Pacers could have most explosive offense yet
The Lakeridge football team could use another 20 names or so on its depth chart, but that might be the only problem the program faces this year.
'I'm a little worried about our depth … But, offensively, we're going to be as explosive as we've ever been. And defensively, we'll be as fast as we've ever been,' Lakeridge head coach Rob Kool said earlier this week.
That's saying a lot, especially in regards to the offense, because Lakeridge enjoyed possibly its best year ever on offense last season. That offense featured an incredible three-pronged attack that included quarterback Robbie Kool, the Three Rivers League offensive player of the year, plus all-league running back Zach Young and all-league wide receiver Taylor Young.
Outsiders wondered if the Pacers would fall on bad times this year after Taylor Young graduated and Zach Young transferred to Lake Oswego. The departure of the Youngs certainly hurt the Pacers, but they didn't leave the team's cupboard bare. Far from it.
For starters, Robbie Kool looks even better than last year. Plus, he's fully recovered from the broken collar bone he suffered late last season.
'He's throwing the ball real well,' coach Kool said of his son. 'We're expecting a lot from him this year.'
The younger Kool is a multiple weapon all by himself. In the past, his greatest asset was his ability to scramble out of trouble and turn broken plays into big gains. But the lanky senior (he's 6-foot-2, 172 pounds) proved he's just as good at passing the ball. The confirmation came this summer when he attended a quarterback camp in Las Vegas and won the golden arm award, beating out some notable college prospects.
The young Kool is the kind of player who can beat a team all by himself, but he won't have to.
Replacing Zach Young at running back will be Travis Dunn. He's bigger than Young and just as fast. The coach wouldn't be surprised to see Dunn reel off several 100-yard rushing games this season.
The role that Taylor Young had will now be filled by junior Erik Hillier and senior Joe Kloucek, a pair of very capable receivers. Both could easily post big numbers this season in Lakeridge's wide-open offense.
Then there's tight end Billy Mitchell, a 6-4, 200-pound junior. Last spring, he qualified for state in the 100-meter dash. The combination of his size and speed will make him a difficult person for anyone to cover.
'He's going to be a great weapon,' coach Kool said.
The remaining skill position in Lakeridge's pro-style offense will be the H-back, a spot that will be shared by Anthony Marincovich and Tyrell Fortune.
Fortune, a 6-2, 230-pound transfer from Parkrose, is a five-time national champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. He'll also spell Dunn at times at running back.
There should be plenty of room to run with Lakeridge's big line opening holes. The biggest guy on the line is right tackle William Hodgeman, a 6-4, 319-pounder, who hails from New Zealand.
The remainder of the line includes left tackle Luke Schindler (6-1, 200), left guard Elliott Olson (6-4, 275), center Steve Behbahany (5-11, 225) and right guard Ryan Ferris (5-8, 205).
Because of Lakeridge's lack of depth, many of the team's top offensive players also will be called on to play defense.
Fortune, Hodgeman and Behbahany will anchor the defensive line, but they'll also get plenty of help from Kenny Dew and Tyree Fortune (5-11, 250), Tyrell's twin brother.
The linebacking corps will be led by Tanner Janney, a second-team all-league selection last year. He'll get help there from Ferris and Sean Belding. Marincovich will be the key player at the rover position; and Dunn, Mitchell and Cam Gerson will make up the defensive backfield.
'We will be inexperienced at some positions on defense, but we'll be extremely athletic,' coach Kool said.
'As fast as some of these players are, there's no reason why they can't be dominating,' the coach added.
As for the overall squad, 'I think they're going to be an impressive group,' Kool said. 'But with our numbers, we have to play our best all of the time.'
We'll find out right away whether Lakeridge is ready to challenge the state's elite. The Pacers will get tested right out of the gate when they open the season at home next Friday against North Medford, which has possibly the most storied football program in Oregon.
Week two will bring a road game against Centennial, which returns almost every starter from last year. Week four will bring a crucial league contest against West Linn. Then Clackamas is on tap for week six and Lake Oswego will be the Pacers' final regular-season opponent.
The Lake Oswego game will be an interesting contest because it will pit Zach Young against his former teammates.
'Zach is a great kid,' coach Kool said. 'We'll miss him as a player … but it hurt us more that he's going to our archrival.
'We hope he does well against everybody but us.'