Lake Oswego football team's seniors leave a legacy of success
There's no easy way to say it — the Lake Oswego football team fell short of its lofty goals in 2019.
Indeed, the team's 49-28 loss to Central Catholic in the Class 6A state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 7, marked one of the very few times the Lakers did.
But over the past three seasons, the Lakers were the best high school football team in the state among Oregon's 50 Class 6A teams.
In 2017, the Lakers tied Tigard for the Three Rivers League championship, then battled all the way into the state semifinals before losing a tough 49-27 decision to South Medford.
In 2018, the Lakers won Special District 5 outright, then just kept on going to post a 13-1 overall record and win the program's first state championship since 2011, that run capped by the team's 34-27 victory over Sheldon in the title contest.
And in the just-completed 2019 season, Lake Oswego tied for second in Special District 5 play, then advanced all the way to the championship game for a second year in a row before falling to the Rams and finishing second.
Along with the incredible stability and quality of the Laker coaching staff — led by 28-year head coach Steve Coury and 12 of 18 assistants who have been with the team for at least the past four years — LO's recent spate of success is a reflection of the team's incredible senior class.
"When you look back on the history we made as a class, (the loss to Central Catholic is) really nothing to hang our heads about," said Lake Oswego senior running back Casey Filkins, the 2018 Oregon Offensive Player of the Year, 2019 Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year and a four-year varsity player. "To get as far as we did year in and year out, it's a lot of games."
"We did accomplish a lot the last four years, a lot of playoff wins," said senior tight end/defensive end Marshall McGuire, another Laker four-year varsity player. "I'm really proud of everything we've accomplished."
In addition to Filkins and McGuire, both senior wide receiver/defensive back Joe Hutson and Thomas Dukart are also four-year varsity players for Lake Oswego. The team's other seniors this year included Tiger Shanks, Cody Carlson, Niko Smith, Jonas Hunter, Conner Willihnganz, Cooper Winn, Max McNown, Aaron Rudder, Diyar Dezay, Bradley Bass, Carson Bass, Noah Kniss, Jack Schrimsher, Fletcher Farris, Landon Harwood, Abner Pavia Penaloza, Hayden Hilliker and John Carnegie.
In addition to the big-game victories and playoff wins, the Lakers proved themselves to be consistently excellent in the frighteningly tough Three Rivers League and Special District 5. Following the team's 6-5 season and second-round playoff exit in 2016, the Lakers' 2020 senior class hit the accelerator and hit it hard. Over the ensuing three seasons, the Lakers won their league/conference title twice, reached the state semifinals three times and the state championship twice.
Further, the program amassed a three-year overall record of 35-6 (an 85% winning percentage) — the best total among Oregon's Class 6A teams. Among the state's other premier programs, their three-year records look like this: Jesuit 31-7 (an 82% winning percentage); Tigard 30-6 (an 83% winning percentage); Clackamas 30-6 (an 83% winning percentage); Central Catholic 28-10 (a 74% winning percentage); Sheldon 26-10 (a 72% winning percentage); and West Linn 25-11 (a 69% winning percentage).
Over the LO seniors' four-year careers, only Jesuit won more games, going 42-8 overall (an 84% winning percentage), while the Lakers went 41-11 (a 79% winning percentage), and Clackamas and Tigard both went 40-9 (an 82% winning percentage).
"We've played in 16 more games (in the state playoffs over four years) than what you would regularly have," Filkins said. "That's literally almost two more seasons and we're playing tough opponents week in and week out. Our resiliency was just off-the-charts and I couldn't be happier than to be part of this group."
"Just growing up, we knew that we had a special group," Smith said. "We knew going through elementary school as the program started to decline that we were going to be the rise of it again. It was going to be on us to bring the program back to life and I think we really did that. It was just everyone working hard and never quitting."
As much as they've given to the Lake Oswego program, the Lakers' seniors left Saturday's game filled with gratitude for what the program, their coaches and their school has given back to them.
"I owe a lot to this program," said Hutson, a two-time all-leaguer in 2019. "This is a great program. The coaches taught me a lot of life lessons."
"I started my football career with LO and I'm just happy I got to finish it here," said Shanks, another all-leaguer who played his freshman and sophomore years at Lakeridge before transferring to Lake Oswego. "I started with the youth program with coach Coury and all these guys I've called my brothers since fourth grade."
John Tawa contributed to this story
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