Now THIS is what the Civil War should look like
Well isn't this fun? It wasn't all that long ago that I entered the stadium at Lake Oswego High School for the annual Civil War football game with a pair of thoughts in my head.
1. "I just hope no one from Lakeridge gets killed." And:
2. "This just doesn't seem right."
The Pacers were in the midst of perhaps their most trying season in school history. Lakeridge started the year with barely enough players to field a squad, was hit hard by illness leading up to the Civil War, and ultimately lost 47-0.
It was tough to watch.
The Battle of the Lake has a long history of being wildly competitive and emotional and, more often than not, playoff positioning, not to mention bragging rights, are on the line. But not on that night.
There was never a doubt in my mind that Lakeridge could turn its program around to become a state power again. The school, even with the smallest enrollment of any other public 6A school in the state, has always been chock full of athletes and that had never changed.
But I'll admit I wasn't sure if the Pacers ever would fully return to glory.
I'm happy to say I was wrong. This year's team, just three years removed from suffering perhaps the most lopsided Civil War defeat in the rivalry's history, is one of the most exciting prep football teams I've had the pleasure of watching.
Coach Tom Smythe has upped the program's numbers and has utilized its wealth of talented skill players to roll out a squad that seems capable of scoring on every play.
The team is undefeated and is deservedly ranked fifth in the state. Whereas just a few years ago, the Pacers simply wanted to be able to play out the string with any victories only serving as a bonus to the year, the goals for Lakeridge have increased from "being competitive" to "making the playoffs" to "contending for state." In three years.
And as remarkable as that turnaround has been, perhaps equally remarkable has been the string of continued success that Lake Oswego's program has enjoyed over the past decade.
Despite losing Division I caliber players nearly every year to graduation, the team has managed to regroup every season to put together a squad capable of challenging for state.
To go an entire decade with virtually no down year mixed in? A 40-game league winning streak? It's incredible.
So, on Friday, these rivals will square off again on as equal footing as has existed between them in years.
Not only has the rivalry been restored, this may very well be the most anticipated game between the two teams in the rivalry's history.
The winner will have a huge leg-up in the fight for a league title.
And I can't think of a football game in my eight years at this paper that I've anticipated watching more.
These teams are both thrilling to watch. Lakeridge's Blake Dutton is leading all 6A players in touchdowns while Lake Oswego's Steven Long has already broken school records.
The Lakers' Stevie Coury has been one of the state's most dangerous deep threats and both teams' quarterbacks have been the epitome of calm under pressure.
And Lakeridge's bandbox stadium will be bursting at the seams this Friday with thousands expected to be in attendance.
Now this is more like it. The Lakers and Pacers will always be heated rivals but a rivalry is never better than when both teams are playing at an elite level.
That may have never been more the case than it will be this Friday.