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The Timberwolves run to a 53-7 victory in Friday's Three Rivers League opener

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Lakeridge senior Cooper Justice throws a pass over the outstretched arms of Tualatin senior Jake Reser (11) during Friday's Three Rivers League contest.There's work left to be done.

The Lakeridge football team knows it after opening its 2019 season with a tough 53-7 loss to talented Tualatin at Tualatin High School Friday, Sept. 6.

The Pacers fell behind the Timberwolves by five touchdowns at halftime, scored early in the third quarter to close within 36-7, but got no closer the rest of the way.

"We have a lot to learn," said Lakeridge senior Cooper Justice, who was making his first start at quarterback for the Pacers. "I know that I, personally, have a lot to learn. A lot of it came down to me, making rookie mistakes. It's a positive attitude kind of thing. I'm a leader on this team, and I have to keep my guys in it. I have to keep myself back in it. We'll be back strong next week."

"We'll come back next week and practice a lot harder and prepare for Clackamas," said Lakeridge senior Caiden Biege-Wetherbee, who scored the Pacers' touchdown. "Another thing is battling. We have to battle a lot more. At times tonight, we'd get to a third-and-long and relax a little bit."

With the loss, Lakeridge fell to 0-1 in Three Rivers League play and 0-1 overall, while Tualatin improved to 1-0 in TRL play and 1-0 overall.

"Man, it felt great," said Tualatin senior running back Kainoa Sayre, who came back from injury to rush for 137 yards and four touchdowns. "I've been counting — it's been 440 days since I broke my ankle. I've been hungrier than ever and it felt great."

"It's awesome," said Tualatin senior quarterback/defensive back Blake Jackson, who had 114 yards of total offense and an interception on defense. "The feeling of (Sayre) not being there last year just felt like there was a hole. I told him before the game that it's so great to have him back here. Good for him. I'm so happy for him. He worked so hard with rehab."

"He's everything," said Tualatin senior Luke Marion, who had a rushing touchdown on offense and a blocked punt on defense. "He's a part of the heart and soul of this team. He missed last year and that broke our hearts. To have him come back is great. I love him to death."

The Timberwolves and Sayre got off to a fast start in the contest. On just the third play from scrimmage, Sayre broke through a huge hole opened by the Tualatin offensive line and sprinted 71 yards for a touchdown.

"It felt great. It felt like a 'Welcome home,' kind of," Sayre said. "I saw the crease and I saw the guy I had to make miss, then I took off and it felt great."

Marion then threw a 2-point conversion pass that gave Tualatin an 8-0 lead with 10 minutes and 38 seconds left to play in the first quarter.

Jackson set up the next Timberwolf touchdown by intercepting a Lakeridge pass and returning it 17 yards to the Pacer 8-yard line.

"The interception was my highlight," Jackson said. "I wasn't sure if I'd be a two-way starter, because of the quarterback deal, but (Tualatin coach Dan) Lever talked to me, and said, 'I want you on both sides' and I said 'All right.'"

Two plays later, Sayre powered his way into the end zone from a yard out, lifting the Tualatin lead to 15-0 with 7:03 left to play in the first quarter.

Marion set up the next Tualatin touchdown by blocking a Lakeridge punt, and three plays later, the Wolves got another big play when sophomore receiver Cole Prusia threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Cade McCarty, extending the margin to 22-0 with 5:08 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Wolves got a 28-yard touchdown run by Sayre and a 13-yard TD run by Marion — Marion's on a reverse — as Tualatin went on to take a 36-0 halftime lead.

Lakeridge, looking to come back strong in the second half, put together its only scoring drive of the game to open the third quarter.

A 13-yard run by Justice and a 52-yard pass-and-run play from Justice to senior Jalen John set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Biege-Wetherbee, which cut the Tualatin lead to 36-7 with 8:10 left to play in the period.

"That was huge for our team," Justice said of the scoring drive. "Getting shut out is painful. To get that touchdown on the board was really key for our team. It showed that we can do this. We have playmakers. We're not a bad team. We have good athletes."

"That was everything," Biege-Wetherbee said. "We were in the locker room at halftime and we were discussing everything. We thought we needed to come out and score and then we could change momentum in this game.

"While it didn't go as planned — score a million points and take the lead — it got the sideline riled up. Before that, it seemed kind of dead. Everyone got reinvested in the game. After I scored, I turned around and everyone was celebrating. That was awesome."

But the Pacers couldn't get any closer.

Tualatin, with sophomore Jackson Jones at quarterback, answered back with a scoring drive of its own. Sayre capped off the 81-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the game, on his only carry of the second half, making the score 43-7 with 4:07 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Wolves added a 34-yard field goal by Prusia and a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore Scott Wright to wrap up their 53-7 victory.

For Lakeridge, John rushed for 99 yards on 16 carries. He also had three catches for 64 yards. Justice completed 5 of 18 pass attempts for 63 yards.

On defense, Biege-Wetherbee had a fumble recovery and junior Alexander Ethel-King a tackle for a loss.

"We have a long season ahead of us," Justice said. "I'd rather have this happen now than in the first round of the playoffs. I've got some growing to do, the team has some growing to do, but we'll be ready next week."

Sayre picked up his 137 rushing yards on 13 carries. Jackson added 54 rushing yards on 10 carries. Wright ran for 45 yards on four carries and Marion rushed for 44 yards on four carries.

Tualatin rushed for 354 yards on 46 carries as a team.

Jackson competed 7 of 9 pass attempts for 60 yards. Jones completed 6 of 9 passes for 65 yards. Sophomore Malik Ross had four catches for 30 yards, and McCarty had three catches for 40 yards.

For the Tualatin defense, Jake Reser had two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble.

"We came out, we prepared well all week and we came out ready to play," Sayre said. "We have a lot of stuff to work on, but I feel like we got our first-week jitters out. We're ready to get back to work."

"We were ready. We came into this game hungry," Marion said. "We have a lot of hungry young guys. We came in here and we executed."

In upcoming games, Lakeridge will travel to Clackamas for a non-league game at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, while Tualatin will host Oregon City in a Three Rivers League game at 7 p.m. Friday.

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