Lakeridge looking to build, improve on solid 2017 run
The 2017 season was definitely an "up" year for the Lakeridge football team.
In head coach Elvis Akpla's third year, the Pacers snapped a 17-game Three Rivers League winless streak, reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2013, and at one point, put together three wins in four weeks in the always-tough TRL.
Now, Lakeridge wants even more.
"We have a lot of talented kids who are very committed and focused," Akpla said. "If we can stay healthy, I think we'll have a chance to compete for a TRL title and make a deep playoff run."
But that word "if" — as in "If we can stay healthy" — made all the difference in the world last year when the Pacers saw their top two running backs, a starting lineman and a host of others go down with injuries and the team finish with three straight losses.
"We just have to grow into the season and find ways to win," Akpla said.
On offense, the Pacers will follow the lead of their seven returning all-leaguers, a group highlighted by first-team junior running back Jalen John (5-foot-11, 205 pounds). John, who played in just five games due to injury, still managed to rack up 684 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 72 carries (good for a 9.5 yards per carry average and 136 yards per game) a year ago.
Also back with all-league honors are: second-team senior wide receiver Will Scadden (32 catches for 554 yards and nine TDs in seven games); second-team junior lineman Keoni Hepa (a transfer from Jefferson); honorable mention senior wide receiver and kick returner Andre Martinez (560 total yards and three TDs); honorable mention junior tackle T.J. Jakmauh; honorable mention junior center Kai Tinker; and honorable mention senior quarterback Charlie Maynes (1,341 yards and 11 TDs on 53 percent passing).
"Knock on wood, we're really healthy and firing on all cylinders right now," Akpla said. "If we stay healthy, I think we'll be a pretty good football team."
Up front, the Pacers will look to Jakmauh (6-5, 275) at left tackle, Hepa (6-3, 279) at left guard, Tinker (6-1, 265) at center, senior Michael Seals (6-2, 268), junior Eric Reilly (5-10, 235) and junior Thomas Mansolf (6-4, 285) at right guard, and senior Trevor Horn (6-1, 201) and senior Avery Findley (6-3, 240) at right tackle.
Junior Orion Crofut (6-1, 210), senior Nick Musgrove (6-3, 215) and junior Ty Glumbik (6-0, 205) will go at tight end.
"(The line is) pretty powerful — one of our best," Akpla said, adding that "We've definitely gotten better from last year, just by experience."
That line should pay big dividends for Maynes who returns for his second season as a starter, as well as junior backup Cooper Justice (6-6, 225).
"Last year, (Maines) was still figuring out how to play quarterback," Akpla said. "But since then, he's really dialed in his passing game — there's zero doubt or confusion from him this year."
At wide receiver, the Pacers will rely on Scadden and Martinez, along with senior Javier John (6-2, 200) who returns after an injured MCL last year, junior Xander Houck (5-11, 175), senior Matthew Dalzell (6-0, 180) who transferred from Clackamas, senior Bryce Damas (5-10, 182) who's back from an injured ACL last year, and junior Bryson Corbin (5-10, 165), a speedy transfer who moved from Arizona.
"This is the best receiving corps I've had," Akpla said, noting that in addition to Scadden and Martinez, "(John) is a physical specimen … Houck is the best sophomore receiver we've had (and) Dalzell is very fast."
Three Rivers Previews
• To read the Lake Oswego team preview, click here.
• To read the West Linn team preview, click here.
• To read about the favorites in the Three Rivers League race, click here.
• To read about the new shape of the Three Rivers League/Special District 1, click here.
Joining Jalen John at running back will be Damas (Akpla said he's already played seven positions and described him as the Pacers' "Swiss Army knife") and junior Caden Biege-Wetherbee (5-10, 183), who got big playing time last year when both Jalen John and 2018 grad Nick Hoddevik were hurt.
Senior Max Chandler (5-11, 167) — a transfer from West Salem — will handle the kicking duties.
"Offensively, we have a lot of firepower," Akpla said. "We have a lot of firepower at all those positions."
The Pacers are even more certain of their defensive unit, with seven starters back, the addition of Hepa and better health all around.
"The two problems we had last year were all the injuries on offense and learning a new defense," Akpla said. "But the cool thing is we've got seven of 11 starters back (on defense) so there's a lot of experience. It's comfortable."
Along the line, the Pacers will use Hepa and Jakmauh — "They're a great tandem. They really push each other," Akpla said — at tackle, while Musgrove, senior Nolan Russell (6-0, 198) and Javier John will play at defensive end.
At middle linebacker, the Pacers will call on senior Jackson McGinley (5-9, 190) and Glumbik in the middle, and senior Casey Smith (5-9, 175) and Russell outside.
"McGinley is by far our best linebacker," Akpla said, adding that Russell — a first-time football player — is "hyper-aggressive."
In the backfield, Lakeridge will use senior Hunter Daskalos (5-9, 160) and senior Finn Reeves (5-10, 169) at safety, while senior Jared Bartunek (5-10, 190), Damas and Martinez will all see time at cornerback.
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