The Lakeridge football team was dead in the water at halftime of its Friday, Oct. 25, game at Bend.
The Pacers had struggled on offense, turned the ball over and fell behind by four touchdowns at the break in their non-league game at Bend High School.
But that was not the end of Lakeridge's day.
The Pacers turned the game around after halftime and outscored the Lava Bears by 26 points in the final two quarters before eventually falling short 34-33.
"The first half was very similar to how we've played all year — a long series of us not being very disciplined," said Lakeridge head coach Forrest Sherman. "(At halftime), I told the kids 'This is the ultimate challenge. We need to see how you respond to the challenge and I just need to sit back and watch.'"
With the loss, the team's second straight, the No. 21 Pacers fell to 3-5 overall (they're also 2-3 and fifth in Special District 5). No. 27 Bend, meanwhile, improved to 4-4 overall (the Lava Bears are also 2-1 and tied for second in Special District 6).
As exciting and improbable as its second half was, Lakeridge's first half was just flat depressing. Bend opened the game by forcing a Lakeridge fumble, and soon after, got a 23-yard touchdown run by Nate Denney less than three minutes into the game for a 6-0 lead.
Five minutes later, the Lava Bears went to Denney again and he broke a 60-yard TD run that helped boost his team's lead to 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Pacers, who suffered from four first-half turnovers — three lost fumbles and one interception — continued to fuel Bend's fast start in the second quarter, with Spencer Burgess adding a 45-yard TD run early in the second quarter, and Denney adding a 6-yard touchdown run shortly before halftime that extended his team's lead to 27-0.
That, however, was not the end of the Lakeridge's night. After their heart-to-heart halftime talk, Sherman and the Pacers came out with new life in the second half and proved it right away.
Just 2 minutes, 16 seconds into the third quarter, senior running back Jalen John broke free for a 50-yard run and his team's first touchdown. The Pacers got the ball back almost immediately and knew just what to do when they did — they gave it to John again and the Arizona commit broke free for another long score, this time racing 65 yards for a TD that — along with Ben DeVries' extra point — cut their deficit to 27-13.
The Lava Bears struck back after that with a 20-yard Denney TD run, but Lakeridge just kept coming, adding a 64-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Cooper Justice to senior Ty Glumbik that sent the game into the fourth quarter with Bend leading 34-20.
Justice stayed hot in the fourth quarter, too, connecting twice with senior wide receiver Bryson Corbin for scores, the first one from 26 yards out and the second from 25 yards with just 1 1/2 minutes left to play.
"(Justice) was on fire making throws, Jalen had two big touchdown runs and the defense stepped up and made plays," Sherman said. "It was just a total team effort."
That second TD cut Bend's lead to 34-33 and set the table the game's decisive play.
"We went for the win," Sherman said. "We felt good about our momentum so I called our captains together — I wanted it to be our decision — and they wanted to go for the win."
Justice took the ensuing snap on the two-point conversion attempt, but quickly found himself under pressure by the Lava Bears' defense and was tackled before he could get off a throw.
While disappointed with the final result, the Pacers were definitely pleased with their second-half energy and success.
"It was a huge win for us to finish a game on a high," Sherman said.
For the game, John carried 17 times for 189 yards and two TDs, Justice went 16 of 28 passing for 257 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, with senior Xander Houck making seven catches for 77 yards and Corbin another three for 56 yards and two scores.
On defense, senior Caiden Biege-Wetherbee recovered a fumble for Lakeridge, and the defense was led by Glumbik's 12 tackles (five solo) and Barrett Bevacqua's two tackles for loss.
For Bend, Denney carried 38 times for 345 yards and four TDs, and Burgess ran seven times for 90 yards and one score.
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