From pep rallies and police escorts to pregame festivities and post-game celebrations, Laker Spirit spilled out of Lake Oswego High and across the entire community Friday and Saturday as LOHS prepared for — and then won — the 6A state championship football game.
Students at the high school were treated to a loud and joyous assembly on Friday — yes, football players can dance, too — before the Laker band, cheerleaders and football team took the show on the road to three elementary schools and Lake Oswego Junior High.
Students and teachers at the schools lined the hallways, cheering and high-fiving the high school football stars.
Elementary students, many in Laker jerseys and other gear, gleefully high-fived players and bragged to their friends about personal connections with them—"He's my neighbor!" One Laker cheerleader has a sibling at the junior high, and stopped to hug and take a picture with her.
"It's so fun seeing all of the kids cheering them on, and I love seeing the players reconnect with old teachers," said LOHS Secretary Terrie Sheik. "We also did this back in 2011, the last time they went to state. Everyone gets so excited."
At LOJ, middle-school band members joined in the fun, accompanying the older musicians through the halls. Football players and cheerleaders hugged former teachers and received well wishes for their big game the next day.
On Saturday, hundreds of students, parents and community members lined the LOHS driveway and surrounding streets for a raucous sendoff for the team.
To the steady beat of the Laker band, players made their way through a tunnel of cheering students to waiting buses, which were escorted to the city limits by police, firefighters and flag-waving fans in a parade of vehicles.
Three of the buses were filled with Laker students, who soon descended on Hillsboro Stadium en masse. Waiting for them there under Laker-blue awnings: members of the Associated Student Body, with drinks, snacks and platters of Chick-fil-A nuggets (which didn't last long, needless to say).
Principal Rollin Dickinson made an appearance, although mascot Pilot Joe got more requests to pose for photographs with students decked out in white football jerseys. Nearby, Lauren Welton helped Laura Catlin and others apply "eye white" — a more fashionable version, perhaps, of the streaks of black that players use to reduce glare when they play under the lights.
The stadium parking lot filled quickly with Laker fans of all ages, many of whom set up mini-tailgate parties as kickoff approached. Gabe Miller, a 2006 LOHS grad, gathered his family around a makeshift campfire to keep warm and reminisced about playing in the 2004 state championship game. "An experience you never forget," he said.
That sentiment was more than apparent during the game — a nail-biter that really wasn't decided until Casey Filkins scored his fifth touchdown with just a little more than two minutes on the clock and Cody Carlson recovered a Sheldon fumble on the ensuing drive to seal the win.
While players and coaches gathered at the 50-yard line for the trophy presentation, students who had been on their feet for the entire game rushed the field to join in the celebration. They were followed by hundreds of parents and family members, who quickly found their sons and then posed for photos.
There were lots of smiles, of course, but emotions were raw as players grasped the significance of what they had just accomplished. Senior Keenan DeRaeve wrapped himself in relatives' arms, his eyes brimming with tears. Filkins, a junior whose remarkable performance earned him player-of-the-game honors, was still trying to compose himself as reporters with microphones and cameras encircled him.
"I was just struck with a wave of emotion," Filkins said. "It all hit me — these past 14 weeks just hit me in the face. It's over now, but it ended in the best way possible."
Senior quarterback Jackson Laurent felt the same way.
"I just started crying with some of my guys (when the game ended)," he said. "I just couldn't contain it. I couldn't hold it in. Everybody that I've worked with since the summer, everybody I worked with for the past four years, it paid off. It's the best feeling in the world."
Steve Coury was emotional too. Saturday's win was the second state championship for the legendary coach, who has led the Lakers for nearly three decades. Last week, he was named Three Rivers League coach of the year.
With reporters and supporters gathered around him, Coury said he knew early in the season that this team could go all the way. "This is a group that just believed in themselves," he said.
It was obvious Saturday that an entire community believed in them too.
"Great coaches. Great kids. Great season," said Lake Oswego resident John Prescott as he surveyed the post-game celebration. "They made us proud."