It was over before it started — almost.
Lakeridge defenseman Reagan McDowell literally scored on the opening kickoff which proved to be the game-winning goal as the No. 8-ranked Pacers advanced to the state quarterfinals with an impressive 4-0 win over Forest Grove Wednesday night, Nov. 3, at Lakeridge High School.
McDowell's opening shot wasn't the senior's first attempt at such, but it was the first time it's gone in.
"I've done it once before and I hit the crossbar," the senior said. "I saw the keeper squatting at the 18-yard-box, so I thought, why not go for it? And you saw what happened."
The unlikely goal obviously caught the unsuspecting Vikings (10-5-1) off-guard, but more damaging than the deficit itself, seemed to be the tone it set for a Forest Grove team that ultimately never recovered.
"I was hard to digest because in like two or three seconds we were down 1-0," Forest Grove head coach Gracey Mosquera said. "I saw my keeper and my defenders' mindset change a lot, and it made it very difficult mentally to recover."
And they never did.
Lakeridge scored a second goal when sophomore Rafael Loyo found the back of the net in the 15th minute, a third one a minute later when junior Zachary Levin scored, and when Levin added a second goal nine minutes before halftime the home Pacers were up 4-0 and it was simply just a matter of time before Lakeridge was moving on and Forest Grove was heading home — for the season.
The loss was obviously difficult for the Pacific Conference champion Vikings, especially for its seniors, but Mosquera said he didn't want it to tarnish what was an otherwise great season, nor derail the program from getting where it hopes to one day get.
"The loss hurts and it gets us eliminated, but we'll learn from this and keep working hard," the Forest Grove coach said. "We didn't perform at a high enough level today, but overall I think this was a good season for us. We had our first conference championship in 13 years and we have to celebrate that. We're proud of our guys and we still have a vision and we're trying to get there."
Meanwhile, Lakeridge (12-2-2) will move on to face top-ranked Summit of Bend this Saturday. Pacers head coach Alan Cox said he knows little about the Storm beyond their number-one ranking, but added that he was confident in his team and their ability to compete with anyone at this point in the season.
"At this moment in time we fear nobody," Cox said. "We're going to go out and play the way we play and give it what we can. We're not going to concede much to anyone, but we also know that at every stage that you get to teams are going to be playing better, and we have to play better."
McDowell agreed with his coach's sentiments regarding their need to step up their game, but added his confidence in their ability to do so.
"This is my first time in the playoffs, so we're all out here with a chip on our shoulders," he said. "That's going to be a great trip (to Bend) with the boys and we're going to get after them. We're ready for sure."
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