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Pacers have no answers for Sprague

If Canby handled Sprague the first week of the season and Lakeridge handled Canby the following week, it only stands to reason that Lakeridge should have been heavily favored against Sprague last week. Unfortunately for the Pacers, things don't always work out according to prognostications.

Because of the aforementioned scenario, Lakeridge coach Rob Kool admits that his squad might have been overlooking Sprague coming into last Friday's game. However, Sprague is not a team that should be overlooked.

The visiting Olympians proved that with a punishing ground game that chewed up large chunks of the clock and seemingly converted every third down that presented itself.

'It was kind of a slow death,' Lakeridge coach Rob Kool said of his team's 28-18 non-league loss to Sprague. 'They came out and just punched us in the mouth.'

It certainly wasn't the kind of loss that leaves a team embarrassed but the Pacers were hoping to enter this week's crucial showdown against Clackamas on a much better note.

The key will be regaining the intensity the Pacers showed the first week of the season when they convincingly beat a good Canby team.

'If we had played with the same intensity as we did against Canby, (the Sprague) game could have been a lot different,' Kool said.

Coming into last Friday's contest, the Pacers knew Sprague was a good running team. The ground game has been the Olympians' forte for several years. Although not as big as Canby, Sprague still has a powerhouse offensive line and a stable full of interchangeable running backs.

Last Friday, those running backs seemed to be coming at the Pacers in waves. By the end of the night, the Olympians carried the ball an amazing 65 times for 334 yards. They had six players rush for 25 yards or more, led by the 128 from Tony Wilson.

'They were just more physical than we were,' Kool said. 'We didn't do a very good job of stopping them.'

As a result, the Sprague offense held the ball for more than 30 minutes while the Pacers had just 17 minutes of possession.

Yet, despite Sprague's ability to run the ball with relative ease, the game stayed close almost the entire way. In fact, the outcome remained in doubt until Sprague's Nick Solano returned an interception for a touchdown late in the game. That pushed the Olympians' lead to 28-12.

Until that point, Lakeridge had a fair amount of success on offense. Not surprisingly, the Pacers were led by junior running back Zach Young, who rushed for 112 yards on just 13 carries - an average of 8.6 yards per attempt.

He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns. The first one, a one-yard run, cut Sprague's first-quarter lead to 7-6. Then, after a second-quarter touchdown run by Solano, Young answered with a 73-yard scoring gallop that cut Lakeridge's deficit to 14-12 in the third period.

'We moved the ball,' the coach said. 'We just had trouble getting the ball away from them.'

The Olympians separated themselves a bit in the final stanza, which included a two-yard scoring run by Tyler Waters and Solano's interception return for a score. The Pacers made the final score respectable when they tacked on a late touchdown, this time on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Robbie Kool to Young.

Wide receiver Taylor Young will usually turn in a good game for Lakeridge, but Sprague managed to limit his effectiveness by holding him to just two catches. With the Sprague defense concentrating so much on Taylor Young, the Pacers were forced to look more to other receivers.

'Taylor was good on defense but (Sprague) did a good job of taking him out of the loop (on offense),' coach Kool said. So, Zach Young and Erik Hillier helped fill the void by catching two passes each.

For the night, Robbie Kool connected on 8 of 16 pass attempts for 131 yards, but he also threw three interceptions. However, probably only one of those interceptions was his fault.

Now, after starting the season with three consecutive victories, the Pacers have now dropped two straight. But it's hardly time to panic.

'I think we still have a really good team,' coach Kool said.

The Pacers will have to be good if they hope to knock off Clackamas, a team that was ranked in the state's top 10 at the beginning of the season.

'You'd like to go into that game with a little bit more of a swagger and some confidence,' the coach said. '(But) it's like a playoff game and we have to approach it that way.'

The Pacers also experienced a mid-season lull last year, but they finished the season strong, which included an impressive playoff win over Pendleton. Coach Kool is hoping for a virtual repeat.