Injury bug bites Pacers
The one thing that the Lakeridge football team feared the most has already reared its ugly head.
With precious little depth, the Pacers couldn't afford to get any of their key players injured this season. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit before Lakeridge entered its league season.
Things got off to a bad start in week one when outside linebacker Sean Belding was knocked out of action for the remainder of the year with a torn ACL.
In that same game (against North Medford), middle linebacker Tanner Janney suffered what was initially believed to be a severe leg bruise. But when he tested that right leg on Monday, he wound up breaking the fibula and is expected to be out of action for four to six weeks.
In addition, the team's biggest lineman, William Hodgman, was injured in the North Medford game and was forced to miss last Friday's 29-24 loss to Centennial. Without Janney, who also played on the offensive line, the Pacers were forced to use a make-shift line against Centennial.
Then, to make matters worse, star quarterback Robbie Kool suffered a pulled hamstring in practice on Thursday. Kool still started Friday's game, but he was hampered enough by the injury that the Lakeidge coaching staff decided to pull him after just two series.
'It was enough where we didn't want to risk him tearing it and being out for the year,' said Rob Kool, the quarterback's father and the Lakeridge head coach.
Everyone in the Lakeridge camp remembers all too well what happened when Kool suffered a broken collar bone in the last regular-season game last year, and then the Pacers had trouble mounting much of an offense in a first-round playoff loss against Barlow.
But coach Kool had no complaints about the way backup quarterback Spencer Trefzger played against Centennial. He engineered three scoring drives for the Pacers and was in the process of leading another one when he threw a game-ending interception.
'I thought Spencer played well,' coach Kool said.
Trefzger's biggest problem wasn't a lack of preparation, but the pressure he had to endure from Centennial's defensive front seven.
'When you don't have the time to throw, you're going to get nailed,' the coach said.
There were some positives that came from the game. Lakeridge amassed 385 total yards for the game. That was 37 more than Centennnial had. It included a 223-yard effort on the ground.
Leading the way there was Tyrell Fortune, who rushed for 116 yards on 16 carries. Travis Dunn added another 97 yards on nine carries. Each of them wound up scoring a rushing touchdown. Dunn got his on a 43-yard carry.
That touchdown by Dunn was just one of several big plays by the Pacers. Fortune had the game's biggest play with a 77-yard carry, and Erik Hillier caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Kool before he left the game.
'There were some positives,' coach Kool said. 'Some young guys got to step up and show what they can do.'
It was a game that Lakeridge never led, although the Pacers always managed to stay within a touchdown.
The victorious Eagles benefited from a balanced attack that featured four ball carriers with at least 40 yards each. Plus, quarterback Kyle Warner completed 8 of 11 passes for 113 yards. And he effectively doled out his completions with four receivers catching two passes each.
'I give all of the kudos to (Centennial) coach Chris Knudsen and his players,' coach Kool said.
The good news for Lakeridge is the loss came against a non-league opponent. Plus, Hodgman and Robbie Kool are expected to be back in action for this week's league opener against Oregon City.
But the Pacers clearly can't afford any more injuries. For the Centennial game, they suited down just 27 varsity players.
'We're like the Marines,' coach Kool said. 'We're the few, the proud, the Pacers … But we just can't afford to lose too many guys.'
Of course, the coach realizes that injuries come with the territory in football, which is the most violent game at the high school level.
'You can't go through a football season without some injuries,' Kool admitted. 'You just don't want to have them late in the year.'