Mistakes doom Pacers in loss to West Linn

by:  VERN UYETAKE Lakeridge’s Chris Scaffa (No. 52) and Brandon Crane combine to sack West Linn quarterback Logan Ems in the Pacers’ 31-26 loss to the Lions last week.

Heading into last Thursday's game with West Linn, Lakeridge's football team knew it needed a win to stay alive in the race for the league title.

Now the Pacers know they will need a strong finish in their final two regular season games just to secure an automatic playoff berth.

In a season where a lot has gone right for the Pacers, just about anything that could have gone wrong did against the Lions.

Lakeridge turned the ball over six times and spotted West Linn a 21-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

And yet, despite all of that, the Pacers made things very interesting in the second half, forcing West Linn to reel off two clutch fourth-quarter drives to preserve a 31-26 win.

Lakeridge struggled out of the gate coming off an emotional loss to Lake Oswego last week and having one fewer day to practice for the ninth-ranked Lions.

Lakeridge went three-and-out on its opening drive and West Linn scored in just three plays, all runs by Mason Finnerty.

The Pacers then fumbled the next kick-off and the Lions scored in just three plays again.

Then, following a big reception being negated by a penalty, Tom Knecht's pass was intercepted and returned to the 14-yard line.

West Linn would punch it in again on fourth-and-two, making it 21-0 with 7:05 to go in the opening quarter.

Knecht was intercepted again on Lakeridge's next drive and West Linn threatened to run away with the game in the first half.

But, to the Pacers' credit, the team's defense played exceptionally well to keep the team in the game.

Lakeridge effectively slowed down West Linn's powerful running attack for the rest of the half.

The Pacers finally mounted a drive, moving deep into West Linn territory before a conversion on fourth-and-10 was fumbled for the team's fourth turnover of the half.

But, just one play later, West Linn fumbled right back to the Pacers.

Knecht then hit Brandon Loiler for a 22-yard score on the final play of an eventful opening quarter to make it 21-7.

A bad snap on a punt gave West Linn great field position again, starting at Lakeridge's 17-yard line but the Pacers' defense dug in and forced a 31-yard field goal attempt that was missed.

West Linn would tack on a 39-yard field goal to close the half but, trailing 24-7, Lakeridge felt fortunate that the team was still within striking distance.

Early in the third quarter, three consecutive drives ended with interceptions. Knecht was picked off but Mark Grothe came up with a big defensive play on the other end for Lakeridge.

But the Pacers couldn't sustain a drive, turning the ball over for a sixth time.

Still, Lakeridge's defense held firm and it seemed like only a matter of time before the vaunted Pacer offense found its rhythm.

Late in the third quarter, the Pacers finally broke through again.

A 32-yard reception by Justin Luevano set up a one-yard plunge by Dylan Erwin.

The Lions then went three-and-out and a bad snap on the punt gave the Pacers the ball at West Linn's 24-yard line.

Dylan Gaar then scored on a two-yard run to make it 24-20 with 11 minutes to play in the game.

But West Linn responded with a key drive. Starting on its own 23-yard line the Lions gave the ball to Finnerty eight straight times and West Linn's offensive line was finally able to open some lanes.

Finnerty scored on a five-yard run to make it 31-20 with 7:36 to play.

Lakeridge came back quickly. A flea-flicker to Luevano went for 40 yards and a first-down run and reception by Blake Dutton set up a two-yard touchdown run from Knecht.

Lakeridge's two-point conversion attempt failed leaving the score 31-26 with 5:25 remaining in the game.

West Linn took over at the 32-yard line and, once again, ran straight at Lakeridge with Finnerty. The Lions converted on fourth-and-inches but were then faced with third-and-nine with a minute and a half to play.

To that point, West Linn had thrown for less than 30 yards in the game but quarterback Logan Ems hit Sean Byrne for a 25-yard gain and the Lions were able to run out the clock.

Lakeridge will look to turn around its sudden losing streak this Friday against a strong Oregon City team.

The Pioneers have played both West Linn and Canby tough this season. Lakeridge can still avoid a play-in game with wins over Oregon City and Canby, its two final games of the regular season.