Lakeridge will open it up again on offense but a bigger defensive front may lead to more wins

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - From left, Mark Grothe, J.R. McLaughlin, Nick Yun, Marqueese Royster and Eric Dungey will all play key roles for a Lakeridge team that looks to move up the Three Rivers League standings this season.The Lakeridge football team should bear a striking resemblance to last year's on the field, featuring an explosive and versatile offense that can score points in bunches. And, if the team's bigger and more experienced defensive front can live up to its potential in the trenches, the Pacers could be in store for some big things this year.

The Pacers graduated some heavy hitters in three-year starting quarterback Tom Knecht and receiver Blake Dutton but Lakeridge has high hopes for sophomore Eric Dungey, who replaced Knecht last year as a freshman after Knecht's injury.

“Man for man I think we're comparable to last year. You obviously can't just replace a guy like Tom Knecht but Eric is really talented and gives us something we didn't have last year with the way he can run,” coach Tom Smythe said.

Dungey is dangerous when he gets out of the pocket and a primary goal this year will be keeping him healthy.

“We're teaching him how to slide and knowing where the boundary is,” Smythe said.

Lakeridge returns four starting offensive linemen and the corps of Randall Souers, Tyler Moncrieff, Joey Miller, Dougal Watson and Chris Barman could be one of the Pacers' best in a few seasons.

Lakeridge has a pair of talented and explosive backs in Nick Yun and Alex Alamida who also double as dangerous kick returners.

As has been the case for the past few years, Lakeridge has a slough of talented receivers. Mark Grothe, who may also see some time at quarterback this year, and J.R. McLaughlin will be key targets for Dungey along with Madison Pihl, Rich Hiller and Dane Reinhart.

Grothe, McLaughlin, Phil and Jared Perez will give the Pacers an athletic and speedy secondary.

“All of those kids can run and play well in space,” Smythe said.

Lakeridge also has an impressive linebacking corps that will feature Souers, Barman, Chase Marshall, Kyle Jonsson, Clark Smith and Storm Olund.

On the defensive line, Lakeridge will be anchored by junior Marqueese Royster, a transfer from Lake Oswego, along with Moncrieff , Watson, Massen Newton and Mike Van Allen.

“We're bigger on defense than we have been and I think that size and experience makes us a little better than we were last year,” Smythe said.

The Pacers may experience a few growing pains early in the season as some of their skill players get their feet wet but, when at full speed, the team should, once again, be fun to watch and dangerous to face.

“We'll definitely be explosive but we'll have some games where we misfire occasionally,” Smythe said.

Lakeridge thought it was taking on a very difficult non-league schedule last year with games against North Medford and Hillsboro but both of those teams experienced down seasons.

This year, the Pacers will be exceptionally battle-tested heading into league play.

Lakeridge emerged victorious after getting a good game from Eastlake, Wash. The Pacers will play West Albany, one of the best teams in 5A in the state, and they will face Tigard the following week, a team that recently throttled Canby in its opener.

Interestingly, Smythe will square off against three former players in the Three Rivers League this year. Along with Lake Oswego's Steve Coury and Clackamas' Joe Bushman, new West Linn coach Mike Fanger also played quarterback for Smythe at Lakeridge. In the Pacers' opener, Eastlake's quarterback was the son of former all-state Pacer quarterback Todd Beahm.

“Top to bottom it's very strong. Lake Oswego's still the class of the league but every game should be very competitive,” Smythe said.

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