A battle between state powers, claimed by Lake Oswego

Malik Ross (8) and Kevin Interian (15) tag-team Lake Oswego’s Calvin Macy to bind him to the 49-yard line in Tualatin’s 35-26 first defeat of the season. Henry Kaus/Tualatin Life
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The Lakers snap Tualatin’s undefeated streak week six

Tualatin football is seeing a season like no other – able to remain undefeated through the first five weeks of play and even managing to drop a 35-point margin victory on perennial power West Linn. But, coming up against the 2019 season finalist, this domination would falter just a bit.

Senior Peter Burke (4) jumps up to receive from Jackson Jones above the 8-yard line for a catch that sent Burke into the endzone in Tualatin’s 49-14 West Linn dominating win. Henry Kaus/Tualatin Life

In the second Three Rivers League (TRL) matchup, the Timberwolves faced Lake Oswego on the home turf, coming away with their first loss of the season in a 35-26 difference.

The TRL has established itself in producing powerhouse teams in numerous sports among its member schools. This year in high school football, that is especially the case. After week four, four of the six TRL schools remained undefeated and after week six, the same four were ranked in the top 10 in the 6A state-wide division with West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin fighting as the top three.

“This is the elite of Oregon high school football,” Tualatin Head Coach Dan Lever told Tualatin Life. “This is the war-daddy conference; we love it. We don’t like how we feel tonight, but we love the competition.”

Prior to Tualatin’s meetup with the Lakers, the Wolves stopped by West Linn to deliver what can only be described as an unexpected beatdown to the former top-ranked team. After a 14-7 West Linn lead in the first quarter, Tualatin went on a 42-0 run, enough to bring about a running clock. The win brought West Linn to 4-1 on the season.

Through the 2020-2021 spring season, Tualatin saw two devasting losses. One in a 37-6 season-opener with West Linn and the second in a 36-7 season-closer to Lake Oswego. Tualatin turned the tables on West Linn and hoped to do the same with the Lakers.

However, it would be revealed shortly that high margins would be out of the question in this national game of the week.

Through the first quarter, neither team allowed a score, with senior running back Malik Ross fumbling after the horn, and the recovery taken by Lake Oswego. In the Lakers’ four-and-a-half-minute possession in the second quarter, their 5-foot-9, 180lb running back, Gabe Olvera, finally breezed through Tualatin’s line for a 6-yard touchdown.

“They’ve got a great running back,” Tualatin wide receiver Peter Burke said. “We’ve got to watch the bounce and keep them contained. Just got to try and stop their weapons.”

Lake Oswego led at the half 13-6 and stretched their lead even further to 14 points with 6:17 remaining in the third. It was time for a change in pace.

After Tualatin recovered an onside kick attempt on the 45-yard line, wide receiver Kellen Hale was sent in with Jackson Jones at quarterback. Hale booked it on the right side and Jones blasted a 25-yard throw to him that just passed through Lake Oswego hands. Hale scampered the remaining 30 yards for his score on the night.

“We woke up, we got punched in the mouth a little bit,” Burke said. “You know, we woke up and we were like ‘we’re here, we got to fight.’”

On Lake Oswego’s next possession, the Wolves only allowed a total gain of six yards. Then, with wide receiver Cole Prusia back on the field, Jones completed a 31-yard throw to Prusia, and after six consecutive runs by Ross, Tualatin tied it up to open the fourth quarter 20-20.

The Lakers didn’t let this settle and shortly struck back with a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Justius Lowe. In response, and with 8:32 left in the night, Burke found a chance to maneuver his way to the endzone after securing a 20-yard pass. But the following PAT to tie went extraordinarily high and was short of the crossbar leaving the Wolves to trail by one, 27-26.

Eventually, Lake Oswego claimed the battle of powers 35-26, moving on to remain the only undefeated team in the TRL and one of four in the 6A division after week six, while also breaking Tualatin’s undefeated streak at five games. With the state playoffs coming up in November, the chance of a rematch with Lake Oswego remains, and if not LO, especially against other TRL schools.

“Fellas, I hope you remember this moment,” Lever said in his post-game speech to the team. “I need you to really soak this in; I want you to really feel it. … Because next time you feel it, it’s probably going to be over.”

Tualatin football has seen the state championships twice – most recently in 2010 – but has yet to claim the state title as their own. This year, Burke said, may be what strikes a change.

“Everyone wants that ring,” Burke said. “We’ve got a team that we think can get there. Big main goal this season is to get to December 4, Saturday playing in that championship.”