."
"They just made more plays than us. They're a good team," added Lake Oswego senior tight end/defensive end Marshall McGuire. "They've got some talented guys, some big-play guys. I thought their quarterback played a really good game. It seems like every time we got (to the quarterback), the ball was on time and on the money so give credit to them."
With the loss, the third-ranked Lakers saw their five-game winning streak snapped and ended their 2019 season with an 11-3 overall record after tying for second place in Special District 5.
Fourth-ranked Central Catholic, meanwhile, extended its winning streak to nine games, finished its year with a 12-2 overall record after winning Special District 4, and claimed its first state crown since taking back-to-back 6A crowns in 2013-14.
"We just got it going," said Central Catholic senior wide receiver Silas Starr, who finished with 10 catches for 184 yards and one touchdown. "When you get in that rhythm, it's truly unstoppable. We just spread it around. It's poetry in motion."
"(The) last four years, we've grown closer and closer together as a team," said Knighton, who went 31 of 36 passing for 396 yards and three TDs. "This year, it was just about us coming together and meshing, kind of forming that last final bond before we graduate."
The Rams went about proving themselves right from the game's opening series, getting a 65-yard completion from Knighton to Starr on their third play from scrimmage, then scoring two plays later when senior running back Elijah Elliott went over the left side for a 1-yard TD just 1 minute, 59 seconds into the contest.
The Lakers came back on their ensuing possession, with Filkins completing three passes for 30 yards and carrying nine times for 61 more, including a 12-yard burst around right end that — after senior Diyar Dezay's extra point — tied the game at 7-7 with 4:21 remaining in the first quarter.
The Rams, however, responded just 20 seconds later, pushing ahead 14-7 when senior running back Miles Jackson went wide left for 71 yards and his team's second TD.
Jackson's TD didn't come without controversy, though. The Lakers froze on Jackson's run after hearing a whistle near the sideline, but officials ruled that the whistle came from a spectator and let the score stand.
"Credit to Central Catholic. They really did show up and game-planned well for us," said Laker senior lineman Niko Smith. "Credit to their receivers — (they're) amazing players, all of them."
Undaunted, Lake Oswego answered with a 91-yard scoring drive that tied the game at 14-14 in the final minute of the first quarter. Filkins carried six times for 26 yards, sent senior wide receiver Joe Hutson around right end for 43 yards, then threw to junior wide receiver Malcolm Williams for a 21-yard score at the right flag. Williams went up against Rams senior Kimo Hui for the throw and wrestled the ball out of Hui's hands as both fell to the ground in the end zone for the Laker touchdown.
After the two teams traded punts — Laker seniors Thomas Dukart and Connor Willihnganz stuffed Jackson for a 1-yard loss on third down — the Rams pushed back in front on their next possession. Starting from Central's 21-yard line, Knighton powered his team down the field, completing five straight throws — including a 26-yarder to Elliott and a 23-yarder to Jackson — before connecting with Starr for the 14-yard score at the right flag for a 21-14 edge with 7:48 to go in the half.
Things got worse for the Lakers before they got better, too. Lake Oswego punted the ball back to the Rams at their 40-yard line, and from there, Central Catholic stitched together a brutal 14-play drive that ate 6:39 off the clock and ended when Knighton found sophomore Jordan King for a 6-yard score over the left side that extended the Rams' lead to 28-14 with just four seconds remaining before the half.
Knighton went 8 of 10 for 86 yards on the drive, including a 15-yard throw to Starr to the 1-yard line. Central was whistled for holding on the next play, threw an incomplete pass, then saw McGuire and Willihnganz stop a Knighton scramble for just 2 yards. Central was called for holding again, but the Lakers were penalized for helmet-to-helmet contact and unsportsmanlike conduct and the Rams scored on the next play.
Despite its deficit, Lake Oswego came back strong in the third quarter, taking the opening series of the second half and marching 62 yards to score. Filkins hit senior Ty Miller for 21 yards, the Lakers picked up 15 yards on a Ram penalty, and Filkins and his offensive line — Shanks, Smith, junior Jacob Johnstone, junior Bailey Jaramillo and sophomore Austin Leykam — did the rest. Filkins carried seven times for 26 yards, including a 1-yard plunge over the right side to score with 8:26 left in the period.
Next, after two Central Catholic first downs, Lake Oswego junior lineman Julio Lopez sacked Knighton and forced a fumble and 5-yard loss on third down.
After the Rams punted the ball away, the Lakers needed just two plays to tie the game, with Filkins going right for 25 yards, and on the next play, going over left guard for a 42-yard TD that knotted the score at 28-28 with 5:04 to go in the third.
But the Lakers would not score again, while the Central Catholic cashed in on each of their final three offensive series to pull away. First, the Rams drove 80 yards to take a 35-28 lead when Knighton hit Souders for an 11-yard score with 11 seconds remaining in the third period.
Next, after a Laker three-and-out, Central marched 77 yards for its next score, with Elliott carrying seven times for 53 yards and banging into the end zone from a yard out to make it 42-28 with 6:22 left in the game.
Next, Rams' junior Jack Brown picked off a Filkins pass — he leapt in Filkins' face just as he released a soft throw and smothered the ball at the Lakers' 17-yard line. Elliott carried three straight times from there, eventually going wide right for 5 yards and the game's final score with 3:37 left on the clock.
"The momentum shifted a little bit and we were feeling pretty good about that, but hats off to them — they fought against it and just continued to keep the ball out of our hands and drive down the field," Filkins said. "They did a really good job of that."
"I think they had a pretty good game plan coming in," McGuire said. "And they're a good team. You're a good team if you make it to a state championship game."
On their side of the field, the Rams reveled in their championship after back-to-back losses in the state quarterfinals.
"(It's) a lot better. It's much sweeter," Starr said. "We just love each other so much. That's really what kept us going out here."
For the game, Filkins went 8 of 16 passing for 97 yards with one TD and one interception, with Miller making two catches for 31 yards and Hutson three for 28. On defense, Hutson made 10 tackles (six solo), senior Jonas Hunter and sophomore Dylan Layne had nine stops each (including five solo tackles apiece), Williams made eight tackles and Cooper Winn seven.
For Central Catholic, Elliott carried 18 times for 90 yards and three scores, and Jackson rushed six times for 79 yards and one TD. Besides Starr's efforts, Souders made seven catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, and Elliott four catches for 51 yards.
On defense, Rams' senior Joe Nizich made 14 tackles (seven solo) to lead his team.
— Jerry Ulmer of OSAAtoday contributed to this story.
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