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After more than a year away, the Pacers win in coach Spencer Phillips' Lakeridge debut.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lakeridge sophomore quarterback Ryan Oliver picks up yardage during his team's 35-20 win over Oregon City at Lakeridge High School on Friday, March 5.The Lakeridge and Oregon City football teams waited a long time for this one.

Indeed, before the Friday, March 5, contest between the Pacers and Pioneers at Lakeridge High School, it had 469 days since Lakeridge last stepped on the field for a high school football game (and 483 days for Oregon City).

So it totally made sense that both teams got after it big time Friday, with the Pacers pulling away in the second half of the contest to beat the Pioneers 35-20 in both teams' long-delayed 2021 season opener. In the process, Lakeridge gave first-year head coach Spencer Phillips a win in his opener as a Pacer.

"It was obviously a lot of fun," said senior running back Andrew Oliver, who finished with 22 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns. "Obviously, the seniors have all been hoping for the longest time that we'd get to play, so I'm super glad that we could finally play."

"For real, I was so excited," said Lakeridge junior defensive end Moananui Tovey, who knocked down three passes and had a sack against Oregon City. "Like, I couldn't sleep last night."

"There was definitely a lot of hype up to the first kickoff and kick return — I had to get all the anxiety, all the tension out — but after that, it was just fun," said Lakeridge junior defensive back Jake Reichle, who made two interceptions in the game and returned one of those two picks for a touchdown.

With the win, the Pacers improved to 1-0 on the season and 1-0 in Three Rivers League play, while the Pioneers dropped to 0-1 in league and 0-1 overall.

Despite the loss, Oregon City relished its return to competition and knew it had been within striking distance of a victory.

"It was really good just to get out here, but I think one of the biggest things for our seniors was we want to ball out. We want to give everything we have," said Oregon City senior wide receiver Jahleel Heath, who unofficially finished with four catches for 66 yards and one touchdown and had another TD catch waived off by penalty.

For junior teammate Joey Shaw — another wide receiver — the wait for competition had been even longer.

"I mean, it's crazy. I didn't get to play most of my sophomore year because of a knee injury, so it's been since early … September (2019 since he played a football game)," said Shaw who made 13 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. "And then I didn't get a lacrosse season after that because of COVID, so this is the first time being out here in a while, so you gotta love it."

The Pacers started slowly after their long layoff, but Oregon City took its first possession and marched 65 yards to score, with senior quarterback Trey Martin hitting 4 of 7 passes for 32 yards, running twice for 15 yards and then handing off to junior running back James Carter for a 2-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead with 5 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter.

Suitably awakened, the Pacers answered with a 71-yard scoring march to tie the game at 7-7 just 4:08 later. That drive was highlighted by completions from sophomore quarterback Ryan Oliver to sophomore Baylor Corbin (14 yards), Corbin again (13 yards), senior Bryce Caulfield (8 yards), and finally, a 10-yarder over the middle that senior Leyton Richards grabbed just off his shoe tops for the score.

Then, following a missed Oregon City field goal, Lakeridge raced 80 yards in less than three minutes to grab a 14-7 edge with 7:19 remaining in the half. The big plays on that drive were Andrew Oliver's 13-yard sweep, a 15-yard scramble by Ryan Oliver (coupled with a 15-yard late hit penalty on Oregon City), a 9-yard completion to freshman Joey Olson, and finally, a 10-yard TD run by Andrew Oliver.

Undeterred, the Pioneers responded with their second TD drive of the contest to tie the game 14-14 with just 2:13 remaining in the half. Martin got hot on that series, hitting six straight passes for 64 yards, including an 18-yard scoring strike to a leaping Heath at the right flag.

But the Pacers got the last laugh of the half, putting together an 80-yard drive in the final 2:07 of the second quarter to push ahead 21-14 at the break.

Ryan Oliver capped that series with a completion on the left sideline to senior Carter Pahl, and Pahl broke two tackles and turned the catch into a 17-yard TD with just 19 seconds left before the half.

In the third quarter, it was the Pacer defense's turn to step up. On the third play of the half — with Oregon City facing a third-and-eight from its own 37-yard line — Martin threw over the middle only to see his pass picked off by Reichle near midfield and returned 46 yards for a score and a 28-14 Lakeridge lead just 59 seconds into the period.

"Yeah, that was good," Reichle said. "I was just … breaking on the routes and happened to be in the right place a couple times."

But Oregon City didn't go away easily. After each team got a stop, the Pioneers came back to score in just four plays — or so they thought — but Heath's 12-yard TD catch on the left sideline was erased by a holding penalty and OC had to settle for a 25-yard field by senior Christian Ferreyra and a 28-17 deficit late in the third quarter.

The Pioneers' "D" got another stop, and on the team's ensuing possession, Ferreyra converted a 42-yard kick that cut OC's deficit to just 28-20 with 7:28 left in the game.

But Lakeridge sealed its victory on the following possession, driving 80 yards for the final 35-20 margin with just 2:17 left on the clock. Andrew Oliver did most of the damage there, carrying 10 times for 54 yards, including a 2-yard TD dive out of the wildcat formation.

"I think, obviously, there was a bunch of jitters," Andrew Oliver said. "Both teams, you know, haven't played in over a year, so I think that was a big factor. But once our team settled in … our preparation really kicked in."

While disappointed with the loss, the Pioneers took hope from their performance.

"We don't have that many older guys, so when these sophomores and juniors stepped up, they really had a huge part and a huge impact in that game," Heath said. "I really think the future's bright; the future is very bright here."

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