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Kool and the gang blow past Black Tornado

Robbie Kool accounts for 252 yards in total offense and three touchdowns; and Tyrell Fortune adds 175 yards rushing
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lakeridge quarterback Robbie Kool leaps across the goal line to complete a 54-yard scramble on a broken play. Kool ran for 118 yards and passed for another 134 as Lakeridge rolled to an easy 33-17 victory over North Medford. The Pacers’ offense exploded for 521 yards in the team’s season opener.

Like many schools in the state, the Lakeridge football team has never had much luck against North Medford. But last Friday night was a different story as the Pacers rolled to a convincing season-opening 33-17 victory over the Black Tornado.

The Pacers' explosive offense was clicking on all cylinders through the first three quarters as they jumped to a commanding 33-3 lead. If not for some untimely penalties, the lead easily could have been 47-3 at that point.

Clearly, the Pacers are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

'We've got some players that can play, and they're fun to watch,' Lakeridge coach Rob Kool said after his offense exploded for 521 yards.

The Lakeridge defense, which had been a question mark coming into the season, also played well, especially if you discount the two scores the Black Tornado picked up late in the game.

'I think (the defense) stepped up when they had to and I think the kids got better throughout the game,' Kool said. 'And North Medford has some pretty quick kids. They're an athletic team.'

But it was the Lakeridge offense that stole the show. Leading the way was the coach's son, senior quarterback Robbie Kool, who passed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and added another 118 yards on the ground, including a long touchdown run that capped the scoring for the Pacers.

Not to be outdone was senior running back Tyrell Fortune, a transfer from Parkrose who carried the ball 19 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Heading into preseason practices, coach Kool figured that Travis Dunn would be the team's top running back, although Fortune was expected to see a lot of time as the No. 2 guy. On Friday, those roles wound up being reversed.

'We really don't have a starting position. It's basically just on a rotation basis,' Fortune said after his big night.

The bruising 235-pound running back set the tone for the game when he ran 62 yards for a touchdown on Lakeridge's fifth play of the game. Fortune broke at least three tackles on that play, including one at the 25-yard line where the would-be tackler spun the runner around in a 360-degree circle.

'I knew I had to keep my feel moving and keep them up because I knew they would be going for my legs,' Fortune said.

'He's our Earl Campbell,' coach Kool said of Fortune. 'He's a real physical kid and he loves to play. As he gets more comfortable in our offense and with our schemes, I think he's going to get better.'

That long run by Fortune gave the Pacers the lead for good, at 7-3, and came less than three minutes after Alex Russell kicked a 41-yard kick goal that capped North Medford's opening drive of the game.

This year's Tornado team lacks the size of many of their previous teams, and they didn't have much of a chance to stop Fortune once he got his momentum going. He finished the first half with 125 yards and then tacked on another 50 in the third quarter.

'It felt really good. It was my first time playing a full game with these guys and I feel like I'm at home right now,' Fortune said.

Then there was Kool, the quarterback, who managed to slip out of the grasp of North Medford defenders on several occasions. Three times he was able to turn almost certain sacks into sizeable gains.

'I was just trying to make something happen,' he said. 'Then, when my linemen see me scrambling around, they keep making blocks. They're a big part of that.'

'Those kind of quarterbacks are difficult and we don't like facing them, either,' coach Kool said. 'You do everything right defensively, you think you have the play stopped and then all of sudden the quarterback is running around and it's a first down.'

But the younger Kool didn't bolt past the line of scrimmage every time he got into trouble. The most notable instance came early in the second quarter when he was forced from the pocket. Instead of running for a first down, Kool stopped and found Anthony Marincovich streaking down the middle of the field for a 39-yard touchdown pass. That gave Lakeridge a 14-3 lead.

Fortune pushed the lead to 20-3 with a three-yard scoring run just before the half. Robbie Kool then made it 26-3 in the third quarter when he hooked up with Erik Hillier on a 17-yard scoring pass. Robbie Kool capped the Pacers' scoring when he scrambled for a 54-yard TD on his team's next possession.

'It was just a great effort by everyone. The whole team came out fired up for the first game of the season … We felt we had a lot to prove, because a lot of people picked us to finish third or fourth in our own league. We're just trying to prove to everyone that we can play,' the quarterback said afterward.

He completed only 7 of 16 passes but many of those completions went for big yards. Part of the credit went to the Lakeridge receiving corps. Joe Kloucek led the way for that group with three receptions for 62 yards. Hillier tacked on two catches for 41 yards. Then there was Marincovich's long touchdown catch and tight end Billy Mitchell hauled in a pass for a 16-yard gain.