Lakeridge's football season took somewhat of a catastrophic turn last week when senior quarterback Tommy Knecht, who has been the catalyst of the team's complex and high-scoring offense, broke his hand against Oregon City.
Knecht is done for the season and left in the middle of the second quarter. The Pacers held a two-touchdown lead at the half but a glut of turnovers kept Lakeridge off the board in the second half and allowed Oregon City to rally for a 35-27 win.
Lakeridge has now lost three straight games and will need a victory over a strong Canby team on Friday and some luck to finish in the top-three.
"Even if we win and set up a three-way tie then we'd have to win a coin flip so when you do the match we'll probably be playing a game next week which is fine. In reality it doesn't make much difference. Once you're in the playoffs it's all about match ups," Lakeridge coach Tom Smythe said.
Lakeridge was rolling the first half, putting up points in bunches as usual.
The team scored three minutes into the game on a 10-yard run by Blake Dutton.
Four minutes later the Pacers went up 14-0 on a 37-yard strike from Knecht to Dutton.
Oregon City moved the ball well against Lakeridge's offense but didn't appear like it would be able to keep up with the Pacers in the game.
Dutton broke a pretty 58-yard scoring run to answer an Oregon City score but the Pioneers responded to cut the lead to 20-14.
On Lakeridge's next drive, Knecht kept the ball on an option play and was tackled. He got up from the pile and immediately went to the sideline, having broken two bones in his hand.
The Pacers' back-up quarterback Mark Grothe had also been banged up in the game and third-stringer J.R. McLaughlin was hampered with shin splits prior to the kick-off.
"I was looking around and had no idea who we were going to put in," Smythe said.
The Pacers ultimately went with Dutton who had never taken a snap at quarterback in a game in his career.
Lakeridge would score on the drive when Dylan Gaar broke a 46-yard run off a hook and ladder play and the Pacers led 27-14 at the break.
But Lakeridge was visibly shaken by Knecht's injury.
"Everyone just thinks so highly of Tommy. They were all pretty devastated and I was sick to my stomach," Smythe said.
Even without Knecht, Lakeridge continued to move the ball on offense.
But turnovers have been the bane of the team's existence and they hurt Lakeridge again.
The Pacers turned the ball over five times in the second half including twice inside Oregon City's 25-yard line.
"We were trying to be smart with the football. It was just one of those things where the football gods were looking down on us and saying 'there's no way we're going to let you win this game,'" Smythe said.
The Pioneers scored late in the third quarter to make it a one possession game and would then take a one-point lead with 7:18 to play in the game.
Lakeridge then mounted another drive and got all the way down to the Oregon City one-yard line and were primed to punch in what could have been the winning score.
But the Pacers fumbled again before crossing the goal line, giving the ball back to the Pioneers.
Oregon City would then clinch the game, going down for another score with less than a minute to play.
In Lakeridge's three losses the team has committed 16 turnovers.
The Pacers will look to regroup at home tonight against a strong Canby team. Lakeridge will turn to freshman quarterback Eric Dungey who has loads of talent but will face a tough test in his first start.
"He's an excellent athlete and he's about as old as Tommy was when Tommy got his first start. We're trying to simplify things for him in practice but he can make plays. We're still a very good team with a lot of good players," Smythe said.