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Civil War game big regardless of records

Technically speaking, absolutely nothing is riding on the outcome of this year's installment of the annual Civil War football game between Lake Oswego and Lakeridge. But looks can be deceiving.

It's a seemingly meaningless game for top-ranked Lake Oswego, which wrapped up the Three Rivers League title two weeks ago with a win over Clackamas. And the Pacers can't make the state playoffs, even if they beat Lake Oswego on Friday.

So, why is this game being hyped as though it was the most important game of the season?

Well, Lakeridge would like nothing more than to hand the rival Lakers their first loss of the season. Lake Oswego, on the other hand, wants to keep its momentum going for a possible deep run in the playoffs.

It doesn't matter whether one of the teams is heavily favored, or has more talent. In this series, anything can happen.

'I expect our kids to play extremely hard,' Lakeridge coach Rob Kool said. 'We're there to win. That's our mind set.'

Most of the players on the two teams have known each other for years. And many of them have played against other since the third grade. It's the one game each year that you don't want to lose.

'It doesn't matter which team has more talent, or who has the better record. It's just two teams playing for a lot of pride,' Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury said.

Adding an interesting twist to this year's rivalry game is the fact that Lake Oswego's top running back, Zach Young, played for Lakeridge until this year.

Young's loss was a bitter pill for some Pacer fans to swallow. One of them even suggested that Young was seriously injured earlier this week during a Lake Oswego practice.

For the record, Young is fine and ready to take on his ex-mates.

A bigger concern might be whether the Lakeridge defense will be head-hunting for Young when he is on the field. But Kool has warned his players not to do that.

'I think all of that stuff is over-rated,' Coury said of the supposed showdown against Young. 'But I'm sure (the Pacers) still have incentive to beat their friend.'

For other teams that have faced Young, the biggest challenge has been containing him before he breaks into the secondary. When that has happened in the past, Young has been nearly impossible to stop.

'He's having a great, exceptional senior year,' Coury said of Young, who is the state's No. 2 rusher with 1,555 yards. He also has a state-leading 26 touchdowns.

Certainly, Lakeridge could have benefited from having Young in its lineup this year. But it would have been difficult, even for him, to overcome all of the injuries that have beset the Pacers this fall.

Even when they were at full strength during preseason practice, the Pacers barely had enough players to fill a depth chart. Then, the Pacers had to endure injuries that sidelined nine key players for at least a portion of the season.

'It's just been an unfortunate season,' Kool said. 'With just 22 varsity kids, it's been a challenge.'

To their credit, the Pacers never gave up and they were never over-matched in any of their five losses.

'What do you want to do?' Kool asked his players when the injuries began to take hold. 'Do you want to quit and go home?'

No one picked that option.

'You just have to pick yourself up and continue to fight,' Kool said.

The Pacers will have their hands full with the Lakers, who have earned their top ranking in the state. But Lakeridge won't be a pushover, either.

'This is a big game, so we want to take care of that,' Coury said. 'But, it's always an important game for both teams … (the game) has a life of its own.'