No. 1 Lake Oswego football struggles past Newberg 49-40 in playoff opener
The rankings said one thing.
The standings said the same.
The betting line, if there had been one, would have agreed, too.
The No. 1-ranked Lake Oswego football team was supposed to blow out No. 32 Newberg in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs at Lake Oswego High School on Friday, Nov. 5.
But that's not what happened.
Instead, the Tigers pushed the Lakers to the very end before Lake Oswego finally escaped with a 49-40 victory.
"I am so proud of my boys," said Newberg senior wide receiver Sam Murphy, who made seven catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed eight times for 32 yards. "They did everything they could, and I couldn't ask for more."
"We've been playing together, most of us, since we were third graders and it's the last game," added senior quarterback Gavin Korkeakoski, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 355 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. "We knew that was going to be a possibility going in, so we just did as much as we could and we just came up a little short."
The Tigers gave Lake Oswego everything they could want and more.
"You've got to give a lot of respect to them. They came out hard and they didn't quit," said Lake Oswego senior quarterback Jack Layne, who completed 16 of 21 passes for 286 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. "But a win's a win — we pulled it out."
With the win — the team's second straight — the No. 1 Lakers improved to 9-1 overall after tying for the Special District 5 championship.
"We knew they were a good team, but we're (still) disappointed in how close it was," said junior wide receiver Owen West, who caught four passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and also picked off a Newberg pass and returned it 50 yards for another score. "They fought hard and they are a good team. … We couldn't put them away until the very end."
The No. 32 Tigers saw their three-game winning streak snapped and ended their year at 3-7 overall after placing third in Special District 3.
While disappointed with the loss, the Tigers — who rallied back into contention after falling behind 49-18 through three quarters — were proud of their efforts.
"We just kept battling," Korkeakoski said. "We just dug deep and played to the whistle every play."
The fireworks started early Friday night, with Layne hitting West for a 42-yard touchdown on the Lakers' first series. Newberg answered with a 60-yard strike over the middle from Korkeakoski to Murphy that tied the contest 7-7 with 4 minutes, 39 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Lake Oswego capped the first quarter with a 17-yard Layne-to-Lowe TD pass on the right sideline, but saw the Tigers close within 14-10 when Daniel Valdez-Espinoza hit a 27-yard field goal 4:18 into the second period.
Undaunted, the Lakers pushed ahead 21-10 just two plays later, with senior Gabe Olvera taking a pitch and speeding 46 yards to score with 7:01 remaining in the quarter. LO then appeared to score again at the end of the half, but Layne's 15-yard TD pass to senior (and twin brother) Dylan Layne was negated by a penalty.
The Lakers — after an admittedly hot and cold first half — were only hot in the third quarter, scoring touchdowns on each of their four possessions to seemingly put the Tigers away.
First, West caught a Jack Layne pass and turned it into a 59-yard TD 32 seconds into the period. Next — just 1:04 later — West picked off a Korkeakoski throw at midfield and returned it for another touchdown and a 35-10 lead.
Then, after Lake Oswego forced Newberg to turn the ball over on downs, the Lakers scored in just three plays, the capper a 4-yard Lowe sweep to the right flag for a 42-10 lead.
The Tigers responded with a 75-yard drive highlighted by a 55-yard Korkeakoski completion to Murphy that ended when junior Hudson Davis banged into the end zone from four yards out. After senior Price Pothier's conversion run, Newberg trailed 42-18.
Lake Oswego got that score back when Olvera ran left for eight yards and scored to boost his team's lead to 49-18 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
But the Tigers weren't done. First, Korkeakoski hit Murphy for a 66-yard TD that cut the Tigers' deficit to 49-26 after three quarters. Then, after a stop by the Newberg defense, the Tigers drove 71 yards to score again, capping their drive with a 1-yard Pothier run and a Grant Dickenson conversion to bring their team within 49-34.
After an LO punt, Newberg drove 80 yards to score again, with senior Charlie Evans making a 45-yard catch, and five plays later, Korkeakoski hitting Murphy for a 25-yard TD at the left flag with 2:59 remaining. But Valdez-Espinoza's extra point was blocked by LO junior Calvin Macy and the Lakers still led 49-40.
Dickenson recovered the ensuing onside kick at midfield, and after a 44-yard Korkeakoski completion to junior Ethan Hawley, the Tigers fumbled the ball away to McGuire with 1:22 remaining to effectively end the game.
"Every team's in the playoffs for a reason, right?" Jack Layne said. "So it's a good lesson — you've got to play 48 minutes of football."
Davis led Newberg in rushing with 79 yards and one score on 14 carries, while Evans caught two passes for 59 yards.
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