The times they are a-changin' at Lakeridge High School.
Gone are first-team all-Three Rivers League selections Andre Martinez, Charlie Maynes and Javier John.
Gone too is former head coach Elvis Akpla, who left the program right on the verge of the 2019 season.
But some things remain exactly the same as the Pacers prepare for the new year — their desire to continue the program's ascendance and their desire to win.
Lakeridge, now under the guidance of head coach Forrest Sherman — he served the previous two seasons as defensive coordinator — is determined to come back strong, determined to prove its critics wrong and determined to go further in the playoffs for the third year in a row.
"I think we'll have a chance to be competitive and that's what you want in this league," said Sherman, who previously served as head coach at Lincoln. "We just want to keep improving into weeks eight and nine and see what happens. That will make us better in one of the best leagues in the state."
While the Pacers must replace Martinez at wide receiver and Maynes at quarterback, they appear well-heeled to do just that. Senior Cooper Justice (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) — he already has one college scholarship offer — takes the reins at quarterback, senior Bryson Corbin (5-10, 170) and senior Xander Houck (6-1, 180) will lead the way at wide receiver, but most important of all, senior Jalen John (6-0, 215) returns at running back after winning first-team all-TRL and honorable mention all-state honors as a junior.
"He looks better than ever," Sherman said of John, a University of Arizona commit who led the Pacers with 1,727 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2018. "He's packed on 10-12 pounds of muscle, he's worked on his strength and flexibility and he's got that commitment under his belt so he's ready for a fun senior year."
Up front, the Pacers have a strong and experienced crew led by four returning honorable mention all-leaguers — senior guard Keoni Hepa (6-3, 295), senior tackle T.J. Jakmauh (6-5, 240), senior guard Eric Reilly (5-10, 217) and senior center Kai Tinker (6-1, 250).
"That's a great place to start," Sherman said. "Tinker is the key to the whole thing, Reilly has really transformed his body and they work pretty well as a unit."
Joining that quartet will be junior Barrett Bevacqua (6-3, 260) — a transfer from Grant — and junior Michael Stupfel (6-2, 220).
"We preach 50-50 on offense and we're pretty solid on both (run and pass)," Sherman said. "With our size, we should be pretty good at being able to lean on people."
That group will lead the way for John and Justice, who takes over at QB after playing in six games in 2018 and completing 11 of 22 passes for 181 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and also running for 100 yards and three scores.
"(Justice has a) rocket arm, he's unproven with a chip on his shoulder and he's ready to prove himself to the rest of the state," Sherman said. "He's in a good place with his confidence coming into football."
Also ready for time at running back is senior Caiden Biege-Wetherbee (6-0, 195), who returns after rushing for 142 yards and four TDs a year ago.
While the Pacers graduated their top two receivers (Martinez and Will Scadden) from a year ago, Justice will have plenty of quality targets in 2019, including Corbin, Houck (24 catches for 418 yards and three TDs), senior Carson Mike (6-2, 170), junior Tyeson Thomas (6-2, 200) and senior Matt Peterson (6-1, 205).
"The guy looking to make his stamp this year is Bryson Corbin. He was dinged up last year, but he's one of the fastest kids in the state," Sherman said, adding that Houck is "solid with good size and pass-catching ability."
Senior Ben De Vries (6-2, 205) will handle the placekicking duties, while junior Andrew Oliver (6-0, 190) will punt.
"Our talent level will allow us to have enough variety to put pressure on people," Sherman said. "We have enough talent at receiver to make it so people can't load up against our run game."
While the Lakeridge "D" must deal with the graduation of first-team all-league defensive end Javier John, the cupboard is hardly bare.
The Pacers bring back Hepa at noseguard and senior Ty Glumbik at inside linebacker after both earned second-team all-TRL honors, while Biege-Wetherbee was an honorable mention pick at strong safety. The Pacers also add senior lineman Adrian Sandoval (6-3, 240) to the mix, a player who won honorable mention honors last year at West Linn.
"The defense is on the right track," Sherman said. "They just need to keep jelling together."
Joining Hepa and Sandoval on the line will be Jakmauh, senior Orion Crofut (6-1, 210) and junior Drew Hurdstrom (6-2, 195) at defensive end, and junior Alex Ethel-King (6-1, 210) and Bevacqua at noseguard.
"Our strength is our front seven. There's lots of guys with good varsity reps," Sherman said. "They can really put pressure on quarterbacks and fly around."
Along with Glumbik — "He'll be the leader of our defense," Sherman said — the Pacers will call on Crofut and senior Ronin Murphy (5-11, 163) at inside linebacker, and Jalen John and junior Karson Gjesdal (6-1, 190) on the outside.
"They're big enough and they play with enough physicality, but the most impressive thing about them is their athleticism — they can change direction and run sideline to sideline," Sherman said.
In addition to Biege-Wetherbee, Lakeridge will look to senior Matt Peterson (6-1, 205) — he returns to Lakeridge after a year at Oregon City — at safety, while Thomas and junior Andrew Oliver (6-0, 190) will go at the corners.
"(Biege-Wetherbee) will be the leader back there," Sherman said, adding that Thomas "will be a force" while Oliver "is a multitalented athlete. He's one of those kids you like to have in your program.
"The DBs are good athletes and they can fly around and get to the ball."
To see the Lake Oswego team preview, click here.
To see the West Linn team preview, click here.
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