Season rests on one game
Lakeridge's football season is riding on the outcome of Thursday's game against Clackamas.
Granted, there's still three weeks of the regular season remaining after this week, and a lot could happen between now and then. But to avoid putting themselves in a huge hole in the race for the playoffs, the Pacers have to beat Clackamas this week.
'If we lose this game, essentially we will be out of the playoffs,' Lakeridge coach Rob Kool said as his team prepared for this week's big showdown.
'So, for us, the playoffs start this Thursday,' Kool added.
Lakeridge put itself into the chase mode when it suffered an improbable 13-6 loss to Oregon City three weeks ago.
The Pacers had a chance to recover that lost game two weeks ago against West Linn, but the Lions pulled off a 30-27 victory with a late field goal.
Kool figures the Pacers now must win at least three of their last four league games to have any shot at the playoffs. That means Lakeridge must beat either Clackamas this week or Lake Oswego the final week of the season to have a chance.
Even then, the Pacers have to hope that Clackamas beats Oregon City later on. If that happens, Lakeridge, Clackamas and Oregon City would wind up tied for third and fourth - the TRL's final two playoff spots. A coin flip would then be held to determine which two teams move on and which one stays home.
'You don't want it to come down to a coin toss … so I'd like to win the last four games and not have to worry about it,' Kool said.
Any way you slice, it Thursday's game against Clackamas is huge.
'I think this team hasn't played its best game yet,' Kool said of his squad. 'I'd like to see that happen Thursday night.'
'I also know that Clackamas is a heck of a football team and there's a lot riding on the game for them, too,' the coach added.
For the Pacers, the good news is that they are beginning to get healthy for the first time since preseason. Tanner Janney, who suffered a broken fibula in the opener versus North Medford, will be back for the Clackamas game. So will Ryan Ferris, who was sidelined three weeks ago with a mild concussion.
'We're finally getting healthy,' Kool said. 'The injury bug has made things difficult … especially for a team that is depth challenged.'
But a lack of depth hasn't been Lakeridge's only problem this year. The Pacers also have been plagued by penalties and turnovers.
In a 35-21 non-league loss to Sprague last Friday, the Pacers committed 11 penalties for 80 yards. Plus, a pair of turnovers prevented Lakeridge from making a comeback in that game.
After falling behind 21-7 at halftime, Lakeridge put together a nice drive early in the third quarter and wound up scoring on Tyrell Fortune's one-yard run to cut the deficit to seven points.
The Pacers then forced Sprague to punt the ball away on its next possession, but Lakeridge fumbled the punt away. Sprague scored a short time later to take a 28-14 lead.
'If we hadn't fumbled the ball away, I felt we would have gone in and scored because we were moving the ball,' Kool said.
Later in the game, the Pacers fumbled the ball away again and that led to another Sprague touchdown.
'Breaks have to start going our way,' the Pacers' coach said. 'But I told the kids that we also have to make our own breaks.'
Fortune had the biggest night for the Pacers. He picked up 106 yards on 13 carries - an average of 8.1 yards per attempt. He also had two touchdowns, including a 46-yarder late in the game.
Quarterback Robbie Kool also played well for the Pacers. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 110 yards, and he rushed for 59 more on 12 carries. One of those rushing attempts went for a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Olympians then took control by scoring two more times before the half.