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  • Tyler Francke

Tale of Two Football Teams

Lake Oswego and Lakeridge look forward to the upcoming football season of competition

A football Team at practice
Photo by Britani Kavanaugh & Undefeated Films

The days are growing shorter and cooler, and that means one thing: It’s time once again for high school football. Gridiron fans in Lake Oswego are more spoiled than most, with not one but two talented squads to follow each fall. At Lake Oswego High School, head coach Steve Coury will be heading into his 32nd season at the helm of the vaunted Lakers, who have reached the state quarterfinals in each of the past five seasons, including a title in 2018 and a near-repeat the following year.

But after being overshadowed in more recent seasons by the elite talent of West Linn and Tualatin, the big question facing Coury and the Lakers this year will be whether they regain their position in the upper echelon or instead are destined to remain in the second (but still very, very good) tier of the brutally competitive Three Rivers League.

Photo by Britani Kavanaugh & Undefeated Films
A football team stand for the pledge of allegiance

The Lakers were already headed for a different look in 2023, having bid farewell to five key members of the all-league first team due to graduation. The team is now focused on reloading at wide receiver and defensive back positions, after losing the likes of Henry Smith, Owen West and Ethan Park.

Coach Coury acknowledges the need for greater consistency in the passing game while expressing optimism about improvements in the running game. Even with the departure

of standout running back Calvin Macy, the team has promising prospects in senior Zavier Russell and sophomore LaMarcus Bell, both of whom could makevaluable contributions in the backfield.

Conor Croteau, the 6-4 senior, stands out as a potential asset as a wideout/outside linebacker, adding depth to the team’s offensive and defensive strategies. Coach Coury says he is confident in the team’s defensive readiness as they embark on the upcoming season.

A football player ready to run
Photo by Britani Kavanaugh & Undefeated Films

On the other side of town, Spencer Phillips is excited to begin his fourth season as head coach of the Pacers of Lakeridge High School. The Pacers are coming off a 5-7 2023 campaign that was much more competitive and successful than its record might suggest at first glance.

“I think our record last year is a bit misleading because most of our losses were to top 10 teams, and we played most of them pretty close,” Coach Phillips explains. “That’s kind of how it goes in the Three Rivers League, where the competition is so strong. High school kids live and die with

that record every week, but the record last year really didn’t show how good of a team we had.”

That showed in the 2022 6A Columbia Cup in the postseason, where Lakeridge advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to ultimate champion Westview. At the same time, Coach Phillips said he is excited to be in such a great league, with intense competition and phenomenal coaches and other athletes for him and his team to learn from. In the year ahead, Coach Phillips is eagerly anticipating the final chapter of a remarkable journey with a team featuring no fewer than 16 seniors, many of whom have been teammates since their early years in youth leagues.

Among these talented seniors, quarterback Gabe Motschenbacher stands out as a player Coach Phillips describes as “super under the radar.” After patiently waiting behind a three-year starter in Ryan Oliver, Motschenbacher is poised to take the reins in 2023.

A football player ready to through the ball
Photo by Britani Kavanaugh & Undefeated Films

Other senior leaders to watch this season include tight end and linebacker Tashi Crofut, linebacker

Charlie McPhee, cornerback Jake Moleiro, and linemen Chris Azari, Joey Massarri and Tim Price.

Motschenbacher will be joined by an exciting array of skill position players on both offense

and defense, including senior tight end Joey Olsen, who has long been recognized as one of the state’s top passcatchers, along with the emerging talents of sophomore receiver Marcus Post and

sophomore running back Anu Sanoe.

These young players, along with several other underclassmen, are expected to play significant roles for the Lakeridge team in the upcoming season. Coach Phillips is particularly hopeful about the potential breakout of rising sophomore Joe Wieler along the offensive line.

Despite the promise of the offense, Coach Phillips places a strong emphasis on the role of the defense in determining the Pacers’ success this season. While Tualatin and West Linn were the only teams in the TRL to outscore the Pacers, the team’s defensive performance left room for improvement.

The two teams will meet for a crosstown showdown in the season finale on October 27 at Lake Oswego High School.

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