Lakeridge moves into the second round for the first time since 2005

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Vontrell Mills hauls in a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first half of last week's first-round playoff victory over South Medford.The Lakeridge football team endured another penalty-riddled effort but had enough firepower to hold off South Medford at home last Friday to advance to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2005.

The Pacers controlled the majority of the game but hurt themselves as they tried to put the Panthers away in the second half of a 30-17 victory.

South Medford entered the game with a 3-6 record but four of their losses came were by five points or less and the Panthers proved to be a dangerous team.

Lakeridge took little time establishing itself in the game. The Pacers started with the ball on their 30-yard line and went on a 14-play drive in less than five minutes. Lakeridge converted on fourth-and-three from its own 37-yard line, which ultimately set up a three-yard touchdown scramble by Eric Dungey to give the Pacers the lead.

South Medford responded by driving into Lakeridge territory, aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty and settled for a 35-yard field goal attempt that split the uprights.

Lakeridge would have little difficulty moving the ball against the Panthers for the majority of the night. When the Pacers regained possession, first down runs from Lopeti Aisea and Holden Catlett and a 12-yard reception by Joe Sindlinger in the red zone set up another touchdown keeper from Dungey, this time from five yards out as he dove across the goal line.

Lakeridge would then come up with a stop on fourth down, taking over at its own 33-yard line. A 22-yard scramble from Dungey and a first down catch by Jack Cole led to a 36-yard strike from Dungey to Vontrell Mills on third down, staking the Pacers to a 21-3 lead with 7:02 left in the first half.

South Medford responded with a crucial drive, marching 71 yards in 13 plays, culminating with a five-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-10 with 2:06 left in the first half.

Lakeridge looked to regain momentum late in the second quarter, getting into South Medford territory and down to the 23-yard line but a false start on fourth-and-two led to an incomplete pass and the Pacers settled for an 11-point lead.

After stopping the Panthers on their first drive of the third quarter, Lakeridge threw an interception at midfield. South Medford missed a 32-yard field goal but a holding penalty on the Pacers made it fourth-and-one. Lakeridge then came up with a stuff to take over at its own eight-yard line.

That led to a bizarre drive. The Pacers got big plays, with a 15-yard run and a 29-yard catch by Cole but also had five penalties.

Dungey was also banged up on the drive on a hard hit near the sideline and missed a handful of snaps.

Lakeridge was faced with a fourth-and-19 and threw to the sideline. South Medford would pick the pass off at the two-yard line instead of simply batting the ball down.

It proved to be a costly mistake as South Medford ran for a short loss on first down and ultimately took an intentional safety instead of punting.

Lakeridge would receive the ball at midfield and a 24-yard catch by JR McLaughlin at a 17-yard scramble by Dungey set up Dungey's third rushing touchdown of the day, staking Lakeridge to a 30-10 lead with 11:55 left in the game.

After forcing another punt by the Panthers, Lakeridge appeared to have the game in hand but another interception gave the Panthers the ball back at their own seven-yard line.

A penalty negated a Lakeridge interception and the Panthers would go 93 yards, getting a short touchdown run with 5:49 left in the game.

South Medford would recover the onside kick but could only move backwards after a penalty. However, a 15-yard facemask on Lakeridge set up a fourth-and-one and the Pacer defense responded with another stuff as Mills recorded a tackle in the backfield.

Lakeridge was then able to run out the clock with big gains from Aisea, sealing a big win for the Pacers.

Lakeridge ran for 335 yards in the game combined and will now travel to face No. 8 Southridge on Friday. The Skyhawks edged West Linn 28-20 last week and the Lions were the only team from the Three Rivers League to lose in the first round.

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