The Lakeridge football program hit rock bottom on Friday night.

Notorious for playing a thuggish style of football where anything goes, where penalties are encouraged, where cheating, sucker punches, eye jabs, and Wet Willies (yeah Wet Willies) are smiled upon, the Pacers turned what was once a competitive 6A quarterfinal playoff game with Jesuit into an all-out bar fight on Friday night.

What transpired throughout the course of the Jesuit-Lakeridge contest, after the Crusaders jumped out to a 42-14 halftime was vile in nature. The Pacers were whistled for a whopping 22 penalties, including 12 personal fouls which ranged from unsportsmanlike conduct infractions to taunting to blatant blocks in the back against the Crusaders. A desperate Lakeridge team that saw the writing on the wall and knew its season was all but finished was penalized six times in the third quarter, and called for an astounding 10 more infractions in the fourth.

The game was physical all night, and both teams engaged in their fair share of trash talk and through-the-whistle contact. But, when Lakeridge began crossing the line between old-fashioned hard hits, and low blows at Jesuit’s best players in the third quarter, the contest got disfigured.

“To a certain point it’s fun, but then you get to the point where you’re worried about people getting hurt,” said senior center David Burgato. “It’s one thing to get hit in the back late, but I was getting spat on. One of their guys was giving me a Wet Willy. I don’t know what that was about. It was nasty out there, but we just tried to stay away from that.”

Worse, was the Pacers seemed to revel in their overall buffoonery, as they flapped their gums at the amused Crusaders, waved their arms in the air toward the Lakeridge crowd, and danced like bumbling chumps as Jesuit slammed the ball down their throats time and time again.

“We knew the rumors of Lakeridge coming into this game, so during the week, the coaches just focused on keeping our heads on straight,” said senior defensive end Christian Martinek. “The players on the field focused on keeping their heads on straight. We had some leadership from the seniors, who stepped up and made sure we didn’t get pulled into that.”

Jesuit dominated upfront to such a full extent that Lakeridge resorted to dirty, below- the-belt tactics to try and rile up an already ornery Crusader offensive line. As Jesuit’s advantage ballooned, so did Lakeridge’s lack of class and sportsmanship. Knowing their season was on life support, the Pacers began diving at the Crusaders’ legs long after plays had been blown dead, trying to goad Jesuit into full-scale brawls that could’ve carried negative ramifications for the squad’s state semifinal contest against Canby this Saturday.

“We just tried to play our own game,” said sophomore fullback Mike Petroff. “We tried to stay out of that, and I think we did. We weren’t really thinking about the stuff they were doing. We just tried to stay focused on us and kept our heads in the game.”

Other than throw a flurry of flags into the sky, the OSAA referee crew did little to regulate the Pacers’ nonsense. Surprisingly, there were no ejections or warnings of being tossed from the game on either side. The Crusaders merely had to holster their fists, and fiery emotions, or risk seeing their eligibility be put in jeopardy.

“We came together and told everyone to keep their mouths closed,” said running back Chase Morrison. “We wanted to let the refs take care of it, and let them call the penalties on (Lakeridge), and not on us.”

At one point in the third quarter, with the game’s outcome basically in the books, one of Lakeridge’s linebackers ripped off sophomore quarterback Eric Restic’s helmet as the Crusaders threatened to score their eighth touchdown, and purposely stepped on the back of the signal caller’s head with an exposed cleat.

“When it gets to a point where there are flags on every play, and people are throwing punches and stepping on people’s heads, it’s not fun to be apart of,” said senior safety Trent Werner. “It’s not what football is. It’s not what the game should be about. We weren’t going to retaliate. We were just going to keep our heads. That’s just what you have to do in those situations.”

Jesuit wasn’t absolved from the fisticuffs either, picking up five personal foul penalties through the course of play. But, compared to Lakeridge’s mind-blowing 12 personal-foul infractions, the Crusaders looked like choir boys. Jesuit simply turned the other cheek as Lakeridge embarrassed itself, and utterly ruled the contest with clean, physical play.

“We talked with our pads,” said Martinek. “That’s how we play, that’s how our defense plays. We hit hard. We don’t talk with our mouths, we talk with our pads.”

The contest’s crazy circumstances escalated so badly that both schools decided to call off the customary postgame handshake that takes place after every game regardless of who won or lost.

At least 20 security guards and school administrators stood guard on the field as time expired, and Jesuit bolted to the north end zone to celebrate its blowout playoff win.

“We knew what was coming,” said offensive lineman Nick Miller. “We knew they weren’t the cleanest team out there, but we just battled. I think we proved how good we are today.”

Heck, some selected players like Martinek and Werner who were each targeted at times by Lakeridge during the game had security escorts out of Cronin Field out to their cars to ensure no rogue Pacer players or fans were waiting in the parking lot to settle the score. The overall ugliness of the four-quarter fracas overshadowed what was a commanding, one-sided effort by Jesuit.

“Once we started pounding it on them, and putting them on their backs, they started pointing fingers at each other and getting on each other,” said Martinek. “We did a really good job of staying poised. We came out and did our jobs.”

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