Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking Good in Navy

Steven Long was a speedy player when he burst onto the scene two years ago as a sophomore running back at Sherwood High School. Last year he helped the Bowman through their playoff run, culminating in a 217 yard, two touchdown performance in their State Championship Game against Marist. Coming into his senior year the young man moved up, transferring to perennial 6A power Lake Oswego High.

Year in and year out the Lakers have a depth of talented players, and it initially was unclear how Long would fit in with his new teammates, how and if he would be used, and whether or not he had the strength to repeatedly carry the ball for the Lakers. Week two saw a solid 19 carry, 119 yard performance against a capable West View team marred by two uncharacteristic fumbles, and the question remained as to whether or not Long could hold up against the larger, faster athletes more frequently seen in the rugged schedule Lake Oswego typically plays. That question was answered emphatically last Friday night when the Lakers played host to the Skyline Spartans of Washington.

Skyline may be the toughest team on the Laker's schedule. State champions at the 3A level in Washington in 2005 and 2007, in 2008 they moved up to 4A, Washington's highest level, and kept handing out the hurt, winning 4A titles in 2008 and 2009 and reaching the championship final in 2010 before falling to Spokane's Ferris High School. Last year's team handed a very good Lake Oswego squad a 38 to 14 loss, and with 6'5" super soph quarterback Max Browne returning for his junior year, it looked to be more of the same. Friday night Browne's quick delivery and rifle arm amassed over four hundred yards for an offense that proved exceedingly difficult to stop. All that was nullified by a nightmarish Laker ground game that featured one Steven Long at the tip of the spear.

Running backs are considered to have a good game if they break 100 yards, an excellent game if they manage to break 200. Against the Spartans, Steven Long carried the ball 28 times for a staggering 428 yards. He scored seven times, ripping off long run after long run. Initially in the spread single back, then in the second half more commonly out of the two back power formation, Long carried over and over again. He broke one play for a 36 yard touchdown, then another for a 72 yard touchdown, and by that point the defense knew it had a problem. Then came a touchdown run of 48 yards and the man had 220 yards at the half! With the Spartans staying close for 28 - 24 half time score, it appeared they had weathered the storm and would put it to the Lakers in the second half, but in the second half each time the Spartans would draw near with a score it was answered by a blur of Navy and White. Long would find a crease at the line of scrimmage, flash into the secondary, and bang.. we were off to the races. A 75 yard run for a score. A 1 yard plunge for a score. A 73 yard run for a score. Long was a one man buzz saw. I've watched a lot of football, but I've never seen a running game strike as quickly and as devastatingly as Long and his Laker teammates. Good use of blocking, good vision, surprising endurance... and jaw dropping speed. By the end of it the Lakers walked away with a 56 - 46 win.

Four hundred yards is a lot of yards, but against one of the best teams in Washington? That's unheard of. It was a game for the record books for Long. I doubt there will be another like it for him... it was beautiful.

The rest of the Laker crew looked solid as well. Alex Matthews is a steady performer at quarterback with quick feet and good judgment. I'm thinking we'll continue to see a lot of receiver Stevie Coury, who is a deceptively fast player and has a great pair of hands. Mitch Lomax loves to cause problems for quarterbacks and leads a good group of aggressive Laker linebackers. Zach Walen, who knows what the heck that guy's thinking, but he's a gamer on both sides of the ball. It's a solid, confident bunch of young men.

This Friday the Lakers move on to an always tough Jesuit squad. Jesuit bounced back from being steam rolled by Dillon Miller and Sheldon two weeks ago to edge Central Catholic 14 - 12 in the Holy War. You can bet they'll be strapping up their helmets tight for Friday's clash with the Lakers. Should be a good one.

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