Lakeridge finishes third in the TRL and hosts a playoff game next week

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge quarterback Eric Dungey scrambles out of the pocket during the Pacers' win over West Linn Friday. The victory clinched a top-three finish for the team. It wasn't the prettiest effort but, for the Pacers, it was enough to get the job done. Lakeridge capped a terrific regular season with a 28-20 victory at West Linn, overcoming five turnovers on the night to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs.

That's something Lakeridge hasn't done since the play-in system was implemented but, with the team able to stay healthy and with a staunch defense that posted yet another second-half shutout, the Pacers could be a postseason threat.

The game started with both teams coming up short on fourth-down conversions. Lakeridge squandered an early scoring chance after taking over at the West Linn 28-yard line by failing to pick up a first down.

However, the offense picked up late in the first quarter. A 19-yard catch by Chase Clark set up a 37-yard scamper from Lopeti Aisea and the Pacers were on the board.

Lakeridge's running game was stellar again with Aisea racking up 233 yards on the ground.

West Linn would quickly knot the score, aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on third-and-long.

The Lions would then take the lead on a 77-yard touchdown pass early in the second period. But that play would set off a wild set of events.

On the ensuing kick-off, Lakeridge's Vontrell Mills fielded the ball just in front of the goal line and found a seam, taking the ball 100 yards for a game-tying score.

However, West Linn nearly returned the favor, returning the next kick-off to the 15-yard line and scoring two plays later but missing the extra point.

Lakeridge then threw an interception on the third play of its next drive which was immediately followed by a Pacer interception in the end zone by Tyler Miller.

Four plays later, the Pacers turned the ball over again in the end zone, making for seven changes of possession in less than three minutes of game time.

The Lakeridge defense dug in, getting back to back sacks, the second coming from Massen Newton, to repel the West Linn scoring threat.

Late in the half, Lakeridge would mount an 82-yard drive, culminating with a 20-yard scoring run from Aisea.

West Linn would march down the field in the final seconds of the half but missed a short field goal, giving Lakeridge a 21-20 lead at the break.

In the third quarter, Mills nearly had his second returning touchdown of the day but a penalty negated his punt runback. Lakeridge marched down to the nine-yard line but the drive would end with another fumble.

West Linn moved the ball but was forced to punt and pinned the Pacers back at their own six-yard line.

However, Lakeridge would take control of the game with a 94-yard drive.

Again it was the running game that helped get the job done. The drive started with a 23-yard scramble from quarterback Eric Dungey. Aisea then picked up big yardage and JR McLaughlin had three catches on the drive.

Dungey would eventually connect with Aisea for a 12-yard score to make it 28-20 early in the fourth quarter.

West Linn had a golden opportunity to tie the game when the Lions recovered a muffed punt at the 12-yard line. But, two plays later, Ryan Dunham picked off a West Linn pass at the three-yard line.

Lakeridge then moved down the field and into scoring position and appeared able to run out the clock.

However, a pass in the end zone was picked off with 1:14 left, giving the Lions new life.

But West Linn would fail to pick up a first down and Lakeridge picked up a victory.

The Pacers are currently seeded No. 9 in the state and will host a playoff game next Friday.

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