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Jalen John scores a touchdown with 51 seconds left to beat Canby in Three Rivers action

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Lakeridge senior running back Jalen John picks up yardage during his team's 35-28 win over Canby at Canby High School Friday, Oct. 11.Things got a little exciting for the Lakeridge football team late in its Friday, Oct. 11, contest at Canby.

The Pacers led the Cougars all night, but saw Canby tie the contest with just 10 minutes remaining to play. Undeterred, Lakeridge knuckled down and battled back, getting a 12-yard Jalen John touchdown run to beat the Cougars 35-28 at Canby High School.

"Jalen John (is) one of the best running backs in the state. He's insane," said Lakeridge senior quarterback Cooper Justice, who completed 12 of 23 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns. "He's a great guy and they were forced to man up on our guys and our athletes made a lot of really good plays."

After starting their year at 1-3, the Pacers' second straight victory meant a lot to Lakeridge's players.

"I'm really proud of those guys," Justice said. "We were a young team (and) we had some tough games early, but we're really starting to turn things around."

With the win, the 24th-ranked Pacers improved to 2-2 in Special District 5 play (good for fourth place) and 3-3 overall. No. 36 Canby, meanwhile, lost for the sixth straight time and fell to 0-3 in SD5 play and 0-6 overall.

While disappointed with the loss, the Cougars left proud of their effort and continuing improvement.

"It's all the kids," Canby coach Jimmy Joyce said of the second-half comeback. "They really have a fighter's mentality. We talk about it constantly — it's a 12-round fight and we've just got to fight and not give up and that's what these kids have really bought into. This game comes down to two big plays for them and some untimely mistakes for us that we need to clean up, and that's the process of learning to win."

Lakeridge never trailed in the game as Justice connected with Bryson Corbin streaking down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown on third-and-19 with 5 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

On its next two possessions, Canby drove inside Lakeridge's 20-yard line, but failed to score, each time getting stopped on fourth down.

Canby's defense then provided the spark the Cougars needed when lineman Nicholas Vandecoevering ripped the ball away from John to give it back to the Cougars' offense. And this time Canby took advantage.

Quarterback Mikey Gibson connected with Ronan Gay for a 23-yard gain, and then, Gibson hit Kaden Boyd for a 6-yard touchdown. The Cougars missed the extra point, but were within 7-6 of the Pacers with 38 seconds remaining in the first half.

However, Lakeridge needed only two plays to answer as Justice found Matt Petersen for a 39-yard gain and then Corbin for a 29-yard touchdown to take a 14-6 lead into halftime.

On their first drive of the second half, the Pacers again struck quickly as Justice and Corbin connected for their third touchdown on a 66-yard score.

"We had the open looks because they were having to respect Jalen," Justice said. "It was there and Bryson's a great player. So are the rest of the receivers, too."

Trailing 21-6, Canby junior Chance Miller then got the Cougars up off the mat, returning the ensuing kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown.

"I just saw a hole and hit it and we had blockers down the field making blocks that honestly a lot of people wouldn't make," Miller said. "I had teammates all the way down the field making blocks for me."

Gibson then found Jackson Linman in the end zone for a successful two-point conversion to get Canby within 21-14 with 7:26 remaining in the third quarter.

Canby's defense then forced three straight Lakeridge punts, and after both teams exchanged fumbles on back-to-back plays, the Cougars took over at the Lakeridge 45-yard line.

From there, Gibson and Wyatt Ramos combined for a 27-yard gain to get into the red zone. Then, on second-and-goal from the 15-yard line, Lakeridge appeared to have Gibson sacked, but the sophomore quarterback was able to dump the ball off to Miller, who avoided multiple Pacer defenders and followed his blockers into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.

"I was just trying to make something out of nothing and trying to get in the end zone," Miller said. "I was able to get around a couple of people and I had two teammates blocking for me and was able to escape around the outside."

The tie did not last long, though, as John woke up Lakeridge's offense on a 61-yard run to the Canby 2-yard line. Justice then took the ball into the end zone from there.

On its next series, Canby marched to the Pacer 13-yard line, but on third down, Lakeridge junior Andrew Oliver intercepted a pass intended for Tyler Mead in the back of the end zone with 2:53 remaining in the game.

John then added his 12-yard touchdown run to seal the victory with 51 seconds to go.

Canby's final touchdown, a 32-yard strike from Gibson to Kyle Sandner, came with 7.6 seconds remaining.

In his second start at quarterback, Gibson completed 20 of 30 pass attempts for 284 yards and three touchdowns.

"He's a special kid," Joyce said of Gibson. "He's learning to play the position. You watch him and you see what the future holds and it's pretty bright. He's a generational talent."

For Lakeridge, John rushed for 130 yards on 13 carries and Brian Hamlin 48 yards on six carries, while Corbin added five catches for 164 yards and three TDs.

"I have a lot of respect to these guys," Justice said of Canby. "They're always a tough team. It's just a tough game. You know you're going to have to fight. They're going to hit hard. They're going to want to win. A lot of respect to these guys, a really tough game tonight."

Next up, the Pacers host undefeated Tigard at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, while the Cougars play at Lake Oswego at 7 p.m. Friday.

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