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One play difference in key tilt

by: Vern Uyetake, Lakeridge’s Erik Hillier, far left, is wrestled to the ground after making a 29-yard catch that moved the Pacers into scoring position at the end of last Friday’s game against West Linn. Lakeridge failed to score after Hillier’s big play and wound up losing the game 21-14. It was Lakeridge’s first loss of the season.

For a non-partisan football fan, last Friday's game between Lakeridge and West Linn was easily worth the price of admission. But Lakeridge fans probably won't have very fond memories of the game.

Aside from a rash of penalties, Lakeridge controlled most of the game. Then the tide turned with nine minutes to go, when West Linn took the lead for good. The Lions then held on for a 21-14 victory despite a furious Lakeridge rally at the end.

It was the end of the game that will have people talking for a while to come.

With 1:05 left in the contest, the Pacers had the ball on their own 42. They were down by seven and had no times out left. But they advanced the ball quickly, taking just six plays to move the ball to the West Linn 6.

After a pair of incomplete passes, only 1.6 seconds remained in the game. With time for just one more play, virtually everyone in the Lake Oswego district stadium assumed Lakeridge would pass the ball.

Instead, Lakeridge coach Rob Kool picked the option that no one expected. He chose to run the ball on an option pitch left to Zach Young. It's one of the most effective plays in Lakeridge's playbook. But West Linn's defense snuffed out the run before Young ever had a chance to turn the corner at the line of scrimmage.

Yet, if he had the opportunity to redo the play, Kool might call another run.

'I was hoping we could get them thinking pass at the end and get them on the edge real quick, two on one. But we didn't block it very well,' Kool said.

West Linn coach Ron Chappell was among those who was convinced Lakeridge would throw the ball at the end. He even considered taking a time out moments before so he could set his defense.

'I was going over in my mind whether I should take a time out and get the defense in there that we wanted,' Chappell said. 'But the (West Linn) kids were playing so well, I didn't want to stop their momentum.'

The momentum belonged to Lakeridge through most of the first half and the third quarter. But the Pacers managed only a 14-13 lead during that span, largely because of some solid defensive play by West Linn and some untimely penalties by Lakeridge.

The Pacers' scores came on a nifty 27-yard option run by quarterback Robbie Kool and a five-yard scoring toss from Kool to Taylor Young.

The Pacers also got two extra points from Nick Poggi. Those kicks would loom large later on when West Linn missed an extra point attempt to remain one point behind at 14-13.

For a while, it seemed as though the game might end that way. But early in the fourth quarter, West Linn put together a 49-yard scoring drive that mainly featured running back Kyle Quinn. He had 30 yards during that drive, which ended with the back's two-yard touchdown run. A two-point run by Quinn then made it 21-14 with 8:28 left in the contest.

After a series of possession changes, Lakeridge found itself with a final chance to tie the game. But time was definitely not the Pacers' friend at that point.

Using a hurry-up offense, Robbie Kool immediately found Zach Young for a 13-yard gain. Then, on the next play, there was a 15-yard connection to Taylor Young that took the ball to the West Linn 35.

After a spike to stop the clock, Kool found Erik Hillier slicing down the left seam for a 29-yard gain to the West Linn 6. Another spike and then an incomplete pass into the end zone left Lakeridge with just one chance to score the equalizer.

The broken running play that followed will be blamed by many for the Pacers' loss, but there were numerous other missed opportunities that hurt Lakeridge's chances.

'Like I told my team after the game, we can't beat a team that good if we're going to continue to make mental errors,' coach Kool said. 'More than anything it was the penalties. We did some things that put us in first-and-20 and first-and-this-and-that.

'Hopefully, it's a lesson learned. It's two weeks in a row that we've done that. I'm hoping it's going to sink in sooner or later.'

Coming into the season, many people around the Three Rivers League picked West Linn to finish in the bottom half of the league standings. But after beating Clackamas two weeks ago, West Linn is obviously a much better team than many people expected.

'I want to give all the credit in the world to West Linn,' coach Kool said. 'I thought their kids played extremely well and they executed well … We knew coming in that they were a pretty good football team.'

The Lions won the game despite nearly losing quarterback Mychal Zito in the first half to what was believed to be a broken right fibula, the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. As it turned out, Zito only suffered a deep bone bruise, but the injury was severe enough that it should have knocked him out of the game. Instead, Zito played the rest of the way and wound up completing 12 of 19 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.

Robbie Kool had an equally impressive game, completing 12 of 24 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 81 yards and another score.

Once again, Taylor Young was Kool's favorite receiver with seven catches for 97 yards. But Cam Gerson added three catches for 51 yards, which included one incredible diving catch. Zach Young also had a big game with 115 yards rushing.