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December 10, 2011
Tom Bergeron is the Senior Editor for RivalsHigh.com. Send ideas, questions or comments to TBergero@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow on Twitter.
After years of coming up short in the state title game ... years of wondering what it would feel like to finally win one ... Lake Oswego (Ore.) High put the ball in the hands of someone who had experienced the moment and rode him to its first title.
Steven Long, who won an Oregon Class 5A state last season as a member of Sherwood (Ore.) High, led Lake Oswego to its ultimate goal by rushing for 322 yards and four TDs in an overpowering 47-14 victory over Sheldon (Ore.) High Saturday.
Long, who carried the ball 42 times, had lots of help up front as the Lake Oswego line was too much for Sheldon.
The game marked the end of one of the strongest high school seasons in recent memory in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
Lake Oswego (14-0) entered the game at No. 41 in the RivalsHigh100. With its effort, the Lakers will have a shot of moving into the Top 25. Sheldon, which came in at No. 21, may still finish in the Top 50.
Their seasons, combined with the efforts of No. 4 Bellevue (Wash.) High and No. 94 Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) High, will give the region an impressive four teams in the final rankings.
RivalsHigh.com national analyst Dallas Jackson said the region's rankings are well earned.
"Oregon, especially, has had a very solid season with five teams that really could make a case for national rankings," he said. "With the top three in Washington and Idaho being represented, it was an outstanding year.
"The win by this Lake Oswego game was an exclamation point on a really top notch season in the Pacific Northwest."
Long, meanwhile, gave Oswego what it really wanted - a state title.
"We really had no answer for Steven Long," Sheldon coach Lane Johnson told OregonLive.com. "He looked good on film, but he looked way better in person."
Especially in the second half.
The game was still close at halftime, with Lake Oswego holding a 17-14 edge. Then the 5-8, 175-pound Long came up big.
Long had second-half scoring runs of 51, 2 and 50 yards to put the game out of reach and bring Lake Oswego its first title after runner-up finishes in 2008, 2004 and 2002.
Of course, this first-title stuff is old hat for Long, who ran for 217 yards a year ago to lead Sherwood to its first title. Long then transferred to Lake Oswego for his senior year; he'll play at Portland State next season.
"It's their first state title, and last year was our first state title, and to come out and have a big game again, you've got to thank the big guys up front," Long said. "I'm just blessed to be in this situation."
The big guys up front helped Long run for 2,205 yards and 37 touchdowns this season - a season Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury won't soon forget.
"I told my assistant guys, as I'm hugging them, 'What took us so long?'" he told OregonLive.com. "I really don't know. I don't know what we did different this time."
Except keep going to the one player who had been there before.