No. 22 Lakeridge steps up to upset No. 6 Aloha 51-40
While the fog lay heavy over the field at Aloha High School on Friday, Nov. 15, this much was shockingly clear — the 2019 football season had never looked brighter for Lakeridge.
The 22nd-ranked Pacers, after going just 3-6 in the regular season, posted their second upset in two weeks of the Class 6A state playoffs, beating No. 6 Aloha 50-41 at Aloha on Friday night.
"Obviously, 3-6 in the regular season is not what we were looking for, but we're a young team and coach (Forrest Sherman) was like 'You're in the playoffs. It's a new season and you're 2-0 right now,'" said Lakeridge senior quarterback Cooper Justice, who threw for one touchdown and ran for two more in his team's win. "It feels good. I'm proud of these guys."
"We were out there doing everything we possibly could," said Lakeridge senior lineman Adrian Sandoval. "I could see it in their eyes. I could see it in my team's eyes how much they wanted to win, the hunger and the intensity that they had inside their eyes — I could see it. I knew we were going to win as soon as we stepped on the field."
With the win, the team's second straight, the Pacers improved to 5-6 overall after finishing fifth in the Special District 5 race. The victory also set up a quarterfinal battle with crosstown rival Lake Oswego in a game set for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Lake Oswego High School.
Aloha, meanwhile, saw its four-game winning streak snapped and ended its year at 9-2 after finishing second in Special District 2.
"Honestly, I just think we started out a little slow and we came back too late," said Aloha senior wide receiver Regan Wilson, who had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. "We just didn't have enough time come back at the end."
"I'm proud of the way we were still fighting the whole way," said Aloha senior quarterback Timothy Dennis, who went 21 of 36 passing for 281 yards and three touchdowns along with one interception. "It just took us too long to get going, I feel like."
The Pacers proved their ability to compete with the higher-ranked Warriors right away on Friday, getting an interception by junior Andrew Oliver to stop Aloha's first possession, then taking a lead it would never relinquish when senior kicker Ben DeVries converted a 27-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter.
After another stop by the Lakeridge defense, the Pacers added to their lead by driving 53 yards for another score, with senior running back Jalen John carrying twice for 26 yards, including a 15-yard burst that made it 10-0 with 4 minutes, 29 seconds left in the opening period.
John, who rushed 33 times for 271 yards and four touchdowns, said his offensive line paid big dividends all night long.
"They're outstanding," he said. "I know what they're capable of, but I'm just amazed every time they do their job what the outcome is — what an outcome."
Aloha awoke its offense on the next series, however, driving 65 yards to cut Lakeridge's lead to 10-7. Dennis hit two passes for 22 yards and senior running back Drew Fritz finished things off with back-to-back carries for 19 yards, including a 5-yard dive for the score.
Two possessions later — after back-to-back stops by the Warrior defense — Aloha forged a 10-10 tie when senior kicker Nathan Acuavera drilled a 29-yard field goal with 5:01 remaining before the half.
The Pacers hardly blinked, though, coming back with an 80-yard scoring drive that saw John carry six times for 42 yards, including his 2-yard plunge up the middle with 52 seconds remaining in the half. Justice connected with senior wide receiver Bryson Corbin for a 22-yard completion on the series.
Lakeridge took a 17-10 edge into halftime, then added to it on the first series of the third quarter. After a kick return by Corbin to the 43-yard line, John carried seven straight times for 43 yards, and after that, Justice dropped back to pass from the Aloha 9-yard line. From there, he looked left, found no one open and ran untouched into the right side of the end zone. After DeVries' extra point missed, the Pacers led 23-10 with 8:43 to go in the period.
Things got worse for the Warriors before they got better, too. Lakeridge — benefitting from a 10-yard sack by Sandoval — stopped Aloha on fourth-and-18 from the Pacer 27-yard line when junior Tyeson Thomas defended a throw aimed for Warrior junior Tanner Volk.
From there, Justice hit three passes for 61 yards — one to John for 48 — then connected with senior Carson Mike for an 8-yard TD throw over the middle for a 30-10 lead with 1:17 remaining in the third.
Aloha answered in a heartbeat, though, getting back-to-back completions by Dennis for 51 yards — the second of those a 41-yarder to Ry'montray Reese — and scoring when senior Sir Charles Mitchell ran 9 yards up the middle with 11:47 left in the game.
Next, it was Lakeridge's turn for a quick score, with John carrying three times for 58 yards, going wide right and breaking multiple tackles en route to his 21-yard touchdown and a 37-17 lead with 10:53 to go.
Next, Aloha marched 79 yards in 10 plays to score again, with Dennis hitting 3 of 4 throws for 45 yards, including a 14-yard strike over the middle to Wilson that made it 37-24 with 8:32 remaining.
The Pacers responded in-kind, coming back with a 71-yard TD drive, with John rushing three times for 35 yards and Justice taking over from there, carrying three more times for 36 yards, including a 1-yard dive to give his team a 44-24 edge with 6:22 to go.
But Aloha made sure even that lead wasn't safe, scoring its third straight TD just 22 seconds later. This time, Mitchell took DeVries' kick all the way back to the Lakeridge 3-yard line, and on the next play, Dennis hit senior tight end Brody Weitzel on a 10-yard touchdown. Wilson then added the conversion run to cut Lakeridge's lead to 44-32 with six minutes left on the clock.
Then, after forcing a Lakeridge punt that the Pacers downed at the Aloha 1-yard line, the Warriors drove 99 yards in just 1:48, with Dennis hitting Regan over the middle for a 76-yard TD that — along with a Dennis conversion pass to Weitzel — brought their team within 44-40 with 1:28 left to play.
From there, the Pacers just needed to run out the clock to win, but they did way more than that. After senior Brian Hamlin recovered the Warriors' onside kick, John broke a 46-yard run to the Aloha 5, and two carries later, he bashed into the end zone from one yard for the final 51-40 margin.
Lakeridge's Caiden Biege-Wetherbee intercepted a Dennis pass at the 1-yard line on the next-to-last play of the game to end it.
"We just had to come out of the gate strong and show them that we meant business from the very first punch and that's what we did," said Lakeridge senior lineman T.J. Jakmauh, who helped the Pacers rush for 365 yards as a team. "We took care of business."
"Our team knew when we came out that if we just played to the best of our ability, then we could win," John said. "Not a lot of people know, but we had one of the toughest schedules in the state, so once we got to the playoffs … we had seen all the best competition so there's nothing really new to us."
For Aloha, Friday's loss definitely stung, though the Warriors took pride in the program's longest playoff push since 2013 and its most wins since 2010.
"At the end of the season, we look back and we don't have any regrets," Wilson said. "This year, we all really fought together and really came together."
"All the people who decided to stay, I love them and I'm proud of the way we fought all year," Dennis added. "We used the doubters for motivation and I'm just proud of the way we fought all year."
Dennis led Aloha rushers with 16 carries four 85 yards, while Corbin had four catches for 49 yards.
On defense, Lakeridge senior Caleb Green led his team with 10 tackles (two for loss), while sophomore Zac Waible added 10 stops and senior Ty Glumbik eight.
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