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Pacers win Civil War at the buzzer

Joe Sindlingers 33-yard touchdown catch on the last play of the game hands Lakeridge a 20-14 win over the Lakers


by: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge's Ryan Dunham comes up with an interception during the Pacers' 20-14 victory over Lake Oswego last Friday. It was the Pacers' first win over the Lakers in nine years.It had been nine years since Lakeridge beat Lake Oswego in football. In that time, the Lakers have won a state championship and played in the state semifinals seven times.

Meanwhile Lakeridge has gone through four coaches, advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once, nearly had to forfeit a season because of low numbers and flirted with dropping to 5A.

So a victory over Lake Oswego, no matter how it came, would have been emotional. But throw in a wild game, decided on the final play of regulation on the team's home field during Senior Night? It's the stuff of legends.

Joe Sindlinger, already putting together a solid season for the Pacers, catapulted himself into Lakeridge lore on Friday, hauling in Eric Dungey's 33-yard Hail Mary with no time on the clock to seal a 20-14 victory that not only snapped a long losing streak to the team's crosstown rivals, but kept the Pacers' hopes for a share of the league title in tact as well.

“We've been making improvements and to beat LO in our last home game, we felt like we had to do it,” Lakeridge's Chase Marshall said.

In truth, the Civil War was a mess of a game, featuring nine combined turnovers and had the contest gone to overtime, which appeared likely, both teams would have been kicking themselves over missed opportunities.

After Lakeridge went three-and-out on its opening drive, Vontrell Mills recorded an interception on Lake Oswego's first play from scrimmage.

However, the Pacers wouldn't capitalize as Lake Oswego forced a fumble four plays later, which was recovered by Kenny Oyama.

Late in the first quarter, a pair of big catches by Jordan Horak moved the Lakers into scoring position and Zach Parker would score on a three-yard keeper.

The teams would then trade turnovers again with Lakeridge fumbling and the Pacers' Ryan Dunham coming up with his team's second interception to thwart a Laker drive.

Late in the half, Lake Oswego received good field position at the Lakeridge 42 and got some nice running from Craig Hodges before being faced with a fourth-and-one at the 12-yard-line.

The Pacers crowded the line but Lake Oswego countered with an end-around to AJ Van Leeuwen who took it 12 yards for a score and a 14-0 lead with 2:22 remaining in the half.

Lakeridge would respond with an impressive drive. Aided by a late hit from the Lakers, Eric Dungey hit JR McLaughlin on a 22-yard catch before connecting with him again for an 18-yard touchdown with just 31 seconds to go in the quarter, giving the Pacers some momentum and cutting the lead to 14-6 after a two-point conversion attempt came up short.

Lake Oswego started the second half with the ball and, again, fumbled on its first play. But Lakeridge returned the favor just two plays later.

After the Lakers ate up some clock behind runs from Max Mattern, its drive ended on a failed fourth down conversion.

Lakeridge then went 76 yards, getting catches from Jack Cole, Mills and McLaughlin and a 16-yard run from Lopeti Aisea to set up a two-yard scramble from Dungey. On the conversion, Dungey would then hit Aisea in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 14-14 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter saw both teams move the ball while struggling to convert in their opponent's territory. Taking over at its own 10-yard line, Lakeridge appeared to make a crucial error when Dungey's pass was picked off by Horak at the 26-yard line.

However, on the very next play, a fumbled snap gave the ball back to the Pacers. Lakeridge moved into Lake Oswego territory with a few minutes left in the game but a deep pass was again intercepted by Horak.

Lake Oswego took over at the three-yard line and ran three times but failed to pick up a first down.

“We've been working hard and put in a lot of work in the weight room. There's a lot of guys who want to be here,” Marshall said

The Lakers were forced to punt and the Pacers took over at the Lake Oswego 33-yard line with only time enough for two plays.

An incomplete pass left just five seconds remaining. Lakeridge drew up a play to go to the 6'7” Sindlinger.

“I knew it was coming to me and I just had to go up and get it,” Sindlinger said.

Sindlinger found himself in man coverage and went up for Dungey's pass, securing it in mid-air before tumbling to the ground and holding up the ball for the officials to see.

“I just kind of pinned it against my helmet for a minute and pulled it in,” Sindlinger said.

The play set off a mob scene of celebration on Lakeridge's field. It was the biggest win for the Pacers' football program in years and vaulted it to the No. 7 ranking in the state, according to the OSAA.

But, with as competitive and tumultuous as the Three Rivers League has been this year, nothing has been decided yet. Oregon City has clinched a share of the league title but, if Lake Oswego can knock off the Pioneers on Friday at LOHS, there could be a four-team tie atop the league, with one of those teams being forced to play a play-in game.

Lakeridge will travel to West Linn this Friday.



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